Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Before the Days of Steam - the Stage Coach! Plus the Amazing Captain Barclay

Before the days of steam there was the stage coach.  But even at their height there were too few vehicles probably to constitute any kind of golden age of travel.  There was allegedly an attempt in 1678 to link the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh with  a regular coach service, but it is said to have failed due to lack of interest.  A century later there was only one regular stage coach running between London and Scotland.  This set out from Edinburgh only once a month and took upwards of a fortnight to reach London.

   Coaches died not reach out into the provinces of Scotland, Angus included, until later still and their nascent popularity was crushed by the advent of the railways.  By the advent of the 19th century there were coaches running internally in Angus as well as connecting the county with the rest of the country.  James McBain (in Arbroath, Past & Present, 1887) informs us that the ‘Commecial Traveller’ coach departed from the White Hart Hotel to Dundee every morning at 6.30, returning at 4 pm. There was also the ‘Highlander’, running between Dundee and Montrose, plus the ‘Hope and Industry’ running on the same route, which connected with Fife coaches running to Edinburgh.  There was also the ‘New Times’ running between Aberdeen and Perth (via Dundee), which carried mail.  These mail coaches of course carried armed guards.  McBain tells the story of one guard who was so infuriated by the habit of a toll-keeper on the West Links Toll who was in the habit of locking his gates at night and falling asleep, thus impeding the passing of the coach.  The guard tried and failed on several occasions to awaken  the ‘tollie’ with a blast from his horn and had to clamber down and shake the man awake.  But, as this did not deter the toll-keeper from continually dropping off, the guard eventually lost his temper and discharged his blunderbuss into the toll-house window, with the effect that the man never fell asleep again. (Arbroath, Past & Present, 177.)

   In their heyday the coaches presented a magnificent sight:

The old-time long-distance mail coaches were drawn by four fine horses, which were changed at the official stables and inns every eight or ten miles.  The pace was ten miles an hour, including stoppages and changing horses.  The coach had accommodation for four inside and from six to eight outside passengers.  The guard, who like the driver, wore a scarlet coat, had charge of the mails, and was armed with a business-like pistol.  No one was allowed near his perch - a circular seat fixed to the coach, and commanding the opening of the mail box.   It was a stirring sight to see the coach arrive in town.  The four high mettled horses, the guard standing in the box blowing on his tin horn, and the bright buckles and plates on the harness glittering at every motion of the animals.  When the coach reached the Commercial Hotel [in Brechin], the post-master was waiting, with his two or three small bags securely closed by big red seals and received as many in exchange.  A banker or two would also be present with the drawings for headquarters in Edinburgh.  The letters and money bags were locked up by the guard in his box...Now all was hurry-scurry.  the ostlers were taking out the horses and putting in the fresh ones, which had been standing by already harnessed - the liberated animals quietly trotting, unattended, or led by some of the ever-ready boys to the stables...
[Glimpses of Men and Manners About the Muirside, D. H. Edwards, 1920, 50.]

   There was also the ‘Champion’, running between Aberdeen and Perth and the ‘Braes of Fordoun’, on the route between Aberdeen and Dundee. Other celebrated coaches included the ‘Defiance’ and the ‘Union’, running between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, plus the ‘Sir Henry Parnell’, running between Brechin and Dundee, via Forfar.  The ‘Defiance’ left Brechin at nine in the morning and reached Edinburgh by half past eight at night.  On the northwards journey it took four hours to reach Aberdeen from Brechin. This coach travelled at an unrivalled speed and its operators took pride in the fact that it always arrived within minutes of its advertised schedule.  The ‘Union’ preceded the ‘Defiance’ on the route, travelling onward to Edinburgh via Fife, but there was a period of overlap between the two services and competition between them.   The ‘Defiance’ had as its coachman David Troup and its guard was John Burnett, well-known characters in their day.

   David Troup was reputedly a cautious driver and he did not brook criticism or advice about the performance of his duties .  When an acquaintance once told him that he thought it inadvisable to travel because of floods brought on by a storm, Davie treated his old friend with disdain.  He had heard this same sage but unwanted advice from a tailor in Forfar, ‘and ye are only a souter!’ But on this occasion he was wrong.  The vehicle got caught in the waters near Unthank Brae and had to be towed back to Brechin, where it was storm stayed for two weeks.  When the driver retired he took over the Eagle Inn in Brechin and his time there was remembered in doggerel verse:

Gen ye gae doon tae Davie Troup’s, There ye’ll see the Eagle –That’s the way the money goes, Pop goes the weasel.

   Apart from David Troup, the Cook family of Arbroath were also employed on the ‘Defiance’.  There were three of them, Charlie, John and Alick, sons og Charles Cook, manager of the Star Hotel in Arbroath.  There were also, extraordinarily, guest or amateur coachmen who took charge to benefit from the dizzying speed of this new-fangled transport.  One such was Captain Barclay of Ury.  He was in charge of the coach on its second journey and managed to overturn the vehicle at the North Port Distillery.  Luckily, no-one was injured.  On the same journey a passenger remembered the Captain racing a hare on the North Water Bridge.  He and two gentlemen jumped down and captured the animal, with Barclay exclaiming, ‘Aye, aye. The “Defiance” is now outrunning hares.  The like was never heard of.’

Young Captain Barclay.

   Captain Barclay (Robert Barclay Allardice, 1770-1854) was actually something of a formative speed demon, or he would have been if transport technology had allowed it.  Born in Stonehaven in the Mearns, but raised in England, Barclay early found a talent in covering great distances by foot.  In November 1800, for instance, he covered 64 miles in 12 hours.  The following December he entered into a wager with the Angus laird Mr Fletcher of Ballinshoe - himself described as 'a gentleman of turf notoriety' - to cover 90 miles in 21.5 hours.  He stood to win the handsome sum of 500 guineas, but unfortunately he was so ill with a cold on the start day that he could not go on with it.  The wager was repeated the following year and he stood to win an astonishing 2,000 guineas.  According to his biographer:

the ground chosen for the performance of the match was the line of the road from Brechin to Forfar...He accomplished sixty-seven miles in thirteen miles in thirteen hours; but having incautiously drank some brandy, he became instantly sick, and consequently unable to proceed.  He now renounced the bet, and the umpire retired; but after two hours rest, he completely recovered, and could easily have finished the remainder of the distance within the time.
[Pedestrianism, or An Account of the Celebrated Pedestrians during the Last and Present Century, William Thom, 1819, 103.]
Not put off by this bitter defeat, the captain continued his gruelling sporting lifestyle and famously completed a 1,000 mile walk over 1,000 hours for an apt prize of 1,000 guineas in 1809.

Old Captain Barclay.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Forgotten Sons of Angus: The First British Balloonist, James Tytler

For a pioneer in both flying  and literature, James Tytler is sadly neglected figure, but one whose life was sadly inconsistent for all his intelligence and striving.  Born in the manse in the upland Angus parish of Fearn, James died, near dissolute, in the United States of America.  He led a restless, unsuccessful life which serves as a warning to those who similarly drift from one intellectually challenging but unfulfilling task to another.  Sir James Fergusson notes that Tytler lived a life of ‘occasional notoriety but general obscurity’. Tytler was, at different times, a chemist and apothecary, surgeon, printer, mechanic, journalist, inventor, songwriter, editor, poet and pamphleteer.  He was, in essence, the classic 'lad o' pairts' gone wrong.  His claims to fame rest on his ferocious energy in editing the second edition of the Enclyclopedia Brittanica and the fact that he was the first person in Briton to ascend in a hot air balloon.  For the latter accomplishment he was ridiculed rather than lauded and derisively nicknamed ‘Balloon Tytler’.

   Tytler’s father George had migrated to Angus from Aberdeenshire and young James (born in 1745) should have led a similarly sedentary life.  He first tried out a career as a preacher, then went into medicine, studying at the University of Edinburgh.  In 1765 he accompanied a whaling ship named the Royal Bounty from Leith, serving as its medical officer, but he curtailed his studies on his return, forced by the necessity of supporting his wife to set up business as a chemist.  This business was not successful and he fled into England, running from creditors, and his problems were exacerbated by an alcohol problem.  He had five financially demanding children by the time he dared return to Edinburgh, but he was hardly more successful during his second period in the capital than he had been previously. 

   Forced by the demands of sustaining his family, Tytler turned to writing.  This was hardly more lucrative than previous careers at first and he ended up in debtor’s sancuary in Holyrood.  But in the newly intellectually exploding Auld Reekie, James Tytler preferred the low company in the alehouses and shebeens to any of the new luminaries making themselves known in the town.  By the mid 1770s he had written several books and was engaged in setting up short-lived magazines as well as reviewing the literary efforts of others.  His wife left him, and for a while he sought debtor’s sanctuary in the Abbey of Holyrood, but soon afterwards he latched onto a secure if not well-paid career of writing articles and editing others for the Encyclopedia.  He was engaged in this work for over six years and the remuneration of 16 shillings a week was hardly princely, even then. His efforts at editing and composing many of the articles in this 9,000 page edition were prodigious and revealed Tytler’s true talent.

   Further ventures into the writing of books, periodical publishing, poetry composition kept him busy and barely fiscally afloat for a few years.  But it was in 1783, according to his biographer Fergusson, that James Tytler became seriously fascinated by balloons.  In October and November that year there were several pioneer flights in France sponsored by the paper-maker brothers Montgolfier.   Since one of Tytler’s failings was that he was ‘incapable of reticence’, his fascination with new fangled manned flight became well known in Edinburgh and his scemes to get airborne himself was a matter of satire long before his plans came to fruition.  As a premininary for his own flight and, as a means of raising funds, Tytler set about demonstrating the ascent of a 13 foot fire balloon in Edinburgh as his published advertisement  in the Edinburgh Courant (on 19 June) states:

On Monday next, the 21st current, will be exhibited
         AT COMELY GARDENS   BYJAMES TYTLER, CHEMIST,A FIRE BALLOON, of 13 Feet in Circumference,         AS A MODEL OF    THE GRAND EDINBURGH FIRE BALLOON,With which he intends to attempt to attempt the Navigation of      The Atmosphere.At this exhibition is intended to give the public ademonstration of the principles upon which theGreat Balloon will ascend, it is not necessry toConfine it to any particular hour. – The balloon willtherefore be repeatedly exhibited from Eleveno’clock forenoon till Three afternoon, and from Four             till Seven in the evening...

   Admission for the Edinburgh curious was sixpence, though subscribers to the scheme would be admitted gratis. 

   Due to lack of funds principally the demonstration was posponed until July and took place at a new venue, the Register House in Edinburgh.  Although the somewhat ugly barrell shaped balloon did fill with gas it also filled up with sparks which burned several holes in the facric, necessitating the spectacle to be curtailed.  News of these initial attempts at elevation was conveyed to his native county  and, on the evening when news of the failures arrived, a group of strolling players was on stage and exclaimed the line:

   ‘What news?  What news?’
   His fellow actor not only fluffed his line, but gave as a response the actual news about Tytler:   ‘News!  News!  Why Tytler and his balloon have gone to the devil!’
   The audience broke into an explosion of laughter and derisive cheers.  So much for local loyalty.

   A further attempt at elevation, back at Comely Gardens, was similarly unsuccessful, despite attemption to tie in with the excitement of Leith races in August 1784.  The Caledonian Mercury reported the fresh  failure:

A gust of whirlwind, as if sent by divine command to blast the hopes of this devoted projector, attacked the Balloon, drove it hither and thither, and by compressing it on all sides, soon reducted it to a state of flaccidity;  some rent were made, which prevented any further attempt that night.

  A crowd of drunken race goers then descended on the scene and torched some of Tytler’s equipment.  But, after another failed attempted, came the historic breakthrough.  On Friday  27 August 1784 Tytler himself successfully too to the air, the first person in the British Isles to actually fly.  At five in the evening the air filled contraption soared into the air.  The spectators gave a rousing cheer.  James Tytler proudly waved his hat as he floated to a dizzying height of 350 feet.  A second flight happened several days later and several other follow-ups fizzled out.  It was all downhill from there.  By March 1785 James Tytler again sought the refuge of sanctuary at Holyrood Abbey.

