Friday, 28 March 2014

The Poorhouse and Poverty in Crieff in the late Victorian Period

The stigma of social and physical handicap

Poorhouses in Scotland

Scotland  has  had a different Poor Law system to that of England . In 1579 the Scottish Parliament legislated enabling individual  parishes to remunerate the impoverished  living therein .It established a system which was not just an enumeration of the destitute but an examination  of whether these individuals could find alternative  means of support from other individuals or family members .They made begging and vagrancy public nuisances The Act intended  to remove the responsibility for the support of the poor from the church to the parishes .

Magistrates were ordered to build Correction Houses or workhouses so that beggars could be made to work. In 1843, a Commission of Enquiry was set up to suggest improvements to the Scottish Poor Law system. Proposals suggested included:
Setting up a Board of Supervision and Parochial Boards ,the levying of a poor rate and joint poorhouses in urban areas. An Inspector of the Poor who could examine requests for relief.

After 1845, parishes in Scotland could choose to set up workhouses or, as happened in a large proportion of cases, just to give out-relief. The parishes or Combinations (Unions) of parishes that did operate formally constituted workhouses — more usually called poorhouses or poor's houses. Note that where a Combination includes parishes in more than one county, its placement is based on the location of the poorhouse.

More than a hundred Scottish parishes also operated a variety small local establishments variously known as almshouses, parish lodging houses, or parish homes

The Upper Strathearn Combination was formed in 1863 and initially comprised the eleven parishes of Auchterarder, Blackford, Crieff, Dunning, Forgandenny, Forteviot, Fowlis-Wester, Gask, Madderty, Methven, and Trinity-Gask. They were later joined by Ardoch. Callander, Comrie, Kilmadock, Monzievaird, and Muthill. The total population of the member parishes in 1881 was 27,337.

The Upper Strathearn Poorhouse in Auchterarder

The Upper Strathearn Combination poorhouse was erected in 1863-4 on a site located to the south-west of Auchterarder. The architect was James Campbell Walker. The site location and layout are shown on the 1860s Ordnance Survey map .

After 1930, the poorhouse became known as the Strathearn Home. In 1946 it provided 71 beds including 14 chronic sick, 2 maternity, and 8 for certified mental cases, with the rest for destitute persons.

Crieff had its own small Poor house  which was located  to the rear of what is  now Baird Buildings in East High Street , to the  west of  the Thistle Pub directly opposite  what is now the Crieff Hotel .

Listed  below is the Registered Poor List of Crieff Parish Council published in 1899 .

It numbers nearly some eighty persons and although  many are listed   simply as suffering from “ debility “ there are nearly twenty listed as “ insane “ . The  system was devised  to make sure that although individuals may live outwith the town the town had the obligation to  pay their Poor Law allowance if they were deemed  to be Crieff citizens .

Money was paid in “ old “ money . For example 2/- ( two shillings ) was  the equivalent of 10 pence and 10/- ( ten shillings) was 50 pence .

Name                                          Age Residence Age of Dependants Wkly Allowance Condition Cause of Chargeability

