A brief history by George Gartly
Early History The early history of Newmill is very vague. Newmill was built to take advantage of the abundant springs and streams in the area. The earliest of these being the Roman well known locally as the “stroupie”. Early records state that the slate quarry employed many men and horses. The quality of slate being of the best in the North. The Marquis of Bute used it when the Convent of Greyfriars was rebuilt in Elgin, much of the Abbey of Pluscarden was renovated also using Newmill slate. The earliest date I find for Newmill is 1535 when a Bishop Crystall built the meal mills of Newmill and Nethermill. The Church of Newmill, (my hoose) stands on the site of the ancient Castle of Glengerrick. I have a record of part of the castle but none of it stands now, except a plaque on the side of the vestry. A stone has the initials G.G. M.G. 1663. This stone was part of the castle. The initials, I believe stand for George Gordon and Margaret Gordon 1663. (Spookily they are also my initials)
The Village Plan The plan of the village as we know it today was laid out about 1755. The site,as with all inland towns, was selected for its proximity to peat. The position was also chosen as it benefited from the sun all day long and was sheltered from the North winds by woods, obviously the woods are not there now. The earliest days of the village had a Provost. The most famous being James Smith or “Trinnies” as he had become rich with exploits in Trinidad. He managed to gain concessions from Lord Fife personally. Coming forward a bit to the great war, Newmill sent many a young man to the cause. The memorial in the square was the envy of many a small town let alone village. The memorial takes the shape of a huge clock-tower 56 feet high. The memorial was erected free of debt and endowed with £200.
Literary Society It sounds surprising but Newmill had a Literary Society originally known as the Mutual Improvement Association and then it became the Literary Society. The upstanding members of the village, with the help of a large donation from Andrew Carnegie that well known philanthropist were eventually able to erect the Newmill Institute in 1905 now named as the village hall Look above the door,it still says Newmill Institute. It was stated that the society was composed of gentlemen of considerable literary acumen which leads me nicely to the most famous, James Gordon Bennett.
James Gordon Bennett Born Enzie 1792, where his father was a poor small crofter. While in infancy his family moved to Newmill. He received the elements of his education from Mr.Donald Cameron, teacher Newmill, later he was taught at Keith by Rev. John Murdoch, where he got a substantial education, including Latin and Greek.On leaving school at Keith, Bennett entered the establishment of Robert Stronach, haberdasher, Keith who became bankrupt. He then moved to Aberdeen, to go into business with his uncle, Cosmo Reid.this lasted for a few years. He also spent some tome in a Seminary in Spain but found he had no vocation for the priesthood. Then he emigrated from Scotland accompanied by a friend James Wilson. Bennett landed at Halifax in May, 1819 with £5 to his name. He had some knowledge of French, Spanish and book keeping and for a time supported himself teaching in Halifax. From Halifax he went to Portland ,from there he went to Boston but was reduced to utter want. He found work in Boston in a printing office as a proof reader. In 1822 he turned up in New York and gained employment in miscellaneous newspapers. He kept at the Newspaper game and in 1825 he purchased a Sunday paper, the New York Courier, but it quickly failed. He next started a paper called “The Globe” but it only lasted a month. Proceeding to Philadelphia, he set up a paper but it also failed. Success, however, was not far off. On the 6th of May 1835 he issued the first number of the “New York Herald” at one cent per copy. He was the editor, publisher and vendor.
Bennett’s Vigorous Spirit Bennett snr appealed to ordinary people even though, by now coming from wealth, he printed scandal and upper class hypocrisy. He initiated the printing of detailed financial news,Wall Street reports,daily weather reports and shipping news, he also had the brilliant idea of sending boats out to meet incoming ships to New York, so as to get the news before anyone else. Bennett wrote editorials without fear of reprisal and thrived on attacks from its competitors (sounds familiar of today’s tabloids) The Bennett family history was like a soap opera. Bennet snr was once thrashed on the street by the editor of the “New York Times”.Bennett could not wait to get back and publish the fact! After some controversy about the parenthood of his son , Bennett snr sent his wife, an Irish immigrant and the young James to Paris to receive a civilised education. Thus, James Gordon Bennett jnr aling with his sister received an education from French Tutors and went to The College de France. James Gordon Bennett junior Bennett showed a liking for alcohol at early age and is noted as being drunk at a party aged 16. (sounds familiar of youth today). Young Bennett was tall, handsome with a cosmopolitan charm and unmatchable arrogance,he also had a way with the women! When he returned to New York he became a member of the Union Club, the Jockey Club and the youngest member of the New York Yacht Club,of which he was subsequently elected Commodore. This was a title he used the rest of his life. Yachting became his thing. His father bought him a 70 ton sloop, “Rebecca” then 160 ton “Henrietta” which young Bennett volunteered to the Union cause. He served with his ship for one year off the coast of the Carolinas . “Coaching, driving a coach pulled by four horses was a favourite sport that Bennett carried to the extreme. He would ride stark naked at break neck speeds through the countryside. In one coaching accident he spilled the coach and a young woman was luckily only shaken up her name was Jennie Jerome (Any takers to who she was or was to be?) Jennie was later to be the mother of Winston Churchill. He was a great gambler, and once challenged John Whipple (walking champion of the day) to a 13 mile foot race for $6000 and won, also after an evening of brandy and cigars at the Union Club in 1866, Bennett bet $90,000 that his yacht “Henrietta”could beat two other yachts , the “Vesta” and “Fleet Wing”. The race distance? (any takers?) The first across the Atlantic! Bennett the only one to skipper his own boat won,of course. His wild behaviour was now legend in upper circles. His engagement was short lived. On January 1st 1877 after attending several parties he went to a reception at his fiancee’s house. Bennett proceeded to unbutton himself and urinate into the roaring fire. Some accounts have it as the grand piano. He was escorted from the room by scandalised fellow guests. He sent no apology but received a note declaring the engagement at an end. Two days later he met with her brother who proceeded to horsewhip him, after this Bennett challenged him to a duel. The duel took place, her brother fired into the air and Bennett missed afterwards they were reconciled. After this, Bennett found the door to society gatherings barred. Thus, he returned to Paris where he thought the erratic behavior of a wealthy American would be accepted. In Paris he carried on his drunken behavior, an account has him driving his horses wildly up the Champs Elysees while stark naked. falling from the coach fracturing his skull. He was also a great practical joker. One night he summoned a friend to his death bed at a Paris hospital where he lay swathed in bandages, surrounded by a suspicious number of rather voluptuous nurses. When his friend bent over the dying Bennett, he reared up and yelled out to the nurses to bring in the “medicine”! The “hospital” was one of the better Paris houses of disrepute which he had hired for the evening!. In addition to his apartment in the Champs Elysee ,Bennett had hunting grounds near Versailles a shooting lodge in Scotland, and a sumptuous Mediterranean Villa, besides a residence in New York and a mansion in Newport. His love of yachts was apparent and he kept a 75meter long steam yacht the Namoura in the Med supplemented by a smaller one the Serena to navigate the French canal system. In 1901 he sold Namoura to buy “Lysistrata” it rivaled any yacht in the world and had a crew of 100, Turkish bath and padded fan cooled stall for two Alderney cows .as he liked fresh milk. Bennett would go for 4-5 month cruises on this yacht, visiting the Med, Atlantic, Suez Canal once South Asia and Far East and would cross the Atlantic to Jamaica and Bermuda. He would entertain Emperors and Ambassadors. On one cruise he entertained Lady Randolph, his old girlfriend and her young son Winston! Bennett was a tyrant to work for, one occasion he ordered by cable for an employee from the New York office. The editor cabled saying the man was indispensable. Bennett asked for a list of all indispensable men, then fired them all. In 1898 he introduced lino-types into Europe previously all type had to be set by hand. The paper was supreme in New York and in Britain the “Herald” became a power when it consistently beat the British newspapers with dispatches from the Colonies. Bennett was the first person with up to date weather forecasts and real estate section. He also made news himself. In 1869 he sent Henry Morton Stanley to find the aged David Livingstone when everyone else was just speculating .his fate Stanley questioned the cost of the expedition Bennett asked what the last African journey to central Africa cost? Stanley replied “£3000 £5000, but I fear it cannot be done for under £2,500” . Bennett’s reply was “draw £1000 and when this is finished draw another and so on until you find him” which, of course be did yet another great scoop! Another great story is that when Bennett found out how much the Western Union cable monopoly was costing, brooded over the extortionate rates. He got together with John W. Mackay, who made his fortune in silver mines,and they launched a new steamer the MacKay-Bennett and a million pounds laid their own cable across the Atlantic. This could be compared to sending up a satellite today. In fact the “Herald “was the first paper to transmit via satellite in 1980 to Hong Kong. His wild and unruly behavior coined the phrase “Gordon Bennett”which is still used today as a polite expletive for expressing surprise ! He married for the first time the age of 73.and there were no children. James jnr. died in Paris in May 1918 truly a “one off “ character “Gordon Bennett”!