Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tullibardine Castle and the Pride of the Scots Navy !

Proposed 18th century Adam alteration to 
Tullibardine Castle

                                The Great Michael 

I ran a “ blog “ in    August  2012 on Tullibardine Chapel

Directly north of the Chapel is a large field It was in the  centre of this that the now demolished Tullibardine Castle stood .There is a connection  between the church and the castle . The Chapel was built  by Sir David Murray  away back in 1446 and it became the traditional burying place of the family – the Murrays of Tullibardine – until they moved northwards  to Blair  Castle near Pitlochry . The Castle which was demolished in 1830 was built in the 13th century by the Murray family and was the first Murray  habitat in Perthshire. A Murray  had  married Adda  , the daughter of the Seneschal of Strathearn , thus acquiring the lands of Tullibardine .

Pont's map showing the castle 

The Murrays were  to grow into perhaps  the most powerful family in the county and their strength and power  was no doubt increased by their ability  to produce large broods of children especially boys ! In the 15th century , one , Sir William Murray of Tullibardine , produced  seventeen sons and nearly ran into trouble  with the reigning  monarch James V . The King was endeavouring to ensure none of his nobles travelled the land  with more than one retainer in their retinue and had a special Act of Parliament passed to the effect . Imagine  his rage  when being told that Sir William Murray was approaching the King’s castle in Stirling  with an armed “ tail “ of some thirty seven men ! Poor Sir William was dragged in front of his Sovereign to explain this blatant ignoring of his commands . Sir William meekly stated that he had brought his sons along and  surely it was permissible  for them to have a servant each ? The King realised  what had happened and duly welcomed Sir William and his sons  to Court ! 

The Murrays went from strength  to strength and became an ever increasing influence in Scottish politics and in  a general proximity to the incumbent monarch . One Murray became  joint Keeper of Stirling Castle and Guardian of the young James VI only to suffer exile for smashing the face of the Duke of Argyll with the hilt of his sword ,something  many of his  peers felt was somewhat overdue  ! In due course the King forgave him and made him Lord Comptroller . His son John became master of the Household and  in 1600 became the 1st Earl of Tullibardine . The 2nd Earl married the only daughter of Stewart Earl of Athol and thus began a new line in the Athol Earldom . A later descendent  became the  1st Earl of Athol and  from then onwards  the heir t o that title became known as the Marquis of Tullibardine . Tullibardine Castle  witnessed  little  fighting due  to the strength and power of the family . It was visited  by a number of monarchs over the years  and surrendered  to the Hanoverian supporting Duke of Argyll in the 1715 Uprising and was lived in by the great Jacobite military leader Lord George Murray .

I recall in the 1980s when carrying out  some work for the Strathallan Estate being told by the late Sir William Roberts , the owner of Tullibardine and the adjoining farms  that the stones used to build West Third farm house were taken from the ruins of the adjoining demolished castle . Why the castle was demolished  may have  reflected the economic  depression that followed the Napoleonic Wars . Archives held in the  National Archives of Scotland show the plans of William Adam the eminent Scottish architect who modernised the property in the 18th century . What is particularly interesting about Tullibardine  is that like all grand houses of the time it had landscaped gardens in its immediate vicinity . There  was , however , one particular feature  which has been recorded and  investigated over the years and that was  that part of the gardens had been laid out planted in the exact shape of the warship , the “ Great Michael “  . It had been Scotland’s naval pride and joy in the  early 16th century and was the largest , by far , of any fighting vessel in the whole of Europe. This was at a  time  when England , France , Spain and Portugal dominated the waves and Scotland was very much regarded as a Second Division player !

Michael (popularly known as Great Michael) was a carrack or great ship of the Royal Scottish Navy. She was too large to be built at any existing Scottish dockyard, so was built at the new dock at Newhaven, constructed in 1504 by order of King James IV of Scotland. She was ordered around 1505 and laid down in 1507 under the direction of Captain Sir Andrew Wood of Largo and the master shipwright Jacques Terrell, launched on 12 October 1511 and completed on 18 February 1512. When Michael was launched in 1511 she was the largest ship afloat, with twice the original displacement of her English contemporary Mary Rose which was launched in 1509 and completed in 1510.

