Sunday, 11 August 2013

Crieff at the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1897


Victoria who visited Crieff

and Strathearn in 1842 with her consort

Prince Albert




Victoria reigned  from 1837  to 1901 – an incredible 64  years . She  celebrated  her Diamond Jubilee of  60 years  upon the throne in 1897 .

Crieff as a centre of population has  been  around  a long time . Recent  discoveries have revealed a Neolithic past when this  part of Strathearn was emerging as a place of importance The present  town however is  solidly Victorian with a smattering remnant of the Georgian  in  places like Burrell Square ( The Octagon of yesteryear ) and Ruberslaw House . The following  little  essay is yet another  plucked  from  my tattered little copy of Dixons “ Crieff in the Victorian Era “ and was written in the year of the Jubilee in 1897 so reflects  what  our town was like in the pre motor car era !

“To know and understand Crieff as it exists in the year  of the Diamond Jubilee of her Majesty Queen Victoria , it is necessary  in the first place  to have some years experience in the town , and in the second place  to have some sense of observation . There are casts , sets ,cliques and circles  , sufficient to make India hide its face  in very shame ; and there are more public houses , doctors , lawyers , ministers , billiard rooms  and churches than  in almost  any town  in either Scotland , England or Ireland. If you are in one set , you are not in the other , your principal duty is to stick to it . You know  the sets by their unfailing attachment ; you know  the circles  by their  consequential airs ; you distinguish the casts by the way  they carry  their heads ; and you can easily discover the cliques   by their  unflagging attention  to everybodies tourist   affairs  but their own .


In the summer  time , Crieff life  actually  begins  to be of interest  about 10 am . The prosperous  business man charges  along the High Street  shouldering  his morning newspaper, and tells  everybody “it’s a good “ , or  a “ better day “ ; all the tradesmen  hanging about James Square , scatter like birds  in a thunderstorm ; the legal  men break  into a professional trot , and shortly disappear  into their offices ; all the budding doctors  on the hunt for broken legs , flutter about at every corner ; the matron seeks out the cheapest dinner , and stows  it away in an arrangement like a poacher’s net ; the early rising  visitors swagger   about in skirts , blouses and ties , suggesting  everything that is Jubilee ; the tourist , in the garb of the northern landlord  , shoulders  his knapsack , and strides away ; and the local  press men chase  one another to along to the Police Court  wondering if the weather is likely to be suitable  for a Comrie Earthquake . As time  wears on  to noonday , the streets are thronged  by another population . Where they come out of is hard  to say but they are all there . Stout ladies with delicate  looking husbands  step slowly  along the centre of the pavement and stop  and stare in every shop window . Behind come their beaming but sorely oppressed daughters, watching every thing and everybody , and behind them again comes the confounded  little brother   who swears  he will tell “ all about it “ if they don’t buy  him something  at the nearest sweetie shop . Mixed  among this crowd are the visitors who  imagine they know all  about everything . When they reach  the Murray fountain  , they stop  for a minute  and criticise the architecture  . “ Gothic “ , says one , “ Grecian “ , says  another . “ Both wrong “ remarks  another - “ Corinthian “ , and there  they stand pointing out  with their walking sticks  defects in  balance , and generally  condemning the  style of architecture . “ Who’s Murray ? “ asks  some one . “ Oh a Waterloo hero “, answers some one else. “ Correct “, says another , not to be behind in his  historical information , and away they walk congratulating themselves  on their knowledge  of everything that is  useful .  Then there is a multifarious  collection of visitors whose chief ideas  of a quiet holiday are a parade  about the streets  before dinner , and  a short walk in the afternoon . You can see them  any day in the summer mashing  about  with white parasols , and last year’s ball dresses improved at the neck , and all looking  supernaturally grand .


James Square with the Murray Fountain

to the right

It is not till the afternoon that Crieff people  themselves are seen  at their best . Round the shops  the older people  roam , admiring everything that is new, and buying  everything that is useless . A carriage draws up ; the head shop man  rushes to open the door ; the lady steps on to the pavement  with the airs   of an eastern princess , he orders  half a pound of cheese  and a pound of butter  , and pays  the account a  year hence .Later on there put in n appearance  the people  who have reduced   afternoon calling  to a fine  art  , and whose sole work  at home is dusting  the drawing - room  mantle shelf , and looking out  for new  and reliable  servants .Thy skip along  the High street  , and omit to recognise  all their old friends  , and practice  afternoon tea  in the back garden , in prospect of the  county gatherings  in the Autumn . About four o’clock stylish Crieff is afloat on bicycles . Like the new telegraph boys , they believe , because they are in a hurry , they can knock  everybody over , and never say “  Sorry “ .  Away they fly , all laughing  and gay , and when the chivalrous youths  round the corner   observe their approach , they raise their caps  , and shortly follow in their wake . Two hours thereafter the daughters of  the wheel return , tired and jaded , and next morning they get breakfast in bed . It is about  seven o’clock in the evening  that the male population  is most in evidence . Newmarket coats  , sticks, canes , cigarettes  and silk handkerchiefs  follow their masters  out to Ochtertyre   or round the Knock  , or oftener  to the nearest billiard table . The actual working population gathers in James Square  with the regularity  of an eight - day clock and the pavement swells with an interesting variety  of people of all castes and classes , trying to impress the population  with their outstanding importance . In the evening, too , golf  and bowling are in full swing , and there are   the usual spooning  and flirting at the tennis court . All are enjoyable games, - particularly th tennis. The patrons  become attached  to the game  , sometimes in the interests of  sport , but too often from a business point of view , and there the  fly about  till after sundown , while their mammas are slaving at home  with lodgers  to raise the rent  - Sic vita  est  .


Life in Crieff is an interesting study, and the subject gives ample scope in itself for a book which has yet to be written , In a short sketch , such as this , only the principal features can be  touched upon . To deal  withn the subject in a complete  form , one would require to start  with the men whose work is a profession , and the men whose profession  is doing nothing ; joining  in the same chapter  , the class who mix up their profession  with labour , by sweeping out the shop  on the Saturday morning . Then there would come the working classes  , for whom we hold the  highest respect , and then all the other  sections of the people  in the town which go to make up a highly intelligent community . Crieff is worth  seeing and knowing , and those who find nothing about it to interest and amuse , must walk with their eyes closed , or be in love  with their own shadow .”





1 comment:

  1. 90% of this still holds true today! What a fab guide to the town.