   In 1785 there were several ascents in England, but little recognition was given to James Tytler.  Late in that year one of those who made the pioneering English asents, the Italian Vincent Lunardi, came north and made balloon flights in Scotland.  He met Tytler and made condescending references to his fellow pioneer.  The restless, thwarted Tytler ventured for a while to Glasgow, helped with the third edition of Britannica, went back to Edinburgh and encoutered Robert Burns.  By the early 1790s, stirred by revolutionary France and the atmosphere in Edinburgh, Tytler was involved in radicalism.  It caused him to flee to Ireland where he remained for two years.  In 1795 he emigrated to Salem in Massachusetts. 

   This last era was no brighter than the preceding few years.  Tytler and his second family settled on a sparsely settled peninsula called Salem neck and made a small income from preparing medecines for apocatheries.  Still, he tried several other ventures including a treatise on the Plague and was working towards a new geographical work when he metb his end.  On Sunday, 8 January 1804 a very drunk Tytler blundered out into a storm and blundered into the house of a neighbour named Oliver and borrowed a candle from him.  It was his final human venture.  His body was found in the water on the shore on the following Wednesday.  In his eulogy his friend Mr Bentley trully states that ‘he was eccentric.  The inicdents of his life had not impaired his industry, and his thirst for universal knowledge varied too often his pursuits.’

Lunardi mets Tytler, according to a contemporary cartoon.  A meeting of equals?

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Ogilvy Name, Near and Far

Although this post is mostly devoted to the fortunes of the Ogilvy family in its various guises, at home and abroad, we can start with a salutary warning about the dangers faced by that creature which was dangerous in itself, the Scot Abroad.  Although the widely travelled Scot seems a bit of a cliché in historical terms,  from the Middle Ages onward the Scot did turn up in strange places, at different times, in guises like the itinerant traders who settled in Poland or the soldiers (mercenary and otherwise) who served in France, Sweden and further afield.

   Some odd things befell these emigrants on occasion.  Take for instance the incident at the court of Tsar Boris Godunov in 1599.  One of the latter’s associates was entrusted with the construction of a new fortress and began boasting that he was in fact as powerful as the tsar in his own area.  The hapless man, Bogdan Bel’skii, was dragged back to Moscow and suffered a cruel and bizarre punishment.  Tsar Boris had a Scots officer named Gabriel perform a humiliating punishment on his underling:  if front of the court Bogdan had his huge bushy beard torn out by the handful by the hapless Gabriel.  This Scot may have been a certain Gabriell Elphingstone, a 'valiant Scottish captain', who migrated to Russian from Swedish service.  A band of Scots and English who were unwise enough to laugh about the drunken antics of Tsar Ivan the Terrible in a previous generation were punished, when Ivan heard about the insult, by being made to pick up five or six bushels of peas from his floor, one by one.  But afterwards they were given a good drink and sent on their way.  Life was evidently strange in Russia in those times. 

   Conspicuous among the Scots who sought their fortunes or merely livings abroad were the Ogilvy family.  Although the name had its origin in Glen Ogilvy in the Sidlaw Hills, the family of course spread itself out in Scotland at an early date.  There was an early settlement of the Ogilvy family in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire for instance.  One native of the latter was the Catholic martyr St John Oglivie, executed for his faith in Glasgow in 1615.  He was educated in Germany and Moravia and travelled in Belgium and France before seeking leave to return to his native land where he met his death. 

   One Ogilvie was certainly was from Angus was George Ogilvie who hailed from Muirton near Kirriemuir.  He served the Hapsburg crown and was based in Moravia.  A son of the fifth laird of Airlie, he probably raised men for continental military service in his native county in the 1620s.  The lure of fighting abroad was not so much for adventure as an economic necessity to stave off starvation or at least poverty.  Records from Dundee in 1527 show that Ogilvie was rounding up ‘ydlle and maisterlesse men’ in the burgh to fight abroad.  George Ogilvie himself served first in Scandinavia before moving further south and he became a highly respected and successful military commander. 

   Less fortunate than George Ogilvie was the Scots lady recorded in Kiedjany, Lithuania, in 1635.  She was a certain Mrs Ogilbina (Ogilvy), who was a recipient of alms.  Who she was and what happened to her are unknown.  Other far-flung members of this family are recorded, but in bare records which give little detail of their lives.  A little girl named Katarzyna Ogilvy was baptised on 13 March 1640 in Wilno (Vilnius); her father is named as Jakub.  Her brother Andrzej was baptised on 25 November 1644, while another brother, Alexander, was baptised on 26 May 1648.  Among the military Ogilvys recorded in the same region is Wilhelm Ogilvie, a lieutenant in the private forces of the Radziwill family in the 1660s.  In the following century there was George Benedict Ogilvie, a Field-Marshall of the Polish-Saxon army, who served in the years 1701-10.  In 1790 Captain John Ogilvy was a captain in the Polish army.  Some sources state that a full 50% of the population of Kėdainiai, one of the oldest Lithuanian towns, was Scottish in origin at one stage and they remained a distinct community into the 19th century. 
   Another concentration of Scots was in the eastern Polish region of Podlachia, home to many Scots in the 17th century.  A Father Gall from Parish informed W. Cramond that

a great body of Ogilvies emigrated en masse [there]...They are said to have done to enjoy the free exercise of their religion.  It is certain that a colony of Ogilvies is there now, and has been there for a long period.  And, curiously enough, I met an English gentleman in Paris some years ago who assured me that the statement was correct, for he knew all that country well.  I asked him simply whether he knew any Scottish families settled there.  ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘and they are all Ogilvies.’

   Cramond’s informant Father Gall noted a number of Ogilvys in the records of St Nicolas Platz, Prague, including :

Jacobus, Lord Ogilvy, spouse of Joanna de Forbes.Patrick Ogilvy, ‘dominus de Muirton’, husband of Isabella Murray, who died at Danzig in October 1712, aged 62.Isabella Joanna, Baronissa de Ogilvy, wife of Julius Weickardum of Heussenstein.Georgius Benedictus Liber Baro de Ogilvy. Plus around ten others.