The chronicler Lindsay of Pitscottie wrote of the building of Michael that "all the woods of Fife" went into her construction (it has been suggested that by this period there was not much forest left in Fife). Account books further add that timbers were purchased from other parts of Scotland as well as from France and the Baltic Sea. Supposedly, there were many cargo loads of timber imported from Norway that were used in Michael 's construction. Lindsay gives her dimensions as 240 feet (73 m) long and 35 ft (11 m) in beam.  Michael was supposed to have been built with oak walls 10 ft (3.0 m) thick. She displaced about 1,000 tons, had four masts, carried 24 guns (purchased from Flanders) on the broadside, 1 basilisk forward and 2 aft and 30 smaller guns (later increased to 36 main guns), and had a crew of 300 sailors, 120 gunners, and up to 1,000 soldiers.

Michael 's other curious claim to fame is that she is said to have carried among her armament Mons Meg, the great cannon used earlier in the siege of Threave Castle, which had a calibre of 22 inches (560 mm) and thus made her the warship with the largest calibre gun in history. That incredibly also includes  the battleships of the WW2 period !

Henry Vlll of England decided that he too must have such a massive warship and so the 
" Great Harry " ( formal name Henri Grâce à Dieu ) was launched  This 1 000 ton creation proved   somewhat top heavy and ended being a  virtual 16th century royal yacht and did  not see active service.

The Michael was named after the archangel Michael and built with the intention of leading a crusade against the Ottoman Empire to reclaim Palestine for Christendom. This grandiose plan had to be changed when the commitments of the Auld Alliance with France required Scotland to go to war with England to divert England from her war with Louis XII of France (see the Italian Wars).

In August 1513 a Scottish invasion force was assembled to attack English possessions in France. Commanded by James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, the chief ships were Michael, Margaret and James. Instead of attacking the English, Arran raided Carrickfergus in Ireland and returned with loot before proceeding to France.

A warship of this size was costly to maintain. Michael was hired by France in late August 1513, and after James IV and many of the nobility of Scotland were killed at the Battle of Flodden Field in September 1513, Michael was sold to Louis XII of France on 2 April 1514 for the bargain price of 40,000 livres and was known as "La Grande Nef d'Ecosse" (The Big Nave of Scotland; nave is from the medieval Latin navis, meaning 'ship'). In March 1514 it was reported that Michael was docked at Honfleur because she was too big for the harbour at Dieppe. Most historians have accepted the account of the Scottish historian George Buchanan that after this the French allowed her to rot at Brest. However, one historian, Norman MacDougall, has recently suggested that it is worth investigating the possibility that, under her new French name, she took part in the French attack on England in 1545 that led to the sinking of the English warship Mary Rose in the Battle of the Solent on 19 July 1545.

The Battle of Flodden saw the death of James and with him much of his Scottish nobility . Thus ended the dream which had  seen the Michael built as a means to project Scotland's image not just south of the Border  but in Europe as a whole .

How do we know about the creation of the garden feature at Tullibardine of the Great Michael ? It was again Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie who had written so much on the " Michael " He stated  that there had once been a garden laid out there in the precise shape and dimensions of a great early 16th-century warship known as the ‘Great Michael’ by a local man who had been a shipwright on the construction of the great vessel . He had planted the outline in hawthorn bushes. in the garden  beside the Castle . Research has indeed  revealed that one of the Royal carpenters to James was one John Drummond  from Auchterarder and that timber  from both Tullibardine and Kincardine ( the one near the Lang Toon and not elsewhere ! ) . It has been suggested that it seemed strange to have transported the timbers  from the heart of Strathearn all the way to Newhaven on the Firth of Forth but remember that the ship was  built of oak and that records indicate that not only had  it taken all the timbers  from the forests of Fife but it had necessitated the importation of additional requirements  from Scandinavia . In the light of this Tullibardine was on the virtual door step !

