Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell
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)
Tales of Derring Do
Soldier, Soldier, won’t you marry me wi’…
The Adventures of Paddy or Highland Peter
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 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
Getting Stoned in Comrie
Hanging about Comrie
It's Whisky in the Jar
Picking Other Folks' Brains
Porridge for Breakfast
Tarred and Buttered
The Twa' Brithers
There’s a Hare in my Soup
Yer bum's oot the Window
18th & 19th Century
Comrie - 1895
Local Government; Parish Church - Chairman, Col. D.R.Williamson; Clerk, Peter Brough, Esq.
Parish Year Parish Town
1831 2622 978
1861 2226 789
1871 1911 746
1881 1726 1038
1891 1529 870
Valuation: - 1891--£17,176
Hotels: - Royal, Melville Square--Mr. David Hamilton
McNeil’s, Drummond Street - Mrs. McNeil
Brigend, Dalginross - Mrs. Ferguson
Commercial, Drummond Street - Mr. John Stewart
Temperance Hotel, Dundas Street - Miss. Jane Drummond
Melville House Temperance Hotel, Drummond Street - Miss J.P. Stirling
Bank: Commercial Bank of Scotland - Agent, Mr. Henry Campbell
Places of Worship and Hours of Service:
Parish Church, Dundas Street - Rev. John MacPherson, 11.30 a.m.;
Free Church, West End - Rev. Arthur Crawford Watt, M.A., 11.30 a.m.;
United Presbyterian Church - Rev. Wm. Hall, 11.30 a.m. Note. - An evening service at 6.15 p.m. is held in the Presbyterian Churches in rotation. St. Serf’s Episcopal Church, Crieff Road, open during season, from May to October - the preachers being generally distinguished clergymen from England,- Lay Reader, Colonel D.R.Williamson, of Lawers - Services, 9 and 11 a.m., and 3.30 p.m.
Post and Telegraph Office: - Postmaster, David Miller. Open 7.30 a.m. till 8 p.m. Open on Sundays from 9 to 10 a.m. for telegrams and callers for letters.
Library and Reading Room: - Dundas Street (adjoining Parish Church) - Secretary - Mr. Thomas Duff. Open Tuesday evening, 7 to 8 p.m; Saturday afternoon, 2 to 3. Open to visitors. One month: 1s; six months 1s. and 6d; a year, 3s.
Recreation: - Comrie Golf Club - Secretary, Mr. Henry Campbell. Course on Laggan Braes, five minutes walk from the village. Open to visitors on small charge for weekly, fortnightly or monthly tickets. There is also a Ladies’ Golf Club, which plays over the same course, and welcomes visitors. Cycling Club: - Secretary, Mr. J. Stobie
Football Club, Camp Park-Secretary, Mr. Duncan McCowan, Dalginross.
Places of Public Resort:- The Deil’s Cauldron, 1 1/2 mile; Dunmore Hill and Melville Monument, 2 miles; Aberuchill Castle and Cascade, 2 miles, Roman Camp, Dalginross, 1 mile; Drummond-Ernoch, 2 1/2 miles; Strowan, 4 miles; Linn, on Ruchill and Tullichestle, 2 3/4 miles; Glen Lednock and Spout Rollo, 5 miles; Dunira, 3 miles. [For details of these places, see Excursions.]
Posting Establishments: - Royal Hotel, McNeil’s Hotel, and Mr. Duncan Comrie, Dalginross.
Coaches: - The Caledonian Railway Company’s Tourist Coaches run to and from Comrie and Lochearnhead, via St. Fillans, during the season from June to end of September. Coach from and to Crieff and St. Fillans three times a week in the summer season.
Medical Practitioners: - Mr. Charles D. Temple, M.B.C.M., Rathlin Villa, Dundas Street; Mr. Alex. Grant, M.A., M.D., Dalginross.
Lawyers: - Mr. J.D. Mitchell, B.L., Drummond Street; Messrs Robertson&Dempster.
