Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Perth, the Ancient Capital of Scotland
Chapter III


IT is believed that the house that formerly stood on the west corner of the Watergate facing High Street was called the House of the Green and was the oldest house in Perth. In this house, it has been said, the then golfers deposited their balls and clubs. The ancient Picts, prior to their conversion, had, it is generally understood, a Pagan temple, and on the supposed site of it stood this House of the Green. Mercer of Aldie more than a century ago pulled it down, built another house on the site with a marble slab in front bearing this inscription: "Here stood the House of the Green." Mr. Hay Robertson's place of business now occupies the site. It would appear that a part of the ancient building was originally subterranean. Several feet below the street level, contractors have in modern times come on two arches, each with an apartment 26 feet by 14: thickness of walls 3 feet. In one was a door looking north, and in the other a door looking south.

Assuming that the old temple stood on the same ground, at what period did the House of the Green take its place ? When the conversion of the Picts occurred at the close of the sixth century, it is supposed they erected a new building, which afterwards was dedicated to St John the Baptist If so, the old Pagan temple would presumably be displaced by the House of the Green, From the site of the old temple to St John's Church is not more than 100 yards, which would indicate that the site of St John's was chosen by the Picts as a suitable and convenient place for their new ecclesiastical edifice. It cannot, we think, be reasonably supposed that the edifice which was dedicated to St John the Baptist was ever before its dedication a place of Pagan worship. To do so would mean the existence of two Pagan temples, a state of matters which we may be assured did not and could not exist The edifice so dedicated would be the ancient one constructed of wood. And again, did the subterranean building belong to the old temple or to the House of the Green which replaced it? The apartments for that age were very large. We cannot see what use the House of the Green could have for such apartments; and we believe the Pagans who offered animals in sacrifice would in all probability use these subterranean buildings for such purposes, and for the use of those who took part in the sacrificial rites. It does not appear why the House of the Green was so called, unless it stood on a green. It is probable that it did so, as the Watergate was not then known, and the ground now covered by Watergate, St. John Street, and Princes Street, on to the South Inch, would be a great plain covered with pasturage. It was doubtless this great plain, with its impetuous river, that captivated Agricola when he chose it as his head-quarters, and erected dwellings for his soldiers. It is unfortunate that this, the most ancient of all our ancient monuments, should be so utterly lost in obscurity. We can find no trace of it, not even in the Mercer Archives, where we would have expected to find some record of it, as the site is the property of that family, and has been so from time immemorial, long before the Norman Conquest The nature, object, and date of the original building are quite unknown.

LOWSWARK AND THE BOOT OF BALHOUSIE.

About half a mile north-west from Ruthven Castle, or three miles from Perth, is a stone dyke or sluice across the river, which was originally constructed to divert part of the waters of the Almond into an aqueduct The question has often been asked, What was the origin, nature, and object of this ancient building? There seems strong presumptive evidence to warrant us in saying it was a Roman work. Had it been built at a later period, we should have had a record of it The aqueduct and buildings were evidently constructed for the purpose of supplying with water the fosse or moat that surrounded the fortifications of the ancient town. It is also a proof that the ancient town never stood, as some writers suppose, at the junction of the Tay and Almond, for the course of the aqueduct from its construction has run direct from its source to the present town of Perth. To the citizens it was of the highest importance, though why called "Lowswark" we cannot determine, nor is that a point of vital moment The various sieges the town sustained during the early and middle ages leave no doubt that it was an invaluable help during the military operations, and made the capture of the town an almost impossible task for the besiegers. It must not be forgotten that the Perth Water Mills existed at a very early period, and that this aqueduct was also of importance to them. These mills, whatever their origin, were gifted, as we have stated further on, by John Mercer to Malcolm III. in the eleventh century, and from time immemorial have been driven by this water supply from the Almond.

Among the earliest documents we have in connection with Lowswark is one long after the Roman period—an agreement of 4th November, 1494, between William Lord Ruthven, and William his son, on the one part, and the magistrates of Perth and John Eviot of Balhousie on the other part. This deed provides for the permanent maintenance of Lowswark, which is to be the retainer and closer of the aqueduct: "It is appointed, touching the agreement made between William, Lord Ruthven, and the magistrates and the lessees of these mills in the taking of earth and stones from the lands of Ruthven for the maintenance of the lade and the inholding of the water; the first parties bind and oblige themselves never to disturb the second parties in the peaceable possession of the lade, nor in taking earth and stones from the lands of Ruthven for its maintenance. It was understood by the contracting parties that the River Almond runs hard at the head and enters the lade in which the mills stand in such volume that the lade may suffer great damage thereby. For remedy thereof, the said parties bind and oblige themselves that there be made for their mutual good a sluice at the head of the lade for receiving a sufficient water supply for all the mills that stand thereon and belonging to them, and to defend and resist the over supply of water that is liable to flow and cause the destruction of the lade or aqueduct; and that the auld wick called Lowswark be mended, built, and reformed so as to keep the water to its original channel, each party to be responsible for the expense according to his proportion of profit effeiring from the mills. The sluice and Lowswark to be maintained by the contracting parties in this manner. In connection with this, the magistrates caused William, Lord Ruthven, and his son, to take the oath of fidelity, by which parties are mutually bound to each other, without fraud or guile, in respect of these conditions, and bind and oblige themselves accordingly in the strongest form of obligation—"the great oath sworn, the Holy Evangel touched, but not fraud or guile." This agreement was signed and sealed by the contracting parties in presence of Sir John Tyrie, Provost of Methven Collegiate Church, and several others, on 4th November, 1494.

Whether the agreement was faithfully carried out does not appear, but nineteen years afterwards it became necessary to confirm it, which was done in the usual legal way. This confirmation, dated 23rd November, 1513, goes on to say:—"Touching the upholding of Lowswark lately built (rebuilt) by either of the said parties for the sake of peace and concord between them. That is to say, William Lord Ruthven and John Eviot shall maintain for all time, damage or skaith excepted, the south and west parts of Lowswark, and the half of the sluice next the same, at their own expense, and the Magistrates and tenants of the mills shall maintain the east half of the sluice. If through the neglect of either party the other party suffers, the offending parties promise to make good the damage; and the contracting parties bind and oblige themselves to keep these premises. Signed and sealed by William, Lord Ruthven, John Eviot, and the Magistrates, in presence of John Ireland, Vicar of Perth, and various other witnesses. Perth, 23rd November, 1513."

The Boot of Balhousie is an offshoot of the aqueduct, its formation having been granted by the King to the Laird of Balhousie to drive his mill. The laird asked for a bootful of water. This request being granted, he immediately drew off as much water as would flow through a pipe eleven inches wide, the width of his boot top. Such was the origin of this little stream. The boot is a stonework on the east bank of the aqueduct, in which is a round hole of thirty-two inches circumference, with an iron ring at both ends, for conveying the water to the mill, by agreement with the town of Perth. The descent of the water into the "boot" through the ring forms a strong cascade, where, in former days, people having rheumatism and colds, by bathing here, were said to be cured. In 1494 an agreement between the Magistrates and the Laird of Balhousie says:—

The said boot shall be taken up and new maid of 32 inch width within at baith ends and banded with iron within and without, and laid in a stone wall made therefor at the sight of twelve persons; that is to say, six of the town and six of Balhousie's frends by the advise of theim, and when the watter breaks out or overflows the lade the laird of Balhousie shall send two men with the 'multrare' of the town which shall be for the time, once in the year to the inlayin of the watter or the clearance of the lade. This agreement is to be observed between the parties and their successors for evermore; and parties foresaid affix their seals to the respective duplicates of the indenture, the seal of Richard Eviot of Balhousie being still appended to this.

There does not appear to have been any subsequent legislation about this matter, so far as can be gathered from the official records.

THE ANCIENT CASTLE OF PERTH.

A favourite residence of the early kings, prior to the foundation of the Dominican Monastery, was the Castle of Perth, which stood on the north side of the canal at the castle gable near the Curfew Row, and near to what was called in those days the Red Bridge over the lade. Beyond the red bridge was the red port in the city wall. A part of this wall is still to be seen on the north side of the Albert Tavern close. The Castle buildings seem to have extended northward to what was afterwards called the Friars' Croft—the croft or land under cultivation belonging to the monastery. The street there has from very remote times been called the Castle Gable, because of a portion of the Castle which long remained standing after the rest was in ruins, and to the street leading northward from it—the street of the Castle Gable. The Castle and St John's Church were in early times the principal buildings of the town, and the Skinnergate the way of communication between them. The Castle, we are informed, had a chapel and chaplains, and enclosed the royal gardens and pleasure grounds. We have no authentic information as to when it was built, nor when it was first occupied as a royal residence. It first appears on the pages of history mysteriously, and disappears as mysteriously. One writer suggests Agricola as the builder, but we can find no confirmation of the statement anywhere. It seems unlikely to have been founded earlier than the sixth century, because the first mention of it is that "between it and St John's Church the Skinnergate was the way of communication." St John's Church was not built before the sixth century, while in regard to the sovereigns who lived at the Castle at that early period, we have, as a matter of fact, no authentic record. The Pictish Kings, from the death of Brude in 587, up to their subjection by Kenneth M'Alpin in 843, doubtless resided at Scone or Abernethy, and probably at the Castle of Perth as an alternative residence. Kenneth resided chiefly at Forteviot Palace, although his brother Donald, who succeeded him, died in 863 at Rathveramon, a fortress at the junction of the Almond and Tay. From Kenneth's death in 860, to 1054, when Malcolm Canmore ascended the throne, the following Kings held the sceptre of the new monarchy of the Picts and Scots, and there is every probability that during that period they resided at the ancient Castle of Perth: Donald I., brother of Kenneth; Constantine II., and Edward, son of Kenneth; Eochod; Donald II., and Constantine

III., grandson of Kenneth; Malcolm I., son of Donald II.; Indulf, son of Constantine III.; Odo, son of Malcolm; Culen, son of Indulf; Kenneth IV., son of Malcolm; Constantine IV., son of Culen; Malcolm II., son of Kenneth IV.; Duncan, grandson of Malcolm II.; Macbeth. Malcolm Canmore evidently resided at the Castle of Perth and at Dunfermline, these being his joint places of residence. It is probable that his successors continued this arrangement until the time of Robert Bruce. The Castle is said to have been dismantled by Bruce during the War of Independence. William the Lion, though he is erroneously said to have committed acts of vandalism at the Castle, undoubtedly resided there up to his death, and if so, it could not have been totally swept away by the flood of 1210. The town of Perth of that day had no better friend than this ruler. He took a personal interest in all that concerned it, granted charters, and undertook the rebuilding of the property which had been swept away. In 1160, Malcolm IV. convened a parliament in the Castle, which was his permanent residence. In the same year he was besieged there by some of the nobles who had quarrelled with him, but the King prevailed. His nephew, Alexander II., son of William the Lion, was particularly attached to the Dominican or Blackfriars Order, and in 1231 assigned as the site of the Blackfriars Monastery part of the ground towards the north of the town which lay nearest the Castle, and granted them a Royal Charter. Perth in these days was surrounded with castles. There was Ruthven Castle, the seat of the Ruthvens; Aberdalgie and Dupplin, of the Oliphants, succeeded by the Hays; Craigie Castle, of the Rosses; Kinfauns, of the Charteris family; Gascon-hall, of the Braces; Kinnoull Castle, of the Erskines; and Fingask, of the Threiplands.

James I., we know, resided in the Dominican Monastery, very probably because the Castle was no longer available. Indeed, after his reign it falls entirely out of notice. Between the close of the reign of Robert Bruce and that of James I., it must have been pillaged and burned to the ground. That it had been demolished before 1444 is certain from the charter of Robert III., of December 3, 1405, in which he grants to the Blackfriars Monastery, for the salvation of the soul of his mother, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, who was interred in the Monastery Church, the chapel of St. Laurence. This chapel was built where the Castle stood, on the ground called Chapelhill extending to the canal. Of all this we cannot speak with certainty. It is disappointing that so ancient a relic of the past is so involved in obscurity that no intelligible account of it can be obtained.

