Sunday, 10 January 2016

Strowan Past and Present


Strowan Past And Present

The old bridge of Strowan was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a modern structure about half a mile downstream . This realigned the road from Monzievaird thus virtually isolating the old market place of Strowan and the ancient kirk to the east . 

The name Strowan is derived from Saint Rowan who is reputed to have lived in this airt in the mid seventh century . He was  a  Celtic saint who is recorded as having been involved in the contentious debate of the time  over the keeping of Easter . Rowan crossed swords with the formidable Fiaan , Bishop of Lindisfarne in this matter .


Strowan House with the Strowan Cross clearly depicted about 1900

Old Strowan Bridge

 





New Strowan Bridge 

The church has been in a ruinous state for many a long year . This account written in an article penned in the 1880s could well have been written in 2006 .

The ruins of the old Church or Chapel of Strowan surrounded by the kirkyard are near the bridge  . It had been a thatched one storey erection . The East gable and a considerable part of the side walls are standing . Several memorial stones are built in the walls but there is now difficulty in deciphering them owing to defacement and the masses of ivy which cover the buildings . It ceased to be used in 1804 when the new Parish Church of Monzievaird and Strowan was erected about a mile northwards . The old school and teacher’s house was close to the Southern wall of the kirkyard .It was latterly a stable but was demolished a number of years ago . 



The only remaining gable wall ( the east one ) of the old kirk

We have heard old men , whose history dated from the end of the last century , tell of the worshiping in the old kirk . The young people gathered at seven o’clock in the Sunday mornings to receive instructions from the minister . Long before the hour for public worship , the inhabitants of the surrounding braes and uplands would assemble in the kirkyard and discuss private and parish matters , and retail the news of the district. Ministers in those days were looked up to and venerated in a manner we now little understand . If traditions can be believed , they did their best to promote harmony and peace in their bounds .

St Ronan’s name was long associated with various things connected with the neighbourhood . Besides the Pool of Saint Ronan , there was Fil - Ronan , ie the festival or fair of Ronan , latterly known as Strowan Market now transferred to Crieff .
Ronan is the name of a fine spring of water and a fish cruive in the Earn close by was also called Ronan .The fairs were held round the Market Cross of Strowan . Tradition says that the Cross of Crieff was taken from Strowan to Crieff upwards of 200 years ( ie circa  1680 ) ago and the rent in the stone took place in transit . Certain it is that the Crieff Cross does not face the East nor any of the cardinal airts . We have heard it said that the stone stood on the South side of the highway beside which it now stands  . The present Cross of Strowan is said to have replaced the previous Cross and tradition says that it was taken out of the kirk or kirkyard for the purpose . It stands on a small mound West from the Old Kirk under the shade of the drooping branches of a lime tree.

It is a Maltese Cross about four feet high .  The arms are 7 inches long and the outer parts are 12 inches broad and 7 inches thick .On the West side are a series of embossed letters and signs .The south arm is broken about 3 inches from the centre as shown by the wavy line on the arm . Part of the lettering is I.N.R.I, being the initials of Jesus Naseremus Rex Judeoum . The embossing is partly indistinct. That on the pillar seems like a shield or coat of arms .There is no lettering on the east side of the stone .

The jures, dewars, bellmen or beadles of Strowan were proprietors in the parish . St Rowan left  three acres of good ground , a little west from the Church to the dewar or bellman , the charter for which required the bellman and his heirs to ring the holy bell of St Ronan under his gown when mass was said . The bell is a large wired hand bell apparently made of brass and iron , but now minus the tongue . It was carefully preserved by the dewars , generation after generation . Over a hundred years ago  , a dispute took place regarding the ownership of the three acres of land and the case was taken to the Court of Session . Upon examination of old records, the bellman’s claim was established . Till about fifty years ago , the dewars occupied the land but for many years both the ground and the bell have been possessed by Mr Graham Stirling of Strowan . A short distance westwards from the Cross are the stables of Strowan , which occupy the site of what was anciently known as Bogha’ farmhouse . Amongst the last , if not the last tenant of the farm was a Mr McRostie whose name still faintly recurs in the traditions  of the district .He was a character and father of nineteen children  . He had a peculiarity in his tongue which caused a thickness or deficiency in his utterance . He tried to rule his own house in proper form and frequently sung Psalms , always reading or reciting a line or two previous to singing . His family and others used to smile at the uncouth sentences as peculiary drawn out .. The line , “ The pelican in wilderness “ , was rendered “ The pelican in wild duck’s nest “ . Bogha’s quaint sayings used to form a frequent subject of gossip and amusement .

Old people used to tell of the great doings of Strowan Market , and how from time immemorial the agents of the Duke of Athole ( sic ) attended in due form and received , in acknowledgement of feudal  rights , a number of graip , spade and rake shafts , after which the Market was declared open .

Strowan House was erected in 1804 by Sir Thomas Stirling , Bart , who died in 1808 . He left the property to the second son of Mr Thomas Graham of Airth , his nephew m being the present proprietor  Mr Thomas J Graham – Stirling , who succeeded to the estate at his birth , and in time assumed the name Stirling . The mansion was considerably improved and enlarged in 1864 .It is nicely situated on the banks of the Earn , and has a fine southern exposure . The small estate of Lochlane lies east from Strowan and was of some note in former times . Old people yet occasionally speak of the Laird and Lady of Lochlane . The mansion house was the old white farm house on the south side of the wood of Lochlane .The last lady was Mrs Campbell , widow of Captain James Campbell , and sister to General Sir Thomas Stirling , previously referred to  . The marriage settlement of these two is dated 3rd August 1760 and one of the witnesses is James Bruce of Kinnaird , the great Abyssinian traveller .  The estate with that of Trewin or Trowan , on the north side of the earn passed into the possession of Lady Baird of Ferntower and is now owned by Lord Abercromby . Lochlane was long owned by the Murrays , and a gravestone inside the walls of the Kirk of Strowan records , in embossed letters round the margin that “ Here lys ane gentleman , John Murray of Lochlane , who departed this life 1632 . “ Across the stone is recorded “ Jean Hum his spouse , 1622 “ . The Earn runs for about a mile eastwards on the north of Lochlane where it has worn a deep bed for itself . Along the high part of the south bank are the remains of what looks like a mill – lade , with ruins of small buildings at short distances along the track . There is no information or tradition concerning the lade , and the source from which  water could be taken is unknown . The works must have been made many generations ago  and cost a considerable amount of engineering and trouble .

Strowan Kirkyard is the burial place of the family of Strowan . One of the most recent interments was that of young Strowan , whose neat marble headstone records that
“ Thomas James Graham – Stirling , Lieutenant , the Black Watch , fell at Tel- al – Kebir , Egypt , 13th September 1882 in his 24th year . “



The Strowan Cross is now displayed in the Old Town Hall in Crieff., but there was another one ! 

Perhaps like this sketch appearing in a local periodical of the late 19th century ?




and
referred to as the Strowan Cross !

 

Bell of St Rowan of Strowan 

The Bell of St Rowan is typical of many of that associated with  Celtic saints such as St Fillan . The History of the Parishes of Monivaird ( sic ) and Strowan penned by the local minister the Rev Porteous gives a reasonable amount of information about the Saint whose name is encapsulated in the place name of Strowan . This was written in the mid 19th century and seems to have escaped general publication . One suspects ( or should I say in the much more descriptive vernacular - jalouse ) that these words were seized upon by later Perthshire authors such as Marshall to satisfy the Victorian hunger for the past .

On the east side is the estate and town of Strowan ( or St Rowen ) , as well as Trowen , which seems to have been the eastern part of this estate before the river was made to run this way , named from St Rowen , who also , in some histories , is called Rowan , a clergyman , who was proprietor thereof , AD 660 . He travelled through France and Italy , was made professor in one of the universities of Germany , and was highly esteemed  every where  for his learned writings . The venerable Bede  informs  us that he was daily engaged in controversy against Finan , Bishop of Lindisfarne  , or Holy Island , - the Bishop strenuously maintaining , with all the British churches  , that Easter was to be observed on one day ; and Rowen , with the Pope and Church of Rome , that it ought to be kept on another . It was perhaps for this reason that he was afterwards canonised . He left three acres of good ground  to the bellman of Strowan . The term Dewar ,in Gaelic , signifies a bellman ; and the service required by the charter granted to his heirs  is , to ring the holy bell of St Rowen . This is not the church bell   a fine hand – bell , still carefully preserved by the Dewars , which was rung by the bellman under his gown when mass was said . This land pays nothing to the public  , to the minister or the school master . About fifty years past , a plea happening betwixt the Dewars before the Lords of Session , concerning their right to this land , Andrew Dewar , as advised by his lawyers , applied to to the minister and session , who , upon examination of old records , found  out the right of their claim to a succession in said office as beadle of Strowan ; by which means he carried his plea . We have here St Rowen’s Lin , a part of the river wherein he bathed himself ; and St Rowen’s Dam – dike , going through the water , wherein he had a cruive * , which furnished him with fish on his fasting days . Below this is his well of fine water ; and a little west of the church  is his large stone cross where his market is still kept .

The term “ cruive “ noted above is defined in Warrack’s Scots Dialect Dictionary ( Edinburgh .1988 ) as “ an apparatus for and method of catching salmon in a river “ .

After the above history was written in the early 19th century , it transpired that the Dewars who had established their legal ownership of the “ Bellman’s Acres “ sold out to the then Laird of Strowan ( the Graham – Stirling family , a cadet branch of the Stirlings of Kippendavie near Dunblane ) . The Bell of St Rowan also passed into his possession and the following extract from the minutes of Scottish Society of Antiquaries  recounts how it was passed by TJ Graham – Stirling of Strowan as a donation to their Museum .

The “ Bell of St Rowan “ of Strowan in Strathearn – This bell is reputed to be the “ Bell of St Rowan “ , who is supposed to be St Ronan , as there is a deep pool in the River Earn near the church called “ Pol Ronan “ , and a fair which used to be held in the neighbourhood was called “ Feil Ronan “ . The bell however is a cast bell of the ordinary circular form , and not the tall quadrangular and flat sided form peculiar to the early Celtic Church . It measures 6” in height and 6” in diameter and the metal of which it is composed appears to contain silver . Two holes have been bored through the top of the bell into which the ends of a squarish looped  handle of brass hve been inserted and roughly soldered . This handle has originally pertained to some object of much greater antiquity than the bell into which it is now fastened  , and may probably have belonged to a bell or a bell shrine  of the Early Celtic form . It is rudely engraved with a simple variety of fret , which occurs pretty frequently in the ornamentation of the sculptured stones and Celtic manuscripts  . It seems that this bell had a hereditary keepership  , with a grant of land attached  , like many of the ancient Celtic bells ( see “ Archoeologia Scotica , “  
vol.ii.p.75 ) .


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