Meikle Mill— Ericht Linen Works—Greenbank Engineering "Works—Millwright
Works—Brewing—Ancient Trade—Recollections of the Past—A Merchant’s Rhyme—The
Whisky Roadie and its Associations—Duncan Watchie—Posty Reid—The Toon’s
Officers—The Guard-House—The Bell o’ Blair—Lily Harris—Matthew Harris—Tammy
Mann—Daft Harry—John Couper—Quoit Club—Candy Betty—Smith Lamont— Voluntary
Constables—Abram Low and the Welltown Brownies— Isaac Low, the Ingenious
BEFORE 1796 a considerable
quantity of flax was grown in the parish, the produce of which was spun on
the ordinary spinning-^ heel by domestic servants and women who were not fit
for any harder work, and it was quite a common thing for them to earn 2s 6d
to 4s a-week in this -way.
In days gone by the
manufactures of Blairgowrie, as iu most villages and towns in Scotland, were
confined to the hand loom. Over a century ago, spinning was first
introduced, and Blairgowrie shortly after that period became the centre of a
extensive handloom and hand-spinning industry.
It was common in the end of
last century and the earlier part of this century for a person to possess a
little bit of land in the vicinity of the town, in which flax was
cultivated, and afterwards, by the hand of the grower, manufactured, retted,
and steeped in the neighbouring lochs. The flax harvest of those days was
quite an event, and the strength of the domestic establishment of the flax
cultivator was often employed in gathering the pro-luction of the earth. Now
the cultivation has entirely -•eased.
The founders in Blairgowrie
of that important branch of commerce — the linen trade — were David Grimond,
W, Fyfe, J. Milne, Baxter, Dick, Morrice, Cairncross, M'Intosh, and G.
Saunders—ali men of great force of character, perseverance, and business
Prior to 1840 the only
branches of the manufacture carried on here were the spinning of flax and
tow into yarn and the weaving of these yarns into cloth of various fabrics.
There wrere five spinning-mills in the parish engaged iu flax manufacture,
all the machinery of which was driven by water. The following table shows
the number of hands engaged at each of the mills :—
The flax used at these mills
was imported into Dundee from the Baltic ports, and after being spun into
yarn was either conveyed to Dundee for sale there or disposed of to the
manufacturers in the neighbourhood and in Alyth and Gonpar Angus. The value
of flax weekly* consumed in the three mills in operation in the immediate
vicinity of the town in 1840 was from £400 to £500, or from £20,000 to
£26,000 per annum, and the value of yarn spun at the same mills, from £650
to £700 per week, or about from £33,000 to £36,000 per annum.
The other branch of
manufacture, the weaving of yarn into cloth, employed about 370 hands. The
yarns were purchased by the master manufacturers of the place, who employed
weavers to weave it into cloth, which was sent ' to Dundee and sold to the
cloth-merchants there. Part of the cloth was shipped direct, at the risk of
the manufacturers, to North and South America and France. The greater part
of the cloth manufactured consisted of Osna-burgs and coarse sheetings, but
there was also a considerable quantity of fine dowlas and drill
At an early period in the
18th century flax was grown to a moderate extent, and continued to be
cultivated for a considerable time. During the winter months the whole of
the quantity raised was spun in the parish, the 1 rents of many of the
smaller farmers being mostly paid for with the money got for the yarn. The
husbandry ° was long of the rudest description, but in 1780 there was a
decided improvement in it. More land was cultivated, and better crops were
The flax was generally sown
about the end of April, in a portion of the division for oats, and when the
season was suitable a fair crop was produced. Considerable quantities of
foreign flax, besides the home grown, were spun. About 1788 the two-handed
wheel superseded the single one, and thus the spinning capabilities of the
workers were doubled.
The weavers employed by the
manufacturers were paid for their work by the piece, and their earnings
averaged, for the men, 8s, and for the women, 5s per week, working 14 hours
per day. The whole of the weaving was done by handlooms, no machinery being
employed for that purpose.
Since the erection of the
“Meikle Mill” in 1798, the hanks of the beautiful and romantic Ericht have
been studded with spinning mills, and the rush of its waters affords
employment to a large population.
Throughout many parts of the
country the flax spinning mills driven by water power have, from a variety
of causes, been demolished or turned to other purposes; but this does not
apply to the district of Blairgowrie. Here the water power is sufficient to
drive moderate sized mills steadily and profitably, but it is not so large
as to admit of great extensions, and many of the mills therefore remain as
they were originally erected.
