Monday, August 26, 2019

History

  • The Abernyte Digital Archive houses all of the items, articles and cuttings that we we have gleaned from among the historical archives that mention or appertain to Abernyte. This Archive consolidates,  in a searchable format,  the many and diverse sources, information and items that make up all of our collective history in this area. It will also house the more recent documents and articles that forms part of a future generation's history.

    Some documents and items collected in the past 40 years are held in the Perth and Kinross archive at the A.K. Bell Library and can be accessed there. An index of those items can be seen here.

    You may make fair use of any information from a search of this database for your own personal use but may not otherwise copy, reproduce, republish or distribute any such information for commercial use, in any manner without the prior written consent of the Abernyte Community.

  • An Abernyte Heritage Group member, left pondian division (thank you Alasdair), has come across three intriguing old photographs with which to tempt us! 

    The images are of a group in mostly military garb in a car in the Abernyte area.

    The location is no problem, as all residents of Abernyte will recognise this as the Glen Road or B953 Abernyte to Balbeggie Road mid way between Balloleys Wood and Tulloch Ard. Of course it would not have been known by its road number until after 1922. The width of the road has varied somewhat since the photo was taken, but not by that much!

     

     

    Who the group are, what they are up to and when the photograph was taken is a much greater challenge. 

    We can see the number plate clearly which tells us the vehicle was registered in Wimbledon in London.  Careful examination of the photos also reveals an AA badge . The shape of AA badges changed greatly over the years and this badge was first used in 1911 and changed again in 1918.

    Working on the not unreasonable assumption that it was quite rare to have what is obviously an expensive motor car in the Glen Road in 1911ish and that the car therefore would be quite new, I think the photo will have been taken between 1911 and 1914.

     

    All of the occupants, bar the chap perched on the boot, seem to be in military officers uniform. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

    So here is the challenge to you all: 

    What is the make of the car?

    Who are the group?

    When was the photo taken and at what event?

    Your guess is as good as mine and any theory backed up by decent reasoning is welcome!

    The mystery is solved!

    Some excellent research and incredible luck has revealed an outstanding result in our quest to answer the questions we posed.

    And we really nailed this one, with identification of the car - the names of the persons in the car - the date of the event and what it was!

    Firstly the car.  It is a 1912 De Dion Bouton Roadster which has a V8 engine producing 35 hp from a 6.1 litre displacement. 

    1912 De Dion Bouton Roaster

     

     

    This is an example in concourse condition at a show in America. Wow!

     

    De Dion Bouton also made more military specification vehicles in the UK and went on to make various military vehicles during the World War I.  The photographs we have show no grill name badge and a much more basic look, so this might be a military specified car.

    Who are  the group and what were they up to?

    Here we stuck lucky with an item in the Dundee Courier from March 1913 regarding a forth coming military exercise to be held in Abernyte on the 5th April 1913!  It was being organised by a 5th Black Watch Major and the detachments to take part were from the Royal Army Medical Corps under Major W.E. Foggie and the Army Service Corps under Caption C. W. Cochrane.

    Also taking part, and this is the real show stopper, were aeroplanes attached to the Montrose Base who were to "locate the position of the invading or defending forces and relay the messages by flying as close as practicable to the ground and dropping them".  "Motor cyclists will keep in touch to convey the messages to the commanding officers"  The aeroplanes were to descend and land at Whitehills.  

    According to the history of the Royal Flying Corps, aircraft were first used for aerial spotting on 13th September 1914. So what we have here, in our tale, is a very early attempt in aerial spotting which easily pre-dates the official history.  The Montrose Base was Britain's very first operational military airfield and was only opened in 1913 so the exercise at Abernyte must have been highly significant.

    The Courier article goes on to say: " The usefulness of the aeroplane in war was amply demonstrated in the manoeuvers and the successful rush of a convoy from Dundee to a defending force at Whitehills, Abernyte pursued the "enemy" and after a hot chase had driven them into the sea"

    The Courier also carried a picture of the Black Watch marching through Whitehills to engage the "enemy".  This looks like it was taken on the straight between the existing steading and Den Cottage.