Helen Hepburn                          61   Poorhouse       -                             -                          Single              Debility
William Gilchrist ( lunatic)      58  Perth D Asylum  -                         10/-                      Single              Insanity
Isabella Gow                             76  Commissioner Street          -      2/- and 20/- rent     Single               Debility
Alexander Murie (lunatic)        55  Milnab Street               -             7/- and clothing      Single               Insanity
Elizabeth Buchan                      87  Water Wynd                  -             2/6                        Single              Debility
James Dougal ( lunatic)           59   Perth D Asylum          -              10/-                        Single               Insanity
Alexander Cramb ( lunatic )   61    Perth D asylum          -               10/-                        Single               Insanity
Margaret Allan ( lunatic )        34   Gartmore                   -              7/- and clothing       Single               In sanity
Margaret McIntyre or Clink ( lunatic) 62 Perth D Asylum                10/-                       Widow             Insanity
Mary Lyons or McAndrew     74   Commissioner Street                 2/6 and 20/- rent     Widow              Weak health
William McInness                   66   Poor House                  -                  -                         Single              Sore hand etc
Ann Brough or Christie           88   Water Wynd                -              10/-                        Widow              Debility
George Drummond                 35   Poor House                  -               -                             Single               Weak minded
Jean Robin                              31   Poor House                 3                -                            Single               Deafness & young family
Jean Haggart                           63   Gallowhill                   -                2/-                         Widow             Young family
John Forbes ( lunatic )            47  Gilmerton                   14,13         3/- to family          Married             Insanity
Alexander McIntyre (lunatic)64  Gilmerton                     -                8/- &  clothing      Single                 Insanity
Jean Nicol or Clark                 45  King Street                 10              1/6                         Widow               Young family
Catherine Drummond or McNab 40 East high Streeet    10,8           2/-                          Widow              Young family    
James McNeil                         10  Industrial School Perth  -             2/6                          Single                Youth
Margaret Edward or Jolly      75  Burrell Street                  -             2/6 and 20/- rent   Widow                Debility  
Elizabeth McNab or Thomson75 East High Street            -              2/6                         Widow                Debility
Heriot Anthony or Wyllie     36   Commissioner Street   9,7            4/-                           Widow               Young family
Margaret Robin ( lunatic )    62   Perth D Asylum             -              10/-                         Single                 Insanity      
Emily Cameron or Wyllie    35   Cornton Place              10,8,6       4/6                           Widow               Young family
Colin Marshall                       56  James Square               44,10,5    4/6                            Married              Ill health & young family
Thomas Duff or Robin         31   Poor House                     -                                              Single                Weak minded
Ann McEwan or McAinsh   79  Commissioner Street      -2/6 in food, Rent 26/- & attce. Widow            Blindness &Debility     
Janet A Miller or McCulloch 42 Ramsay Street        14,12,10 &8   7/6                           Widow              Young family
Margaret McPhail or  Ryder  81 North Bridge Street       -                2/6                          Widow              Debility
Jessie Roy Hay                        41 Water Wynd                -                5/-                           Single                Ill health
Catherine McGregor or Haggart 72 Bank Place              -                 2/-                           Widow               Debility
Christina McNab                    68 Water Wynd              -            3/6                     Single           Debility
Mary McLauchlane or Johnston 55 Falkirk   -             4/-                     Single           Debility
Peter Cramb                 12   Alichmore         -              3/6                     Single           Youth
Louis Don ( lunatic )   22   Bank Street          -            5/-                     Single            Insanity
Ann McPhee or Kelly 40   Dundee            16,14,8      3/-                     Widow          Young family
Mary Dougall              14  Industrial School Perth      2/6                     Single           Youth   
William Syme             10 Industrial School Perth       2/6                     Single           Youth
Catherine Syme            9  Industrial School Perth      2/6                      Single            Youth
John McLeod              81  Poorhouse                          2/6 in food         Single            Debility
Annie McAra (lunatic ) 23 Perth D Asylum               10/-                    Single            Insanity
Jessie Wilson               69 Poorhouse          -              -                         Single             Debility
James Soutar               11 Industrial School Perth      2/6                      Single            Youth 
Isabella McAinsh or McCulloch 79 East High Street 2/- in food & 20/-rent Widow  Debility
James Haldane          72 Mitchell Street   68             5/-                       Married          Debility
Peter J Miller             69 Burrell Street                      4/-                      Widower        Blindness
Christian Christie or Comrie 72 S Bridgend         2/-                          Widow           Debility
Betsy Campbell         77  East High Street            2/6                          Single            Debility
Ann McLaren or Wyllie 74 Cross                         2/6 in food             Widow           Debility
Mary A Meloy          54 East High Street              4/-                          Single            Debility
Helen H Drummond  42 East High Street  11,9,7,4,2  7/6                  Widow           Young family
Catherine P Thomson 45 Auchterarder 11.9         3/-                          Widow           Young family
Jessie Taylor ( lunatic ) 62 Perth D Asylum         10/-                        Single             Insanity
Mary A McEwan(lunatic) 55 Perth D Asylum    10/-                         Single             Insanity
Isabella McEwan (lunatic ) 47 Perth D Asylum  10/-                         Single             Insanity
William Tainsh or Baxter 51 Irregular                 Irregular                 Single             Debility
James Robin     14  Industrial School Perth          2/6                          Single             Youth
James Dow          1  Poorhouse                                                           Single              Youth
Georgina Morrison 8 Assynt                                3/-                           Single             Youth
Jessie Morrison 6  Assynt                                     3/-                          Single             Youth
Wm. Morrison 1 Assynt                                       3/-                           Single             Youth
Barbara Morrison 9 Assynt                                  3/-                           Single             Youth
Margt. D Drummond  63 Ladybank                    3/6                           Widow           Debility
Peter Menzies ( lunatic ) 34 Perth D Asylum 33,9,7,75,3,1 10/- to familyMarried   Insanity
James Routledge  71 Poorhouse                                                         Widower         Debility
Peter Cameron 76 Poorhouse                                                              Single             Debility
Jemima G Morgan ( lunatic) 37 Perth D Asylum 10/-                       Widow            Insanity
Helen  M Don  61 irregular                                                                 Single            Debility
Ann G Craig 17 Poorhouse                                                                 Single             Debility
Cath. McGregor Marshall  62  Alma Place        2/6                           Widow            Debility
Helen MN Duncan  42 Commissioner Street 12, 10, 7,4,2,1   7/6     Widow           Young family


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pestilence and Arson in 17th Century Strathearn

The Black Death Strikes Hard

One  often assumes  that  the Great  Plague which hit  London in the 17th Century did  not reach into the hinterlands  of Strathearn . There are  however a  number documented incidents which make it  quite  clear that the Plague or to give it it’s correct  designation - Bubonic Plague - was  indeed  around in these  parts of Perthshire at the same time .

The Bubonic  Plague spread  to Europe from China  in the 14th Century and  remained a scourge for a some  three  centuries thereafter . It mainly attacks  rodents  but fleas can pass the disease to humans and it has devastating affect once contracted  . The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. The Italian writer Boccaccio said its victims often "ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.". In the mid 1300s it’s affect in Europe  was devastating . In winter the disease seemed to disappear, but only because fleas--which were now helping to carry it from person to person--are dormant then. Each spring, the plague attacked again, killing new victims. After five years 25 million people were dead--one-third of Europe's estimated population .
A solitary gable is a sad reminder of what was an iconic symbol of another age

The  ancient Abbey of Inchaffray at Madderty to the  east of Crieff was  burned in the 17th Century . Although it  had ceased  to be used  for  religious  purposes   after the Reformation , it was still occupied  . It transpired  that a young lady of  means  had  arrived  from London to escape the Plague and together with her servants had taken up residence in the old building . Shortly afterwards one of her retinue fell ill with what  transpired  to be the “ plague ”. Taking matters  into their own hands  the local populous set  fire  to the  building and the terrified  occupants duly perished in the all consuming conflagration . This  however  was not the tragic finale as two young local lassies Betsy Bell and Mary Gray became  something of folk heroines after perishing  from the plague . This  account was  published at the end  of the 19th century .

"Bessie Bell and Mary Gray were the daughters of two country gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Perth, and an intimate friendship subsisted between them. Bessie Bell, daughter of the Laird of Kinnaird, happening to be on a visit to Mary Gray at her father's house at Lyndoch, when the plague of 1666 broke out. To avoid the infection, the two young ladies built themselves a bower in a very retired and romantic spot, called the Burnbraes, about three quarters of a mile westward from Lyndoch House, where they resided for some time, supplied with food, it is said, by a young gentleman of Perth who was in love with them both. The disease was unfortunately communicated to them by their lover and proved fatal; when, according to custom in cases of plague, they were not buried in the ordinary parochial place of sepulture, but in a sequestered spot called the Dronach Haugh, at the foot of a brae of the same name, upon the banks of the River Almond."

Three and half centuries on -smoke marked 
stone indicates the fire that was !

The tragedy is  recalled in the following  song that today  is  still sung by folk musicians .

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray
They were bonnie lasses
They built them a bower on yon burn-side
They theeked it all over wi' rashes (theeked - thatched)
They theeked it all over wi' rashes green
They theeked it all over wi' heather
The plague cam' from the borough town
And slew them both together

There is  however a relic  of these sad  times not far  from Crieff . At  the extreme    westerly point of Loch Monzievaird near where the old  sluices  were once  located , there is an interesting note on the older ordnance survey maps  which states “ Burial Place of  Persons who died of the Plague / 17th Century ”. Check it out on the digital map produced  by the National Library of Scotland Once  you have opened  the site  click on the map which  magnifies and navigate west of Crieff to Loch Monzievaird .

More  details about this were covered  in  a fascinating  book published  in 1880 by Oliphant of Edinburgh . The  book was entitled Historic Scenes in Perthshire  and  was written by William Marshall an erudite  Minister of the Church of Scotland  from Coupar Angus . I duly quote  from the good Reverend’s text :

“At the west  end of the Loch of Monzievaird is a large mound, to which a melancholy historic interest attaches .The victims of the Plague  which ravaged the district in the reign of Charles I were buried there .The visitation was severe , and , of  course , proportionally alarming . It is on record that the gentleman of the district caused many huts  to be erected , and ordered all the infected , as soon as any symptom of the pest having touched them appeared , to repair to the huts . The family of Ochtertyre , in particular, were singularly active , vigilant , and beneficent in the season of trial .They sent provisions of all kinds  to the sick in the huts ; but they caused observation to be made every morning ,  from which direction the wind blew .If it was from the east , their servants had strict orders to lay down the provisions  they carried a good way to the east of the huts ; and, if it was from the west , they had like orders to lay them down a good way to the west of the huts .The ‘ cleansers’ took them up after the servants  were gone , and carried them  to the diseased .”

Virtually all has  been forgotten  of those far off  days  when the  people of Strathearn  suffered not a little in the devastations of the dreaded  Plague of yesteryear .

The  Shores of Loch Monzievaird  Once a Refuge  for Victims of the Plague