CURIOUS, INTERESTING, AND
A Blairgowrie in America—A
Curious Despatch from India—A “Blair Chiel’” Mayor of Dunedin—A “Blair
Highlander” in Russia—Pennant's Description of Blair—Copy of a Burgess’
Circular—Waterloo Heroes connected with Blairgowrie—An Interesting Operation
on the Ameer—Blairgowrie in 1800—Blairgowrie 50 Tears Ago—Statistics of
Death Rate—“Blair Walter Curlin’ Stanes”—Blairgowrie Instrumental Band—The
Hymn Tune, "Blairgowrie”—Forest of Clunie Farms—The Catty Mill—Carsie
Scutching Mill—Baldornoch Slate— Merchants’ Pic-nic—St Fink—Benachallj
Monument—Parish Kirk Elders—Copy Letter from the Young Chevalier—The Bridge
of Craighall-The Priest’s House—The Ash Trees—Parish Church— Illuminated
Clock—Athletics—An Inducement to Feuars on Blairgowrie Estate — Montrose
Disbands his Army near Blairgowrie — Genealogy of the Family of
Blair—Blairgowrie Volunteers in 1804— Interesting Despatches from India,
1858 -A Local Violin Maker, &c.
A Blairgowrie in America.
IN a pamphlet issued in 1882
by the Scottish American Land Company, descriptive of the State of Iowa, it
is stated that “at Blairgowrie, a farm owned by Mr Adamson, of Pitlochry,
Scotland, we saw a lot of steers, about 600 in number, in good condition.”
There is also a place named
Blairgowrie near Chicago.
A Curious Despatch from
“We hereby certify that the
‘Neilsonian’ cauliflower, produce of the seeds supplied by Mr Neilson,
merchant, High Street, Blairgowrie, are very fine. These vegetables have of
late daily graced the Worshipful Festive Board, anti their great size,
beautiful whiteness, and delicacy of taste and appearance, have invariably
called forth complimentary comment.
“Given under our Worshipful
hand and holograph, at our Castle of Tarooshek, in the province of Scinde
and Valley of the Indus, this fifteenth day of February, one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-nine.
“R. Cowpar, Captain, H. M.’s
1st Bombay Fusileers, Dep. Commissioner of Hydra-bad, and Her Majesty’s
Justice of the Peace for the island of Bombay and its dependencies, &c.”
A “Blair Chiel’ ” Mayor op
The “Otago Guardian” of 2nd
July, 1874, says:— “After one of the sharpest contests ever known in
Dunedin, Mr Keith Ramsay has been elected Mayor of this city. . . In the
year 1862 Mr Ramsay emigrated from Blairgowrie to New Zealand, and that he
had in so short a time risen to the highest municipal dignity in the City of
Dunedin speaks volumes for his industry, perseverance, and sterling worth,
and reflects honour on his native town of Blairgowrie.”
Again, the “ Otago Guardian ”
of 29th July, 1875, reports that at a meeting of the City Council, on 28th
July, the following resolution was, on the motion of Councillor Walter, the
Mayor-elect, passed unanimously:— “That this Council desire, on the eve of
the retirement of Mr Ramsay from the Mayoral Chair, to thank him for the
courtesy and impartiality he has always manifested during his term of
office, and wish that at no distant period he may be found taking an active
part in the affairs of the city.”
Mr Ramsay was entertained to
a banquet in the Free Church School, James Street, by his old schoolfellows,
while on a visit home in 1898.
A “Blair Highlander” in
On the occasion of the
coronation of the Czar in 1856, at Moscow, John Saunders (MacAlister), a
native of this district, attended as piper and valet to the Duke of
Sutherland, who represented the Queen. The “Daily News” correspondent states
that “MacAlister, the Dukes piper, was in attendance in the ante-room at
Lord Granville’s ball in full uniform, kilt and philabeg, it being the
intention of the noble host that, in some interval of the dance, the Russian
guests should be made acquainted with the peculiar characteristics of
Highland music; but the bardic soul of MacAlister was impatient of
restraint. He shouldered his pipes and, striking up a pibroch, marched into
the centre of the brilliant ring, round which Dukes and Duchesses were at
that moment dancing.
