The name Auchterarder means “ the summit of the rising ground “ Apart from the town of that name it applies also to the parish which was formed when it joined with its neighbour to the east , Aberuthven in the 16th Century .
The main rivers in the parish are the Earn and the smaller Ruthven , In the 18th century there were some 11 mills powered by the waters of the Ruthven and made it a vital part of the economy of the parish , From an early date the stone built houses were roofed by a grey local slate which was noted for both for its appearance and its durability .
Although the carrying out surveys and obtaining accurate census statistics did not start until 1801( with the detailed census from 1841 ) , we have available figures from a survey carried out by Dr Webster in the 1770s He calculated that there some 1194 persons in the parish . By the 1790s this had increased to a total of 1670 souls with 805 males and 865 females .The split down between town and village and rural living showed that there were 798 residing in Auchterarder town , Borland Park and Miltown with 878 in country locations . In the period prior to the introduction of Statutory Registration in January 1855 , parishes relied on individuals submitting particulars of births , baptisms , marriage , banns and deaths to the Parish Clerk of the Established church – namely the Presbyterian Church of Scotland . With the surge in the number of breakaway bodies after the first secession in the 1730s , many people ignored recording events . The situation was exacerbated by the introduction of a levy or tax on each entry . Would be genealogists and family tree researchers should realise that the further back one goes the thinner is the availability of recorded information . For some strange reason we find that not only in Auchterarder but throughout Scotlands some 940 parishes deaths and burials failed to be recorded in any appreciable numbers .
The First Statistical Account tells us that in 1791 Auchterarder Parish , the four main land owners did not reside within the parish , a situation that was sadly replicated throughout most of rural Scotland . The parish recorded farmers and “ occupiers of land “ as numbering 81 with some 49 weavers ( probably of the hand loom variety ) and surprisingly 78 “ mechanics “ ! As this was in the pre motor and engine era I can only assume that these guys were employed working on the machinery that was in place in the 11 mills that had been built on the Water of Ruthven. This period of time was very much when farming was labour intensive with comparatively small units compared with the modern era . The Account for Auchterarder lists 109 male servants ( farm workers ) and some 120 female servants . The women were in probability employed as domestics , dairy maids and field workers .
Religion was always an important aspect of life in 18th and 19th Century Scotland . These Statistical Accounts covered all of Scotland’s 940 plus parishes and were , by and large , written by the Parish Minister , that is the incumbent minister of the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland . Much strife and dissension occurred throughout the land . In particular there was a great deal of disagreement with regard to the manner in which the Church was or a should be governed . There were numerous “ secessions “ and breakaway bodies set up their own kirks/ churches quite often in close proximity to the original one . These disputes were often as not over what would be described in modern eyes as somewhat trivial matters . In Auchterarder in the 1730s things were blown sky high over what was called The Marrow of Modern Divinity . This was a pamphlet published and distributed within the Kirk . What got up the gullet of many of the traditionalists was its advocacy of the belief that one could “ come to Christ without foregoing one’s sin “ amongst a host of similar teachings . The Auchterarder congregation were looking for a new minister and examined one William Craig . Craig had read and believed in the content of the “ Marrow” pamphlet but was asked to deny its principles before becoming licensed and to sign up a loosely drawn up statement . Because he refused to subscribe to this statement, William Craig was denied licensure to the ministry and the matter came to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for resolution. The statement under question became known as "The Auchterarder Creed" and after being discussed at length in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was adopted thus accelerating a large exodus of members known as Seceders who established their own Church .
In Auchterarder by the time of the first Statistical Account we are told “ The number of souls in the Established Church is 1176 and of Seceders including those of the Relief population 492 . There are only 2 Episcopalians . “
It is always interesting to know what things were really like in those far off days . The benefit of the Accounts is that we can get an accurate picture of the conditions under which our ancestors lived and worked all those years ago . The arable economy of Auchterarder in the late 18th century was based on crops such as wheat , oats , barley , peas , hay , potatoes and turnip . Although tree plantations or woodlands did not exist in any number , there were numerous examples of fir , oak , ash , elm , beech , alder , birch and elder scattered throughout the parish . The countryside was populated by hares , partridges , otters , polecats and foxes . It would appear that in the 18th century the rabbit was not the main occupant of the rural terrain !
The small farms that were scattered throughout the parish followed a similar routine and grew peas , lint seed ( flax ) and potatoes .It was interesting to note that the turnip was becoming a popular root crop amongst many farmers whilst invariably grass pasture is sown and cut eventually as hay . Although some wheat is sown the majority of farmers sow barley which appears to be more suited to the area .To the west of the village of Auchterarder there lies some 200 acres of common land known as the Moor of Auchterarder . Here cattle are grazed . In addition there is common land on the Hill of Foswell , part of the Ochils .
In the late 18th century there were 4 corn mills, 3 lint mills, a paper mill , 2 oil mills and a fulling mill located on the Ruthven Water and the author of the Statistical Account noted that it was of great significance that the main road from the Perth and Aberdeen and the “ east country “ to the north , came through the parish giving access to Stirling and Glasgow .
One of the problems facing Auchterarder village in the late 18th century was a laclk of regular fresh water . Apparently the river ran dry in the summer and despite sinking of wells , the problem remained . It was hoped to lay wooden pipes from the fountain source a distance of some 2 miles but this was deemed an unaffordable burden .
The Account provides us with details regarding the cost of food at that time and the wages that were being paid . Farm labourers in the summer were paid one shilling a day ( some 5 pence in current currency ) and in winter ten old pence or approximately 4 pence in current currency . Masons and carpenters as skilled tradesmen got a higher daily wage . The former 1/6 a day or 7.5 pence new and the latter 1/ 2 or 6 pence new .
