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The History of Blairgowrie
Chapter XI


Sports, Pastimes, &c.—Angling—The Ericht as a Salmon River—Fishways on the Ericht—Fish Ladders for Loch Benachally—(Ardle— Black water—Ericht—Lornty — Lunan—Tay—Isla—Drimmie Burn— Fyall Burn—Lochs Benachally, Butterstone, Clunie, Marlee, Loch o’ the Lowes, Stormont, Rae, Fengus, White, &c.)—Bowling—Cricket —Curling—Fair o’ Blair—The Fair o’ Blair 50 years ago—Football— Golf—Gymnastics.

Angling.

BLAIRGOWRIE as an angling resort is well known, situated as it is in midst of a famed fishing district where

“Salmon, trout, and pike abound
In loch, and stream, and mountain tarn.”

On the 23rd March, 1810, a meeting was called for the purpose of forming an Angling Club in the district, which Was numerously attended, and the Blairgowrie Angling Club was instituted. Rules for the management thereof were drawn up by W. S. Soutar, approved of and adopted.

The first competition of the Club took place on the rivers Ardle, Blackwater, and Ericht, which were divided into two sections each, and, drawing by lots for their fishing ground, gave each competitor fairness and justice, two members being spaced on each section.

According to the regulations, “ the two members who “shall respectively produce the greatest weight of trout at the annual competition shall act as Preses and Vice-Preses for the ensuing season.”

At the Club meeting on 1st May, 1810, the members were enjoined “to prevent, as far as possible, the destruction of the parr, inasmuch as it is salmon fry in one of its intermediate stages previous to assuming the form and appearance of smolt; any member convicted of ki.ling such shall be fined in amount as much as circumstances permit or may warrant.”

The first annual competition took place on the 28th

June, 1840, when the greatest weight by two members was—

14 dozen trout, = 17 lbs.
13 dozen trout, = 16 lbs.

On the 1st May, 1863, David Cairncross presented to the Club a copy of his work entitled “ The Propagation of the Eel, &c.”

In 1878 it was resolved to have autumn competitions annually on Marlee Loch, all kinds of fish to count. However, as very few members turned up to compete, it was resolved at the annual meeting to enforce a rule, passed on 1st May, 1848—“ that every member who fails to go out to the competitions shall pay a fine of one shilling,” while on the 1st of May, 1846, it is recorded “ that no member should be allowed to use a boat at the competition unless he worked the boat himself without assistance.”

On the 3rd May, 1881, a proposal was made to hold an annual competition on Loch Leven, and on the 23th August eight members left for the loch at 4 a.m. A greater number of members would, no doubt, have joined in the competition had not this also been the day fixed for the grand review of Scottish Volunteers by Her Majesty the Queen at Edinburgh. The competition was considered very successful, 34 trout of 41 lbs. weight being taken, the heaviest basket weighing 9 lb. 12 oz. for 6 trout.

On the 24th May, 1882, James Crockart represented the Blairgowrie Club on Loch Leven at the National Angling Club’s competition.

There are no records in the minutes of the doings or competitions, &c., of the Club from the 6th of May, 1882, up till the 18th of March, 1889, one sad mishap to the Club by the inattention and carelessness of an indolent Secretary and unworthy member of the Waltonian art.

The annual competition takes place about the middle of April, and the stream (open to any angler) and loch competitions about the middle of June; rule IV. providing that “ the bait shall be fly, worm, or minnow, and all fish to be taken by rod and line and without assistance of any kind.

Various schemes have been made from time to .time suggesting that the pike should be netted from Marlee Loch and it be formed into a trout loch on a plan similar to that of Loch Leven, but none of these schemes have come to anything.

The Ericht as a Salmon River.

The Ericht has always been noted for the variableness of its size, caused by the great declivity of its course and by the steepness of the hills where its branches have their source. In winter it comes down in terrible spate, while it summer it is nearly dry. Iu winter salmon spawn in numbers about and above the bridge, and in summer the river is swarming with parr, but from the state of the river an adult salmon rarely finds its way as far as Blairgowrie in the open season.

The first notice of the Ericht and its salmon fishings is contained in a Charter, granted by Robert the Bruce to the monks of Coupar Angus Abbey, and is as follows “Carta Roberti I. regis Deo, Sanctae Mariae, &ca., de Cupro, nos de gratia speciali dedisse licentiam iisdem monachis piscandi et eapiendi Salmones tempnribus per statuta nostra prohibitis vicunque voluerint in piscariis suis aquarum de Thay, de Yleife, de Arithe ... ad vsus proprios et pro potagio antedicti, &c. 5 Maii, 1326.” This document may be translated thus:—“ Charter of Bobert 1st, King through God, to the Holy Mary, <fcc. We, of our special favour, have given permission to the same monks of fishing for and taking salmon in times, prohibited by our statutes, whenever they wish, in their fisheries of the Waters of the Tay, the Isla, the Ericht . . . to their own proper uses, and for the soup of the aforesaid convent.”