“I watched the effect (says
the correspondent) of this strange music on the unaccustomed ears of the
Russians with great interest. They were at first evidently astounded, the
officers putting their hands to their ears, and the ladies crossing their
hands and gazing on the kilted Aeolus in mute surprise. But soon it became
evident that there was a sympathy between the warlike race on the one hand
and the warlike music on the other; and when the Grand Duchess Constantine,
one of the most beautiful women in Russia, retired to another apartment, she
sent for MacAlister, who played ‘ The White Cockade ’ in a manner that
elicited Her Imperial Highness’ commendation. From that moment he became the
fashion, and several times in the course of the evening played again to
admiring audiences. MacAlister, since his arrival, has been quite a lion
among the Russians, who follow him in crowds through the streets, thinking
him to be the chief of all the foreign ambassadors, and that, with a
fastidious refinement of hauteur, he prefers walking on the ground, as none
of the carriages are grand enough for his notions of personal dignity.”
Pennant’s Description of
Pennant, on his Scottish
tour, states that in passing through the district of Blairgowrie, it was a
proverbial remark that “the inhabitants wanted fire in winter, water in
summer, and the grace of God all the year round.”
Copy of a Burgess Circular.
“Blairgowrie, 10th Nov.,
“Sir,—As you are, by the
Titles of your Property in the Barony of Blairgowrie, bound to contribute to
the Town’s Funds; and, as you appear to be in arrear. to the extent under
noted, I have to request that payment of this arrear be made to me within
ten days. No further notice will be sent. One year at Is.
“ I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient servant,
“Pro ALEXANDER ROBERTSON,
Waterloo Heroes connected
William Chalmers, eldest sou of William Chalmers of Glenericht, served in
Sicily, in the Walcheren expedition, and throughout the Peninsular War,
being present at seventeen engagements. He commanded a wing of the famous
52nd Foot at Waterloo, and had three horses shot from under him. He was
knighted by the Queen on her first journey to Balmoial through Glenericht in
1842, was created a G.B. and K.C.B., and Colonel-in-Chief of the 78th
Highlanders. He died in 1860.
Colonel Sir Colin Campbell,
5th son of John Campbell of Melfort, by Colina, daughter of John Campbell of
Achalader, was educated at Perth Academy, and first served as a midshipman
on board of an East Indiaman. Two years later he was serving as a Lieutenant
in the 3rd battalion of the Breadalbane Fencibles, and in 1799 was appointed
Ensign in a West Indian regiment. Again, Campbell exchanged to the
Ross-shire Buffs, and displayed great gallantry at the siege of Alnnednuggur,
under Sir Arthur Wellesley. He was severely wounded at Assaye, and
afterwards accompanied Wellington to the Peninsula, where he got a staff
appointment. For his services in Spain he obtained the Gold Cross with six
clasps, and was made a K.C.B. He accompanied Wellington to Belgium, and at
Waterloo was commandant at headquarters. _
John Young served as a
trooper in the 6th Inniskilliug Dragoons, and took part in the glorious
charge of the Union Brigade at Waterloo. He had the W aterloo and two other
medals, and after leaving the army settled down in Blairgowrie as a porter.
“ Watery,” as he was familiarly called, appeared occasionally at Masonic
processions bearing a rather lengthy sword. On the 18th of June he used to
decorate the windows of his house in Tannage Street -with laurel. He was
buried in Blairgowrie Cemetery with military honours.
William Tyrie, son of James
Tyrie, farmer, Milton of Clunie, enlisted in the 42nd Highlanders and served
in Spain. At Quatre Bras, Tyrie received two severe wounds from a Lancer,
but his assailant was almost immediately killed by a mounted British
An Interesting Operation on
In 1880 Dr G. G. MaeLareu (novr
of Falcon House, Blairgowrie), Civil Surgeon at Dehra Doon, India, achieved
a successful operation on the right eye of the ex-Ameer of Afghanistan,
Yakoob Khan, at Mussoorie. A fleshy excrescence of some years’ gathering was
removed, by which complete recovery of his imperilled vision was secured.
Blairgowrie in 1800.
