Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Well,well, well – yet more wells ! Once Crieff’s only source of fresh water .



I recently wrote a blog  on the wells of Strathearn which created considerable interest. My good friend Jess Smith – raconteur – singer and  author  of  considerable repute , commented , and I quote ,  “ as a lassie I knew all these wells because Travelling folk needed precious water en route – when I was caretaker at Knox House  in Coldwells Road (Morrison’s Music Dept.  ) I was excited to see the “ cold well ” sunk in my laundry outhouse and covered  with a thin metal plate . The well in King Street sunk into the wall of the Market Park was the only source of water  for the residents prior to piped water ---  I always  spit through a ring for good luck when passing wells --- the mystical St Bridget ( St Bride ) was seen to visit wells across Ireland  sitting on a pure white horse . One day an Irishman saw her watering her horse at Strowan Well ( 2 miles west of Crieff ) . Disturbed  by the vision he went home. When there  he overheard soldiers talking of burning all the villages on their path . His home was one of them . He managed to alert the inhabitants  who fled to the moors . Not one was harmed  but sadly all their houses were destroyed .”

As Jess tells  us,  there were more than those  I listed in  my other “ blog ” .Prior to the introduction of piped  water ,wells abounded in the town - perhaps  more  so than the  average  county town elsewhere . I am no geologist  but have  listened in the past to those  who claim  more than  a little knowledge on the subject . Apparently Crieff below the surface  has a number  of layers of fragmented strata which cause  the water table  to fluctuate  considerably  with heavy rainfall . I recall  many  years  ago  being  shown the basement or bottling hall of what was Rutherford’s Grocers in Comrie Street ( now McKenzie Strickland  Architects ) . There was a large sump or pit  in the middle of the room with a ball cock device which ,when the water  began to rise ,cut in a pump to drain the area . Apparently so bad was this problem that it was in fairly regular use. Not far  away the  shops on the  south side of West High Street suffered  similar problems  in their  basements  when the rains came in torrential downpours ! The  quality of the water of course was also  reason for the super abundance of  breweries and distilleries in the 18th and early 19th centuries .

To obtain an accurate picture  of what Crieff  was like in those far off  days  one can utilise a  superb digital  map of Wood plan of Crieff  dated 1822 on the National Library of Scotland ( NLS ) web site http://maps.nls.uk/towns/detail.cfm?id=321 You can enlarge  to suit by  clacking on the  map and navigating  about .

A well is located at Coldwells to the rear of the house known as Hawkshaw whilst others are ( with their present day locations) :

1.      Comrie Street : Opposite Leven House Hotel ; adjacent to Old Library / Masons’ Hall

2.      Burrell Street :Kemps Well at Strathearn Tyres /Garage ; adjacent to WB Dodds Builders

3.      McFarlanes Lane / Roy Street : Half  way along on north side

4.      King Street : Junction with Commissioner Street at Bluebell Flower Shop ; Opposite Boyd’s Newsagents

5.      West High Street/High Street / East High Street : Adjacent to Gordon & Durwards; James Square ( Old Square Well ) ; Adjacent to DE Shoes

6.      Cornton Place : Tibbertreoch Well

Last ( although I may have  missed some ! ) is one that was once  rather special but is now  totally forgotten about ! It is St Thomas’s Well named after Crieff’s  original Patron Saint ( no not St Michael you M & S fanatics ! )  It  lies covered  over in the  garden of the new house  being built at the Junction of Ramsay Street and Bank Street about 10 metres  south of the Frank Thomson Timber Store in Ramsay Street . My good  friend Graham Robertson , local painter and decorator , told  me that the old house had been  been in his family for generations and  he himself  was  unaware of the Well’s existence ! 

Our ancestors may not have had  piped mains water suitably impregnated with all sorts additives but  you will see that there were over a dozen handily located sources  where  one  could fill up your  bucket at any time .

 

 

 

 

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