Historical Crieff

During the mid 15th to 16th centuries, Historical Crieff was an important cattle trading centre, Tryst, which later moved to the Falkirk Tryst,. Highlanders traveled hundreds of miles,using now forgotten drove roads through the hillsides to sell their black cattle whose meat and hides were greatly sought after by the growing urban populations in Lowland Scotland and the north of England. The town acted as a gathering point or "tryst" for the Michaelmas cattle sale held each year and the surrounding fields and hillsides were black with the tens of thousands of cattle - some from as far away as Caithness and the Outer Hebrides (for comparison, in 1790 the population of Crieff was about 1,200 which led to a ratio of tens cows per person, similar to the sheep/human ratio in New Zealand or Australia today). During the October Tryst (as the cattle gathering was known), Crieff was the prototype 'wild west' town, milling with cattle, horse thieves, bandits and drunken drovers. The inevitable killings were punished on the Kind Gallows, for which Crieff became known throughout Europe.

By the 18th century the original hanging tree used by the Earls of Strathearn had been replaced by a formal wooden structure in an area called Gallowhaugh - now Gallowhill, at the top of Burrell Street. What is now Ford Road, was Gallowford Road which led down past the gallows to the crossing point over the River Earn. In such a prominent position, Highlanders passing along the principal route would see the remains of those punished dangling overhead. The Highlanders used to touch their bonnets as they passed the place, with the words: "God bless you, and the Devil damn you." In Lord Macaulay's history he talks of a score of plaids hanging in a row, but the remains of the Gallows - held in Perth Museum - suggest the maximum capacity was only six.

The 19th century saw whisky distilling, malting and woollen manufacture as the growing industries throughout the district. Later that same century historical Crieff was to become famous for the Hydropathic Establishment (Crieff Hydro)located on the south facing slopes of theKnock. The railway arrived in 1856, but alas it is no longer, closed in the 1960's by the Beecham cuts. Morrisons Academy was founded in 18598.

The townspeople were mainly Presbyterian and anti-Jacobite. The Lairds were mostly Catholic and Jacobite. Crieff was well-known for its pro-government sympathies - it was reported that of the total population only two people supported the Old Pretender (clearly an exaggeration but proof of the extent of feeling).Rob Roy MacGregor visited historical Crieff on many occasions, often to sell cattle. Apparently 'Rob Roy's outlaw son' was pursued through the streets of historical Crieff by soldiers and killed. An especially notable visitor was Bonnie Prince Charlie, who stayed in Crieff on his final journey to defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

In the second week of October 1714 the Highlanders gathered in Crieff for the October Tryst. By day Crieff was full of soldiers and government spies. Just after midnight, Rob Roy and his men marched to Crieff Town Square and rang the town bell. In front of the gathering crowd they sang Jacobite songs and drank a good many loyal toasts to their uncrowned King James VIII. In 1716, 350 returning Highlanders (having been narrowly defeated by the Duke of Argyle at the Battle of Sheriffmuir) burned most of Crieff to the ground in revenge.

In 1731, James Drummond, 3rd Duke of Perth, laid out the town's central James Square and established a textile industry with a flax factory. In the 1745 rising the Highlanders were itching to fire the town again and were reported as saying "she should be a bra toun gin she had anither sing". But it was saved by the Duke of Perth - a friend and supporter of Prince Charles (who presumably was worried about his factories). In February 1746 the Jacobite army was quartered in and around the town with Prince Charles Edward Stuart holding his final war council in the old Drummond Arms Inn in James Square - Located behind the present hotel in Hill Street. He also had his horse shod in the blacksmith's in King Street. Later in the month he reviewed his troops in front of Ferntower House, on what is today the Crieff Golf Course


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