Trades and Industries That Have long Gone
Crieff Past And Present
There is an old Scots word " couthie " which conveys a meaning oft lacking in the" Queen's
English ". Perhaps gentle - agreeable or kindly is an apt translation . The following extract is from one of my favourite collections " Crieff : Its Traditions and Characters " written in 1881 by a certain D McAra . MacAra is somewhat overshadowed by the rather patrician historian Porteous whose 1908 epic “ A History of Crieff ” is still regarded as the ultimate account of things in and around the town . MacAra – a couthie individual by all accounts, captures much of the lost sentiment of yester year when the pace of things in that pre technology age was that little bit slower ! The appended tale of trades of the past depicts a world of rural artisans working at things which in this modern age are all but forgotten !
Many kinds of tradesmen etc have disappeared from the district including spunkmakers , weavers and sheriff officers . Many sawyers were constantly employed with their large frame saws . Being “ top sawyer “ was a common saying . There were several wood yards where sawing was done on the premises but the various joiners and workers in wood had generally a saw pit of their own where the sawyers cut the timber required . Thrashing grain was much in vogue during winter and spring and many old farm hands found employment in the numerous barns in the town . It is rare now to see the old fashioned flail doing duty . Dykes , except as boundary walls have now given place to wire fencing .Most farms are now well drained and employment of this sort is becoming very scarce . As fencing , the old world system of herding cows and sheep in the low districts went out of use and it is now the exception to have herds . Spinning took up much of the female labour , but spinning wheels are now seen only in lumber rooms and museums . Dyers were also abundant and a thorough hand made a good thing of it . Lint or scotching mills were on several of the burns and were fully employed in winter. This was a “ stoury “ job and the farmers when delivering their lint to go through the mill had to remember a bottle of whisky with each cart .At one mill which was at Bridgend this was rigidly enforced . The cart would not be allowed to disload till the customary dues were produced. Waulk mills were numerous and were in use for waulking or thickening woollen fabrics including blue bonnets and kilmarnocks.
A paper mill was for many years in full operation beside the lade at “ Cook’s Brae “ . There were several wheelwrights celebrated for making spinning – wheels . . Hecklers abounded who gave the finishing touches to flax previous to spinning , the last practitioner being Johnnie Brown , the beadle . Blacking for shoes was also made and vended over the country , the last maker being Johnnie Miller who had himself carried goods through the country by a Shetland pony . Several blacking makers visited the district amongst them being “ Black Willie “ who , with his wife , managed to get drunk daily . One dark night they were at South Bridgend , and she fell into the mill lade and was drowned and found in the heck in the morning . Clockmakers did a good business and many substantial eight – day clocks are still to be found .Some fifty years ago the town could boast of a hat maker and it is not so long since Jean M’Ewan or “ Leuchar “ made and mended umbrellas , genuine whale bone articles which , with a little care and repair would last a lifetime . Harvesting created much employment fathers and sons usually hired themselves to harvest work all over the country .Many went to the Lothians and Stirling , and squads of highlanders from the Grampian Hills marched southwards for the same purpose . Not a few men and women from the Island of Skye would be found among them . The women and families went to the surrounding farms where the children enjoyed a thorough holiday and the mother s plied the hook and sickle , “ thraving “ amongst the grain . A thrave consisted of two stooks of twelve sheaves each , the allowance being from 2 ½d to 3d a thrave . .Many women could net from 2s 6d to 3s daily . This is all done away with and people wonder how such things could have been . The scythe came into general use about forty years ago . Now shearing machines do the work , and stream thrashing and winnowing prepare the grain for the market .
Crieff had a candle making establishment but it ceased work many years ago . There was also an oil mill , where linseed oil made and oil cake manufactured . The introduction of gas in 1843 led the way to the relegation of these and kindred employments .
Burking created a terrible sensation in the country in 1828 and subsequent years and resurectionists who lifted grave sof newly interred bodies caused much anxiety . Though the Burke and Hare tragedies and trials passed away there was a prevalent belief that they had followers and many people were terrified to move out of doors after dark . Practical jokes after dusk were often played on respectable lieges such as passing a bit of paper across the mouth and chasing and threatening to burke . One woman got fearful fright at the meadow . After running home a bit of paper was discovered sticking on her umbrella which to her was sufficient evidence of a burker’s intention. The graves of newly interred relatives were nightly watched for some weeks the guard consisting generally of two . A loaded gun was not unfrequently one of the weapons of offence . To such an extent did the feeling go that several parishes got large iron cages made to fix over the grave for a time , so as to prevent the snatching of the dead . Up until forty years ago it was not uncommon practice for friends to stick bits of wood and slate on and around the grave turf . , and then regularly examine to see if anything was disturbed . One book traveller of doubtful character and belongings frequented the town and districts shortly after Burke’s day and his mysterious actions and boxes created such a furore that the inhabitants treated him so roughly that he narrowly escaped with his life an d bade adieu to the district . For many years nothing would frighten youth into obedience like stories and threatenings of burkers and resurectionists .