BLAIR-GOWRIE,1 a parish in Perthshire of considerable extent, but irregular figure, being about 11 miles long from south to north, and, in some places, not less than 8 miles broad; but intersected by the parishes of Kinloch, Bendochy, and Rattray. The connected part of it is only about 9 miles long, and from 1 to 2 broad. The parish is divided into two districts by a branch of the Grampian mountains forming a part of the northern boundary of the beautiful valley of Strathmore. The southern district, which lies in this strath, is about 4 miles long, and from 1 to 2 broad. The northern district – which includes the detached parts of the parish – is high ground, and very uneven in the surface. The hills are mostly covered with heath, and some of them may be about 600 feet above sea-level. Not above a third part of the parish consists of arable ground. The Isla, which skirts the northern part of the parish, is the most considerable river. As its banks are here low, it often suddenly overflows them, and occasions considerable loss to the husbandman. This was remarkably the case in the harvest of 1789. – The next river in size is the Ericht, which, from its rapidity, has acquired the appellation of “the Ireful Ericht.” It is formed by the junction of the Ardle and the Black-Water; and runs along the east side of the parish for about 9 miles. Its channel in general is rocky and uneven, and it often varies in its depth and breadth. In some places the banks are so low that it frequently overflows them; in other parts they rise to a great height, and are often covered with wood. About 2 miles north of the village of Blair-Gowrie, they rise at least 200 feet above the bed of the river; and on the west side are formed, for about 700 feet in length, and 220 feet in height, of perpendicular rock as smooth as if formed by the tool of the workman. This place is called Craiglioch. Two miles farther down is the Keith, a natural cascade considerably improved by art, and so constructed that the salmon – which repair in great numbers to it – cannot get over it unless when the river is very much swollen.2 The parish abounds with lakes of different sizes, several of which have been drained, and now supply the neighbourhood with peats and marl. In those which still exist, pike and perch are caught. They are also frequented by wild fowls of different kinds. There is one chalybeate spring in the Cloves of Mawes, which was formerly much resorted to by persons in its neighbourhood, for scorbutic disorders. In 1774, the muir of Blair-Gowrie – then a common of 500 acres – was divided, and most of it, in 1775, was planted with Scotch firs; the rest of it has been gradually planted since that time, partly with larch, and partly with Scotch firs. The principal branches of manufacture carried on in this parish are spinning and weaving. The yarn is either wove in the neighbourhood, or sent to Dundee. Considerable quantities of household-cloth are woven here; in 1796, about 50,000 yards of yard-wides were made here, part of which was bleached in the neighbouring parish of Rattray; but a greater proportion, sold in the village of Blair-Gowrie, and sent green to London. Population, in 1801, 1,914; in 1831, 2,644. Assessed property, in 1815, £6,206. Houses, in 1831, 448. – This parish is in the presbytery of Meigle, and synod of Angus and Mearns. Patrons, McPherson of Blairgowrie, and Oliphant of Gask. Minister’s stipend £222 18s., with a glebe of the value of £20. Church built in 1824; sittings 850. – An Independent congregation was formed here in 1802. Chapel built in 1824; sittings 350. – An Original Burgher congregation exists here, and a small Roman Catholic congregation. According to a survey made in 1836, there appeared to be 2,419 persons in this parish connected with the established church, and 578 with other denominations. – The village of Blair-Gowrie is pleasantly situated on the north side of Strathmore, close upon the river Ericht. It was made a borough of barony, by charter from Charles I., in 1634. The situation of the village is very healthy, and it is well-supplied with water. There are fairs held in it on the 3d Wednesday in March, for horses and cattle; on the 26th of May, if a Wednesday, or the 1st Wednesday thereafter, for cattle; on the 2d Wednesday in August; on the Wednesday before Falkirk tryst in October; and on the 1st Wednesday in November. The Bank of Scotland, and the Commercial bank of Scotland, have branches here. The population, in 1836, was 1,834. The great road, from Cupar-Angus to Fort-George, passes through this parish. The great road from Dunkeld to Kirriemuir also passes through the parish, and cuts the military road at right angles. – Newton-House, once the seat of the proprietors of the barony of Blair-Gowrie, is an old building, something in the style of a castle. This house was rebuilt on the foundation of the old house said to have been burnt down by Oliver Cromwell. Several gentlemen were miraculously saved in a vault of the old house, while it was burnt down. It stands about the middle of the south slope of the range of high ground which bounds Strathmore on the north, and has a most commanding view, not only of Strathmore, but also of parts of different counties. – About half-a-mile farther west, lies the mansion-house of the old family of the Blairs of Ardblair. The mansion-house seems evidently to have been surrounded with water on three sides.
1 The name of the parish is derived from the village near which the church stands. In old papers it is sometimes written Blair-in-Gowrie. Various etymologies and interpretations of it nave been suggested. Like many other names of places in the parish, it is probably Gaelic. In that language Blaar is said to be descriptive of a place where muir and moss abound. Thus Ardblair is ‘the Height in the muir.’ The muir of Blair-Gowrie is in the near neighbourhood of the village. The Waltown of Blair, the Lochend of Blair, Little Blair, and Ardblair, are names of places on the borders of the muir. – Old Statistical Account.
2 The manner of fishing here is probably peculiar to this place. The fishers, during the day, dig considerable quantities of clay, and wheel it to the river-aide immediately above the fall. About sun-set the clay is converted into mortar, and hurled into the water. The fishers then ply their nets at different stations below, while the water continues muddy. This is repeated two or three times in the space of a few hours. It is a kind of pot-net, fastened to a long pole, that is used here. From the Keith, for about 2 miles down the river, there is the best rod-fishing to be found in Scotland, especially for salmon. The fishing with the pot-net is confined to a small part of the river near the Keith. When the water is very small – which is often the case in summer – the fish are caught in great numbers, in the different pools, with a common net. – Old Statistical Account.