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
Watty and Meg Drummond
Watty Drummond lived in the clachan of Laggan at the time Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville. Baron Dunira had secured the Dunira estate as payment for his help in restoring the Jacobite family of Drummond to their possessions after they had been sequestered by the Crown following their involvement with the Stuart faction led by Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Watty managed to find a job in Dunira in the summertime as a letter carrier between his Lordship and the Comrie Post Office and was kept pretty busy attending to the needs of Melville who had the unofficial title of Uncrowned King of Scotland or King Henry or Harry the Ninth. He had been appointed by William Pitt the Younger and amongst his titles were Secretary of State of the Home Department, President of the India Board of Control, Secretary of State for War, Treasurer of the Navy and First Lord of the Admiralty...he was a very big wheel!
Melville displayed much confidence in Watty’s abilities and Watty came to worship Melville so all in all they made a handsome team. On hearing of Melville’s acquittal on charges of malversation brought against him from the brewer, Samuel Whitbread, the villagers of Comrie sent him a congratulatory letter and celebrated by building an enormous bonfire in the village square accompanied by much music and dancing with Watty even throwing his bonnet into the flames in salutation. His Lordship suitably replied with a letter thanking the villagers for their loyalty and gave instructions that Watty’s old bonnet be replaced with a new one.
When the salmon ascended the rivers to the spawning grounds in the late autumn Watty, like his neighbours, was careful to get a supply for the winter. Most of the men in the village joined in small groups when they went out to the streams and rivers to spear the fish at night by firebrand, but Watty made his wife, Meg, carry the lighted torch while he carried the leister spear himself, (a leister spear was a three pronged spear ideal for catching salmon!) Most folk divided their catch between them but Watty and Meg, a little distance away from the others, always took theirs to their home.
One night when they were out together after salmon with Meg carrying the torch and Watty the spear he had just impaled one but hadn’t got a good grip on it, and as he and his wife were barefoot, he slipped upon some stones and the fish slipped away. Meg was furious and blamed Watty for losing the fish whereas Watty blamed Meg for not holding the brand the correct way. After a while they decided to pack it in and went home. When they arrived the argument again broke out with each blaming the other for the loss. Watty lost his temper and pushed Meg rather hard and she fell to the floor where she lay still with her bare feet close to the fireplace. Watty ordered her to get up but got no response. He tried to lift her but she was a dead weight and he gave up. He decided to raise her head but it only fell back limply. He lifted one of her arms but it too fell to the floor lifeless. Watty then dashed her face with cold water but that too was to no avail and poor Watty realised that perhaps she was “deid.”
Visions of the gallows started to rove around his brain and some panic set in. He then snecked the door so that no one could come in and then sat down by the fireside and had a real hard think about what he should do. Staring in to the fire he noticed that the poker had been left in it so he stoked the fire and left the poker there for a while. Once it was red hot he decided on his final move. Taking it, he gently applied it to the sole of Meg’s foot and got a hell of a fright when she sat bolt upright yelling at him at the top of her voice. But whilst the yelling was fierce Watty’s thoughts of his doom at the hands of the hangman receded!
Napoleon was doing quite well on his continuing campaign to conquer all of Europe and periodically throughout Great Britain recruiting drives were conducted normally under the auspices of a gaily dressed sergeant who had authority to sign up willing, and not so willing, candidates to the colours and to receive the King’s shilling. Comrie was no exception and one day a party of recruiters came on a market day to the village on a drive. It so happened that Watty was in the village and by happenstance fell into conversation with the recruiting sergeant who appeared to be a likeable chap. The sergeant persuaded Watty to act as a decoy as he knew the local folk and lure some of the local lads into the tent to sign up for King and country slyly suggesting that it would be to Watty’s financial betterment. Watty agreed and he was dressed up as a soldier complete with ribbons pinned to his bonnet and marched about the village with the soldiers of the detail. A number of public houses were visited (there were thirteen in the village) and there many a fine lad after a free libation agreed to join the happy band for fame and glory.
