Saturday, 28 November 2015

Castle Cluggy at Ochtertyre

Castle Cluggy
( written in 1880  by the Rev William Marshall in his book Historic Scenes of Perthshire )

“ Castle Cluggy on the peninsula on the north of the Loch of Monzievaird ( pronounced mony- vaird ) is a very old erection When it was built is not known but it was old upwards of four centuries ago. In the Charter  giving Ochtertyre to the Murrays , and bearing the date  of 1467 , it is described as an antiquum fortalicium . It is now reduced to a square tower of about seventeen feet  by eighteen , within walls ; but it was once very much larger . Its walls are five to six feet thick and as hard as adamant . In olden times the peninsula on which it stands was an island , separated from the bank of the Loch  by a narrow isthmus over which was  drawbridge , so it must have been a fortalice of great strength .
If tradition may be credited , this castle  may well be regarded as an Historic Scene ; for it is said to have been a seat of the Red Cumin ( Comyn ) , the rival of Bruce for the throne , and whom Bruce killed at the High Altar of the Convent of the Minorities at Dumfries .However this may have been, certain it is that Sir William Murray, the First Baronet of Ochtertyre , made Castle Cluggy his retreat for some time during the ascendancy of Cromwell. Moreover  , the artificial islet , formed of stones ,and supported by oak trees , about eighty yards  distant from the Castle , tradition represents as  being the prison attached  to it .”

Report  by Canmore ( Royal Commision on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

The OS grid reference  for the castle is : NN 83977 23401
In July 2001 an archaeological evaluation of the remains of Castle Cluggy (NMRS NN82SW 1), near Crieff, was carried out in advance of the consolidation of the structure. The evaluation involved the hand-excavation of trenches both within the structure and to its E in order to ascertain the nature of deposits within the castle; the relationship between the original walls, and the later, possibly 17th-century E wall; and the original extent of the castle.
The castle consists of a ruinous three-storey stone-built tower, measuring roughly 8.6m N-S by 8.1m E-W. The walls are generally 1.5m thick, with the replaced E wall having a thickness of just 0.95m. The N and S walls obviously continued further E in earlier times, but there were no signs in the grounds surrounding the building of their former course.
The evaluation required the hand-excavation of six small trenches. The interior of the building contained a build-up of roughly 0.9m of deposits. At a depth of 0.7m the possible original floor of the undercroft of the tower was encountered. This thin silt and pebble layer overlay a further old surface, possibly dating to the construction of the original building. Unfortunately there was no dating evidence from these early deposits, although the foundations for the E wall were found to clearly overlie, and post-date, those of the S wall. Remains of the original, now-demolished, walls were only encountered just to the E of the eastern termination of the N wall. A probable robber cut was, however, visible in the trench across the projected line of the E wall and this evidence suggested that the original extent of the castle was not much greater than at present, measuring around 9.3m E-W.
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Addendum  by Colin Mayall

Those of you who have  been following  my PerthshireCrieffStrathearn local history Blog  over the last three years  will be aware of the importance in the Strath of the Earls of Strathearn , their opposition to Bruce and their domination  of the religious  life of the people locally . As founders of the Augustinian Abbey at Inchaffray as a continuation and in parallel with the older Culdees establishment , they  wielded  great  power and  a direct line with the Pope in Rome and not through the Bishops in Dunblane and Dunkeld .It is probable that apart  from their power base at Fowlis Castle , south east of the village of Fowlis Wester , their Palace at Tom – a- chastel  (Tom-nan – chaistel or in English translated as “the round hill of the Castle “ ) and their re claimed Pictish citadel at Dundurn , they also were in occupancy of Cluggy allowing  them to maintain an iron grip on the heart of Strathearn.  

Where you might ask is Tom-nan-chaistel ? It is  the high hill  whereupon Baird's Monument  now reposes ! The pics  below allow  you to appreciate  the dominance of the locus and how  it would  have been an important part of the defence mechanism of our  ancient robber barons - the Earls of Strathearn ! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Ewan and Uncle Denis

        The success of Ewan McGregor has been quite phenomenal and despite the historical tendencies of this “blog” , it is relevant and essential to include something about him and indeed his uncle  Denis Lawson in my tales of Strathearn  . I happen to have know the family for a long time and so the following is more a personal commentary than a biographical synopsis . Having spent many a happy holiday in Crieff as a school boy and visiting my young brother in law Gavin who was a boarder at Morrisons , it was perhaps not surprising that we chose to settle down in the town in the 1970s to bring up our young family . As a member of the local Round Table I met Jim McGregor and his wife Carol and at the same time joined the local film club in which they both were leading lights . Carol ‘s dad Lawrie Lawson had a small jeweller’s shop in East High Street in what is now the Carpet Shop . They eventually moved down to West High Street and when Lawrie died his wife Phyllis continued the business for many years. A lovely sparkly person who has  just passed her 90th birthday and a lot of whose genes, I suspect, found themselves into Ewan’s personality.