James Grimond, of Oakbank
Mill, was the first spinner whom Watt induced to make a trial of jute. He
cut it into lengths, heckled it, span the line into 3-lb. yarn (16 lea), the
quality of which was excellent. The jute first used by him was of remarkably
fine fibre, soft and silky, with spinning properties superior to the bulk of
what is now imported.
Jute has now the principal
place in the staple trade, there being a number of small manufactories
engaged entirely in the spinning of yarns.
The proprietors are a
respectable body of spinners, most attentive to business, and well worthy of
the wealth which they have acquired. They labour under the disadvantage of
having to attend the markets in Dundee once or twice a-week for the purchase
of the raw
material and the sale of its
produce, but this is a disadvantage shared by the spinners and manufacturers
in other towns, and it is more than counterbalanced by the cheap motive
powef supplied by the Ericht. The extension of the railway system, in 1855,
to Newtyle, Coupar Angus, and Blairgowrie, contributed greatly to the
changing of the method of conducting business, and, in no less marked
degree, on account of the facilities afforded by it for the rapid
transmission of goods, to the increase of trade.
Is situated on. aud driven
by, the Lornty Burn. It was built about the year 1814 by David Grimond, a
progenitor of the present proprietor. Grimond, who was originally a
millwright, observing that there was a fall which could be advantageously
turned to account for driving flax-spinning machinery, arranged with Colonel
Macpherson, the proprietor, for a site, and built a mill j of modest
dimensions, in which he had four frames, the clear profit on which was about
£5 or £6 per week. This mill was subsequently extended, and, though it has a
quiet, retired, and rather antiquated appearance compared ! with some of the
other mills in the neighbourhood, a considerable amount of business is still
done in it.
Was built by David Grimond.
It stands close on the banks of the Ericht, but the machinery is driven b>
the water of the Lornty Burn, which is collected iu another dam after
driving Lornty Mill. The water is retained in the dam by a strong wooded
breastwork across < the ravine, and is applied to the Brooklinn Mill by
means t of a wheel about five feet in diameter. It is on the lower end of a
vertical shaft running up the gable of the mill. ' , The water is conveyed
in a pipe to the wheel, and the [ surface of the water in the dam being
nearly 40 feet ; above the level of the wheel, there is a pressure of about
[ 20 lbs. per square inch. The water is conducted to the f lower side of the
wheel, which it enters at the centre , and leaves at tangential orifices at
the circumference. The wheel takes 180 revolutions per minute, and gives
nearly 25 horse power.
Was bnilt about 1836 by John
Baxter, and was originally used for the spinning of flax and tow. New
machinery was afterwards erected for spinning jute, of which about 5000
spindles per week were produced, in cops and weft, principally for the
Dundee trade. Several years ago the entire mill was burned down; it was,
however, re-erected, but has not been in operation. About 100 hands were
wont to be employed in the mill. It is now possessed by John Grimond of
Was commenced many years ago,
and was successfully worked by James Grimond, brother of the originator of
On James Grimond’s death,
David Grimond (his nephew) succeeded. The mill was burned down in the spring
of 1872, the fire arising from a gas jet igniting some of the tow.
The damage done was very
great, and 170 people were temporarily thrown out of employment; but the
proprietor soon had the mill erected and started again. It is entirely
driven by water power.
The Meikle Mill
Has been familiar to the
inhabitants of Blairgowrie for several generations, and it must have been
regarded as a very important as well as extensive institution in its earlier
days. About the beginning of the century it belonged to Peter M‘Intosh, who
first introduced the art of spinning by means of machinery into the
district. Subsequent to M‘Iutosh’s time Bailie Dick had the “Muckle Mill”
but, unfortunately, he failed in business, and in consequence the mill stood
idle for some time. It has since been in the hands of numerous owners,
including John Adamson, formerly of Erichtside Works, and Drummond, who
disposed of it to James Luke & Co., of Kricht Linen Works, which are
situated on the other wde of the road from it.
