Saturday, 25 August 2012

Six Months Of My Local History Blog

Ben Vorlich & Stuc a Chroin From Bairds Monument
River Earn - Lady Marys Walk
Glen Turret From the Knock Crieff
It  is  now  some six months  since  I started writing  my Perthshire -Crieff- Strathearn local history “ blog ” . Incredibly the  site has notched up some  5000 hits in that comparatively short  period . Last  month alone it recorded well over 1000 , perhaps  indicating  how it is becoming  better  known on the wider stage . The tales  of the Strath I research are varied and fascinating . Our  culture and heritage are central to our Scottish nation , then and indeed now .I am delighted  that you have  chosen to read the blogs  and  do hope  that you  will some  day manage  a visit to our  beautiful part of Scotland !

What has astounded me  is  the international mix  of  my readers . As a  “ blogger ”, I am  privileged  to know where  my audience  come  from and that has proven a  real delight and reward for  my efforts . Not  surprisingly  the largest  number ( some 60% ) come from the UK – the figures   do not  sub  divide into Scotland , England Ireland or Wales . Second  with some 25% is the USA which gives  me personal satisfaction as many of  my ancestors emigrated across the “ Pond ” particularly to Delaware Co New York State in the 19th century . Our  “ bronze medal ” winner in third  place is one that has  really taken me  by surprise . Proof  that the “ Cold War “ is very much ancient history – it  is Russia !!  (Очень тепло приветствовать всех вас!) . Making up the  top ten in order  are Australia, Germany , Canada , Ukraine  , New Zealand  , Austria  and France . Perhaps the local Tourist Board aka Visit Scotland will take due note !

Thank you friends for reading  my Crieff and Perthshire local history blog

Спасибо друзья за чтение моего Crieff и Perthshire местных блоге историю

Danke Freunde für das Lesen meiner Crieff und Perthshire Ortsgeschichte Blog

Je vous remercie d'avoir lu mon amis Crieff Perthshire et blog d'histoire locale

Gracias amigos por leer mi blog y Perthshire Crieff historia local

I have posted some 43 blogs in total over that  six month period and here are the
“ Top of the Pops ” :

     1.  The Story of Transport in the Strath
     2. Strathearn’s Pictish Trail
      3. ( equal ) The Breadalbane Campbells ( part two )

3.  ( equal ) Witchcraft in Strathearn

5.  The Oldest Roman Frontier

6.  The Story of Weaving in the Strath

7.  The Breadalbane Campbells ( part one )

8. The Crieff Tryst

9. The Cursus of Crieff

10. The Lost Castle of Fowlis






Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Wells of Strathearn - magical , mystical , Holy and ordinary !

Some of the many wells of Strathearn

This Edwardian lass with the hat about to sample the waters of The Jesus Well Crieff 
 Jesus Well Crieff as it is  now

During my researches into the history of the Strath over  a number of decades , I was somewhat surprised to discover the incredible  number of wells we have . Many are  listed on current Ordnance Survey sheets  but  many seem to have disappeared  from human ken . The  majority seem to have strong religious connotations with  many being named  after  a saint of the old Celtic faith or indeed are pre Reformation Catholic . It is intriguing to discover  what particular  attributes these holy wells  had and indeed  what made them so important in  by gone years  . As you will note from the listing below , they offered a wide range of miraculous  cures covering whooping cough to urinary problems  or gout to madness .

What is  clear is that the holy wells  were  an anathema to the Established Presbyterian Kirk ! Their proximity to many small churches such as Strageath or Struthill was a major source of concern.  It was, in their estimation, a means of keeping alive what they regarded as the superstitious practices of the past . Consequently many were destroyed and filled in to prevent future problems . It is  clear however that their influence lived on  and  as late as the end of the 18th century , the First Statistical Accounts  of the Strathearn Parishes recounted  numerous  tales of  persons  travelling  long distances  to sample their waters . Particularly interesting as these accounts were by and large  written by the incumbent Presbyterian minister !

Below  are just some of the wells scattered across the Strath .

