Sunday, 8 March 2015

Crieff at the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1897







Victoria reigned  from 1837  to 1901 – an incredible 64  years . She  celebrated  her Diamond Jubilee of  60 years  upon the throne in 1897 .

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 !
















Burrell Square formerly The Octagon

“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 10 am . 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 Murray 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 Waterloo 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 .

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 four o’clock 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  seven o’clock in the evening  that the male population  is most in evidence . Newmarket 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 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  with 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 .”


Murray Fountain in 1893 , some four years  prior to the Jubilee




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