In 1446 Drimmie was let for eighty salmon yearly, along with “carriage and carriage.”

About the year 1750 the Duke of Athole was in the habit of coming to Blairgowrie to enjoy the pleasure of salmon fishing. On one occasion, when he had secured many fish, he sent the bellman through the town an bouncing that each inhabitant might have a salmon by coming to the house he stayed iu.

In an old rental-book of the estate of Craighall the following entry occurs“ Charge Hawgh Cropt, 1750. James Falconer, Alexander Kinlock, M. Chapman, and Isack Low of Waltown, pays for ye salmon fishing 20 with 20 salmon fishes yearly.” The rent was computed in pounds Scots, and amounted to 1 13s 1d of sterling money. These gentlemen seem to have held the fishing till 1754, and during their lease they never paid any rent.

In 1755, Invercauld took the fishings at the same rent, and paid the money part of it for some years. His rent, however, of 20 salmon was never paid. Invercauld was tenant of the Craighall salmon fishiugs till 1770.

In 1804, 336 salmon and 1 trout were taken by one haul of the net out of a pool near Erichtside Works. A fortnight afterwards no salmon were secured. The pool, which does not now exist, having been destroyed by the great flood of 1847, commenced near the northern extremity of Erichtside Works and continued down to the Skermy Tree (a plane tree which grows on the Welton Road, about 400 yards below the Bridge). From that point a croy extended obliquely across the river to divert the water to the lade which drove Cairncross’ mill, nearly on the site of the Ashgrove Works.

The Keith, with the rocky gorge immediately below the waterfall, was a favourite scene of salmon netting. Where the river widens out into Powntrail and the Skellies, the salmon were only caught with the rod; but in the narrow and deep part immediately above, hand-nets on poles were used. About thirty yards below the waterfall, on the Rattray side of the river, there is a bay known as the “ Kleice Kirn,” which juts into the rocky bank. It was a favourite place with the salmon.

From 1740 to 1830 the Ericht was a very fine stream for rod-fishing. The salmon taken in the Ericht are not large. The heaviest ever known to have been captured in it weighed 24 lb., and was taken by James Crockart, the gunsmith. One weighing 18 lb. was secured in 1867, and another of 16 lb. was taken out of the Dookin’ Hole above the Bridge of Blairgowrie, on the Rattray side. The average size of the fish was from 8 lb. to 10 lb.

The old fishers seem to have been a peculiar lot of men, and were equally ready to use the rod, net, or leister. There were Wully Bruce—a particularly good caster; Jamie Fenton, Peter Souter, and Rattray of Coral Bank. Of a later generation were Archie Irons, Samson Duncan, ami Geordie Strachan ; and of a still later race were Dr Rattray of Coral Bank and James Crockart, gunsmith, -nlio, in his day, was the most eminent fishing authority of the district.

Fishways on the Ericht.

In 1870, when Frank Buckland and Young inspected the salmon rivers of Scotland, they found the Ericht at Blairgowrie, which had once been a famous salmon river, entirely blocked up by impassable dams, of which there were no fewer than six in the course of about 2 miles of water. The uppermost was not an insurmountable barrier, but the second at Weetfields was entirely impassable, being twelve feet in height, and quite perpendicular.

The fourth and fifth dams were much lower, and the sixth, immediately above Blairgowrie Bridge, presented no great obstacle to the ascent of fish to the upper streams if there had been enough water flowing over it; but the intake lade from it was, and is, at least 12 feet wide and 4 feet deep, and absorbs and carries off the larger proportion of the water in the river in a dry season. At such times, the fine spawning bed below the dam is quite dry, so that any spawn which may have been deposited on it is liable to perish for want of water. And so it happens between impassable weirs and scarcity of water that what was at one time one of the finest stretches of salmon water in Perthshire is now absolutely unproductive, though about the former productiveness there can be no doubt whatever: for, about the middle of the 17th century, when salmon angling did not bring in a tenth of what it now does, part of the fishings between the highest and lowest weirs at Blairgowrie brought in a rental of 138 6s 8d, and there was a fishing lodge attached; and even so lately as 1835 they were worth 164 17s. There is much fine spawning ground on the Ericht above Rattray Bridge, and still more on its chief tributaries, the Shee and the Ardle; so that now, as the Tay District Board, with the consent and co-operation of the manufacturers at Blairgowrie, have constructed ladders, ou the Macdonald system of fishwaj building, upon the impassable weirs at Weetfields aud Ashbank, it is to be hoped that the fishing, in course of time, in the Ericht and its tributary streams, may be restored to what it "was about a hundred years ago, when the minister of the parish of Itattray wrote :—“Sportemen look upon the Ericht as one of the finest rivers for rod fishing, both for trout and salmon and the parish minister of Blairgowrie:—“Prom the Keith for about two miles down the Ericht there is the best rod fishing to be found in Scotland, especially for salmon.”

In the summer of 1884, the Tay Board, with commendable energy and enterprise, brought over Colonel Macdonald from the United States (whose system of fishway building has been adopted by the Government of that country, a grant of 50,000 dollars having been voted by Congress for placing Macdonald fishways on the great falls of the Potomac river, which are upwards of 70 feet high), who, during his visit to Perthshire, carefully inspected the impassable dams on the Ericht at Blairgowrie, and furnished plans for enabling salmon to surmount them, and these plans were fully carried out. In October, 1884, the completed fishways were inspected by the Tay District Board; Young, Inspector of Salmon Fisheries; several of the manufacturers of Blairgowrie; and Young, C.E., Perth, Col. Macdonald's representative and agent in Great Britain. Certain improvements were made by Col. Macdonald on the three lowest weirs with the view of concentrating the flow of water, and so facilitating the ascent of salmon; but the chief interest centred in the fishways which were placed on the inaccessible weirs at Ashbank and West* fields—the former ten feet and the latter 12 feet perpendicular—these being the first fishways of the kind ever placed on absolutely insuperable obstacles in a salmon river in Scotland.

When inspected, both ladders appeared to work beautifully when filled with water, and though the gradient of that at Westfields is so steep as 4'75 horizontal to 1 perpendicular, and the gradient of that at Ashbank is still steeper, being 4 horizontal to 1 perpendicular, both were filled with black and comparatively smooth water; whereas passes with so steep a gradient constructed ou any other system of ilslnvay building which has hitherto been applied in Scotland would have been filled with a mass of foaming white water, which no salmon would have been able to face. The cost of the improvements on the three lower weirs and of the Macdonald fishways at Ashbank and Westfields was about 400.

About half-way between the highest and lowest weirs there is a rapid or cascade on the Ericht where the river chafes and frets along between masses of rock, forming a series of fine pools and streams once famed as favourite haunts of salmon.

Fish Ladders for Loch Benachally.

In the Industrial Museum, Edinburgh, there are two model designs, by James Leslie, C.E., for a ladder for passing fish into Loch Benachally, proposed in 1870, but which has not been constructed. The first design is to accomplish the purpose intended by having a series of steps, with holes at the bottom, which are regulated by sluices in such a manner as to keep the difference of level of water on each side of steps constant; the velocity through the hole under stop will therefore be constant also, and if it be not greater than the velocity at which a fish can run, it is evident that they can pass into the loch by means of these holes. "When the water in the loch falls to the level of the water in the first compartment, the first sluice is drawn full up and the water is regulated by the second sluice, and so on. The second design is intended to accomplish the same object by leaps and pools, the divisions between the pools being formed of stop planks, which can be taken out as the water falls in the loch. The upper division has a moveable sluice in front to regulate the water flowing over the stop planks.

The following are the principal fishings in the neighbourhood :—

The Ardle,

A first-rate trouting stream, which flows down Strath-ardle and, joining the Blackwater at Bridge of Cally, forms the Ericht. The Ardle is 11 miles long, and is generally open to all anglers. Some parts about Cally,

Blackcraig, and Woodhill are preserved, Tlie trout average J-lb., but occasionally a 1-lb. trout is met with in the deep pools. From May to September is the best season.

The Blackwater

Is a capital trouting stream, and May, June, and August are the best months. The trout run from 3 to 4 to a lb., and 10 to 20 lbs. may be caught in a good day. The whole of the Blaokwater is open to the public.

The Ericht,

Formed by the junction of the Ardle and Rlackwater at Bridge of Cally, flows down Glenericht for a course of about 10 miles and falls into the Isla at Coupar Grange. The whole river is open to the public, except opposite Craighall and in the policies of Glenericht. The best months for the Ericht are May up to September. On the upper reaches the trout run about 3 lbs. to the dozen, and on the lower reaches from 4 to 6 lbs. to a dozen. The lower parts do not fish well after May; but from the end of March up to that time 1-lb. trout are not at all uncommon, and sometimes a few of 2 lbs. or 3 lbs. are to be met with in the early summer with minnow. They are of the very best quality, and lovely shape.

Formerly the Ericht was a good salmon river, now salmon seldom come up save to spawn when they generally meet their death among mill wheels and other obstructions. It is said that as many as 300 salmon have been taken out at one shot from the Boat Pool of the Ericht, near the Bridge of Blairgowrie. Salmon are often killed in the lower part of the river after the nets have been taken off the Tay.

The Lornty

Rises in Loch Benachally, and, after a run of about 7 miles, falls into the Ericht about a mile above Blairgowrie. It contains good burn trout, about 4 to a lb., and fair baskets are often made. The best time is from April to September.

The Lunan

Rises in the Grampians, and flows through the lochs of the Stormont, and, after leaving Mailee, has a run of about 4 miles, and falls into the Isla. It is all open to the public, and contains capital trout, which run heavy, about an average of 1 lb., while some may be got heavier. With a strong south-west wind ruffling the surface, good sport may be had.

