Victoria who visited Crieff
and Strathearn in 1842 with her consort
Crieff as a centre of population has been around a long time . Recent discoveries have revealed a Neolithic past when this part of Strathearn was emerging as a place of importance The present town however is solidly Victorian with a smattering remnant of the Georgian in places like Burrell Square ( The Octagon of yesteryear ) and Ruberslaw House . The following little essay is yet another plucked from my tattered little copy of Dixons “ Crieff in the Victorian Era “ and was written in the year of the Jubilee in 1897 so reflects what our town was like in the pre motor car era !
“To know and understand Crieff as it exists in the year of the Diamond Jubilee of her Majesty Queen Victoria , it is necessary in the first place to have some years experience in the town , and in the second place to have some sense of observation . There are casts , sets ,cliques and circles , sufficient to make India hide its face in very shame ; and there are more public houses , doctors , lawyers , ministers , billiard rooms and churches than in almost any town in either Scotland , England or Ireland. If you are in one set , you are not in the other , your principal duty is to stick to it . You know the sets by their unfailing attachment ; you know the circles by their consequential airs ; you distinguish the casts by the way they carry their heads ; and you can easily discover the cliques by their unflagging attention to everybodies tourist affairs but their own .
In the summer time , Crieff life actually begins to be of interest about . The prosperous business man charges along the High Street shouldering his morning newspaper, and tells everybody “it’s a good “ , or a “ better day “ ; all the tradesmen hanging about James Square , scatter like birds in a thunderstorm ; the legal men break into a professional trot , and shortly disappear into their offices ; all the budding doctors on the hunt for broken legs , flutter about at every corner ; the matron seeks out the cheapest dinner , and stows it away in an arrangement like a poacher’s net ; the early rising visitors swagger about in skirts , blouses and ties , suggesting everything that is Jubilee ; the tourist , in the garb of the northern landlord , shoulders his knapsack , and strides away ; and the local press men chase one another to along to the Police Court wondering if the weather is likely to be suitable for a Comrie Earthquake . As time wears on to noonday , the streets are thronged by another population . Where they come out of is hard to say but they are all there . Stout ladies with delicate looking husbands step slowly along the centre of the pavement and stop and stare in every shop window . Behind come their beaming but sorely oppressed daughters, watching every thing and everybody , and behind them again comes the confounded little brother who swears he will tell “ all about it “ if they don’t buy him something at the nearest sweetie shop . Mixed among this crowd are the visitors who imagine they know all about everything . When they reach the
fountain , they stop for a minute
and criticise the architecture .
“ Gothic “ , says one , “ Grecian “ , says
another . “ Both wrong “ remarks
another - “ Corinthian “ , and there
they stand pointing out with
their walking sticks defects in balance , and generally condemning the style of architecture . “ Who’s Murray ?
“ asks some one . “ Oh a Murray hero
“, answers some one else. “ Correct “, says another , not to be behind in
his historical information , and away
they walk congratulating themselves on
their knowledge of everything that
is useful . Then there is a multifarious collection of visitors whose chief ideas of a quiet holiday are a parade about the streets before dinner , and a short walk in the afternoon . You can see
them any day in the summer mashing about
with white parasols , and last year’s ball dresses improved at the neck
, and all looking supernaturally grand . Waterloo
James Square with the Murray Fountain
to the right
It is not till the afternoon that Crieff people themselves are seen at their best . Round the shops the older people roam , admiring everything that is new, and buying everything that is useless . A carriage draws up ; the head shop man rushes to open the door ; the lady steps on to the pavement with the airs of an eastern princess , he orders half a pound of cheese and a pound of butter , and pays the account a year hence .Later on there put in n appearance the people who have reduced afternoon calling to a fine art , and whose sole work at home is dusting the drawing - room mantle shelf , and looking out for new and reliable servants .Thy skip along the High street , and omit to recognise all their old friends , and practice afternoon tea in the back garden , in prospect of the county gatherings in the Autumn . About stylish Crieff is afloat on bicycles . Like the new telegraph boys , they believe , because they are in a hurry , they can knock everybody over , and never say “ Sorry “ . Away they fly , all laughing and gay , and when the chivalrous youths round the corner observe their approach , they raise their caps , and shortly follow in their wake . Two hours thereafter the daughters of the wheel return , tired and jaded , and next morning they get breakfast in bed . It is about in the evening that the male population is most in evidence .
coats , sticks, canes , cigarettes and silk handkerchiefs follow their masters out to Ochtertyre or round the Knock , or oftener
to the nearest billiard table . The actual working population gathers in
Newmarket James Square with the regularity of an eight - day clock and the pavement
swells with an interesting variety of
people of all castes and classes , trying to impress the population with their outstanding importance . In the evening,
too , golf and bowling are in full swing
, and there are the usual spooning and flirting at the tennis court . All are
enjoyable games, - particularly th tennis. The patrons become attached to the game
, sometimes in the interests of
sport , but too often from a business point of view , and there the fly about
till after sundown , while their mammas are slaving at home with lodgers
to raise the rent - Sic vita est .
Life in Crieff is an interesting study, and the subject gives ample scope in itself for a book which has yet to be written , In a short sketch , such as this , only the principal features can be touched upon . To deal withn the subject in a complete form , one would require to start with the men whose work is a profession , and the men whose profession is doing nothing ; joining in the same chapter , the class who mix up their profession with labour , by sweeping out the shop on the Saturday morning . Then there would come the working classes , for whom we hold the highest respect , and then all the other sections of the people in the town which go to make up a highly intelligent community . Crieff is worth seeing and knowing , and those who find nothing about it to interest and amuse , must walk with their eyes closed , or be in love with their own shadow .”