I recall in the late 1970s , returning to Crieff having worked for a number of years in pre revolutionary Iran and being asked to help out in a Carnival organised ,I think , by the Round Table  . This was about the time of the first Star Wars film and of course Carol McGregor’s brother Dennis Lawson had found fame playing Wedge Antilles in that movie . Presumably, family influence persuaded Denis to make a guest appearance. The idea was that a procession would make it ‘s way from the top end of the town down to the Market Park. Denis as the “ Star ” attraction would head the crocodile accompanied by Darth Vader . As David Prowse, the body builder who played the arch villain, was unavailable, yours truly was asked to substitute! Clad in the full gear complete with what seemed a 2 ton mask and wielding the light sabre, I boldly stepped out accompanying Dennis in the direction of the Park. After what seemed an eternity and having nearly suffocated I entered the ground. Fortunately by this time all eyes were on Denis aka Wedge Antilles and I managed to escape towards my wife’s small Renault parked conveniently at the top end of the Park. Imagine my horror as I struggled to disrobe in the tight confines of the mini auto to hear a childish voice bawl out “ Hi – come on – there’s Darth Vader changing his breeks ! ” Such is the price of fame !

Apart from his success on the silver screen Ewan has with dad Jim shown a keen interest in donning the leathers and biking some fair distances. Ewan and his pal Charley Boorman have biked thousands of miles and raised considerable sums for charities including UNICEF  ,McMillan Cancer relief and the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland. The fund raising event held afterwards raised another £80 000 when Ewan’s BMW was auctioned. Nearly £200 000 went to the sponsored charities as a result of the evening. Crieff indeed can feel proud of Ewan as one of its sons .

Monday, 9 November 2015

Crieff  And Some Of Its Artefacts

Action Now ! 

The Cross of Crieff

The ancient town of Crieff has a number of tangible items of significant historical importance . There are however  four specific civic artefacts which have a particular importance to its good Burghers and I believe it important that these  find a suitable  home within the town as a matter of some urgency .What then are these  four "specifics" that I refer to  ? Let  me list  them below : 

1. The ancient stocks ( or jougs as they were known locally ) 
2. The Mercat or Drummond Cross 
3. The Cross of Crieff 
4.  And last but not least , the remaining part - or the gibbet - of the Kind Gallows of Crieff

 Below is a description of these written some one hundred and fifty five years ago in 1860 . This  appeared  in what arguably  was the first  tourist  guide to the area , entitled  simply the “ Beauties of Upper Strathearn “ !

The Kind Gallows currently lie in the basement of the Perth Museum awaiting repatriation  to their home  when a suitable repository is created !I was involved  unsuccessfully in 1994 in an attempt  to get our Gallows  back but this  was defeated by by the inability  to find a place  acceptable to the protectors of our past ! 

The 1860 account , however , makes interesting reading :

The Kind Gallows sketched in 1891

“ Sir Walter Scott when on a pedestrian tour through Perthshire in 1796- visited Crieff. On that raid ,there is reason for believing that he gathered many of those Highland traditions which his genius long afterwards worked  up with marvellous effect .Indeed , it has been conjectured that he had Crieff of that day in his eye when he drew the village of Tullyveolan and peopled it with its denizens . Certain it is that on this occasion  he saw this celebrated gibbet – which , in former days , stood near the Gallows ford , on the spot still indicated  by a lime tree. His enquiries did not  enable him to decide how it had acquired the name of the Kind Gallows , unless as being a sort of native or kindred place of doom to those who suffered there, as in fulfilment of a natural destiny . He  noted however , that the Highlanders used to touch their bonnets as they passed near its shadow, and mutter “ God bless her nain sell , and the Tiel tamn you “. The fatal beam remains and has long been preserved as a curious relict, by a lady in James Square , in whose family it has been preserved  for the last century “.

