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

Perth, the Ancient Capital of Scotland
Chapter XXIII

Up to the middle of the eighteenth century, the principal streets were Highgate or High Street, in early times called Northgate, and Southgate or South Street Each had a gate at the west end, which was taken down by the Magistrates in 1766. There was the Watergate, whose origin is not known, but which, in early times, had several lanes going down to the river; the Skinnergate, the way of communication in ancient times between the Castle and St John's Church, and which was the centre of the leather, hide, and skin trades; the Speygate was taken down also in 1766. Much inconvenience began to be felt for want of a public market The Magistrates, on a representation of the matter, erected fifty booths at the west side of St John's Church, which they let to fleshers and others who were freemen. For many a day this was a much-frequented part of the town. The blackfaced mutton of the Perth butchers got famous, and a thriving trade is said to have been done. The meal merchants had their booths on the east side of the Church. Houses in early times were generally built on the plan of having arched doorways and windows, but on the front wall there was a wooden projection about six feet wide. On the ground floor these were open, and were called channels, and here the goods were displayed. The Skinnergate was finished in this manner, and so close did it bring the fronts of the houses to each other that a shopman on the one side could, it is said, almost shake hands with the shopman on the other. Many of the old houses were a foot or more below the level of the street The streets were not completely built upon. On the front of South Street a considerable part was lined by garden walls, as was also the west side of the Meal Vermel. Few of the shop windows had any glass, only a wooden grating. Self-contained houses were situated on the east side of the Watergate, between the street and the river. Outside stairs to the first flat were common, A great part of the buildings in closes was occupied by brewers, who kept public-houses and retailed their own ale. In the eighteenth century there is said to have been sixty houses of this description. The principal inns were the King's Arms at the foot of High Street; the inn in the Thistle Close, first entry above Skinnergate; the Salutation, so called from

John Burt, the landlord, having shaken hands with Prince Charlie.

The ground on the west of the Church (the Flesh-market) was the old bowling green, and the whole ground in that locality now covered with streets was then occupied as garden and pleasure grounds, as was also Meikle College Yard in the same locality. The ancient wall extended from the top of Methven Street to High Street, where the port stood, with gates and bars; then on to South Street, with its port and gates; then down Canal Street to the Spey-gate, where there was another port It is believed that the course of the Mill Lade marks the line of the ancient wall. At that time the lade was uncovered all the way from Methven Street to the Tay. We are informed that the more wealthy of the inhabitants in early times wore a huge wig with several rows of curls, a large toupet in front, the whole surrounded by a large cocked hat They carried a pikestaff in their hand reaching to about a foot above their head, or a gold-headed cane of similar length, their shoes and knees sparkling with silver buckles.

Up to 1750 Perth retained its primitive appearance as a small, old-fashioned town. At that period Mill Street and Methven Street had only two or three houses. From that date, however, a spirit of enter-prise would appear to have arisen in the Town Council, as improvement schemes of considerable magnitude were adopted and carried out These included the formation of George Street and St John Street, and various subsidiary streets, the removal of a great many old and useless buildings, and a fillip was given to the general enthusiasm for

the extension of the town, and its better and more ornate embellishment These improvements were evidently carried out under the Provostship of William and John Stuart and Alexander Simpson. The new century opened with Thomas Hay Marshall as Provost, a citizen who was very popular, and who devoted much of his time to the welfare of the people. At the erection of the Seminaries in Rose Terrace in 1814, he gave the site free as his contribution, and this is recorded as being worth 500. The citizens afterwards (in 1824) erected by subscription a handsome monument in George Street to Provost Marshall's memory to commemorate his public services. The monument is circular in form (with Marshall's bust recently added), surmounted by a dome, and is the domicile of the Perth Library founded by him, and of the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society's Rooms and Museum.

In the eighteenth century the rules which governed the municipal elections were very strictly enforced. The Town Clerk, Mr. George A. Miller, was obliged to give a formal undertaking that he was above suspicion. The following is the oath subscribed by that official in 1754:—

I, George Miller, solemnly swear that 1 have not directly or indirectly by way of loan or other device received any sum or sums of money, office, place, employment, gratuity or reward, or any bond, bill or note, or any promise of any sums of money whatsoever either by myself or any other for my use or benefit to make out any commission for choosing a burgess. And that I will duly make out a commission to the commissioner who shall be chosen by the majority of the Town Council, and to no other person. So help me God.

In 1756 George II. declared war against the French King, and on that occasion the Magistrates and Town Council of Perth presented him with the following address:—

We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, are deeply sensible of the insults and injuries your Majesty has received by the treacherous encroachments and invasions made by the French king upon your Majesty's dominions both in Europe and America, and by the apparent insolent attempts of that king to invade even your kingdoms of Britain and Ireland, in open violation of the most solemn treaties betwixt the two crowns. And we do with hearts full of loyalty and zeal for your Majesty's sacred person and government express our cheerful and humble approbation of your Majesty declaring war against the French king: and as it shall be our daily ardent prayer to the most high God to grant success to your Majesty's arms by sea and land in the vigorous prosecution of that most just, lawful and necessary war, so we do hereby heartily and willingly offer to serve your Majesty with our lives and fortunes in so glorious a cause as is the vindication of your Majesty's honour and the just rights of your crown.

Signed in our name and by our appointment by John Robertson of Tulliebelton, Provost of Perth.

