A wide choice of topics covered from the dawn of history right up to present days . Many of these have a wider relevance than purely within the context of Strathearn . The author's viewpoint often is at variance with the accepted opinions espoused elsewhere eg The Jacobite Uprisings and The Reformation .
The Reconstructed Crannog On Loch Tay Near Kenmore
Over the last year in these “blogs “ we
havelooked at many of the older
historical aspects of Perthshire and indeed Strathearn in particular . The
Strathwas a haven for the wandering
tribes of the Neolithic period that were spreading out over WesternEurope . Spreading out and into a Scotland
that was not to emerge as a nation for nearly four and half thousand years .
standing stones that still stare down upon us from the farm fields all a round
are a remnant of the ancient past . Recent archaeological investigations have
thrownlight upon the hitherto unknown
Neolithic Cursus that bisects the ground that is the new Strathearn Campus .
Diggings at Forteviot , some ten mileseast of Crieff , haveturned up
numerous finds of this period .A Bronze age gravewas unearthedcomplete with a gold – banded dagger still wrappedin its
4 000 year
oldsheath . The significanceof this becamequite clear when the gravewas identified . It hadbeen sealedby an enormous4 ton cap stonewhich required a giant craneto lift clear . Thiswas the last resting placenot of a simple tribesmanbut in all probabilityof an important chief , prince or perhapseven a king . The digalso turned up something that surprised the
archaeologists . Organicmaterials
hadbeen preserved in the sealed grave .These
includeda wooden bowl , what appeared
to have been a leather bag and numerous plant fragments and some tree bark
.When one puts these finds into an historical time scale , it is even more
amazing . The gravedates back to a
periodwhen the Egyptian Pyramids werebeing constructed all of 5 000 years ago !
Strathearn have more than just a few ancient sites such as Forteviot and the
Cursus of Crieff . Our ancient fore bearers created numerous artificial islands
on the multitude of lochs that abound in these airts. These are called crannogs
and are artificial or natural modified islands constructedby the people as far back as the Early Iron
Age of 2500 BC . Strangely enough they are found scattered throughout
Scotlandand Irelandbut with only one example in Wales and none
in England . Crannogswere constructed
as defendedsettlements usually by peace
loving farmers who couldfeel safe on
their island homes surroundedbyfamily , neighbours and ofcourse their precious animals .
Crannogsalthough not entirely a Perthshire phenomenon
areverymuch part and parcel of our ancient heritage . Research is still
progressing mainly under the auspices of the Scottish Trust for Underwater
Archaeology based at the Crannog Centre on Loch Tay . The Centre is a
wonderfulday out for the family and is located
near Kenmore at the eastern end of the Loch not far from Kenmore . Full
detailscan be obtainedby logging into their web site www.crannog.co.uk . I quote from an excellent
brochure producedby the Perth and
Kinross Heritage Trust:
The results of underwater excavation at
Oakbank Crannog , namely the mass of detailed information about the structure
and the way of life of the inhabitants eventually led to the decision to reconstruct
a full sized crannog near Kenmore on Loch Tay as an archaeological experiment.
The crannog consists of a free standing timber platform supported by alder and
oak piles , joined to the shore by a 16 metre long timber walk way .On the
platform there is a round house with wattle walls and internal partitions surrounding
a central hearth .The floors are made from small alder trees laid parallel to
each other, like those discovered at Oakbank and they are covered with bracken from
the hillside nearby . In everyway great efforts have been made to create a site
as much as possible like an Iron Age crannog .The reconstructed crannogis the core of the Scottish Crannog Centre
comprising an exhibition centre to explain the work of the underwater
archaeologists in Loch Tay over the years ; the reconstruction itself to show
what a crannog would have been like ; and a demonstration area on shore where
different aspects of ancient technologies are demonstrated and where the public
can try their hand . In addition , regularspecial events provide visitors with opportunities to learn more about
Iron Age craft skills and to experiment with ancient methods of cooking , wood
working and working with fibres .
Loch Tay is indeedthe epicentre of the crannog discoverieswith over 18 revealed in a detailed survey of
the loch carried out in 1979 .Their preservation can be attributedto thenature of the cold peaty waters of
Loch Tay The underwater survey and excavation at Oakbank and the subsequent
reconstruction nearby has provided us with a unique example of living history .
