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 language of Crieff and Strathearn in
the 1790s and how a concertedeffort was
made in the 18th Century to remove Gaelic as the spoken language of
Likemany Scots , I have a thoroughly mixed
pedigree .I do believe that this factor , perhapsmore than anyother , allowsone to analyse and
appreciateone’s genetic heritage
without the innate prejudice that all too frequently mars true objectivity in
Scottishdiscussions especially those concerning politics and religion ! My maternal great grand parents Archibald
and Mary McFarlanewereborn and raised in thedelightful Kintyre village of Clachan some
miles south of the fishing port of Tarbert on Loch Fyne in the County of Argyll
– the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada . They
were first cousins – theirfathers
Duncan and Archibald McFarlanebeing brothers.
Archibaldwassome eleven years older thanMary andwas a widower at the time of their marriage in Campbeltown in 1864 .
Both were native Gaelic speakers and were educated at the smallvillage school in Clachan . Family anecdotes
passeddown through the generations tell
us that the only non Gaelic speakingpersonin theschool at the timewas the teacher ! Thissomewhat bizarre situationwas notto uncommon in HighlandScotland
in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Clachan school was run by an organisation known as the
SSPCK or to give it itsfull “ handle” – The Society in Scotland for the Propagation Of Christian Knowledge .
It was formed by Royal Charter in 1709 for the purpose of founding schools and
they proudly proclaimed “where
religion and virtue might be taught to young and old in the Scottish Highlands
and other uncivilised areas of the country.”
Their schools were
part of a programmeby the Established Church of Scotland – known as the “ Kirk
“to extend its influence throughout the
country and to include thoseparts of
Scotland known in Gaelic asa'ghàidhealtachd or those parts of Scotland where Gaelicwas spoken as the dominant andfirst language by thelocal population. This,remember, was still in the aftermath period of the
Jacobite rising and the Presbyterian Kirk was somewhatparanoiacabout those who espoused the old
faiths – the Episcopalians andthe
Catholics . Many of the Highland Clans
still adhered to these traditional Christian forms of worship but to those
ofCalvinistic disposition they were now
an anathema in Scotland amongst the establishedPresbyterian society . The fact that Kirk had already startedto fragmentwith the first Secessionin 1733
is perhapsindicative of itsfailureto appreciate the importance of other viewpoints in those far off days .
The Kirk was already working with support from a tax on
landowners to provide a school in every parish.The SSPCK had 5 schools by 1711, 25 by 1715, 176 by 1758 and 189 by 1808
with 13,000 pupils attending.Initially the
SSPCK avoided using Gaelic with the result that pupils learned by rote without
understanding what they read.My great grandparents
experience appearsnot to have been that
unusual in Highland Scotland . In the late 18th and early 19th
centuries, the attitude of most Lowland Scots towards the Highlanders was one
of disdain and contemptfor both their
language and their way of life .
following is an extract from the published Statistical Account of the Parish of
Kilcalmonell in which Clachan was situated .
“ Language : The Gaelic is the vernacular
language of the parishioners but the English is displacing it and the sooner it
overmasters it the better “
Onecan examine the written wordscontainedwithin the Statistical Accountsof Scotland produced for every parish in the country in the 1790s and
the 1830s .
The two Statistical Accounts of Scotland,
covering the 1790s and the 1830s, are among the best contemporary reports of
life during the agricultural and industrial revolutions in Europe.
Based largely on information supplied by
each parish church minister Statistical Accounts of Scotland provide a rich
record of a wide variety of topics: wealth, class and poverty; climate,
agriculture, fishing and wildlife; population, schools, and the moral health of
the people. ( University of Leicester )
Thanks to the
wonders of the Internet one can access them all on the Edina ( Universities of
Edinburgh and Glasgow ) web site
Go to “ For non
subscribers “ and click on the “ browse scanned pages “. You then enter theParish ( or County )name in the appropriate box .
wereconditions like in Strathearn and
particular in the town ofCrieff
situatedright on theborderbetween Highland and lowland Scotland ?The following extracts from the aforementioned Statistical Accounts written in the 1790s is self explicit regarding the prevailing attitude in some quarters towards Gaelic and its culture .
The people speak the English language in
the best Scotch dialect ; although Gaelic be commonly spoken at a distance of
three miles north , or four miles west of Crieff , yet no adult natives of the
Lowland part of the Parish can speak or understand it .They have not even
contracted the peculiartone of that
language by their intercourse with the numerous Highland families now residing
in the town . Many of these indeed understandno other language but the Gaelic , and their children born in Crieff
speak that alone as their mother tongue . The great number of these Highland
families , their general poverty , their frequent ignorance in the grand
subjects of revelation , their incapacity of deriving benefitfrom the public religious service performed
in the English language , the happy effects to themselves and society that may
result from a proper regard to their interest and comfort , are all such , as
justify to meritthehumane attention and friendly aid of the
Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. A small annuity allotted to a
prudent man qualified to instruct and catechise these people on Sundays , would
be an act of piety andbeneficence .
Character and Language
Like the generality of the common
Highlanders , the lower ranks here are here modest , peaceable and very
obliging .There are few law suits among them and there have been none for these
10 years , exceptabout legacies ,
multures and marches , They are frugal , moderate and industrious , and except
at merry meetings are not much addicted to drinking – the common language of
the people is Gaelic . All the natives understand it , but many , especially of
the old, do not understand English well
.All the young people can speak English , but in order to acquire it , they
must go to service in the Low Country.The
Gaelic is not spoken in its purity, neither here , or in the bordering parishes
The inhabitants of the northern halfof the Parish use among themselves the
Gaelictongue ; all of them can however
speak English which is the only language spoken or understood on the south side
of the hill .
This parish being situated on the borders
of the Highlands , and having much intercourse and connectionwith the natives , we need not be surprised
to find that Gaelic is spoken in the back part of it , and the old Scotch
dialect in the fore part , spoken with the Gaelic tone and accent . There are ,
however , very few persons in the whole Parish who do not speak or understand
Gaelic . Most of the names of places are evidently derived from that language
and are expressive of their local situation .
The Society in
Scotlandfor the Propagation Of
Christian Knowledge .
The expansion of
the Society was only possible by the generous and sometimes large accessions of
capital particularly from its wealthy Presbyteriansupporters in Lowland
Edinburgh .In the
second charter by George II of 1738 the Society was empowered over and above
the purposes of the original patent “to instruct pupils in husbandry,
housewifery, trading, manufacturing or manual occupations”.The Society main ambitionwouldappear to havebeen the
establishment of charity schools throughout the Highlands. Their attitudetowards the Gaelic language and itsculture went a longway to destroying an already vulnerable but
established way of life . A ban on teaching Gaelic literacy was not lifted
until the 1760s and isgenerally
regarded as part of their overall strategy toattemptto destroy the language “
in the hopesof producing a greater
civilisationin the Highlands”
Today when I leave
Crieff for a day out to enjoy thebeautiesof Strathearn , I am conscious that the vastmajority of the hills , mountainsand lochs shown on my map are still named in the language of
our fore fathers . For thatwe should be
deeply thankful How sad that notenough
was doneto maintainour very oldand rich heritage and that so much has been lost .
( Robert Bain 1865 - 1955, father of Elizabeth Colvin Bain )
I recall many moonsago talkingto three charming
elderly sistersin a pleasant end
terrace house in Nellfield Road Crieff . In thosedays the housesoverlookedthe green expanse of what were the girls’ hockey pitches of Morrison’s
Academy , a well establishedseat of
learning in our small town . The eldest of the ladieswas Elizabeth Colvin Bain- a retiredgeography teacherfrom the
Academy and unbeknown to me then a more than competent amateur archaeologist !
