17th Century

Miser of Moivard (Monzievaird)

Angus Sharpe was by all accounts, in his earlier life an upright, honest, straight-forward man. Like many of his time he was a God-fearing man believing in the good book and, no doubt, translated its writings into his daily activities as a small-time farmer. His wife, Isabel, whom he adored, was also deeply religious and they had sired two sons, Angus and Duncan, and a daughter, Helen. They were a poor, but not poverty-stricken family and Angus seemed to be happily content within the bosom of his family.

With the introduction of the “Solemn League and Covenant” situations in Scotland and around Comrie changed dramatically and at a very fast pace. The Sharpes, like many others, were not ashamed to display their faith in the declaration and signed it. They pledged themselves never to waver, nor surrender their religion, and would rather die than do so.

Overnight their minister at Moivard (Monzievaird) was evicted from the Manse and the congregation dictated to attend the Episcopal Church at Dalchedal (?) This did not sit well with most of them, including the Sharpes. Secret meetings were held in various homes and people gathered to worship. If this enterprise became risky as it did, arrangements were made to hold open-air services in the glens and hills around the village - these were called conventicles. Guards would be posted at salient points on top of the surrounding hills to warn of approaching soldiers or strangers. If someone or something unusual was spotted, dispersal arrangements were made so that the congregation could quickly disappear from the scene.

Typical Conventicle

At one such meeting in Glen Lednock Angus was acting as sentry and saw many soldiers approaching. He hastened to warn the congregation who fled as quickly as they could. The soldiers, however, spotted Angus and pursued him. He raced up the east bank of the river with the soldiers hot on his trail. Diving through the waters he made towards the upper glen. The soldiers seeing his route decided to cut him off and as they were crossing the river an extraordinary thing occurred. It was reminiscent of the parting of the seas as recounted in the Old Testament! As the soldiers were floundering across the river an enormous burst of water engulfed them and they were all swept away to their deaths. Shades of Moses! The Minister cried out a Hallelujah saying, “The Lord, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, God hath arisen, and his enemies scattered; yea, he hath destroyed them as the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Oh, that man would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”

Angus, in the meantime, had escaped and climbed up Dunmore Hill giving thanks to God for his narrow escape. Across the valley at Balmuick where they had re-assembled he heard the voices of the congregation singing the words of the 124th Psalm:

“Now Israel

May say, and that truly,

If that the Lord

Had not our cause maintained;

If that the Lord

Had not our rights sustained;

When cruel men

Against us furiously

Rose up in wrath,

To make us their prey.”

Later on that day when Angus and his family were returning from the conventicle he unfortunately came across a squadron of dragoons who recognised him. They challenged him and the following exchange occurred, “Hah! Here comes the psalm-singing covenanter! Where was the conventicler? Come, take the test, or, by King Charles’ head, you die here.” Responding Angus said, “Peace, friend, thinkest thou that, after serving my Saviour so many years, I would renounce my allegiance now?” “You will not take the test, then?” “I will not betray my Lord” “Then die! On your own head be thy blood!” Immediately the dragoon shot Angus through the chest and he died there on the spot. His sons seeing this dastardly act became immediately enraged and, although unarmed, protested. They too were shot down with the youngest saying, “O, mother, what will become of thee?” The funeral at Moivard was a sad, sombre affair as the whole family had been well-respected. The men were buried in a single grave and their loss to Isabel and her daughter, as well as all in the community, was grievous.

Over the next few days Isabel thought through the problems now facing her. A single woman alone with her daughter, Helen, offered little in terms of prospects. She knew that her husband had a brother called Duncan who lived in an inn by the shore of Loch Tay, but he was a man of no account.

He had a dark reputation and it was rumoured that people would show up at his door and thereafter were seen no more. It was further said that he was very rich and had become rich through ill-gotten gains. It was also said that he made part of his money by betraying the whereabouts of the conventicles held by the Covenanters to the King’s men who paid him handsomely with blood-money! He was renowned as a miser, and a miserable one at that. It was known that he counted his money every night for fear that the mice might eat it or that it might fly away! (He sounds like a recent Chancellor of the Exchequer!) He was so mean that he would not, unless for “siller”, help anyone. He was a nasty and unpleasant man and most people sought to avoid him and his house especially after night had fallen. Feeling she had no choice, and as she was destitute, Isabel Sharpe contacted him and asked for his assistance. When one sups with the Devil one should sup with a long spoon!

Seizing the power of an opportunity and a transaction like this, and wishing to be away from Loch Tayside where he was detested, he replied that he would give up his inn and go to Moivard and take over his brother’s farm. This was not quite what Isabel had in mind and exclaimed to her daughter, “What! Duncan Sharpe coming to live here? And attempting to fill your father’s shoes?” And then, realising her now reduced and desperate situation said, “But it is our place to submit. Let us still be thankful that we have a roof over our heads.”

Duncan then moved to Moivard and took possession of his brother’s farm and steading. In a very short period of time it became apparent to everyone that the winds at the farm had changed and misery, rather than the steady, quiet religious life, in vogue. His first act was to sell off more than half the cattle claiming that he needed the money as his right to support the widow-woman and her daughter. Having done this he shortly thereafter sold off half the furniture in order to further maintain the costs of supporting Isabel and Helen. In both cases he pocketed the money and was heard counting it late into the evening.

In the meantime Helen was growing into a very attractive young woman and various suitors would come to call. Seeing a further opportunity Duncan decided to handle the commercial arrangements for the dowry. Many gallant lads were turned away at the door as they lacked the wherewithal. That was until Mark Stuart of Easter Lochlain showed up. He was of the same stamp as Duncan and when two thieves meet deals (Deil’s) are made. Mark made a handsome offer and Duncan seeing the glitter o’ siller pressed Helen to view the young man in a favourable light. She didn’t like what she saw, however she was compelled to obey her uncle. Mark and she became man and wife and, probably having experienced continuous abuse and misery was dead within a year. Achoan, achoan!!

Poor Isabel had an equally miserable time. She no longer sang the psalms or said her prayers. She was abused and had to do the best she could with this repugnant man. Shortly after her daughter’s death she herself followed her family to the grave. Misery, miserum! Hopefully she found peace and contentment and joy in the hereafter!

Duncan continued on his merry (!) way and several years later began to feel his own sense of mortality. Religiously he counted his money every night and generally was obnoxious to his neighbours. He became known as the “Miser of Moivard.”

One night the grim reaper made a beckoning signal. It was during the winter; the snow was hurling about and it was fiendishly cold. Realising his fate Duncan put on his threadbare clothes; put all his money and gold into a rather heavy casket, and taking a spade ventured into the night. Climbing up Turleum he came to a suitable spot. There he dug a hole, and with one last fond look, carefully dropped the casket in to the hole and carefully concealed it. He was determined that no-one else was going to get it! Then, wrapping himself against the elements hurried back towards Moivard. Unfortunately he lost his way and sinking down died there, on the hillside, of exhaustion and exposure.

In the spring his skeleton was found and he was buried where he was found. The treasure has not been found to this day and lies somewhere on Turleum. If I found it I would assume it was the same siller given by the Romans to Judas Iscariot and would put it back! A philosopher once said, “Though a man without money is poor, a man with nothing but money is poorer.”

Many will be familiar with the Strathearn Nursery Rhyme:

On Turleum Tap there is a mist,

And in the mist there is a kist,

And in the kist there is a cap,

And in the cap there is a drap:

Take up the cap and drink the drap,

And leave the cap on Turleum Tap.

Maybe the Miser of Moivard put in a bottle of Scotch as well?! I rather doubt it, though!