'Luke & Co. had the mill
fitted with new machinery adapted for their own business. Some of their
machinery flvas also contained in a smaller building a little further down
the river, and driven by a small turbine, where the old “Plash Mill ” used
Ericht Linen Works
Were erected in 1867 from
designs by Thomson Bros., Dundee, and form a handsome aud conveniently
arranged block of buildings, which have the advantage of being situated
within the town of Blairgowrie, and therefore near the homes of the
In 1891 Luke & Co., the
proprietors of the “Muckle Mill” aud Ericht Linen Works, suspended payment,
and the works were closed. They were, however, put iu operation again, with
W. A. M'Intyre & Co. as managers, in the autumn of 1897.
As makers of agricultural
implements of all kinds, especially harvesting reapers—the Scotia,
Speedwell, and Bisset Binder—the firm of J. Bisset & Sons has attained
worldwide reputation. .
It is now nearly half-a-ceutury
since the works were started at Marlee, on a comparatively small scale, by
John Bisset. The demands of trade necessitated the extension of premises,
and about 20 years ago Greenbank Works were erected.
Year by year additions have
been made, and the works now cover a great extent of ground. A large staff
of workmen are employed, and hundreds of reapers, binders, diggers, &c., are
annually put out to all parts of the world.
In consequence of the death
of Thos. S. Bisset, the managing partner, the proprietorship has been
converted into a Limited Liability Company.
Since the beginning of the
century a flourishing business of millwright work has been carried on by
John Abercromby. The grandfather of the present proprietor erected the first
thrashing-mill in the district at Blairgowrie House, about 100 years ago,
which proved very successful, and his services were much sought after for
many miles around.
The Scottish brewers have
long been famed for the excellent quality of their beer and ales, and the
liquor manufactured by James Ogilvy, in Allan Street, Blairgowrie, can bear
comparison with any. It is well known and much appreciated in town and
country. The bottling premises and brewery in Allan Street are of great
extent, and capable of storing a large stock.
The manufacture of temperance
beverages is carried on to a considerable extent by William Stewart in his
premises at Croft Lane.
of the Past.
An old inhabitant, long since
departed, used to relate that he recollected when “ there were only 4 slated
houses in Blairgowrie, and only 1 inhabitant for every 60 (of his latter
days) ; then it had 1 ministei and dominie ; it had a brewer and a few
drinkers ; a baker who lived a hungry life; a butcher, small of paunch, who
seldom killed a beast; a miller not much troubled with dust;. a smith with
too many irons in the fire; a cloth merchant who generally wore a very seedy
coat, and came to serve his customers after dark by the light of a rozetty
stick ; a barber nick-named Skin-em-alive—the byeword ran thus :—
‘You are like the barber o’
Wha tak’s the skin an’ leaves the hair;’
a tailor who whipped the cat
at twopence a-day ; there were some laws, but no lawyers to teach them ;
broken bones and various diseases, but no doctor to scob and drug us; we had
no banks and little money—the Bible was the only bank for paper notes and an
‘old hugger ’ for coin; we had no brokers and nothing to pawn; the town’s
bellman used to perambulate the town
With his bell and intimate to
the inhabitants that ‘ good beef at fnurpence a-pound is on sale at John
Lowrie’s— the Bailie’s taen ae leg, an’ the minister anither, but gif nae
ither person tak’s a third leg the ox will no be killed.”’
About the beginning of this
(the 19th) century the whole mercantile space of the town was comprised
between the foot of Brown Street and the Royal Bank.
An old shopkeeper used to
remark that he could recollect every merchant and public man between these
points upon the shady side of the street—w hich somehow was never so
prosperous as the other—the names of whom were introduced into a rhyme
taught the children then —
“Jeems Does mak’s shune;
Jimmy Johnstone’s saut’s dune;
Tinsmith Brisbane works the tile;
Peter tak’s folk tae the jile;
John Pennycook sells beef;
Doctor Edward gi’es relief;
Daniel llaclaren sells dear;
Tammas Johnstone, auctioneer;
Saddler Sim has little sale;
John Tyrie brews ale.”
he had no distinct
recollection of the shopkeepers on the other side of the street, as they had
One of those buildings, long
occupied as a public-house, aud tenanted by a person named John M'Gregor
about the year 1830, was demolished in 1890 to allow of improvements. (The
property of Wm. Crockart, gunsmith, now occupies the site, in Allan Street.)
The house was built with the
gable-end to the street, but about ten feet back from the line, and to
increase the accommodation a peculiarly-shaped addition, known as “ the
coffin,” was built. The sign over the house was very interesting, painted on
a ground of plaster:—“John M'Gregor, Flesher; Ales and Whisky,” with emblems
of conviviality, viz., punch-bowl, mutehkin-stoup, a large dram-glass, a
small glass, and water-jug. Though the rooms were small many a rowdy meeting
made, them resound with uproarious mirth.
