A Place Called Balloch

For those of us  with a knowledge  of the origins  of Scottish place names that of Balloch can appear more than a little confusing . Most Scots  would instantaneously say : Balloch – that is the town at the south end of Loch Lomond where the trains stop !
The word itself is locally linguistic in origin  .It is a derivative of the Scottish Gaelic bealach, meaning a pass in hills or mountains. Balloch also occurs as a surname and one source indicates that although derived  from Gaelic  it is from the  word "ballach", meaning speckled or spotted . That conclusion I am sure would meet  with a stout  denial from  a good  friend of  mine and bearer of the name !

Here in Strathearn we have our own place named Balloch . It is tucked away in a sheltered  spot at the foot of Turleum and greatly by passed  by every day life . When you are leaving Crieff on the Muthill Road ( A 822 ) heading south turn sharp right on the unclassified  road sign posted “Balloch “. Driving westwards you pass Balloch Mill farm on the left. Prior to the road turning southwards , you pass Ballochargie Farm immediately on your right. If  you follow the farm road towards the Loch of Balloch and Cuiltballoch Farm , you come across a large pile  of  stones  on the right  hand side  . This , sadly,  is all that remains  of Balloch Castle ,once the strong hold of the Laird Of Balloch , deposed and defeated  by the more powerful Laird of Drummond . The castle  was  demolished about 1840 and sadly little remains .

The Loch itself is a picturesque gem . There is a small boat house on the southern bank and local anglers practice their piscatorial skill on the placid waters chasing  the elusive “ brownies “ that inhabit the depths . Families of mallards, teal and swans busy themselves  amongst  the reed beds that line the shore . It is local nature at its best .
Balloch in the eighteenth century  was home  for one of Strathearn’s most eminent scholars . Father Alexander McDonald a was a Catholic priest at a time when the fiercely entrenched  Presbyterian clergy of Crieff and the surrounding parishes were vociferously anti Catholic . These descendants of Knox were equally opposed  to the many local citizens who still preferred the  teachings of the long established  Episcopalian Protestantism – the “ old “ religion of the Strath . Despite this , Alexander McDonald achieved fame and distinction as a classical scholar . It was written of him “ Mr McDonald was a distinguished classical scholar and excelled particularly in his intimate knowledge of the Latin and Gaelic languages . Of the former , his Fingaleis is a sufficient proof ; and of the latter , the circumstances of his having been employed to give the Latin signification of Gaelic words of two letters of the alphabet ,for the Gaelic Dictionary published under the patronage of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland “ . MacDonald was born in 1755 some ten years  after the Jacobite Uprising which  brought  Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Highlands . When he arrived in the Strath we  do not know but according to Porteous in his History of Crieff , the Catholic Bishop Hay established a mission in Crieff under the auspices  of Father McDonald . He  did not live in the town  but established residence on the  west bank of the Loch of Balloch . Some time later , a two storey house  was built for him and it  was , not surprisingly  called the “ Priest’s House “ . This was on the edge of the town at Dallerie where Morrison’s Academy Playing Fields are now located .He also was given a field which became known as the “ Priest’s Field “ . 

It was said that the house , garden and field  were given to him  by the Drummond family . Religious worship was carried out in an upper room of  the Priest’s house . He died  aged 83  in July 1837 . 

The first OS map of 1863 shows the area as the “ The Balloch “. Its early place in Strathearn history occurs when the dominant family in “ The Balloch “ the McRobbie’s assisted the Drummonds to victory in a Clan battle on Knock Mary, the hill immediately to the north. In the 18th century, the small farms would be about 5 or 6 acres in extent and would rely on the smallholding or crofting syndrome where they cultivated barley (or bear) and had a cow or two as well as a pig which was killed in salted for winter sustenance. The Statistical Account for the Parish written in 1843 tells us that a flax mill was set up in Balloch. This was part of a Government scheme to encourage the growing of flax and linen cloth weaving became an important cottage industry. The 1841 census for Balloch shows a William Miller, aged 71 described as a linen weaver. He was probably the brother of Lewis Miller, the grand father of Lewis  Miller , whom you will recall , was  covered in an earlier  “ blog “ and  who became an immensely wealthy timber  merchant  with forests in Canada and Scandinavia . Balloch was an area where deciduous timber was abundant (as mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of the Parish for 1795 and 1843) and again it is probable that the Millers were involved in saw milling from an early time.

Let me conclude  this little “ Blog “ with a repeat of the tale published in Macara’s “ Crieff: Its Traditions and Characters “ published in 1881

“ The truth of the story was duly vouched for by the late intelligent tenant of Broadlea (Woodnook), Mr James Miller. About the middle of the last century (1750s), a hedger named Bayne and his family lived in the Balloch. Having a strong leaning to to the Duke of Perth and Prince Charlie, and having seen the last of the ‘45, resolved to seek a home in another land, and with this intent he and his family and others set sail for France. A storm came on, and they were driven on Corsica, where they were hospitably received, and were known as Bayne, or Buon and his party. In course of time his sons were called Buon- de-parte, or Buonaparte, and who now figures in the history of the world as the great Napoleon. Hurrah for Balloch!  “  


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