The First Statistical Account is a superb example of social history .. The Auchterarder account , written by the local minister , paints a real picture of the state of the parish some 212 years ago in the period prior to the upsets of the Napoleonic Wars . There is a detailed account of life and economic existence for a typical family in Auchterarder . Note that the example given states that there are some 7 children in the household . Although families did tend to be much larger than in this present era , do remember that there was a high level of infant and child mortality which often reduced the number of dependents quite dramatically . In the example below I have altered the original pounds , shillings and pence to modern sterling to facilitate understanding .
Year : 1791
Statement of the annual Income and expenditure of a Day – labourer ( farm worker ) in the Parish of Auchterarder who has a wife and seven children , the oldest of which is a girl 13 years of age and the second a boy who tended cattle last season . Along with his dwelling house he rents an acre of land .
Income : The father of the family has 5 pence a day of wages for 8 months in the year and 4 pence a day for the remaining 4 months .Deducting 43 days for Sundays ,holidays and bad weather from the summer months and 30 days on the same account from the winter months he gains during the whole year : £ 13.85
The mother with the assistance of her eldest girl , in the management of her family , earns by spinning 7.5 pence a week which is in a year £ 3.90
The eldest boy earned by tending cattle £ 0.90
The acre of land produced last year 6 firlots of oats @ £0.68
the boll £1. 00
4 bolls of barley £2.80
6 bolls and a firlot of potatoes £ 1. 30
Sold a calf £0.35
Total income £ 24.11
Expenses: Rent of his house and land £3.00 and expenses
of food and management £1.25 £ 4.25
Fuel and 8 bolls and a firlot of oatmeal £7.41
4 bolls of barley meal £1. 87
Father’s clothes ( shirt , shoes , stockings bonnet and
Handkerchief ) £1. 12
Mother’s clothes ( shift and 2 aprons, shoes , handkerchief
Stockings , bonnet ) £ 0.44
Clothes and shoes for children £2.28
Food bought : cheese butter salt butcher meat £2.60
Lamp oil and candles £ 0.40
Molasses for making ale £0.50
Expenses for illness, needles , pins and thread £ 0.76
Whisky , small beer and wheaten bread ay New Year £ 0.17
Family consumes the potatoes the land produces £1.3
Grass to the cow and straw in winter £ 0. 82
Total Expenses £24.00
The above clearly shows how tight was the rural family’s budget with little between solvency and poverty and the small amount of rented land and the ability to keep a cow was very important to basic survival .
In 1791 in Auchterarder there were 13 persons on Poor Relief who received a weekly allowance through the church . Others received occasional charity hand outs to keep them off the poverty level . It was stated in the Account that the value of the stipend ( the minister’s salary ) was £ 90 which included money from the “ glebe “ or ground attached to the manse which was often let for grazing .
At the time of the Account Auchterarder was the main village / town in the parish . It had once been a Royal Burgh and sent a member of Parliament to Edinburgh . Many of the houses were burgage properties where the right of rental belonged to the monarch .At this time the main street was about a mile long with about 100 houses many of which had been recently rebuilt .
Four Fairs were held each year with an annual cattle Tryst where the black cattle from the Highlands were sold . It stated that the current population ( 1791 ) was 594 but increasing with several new houses having been built .Apart from the Established Church ( of Scotland ) there was a Relief Kirk ( one of the churches which had broken away from the main Kirk ) . The account narrates in some detail the state of industry in the town :
“About twenty years ago ( 1770 ) a considerable manufacture of yarn and narrow linen cloth was carried on in Auchterarder . It was fold bleached and unbleached a nd sent to Glasgow . This trade is in great measure extinct .Sale linens are still manufactured in the town and neighbourhood ; and linen of a fabric peculiar to the place , and which goes by its name . At a little distance from Auchterarder is a village called the Borland Park , built by Government for the accommodation of soldiers who were disbanded after the war of 1763 and contains a 140 inhabitants who are mostly weavers . Most of the soldiers who were planted in it , left very soon afterwards although the terms of their settlement were very advantageous , either from dislike to the place or more probably to their new mode of life . On the south of Auchterarder and along the side of the Ruthven is Miltown a small village containing 64 inhabitants . here there is a distillery consisting of two , 40 gallon stills .”
There is mention in the Account of some of the antiquties found within the parish . Auchterarder . To the north of the town lies the old Castle of Auchterarder which served as the hunting seat of Malcolm Canmore . Sadly the account tells us that the farmer was allowed to use the stones of the castle to construct a new farm house . North of the castle lies the old parish church which is pre Reformation and was known as St Mungo’s Chapel . The burial ground was for many years the old church yard .
The author of this intriguing Account , the Rev Andrew Duncan reveals a degree of knowledge with regard to the nature of spinning and weaving within the parish .He states “ were the two handed spinning wheel more generally used it would probably contribute in some measure to better the circumstances of the lower class of people as well as to increase the materials of the linen manufacture . There are but one or two such wheels in this parish and it is but little used in many parts of the country . It might also be for the interests of the lower class of people , and especially the women , were they more employed than they are , in manufactures for which they are qualified .The great demand for men for all kinds of work has raised their wages to an exorbitant height ; while in this part of the country , at least , the wages of female servants are barely sufficient to support them when in health . They cannot afford to set aside any provision for sickness or old age , without the utmost parsimony . Nevertheless everybody is now decently and comfortably clothed , which was perhaps not the case then and there is now four times the quantity of butcher meat used .There is now a baker in the village .”