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Strathmore Past and Present
Lethendy and Kinloch

Quite separate parishes until 1806, and topographically distinct, Lethendy and Kinloch now form a united parish. Lethendy is separated from Blairgowrie on the east by the Lunan Burn, is bounded on the south by Caputh, and on the west by Clunie. It is five miles long, and about one and a-lialf broad. The surface rises gently westward for a mile, then falls suddenly from less productive soil to a fine black mould. A hundred and twenty years ago the best lands were under sheep pasture, but owing to a bad breed and unskilful management the yield was poor, both to the proprietor and tenant. From that time sheep were entirely banished, marl was extensively used, the waste lands were cultivated, and by industry and good management the rents soon trebled, the condition of the tenants improved, and the face of the country entirely changed. And so much has the parish progressed that from the old valued rental of £105, the assessed rental now is about £2352.

The Tower of Lethendy is a very old building, supposed to have been a fortalice in times preceding the invention of gunpowder; but, on the whole, it was far from being impregnable, especially from the east and south. About fifty years ago a pot was found, six feet below the surface, in the peat moss at Blackloch, where it is supposed a Roman camp was pitched. Ihis Roman camp-pot—made of a compound metal, like bell metal—stands upon three feet, is 17 inches high, 40 inches in circumference, and capable of holding six Scotch pints.

The population of Lethendy in 1750 was 346 which is about the same as at present. The registers commence in 1668, and incongruously mix up matters of Church discipline, collections and distributions for the poor, marriages and baptisms, &e. Some have been well kept, but others have suffered from the damp. A hundred years ago the people were described as very simple in their manners, frugal, industrious, and contented with their situation. Their religious ideas were narrow and imperfect, but their morals were little short of the dwellers in St. Kilda. The writer of the “Old Statistical Account” would have been a staunch opponent of the last Franchise Bill, for he complimented the parishioners on their being nearly ignorant of political creeds:—“The speculations of this nature, which have lately so much engaged the attention of mankind, and which have been discussed by all parties with so great warmth and un-eharitableness, are here treated with much indifference. They indeed hear and talk of reforms and revolutions, and plots and conspiracies, and armed associations; but without being the least alarmed, and without feeling themselves disposed to take an active part in support either of the one or of the other.” What a contrast—for better or for worse, time will tell—when the Franchise Act comes into action!

Ecclesiastically the parish of Lethendy, before being united to Kinloch, was remarkable for its being the subject of several lawsuits, one of which is of great importance. According to the Act of Parliament of 1640, it was provided that “ where competent manses are not already built, the heritors of the parish, at the sight of three ministers and three ruling elders to be appointed by the Presbytery, build competent manses to their ministers, the cost and expenses thereof not exceeding £1000 Scots ££83 6s. 8d. sterling), and not being beneath 500 merks (£27 15s. 6d. sterling) ; and where competent manses are already built, the heritors of the parish are hereby ordained to relieve the present minister of all cost, charges and expenses for building and repairing of the manses.” Mr. Williamson, the minister of the parish in 1786,.applied to the Presbytery, who ordained the heritors to build a new manse in lieu of the old one, at a cost of £120 sterling, because a competent manse could not be built cheaper. Mr. Mercer, the principal heritor, brought this deliverance before the Court of Session, who ultimately increased the allowance to £195 sterling. Against this judgment Mr. Mercer appealed to' the House of Lords, who affirmed the decision of the Court below, giving as their reason that “ the Court of Session had gone according to the spirit of the statute.” This decision in the Lethendy case has now all the force of a direct Act of Parliament. With the interpretation put on the statute by the house of Lords, “competent” manses are to be provided without any minimum limit to the expense. The statute is to be modified by custom, as has been pointed out in the Aberdour and Elgin cases since; “for the keeping up of a manse (even to rebuilding) must be considered as repairs, and the expense of such repairs falls under the clause in which there is no limitation.” The Court has since allowed upwards of £2000 sterling for the rebuilding of a manse. In 1789 the same heritor, Mr. Mercer, took the minister to the Court of Session for digging peats from the glebe for the use of his family, on the ostensible plea that the operation involved a considerable diminution of the soil; but the Court decided in favour of the minister. And again, in the same year, Mr. Mercer challenged the right of the minister to have more than the statutory four Scotch acres of a glebe; but the Court •’uled that after the lapse of forty years, the heritors cannot challenge the state of possession of the glebe enjoyed during this period, although it is more than the statutory allowance; because such continued possession was conclusive evidence of the original extent of the glebe. The church of Lethendy was supplied from 1574 to 1580 by John Mories. In 1677, David Young was translated to Dunkeld. “The Utencils were estimat” at £40. In 1689 George Ireland died, aged 30; “wared on him for droggs in the time of his sickness 100 merks, and expended on his funeral £60 Scots.”