In 1760, on the accession of George III., the Magistrates and Council sent the following address on the auspicious occasion:—

We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects the Magistrates and Town Council of Perth, in Common Council assembled, most humbly beg leave to condole with your Majesty on the death of our late glorious sovereign under whose auspicious reign we enjoyed many great and valuable blessings and that true British liberty which was confirmed to us by the accession of your Majesty's illustrious House to the Imperial Crown of these realms. At the same time it is with the highest joy and pleasure that we see your sacred Majesty succeed to the throne of your native country, and having the fullest confidence in your regard to the happy constitution of Britain we with the warmest affection offer our congratulations on this occasion: and pray that the Almighty may bless your Majesty with a long and prosperous reign and with wisdom to bring the present necessary war to such conclusion as may give distinguishing lustre to your Majesty's councils, stability to your wide extended dominions and security and happiness to your people in every quarter of the world.

Signed in our name and by our appointment at Perth, 17th November, 1760.

It is evident that some of the Magistrates in the summer of 1763 were in England on holiday, for among the archives of the burgh we find the following interesting piece of information, the list of toasts drunk at Aylesbury on 4th June, 1763, the anniversary of the birthday of George III.:—

The King and Queen, the Prince of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family.
The King of Prussia, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick.
The Hereditary Prince and the most amiable Princess in Europe.
May his Majesty be universally respected, and his weak ministers detected and detested.
A capable administration: freedom of speech within doors, and freedom of the press without.
May no house be safer than a man's own house.
May English triumph over Scottish favouritism.
May English forces preserve their own rights and those of the Constitution.
The Whigs of Scotland and Ireland.
Mr. Pitt at the head of the Whigs.
The late Lord-Lieutenant and all friends of the liberties of England.

We now come to the appointment of the first Chamberlain of the burgh, an office of considerable importance, and one that was called for by the increased prosperity and importance of the burgh and the growth of the population. Hitherto the office had been undertaken by one of the councillors, but from the following ordinance it is evident that considerable irregularities had crept in under this arrangement:—

The Magistrates and Town Council taking into consideration the loss the community sustains by different persons being chosen town treasurer annually whereby they have no opportunity of acquiring such knowledge of the town's affairs as seems necessary for discharging that office in a proper manner; and considering that the business of the office has of late years so much increased and become so intricate and perplexed that it requires much more attendance than can be expected any treasurer will allow for it; and further, considering the many inconveniences the Magistrates are laid under for want of money to carry on the public work by reason that the treasurers do not uplift the town's revenue in proper time, and frequently neglect to prosecute the town's tacksmen and their other debtors till long after the tack duties and other sums have fallen due, whereby the town's affairs are kept in such confusion that the administration can obtain no distinct knowledge of them nor prevent the inconveniences that follow. It has been resolved that the person who shall be elected town treasurer in time to come shall have no intromissions with the town's common good and other sums of money that are or shall fall due to the community, nor disburse any money on their account after the term of Martinmas next, when the present treasurer's term of office expires; nor shall he act in any other capacity than as one of the Magistrates in overseeing and regulating the police of the burgh and in managing the affairs of the town. The Town Council shall from time to time, as they shall find it necessary, elect and choose a fit person to be chamberlain and factor from and after Martinmas next, with power to him to intromit, and uplift and receive the yearly revenue or common good of the burgh, and all other sums and arrears due and payable to the community, and to apply the same in payment of the yearly stipends, salaries and annual rents due by the town, and otherwise as the Magistrates and Town Council shall direct: subject always to such rules and regulations as they shall prescribe. The person so elected shall carry on his account from Martinmas to Martinmas yearly, and shall make just count reckoning and payment of his intromissions at any time when required by the Town Council; and particularly shall, on or before the first day of January each year, prepare and lay before the Town Council the charge and discharge of the preceding year in order that the same may be audited. The Chamberlain before entering on duty shall find caution for the due discharge of the duties of the office, and shall be allowed a yearly salary of thirty pounds and no other allowance or perquisites whatever.

The first Chamberlain appointed was Patrick Miller, writer, whose administration of the office was in the highest degree satisfactory.

There does not seem to have been any bankers in Perth before the eighteenth century. The Joint Banking Company of Perth was founded in 1763. This bank issued notes bearing the city arms and signed John Stewart & Co. The office was in Newrow. The Tannerie Banking Company, founded in 1764, had a note issue—emblem, the oak tree. These were signed Stewart, Richardson & Co. The office was in Curfew Wynd. The same year was started Blacklaw, Wedderspoon and Company's Bank with note issue—emblem, thistle and crown; office in High Street There was also M'Keith, Rintoul and Company's Bank with note issue — emblem, the king's hand; office in High Street Brace's Bank with note issue—emblem, Brace's crest and motto; office in Kirkgate. Craigie Banking Company with note issue, signed John Ramsay & Co.; office in High Street This bank mania, for it can be called nothing else, lasted for the short period of three years, and resulted in the whole of these being amalgamated, and thereafter trading as the Perth United Banking Co. This new bank was founded in March, 1766, with a capital of 32,000 in shares of 100 each. No shareholder was allowed to hold more than six shares The capital was afterwards advanced to 50,000. In opposition to this bank another was started on 1st January, 1767, called the General Bank of Perth, but failed to get support, and discontinued business. The Perth United Bank, on the expiration of its contract in 1788, ceased to exist, and a new bank was formed called the Perth Banking Company, its shares being 100 each. This bank had a prosperous career, but on the expiry of its contract in 1808 it also ceased to exist In 1810 the Union Bank of Perth was formed, its shares being 500 each. The small number of partners restricted the business, and it came to an end after twenty-six years of prosperity. Then came the Perth Bank and the Central Bank of Scotland, both prosperous concerns. The former was eventually bought up by the Union Bank, and the latter by the Bank of Scotland.

The history of printing in Perth opens with the publication of a book on the Inquisition, entitled "The Bloody Tribunal." It bears the date of 1770, and the publisher, G. Johnston, takes credit for establishing a printing office in the town, and mentions that a paper manufactory in the neighbourhood had also been set going.

Shortly afterwards the family of Morison, whose descendants still worthily represent that honoured name in Perth, established a large printing and publishing house. The list of their books is long and interesting; indeed, in June, 1794, Mr. James Morison wrote that in the previous six months he had printed 14,000 volumes, a wonderful record for the time. It would lead us into technical details to follow the fortunes of this business, and to record the development of the trade, which has grown to such importance in later years. Still, some mention of Mr. David Morison cannot be omitted, especially in reference to his encyclopaedic learning and wide interests. The "Encyclopaedia Perthensis," in 23 volumes, was but one of his ventures, but the most memorable of his publications were, perhaps, the catalogues of the pictures and books in Kinfauns Castle. These catalogues were elaborately illustrated and embellished, and give a good idea of the furnishings of the library and picture gallery of a nobleman of wealth and culture at that time. Sir Walter Scott wrote to Mr. David Morison congratu* lating him on the beauty and completeness of his productions. We have had occasion to examine a catalogue of the library of Mr. W. Stewart of Spoutwells, prepared by the same indefatigable worker, and it is difficult to decide which most to admire—the collector or the catalogue. It is wonderful that a library so representative of the literature of the day should have been found in a small manor house, and still more wonderful that a country bookseller should have been found to set forth its contents so exactly and minutely.

After the bank mania, the Magistrates and Council agreed to join the county in an application to Parliament for power to build a bridge and to levy reasonable tolls upon the same, and to borrow money on the security of these tolls with powers and provisions for carrying the work effectually into execution. The Magistrates empowered the treasurer to pay such sums out of the common good as might be agreed on, for the expense of the bill. They also offered to let for one or more years the ferry or passage over the Tay at Perth, and from time to time, until the bridge be finished and available for traffic ; and to assign the yearly tack duty of the ferry to the trustees of the bridge to be applied for the purposes of the act. They likewise agreed that if the building of the bridge be discontinued before it is finished, or if it should fall or otherwise become impassable, the Magistrates would let the ferry, and assign the tack duty to the trustees of the bridge to be applied proportionally towards payment of the sums which have been borrowed until the principal has with interest been repaid; the tolls of the ferry not to be diminished or made less than they then were, to the prejudice of the creditors or the tack duties.

No serious question arose in the burgh after this until in 1772, when the Magistrates conferred the freedom of the city on John Wesley, an act which was greatly approved of at the time. In Wesley's Journal it is interesting to notice his association with the Fair City. He was evidently very proud of this connection. The following entry appears in his diary under date 28th April, 1772:—

In the evening I preached once more in Perth to a large and serious congregation. Afterwards they did me an honour I never thought of — presented me with the freedom of the city. The diploma ran thus: —"The illustrious order of Magistrates and the honourable Court of Senators of the famous city of Perth, as a proof of their well-merited esteem and affection for John Wesley, Master of Arts, late Fellow of Lincoln College in Oxford, have invested him with the immunities of the above-mentioned city, and with the privileges of the society and brotherhood of a burgess." The diploma was struck off from a copper plate upon parchment; the arms of the city and some of the words were illuminated, and flowers painted round the borders, which gave it an artistic appearance.

In 1774 Wesley again visited Perth, and his opinion of the people is graphically expressed in the following entry taken from his diary:—

Preached in the evening to a large congregation, but I could not find the way to their hearts. The generality of the people here are so wise that they need no more religion 1 Who can warn them that are brimful of wisdom and goodness to flee from the wrath to come ?


Proclamation by the Magistrates of Perth.

Whereas there is at present a great scarcity of meal in the town, and in order that the inhabitants may be speedily supplied the Magistrates entreat the gentlemen and farmers in the country to bring to the town such quantities of meal as they can spare to be sold in the public market-place, and the Magistrates hereby engage to give them all protection and encouragement. Given at Perth the 3rd December, 1772.

William Stewart, Provost.

On 30th December, 1772, betwixt nine and ten o'clock p.m., a number of people of both sexes gathered together and went to the new shore of Perth, where a sloop lay taking in bere. They went on board and carried off about 400 bolls. The Magistrates took every means to disperse them, but in vain, until the military were called out and they dispersed. At three o'clock the following morning, the same persons broke open the shop of John Scott, baker, and carried off meal, flour, and bread to a considerable value. The same night a mob unloaded a vessel at Newburgh having a cargo of bere and wheat

On Monday, 4th January, 1773, several hundred people of both sexes met in a riotous manner in Dundee and carried off from the Park House about 400 bolls of wheat and barley. They then proceeded to a ship lying in the harbour, from which they carried off a considerable quantity of victual. They likewise broke open two cellars, out of which they took a great quantity of potatoes. The Magistrates read the Riot Act and used every means in their power to disperse them, but in vain.