Looking north to where the castle was located

In 2010 , BBC Radio Scotland featured Tullibardine  Castle and  in August of that year organised a series of test trenches and carried out a geophysical survey which pinpointed the ruins of the Castle .Careful examination of cartographic records allowed the identification of the garden canal, shown on Roy’s 1750s map as a low bank and boggy area to the N of the castle site. This location is traditionally known as the Great Michael planting; however, its dimensions far exceed those of 16th-century "Carrick" and the feature is considered to be a shallow 18th-century garden canal..

In his book " Perthshire in History and Legend " , the late Archie McKerracher narrated a chat  he had had with Mr Maxtone , late factor of the Estate . Mention was made of the Chair Tree , an ancient oak which is still standing and is thought to be in excess of 700 years old ! In earlier times the Lairds of Tullibardine had a platform built in its branches from which they used to watch contests of strength and skill  taking place in the area below .The same interview  also revealed that when ploughing takes place  near the garden area that was , periodically hawthorn tree roots  are dug up.


Sadly nothing remains of the Castle although the ancient Tullibardine Chapel has  been thoughtfully restored and is in fine condition . The Murray family were important players in the Scottish scene for  many centuries and it is important not to forget the significance of the part  they played in our history . The Great Michael was an ambitious move  to raise the Scottish profile  on the European stage . This was sadly curtailed  with the tragedy of Flodden Field but should  not be forgotten .


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Walk Around Old Crieff in the Steps of the Drovers

When the Crieff Tryst ( Cattle Market ) was active , our little town was , for a month in October , a bustling frenetic place . There was an intriguing mixture of hardened  Gaelic speaking Highlanders and quick talking Lowland cattle dealers forever on the look out for a quick deal and profit . Many of the Highlanders came from the West - from Kintyre, Skye and other parts  of Argyll- the Dalriata of Celtic legend . 

They made their way to Crieff by traversing the south bank of the Earn and crossing into the town by Gallowford ( Ford Road ) , passing the Kind Gallows  and entering the free pasturage that was the Acrelands in what is now the Market Park . 

Market Park or the Acrelands was where the good citizens of Crieff could graze their beasts without hindrance or charge  and where the drovers rested their cattle before the start of the Michaelmas Tryst . There were a number of sites about the town where the cattle were kept prior to sale . 

Small cairn and plaque and cairn erected by Hillcrest Housing at their Gallowhill Development indicating the historical significance of this part of the town . The “ Kind Gallows “ were mentioned by Sir Walter Scott and also Macaulay in his “History of England” ( honest !! ) The drovers heading for the Acrelands would doff their bonnets as the passed the 7’ long gibbet in superstitious respect . 

Joseph Sharp’s Ale House in Burrell Street ( somewhat modernised ) was a " howf " much favoured by the droothy drovers  en route to the final halt .

It was shown on Wood’s map of Crieff dated 1822. 

The“ drover’s boozer “ was located at the rear of the present building which was renovated about 1985 . 

                                                             Gallowhill House 

This late 18th century Georgian building is shown on Wood’s map of 1822 . The lower part of the fabric including the vaulted cellar probably dates back to an earlier period. The cellar appeared to function as a cell in days gone by and in the 1980s there still remained a chain bolted to the stone ceiling . 

St Fillans RC Church built in 1871 by Andrew Heiton Jr and one of the town’s ecclesiastical gems . Relocated here from site at top of Mitchell Street .St Dominic’s School was located in what is now the car park before moving across to its current situation.

Crieff Cemetery Ford Road

Cast iron fountain by George Smith & Co of the Sun Foundry Glasgow 1887 with figures of herons . Listed.

The Crieff Cemetery was opened in the late 1850s  on the closure of the one in Church Street ( Kirkgate ) adjoining the old Parish Church . The Ford Road Cemetery is in reality a garden of remembrance for  more than a few of  the town's worthy sons.

Lewis Miller and his wife Annie McEwan . Incredible man and a true “ lad o’ pairts “. Strong supporter of the Seceders and opposed to the Parish Church . Ploughboy who by the age 30 owned half of Bennachie in Aberdeen , forests in Sweden and Labrador , had two towns named after him , constructed 100s of miles of Canadian railroad and in his spare time built what is now Richmond House
( formerly Bennachie ) and provided the money to allow the Free Kirk Steeple to dominate that of the Parish Kirk opposite in Strathearn terrace  by 2 feet ! Wife was a McEwan who owned the Dallerie Mill and produced renowned tartan cloth . Lewis’s grand daughter lived in Ward House Muthill aged 94 ( 2009 ) 

Daniel Robertson another of Strathearn’s sons of the soil who made his mark . Ploughboy – dux of Monzievaird school – founder of the National Provincial Bank in London . Built Dalnaglar on Comrie Road (now Balhousie Dalnaglar Care Home ) as a summer home  and restored Dalnaglar Castle near Blairgowrie . 



Stone to the MacRosty family . Family originated in Monzievaird and are buried in the cemetery at Strowan beside the pre Reformation Church at the foot of Bairds Monument . James was Provost of Crieff , solicitor and bank agent . His father was a weaving agent and family lived in what is now Earnbank Road . Bought and donated the nursery at Barnkittock now MacRosty Park .

mposing edifice to Monteith / McLaurin family – the Lairds of Broich – the lands extending east- west to the south of the town . Monteith Street named after them . Built Broich House  beside the Earn.

Like Lewis Miller , the Morgan family were eminent in the forestry business which brought much prosperity to the town in the 19th century. The Morgans owned the sawmill at Turretbank now Park Village . 

The Last drove !!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Fowlis Castle - A Forgotten Part of Strathearn’s Heritage

Once the Powerbase of the Earls of Strathearn now a pile of stones .

It does  look  from afar a bit like a Christmas pud on the festive table , just a large mound arising  out of a sloping farmer’s field ! That , good folks,  is all the remains  of Fowlis Castle- the locus  for generations  of the  power base of the mighty Earls of Strathearn !

The west walls  overlooked the Downie Burn - a naturally defensive position

For what was undoubtedly one of the most important  structures in the  Strath it has  been  totally neglected and forgotten – a somewhat sad  reflection  on the importance of our  heritage in the eyes of our political caretakers !

What  compounds the  general confusion over the Castle  is that there are in fact two  other castles  of the same name in Scotland – one  near Dundee and another near  Evanton north of Inverness ! The spelling does  vary  between  Fowlis and Foulis and it is  not  made  any easier  by the pronunciation  which is “ Fowls “ ( as in a number of hens ! )
Where then  exactly is  our Fowlis Castle ? Incredibly it is  no longer shown on the current Ordnance survey maps and is virtually forgotten by one and all .  Bereft of any signage explaining to the curious visitor its importance and significance in years gone by , it is somewhat off the beaten track but quite accessible.

Heading towards Perth on the A85 , look for the Newbigging Farm sign on the left hand side about a mile and a half after New Fowlis  and before the road  to the right to Madderty . Turn up and at the farm turn sharp left on the road to Blairmore Farm . The castle mound is about half mile on the left hand side . There are barbed wire fences to keep the sheep in or out so you had better watch your breeks( trousers) !

Late 19th  century Ordnance Survey maps  show the site of the Castle adjoining a farm  named Castleton which is  no longer standing . Perhaps  on account of its comparative  isolation off the main thoroughfares , it has  slipped away  from regular  attention – something  which  really should never have happened  .

Why was Fowlis Castle built and by whom ?

The Castle  was , for  many centuries , the power base of the powerful Earls of Strathearn who held  sway over a large part of what  was  to become Perthshire and that part  known as Strathearn  stretching from Loch Earn  in the west  to the town of Perth in the east .

The Earls of Strathearn were in existence before the  reign of Malcolm Canmore in the eleventh century and find  their origins in the Pictish kingdom of Fortren or Fortriu established after the Roman departure from Strathearn . We know  from documentary evidence that the aptly named  Grim  , Thane of Strathearn resided in Fowlis Castle .  He was slain in 1010 , in the Battle of Mortlach , fought by Malcolm ll against the Danes   and it is said that he was  succeeded in the Thanedom by Walinus , an Englishman of rank , whom the Scottish king delighted to honour !

The date of  construction cannot be  defined exactly  but was , in probability around the 9th or 10th Century . Call them Earls , Princes or even Kings – these overlords ruled Strathearn with an iron fist . Their power base was Fowlis Castle but they consolidated their grip by further strongholds across the valley of the Earn . Castle Cluggy on the northern  shore of Loch Monzievaird at Ochtertyre was one such site whilst their palace was a fortified  residence at Tom a Chastel where Baird’s Monument now graces the landscape .To the west the guardian barrier of Dundurn protected  against threat  from the Celts of Dalriada
( Argyll ) .

It is important to remember that these overlords were Celtic or Pictish in ancestry unlike  so many of the Scottish  nobility of the time  who held  power as an indirect result of the Norman Conquest of the southern part of these Isles . In pre Reformation Scotland  , the Church had a strong influence in everyday life . Here in Strathearn , the Earls used their direct influence  with the Pope to ensure that the Church in this neck of the woods was theoretically under their control . We know that whilst the Pope  would  have communicated  normally  with the Bishop in nearby Dunblane in dealing  with Church business he  dealt directly more often with the Earls themselves . It is interesting to note  that religious  matters in 11th Century Strathearn were the province of the Abbey of Inchaffray . Surprise , surprise  , the Abbey was a mere mile south of Fowlis Castle in what  was virtually its back garden !

South to Inchaffray Abbey a mere mile away !

The Earldom of Strathearn now stretched from Newburgh in the east to Balquhidder in the west. Inchaffrey Abbey was founded in 1200 and the name Crieff first appears in the charters. One witness is described as Bricius, the parson of Crieff ( about 1199). Earl Gilbert did well for himself. He married Matilda , daughter of the Earl of Arundel ( to become the Norfolks) . He had 8 sons and 3 daughters. He took a prominent part in the coronation of Alexander ll in 1214. He died in 1223 and was succeeded By Robert a great supporter of Inchaffrey having initially quarrelled with the Abbot over their possessions. He signed a charter in the 1222 in the ancient Church of Strageath.

The Earls of Strathearn were very important play makers in the King’s business. Malise who succeeded Robert attended the coronation of Alexander lll in 1249. The king was only 8 ! The young King married Margaret daughter of King Henry of England 2 years later. Henry tried to inveigle his way into Scottish affairs but the young King resisted. Malise was in the favour of the English King and was appointed co Regent ( there were 15 in number ) to govern Scotland until Alexander reached 21.Malise married 4 times and as a result inherited more land and property. From his first wife Marjory he obtained lands in Northumberland. From his second wife Matilda , daughter of the Earl of Caithness and Orkney he obtained the Barony of Cortachy in Angus. He then married Emma and lastly Maria, widow of Magnus , King of Man. The account of Malise tells how he used his rights to “ sell “ many of the poorer classes into service of the Church at Inchaffrey. He died in 1271.

The beginning of the end  for the Celtic Earls of Strathearn was in reality their inability   to keep  enough balls in the air at any one time ! ! One of the most incredible of events  was the confrontation of the cocky Malise , Seventh Earl of Strathearn , and King  Robert the Bruce . Bruce arrived on his doorstep complete with his army . On demanding his homage, Malise’s answer was that to give it would be to break faith with the King of England. Sir John Boyd stepped forward and said to Bruce “ Give me his lands, and put him to death as you have done to others who refused to pay homage to you “. Not surprisingly Malise did a quick about turn and homage was duly paid !

Thereafter things  went badly wrong and power began to slip away from the Earls .

The future of The Celtic Earls of Strathearn was heading towards a certain end. Their duplicity and opposition to Bruce were their ultimate downfall. In 1344 David ll would not reinstate him and granted the title to Maurice Moray . Moray’s tenure was short lived . He was killed at the Battle of Durham and the title remained dormant for a number of years. In 1370 Robert ll conferred the title upon his son David. The title passed to the Graham family when David’s daughter married Patrick Graham. The animosity between the Drummonds and Murrays arose from a court case where Sir Alexander Murray , a brother in law of the King , declined to appear before Sir John Drummond, Steward of Strathearn on a murder charge Eventually he did with much bad feeling .

