The Tributaries of the Earn
The Water of Ruchill
The sources of the Water of Ruchill are found at the head of Glen Artney in what is known as the Forest of Glen Artney although you would go a long way to find a tree in this lonely place. The area abounded with deer, and throughout time has been visited by Kings and Queens for the purpose of hunting. The river rises in the south-west moving towards Comrie, in the north-east, and lies exactly on one of the great Highland Faults, (Stonehaven to Helensburgh), created before the Dawn of Man, and which separates the Highlands from the Lowlands. The river is flanked by the two great Estates of Aberuchill to the north, and Drummond Castle to the south, and like everywhere else in Scotland, was hotly contested.
It is a major tributary of the River Earn and follows the course of the great Highland Divide. This separates Lowland Scotland from Highland Scotland. Its sources are burns and streams in the upper reaches of Glen Artney, and in the widened Forest of Glen Artney, as well as on both sides of the glen. It gathers strength as is rolls down hill passing many farm touns and clachans such as Auchnashelloch, Finduglen, Dalclathick, Dalness, Mailer Beag, Mailer Fuar, Mailer More, Meigar and Tullichettle. They are all a lot older than Comrie. Tullichettle had a Church of its own with a minister, and a graveyard, long before the village of Comrie ever existed. When Comrie built a church on the site of the White Church it only boasted a reader, not a minister. Glen Artney 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.
The River Ruchill at Comrie
Comrie, as has been mentioned, stands at the confluence of these rivers and much still would be familiar to those who left the land of their birth in 1818 and 1829. Religious activity was endemic in the community and the various churches in the village are still to be seen. The old Parish Church, the White Church, was built in 1805, the year of Trafalgar, and its commanding position and structure would be easily recognizable, then as now.
The Old Parish Church
White Church in Winter
White Church and River Earn in Winter
The old Seceder “Gilfillan” Church (1794) lies behind Drummond Street, then called Lednaig Street. It fell into disuse and for many years was used as a warehouse however, in recent years, it was converted into condominiums.
The Gilfillan or Seceder Church is on the right hand side of this postcard
Other churches have been built since then as a result of the disruption; The Parish Church, St. Kessogs, was built in 1883 next to St. Kessog’s Knoll where St. Kessog preached to the Picts, and the Free Church is alongside in Burrell Street. The Dr. Wann Hall is in Dunira Street. The wee Roman Catholic Chapel is at the Laggan on the banks of the River Lednock with, as its neighbour, St. Serfs, the Episcopal Church.
Laying the Foundation Stone of St Kessog’s Church in Comrie, 1883
St Kessog’s Church, the Free Church and the Old Parish Church in the background
The River Lednock
The third river to join the Earn at Comrie is the River Lednock (originally Lednaig) which sources itself at the head of Glen Lednock, in the artificially created Loch Lednock. The sources of the Lednock are numerous burns which stream down from the hillside of the Glen Lednock bowl. Gathering together as a river it passes over the once mighty Spout (Sput) Rolla. Along its length are many places much older than Comrie. They include Bowalker, Keplandie, Bovain, Ballindalloch, Balnacoul, Invergeldie, Kingarth, Tignasithe, Tignacroy, and other places such as Carroglen, the Lurg (Sheep fank) and Balmuick lying off to the east. In many of these places the outlines and crumbling walls of substantial dwellings are still to be seen. This was a thriving place in the old days.
The River Lednock flowing over Sput Rolla (Spout Rolla)
In spate, the Lednock was a sight to behold with fast, strong water flowing over ancient rocks. Today it is a shadow to its former self. It swept on down past Anaba Bridge (the ford of the cows), bypassing that long abandoned settlement called Tignasithe which nestled into the hillside of the Drum and passing its also long abandoned sister clachan called Tynacroi.
Tignasithe with the Balnacoul Rocks and Easter Ballindalloch in the Distance.
Again the Lednock curves as it moves south passing the Shaky Bridge .
Shaky Bridge over the River Lednock
Its next port of call is a large unexcavated man made stronghold which could be possibly a Norman motte or ancient fortlet on its west bank, and then on through a mighty gorge containing both the Deil’s Cauldron, and the Little Cauldron, weaving on and joining the Earn at the east end of the village. It is bridged here close by the long disappeared village of Laggan.
The Deil’s Cauldron
The Milton Burn
There is a smaller, parallel, fast-flowing stream to the east of the Lednock called the Milton Burn which joins the Earn near Comrie. Its source is a number of burns streaming off the hillside high above the Lurg and Carroglen. Its onward flow to the south passes Balmuick where it picks up speed on its downward journey to the Earn, passing the Happy Valley. Here can be seen the private burial ground of the MacLaggan’s, and further downstream the dam built by the Crams almost three hundred years ago at the Milton. The Crams left the Comrie area for Canada in the Diasporas of 1819 and 1820. They settled in what today is called Carleton Place.
The Turret Burn
Further east, the Turret Burn is bridged before it joins the River Earn just to the west of Crieff. Its waters are fed by streams and burns running off Ben Chonzie. Throughout time hundreds of whisky stills could be found all over Glen Turret and they tried the patience of the local excise officers. In the old days there was a lochan there. One of my great, great uncles was killed by a lightning strike on his rowing boat, along with one of his friends, when fishing in the lochan. The storm came on very suddenly and they could not reach shore in time. There was an old hunting lodge belonging to the Murrays of Ochtertyre called “Rhuad Mhor” Today it has vanished beneath the water after Loch Turret was dammed.
“Rhuad Mhor,” Loch Turret.
Robert Burns visited the Murrays in 1787 and wrote his poem entitled “On scaring Some Water-Fowl in Loch Turrit. The streams which created Loch Turret continue their downwards path as the Turret Burn passing the Glen Turret Distillery. Its waters have been used in the production of the Famous Grouse Scotch Whisky. It is the oldest Malt Whisky distillery in Scotland. Sometimes I wish it could be flooded by the stream, so that the local Crieff people could have a scotch and water for free!
The Glenturret Distillery
Photographs via Wikipedia and Private Collection