    Convoy of troops march through Whitehills 1913

     

     

     

     

    If you look at the rear view photograph of the original set of car photographs above, the officer on the left with the Glengarry cap is Major P. S. Nicoll ( no relation that I know of so far...I promise, it's all coincidence!) of the Black Watch. Zoom in and you can just make out a Red Hackle badge on his Glengarry. His left sleeve also has the three stripe insignia of a Major. Similarly the driver in the long right hand side view of the car has a Captain's insignia on his sleeve.  The gent in cilivilian clothing perched on the rear of the car is, we believe, Mr W. J. Dickie who was the landowner of Whitehills, Pitkindie  and Outfield at the time of the exercise.

    Major P.S.Nicoll went on to serve in the Great War and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Black Watch. We have traced a photograph, in the Dundee City archives, of him taken while serving in Egypt in 1917.

    Colonel P.S. Nicoll, Black Watch

    Colonel Nicoll resigned his commission in 1921 and died in 1942. There is a further painting of him in the McManus Gallery in Dundee.

    Colonel P.S. Nicoll

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    So there we have it!  A superb wee snippet of local history all from three nearly anonymous photographs.  It is slightly disturbing to recall that this was all taking place in sleepy Abernyte before the conflict that engulfed all of Europe at the cost of so many lives.

    How many more fascinating little vignettes of life past in Abernyte can we uncover in the archives?  Watch this space.

  •  

    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 map

     
    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.
     

    Pitmiddle c.1900

     
    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 

    Pitmiddle c.1920

    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.

     

     
  • 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

    sailing barque 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.

    Shetland Times 1880  SS Abernyte

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    SS Abernyte in full sail. Oil on canvas

     

     

     

     

    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.

     

    Wreck of SS Abernyte - Lizard Point

    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.
    "

    The prize will go to who ever can unearth the local connection which caused the ship to be named Abernyte.  None of the other vessels owned by the company were called after Scottish places.

  • Another fascinating peek into this area's maritime past has been uncovered as we prepare material for the Abernyte Digital Archive. After uncovering the unfortunate fate of the sailing barque Abernyte we have discovered that there were two ships, built locally, which carried the names Lady Kinnairdand Lord Kinnaird.

    The first ship to carry the name Lady Kinnairdwas a 350 ton Brigantine built in 1839 in Dundee. It was replaced by a 680 ton Barque built in 1877 by Messrs Brown & Simpson for Mr W.B. Ritchie of Dundee.  Brown and Simpson's boat yard was in the area of the Craig Pier, broadly where the RSS Discovery lies now and where the Fifie sailed from, if you can recall the pre-road bridge era of ferries across to Newport. 

    The Lord Kinnaird was built the year before in 1876, also by Messrs Brown & Simpson for Mr W.B. Ritchie of Dundee and was the larger at 843 tons.  Both ships plied their trade on the UK to Australia route carrying mostly cargo but some passengers too.

    The Lord Kinnairdwas a fine looking ship which continued in service until it was lost near Samoa on 27th November 1903 in poor weather. By this time it had been renamed Kalisto and was owned by a Norwegian company.

    Barque Lord Kinnaird Copyright State library of South AustraliaWhen it sailed to Australia in 1878 having taken on cargo in London, we even have the crew list:

     

    LORD KINNAIRD

    of Dundee, JAMES BLACK, MASTER, Burthen 844 Tons
    from the Port of LONDON to SYDNEY, New South Wales, 16th Nov. 1878

    SURNAME

    GIVEN NAME

    STATION

    AGE

    OF WHAT NATION

    STATUS

    COMMENTS

    BLACK

    JAMES

    CAPTAIN

     

    DUNDEE

    CREW

    PASSENGERS NIL

    KINNETON

    WILLIAM

    1st MATE

    28

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    STEPHEN

    JAMES

    2nd MATE

    24

    FORFAR

    CREW

     

    ANDREW

    CHARLES

    CARPENTER

    30

    FALMOUTH

    CREW

     

    WILKIE

    PETER

    STEWARD

    26

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    MENZIES

    DAVID

    STD. & COOK

    26

    ABROATH

    CREW

     

    RAMSAY

    DAVID

    A. B.

    20

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    ROFFELE

    ANTONIO

    A. B.

    33

    ITALY

    CREW

     

    PARKER

    WILLIAM

    A. B.

    51

    LONDON

    CREW

     

    RENDALL

    W.

