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Murthly History Group

One Sunday in July

Added on 01 March 2019

A section of an estate map of 'The Lands of Meikle Burnbane'. It has annotations in pencil by Sir William Drummond Stewart, dated March 1860, outlining the 60 acres he has sold to the Board of Commissioners in Lunacy for the new asylum.
Map © Murthly & Strathbraan Estates



Picture yourself standing at Murthly crossroads, looking east along Station Road. Don't worry about traffic as it is about noon on a quiet Sunday in July.

In 1861.

Your first thought will be along the lines of, 'Where is everything?' There is no Annat Lodge, no Laurelbank, and no church behind you. On your right is a field: No Uisge, no car park. To your left, an empty space where Stormont, that impressive sandstone villa, will come to own the corner. Through this gap you will see a building, roughly where Balfionn is today. But a bit lower, and darker, not white painted. That is William Strathearn's inn and shop, which he has had since about 1834. Close by the turnpike road to Dunkeld (now the B9099). Location was important long before Kirstie and Phil. (Murthly Inn is still at its original location in Kingswood.)

Walking straight ahead, through the dirt and dust of the 'labour road' leading to Kinclaven, there is no Dunvorist, no Dunsinane Cottage to pass. The first structure is about 500 yards up on the left - a low stone and concrete platform, the railway siding of the goods yard. With a large wooden shed, and a heap of coal ready to be weighed, bagged and loaded onto carts by Alexander Robertson's men come Monday. (Readily available Fife coal is one of the most immediate boons from the coming of the railway. Not many could afford to have it brought up by cart from the harbour in Perth.) Just past the yard the road curves slightly left to the new Station, with its stances for horse drawn gigs and traps.

There are no buildings at all on the right hand side. So you can see through where Station Buildings is yet to be to the original signal box, just across the single track of the Perth & Dunkeld railway, and to the right of the heavy wooden gates of the manually operated level crossing.

Where Lilac Cottage now stands, on the right, a couple of men are in earnest conversation beside a horse and cart. A woman and three girls are taking a wicker basket to set up lunch in what looks like an unkempt field. Three lads are removing a pick axe and shovels from the cart.

The younger of the men is Joseph Gold. He is 28 and very much how he looks, a farmer in his Sunday best. Joseph is also the laird's land steward. A position of some importance; more so on Murthly estate as he has to be the eyes and ears of an absent factor - the Perth solicitor, George Condie. He arrived in the area several years ago from Ceres in Fife, but he is well regarded for all that.

The older man is 43 year old Thomas Roger. He and his family are presently living across the river in Caputh, but he was born on the estate, in what used to be the fermetoun of Little Burnbane, near Pittensorn. Thomas has borrowed the cart from a neighbour because of all they have had to carry on this special day. Normally on a Sunday he would simply walk the family from Caputh down to the chain ferry, and walk again all the way to the Kirk O' the Muir, then back home. Thomas is a passionate pedestrian. By his lights, a'body should walk everywhere, a' the time.

Thomas is a shoemaker to trade.

Joseph hasn't had to walk far, just over from Home Farm (now Douglasfield). He is here to help with some neighbourly advice on the best place to try sinking a well. For Thomas has lately concluded a deal with Sir William Drummond Stewart, as the first person here to secure a 99 year building lease from the laird. He plans to erect his own two storey cottage, and a workshop, on 25 poles of land (about 0.15 acres) close to Murthly Station. The conditions are that the house should be built of stone with a slate roof, to at least the value of £200. He will have it up before Sir William's planned new shop, post office and houses at the level crossing (Station Buildings). His shoemaking workshop will also be well established by the time the Perth & District Lunatic Asylum (all those feet) opens on a 60 acre site on the other side of the railway. (The Perthshire Advertiser has recently carried a 'Tenders Wanted' ad for the various works, with a closing date of 20th July for all offers.)

Over the years Thomas will also take on a few strips of land for his sons to farm – pendicles, as they're called around here. One of these, about one and a half acres, will stretch back to the turnpike road at the crossroads. When he dies in 1888 his estate, minus Lilac Cottage which he will leave in liferent to his widow and the unmarried children, will be valued at around £90,000 (in today's money). One son, Andrew, will become the village postman. The youngest, David, will follow Thomas into shoemaking, moving down to Peacock Cottage in Gellyburn. David will marry and have four sons of his own, three of whom he will lose to the madness of the Great War.

Joseph's time is yet to come. But it will be soon. A capable, energetic and ambitious widow, Amelia Dow over in Auchtergaven parish, will recognise in him a matching initiative and drive. Although older by eight years, and with three children in tow, she will have this most eligible bachelor to church and married within two years. They will sign leases to manage three of the best farms on the estate: Home Farm, Mill of Airntully, and Bradyston. Signing them jointly as equal partners, not just husband and wife. No doubt to the speekulation of the neighbourhood.

© Murthly History Group

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