Auchterarder in the 1790s - home to the Ryder Cup in 2014 at its Gleneagles Golf Club !


The name  Auchterarder means “ the summit of the rising ground “ Apart from the town of that name it applies also to the parish  which was formed  when it  joined  with its  neighbour to the east , Aberuthven in the 16th Century .

The main rivers in the parish are the Earn and  the smaller Ruthven , In the 18th century  there were some 11 mills  powered  by the  waters  of the Ruthven and made it a vital part of the economy of the parish , From an early date the  stone built  houses  were roofed  by a grey local slate which  was noted  for both for its  appearance and its durability .


Although the carrying out surveys and obtaining  accurate  census statistics  did not  start  until 1801( with the detailed  census from 1841 )  , we have available figures  from a survey carried out by Dr Webster in the 1770s He calculated  that there some 1194 persons in the parish  . By the 1790s  this had increased  to a total of 1670 souls with 805 males and 865  females .The split  down between town and village and  rural living showed that there were 798 residing in Auchterarder town , Borland Park and Miltown with 878  in country locations . In the  period  prior  to the introduction of Statutory Registration in January 1855 , parishes  relied on individuals   submitting particulars  of  births  , baptisms  , marriage , banns and deaths  to the Parish Clerk of the Established  church – namely the Presbyterian Church of Scotland . With  the surge in the number of  breakaway  bodies  after the first secession in the 1730s , many  people  ignored recording  events . The situation  was exacerbated  by the introduction  of a levy or  tax on each entry . Would be genealogists and family tree  researchers should  realise that the further back one goes  the thinner is the availability of recorded information . For  some strange  reason we find  that not only in Auchterarder  but throughout Scotlands some 940 parishes deaths and burials failed  to be recorded in any appreciable numbers .

The First Statistical Account tells us that in 1791 Auchterarder Parish , the  four  main land owners  did  not reside within the parish ,  a situation that was sadly replicated  throughout  most of rural Scotland . The parish  recorded farmers and “ occupiers of land “ as numbering 81 with some 49 weavers ( probably of the hand loom variety ) and surprisingly 78 “ mechanics “ ! As this was in the pre motor and engine era I can only assume that these guys were employed working  on the machinery that was in place in the 11 mills that had been built on the Water of Ruthven. This period  of  time was very much when farming  was labour intensive with comparatively  small units  compared  with the modern era . The Account  for Auchterarder  lists 109 male servants ( farm workers ) and some 120 female servants . The women were in probability  employed as domestics , dairy maids and field workers .

Religion  was always an important aspect of life in 18th and 19th Century Scotland . These Statistical Accounts covered  all of  Scotland’s 940 plus parishes and were  , by and large , written by the Parish Minister , that is the  incumbent minister of the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland . Much strife and dissension occurred throughout the land . In particular there was  a great deal of  disagreement  with regard  to the manner in which the Church was or a should be governed . There were numerous  “ secessions “ and breakaway bodies  set up their own kirks/ churches quite  often in close  proximity  to the original one . These disputes  were often as not  over  what  would  be described in modern eyes as somewhat trivial matters . In Auchterarder in the 1730s things  were  blown sky high  over what was called The Marrow of Modern Divinity . This was a pamphlet  published and distributed  within the Kirk . What   got up the gullet of  many  of the traditionalists  was its advocacy of the belief that one  could “ come to Christ without foregoing one’s sin “ amongst a host of similar teachings . The Auchterarder congregation were looking  for a new  minister and examined one William Craig . Craig  had  read and  believed  in the content of the “ Marrow” pamphlet  but was asked  to deny its principles before  becoming licensed and to sign up a loosely drawn up statement  . Because he refused to subscribe to this statement, William Craig was denied licensure to the ministry and the matter came to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for resolution. The statement under question became known as "The Auchterarder Creed" and after being discussed at length in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was adopted  thus accelerating a large exodus of members known as Seceders who established their own Church .
In Auchterarder  by the time of the first Statistical Account  we are told  The  number of souls in the Established Church is 1176 and of Seceders including those of the Relief population 492 . There are only 2 Episcopalians . “

It is always interesting to know  what  things were really like in those far off days . The benefit of the Accounts is that we  can  get  an accurate  picture of the conditions  under which our  ancestors  lived and worked all those years ago . The arable economy of Auchterarder in  the late 18th century was  based on crops such as  wheat , oats , barley , peas , hay , potatoes and turnip . Although tree plantations or  woodlands  did  not exist in any  number , there were numerous examples of  fir , oak , ash , elm , beech , alder , birch and elder scattered  throughout the parish . The countryside  was populated  by hares , partridges , otters , polecats and foxes . It would  appear that in the 18th  century the rabbit  was  not the  main occupant  of the rural terrain !
The small farms  that were scattered  throughout the parish followed a similar routine and grew peas , lint seed ( flax ) and potatoes .It was interesting to note that the turnip  was  becoming a popular  root crop amongst many farmers whilst invariably grass pasture is sown and cut  eventually as hay . Although some wheat is  sown  the majority of farmers sow barley which appears  to be more  suited  to the area .To the west of the village of Auchterarder  there lies  some  200 acres of common land  known  as the Moor of Auchterarder . Here  cattle are grazed . In addition there is  common land on the Hill of Foswell , part of the Ochils .

In the late 18th century there  were 4 corn mills, 3 lint mills, a paper mill , 2 oil mills and a fulling  mill located on the Ruthven Water and the author of the Statistical Account noted that it was of great significance  that the  main road  from the Perth and Aberdeen  and the “ east country “ to the north  , came through the parish giving access  to Stirling and Glasgow .

One of the  problems  facing Auchterarder  village in the late 18th century was  a laclk of regular fresh water . Apparently the river  ran dry in the summer and despite sinking of wells , the problem remained . It was hoped to lay wooden  pipes from the fountain source a distance of  some 2 miles but this was  deemed an unaffordable  burden .
The Account   provides  us  with details  regarding the cost of  food at that  time and the wages that were being paid . Farm labourers  in the summer were paid  one shilling a day  ( some 5 pence in current currency ) and in winter  ten old pence or approximately 4  pence in current currency . Masons and carpenters as skilled tradesmen got a higher daily  wage  . The  former 1/6 a day or 7.5 pence new and the latter 1/ 2 or 6 pence new .

The First Statistical Account is a superb example of social history .. The Auchterarder account , written  by the local minister ,  paints a real picture of the state of the  parish some 212 years ago in the period prior  to the upsets of the Napoleonic Wars . There is a  detailed  account of  life and economic  existence  for a typical family in Auchterarder . Note that the  example  given states that there are some  7 children in the household . Although families  did tend  to be  much larger than in this present era , do remember that there was a high  level of  infant and child mortality which often reduced  the  number of  dependents  quite  dramatically . In the example  below I have  altered the original  pounds  , shillings  and pence to modern sterling to facilitate  understanding .

Year : 1791

Statement of the annual Income and expenditure of a Day – labourer ( farm worker ) in the Parish of Auchterarder who has a wife and seven children , the oldest of which is a girl 13 years of age and the second a boy who tended  cattle last season . Along  with his dwelling house  he rents an acre of land .

Income : The father of the family has 5 pence a day of wages  for 8 months in the year and 4 pence a day for the remaining 4 months .Deducting 43  days  for Sundays ,holidays and bad weather from the summer  months and 30 days on the same account from the winter months  he gains during the whole year :                                                                                                             £ 13.85

The mother with the assistance of her eldest girl , in the management of her family , earns by spinning  7.5 pence a week which is in a year                                             £ 3.90

The eldest boy earned  by tending cattle                                                    £ 0.90

The acre of land produced last year 6 firlots of oats @ £0.68

the boll                                                                                                       £1. 00
4 bolls of barley                                                                                         £2.80

6 bolls and a firlot of potatoes                                                                 £ 1. 30

Sold a calf                                                                                                 £0.35


Total income                                                                                           £ 24.11


Expenses: Rent of his house  and land £3.00 and expenses

of food and management £1.25                                                              £ 4.25

Fuel and  8 bolls  and a firlot of oatmeal                                              £7.41     