Jesus Well : Probably Victorian and located on the lower west slope of the Knock not far from the Hydro Golf Centre . The text on the well advising  the spiritual benefits of  quaffing the waters  is  somewhat negated  by the more recent environmental health warning . ( see above )

Copes Well : East of Crieff off A85 on Crieff Golf Course near a standing stone which is a remnant of a stone circle . Sir John Cope camped his Hanoverian troops her during the ’45 Uprising

St Serf’s Well : In the grounds of Ochtertyre . This was written in 1822 about it : St Serf’s well and the moor wheron St Serf’s market is held . He was the tutelary saint of the parish of Monivaird . This well is a plentiful spring of water . About sixty years ago our people were wont on Lammas day to go and drink it leaving white stones , spoons or rags which they brought with them ; but nothing except the white stones now appear , this superstitious practice being quite in oblivion . It has been useful in a strangury ( urinary problem ) , as any other very cold water would be ; for a patient taking a tub full of it immediately from the well , plunging his arms into it , which were bare to the elbows ,was cured .St Serf’s fair is still kept on the 11th of July where Highland horses , linen cloth , &c. both from the south and north were sold .

St Rowans or St Ronan’s Well : ( NN 818 214 ) A natural spring near Strowan House

St Mungo’s Well : at Gleneagles ( NN 937 072 ) on A832 some 2 miles south of the cross roads opposite old Toll House.
Lix Well : at north end of Glen Ogle

St MaKessog’s Well: ( NN 955 136 ) Auchterarder – north of the town between A9 and B8062 . Near ruins of St MaKessog’s pre Reformation Church The masonry of the well was removed about 1890 and the water piped to a nearby farm .

St Conwall’s Well : At the back of Huntingtower. A spring beside the ruined chapel near the mill lade was much frequented in post Reformation times On May 4th in 1618 , 16 women were brought in front of the Kirk Session in Perth for superstitious practices . On visiting the well they deposited pins and head laces .

Muthill Wells :

Arn Well : Near Balloch ( NN 841 191 )

Strageath : ( NN 883 186 ) St Patrick’s Well

where the inhabitants till lately venerated St Patrick’s memory so highly, “that on his day neither the clap of the mill was not heard nor the plough seen to move in the furrow “

Struthill ¨( NN 855 155 ) For healing the mentally ill .

The water of the well at Struthill possessed still more wonderful medicinal power. It healed the diseased mind The quote from the Statistical Account stated “ The credulous sought much after it, as its virtues were considered effectual in curing madness.

The pre reformation chapel at Struthill next to the well was demolished by order of the Presbytery of Auchterarder in 1650 to dissuade people from visiting it

Straid ( NN 785 178 ) For curing whooping cough

The water of the well at Straid was effectual for curing the whooping – cough, if duly administered; and on this important the Statistical account informs us: “the water must be drunk before the sun rises or immediately after it sets and that out of a quick cows horn or a horn taken from a live cow, which indispensable horn is in the keeping of an old woman who lives near by the well
Blairinroar : ( NN 792 182 ) St Patricks Well

Titus Well : On B877 near Braco

St Fillans Well : ( NN 706 233 ) Near Dundurn at St Fillans . Famed for curing barren women Also for curing rheumatism Sit in St Fillans chair on top of hill Then lie back and be pulled down the hill by your legs . For sore or infected eyes – wash them three times in the Saint’s basin at the foot of the hill .
Exert from 1880 “Historical Scenes of Perthshire “ )

