Pre-Roman Period

Early Peoples

Not much is really known about the early peoples in this area. We, in our arrogance, refer to them as Primitive man, and later, Beaker people. No one can say with certainty where and when these early people of Scotland are thought to have come from originally, but we can speculate that these early settlers were descended from people who had left Ireland, who in their turn had left the Iberian Peninsula, who, in their turn themselves were descended from peoples of the Middle East, who in turn were descended from people from the African continent. They may have even come about 10000 years ago when the staple diet may have been left over Tyrannus Saurus Rex!

Numerous indications from about the Bronze Age onwards or 4000 BC abound as these hunters and gatherers collected in small communities hoping to survive the climate, their neighbours, having enough food and water, and being able to build a community. Ah, you see they were not so different from us after all! The earliest ones brought with them the Stone of Destiny. It was said that this was Jacob’s pillow! Many think it is lodged in Edinburgh, but in reality it is in a stone quarry near the Lechkin Farm in Glen Lednock! His cloak of many colours adorns our countryside.

The Coronation Chair with the Replica of the Stone of Destiny

Certainly many of the people came from Ireland in batches of small boats called currachs. Oddly enough, there is a farm close by Crieff called the Currachs. They landed on the West coast probably near Iona, or in Argyll, and then, after re-grouping, headed inland eventually coming into Strathearn. Many probably came from around Lough Erne and Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, and Derry in Londonderry, in Northern Ireland. They named the Loch, and a small clachan, after both places. In time other peoples came from Scandinavia, and other locations such as the Low Countries, on the continent, as well as from the south and east. Regardless of their origins they were to clash over the wee puckle of land variously called Scotia, Dalriada, Alba, Caledonia, and then Scotland. It is currently referred to in England for many a weary mile going in that direction as the “North.”

In MacNair’s excellent short book “Perthshire” the suggestion is made that there were two distinct types or groups of people who entered our fair country. One lot belonged to “a non-Aryan race, of Iberian type, short-statured and long-headed.” Another described them as a “taller and more powerful group of the Celtic Aryan type - the Gaels of Irish extraction, who were in turn displaced by the Britons or Brythons, who were also Celts.” This probably resulted in our community consisting of the long, the short, and the tall!

The people who moved into Strathearn set up their homes around fresh water streams and lochs, and although the topography of the land mass of Strathearn has not changed to any great degree over the millennia, the whole area must have been inundated with the detritus from the ice age/mountain building period consisting of rocks and boulders, fallen trees, branches and roots of upturned trees, shrubbery and vegetation. The earliest inhabitants therefore must have had a fair bit of clearing up to do!

These early settlers, Neolithic or New Stone Age Man, formed themselves into small bands of people forming communities and habitations around the edges of fresh water lochs, streams and rivers which provided an endless supply of potable water, and latterly, power. They created crannogs as places for dwelling and protection, against whatever enemy, or animal, was out there. There is a re-created crannog in Loch Tay which displays the building structure(s) and what people did during their spare time!

Recreated Crannog on Loch Tay

In Loch Earn, Neish’s Island is the only known example of a crannog, although in Pont’s map (circa 1590), another is shown midway between Edinample Castle and Lochearnhead; however, there is now no physical evidence of its existence. Neish’s Island, near St. Fillans, is a crannog made up of stones and boulders about 150 yards from the northern shore. Its causeway was also made of stone and boulders which could be broken down very quickly in the event of a threat from the mainland. We will revisit this island later in our sojourn through time.

At Kindrochat there is a very ancient burial ground. This Neolithic burial site is in a much dilapidated condition, but one can see that it was a busy place in its day. In its nearby surrounds can be seen other evidence of early civilizations; cup-marked stones or circles such as the one at Drum na Cille. On the banks of the River Ruchill burial mounds can be located. In their day they must have been very significant. Near Kindrochat, later peoples built the great Caledonian fortress of Dundurn – the Fort of the Fist.

These early peoples were hunters and gatherers. The world…OUT THERE was somewhat hostile, being populated by bears and wolves, wild cattle, boar and pigs, thieves and vagabonds, and who knows, maybe even the Australian Rugby Club! In time they would develop farming skills which may have been introduced by peoples from Europe and Scandinavia. The domestication of sheep and cattle took time and, no doubt, this evolutionary process took many generations. So hand in hand with the clearing of the land and working up the soil to take a basic crop, and learning to become farmers, fishermen and trades people, the local people made their early mark. This lifestyle stayed in our area for thousands of years only really to be interrupted by foreigners from the outside world around 80 A.D. These strangers consisted of a few Italians accompanied by thousands of indentured soldiers from Mesopotamia, Anatolia, North Africa, Spain, Gaul, and other regions.