The meal mob assembled in Perth on the following night in order to rescue two of their number who were in prison. The Magistrates called on the military for assistance. The mob pelted the soldiers with stones. The Riot Act was read, but the mob still increased, and rather than order the soldiers to fire, the Provost ordered them to withdraw, and he delivered up the two prisoners. The mob then proceeded to the house of John Donaldson, corn factor at Elcho, where they behaved riotously, breaking down and destroying everything they could come at, after which they took away the keys of his granaries and delivered them to the Sheriff-substitute with orders to bring the corn to Perth and have it immediately ground into meal. Mr. Donaldson saved this trouble by sending on the grain himself next morning. In a day or two the rioters assembled again and went to the house of Mr. Blair of Balthayock, when the servants in Blair's absence gave them up the keys of the granaries, and finding no victual but what was for Mr. Blair's family use they retired without doing any harm. Some days after, a mob proceeded from Dundee to Mr. Mylne's of Mylnefield, and behaved in the most lawless manner, plundering and breaking everything they could not carry off. A number of Carse people came to protect the family, when a servant of Lord Gray was severely wounded; sixteen of the rioters were cleverly apprehended by farmers and brought into Perth next morning between nine and ten, bound in two carts, when the military took them to Edinburgh. It would further appear that Colonel Duncan of Lundin, with a party of thirty farmers on horseback, resolved to attack the rioters, and at the head of this party with whips and sticks made his way several times through them, many of them loaded with plunder. The mob soon disappeared, when the Colonel and his party succeeded in seizing sixteen of them. The original cause of these riots is said to have been the want of meal in Perth market for ten days preceding the first mob.

There were three notables who championed these riots, James Wilson, a barber, a tall, gaunt-looking individual, with a wig and cocked hat, and shoes often without soles. Wilson had plenty of impudence, a good deal of wit, and dabbled in poetry. He also did some business in illegal marriages, saving the parties the expense of a journey to Edinburgh, or to the notorious whins of Falkland. The second champion was Blair Flight, a watchmaker, and capable of any mean action. Like Wilson, he also did some business in illegal marriages, for which he was occasionally apprehended. Blair's exhortations on these occasions were original and sarcastic. The third champion was Niel Keiller, a little man with a big soul He was a weaver to trade, and a most loquacious speaker who never knew when to stop. These men had no difficulty in getting up a mob. On one occasion a great mob assembled in the town, and were proceeding to such extremities that the Magistrates had again to call out the military. Then a couple of field pieces charged with grape shot were placed in front of the Council chambers. The soldiers were drawn up before the guns, and receiving showers of stones from the multitude, they charged them up the High Street, and dispersed them. The mob, going round by what is now Charlotte Street, rallied, and the military charged them again in the direction of the North Inch and dispersed them. A third time the mob rallied, but the Provost interfered, and persuaded them to go to their homes. This seems to have terminated the matter.

In 1775 a Rebellion broke out in the British possessions in America, when the Magistrates and Council sent the following address to George III.:—

We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council of Perth in Common Council assembled, under no influence but the dictates of our own loyalty and affection, beg leave to approach your Royal presence and to declare our abhorrence of the Rebellion in your American Colonies excited by designing men, and we are sorry to add, encouraged by too many at home against their most indulgent sovereign and the Supreme Legislature of the British Empire, under whose protection our liberties both civil and religious have long been uninterruptedly enjoyed and can only in future subsist

With hearts full of gratitude for these blessings, we are ready on every occasion to assist your Majesty to the utmost of our power in subjecting your rebellious subjects to the obedience they owe their lawful sovereign and both Houses of Parliament, and pray that Almighty God may long preserve your Majesty and direct your Councils to maintain our happy constitution and defeat the traitorous machinations of all your enemies, foreign and domestic designers against your sacred person and government

Signed in our name and by our appointment at Perth, 1st November, 1775.

Alexander Simson, Provost.

The increase in the population was rapidly going on, and included the accession to the town of many outside families, who were attracted from various causes, and very probably for education to their young people. The Perth Grammar School at that date had a high reputation as a seat of learning. One of the results of this state of affairs was that the seats in St John's Church became insufficient for accommodating the people. The Kirk Session gave earnest attention to this matter, and did everything in their power to meet the case. It is of interest to notice the representation made by them to the Magistrates after they had investigated the matter:—

It would appear from the returns that the seats wanted amounted to 1,683 sittings. Besides this, the scholars of the Grammar School and the Academy were unprovided for, which was a loss to the young people and discouraging to parents who sent their children to town to be educated The Session represented the vast injury which multitudes must be sustaining by not attending divine worship, while many were obliged to stay at home, or go to congregations of Dissenters, or at best exchange a part of the day with others of their family, who thereby in their turn must stay at home, while many others, by being out of the way, contracted an indifference for religion and fell into vicious practices of spending the Sabbath in idleness and profanity. The Session expressed the hope that the Magistrates and Council would consider the matter, and afford redress by ordering commodious seats and lofts to be built in the East Church, and thus render it capable of containing a greater number than it had formerly done. The Magistrates did what they could to meet this emergency, but they were obliged eventually to consider a proposal for the erection of another church (St Paul's Church), which proposal came before them the following year:—

The representation to the Magistrates and Council of the Kirk Session of Perth and those subscribing being inhabitants and burgesses and subscribers for building a new church (St. Paul's), have for some time past been put to great inconvenience by not being accommodated with seats in the churches, and although the Council resolved to seat the East Church, yet the subscribers, fully convinced of the necessity for a new church, have proceeded so far as to open subscriptions, and have obtained a considerable sum. They suggest as a site for the building among others that belonging to the town, and occupied by James Scott, as a commodious situation. As this scheme is meant for the benefit of the community, the subscribers hope the Council will resolve to feu to the Kirk Session, and such others as may be chosen managers, as much ground as may be sufficient for the building at a reasonable feu-duty, to be entered upon immediately, and they entreat the Council for an immediate answer. (Here follows list of signatures.)