Blairgowrie, a village and
parish in the County of Perth. The village was created into a Burgh of
Barony in 1634, of which Colonel Macpherson is Superior. The parish extends
in an irregular form, in length about 11 miles, and about 3 in breadth. It
is divided into two districts by the Grampians, which form the northern
boundary of the Valley of Strathmore. The hills are covered with heath, and
there are considerable tracts of muir, moss, and natural wood. The arable
soil is generally a stiff loam, and part is gravelly. The Isla, Ericht, and
Ardle are the rivers, which abound with trout and salmon. The Ericht is a
very rapid river, and has some very fine cascades; its banks are highly
ornamented, and many gentlemen have put down summer quarters in its
vicinity. There are many lakes of different sizes, some of which when
drained have yielded great quantities of excellent marl. There are two
freestone quarries, but the stone is of inferior quality; and muirstone
abounds in every part. There are several chalybeate springs, one of which is
particularly resorted to. Considerable quantities of household linen are
manufactured. The new method of husbandry is practised here with great
success. Newton House, the birthplace of the justly - celebrated George
Drummond, Esq., six times elected Lord Provost of Edinburgh, is a fine old
mansion, commanding an extensive prospect. There are several cairns and
druidical circles in the parish. Population returned to Sir J. Sinclair,
1651.—“Gazetteer of Scotland,” 1803 : Printed in Dundee.
Blairgowrie 50 Years Ago.
The old town existed at the
Hill, but at the beginning of the century a move was made to the low ground.
High Street, Allan Street, and the Croft were laid out, and formed the first
streets of the new town. There had been many houses alongside the High
Street (part of the old turnpike road from the south country to the north),
for nearly a century before. The High Street at this time extended from the
Cross to Rorry Street. There was nothing beyond this but land, except M‘N&b’s
ale-house (the Dreadnought). All north from the High Street was land. The
old Parish School was the first building in John Street, and Geddes’ house
the first in James Street. The houses in High Street and Allan Street were
small, with no mutual gables in those days, but built writh narrow slits
between each. Leslie Street was all garden ground, aud the Wellmeadow in
grass for grazing purposes. From the top of what is now David Street a broad
belt of old oak, plane, and elm trees extended west beyond the Castle of New
ton to the march of Ardblair, and returned by the Gallowbank, where only a
remnant of that sylvan grove remains to remind us of departed scenes. An old
avenue of beech and elm, which formed the approach from Perth Road to the
Castle, has also been swept away.
“Blair Wattrr Curlin’
These mineralogical treasures
are found in the Ericht from the Red Brae up to the Strone Brig. Belonging
to the trap family, they usually consist of quartz, hornblende, and augite;
felspar and iron pyrites are also sometimes detected. The stones are
generally in small blocks, and it is a rare occurrence to get a block to
yield a pair of stones. The colour, when freshly broken, . is dark green,
-with a bluish tinge running through, but when the stone has been polished,
the colour becomes a very dark green. These curling stones, though now not
so much sought after as formerly, form a grand tool on which a curler may
rely. They possess many virtues which every good curler wishes his own
curling stones to have; they are hard, tough, have fair specific gravity
(neither too heavy nor too light), are not “sookin’ ” stones (a grave
objection open to almost all curling stones), take a grand polish, give
grand “chappin’” blows, and receive them equally well. On the ice they are
This band was organised about
the year 1329, and was composed of the following members: — William
Scrimgeour (Leader), James Heron, Andrew Davie, John Clark, James Robertson,
John Saunders, William Buttar, William Chalmers, John Small, John Robertson,
Robert Duncan, and Andrew Mitchell. The instruments used were:—Clarionets,
key bugles, llutes, French horn, bassoon, serpent, trombone, and bass drum.
As to the uniform, it consisted of white trousers, blue jacket with scarlet
facings, and a blue bonnet with red baud, surmounted by a bunch of feathers.
For nearly 30 years this band
continued to exist, and on the institution of the Volunteer force in 1859,
the members then wrere patriotic enough to enlist, and the band—men and
instruments—was at once made available for the local corps. Over these
Joseph Simpson was appointed baud-sergeant, a position he held for 1(5
years, when he resigned. At that time there were some four clarionets and
two flutes in tli8 band, besides the usual brass, some 16 in all, the
intention having been to shape itinto a reed band. “ Joe ” Simpson played
the euphonium, at which he was a recognised adept.
Alexander Ambrose joined the
corps in 1859 (although the books only credit him at 15th September, 1801),
and was in the band up till June, 1885, when he retired, after being
band-master for eight years.
William Hebenton joined the
band in October, 1804, and was associated with it for nearly 30 years, 8 of
which he was band-master.
Several years ago, however,
the Volunteer Baud was broken up and a Pipe Band instituted for the
In 1S94 a Town’s Band was
organised, and Mr Heben-ton undertook the duties of leader and instructor.
He is a good player of the clarionet. He continued in office for about two
years, when Mr Neill was appointed.
The Hymn Tune
In “ The Life and Letters of
the Rev. Dr Dykes,” published 1898, there appears the following (page 157):—
“ On February 22nd he wrote a tune for the marriage of a friend, to the
‘The voice that breathed o'er
The friend was Rev. F. W.
Davis, of the Rectory, but the hymn tune, which Dr Dykes named “
Blairgowrie, was written for the marriage of the Rector s eldest sister to
Lieut. A. R. Davis Tosswill, of the old /5th Regiment of Foot, now known as
“The Gordon Highlanders.” Dr Dykes presented the copyright of the tune to
Rev. F. W. Davis.
The Forest of Clunie Farms.
Over fifty years ago there
were quite a lot of 4aim• and crofts in that district now known as the
Forest of Clunie. The old folks were wont to sum up a few in the lines—
“Easter Bog, Wester Bog,
Dullater Bog, and Bog Mill,
Whistlebare, an’ Shirra’ Muir,
An’ bonnie Birkin’ Hill."
The farm of Dullater was
tenanted by one Donald Keir, whose daughter (Charlotte Keir), kept a
public-house in Balmoral Road, Rattray, for many years.
The Catty Mill.
A short distance off the main
highway to Dunkeld, near the entrance to Ballied, existed a distillery known
as Catty Mill. David Brown, farmer of Marlee, was the last distiller in
occupancy, about the year 1849. The buildings were very extensive, with a
long range of malt barns, several worms, anti a large number of stills,
while a gauger resided permanently. Traces of the ruins may still be seen.
Carsie Scutching Mill
Was in the occupancy of
Donald M'Intosh in 1800; the remains of the lade are still visible. The mill
was afterwards turned into a sawmill by William Culross. A Farina Mill,
occupied by James Ogilvy, of Blairgowrie, now stands near its site, but on
the other side of the burn.
For many years prior to 1850
a famous slate quarry was in operation at Baldornoch, in the vicinity of
For-neth. The slates were of excellent quality, and had in large sizes. One
building, at least, in Blairgowrie is covered with them—the First Free
Church. One day, while the workmen were at dinner, the sides of the quarry
fell in and covered up all the working plant, rendering the quarry useless,
as it was never afterwards worked.
The Merchants’ Pic-nic.
In 1864 the merchants of
Blairgowrie convened and successfully carried out, along with their friends,
a pic-nic to Cxlamis Castle; again, in 1865, to Meikleour; and the last, in
1860, to Murthly Castle. The writer has before him an interesting photo, of
the group on the last occasion. Many of the familiar faces are with us
to-day, but, alas! the majority have “crossed the bourne which knows no
About half-way between
Blairgowrie and Alyth, to the north of the highway, lies a small estate
known as St Fink. About the year a.d. 720 a chapel existed here, dedicated
to Saint Fyncan, Fynoana, or Phink, one of the nine virgin daughters of
Saint Donevald of the Den of Ogilvy. They were known as the nine maidens,
although Boece only gives seven as their iiumber. Boece thus writes:—“
Donevald had vii docli-teris, quhilk levit with him in gret penance, on beir
breid and wattir. They eit nevir bot anis on the day: and the residew
thairof occupyit in continewal labour and orison. Thir holy virginis efter
deceis of their fader . . . (came to) . . . Abernethy, whare tliay leiffit
ane devote life, and wur buryit at the rute of ane aik, quhilk is halden yit
in gret veneratioun amang the pepil.” Saint Fincana’s day was 21st August.
Several sculptured stones have been unearthed from time to time at St Fink,
but whether or not they belonged to the chapel cannot be determined.
