Wonderful insight into the history of Pitfour estate

BUCHAN Field Club has published its latest book ( The Blenheim of the North' which gives a fascinating insight into the Pitfour estate at Mintlaw.

Purchased by James Ferguson of Badifurrow in 1700, four successive Ferguson lairds developed the Pitfour Estate until it covered 50 square miles of Buchan. Around the original house, itself rebuilt and enlarged several times, the landscape was hugely remodelled to incorporate an artificial lake.

As well as gardens, classical 'temples' and rustic ruined follies, the estate's substantial buildings included stables, kennels, dairy and chapel. There was even a two-mile race course.

More ambitiously, the third laird built a canal in the hopes of shipping agricultural produce from the Pitfour estate to Peterhead. The scale of all this estate development, in contrast with its neighbours in the rest of Buchan, has led to the description of Pitfour as 'the Blenheim of the North'.

The first four lairds, three of whom were Edinburgh solicitors while the fourth was a Member of Parliament, each in their different way contributed to the development of Pitfour. By contrast, the fifth and sixth lairds saddled the estate with so much debt that all had to be finally sold off in 1926.

Among the stories of the other members of the Ferguson family is that of Patrick Ferguson who was the inventor of the breech-loading rifle and is better known - and commemorated - in the United States of America than in his native country.

Author of the book, Alex R. Buchan, was born in Peterhead and educated in Peterhead Academy and the University of Aberdeen where he graduated B.Sc (Eng.) in 1956. In 1967 he joined the staff of the University of Strathclyde where he lectured in structural engineering in the civil engineering department.

He retired in 1989 to his native Peterhead. His life-long interest in the history of Peterhead led to the publication of his book The Port of Peterhead in 1980. In 1993, in the centenary year of the sailing of the last whaler from Peterhead, the Buchan Field Club published Alex R. Buchan's The Peterhead Whaling Trade as the first of its new series of occasional publications.

'The Blenheim of the North' can be ordered from Hon. Editor of Publications, The Buchan Field Club c/o Arbuthnot Museum, St. Peter Street, Peterhead, AB42 1QD, priced at 12 (including postage and packaging). Cheques to be made out to The Buchan Field Club.