One can take a Scot out of Scotland, but one cannot take the Scot out of Scotland
I would like to thank the following people for their help and encouragement in this endeavour. Sadly many are now gone but deserve recognition for their contributions.
My late father, David Baird McNaughton, B.A., whose private papers are an integral part of this work, as was his research and seminal book “Upper Strathearn – From Earliest Times to Today,” and his wife, Christina Marguerite MacDonald Ross, fondly known as Ena. They were my parents whose contribution to this work, and my life, goes without saying. I owe them everything.
To the late James Mitchell of “Braehead” who was not only my mentor, but he and his wife, Mary, were close, life-long personal friends. Jim’s encouragement was the driving force to make this book, hopefully, a good effort. Many of the copies of the photographs in the book were from his files. He developed a keen skill with a camera and reproductive experience. I would also like to recognise the Mitchell family at large in Comrie, Callander, Dundee, Bridge of Earn, and in Geelong, Australia.
In addition I would also like to thank another family friend, Billy Gardiner of Comrie. Billy displayed much patience in answering all my questions and his knowledge on the area is encyclopedic. Additionally Rosie MacIntyre of Comrie, and George and Helen Whyte of Muthill, were staunch supporters of the project. (William) Morris Dinnie, originally of Comrie, but now in Montreal, reviewed the manuscript, edited it and gently corrected me on many points. Harkness and Mary Lou Cram of Dennis in Massachusetts greatly encouraged the work, and to thank them for their encouragement is a given. There are also many friends of the McNaughton family in Comrie and Highland Strathearn. Unfortunately they are too numerous to mention, but all are known, and have a place in this walk down memory lane.
This work, however, would not be complete without thanking Miss Jennie MacGregor of “Seton Cottage” in Comrie who allowed me to use her father’s story about “Nelly’s Brae.” In addition, her father, Alexander MacGregor, wrote “The Parish of Comrie’s Part in the Great War, 1914-1918.” This was a monumental undertaking and I have included most of it in our walk through yesteryear.
The newspapers clippings kept by John Graham and passed to his grand-daughter, Miss. Cara Sorley, were of great interest and value. Mr Graham was the Precentor in the Old Parish Church (the White Church) in the village. They added dimensions to the work. Several were taken from the Strathearn Herald in the early years of the 20th century, as well as from other sources.
Many thanks to the Stenger family in Phoenix, Arizona. The late Helmut and his wife, Margot Stenger, and their three children, Ralph, Roy and Carole, became close friends. Helmut willingingly shared his memories of his life in a U-boat and his subsequent adventures in Cultybraggan Camp during World War 11. I am very grateful to them allowing me to build a chapter around Helmut's life. Through him we were able to come in contact with Victoria (Vickie) and Shirley Ballantyne from Muthill who were little girls at that time in history. Shirley now lives in Comrie and Vickie in Perth. They also added very interesting material about that time in and around the village.
Included in this cast are my brother David, and his family in Crieff, Andrew and Cara in Dunning, David and Donna in Glasgow, Clare and Lee in Ipswich, my sister, Christine Aiton, and her husband Norman, in Muthill, their son Russell and Gillian Simpson in Glasgow, as well as Rosemary and Mark Haldane (a.k.a.Halley), Leon and Angelea, in Crieff.
To my colleague Jan Guppy in Montreal who created the layout and formatting, many thanks – her skills in the use of software are unmatched and unrivalled. As she says, “there are no problems, only solutions! With the additional help of Adam Philips, creator of the website, and his wife Natalie, the whole project was greatly enhanced. This book could not have been completed without their help.
I would also like to thank my wife, Ginette, for her love and support in this 10 year endeavour, as well as our children, Ross and Fiona McNaughton and my son-in-law, Wesley Parfitt in Montreal, and Chantal and Kevin Holtz in Long Island, New York. Furthermore I would like to include my grand-children Aaron, Amy, Peter and Ian.
This book was created for many reasons. In an age of instant information through television, and the contained knowledge on the internet, we no longer take the time to consider our natural habitat, and its historical evolution. Oddly, as a result, much is being lost of our knowledge base and our native heritage. We know the name of the new goal keeper for Real Madrid or Manchester United, but cannot differentiate between a curlew and a crow! Old places have either disappeared, or are fast disappearing. New people have come to live amongst us and may wonder if any famous historical figures passed this way, or what happened up there in the hills? Hopefully our walk down memory lane may be of interest.
The birds and animals, along with all living things in our area, are our neighbours and share our “neck of the woods.” This book hopefully can be a learning tool for children so that they would recognize the natural world of active life in Highland Strathearn. It will hopefully encourage further learning with adults of all ages, and backgrounds, to go out into the countryside to see and recognise what is there. By identifying different species, all can enjoy the wonders of nature. It should be fun reading, and it is far from complete and I apologise for that. Hopefully it may act as an incentive to its readership of all ages, to seek new knowledge, and search for the missing links in this largely undiscovered area of Scotland. In order to simplify matters and make this a more interesting study, I have included, albeit in a small and limited way, a glimpse of the topography and its formation, animals, birds, fish and insects that live there, the flora and fauna, and passing reference to the early peoples of yesteryear who lived there, as well as some of its history.
The book covers Upper Strathearn, or more accurately Highland Strathearn. The land mass explored, as with the author’s first book, “Comrie in the Distance Fair,” covers only about 200 square miles. It ranges from the Highland village of Lochearnhead in the west, to the lowland town of Crieff in the east. Its fulcrum is the village of Comrie – the meeting of the waters. Comrie could also be, for several reasons, referred to as its epicentre. The village is the entry into Highland Strathearn. It is also the earthquake centre of Britain! Furthermore, its geographical location sets it right on the great Highland Divide, separating the Highlands from the Lowlands. It lies at the very heart of Scotland. It is equidistant from St Andrews in the east coast, and Oban in the west coast. This holds true also from Kircudbright in the south, to Inverness in the north.
In historical terms the ground was much fought over by opposing factions; the Romans and the Caledonians, and the Picts and the Scots. In addition several of the great clashes fought during the Scottish Wars of Independence between Wallace and Bruce and the English, took place close by at nearby Methven as well as Perth. The Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Battle of Bannockburn were fought only 30 miles away. Furthermore and later, the area was witness to the conflict between Presbyterian Covenanters and the Episcopalianism favoured by King James V1. Often clan chiefs called out their men who were sent into opposing armies as levies. As often as not it was for “siller, rather than purity of the word or purpose that was the incentive! Even today an annual conventicle takes place in Tullychettle churchyard.
Eighty years later under the last gasp of the Stuarts, several battles and skirmishes were fought close by. Again levies of clansmen were sent to swell the numbers of opposing factions. Sherriffmuir (Blàr Sliabh an t-Siorraim) fought in 1715 is only 15 miles over the hill, and the final acrimonious meeting of the leading Jacobites, which led to the debacle at Culloden (Blàr Chùil Lodair), took place 30 years later in nearby Crieff. Throughout the last 1000 years or so, and on an on-going basis, there was internecine fighting between all the local clans; Campbell, Stewart, MacLaren, MacGregor, Murray and Drummond, with forays from MacDonalds, and others.
In addition the two great linguistic groupings - the Gaelic language of yesteryear, and the English language of today, met and clashed here. Due to the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707 creating the United Kingdom, Gaelic was eventually suborned by Lallans, and Scots English. Some people are trying to re-introduce Gaelic in Scotland today. Oddly enough there are more Gaelic speakers on Cape Breton Island in Canada than in all of Scotland put together! In another irony it is likely that the Act of Union will crumble, and Scotland will have free charge of its destiny!
So our tale provides a broad brush approach as to how we got to where we are at! There is an old McNaughton proverb “If you don’t know where you come from, then you don’t know where you’re at, and if you don’t know where you’re at, then you don’t know where you’re going! Hopefully our tale will be an encouragement for others to fill in the missing links!