It shouldbemade clear that this is not a new discovery –
the presence of crannogshasbeen known for over 300 years andthe history of the areafirst published in 1938byW
Gillies – “ In Famed Breadalbane “
mentioned and identified some 13 sites .
Moving southinto Strathearn we can locate several crannogssimilar to those found in Loch Tay . Loch
Earn at its St Fillan’s ( east ) end has one of the most notable and indeedhistorically renowned “ islands “ . Neish
Island iswell documented in local
history being the base of the Clan Neish completewith castle and small harbour . The
Neisheswere natural enemies of theadjoining Clan MacNab from over the hills in
Killin . The story goes that a party of Neishes waylaid a number of MacNabs returning with purchases
from the Crieff market . Revengewas swiftwhen the chief of the MacNabssent his oldest son “Smooth “ John MacNab and
a number of his brothersover the
hillsto Neish Island.They hadbrought with them alarge
boatwhich they used to row over to the
island and attacked the unfortunate inhabitants.It was a massacrewith the only survivorsbeing reputed to havebeen a young boy and his dog . The head of
the chiefof Clan Neishwas taken as a trophy and thrown by Smooth
Johnat the feet of his father on their
return to Killin !
Ifwe proceedeast wards from Loch Earn and Neish Islandtowards Crieff we comeacrossperhaps one of the most
fascinating ofPerthshire’s crannogs .
Loch Monzievaird ( pronounced mon –ee- vaird )nestles in a picturesque setting below the country mansion house of Ochtertyre
once home of the Murray family andnowownedby Sir Brian Souter of
Stagecoach bus fame . On the northern shore of the little loch lies a decaying pile
of rubble – still easily discernible as a castle but somewhat spoilt by a
multitude of warning signs and protective fencing advising of the dangers of
falling masonry . Castle Cluggie was once the stronghold of the Comyn family – the
Red Comyn in particular had a running feud with Robert King of Bruce and the
sovereign was certainly no stranger to this part of the Strath . The castle is
located on a piece oflandjutting into the loch andjust to the west of it lies a small crannog known
as Prison Island . The archaeology of this particular location hasbeen recorded in detail by the Perth&
Kinross Heritage Trust and reveals an interestingoccupational pattern of the small island . The
investigationcarried out by the
Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology revealed that an oak pileprojecting through the loch bed near the
surface was carbon dated assometime after 1660 .This contrasted dramatically
with a piece of softwood projecting from a deep vertical section and carbon
dated to a periodof between 800
and480 BC . Expert conclusions state that
this is clear evidence of a settlement
constructed in the Early Iron Age and reused very much later.
A lot offascinatinginformation concerning Perthshire’s crannogs has been published by the Perth
& Kinross Heritage Trust in association with The Scottish Crannog Centre. Further
details and purchase of booklets look up their web site http://www.pkht.org.uk/publications.php
Visitorsand locals alike can enjoy a great day out at
the Crannog Centre Check out their web site on http://www.crannog.co.uk/
Kenmore is on the Perthshire Tourist Trail and accessible
from all main centres .
Main Season: Open daily from 29th
March to 31st October.
Opening times: 29th March to 30 October from to ; 31st Oct . In all cases, last full tours are one hour
before closing. Other off-season group bookings welcome by appointment.
Standard admissions are
Seniors:£7.50; Children £6.00; Families from £21 (2+1). Event day admissions
are slightly higher.
All tickets are valid throughout the day of
Site of the historic Stayt of Crieff 2013 - a ploughed field !
Injust over a yearof “ blogging ” our local history here in
Strathearn , we have covered a multitude of topics regardingpeople , places and “ things ” !What isclear that this , one of the mostbeautiful parts ofPerthshire –
nay Scotland – has an incredible and special heritagethat mustbe protected and projected to a wideraudiencethan just those who
dwellby the banks of the Earn !