After these proceedings, the citizens began to interest themselves in burgh and parliamentary reform, and a society was formed, called the Perth Society of Parliamentary Reform; another society called the Friends of the People (likewise political) was also formed, when resolutions and hand-bills were constantly being placarded on the walls. One resolution was : "That as Providence had given every man his calling, he had a right to exercise it to the best advantage, independent of exclusive privileges." This was proposed in the Guild Hall, when one of the audience, Deacon Martin, in an excited state exclaimed:—"Having hitherto maintained their exclusive privileges, they would defend them still with the last drop of their blood." After this a society called United Scotsmen was started. Its ostensible object was universal suffrage and annual parliaments, but its ulterior object was republicanism. From all accounts, this society was extensively patronised, and spread over all Scotland, its annual meetings being held in Edinburgh, At a meeting of the Relief Church several of the clergy took a prominent part One of the audience used the word reform, when a minister immediately got up and excitedly said:—"Reform, reform indeed; public opinion was a hundred miles before reform. That was like pursuing a hare when it was behind. A revolution, and nothing but a revolution, would ever satisfy the country, and they were determined to bring it about." One of those ministers made constant reference to the subject from his pulpit, holding up the French as an example of public virtue and patriotism. War had commenced between France and Austria; he prayed for the success of the former, and that they might drink the blood of their enemies.

Compulsory enlistment of soldiers was carried on to a considerable extent, which resulted in much bad blood between the inhabitants and the military. Those who were compelled to join the regiments were treated with cruelty. One illustration will suffice. About 1782, when George Faichney was Provost, a wright of the name of Gardiner was employed to construct a machine which, by a series of screws, was to force straight what nature, age, and ill-usage, had made crooked . . . One forenoon the neighbourhood was alarmed by dreadful screams proceeding from the orderly room. Immediately a mob assembled, disarmed the guard, and forced open the door. It was found that one poor creature had undergone the rack, another was fixed on the engine, and a third in agony awaited his fate. The commanding officer ordered the drums to beat to arms, and the officers, in attempting to rally the men, were attacked individually with sticks and stones, and handled very unmercifully. The prisoners were liberated, and the screws brought out and burned at the Cross. The fury of the mob was then turned against Gardiner; everything in his shop was destroyed, and he only escaped by getting out at a back window. Another remarkable event occurred that year, when the people again took the law into their own hands. It occurred on the North Inch, and certainly was a ludicrous incident A decent married man, having a wife and four children, in poor circumstances, was detected helping himself to a few potatoes in a potato field. He was tried by court-martial and sentenced to 500 lashes, after which he was taken to the North Inch to receive his punishment, and a mob had gathered on the spot His wife and children appeared before the commanding officer to request a mitigation of the punishment, but the officer was deaf to the request The lash proceeded. He bore the first 25 bravely, but the second 25 being inflicted by a left-handed drummer had the effect of tearing up the skin at every lash, and the unfortunate man was unable to endure the agony. His wife, setting down her child, rushed through the ranks and held the drummer's arm. She was seized and dragged forth, screaming, and the punishment resumed. This was the signal for the charwomen, who, with their laps full of stones, stoned the soldiers, and, backed by the multitude, broke through the line, drove the officers from the circle and released the prisoner. The moment the prisoner was untied from the halberts a general attack was made upon the officers. The adjutant was secured, and got a terrible thrashing from the women, who laid him down on his face, in which position he was held by the crowd till he had got a substantial flogging, the women taking off his nether garments. In this way he was made to appreciate the cruelty he had meted out to the unfortunate man, and the women in parting with him expressed the hope that he would remember this incident, and that he would profit by it

In 1786 the Perth Library was established, its object being to encourage literature and culture in the community. It was considered of great importance to have a public library, under proper regulations. The institution was to be the property of the subscribers and to be conveyed by them in trust to the following gentlemen and their successors in office:—Peers of Parliament resident in the county; the members for the City and County; the Provost and Magistrates, Dean of Guild, Treasurer and Convener of the Trades; the Ministers of the City; Moderator of Presbytery, Sheriff and Sheriff-substitute ; Sheriff and Town Clerk ; headmasters of the Academy and of the Grammar School. The curators were to have sole charge of the library, subject to the control of the general meetings, and to purchase books only as far as funds in hand were sufficient. When a volume was lost the subscriber must replace it or pay its value, and until he do so he would not be allowed to take any more books. If these salutary regulations had been attended to during the nineteenth century, the library at this date would have been in possession of many valuable books and MSS. which have been taken away by careless subscribers and never returned.

In 1788 the Gaelic Church was erected in the burgh for the benefit of the Highlanders, who at that period formed a considerable section of the community. The service was to be conducted in Gaelic Passing on to 1798, it would appear that the Kirk Session of that date had reason to be dissatisfied with the conduct of the people on Sunday. Evidently the churches were not so well attended as was expected, and those who stayed away paraded the streets. The Session in these circumstances authorised visitors to go round the town on Sunday during divine service to preserve decency and good order, and they applied to the Magistrates for one or two constables to accompany them. This was a very proper proceeding and greatly improved the amenity of the burgh for the time.

In the same year a small body of Congregationalism, desirous of having a place of worship of their own, bought a little chapel in Thimblerow, originally called the "cap-out" kirk. It is said that when this chapel was being erected, and on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone, the usual ceremony of the "founding pint" was observed. The workmen employed drank from wooden vessels called "caups," and each drank their "caup out" or drained their vessel, to the success of the building, and the chapel was therefore named the "cap-out" kirk. This is what was known afterwards as Paul Street Chapel. The "cap-outs" will be found described more fully in a local publication.


About the end of the eighteenth century there was an extraordinary demand for men for both army and navy. The town of Perth undertook to raise a body of men for Admiral Keith Elphinstone, while the Earl of Breadalbane obtained a warrant to raise two battalions of Fencibles. Three hundred of his tenants soon marched into Perth in a body, and are said to have exhibited the finest specimens of men that could anywhere be found On one occasion one of the battalions had not received its arrears of pay. On the morning on which it was to march the regiment was drawn up in front of the George Hotel. When ordered to shoulder arms each man stood immovable. The order was repeated, but not a man stirred. On asking an explanation, the commanding officer was informed that not having received their arrears of pay they were resolved not to leave the place. Eventually they agreed to march, on the officer undertaking to pay them up. Shortly after this, Lord Lynedoch received a warrant to raise and embody a regiment to be called the 90th or Perthshire Regiment In a few weeks it numbered 1,500. The men for a time dined on the North Inch. It is recorded that entire oxen were roasted on these occasions and London stout supplied in hogsheads, the regiment being seated on the grass in fifties, and a plentiful supply of meat and drink served to each. The regiment had a distinguished career, and a memorial fountain was in 1896 erected in its honour on the North Inch, and unveiled by Lord Wolseley, the commander-in-chief of the forces at the time.

When this regiment was a body of gentlemen volunteers, consisting of three companies of sixty each, it was enrolled with Captain Jelf Sharp of Kincarrathie as commanding officer. A fourth company was afterwards raised. The men agreed to serve without pay and to clothe themselves, each member to pay a guinea and a half of entry money. The Government eventually agreed to two days' pay weekly. The uniform consisted of a long superfine blue coat, skirt bound with white, red neck and cuffs, and gold bead button-holes at neck and sleeves, white cashmere vest and trousers, long black gaiters, a round hat and white feather. These volunteers were afterwards called out to quell riots.

In 1804 the old Tolbooth was in a state of irremediable decay, and to all intents and purposes practically done. We are without a photograph of this wonderful old building so much associated in early times with the life of the burgh, nor have we any record of its first erection. The matter of a new Tolbooth or county prison was taken up by the Commissioners of Supply for the county, who presented a petition to the House of Commons in the following terms:—

Perth is one of the assize towns of Scotland where the Lords of Justiciary attend twice a year for the trial of criminals. The Tolbooth of Perth is in a ruinous state and not of sufficient strength to confine with security the felons and other criminals and debtors, and is too small and incommodious to enable them to be supplied with wholesome air. It will be necessary to take down and rebuild the same. There is not in Perth any proper Court Room for the judges in circuit nor any Court Room for the Sheriff Depute for the ordinary business of this populous and widely extended county, nor any Town Hall for the local Magistrates, nor any safe or proper place for preserving the Records of the town and county. It would be important if a proper Bridewell or House of Correction were built adjoining the gaol and maintained under proper regulations for the employment and punishment of thieves and vagrants and others.

This request was eventually granted, but after the lapse of several years. In 1810 the Perthshire Yeomanry were embodied by the Earl of Kinnoull, and usually assembled at Dupplin Castle. When they and the volunteers appeared together, the Countess appeared bearing a standard in each hand, and after a salute from both, the band advanced playing the Highland March, followed by the Countess and forty ladies by twos all dressed in white muslin. They were followed by gentlemen in uniform in the same order. The whole then marched round the park, where took place the consecration of colours by the chaplain, and the standards presented to the officers by the Countess, who delivered a short addresa There was also a company of sharpshooters enrolled under Provost Caw, but as they never made their appearance they were called Captain Caw's Invisible Riflemen. The four battalions of local militia, with the regular militia 1,200 strong, and yeomanry and artillery, formed altogether a very respectable force.


The steady growth of the population after the Reformation of 1559 made it necessary at the close of the eighteenth century to reconsider and reconstruct the entire ecclesiastical arrangements of the burgh. The Town Council from time immemorial have been patrons and ex officio owners of the fabric of St John's, and since 1560 the responsible authority for the payment of the minister's stipend. It was now their duty, in conjunction with the Presbytery of Perth, to formulate a scheme for the future administration of the churches under their control, such a scheme as would be for the welfare of the ministers and people. This was a matter of great importance to the town, and one that demanded serious consideration. Accordingly in 1807 a comprehensive scheme, which is still in operation, was duly considered and approved by all parties, and in ordinary course received the sanction of the Court of Session. This deed is entitled, "The Decreet of Disjunction and Erection 1807," and we give the following abridgment of it:—

At Edinburgh, the 11th March, 1807.—Anent the summons and act of Disjunction and Erection raised before the Lords of Council and Session at the instance of the Magistrates and Town Council of Perth against the Earl of Kinnoull and several others: the which summons maketh mention that by the 13th Act of the Second Session of the first Parliament of William and Mary power was granted to the Lords and others of the Commission appointed for plantation of kirks and valuation of teinds to disjoin two larger parishes, to erect and build new churches as they see cause. By the 9th Act of the Parliament holden in 1707 the Lords of Council and Session were authorised to judge and determine in all affairs and causes which were formerly referred to the Commissioners. But providing always that no erection or disjunction should be carried on without the consent of the heritors to the extent of three-fourths of the valued rent of the parishes to be disjoined or erected. That the City of Perth having a considerable landward district in one parish, has now become too populous for one or two persons to exercise the ministerial functions to the inhabitants. That the cure of the said burgh and parish had for some time been served by two ministers, Mr. James Scott and Mr. James Moody, and an ordained assistant. That on the 2nd day of June last the pursuers resolved by Act of Council to settle an additional minister in the burgh to preach in St Paul's Church and be provided with a competent stipend out of the revenue of the burgh, which was fixed at 200 sterling per annum. At a subsequent meeting on the 1st December, 1806, it was judged necessary to place a further minister in the burgh, whereby there would be four Established Church ministers instead of two as formerly; and to divide the burgh into parishes and assign a separate charge to each minister. The Magistrates and Council agreed that the burgh be divided into four parishes, and that there be one minister for each, the churches and parishes to have all the rights and privileges as any other parish in Scotland. It would not be competent for these parishes to distribute the church door collections within their own hands. The Sessions of the four parishes would meet together as a General Session and distribute their collections and all other funds of which they have the management amongst the poor of the burgh and parishes. The Magistrates and Council did by the said Act of Council resolve and agree that the parsonage teinds of the parish, consisting of 300 bolls of victual, whereof a certain portion as stated in the deed shall be paid equally between the ministers of the East and Middle Churches; and the vicarage teinds of 7 8s. 10d. two-thirds shall be paid to the minister of the East Church and his successors, and over and above the teinds paid to Messrs. Scott and Moody the Council by the said Act granted and allocated to each of them and their successors in the East and Middle Churches the sum of 80 sterling yearly, thereby making the stipend of each 200 per annum. With regard to the ministers to be settled in the West Church and in St Paul's Church, the Council granted and allocated to each of them a yearly stipend of 200 sterling, which with the additional sum settled on the East and Middle Churches is to be paid out of the ordinary revenue of the burgh at the terms of Whitsunday and Martinmas by equal portions. Reserving to the Magistrates and Council as representing the community the sole right of patronage in these churches, also the right and property of the churches with the absolute power of setting and disposing of the seats therein, and of the vacant stipends of the same; also naming precentors thereto. The establishment of stipends to all the ministers shall preclude all future claims to manses and glebes. The said Act of Council is declared to be binding on the Magistrates and Council and their successors in office without prejudice to the ministers receiving such additional stipends as the Magistrates and Council shall be pleased to give them. The pursuers have not only obtained the concurrence required by law of three-fourths of the landward heritors, but the said Act of Council having been submitted to, and considered by the Presbytery of Perth, they by their minute of 3rd December last did unanimously concur with and give their sanction thereto. The East Church parish to comprehend the whole landward part of the present parish and also those parts of the burgh lands not included in the three parishes after described. The Middle parish to comprehend that part of the burgh bounded by the Tay on the east, by the south side of High Street on the north, the east side of Methven Street on the west, and the north side of South Street on the south. The south side of High Street, east side of Methven Street, and north side of South Street (and north) being included in this parish. The West Church to be bounded by the Tay on the east, by the south side of South Street up to Methven Street and from thence to the south end of Newrow on the north, and from the south end of Newrow along Leonard Causeway to the bridge over Craigie burn and down the course of Craigie burn to the Tay on the west and south, the south side of South Street, south side of street opposite King James VI. Hospital, and east side of Leonard Causeway being included in this parish. St Paul's parish to be bounded by the Tay on the east, by the north side of High Street up to Methven Street on the south, by the east side of Methven Street to the boundary of the royalty near the bridge over the lade, and from thence along the line bounding the royalty down to the Tay on the north and west; the north side of High Street, east side of Methven Street and all the houses within the royalty boundary above described to belong to this parish. The said Lords ought and should ordain the inhabitants of these four parishes to repair to then-several churches above mentioned as to their own proper parish church for the hearing of the Word, receiving of the Sacraments, etc The pursuers have now and in all time coming the sole right of patronage of the churches as well as of those which may afterwards be built within the burgh, and of disposing of said churches and pews thereof and bonds within the same, uplifting rents of said pews and appointing readers and precentors from time to time as they shall see fit; and of disposing as they shall think proper during any vacancy the funds which shall be provided and vacant stipends according to law and practice in such cases. The pursuers and their successors in office shall be bound and obliged to defray the expense of erecting and building the said churches, and keeping the same in good repair. The said Lords ought and should ratify and confirm the aforesaid division and allocation of teinds of the parish agreed to by the pursuers, and decern and ordain that the parsonage teinds of the parish shall continue to be paid as heretofore equally to Messrs. Scott and Moody, and afterwards to be equally divided between their successors the ministers of the East and Middle Churches and parishes thereto annexed ; and the vicarage teinds amounting to 7 8s. 10d. shall be wholly paid to the minister of the East Church and his successors. The pursuers and their successors in office shall pay yearly to the ministers of the East and Middle Churches the sum of 80 sterling, thereby making the stipend of each equal to 200 per annum; also to pay to each of the ministers of the West and St Paul's Churches and their successors in office a yearly stipend of 200 per annum, which with the additional sum settled on the ministers of the East and Middle Churches, shall be paid out of the ordinary revenue of the burgh at the terms of Whitsunday and Martinmas. It being declared that the stipends to all the ministers shall include future claims to manses or glebes; and further to provide and furnish Communion elements for the said four churches, to be furnished or paid for out of the funds of the burgh, and that over and above the stipends before specified, the two new or additional ministers and their successors in office to be received into and considered as members of the Presbytery of Perth.