Those who had enlisted were marched along the north Crieff road past Watty’s home at the Laggan and on beyond the Milton Burn and the Lawers straight. Throughout the march Watty tried to meet up with the gay sergeant at the head of the column but he appeared to be avoiding Watty with the actual intention of including Watty in the gallant band. Watty began to suspect this and when the group of would be soldiers were passing Tredegar House (Fordie) he slipped into a nearby lime kiln and hid. The party stopped shortly thereafter for a head count and noticed that Watty was missing. Several of the soldiers were sent out to find him whilst the balance guarded the recruits. Coming across the lime kiln the searchers thought he was hiding in there so they sent one of their party in but Watty heard him coming and slipped through the opening at the bottom of the kiln and crawled on his hands and knees until he got to the road leading to the Western Carse farm.
Tredegar House which reverted to its original name “Fordie”
He then crept along the side of a dyke till he came to the public road and by this time was well away from his pursuers. Crossing the road he entered the Craw Wood at Lawers House and made his way towards the Laggan by way of the Googie Wood and over the top of Craig Mohr which rises above the west gate to the grounds of the Lawers estate. There he rested until he was satisfied that he had eluded the recruiters but for a while kept a low profile just in case they returned to arrest him as a deserter, however, no one came for him and life returned to normal. He and Meg lived to a ripe old age!
On Miss Robertson’s death in 1852 the estate was passed to Colonel David Robertson Williamson. He had been born in Geneva, Ontario, (in America) on February 13th, 1830 to adventurous parents. From birth though, he was a martinet and became irascible and a bad tempered bugger... but so like many of them there was another side to him as we will see – it was smaller and may have smacked of vested interest! As a representative of this class he was opinionated, with an ungovernable temper on a bad day, and he would resort to using his fists at the drop of a hat. He knew everyone who worked on the estate were his to do his bidding as he pleased. He, because the whole area was run by just a few families, also had influence on people who worked on other estates so all would have to have their caps in hand. He knew he had it made “in the shade,” and God help you if you crossed his path, on the wrong day.
He went to Loretto in Edinburgh, followed by an educational stint in Mannheim in Germany, before entering Sandhurst. From there he joined the Coldstream Guards rising to the rank of Colonel. No doubt this was based on connections and silver rather than ability! He married Selina-Maria Morgan. She was the second daughter of Charles, Lord Tredegar. They had one son, Charles David Robertson Williamson who was born on the 24th October, 1855.
Colonel David Robertson Williamson
Gentlemen in those days were brought up in a sheltered and protected environment, but they were also taught to be tough. Many hired professional pugilists to teach them the art of boxing, or fighting with their fists. Some came to enjoy it, and the Colonel was no exception. He loved a good scrap and…he would take on all comers, including the weak and inoffensive. He beat a local man half to death in the Royal hotel because the man had had the audacity to write a comment about politics in the local newspaper! He was tried and found guilty and had to pay a fine. On another occasion he savagely beat the local minister for the Monzievaird and Strowan Church, Reverend William Robertson. This time he was flung in jail but released after his friends used their political influence to free him. He met up with a tink one day and took him on. However, the tink was up to the challenge and gave him a much needed hammering. To give the Colonel his due he knew when he was licked and he gave the tink half a guinea. When the tinks came to take on seasonal work they would come to him to ask for a wee piece of land to set up their tents. However, as he did not like the Graham Stirlings at Strowan House, he used to pay them a guinea to go and camp on the common ground right in front of their house! This gave him smirking pleasure!
To be fair though he did turn his mind to good works and we can thank him for many things such as the new Dalginross Bridge, and advocating bringing the railway to Comrie in 1893, despite the odds. He ran in to a fair amount of opposition to the idea particularly from the Graham Stirlings in Strowan House. They were opposed to the idea on the grounds that in building it the riff raff would flood into the area. This song, which is a bit fawning, was in vogue for the inaugural event when the first train drew into the village.
First train in Comrie Station, 1893
Comrie Station, 1908
THE COMRIE RAILWAY SONG
Hurrah for our Railway,
Success to it now,
We have looked for it long
And we’ve got it I trow,
Hurrah for the Colonel.
Who worked for our good,
And our noble Directors,
Who by him have stood
May we all be the better,
And none be the worse,
Since now we’ve got hold
Of the grand Iron-Horse
May Comrie now flourish,
Her commerce increase,
And gentle and simple
Have pleasure and peace
We’ll welcome the rich,
We’ll welcome the poor,
And those will come now
Who were ne’er her before.
Our mountains are grand
And our Breezes are fine
And the birds they sing blithely
O’er woodland and sea
Our rills are like crystal,
As onwards they flow,
Our Earn it is calm,
Its murmurs are low
Our Lednock’s a sight
Worth coming to see
And our Ruchill’s the bless
Of all that is free.
Our thanks to the Colonel,
So earnest and brave
For us and our railway,
He worked like a slave.
And now from our hearts,
We will earnestly pray
Success to us all
And our useful railway.
About this time Colonel Williamson built an iron gate across the path to Coneyhill House which since time began had been a right of way for all to pass to and from Glen Lednock. Furthermore it had allowed for people from the east to go directly to the local Parish Church in the Village. It obviously was a sore point and during the work of erecting the gate evidence came to light of an undiscovered clachan called the Laggan. He employed men as guards to ensure that only those with right of access could walk by Coneyhill, and that excluded most of the local community. As Colonel Williamson was adamant in his assertion that he was correct in his interpretation that this path was a right of way he even went to the extent of threatening the following:
Withdraw his contributions to the Comrie Parish Church (these were unknown)
Withdrawal of money spent on bread for the Comrie poor
Permanent closure of the Village Public Hall
Closure of Lawers estates against fern and flower gatherers
Transfer of shop accounts “in an easterly direction” i.e. Crieff
Employment of Crieff, instead of Comrie, workmen
Closure of the golf course, football and cricket grounds, curling pond and slaughter house.
Certainly this was tough talk as the Colonel had in various ways been generous to the village; however, although he proposed an alternative route, the Comrie Council declined the offer as it reeked of vested interest. They dug in their heels, even using the slogan “No Hunkersliding” stating and feeling that acquiescence would set a precedent, as it has today on the Aberuchill estate.
All readers will be pleased to know that right triumphed in the end, and the path is a right of way, and the Colonel was wrong. Sadly, as he is no longer with us, his contributions to the Church and the poor are no more, there are almost no shops left in the village and much purchasing has gone in an “easterly direction,” unemployment is colossal, the railway is gone, the slaughter house is no more, and Lawers estate is owned by people from faraway foreign lands, so no one picks the ferns and flowers. However, the Public Hall still continues in use to provide an entertainment centre to the people and visitors of the village, and the golf course, football and cricket ground are enjoyed by all. The seats in the Public Hall were so hard my mother always took a pillow with her when she went there!
It was suggested at the time that his wraith would end up like the “spectre” at the Anaba ford condemned for ever to watch as his tenants go past without even acknowledging his presence! However, it would be prudent to be cautious as you leave the golf club. It is just possible that you might meet a livid and “spirited’ Colonel!
His son Charles who was born in 1853 had a completely different disposition. He was warm and sensitive, intelligent and caring. As heir to the estate he was educated at Brighton and Eton, and turned down an offer to join the Coldstream Guards. Instead he embarked on the career of an academic at attended Oxford University. He was drawn to the Roman Catholic faith and this caused a rift with his father. They never came to an accommodation about it and the Colonel developed a burning resentment to it.
Charles was ordained as a priest in 1880 and worked in a very poor, working class area of London. He worked in the Brompton Oratory; a place where a man’s soul could be stretched. Later he lived a quiet life in Venice eventually returning to Comrie as a working priest at the start of the First World War. After his father’s death the Lawers estate was sold off and he and his mother, Selina, lived out their lives in Tomperran. She died in 1922. He was instrumental in having the very simple RC church built nearby at the Laggan. The stone work came from houses called the “Transvaal” These old houses were part of the estate and he had arranged to look after three widows with their children in them. Two of the children became Princes in the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Foylan of Aberdeen, and Bishop McGee of Dumfries and Galloway. He had a very natural loving way with him, and all who came in contact with him spoke in loving terms about him. He passed on in 1943 during World War Two and the whole community mourned. He was buried with his parents at Ochtertyre.
St Margaret’s Roman Catholic Chapel, Comrie
Note: Photographs: Wikipedia, Private Collection and WRI Publication “Comrie-Our Village”