20th Century

A Comrie Pot Pourri

Comrie from the South

Recently a house was being rewired in Comrie which necessitated lifting the floor boards. Underneath were discovered the bones of a small pony. Although the house is now a private home, originally it had been a small school and to ensure that the pupils did well in their studies, the body of a dead animal was placed there. It also had the effect of warding off evil spirits!

It was not uncommon when meeting someone in Comrie who was with, or riding a horse, to greet them by saying, “And whaur are ye baith gawen the day?

There lived in Comrie a man who had a wild temper which he would back up with his fists at the drop of a hat. Like many Comrie folk of yesteryear he had a nick name and his was “Pate the Bully.” The pronunciation of the word “Bully” sounded as “Sully.” He was a kenspeckle fellow who lived in Dalginross. Every evening he walked down to the Village Square to buy an evening paper. He then walked home always hogging the middle of the road. One evening, whilst walking in Dalginross just after dark, he was accidentally knocked down by the village doctor who was out on his rounds in his car. The doctor immediately stopped his car and ran back to Pate who was lying on the road, and on checking him out found him to be only slightly bruised and shaken. The first words Pate spoke when he recovered himself were “Did ye get his number?”

As with all communities, and Comrie being no exception, it had its share of odd couples. Many years ago a couple got married. Wee Annie was a tiny woman and her love Hector, was a huge man, used to outdoors work and hard labour. As with many such combinations she ruled her husband with an iron fist and on occasion he would go under the kitchen table and shout out at the top of his voice “I’m the maister of my own house, even though I rule from under the table.”

A carter once lived at Castle Folly in the Ross. He was a strong and busy man. One day his horse got stuck in a ditch. To save time and expense he took the horse from its shafts and put himself in its place. With a lot of heaving, grunting and groaning he was able to release the cart. Afterwards he said, “I dinna wonder that the horse got stuck, I nearly got stuck masel.”

A Comrie man with something on his mind strode into the solicitor’s office one day. The newly appointed junior partner approached him and asked, “Can I help you, Sir?” “No, no,” said the man brusquely, “I’m here tae see the head thief!”

It was not uncommon for someone to send a relative or friend in Comrie at Christmas a chicken with only an address label around its neck…by train!

A local Comrie contractor building a fence at Balquhidder was sued by his client for unknown reasons. He visited his lawyer who told him that he could not represent him as he was acting for the plaintiff. However he said he knew a good lawyer in Perth and, if the contractor wanted representation, he would write the Perth lawyer a note. This he placed in an unsealed envelope which he gave to the contractor. The contractor took the train to Perth and on the journey could not resist opening the letter to see that the lawyer had written. The letter neatly written said “You fleece this ain, and I’ll fleece t’other!” Have things changed?

If someone gave you something sharp like a knife or blade, you had to give him a coin in return!

It was considered bad luck to cut down yew trees. Some were cut down at the Chapel at Lawers and a family member died, so they were replanted. It did not, however, bring the departed back to life!

Before the First World War, when there was war mongering going on, a German band came to visit Comrie. Whilst they were marching up Dalginross one of the locals took out his shotgun and fired a shot into the air. The band took to its heels.

A man from Auchengarrich had eight children and on occasion when asked their names sometimes he forgot one or two of them, so to remind himself he developed a rhyme:

Maggie, Robert, Jessie, Tom,

Alec, Hanna, Walter, John.

Standing Stone at Auchengarrich

As a sign of good luck often a child’s shoe would be put into the stonework of a house. One was found in the old Smiddy in Comrie.

Many years ago a Comrie man who was fond of an occasional dram went first footing to friends in the Ross. Upon his return in a somewhat inebriated condition he came to the Ross Bridge. As he started to cross the bridge the thought struck him that he had never sat on the keystone of the bridge, nor straddled it for that matter, and thought that this would be a good idea for the moment. With some trepidation he first sat on it and then had a pull on his flask which contained some of the “Craitur.” Sitting there he decided to straddle the bridge which he did very gingerly and made himself as comfortable as was possible. No doubt enjoying himself he had another wee dram, followed by another; all of which dulled his senses. The result of this occurrence was that he became unsure as to which side of the bridge to dismount from so he decided to wait there till someone came along. He sat there for a full hour until a passerby assisted him off on the right side. No doubt he never tried the experience again!

It was considered bad luck if one went in to a house and came out of it by a different door. Always go in and out through the same door unless you are a puddock (frog!) At the junction where the old road from Comrie to Braco met the Glen Artney road there was a house called the “Puddock Hoose.” It may originally have been a shepherd’s cottage, but in time became known as a shebeen. It had been built on a wee boggy bit of ground. It was also said about this wee lonely place that it was here that the witches of MacBeth made up their magic potions!

Not everyone knows that most, if not all, animals and fish, are creatures of habit. Each year since the first time frogs came into Strathearn, hundreds of frogs and toads passed through it on their way to their spawning pond close by. So one could say “one can get croaked, one way or another!” There was a similar traditional route up the Ross at Shochan Comrie’s house. Shochan used to say, “They would march in the front gate, and march oot the back!”

At a mink farm in Dundurn near Comrie a flock of house martens built their nests in the windows. The owner thought they were swallows and asked a local man to remove them. The local man told him that it was bad luck to chase swallows away or destroy their nests! House martens fight with sparrows!

Recently a man who was out for a walk with his dog which was not on a leash was harshly challenged by another man from Cultybraggan who complained loudly that the dog should be leashed. The ensuing argument involved a terse exchange, “I’ll take you to court for not having your dog leashed.” The dog owner immediately responded, “Aye, you just do that because I’ll be judging the case!” The dog owner was a Law Lord for the High Court.

“Cousin John,” that grand old man, once claimed that just after a downpour of rain he had shot a salmon in the river on one side of the road, and a grouse on the other side of the road! I would never question that this did not happen!

“Cousin” John MacIntyre

At the Mill of Fortune, near the Puddock Hoose, a famer chopped down an oak tree. It was said that within its trunk rested the spirit of a dead man! Oak is a notoriously hard wood to cut, and although cut through, this tree refused to fall. The following day he came along with his horse. The tree was so tough that even with the pull of the horse it would not fall, and in fact the horse traces broke. Eventually the farmer managed to get the tree to fall onto his cart; however, unfortunately, his horse was injured in the process. The horse, after a lot of hard going, made it Morgan’s timber yard in Crieff and when the tree was unloaded, it slipped again and fell on the carter’s leg, breaking it. The moral of the tale is there are only certain ways you can cut down oak trees, and ALWAYS BEWARE!

At Kate MacCulloch’s rocks on the Ruchill, near the Linn, a horse ring was found embedded in a stone! No-one knows why it was placed there, and no-one knows who Kate was, or why the rocks are so called! She may have been thrown in to the river as a witch, or more probably a suicide. The most famous witches in the area were Kate McNiven in Monzie, and Maggie Wall in Dunning. Both were probably quite innocent!

Two hundred or so years ago a farmer’s wife returning from Comrie on horseback was drowned there when the river was in spate. The ring may have been placed there by her husband to mark the spot!

In 1914 my grand-aunt and uncle lived in the Ross and early one evening there was a knock at their door. Standing outside were two well-dressed ladies. They seemed to be lost and asked for directions to the House of Ross, and Aberuchill Castle. They were pointed in the right direction and later that evening both grand houses were set on fire. My grandfather, along with many others, was called out at midnight to help put out the fires. Another house, Allt nan Fionn, in St. Fillans was also set alight. The ladies were members of that formidable band called the Suffragettes. The ones who set Aberuchill on fire may have thought that Lloyd George may have been there as a guest. Others think they mistook the House of Ross for “Auchenross” wherein Mr. Balfour Melville lived. He was a prominent local lawyer and a fierce opponent of the Suffragette movement. Ethel Moorhead, one of the first suffragettes to be force fed in Scotland was charged with this offence, and jailed for it.

Ethel Moorhead canvassing for votes

A Comrie policeman returned a clock which had been stolen from a house in Comrie. The house owner decided to thank him by buying him a box of chocolates. She drove down to the Dalginross Bridge and parked her car momentarily there and went into the shop where she bought the chocolates. When she came out she found that her car had been ticketed by the same policeman. So, instead, she took the chocolates home and ate them herself!

A heavily laden horse pulling a load of logs up the Balloch stopped due to the weight on the cart. To encourage the horse they took it down to the foot of the hill, allowed it a breather, and someone put a potato up its hind quarters. The horse then took off up the Balloch at a fair pace, and continued on to Anaba Brig where it delivered its load to a Scout camp! No sweat!

The author’s grandfather, David McNaughton, was being kitted out for service in the Scottish Horse in the second Boer war when it ended in 1902. He was a teetotaller and a staunch member of the Temperance Society. They held their meetings on a Friday evening. Often he was accompanied home to the Ross by a close friend who swore that he too was alcohol free. However, every Friday evening he fell off the wagon. Always after crossing the Ross Bridge my grandfather took the Ross road home, whereas his friend took the Back Road towards Aberuchill. Often he could be heard for a time bawling and bellowing, “Can ye get yersel hame awricht? Are you aw’ richt the nicht, Davie, are you aw richt?” with his voice getting fainter as the roads drew away from each other!

At age 38, although married with two children, my grandfather was called to the colours in 1917 and served in France in the Black Watch! On the ship going over a stupid officer slammed a hatch on his hand, mashing it. This meant he could not fire his rifle and could not be used in the front lines. Instead he was sent to guard coal mines in Northern France, and later acted as a guard at the great POW camp at Étaples. Probably this accident saved his life as many of his friends and comrades were killed within a short period of time in the line.

It was considered bad luck if, in a bedroom, the foot of the bed was facing the door! Please do not ask me why!

Never place red and white flowers in your home. The colours are associated with blood and bandages!

Amongst the many local characters of recent days one stands out for her eccentricity, and also as one who keeps up the traditions which belong in our collected, and cherished treasure chest, of characters. She was known as “Scooter Annie” and so called because she drove a low-powered motorcycle, complete with sidecar. That in itself is no sin other than its top speed was about twenty miles per hour. In the event of one driving behind her and trying to pass at appropriate spots in the road, her motorcycle would drift out towards the centre of the road, making overtaking impossible.

She was approached several times by the police department; however, as she always appeared to be over a hundred and fifty years old, they had a tendency to approach her with caution. This had something to do with her age, but more importantly she came equipped with a violent temper, a strong voice, and a rich vocabulary!

There were several young constables, who over time, approached her to offer driving advice, who, all of a sudden, began to suspect their parentage which had been voiced to all and sundry at several decibels! In the event that through ill luck you were found to be in very slow-moving traffic on our windy roads, it is possible that you were in the middle of a cortege, or possibly, you may be have been driving behind “Scooter Annie.”

It was a Friday night, and as usual, the village lads had had a good night down at the pub. They knew that their pal Farquhar was only allowed out on a Saturday night, and he was missed. The reason for this was that he was married to a tyrant of a woman who appeared to be several times larger than he was, and she would not let him go out to the pub twice a week. On their way home they decided to try on a joke and broke an empty milk bottle outside Farquhar’s door. They stooged around for a moment and heard Farquhar’s wife “Big Bella” bawling out at the top of her lungs to her loved one “Hey, the gless in the windae’s nae broken on the inside, awa oot and see if it's broken on the ootside.” The lads crept away giggling all the way home!

Many folk may no doubt wonder what happened when someone died in the upper reaches of Glen Artney in the old days. During the summer they were brought down to Tullychettle graveyard, and there interred. However, others who had requested they be buried in Comrie, and those who died during the winter, had a somewhat different journey. They were immersed in the River Ruchill, and other burns and streams, to keep them supple, and when the spring came were brought down to the village for burial. I just put that in as some, with more enquiring minds, would find this interesting!

Oddly enough it sometimes rains in Comrie. These two photographs show the result of a spate in Finduglen after a cloud burst in 1910.

Damage from flooding in Findoglen, 10th August, 1910

The Earn in spate from the Dalginross Bridge

In the flooding of 1927 Dalginross was flooded by the River Ruchill. This phenomenon will occur every twenty or so years. The reason is normally attributed to a fast thaw in January or February in its upper reaches. The milder temperatures melt snow and ice, and excess water flows from the Forest of Glen Artney. Adding to this are the melts of various feeder streams and burns which flow into the Ruchill. Historians may be interested in knowing that the original course of the Ruchill was by way of Camp Road and Barrack Road, dividing Dalginross, and meeting the Earn further east. Houses, in this street, once called Lairig Ilidh, used cleats to hold wooden boards in at the bottom of doorways, to protect houses from flooding.

Extensive work was done in the thirties at the Linn a Chulaich. Here a narrow gorge was broadened by dynamite to alleviate the ferocity and forward flow of the water. A new protective wall was put in place and, more by accident than by design, a swimming pool was created. The local people and the cadets at Cultybraggan camp all enjoy using it although the water temperature can be on the cool side!

However, here, the river picks up momentum and flows directly, like an arrow in flight, for the village. As it surges along it meets, at the lower level, the River Earn at Comrie. Here, due to the collision of the two rivers at a tight junction, an enormous volume of swirling water is produced. The result is that the Ruchill water backs up like a stopped up drain, flooding parts of Dalginross. It was said by one wag that he had caught a salmon in his kitchen.

Miss MacGregor told me that the water level was so high that a breadboard floated into her house through an open window. As no-one claimed it she kept it in use until very recently!

This was the local doctor’s car being rescued by a beautiful horse. This photograph was taken in 1927 in Dalginross opposite the home of Miss Jenny MacGregor.

Comrie – The meeting of the Waters

The Ruchill and the Earn - See Railway Bridge with lines curving away through the Ross towards St. Fillans