Passing the front of the
house, and through the garden to Croft Lane, was another lane, known as “The
Whisky Roadie,” which allowed drouthy neighbours to get unobserved to “ The
Coffin ” at all hours.
The old Newton Burn, at the
beginning of the century, ran open down through the fields to and east the
High Street, descended to Allan Street by the back of M‘Gregor’s
public-house, then down to the top of the Well-meadow, and from thence past
Lower Mill Street to the Ericht.
One of the old merchants,
Duncan Robertson, familiarly known as “Duncan Watchie," from his being a
watchmaker, occupied a shop on the east side of the Cross. Another, William
Todd, carried on a drapery business at the pointer of Brown Street. About
1820 Todd erected a small gas work behind his house, which proved very
successful, anil his brilliantly-lighted premises contrasted strongly with
the >f rozetty sticks ” and “cruizie” lamps of his neighbours. Where the
Public Hall now stands, upwards of seventy years ago, Sandy Waddell carried
on a business of blacksmith aud farrier. Johnnie Tam-son made barrels and
tubs and plied his coopering adjoining John Tyrie’s brewery, where Dr
Charles S. Lunan’s surgery now stands. John Bruce also carried on business
as a brewer and distiller at the west side of the “ Whisky Roadie.” Honest
Jamie Irvine was the town’s bellman and public messenger. John M‘Lachlan was
the “ kirke officer ” and parish sexton. In order to keep the peace during
the Fair, or on high occasions, a body of Special Constables were enrolled,
and householders were thus saved the expense of keeping night watchmen. The
chief of the “ force ” was Sandy Reid, more familiarly known as “Post” Reid.
(He had been a post-carrier in his younger days.) He was, during his sojourn
in Blairgowrie, the town officer, and was uniformed in a blue surtout with
red collar and metal buttous, and an old tile hat for a head-piece. Archie
Irons, for many years salmon fisher on the Ericht, was a constable as well
as sheriff-officer, and Willie Mustard acted as his assistant. David Peters
was a vintner and messenger-at-arms. (These all carried the small baton of
authority in their pockets.) Willie Johnstone, the writer, was Town Clerk,
with guid honest men for bailies.
In addition to his civic
appointments, Post Reid had to fill up spare time with scavenger work. The
town could not then boast of a Cleansing Department, so he had to keep the
streets clean in all weathers. After a rainy season he scraped the mud with
a large clatt, and formed what the children called “Post ” heaps at the
sides of the streets, where they were allowed to settle for months before
being carted away.
The business of the town was
usually conducted either in John Bruce’s or John Tyrie’s public-house, and,
a generation later, in Gardiner’s back shop. “Bookie” Robertson (another old
worthy) used to remark—“If we do the town’s business, we do it at the town’s
xpense and, “pu’in’ the hare’s fit,” he would call in another round.
The old “Guard-House” of
Blair, demolished about 1830, occupied a site near where the shop of James
Miller, watchmaker, now stands, in Allan Street. It stood back from the
street, leaving an open space in front. It had two compartments—the
guard-room and the inner ward where the prisoners were kept. The I window
sills w’ere level with the ground, and the opening was strongly stanchioned
with iron bars, and at the windows the unfortunate inmates were consoled,
advised, i comforted, and fed by their friends, or scorned and I taunted by
their enemies, without interference.
For a long time the ward was
without an occupant, and the Bailie let it to a vintner—Alexander Robertson,
known as “Moreover”—for the storage of potatoes. The Fair o’ Blair coming
on, it was thought advisable to have the guard-house ready in case of need;
aud ere that day had gone a riotous Highlander was safely lodged within its
precincts. After the freshness of his native glen, the odour of musty
potatoes was too much, and with mighty energy he forced an egress from his
prison by the window, but his freedom was of short duration. Speedily
recaptured, he was brought before the Bailie (Whitson, 1827) on a charge of
jail-breaking. Fortunately, for the credit of the town and the comfort of
the accused, the case broke down with the first witness called in the
Robertson, did you see this man breakin’ oot o’ the jile?”
“Troth, sir, an’ that is the
very man ’at cam’ oot o’ my tawtie-hoose! ”
It is needless to say that
the answer revealed the absurdity of the charge.
