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 - Observations
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
Statistical Account: Parish of Comrie – 1838
The following is in the copyright of the following:
Account of 1834-45 vol.10 p.578: Comrie, County of Perth.
PARISH OF COMRIE.
Presbytery of Auchterarder, Synod of Perth and Kinross.
The Rev. William Mackenzie, Minister.
1 - Topography and Natural History.
The Ancient parishes of Comrie, Dundurn, and Tullichetal, together with parts of Monivaird, Strowan and Muthill, are contained in the present parish of Comrie.
Name.--The name Comrie, signifying in Gaelic confluence, is derived from the site of the parish church, at the confluence of the rivers, Earn, Ruchill and Lednock. A dun or fortified hill at the east end of Loch Earn gave name to Dundurn or Dun-d-earn. Tullichetal signifies “the plain of sleep”, referring, it is thought, to the burying-ground where the dead sleep around the ruins of a very ancient church. The date of the conjunction of the three original parishes is unknown. It was in 1702 that the Commission of Teinds, at the request of the General Assembly, made the additions, quoad sacra, from the parishes of Monivaird, Strowan and Muthill.
Extent, &c.--The united parish is about 13 miles long and 10 broad, and is a district two miles long at the west end of Loch Earn which was annexed in 1702, quoad sacra, to Balquhidder, be reckoned, the parish of Comrie, quod civilian, is 13 miles long throughout its entire breadth, and contains about 130 square miles. The parish, lying at the head of Strathearn, is bounded by high mountains on three sides, the east opening on the valley of Strathearn. The principal range of mountains is the Grampians, running from south-west to north-east. Benhonzie is 2900 feet above the level of the sea, and Ben Vorlich, the highest, is 3,300, and may be seen from Perth, Edinburgh and Ayrshire. There is very little low or flat land in the parish; the principal valleys of Glenartney, Glen Lednock, and the banks of the Earn are from 200 to 350 feet above the level of the sea, and they open upon the village of Comrie.
In a portion of country like this parish, whose surface is so diversified with mountain, glen and strath, a corresponding difference of climate is to be expected. The dry gravelly nature of the soil, and the shelter of the surrounding hills, render the climate of the strath mild, salubrious, and favourable to longevity, so much so, as to have formerly obtained for Strathearn the epithet of the Montpelier of Scotland. A thermometer in the village of Comrie was found, during the months of November and December 1831, to average higher than that of Edinburgh. The glens are colder than the strath, and the more so the higher they ascend into the mountains. But in them the air is generally dry and clear.
There is nothing so peculiar either in the soil, climate, or mode of living here, as to produce endemic disease. But, though remote and almost isolated, this parish seems to have no immunity from those diseases which spread in that mysterious manner termed epidemical. It, however, was exempted from the visitation of the cholera.
In the spring and summer of 1831, influenza was prevalent; in the winter, chincough was common; in the summer of 1832 measles appeared; in the spring of 1833, influenza was again prevalent, succeeded in the autumn by scarlet fever, which was followed by smallpox that continued till the winter of 1834. Influenza again prevailed in the spring of 1835, which was followed by chincough, which was more general among children than either of the two preceding epidemics. In the spring of 1836, there were a number of cases of continued fever, and the influenza, so universal at the beginning of 1837 (the disease) seized at least three-fourths of the population, but apparently not with so many fatal results as in the districts in the east.
Before each of these epidemics appeared, they were prevalent for some time to the east of the parish. As Comrie has little communication from any other quarter, an inference might be drawn from this, in favour of the opinion, that these diseases are caused by contagion alone, were it not a fact that epidemic diseases generally travel from east to west. Typhus fever is very rare; intermittent fevers or agues never occur; common continued fever occasionally prevails, but never in the severe form (the typhus gravior), so frequent and fatal in large towns. Inflammations fill up the largest space in the catalogue of our diseases, and of these bronchitis appears to be the most frequent and fatal. Pneumonia and pleurisy are not uncommon, but the true idiopathic croup is very rare, while the symptomatic and spasmodic varieties are more frequent. Rheumatism is common and severe; chronic gastritis is a very frequent complaint in the parish, which may be owing to one or both the following reasons: The frequent imbibing of undiluted spirits, and taking the ordinary diet, potatoes, as hot as they can be got. Scrofulous diseases do not bear so high a proportion as in our larger towns, but they are no means rare here. The deaths from consumption are as 1 to 9 3/4 of the whole mortality.
Hydrography.--Loch Earn, the only considerable body of water in the parish, is 7 miles long, from 1 to 1 1/2 broad, and its depth, in common with some other Scottish lakes, is very great in many parts about 100 fathoms. Its temperature varies very little throughout the year, so that even the river Earn, which flows from it, seldom if ever freezes above its junction with the Ruchill. There is a small artificial island at the east end of Loch Earn covered with ruins; and at a small distance may be traced, under the surface on a calm day, the apparent commencement of another artificial island. There is a tradition that freebooters of the name of Nish occupied the castle on the island at one time, and, having the only boat on the lake, were secure from reprisals, until, having presumed to seize the Christmas cheer of the Laird of MacNab, on its way from Crieff to Killin, that sons of that chieftain carried on their shoulders from Lochtay, a boat across the Grampians, and, surprising the Nishes when asleep after their Christmas feast, carried back in triumph their heads to the old McNab. This feat is commemorated on a monument in the beautiful burying-ground of the McNab at Killin. The island was latterly occupied by the family of Ardvorlich, who had an occasional residence and a granary there.
The rivers of the parish are the Earn; the Ruchill flowing from Glenartney; and the Lednock, from the glen of that name.
Earthquakes.--This parish has acquired some notoriety from its earthquakes. These very remarkable phenomena have undoubtedly been felt here at intervals for nearly fifty years, but of late have been very feeble and rare. The writer of this felt one earthquake very distinctly, and has heard of others during his incumbency. At and after the time of the last Statistical Account, (1795), the earthquakes were so frequent and so violent, and accompanied by such loud noises, as to occasion great alarm,--and especially one which occurred on a Sabbath, while the congregation were assembled. There has been no plausible theory of the causes of these local earthquakes; their centre appears to be about the round hill above Comrie; they have been felt at twenty miles distance, but their effect at no time has been serious. Probably there is some connection between the earthquakes and the numerous extinct volcanoes in the neighbourhood.
Topographical Appearances.--The scenery around Loch Earn, and along the river Earn, is rugged and picturesque, richly wooded on both sides, and hardly if at all inferior to the scenery of the Trossachs in the next parish. There is a beautiful cascade at Glenbeich, on the north side of Loch Earn, seldom visited and little known. There are several on the Lednock, particularly the Caldron, a mile from Comrie, and a few on the smaller streams, as at Dunira, Aberuchill and Ardvorlich. Few parishes can abound more in varied and striking natural beauties. The views from Lord Melville’s monument above the village of Comrie, and from the road to Glenartney, are peculiarly fine. The road from Crieff to Lochearnhead passes through a district that is surpassed in natural and acquired beauties perhaps by no other of equal extent in the Highlands, and being within so convenient a distance from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and Dundee, is well worth the attention of tourists.
Geology.--The prevailing rock of this district, in common with other parts of the Grampian range, is mica slate, contained in the western part of the parish, at Lochearnside and in Glenartney, a very extensive bed of primitive limestone. Granite also occurs in Glenlednock, and extensive rocks of clay-slate in Glenartney. In the lower part of the parish, as well as in Glenartney, the old red sandstone formation occurs, and also conglomerate, or plum-pudding stone. Marble has been found at Ardvorlich. Lead has been met with in small quantities. Iron ore is abundant, and seems at a remote period to have been wrought to a considerable extent. Many remains of furnaces for smelting iron are to be seen in different parts of the parish.
Clay occurs rarely, and is mixed with sand. The soil is almost universally a light, sharp gravel, abounding with stones, and not very fertile. In some parts of the glens it approaches more to a loamy nature.
Zoology.--Of rarer animals there are found the red-deer and roe in considerable numbers. At the head of Glenartney, to the south-east of Benvorlich, Lord Willoughby de Eresby has a preserve of red-deer, containing several hundreds. It was here that Sir Walter Scott laid the commencement of the chase in the Lady of the Lake. The ptarmigan, and alpine or white hare are found in a few of the higher hills. The moor-fowl and black-cock are abundant on most of the estates. The goats that formerly were abundant in this parish, as well as hill horses, have now almost disappeared.
In the rivers the salmon appears in June or July, and spawns in October or November. The sea-trout generally appears in July or August in the Ruchill only, it being remarked that they are scarcely found in the Earn above its junction with the Ruchill, although it is the larger stream, while they go up to within a mile of the source of the Ruchill. Trout of good quality are found in the lake and river Earn; perch also occur rarely. Abundance of small trout are found in the Lednock, and in the Boltachan, a hill loch above Dunira. In Loch Earn, char of excellent quality is found; but, from ignorance of its habits, the fishery has never been prosecuted, although from the demand for that fish in the English markets, a reasonable prospect of success might be anticipated.
Woods.--There are extensive natural woods of oak, ash, birch, alder, and hazel, and a large revenue is derived by the proprietors from the annual cuttings of oak-coppice. The soil is peculiarly adapted for oak and ash. There are several natural grown oaks at Aberuchill, about 15 feet in circumference. The trunk of an ash at Wester Finglen, on the estate of Ardvorlich is 17 feet 9 inches in circumference. Firs of different kinds with larch have been extensively planted, and have thriven well. Where the soil is dry, rocky, and sloping, the larch thrives best. The Scotch fir grows best where the soil is dry, and barren, with a mixture of peat. When the subsoil is moist and tilly, the spruce and silver fir thrive well.
11 CIVIL HISTORY
There are, in several places, remains of druidical temples, and large upright stones. Tradition reports that Dundurn was a preaching station of Fillan, the Culdee Saint, and at Dun Fillan, the hill overlooking the old church of Dundurn, is a holy well at which many Popish superstitions were practised, even so lately as the last Statistical Account. These happily are now abandoned. Fifty years ago, there were very distinct remains of two Roman camps at Dalginross. The larger camp is now obliterated by the plough. This station seems to have been connected with those at Ardoch and Strageath, and a Roman road ran from it eastward, down through Strathearn. It has been supposed that the battle described by Tacitus between Agricola and Galgacus took place on the Plain of Dalginross, or, at all events, that it was this camp that the ninth legion sustained their disastrous night attack by the Caledonians. These suppositions receive some countenance from local traditions and etymologies of the names of neighbouring places.
The noted outlawry of the clan Gregor originated in this parish. The reformation, though then triumphant in the south of Scotland, had evidently benefitted this district as little, as to this day, the south of Ireland. Drummond of Drummondearnoch, a forester of James VI, having in 1588 cut off the ears of some McGregors whom he had found trespassing in the royal forest of Glenartney, they, with the aid of clansmen, soon after murdered him*, and after savagely exhibiting his head to his sister, Mrs. Stewart of Ardvorlich, upon her own table, carried it to Balquhidder Kirk, where the McGregors assembled on the Sabbath, and each man laying his hand on the bloody head, they swore to common cause with the murderers. This outrage and contempt for Royalty, at the time when James was on his marriage excursion to Denmark, brought upon the clan Gregor, by royal proclamation, the vengeance of neighbor clans, and the proscription of their very name. To this day, there are many of the clan in this parish who are known by their original surname, so long proscribed, and by their adopted name of Murray or Drummond.
Sir James Campbell, Lord Aberuchill, and the first Viscount Melville, were connected by residence with this parish; the former a Presbyterian, and defender of the Whig government at the British Revolution of 1688,--most of the gentry of Strathearn being then Episcopalian or Popish Jacobites. A very handsome and conspicuous monument has been erected on the hill over the village of Comrie to the memory of Lord Melville, by his friends in Perthshire. Dunira was his favourite residence during intervals of parliamentary duties, and by him the extensive mansion house was erected. Mr. Menzies, the minister of this parish in 1745, rode to Carlisle, and, by his intercession with the Duke of Cumberland, is said to have saved the lives of many of his parishioners who had joined the Pretender’s army under the Earl of Perth.
*Vide (See) The Royal Proclamation, which distinctly states that the murder was committed by the clan Gregor.
Landowners.--The chief land-owners are, Lord and Lady Willoughby de Eresby; Sir David Dundas, Bart of Dunira; Mrs. Williamson of Lawers; Thomas Graham Stirling Esq. of Dalginross; James Drummond, Esq. of Strageath; Robert Stewart, Esq. of Ardvorlich. The Marquis of Breadalbane is connected with the part of this parish annexed, quoad sacra, to Balquhidder.
Parochial Registers.--The parochial registers consist of ten volumes; the date of their earliest entry is 1693. The money transactions seem to have always been regularly recorded, and the records of marriages and baptisms are tolerably full. I find from the records of the Presbytery, which commence in 1660, that there have been three Presbyterian visitations of this parish; one on August 7th 1678, under the system of pseudo-Episcopacy, then established, at which time it is noticed that there were eight elders, who were exhorted to assist the minister in censuring faults, and additional elders were ordered to be elected. A second visitation took place on June 10th 1707, when the elders were exhorted to their respective duties as Christians and elders, and particularly to be careful to attend on meetings with their minister and among themselves for prayer, religious converse, and privy censures. The third visitation was on 20th August 1718.
The ministers of this parish since the Revolution were, Mr. John McAllum, ordained in 1702, translated in 1710 to the parish of Callander; Mr. Dugald Campbell, inducted in 1711; Mr. Adam McAdam, inducted 1721; Mr Andrew Mushet, inducted 1723; Mr. Anaeus Shaw inducted in 1731; Mr. Robert Menzies ordained 1743; Mr. Hugh McDiarmid, admitted 1781; Mr. Patrick McIsaac, admitted 1802; Mr. William McKenzie, ordained 1829. All the ministers previous to Mr. McDiarmid appear to have been inducted on the call of the heritors, elders, etc.
Antiquities.--A very curious relic of antiquity has been preserved in the family of Ardvorlich, from a remote period. It is apparently a lump of pure white rock crystal, about the size and shape of a large egg, bound with four bands of silver of very antique workmanship. Over a considerable district of the country, it is known by the Gaelic name of the Clach Dearg, which means red stone, arising probably from a reddish tinge it appears to have, when held up to the light. The water in which the stone had been dipped, has been considered a sovereign remedy in all diseases of cattle, and many persons even from distant parts of the district are in the habit of resorting to Arvorlich to procure the water; but, like all similar objects of superstitious reverence, it is fast losing its repute.It is supposed by antiquarians, that this relic, as well as others of a similar kind, is of Druidical workmanship. One precisely similar in every respect to this, is to be seen on the top of the Scottish sceptre preserved in the Castle of Edinburgh. Some have asserted that this kind of stone was the official badge of the Archdruids.
Mansion Houses.--The chief modern buildings in the parish are, the mansion-house of Dunira, Aberuchill, Ardvorlich, Dalchonzie, and Comrie House. The parish church is a plain substantial building, with a spire, forming a striking feature in the landscape. An excellent parish school has lately been erected.
111 - POPULATION
The amount of population, so far as it can be traced, has varied little for upwards of a century.
Dr. Webster in 1755 stated it to be 2546
At the period of the last Statistical Account it was said to be 3000
Parliamentary Census of 1800 2458
The census of 1811 2689
The census of 1821 2614
The census of 1831 2622
being 1243 males, and 1379 females in 1831
Number of families 586
Families chiefly in agriculture 221
Families in trade, etc 170
The population of the district annexed quoad sacra to Balquhidder, which at present amounts to 205, so far as known, has never been counted in this parish, unless by the writer of the last Statistical Account.
The soil and situation of the parish form a natural barrier against the increase of population. Education having been general since the beginning of last century by means of the parish school, and by several schools maintained by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the people were enterprising and ready to emigrate when they felt straitened at home. Many have emigrated to Canada, during the last twenty or thirty years. The system of enlarging farms and introducing sheep greatly diminished the agricultural population at the beginning of this century; but the village which was then in process of being feued, kept the population of the parish at its usual amount. The high war prices of hand-loom weaving, at the same time encouraged the village system. The village population at present amounts to 1666, and the country population to 1010.
The register of births being imperfect, and that of deaths being more so, it is difficult to give their yearly averages. There being 446 children in the parish under seven years of age, 65 may be the average of births. The average of marriages is 15 for each of the last seven years.
There are nine proprietors of land of the yearly value of £50 and upwards; and of these only three are resident, and one other resides during the summer months in the parish.
The parish maintains three lunatics at the Perth Asylum; besides whom, there are at least ten fatuous persons at present, one blind man, and five deaf and dumb, three of whom have received instruction in the Edinburgh Asylum, chiefly through the liberality of the Dunira family.
The English language is generally spoken, and has gained ground greatly within the last forty years. At present, scarcely a fourth part of the congregation attends on the afternoon Gaelic service, whereas forty years ago, the attendance in English was very limited. An annual meeting for the encouragement and exhibition of Highland games and dress was, some years ago, instituted under high patronage at St. Fillans. It is now kept up with great difficulty, and probably will soon be discontinued. A great improvement has taken place in the habits of the people, in respect to cleanlieness in their persons and houses; about three fourths of the houses being slated, and plastered, and their dress being in general bought, not homespun, as formerly. Their ordinary food is potatoes, milk and oatmeal. The use of wheat bread is becoming general, though no wheat is ever raised in the parish. There are three butchers, two brewers, three bakers, and more than twelve grocers; and there are annually consumed in the parish upwards of 1567lbs. of tobacco, 1749lbs. of snuff, at 4s. per lb. and 2000 gallons of spirits at 9s 6d; 3000lbs. of tea at 5s. and 16,000lbs of sugar at 8d. making for these items a total of £3000 or £1.3 shillings for each individual to spend upon these articles of luxury. While the high duties were on spirits, there was much smuggling in the parish, which experience proved to be the most detrimental not only to the morals, but to the temporal interests of all engaged in it; now, however, it scarcely, if at all, exists. There is a good deal of poaching, although game and fish are carefully watched.
Upon the whole, it is believed that the advantages of education which this parish has so long enjoyed, and of ample church accommodation, and above all the preaching of the Gospel, have to a manifest degree operated beneficially in the intellectual, moral, and religious character of the body of the people. The intelligence of the agricultural class, the religion of the manufacturing, and the morality of both classes, are hence, it is believed, above average. They think and read for themselves, and are not liable to be carried about by every wind of opinion. They are, on the whole, honest, sober, frugal, and industrious. Only on one occasion during the last seven years was there anything like a serious disturbance on the streets, and that was at a market, by some young men, who beat each other, and, being taken before the sheriff, at once confessed, and were dismissed with a fine. Although there has been an endeavour to exercise scripturally strict discipline, no more than about two dozen of persons are under sentence of exclusion, excluded from church communion for offences of all sorts. All parents show a laudable desire to educate their children. The public ordinances of religion are well attended; and the Sabbath is observed with great outward decorum. Some time ago, a south country proprietor, on a visit in this parish, wishing to send away his luggage on a cart on the Sabbath, could not get an individual in the parish who would do this, for favour or money. But, with all external morality and religion, the vivifying power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ seems to be not much sought or experienced amongst us.
1V - INDUSTRY
In so extensive a parish, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics of agriculture; and on various points, we cannot reach approximations to the truth. The proprietors, or their factors on all the estates, have politely furnished answers to the queries sent to them; and from these, it is calculated that the number of acres, standard imperial measure, in the parish, which are either cultivated or occasionally in tillage, amounts to 7097; waste or in pasture 55,571, improvable, 1865; common or disputed, 1315; under wood, 3139. The quoad civilia portion attached to Balquhidder may contain 250 acres arable, and 3500 acres of pasture.
Oak coppice is the species of wood most attended to; and in the larger properties, there are twenty-two annual hags or cuttings, which, sold by auction, amount to the annual value of £1248.
Rent.--The average rent of arable land is £1. 6s. per acre and of hill pasture 2s. per acre, making the average annual rental of the parish to be £12,000. The valued rent amounted to £344. 8s. 10 1/2 Sterling, or £4133. 6s.. 8d. Scots, so that the actual rental is thirty-four times the amount of the valued rent. The average rent of grazing is for an ox or cow £2 for the summer half year, and for a sheep in the low grounds 8s., on hill pasture 3s. 6d.
Wages.--The wages of men farm-servants are £13 and of women £6. 6s per year.
Live-Stock.--On the estate of Lawers, which is chiefly in the hands of the proprietor, most attention has been paid to the improvement of sheep. The late enterprising proprietor, Lord Balgray, reported “that the ordinary breed of sheep is the black-faced. These have been improved, entirely by introducing the best breeds from Crawford Muir, Dumfries-shire. Some years ago, the Cheviots were introduced, and they thrive well, and have been very profitable. Of late years, Leicester sheep have also been introduced with much advantage, by taking cross-bred lambs from the black-faced ewes. The wool on Lawers has been much improved and doubled in weight within the space of ten years. The most beneficial salve which has been found is the tar and butter.”
The Ayrshire breed of cows has been very generally introduced and its excellence kept up by superior animals purchased by the proprietors. Some good stocks of the best Highland breed are to be found in the higher parts of the parish.
In regard to the general character of the husbandry pursued, the very intelligent land-steward reports as to the Perth estate, which extends over the upper districts south and west: “The arable land is stated at the upmost extent, and comprehends all that was ever subjected to the plough, and, in my opinion, more than is so at the present time, as a great part of the land called arable in that quarter is found to pay better, as pasture, except what may be necessary for the support of the people and stock in the winter, being mostly pasture or grazing farms. The tenant’ principal dependence is stock, the preservation and improvement of it is his chief object. The general husbandry, in the pasture farms, is alternative white and green crops, and long rested as pasture.”
In the low grounds, the usual system is a rotation of five years, in the order of oats, green crop, barley, and grass seeds,--hay pasture. There is no wheat grown in the parish. The soil is excellently adapted for potatoes, barley, and oats, and if largely manured, produces heavy crops. The deep soil ploughing has not yet been introduced.
On the estates of Aberuchill and Ardvorlich, the cultivated land has been doubled during the last forty years; and a large quantity has been reclaimed on Dunira of late, and in the time of Lord Melville. It is stated respecting Lawers, that any land attempted to be improved appears to be improved at an expense which affords no remuneration; and respecting the Perth estate, that 40 or 50 acres have recently been converted from bog and pasture to arable land, and about one half of which will return to pasture.
Leases.--Leases, when principally of grazing farms, run from nine to eleven years; and when of arable, always nineteen years. The farm-buildings and enclosures are generally sufficient for the farm, and are in the course of improvement.
Improvements.--The improvements made recently in the parish consist of drainage, enclosures, the erection of suitable farm-steadings, irrigation, turning useless marshes into profitable hay-meadows, and planting woods. The oak woods have been brought under a regular system of management; the vacancies planted up with oak, and the barren wood destroyed. Much might still be done, and is now in the course of being done. The hill pastures, are susceptible of very considerable improvement, were the practice followed in the south of Scotland, of cutting open drains along the hills, generally introduced. Little, however, has been done in that way, except on the estate of Lawers. A whole farm has lately been reclaimed by the proprietor of Dalginross, so as to yield fair return; and various other improvements have been made on that property.
The lime-quarry at the head of Lochearn (in the quoad civilia district of the parish) greatly improves the agriculture of the district. A boat-load, containing from sixty to seventy bolls, may be had, burnt, for £3 or £4; and usually thirty bolls, are applied to an acre. Manure is sold at from 4s.to 5s. the cubic yard.
Quarries.--There are two slate quarries on the Perth, and another on the Abruchill estates. Both are wrought, though not extensively, and seem to yield a fair return. There are a number of Whinstone quarries.
Gross Produce.--I cannot ascertain with any accuracy the average gross amount of raw produce reared in the parish. The following is a specimen.
The farm of Tullybannocher, on the Dunira estate, possessed by Mr.McIsaac, is the largest arable farm in the district. It contains, in Scots acres, 270 arable, and 1200 uncultivated land; and the average rent is £1 10s. per acre. He grows annually, on an average of years, 250 quarters of barley, 350 quarters of oats, 27 (or 97?) acres of turnips, 8 acres of potatoes, and 80 tons of hay, clover, and rye-grass.
At Mr.McIsaac’s distillery, the malt made from the 10th October 1835 to 10th October 1836 was 7098 bushels. The whisky distilled during the same period was 18,546 gallons; and the whisky sold and consumed within the parish, 1498 gallons.
Manufactures.--The manufacture of cotton and woollen cloth is carried on in this parish. The land-loom cotton weavers are employed by houses in Glasgow and Perth. During the winter months 136 hand-loom weavers are employed; and of these one-tenth are employed only during three months of winter. The remaining 120 may, on an average, earn 1s. per day, for 280 days in the year, that is, deducting 30 days in harvest, and Sundays and other occasional vacant days, sixty-five. Of these there are about 50 heads of families who have each good gardens, and a patch of potatoes, and a patch of potatoes, and a pig, which may add about £4.10s. to each family’s income.
The only woollen manufacture is carried on at the river Lednock, in the village of Comrie. Eleven men and eight children are employed at the mill, and five persons are employed out of doors.
There are several streams in the parish, affording water power for manufactures, which might afford eligible investments for capital, were the contemplated railroad brought into the neighbourhood. But the distances from market, and communication, and coals, will always be a heavy drawback.
V. PAROCHIAL ECONOMY
The village of Comrie, with the adjoining villages of Dalginross and Ross, contains a population of 1469. The chief trade is cotton-weaving. It is a burgh of barony. The baron bailie appointed by the superior, Sir David Dundas, resides in Perth. There are a number of constables, and one is paid by the heritors, to perambulate the villages and keep away vagrants. There is much need of an effective system of police for all the villages in this part of Perthshire. The four villages of Comrie, Dalginross, Ross, and St.Fillans have populations respectively of 978, 337, 154, and 197. Crieff, in which is held a weekly market, is 6 1/2 miles distant from Comrie.
Means of Communication.--In Comrie, there is a sub-post office to Crieff; its annual revenue is about £120. The length of turnpike roads does not exceed twenty miles. No public carriage travels upon them. There is a weekly carrier to Edinburgh and to Perth; and one thrice a week to Crieff. The Killin carrier passes weekly through Comrie. There are three stone bridges upon the Earn, three on the Lednock, and one on the Ruchill; and there are five wooden bridges upon these rivers, all in good repair. There are no canals or railroads, although there have been proposals to make one or other between Perth and Loch Earn. Farm produce and lime might be exported, and coals might be imported by a canal or railroad to the great benefit of the district, but, it is feared, without corresponding advantage to the shareholders.
Ecclestiastical State.--The parish church, situated in the village of Comrie, at the eastern extremity of the parish, is convenient for the greater part of the population. There are 674 persons residing farther than 3 miles from it, 107 houses are more than 4 miles, and 30 houses are more than 6 miles distant from it. Having been built in 1805 it is in good repair. The accomodation is for 1044 sitters, at 18 inches each, and there are no seat rents.
The manse was built in 1784, and an addition was made to it in 1822. There are two glebes; that of Tullychetal at the manse, which is a mile and a quarter from the church, contains eight acres, for which £1.10s. per acre would be a high rent. The glebe of Comrie, adjacent to the village, contains four acres of good soil, and has drawn a rent of £12. The stipend consists of 16 chalders* of victuals, and an allowance of £10 for communion elements; the average value in money for the last seven years is £244.
(Note A Chalder is a unit of dry capacity = 16 bolls of 4 firlots each. For wheat peas, beans, rye, grass seed sand salt. About 2324.9 litres, for barley, oats and malt, about 3362.5 litres.)
There is a chapel at Dundurn, five miles west of the parish church; in which the parish minister appears, for a long time back, to have been in the habit of preaching every fourth Sabbath. In 1834, this chapel was almost rebuilt by subscription and is seated for 400 persons. For the last three years, a preacher having been engaged at a salary of upwards of £60, raised by subscription, to officiate in the chapel and neighbouring district, not only have the population around Loch Earn, amounting to upwards of 800, and many of them much more than five miles distant from any church, been supplied with religious ordinances, but also 800 sitters in the church of Comrie are no longer deprived of preaching every fourth Sunday. An endowment would lead to the immediate establishment of a parish at Loch Earn side, and is much needed.
There has been a small body of Seceders in this parish, almost since the commencement of the Secession in Scotland. The personal influence of Ralph Erskine is said to have originated it. The established church was not very efficiently supplied at the time, and the obligation on the minister to leave the parish church once a month by going to Dundurn, occasioned a deficiency in the ministrations of a national church, which it was most desirable and commendable to supply. The necessity of conducting public worship in two languages gave a further opening to the Secession, by leaving the increasing English portion of the congregation with only one half of the ordinary Sabbath ministrations. For a time the Secession provided sermon only on the fourth Sabbath, when the church was vacant. The minister has a house and garden, and is said to receive a stipend of £90.
About half a dozen individuals occasionally attend the Episcopalian chapel at Muthill. The Roman Catholics, since the last Statistical Account, have completely disappeared from the parish. According to the best information that could be procured, when replies were returned to the statistical queries of the Royal Commissioners and General Assembly, there were of persons of all ages belonging to the Established church 2357, and of persons belonging to other denominations 317; of communicants belonging to the Established church 1195, and to other denominations 157.
Education.--According to the report sent to the General Assembly in 1836, there were seven schools in this parish, besides four Sabbath and three week-day evening schools, viz. one parochial school; two schools on teacher’s own advanture; three supported in part by individual subscription; and one by subscription of the inhabitants of the district. The winter attendance at the seven schools amounted to one in every five of the population. Besides the common branches taught in all the schools, the parish teacher instructs in Greek, French, and mathematics. The modern improvements of the Normal and Sessional School of Edinburgh, and the training school in Glasgow, have been introduced with success. The salaries amount to £71, and the probable amount of the fees per annum to £90, besides the value of the legal accomodations of an excellent house and garden provided to the parochial teacher, and of three houses and of land for three cows, provided for three other teachers. The fees in all the schools are, per quarter, 2s.for English; 2s.6d.for English and writing, 3s.for English, writing and arithmetic; and 5s. for Latin, inclusive of every other branch. There are none between six and fifteen years of age who cannot read or write; and, so far as is known, there are no natives of this parish above fifteen years of age who cannot read or write. The people are much alive to the benefits of education. With the exception of the parochial teacher, the others are in no better circumstances than day-labourers; and, from inability to support his family, one of them has lately exchanged his school for a weaver’s loom. Small endowments are much needed in one or two districts, especially in Glenlednock, where, for want of one, a teacher is engaged by the inhabitants only during the winter. The facilities of education have not materially increased since the last Statistical Account.
Libraries.--There is a parochial library in Comrie, containing about 500 volumes. It was commenced in 1822. The subscription is 2s. annually, and the annual proceeds amount to £7. There is also a small subscription library at St. Fillans; and a small circulating library in Comrie. There is no public reading-room, -every weaver’s shop and farm-house being more or less employed for this purpose. No newspaper is printed in the parish, but a sufficient number is sent to it.
Friendly Societies.— There were three, and are now two, Friendly Societies in the parish. The Friendly Society of Weavers was instituted in 1805, and dissolved in 1834. The capital then was £200; the widows 10. St. Fillans Highland Society was instituted in 1819; present capital £100; membership about 60; widows on fund, 3. The Mason’s Society commenced in 1818: capital at present £450; members, 320; widows on fund, 16. This Society is yearly increasing in numbers and capital. Neither of the Friendly Societies has as yet taken the benefit of the Lord Advocate’s bill for regulating Friendly Societies; but means are at present employed to obtain this benefit for the Mason’s Society.
SAVINGS BANK.-- A savings bank was established in 1815, by the heritors and the minister. It affords an example of the evils of the old law now happily repealed, which did not extend to Scotland the same protection and facilities, as to the English Savings Banks. The funds used at first to be transmitted to Crieff, and lodged in the hands of the agent of the Leith Bank in that place. In 1823, when the deposits amounted to £500, that agent failed. The directors expected that the Leith Bank would be responsible for the amount, as having been lodged in the hands of their acknowledged agent; but the directors of that establishment denied that the money had ever been entered into their books. In this dilemma, the directors of the Comrie bank obtained upon their bond of £300 from the Commercial Bank, in order to pay off the most claimants of the depositors, and to carry on operations until a settlement could be obtained with the Leith Bank. This has not yet been obtained; and consequently, although the savings bank is still doing business, it is comparatively on a limited scale. The amount deposited since 1823 is above £1200 being on average £90 per annum; the number of depositors 250, consisting of all classes of labourers, but especially of servant girls. The sum actually deposited at the present time is about £600. About £300 of the sum invested, previous to the failure of 1823, having been paid up from the funds of the bank, or from the pockets of individual directors.
Poor.--The average number of paupers is 55, of whom 45 receive an average monthly aliment of 4s. 2d; and 10 are occasionally aided. There are three inmates in Perth asylum, who cost the heritors £60 per year. The annual expense of the poor funds is thus about £180. The practical management of the poor funds is in the hands of deacons, who hold a monthly meeting, and their proceedings are reviewed at an annual meeting of the heritors and kirk session. The ordinary church collections average £90 per annum; about £12 accrue from marriages and funerals; and during the last 20 years, one legacy of £180, and another of £50 have been received.
Since 1816, there has been a voluntary assessment paid by the inheritors, amounting to £40; a good deal is given in private charity by heritors and other individuals. There is little disposition among the poor to refrain from seeking parochial relief, and it is not considered so degrading as before the commencement of the village system and of friendly societies.
There is a small lock-up house in the village of Comrie, erected about three years ago, but it is hardly, if at all, used. The great distance of this parish from the county town makes it necessary to have a place of security to lodge vagrants and disorderly characters for a single night, or at least that they should be aware that such a place is at hand. The village constable, paid by the heritors, keeps the key.
Fairs.--There are five annual fairs held in Comrie, in the month of March, May, July, November, and December. The principal of these are, St. Kessack’s, on the third Wednesday of March, and Clog Market on the first Wednesday of December. The Crieff fairs are the principal ones in the district.
Inns.--There are 13 inns or alehouses in the parish, licensed to sell spirits. The number of licensed houses may not be so large in proportion to our population as in several neighbouring parishes; but it is far too high. Four would be quite sufficient for the real wants of the public, and the excess of nine is a source of deplorable evil to the morals of the people. Efforts have been made to get the numbers reduced, which were so far successful, that from being 16 in 1829 they were reduced to 11; but, in opposition to the strongest remonstrances from the kirk-session, the Justices have lately seen fit to add to the number of these moral pest-houses. The excise returns give 1874 gallons as the quantity retailed in the parish used in the parish.
Fuel.--Coals, wood and peat are the fuel used in the parish. The coals are carried from Bannockburn, a distance of 22 miles, and cost generally 1s. the cwt. At the annual sales of peeled oak, a cart load can be had for about 5s. Peats are distant, and not very accessible; they cost 4s. the cart load. It is stated in the last Statistical Account, that the greatest disadvantage under which many parts of the parish labour, is the scarcity and high price of fuel. This disadvantage is still greatly felt, but the making of a shorter road from Bannockburn across the hill between Ardoch and Comrie, and the increased quantity of oak coppice since that time have both tended to diminish the price of fuel.
Many changes have taken place in this parish since 1795. While the population has continued stationary in amount, it has been changed in two respects; from being resident on farms it has become chiefly resident in villages, and from using the Gaelic it now generally uses the English language. The Highland dress is entirely disused. Proprietors have diminished to one-half, while their rental has quadrupled. The system of small farms has been put down; considerable enterprise has been shown in the improvement of land and stock; by means of green crops and sown crops, a proper system of rotations has been introduced; excellent farming utensils are now in use; capital and skill have greatly increased, so that, instead of farm produce being imported, a good deal is now exported from the parish. The roads have been exceedingly improved, and a new road to the south has been of great benefit. The manufacture of linen yarn, plaids, and tartan, has given place to handloom weaving of cotton. The coarse woollen manufactory, desiderated in the last Statistical Account has been set up and is useful. The small whisky stills that consumed 1200 bolls of barley, have all been put down, and a large legal distillery performs their functions. Wages are doubled, and pauperism has increased fourfold. The small old and ruinous parish church has been replaced by a commodious erection, and the chapel at Dundurn has been renewed and supplied with regular preaching. The attendance at the Established Church has increased; education has continued stationary in quantity, but greatly improved in quality; the “papists” have disappeared, and the “Antiburgher Seceders in the village,” have become Voluntary Dissenters.
As to improvements of which the parish is susceptible, canal or railroad, chiefly for the import of coal and export of lime, slates, cotton goods, and farm produce, might, if practicable, benefit the parish. A road to Lochtayside through Glen Lednock would be advantageous.
If an endowment could be procured to supply the inhabitants of Lochearnside with an ordained and resident minister, and if at least one endowment were given for an additional school in the village of Comrie, and if the Dissenters could be persuaded to operate as brethren with the Established Church, and an endowment procured for their minister, so that there might be as formerly three endowed ministers freely chosen by their congregations, and three parishes each with a population of about 1000 souls,--the interests of religion, education, and morality would be greatly promoted in this large district, the pressing danger of compulsory pauperism averted, sectarian and party bitterness would be greatly removed, and while a better preparation for eternity would be thus instituted, present benefits of great value would, under the Divine Blessing, be largely reaped--according to the promise, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you.”