Monypenny, in his abridgment or summary of the Scottish Chronicles, referring to an extraordinary incident, says that about the year 972 Kenneth III. caused 500 notable thieves to be hanged on gibbets near the Castle of Perth, and inhibited their bodies from being taken down as an example to others. Dr. Mackenzie, in his "Lives of Scottish Writers," vol. ii., p. 59, confirms this, and says that Kenneth confined the noblemen, whose dependents these thieves were, in the Castle of Perth. Monypenny further says that in the same King's reign the Danes laid siege to the Castle of Perth, and Mackenzie also confirms this. Lesley, Bishop of Ross, in relating the events of King Duncan's reign, confirms this statement of the siege of the Castle of Perth by the Danes, 1030-1037, That 500 men should be hanged near the Castle of Perth is quite appalling, if true. At the time when it is alleged to have taken place, the country was overrun by Danes and Norsemen, specially by Danish pirates, who were, so to speak, as "thick as leaves in Vallambrosa." Whether these 500 men were Danes is not recorded; we are merely told they were "the dependents of noblemen," but it is conceivable they were Danes, who at that time had laid siege to the Castle. We must also keep in view that Kenneth was the king who fought and defeated the Danes at the battle of Luncarty, which took place between 970 and 990; and, assuming always that the event occurred, it is probable, in these barbarous times when might was right that these 500 men were prisoners captured by the Scottish king at the battle referred to. Thieving appears to have been carried on to an alarming extent; so much so, that places for trying criminals had to be specially fixed. It is recorded that the places where the cautioners were to appear respecting those suspected of theft were: For Strathearn, at Perth; for Gowrie, at Scone; for Stormont, at Clunie; for Atholl, at Rait None of these jurisdictions passed under the name of Sheriffdoms. We have seen some of the King's Charters dated at Scone and Clunie. The invasion of Danes and Normans of that period culminated in the Norman Conquest of 1066. Up to that time, and indeed up to the reign of William the Lion, the records of Perth seem to be a blank. Prior to the tenth century, Scotland, it is stated, was a Celtic kingdom. The modern Scots, who are said to be a different race from the ancient Scots, and came from Scandinavia, first became known to history in 1020.

GILTEN HERBAR, OR GILTEN ARBOR.

The Gilten Herbar, or Gilded Garden, was one of the most ancient monuments of Perth. The word "herbar" means that it was a garden having a variety of herbs, shrubs and flowers; and "gilten" that it was famous for its gilded decorations. Sometimes it was called "gilded arbor/' or decorated bower, or summer-house, while in the Blackfriars' Charters it is called "Golden Herbar." It was situated without the North Port, on the north side of the road leading to Huntingtower, bounded by the road leading to the Feu House. This ground was commonly called the Play-field, where meetings for showing weapons were held and archery practised, and where the Royal Amphitheatre stood, in which the interludes, or, as they were then called, the "mysteries and moralities," were usually performed. In this amphitheatre King James V. and many of the nobility and gentry sat from morning till night, witnessing the acting of the satirical plays composed by Sir David Lindsay of the Mount. So long as the amphitheatre stood, it was regularly attended by the Kings of Scotland during their residence in Perth. The writs of the monastery describe the Gilten Herbar as the level part of Blackfriars' ground which lies on the west side of the canal which comes from the Mill of Balhousie. The friars had for their use two gardens, granted by Alexander II. when he founded the monastery. The first was the Friars' Croft, and the second was the King's Garden, or Gilten Arbor. When the friars got possession of the King's Garden they kept it a long time in good repair for the recreation of the royal visitors. Such a fine piece of ground was eventually regarded with a grudge by the citizens who were fond of archery. In July, 1535, a number of men broke down the fences of the south-east portion, and entering the Gilten Arbor hastily built at each end of it a butt or bowmark. Next morning the friars made a great outcry, and complained to the King (James V.). A letter was addressed to William, Lord Ruthven, Sheriff of the County, requesting him to do justice to the Blackfriars in opposition to the Magistrates and Town Council, "who had taken illegal possession of certain crofts and pieces of land near their monastery, and who had thrown down and destroyed a part of the enclosures, and had erected butts or bowmarks in a part of their lands called the Gilten Herbar: had taken possession thereof, nor repaid to them the damage and skaith they had sustained unless now compelled to do so." The prior and convent do not seem to have been on friendly terms with the Corporation. In this affair of the Gilten Arbor, Prior George Crichton and the friars protested on the 26th August that they had been refused a copy of the King's letter to Lord Ruthven, and on the 18th of that month James V. reversed the order he had given to his lordship, and with the consent of parties appointed Patrick Ogilvy of Inchmartine and Edmund Hay, Chamberlain of Errol, to be judges in the plea. On the 3rd July, 1536, the King issued a summons to these gentlemen to exercise the office of Sheriff in the dispute. The affair was not decided in 1538, when the King commanded witnesses to be examined.1 The King afterwards ordered the Corporation to pay the damage, and to cease troubling the friars in all time coming. The friars had rest more than twelve years, and granted a tack of the Gilten Arbor, along with their croft, to a tenant, who did not suppose that his cattle would be disturbed by those who resorted to the grounds with their bowstand. The butts, however, were entirely taken away, and all admission refused. It would appear that the burgesses, who were famous archers, again became turbulent, and resolved to commit another outrage. In 1552 some of them broke into the south-east division, which had been laid down with seed, and wantonly sowed it over with a weed which dyers use for making a yellow dye, to the utter destruction of the croft. A complaint was lodged with the friars, and John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and other Churchmen, came over to Perth, and sat as a court-martial ; but their judgment has not been recorded. At the Reformation, when the monastery was pulled down, the laird of Balhousie seized his share of the friars' lands; but in 1588 they were surrendered for a consideration to King James VI. Hospital. From a paper read one hundred years ago by James Scott before the Literary and Antiquarian Society, some of the decorations of the Gilten Arbor, it would appear, were gilded crosses; and from respect to King William, there may have been a gilded lion, as he assumed the figure of a lion on his coat-of-arms, hence the title William the Lion. The name of Gilten Herbar still attaches to those lands, as in a feu charter by the town to Lord Kinnoull in 1773, we find the following description: "St Catherine's Chapel, with sundry lands ; the lands of Gild Herbar called causeway lands of Wellsland on the west, and St Catherine's Chapel on the east, the common street on the south, and the lands of Langlands on the north." Originally a wall would seem to have run along the east side of the Gilten Arbor, where poplars were afterwards planted. This wall was standing in 1396, when the battle of the clans took place. King Robert III., who was residing in the Castle, witnessed this contest from off his

Pleasant garden, flowery wall
Which men the Gilten Arbor yet do call.

