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When it comes to attending attractive public events, harsh winter weather seems no deterrent for many Dunning folk. After excellent turnouts to our autumn events, the warm response continued in January to Ken Laing's beautifully-illustrated slideshow on the mysterious towers and steeples built in the Dark Ages in this part of Scotland. In February the Society got almost too popular when a Farm Film Night featuring old footage from the Scottish Film Archive drew an audience of over 110. We quickly switched the venue of our next event, 'Local Heroes', a presentation of the Society's own videos, to the Village Hall, wisely, as it turned out, because of another high turnout. And a late-scheduled event which we co-sponsored, a Ceilidh Dance to raise money for a new hall sound system, was held March 3 with another warm response.

Here's a footnote to the Rev. Colin Williamson's eloquent talk to us in December proposing to move the Dupplin Cross inside Forteviot Church rather than to the National Museum being built in Edinburgh: The Scottish Secretary ruled that the Cross, now outdoors on Dupplin Estate, should not be moved to the Museum. However, this decision has been appealed and local public hearings are likely to be held before long. Our Society is supporting Mr. Williamson's (fully-funded) proposal.

For news of upcoming events, please see the back page, including details of this summer's major Society happening, 'Village Images, Old and New'.


Dr. Sheila Douglas, the folklorist who speaks to us on May 18, sent us this story written in Scots about 1897. It's from a manuscript by Christina Robertson, who lived in Thorntree House, Thorntree Square, and some of whose stories are included in Scottish Tradition, by the late David Buchan.

I dinna ken what awfu' wark the witches war aboot that twa should be brunt in Dunnin' parish. Ane wis brunt at Kinklady, an' the Witch-Tree lang stood there stuntit an' thrawn. Uncle Sandy minds o' the bairns gatherin' ashes an' banes near't whan he wis a bit callant. The tither witch has a braw monument o' grey stane wi' a bit cross on the tap o't. Markit oot wi' white pent is this inscription-Maggie Walls, burnt here as a witch, 1657'. Auld my Lord got it biggit whan her Leddyship wis frae hame, an' the cook wis telt tae hae a muckle haggis ready tae treat the masons. Some fouks say the witches was jist guid auld wives wha kent mair than the parish meenister, an' that's the wey the meenister had sic a spite at them. Others say they war ill-hearted, ill-gaeted hempies, stickin' preens in wax images to gar fouks dwine an' dee. Our forbears wad outwit them an' a their magic, by tyin' a bit o' bourtree to the byre-door whan the kye wadna let doon the milk, an' by pittin' a rag i' the kirn, or at warst jumpin' through a ring wantin' the sark whin the butter wadna come. There wis a wheen witches aboot Tirnawie, wha scoored the kintra in divers shapes. The guidman i' Ford o' Rossie wis sair teended by a hare aye loup, loupin' through his bere. He fired his gun mony a time, but neither scaithed nor daunted her. Ae nicht he loaded his gun, pat in a siller saxpence, let bang and' ran forrit. There wis nae hare there, but a woman lyin' dead wi' a sixpence in her e'e.

Tibbie Marshall's faither, who farmed the Crafts, wis pleughin' wi' oxen, as wis the fashion in thae days. Without warnin' they drappit doon. He ran hame for help in an unco hurry. They telt him the witch-wife had been at the door, an' gane awa' angry at bein' refused. He gaed tae the head o' the toon, whaut he faund her in her ain hoose roastin' flesh on the coals. He reipit his pouch for a knife, but faund only a roosty nail, an' wi' that he scored her abune the breath till bluid cam'. Whin he gaed back his oxen war standin' in the pleugh weel enough. A neebor's coo wis bewitched by the same wife, an' de'd. They tuk' oot its heart, stuck it fu' o' preens, an' boiled it. The same nicht she cam' greetin' to their window sayin' her heart wis sae sair she wis like tae dee. (with thanks to member Mr. T. Fulton of New Zealand for reminding us of this script)


compiled and drawn by Ken Laing

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For many years now Dunning residents have been accustomed to seeing and hearing a clock on the old steeple, albeit not without changes and occasional stoppages and eccentricities. It was not always so. For the first 650 years of this Norman tower's existence the great warring armies and many travellers passing by on the then highway between Stirling and Perth saw only a faceless tower without any guide as to the time of day. Only the peal of the call-bell to service and the toll-bell for the dead reminded the living of the passage of time.

