A WORD TO THE READER
The Gaelic name for the County of Perth is Siorrachd Pheairt, and within its boundaries, is the area known as Highland Strathearn, often referred to as Upper or Western Strathearn. To a large degree this two hundred or so square mile area remains unknown, and undiscovered. It is the subject of our tale and for many it is considered to be the “key” to the treasure trove called the Highlands of Scotland. As a land mass it straddles both Highland and Lowland Scotland and, as such, is unique. It enjoys a long history, full of interest. This book records, as a legacy, some of its evolution and a paucity of its stories, tales and legends.
It is true to say that both oral and written histories are integral parts of the fabric of any community. Seen in the modern, rather cold, light of day and interpreted by the “sophisticated eye of hindsight” there is evidence of poignancy, relevance, and no small humour. It may come as a surprise that some future writer may look with some astonishment at our own activities in the twenty-first century and conclude that at best, we were weak vessels, trying to scratch a living, and also where expediency, rather than valour and truth, was at the cutting edge of survival!
There are enormous chasms in history which can only be bridged with some tertiary knowledge coupled to guesstimate and much speculation. As a result any recording of local history is often based on supposition rather than proof. Allowances have to be made, mulled over, and possibly accepted. Much half-truth and even outright lie(s) may have to be tolerated until some person refutes the event with the provision of proof positive. As will be seen this is probably not possible when looking back through the telescope of time, especially when one’s eye is pressed to the “other end” of the telescope!
Prior to the emergence of writing as a means of communication and subsequent recording of events, large and small, most communication was carried by word of mouth. Often general stories (apocryphal or otherwise) were passed from father to son, mother to daughter, from neighbours, friends, travellers, and even between enemies. These stories, with various emphases, embellishment, word selection, delivery, bias, intonation, nuance and social conditioning being applied, created, over time, the phenomena we refer to as the “stuff of legends.”
As such, distortion (sometimes introduced knowingly and deliberately, and with malice) is bound to occur. Interpretation is, and was, muddled and muddied, and perhaps the truth shielded from the light of day. But yet today we are all still fascinated by the events of yesteryear. We, no doubt, in our moments of idle time, consider, as examples, the romantic relationships known throughout the spread of time. The eternal triangle of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, (she may have been born in, or near, Stirling), and of who was doing what to whom, and when and where. Although never proven that Arthur ever existed like Robin Hood, Maid Marion and the Merry Men, Guinevere was, and remained until her death in a convent, Arthur’s wife. One reading of Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” must make one become instantly aware that it is not “genteel,” but is one of the most murderous books ever written. Furthermore none of the principal characters in it ever took a bath! Cleanliness was not yet linked with “Godliness!”
Said to be the marriage of King Arthur to Guinivere! - Och the nice!
Presented as a story of historic proportion the modern reader must on occasion take all with a grain or …a bag of salt! Other stories from yore have also become part of our collective evolutionary legends, and there is some evidence to support them. Consider, as an example, the tale of the incestuous relationship between Cleopatra and her half-brother, as well as her well-known affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, whom she later married. Although unwritten, and therefore not recorded, one could speculate that she took up with possibly half the men in Asia Minor!
Anthony and Cleopatra
A True Love Story
Consider yet again the story of Nelson and Lady Hamilton and her husband; cuckolded, but wealthy, Sir William Hamilton. He seems to have spent half his life carrying their bags around the southern part of Italy, as well as around the society scene in London.
Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton
Oddly enough there is a modern ring to all this! These tales have entered the evolutionary historical legends of the Western world.
Was Macbeth the “bad” King suggested by William Shakespeare? History records that he was essentially a “good” King. An interesting question concerns the playwright himself; was William Shakespeare, William Shakespeare? Or was William Shakespeare, Edward de Vere, and the seventeenth Earl of Oxford? Possibly he was someone else from Stratford? Or even someone else, from somewhere other than Stratford!? Any interpretation therefore of historical events is limited to that which is known as fact. Where interpretation is attempted, all is subject to challenge! Inherent bias based on the interpretation of history and coupled to experience, in tandem with an avoidance of truth “for appropriate” reasons, is endemic under the hand of the pen, and in particular, authority! Heresy trials were a popular means of controlling dissidence! All readers now know that the earth is no longer flat, Galileo and Copernicus have been forgiven, and women no longer burned at the stake because they tried to liven up their sorry suppers with a few herbs and the odd frog!
Burning of Witches and Heretics
As we sit in our centrally heated homes, with double glazing on the windows, outside the wind is howling. It is sleeting and icy cold. Inside we are toasty warm. We’ve turned off the television because the news is too gloomy out there, and distressing, and we are safe inside with a nice cup of tea. We decide to check out the website and take a wee glance through it thinking that it will be an easy read, and not too thought-provoking. We read the introduction and become instantly aware that just outside our home, and not very far from here, once upon a time, a long, and not so long time ago, we ponder in our imagination, things, then, were different. We imagine they may have been possibly better, more peaceful, more organized, more settled and established... the good old days!
The events and stories before you are not necessarily unhappy, although many of them are, and would make a mortal, or a stone, weep. Nor are they without humour because there is much of that, and can bring a twinkle to the eye. It is the realisation that the events described may never have happened at all, or they may have happened, (but surely not that way), and that in any event they may be far from the truth. It is the responsibility of the individual reader to try to disseminate fact from fiction and because of many of the aforementioned leanings, each will make differing interpretations.
I have tried to include, in appropriate places, comments, observations and descriptions written about the area by various people of their period which are of historical interest. This is equally true where clans, and in particular, men of note, have crossed our canvas. Hopefully this provides a broader sweep of the pen for those who share a love of accurate historical research as well as others who enjoy stories of yesteryear told in anecdotal fashion. For ease I have included a section at the end of several chapters which contain a synopsis of what was happening “out there” in the real world at the time. The reason for this is to establish a bench mark identifying some of the global events which were occurring in the world beyond our hills around the same time. It will be seen, and clearly shown, that the events herein described were fairly tame, and of a smaller frame, but maybe not so different. In fact it was a lot less peaceful...OUT THERE... than it was in our native heath!
Spelling varies throughout the text so that places such as Tullichettle are also spelt Tullychettle and Tulihetil as is Tullibannocher and Tullybannocher; Cultibraggan and Cultybraggan; Comrie, Comry, Komeri; Earn, Heryn, Eryn, Erin, Ern, and others - they describe the places, but some were spelt phonetically in the past, whereas others have been modernized.
In a work of this nature inevitably some errors will have occurred and I accept full responsibility for them. Although having been born in Drummond Street in Comrie in wartime I spent only a total of about seven years of my life, mainly on holiday, there. As a baby I lived in Clapham in Bedfordshire for five years, then Glasgow for 20 years, and have been in Montreal for almost 40 years. I have tried to remember and record many of the stories and legends of the Comrie area, and Highland Strathearn. Possibly some closer to hand will find the book sufficiently stimulating to seek the “Truth” of these matters if they so wish. They can add to our existing knowledge base and be a benefit all around ...after all “truth is stranger than fiction!”
The work is designed to provide an overview of the evolution of this place. It is nowhere near complete. Let us say it is a book for all readers, regardless of their age and backgrounds, who wish to learn a few things about the area, and the old days. The author would be pleased to hear from people who wish to make corrections, or add to the saga.
Peter R. McNaughton M.Ed., FSA Scot – Montreal, December, 2009.