Sunday, 27 August 2017

Crieff Past and Present : The Cross of Crieff and Drummond Cross 14 January 1888

About forty years ago, a neighbouring distiller allowed information to reach the ears of the Excise that a number of respectable people in the Town had obtained smuggled spirits though his servants. A little panic was caused, and the books of the establishment were placed in the hands of the local Sheriff – Clerk’s hands .Next morning placards were posted over the town offering a reward of £50 to any person who would give information as to who broke into the Sheriff- Clerk’s Office and stole the Distillery books. The knowing ones did not hesitate to say that the books would never turn up. It was surmised that they were burned .The carters of the distillery also disappeared, and the case went no further.

The Cross of Crieff stands between High Street and East High Street, and was for long the market place where farmers and their wives appeared each week to dispose of their butter, cheese and eggs and tradesmen and butchers retailed their wares.

The Cross Stone is said to have been at Trowan (2 miles Westwards) beside Tom – a- chastle, or the Castlehill, on which the Earls of Strathearn had their seat .Its origin is unknown . It stands 6 feet 3 inches high by 2 feet wide and 6 inches deep. Amongst curious carving on one side a cross is embossed .The other side is unhewn, and the remains of an iron hoop or staple appears, from which it is conjectured that a pillory or some such instrument was attached. The stocks of Crieff is a formidable instrument of iron and attracts much notice. It is placed at the foot of the steeple at the Court – House and must be of great age. Beside the stocks stands a cross surmounting a long,  slender  octagonal stone , which was the cross of the Burgh of Royalty of Drummond, set up before the Revolution of 1688 .It had got into  disuse and for many years lay neglected, but was again erected  where it now stands in  1852 .

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

St Fillan   Historic Scenes of Perthshire

                                              St Fillan

Historic Scenes of Perthshire


The Rev William Marshall


As we approach Loch Earn, we come to a scene consecrated by its connection with the famous St Fillan, who evangelised the country here and in the wilds of Breadalbane, and whose arm did such wonders on the field of Bannockburn. The beautiful hill covered with verdure to the top, and the green of which contrasts so strikingly with the brown and the grey of the adjacent heights, is Dunfillan, the hill of St Fillan. The rock on the top of it was the Saint’s Chair. The spring, now days at the foot of the it, was the Saint’s Well. It was originally on the top of the hill; but, disgusted with the Reformation from Popery, which, like Archbishop Laud, it regarded as rather the “ Deformation “, it removed to the foot of the hill. St Fillan drank of the waters of this Well, and blessed them. The consequence was that they were endowed with miraculous healing powers; and, till even a late date, crowds resorted to them for cures, more especially on the first day of May and the first day of August. They walked, or, if unable to walk, they were carried around the well three times from east to west, in the direction of the sun; and they drank of it and were bathed in it. Then, as now, rheumatism was a peculiarly obstinate malady; and for a cure, rheumatic patients had to a ascend the hill, sit in the Saint’s Chair, lie down on their backs, and be pulled by the legs down to the foot of the hill. The Well was an infallible remedy for most of the diseases, which flesh, is heir to. It was especially efficacious for barrenness, for which it was most frequented.  When it was at the hilltop, the Saint most considerately and kindly spared certain patients the labour of climbing to it. He made a basin, which he placed at the foot of the hill, inn that there was generally some water even in the driest weather; and those afflicted with sore eyes had only to wash them three times in the basin, and they were made whole.

The erection of three chapels in the parish is ascribed to St Fillan. One of the three was at Dundurn, in the immediate neighbourhood of the pretty modern village of St Fillans; another was in Strathfillan; and a third was at Killin. The Saint died at Dundurn in 649. His worshippers about it would fain have buried him there; but the people of the other two places claimed his remains. They transported them through Glen Ogle, till they arrived at appoint within two miles of Killin, where the road branches of to Strathfillan. There the funeral train stopped, and a violent dispute ensued as to which road to take. Swords were drawn, and blood began to flow freely, when, low! – Instead of one coffin with which they had started from Dundurn, two coffins, exactly alike, were seen before them! Each party seized one of the coffins, and took its own way with it; and hence it is to his day a question whether Killin or Strathfillan has the relics of the Saint, or whether he is divided between them.
The Saint’s chapel at Strathfillan had a wonderful bell, for which the Strathfillanites had a great regard. It usually lay, untouched and deeply reverenced, on a gravestone in the churchyard. It possessed preternatural healing virtue. It cured patients by being placed, in crown fashion, on their heads. The bell had likewise this marvellous property, or prerogative, or whatever it may be called. It could not be stolen! If an attempt was made to steal it, it jumped out of the thief’s hands, and returned home, ringing his shame, and its own triumph!

St Fillan owed a little of his repute to Robert the Bruce. The MacDougalls of Lorn were perhaps the most relentless and formidable of Bruce’s enemies. In the Battle of Dalree with the Lord of Lorn, Bruce made a very narrow escape. The preservation of his life he ascribed to St Fillan, whose aid he invoked in his extremity, and who therefore became his favourite saint.”

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


College House Crieff  ( A letter written to the Strathearn Herald by Frederika Constance Cummings on September 6th 1918  )


Constance Frederica “Eka” Gordon-Cumming (26 May 1837 – 4 September 1924) was a travel writer and painter. She was born on 26 May 1837 at Altyre, near Forres in Scotland, the 12th child of a wealthy family. Her parents were Sir William Gordon-Cumming, 2nd Baronet, and Elizabeth Maria (Campbell) Cumming. She was the aunt of Sir William Gordon-Cumming, 4th Baronet. She grew up in Northumberland, and was educated at Fulham, London. She taught herself how to paint, and had help from artists visiting her home, including one of Queen Victoria's favorite painters, Sir Edwin Landseer. After spending a year in India in 1867 and writing in In the Himalayas and on the Indian Plains (1884)[1] she became interested in travel.
Gordon-Cumming was a prolific travel writer and landscape painter who traveled the world, mostly in Asia and the Pacific. She painted over a thousand watercolors. Places she visited include Australia, New Zealand, America, China, and Japan. She arrived in Hilo, Hawaii in October 1879, and was among the first artists to paint the active volcanoes. Her Hawaii travelogue, Fire Fountains: The Kingdom of Hawaii, was published in Edinburgh in 1883.She died in Crieff and is buried at Ochtertyre being related  to the Murray family .

The Letter 

Sir , 

When writing my autobiography , I gave a brief account of the remarkable variety of changes through which this quaint house has passed . Though its probable age is probably not more than 150 years and its situation at the top of the High Street must have kept it always prominent in the annals of Crieff , I have been surprised at the difficulty in obtaining accurate information concerning its many transformations . To begin with , I was assured on apparently excellent , that Dr Malcolm , the original builder , was a medical man , and that his object was to found a Medical College .I know that he was an LL.D and was for many years the school master at Madderty . He built this house as a Boarding School for Boys . He was a student of Persian and wrote several books . He made the first survey of Crieff which is now at Dollerie .

After his death , the side wings of the College were tenanted by sixteen families almost all handloom weavers ( of whom upwards of six hundred were then living in Crieff ) . The central house was divided between the Episcopalians of Crieff and the police – the former having the large drawing room upstairs a s a week - day school , while on Sundays services were conducted by Mr Wildman who was curate to Mr Lendrum , vicar of the Episcopal Church at Muthill . The ground floor was occupied as a Police Station whilst the basement ( including the present kitchen , scullery , larder , &c ) was divided into cells for prisoners .

My mention of this last detail called forth contradictions from various persons , who maintained that this could never have been the case . I am, therefore ,  happy to be now able to give details from the lips of our respected  fellow townsman , Mr Peter McGregor , joiner , who when as an observant lad , aged about 18 lived in Dollerie Terrace , close to this college .He tells me that prior to about  1848 , the sole representative of Police was Fordyce ( without uniform )m and the Police Cells were in Lodge Street where the Salvation Army now has its quarters . About the year 1848 it was found necessary to deepen the channel of the River Pow and raise embankments from Dollerie , Madderty , Millhills and near the present site of Abercairney Station , to its junction with the Earn . This necessitated the presence of a large body of Navvies , some being of a very rough type , consequently several police constables  were imported and stationed in College House , the cells for disorderly prisoners being on the basement . McGregor vividly remembers seeing them being brought in by the central gate in the wall which was then in front of College House .

When Mr Lendrum afterwards transformed the whole building into St Margaret’s College for Girls , McGregor was employed in building the spire which forms so conspicuous an object at the top of High Street .

Yours faithfully

Constance F Gordon Cumming

There was an note added by the Editor :

{ We are afraid our mush esteemed correspondent Miss Gordon Cumming is rather inaccurate in some of her statements .Our idea of Dr Malcolm’s intentions as to his building were not so high as Miss Gordon Cumming puts it. We rather think it was a building “spec”. But let that pass . It is quite true that our old and respected townsman was for long the terror of those who did evil in Crieff , but if our memory does not deceive us, there was several before 1848, another policeman and he in uniform named Manson , who resided if we mistake not , in Lodge Street .The “ lock –up “ as the jail was then called was not in the present Salvation Army Barracks but in the cellar east of it , now used by Mr Cameron , grocer .During the protracted time occupied in rebuilding the present Town House , there were several queer places used as jails and this was one of them .}

Monday, 7 August 2017

William Smeaton

A Crieff Worthy of Yesteryear 
( Macara 1881)

William Smeaton was well known in his day as a keen angler, and his narrative powers were of a high order. This latter was generally used to recount the deeds of the former, which were at times extraordinary. He lived in North Bridgend near the River Earn, and had ample scope to improve his talents. He could dress a good fly hook, and while at work, with a good listener beside him, his hands and eloquence would work at high pressure. He assured his hearers that he best way to make sure of having the proper fly  for a particular stream was to go to the stream , catch a specimen  of the water flies  in the locality , dress a hook to the pattern, and , to make an assurance doubly sure, fix the newly made  hook to the line   and hang it so as to touch the water, strip yourself , and after plunging into the water , look up through the liquid element  and judge of your  handiwork . He had now and again presentiments of fish being at particular places, and one instance he occasionally told as follows: - One day while working at his loom, and happening to look down to his treadles, he imagined he observed a number of large salmon. Om looking more closely it appeared as if the place was at the Isle of Dargill. He immediately rose off his loom, seized his spear or leister, and hurried to the place indicated. On reaching it, he saw the fish exactly as in the vision, and with a little caution and expertness he soon secured the lot. He sometimes “skied “the water when it was in flood. This  consisted in holding a piece of red  cloth above the pools .which, he affirmed , shaded the water  so that he could see the bottom  and discover if any fish  were about; for, he said, there was no use in fishing if there were  no fish . He had a belief that the finny tribe had more sense than was generally believed. As an instance, he said that one summer there was a pike in the pool above the ford in the Earn at Forr, and he had tried it frequently when passing up and down, but to no purpose. One time when passing he bethought himself to a little scheming. At some distance  from the haunted  pool he got his tackle all right , and crawled through the furze and broom  to the proper  spot , and lying on his belly , he cautiously threw the line across the stream which ran into the eddy . As the current carried it down, he felt sure that a fair chance of success was approaching; but judge of his astonishment. The pike put its head above water, and on looking round saw discovered William moving the rod. The creature turned its eye full upon him, and with a knowing wink, hinted, “Oh, it’s you Smeaton; you needn’t try’t! “

His exploits were not all connected with fishing. He was for a time a member   of a local militia or volunteer company in the early years of the century, and when at the annual training of his Regiment at Perth many were the doings he reported of his prowess. One Saturday he got  leave of absence to come to Crieff  to see his aged mother , and to show  his filial respect he purchased for her a large bundle  of fish , and was  proceeding  along the road to Crieff at a quick march  with the bundle on his shoulder . When about a mile out of Perth a returned post chaise  or noddy  came up to him , and he asked  for  a lift  from the driver . This was  declined , and William , feeling annoyed , said that it would be seen who would  be first home .The coachman gave his horse rein , and William smartly  slipped  up to the  back of the chaise  , and tied his fish  on the luggage board , and in a trice was tripping along the road in gallant style . A little further on he left the high  turnpike road , and turning to the left brushed along what is called  the mid-road , and in a credibly short space of time he finished his  17 ½ miles journey , and turned up round the east toll gate  of Crieff, and walked leisurely  east wards along the high turnpike . In a little , he observed  the chaise clearing Callum’s Hill , and as it  neared he observed the coachman taking observations , and when they met , William asked , “ Who was the first  in Crieff ? “ The coachman looked bewildered, and William, to show that he was actually the individual passed near Perth, darted to the back of the chaise, and, unloosing his fish, held them up to the astonished gaze of the driver.

He often told of a daring encounter with a large dog which attacked him one time when he was fishing at Lochearn. Seeing that  there was  no escape  from it , he quickly rolled his handkerchief round his right hand , and when the infuriated animal  had its mouth wide  for attack , William  with a tremendous effort sent his hand down its throat  and through its body , and catching  its tail firmly, drew back his hand  and tuned the animal inside out . William was a quiet, hardworking man, and seemed capable of filling a station much higher than that in which his lot was cast. He had a large family, several of whom emmigrated to America. He died many years ago.