Elizabeth Bain died in 1999 aged94 years but left behind an incrediblelegacy of applied logic and analysis in her
examinationofthe desertedsettlements of Glenlednock . The study has been published in an abbreviated form by the University of Edinburgh in a small booklet
( ISBN0 907692 47 8) . I first read about her findings in the old Crieff Library in Comrie Street . They were typed out in the old " foolscap " paper on an old typewriter and carefully bound . I copied numerous pages for my own benefit and realised that it was not the presentation of her work but the quality that was really relevant ! The study was not solo effort by Elizabeth Bain as she gratefully acknowkledged those who had assisted her over the long years ! Names listed included Mr and Mrs Robert Miller of Crieff, Sheila Rimmer ( McIntyre ),Lucy and Hunter Smith , B Phillip and Jean Comrie , Tail Farm , Fowlis Wester.
The Glenlednock study was based on the cartographer Stobie’s
map of 1783 which delinated theexistingsettlements at that time
. The date is significant aswe are
still in the period of theCrieff Tryst andthe glenwas on one of the main cattleroutes from the westto Crieff in
the heart of Strathearn . Although the Crieff Tryst declined in popularity
between 1760 and 1770 whilst thatof
Falkirk increased , the map is indicativeof the number of establishedsettlements in that period . Bain’s quantification of the glen’s
population is based onboth the parish
registersand the Censusreturns . The parish records for Comrie
commencedin 1693 and those of
Monzievaird in 1729 so birth, baptismal and marriage records forthe people of the glen are accessible
althoughas thesewere not compulsory registrationsthey are more indicative than exact .Likewise
the Census informationis restricted to
the periodfrom 1841 when the first
National censuswith householddetails was undertaken . These National
censuseswere done every ten years and
Bainhasutilised population figures from 1841 ,1851, 1861 , 1871 , 1881 and 1891
somewhat later thanwhen the glenwas at its highest occupancy .The foreword to
the study clearlyconfirms this point : “ Later census returns did not cover all
sites since some had already been deserted by 1841 ”
The Glen was chosen for one main reason namely its
comparative isolation and enclosed naturewith only one direct access, the old roadshown on Stobie’s map , going up mainly by
the left bank of the River Lednock and fording it in several places. A second
route may have been in existence later , up the short glen of the Milton Burn
leading to the habitations of Lurg , Carroglen and Balmuik .Whatis interesting .
The Lednock risesabouteight milesto the north west of
the village of Comrie at s height ofabout 2 000 feet and flows east as the Allt an Druichd. It is
jpinesamile downstream , by the Allt na
Creiche , from the northandbecomes the Lednock flowing in a south east
directionalong a flat valley floorat 1100 feet. Till itdebouchesto the lower valley at Spout Rollo.
The Glen was greatly alteredby the construction of the Hydo – Electric above Spout Rollo .Two
settlements , Baluachker and Boven , were demolished during the construction
period and thesecan be identified on the attachedcopy of Stobie’s map . The third one in this
vicinity , Keplandie , survived and was recordedas being in ruins on thefirst 6 inch ordnance survey map of the area
publishedabout 1870 .
Half a mile
downstreamlies the second level section
,broader to the west of the river at 730 feet , till it is joined on the right
bank by the Daden Burn . Thereafter the plain broadens out on the left
bankproducing the most extensive area
of level land in the whole glen .
The side streamshere were of considerable importanceas they cut down into the alluvium , each
producing its own little terrace suitablefor settlement buildingswithout
prejudicing the use of better land for cultivation .
The Daden site was
particularly interesting as an example of this . The burn dropped from its
source at 1800 feetto 750 feet in only
one mile and in spate had altered course several times on reaching the Lednock
valley , and had strewn large boulders at no distance from th settlement .
There appearedto havebeen two periods of buildingand yet the people had persisted in using the
site in spite of great dnger , because just up stream was the one good
areasuitedto cultivation, as the good corn dryingkiln proves . The right bankof the burn was a high gravel bank liable to
collapse into the water.
Below the confluence
of the Geldie Burn from the north east , a rocky stretch constricted the main
stream till beyond Ballindalloch it suddenly changed directionto the south eastand then east north east as it met a belt of
diorite , forming another level area .