Not until the early 1800's was the first clock installed. It came from Stirling Castle, where it had done duty for many years, and was repaired by a clockmaker from Newburgh before being installed in the belfry chamber, with the single dial facing Tron Square. The square, probably wooden, dial had a single hand indicating the hours. These were marked by Arabic numerals (1,2,3 etc.) and more exact times had to be judged by the position of this one hand. It would have been a silent clock, for the large bell had been rung to

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The original single dial of painted
wood, with an hour hand only,
might have looked like this.
Colours unknown.

destruction some years earlier on the instructions of the Master of Rollo on hearing of the birth of a son and heir. This shortcoming was probably overcome when Major Drummond of Keltie presented a new call-bell to the church on August 3rd 1825. This large bell provides the strike for the hours while the smaller toll-bell strikes the half-hours. At this time also a minute hand was added and the Arabic numerals were replaced with Roman I, II, III etc.

This single dial served until 1859 when, after a public subscription, another shaft was added to the clock mechanism, the old dial was removed, and two new dials were provided, one on the west face and one on the east face of the steeple. These new square dials were again of wood which through time rotted and were replaced in 1883 with dials of cast iron and glass.

Line drawing 2.5kb


From early photographs, the two wooden dials of 1859 looked like this. There is no information on colours, but gold figures on a deep blue background were common at that time. The holes for the clocks to which the dials were attached can still be seen in the stonework at each side of the arched openings of the belfry.

There is some uncertainty about the next developments and as to when the mechanism and dials were moved down from the belfry to the floor below, where they are today. In correspondence in the 1950's a one time resident, George Johnstone Dougall wrote from South Africa that he remembered 'Lady Rollo cutting the ribbon to set the clock a-going. Father had the job to cut the holes through the thick walls for the shafts of the hands, 1887, Jubilee Year'.

However the commemorative plaque on the clock states it was purchased by public subscription and dated 3rd November 1890. Furthermore a newspaper extract of January 8, 1891 states 'the inauguration ceremony of the new town clock took place a few weeks ago, a platform was erected in the Tron Square and the Rt. Hon. Lady Rollo took a most prominent part in the proceedings'.

Is an old memory at fault--or were there two ceremonies? The first in 1887 perhaps to mark the provision of a further two dials and the moving of the clock to the floor below the belfry. Might it then have been found that the old mechanism was unable to meet the demands of four pairs of hands and in 1890 new works were obtained and a second celebratory ceremony was held? It seems unlikely to have had two such ceremonies in the space of three years and I favour a fogged memory and a new mechanism and four dials in 1890 being the motive for the event. Any information to clear up this mystery would be welcomed.

Over the years successive public subscriptions have kept the clock in working order and the dials in presentable condition. However in the 1980s the mechanism broke down and the painted metal plates which had replaced the glass dials were deteriorating.

In 1992, the renovation of the outside of the steeple by Historic Scotland presented the opportunity to have the dials and the clock attended to. The Community Council set up a subscription fund and its target was soon reached. Mr. Alan Hamshere, Balcanquhal, Gateside, was chosen to carry out repair and refurbishment. The cast iron chapter frames and numerals which were in remarkably sound condition, with little corrosion, have been cleaned and treated with a long lasting coating. The dial plates are now of while acrylic which should resist damage and retain their colour. The 1890 mechanism, also in good condition, has been cleaned and overhauled, and a few replacement parts being introduced where necessary.

Provision will be made for regular maintenance and although now over a hundred years old there is no reason to doubt this clock can continue to serve the village for many more years--but only time will tell.

---Ken Laing, Bridgend, Dunning 1995


DPHS postal member David S. McLuckie, was born in Govan in 1910, but spent the summers of his youth in his mother's home village, Dunning. He still loves to re-visit the village. Here is Part One of his recollections.

My first memory of Dunning was before the First World War. I was about 3 or 4 years old, attending my Aunt Teeny's wedding. We left my Granma's (Christina Jack's) house in what I remember was called then the Lower Granco (now The Granco). It was a grand affair, horse and carriage. The neighbours were out throwing rice, plenty of it. I was greeting because it was sore on my face. I don't remember any more about the ceremony, it was so long ago.