Hung between two high wooden
posts at the end of the guard-house was the “Auld Bell o’ Blair,” which was
rung on stated occasions until the Hansel Monday of 1832. The youngsters of
the town had free permission to ring the bell on these festive mornings, and
the violent tugging at the rope had probably so worn the fixings that on
this Hansel Monday morning, while being swung, it came down, and fell
through the roof of an adjoining house, landing on the clay floor, to the
great consternation of Leezie Saunders, who, fortunately for her personal
safety, was at that early hour of the morning still an occupant of her box
bed. After the dust had cleared away sufficient to show what was the cause
of such a violent intrusion, Auld Leezie was heard to exclaim—“Preserve a’
livin’! wha wad ha’e thocht ye wad ha’e been my first fit this mornin’ ” The
bell was never hung again. It may be seen in the Mechanics’ Institute (see
Was an eccentric being (1730
to 1807), who would wander for days among the dens of Craighall in search of
a bairn she alleged the fairies had stolen. She seldom failed to visit the
house of mourning when informed of the death of any one known to her; but
with all her eccentricities she did not fail, when occasion required, to
show7 that she still retained a fair amount of practical shrewdness. She
regularly attended the local fairs and markets, and if there was a calf or a
stirk from the farm to be sold, Lily undertook the bargaining, aud
invariably held the best of it with the dealers.
Was the sou of a crofter at
the Muir, and was a hunchback, usually employed in running messages, or
hawking goods about the country for himself. One day he had been out at
Clunie, when a fellow-traveller meeting him accosted him—“ Hullo, Matthaw,
did ye come strecht frae Blair?”
“Weel, ye’ve gotten awfu’
crookit on the road!”
Was another old worthy, who
kept a china shop in High Street, and hawked his dishes about the
countryside in a bag slung over his shoulder. The Commercial Inn of our day
was formerly a pie-shop, occupied by Tammy Mann. An eccentric couple, known
as Rob and
May, lived up the hill, aud
also Jamie Orchar. An old rhyme went—
“Some may mind o’ Tammy Mann,
'Wha sell't penny pies an suftar bools;
The place is noo a whisky shop,
For turnin’ wise men into fools.
Some may mind o’ Jamie O-,
Wha carried beef sae lang tae Fell.
When he wis asked whaur he wis gaun,
‘Aha! I ken my lane.’ He wadna tell.”
Harry M'Intosh (1799-1858).
Daft Harry, as he was better
known by, was of middle stature, round-shouldered, and considerably bent,
walking with a slouching gait. All attempts to educate him were futile, and
as he grew to manhood he was endowed with enormous strength, and found
employment in Turnie Butter’s works, turning a large fly-wheel with a crank
handle to drive a drill for boring bobbins. From this occupation he was
known to the youngsters as “Wheel,” which never failed to irritate. Another
name of equal power to produce effect was “Burgess,” referring to Annie
Burgess, a deformed and half-witted maid who w'as alleged to be Harry’s
sweetheart. Harry had set days for going the rounds of visiting the kitchens
of well-to-do people who were kind to him, and he usually carried a bag for
the bread and another one for bones and scraps of meat, which earned for him
the term “ Greasy Pouches.” Saturday was aye a cruel day for Harry: it w as
shaving day, and the operation had to be performed on the stubbly beard of a
week’s growth, well greased with the picking of innumerable bones.
Oftentimes the shaving
operation suffered interruption. When the barber’s shop was at the Cross,
those who went close to the window could see him at work, and the youngsters
Would creep up until they saw Harry arrayed in the white sheet and his face
lathered ; they would then suddenly shout, “Wheel! Wheel! Burgess!” which
instantly brought Harry to his feet, and, if the barber failed to detain
him, he would give chase, as he was, in his ghastly vestments.
Harry was ever in attendance
at all funerals, and, judging from his own feelings, he must have regarded
the honoured remains of the occupant with feelings of envy ; for it was
always a favourite theme to speak of the splendid arrangements that would
attend on his own obsequies, and how much he would enjoy the procession on
its way to the churchyard. Harry had very imperfect ideas of the future
state; he was very decided about keeping clear of the nether regions, but
equally resolved not to go to heaven, because the ministers sent “a’ the
puir fowk there, an’ ye ken I never lik'it pnir fowk,” yet in many ways
Harry was no simpleton, and could hold his own w hen any affront was offered
him. One day, on entering the shop of one of the leading merchants of the
town, and seeing him engaged talking with a stranger, he advanced in his
usual over-familiar way, greatly to their annoyance. “ Who is this ? ” asked
the stranger. “Only a puir daft idiot,” replied the merchant. “Na, ua,” said
Harry, “it’s yersel’, ruin; ma faither wis a wise man, an’ dee’d in's ain
bed, but yours dee’d in an asylum.” Harry knew a good deal more than was
convenient for the merchant.