    A. B.

    21

    LONDON

    CREW

     

    DAVIS

    H.

    A. B.

    26

    HELIGOLAND

    CREW

     

    LANDMAN

    P.

    A. B.

    25

    SWEDEN

    CREW

     

    LATTEE

    D.

    A. B.

    25

    ITALY

    CREW

     

    BROWN

    E.

    A. B.

    25

    JAMAICA

    CREW

     

    MARTELL

    FRANK

    A. B.

    29

    MALTA

    CREW

     

    ESSOMPICK

    GEORGE

    O. S.

    29

    ITALY

    CREW

     

    JOHNSTON

    F. H.

    A. B.

    19

    BELFAST

    CREW

     

    POLITO

    PETER

    A. B.

    25

    ITALY

    CREW

     

    THROMBERG

    GUSTAV j.

    A. B.

    28

    SWEDEN

    CREW

     

    HENRY

    WILLIAM

    APPRENTICE

    19

    CARDIFF

    CREW

     

    MARTIN

    ALEXANDER

    APPRENTICE

    18

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    ROBBINS

    JAMES

    APPRENTICE

    17

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    STURROCK

    ALEXANDER

    APPRENTICE

    17

    DUNDEE

    CREW

     

    It is interesting to note that the main skilled crew were all local to this area and the remainder a cross section of nationalities.

    The Lady Kinnaird had a much shorter career, being lost off south Australia in 1880, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser reported: 

    "Lady Kinnaird, under the command of Laws, left Port Pirie at 4.00 am on 19 January 1880 bound for the United Kingdom with a cargo about 8400 bags of wheat. During the afternoon of 20 January, the wind direction changed to the south along with an increase in speed. At 8.00 pm, the wind conditions were described as ‘furious squalls’. The barque continued its course into the southerly wind. At about midnight, when about to do a planned change of course to the east or the southeast, it was discovered that the barque was close to the west coast of Spencer Gulf. As the barque did not respond to a change of course, the main anchor was released but its cable failed and before a second anchor could be released, the barque ran aground. At sunrise, the crew realised that the barque had run aground south of Cape Burr about 0.75 miles (1.21 km) from the shore. The crew exited the wrecked vessel without loss of life and made way in lifeboats to the nearby shore where a camp was set up."

    The Marine Board of South Australia held an inquiry in the loss of the barque and on 9 February 1880, found the master, Alexander Laws, to be negligent. A further inquiry presided over by four magistrates was convened where evidence from expert witnesses was heard. On 25 February 1880, the inquiry found Captain Laws not guilty of the charge of negligence. having found that the submerged rock (now known as Lady Kinnaird Rock) on which the Lady Kinnaird ran aground,  was at low water found to have a minimum depth of water above the rock at 1 fathom (6.0 ft; 1.8 m) while the published chart advised a depth of 6 fathoms (36 ft; 11 m). 

    Timber recovered from the wreck site is reported as being used to built a water store known as Lady Kinnaird Tanks about 6.6kilometres (4.1 miles) north of Port Neill.  The Lady Kinnaird's anchor was recovered by local divers and now sits on display at Port Neill.

    "Port Neill Lady Kinnaird anchor" by Original uploader was Tirin at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port_Neill_Lady_Kinnaird_anchor.jpg#/media/File:Port_Neill_Lady_Kinnaird_anchor.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sign Wreck of the Lady Kinnaird

     

    The wreck of the Lady Kinnairdis now a popular although controlled dive site, which you can see here: