A year had gone in since my mother Christina Marguerite McDonald Ross McNaughton and five since my father, David Baird McNaughton, had passed away. The estate was now in final settlement. The family home in Dalginross in Comrie had been sold. As one of the executors I had been asked to clear away any and all the household goods, and distribute them to relatives and friends.
For me, long since living in Canada, it was a sad and lonely task and I was very melancholy. It had, after all, been a house of joy and much merriment, filled well beyond capacity, if that is possible, with happy memories of recent years, as well as some from quite some time ago – the house had been built around 1850, or so. I went upstairs to the bedrooms for one last look around.
Most of the furniture had gone leaving a number of boxes containing memorabilia of lives well spent. There were a number of trunks and different size boxes collected in a pile beside the window and I thought I would look through one to see what they contained. The largest trunk was made of a shiny dimpled synthetic leather-like material. It was fairly large which had some faded white chalk marks on it and a couple of labels on its sides. They were quite legible. One read “Normandy,” accompanied by another that read, “Antwerp,” (both were crossed through with chalk markings) followed yet again by one which read “Padang.” In larger regular embossed print across the top was the name D. B. McNaughton, Lieutenant. R.E. “Glenview” the Ross, Comrie, Perthshire, Scotland.
On it were leather straps which had perished a long time ago and just hanging on. The locking mechanism had been damaged as if someone had lost the key and tried to open it with a screwdriver, or some such tool. With both hands I eased open the lid of the box which opened fairly easily revealing that its sides were wallpapered with pink and jagged lightning-like, white stripes. Its main contents were filled to the brim with papers, old letters, envelopes, old photographs, newspaper articles, a couple of medals, some stamps, and little notes both in spiral-bound notepad form, as well as loose, and also what seemed to be extracts of some old maps of several places throughout the world, including Strathearn. In addition there were some old and musty books, a few faded newspapers, a dust-laden Japanese Samurai sword (since dated to a Japanese master sword smith named Shinano Daijo Fujiwara Tadakuni, in the 1620’s), an old putter, and a rolled-up Latin scroll. After a quick glance at some of the contents I decided to set about writing this web book, “Papers in a Trunk – Highland Strathearn.”
The main purpose of the book is to involve the reader in an absorbing story about Upper or Highland Strathearn in Perthshire, Scotland; about its yesterdays, which may help us cope with our todays, and who knows maybe, even our tomorrows. It will also hopefully allow us to pass a winter’s evening with a smile...a commodity in short supply in the cold, and becoming colder, world, we are living in! It also aspires, with all its shortcomings, to tell the tale about the evolution of our community which, it is probably true to say, is a microcosm of other communities, and of the “civilized” world at large. Of equal importance is the awareness of accepting those things which we interpret to be accurate, although naturally seen through the modern eye, and with the benefit of hindsight.
In his seminal study entitled “Upper Strathearn - From Earliest Times to Today” D.B. McNaughton leaves us in the final paragraphs of his wonderful book with the following questions, “Where is the Muirend Curling Pond and where and why, in the Ross, the Sawdust Road and the Bog? What is their origin and why are they so named? Where is the Ark and where the Plain Tree, the Bulwarks and the Ladies’ Linn? Where is the Drum and where the Coach Turn? They are marked on no map, but exist in folk memory.” The current study is about the evolution of a Highland community. It could describe many places and small communities in Great Britain, but it just happens to be the village of Comrie, in the area known as Upper or Highland Strathearn, in Perthshire, Scotland.
It is my birthplace and my Shangri-La, “far from the madding crowd.” It is a place of dreams and peace, and its walks, and breathtaking scenery, allows one to reflect of the “what might have been,” as well as renewing purpose for the onward journey which is life. It provides a rejuvenation of the spirit, and a sense that despite all that goes on beyond the horizon, there is much to admire in the world.
Marked up Map showing Settlements in Glen Artney, Lednock and Strathearn (Billy Gardiner)
In Glenartney and Blairnroar, several populous villages, or communities more accurately called clachans or farm touns, existed. They are identified in the marked up map by number in Green;
Craigneich (1) Innerclair (2) Shillinghall (3)
Straid (4) Crutack (5) Cornoch (6)
Culloch (7) Glasnafead (8) Blairnroar (9)
Meigar (10) Trian (11) Blairmore (12)
Mailermore (13) Mailerbeg (14) Dalness (15)
Mailerfuar (16) Blairhoorie (17) Tomoir (18)
Dalchruin (19) Dalcherd (20) Dalclathick (21)
Achinner (22) Culnacarries (23)
Findoglen (24) Achnashelloch (25)
Leacann Bhuide (26) Garadg Cruaidh (27)
Marked up Map showing Settlements in Glen Artney (Billy Gardiner)
Tullichettle (Tullichetil, Tullyhettle) had a Church of its own with a minister long before the existence of the village of Comrie. At that time Comrie could only boast a Reader, whereas the glen had a population of up to perhaps as many as two thousand people. It is said, probably with much truth, that they were able to field about two hundred men in the Stuart fiascos in the eighteenth century.
This was equally true in Glen Lednock where we find settlements, marked in Red;
Corrie (1) Balmuick (2) Lurg (3)
Carroglen Upper and Lower (4) Kingarth (5)
Glaslarich (6) Tighnacroy (7) Balmenoch (8)
Tignashee (9) Fintulich (10) Ballindalloch (11)
Balnacoul (12) Croftwhannel (13)
Coishievachan (14) Innergeldie (15)
Daden (16) Glenmaik (17) Bovaine (19)
Keplandie (21) Bowwalker (23)
Settlements in Glen Lednock (Billy Gardiner)
The communities of Ross, Craggish, Dalrannoch and Tominour were quite separate from the village of Comrie, and older, as was Dalginross itself.
Settlements around Loch Earn (Billy Gardiner)
Dalchonzie (1) Belna (2)
East and West Crappich Garrichrew (4)
Duneira (5) Meuzie and Pendicles (6)
Bridgeend (7) Easter Dundurn (8)
Woodend (9) Tynriach (10)
Morrell and Clachnadow (11) Wester Dundurn (12)
Easter Glen Tarken (13) Wester Glen Tarken (14)
Derry (15) Tighnadalloch (16)
Easter Ardveich (17) Wester Ardveich (18)
Glen Beich (19) Carnlea (20)
Dalveich, Leachin, Ardveich and Carnlea (21)
Auchraw-East and West (22) Littleport (23)
Struie (24) Meikleport (25)
To the east of Comrie there is evidence of early habitation at Laggan, Lawers, Strowan, Monzievaird and Ochtertyre, on the road to Crieff. As population centres they are much older than Comrie. These fringe areas, which were outcroppings of Highland society, died away over time, leaving only ruins. Their populations came into the village of Comrie around 1760, and onwards. The village layout followed the course of the river Earn. The stories and tales have had to be limited to this area known as Highland Strathearn.
The view therefore is that of a fish eye camera lens, somewhat distorted, but clear in some areas. The village of Comrie was a planned village and, strange to say, it was not really until the middle of the late eighteenth century that it became a population centre.
Our story takes into account some of the tales of yesterday passed down by word of mouth, by letter, in private diary, in commentary, in newspapers and in documents and the notes kept by the odd historian and local people. Like all, there is a paucity of materials but enough, just enough, for folk with an interest in heritage and preservation, social history and family roots, to reach out and touch the fingertips of our folk of yesterday, and days of auld lang syne.
The canvas hopefully will provide an idea of the evolutionary process to those interested in social history. As the stories have been selected, many others have not been included, as the descendants of some of the people are still alive, and perhaps the odd feud still smouldering. Sometimes it is prudent to “let sleeping dogs lie” I would not like to have a nocturnal visit from a brawny Highlander waving a broadsword in the air! However, I will be free to publish them in the year 2050!
It could even be him!