Monday, 20 July 2015

Crieff Old Parish Church And Graveyard in 1888



I have unearthed an old article on the Crieff Graveyard  which is currently the  source of much discussion and debate . Written on the 17th October 1888 it includes a number of interesting  facts  which have with the passage of time been forgotten . It tells  us that the Beadle  of the Church when it was being constructed in 1778 was one William Bayne who had  been in office  for some 33 years ( since 1745 ) . Willie had a  detailed  record of interments  in the Graveyard and  states that at that time  there were some 828 lairs . 

Names of Crieff families  buried  here include Russell , Stirling , Ross, McVicar , Richardson , Malloch , Seton ,Riddell , Fraser , Davidson , Bruce ,Skeldoch , Wilson ,Salmond , Scott, Cameron, Duff, Maxton, Baxter , Robertson , Cairns , Clark ,Dow, Low , Fechney , Christie , Richard , Monteith , Tainsh , Black , McFarlane ,Sinclair , Drysdale , McNeil , Ritchie and McRorie .

Many families  possessed three , four or five lairs. The Caw family , resident in Crieff for many decades  possessed 24 in total ! Many names on Willie’s list have long disappeared from Crieff . These include Coldstream , Murl, Clow , Glass , Brander , Harrower , Ewart , Gentle ,Mullion , McCurrich ,Ogilvie , Imrie, Grey , Harlow , Alexander , Fenton , Peat , Sheddan, McCraw and Littlejohn .

On several of the leaves of the list  ( which were originally written on one side )there are a number of notices of transfers of lairs  , such as :

“ John Tainsh gave over his right to Robert Armstrong , tailor , of his lair .”
“ Crieff 7th May 1821 : James McRobbie’s gift . Conditions – that none shallbe interred therein but Knights Templar or Royal Arch masons , neither are they allowed to sell or gift the same , as in that case  they fall back to my lawful heirs . James McRobbie “
“ David Barclay has bought of Isobel Taylor , liberty for himself and his wife to be buried in her burying ground “
“ William Bayne , weaver in Crieff ,agreed with William Ferguson , miller in Millhaugh , for his burying ground and paid  three shillings , which the said William Ferguson paid for the building of the dyke “ .

In olden times  many of the heritor’s had lairs inside the Church . Before pews were put in there was no floor and in digging graves the bones of previous tenants were scattered  about . The last buried inside the Church was Alexander McLaurin of Broich who was interred east of the pulpit in 1849 .


The burial of suicides was a serious undertaking .The use of the Parish Mort Cloth was forbidden ( the mort cloth was usually a quality linen embroidered sheet which was used  to  cover the plain pine coffins  that were  the custom of the time ) .In many cased the use of the kirk yard  was denied When it  was not , the coffin often had  to be taken over the wall and not through the gate . In the Old St Michael’s Graveyard , suicides  were buried in the ground to the rear of the Church .

In the 1990s  the Council in  their  wisdom  removed and destroyed the majority of the old gravestones . A few were  selected and place in a row  parallel to the east boundary wall. This wanton destruction destroyed much of our ancient heritage . These stones were a record of our  town’s past – particularly covering the 18th and early 19th centuries  when the hand loom weavers  were the dominant force in the town’s economy .


The etching at that start of this “ blog “ was drawn in 1888 from a photograph taken by an eminent Crieff photographer TF McFarlane some years earlier . The  sketch is  interesting as it  was taken from the  spot  where in the early days  of the church’s  construction  in 1787 through to the 1820s a “ preaching tent “ was located here to allow the righteous citizens of Crieff  to partake of  regular  worship in lieu of  enjoying the comfort of the pine pews !

On the old gravestone to the right in the foreground  there is an embossed or raised carving  in red sandstone of a weaver’s old hand shuttle  with an hour glass and crossed bones and a skull below . The whole is surmounted with the head and wings of an angel .The inscription on the other side reads :” Here lies the body of Jean Gouans , lawful daughter to William Gouans and Janet Murray , she died January 30th 1757 aged 22 years “. To the right of this stone , but not seen in the illustration is another stone with a lay and shuttle withn the motto “ Our days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle “ Near these stones was another that recorded that a Mrs Caw  was interred , who was the mother of 23 children . 

Towards the end of the 18th century , it was common to have the trade emblems of the deceased  carved  on his tombstone . Farmers had the coulter and the sock of his plough , gardeners had a  spade and line reel , tailors had scissors  and a  goose , barbers had razors , sailors an anchor and so on .

The Parish grave diggers  for the past 135 years ( ie  until 1753 )wereWilliam Bayne , 57 years , John Brown , 42 years , John Tainsh , 13 years and James Wilson , presently in office , 23 years.Old coins are occasionally found in the graves . Several years ago  a well preserved  silver coin was dug up dated 1113.  The present officer has a number of copper coins , seemingly of great age  , but the lettering is almost defaced  .

Since the graveyard was " tidied  up " by the Council in the 1990s we have  sadly lost  so much  of the stone heritage that was a remarkable record of  many of our town's past citizen's and families . Fortunately a survey  was  carried out in 1972  prior to the desecration . I have copied this and it is on this " blog " published in March 2015 at : 

http://perthshirecrieffstrathearnlocalhistor.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/st-michaels-church-yard-1972-survey-of.html

It was interesting that the vandals of yesteryear  missed out in the removal of some of the oldest and interesting ones  , namely the small "stump  stones " located  to the  rear and side of the old building . These are shown below : 
























Let  me  conclude this wee " blog " with pointing out  a significant difference  in the building as  shown  in 1888 in the etching  and  as  it  stands in its forlorn state at present in July 2015 . 

If you look at the entrance  door off Church Street ( I did  prefer  the older name Kirkgate ! ) you will see  that there  two long windows on either  side of the doorway , running more  or less full height . The 1888 sketch shows  four  separate windows . In all probability there was no door on this gable  end ( you cannot see from the sketch because of the shrubbery ) . The original building had a balcony and these  windows provided light to the elevated worshippers . The church was approached  from Pudding  Lane or Bank Street s it is now known and the path led  to the  main front entrance  below  the tower . 

It is  important  to ensure that this area of Crieff is not vandalised and turned into a car park as  some  opinions  seem  to favour ! We have  lost enough of our  heritage  . The building  alas  is  in all probability  beyond  redemption and should  be demolished  but the graveyard  grounds  can become a green area-  an oasis of peace and tranquillity . 







1 comment:

  1. Follow up to previous blogs on the Parish Church Crieff

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