Sadly much of the
recorded history of the area has nowbeen lost by the removal of the detailedinformationfrom official maps . Regrettably
present day searchers scouring the well detailed Ordnance Survey maps in both
the Landranger ( 1: 50 000 ) or the Pathfinder ( 1: 25 000 ) will do so in vain
if they are looking for the historic Stayt of Crieff or indeed Fowlis Castle –
ancient home of the Celtic Earls of Strathearn .
It issomething of a
concern when onefindsthat new editionsfrom the OS seemto have removedimportantlocal references which are so importantwhen tryingto follow a heritage
trail . With the arrival on the Royal scene of the Earl and Countess of
Strathearn aka Duke and Duchess of Cambridge , more peopleworldwideare going to want to know
more about the Strath. The ignoringof these two historical siteson current OS maps is more than regrettable –
itissomethingthat must be remedied .Fowlis
Castle – the traditional power base of the CelticEarls of Strathearn anddramatically visitedby King Robert the Bruce in the 14th
century and the “ Stayt ” or Courtof
the Earls locatedto the south ofCrieff adjacent to the new Strathearn Campus
and the site of the newly rediscovered Neolithic Cursus !
We have looked at Fowlis Castle in a previous blogso let us examine the historic site of the “
Stayt “ – a mediaeval Courtor Parliament
of the ancient Earls . Itwasshown a way back on the OS map of the 1860s
which you can check out on :
The map canbe
enlargedby clicking on it as
appropriate . The Stayt is located just above Broich House to the south of
Crieff itself .
What is so incredibleabout
thatsite is that therewas a Neolithic burial chamber lyingbelow the site of the ancientStayt of the Earls of Strathearn. Itwas only when the mound of the Stayt was
removed in the 19th century that the ancient secretswere revealed .
The coat of armsof
Crieffdepicted above is a reproduction
of an old picture post card . Although somewhat tarted up with pseudo heraldic
foliage , it depicts nevertheless an important part of Strathearn heritage .
The man holding the scales of justice is the Steward of Strathearn who
administered justice on a regular basis to all and sundry . He is perched on
top of a mound of earth sitting on the throne of justice , At his feet are the
“ jougs “ or stocks where the miscreants were tethered to submit to there
prescribed punishment .
Name and meaning. The Stayt or Stait of Crieff is found in a wide variance of spellings over
the centuries . Stayt = Stede , Steid meaning a place .
“ Then aucht the clerk to title the court , mak and mention of the
day , yeir and steid quhan and quhair the court is haldin” ( Balfour ) . The word is rendered “stayt”
from a notorial instrument expede in 1475 ( Hist .MSS.Commission , 3rd Report ,
p. xxiv , and App.p.418), but other renderings have been given , e.g. Scait ,
Skait , Skath ( ibid 7th Report , App. Pp.711-715 ).
The above is transcribed from a paper by Mungo Headrick entitled “ The Stayt of Crieff – a Bronze Age Burial
Site ” circa 1860 .
Location : Regrettably present day searchers scouring the well detailed
Ordnance Survey maps in both the Landranger ( 000 ) or the Pathfinder ( 000 ) will do so in vain . The Stayt of
Crieff has according to the cartographers of that well respected organisation
vanished ! The 1932 edition as well as earlier versions , showed the locus of
this historic site as well as the closely linked , but now vanished , standing
stone in the adjoining field . The OS reference is NN 866 207 . In practical
terms it is on the south side of Broich
Road (after Duchlage Farm ) some 100 yards before
the road leading to the High School and Recreation Centre .
