Sections


Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell
The '45
Extracts of Statistics from the Annexed Estates for Western Strathearn (1755-56)
The Reports of the Annexed Estates (1755-69)
A Tour of Scotland - Thomas Pennant (1769)
Seismic Activity (1789)
Account of 1791-99 vol-11 - Comrie, County of Perth
Archibald MacNab (1734-1816)
Henry Dundas (1742-1811)
Sir David Baird of Seringapatam (1757-1829)
Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland – Sarah Murray (1799)
Roman Camp, Dalginross – October (1800)
Flash from the Caledonian Mercury – September (1814)
I've a Boat to Catch (1818)
A Picture of Strathearn - John Brown (1823)
St Fillan’s Highland Society (1827)
Letters from the Distant Past (1831 - 1859)
Comrie, St Fillans and Monivard (1837)
Statistical Account: Parish of Comrie (1838)
The Glen Lednock Census (1841)
The Queen’s Visit (1842)
The Road to Comrie (1857)
For the Sake of Nelly Fergus (1860)
From an Unknown Guidebook-circa (1892)
Comrie (1895)
Tales of Derring Do
Soldier, Soldier, won’t you marry me wi’…
The Adventures of Paddy or Highland Peter
Ghoulie Tales
A Serious Business
Mail Order Bride
The Man with the Powerful Voice
Double Entry bookkeeping
Hey, Gie’s ma Haun…or Murder Most Foul
Kate Mackenzie's Terrible Deeds
Watty and Meg Drummond
The Fencibles
Deacon Reid
Amazing Grace
The Day of the Penny Wedding
The MacArthur's were there before the Hills
The Beggar's Badge
A Pane by any other name can be a Pain!
The Powder Keg
The Coo didnae hae ony Teeth!
The Green Lady of Glen Lednock
The Queen of Tynasithe
The Great Wall of Comrie
Whisky, You're the Devil
A Wee Rumble
A Whale of a Time
An Encounter of the Third Kind
Another Debate
Bosom Pals
Getting Stoned in Comrie
Hanging about Comrie
It's Whisky in the Jar
Picking Other Folks' Brains
Porridge for Breakfast
Tarred and Buttered
Temperance
The Convert
The Debate
The Schism
The Levitation
The Twa' Brithers
There’s a Hare in my Soup
Yer bum's oot the Window

18th & 19th Century

A Wee Rumble

Comrie has been known for centuries as the earthquake centre of Britain. These phenomenon results from its geographical location coupled to its geological composition. Lying directly on the great Highland Fault which runs from Helensburgh to Stonehaven movements of the tectonic plates create a low rumble and sometimes a large cracking sound can be heard. Its epicentre is located in Glenlednock just slightly north of Kingarth and west of Balmuick and the Shaky Bridge. Although our forebears knew nothing about earth movement and tectonic plates there was an early interest in them. McCrie notes in his “Life of Melville” that “In the month of July 1597 a smart shock of an earthquake was felt in the North of Scotland, which extended through Perthshire, Athol, Braidalban, and Ross.”

The noted Gaelic speaking minister and scholar in Comrie, Reverend McDiarmid, recounted the following which is the first known account of an earthquake in the village: “This parish and the neighbourhood have for more than three years past been not a little alarmed by several smart shocks of an earthquake. It was first felt, or rather loud noises, unaccompanied with any concussion, were heard by the inhabitants of Glenlednaig during (the) autumn of 1789. These noises were first supposed to be peals of thunder; afterwards, as they were heard sometimes when the sky was quite clear, the people imagined they were occasioned by the firing of carronades from Dunira. Finding, however, on enquiry, that they did not proceed from this cause, they were at a loss how to account for them, till the 5th of November 1789 when, about six o’clock in the evening, they were alarmed by a loud rumbling noise, accompanied with a severe shock of an earthquake. This shock, which is generally supposed to be the most violent of any that has happened here, was very sensibly felt over a large tract of country of more than twenty miles in extent. Since that period the shocks have been very frequent, and at times pretty violent; but hitherto they have done no harm. Within these three or four weeks, since the weather has settled into drought, they have ceased altogether. The centre of the earthquake is, as nearly as can be guessed, about the mouth of Glenlednaig, a mile or two north from the village of Comrie. What supports this conjecture is that the people who live on the east side of the Glen feel the earthquake beginning in the north-west, and proceeding in a south-easterly direction. Those again who live in the countryside on the west side, think it takes its rise in the north-east and expires in the west.”

William Creech of Edinburgh in 1792, writing in the appendix to Sir John Sinclair’s “Statistical Accounts of the Parishes of Scotland,” describes the same earthquake, “On Thursday, the 5th of November 1789, between five and six o’clock in the evening, a smart shock of earthquake was felt at Crieff and Comrie. At Mr. Robertson’s house of Lawers, a rumbling noise, like distant thunder, had been heard at intervals for two months; and, at the same time of the shock, a noise like the discharge of distant artillery was distinctly heard. Mr. Dundas and Mr. Bruce, of Edinburgh, were standing before the fire in the drawing-room, and they described the shock as if a great mallet had suddenly struck the foundation of the house with great violence. At the village of Comrie the inhabitants left their houses and ran to the open fields.”

Later in the same chapter the following is noted, “On the 11th November, (1789), in the forenoon, in the same place, another shock was felt, which was much more violent than that of the 5th. It was accompanied with a hollow rumbling noise. The ice on a piece of water near the house of Lawers was shivered to atoms.”

Mr. Creech continues his account in a later letter written in Comrie on the 30th of November, 1792, “We have of late been greatly alarmed with several severe shocks of an earthquake. They were more sensible and alarming than any formerly, and the noise attending them was uncommonly loud and tremulous. It appeared probably more so from the stillness of the atmosphere and the reverberation of the surrounding mountains. The houses were greatly shaken, and the furniture tossed from its place. The weather has been uncommonly variable, and changed from high gusts of wind to a deep calm a few days before the severest shocks of the earthquake. The air was moist and hazy, and the clouds seemed charged with electricity. It is not improbable that these earthquakes arise from those caverns below this place, into which the exterior waters penetrate, and are converted into water and steam, capable of the highest degree of expansion, and must press forcibly upon everything which opposes their dilation. By this theory, the famous Delomica accounted for the earthquakes of Calabria in 1783, which was received by the learned world as more satisfactory than any proposed by Sir William Hamilton and other philosophers. Whatever be the cause, the effect is certain; and it must be no small force that can shake a country to the extent of between twenty and thirty miles.”

In 1799 the Reverend Samuel Gilfillan of Comrie in an entry in his diary dated the 24th February observed the following, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. We were greatly alarmed this day with the shock of an earthquake. It happened about ten minutes before two p.m. I was preaching from Isaiah xlvii.4, on the power of Christ our Redeemer, and was arguing from His raising the dead at the last day that He possesses infinite power, when, lo! the shock came. The wind had been very high before; but Nature made, as it were, a solemn pause, till the earthquake was over, and the wind began to blow violently. The church was full, and a deep sigh pervaded the audience.” The good minister recorded some seventy earthquakes between 1792 and 1814.

Others recorded the earthquake activities: Reverend McKenzie describing the earthquake of 1838 writes: “At and after the times of the last Statistical Account, the earthquakes were so frequent and violent, as to occasion great alarm, especially one which occurred on a Sabbath while the congregation was assembled. Probably there is some connection between the earthquakes and the numerous extinct volcanoes in this neighbourhood.”

The earthquake of 23rd October, 1839 caused particular commentary with one report from Monzie: - “At thirteen minutes past ten in the evening we heard a sound like that of a numerous body of cavalry approaching at full gallup along a grassy sward. When this had continued a few seconds, we felt two or more abrupt concussions, as if a solid mass of earth had struck against a body more ponderous than itself, and rebounded. The sound passed off as before far to the east. At Comrie, the consternation was such that the people ran out of their houses, and, late as was the hour, many assembled for prayer in the Secession Meeting-house, where religious exercises were continued until three in the morning. There was a second shock at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock, and a third somewhat later, but both inferior to the first.”