Let us now turn our attention to the other three artefacts mentioned above and once  again read what was written in 1860 :

The kind of justice administered in former  days by the seneschals or stewards of Strathearn was too prompt  and summary to require to impose  periods  of  lengthened  imprisonment  on those offenders  who had drawn themselves into the meshes  of the legal net . In 1685, a Tolbooth or warding place  was  built – consisting originally  of several cells .Latterly , this place consisted of single cell of large dimensions , under the Court Room – and this dismal place did service down till 1842 .It is probable that in earlier times , the ponderous  iron stocks which remain did duty – before Crieff had a Tolbooth .From their great weight – compared to things of the same kind to be seen , or at least  were lately  to be seen , in market  towns in the North of England , - and from the traces of wear which they bear, they are evidently of great antiquity , and it is highly likely that many a bear legged katheran did penance in the “ stocks of Crieff “ . They have not been used within the memory of the oldest inhabitant.

Standing near the stocks  is an octagonal stone about ten feet in height, and in the form of a fleur –de- lis , with a coronet  worked out in alto relief  on the body of the  fleur , which was the Burgh of  Regality of Drummond , and which was doubtless set up in the  burgh very shortly  before the revolution of  1688 . The creation of the burgh does not appear to have been approved of in Parliament, and this cross was likely demolished in the year of 1746, when the Act of Parliament abolishing heritable jurisdictions was passed. For many years it lay, an object of little interest in or near the old jail. In 1852, when Lord Willoughby gifted it to the town, it was erected on its present site.

Farther to the eastward, stands, in the middle of a square, which was until a recent period the Market-place ,what has  long been regarded as the “Cross of Crieff “. 

Archaeologists are at variance both as to the history of this monument , and the era to which its style  belongs .It is certain that it did not originally belong to Crieff, and the local tradition is that , little more than a century ago, it stood within the lands of Trowan . About that time it was set up in its present position in Crieff. One class of archaeologists say that its embossed carving is of Norman type while another class say it is of Runic character. It has been worked on one side only. From this circumstance it has been conjectured that it is a sepulchral stone, - and thus may have marked the last resting place of some Celtic hero. In any view, it is of great antiquity, and has been deemed worthy of a niche in the interesting volume on the Sculptured Stones of Scotland, recently issued by the Spalding Club.

The Strowan Cross  shown to the right of Strowan House which replaced  that  moved  to Crieff and which became known as the " Cross of Crieff " .

The Strowan Cross shown standing  next to Strowan House 

For  many years  these old artefacts  were located  outside in the streets of the town  and inevitably  began to suffer from the vagaries of the weather , not  least the  acidic rain that has blighted  so  much of our  soft  sand stone  traditional buildings. The Cross of Crieff was removed about 1995 from the "Cross"at the junction of High Street and Easy High Street and taken to the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh to undergo extensive restoration .  These artefacts were  then moved into the basement area of the old Town House in High Street below what had  become the Tourist Office  . The display  was well constructed and apposite  but sadly the site was not !  As I write this “blog” in November 2015 , the damp  conditions of that basement have caused  serious deterioration problems  and the exhibits will be taken into the  ” safe custody “ of Perth and Kinross Council with the proviso that they will be returned to the town once a suitable display  place has  been made available . This I am afraid has  sparked  more than a little furore , both verbal and written , amongst Crieffites of opposing views ! History doth repeateth itself ! 

There are two distinct  view points concerning the whereabouts  our treasures should rest ! It was originally intended when  the Strathearn Campus  was being created  in the lands south of the town that they would be housed there . The Campus incorporates  Crieff High School , Strathearn Community Library and a number of other facilities  including  the swimming pool and gymnasium . It is important  to  appreciate that this site is  steeped in the history of the past . It is bisected by the incredible Neolithic Cursus created  by our Strathearn ancestors 2500 years  prior to the arrival on Earth of Jesus Christ ! The Crieff Cursus is an historic contemporary of Wiltshire’s Stonehenge ! Unfortunately the biggest factor  against the choice of the Campus is  one of modern practicality namely the chaotic  car parking facility that prevails . Ease of accessibility is fundamental to success and that is something that does not currently exist . The alternative  to the Campus  location  is to site the project  in the heart of the town itself . At present a preponderance of fast food  outlets and charity shops  does  little  to cater  for those who seek  to find out  more about  our ancient heritage and the excitement of our volatile past .One remembers   with great  affection The Highland Tryst - a superb museum  run  by Penny and Micheil MacDonald out of  62/64 Burrell Street some years back .  Proper balanced  discussion and thought is  urgently  required with all points  of view  being considered and a positive choice made .