Auchterarder, pp.74-75.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   AUCHTERARDER, a parish in Perthshire. Its name, derived from the principal town in it, signifies ‘the Summit of the rising ground;’ which describes exactly its situation on the ridge of an eminence in the middle of Strathern, commanding, on the north and east, an extensive prospect of the adjacent country. The parish has united with it that of Abruthven, which signifies ‘the Mouth of the Ruthven,’ a small river on which it lies, and which discharges itself into the Earn. The annexation of the two parishes seems to have taken place some considerable time before the Revolution. Auchterarder parish is of an irregular form: its greatest extent from east to west is about 3 miles, and from north to south nearly 8 miles. It is bounded on the west by the parish of Blackford; on the north by Trinity-Gask; on the east, by Dunning; and on the south by Glendevon. The greater part of the parish is a flat and level country, lying on the south of the river Earn; it also includes in it some part of the Ochil hills, particularly Craigrossie, which is one of the highest of them, having an altitude of 2,359 feet above sea-level. These hills are clothed to their summit with grass, and afford good sheep-pasture. The general declination is from the base of the Ochils to the Earn. Almost the whole of the lower part of the parish is arable, and the northern declivity of the hills is arable a considerable way upwards. The Earn produces salmon, and the large white and yellow trout; it greatly beautifies the parish as well as the adjacent country, but is sometimes prejudicial to the neighbouring tenantry, by overflowing its banks in harvest. The Ruthven, which takes its rise in the hills, about 3 miles beyond the western boundary of the parish, is a beautiful little river, and runs with an uniform and constant stream through the whole length of this parish from south-west to north-east. It passes about 1,200 yards to the south of the village of Auchterarder, and joins the Earn about 4 miles from that village. This stream drives a number of corn and lint mills. It abounds with a species of trout peculiar to itself, of a small size, but remarkable for flavour and delicacy. This stream also is liable to sudden and extensive floods. In 1839, in particular, it did extensive damage in this way. The parish, and particularly the neighbourhood of the town of Auchterarder, abounds with a hard and durable stone which is very fit both for building houses and dry-stone fences; the quarries in the neighbourhood of the town also afford grey slate in abundance. No coal has yet been found here. In the Statistical report of 1838, the acres under the plough in this parish are stated at 7,176; the waste or pasture at 6,571 acres. There is only a small quantity of ground occupied by woods and rivers, and none at all by forests, or marshes; about 300 acres are under plantation. There are a couple of hundred acres in common at the west end of the village of Auchterarder, called the moor of Auchterarder, to which the inhabitants of Auchterarder send their cows to pasture. In its present state it is of no great value; but were it improved, the value of it would be vastly increased. Attempts have been repeatedly made to get it enclosed and divided; hut hitherto it has been found impossible to settle the respective claims of the various parties interested in it. The average rent of land, in 1792, was 20s.; in 1838, 30s. Population, in 1801, 2,042; in 1831, 3,315, of whom 1,981 were resident in the town of Auchterarder, and about 400 in the village of Smithyhaugh. Houses 475. Assessed property, in 1815, £6,434. 

   This parish is in the presbytery of Auchterarder, and synod of Perth and Stirling. Patron, the Earl of Kinnoul. Minister’s stipend £199 14s. 2d., with a manse, and a glebe of the value of £17. Unappropriated teinds £18 15s. 11d. Church built in 1784; sittings 909. The old church of Abruthven is still standing; it is roofless, but the walls are good; and it has been suggested that it might be repaired and erected into a church for the village and district of Smithyhaugh. It is 2½ miles distant from Auchterarder church. A Relief church was built in Auchterarder in 1778; sittings 553. Minister’s stipend £110, with manse and garden. A United Secession church was erected in 1813; sittings 500. Minister’s stipend £100, with manse and garden. By a census taken by the church-elders, in December, 1835, it was ascertained that the population of this parish then amounted to 3,315, of whom 2,196 belonged to the establishment, and 1,070 were dissenters. There are seven schools in the parish. The parochial schoolmaster has the maximum salary, and about £40 of school-fees. Mr. Sheddan of Lochie, in 1811, built and endowed a school here with £1,000, on condition of 12 poor children being taught in it gratuitously. There is a subscription school at Smithyhaugh. – This parish will long be famous, in the ecclesiastical annals of the country, for the singular struggle connected with the Veto Act which had its origin here, and of which the following is a brief but fair summary. The exercise of patronage was at one time very unpopular in Scotland. It had been an early principle of the Church that clergymen should not be intruded on parishes contrary to the consent of the parishioners. When a patron presents, it is for the presbytery to say whether the presentee is qualified, and to refuse collation if he is not. The Church now considers the presentees’ acceptability to the parishioners a necessary qualification, and in 1834 passed the ‘Veto Act,’ instructing all presbyteries to reject presentees to whom a majority of male heads of families in communion with the Church objected. In the case of the Auchterarder presentation, when this was acted on, the presentee brought an action in the civil courts to declare it an undue interference with his civil rights. The Church said – This is a matter purely ecclesiastical. The civil and the church-courts have their respective jurisdictions. This is ours entirely, and the civil court must not interfere. The Court of Session said – We care not what you call it. We are here to protect men’s property. Patronage has been constituted property by Act of Parliament. Whether rightly so or not, it is a commodity that may be bought and sold. You have attempted to deprive a proprietor of the use of it, under a pretence, and we must stop you. The Church appealed to the House of Lords. The judgment of the court below was confirmed; but the General Assembly declined to implement the decision of the civil tribunals, holding itself irresponsible to any civil court for its obedience to the laws of Christ. 