   At least another dozen people of the name of Ogilvy/Ogilvie can be found in the records of Prussia and other parts of eastern Europe.  One of the later individuals was Thomas Ogilvie, who died at Riga in 1836. 
  At this stage it is worth mentioning, as a pedantic point, that the original form of this family name was Ogilvy (with a plural Ogilvys), though an early variant was Ogilvie(s).  Another, less common mutation is Ogilby.  One individual who sported the latter name was a ‘cunning Scot’ named John Ogilby , the mysterious author of Britannia, an atlas of England published in 1675.  Ogilby was reckoned to have been born in Edinburgh, though his father took him to London at an early age.  It later transpired, through a chance meeting with the son of the Earl of Airlie, James Ogilvy, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1650s.  Ogilby was informed that he was the secret son of the earl and had been born in Airlie Castle.

Glen Ogilvy


Bajer, Peter Paul, Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 16th-18th Centuries, The Formation and Disappearance of an Ethnic Group (Leiden, 2012).
Cramond, W., The Scottish Antiquary or Northern notes and Queries, Vol.  VII.
Dobson, David, Scots in Poland, Russian and the Baltic States, 1550-1850 (Baltimore, 2000).

Worthington, David, Scots in Hapsburg Service, 1618-1648 (Leiden, 2004).

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Bottomless Well. Updated Information on Angus Wells

   Since I last wrote something about wells in Angus, new information has come my way.  Most importantly was my own mistake, repeated several times, that Corryvannoch Well was on Mount Keen, when in fact it is on Mount Blair. 'Well done' to Kevin Greig for pointing out this glaring error, which somehow crept into my first post on wells and was subsequently repeated.  Kevin is incidentally responsible for the excellent Stanes Wi Names website which examines known named stones on the Glenisla area.

Nineteenth Century Renaissance of Wells

During the 19th century several wells and springs in Angus (and of course elsewhere) were saved from neglect by local lairds or other dignitaries in the community after sometimes centuries of decline.  At the Reformation wells were no longer seen by the authorities as places where people could rightfully resort to for health, pilgrimage or other semi-religious reasons.  Many local people would naturally have thought otherwise and continued to go to these places without sanction of the kirk.  But the special aura of many of these places was diminished and many places were eventually no longer visited if not entirely forgotten.  But because wells in Angus generally had no elaborate architecture surrounding them, they survived intact the destruction which was inflicted on ecclesiastical buildings by protestant mobs.

   In the 18th century there was some revival in the idea that certain water sources had healing value, though the reasons for this were likely to be understood as scientific and not superstitious.  Few springs in Angus however aspired to being full-blown spas or were promoted as such.  There was perhaps a lack of upper class clientele sufficient to promote such places.  Later rejuvenation of wells came about partly as a recognition that these places - stripped of religious significance now - still represented a link with the culture of the past.  The concept of beauty spots came into being, along with the idea that it was healthy and beneficial to go to quiet and restful country locations, if only for a little while, to escape the growing hurly-burly of increasingly industrialised town and city centres.

   One of the first wells to have a face lift was St Causnan's at Dunnichen.  Unfortunately the patriotic fervour of George Dempster got the better of his common sense and he attempted to re-name the spring Camperdown Well after Admiral Duncan's famous victory over the Dutch.  Elsewhere however the old wells survived with their names and dignity intact and their makeovers consisted sometimes with a discreet addition of a plaque, or just clearing away obscuring vegetation.  
   One such rescue mission at a well site in the Victorian era was undertaken at the Hays Well, Arbroath,  The well was named after former meadow lands east of the Abbey of Arbroath, which contained water renowned for healing properties which 'many a fevered invalid longed [for].'  It was described by J McBain in Arbroath: Past and Present (1887), 35-37:

Within the last year it has undergone a considerable change.  Around the old well an area of two acres has been generously gifted by the young laird of Tarrie.  This ground was laid out as a miniature park in order to provide work for the unemployed during the previous winter... The cistern, being underground, is invisible.  It was opened about forty years ago, had all the appearance of having been built at the same time as the Abbey, and was evidently used as a reservoir for supplying that ancient institution with water.
   Years previous to this late Victorian re-ordering, the site had been renovated to some extent by local man William Souter.  In 1841 a structure, replacing older building work, was placed around the well, funded by public subscription.  But either some locals or the tutelary guardian of the well itself objected to Souter's tampering and removed a statue of the goddess Flora from a lintel above the door of his house and placed it on the well.  The criminal responsible was never apprehended.

   Hays Well also became part of that other great 19th century pastime of scientific investigation.  Dr Brown included the well into a long study of the temperatures of spring wells.  He found that the Hays Well water varied in temperature throughout the year, as did the majority of wells he studied. However, the water at Silverwells and the Nolt Loan Well stayed constant.

   McBain also reports that the condition of the Mossy Well at Arbroath caused indignation in the local press in 1850 and suggestions were made to dignify it with an enclosure.  A third well in the area which became appreciated as a beauty spot in the era was the Ladle Well, near Horologe Hill.


Updated List of Angus Wells

The list below has been added to and changed slightly since the last published list.  As before, names in square brackets denote locations of wells, not their specific names.  Wells new to this list are in italics and underlined.  

Some of the new information derives from Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticae, volume 6 (1925). There is still no claim that this represents a comprehensive list of all wells in Angus.

1. Aberneathan Well, two miles NW of Kiriemuir.  Possibly from the Pictish personal name Nechtan,  either St Nechtan or King Nechtan?

2. Agricola Well.  At Castleton, Eassie, a reputed Roman site; supposed to have been named by locals after the Roman general, but more probably given the name by a local antiquary.

3. [Balmossie Den], near Broughty Ferry.

4. Barrel Well, Brechin.

5. Batties Well, Haughead, Arbirlot.

6. Battle Well, Battle Drum, Montreathmont Moor, Brechin.

7. Beardie’s Well, Brechin. A well which was on the north side of the Nether Wynd in Brechin, supposedly the property of the Earls of Crawford.  This well was therefore supposed to be linked with Alexander, the 4th Earl of Crawford, one of whose nicknames was Beardie.

8. Bell’s Witter, Clach of Glentaire, Clova.

9. [Benvie]  Well haunted by the White Lady since plague times. The well, at one time, was called 'The Medicine Well', though this may not have been its 'official' name.

10. Blackshank Well, near Aucharroch, Kingoldrum.  Marked as ‘chalybeate’ on maps.

11.  Blind Well, Kingoldrum.  One of the earliest attested wells in the county.  This name appears in a document of 1458 from Arbroath Abbey and has the equivalent Gaelic name Tybyrnoquhyg.  Adam Watson reckons this refers to water ‘out of sight due to vegetation’.  The later form of the name was Tipperwhig, though the English and Gaelic names may not in face be equivalents, in which case there is a chance that Tybyrnoquhyg/Tipperwhig comes from Tobar na Cubhaig, well of the cuckoo.

12. Bradwell, Kettins.  Warden, Angus or Forfarshire, vol 4, points out that there is a charter dated 1292-3 in which a charter of about 1292-3, in which Hugh of Over, Lord of Ketenes, granted ‘his well in his lands and Abthenage of Ketenes, called Bradwell, with its aqueduct bounded, and servitude of watergage" to the Abbey of Cupar’. This was also called Bride’s Well, near the Stoneye Cottages to the east of the Dundee - Coupar Angus Road. The water travelled to theAbbey by an aqueduct and  fed into ponds containing fish.

13. Bra Well, Stracathro.  According to Alexander Warden, Angus or Forfarshire, volume 5, this was also known as Braul’s  Well and St Brude’s Well.  But it had been ‘drained long ago’.  It seems more likely the name is derived from St Rule than Brude, though the latter presents more intriguing possibilities.

14.  Camperdown or Cammerdown Well, Dunnichen.  This was renamed after  the late 18th century naval encounter won by Duncan of Lundie. It was originally St Causnan’s Well (there was a St Causnan’s Chapel nearby.)  Causnan again is a colloquial form of Constantine.  Local dignitary George Dempster took it upon himself to give the spring its new name following the battle.

15. Camp Well, near the site of supposed Roman site at Campmuir, Kettins.

16. Cardinal’s Well, south of Lownie Hill, near Dunnichen.  Local tradition says it was named after Cardinal Beaton, who favoured this spot.  The cardinal is also associated with many castles in Angus. It was said that the water from the well was conveyed for some special use at Arbroath Abbey, which makes no sense as there was an abundant source of water closer to the abbey.  However, it may reflect  a lingering, if muddled, tradition of the special powers inherent in the water here.

17. Carlin Well, Craigton of Airlie.  Now vanished and named after the Cailleach, the Old Hag of Scottish Folklore. Adjacent is Carlinwell Farm.

18. Cartyheugh Well, Kelly Den, St Vigeans.

19. Cattle Well, Lochmill, near Kirriemuir.

20. Chapel Well, near Whitemire, Aberlemno.

21. College Well, St Michael’s Mount, Brechin.

22. Corryvannoch Well, on the slopes of Mount Blair.  The most famous healing well in Angus where pilgrimages would be made and sick children carried.

23. Craig Well, Lundie.

24. Crew Well, near Auchtertyre, Newtyle.

25. Cuttle Well, the Den, Kirriemuir.  One of the more conspicuous and best loved wells in Angus, it has been damaged in recent times by land slips and is ripe for restoration.

26, 27. Docken Well, Glen Quharity.  Also called Dockan Well, Docan Well, Docken Wall.  There is a nearby East Docken Well (also on the slopes of Cat Law).

28. Dripping Well, Arbroath.

29. Droustie’s Well, Lochlee, near the home of the Dark Age saint.  Also, more formally known as St Drostan’s Well.  It was located in a field named ‘Piper’s Shade’ and cured all sorts of diseases.  When some jealous healers poisoned the well some locals stones them to death and buried them in a circle around the spring.

30. Duckladge Well, Lintrathen.

31. Dundas Well, Pitlivie Moor, Arbirlot.

32. Falcon Well, Glen Quharity.

33. God’s Well, Arbirlot.

34. Golan Well, Auchenchapel, Glen Isla. 

[Hangie’s Well, Cargill.  This is a  dubious example, cited by Andrew Jervise in Memorials of Angus and the Mearns, in that Cargill is in Perthshire and not Angus (so we won't count it), though Jervise states that it may have been in Angus once.  The well was on the property of a local hangman and, when it was excavated, a large number of human bones were found here.  So good a tale that we forgive the Perthshire-ness of the location.]

35. Hassock Well, North Whitehills, Forfar.

36. Helly Well, near Shelterfield, Arbirlot.

37. Hays Well, Arbroath. 

38. Hen Well, east of Finavon Hill.  Note nearby place-name Henwellburn.

39. Hogg’s Well, Fairy Knowe, Dunnichen

40. Holy Well, Balnaboth, Cortachy.  Near ancient church ruins.

41. Holy Well, Broughty Ferry.

42. Hore Well, Lundie.

43. Horse Well, Smithton Hill, Lundie.

44. Iron Harrow Well, south of Hayston Hill, Tealing.

45 Jenkin’s Well, in Balrownie Wood, Menmuir.

46. King’s Well, Carmyllie.

47. King’s Well, Newtyle, north-west of Newbigging.

48. [Kirkden Well] renowned for reducing swelling in feet and legs.

49. Knellock Well,  Gallows Hill, Inverarity.

50. Lady Well, Auchterhouse.

51. Ladle Well, Arbroath.  Possibly once Lady Well?

52. Lady Well, Brechin.

53. Lady Well, Dundee.  Perpetuated in the name of the pub Ladywell Tavern and in the Wellgate, Dundee.  ‘The Well of the Blessed Marie de Dundee’ was a holy site in the medieval burgh and was one of the primary water sources for the city until it was demolished on the construction of Victoria Road in 1872.

54. Lady Well, Farnell.

55. Lady Well, Chapelton, Menmuir.

[Note also the place-name Ladlewell, east of Forfar:  possibly another corruption of Lady Well?]

56. Lammer Well, St Vigeans.(Same as Lanuner Well?)

57. [Logie-Pert]  well in kirk-yard, used to treat sores.

58. Lunan Well, Lunanhead Forfar.

59. McComie’s Well, Glen Isla.

60. Madie's Well, on the banks of the Lunan, Kinnell.  Nearby was Madie's Heugh.  Possibly a corruption of parish patron St Maelrubha (or other wise Magdalen?).

61. Maid’s Well,  Rescobie.  Possibly connected with St Triduana who once reputedly lived here.

62. Marywell, Craig parish (anciently Inchbrayoch), close to the coastal village of Usan.

63. Mary Well, Kirriemuir.  Recalled in the local name Marywell  Brae.

64. Mary’s Well, Edzell.

65. Mary’s Well, St Vigeans.

66. Matty’s Well, Panbride.

67. May’s Well, Dunnichen.

68. Medicine Well, Idvies, also known as Medicie Well.

69. Medicine Well, Montrose.  This was, for a short spell in the 18th century, a fashionable spa.

70. Meg Blair’s Well, Lochlee.

71. Monk’s Pool, Kirkton, Lochlee.

72. Monk’s Well, St Vigeans.

73. Monks Well, Glen Isla, Corryvannoch.

74. Mossy Well, Arbroath.

75. Murdiewell, Glamis, place-name.

76. Murleywell, Eassie, farm name.

77. Naughty Well, Kinnell.  Is this a colloquial corruption of an older (Celtic?) name?   The well was close to the ancient chapel of Bolshan.

78. Neil's Well, near the kirk of Kingoldrum. Note nearby place-name Kennyneil.

79. Nettle Well, near Edzell.

80. Newton’s Well, Glen Isla.

81. Nickie’s Well, Witchwood, St Vigeans.

82. Nine Maidens’ Well, Bracken Bruach, Auchterhouse.

83. Ninewells, Dundee.  Close to the River Tay, on the west of the city.  Now commemorated as the name of the largest hospital in the region.

84. Nine Wells, Finavon.  On the hill above the old kirk.  A burn trickles down from the spot.

85. Nine Maiden’s Well, Forfar.  Located in the vicinity of Craig O’ Loch Road.

86. Nine Maiden’s Well, Kirkton of Strathmartine.  Near the kirk, this is importantly in the vicinity of the folk-tale of Martin and the Nine Maidens.

87. Nine Maiden's Well, Cortachy.  Near the church.

88. Nine Wells, Glamis.  The supposed home of the Nine Maidens, in Glen Ogilvy, was located within Glamis parish.

89. Nine Wells, close to Peallock Quarry, Lunan.

90. Nine Wells, Oathlaw (latterly Finavon parish).

91.  Nolt Loan Well, Arbroath.

92. Our Lady’s Well, Edzell. 

93. Our Lady’s Well, Glenisla. (The church was dedicated to St Mary.)

94. Our Lady’s Well, Milton of Carmyllie.

95. Our Lady’s Well, Oathlaw (Finavon).

96. Pater Well, near Deerpark Cottage, Kinnaird.

97. Paterlochwell, near Cottarward, Dunnichen.

98. Peatmire Well, Black Wood, Arbirlot.

99. Purdie’s Well, near Ochterlony, Rescobie.

100. Queen’s Well, Glenmark, Lochlee.  Re-named in honour of Queen Victoria, but originally named Tobar na clachan gualaich, the well of the white Stone.

101. Raistane Well, Kingoldrum.  Another well which is mentioned in a document of Arbroath Abbey, 1458.

102. St Aidan’s Well, Fern.

103. St  Aidan’s Well, Kirkton of Menmuir.

104. St  Andrew’s Well, Monikie.

105. St Andrew’s Well, Lintrathen.

106. St Anthony’s Well, Auchterhouse.  On Henderson Hill, marked as ‘disused’ on modern maps.

107. St Bride’s Well, Kettins. (Kettins church also dedicated to St Bride.)

108. St Bride’s Well, Templeton, Newtyle.

109. St Columba’s Well, Shielhill, Kirriemuir.

110. St Fergus’ Well, Glamis.

111. St Innen’s Well, Fern.  Located in a place named Wellford.

112. St Iten’s Well, Menmuir.  The name is probably a corruption of Aidan, the patron of Memuir parish.  

113. St John’s Well, Guynd.

114. St Kane’s Well, Monifieth.

115. St Laurence, Edzell.  (Edzell church dedicated to this saint.)

116. St Madden’s Well, Airlie. Also called St Medan’s Well.

117. St Martin’s Well, Bridgend, Lethnot.

118. St Martin’s Well, St Martin’s Den, Logie.  Famous for curing scurvy.

119. St Mary’s Well, Arbroath. 

120. St Mary’s Well, Lethnot.  Silver coins were found in this well (in the 18th or 19th century?), reckoned to be pre-Reformation votive offerings.

121. The Mary Well, Lintrathen, adjacent to The Mary Well Park, a field name.

122. St Mary’s Well, Oathlaw. Near  the top of the Gallow Path, near Oathlaw.

123. St Mary’s Well, Rescobie.

124. St Medan’s Well, Kingoldrum.  (The church was also dedicated to this saint.)

125. St Medan’s Well, Glamis.

126. St Medan’s Well, Oathlaw (latterly Finavon).

127. St Murdoch’s Well, West Drum, Brechin.

128. St Ninian’s Well, Arbroath.

129. St Ninian’s, Mains (formerly Strathdichty).

130. St Ouret’s Well, Brechin, on the North Esk near the Stannochy Bridge.  This is a name without parallel.  Paul T Hornby notes similarites to a similar Basque surname and the Gaelic word ùruisg (, but its uniqueness and lack of documentary parallels means this is very much a mystery.

131. St Peter's Well, Tealing.

132. St Ringan’s Well, Arbirlot. (or St Ninian’s Well.)

133. St Sinavy’s Well, or Sunny Vie, near Mains Castle, Dundee.

134. St Trodlin’s Well, Rescobie.  Named after Triduana.

135. St Vivian’s Well, Fern.

136. Scots Well, Lochee.

137. Scotston Well, Auchterhouse.

138. Seggie Well, Carmylie.

139. Silver Hill, St Vigeans. Note place-name Silverwells.

140. Sinruie Well, Kirkden (formerly Idvies). Corrupted from St Maelrubha.  The well was also known as St Malrubh

141. Sod’s Well, east of Grange of Conon, St Vigeans.

142. Springwells, St Vigeans, place-name north of Silverwells.

143. Tannie's Well, Kinnell.  Another well whose name may be a corruption of an older name.

144. The Timber Clach, place-name in  Glen Isla.  May possibly derive from An Tiobair Chlaich, the well of stones, though there is not currently a well here. (Place-names in Much of North-east Scotland, Adam Watson, London 2013.)

145. Tobar a Chinn, GlenIsla.  Well of the Head.

146. Todcairn Well, Glen Esk.

Todcairn Well, 1910.

147. Tothel Well, West Mill, Dunnichen.

148. The Tottler, Milton of Conon, Carmyllie.

149. Well of Bowhale, Glen Isla.  Name from Gaelic buachaille, herdsman.

150. Whey Wells, Fern.

151.  Witch’s Pool, Kirriemuir.

152.  Wormiehills Well.  Well and place-name near Arbroath.

You may wish to consult these previous published posts on wells:

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Death at St Vigeans: The Minister's End

On 15 November 1725 the long-standing minister of St Vigeans parish, north of Arbroath, put a rope around his neck and took his life.  Almost unheard of among clerics in the 18th century, the supposed facts of the tragic death are detailed below in a contemporary letter (culled from Analecta Scotica, ed. James Maidment, 1837).*  Strange as the circumstances are, local rumour perhaps also linked the tragedy to the peculiar atmosphere of the kirk and the folklore associated with it:

REVEREND DEAR SIR. – By last post, I have my brother’s of the 11st instant, in answer to what I wrote at your desire, with respect to the Minister of Aberbrothick Presbytery, who had made away with himself.   His name is Mr Thomas Watson:  he was Minister of St Vigons, about two miles from the Presbytery seat.  My brother writes he was of his acquaintance, and knew his character befor this.  He writes he was bot of mean parts, but had some thing of a popular gift.  He was never look’d on by serious people to be much taken vp with religion, and had a likeing to the other syde of the house, but was sober, and on good enough terms with his Paroch, and with his family, - was keen in gathering the world, and has left more than twentie thousand merks behind him upon houses in Montrose and Aberbrothick.  This temptation, according to my brother’s information, was, (as you heard), he had a sister who inclined to marry a man in that corner, and he was doing what he could to dissuade her it, and from being uneasie to the elder brother, whereon she cutt her own throat with a razor, and this was more than a year agoe.  Upon this he turned melancholy, and continued so till he brought himself to that fatal end.  When they found him, they fand in his breast a paper write with his own hand, wherein he desired that he should be buried in such a place of the churchyard, and that such a man should make his coffin, and that a hundred punds should be given to the poor.   My brother writes, hes information for all this is good.  If you desire any thing farder, he will doe what he can to satisfie you, but hopes you’ll pardon hes not writing directly to yourself, for he is much straitned of time.  I am,
                                                                                                                                Rev, Dear Sir,    
                Ham. Jany. 19,                                                                                    Your most humble
                      1726.                                                                                                      Servant,       
                         To the Rev. R. WODROW.                                                          ALEX. ARCHER.

   Thomas Watson had studied at St Andrews University, graduating in 1689.  He became a minister at St Vigeans in 1702.  In Arbroath and its Abbey [date], David Miller wrongly states that the death of the minister took place in 1726.  But he gives the details that WAtson  killed himself ‘on a tree, some distance north-east from the church; and was interred, not below the pulpit like his predecessors, but at the bottom of a turf dyke betwixt the lands of Newgrange and Newbigging.’ He left beind a wife, Margaret Maitland (or Marjorie Mathie).  Newgrange was afterwards Letham Grange and the tree on the boundary was some distance north of the kirk.  Possibly Whether this tree still remains is unknown.  Possibly due to a misinterpretation of the letter above, or confusion with his sister, some sources state that the minister also cut his throat. The reluctance to bury a suicide in consecrated ground is of course centuries old and perhaps has as much to do with decorum in this case as superstition.

   The tragic death became entangled in the lore associated with the old 12th century kirk (built on a mound on the site of an early Christian chapel).  There were structural problems with the building which meant that services were disrupted for a long period, but this became part of a local prophecy that a kelpie inhabited a pool beneath the kirk mound and prophecied that the congregation would sink down and be drowned after services were restored.  This was actually expected when the kirk schedule was fully restored in 1736.  The kelpie also allegedly prophesied the self-destruction of a minister.  (See my earlier post 22.5.15).  There was some delay also in finding a successor for the unfortunate priest.  A probationer named Tobias Martin was eventually appointed in 1727, but he lasted only four years and his successor John Burn only officiated for a short period between 1731 until his death in 1734.

   It would make a neat and tidy ending to this entry to link the por spirit of the priest with the ghost which was seen at nearby Letham Grange during World War II.  Now a golf resort, service personnel were stationed there during wartime.  Several WRENS who were sleeping in the old balroom reported seeing a grey, insubstantial figure at night while staying there.  It wore a wide hat and had a high collar.  The owners reported that it was unwise to sleep in that room.  Unfortunately for symmetry, the present house here was built some time after Thomas Watson’s time.  So unless his spirit wandered from the place he was and migrated into this later building, the lingering ghost is not him.

 *  Anothersuicide affected the incumbent of Monikie in the 17th century.  The son of the Rev John MacGill apparently dorned himself in  January 1660 while at St Andrews, studying divinity.

Monday, 13 February 2017

To See Ourselves...Through A Glass, Darkly? Outsiders’ Views on Dundee and Angus

A peculiar thing happened to me around 18 years ago while I was sitting in a pub in Bristol city centre (no longer there, the establishment soon afterwards was swept away by ‘improvements’).  In all honesty several strange things have happened to me in public houses in various places.  But this was different.  I was hovering on the brink of sobriety, having drunk two pints (either Guinness or Newcastle Brown, McEwans 80/- being almost unattainable in barbaric England).  I was – as they say – ‘minding my own business’ – keeping myself to myself etc.  It was early afternoon.  There were a few other people around, but it was not crowded.  By accident I tuned in to the conversation of two men at a table nearby.  They were talking about drug rehabilitation issues and the experiences they had gone through in that demanding line of work.  Fair enough, God bless them.  After reeling off a few horror tales and bleakly comic anecdotes about junkies and detox units, they began talking about where in Britain was the worst for hardcore drug problems.  A few places in England were mentioned, plus Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Then the one man says to the other something along the lines of, ‘You know, the worst place I ever saw was Dundee.’
   Now this set off alarm bells.  Dundee is where I come from.  How could they have known?  Was it an elaborate practical joke, or had they sized up my accent and somehow launched into a sinister game?  But the pair had arrived after the point where I had gone to the bar and I had spoken to no-one since.  What were the chances of these two psychically latching on to my hometown, reading my mind, and launching into a diatribe about Dundee?  More fat-fetched than that supposition was the idea that it was some kind of cosmic co-incidence being played out hundreds of miles from Dundee.

   On and on they went about how the junkies of Dundee were below the underbelly of any lowlife addicts anywhere else in the U.K.  I stumbled out, in a state of paranoia, soon afterward, feeling outraged for my hometown and for myself. A few more pints and I would have been tempted, unwisely, to add my own opinion. It wasn’t even true, or was it?

   Scots may look on the dark side about themselves and all that concerns them.  As the Aberdonian poet Alexander Scott (1920-1989) pithily put it in his poem ‘Scotched’:
Scotch Optimism
Through a gless, Darkly.

Scotch Pessimism
  The Scots do no want anyone else discussing their short-comings, real or imaginary, for they live cheek by jowl with constitutional darkness. It is still necessary sometimes to listen to opinions on oneself from someone outside the national bubble.  Two visitors to Angus, nearly four hundred years apart, give different perspectives on the Angus they witnessed. 

   We have already, in a previous post, encountered the ‘Water Poet’ John Taylor, who walked on foot from London to Scotland in the early 17th century and published his adventures as The Pennyles Pilgramage in 1618.  On the way north, as previously stated, Taylor stayed in a ‘sluttish’ inn in Glen Esk and suffered the attentions of either bed bugs, lice, or some other blood sucking insect life which took a delighted fancy to his soft southern flesh.  Coming back from Braemar, Taylor reached Brechin and again had a disturbed night, but for a different reason that that which unsettled him in Glen Esk:

...a wench that was born deaf and dumb came into my chamber (I being asleep) and she opened the bed, would feign have lodged with me...I think that either the great travel over the mountains had tamed me; or, if not, her beauty could never have moved me.  The best parts of her were, that her breath was as sweet as sugar-candian, being very well shouldered beneath the waste; and as my hostess told me the next morning, that she had changed her maiden-head for the price of a bastard not long before.  But howsoever, she made such a hideous noise, that I started out of my sleep, and thought that the Devil had been there: but I no sooner knew who it was, but I arose, and thrust my dumb beast out of my chamber, and for want of a lock or a latch, I staked up my door with a great chair.

   Taylor, having escaped one of the Seven Deadly Sins, went onward to Forfar and Dundee next day.  He should have counted himself lucky for the poor lass’s misguided attentions:  by all accounts, and his own admission, he was no oil painting.

   Moving forward into the 21st century we have some American evidence to consider.  Several years ago I stumbled across a blog written by an American woman who had settled in Dundee.  There were few posts, but among these were some wonderful photos of Balgay Hill and cemetery and some interesting insights about the architecture and culture of Dundee.  I would certainly have quoted this directly and supplied a link, but its author has evidently deleted the blog and so – one of the wonders of the digital age – this resource has vanished without trace forever. What struck me when reading her observations is how absolutely different her perspective was, even to the extent of regarding the architecture of tenements, flats and houses of the city as idiosyncratically unique.  Judging from her excellent photos, I think she may have settled in the Logie area, between the city centre and Lochee. Pity her record has been lost in the ether.

     Another American who settled in Angus was Belinda Rathbone who authored a semi-breathless account of her marriage to the owner of the Guynd near Arbroath entitled Living With the Laird (subtitled 'A Love Affair with a Man and His Mansion.').  I must admit, hearing about and then reading this book, my hackles were raised on account of my personal prejudices.  Guynd was owned by a member of the Ouchterlony family who had been resident on the estate for centuries, but like many of his ilk he had been educated in England and the residual Scottishness in him appeared to be a very thin veneer.  Also, like may others of the distressed gentry, there was a heartbreaking array of symptoms associated with being distressed gentry:  lack of staff, crumbling infrastructure in the mansion, and perhaps a pervasive underlying sense that the surrounding world, especially the local world was being a teeny bit harsh in its regards and interactions with the Big Hoose. 

   Before I castigate myself as being too harsh towards this social commentator, I would nevertheless have to take into account her attitude towards her new surroundings. First impressions of the rundown  house itself are not happy: ‘the centre-piece of a system gone to seed, deeply suggestive of the forbidden desire to give up and give out’.  To be fair, the book is a well-written account of a very small corner of the country and the strange tribe of landowners who still own too much of our native soil.  Does the rest of the work instruct us in anything?  Take this descripition of the denizens of Arbroath:  ‘Everybody on the street looks about sixty, slightly stooped and grey haired...The clock stopped around 1950.  If they aren’t sixty they’re sixteen...’  The lack of jovial Anglo-Saxon inns is bemoaned, missing the fact that Arbroath is anywhere but jovial olde England.  Low life types from Dundee and caustic insights about the benefits system and the nanny state are hardly the insights which might compensate for a less than riveting roll call of the author’s domestic struggles in a fading mansion.  But the author knows here market and it is certainly not one which inhabits the neighbourhood of the Guynd.  Tellingly, the writer bailed out of Scotland after a few years and wrote her tale from the distance of America and at least had the decency not to do so with rose tinted glasses.

   An even darker side of the interaction between 'native' and 'incomer' is the targeting of those people who come into the new community in order to start new lives and who, for a multitude of reasons, rub up their new neighbours their new neighbours the wrong way.  It's one thing to snigger at White Settlers and their funny accents and assumption of superiority.  Next thing, there might be a nascent campaign of intimidation - as evident by the Settler Watch poster which appeared in various places in Angus in 1993 - after after that, a small step into a full-blown hate campaign. Thankfully no major incidents of that kind have happened, yet.