Another story passed down to us concerns our worthy friend John McNiven. He and his friend, Mr. McKenzie, who were natives of Glenartney, were discussing the state of dilapidation which the Tullichettle Cemetery had fallen into as a result of neglect and lack of use. It appeared that cattle had broken through the walls in various places and, as they had kith and kin buried there, they thought it should be repaired. As John, who had been a soldier in the Peninsular War and in the War of 1812 in America, had done some physical jobs since leaving the army, and had some experience in building and rebuilding walls and dykes, they decided that they would repair it themselves.

It was a dull, damp day when they set off and started their work and the occasional showers hindered their progress and John’s mood rapidly deteriorated as the job and the day unfolded. After a while he at last had been able to repair one side of the wall and just as he was checking his alignment he heard a low, rumbling sound, growing in intensity and then the ground shook around him with such ferocity that all of his day’s work collapsed. Believing that the earthquake had been sent for a high purpose he said nothing and returned to the village in low spirits. The story was told and he was much annoyed when the local weavers and children teased him, “Where’s your braw new dyke?” Sometime thereafter he returned to Tullichettle and was still much vexed at its state. The graves were much overgrown with rank vegetation, were unattended and in very poor shape (much the same as today). It so happened on this occasion the grave-digger was there and John waxed eloquent finally adding, no doubt with a flourish, “And mind ye, if you don’t have the nettles out of here and the grass nicely cut when my funeral comes west, I’ll tak ye a rap on the side o’ the head with my neive (fist).

In 1846 the “Witness” correspondent writes, “Exactly at twelve o’clock on the 21st instant we were visited by a terrific shock of an earthquake. The sound was loud as thunder, but of a character peculiar to itself, and the motion was very violent. The effect was most solemnizing, filling the mind with awe, and leading it to think of God’s terrible majesty. Numbers of the people rose in terror from their beds and remained up all night. It was the impression of many that had the shock been a little more powerful dread effects might have followed. As it was, the chimney-stalks of some of the houses were rent, and even at Crieff the motion was so violent as to set the house bells a-ringing. Before two a.m. twelve distinct shocks were counted, some of them pretty severe, but none compared to the first; and, before morning, seventeen were reckoned up. No earthquake nearly so alarming has occurred since the great one in October 1839, and some are of the opinion that the present fully equalled it in point of intensity."

Carment recounts a story about earthquakes taken from the Moray House Students Magazine: “Towards the close of the tourist season some years ago, the afternoon stage-coach drove up, with the usual bustle and excitement, to the inn at Comrie, that little Perthshire village which has earned itself the unenviable notoriety of being more subject to subterranean disturbances than any other place in the British Isles. Among the passengers were two young Englishmen and their wives, who informed mine host that they intended to rusticate with him for a few days and laughingly added a wish that they might be visited by an earthquake during their stay. “It would really be so nice,” exclaimed the ladies, in a breath; “I am sure we should like it awfully well.” The same lively talk was continued at the dinner table that evening, and the attendant maid was being bantered a good deal for having admitted that she “didna jist like airthquakes hersel’” when lo! in the midst of their merriment, a sudden rumbling was felt - an indescribable trembling, and from below! At a glance at the guests round the table she noticed that the astonished Cockneys were exhibiting a mysterious tendency to huddle together! With pale and awestruck countenance, the whole party - so full of glee but a moment before - sprang to their feet, and in subdued tones demanded of the servant what all this meant. Delighted to have her revenge so soon, the girl stifled all personal fears for the time, and calmly replied, “Oh, it’s just a bit of a shock.” “What!” exclaimed they, “an earthquake? Go; call your master at once!” The landlord was called, and despite his assurances that the shocks were seldom serious, that the last coach had long since departed, and even that “it was liken’ to be wat a wee" the would-be scientific enquirers, their curiosity more than satisfied, insisted on settling their bill, and departed by special conveyance, thankful to have escaped so easily from a place where spirit-rapping was carried on such a gigantic scale.

Stage Coaches at the Royal Hotel