In Pre Reformation times the Parish was well supplied with chapels. There was one a Strageath; another Struthill; and a third in the Blairinroar district; where the inhabitants till lately venerated St Patrick’s memory so highly, “that on his day neither the clap of the mill was not heard nor the plough seen to move in the furrow “The Parish has also some wells famous for their healing virtues. The water of the well at Straid was effectual for curing the hoping – cough, if duly administered; and on this important the Statistical account informs us: “the water must be drunk before the sun rises or immediately after it sets and that out of a quick cows horn or a horn taken from a live cow, which indispensable horn is in the keeping of an old woman who lives near by the well “. The water of the well at Struthill possessed still more wonderful medicinal power. It healed the diseased mind The quote from the Statistical Account stated “ The credulous sought much after it, as its virtues were considered effectual in curing madness. Doubtless its celebrity was altogether owing to the artifices of the avaricious religionists, who it would appear, practised on the superstition of frequent visitors to call forth their liberality in the shape of offerings cast into the well. That this account is more than conjecture appears from the fact that the Popish Chapel which stood near the well was ordered by the Presbytery of Auchterarder , Anno 1650 , to be demolished , on account of the superstitions which were practised within it But even his was not effectual to do away with the celebrity of the well , or rather , we may say , was not effectual to lessen the avarice of those who kept it ; for in 1668 several persons testified before the Presbytery of Stirling that having carried a woman thither , “ they had staid two nights at a house hard by the well ; that the first night they did bind her twice to a stone at the well , but she came into the e house to them , being loosened without any help .The second night they bound her over again to the same stone and she returned loose . And they declare also that she was very mad before they took her to the well but since that time she is working and sober in her wits “ This well was still celebrated and votive offerings were cast into it , in the year 1723 , but such delusions have now happily past away “


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Tullibardine Chapel – A Pre Reformation Gem Well Worth A Visit

In my last Blog about the village and Parish of Blackford , I made a brief mention of Tullibardine Chapel tucked away in the north west corner of the Parish close to the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel . I must admit it one of  my favourite retreats  when I just  wish a bit of peace and quiet away from it all . Tullibardine  can be  described as a “ collegiate church “ .

 East window

                                                                                                      Pre Reformation splendour
A collegiate church sometimes  referred to as a  chantry chapel was a church built by a wealthy nobleman to house a "college" or small community of clerics whose role was to spend their days praying for the health and wellbeing of their benefactor and his family during life and, more importantly, for the salvation of their souls in the after life Many of the collegiate churches that were built in Scotland fell victim to the  Reformation of 1560 . Many became ruins or were transformed into parish churches for the larger community . Very few survived unscathed, and fewer still have remained in their original state over the centuries since. One of the joys of visiting Tullibradine is that in the restoration  work carried out by Historic Scotland , they have included a host of  intersting and informative  panels telling us  not only about the buildings  history but also giving us pictorial reproductions of what the church was like in its pre Reformation grandeur .

Tullibardine Chapel lies about two miles  from Auchterarder . To reach it from there head  for Gleneagles Hotel  and proceed  west on the A823 past the Equestrian Centre for  about half a mile The signpost to the Chapel tells you to follow the unclassified  road . About quarter of a mile on the left hand  side you will find the  Chapel  tucked away  besides West Mains Farm  . OS Reference is NN 910 134 .

It is as a rare surviving example of a collegiate church similar to the  comparitively close Innerpeffray Chapel south  east of Crieff . Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Tullibardine, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at the now demolished Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it. By the time Sir David died in 1452 his church probably formed a simple rectangular structure, divided into a chancel at the eastern end and a nave at the west end.

View looking north to the hills The Castle was located here ,

Sir David was buried in his church, and is commemorated by an armorial plaque now placed on the north wall of the chancel. This carries the quartered arms of his mother and father, Isobel Stewart and another Sir David Murray.

The chapel as you see it today is regarded as the  work of Sir Andrew Murray,  grandson of the original builder. In about 1500, possibly to celebrate his marriage to Margaret Colquhoun , he undertook a major expansion of the chapel. He retained the choir at the east end of the existing building, but he replaced the existing nave and built substantial north and south transepts, giving space for more altars. The transepts are so large that the chapel is virtually cruciform in plan. Sir Andrew also built a small tower at the west end of the longer nave.

After the Reformation of 1560 the chapel became a family burial vault for the Murray family who were strong adherents of the Jacobite czuse and supporters  of the Risings of 1715 and 1745. Lord George Murray led the Jacobite forces to their victory over Government troops at the battle of Prestonpans in 1745. It was in the aftermath of the '45, that Tullibardine Castle  was badly damaged and was subsequently demolished . In 1816 the Murray family sold their estates in the area to the Drummonds, later to become Earls of Perth.