On the summit of Benachally
stands a cairn, erected in 1830 by ;Messrs M'Intosh for Sir John Bisset of
Reicliip. On taking out the “ found ” the workmen unearthed a skeleton of a
man over six feet in height. It was generally believed to be the remains of
an English trooper who was reputed to have been murdered there in 1715 or
1745. His horse was observed for several days saddled and bridled wandering
in the Forest of Clunie. He was on his way to the north with gold to pay the
English soldiery when he met his fate, and it is said that the gold of the
murdered trooper went to purchase an estate in the Stormont, which passed
into the hands of many proprietors in the course of a century, every one of
whom failed to prosper.
Parish Kirk Elders Ordained
in 1821 William Maepherson, Blairgowrie House; David Kidd; 'Thomas Soutar,
Netheraird; *George Chalmers, Hillton of Manse; "Thomas Soutar,
schoolmaster; and *John Baxter. Those marked * were in oflice at the
Disruption, 1813. Ordained in 1841 :—Robert Chalmers, Nether Clayquliat;
James Low, Muirton; George Playfair, Parkhead; Robert Johnstone,
schoolmaster; Peter Chalmers, precentor; James Cdwpar, M.D.; John Connacher
(afterwards missionary at Constantinople).
Letter from Young
Copy of letter from the young
Chevalier to the laird of Oraighall, dated Blair in Athol, 2nd September,
“It is now some weeks since I
arrived in this country, with a firm resolution to assert His Majesty’s
right, and as I am now got so far into the country, with a good body of the
King’s loyal subjects, I now require you may join the Royal Standard with
all the expedition possible, when you may depend upon meeting with my favour
“Charles, P. R.”
The summons did not, however,
meet with the expected response from the young laird.
The Bridge of Craighall.
In 1613 Silvester Rattray,
then minister of the parish of Rattray, petitioned the Privy Council for the
erection of a bridge at Craighall. The petition was granted, and an order
was issued for a subscription to build the bridge; but the matter went no
further. Travellers to and from the north had to ford the river at the Coble
Pule and again at Craigmill until the bridge was built in 1810.
The Priest’s House.
This domicile, occupied by
the hereditary beadles of the Parish Church, stood in the south-east corner
of garden at James Street House. The low house on opposite side of street
was built for the beadle after “The Priest’s House” was demolished by Robert
Robertson, nearly fifty years ago. The old beadles, John MacLachlan and his
father, resided here many years. At the south-west corner of the garden
stood another small house, long occupied by Allan Heron, the first letter
carrier in the town.
The Ash Trees.
Before James Street was
formed, there was a path loading from the Hill of Blair westwards to Brown
Street, passing the front of “The Priest’s House” The south side of the path
was marked by a hill bank, and a row of beautiful ash trees, long since
removed, but still remembered by many old inhabitants.
Rev. J. W. Foyer, elected
assistant minister of Parish Church, May, 1867 ; transferred to Kilry,
In September, 1869, a new
clock with transparent dials was set up in spire of South Free Church. It
was lit with gas at night for several years.
Early in May, 1860, the
Athletic Games Association was formed, with James Small, President; James
Playfair, Vice-President; James Isles, Secretary. The first games were held
in July in a park near Altamont, which were a great success. The surplus
'revenue amounted to over £92.
An Inducement to Feuars on
As a special inducement and
benefit to the Feuars on Blairgowrie Estate, all parties building a
dwelling-house thereon of the value of £100 w ill be entitled (in terms of
an arrangement between the late Allan Macpherson and the Railway Company),
to a free first class pass over the Caledonian Railway from Blairgowrie to
Perth and Forfar and intermediate stations.
Montrose Djsbands his Army
In 1616, King Charles I.,
having surrendered to the Scottish army, immediately thereafter wrote to
Montrose commanding him to disband his forces. Montrose refused to obey the
first order, but to a second and more peremptory one he yielded a reluctant
consent. Preparatoiy to disbanding his army, Montrose appointed it to
rendezvous at the Haugh of Rattray, near Blairgowrie, at which place, on the
30th July, 1646, he discharged his men after addressing a feeling and
animated oration to them, in which, after giving them due praise for their
faithful services and good behaviour, he told them his orders and bade them
farewell, an event no less sorrowful to the whole array than to himself,
and, notwithstanding he used his utmost endeavours to raise their drooping
spirits and encourage them with the prospect of a speedy peace, and assured
them that he contributed to the King’s safety and interest by his present
submission no less than by his former military attempts, yet, falling on
their knees, with tears in their eyes, they beseeched him that he would take
them along with him wherever he should go. They were, however, disbanded as
Montrose had then enough to do to provide for his own safety. The reason is
not given why Rattray was chosen for this last rendezvous of his army, but
probably he was actively supported by Rattray of Craighall, which may
account for the scene of his valedictory address, and he seems to have been
marching and countermarching between Brechin and Perth, looking for a
favourable opportunity of attacking that portion of the Parliamentary army
which was commanded by General Baillie of Jerviswoode.
Genealogy of Family of
Blairgowrie Volunteers in
1st Lieut. James Scott. 2nd Lieut. James Dick.
Thomas Johnston, Robert Douglas, Duncan Keay. Drummer, George Drummond.
Interesting Despatches from
Copy of despatch from Sir
James Outram, India, of 17th January, 1858, in which is the following
honourable mention of Capt. (now Lieut.-Gen. Sir) J. C. Rattray of Craighall:—
. . . “Much credit is also
due to Capt. Rattray (of Her Majesty’s 90th), commanding the infantry, to
Lieut. Gully, commanding the battery of No. 1 advanced outpost, and to the
officers anil men of their post, for their vigilance and alertness in
checking and punishing the enemy at every opportunity.”
In the “Homeward Mail” of
August 19th, 1858, we find the following record of the distinguished
services of Capt. Rattray:—
“We are glad to chronicle an
important success gained by Captain Rattray, on the 5th of July, at Kusma,
six miles N.N.E. of Dinapore, over 400 rebels led by Judar Sing. Our force
consisted of 150 Sikhs and 50 cavalry, and, with the loss of only two
wounded, cut up upwards of 100 of the enemy.
“The present mail brings us
additional particulars of the capture of Gwalior and the pursuit of the
rebels; we also learn that Capt. Rattray has defeated the rebels at Kusura
in the Benares district, and that General
Roberts had caused the enemy
to vacate Jeypnre, and was marching in pursuit.”
The following is a copy of
Capt. Rattray’s despatch after the action :—
“After a march of six hours I
came up to Judai Sing’s force at Kusma, consisting of about 100 men; they
awaited our approach very steadily. I immediately attacked them with 150
Sikhs and 50 cavalry. I completely routed them, killing upwards of 100 of
them, a great many of whom were sepoys. We pursued them until nearly dark.
The cavalry cut up nearly fifty. Judar Sing escaped with difficulty. The
country was entirely under water, otherwise none would have escaped. Only
two of my men wounded.”
A Local Violin Maker.
James M'Intosh was born in
the year 1801 at Carsie, near Blairgowrie, at which place his father, Donald
M'Intosh, was a lint-miller. He was the grand-nephew of Robert M'Intosh (“
Red Rob ”), the famous Edinburgh violinist and composer (1745-1807). Coming
of a good stock of violin players and violin makers, it is not surprising
that his work should be much above average. There is nothing of the amateur
noticeable about even his early works; the cutting is all done with a firm
hand as if the maker kne%v exactly what he wanted, and had the skill
necessary to produce the effect. His early violins (1842) are rather high
and Stainer-like in build, the sizes being 14, 8, 4i, 6j. The liarro'Miess
of the upper bout is there very noticeable. These violins are marked w ith
imitation purfling, the scroll is well cut, and the back generally in one
piece, and cut “ on the slab. The tone is large and telling, with something
of the sharpness of the Stainer quality. His later violins (1869) are nearer
the Stradivari model, neatly purfled, and more artistic in appearance. All
his violins are covered with spirit varnish, thinly laid on, and of a grey
colour. The wood is always good, and frequently of fine figure. Altogether
M'Intosh made 204 violins, 10 violas, and 33 violoncellos, the last also
having whole backs of w'ell-marked maple, and being fitted with pegs and
tail-pieces of his own making. His violins have a label printed from types
on white paper, with the last line hand-written:—
Violin maker, Blairgowrie,
M‘Intosh, who was a skilful
violin player as well as a violin maker, died at Blairgowrie in 1873.
His son, James, tenanted the
farm of Boatlands, near Coupar Angus, and William for many years carried on
a successful business as draper in Allan Street.