At a meeting of the Magistrates and Town Council held at Perth on the 1st December, 1806, it was resolved that the burgh be divided into four separate parishes; that there be four ministers, one for each church and parish. Each minister being confined in the exercise of his duties to his own church and parish.

These presents were granted and are binding on the Magistrates and Council and their successors in office. The Magistrates obtained the sanction of the Presbytery to this arrangement, and afterwards constituted the proper action in the Court of Teinds, and took every other step in order to carry the same into full and complete effect. Then follows:—The subscribers, heritors, or agents for heritors of the parish of Perth, do hereby consent to the disjunction and erection into four parishes as specified—Signed, Thomas Luke, deacon of the Glover Incorporation, William Grigor, boxmaster, Charles Archer, Thomas Taylor, D. M'Leish, James McEwen.

The Presbytery duly considered the Act of Council and the request made by the Magistrates, and unanimously concurred therewith. The Presbytery thereafter compeared before the Lords of Session when the following deliverance was pronounced:—

The Lords of Council and Session have separated and disjoined and hereby separate and disjoin the said burgh and parish, and hereby erect the same into four separate parishes, and find and declare that the ministers appointed shall have the following divisions or districts allotted to them (as already stated). The funds to be allocated (as already stated). Patronage and pews (as already stated).

This arrangement, which accomplished the settlement of a great question, was satisfactory to all parties, and is still the scheme under which the four churches are administered.


In 1804 this matter was before the Law Courts, when it was settled that the Ancient Capital is legally entitled by its Royal Charter and Act of Parliament to rank next to Edinburgh. Counsel stated to the Court: — Glasgow obtained from Bishop Turnbull in 1450 a Royal Charter as a Burgh of Regality under direction of the bishops. It was not till 1633 that Glasgow acquired the privileges of a Royal Burgh. There could then have been no competition between Perth and Glasgow for precedence. The competitors at that time were Perth and Dundee. The King's letter ordains Perth to be placed next to Edinburgh and before Dundee as what was authorised by the Decreet Arbitral " according to their antiquities and decreet of our haill burgh given thereanent" The decreet settled that Perth should be accounted foremost in place and dignity in all Parliaments, public conventions of the estates of the kingdom, and conventions of burghs and councils.

The rank and precedence assigned to Perth is proved, and the manner in which the question was settled shows the incompetency of the Convention of Burghs to interfere unless by reference from the King and Parliament

The right of the Chief Magistrate of Perth to the title of Lord Provost was raised for the second time before the High Court of Justiciary, 17th February, 1836, when Mr. George Patton, the counsel for the burgh, made a representation, although taken unawares, which the Court held put the matter upon a very proper footing, but added that the point should now be set at rest and the grounds put on record by a minute, which was accordingly done. Of this minute a printed copy is preserved in the Record Room of the Corporation of Perth.

At the period when this important matter was settled, the state of crime in the burgh was very noticeable and vexatious. Notwithstanding the severest punishment, the Magistrates were unable to keep it down. A large section of criminals committed theft, which at that period was punishable with death. Consequently a great many executions took place, mostly at Burghmuir, but some at the foot of High Street The streets are reported to have been infested with gangs of thieves, who actually entered shops, lifted shop windows, and picked up everything they could lay their hands on. They would at times station themselves in closes and pounce on those who passed by. In the matter of recreation the inhabitants at this time indulged in archery, shinty, curling, with a sprinkling of football and golf.

The Magistrates gave the Government ground at the top of the South Inch in exchange for the Artillery Barracks, built on the site of Gowrie House. This depot was built in 1812, and must have been a large building, as it was filled with 5,000 French prisoners, and continued so for two years, when these prisoners were sent home to France. The first batch of prisoners, numbering 400, were landed at Dundee and marched to Perth, spending the night in the Church of Inchture, where they extracted the brass nails from the pews, and stole the green cloth from the pulpit and seats, and everything they could lay their hands on. This event was followed by a great briskness of trade, as the maintenance of 5,000 of an extra population created for the time being a lively business among the merchants. These prisoners are said to have been a very ingenious and industrious class of people. Visitors were allowed free access to them. They made toys, snuff-boxes, plaited straw for ladies' bonnets, etc., which they sold to all who came about them. It is said that large numbers of the inhabitants visited them daily. The money thus made was spent in the town in little luxuries, and amounted to a considerable sum. On account of the French law of conscription, there were people of all grades amongst these prisoners, and during their exile here the town was kept lively, and much regret expressed when they departed.

The County Buildings at Perth were erected in 1809, at a cost of 32,000, on the site of Gowrie House and gardens. At the foot of Marshall Place stands the water-works and reservoir, constructed in 1830, but extended and vastly improved since that period, involving double the original cost This unique and rather striking building was designed by the late Dr. Anderson, then Rector of Perth Academy, afterwards Professor of Natural Philosophy in St Andrews. In connection with the water-works are filter beds at the head of Moncrieffe Island. A suction pipe laid beneath the bed of the river draws the water to a tank beneath the great reservoir. Two steam engines pump it up to the height required, and pipes conduct it throughout the town. The supply of water from the Tay is abundant, and after passing through these natural filters it is an essentially good and pure water, and is under the management of the Corporation.

Return to Book Index 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