The Tay

Is the chief salmon river of Scotland, and from an angler’s point of view' it is a magnificent river. It affords fair sport in spring and splendid sport in autumn, but in summer it is hardly worth fishing. The fishings are, however, all in the hands of the proprietors, from whom leave may sometimes be got.

The Isla

In its upper reaches is a first-rate trouting stream, and lower down salmon and heavy trout frequent it, but both are dour to rise. The trout in the lower reaches are of very fine quality, and run from J-lb. to 2 or 3 lbs., and, from the nature of the stream and feeding ground, they come into condition early in spring.

Drimmie Burn

Is a small stream, about 4 miles north, and contains trout, though of a very small size.

Fyall Burn

Also contains trout of small size.

Loch Benachally,

A good little locli for trout at the back of the hill of 1 same name, is about three-quarters-of-a-mile long and half-a-mile broad. June and July are the best months. The trout run about 4 to a lb., and from 10 to 15 lb. is a good day’s work. Permission to fish is usually given to anglers.

Loch Bitterstone

Contains perch and pike, but few or no trout, and is about three-quarters-of-a-mile long by half-a-mile broad. About 20 lbs. of all sorts is a good basket. Permission to fish is necessary.

Clunie Loch

Lies about half-way between Blairgowrie and Dunkeld, is about three-quarters of a-mile long and half-a-mile broad, and contains })ike and perch. Spoon bait and phantom minnow are the baits mostly used.

Marlee Loch, or Drumellie,

Is about I mile long and half-a-mile broad, with the river Lunan flowing through it. The Loch holds pike and perch, and trout of large size and fine quality, running from 1 to 4 lbs., are occasionally got with fly during the summer months.

Loch of the Lowes

Is about 1 miles long and half-a-mile broad, and contains pike, perch, and some heavy and very shy trout. Pike have been killed 30 lbs. and perch 4 lbs., and they take well all the summer season. A large peacock fly is a favourite bait, and phantom and spoon bait also do well. The perch are of excellent quality, and so are the trout; but the latter are rarely got save when netting for pike.

Stormont Loch, or Loch Boo,

Is about 2 miles in circumference, and contains large pike and perch. July and August are the best months, and spoon and phantom minnow are the best bait.

Rae Loch, or Loch of the Leys,

Contains perch and pike.

Fengus Loch

Contains perch and pike of fine quality, but not very large size.

White Loch,

Connected with Fengus Loch by a small stream, contains trout. It was netted in 1889 by one of the proprietors, and all perch and pike removed. The greater half of it is, however, preserved.

Black Loch, Monksmyre, Haremyre, and Saint Lochs

Are dark, sluggish lochs, containing pike and perch, but seldom fished owing to the weeds. June, July, and August are the best months.

Bowling

In the district can be traced back to the year 1554, when it is recorded that “Laird Drummond of Newton and his son were playing at the ba’ att ye hie mercait green .o’ Blair,” at the time they were foully set upon and assassinated.

For several years previous to 1868 many endeavours, had been made to get a Bowliug Club formed in the town, but all efforts had been futile until by an advertisement in the “Blairgowrie Advertiser,” of date 8th February, 1868 :—

“Blairgowrie and Rattray Bowling Club. The Committee will meet in the Royal Hotel, to-night, at 8 o’clock. All friendly to the movement are requested to be present.”

At that meeting, attended by a number of proprietors, feuars, householders, &c., of Blairgowrie and Rattray, it was unanimously agreed to form a Club. After considerable trouble and delay a site was chosen at the west end of Lochy Terrace, and a bowling green and croquet green were formed, with walks around the same and with ornamental borders of flowers and shrubbery; a bowl-house was also erected at the east end of the green.

The ground embraced in the bowling green, &c., is about 130 poles. The green was opened on the 15th Aug., 1868, when the first game was played and heartily enjoyed by the members, and, on the 2nd of July, 1870, the first match with a foreign Club xvas played—Blairgowrie v. Spittalfield—resulting iu a win for Blairgowrie by 28 points.

That the early bowlers were of a sympathetic nature may be inferred from a match played in September, 1870, on behalf of “ the sick and wounded; ” the defeated players had to forfeit Is and. the victors 6d, and at the close of the game 21s 6d was handed to the Treasurer on behalf of the sufferers.

Cricket.

This purely Anglo-Australian game has been played in Blairgowrie for a long number of years. It was instituted in 1867 by a number of gentlemen in town, mostly professional men. The ground was at the Welltown Rifle Range, where the game was played for several years ; and their first match against the Meigle House C. C. was a decided victory of 7 wickets aud 4 runs. At intervals Club succeeded Club, until it was becoming a subject of history that no Club could outlive a season or two. In 1879 the promoters, in resuscitating the Club after it had been dormant for a few years, felt that the old difficulty of acquiring a field had to be met. By the kindness of W. A. M‘Intyre, the “ Haugh Park,” which is the most convenient in the neighbourhood, became the local battlefield. In the beginning of 1881 a large piece of ground in the centre of the park was returfed in a highly-satis-factory manner, ami is now one of the best pitches iu the kingdom. In August, 1882, with the assistance of their lady friends, the Club got up a fancy fair, which realised a considerable sum, and put the Club in a more secure financial position.