BeyondTigh na shee it is deeply incised for over
quarter of a mile till it reaches another level stretch at the confluencewith the Lurg Burn . Here an old course is
plain to see on the left bank , while on the right several levels and terraces
are seen . Thereafterit has a series of
entrenched sections , till at the Deil’s Cauldron it hascut a deep gorge with rapidsfor the mostof the remainder of its course , till it meets the RiverEarn in Comrie .
It has been noted that
the best land lay near the Innergeldie Farm but the lack of any remains there ,
was regarded as proof of its greater prosperity and the likelihoodof more frequent replacement ofold and outworn buildings. It also led to a searchbeing mademuch higher up into the hillsand
the discovery of . it is thought , both settlements and sheilings at 1450 feet
of altitude .
Land Use in the Past
By analysing the censusreturnsfrom 1841 to 1891 we
learn that the population of the Glen declined by one third over that period . The
employment pattern is , as onewould
expect , relatedto the land with
farmers, farm labourers or outdoorservants , ploughmen , gamekeepers and shepherds
dominating withfemales and children as
young as 12 years carryingout duties as
dairymaids , housekeepers and servants .
On 14 sites there were small gardens or in some cases small
fields . One site at Keplandiethere
wasfounda circular kail yard ( cabbagepatch ) with a diameterofsome22 feet with no
entrancethuspreserving theproduce from damageby invadingstock .Thesesmall areas supplied
thefamily with vegetables such as
potatoes , turnips , kail , grain, oats, bere or barley . Examination ofa number of the sitesshowed that nearly every site had a corn
dryingkilneven if located at a high altitude .
What size were the farms in the Glen? Again the study relies
on the census returns and the following are all located on the appended map .
Balnacoul (1)10 acres
Balnacoul ( 2) 10 acres
West Ballindalloch40 acres arable and 250 acres hill .
East Ballindalloch 40
acres arable and 50 acres hill . In later censusreturns ithadgrown in sizeto 200
acresin total with 19 acres
arableand in thefinal census ( 1891 ) 200 acreswith some 30 arable .
Tynashee 35 acres
Carroglen700 acresgrowing later to1140 acreswith60 acres arable and finallyto 1200 acreswith50 acres arable
Balmuik1200 acresgrowing later to 1230 acreswith 50 acres arable and finally1230 with 50 acres arable .
By 1871 Numbrs 1,2, 5 and 6 were no longer on the census It
could be noted that fter the demise of the several sites atBalnacoul , Ballindalloch across the river
increased its acreage , perhaps taking in that land . Strangely it was found
that the acreagefor the largest estate Innergeldie
, was never given yet it hadmoreemployees than any other property in the
One of the structures most
resistant to decay was the kiln of which nearly every settlement had one and
sometimes two . Three were completely grassed over , making it uncertain which
type they were . Nine had an external diameter of around 5 metres, seven of
four and two, less than four . All were built of water worn boulders except that
in the several lime burning kilns , the central flue was of large cut slabs
reducing in size to the base . Some had more extensive wingsto the flue . in nearly every case the flue
facedeach other across the burn (
stream ) , presumably to get the down draught on the hill slope .
Two large lime kilns
wereseen between East and West
Ballindalloch , one built into the terrace edge and now often seen smoking with
burning rubbish . The other is a roadside bank, the top now a repository for
old barbed wire and farm ironmongery . It is in very good condition . One near
Tighnasithe had been converted from corn drying to lime burning .
sourceof lime may have been to the west
end of Loch Earn whence it was brought by boat to Port More ( now St Fillans )
. A difficult routemay have been
usedto bring it from the Loch Tay
areato the north .
The corn drying kilns
were foundat varying altitudes , the
highest being at Keplandieat 1100
feetOD . The chances of grain ripening
at that height must have been very slight indeed. It was one of the half dozen which
had a back store.
Whilst there isno visual
proof that flax was grown , several sites seem to suggest the existence of
retting ponds which were basicto the
production of flax for the making of linen . Tighnacroidh still has a small
pond between the site and the River Lednock . One site at Balmuikhad a small circular area built up on one
side and at Glaslarichthere is a wide
areabuilt up on the north east side ,
now enclosing reeds and bracken .Two settlementswere on this hill ridge withthirty two structures which suggests a good
source of the labour force required in flax production .
