To the west of Portlethen, beyond Badentoy Industrial Estate, is Boswell’s Monument. Who was Boswell and how did this particular “folly” end up being built there?
The lands of Auchorthies, which included the areas of Auchlee and Bourtreebush, were situated in the southwest corner of the parish of Portlethen and extended to around 800 acres. Originally, in the 14th century, these lands were part of the barony of Findon but by the beginning of the 17th century that barony had been broken up into smaller parcels by which time Auchorthies was an estate in its own right.
In the beginning of the 17th century the estate belonged to the Irvines of Kingcausie, and passed to Claude Boswell, Lord Balmuto, who married the heiress of Kingcausie in 1783.
The Boswell family claimed their descent from Sieur de Bosville, a Frenchman who came to Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066, Bosville holding a command at the Battle of Hastings.
His direct descendant, Claude Boswell, who was born in 1742, passed advocate in 1766, succeeded to the estate of Balmuto, in Fife, on the death of his father, and afterwards became a lord of session under the title Lord Balmuto. In 1783 he married Anne Irvine of Kingcausie, who, by the death of her brother and grandfather, became heiress of that estate.
Claude Boswell died in 1824 leaving one son and two daughters. The name of their son was John Irvine Boswell, and his history is told by the well known district landmark situated on the hill of Auchlee which, today, we know by the name of “Boswell’s Monument.
James Boswell played a major roll in land development in the area and, along with his father Claude he was responsible “in making the fields more productive”. This meant blowing up rocks, draining, fallowing and dunging the land. John Boswell received the Royal Highland Society’s gold medal in recognition of land improvement. He was also a pioneer of the shorthorn cattle breed.
The monument itself is a large circular tower built on an octagonal base and the following biographical inscription is inserted on one of the sides of this base;
“In Memory of John Irvine Boswell, of Balmuto and Kingcausie. Born 28th December, 1785. Died 23rd December, 1860. A man who loved his Saviour, walked steadfastly with his God, and whose role in life was – ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ In early life he joined the Coldstream Guards, and carried their colours in the battle of Talavera. Retiring from the army he settled at Kingcausie, and lived to transform the natural barrenness of the estate into luxurious fertility. He will long be remembered in the district for the enlightened zeal he displayed in the introduction of all the improvements of modern agriculture; and he did not confine his attention to his own estates, his knowledge and experience being ever at the service of his neighbours, rich and poor alike. In every position and relation of life, he maintained, with rare fidelity, the character of Christian gentleman; and he died in peace, trusting simply in the merits of his Saviour for acceptance with his God. His sorrowing widow, Margaret Irvine Boswell, erected this monument as a solace in her bitter bereavement, A.D. M.D.CCC.LXII.”
Margaret Irvine Boswell was the daughter of James Christie of Durie, and died on the 18th April 1875, aged 86. There were no children from the marriage. Boswell had two sisters, the younger who remained unmarried throughout her life and the older who married a teacher from central Scotland from which there was a son and a daughter. The Boswell estates were divided between these two children – the Balmuto property going to the son and the Kingcausie portion going to the daughter.