A look into some interesting Crieff archives

The Scotsman 10th November 1891

The “ Kind Gallows of Crieff" 

At a meeting of the Town Council yesterday a very interesting relic  was formally handed over to the  Council for safe custody ,this being two parts of the famous Kind Gallows of Crieff , so well known as being referred to by Sir Walter Scott in his Waverley and also mentioned by Lord Macaulay in his History of England ( sic ) . During the great fairs held in Crieff prior to the establishment of the Falkirk Trysts about the year 1770, hanging of cattle stealers  was very common and the Earls of Strathearn and other feudal superiors were wont to hold frequent courts in afield to the south west of the Town, known as the Stayt .The principal highway in the valley of the Earn led east and west past the Gallows Hill , a small knoll nearly a mile  from the Stayt . This place of execution is now embraced  in Crieff and is at present indicated  by a tree , the locality being known as the Gallowha’ . Raiders on cattle and sheep caught red handed  were disposed of very  summarily . Macaulay when referring to these times in his “History “ says  : “ one day many square miles of pasture lands were swept  bare  by armed plunderers from the hills. Another day a s core of plaids dangled in a row on the gallows of Crieff .
Sir Walter Scott visited the locality  more than once and most likely  he “ inspected “ the famous instrument .

The last authenticated trial which took place in the  Steward of Strathearn’s Court is that of the Rev Richard Duncan , minister of Trinity Gask ( some five miles from Crieff ) for the murdering of his illegitimate child . He was condemned and executed on the Crieff gallows in June 1682 ***

In all probability the gallows  were in use up till the time of the “ rebellion “ ( sic ) in 1745 . The hangman held office e until 1746. The timber of the old gallows was for a time kept in a smithy near the top of King Street *** and in 1832 a box  was made  from part of it and sent to Sir Walter Scott . In more recent times  it was much cut up and made into
 “  souvenirs of Crieff”. Since then the famous relic has passed through the hands  of various owners until yesterday  when , as above stated , it was consigned to the custody of the Crieff Town Council .

*** This account fails  to recognise that the poor Rev was pardoned  but the  messenger carrying  the pardon failed  to reach Crieff in time . See my previous  Blog for further details

*** This  is the site of the current Police Station – the emblem of  the smith  by name of  Wright  is built into the wall near the main entrance .

The Scotsman 17 November 1893

The Crieff Burgh Seal

The above is a representation of the seal adopted  by the Town Council of Crieff. The seal is emblematic of historic  scenes in the District . In pre historic times , the Earls of Strathearn – scions  of the Royal family – had their stronghold or castle situated by Tomachastel, a conical hill some three miles west of Crieff and on which now stands Sir David Baird’s monument , a conspicuous object in the valley of the Earn . Singularly enough , too , the title is still held by one of the Royal Family of Great Britain – the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn . The Earls of Strathearn who flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were succeeded  by the Stewards of Strathearn and they held courts in a field about a mile  south from  the town , now part of the Estate of Broich . Down till about the beginning of the present century the “ stayt “ or “ skeat “ where the court was held  was about 12 yards in diameter with the centre raised , on which the Earls or Chief Judges sat .In 1850 the then laird of Broich  demolished the “ stayt “ . The seal represents the Earl sitting on the mound dispensing justice .On his left is the cross of Crieff, also a pre historic relic and according to Mr TW Jones , Professor of Geology , Cambridge University  dates not later than the eighth century. In the foreground are the Crieff iron stocks  or pillory ** which are still seen at the door of the Court House They are almost the only remains of the kind in the country .In ancient times criminals were wont to suffer punishment in the stocks , the mode being that the delinquents lay on their backs and had their legs securely locked .

** known as jougs . 


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