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.


Popular posts from this blog

Comrie of Old

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty