Another Rumble

Comrie is the earthquake centre of Britain and the earliest experimentation in seismology occurred there with the Reverend Samuel Gilfillan recording seventy shocks between 1792 and 1814. The epicentre of most earthquakes occurred near Balmuick and Kingarth in Glen Lednock. Noted references of the day were consulted and fierce debates occurred in the wee school room. The experts in Britain being read at the time were Hugh Miller, Sir Charles Lyall and Sir Roderick Murchison. Local colour was added by the views of the Reverends, Mr. Carment and Mr. Swan. Others from the village also took up positions with Mr. Macfarlane being strongly opposed to anyone that did not accept his premises and Mr. James Drummond, the local Comrie shoemaker, whose passion on the subject overrode everyone else’s and stretched into theology!

At one such debate Mr. Carment was extolling the worth and findings of Sir Charles and Sir Roderick when Mr. Drummond exasperated said, “Mr. Carment, if I was to meet Sir Charles Lyall and Sir Roderick Murchison they would be no more in my hands than you!” Mr. Carment retorted that he was very pleased that Mr. Drummond had included him in this illustrious body!

Considerable interest was shown in the earthquake activity and several people in the 1840’s began to keep records. Primitive instruments and pendulums were placed at various locations throughout the village in the Parish Church, at Comrie House and at Garrichrew. An observatory was built above Brough and MacPherson’s shop in Dunira Street. Mr. David Milne first used the term “seismometer” and in 1869 a small building was built on the Drumearn estate in the Ross where early instruments were used to record earth movement. The records were known as the Comrie scale and predated the Richter scale by dozens of years. Whilst much of the activity is dormant, one is still aware of an earthquake in progress although it has lost the velocity and terror which it held during the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth. Since that time, with the exception of a few years, its work still goes on and it has recorded all of the earthquakes in faraway California, and elsewhere.

The Observatory in Drummond Street

Two of the men in the photograph were brothers. One was called Peter Awthing and the other Jimmie Naething. One can guess at the reasons why they were so called!