He had a curious habit when
getting close to men— whether he knew them or not was all the same—by way of
salutation, he began in the very best humour to pound each on the back
between the shoulders with his fist, gentle at first, but harder and Larder,
until the sufferer called out, “O, liss, man!” when immediately the drumming
ceased. Harry’s anticix>ations of a grand funeral were realised through the
kindness of David Brown, of Brown’s Hotel.
Another worthy, was oftener
in the “ale room” than was good for him. For a long time irregular in his
habits, illness came upon him, and he lay dying tended by a kind sister.
Rallying from a state of stupor, he asked that the pocket-book be taken from
beneath his pillow, and the notes it contained exchanged for silver, which
was done as quickly as possible, and the book put back to its place. After
all was made right, his sister said—
“John, how are ye feelin’
yersel’ noo ? ”
“Juist wearin’ awa’.”
“Are ye no’ a little better?
“Ou, aye, but it canna last
lang; it’s awfu’ uunat’ral.”
“What did ye want wi'
cheengin’ the pound notes? ” “Siller’s aye usefu'; it has ta’en me oot o’ a’
the ill scrapes ever I’ve been in.”
“But if ye’re no’ expectin’
tae get better, what gnde can it dae ye?”
“Weel, I’m no sure whether I
may tak’ the richt road or the wraug. Siller’s safer and aye usefu'.”
John’s sister, being an
economical person, found “the siller aye usefu’,” and allowed her lamented
brother to take his chance of getting credit on his unknown journey.
A Quoit Club having been
formed by a few of the merchants in town, about 1830, John Bruce gave a
portion of his garden adjoining the “ Whisky Roadie ” for practising the
healthful game, and on summer evenings many, through his kindness, were
admitted to see the play.
An old woman, Candy Betty,
who kept a small shop, near the old school, for the sale of candy aud
treacle beer, was frequently in trouble with her encroaching neighbours, and
her shrill screeching voice went on steadily.
When Post Reid, the Town's
Officer, failed to bring her to reason by a questionable application of the
Queen’s English, the last resort was a fierce explosion of Gaelic, which
hail the effect of silencing her.
“Smith Lament” was another
specimen of the belligerent native. One day he quarrelled with a customer,
aud they came out to the close to settle the matter by an appeal to the
fists. “Posty” was at once informed of the affray, and, while endeavouring
to separate the combatants, he received a dangerous kick in the abdomen,
which, for a time, completely disabled him.
The severe pain caused him to
howl piteously, and give utterance to all the doleful vocables of his native
tongue. He was soon surrounded by many sympathisers of all ages, and a
little girl, who became frightened at the result, ran home exclaiming, “Eh!
mither, a wild man kickit Posty, an’ he’s greetin’ in Gaelic.”
The service of voluntary
constables was instituted about 1810. Six householders took upon themselves
the duties of guarding the peace each Saturday night, continuing from 11
p.m. to 3 a.m. By this plan a householder had only to act once a-year, and
the town was saved a deal of expense.
George Constable was a wright
in that shop now occupied by the Post Office (property still owned by his
John M'Ritchie had also a
wright trade in Mitchell Square, which is still carried on by his
Colin Mackenzie carried on a
general trade in a building near the site of the Royal Bank.
Jeems Laird had an ale-house
at the Royal Hotel pend.
Robbie Johnstone checked all
merchandise at the weigh -house opposite 61 High Street.
William Davie (the elder) was
“Laird” Forbes, a
manufacturer in a small way..
Jeems Ross, printer.
William Culross, sawmiller.
William Cowan, wright.
John M‘Nab had the ale-house
“Dreadnought,” where his curious sign may still be seen, &c., &c.
These, with other well-known
characters of a bye-gone age, have passed beyond our ken; but familiar to
this generation have been Robbie Porter, pawnbroker; Cripple Colin, with his
wooden leg; Burlie Wall, the jail mason; John Jackson (“ the General ”),
postboy; John M'Lachlan, the town bellman; &c., &c.