The Keeping of Stock
the considerableextent of cattlehusbandry . At Glenmaik , the remains of one buildingrevealed a central drain with itsexit still visible . This was the byrewith the house at the western end . On the
three sites ( Balmuik , Glaslarich andLurg ) there were short stretches of cattle road , about 5 metresacross the top of the v shaped cut . Theseseem to lead from the lower groundto the higher settlements or sheilingsattached to these properties .
On several sites there wasevidence ofwhat were folds for
the animals and on othershigher up
there was evidence of stonesheep
sheltersor stells . Therewas also evidence of the presence of shielingsat Innergeldieand Carroglen Hills ( a sheiling is a summer habitation usedwhen thecattlewere grazing on the higher
summer pasturage ) .
In the early life of the Glen , the economy would havebeen based on cattle and gardenor field produce . By the middle of the 18th
centurysheep of the Linton breed had
reached the Strathyre – Lochearnhead region .
Two large sheiling groupswere noted at about 1450 feet some two miles up the Geldie Burn . This extensive group numbered30 on the rightbank and a further 29 on the right bank of
the tributary . The former was arrangedboth
horizontally , rising up from the terrace edge and separatedvertically by shallow wet flushes into five
groups . The latterwas much more
compact in one largeon the slope . To
this day , the site is green and grassy, whilst immediately to its rightis nothing but heather and to the left the burn .
Because of the non compulsory nature ofpre 1855 ( the date of commencement of
Statutory Registration ) parish records there isno way in which to ascertain with anydegree of accuracy the population of the Glen
. Names that predominate in the parish records are McOwan ( a variant of McEwan
) and Campbell . MaleChristian/ forenamesthat dominate are John , Duncan , James ,Donald
and Archibaldwhilst the femalenameshave Janet , Margaret , Katherine , Elizabeth , Christian, Ann , Mary ,
Helen and Jean with Jessie only appearing post 1841.
The census returns showthat the overall population of the Glenfell from 170 in 1841to 108 in
1891 . In 1841there were 90 females and
80 maleswhilst 50 yearslater in 1891 there were 56 males and 52
females . Several families did not live long in the Glen Fergusons were at Lurg
in 1802and were still there in 1891 .
Innergeldie was occupiedby Craigs from
1881 till 1945and a family of McEwan’s
with children born between 1800 and1812were the lastfamily recordedin Tighnashee in 1851 .
Halfway through the 19th Century many new
surnamesand Christian namesappear in the Glen . These were new
arrivalsfrom all over Scotlandand some from England. The Scots
incomerscame from a variety of airts
including Argyll , Perthshire , Skye , Lanarkshire , Glasgow, Fife ,
Roxburgh and Dumfries .
This influx undoubtedly changed the character and
homogeneity of the Glen but the closeness of thevariouscommunities that existedwithin the Glen undoubtedly produced a close and familiar society .
The language particularly in the 19th Century was Gaelic - Comrie until into the 19th Century was Highland and Gaelic speaking . By the late 19th Century it had all but gone !
It isoften assumed that
every community, every town and indeed every small villagein Scotland had its school froman early date . Glenlednockseemshowever to have missed out from what can bededucedfrom archival evidence . Between 1693 and the first census in 1841 thereappearsa mention of the
occupation of schoolmaster only onceand
that isin 1804 / 1805 . There isno evidenceheld to indicate the presence of a school in the Glen prior to 1838and no log book or register has been located
. The Statistical Account of 1844 ( a
record of every Parish in Scotland ) mentions that “ endowments are lacking in this glen where the people can only afford
ateacher in the winter time ”.It is
possible that any master in the type of small school for which a fee was paid wouldonly continue if remuneration was forthcoming
. Itseems clear that schooling did not
play much of a part in the life of the children in the Glen . Life was
hardand workeven for the young wasessential if they were to survive .