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

The Twa' Brithers

The first toll man in Comrie was Sandy Miller who was a shoemaker to trade and with his new responsibilities was given a stated wage for collecting the toll for the first year. When he turned in the money collected it was found that his wages exceeded the amount collected from the toll. The local Road Board control authority then decided that the position of Toll man would be put up for competition with the contract being awarded to the highest bidder. A good many candidates applied for the job with Sandy in with all the rest and his bid for the job was the highest amounting to more than he had declared during the prior year for the toll revenue collected. The Clerk to the Road Board in assessing Sandy’s candidature and looking at him directly said, “You expect to do more for the incoming year?” Sandy replied that he hoped so. Those who were there had a good laugh to themselves as they thought that Sandy had a shrewd guess that they suspected that he had diddled the Board out of part of the toll money!

Postcard showing the Old Toll House on the Left


On another occasion he ran up an account which became extended with a lady who owned a small shop in the village. Eventually the lady decided that things had gone far enough and decided to ask Sandy for the money that was owed. She went to his home one evening and asked if he could not pay his account and when Sandy asked the amount and was told he looked at her and said, “Sandy Miller, he’ll soon pay that; he’ll tak a wee penknife and he’ll cut his throat, and that’ll soon pay that.” The woman became so frightened that she left the house and never went back to claim the outstanding amount and as far as is known the account was never paid!

He was however, not slow, in demanding payment if someone owed him money. One day he was standing at his door when a young man named McCowan passed by. Sandy called to him and said, “Man, I’m not busy at present and if you want a pair of shoes I could get them done for you soon and make an extra good job of them.” McCowan said that he was not exactly in need of a pair of shoes at the time and money was not very plentiful either. Sandy told him not to bother about the price of the shoes saying, “For man, I’ll gie ye credit till ye think shame o’t.” McCowan then allowed Sandy to measure his feet and a few days later brought the shoes to McCowan’s home.

A couple of days after this McCowan and a number of young men were standing at the turnpike gate when Sandy came out of the Tollhouse and called out for all to hear, “McCowan, when are you intending to pay for the shoes I made for you?” and then returned to the Tollhouse. McCowan told his friends about the arrangement he had made with Sandy and all said that if they were in McCowan’s place they would not pay until they were forced. McCowan said that he would pay sometime but not as soon as he would have done had Sandy not affronted him in the company of his friends.

Sandy had a very peculiar temperament and sometimes his tongue would scarcely stop. He would speak throughout the whole day and no-one else could get a word in at all. At other times he would go to his bed and not leave it for days at a time. During these times he would address his wife in the following manner: “Oh aye, Maggie Miller. You have had a fine time o’ it since Sandy Miller married you. Oh aye, but ye’ll no hae Sandy Miller for lang noo. Sandy Miller’ll soon be deid, and Maggie Miller’ll ken what the world is syne. Oh aye, Maggie Miller, when Sandy Miller’s deid ye’ll hae tae live in a garret room in Donald Vonie’s entry!” This was one of the village lanes leading from Drummond Street to the fields on the north side of the village.

When the toll competition came round again someone offered more than Sandy and he had to leave at the end of his term and sometime thereafter he left the village and went to live in Braco. Not long afterwards a rumour arose that he had died and as the local folk had nothing to corroborate this they assumed it was so and carried on as before. One evening a lad from Comrie was coming from Stirling in the evening and about a half mile up the Langside road saw the figure of a man sitting at a drystane dyke. As it was only half-light he could not see who the person was and just as he was passing him the figure arose and started walking with the lad but never saying a word. The young man recognised him and addressing him said, “It’s a fine night, Sandy”, but Sandy was in one of his silent moods and said nothing. The lad repeated the greeting but again got no answer and, as bogles were often met at night, he became convinced that the figure at his side was the ghost of Sandy Miller and his hair started to stand on end. The two walked over the Langside road for several miles in silence and in darkness and about two miles short of Comrie, Sandy, no doubt enjoying himself hugely, asked him how the folk in Comrie were getting on and then talked all the way to the village. The young man, when recounting his experience said that when he was convinced that it was really Sandy in the living flesh he should have given him a proper thrashing. It is small wonder that the lad carried that story with him for the rest of his life!

Sandy had a brother called Willie who had served his apprenticeship as a tailor and used to "whip the cat” in and around the village. He was very fond of reading and determined that he would see a bit of the world. One day he left his mother’s home in Blairnroar and made his way to Glasgow and got aboard a ship and spent many years at sea saving his money so that he could retire to Comrie. In middle age he returned to the community and because his mother had died, he rented a room. When the job of letter carrier became vacant he applied and got the job. He also was appointed Town Crier and was a strong supporter of the anti-Protectionist party and when delivering letters and newspapers had many a wordy battle over the repeal of the Corn Laws.

The majority of the local farmers thought that if the ports were open to foreign competition they would be ruined and they supported Protectionism, however, Willie, seeing the hardships of the working man and their families created by small wages and the high cost of food, thought that foreign competition would lower the costs involved considering inexpensive food as a boon to the great majority of the nation. One day he had a wordy argument with the tenant farmer of Cultybraggan Farm, Mr. Stirling, who strongly favoured the Protectionist position. Willie was rather heavy-handed with his oratorical skill and at one point Mr. Stirling lost his temper and said, “Man, ye hivna’ common sense.” Willie’s immediate reply was, “Ah, John, common sense is a rare flower and it disna’ grow in the midden dubs o’ Cultybraggan.” Later, however, Willie got a rather awkward reminder of the Cultybraggan midden dubs.

When Hansel Monday came around Willie was passing on his way to deliver mail up Glenartney when he met Mr. Stirling who invited him to call in on the way back so that he may get his hansel of bread, cheese and a drop of whisky. When Willie arrived back at the farm it would have been better if he had continued on to the village and gone straight home. However, he had promised that he would call in and once there was treated to a more than generous dram.

Although quite sensible when taking the “craitur” his legs failed him when he stood up and went outside and hit the fresh air. As he was passing the midden dub he stumbled and fell into it and found that once in it was no easy matter to get out. Some of the farmhands saw him fall into the dub but rather than rushing immediately to help him they waited to see how he extricated himself. Willie tried several times to rise but his legs kept giving out under him and at last he ceased even to try. Rather he sprawled there muttering to himself, “Waesocks, waesocks, here am I, and I have sailed over nearly all the seas in the known world, and I am to be drowned at last in a midden dub at Cultybraggan! Och, och, och!” The farmer and his hands had a real good laugh at Willie and assisted him out of the midden, kept him in a bothy until his clothes had dried out and then sent him on his way!

His delivery duties took him all over the area and the children liked him because he always carried rose hips with him and when making a speech stayed close to him because he would pat them on the head and offer then around. Sweeties were in short supply in those days!

Willie was a staunch Seceder and when the Minister began to use the paraphrases he did not approve at all. One day when he took his seat in the church the Minister was reading the opening verses. Willie asked his neighbour, “Where is the psalm?” His neighbour told him that it was the second paraphrase. Willie then said, “Weel, you can whistle alang at your paraphrase, but I’ll sing the 23rd psalm”, which he did whilst the others sang the paraphrase!

Throughout the year he always wore a plaid upon his shoulders and one very warm summer day when going to church one of his neighbours said to him, “What do you mean by wearing a plaid on a day like this?” Willie looked at him and replied, “Man, do ye no ken what keeps out the cold will also keep out the heat!”

When he became old and unable to attend to himself he appointed two or three responsible men to act as his trustees and when he died, after paying all expenses for burying him decently, £40 was left over and given to his brother, Sandy who survived him. His nickname in Comrie was “Letter Willie.”

Before the turnpike road was instituted the appearance of the houses in Comrie was quite different to what it is today. The houses were mostly thatched and the principal fuel was peat dug out at Monavie Moss in Dunira, and sticks gathered from the local woods. The peat stacks and the middens stood in front of the houses. Diseases which were common in those days disappeared to be replaced by newer ones. The peat stacks have all gone now. Coal used to be the principal fuel and that too has gone. The midden dub has also disappeared from the streets and now must be placed a certain distance from the houses.

Author’s Note: The air today may be purer but the character has gone!