Few towns in Great Britain can compare with Comrie for beauty of situation. The climate is mellow in the winter and spring months and pleasantly bracing in summer and autumn. Its streets are trim and clean and its suburbs spacious and picturesque. There is an open, breezy course for the golfer, streams for the angler, and an infinity of attractions for the visitor to whom life and a holiday is something more than the swinging of a club or a rod. Comrie derives its name from the two Gaelic words Comb and Ruidh, which mean the confluence or meeting of the waters: quite a correct description, since the River Earn receives, opposite the slopes of the ancient churchyard the waters of the Ruchill (i.e., red flood), and a little further east the united stream is reinforced by the Lednock. In olden time the principal proprietors were the Comries of Ross and the Drummonds of Comrie, both of which families were at one period hereditary “mairs” of the Stewarty of Strathearn. Comrie House is embedded on the north side of the town, amid thickly-growing trees. One of the Drummonds of Comrie was that celebrated man, Thomas Henry Drummond, who, as Under Secretary for Ireland, was the only statesmen who did justice to the “most distressful country,” and win the affections of the Irish people - till at least Gladstonian times. Sir Sydney Dundas, Dunira, Colonel D.R.Williamson of Lawers, and the Earl of Ancaster are now the largest proprietors in and around the town, but no one has done more for the material improvement than the popular Laird of Lawers.
There are two spots from which to obtain the finest views of the little town which spreads it dainty skirts at the meeting of the waters. The first is from Dunmore or the monument hill, of which more anon. The second is from a small ridge beyond Dalginross, on Cowden, and near what is known as the DRUIDICAL STONE. From this spot you look across the richly-cultivated plain, with the perspective of the broad street of Dalginross, lined with elegant villas and neat cottages. The white outline Comrie is cut in twain, as it were, by the high bridge across the Earn and the parish church with its quaint tower and spire. In the middle distance is the monument hill, with its richly-variegated foliage, bounded on the right by the gorge of Lednock, where boils the Deil’s Cauldron; and beyond all are the blue irregular of the Grampians.
The town itself has the appearance of substantial prosperity. There are no mean houses. Everything is tidy, and visitors would find it difficult to come upon any corner that is not well ordered and neat. The cosy, flourishing nature of the place is enhanced by a number of handsome villa residences in the environs. A business air is given, not only by the traffic of summer visitors and tourists, which has been largely increased by the extension of the railway, but by the humming activity of a couple of sawmills adjoining the railway station. Tartan and blankets were the staple manufacture a hundred years ago, along with linen yarn, which has now ceased to be made with the dropping of the culture of flax by the surrounding farmers. At the beginning of the century there was a weavers’ society with a membership of 200 but with the decay of the trade the society was dissolved in 1834. There is no reason why the steam factory should not take, to even a greater extent than now in place of the old hand looms. It is a sign of improvement or decay that a century ago there was a distillery and two breweries, but neither now?
Probably the very first place for which a visitor will make is the bridge across the roaring Earn. It is a quaint, high backed, very narrow structure of six large and two small arches. Here the village gossips take their usual stroll because it is the custom of generations. The views towards the grand peaks of the Aberuchill hills on the one hand, and down the broad strath to the Knock and Tom-na-Chaistel are ever new and fascinating. A couple of hundred years ago, when the parishioners of Comrie were dependent on the ministrations of the parson of the Parish of Tullichettle, he used to intimate that he would go to Comrie “gin the river is fordable.” In 1712 a proposal was made to build a bridge, and the churches within the bounds of the Presbytery of Auchterarder were recommended to make a voluntary collection for the same. Some sort of bridge was built, for in 1728, “it was in such a tottering case that neither horses nor man have passage,” and the teinds of the parish were, during a vacancy, appropriated for its reconstruction. The present bridge was erected in 1770, and it were well that the County Council should widen its strait gates and rebuild the Lednock Bridge at the other end of the village, whose “tottering case” has been the theme of local parish reformers for years past. Facing the approach to the bridge is Melville Square, regarded as the very centre of town. Two sides of the square are mainly occupied by the Royal Hotel.
The parish church stands on a commanding site on the river bank, which in the space between the bridge and the church was used by generations as God’s acre. The present structure was erected in 1804, is roomy and barn-like, without a redeeming architectural feature. The tower and spire are quaint in their very ugliness. The building which preceded the existing kirk was, according to the then incumbent, the well-known Gaelic scholar, Dr. Hugh MacDiarmid, “very old, small, not in very good repair, and with an outside stair going up to the loft.” When the body of the church was used as a cockpit, as it frequently was in the memory of people alive in our day, the “loft”was the gallery for the public spectators of the “main.” There is much else that is interesting connected with that queer old parish church.