The decriptive panels in the interior gave  a superb replication of the Church as it was – a far difference trom the bare stone that greets the present day visitor . The complex  roof structure is quite fascinating . This is mainly medieval with the rafters joined by collars at th wall head . The  transepts on rither side of the  main body of the church have large segmental stone  arches  . The stone slabbed  floors indicate that a number  of  burials have taken place  within the body of the building presumably those of the long deceased Murray family , Other interesting  features and preserved  relics of the old religion include the two stone aumbries and an ogee headed niche in the south transept  which  would in probability  have housed a small religious statue . An aumbry is a stone  container  which held the chalices or other sacrimental vessels used in the Eucharist . There is also a similar one in the delightful Parish Church of St Beans  in Fowlis Wester .
The reason  for its excellent state of  preservation is  no doubt  attributable  to its quiet  location off the  main highway . Well located  for  Auchhterarder , Crieff and  the  villages  , Tullibardine  is worth a  visit – I am sure you will not be disappointed !

                                  Niche for religious statue

An aumbry for  housing the chalises

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Village and Parish of Blackford

Village and Parish of Blackford



As is the case with Crieff , Muthill and Auchterarder , Blackford is both a Parish and a village. The village in terms of amenity has benefited from the re alignment of the A9 which bi passes it to the south and ensures that a degree of sanity returns to the everyday passage of life !  Civic pride in the form of the Blackford Historical Society has helped generate a good level of enthusiasm  amongst its citizens  .( ) . This is a superb and informative site and well worth a look  !

The demise of hand loom weaving and the once booming brewing trade could have left the village on its economic uppers and transformed it into yet another commuters ‘ haven . The growth of the natural spring water industry and Highland Spring has provided an influx of jobs and an injection of money to the area . The former breweries of Thomson , Sharp and Eadie are  long gone but the old buildings that were  Thomson’s have been transformed into dispensers of the  new “ water of life “ . The old prohibitionists of yester year must be chuckling away to themselves in their eternal resting place !

The Old Parish Kirk high on the hill above the village. Must have been some " pech " up to attend Sunday worship !

The comparatively modern Tullibardine Distillery on the site of an old brewery was structured by,believe it or not , by a Welshman , William Delme Evans back in 1947  . A period of  uncertainty came to an end with the opening of an impressive Visitors Centre next to the Distillery . Run by Baxters of  Fochabers it is a most excellent addition to the local Tourist Industry .

Important to the infrastructure of the village is the disused Blackford Railway Station. On one of my historic rambles through the old kirk yard set atop the hill overlooking the village , I was clearly aware of the number of giant lorries trundling down Moray Street en route to the Highland Spring Factory . Surely common sense must prevail and try to re establish the railway as a key component in the domestic and industrial structure of Blackford .

On an historic aspect , much of Blackford’s fascinating past was recounted in Marshall’s Historic Scenes in Perthshire published by Oliphant in 1880 . Although somewhat dated in present day terms it was an assiduously prepared and well presented account of the parish in days gone by . Standing stones abound throughout the Strath , no less than  in Blackford . Gleneagles and Sheriffmuir  have well  preserved relics . The Romans of course were no strangers to the parish and apart from the extensive camp at Ardoch ,  they had a presence on the Moor of Ardoch, Loaninghead and at Barns .

The Collegiate Kirk of Tullbardine lies within Blackford Parish
The pre Reformation Chapel at Tullibardine is well preserved and the  restoration work carried out by Historic Scotland has not been too soon . Located near the site of the old Tullibardine Castle the Chapel was called the College or Provostry of the fifteenth century .. It was cruciform and the Murrays were buried in the choir . Other Chapels include that of the Haldane family in the proximity of Gleneagles House which of course is nothing to do with the Hotel of the same name !
Other historic buildings include Kincardine Castle , seat of the Graeme or Graham family . The Graemes have an ancient pedigree extending back to William de Graham an Anglo- Norman knight who arrived here in the reign of David 1. His descendant some five generations later married Annabella, daughter of  Robert , Earl of Strathearn and with this betrothal gained Aberuthven where the Graham sepulchre was duly erected .This marriage saw the Grahams become  masters of the lands of Kincardine which had formerly been in the possession of Malise , younger brother Earl Robert . Kincardine Castle was burned by the Covenanters in 1646 and was never restored .