The History of the Stayt : The most accurate account historically and
archeologically is that written by Mungo Headrick away back in 1the 1860s . It
has been largely forgotten so I reproduce it in entirety for the sake of future
searchers of the truth ! Incidently Mungo was an ancestor of an oldfriend of mineand well known Crieff worthy the late Fraser
The Stayt of Crieff – A
Bronze Age Burial Site by
Quite recently there came into the
possession of The National Museum of Antiquities , Edinburgh , an urn of dark
colour . The urn is of the food vessel type ( see page 1 ) , stands 4 5/8
inches in height , expands from a width of 5 ¼ inches at the moth to a width of
5 ¾ inches at the shoulder , and thence contracts to base of about 3 inches in
diameter . Three slightly raised mouldings encircle it : at the lip . at the
shoulder and midway between . The shoulder moulding is ornamented by a double
row oftriangular punctulations and
the other two by a single row of similar markings . The vessel is encircled
between the central moulding and that on the shoulder , as well as on the
inward sloping rim , by two transverse lines formed by the imprint of a twisted
cord of two strands of clay when soft . The transverse lines are not continuous
Being interrupted in three places by a number of vertical lines formed in the
same way as the transverse lines . Hanging from the shoulder is a series of
impinging and inverted chevrons each filled in with like markings , drawn on
the clay with a pointed tool . The urn , it is stated , had been found in a
cist near Crieff in 1860 . No more definite indication of the locality of the
find is given and the purpose of this paper is ( first ) to identify the mound
in which the cist was exposed , and ( second ) to show that the mound had been
in use as a place of justice when courts were held in the open air . , down to
a date near the end of the seventeenth century .
Prior to the year 1860 there stood on the lands of Broich , near Crieff , a low
mound some 12 yards in diameter , which had at one time been surrounded by a
wall of earth and stone . The site is indicated on the O.S . map at a point
some 330 yards to the east of the entrance to Broich , on the south side of the
road leading from Crieff to Highlandman , and on the field side of the narrow
belting of wood which skirts the road at that part . In the month of November
1860 the mound was levelled and ploughed over , and in the course of the operations
two cists containing human remains were exposed , along with an urn of clay the
measurement of which is given as 5 inches in height by 5 inches across the
mouth . The finds were duly recorded at the time in the local press ** , from
which the following particulars are taken : -
17th November 1860 : “ One of the urns ( cists ? ) was simply composed of blue
whinstone sides , the ends of red sandstone . These were laid roughly together
. The bones deposited were very much decomposed and broken , so much so that ,
had it not been for the presence of a pretty complete heel bone , ulna , , rib
etc ., it would have been difficult to determine whether they were human
remains or not . Some of these are crumbled to an almost impalpable white
powder , and others are appear to have been subjected to the action of fire ……
The second deposit of bones was less formal – resting in the solid soil , and
covered over with three rough slabs of no great size ….There is an immense
boulder , weighing over a ton , which has not yet been displaced , but which is
supposed to cover the upper slab of a cist . ”
24th November 1860 : “ The huge stone ,
weighing close on two tons being removed , disclosed a sandstone slab 5 feet 3
inches by 2 feet 2 inches , and about a 1 ( foot ?) thick . Beneath this slab
was another of those little cists or cinerary boxes measuring 2 feet 6 inches
by 1 foot 6 inches , and about 10 inches deep , and composed of rough slabs .
The bones found in this were in that abnormal pulverised state which we discussed
last week …. An interesting vase , somewhat in the style of an Etrurian vessel
, has been found in that last discovered grave .It is globular; stands 5 inches
high , with a mouth about 5 inches across and is made of clay hardened by fire
. There are rude attempts at floriated decoration round the vase , somewhat in
a “ herring
bone “ pattern , and evidently done by pats of a trowel or what served the
maker for one . This relic is now in the possession of A. Monteith Esq ., of
Broich . ”
8th December 1860 : “ We will now
take a glance at the interior of the quasi** tomb
before it was touched by the intruder’s feet . The surface of the bottom was
smoothly laid with clay …. An urn lay on its side ….and beside it lay a small
heap of ( it is supposed ) cremated human bones . The moulds was of a dark
brown colour , and had a rich , soft , velvety feel . “
It will be seen that the urn now in the National Museum corresponds with that
taken out of this mound ; and as there is no record of any other urn having
been found in a cist near Crieff in 1860 , the conclusion is irresistible that
it is the same .
It was on this mound that the court of the Earls of Strathearn and the stewards
or seneschals was held , when such courts were held in the open . from the
Statistical Accounts we learn that the old Tolbooth in Crieff was erected in
1665 for the accommodation of the steward’s court , “ which from this period
ceased to be held in the open air . “ It is known that some forty volumes of
records of the steward’s court were stored in the Tolbooth , and that they were
ruthlessly destroyed by soldiery quartered there in 1798 , who used the tomes
for fuel !
Strathearn Herald , 17th and 24th November and 8th December 1860