My Aunt Teeny was always a mystery to me. It was not until recently that I learned just how extensive a family I came from. My Great-grandfather James Marshall had fourteen of a family, with descendants now scattered all over the world. Teeny, raised by my grandparents, was actually the 'love child' of another member of the family. In those days, despite a very Calvinist upbringing the females of the family were apparently liberal with their favours. Maybe the soft hill air and good country feeding had something to do with it. And of course the romance of the Dunning Burn.

I have been asked by many people how I feel about Dunning. This is very difficult to explain. I spent many long summer days in the village right up to my late twenties before I made a break. I got to know the people and their ways. It was wonderful. I knew all the families. The Walkers, Calders, Hurrys, Laings, Dougalls, Wilsons, Howies, Mailers, Stevens, Hoggs, Donaldsons, Crows, Fentons, Scotts, Buttars, McRaes were just some of them. In those days they were a race apart with their own way of life and even their own language. Dunning was unheard of, it was so remote in those days. My friends in Glasgow thought it was some queer place I went to. To me the only word I could use was 'sacred'. When I entered I was in another world. And at the end of the summer when I left Dunning I was a very depressed boy, for I dreaded going back to Glasgow. As I am writing this my eyes are quite dim.

Felix Calder and Chick Calder were playmates of mine. Chick was a wee red-eyed brown-legged boy in those days, the result of so much sun. We had great fun in the burn. We were very averse to eels. We dropped boulders from the bridge on them. When Chick made a hit he shouted 'Richt on the tab o' it!'

(On a visit to Dunning about 1938 I met Chick Calder again. He was the killer with the local butcher, working in the slaughterhouse. He was going to kill a pig that day and invited me up. He dragged it onto a slab, shot it rapidly, hoisted it up with a block and tackle, slit it up the middle and was right inside pulling out its hot innards. I was quite impressed with his speed).

When we left at the end of the summer and the carriage was making its way up the Kirkwynd, Felix would walk alongside singing 'Pack Up Your Troubles'.

The Walker family was very prominent in the village. Joe Walker the draper had a dairy farm at the top of the Granco. His sister Mrs. Buttar stayed in the Perth Road and his brother Jock had the Smiddy along the road on the burnside. Jock produced all the bairns. I can remember George, Jimmy, Alistair and Cameron. Joe employed them on the dairy farm. Their grandfather James was a tailor, and made all the clothes for his older grandchildren, including good worsted linen shirts. Their breeks were double-seated like riding gear so they would wear well. You could always tell a Walker from behind.

Jimmy Walker and I worked about the 'ferm yaird' repairing henhouses, pigsties etc. About four o'clock we went down to the cow park haughs to collect the kye. We knew them all by name. We called them and they came to the gate. Then they wandered up the Perth Road and into their own stall. Jimmy and George did the milking by hand and Jimmy was gey fast. He had a wry neck and it fitted into the kye's side perfectly so he could keep his eye on you while shouting orders to the kye if it switched its tail across his eyes. (See the notes from Mrs. Marjory Addison, the last of the Walkers, which follow).

The milk wasn't pasteurized or anything like that. It was warm, straight from the kye. I often drunk my Granma's milk when delivering it. She didn't know. My Granma wasn't an ordinary grandmother. Come to think of it, the whole population of Dunning weren't ordinary. In those days the people were happy despite being so remote and so primitive in their standard of life. Dunning was a contented community. Everybody had a couple of kye, a soo, hens and a kailyard at the back and generally a bit of land somewhere in the area.

Hepburn had a good bit of land in front of our hoose (my Granma's, which was the upper flat at what is now No. 6, The Granco, on the path leading toward Leadketty). Hepburn grew a great crop of strawberries. I lay between the rows often, gorging myself. If I saw him coming I always got away before he arrived. My Granma had a big garden at the north end of The Granco bordering the haughs (low-lying level ground by the side of the burn). It was full of bushes of gooseberries, red currants and black currants. My mother made loads and loads of jam and jellies. I didn't like picking the fruit. I ate a lot of the berries and I certainly suffered for it.

The family had a lot of outings up to the Tory Brig, Craigrossie, and Honey Farm up the Toll (Yetts of Muckhart) Road. I was a very highly strung boy, emotional, sentimental and depressive. I gave my family no end of trouble on some of our outings, not all. I would become obtuse. They would say, Davie, just you go 'doon the burn' and we will see you when we get back. That I did. I sat for hours at the 'dooking pool'. In those days, the wildlife was prolific. I watched the water voles swimming around, grey wagtails, dippers, redshanks (tu tus), skylarks, peewits, yellowhammers, weasels, green finches, redpolls, linnets: they were all there.