   The town of Auchterarder was once, perhaps, of greater note. It was a royal burgh, and sent a member to parliament; and a great number of the houses hold burgage to this day. How it came to lose its privileges is not certainly known. It consists of one street above a mile long. Besides six fairs every year, – viz. on the last Tuesday of March, the first Thursday of May, and in each of the harvest-months, – there has been a yearly tryst held here in the beginning of October, since the year 1781, at which there has been always a great show of black cattle, previous to the tryst at Falkirk. Another fair is held on December 6th. About 60 years ago, a considerable manufacture of yarn and narrow linen-cloth was carried on in Auchterarder. The main business now is that of cotton weaving. There are about 500 looms, all employed by Glasgow houses, in weaving pullicates, ginghams, and stripes. The average nett weekly earnings of a cotton-weaver do not at present exceed 4s. – On the 28th January, 1716, the Earl of Marr burnt this town on the advance of the royalist troops under Argyle upon Perth. Argyle arrived on the 30th, and here passed the night upon the snow, “without any other covering than the fine canopy of heaven.” [Annals of Geo. I., vol. ii. p. 222.] Auchterarder, says Newte – who visited this place in 1782 – “seems to have lain under the curse of God ever since it was burnt by the army in the year 1715. The dark heath of the moors of Ochill and Tullibardin, – a Gothic castle belonging to the Duke of Athol, – the naked summits of the Grampians seen at a distance, – and the frequent visitations of the presbytery, who are eternally recommending fast-days, and destroying the peace of society by prying into little slips of life, together with the desolation of the place, render Auchterarder a melancholy scene, wherever you turn your eyes, except towards Perth and the lower Strathern, of which it has a partial prospect.” [‘Tour in England and Scotland.’ London, 1791. 4to. p. 252.] When this superficial tourist penned his coarse and unjust remarks on presbyterial visitations, he probably knew no more of the matter than he seems to have done of what he calls the Antimonian heresies of the place. – At a little distance from Auchterarder, is a village called the Borland-Park, built by government for the accommodation of the soldiers who were disbanded after the war in 1763. Most of the soldiers who were planted in it, left it very soon afterwards – though the terms of their settlement were very advantageous – either from dislike to the place, or more probably to their new mode of life. – On the south of Auchterarder, and along the side of the Ruthven, is Miltown, a small village. – The village of Smithyhaugh is of very recent origin. It is 2½ miles east of Auchterarder, and chiefly inhabited by cotton-weavers. – In the neighbourhood of Auchterarder, and on the north side of the town, are the remains of an old castle said to have been a hunting-seat of King Malcolm Kenmore; adjoining to which is a small copse wood which commonly goes by the name of the King’s wood. – A little to the northward of the castle, are the remains of a popish place of worship, commonly known by the name of the Old Kirk, or St. Mungo’s chapel. This was formerly the parish-church; the church-yard was the burying-ground of the parish, – many of the inhabitants still retain burying-places in it. – There are some traces of encampments on the south-east of the village of Auchterarder, at the foot of the Ochils. Perhaps these were out-posts of the Roman camp at Ardoch. About 60 years ago, there was found in a marl-pit, in the parish, a pair of large horns, supposed to be those of the Elk, or Eurus, which were sent to Edinburgh, and are now in the custody of the Antiquarian society. “The alteration in the dress and manner of living of the inhabitants, within these 30 or 40 years, is not a little remarkable. Every body is now decently and comfortably clothed, which perhaps was not the case then; and there is now four times the quantity of butcher-meat used. About 25 or 30 years ago, there were but two sixpenny wheaten loaves brought from Perth, to two private families, in the week. There is now a baker in the village, who sells bread to the amount of £200 a-year, and about £80 worth is brought every year from Perth.” [Statistical report of 1792.] We have inserted this statement as marking the progress of social comforts in this district. We need scarcely say that Auchterarder has been long abundantly supplied with white bread as well as brown from its own ovens, and that there is not a cottage in the parish within which at least a couple of sixpenny wheaten loaves are not consumed weekly. 

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