Crieff in the Victorian Era
" Dixon "
Printed  by  HK Brown, 15 King Street

An Original Account

To know and understand Crieff as it exists in the year  of the Diamond  Jubilee of  Her Majesty Queen Victoria ,it is necessary  in the first place   to have some  years’ experience  in the town , and in the second place  to have some sense of  observation . There are  casts, sets , cliques , and  circles , sufficient to make  India hide its face  in very shame; and there are more public houses  , doctors , lawyers , ministers , billiard rooms and churches than in almost  any  town of the same population  in either Scotland  , England  or Ireland. If you are in one set , you are not  in the other , and if you are in the other  , your principal duty is to stick  to it . You know the sets  by their unfailing attachment ; you know the circles  by their consequential airs ; you distinguish  the casts  by the way they carry their heads ; and you can easily  discover the cliques  by their unflagging attention to everybodies  affairs  but their own .

In the summer time , Crieff life  actually begins   to be of interest  about 10AM . The prosperous  businessman  charges along the High Street  shouldering his morning  newspaper , and tells everybody “ it’s a good “ or a better day “; all the tradesmen  hanging about James Square , scatter like birds in a thunderstorm ; the legal men  break into a professional trot , and shortly disappear into their offices ; all the budding  doctors on the hunt for broken legs , flutter about  at every corner ; the matron  seeks out the cheapest  dinner and stows it  away in an arrangement  like a poacher’s net ; the early rising  visitors  swagger about in skirts , blouses and ties , suggesting everything that is Jubilee; the tourist , in the garb of the northern land lord , shoulders  his knapsack , and strides a way ; and the local pressmen chase one another along to the Police Court , wondering if the weather  is likely to be suitable  for a Comrie  Earthquake . As time wears on to noon day, the streets are thronged by another  population .Where they come of is hard to say but they are all there. Stout ladies  with delicate  looking husbands  step slowly  along the centre of  the pavement , and  stop and stare  in at every shop window . Behind  come  their beaming  but sorely  oppressed daughters , watching everything and everybody , and behind them  again comes   confounded little brother  who swears he will tell “ all about it “if they don’t buy him something at the nearest sweetie shop .Mixed  among this crowd  are the visitors who imagine they know all about everything .When they reach  the Murray Fountain, they stop for a minute , and criticise  the architecture . “ Gothic,” says one . “Grecian “says another. “ Both wrong”, remarks another ---“Corinthian , “ and there they stand , pointing out with their walking sticks  defects in balance , and generally condemning the style of  architecture .

” Whose Murray? asks someone . “Oh, a Waterloo hero, “answers someone else. “ Correct, “says another, not to be behind in his historical information, and away they walk congratulating themselves on their knowledge of everything that is useful. Then there is a multi- farious collection of visitors whose chief ideas of a quite holiday are a parade about the streets before dinner, and a short walk in the afternoon. You can see them any day in the summer mashing about with   white parasols, and last year’s ball dresses improved at the neck, and al looking supernaturally grand.

It is not till the afternoon that Crieff people themselves are seen at their best. Round the shops the older people roam, admiring everything that is new, and buying everything that is useless. A carriage  draws up ; the head shop keeper  rushes  to open  the door; the lady  steps on to the pavement with the airs of an eastern princess, she orders half a pound of cheese and a pound of butter , and pays the account a year hence . Later on there put in an appearance  the people  who have reduced  afternoon calling  to fine art , and whose  sole work at home  is dusting the drawing room  mantle shelf  and looking out  for  new and reliable servants . They skip along   the high Street , and omit to recognise  all their old  friends , and practice  afternoon tea  in the back garden , in prospect of the country gatherings  in the Autumn .  About four o’clock stylish Crieff is afloat on bicycles.  Like the new telegraph boys they believe, because they are in a hurry, they can knock everybody over, and never say “Sorry “. Away they fly, all laughing and gay, and when the chivalrous youths round the corner observe their approach, they raise their caps, and shortly follow in their wake. Two hours thereafter the daughters of the wheel return, tired and jaded, and next morning they get breakfast in bed.  It is about seven o’clock in the evening that the male population is most in evidence. Newmarket coats, sticks, canes, cigarettes and silk handkerchiefs follow their masters out to Ochtertyre or round the Knock, or oftener to the nearest billiard table .The actual working population gathers in James Square with the regularity of an eight day clock, and the pavement swells with an interesting variety of people of all castes and classes, trying to impress the population with their outstanding importance. In the evening, too, golf and bowling are in full swing, and there are the usual spooning and flirting at the tennis court. All are enjoyable games, --- particularly the tennis. The patrons become attached to the game sometimes in the interests of sport, but too often from a business point of view, and there they fly about till after sundown while their mammas are slaving  at home with lodgers to raise the rent – Sic vita est .

Life in Crieff is an interesting study, and the subject gives   ample scope  in itself  for a book  which has  yet to be written . In a short sketch , such as this , only the principal  features a can be touched upon . To deal with the subject  in a complete form , one  would require to start with the men  whose  work is a profession, and the men  whose profession  is doing nothing; joining in the same chapter , the class who mix  up their profession  with labour, by sweeping out the shop  on the Sunday morning  . Then there would come the working classes, for whom we hold the highest respect, and then all the other sections of the people in the town which go to make up a highly intelligent community. Crieff is worth  seeing and knowing , and those  who find nothing  about it to interest  and amuse , must walk  with their eyes closed  , or be in  in love with their own shadow .


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  2. I have found your blog articles very interesting. I am researching my family who come from the Perthshire area. From Crieff to Tibbermore but mainly Methven. Many of the places you mention I know from records and your blogs have helped make them more real. I live in Perth, Western Australia. The person I am researching at the moment was living in Crieff at the time Queen Victoria visited in 1942. I wonder if his 7 year-old eyes saw the person who would appoint him many years later as a doctor.


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