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
The Great Wall of Comrie
We are all familiar with some of the great walls of the world. One can easily relate to the Great Wall of China knowing that it was built thousands of years ago and is the longest in the world. It was designed to keep the heathen barbarian from the outside, out, and to keep the native Chinese inside, in. We are also familiar with the great Walls of Jericho, which were not so great, as one blast from Joshua’s Horn brought them all tumbling down. We are all aware of the “Wailing” Wall in Jerusalem and of Potemkin’s “Walls” in Russia and of Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England. This latter wall was designed to act as a defence and staging area for assaulting parties of Romans and their levies in their forays against us, the North British. Its lesser known sister, the Antonine Wall, which served the same purpose, was located in the Lowlands of Scotland. All of these walls have fallen or crumbled with the most recent example being the Berlin Wall, an event which has been much hailed. Although not as well known, but of equal significance and importance, somewhat smaller in scope, still standing, and much in use, is the “Great Wall of Comrie.”
Originally an old house stood where the wall now stands right at the corner when the graveyard was open to all. When the house was ruinous it was replaced by our wall which like all walls had a “this” side and an “other” side. Its major function was to enclose the land on which stands the Old Parish Church and Graveyard of Comrie. It would not be proper to have ancient bones falling into the Square after a heavy rain! A section of the Wall, the “Great” part, borders Comrie Square running in a semi-circle from south to west, or vice versa depending on one’s position, for not more than ninety feet. It created a division between our ancestors now dead, but hopefully not forgotten, and those in the land of the living. It was also, a long time ago, joined on to the Dalginross Bridge where a toll booth was established and a toll charged for using the Bridge so it can rightfully claim to have accounted for the two major guaranteed aspects of life in Western Society, “Death and Taxes!” To this can now be added the internet!
The graveyard is somewhat older than the Church itself with stones going back to the early seventeenth century. The earliest being to John Forbes, Master Mason, dated 1602. The old Parish Church in Comrie, the White Church, was built in 1805, the year of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the enclosing Wall around the same time.
It is speculated that the original “great” part of the Wall may have been over six feet in height although today it is no more than five at its highest point at this corner as it serves the local community in a variety of unique ways! The Wall equivocates in a philosophical sense to the River Styx or possibly some form of Purgatory - an in-between state! Shades of Tam O’ Shanter! There was a building where the wall is now located. The Wall is a fair age and was made from hand-hewn, rough grey stone. It was completed with feathered capping stones, now somehow flattened and smooth, due to exposure to the elements, and from the weight of those who, throughout time, have sat upon it. The Wall, for those in the land of the living, on “this” side, has served as a meeting point for generations of Comrie folk, and visitors alike. It is an ideal Wall for sitting on for any person, regardless of height. It is neither too high nor too low. As a meeting place taller people can lean on it and feel that this is “their” Wall, and a specific part of the Wall, “their” spot. Others of smaller physical stature can sit upon it and dangle their legs from it making equal claim to a space on it. All today can watch the world pass by on what is now known as the junction of the A85 and the B827.
The Great Wall of Comrie is on the Left
In all probability the Comrie people involved in the Comrie Diasporas of 1818 and 1829 gathered here, and no doubt many leant upon it for one last time, before taking that long, lonesome road, the Lang Side. This road would take them eventually to the “Tail o’ the Bank” and thence onwards for their new lives in the great Dominion of Canada. Others who left for the United States of America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in the 1840’s may also have assembled here. Only imagination can tell one what that feeling must have been like!
It is here that the greater or lesser moments of the day were pondered upon. Current events are discussed in passing, or with emotional vehemence. Typical among the subjects were; the families and relatives who left the village to avoid starvation and their hope for a better and fairer world in Canada; Waterloo; The Siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War; the Relief of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny, the raising of the siege of Mafeking, and the two Boer Wars; the “Old Contemptibles” the Somme and Passchendaele in the First World War, and El Alamein and Monte Casino, as well as Normandy and Burma in the Second. Comrie people or their relatives were at every one of them. The Atomic and Hydrogen bombs, Korea, Vietnam, the Poll Tax and the Gulf War along with all the other news of the day, someone has passed on, a baby was born, the new golf course, the Twinning of Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada, and the village, the Bicentennial of the Ross Bridge, a Highland Games, the Royal Family, etc, are typical examples. Furthermore the Wall has witnessed many moments in time, of significance to Comrie, which are an integral part of the fabric and legacy of our common history.
It saw our military men and women off to various wars and it received them on their return. It observed thousands of Germans marching off to permanent P.O.W. camps in Canada such as Petawawa, near Carleton Place and Bowmanville in Ontario, Medicine Hat in Alberta and countless others.. Annually it has been the meeting place for those involved in beating for the grouse and pheasant season. It is the hub of all activities related to the Comrie Fortnight and it is the traditional meeting place for bringing in the “Flambeaux” on New Year’s Eve and thousands of people, over time, have sat upon it, danced upon it, contemplated upon it, and leaned upon it. It has heard all the stories of Comrie and its history, and heard the music of our culture, past and present, its poetry, its sadness and its joy and happiness. As a Social Historian I only wish that I could recapture some of those stories of days gone by so that they could be recorded for the current and future generations of Comrie people, for although the Wall sees and hears it would be better “IF ONLY THE WALL COULD SPEAK!”
Rain, cold and damp are its greatest enemies as they have a tendency to curtail conversation and on days like this, which as Comrie folk know, are few and far between, the staunch move to the other side of the road and kind of huddle on the south-east corner of the square under a less than adequate building overhang which acts as a shelter, although to call it shelter is a gross misnomer!
Comrie people, like me, living abroad relate to its purpose, its age and its seeming timelessness and in our idle moments think of the Wall as well as of memories of days gone by. A gravedigger working on the “other” side of the Wall was once asked by the local barman in a nearby hostelry on “this” side of the Wall, what kind of day he had enjoyed. Slowly and phlegmatically, and before pulling on his pint, he said, “If I’m no chopping off their heids’, I’m chopping off their feet!”
It was here in the twenties that an Argyllshire man with a soft west coast accent, and who had lived most of his life in the village, challenged the local policeman with the classic words, “Come over the the Glebe, McCulloch, and I’ll wrassel (wrestle) you for a pound!” Ah, it is sad that the days of chivalry are long gone.
Many people, on the other hand, sit on the Wall adopting one of the philosophies of my maternal grandmother who in old age, and who never sat on the Wall, and in fact rarely sat down due to leading a busy and active life, said when she did, “Sometimes I just sit and think and sometimes I just sit!”
It should be mentioned that the gravestones on the “other” side of the Wall generally are in need of serious repair. The last time the author was there many were in pieces or were cracked or had fallen over. There was also a lot of garbage and rubbish lying around. Several years ago on a visit to the St. Fillans Cemetery at Carleton Place, for those long gone folk of Comrie and Stathearn, the author noticed that of all the stones there, only one had fallen over; this year on a return visit the stone had been repositioned in an upright manner. Perhaps the people in Carleton Place are more conscious about the need to keep graveyards in good order as some folk visit them, often feeling that a well-kept cemetery is symptomatic of the care and concern local people have about their forebears. It also reflects on their community and environment! Many from Carleton Place people visiting Comrie to research their roots may be very concerned when they discover the condition of the graveyard and the state of the gravestones of their long lost ancestors and relatives!
Gravestones to John and Peter MacGregor of Comrie
Gravestone to Peter Cram of the Milton, Comrie
Gravestone to James McInnes of Comrie
Gravestone of John Miller of Comrie
Perhaps the people in Carleton Place are more conscious about the need to keep graveyards in good order as some folk visit them, often feeling that a well-kept cemetery is symptomatic of the care and concern local people have about their forebears. It also reflects on their community and environment!
Who knows who is going to return from “the Great Divide” and haunt you! There’s a pun in that somewhere! The Wall is a symbol of stability and endurance in an ever changing world. Its strength lies in its durability over time and, as a focal point for community interaction, has not been equalled in Upper Strathearn or in any other part of the surrounding community. Regardless of whatever happens in the world, this Wall will stand.