Crieff in the Victorian Era
" Dixon "
Printed by HK Brown, 15 King Street
CRIEFF LIFE IN SEPTEMBER 1896
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 .