For some years past it has been in the management of a younger generation, who have been very successful. The cricket “pitch” is beautifully situated.

Curling.

The early records of the Blairgowrie Club are amissing, but the game of curling seems to have been a favourite winter pastime in the district over 170 years ago. The Rev. Mr Lyon (minister of the parish from 1723 to 1768), was so fond of curling that he continued to pursue it with unabated ardour even after old age had left him scarce strength enough to send a stone beyond the hog score; and on one occasion, having over-exerted himself in the act of delivering his stone, he lost his balance and fell on his back. Some of the bystanders ran to his assistance; and, in the meantime, one of the party placed , the stone he had just thrown off on the centre of the tee. While still on his back, the minister eagerly enquired where his stone was, and beiug informed it was on the tee, exclaimed, “ Oh, then! I’m no’ a bit waur! ”

A minute-book of the Club, containing records previous to 1783, is said to have been lost; but there is recorded in the minute-book of the Club, for the years 1796 to 1811, a reply to a challenge, which had evidently been sent from Coupar Angus to Blairgowrie, and is as follows:—

“To the Reverend Thomas Hill, Coupar Angus—The Curling Society of Blairgowrie present their respectful compliments to Mr Hill, and will do themselves the pleasure of meeting eight of the Coupar Society on the Loch Bog in terms of their challenge. Blairgowrie, Thursday forenoon, ten o’clock, 1784.”

The minute-book of the Club has been very carefully kept by the different Secretaries from the time of James Duffus to that of the present one, James D. Sharp.

Blairgowrie and Delvine Clubs both claim an interest in the set of ancient stones, which had formerly been in the keeping of Blairgow rie, but presented or sold to the Delvine Club, in whose custody they have been for many years:—

“The Soo” measures 16i in. by 11 in., and weighs 79 lbs. “The Baron” ,, 14 in. by 14 in., ,, 88 lbs. “The Egg” „ 17 in. by 12 in.. ,. 115 lbs. “The Fluke” „ 12$ in. by 11 in., „ 52 lbs. “Robbie Dow ” ,, 9 in. by 9 in.. ,, 34 lbs.

The last and least was called after one of the Baron Bailies, a son of the parish minister of the time. They were doubtless all taken in a natural state from the famous Ericht channel, and did a good deal of work in the hands of their strong masters; one peculiarity of them being their double handles. A metrical account of these and others is found in John Bridie’s centenary ode:—

“In early years the implements were coarse;
Rude, heavy boulders did the duty then,
And each one had its title, as ‘the Horse,'
One was the ‘Cockit Hat,’ and one ‘the Hen,’
‘The Kirk,’ ‘ the Saddle,’ ‘ President,’ and ‘ Soo,’
The ‘Bannock,’ ‘Baron,’ ‘Fluke,’ and ‘Robbie Dow.’”

The rules of the Blairgowrie Club were framed iu 1796 by the Rev. James Johnstone, minister of the parish (the President), and a Committee. An annual dinner is the first thing to receive attention in the rules, and this seems to have been of great importance. Members who sent an apology and did not dine were fined sixpence. Those w ho neither sent an apology nor came to dinner were afterwards fined one shilling, and as this did not secure a full attendance, a fine of half-a-crown was imposed on all absentees.

“The utmost harmony and conviviality,” according to the common entry in the minutes, prevailed at these gatherings.

All were not eligible, for the rule as to membership was this :—

“No person can be admitted a member of the Society unless recommended by one of the members as a person of good character, who has formerly played on the ice.” But notwithstanding this protecting clause, it was still thought necessary to enact the follow ing :—

“Rules for the Regulation of the Members while on the Ice and in Society.

“No member, while on the ice and in Society, shall utter an oath of any kind, under the penalty of two pence, toties quoties.

“No brother curler shall give another abusive or ungentlemanlike language when on the ice and in Society, or use any gestures or utter insinuations tending to promote quarrels: otherwise he shall be liable to be fined for the same at the discretion of the members then present.”

The “utmost conviviality” mentioned above was scarcely consistent with the following rules as to the quantities of drink to be consumed on special occasions:— “The members, when playing among themselves in a birled game, shall not spend more in a publick house upon drink than sixpence each for one day. If, however, a regular challenge is given and accepted by one class of curlers to another, the expense on such an occasion may amount to but not exceed three shillings each to the losers, and the gainers half that sum.”

Most of the earlier minutes record sundry fines for failing to observe the rule that each person “ shall be bound, within three months from the date of his admission, to provide himself with two curling-stones, which must be approved of by the Society; or in case he fail to do this within the above period he forfeits five shillings that the Society may herewith provide stones for him, and he shall not be at liberty to carry them away as they are understood to belong to the Society.”

A supply of stones, “not less than three dozen,” was also provided and kept in repair at the expense of the Club. These were got from the Ericht when it was “in ply,” and the work of finding them does not seem to have been very easy, for it is recorded on 15th July, 1799, that a Committee, at the command of the Treses— “ Proceeded up the water of Ericht, and they have to report that they found and laid aside a considerable number of stones out of which eighteen or twenty very excellent curling stones may be picked, and the Committee request, as they have been at considerable pains in searching out the stones, that another Committee should be named to bring them home.”

The cost of “handling” them after their home-coming may be reckoned from the following account:—

An inventory of these stones is now and then recorded in the minute, and at one time their number is put down at “fourteen dozen.” They would appear for a long time to have been protected by no covering, but simply to have been kept together by a chain. In the beginning of the 19th century, however, a house was erected for them at a cost of twelve shillings and "elevenpence, from which cost four shillings fell to be deducted as “ the price of the old chain sold.” In 1819 . a stone-and-lime house was built for 7. This was used 1 also in 1859-62 as a magazine for volunteer ammunition. In 1881 a brick house was built, at a cost of 50.

No information is given in the earlier minutes as to the form of play; but in this the rink generally consisted of eight, and was presided over by a “director.”

“Grips” were used for footing in delivering the stone, and Rule 8 prescribed that “No member shall be seen on the ice as a player without a broom, under the penalty of twopence stg.”

Prompted by a sympathetic spirit, the Blairgowrie Curlers, in their early years, organised “a charitable fund” for the benefit of members requiring occasional relief and for “other charitable purpose.” The “fund” only continued for a few years, but while it lasted it seems to have done good service.

On the 25th July, 1838, Thomas Coupar represented the Club at a meeting of Curlers, in Edinburgh, in order to perpetuate and connect more closely the Brotherhood in the ancient national game. The outcome of this meeting was a Club, composed of different initiated Clubs of Scotland, formed under the name of the “ Gl and Caledonian Curling Club,” latterly changed to “The Royal Caledonian Curling Club.”

On the 25th January, 1841, on the way to Marlee Loch, where he and other members of the Blairgowrie Club were to compete for the point medal (a competition which originated at Duddingston in 1809), Mr Anderson, banker (President of the Club), remarked that he should not be surprised to' see the greatest duffer carry off the trophy. “ After a keen and exciting contest,” says the Club minute of that date, “ the medal was won by Mr Anderson, by a majority of one shot.”

In the Royal Caledonian Club “ Annual ” for 1842 there is an account of the origin of the Blairgowrie Club:—

“In the course of 1782 an inhabitant of Coupar Angus, ‘white-headed Jamie Cammell,’ having occasion to be in Edinburgh in the prosecution of his trade as cattle-dealer, went out to Duddingston to see the play of the Soutn-country brethren. During the game a very difficult shot occurred, on which all the curlers present tried their skill aud failed; and Mr Campbell, having remarked that he thought he could take the shot, was invited to trj, which he did and was successful. He afterwards continued to play during the remainder of the day with the Duddingston curlers, who were so pleased with his skill in the game that they invited him to dine with them, and initiated him a member of the Club by communicating to him the “word” and ff grip.” On his return to Coupar Angus he initiated the members of his own Club, from whom the Blairgowrie Club received the sign and secret in the following year.”

The members of the Blairgowrie Club would appear to have been “ initiated,” though the above tradition rinds no record in the Club’s minute.

The London “Standard” of "Wednesday, 6th October, 1883, thus commenced an editorial:—

Blairgowrie is not in itself one of the most notable of Scottish tow ns, but it possesses a famous Curling Club, and this Club, according to a semi-official announcement, has just entered on the second century of its existence. Long before Sir Walter Scott had discovered the Highlands—in the days when a Celt in a kilt was considered as equivalent to a cattle thief, and when not one Englishman out of fifty thousand had ever heard the name of the place—the Perthshire villagers resolved to form a Club for the better pursuit of what Burns long afterwards designated ‘ the roaring game.’ And ever since, so long as there was ice enough, the weavers of the Ericht braes have continued to play ‘ bonspiels ’ and add to their fame by feats of ‘inringing’ and ‘rebutting’  “In these days of ephemeral associations, which are no sooner formed than they begin to wane, the fact of a remote Scottish town being able to keep alive a curling meeting for more than a century speaks well for the good fellowship of the burghers.”

On the 21th January, 1891, at the Annual Provincial Curling Match on Stormont Loch, Rink No. 1 Blairgowrie, skipped by J. D. Fell, won the silver jug, with a majority of 26 over the opposing rink.

The Ardblair Curling Club

Was in existence some fifty or sixty years ago, and reckoned among its members many keen and worthy curlers. Oft did the wroods around Black Loch resound with their uproarious mirth. But, alas! the old Club is no more.

On the 30th of December, 1891, ten prominent gentlemen belonging to Blairgowrie and Rattray met within the Rectory, Blairgowrie, and formed themselves into a Curling Club—The Ardblair Curling Club. The Club owed its existence to the fact—the first in the annals oi' curling—of the expulsion of the Chaplain (Rev. F. W. Davis) from the Rattray Curling Club for “ doing his duty.”

The new Club started under the most favourable auspices. While scarce seven months old it numbered 35 members, and possessed fourteen trophies in silver cups, medals, &e.

P. K. Blair Oliphant of Ardblair and his lady became Patron and Patroness, with I. Henry-Anderson, S.S.C., as President, and the Club was kindly granted permission to use for curling purposes the two Muirton Ponds on the estate of Ardblair. On the death of his father, in 1802, Captain P. K. L. Oliphant became Patron. The Ardblair Club was admitted into the Royal Caledonian Club on 20th July, 1892.

The 4th of January, 1893, is a day to be long remembered by the Club. On that day, for the first time in its history, the Ardblair Club met a foreign foe on foreign ice (Stormont Loch), to compete for possession of the silver jug belonging to the Association of Clubs embraced in the Province of Strathmore. Twenty rinks entered the competition. Playing against the gallant curlers of Xewtyle, for the honour of the Club and their own credit’s sake, the Ardblair curlers carried off the trophy of the day by a majority of 13 points.

“ . . . The game is lost and won.
And mighty deeds the Ardblair men have done
Recounted are at night that table round
Where toasts, and mirth, and song, and glee abound.
Again and yet again their shots they counted o’er,
The guards, the wicks, the tees, they each had made,
From time the stnney war began—to time
When final stone by skip was laid and played.
They ran the great encounter through and through.
From gun to gun, from pr ime to tinal shot ;
Wherein they spate of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by snow and ice,
Of hairbreadth ’scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach.
And portanee in their first great foreign war.”

Out of three Caledonian medals played for, the Ardblair Club has won two, which is exceedingly creditable.


John Panton. W. A. M'lntyre. Hr R. Lunan John Bridie. J. D. Kell. David Grimond.
BLAIRGOWRIE CURLERS IN I898

Cycling.

This favourite exercise is very much practised here, as elsewhere, by old and young of both sexes. Previous to 1875 the type of machine for the road was “ the boneshaker ” velocipede, which is now out of date. A Cycling Club was formed in the town in 1884, William Robertson being chosen first Captain, a position he held for nearly a decade. “Runs” are gone in for during the season, more especially on Thursday afternoons, to the neighbouring towns and places of interest.

In 1894, a union was formed with Alyth, Sfeigle, New-tyle, Coupar, and Blair, for the annual championship of the Strathmore District and a silver cup; the team from each section to be four in number, selected from among the members after test races, and the final race (of 16 miles) to count by points. Blairgowrie has won the cup on several occasions. The Club is in a very flourishing condition.

Fair o’ Blair.

On the 1st of July, 1890, a public meeting of the inhabitants of Blairgowrie was held in the Public Hall, convened by the Baron-Bailie, to discuss and arrange the midsummer holidays. As the Dundee holidays fall to begin the last week of July, and the spinning mills of Blairgowrie are in dependence of those of Dundee, it was agreed that the holidays in Blairgowrie should begin on the last Saturday of July, and ■ that the Annual Fair, formerly held on the 23rd of the month, be shifted to and held on the last Tuesday of July, which has continued to this day.

The Fair o’ Blair Fifty Years ago.

On the 23rd July the annual Fair o’ Blair was held, but, however stirring a time it may appear to a younger generation, those who can recall this great day 50, or 60, or 80 years ago are apt to make comparison generally In favour of the “ good old times.” Then, from early morn, happy parties of all grades and in all sorts of conveyances were to be seen driving into the town from every quarter, while crowds of pedestrians thronged the road?. For days before the 23rd indications of some approaching gala day began to be manifest. Wandering hucksters of all sorts put in an appearance and appropriated the best sites for their stalls and fixtures. The great centre of attraction was the Wellmeadow, which at that time was a meadow covered with grass and possessing a well of pure spring water, both of which have now disappeared.

Down the eastern side of the Wellmeadow a row of whisky tents was pitched so close to each other that there was scarcely room to pass between. Behind, and next to the roadway, were the “sweetie stands,” which were continued right up both sides of Allan Street and Leslie Street.

All sorts of merchandise were offered for sale, and the trade done on that day was a sufficient inducement to biing a “gingerbread man” from Kirkcaldy with his edible wares. The general briskness of trade was shared in by all the shops in the town, a liberal share, perhaps, falling to the dozen or so of pnblic-houses which surrounded the Wellmeadow in addition to the whisky tents.

By noon the scene was of the most animated description, among the outstanding features being the white tents — the dark swinging mass of cattle — the bright dresses of the farm servants—the well-conditioned and sonsy farmers bargaining with the shrewd, canny cattle-dealers, and examining and judging cattle—swing boats and merry-go-rounds manned by jolly youngsters—with shows, cheap jacks, bawling balladruongers, scrapers of cat-gut, acrobats, &c.

During the day the special constables were always on duty, and scarcely found their office a sinecure, more especially toward nightfall. The rough manners and language of those days were the natural outcome of hearty life and labour, of outspoken frankness, and other qualities which those of a latei generation, in view of their advanced condition, do not give too ample evidence.

The times are changed, and we change with them, and thus it shall always be. The young will prefer their own times, while the old people will aye dwell with most pleasure upon the recollections of their youth.

This lias been a popular game since the days of John Ross, ye minister of Blair (1603), who proclaimed it from the pulpit in 1020, and afterwards joined in a game on the Sabbath with the players.

One day John Ross l’epudiated a Royal mandate by Charles I.:—“ After divine service the people be not discouraged by dancing, either men or women, leaping, vaulting, or having May games, Whitson ales, or merry dances, or setting up Maypoles, and other sports therewith used,” &c.

It seems then to have been the habit to hold their weekly market at the “kirke stile.” With those John Ross had to do battle; but he found that his denunciations from the pulpit did little good.

“Weel, John, gin it wirna the day it is, what wad ye be seekin’ for yer brockit quey?”

“Bein’ the day it is, I canna tell ye; bot if ye wir tae offer me fourty shillin’ the morn, I wad lat ye ha'e her.”

“Weel, weel, I’ll send the morn aboot it.”

“Aye, aye, that will do, then, Jeems.”

While this and such-like work was going on at the kirk stile, on the Sabbath, among the “ auld folks,” there w’as a game going on by “A Young Men’s Association for the Promotion of Ba’-playin’ on the Sabbath-day,” to which, as soon as the blessing was pronounced, the indefatigable minister hasted to rout.

Levitically qualified, and of great muscular power and nerve, physically he had nothing to fear; morally, he had already, if not wounded some, made several heavy thrusts at them. Having divested himself of his sacerdotal robes, and put on his “ guid un’erstanin’s,” staff in hand he cleared the market-place, and straightway proceeded to the ball-ground. His appearance quickly dispersed the hypocrites, while there remained a number who seemed resolved to stand by their “ institution.” The minister, on his part, determined if not to break its legs at least to peel the members’ shins, thrust his staff into the ground, doffed his coat and hung it thereon along with his hat, and thus addressed that personification:—

“Stand ye there,
Minister o’ Buir,
Till I, John Ross,
At the ha’ get a toss.”

To John Ross it was a matter of indifference in arranging as “ to sides ” who were his partners, as, win who might, he should make some good play, and so the game went on, John assuring his partners of his determined purpose to play well, while the other party were resolving to do their best for victory. The battle having begun, John Ross was at his post and played well. Not one opportunity did he let escape of missing the ba’, and inflicting a merciless kick at the nearest rival—in fact, he broke through all the rules of the game, kicked right and left, chasing the cowards anti hunting them down until he completely cleared the ground, having “ routed them hip and thigh.”

The first football club was formed in Blairgowrie in 1878. In April, 1881, “Our Boys” was formed, and was admitted to the membership of the S.F.A. Between other clubs in the district the matches were of an exceptionally keen nature, till the institution of the Perthshire Football Association in 1884-85, when Our Boys entered for the County Cup. In the 2nd XI. Perthshire competition in 1893-91, the 2nd XI. of the Club won the 2nd XI. county trophy. The Club held practice for some years on ground at the llaugh, then at Altamont Lane, removing to the South Haugh Park, and latterly to Cleekerinn. The 1st XI. of the Club was fairly successfid during its existence, played some important matches with foreign Clubs, and was several times in the semi-final for the Perthshire. Cup.

A Golf Club

Was formed in the district in 1889, and a course of about 60 acres laid out in the Muir of Blair, of nine holes, under the superintendence of the veteran Tom Morris, of St Andrews, 'who gave it as his opinion that “the Lans-downe Course was one of the best inland greens in Scotland.”

The course is about 1 miles from Blairgowrie and half-a-mile west from Rosemount Station.

There are two splendid pavilions, -with all conveniences,

for the use of members, and the greens are beautifully-placed. The membership is large, and many valuable trophies are annually played for.

The Gymnastic Club

Was formed in the winter of 1893 as the outcome of the evening continuation classes in Rattray Public School. In course of the season 1895-96, the Club entered the Dundee and District Junior Gymnastic Association, and while very creditable results have been obtained, the coveted honour is still out of their reach. This is accounted for principally from the want of a resident Instructor. E. M‘Inroy, the present Instructor, comes from Dundee once a-week to instruct the members. They practised at first in Rattray Public School, afterwards in the Public Hall, and now in the Volunteer Drill Hall.


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