Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Perthshire in Bygone Days
One Hundred Biographical Essays by P. R. Drummond, F.S.A., Hon. Member of the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth

Epistle Dedicatory to the Presidents and Members of the Perthshire Societies of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee

Gentlemen,—I think it right to explain to you, at some length, the reasons that have led me to dedicate the following Essays to your esteemed associations.

Perthshire men must form the primary link of the chain which attaches you to your native county. Its mountains are picturesque, and its valleys fertile, but in its men dwells the first principle of that inner life which leads all that are of a common stock to associate. Perthshire men are the lights that sparkle on the picture which you so fondly cherish. When Sir Walter Scott returned from his final continental tour, and was driven down the vale of Gala, he was uneasy and listless, but when he saw the countenance and grasped the hand of his friend Laidlaw, he exclaimed, “Now I know that I am at Abbotsford.”

“The proper study of mankind is man.” His steps are tremulous when he essays to go higher; at that beach his proud waves are stayed. All his visions of angels and gods are mere reflexes of himself in a condition of physical refinement. The spiritual life, so congenial to his nature, and so solacing to his dread of annihilation, he is incapable of realising. The endless existence is beyond his grasp. He finds these more objects of primary belief than of assiduous research, nay of death itself he is utterly ignorant, although it meets him in the street and in his own chamber. The abode in the grave he cannot comprehend. He calls it “ the cold grave,” because in his devious imaginings he is Dot able to realise a cold corpse placed in it, but himself with his hot, bounding blood. He knows the grave is only cold when viewed in combination with life, and he shuts his eyes, like a school-boy, to realise the darkness, and compresses his nostrils to brave the terrible mools.

Hence, “The proper study of mankind is man.” Himself and his utmost known destiny, all that is characteristic of the age in which he is moving. How the divine has preached ; how the soldier has fought; how the politician has gone down to the house; how the poet has sung, gladdened the ear and starved; how the painter has delighted the eye and fattened on chiaro-oscuro, are all matters of deep interest, and no less so is the man who is born to affluence, an exalted rank, and a countless following, or the poor man who, in his coat of hodden gray, holds his own in the battle of life, if his doing so has been marked by traits of character, that render him the type of a class. “The working man” is a mere pseudonym. He who does not work, either with head or hammer, is of no account. The distinctive talent is often lost in the rich man by lack of motive, and driven out of the poor man by lack of bread. Lord Byron was an erratic legislator, but his love of letters and facility of pen sent him to his study, and he became the very greatest poet of modern times. The brightest jewels in the coronets of Winchilsea and Derby, are their studyings of Milton and Homer, and the present, and the late premier have both been prominent contributors to our literature, although their voices are rarely heard through the tocsin of politics which never ceases sounding.

In these essays there are no strainings after literary skill or superior knowledge of human life, but an earnest attempt to embody the character of a whole people by very restricted personal incidents in the history of a few. The princely hospitality of Lord Breadalbane, the gallant soldiering of Baron Lynedoch, the refined tastes of Sir William Stirling Maxwell the sculpturing of Lawrence Macdonald, the painting of Thomas Duncan, the poetry of Lady Nairne and Robert Nicoll, the love stories of Bonnie Margaret Drummond, and Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, together with the quaint eccentricities of John Scott and William Glendinning, are interesting themes, however dull I may have been in unfolding them, and amply justify you in the partiality you have formed for the land of your birth, and me in inscribing to such bodies of men my impressions of their interest and value.

The people of Perthshire take pride in the unions you have formed, not merely as demonstrations of local partiality, but because love of country is a normal condition in man, and the lack of it indicates a turning aside. Lord Byron has written,

England, with all thy faults I love thee still.

Robert Burns in the fulness of his heart says,

Auld Ayr whom ne’er a toun surpasses,
For honest men and honnie lasses.

And in Sir Walter Scott’s famous passage on love of country, he denounces in indignant terms the character of the man in whom it is found wanting,

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

But in every movement of your societies its presence is manifest, not only as a primary condition, but as a vital, kindred impulse. The bird of passage returns year by year and perches under his native eaves, but the lord of creation goes out for life. He struggles for a name, and a position, and a family carriage, and to the scene of that struggle he becomes partially naturalised, but still retains in its pristine force the love of his birth-place, and of the companions of his youthful days. It is highly gratifying to all who remain as fixed denizens of our interesting county, to hear from day to day that groups of intellectual citizens are being formed in the more important business communities of our immediate country for social and generous purposes connected with it, and that their sentiments have been echoed from every land to which a Perthshire man has found his way, and that embraces a wide area.

The county of Perth has little under-ground value. Neither coal, nor iron, nor lime has been found within its boundaries; no mines of gold or silver, only one of lead; but it is self-supporting beyond any other Scottish county. It contains thriving homesteads and well-tilled lands, parks covered with cattle, and carses waving with corn, hills clad with sheep, moors fruitful of grouse, and rivers swarming with fish. It is studded with palatial residences, and abbeys grey with age and full of historical interest. Its scenery is unrivalled, its rivers and lakes limpid as crystal, and its cities, towns and villages alluring to the welcome stranger. Besides these enviable possessions, Perthshire has a thousand well-educated young men, eager as hounds in the slips, to go out into the world and work for their places at the counter, at the desk, or at the bar, at the bench or on the bench, in the pulpit or the senate, on the ocean or the tented field. “ And many respected houses in Perthshire, and many individuals distinguished in arts and arms, record with pride their descent from the Gow Ghrom and the Pair Maid of Perth.”

With this explanation, Gentlemen, I inscribe these papers to you, confident that when you read them you will feel encouraged in the preference which your societies have hitherto shown for the land of your birth.

I have the honour to be,

With the utmost respect,
Your humble servant and countryman,

Ellengowen, Almond-valley,
Perthshire, August 1879.

You can download this book here in pdf format

Return to our Perthshire page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus