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 .}


Popular posts from this blog

Comrie of Old

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty