Another facinating glimpse in to Abernyte's past has been unearthed.
In 1875 the Gordon Steam Shipping Company commisioned a three masted sailing barque of 728 tonnes built on the Clyde at Dumbarton by McKellar, McMillan and Company.
The ship was called Abernyte
Another item to add to what we know of the SS Abernyte comes from no less a publication than the Shetland Times of 1880. On Saturday 21st February it carried an advertisement for the imminent sailing of the SS Abernyte from the Clyde bound for New Zealand.
It was also captured in oils in full sail.
It traded as a general cargo vessel until it was wrecked in fog off Lizard Point in 1898 carrying a cargo of Nitrate of Soda.
The Board of Trade enquiry found:
"On 29th December, 1897, the "Abernyte" left Caleta Buena, Chili, with a cargo of about 1,150 tons of nitrate of soda bound for Falmouth for orders. The freight payable for this cargo was stated to be £1,800, and it was fully covered by insurance. Her mean draught of water was about 17 ft. 6 ins., and she was about 3 ins. by the stern. She had a crew of sixteen hands all told, only three of whom formed part of the original crew which had left the United Kingdom. During an intermediate voyage she had lost two boats, but when she left Caleta Buena she still had one life-boat, one jolly-boat, and a dinghy, more than sufficient to comply with the requirements of the Act in that respect. She had a complete outfit of compasses, viz., a standard compass on the mizen-mast, a steering compass before the wheel aft, a tell-tale in the skylight, and a spare one below, besides five spare cards and a boat compass. Owing to the inconvenient position of the standard compass, the vessel was navigated entirely by the steering compass. These compasses had been overhauled by Messrs. Dobbie, Son, and Hutton, of Fenchurch Street, London, in September, 1895, but there was no evidence to show when they were last adjusted, certainly not for several years. This omission, however, does not appear to have caused any practical inconvenience in the navigation of the ship beyond a certain degree of sluggishness experienced when entering the English Channel, the master stating that the deviations were moderate in amount, and that, with the exception just mentioned, he had no complaint whatever to make regarding them.
After a tedious but otherwise uneventful passage, the "Abernyte" made the Bishop Lighthouse, Scilly Islands, about 10 a.m. on the 7th May last, and a course was set and steered to pass five or six miles south of the Lizard. Between five o'clock and six o'clock p.m. the "Wolf" was sighted, and when abeam was estimated to be five or six miles distant, but no cast of the lead was taken nor other means used to verify the position of the ship; and it may here be noted that the lead was never used after the Bishop Lighthouse was made on the morning of the 7th May. She still continued on her course towards the Lizard, the weather being fine and clear, with a moderate breeze from the S.W., the ship making about three knots. The Lizard lights were made between eight and nine o'clock, and it is at this point that the master seems to have made the fatal mistake which eventually led to the loss of the ship. For three hours, or until 11.30 p.m., the lights were continually in sight and in line, which, had the master consulted his chart with ordinary intelligence, was a sufficient indication that he had not the offing he was reckoning upon, and that he had passed the "Wolf" much closer than he estimated, and that also if he continued his course he must inevitably strike on the Lizard Point. At 11.30 p.m. the weather became foggy and the lights were obscured and not again seen. The same course was continued until about 1.30 a.m. on the 8th, when it was altered one point towards the land. At midnight sail had been shortened to topsails and foresail.
Shortly after the course had been altered, the noise of the surf was heard, and directly afterwards breakers were seen on the starboard side. it being evidently impossible to stay the ship owing to the vicinity of the rocks, the master attempted to wear her, calling all hands and making sail. She appears to have reached along the shore for some little distance on the port tack, but owing to the lightness of the wind and a heavy ground swell she had got into, she gradually drifted on the rocks off Rill Head and became a total wreck. The crew, who did not save any of their effects, got into the life-boat and pulled seawards. While in the boat the crew heard the siren on the Lizard, which had not been previously heard.
About daylight they were picked up by a pilot cutter and ultimately landed at Falmouth.
No lives were lost.
The Court having carefully inquired into the circum stances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the casualty was caused by the master, Mr. Edwin Cardwell, neglecting to use the lead and ignoring the fact that he had brought the two lights of the Lizard in a direct line.
The Court finds the master in default, and suspends his certificate for six months."
In 2021 a group of divers lead by Mr Ben Dunstan in the Scilly Isles were able to take advantage of rare, calm conditions at the wreck site and had a series of successful dives onto the wreck. It is relatively unvisted by divers and they were able to recover many interesting artifacts from the ship including the sextant and the lead depth line which was commented on at the board of enquiry as their use had been neglected by the ships master which caused the wreck.
These images are all courtesy and copyright of Ben Dunstan©2021
A SHORT HISTORY OF PITMIDDLE
The area around the Tay estuary has been settled since prehistoric times. This district – Gowrie – still bares the name of the Pictish sub-kingdom that existed here for some 600 years between the 3rd and the 9th century AD. (The Picts – the name means ‘painted people’ - were the descendants of native Iron Age tribes who ultimately resisted the Romans.)
Although the name ‘Pitmiddle’ is of Pictish origin, the first historical reference is dated to 1172 in a Charter of King William the Lyon that grants to Ralph Rufus ‘Kinnaird in its right divisions, except Petmeodhel belonging to Richard my Clerk’. ‘Pet’ or ‘Pit’ represents a share, division or piece of land. ‘Meodhal’ is possibly a personal name, making it ‘Moedhal’s share’. Alternatively, it may be a corruption of ‘meadhon’, which represents ‘middle’ – the ‘middle share’. The site of the village fits perfectly the criteria favoured by the Picts for their settlements: good, well-drained soil on a sheltered south-facing slope between 15 and 200 metres above sea level.
Pitmiddle was from the first a farming settlement. It never had either a church or a manor house. When the Barony of Inchmartine was created in the mediaeval period, Pitmiddle
formed an important part. Little natural woodland would have remained by this time and the cattle and sheep belonging to the villagers grazed the hill pasture. A herd boy was employed to look after these. (In 1647 one of the tenants, Edmund Jackson, was fined 10s by the kirk session for striking the ‘common herd’ on the Sabbath.) On the lower slopes where the farms of Outfield and Guardswell are today, oats and bere (a kind of barley, from which beer was brewed) were grown, and also some flax for the weaving of linen. The system of cultivation operated was called ‘infield / outfield’. The ‘infield’ land was nearest to the village and it was kept in permanent cultivation. The ‘outfield’ land was further away. This was cropped for perhaps three years; livestock were then kept on the ground for the next few years until the soil’s fertility returned, when it would again be cropped. Outfield Farm, therefore, was originally part of the ‘outfield’ of the Pitmiddle settlement. In 1691 Pitmiddle, together with Craigdallie at the foot of the hill, probably supported as many as 55 households with a population in the region of 250. The villagers attended the church and school in Kinnaird.
In the eighteenth century the method of farming was changed as the Industrial Revolution drew people away from the countryside to work in the towns. Food production had to be increased to feed the growing urban populations. At Pitmiddle, the best arable land was enclosed in fields centred around two large new farms – Guardswell (originally called ‘Bank’ and later ‘Grasswell’) and Outfield – so that grain could be produced more efficiently. At the same time much of the poorer ground on the hill was planted with trees. The township of Pitmiddle, therefore, lost most of the land that had traditionally been farmed by its inhabitants. A number of smallholdings or crofts (called pendicles) remained. The rigs on which the crops were grown can still be seen on the slope to the north of the village above Outfield. Around 1820 the old earth houses were rebuilt in stone, quarried just to the west of the village. The settlement however was in decline.
The 1841 census shows that the population of Pitmiddle, including Guardswell and Outfield, had fallen to 99 in 26 households. The smallholdings did not provide sufficient income to support a family and other work had to be found. By 1891 only five crofters remained. The trees on the hill were cut during the First World War; a large proportion of this ground has since been re-planted.
By the beginning of the twentieth century Pitmiddle was no longer viable as a farming community and, with poor access, it was too isolated to
attract other industry. The last inhabitant, James Gillies, left in January 1938. A snowstorm caused his farm sale to be abandoned. A few walls are now all that remain, although the outlines of many buildings can still be traced. Gooseberry and red currant bushes show where there were gardens. A settlement that thrived for more than a thousand years is all but gone. What does remain can be viewed in this short video article. "Soon there will be nothing left
" Copyright DC Thomson