Kinloch takes its name from its situation, meaning “ the head of the loch,” there being three lochs in the parish—viz., the Loch of Drumelie, the Rae Loch, and the Fenzies Loch. These abound in pike, perch and eel. In Drumelie and the Lunan Burn, issuing from it, are found excellent trout, which feed on the slick-worm (a species of food greedily taken by them). Though there are many small brooks in the parish, there are only two large ones—viz., Lornty Burn and Lunan Burn; the former cutting the parish right across from west to east; the latter separating the parish on the south-east from Blairgowrie. Clunie and Caputh bound it on the south and west. The parish is nine miles long and a little over one mile broad; and the Parish Church is about fifteen miles from Perth, nine from Dunkeld, and two from Blairgowrie.

The lower part of the parish is beautifully situated, with a southern exposure, sheltered from the north winds by the high grounds, and studded with sweet lakes. The Mansion House of Marlee is situated between two of the lakes, quite embosomed in rich plantation. The first marl-pit opened in this country was in the Moss which is connected with Rae Loch. It was partially drained in 1734; but afterwards was deepened at great expense. The marl is of great depth; and tho sales were for a considerable time very extensive. The advantages derived from the use of marl were alike felt by proprietor and tenant. As a manure it operates upon the earth by separating its parts, rendering it more penetrable to the roots of the plants, and thereby facilitating the means of nourishment. The richer it is the less it has of a cohesive quality, being thereby more easily incorporated. With the best marl the greatest benefit to the soil is obtained by laying it on the ground while under a grass crop, and leaving it exposed on the surface, over the winter season. Thus the thickly interwoven roots of the grass will prevent most of it from sinking below the surface, till it is washed into the earth by snow and rain. In one of the marl-pits at Marlee, a pair of very large deer’s horns were found, of palmed form, and of the elk species, anciently the stately inhabitant of the Caledonian forests. It is worthy of note that deers’ horns have been found in an entire state in marl-pits, though never so entire in the moss above, nor the sand below, the marl-beds. Much was done, a hundred years ago, in Kinloch to propagate the potato from the seed, that grows in the apple of the plant. These apples were taken before the shaws were decayed, and preserved carefully from the winter frosts. In April the seeds were picked out of the apples and sown an inch deep in well-prepared soil, half-an-inch of earth covering them. When the seedlings were an inch above the ground, they were transplanted into another piece of ground, at the distance of ten inches between the plants in the row, and at the distance of fourteen inches between the rows. They produced potatoes about the size of a small hen’s egg. These were planted in the following year, and an excellent crop generally rewarded the labours; the seed of three apples producing a ton of potatoes. Some keen cultivators secured a kind of potato in this way whieh, when kept properly, allowed two crops to be taken off the same piece of ground in one year. Can something of this nature not be seen about now in these unremunerative agricultural times?

There is one Druidieal temple in the parish, on the road leading from Blairgowrie to Dunkeld. There is an old castle at Glasselune, situated on the projection of the steep bank of the glen of Lornty Burn. The massive ruins show that it must have been a plaee of considerable strength both natural and artificial. It was possessed of old by a powerful family of the name of Blair. An inveterate feud subsisted between the Blairs of Glasselune and the Herons of Drumlochy, a castle a gunshot to the east in Blairgowrie parish; and a constant and harassing system of petty warfare was for long kept up, attended with considerable bloodshed on both sides : till at length the struggle was ended in the total defeat of the laird of Drumlochy and the complete destruction of his fortress. There are in a moor about 80 tumuli, called the Haer Cavins, 15 feet long and 5 feet high, which some antiquarians of authority (among them Dr. Skene, the Queen’s Historiographer for Scotland), in spite of General Roy’s claim for Ardoch, have contended to be vestiges of the far-famed battle of Mons Grampius between the Romans under Agrieola and the Caledonians under Galgaeus, in 81 a.d. The Caledonians occupied the ridge extending from the Erieht to Forneth, about five miles to the westward, protected by the river and a deep ravine. As is well known, the natives made the irretrievable mistake of descending from their vantage ground, and exposing themselves to the impetuous attacks of the disciplined troops in the open plain. The natives were put to flight, after a desperate hand to hand encounter; and the traces of their flight, are still to be seen in numerous tumuli through Maws in Blairgowrie. This gave rise to the provincial expression, that when a troublesome person abstains from fighting, on finding that he has met his superior, the fight was said to be, “let-a-bee for let-a-bee, like the fight of Maws.” About the end of last century a tumulus, 81 feet by 4 feet, was opened and found to contain human teeth and a great quantity of human bones, much reduced and mixed with charcoal; very likely the remains of part of the 340 Romans and 10,000 Britons who bravely fell.

The old valued rental of the parish was £142; now the real rental is £2200. The population has not varied much from what it was in 1750, i.e., 331. The Parochial registers go back to 1697. The eccentric minister of Tannadice, Mr. John Buist, was once proprietor of Nether Balcairn ; and Mr. Farquharson of Invercauld took some of his finest larches to Braemar, from the seedlings which he reared in- his property in Kinloch. The parish was originally called Lundeiff. In 1567, Thomas Cruickshank was minister, with a stipend of £6 13s. 4d. On account of the sufferings and loyalty of James Drummond, his children had £50 allowed by Parliament out of the Vacant Stipend of 1661.

The parishes of Lethendy and Kinloch were united by the Lords Commissioners of Teinds on the 26th Nov. 1806. The united parishes acquired notoriety, inferior only to that of Auchterarder and Marnoch, from the working of the General Assembly’s Veto Act in 1836. We have only space for a few jottings about it. In 1835, the aged minister having applied to the Crown (the Patron) to appoint his assistant, Mr. Clark, as his assistant and successor—being petitioned by 107 males, heads of families —the presentation was made in Mr. Clark’s favour by a royal sign-manual. The Presbytery of Dunkeld, holding for the first time that there was a constructive or qualified vacancy, sustained the presentation. But just before this, the General Assembly, thinking that they had the power, passed a Veto Act, by which, after the presentee had officiated before the congregation, a majority, if dissatisfied, could object to his being inducted to the charge. Accordingly, after Mr. Clark s trials, the parishioners, having changed their minds, set him aside by a bare majority. The Assembly, on appeal, confirmed the veto. Soon after the old minister died, and a second presentation was issued by the Crown in favour of Mr. Kessen. The Presbytery sustained the presentation, and intimated his trials. Mr. Clark thereupon obtained an interdict from the Court of Session prohibiting the Presbytery from proceeding further. At next General Assembly it was resolved that, as admission to the pastoral charge of a parish was entirely an ecclesiastical act, the Presbytery must proceed to the induction of Mr. Kessen upon the call, and not upon the presentation. The Presbytery were in a dilemma: if they proceeded to the induction they might be imprisoned by the Court of Session for breaking the interdict; if they delayed, they might be deposed for not obeying their ecclesiastical superiors. To make things easier, however, it was resolved by the Assembly to prepare a libel against Mr. Clark for the violation of his vows to obey the Assembly's orders. As soon as possible afterwards, the Presbytery ordained and inducted Mr. Kessen to the charge, thus bringing the Church and the Civil Court into mortal combat. On this Mr. Clark complained to the Court, who summoned the Presbytery before them as criminals at the bar. There was a long defence; and, after taking the matter to avizandum for four days, the judges announced that the sentence was for the first offence the solemn censure of tho Court. Mr. Clark was libelled by the Presbytery; but he declined its authority on account of the illegal character of its composition, being partly formed of quoad sacra ministers. The Assembly of 1842 dismissed this objection and deprived him of his licence; Dr. William Cunningham remarking with characteristic audacity, that “the Church discharged its whole duty towards the interdicts of the Court of Session by despising them and trampling them under its feet.” The next Assembly declared this null and void, having proceeded on incompetent grounds, and in the excess of its jurisdiction. In 1845, he was served with another libel; and two charges of drunkenness being found proven, he was finally deprived of licence in 1846. Now things are changed; the people have received a Veto Act from Parliament which goes far beyond what the Church desired ; for they have the absolute power of presentation, as of rejection, conferred upon them. Had the Church’s Veto Act been sanctioned by the State, there would have been no Disruption, and fewer squabbles and bitternesses in the election of ministers in both the Established and Free Churches. For, even in proportion to their usual peaceableness, when people in agricultural districts are roused up by religious differences, the turmoil and bitterness become the keener and more deadly :—

“Arouse thee, youth! it is no human call,
God’s Church is leaguered—haste to man the wall;
Haste where the red-cross banners wave on high,
Signal of honour’d death or victory!”

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