With the abolition of Episcopy and the rule of the bishops the General Assembly did not leave the parochial clergy to “gang their ain gate.” Under Presbyterian rule superintendents took the place of bishops - an order of the clergy which Professor Story and others of the advanced school would fain revive. Superintendents, however, smacked too much of Episcopal government for the growing democratic feeling of the reformed Church, in which all ministers were regarded as equals, and the rural clergy were kept to their duties by a system of Presbyterian visitation, as it was called. The members of a Presbytery came on an appointed day to the parish, one of their number preached a sermon, and then the elders were summoned to answer to somewhat inquisitorial interrogateries. here, for instance, are the questions and answers in such a visitation on June 3, 1669 - the rev. Hon. Philip being minister, and Mr. James Drummond, of Comrie, being spokesman for the elders:-“1st, If the minister preached sound and edifying doctrine? Answerit affirmative. 2dlie, If he was blameless in his life? Answerit affirmative. 3dlie, If he preached twice every Lord’s Day? Answerit affirmative. 4thlie, if he catechised everie week except seedtime and harvestime? Answerit affirmative. 5thlie, If he celebrated the sacrament? Answerit negative. 6thlie, If he pressed family worship? Answerit affirmative. 7thlie. Whether the Holy Scriptures were publicklie read everie Lord’s Day, and some portion read after the minister is in the pulpit? Likewise Answerit affirmative. 8thlie, If the Doxologie was used? Answerit affirmative. 9thlie, if he visited the sick? Answerit, for aught he knew he did it. 10thlie, Whether he had cups, basins, and laver for celebration of the Sacrement? Answerit negative. And further, being inquired if he pressed a reverent gesture in prayer? Answerit, that he did it sometimes.”
The minister was also put through his facings when he satisfied the Presbytery that he had a manse, that the “provision of his church” was “640 merks, or thereabout;” that there was once a schoolmaster in the parish, but not now, and that he “regraits the want of glass windows and a bridge, and the want of a churchyard dyk.” On a subsequent visitation the Rev. Mr. Philip, being asked if his elders were blameless, discreetly replied that “they were the best he could have.”
A great function here as elsewhere in Scotland was the “tent preaching” at the annual celebration of the Sacrement of the Lord’s Supper. Mr. Mushet, minister in 1828, writing to his patroness of the administration of “the solemn ordinance on the third Sabbath day in June,” said-“The Lord favoured us (blessed be His name) with fair and seasonable weather. We had near eleven tables in Irish (Gaelic). Each table contained forty-eight persons or thereabout, and we had only two tables and some few persons at the third in English. The people as to outward appearance behave extraordinarily well, so that there were no disturbance or disorder, notwithstanding of both the languages. I had the assistance of ten ministers from the beginning to the end of the week.” It was not always that the celebrants were so well behaved as at Comrie. These tent preachings were too often a public scandal, and fully deserved the scathing exposure made of them at Burns’s Holy Fair. It need hardly be said that the evangelical revival of the last eighty years has entirely changed the religious aspect of rural Scotland. Nowhere more so than in Strathearn, where indeed, dwell the sturdy but tender-hearted saints of Drumtochty.
Dissent has always been strong in Upper Strathearn, which an Erastian cynic said was due to earthquakes. The early seceders worshipped for years in the open air, but were at last, in 1752, permitted to build a small chapel near the junction of the Lednock and the Earn. Alongside the chapel was the manse, in which was born the brilliant preacher, critic, and essayist, Rev. George Gilfillan. A window in the nursery of the manse conveniently looked into the chapel, and old Mrs. Gilfillan could therefore attend to the cares of her young family, and at the same time listen to her husband’s sermons. The chapel and the manse are now a stable, and the Secession or U.P CONGREGATION now worships in a neat and commodious Gothic church in Dundas Street.
Further west is the most imposing and handsomest ecclesiastical building between Crieff and Callender - The MACFARLANE FREE CHURCH. It is of whinstone and white freestone facings - the two making a fine contrast in the pleasing Gothic order of the church. The spire is specifically ornate. The cost of the church and accessories was £9000, the legacy of Miss McFarlane, long a benevolent resident of Comrie. The foundation stone was laid by Principal Rainy in 1879, and the church was opened in May 1881.
Episcopalians are not numerous, but they are largely increased during the summer and autumn months. Largely through the liberality and enthusiasm of Colonel Williamson of Lawers, the very pretty and picturesque Church of St. SERF’S was built by Lednock’s fair stream, at the eastern entrance to the town, and close by the railway station. The structure is of stone and wood, and the interior, of richly stained pitch pine, is attractively pretty.
The other educational institutions are the Board Schools, admirably equipped, and efficiently taught; a READING-ROOM, at the corner of Dundas Street and Dunira Street, the gift in 1881 of the late Sir David Dundas, of Dunira. The room is well supplied with local and metropolitan newspapers and magazines, and is open to visitors at a small charge. Connected with the Reading-Room is the PUBLIC LIBRARY, founded in 1822. This library, which has a judiciously selected collection of books, kept fairly well up to date, is evidence, along with the Parochial Libraries of St. Fillans and Crieff, of the intelligence of the people of Strathearn. There are two Public halls. The Old Free Church in the west end, at the foot of Tom-a-Kessock, has been converted into a handsome PUBLIC HALL, where, in the season, concerts and assemblies are held. At the east end of the town, in Drummond Street, is the DAVID AND SELINA HALL, erected by Colonel Williamson of Lawers, in honour of his wife.
COMRIE TO DUNMORE - THE DEIL’S CAULDRON -
THE MELVILLE MONUMENT - GLENLEDNOCK
The ascent of Dunmore commences immediately at the end of Dundas Street and entrance to the sweet grounds of Comrie House. Until the tornado of 17th November 1893 the winding road was overshadowed by trees. Now, when the steepest part of the hill has been breasted, entrancing views of serried Grampian peaks are obtained, framed as it were between nearer wooded hills. Along the shoulder of Dunmore the road winds with fair crofts on the right, and on the left grand woods of larch, spruce, oak and chestnut, until almost suddenly there opens up the romantic gorge of Lednock. Leaving the highroad on the right, a footpath leads by the most picturesque zig-zags down into the leafy abyss. After passing the turf-covered tank which supplies Comrie with gravitation water a fine prospect of the elbow of the gorge is obtained. Further along, from a protected point, there is a peep down the narrow defile, the sun glinting through tall trees and undergrowth on the brown peaty water and its creamy foam. Picking way down giddy steps, with occasional glances at boulder-broken water, and weathered cliffs, at last a little platform is reached, from which a view of the Deil’s Cauldron is obtained.
The DEIL’S CAULDRON is, in Gaelic, named Slocha’n Donish. The legend goes that it was the favourite haunt of a brownie or water elf, called in Gaelic, Uris-chidh. When he succeeded in enticing a victim, he called out in a voice of thunder to his kindred spirit at Spout Rollo, two miles further up the glen: “Urishchidh ess Rolleigh cuir ghaighidh mo choira, gus am bruich mi au Scollar so h’aair mi.” – “Spirit of Rolla, send him my cauldron that I may dress this prey that I have taken.” That is, send down a flood, so that there can be no hope of escape from the seething waters in the rock-hemmed pool. The Urischidh has never been seen, it may be comforting to visitors to Comrie to know, since he, “a long time ago,” entered Comrie disguised as a traveller.
It was a cold winter’s night, and the Urischidh asked shelter at a cottage from its only inmate, an old woman. He was welcomed from the storm, but in the dim rush-light the old woman recognised the brownie and asked him to draw close to the fire, thus putting him off his guard. On pretence of stirring up the embers, the old woman gathered them and threw them over Urischidh. The exorcism of fire was effectual, and he was never seen again. The water which forms the fall cuts through the wall of rock at a somewhat curious angle, as if the strata had opened and then closed again at the upper edge. The stream thus comes bounding out of a hole, so to speak, and taking three leaps, each widening, reaches in one mass of brown water and white foam the seething cauldron. The fall is not so high or as broad as Foyers, but it is exceedingly picturesque. the cliffs, forming an irregular circle, rise about one hundred and fifty feet on all sides, and in the autumn when the trees, which form a fine frame to the romantic gorge, are turning gold and crimson, the scene realises one’s prettiest notions of fairyland.
When the visitor climbs up from the fall by a zig-zag path, the north-eastern shoulder of Dunmore is reached, from which a start is made by a well-defined path, to the summit of the monument hill. The hill-side is rough heather and grass, with weather-beaten rocks here and there. In front Dunmore lifts it proud head - formerly girt with the graces of the unbroken plumes of pine foliage. Now he is like a man all ragged and unshorn - his grand flowing beard gashed here and there with patches of stubble of unequal growth. The ‘93 tornado made sad work with the trees here, especially on the north and east sides of the hill, but in some parts the woodland is as regular and beautiful as ever. The path is easy through many an arch of dainty larch boughs, and the crest of the hill, 837 feet above the level of the sea, is attained without difficulty.
Rising from a platform of lichened rock and closest swarth, is the MELVILLE MONUMENT, which forms such a conspicuous land mark from every part of the Strath. It is an obelisk of grey granite, obtained near the head of Glen Lednock, and rises, in graceful proportions, to a height of 72 feet. Curiously enough, though in such an exposed situation, inviting as it were, the lightning’s stroke, it weathered, though unprotected, the storms of eighty years unharmed. In the summer of 1894, however, it was struck by the electric fluid, which displaced some of the closely-banded stones, in the most irregular manner, near the top and opposite and the opposite corner of the base. The obelisk was placed in a thorough state of repair, in the autumn of the same year, by the Dundas Trustees, and protected by a lightning conductor. It is interesting to note that the “steeple jack” who ascended the monument, effected the repairs, and fixed the conductor, declared that from the apex of the obelisk the Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh were plainly discernible on a clear day. On the west face of the granite platform, from which the obelisk rises, is the following inscription: - “Erected, A.D. 1812, to the memory of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, Baron Dunira, &c., by his personal friends in the County of Perth, in grateful recognition of his public services, and of his private virtues. Died 29th May, 1811, aged 69.” Whatever one may think historically of the Government of Scotland during the Dundas regime, or of Lord Melville’s political career in the British Parliament during perhaps the most important epoch in modern British history, Henry Dundas was a great Scotsman, and this simple but grand granitic monument is worthy of his stature.
There are few finer panoramas in the British Isles than that spread out around this monumental hill. Immediately below is the wooded gorge of the Lednock from which comes up the hollow raving of the Deil’s Cauldron, and the eye is carried past the sylvan policies of Comrie House to the quaint irregularities of the village streets and spires. Away southward and eastward is the carse of the Earn with its chequered fields and meadows, and the river gleaming like a silver ribbon till lost in the plantations which fringe the pass formed by Torlum Hill, 1291 feet, and Tom-na-Chaistel. Further are the foothills of the Ochils, and hanging like blue pennants on the far eastern horizon are the “Paps of the Lomonds.” Leftward is the villa-crowned Knock of Crieff (911 feet) and Ben Laith (1371 feet) above Glen Turret, and beyond the majestic irregular masses of Ben Chonzie, pronounced “Ben-y-Hone” (3045 feet) and Cairn Chois (2571 feet) and the mountains above Glen Almond and the Sma’ Glen. Turning northward, Glen Lednock opens with its snake-like folds among the mountains, which look with their other face on winding Loch Tay, and Spout Rollo gleaming in the afternoon sun. Swinging westwards the lofty Meall nam Fiadh (2000 feet) and Crappich (1467 feet) point to Dunira’s glen with its fertile haughs and splendid woods. Flashing like burnished silver in the west is the mirrored bosom of Loch Earn, set in the Topaz frame of Stron Mohr (2203 feet) on the right, and the Birron (2011 feet), Ben Vorlich (3224 feet) on the left, with the amethyst cone of Ben More (3843 feet) in the very gates of the west. Again, in the nearer round, are the grandly romantic masses of the Aberuchill Hills - Ben Mor (2250 feet) (Mhor Ben) and Ben Hatton (2050 feet) (Ben Halton), with the white turrets of the castle in the bay between their peaks, and, southward, Glen Artney with its hazel shades, and the Hill of Weeping, till the sweep of the horizon is completed by the blue mists of the Ochils.
The descent of Dunmore to Comrie may be made either by the west through Dunira Home Farm to the St. Fillans road, opposite Tullybannocher, or by a steep path right down the southern face through the wood until the Lednock road is reached. However, we return by the northern shoulder of Dunmore, in order to continue our journey up GLEN LEDNOCK, which means the glen of the gentle slope. After leaving the foot of Dunmore the glen expands into a wide valley, the lonely grandeur of which is impressive. Two or three houses are all that the eye can find as evidence of human neighbourhood, and the only sound save that of a brawling water of the Lednock, Geldie, or Maik burns, are the bleating of sheep, the occasional call of a grouse, or the hoarse croak of hooded crow. And yet, within living memory, this glen furnished eighty able-bodied volunteers at one military muster, sent a hundred children daily to school, and twenty “customer weavers” plied their craft in humble but sufficient cots. The walk is interesting, if somewhat lonely and sad. After an inspection of the charming waterfall of Spout Rollo the walk may be continued across the watershed at Craig Uigeach, 2840 feet, to Ardeonaig, on Loch Tay. Returning to the bridge at Funtullich, the pedestrian reaches the east side of the Glen, and passes by Carroglen and Balmuick to Comrie, near St. Serf’s Church.