4 bolls of barley meal                                                                            £1. 87

Father’s clothes ( shirt , shoes , stockings bonnet and

Handkerchief )                                                                                      £1. 12

Mother’s clothes ( shift and 2 aprons, shoes , handkerchief

 Stockings , bonnet  )                                                                            £ 0.44

Clothes and shoes for children                                                            £2.28   

Food bought : cheese butter salt butcher meat                                  £2.60

Lamp oil and candles                                                                         £ 0.40

Molasses  for making ale                                                                    £0.50

Expenses  for illness, needles , pins and thread                                £ 0.76
Whisky , small beer and wheaten bread ay New Year                      £ 0.17

Family  consumes the potatoes the land produces                            £1.3
Grass to the cow and straw in winter                                              £ 0. 82


Total Expenses                                                                              £24.00

The above clearly shows  how tight was the rural family’s  budget with little between solvency and poverty and the  small  amount of  rented  land and  the ability to keep a cow  was very important  to basic survival .

In 1791  in Auchterarder there were 13 persons on Poor Relief who received  a weekly allowance through the church . Others  received  occasional charity hand outs to keep them off the poverty level . It was stated in the Account that the value of the stipend ( the minister’s salary ) was £ 90 which included  money from the “ glebe “ or ground attached  to the manse which was often let for grazing .

At the time of the Account Auchterarder was  the main village / town in the parish . It had once been a Royal Burgh and sent a member of Parliament to Edinburgh . Many of the houses were burgage properties  where the right of rental belonged to the monarch .At this time the  main street  was about a mile long with about 100 houses  many of  which had been recently rebuilt .

Four Fairs were held each year with an annual cattle Tryst where the black cattle from the Highlands were sold . It stated that the current population ( 1791 ) was 594 but increasing with several new houses  having been built .Apart from the Established Church ( of Scotland ) there was a Relief Kirk ( one of the churches which had broken away from the main Kirk ) . The account narrates in some detail the state of industry in the town :

“About twenty years ago ( 1770 ) a considerable manufacture of  yarn and narrow linen cloth was carried on in Auchterarder . It was fold bleached and unbleached a nd sent to Glasgow . This  trade is in great measure extinct .Sale linens are still manufactured in the town and neighbourhood ; and linen of a fabric peculiar  to the place , and which goes by its  name . At a little  distance from Auchterarder is  a village called the Borland  Park , built  by Government for the accommodation of soldiers who were disbanded after the war of 1763 and contains a 140 inhabitants who are mostly weavers . Most of the soldiers  who were planted in it ,  left very soon afterwards although the terms of their settlement were very advantageous , either from dislike to  the place or more probably to their new mode of life . On the south of Auchterarder and along the side of the Ruthven is Miltown a small village containing 64  inhabitants . here there is a  distillery   consisting of two , 40 gallon stills .”

There is mention in the Account of some of the antiquties  found  within the parish . Auchterarder . To the north of the town lies the old Castle of Auchterarder  which served as the  hunting seat of Malcolm Canmore . Sadly the account tells  us that  the farmer  was allowed  to use the stones of the castle to construct  a new farm house  . North of the castle lies the old parish church which is  pre Reformation and was known as St Mungo’s Chapel . The burial ground was for  many years  the old church yard  .

The author of this  intriguing Account , the Rev Andrew Duncan reveals a degree of  knowledge with regard to the nature of  spinning and weaving within the parish .He states “ were the two handed  spinning wheel more generally used it would probably  contribute in some measure to better the circumstances of the lower class of people as well as to increase the materials of the linen manufacture . There are but one or two such wheels in this parish and it is  but little used in many parts of the country . It might also be for the interests of the lower class of people , and especially the women , were they more employed than they are , in manufactures  for which they are qualified .The great demand  for men for all kinds of work has raised their wages to an exorbitant height ; while in this part of the country , at least , the wages of  female servants are barely sufficient to support them when in health . They cannot afford to set aside any provision for sickness or old age , without the utmost parsimony . Nevertheless everybody is now decently and comfortably clothed , which was perhaps not the case then and there is now four times the quantity of butcher meat used .There is now a baker in the village .”  








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