My other favourite thing was to turn up stones and watch the ants carrying their pupae away to safety. Ants are a fascinating study. So similar to our present day society. There is a species of slavemaking ant wholly dependent on its slaves. The males and fertile females do no work and the workers or sterile females are the most energetic and courageous in capturing slaves. But they do no other work, and are incapable of making their own nests or feeding themselves and looking after their larvae when changing nests. The slaves carry their masters in their mouths. When thirty of them were shut up without a slave, with plenty of food and larvae and pupae to stimulate them to work, they did nothing, they would not feed themselves and many died. Then one slave was introduced. She fed them and saved the survivors.

Anyway I digress. I'll get back to my Granma. She was a hard woman. She seemed to concentrate on me but then I was a different boy. If I whistled on a Sunday, she would say 'Eh, eh, eh, ye mauna whistle on the Sabbath. If I catch ye daeing that again I'll lock ye in the coal cellar'. There was a row of wooden buildings at our back court consisting of coalhouse, stickhouse, and a dry lavy. Of course I paid a few visits to the coalhouse, but when I told her I preferred the stickhouse she relented and promoted me.

The dry lavy had a nice seat made of pine wood and a bucket below. My father didn't like us boys using it too much as it filled up easily. He told us to pick up a good sized docker leaf and go down the Ditches, which we did.

Sometimes I also used the dry lavy. I liked sitting in it. The mixed smell of nature and pinewood. It was so warm and the buzzing of flies and insects. I found it very relaxing there, with the crickets singing. Of course someone would come wanting in and that would spoil my reverie.

(A man with a wheelbarrow came to clean out. When I saw him coming I ran into the wind, the stench was overpowering. I didn't find out what he did with it. Probably that was why the vegetables in Dunning were so rich)

The Ditches was a hedge and tree lined track beside our house leading down to 'Linkatee', spelled as Leadketty was pronounced in those days. Further on the meeting of the waters took place. Leadketty Burn and Dunning Burn met and flowed on into the Earn. It was a nice area. I spent many hours there. Granma told me if I went near the Earn, I'd be 'droomed in Why Kog'. I never found out the meaning of 'Why Kog'. Later in life I did swim in the Earn and never got 'drooned'. (Note from Mrs. Barbara Gordon & David Doig: the Why Cog was a big hole with dangerous currents where the Dunning Burn met the Earn; David's grandmother Mrs. Bella (Cree) Gordon also used this warning)

There were very few houses with running water at this time just after the First World War. Or houses with water closets, for that matter. This can be disputed but I maintain that was the position. There were cast-iron stanchion type wells all over the village, where the women drew their supplies. I had great fun with them. The water came out under great pressure and I occasionally turned them on and the water came gushing out much to the displeasure of the women.

Round the corner from us lived the Miss Wilsons, two tall ladies always dressed in black. In the early evening they walked down the Ditches gathering firewood. They always appeared to me very sinister, just like two dark crows. Their back door was at the foot of our stair and they had a water closet just there. Although I was forbidden, sometimes I nicked in, had a quick visit and out again.

Being a small boy there were a lot of things I found uncanny about Dunning. The 'Babies' Bell', Maggie Wall's cross, and the standing stone in the field at the top of the Ditches.

The church bell in the steeple of St. Serf's rang every evening at 8 o'clock and I had to be in every evening before this 'Babies' Bell'. The Standing Stone, according to the story I remember, marked the spot where somebody had fallen in the battle of Duncrub. My father said the Standing Stone went down to the Burn at 3 o'clock in the morning for a drink. I wondered at this. Maggie Wall's cross was erected marking where she was burned as a witch. The Kirk must have had remorse of conscience. The ladies of today still attend and preserve it.


---David McLuckie, Balloch, 1995


Mrs. Marjory (Midge) Addison of Aberdeen was the youngest of the Walker family mentioned in the preceding article. She wrote us these notes recently.

My parents John (Jock) and Christina Walker, who lived at the Smiddy, had 14 children in all:

  • John (Ian) born 29/1/1902 died March 1981
  • Christina (Chris) 17/7/03 30/9/85
  • Charles (Charly) January 05 1919
  • George 5/4/06 29/11/83
  • William (Bill) 1/12/07 16/4/88
  • Elizabeth (Bess) 18/12/08 20/12/37
  • Henry James (Jim) 31/5/11 19/3/78
  • Andrew 28/1/13 28/3/89
  • Alexander (Alistair) 3/3/15 10/12/82
  • Janet (Jen) 25/11/16 6/3/92
  • Cameron (Jake) 24/9/19 29/12/44
  • Annie (Nan) 26/8/21 19/10/81
  • Helen lived only a few days 1924
  • Marjory (Midge) 9/2/26

I'm trying to revive my memory. I can vaguely remember helping with the harvest, gathering sheaves and putting them into bundles in the Haughs.

I do remember the dairy as we children still at school had to rise early in the morning before seven to go along to Joe's to have a cup of tea before setting out the milk all round the village in flaggons (they were tins with lids and handles). We also had an evening round after school. At the weekends and holidays we helped with the washing up of the utensils used, including a separator made up of rings used for separating the milk from the cream. On a Saturday I used to help make butter in a churn. The buttermilk was given to certain people who liked it, and was good for making girdle scones. Joe also made cheese. It took about six months to mature. He also owned pigs, ducks and hens.

My uncle Joe's christian name was George and no doubt my aunt, Mrs. Jenny Buttars worked along with their father at one time in the tailor shop, but they certainly didn't make anything in my youth. Any suits that were made then were by Jock Kinmounth, who lived in the house called The Ark.

Joe and Jenny and my father John had another sister Betsy Walker known as Liz. She worked in McEwans in Perth. Something to do with sewing. She eloped and went to Canada, the only skeleton in the cupboard. I never knew her.

--Mrs. Marjory Addison, 1 Burns Gardens, Aberdeen AB1 6PW


In our January, 1995 Newsletter, we incorrectly named the author of the poem The Thorntree. His correct name is John Phillip. Incidentally, we've received a copy of a local Thorntree song which we'll include in a future issue. And if you have any old Dunning verses, stories, memories or comments you'd like to contribute to our newsletters, we'd be delighted to hear from you.


Thurs., Apr. 6 7:30 pm, Village Hall, to see and hear about A Famous Local Family: The Graemes of Garvock. Slides by David Doig, narrative by Kirsty Doig, tell the story of a visit to Dunning by the last in the Graeme male line, Dr. Malcolm Graeme. He and his wife Dr. Pat Graeme live in Ceres, and he's our Honourary Vice-President. We'll see inside Garvock House, the little-known Graeme mausoleum on the McGregor farm, the spots in St. Serf's Church which commemorate the family, and the original Kippen House built by the Graemes.

Sat., Apr. 22 'A Charabanc Tour to Falkland Palace and the Folk Museum at Ceres, Fife.' The coach leaves from Dunning's Tron Square at 10 am. The cost per person will be . To register or to obtain more details please telephone either Mrs. Shona Sinclair 684 566 evenings, or Mrs. Grace McFarlane 684 376 daytime.

Thurs., May 18 7:30 pm, Dunning School. Our A.G.M., followed by 'The Haunted Kirkyard', an evening of thrilling Perthshire tales for young and old presented by author and folklorist Dr. Sheila Douglas of Scone and her husband, poet Andrew Douglas.

Sunday, June 4 10 am, meet at Dunning School for a field trip exploring Greenhill and old Ochil crofts. Bring lunch and appropriate walking gear. For more information, call trip leader Colin Young at 684 521.

Saturday, July 22-Sunday, August 6 'Village Images, Old and New' A wide-ranging photo and art exhibition in the Village Hall featuring Dunning as subject as well as pictures by village artists and photographers. Like last year's Museum of Village Memories, all the pictures will be on loan and everyone is asked to help out by lending old and new photographs, paintings or other art objects which they think others might like to see. Volunteers are also needed to man/woman the exhibition. Please contact David Doig 684 321, Albie Sinclair 684 566 or Lorne Wallace 684 581.

Fieldwalks in search of archaeological artefacts will be held this year by the Society and the Tayside, Fife and Angus Fieldwalkers at fairly short notice. Please tell Shona Sinclair (684 566) if you'd like to be notified of these events.

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