THE ANCIENT CASTLE OF KINNOULL.

This ancient building has long since disappeared. Its situation would appear to have been close to the banks of the river on the Kinnoull side, at the base of Kinnoull Hill and facing the South Inch, about a quarter of a mile south of the old parish church on the site indicated by the name of Castle Bank. Adamson says, "On the declivity of Kinnoull Hill toward the west is Woodend, belonging to Barnhill Estate; at a small distance from it is the rising ground where the Castle of Kinnoull stood."

Kinnoull so famous in the days of old,
Where stood a castle and a stately hold,
Of great antiquity by brink of Tay,
Woods were above, beneath fair meadows lay.
Though now defaced through age, and rage of men,
Within this palace a lady did remain,
Who saw wight Wallace and brave Bruce alive,
And both their manhood's lively aid discrive
With that noble Prince first of that name.
This lady did foretell of many things,
Of Britain's union under Scottish Kings.

We have no record whatever of the history of this ancient castle. It was built long before the Hays were proprietors of Kinnoull, and probably as far back as the twelfth century.

An interesting anecdote is told by Boece of Lady Erskine, who in 1440 lived in the Castle of Kinnoull. In consequence of her extreme age (said to be 130), she had lost her sight Her other faculties were intact, while physically she was quite lively. She had seen Bruce, but not Wallace, and frequently told anecdotes about them. King James I. resolved to pay Lady Erskine a visit, so that he might hear her describe the manner and strength of the two heroes who were such famous men. He therefore sent her a message that he was to come to see her the next day. She received the message joyfully, and gave orders to her handmaids to prepare everything for his reception, particularly that they should display her pieces of tapestry, some of which were uncommonly rich and beautiful. The next day, when told the King was approaching, she went down into the hall elegantly dressed, attended by a train of matrons, many of whom were her own descendants, some of whom were more altered and disfigured by age than herself. On the King entering the hall, she rose from her seat and advanced to meet him, so easily and gracefully that he doubted of her being wholly blind. At his desire she embraced and kissed him. Her attendants assured him that she was quite blind, and that from long custom she had acquired these easy movements. He took her by the hand and sat down, desiring her to sit beside him. He was much delighted with her conversation, and asked her to tell him what sort of a man Wallace was and with what degree of strength he was endowed. He put the same questions concerning Bruce. Bruce she said was a man of a fine physique. His strength was so great that he could easily overcome any man of his time. But in so far as he excelled other men he was excelled by Wallace, both in stature and bodily strength. In wrestling, Wallace could have overcome two such men as Bruce. The King made some inquiries concerning his own parents and other ancestors, and having heard her relate many things he returned to Perth, much gratified with the interesting conversation of Lady Erskine.

THE OLD MERCAT CROSS OF PERTH.

This old historic monument has long since passed away. In early times it marked the most public part of the town, as all proclamations, not only of the kings but of the local authority, were made there. In short, all announcements of any importance were proclaimed at the Mercat Cross in the hearing of the people. When the first Mercat Cross of Perth was erected is unknown. Our information begins with the second one, built in the reign of James VI. It stood on the site of the old one — in the High Street, opposite Skinnergate — and, as will be seen from the illustration we give, was a building of substantial proportions, having a balcony, and surrounded by steps about 12 feet in height, with a cellar underneath. It is recorded that in 1578 the Kirk Session requested the magistrates to clear the Cross that the door might open and shut, and that they might get a lock and key to the door; the master of the Hospital "to buy three locks for the three irons (jougs), where delinquents did penance at the Cross." On 13th April, 1601, the King (James VI.), came to Perth, and the same day was made Provost. He was accompanied by a great attendance of courtiers. A banquet took place at the Cross, the King occupying the principal seat. After each toast the glasses were broken. It is said six dozen glasses were destroyed, as also many silver pieces and common vessels. The Cross was in 1651 pulled down by Cromwell in order to get stones for his citadel. For eighteen years thereafter there was no Mercat Cross, but in 1669 the magistrates gave orders to have it rebuilt This was the third Mercat Cross, and it was similar to the second. By permission of the Lyon King it was emblazoned with the Royal Arms and those of Perth. It stood on a vase 12 feet high and had a flight of steps within, with a balcony on the top. On the first anniversary of the erection, the treasurer was ordered by the

council to cover the balcony with a carpet, and provide glasses and two gallons of wine to be run out of the mouths of lions and griffins with which the Cross was adorned. On the King's birthday, in July, the usual loyal toasts were proposed by the magistrates, and as each one was drunk the glasses were thrown to the crowd, and new ones provided. The dignity of the magistrates was supported by a bodyguard of five officers in uniform —one for the Provost, and one for each of the four bailies. It is said at this period they owned 300, with no debts, and had some difficulty in disposing of the money. Ideal magistrates, when contrasted with the half million of debt standing owing in this year of grace 1903! They appear to have been undecided whether to buy ground at Craigie, or erect a Mercat Cross. They adopted the latter alternative, and erected the Cross of 1669. The Cross eventually became an obstruction to the increasing thoroughfare, and was removed in 1765

Fair relic of the race of yore,
Whose pilgrimage hath passed away,
Thy pillow rears its head no more:
Our fathers—where are they?
Few names can time's memorials save,
Or on his mouldering tablets keep;
Their loves and friendships in the grave
Are sleeping sound and deep.
As onward flowed the flood of years,
What mirthful seasons thou hast seen,
And days like night, when bitter tears
On Scotland's cheek hath been.
Thou rose in beauty like a tent;
Another day decreed thy fall:
Thus to our sires one dread event
Hath happened to them all
—Lines on the Mercat Cross.

THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE OF PERTH.

The memorable old Parliament House stood on the north side of High Street, a few yards back from the street, and is believed to have been built in the twelfth century. The passage leading to it still retains the name of the Parliament Close. Its site was where the Royal Arch Mason Lodge now is. It was eventually used as an Episcopal chapel, and was taken down in 1818. Long before that time it had fallen into decay. The Scottish Parliament met there very frequently (as will be seen from our list of Parliaments in Chap. VI.) up to the assassination of James I., when Parliament and any Courts of Justice that sat at Perth were removed to Edinburgh. We give an illustration of this old historical building, which was one of plain and modest pretensions.

The Parliament Hall was a fine square room, high, and finely stuccoed in the roof, with a large chimney in the middle, and wood lined all round half-way up. In the outer room was a cupboard in the wall at the side of the door, supposed to be for holy water. From the inner room there went a turnpike stair up to the attic above.

THE MONKSTOWER.

This tower was erected in the south-east corner of the Gowrie Gardens, on the town wall facing the river. The site is now occupied by the County Buildings. It formed the south-east angle of the old city wall, which extended from this to the Spey Tower. The ornaments on the ceiling are said to have been copied from those in the Gilten Arbor. The paintings executed by the first Earl of Gowrie were allegorical and astronomical, representing the virtues and vices, the seasons, the zodiac, and other subjects. In this tower, when the monks were disorderly, they were sometimes confined in order to do penance. It was occasionally used as a powder magazine. The first Earl of Kinnoull, who was Lord Chancellor of Scotland and possessed Gowrie House, built the uppermost room of the Monkstower.

THE SPEY OR SPY TOWER.

This was a strong and stately fortress on the city wall near to Gowrie House and in Canal Street, and guarded the south gate of the city. This fortress contained a strong prison. Among those who were at various times confined here were pious persons whom Cardinal Beton caused to be condemned for heresy, and from this tower he witnessed their execution. The Rosses of Craigie were hereditary governors of it, and at the Reformation Robert Ross of Craigie finally delivered up the keys under protest It was the last of the towers on the wall, and was taken down upwards of a hundred years ago.

HALKERSTON TOWER.

It is impossible now to ascertain the origin of this tower, or in what year it was built, or when it disappeared. It is said to have been a creditable specimen of groined architecture erected above the north porch of the West Church, and consisting of two repulsive cells one above the other; one for culprits, the other for a mortuary. After the Reformation persons censured by the Kirk Session were confined in it, and later, offending soldiers were confined there. It probably took its name from some remarkable person who had been confined in it

THE DRAGON HOLE.

In early times the Dragon Hole was a factor in the social life of the people as a resort on various occasions and for various purposes. It is a cave in the rock on Kinnoull Hill, facing the Dundee Road. It was the scene of annual processions of young people on 1st May, a practice which evidently originated in Druid times, connected with Beltane or Bel-fire, the worship of the Sun. The rejoicings continued to be observed in various forms in early Christian times, and the Dragon Hole was known as such from the most remote antiquity. It is extremely difficult of access, is about 10 feet high, and will accommodate a dozen persons. It is said Sir William Wallace frequented it, and hid in it during his military manoeuvres around Perth. Adamson mentions a certain James Keddie, who found in the Dragon Hole a stone which had the power of rendering its possessor invisible. Keddie lost the stone, and though he often searched for it, it was ever afterwards invisible to him. In the Kirk Session Records of 1580 there is the following entry: "Ordain an act to be made by the minister concerning the discharging of all persons passing to the Dragon Hole superstitiously, and the same to be published from the pulpit and thereafter given to the magistrates and proclaimed at the Mercat Cross." The act was as follows: "Because the assembly of ministers and elders understand that the resort to the Dragon Hole by young men and women with their piping and drums going through the town has caused no small slander to the congregation, not without suspicion of improprieties following thereon, the assembly with consent of the magistrates have ordained that neither man nor woman resort to the Dragon Hole as they have done hitherto on 1st May under a penalty of twenty shillings Scots for each person found guilty, and that they make their repentance on Sunday in presence of the people."

THE INCHES.

How the Inches of Perth came under the management of the town is altogether unknown. There are absolutely no records bearing on the subject The legend about the Mercers may be discarded as merely a legend. Had it been bond fide, we should undoubtedly have had authentic evidence. But there is no such evidence, and the people of Perth must remain uninformed as to how they acquired them. It may be conjectured, however, that it was by right of inheritance, when the town was founded and gradually rose to be an important centre. This takes us back to the Roman occupation. The Town Council are custodiers of the Inches, but have no proprietary rights without the sanction of Parliament They have a free hand in their administration, and make their own bye-laws, but the Inches must always remain as a common for the recreation of the citizens. The North Inch has an area of ninety-eight acres; the South Inch about half that area. In the middle ages the Inches were the scene of various combats. Sir William Wallace had some serious fighting on the South Inch; while in the reign of Robert Bruce the North Inch was the scene of a fight between Hugh Harding and William de Saintlowe; and in 1396 was fought the famous battle of the clans. These do not exhaust the list, as various skirmishes on the Inches will be found in the following pages. In 1443 John Gormac of Atholl, captain of a band of Freebooters, attacked Sir William Ruthven, Sheriff of Perth, at the head of his guards, while leading a thief from Atholl to the gallows. A skirmish ensued, and Gormac, with thirteen of his followers, was slain. The rest fled. This encounter occurred on the North Inch, and we learn from the Exchequer Rolls that Sir William Ruthven was also killed. On account of the utter weakness and inadequacy of the administration, no trial appears to have taken place in connection with this remarkable event

It is important to observe that up to 1785 the North Inch was only half its present size. It was formerly bounded on the north by a wall called the white dyke, so as to prevent the encroachment of the Muirton farmers. This dyke ran from Balhousie orchard to the river. In 1803 an excambion was made with the Earl of Kinnoull, his lordship having highly appreciated the idea by which the Muirton haugh was added to the North Inch, for which the town gave the greater part of Tulilum. Soon after, the dyke was taken down and a racecourse formed round the Inch.

The matter passed through the Law Courts without opposition. In the petition of the town it is stated that the petitioners considered it would be beneficial for both parties, and tend very much to the ornament of the town, as well as the improvement of the neighbourhood, if the fiat ground of the Muirton, and the low corner of the orchard of Balhousie not exceeding thirty acres, and those parts of the Muirton, which are incapable of culture, lying on the east side of the flat ground and betwixt them and the river Tay, not exceeding fifteen acres, were thrown into the North Inch, and an equivalent given for the same. The North Inch, when so extended, to be disburdened of the Muirton and Balhousie lands presently passing through it The petitioners asked the sheriff to appoint skilful men to report on the whole scheme. The sheriff did so, and a lengthy report was submitted to the sheriff, and on the basis of that report his lordship, in January, 1803, gave judgment in favour of the scheme. It is expressly declared in the deed that the Magistrates and Council oblige themselves and their successors in office that the North Inch, when extended in the manner stated, shall not on any account be either ploughed or built upon, nor feued, nor alienated by the community for any building, agricultural, or other purposes inconsistent with the pleasurable use of the North Inch as a lawn or green. This was a very proper stipulation, and in respect of the excambion its great importance and the wisdom of the scheme have been fully recognised and appreciated by the community. The natural beauty of Perth is greatly enhanced by these delightful recreation grounds, the North and South Inches, and there is probably no other place in Scotland where the inhabitants possess such a precious boon.

Provost Hay-Marshall became proprietor of Black-friars property by purchase, and succeeded in getting the road from Dunkeld to Crieff to pass through the property. When the bridge was built, this road was altered and taken up through the North Inch, and a row of trees planted on each side. Some of these still remain to mark the site of this old landmark.

PERTH GRAMMAR SCHOOL.

A modern writer,1 whose authority is unquestionable, informs us that in the reign of Malcolm (1153-1165) there were flourishing Burgh Schools at Perth, Stirling, and Roxburgh. It would be interesting if we could find some details of Perth Burgh or Grammar School at that early period, but there is very little to be obtained. It is evident, however, from this authority, that the Grammar School of Perth was founded in the twelfth century, at precisely the same period when John Mercer got his Charter of Meikleour—1162. The reigning sovereign was Malcolm IV., but he was succeeded in 1165 by his younger brother William the Lion. The references to the Grammar School of Perth are all of a complimentary nature. It appears to have been a well-conducted institution from the very first, and most successful, as its normal attendance seems to have been 300 boys. These would not all necessarily belong to the town, as such institutions at that period were rare, and boys may have been drawn to it from various parts of Scotland. It was under the supervision of the Provost and Magistrates, who paid the salaries and appointed the teachers. In 1550, prior to the Reformation, Andrew Simpson is said to have taught Latin with success at the Grammar School, where he had 300 boys. The school, at that time was managed by a rector, two ushers, and a janitor, with salaries from the Town Council, and a contribution from the Kirk Session. This institution in its day reflected much credit on the town, and produced many eminent scholars, including, it is said, the Admirable Crichton; but some writers deny this. Among the first rectors was William Rhynd, who occupied this office in 1590, and afterwards accompanied the Earl of Gowrie to Padua.

In 1604, Patrick Johnston succeeded Mr. Rhynd; and in 1622, John Durward was succeeded by John Rowe, who taught in a simple way Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and has the honour of having compiled in Latin the first Hebrew Grammar in Scotland. It was dedicated to George Hay, Earl of Kinnoull. This was the first Earl of Kinnoull, whose portrait appears in this volume. He became Lord Chancellor of Scotland.

During the vandalism of Cromwell in 1653, the schoolhouse was demolished, which at that time contained 360 pupils, was three storeys high, and contained rooms for the rector, doctors, and music-master. This was followed by the sacrilegious destruction of the Greyfriars burying-ground, when the tombstones were actually removed to build the citadel.

In 1656 Johnston was succeeded by W. Paton from Meigle. After Paton came George Paterson, appointed in 1658. This gentleman was Professor of Humanity at St. Andrews. Paterson in 1668 was succeeded by Andrew Anderson. Henry Cree succeeded Anderson, and in 1679, Gullane of Preston-pans succeeded Cree. Gullane the same year was appointed Rector of the High School, Edinburgh, and was succeeded at Perth by James Ross of Dun-kelA William Saunders succeeded Ross in 1690. In 1704, Ross retired, and John Martin of Dunbarney was appointed. Martin's son succeeded him in 1732, and after him came Walter Grey from Cupar. On the death of Grey in 1752, Andrew Cornfute of Dunkeld was appointed. After Cornfute came Alexander Watson in 1773. In Watson's time the school fees were fixed at five shillings a quarter, and a gift at Candlemas, at which time little orations were delivered by the boys from platforms, and sometimes a play was performed for entertainment of the audience. At Candlemas the Rector called the roll, when each boy came forward and presented his gift. There was always a competition for the honour of king, usually bestowed on the highest donor. On one occasion a youth put down a guinea to ensure the honour, when the parents of another gave their son a guinea to add to his offering. A competition took place, till one had laid down twenty-four and the other twenty-five guineas. These scenes are said to have been of frequent occurrence. When the fees were raised to seven and sixpence this custom was abolished.

Down to 1773 there were fifteen rectors. It would appear that the Town Council in 1760 resolved that an academy should be erected, that it should have two masters with salaries of 50 each, and that each would teach three hours daily, except Saturday. The Magistrates, in addition,' appointed a rector. The fees were two guineas for the session of ten months for the ordinary curriculum. Three rooms were provided in the Academy, one for each class, and one for a common school, where all met daily for public exercises, and once daily for public prayer. The new Academy was erected at the west end of St John's Church. It was a commodious building, to accommodate both classes and teachers. Board and lodging for the pupils was provided at the houses of the masters. Students were always numerous. To the south side of the church a new house was built The first floor was for the Kirk Session. Up two stairs the drawing-master gave his lessons, and the highest storey contained a public library.

Mr. Mair was the first rector of Perth Academy, and he was succeeded by Mr. Hamilton. This gentleman was called to a professorship in Aberdeen, and was succeeded in the Academy by Mr. Gibson. In 1784 Dr. M'Omie was one of its masters. The rector's class was taught in the flat above the Meal Market, which was built for the purpose. The flat above this was divided between the French teacher and the second master. On Mr. Gibson's retirement, Dr. Anderson was appointed, and he was probably the most famous of all the rectors. Under his direction many improvements in the ancient capital were carried out, and his name has always been familiarly known among us.

The Grammar School was amalgamated with the Academy. The present Academy, which took the place of the old one, was built in 1807 on a site presented to the town by Provost Hay Marshall.

THE SANG SCHOOL.

At the Reformation the cultivation of music was not overlooked. There was a school of music for training the rising generation in the service of song, the master of which was usually the precentor in the Reformed Church. John Swinton was the first master of this school after the Reformation. His salary was paid out of the revenues of Grey-friars Monastery, and he was provided with a dwelling-house and garden. Some time after this the Masters of the Hospital were ordained to repair the house, that John Wemyss, Swinton's successor, "teach and train up the youth in the science of music; as also to build a stone dyke beside the house, between St Andrew's aisle and the old south porch door, that it might serve for a little yard." This house would be situated on the south side of the church. The salary appears to have been 80, with free house provided by the Hospital.

In the Council Records under date 21st July, 1601, there is an Act discharging all writing schools within the burgh, except the Grammar School and Sang School. We hear nothing more of this primitive institution until 19th April, 1633, when the Town Council authorised a contract between them and John Rowe, by which he was obliged to teach English, writing, grammar, and music at a salary of 250 merks. This would mean that the Sang School was merged in the Grammar School at that date. This arrangement lasted nine years, when John Rowe was successful in being promoted to the ministry in Aberdeen. The procedure which took place in the appointment of his successor forms highly interesting reading, and affords us an opportunity of reviewing the primitive methods which governed the administration of business in former days. On 4th January, 1642, the Council and Deacons of Crafts met, when they appointed Patrick Johnston to the vacant office. The Council minute proceeds:

Understanding that the burgh is presently destitute of a learned man to be master of the Grammar School, and that the same is vacant by transportation of John Rowe, last master thereof to the ministry at Aberdeen, and knowing perfectly Partick Johnstoun to be of sufficient literature and able to exercise and discharge the said office in teaching, learning, 'kenning' and instructing of the bairns in grammar reading and writing. And they having regard thereto and to his sufficient qualification have accepted and presently all in one voice accept the said Patrick Johnstoun to the office of master of the Grammar School of the burgh during the will and pleasure of the Town Council Deacons of Crafts and their successors. Wherefore the Provost [etc.] bind and oblige themselves and their successors to pay the said Patrick Johnstoun during the time foresaid yearly for his travelling expenses, house, meal and coals, so long as he remains school master of the school and attends diligently thereon, the sum of two hundred and fifty merks usual money of Scotland at two terms in the year Whitsunday and Martinmas by equal portions, and shall furnish and find a sufficient and suitable schoolhouse for instructing and learning of the bairns, and shall maintain and uphold the same sufficiently at their own expense in all necessaries and maintain and defend him in the peaceable possession of the said office. And shall not suffer or permit any other schools for instructing of children in grammar, reading, or writing, to be held in the said burgh or jurisdiction thereof, other than the said Grammar School and such other schools as shall be found not to be prejudicial to the Grammar School; and this without prejudice to women schools to be taught by them according to use and wont And ordain the said Patrick Johnstoun to receive in name of quarter payment from every burgess bairn attending the school ten shillings Scots or six shillings and eightpence to himself, and three shillings and fourpence to the doctor, and for every landward bairn twenty shillings Scots, or thirteen shillings and fourpence to himself, and six shillings and eightpence to the doctor. If any refuse to pay as they shall be required, or in getting payment for the session and masters of the hospital of one hundred merks which they were in use to pay yearly for the doctors these several years past, as their fee and duty promised for their service in the school the same to be reported. Like as the said Patrick Johnstoun has accepted the office, and binds and obliges himself to remain and wait diligently on the said school, and faithfully and diligently to teach, ken, learn, instruct, and bring up the youth in grammar, reading, and writing by himself and other qualified persons under him for he shall be answerable and shall not remove nor deposit therefrom without the consent of the said provost, and magistrates required and obtained.

As a relic of these times, and as conveying to us the manner in which the election of a teacher was conducted, this paper is full of interest

THE FAIR MAID'S HOUSE.

The Glover Incorporation, among other papers, possess a charter by the Hospital of the tenement of land bounded by the land of James Berne, skinner, on the east: the king's common way and the vennel leading to the place of the predicatory friars in the south and west, and the garden of William Anderson on the north, dated nth August, 1629. Here we have the first authentic notice of the property which afterwards was recognised as the Fair Maid's House. After this corner house was purchased by the Glovers, they turned the upper flat into a common hall, which served them for a meeting-place till 1787, when they built a new one in George Street As to whether a curfew bell hung in the niche of the wall of this building seems a disputed question. Two well-informed local writers (Morison and Fittis) disagree on this point, and we may therefore leave the public to form their own judgment The curfew bell was one of those in St John's steeple, and we are inclined to think the view of Mr. Fittis correct, as the niche in the Fair Maid's House is too small for such a bell and more adapted for an image. The Glovers injudiciously sold the house in 1758 to Lord John Murray for 120, but it was repurchased by them in 1786. The Glovers during last century re-sold the house to James Bell, cabinetmaker, but in 1858 bought it back for 200. Some years ago they again sold it, so that it is now quite out of their hands, and is the property of the town of Perth. In 1863 when repairs were going on, a workman came upon a stone floor, and beneath it, at a small depth, another stone floor. In the space between lay the bones of a human skeleton. The different parts were perfect, and appeared to be that of a tall muscular man. The body must have been some centuries there, and doubtless was the victim of some foul deed.

Whether the house referred to is, or was, Simon Glover's house is a debatable question, with much to be said on either side; but there have always been a section of the community who answer the question in the negative.

GOWRIE HOUSE.

It is difficult to convey to the reader an intelligible idea of the general appearance and beautiful proportions of this building. It extended from the Water Vennel to Canal Street, bounded on the west by the Speygate, and on the east by the river, while the entrance was from South Street by an arched gateway. The gable stood a little to the north of the gate of the County Prison. This wing consisted of a range of lofty stone buildings, the lower part being fire-proof. The second storey consisted of two state or reception rooms; the upper floor divided in the same manner. The northern division consisted of buildings not so lofty, having only one flat above the fire-proof and another flat above that In the west division was the kitchen or cuisine extending across the whole breadth of the house. This division, north of the main entrance and forming part of the Watergate contained spacious public rooms on each flat On the east of the building a terrace ran along the river the whole length of the property. The apartments were arranged en suite, so as to communicate with each other. There was a gallery which extended along one side of the square, and communicated by a door at the end with a chamber, which led to a small circular room in the turret where the conspiracy occurred. This gallery and the other apartments were accessible by a broad oaken staircase called the "black turnpike," but the turret or round room could be reached also by a back spiral stair, so that persons who entered it through the gallery might escape, or could be conveyed away without again using the principal staircase. On the south to the line of Canal Street was the garden, the city wall forming the western and southern enclosure. (See plan.)

Among the writs of lands in and about Perth, 1483-1503, there is a "Back Band" (letter of obligation) by Elizabeth Gray, Countess of Huntly, with consent of Alexander, Earl of Huntly, her husband, to the magistrates and community of Perth, in return for a special license and tolerance granted to his Lordship in connection with land and a tenement belonging to her, lying on the east side of the Speygate, wherein she binds herself, her heirs, etc, that when it shall happen that the magistrates build a wall at that part of the town betwixt her tenement and the river Tay, that the said wall shall be wall and closure to her tenement and yard, with license to have a "yctt" in the said wall, with an iron "yett" upon it, and likewise to build houses upon the said wall with windows, "starklie branderet" (strongly grated) with iron, so that the neighbours of the town may have free passage upon the "battalling" of the said wall, and in the time of war to have passage for carts with artillery and other necessaries for the defence of the town, and they have liberty to break her walls to be built contiguous to the walls of the town, or make sufficient "yetts" of largiour (Fr. largeur, breadth) through the yard of the tenement for the passage of the same; and when it shall happen the Earl or his spouse to be furth of the town, they bind themselves and their heirs, etc, to deliver the keys to the Provost for the time. Dated Perth, 12th February, 1518. The document is written upon parchment, and has the

seals of the Countess and her husband appended, but there are no signatures either of the principals or witnesses, who are not named. The Countess was eldest daughter of Andrew, third Lord Gray, and married (1) John, sixth Lord Glamis, (2) Alexander, third Earl of Huntly, (3) George, fourth Earl of Rothes. The tenement in question was the original of Gowrie House, which, subsequently to the forfeiture of the Earl of Gowrie, was frequently called the "King's House," and occupied successively by Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, the Earl of Kinnoull, William Butter of Ardgaith, and Lieutenant-General David Leslie of Newark.

Alexander, Earl of Huntly, died in 1524, and was buried in the choir of the church of the Blackfriars Monastery. He was at one time proprietor of the Castle of Ruthven. On 24th January, 1525 a charter was granted by Elizabeth to the prior and friars of the monastery, giving them the estate of Littleton in order that mass might be said daily for her own soul and that of her husband. Some time after the death of the Countess of Huntly, Gowrie House was acquired by Patrick, Lord Ruthven, Provost of Perth. The date of Ruthven's possession is not authentically recorded, but as he died shortly after he assassinated Riccio in 1566-67, it would be some time before that date. Notwithstanding many conflicting statements about the history of Gowrie House after the conspiracy, we find the following entry on the Register of the Great Seal, under date 7th January, 1602. It would thus appear to be beyond doubt that this property was on that date gifted to the town by the King, but the King is careful in making the gift to exclude the name of Gowrie House :—

King James VI. grants to the provost, bailies, councillors, and community of the burgh of Perth, and their successors, the land and garden in the said burgh on the east side of the street called the Speygait (between the Speytour and the common walls of the said burgh, and the passage thereof on the south, the land and garden of the deceased Mr. James Hering, Provost of Methven, on the north, and the water of Tay and the said walls on the east), also the common walls of the said burgh between the Monks tower, and the Spey tower, and the piece of land straight from the northmost corner called the Spey tower between it and the Monks tower, including the sewers thereof on either side of the said water. Paying to the King towards the reparing of the Bridge of Tay 3s 4d of fewfarm duty.

The question arises, What was the history of Gowrie House from 1602 down to the Battle of Culloden, when the town gifted it to the Duke of Cumberland—a period of nearly 150 years? There is a strong probability that it was held by the town for that period. Provost Austen, who ran away at the Rebellion of 1715, occupied it then as a linen factory. We find in the Records that some correspondence took place on the subject of a sale in 1723, between the Crown Agents and the Magistrates. The former were instructed by the Duke of Roxburgh to inquire if the Magistrates were willing to part with the property, and at what price, as the King would make it a barracks for soldiers. And they add, "You will be sensible of the advantages that will accrue, particularly as the inhabitants will be relieved from quartering soldiers." The matter fell through, however, and in 1746 the town presented Gowrie House to the Duke of Cumberland, in recognition of his victory at Culloden. He afterwards, it is said, presented it to Admiral Watson, his nephew, who sold it to the Government for 2,000. The valuation of George Alexander, C.E., was as follows:—

Valuation of ground set apart for the Prison - 850
Valuation of ground set apart for the County Buildings - 834
Valuation of ground set apart for the Town Buildings - 616
North side of South Street to be feued ... - 600
Total 2,900

The Government converted it into artillery barracks, and it was so occupied till the French War of 1789. In 1805 it was purchased from the Government by the city, or rather an excambion took place—the city giving in exchange a site on which to build a depot for prisoners of war, viz., five acres of the Moncrieff lands. It was afterwards sold to the county, and on its site now stands the County Buildings.


Return to Book Index Page