ABRAM LOW AND THE WELLTOWN
Upwards of a hundred years
ago, there was a small village named Welltown, about a mile south of
Blairgowrie. Very little of it now remains, except some of the farm
buildings, one part of which is in good repair,
I having above the lintel of
the door a curious stone which has a peculiar history in connection with it.
About the year 1730 there lived a blacksmith at Welltown, Abram Low (who
also owned the farm). He was a very ingenious tradesman, and the stone is
said to have been cut out by lua;self. He was generally believed by his
neighbours to have obtained great wisdom from the fairies, and in his time
it was a common saying, “I’ll tell ye a tale of Abram Low and the fairies.”
One night Abram was walking
along the braes on his farm, when they suddenly opened and showed him a
company of these lightsome merry little elfins, with all the mirth and
dancing imaginable, and they accosted him—
“Welcome, welcome, Abram,
For ever and for aye.”
“Never a bit,” quoth Ahram,
“But for a night and a day.”
And it is affirmed that
during this night aud day Abram got all his superior wisdom, which was
discovered -in answering the fairies at once aud prescribing his terms.
Their first word was their last, and according as they were answered, they
held the stranger in estimation or not. So Abram became a great favourite
with the fairies, and, it is stated, that he never needed a man to strike
the forehammer. Having occasion to be from home one day, the journeyman
asked him where he could get a man to strike the forehammer.
Abram whispered to him, “
I’ll tell you a secret, but you must not divulge it, nor speak to the two
little men who will strike the hammer for you, as they won’t bear to be
spoke to, and if you in any way accost them we lose their service for ever.
When you want them to come or want them to go," instead of speaking you must
just give your hammer a purr on the studdy and they will start up and strike
as long as you please; give your hammer another purr and they will
disappear, but no words must be spoken.” The foreman observed this rule
throughout the day, and two little men. the one with a red cap and the other
with a blue cap, started up and struck the hammer most powerfully. But,
alas, for the faithless foreman! towards evening he exclaimed to his active
“Weel strucken Red Cowl;
Far better Blue.”
They replied quickly, and
disappeared never to return—
“Strike here, strike there;
We’ll strike nae mair wi’ you.”
From that day the fairies
departed from the Well town for ever. Some time afterwards Abram Low had
been dining with two trusty cronies—his brother lairds of -Carsie and
Gotheus. On his way home, alone, he bethought him to take a short cut,
passing by the north side of the Black Loch. It was an eerie, lonesome
place, covered with wood, and unfrequented save by smugglers and poachers.
Night was coming on, and most men in those days gave such a place a wide
berth. But Abram Low feared no one, and, as he passed along the gloomy
solitude at the east end of the loch, he thought he saw, in the gathering
gloom, a queer little object, with a blue cap on its head, sitting on the
root of a fallen tree., Abram immediately recollected it must be Blue Cap,
oue of his long-lost fairies, and, forgetting the rule of silence, he
shouted—“Hilloa, Blue Gap! ” It was, indeed, Blue Cap, who, wroth at being
recognised, replied, in an angry voice—
“Blue Cap or Red Cap,
Whae’er I may be;
Red Cap or Blue Cap,
Ye’ll see nae mair o’ me ”—
Then vanished in the
twinkling of an eye, and the fairy of the Welltown was seen no more.
Abram Low had a son named
Isaac, who was a genius. For some time after the rebellion of 1745 there was
a camp of English soldiery on the Muir o’ Blair, hard by the Welltown, the
soldiers under General Wade being engaged in the construction of the
military road leading from Edinburgh to Fort George. Among the soldiers ere
several English tradesmen, and it is said Isaac was eatly indebted to them
for insight to skilled workmanship. Nevertheless, he produced a very
ingenious knife of goose dung. The plan he adopted was to collect all lkis
filings of iron and steel, and mix them with leaven, which was given for
food to the geese; then, preserving cheir dung and burning it, the steel
came together in the forge. This knife he sent to London, with the following
“I, Isaac Low, thee made
Of goose dung, heft and blade.
O! London, for your life,
Mak’ sic anither knife.”
A. Londoner attempted to make
one like it, but Isaac, not to be outdone, gave his knife a smart shake, and
out sprung another knife concealed in the heft, and forced out by the heft,
which made a spring that concealed it give way.