Monday, 6 August 2012

Peter Crerar (1882 –1961 ) “ A pioneer of many interests “

Peter Crerar an outstanding son of the Strath

What strikes me in compiling this list of Strathearn’s illustrious sons and daughters is that the preponderance of self-made men is quite dominant. Lewis Miller, David Jack, Andrew McCowan, Thomas Wright all fall into this category. One must now add the name Peter Crerar – a true son of the soil and someone who achieved an incredible amount in his eighty years. My initial interest in Peter Crerar arose from the web page of Scottish Cinemas , which is a superb record of an age that was. I contributed some info on the old Caledonian Cinema at the junction of High Street and Church Street and functioned in later days as the cinema Bookshop before transforming into a wine bar and pub  I had been involved in the original disposal after the Cinema Company decided that the Bingo usage was not pulling in sufficient income for them. It was then that I learned just a little about Peter Crerar but did not at that stage pursue any further details of his busy life. A number of years later I was carrying out some family history research into my Lamont antecedents in Cowal .I was visiting the peaceful Inverchaolain church and burial ground tucked away on the shores of Loch Striven near the Kyles of Bute. This was the repository of so many of my ancestors including John and Catherine Lamont my four times great grand parents. To my astonishment I discovered that in the same quiet corner that they occupied was a much more modern memorial to none other than Peter Crerar! How did a man of long Perthshire roots come to be buried in this remote part of Argyll?

Let me start at the beginning. Peter Crerar was born in 1882 at Balnearn, Fearnan on the shores of Loch Tay. He was the one of six sons and a daughter to Ann Malloch and John Crerar John was a farmer but young Peter quickly determined that that this was not for him and after serving an apprenticeship in the motor trade in Aberfeldy joined with his brother John in Crieff repairing bicycles. After service in the Royal Navy during WW1 Peter returned to Crieff and set up a coach building business with John in High Street where the current occupant is the Nickel and Dime store. With business expanding they moved to larger premises in Leadenflower where the Crieff Cash and Carry traded for many years. Next step in the forward progression was his purchase of Rubislaw, the large Georgian building off Church Street which had been built a s a bank and had served as a hospital during WW1. In the garden ground which extended down to Pittenzie Street Crerar built a large garage and workshop which was to become Alexander’s Bus Garage and the Penny Lane Supermarket. His development of charabancs and buses brought him further prosperity and he was a regular exhibitor at the Kelvin Hall Scottish Motor Show.

 Peter's charabancs  lined up in Lauder Park

His buses became famous long before in the period between the wars and it was said that whilst other charabancs might get stuck on the Devil’s Elbow on the way to the Braemar Gathering, “ Crerar always got through “!  The story is told that whilst in the process of building a garage in High Street he heard about the advent of the new moving pictures and the building of cinemas. He marched up to his men and instructed them to hold fire, as the garage would now become a cinema! That was the aforementioned Nickel and Dime store and this was followed when he built the Cinema at the corner of Church Street. His enthusiasm for the silver screen was unabated and he built cinemas in Auchterarder, Glasgow, Kirkaldy and Dunfermline. His travelling cinemas visited many of the Straths outlying villages bringing much pleasure to so many in those pre telly days. Another of his ideas saw him purchase a large steam boat and pull it by steam tractor from Perth Harbour to St Fillans where it was to be based. He linked in with the rail companies and ran trips up and down the Loch in the aptly named “ Queen of Loch Earn “ .

As he got older  Peter Crerar  disposed of  many of his assets including his motor business . He purchased the Royal Hotel at Innellan on the Firth of Clyde which enabled him to indulge in his passion for the sea and yachting . He built a sea going yacht and named it “ Amulree “ after the place where his parents had farmed before moving to Fearnan. “ Amulree “ was sunk at Dunkirk and was replaced with a new one aptly named “ Destiny “. Crerar developed his property interests and had interests in the Station Hotel Ayr and the Royal Hotel in Sauchiehall Street Glasgow. He was involved in building Paisley Ice Rink and on a different tack introduced pleasure boats to the City of Aberdeen. He never married and died in 1961 a bachelor in Innellan where he owned the Royal Hotel and was buried in Inverchaolain churchyard.