And so the incredible story of the Earls – their  power and their Castle – comes  to a conclusion . Have a look around and  you will see  some tangible remains but little  else in what has  become the sleepy hollow of Strathearn !

The castle dominated the Strath 
Hewn stone from the walls

                         Natural defensive position

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Ancient Church of Strowan Near Crieff

Strowan Church 

In the 19th century there were  over  940 ecclesiastical parishes in Scotland .These  parishes were administered  by the established church that is  the Kirk or the Presbyterian Church of Scotland who were after the Reformation the successor  to the Catholic Church in Scotland  . In the majority of  cases these parishes had  their origins in pre  Reformation days and  many of the older  parish churches still survive albeit often  in a  ruinous  condition . One  little  gem that remains although in a somewhat ruinous condition  is that of Strowan Church near Crieff .  

Just the walls remain

Baird's Monument close by 

          The over grown entrance to the Kirk
17th century memorial in the church

                                            Memorial in the interior  in Latin  dated 1684                        

The window  on the rear wall above  where the alter would have been located 
Old and new 

Strowan  was a Parish in its own right   until the 1600s when it amalgamated with the adjoining  Parish of Monzievaird to become Monzievaird and Strowan .The  church that exists was erected on the site of an even earlier structure dating  back into the mists of time and  was in probability constructed in the early 17th century .It is dedicated to St Rowan or St Ronan and has around it a  small grave  yard with a variety of stones and memorials many of which are those of the Stirling family , the one time Lairds of Strowan .

 Old Strowan Bridge

Strowan House  showing Strowan Cross - site of the old market 

Strowan Cross

The Cross located east of Strowan House was the centre  point of the annual market and Fair  was  sheltered  by a mature lime tree. The Cross bore the initials JNRN - Jesus  Nazarenus Rex Judorum .

One  reason why Strowan has  survived the vagaries of modernisation is that after the Second World War the old Strowan Bridge was  demolished as being “ unsafe “ A new bridge and road were constructed some  distance downstream  from the original this physically isolating the old kirk from easy access .

 One of the many interesting features  one stumbles across at Strowan

It has a beautiful serenity and  views  towards the Baird Monument close by to the east . Access is by means  of what is sign posted  as “ Private Access “ being the  approach to Strowan House  and is in fact the old public highway . Drive out of Crieff on the A85 Comrie road and turn left at Monzievaird  along the unscheduled road and cross the new bridge .  Park  your  car in the  lay by on the south side of the new bridge and  walk  the 100 yards  to the old church . It is well worth the effort !

A microcosm of the past 

Apart  from the historical and religious fascination of the  old Church in its  secluded  setting , there are a  number of other interesting tales  concerning the Parish itself . The founder of the Parish was  one  St Rowan who  was also its tutelar Saint . He left  bell to it and three acres of land for the support of the bellman . The early “ bellmen “ were the dewars or keepers of the bell  and the name itself is noted  in Scottish 20th Century  annals  as  the surname of one of the founders of the  re – convened  Scottish Parliament - the late Donald Dewar .

Other local memorials to the Saint survive . The Pool of St Rowan is a deep pool in the River Earn  about 100 yards upstream from the old bridge of Strowan .In addition there is a fine spring of water close by the House known as St Rowan’s Well .
Although the  Church ceased  to function as  such in 1804  when it amalgamated  with the parish church of Monzievaird ( pronounced " Monie - vaird  " !!! ) its history extends   far  back into the mists  of early Celtic Christianity . The Latin memorial  shown above is dated 1684. Archaeological research carried  out  indicates that the ruined  church was  rebuilt prior  to that date on the same site  and  in probability goes  back as far as the 12th century or even earlier .
This  is one of the  hidden treasures of Strathearn - easily accessed and  close  by  a host of other " points of interest  " including Baird's Monument - the Pictish , Tom a chastel ( the Royal Palace of Strathearn or Forten ) and of course Samson's Stone on the Laggan walk !


Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Happy New Year from Crieff & Strathearn !

River Earn in May


If you wish to see some pictures of Crieff and Strathearn  in different seasons  have a look at our new “ blog “