Dunning Parish Historical Society in Perthshire Scotland has local Dunning history data including dunning village census and grave yard geneaology records Dunning history society logo text

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Even if progress on some projects seems slow, there is always something interesting happening with the Society. Take the last three months for example. While we await action by others before we open office facilities, complete our application to move the Dupplin Cross to Forteviot Church, and begin our Website project, we've kept busy with interesting programmes and plans. First came the very entertaining presentation on Dunning Burn by Kenny Laing which drew a close to capacity crowd on a dreich January evening. Then, on an even stormier February night, Betty Bridgeford expertly interviewed veteran building tradesman in a jolly video session taped before a live audience. In March three visitors told of their passion for standing stones. (So that our many postal members don't feel too missed out on these Village Hall lectures, this newsletter presents a transcript from an earlier talk by Lady Jean Wemyss about Invermay: there'll be more such transcripts of our winter lectures). In between times, your Society committee laid plans for a lively season of events for the coming year, including another barn dance. (See the back page for more details.) And a continuing project being worked on is fieldwalking: another Dunning walk is planned the weekend we go to print.


Chair Ian Philip reports Heritage lottery fund lawyers have belatedly ruled our application for a Website project grant is ineligible for "various complicated legal reasons". These strict rules apparently won't apply next year, and we can re-apply. Ian comments it's good to get this decision for we are now free to apply to other sources and to make use of the funds we have already raised, which have been frozen pending a decision on the Heritage application.


If you're a member of the Society, you're going to get more out of your current membership. The special general meeting held March 20 agreed to extend current memberships from the present expiry date of the end of May until the beginning of September (it makes more sense since September really marks the beginning of our season). So you get a year and three extra months from the subscription you've paid, with renewal due on September 1/97!


One of our most active members, Rita Laing, died last Christmas Eve. Rita and Charlie were early and enthusiastic members, often providing historical background and lending material for projects. For several years Rita played a key role behind the scenes in diligently assembling the Society's collection of current news clippings about Dunning, part of which was on display at 1995's Village Images exhibition. Our sincere condolences to Charlie and the family.


Member Betty Willsher of St. Andrew's, a leading lay expert on Scottish gravestones has produced another handsome book "Scottish Epitaphs ("Epitaphs and Images from Scottish Graveyards"), published by Canongate.


A great deal of effort goes into the Society's events and activities, with much of it done by the Society's committee, to all members of which we are very grateful. But many other members contribute, and this is a good occasion to thank just a few of them. The crew taping the February video session included Bob Palmer, Ted Dorsett, Jane Rigby, David Doig plus committee members Liz Fletcher, Simon Warren, Ian Philip, Lorne Wallace. The "cast" included Betty Bridgeford and tradesmen Hector Whytock, Jim Smith, Derick Phillips, Tom Hoey, John Crow and Bill Clark. Thanks to you all for an excellent job!


Here is an edited transcript (any errors are ours) of a talk given at the DPHS meeting November 23/95 by Lady Jean Wemyss of Invermay, the estate in Forteviot Parish overlapping into Dunning Parish.

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Original drawing of Old Tower, Invermay, by Dunning artist Alan Robson

The first thing that we know about Invermay is in 1362 when a Robert Stewart paid fief to the king (which would be King David if my history is right) at Culross Abbey for the lands of Innermeath. In those days Invermay was not called Invermay but Innermeath. After that we don't know very much about the Stewarts--they certainly went on living at Invermay--and the next thing we hear about them is in about 1470 when the Stewart of the day became Lord Innermeath. After that his name was seen quite frequently in state papers and in writing letters to and from the king when King James was a prisoner in England. Stewart was sent down as one of the people to try and bail out the king and bring him back to Scotland. So the Stewarts certainly took a distinguished part in the affairs of Scotland in those days.

In about 1600 those Stewarts of Innermeath succeeded to the title of Earl of Atholl and to the land and estates of Atholl. I think after that Innermeath was pretty small beer to them. They left there and went to their estates further north and decided to sell Innermeath.

First of all they sold it to the Earl of Montrose but he ran up great debts and wasn't able to stay there for very long. In 1619 he sold the property to David Drummond of Farnes: he was a distant, a very distant relation of the Perth Drummonds. As a result of a clan feud his forebears had fled Scotland and gone to Ireland and then come back again. He bought the estate which then began to be called Endermay or Innermay (they dropped the Innermeath). It was a very much larger estate in those days because it wasn't just the home policies and the two Clevage farms, but it included Henhill and Inverdunning, Muirhead, Montalt, Bogtonlea, Muckersie and the mill of Baldinnes and the mill at Muckersie. And all these farms remained part of the estate for the next two hundred or so years. So as you can imagine it was really a big place.

David Drummond married a lady called Elizabeth Abercrombie and there's a stone carved on the old house at Invermay of their initials, D.D. and E.A. with the date 1633. We are almost certain that it was they who enlarged the old house, because originally it would have been just the keep, really just a tower and one room. These Drummonds, we think, must have enlarged this keep and put as it were their seal of occupancy on it.

The Drummonds at Invermay all had the same first name David so it's frightfully difficult to know which one it was, but I think it was the second David Drummond who with six other of the local lairds were commissioned to try eleven women for witchcraft: six from Dunning, two from Forteviot, one from Abruthven and two from Gask. We don't know whether they were found guilty or not, but it's quite interesting that at that date, about 1660, this was one of the things that the local lairds had to do.

It was also while the Drummonds were at Invermay that there was a plot hatched to murder the Master of Rollo, who was the oldest son of Lord Rollo of Duncrub. It was a very wild time in Scotland, 1690 to 1700, and whether it was because of Jacobites versus government or whether it was just stealing some cattle we're not quite sure but a plot was hatched: the Master of Rollo went to Invermay, dined with the Drummonds, and on his way back he was murdered. I don't think the Drummonds did it. I hate to say it was the Graemes, but not of Garvock, it was very different Graemes who killed him.

By 1715 the Drummond family seems to have disappeared. I think there was no heir and the old man died and in 1717 Invermay was sold to Alexander Belsches, who was a lawyer in Edinburgh. He was also the Sheriff Clerk of Edinburgh. He kept his house in Queen Street and only lived at Invermay in the summer. The factor all through the winter used to write reports to Mr. Belsches, or to his successor Colonel Belsches, saying what was going on at Invermay. We've got some of these books which give details of who was doing what and what building was being done.

Alexander Belsches was an elder of the kirk in Forteviot and presented two silver communion cups to the church and we use them to this day. When he was at Invermay, there was a song which some of you may know which is now called "The Birks of Invermay". It was written by a man called David Mallet and he called it "The Shades of Endermay". His original version wasn't quite so mawkish, but the "Birks of Invermay" is a terrible song, turned into a sort of Victorian slush song. Apparently in 1771 it was very popular and it was sung in some play that was put on in London, which is why it became so well known.

It 1745 Alexander Belsches died and was succeeded by his son John. After that all the heirs are called John Belsches. The first John was also an Edinburgh lawyer and also only stayed at Invermay in the summer. It was during his lifetime and his son John's that most of the building took place at Invermay. By 1760 (we don't know the exact date) the present house was built. In 1798 the Scottish Statistical Report says "Invermay is a plain modern house". They're still saying that in the Statistical Report of 1898, "a plain modern house", but as you'll hear there were some changes.

In 1764 John Belsches married an heiress, Mary Hepburn of Balmanno, and after that the estates of Balmanno and Invermay were run as one. He took her name, calling himself Hepburn-Belsches. Between the 1760's and 1782 there was a tremendous amount of building at Invermay. We don't know the exact dates but we know from the factor that the men were working on the new farm and the new stables and there was much work in making paths by the river and through the woods and digging fishponds. There's a reference to planting trees on the braes of Muckersie, and those beech trees are still there today, very big, very old, and I'm afraid a lot of them beginning to go back.

They were also building what they called a pine house. For ages I couldn't think what this was for until I went further on in the factor's letters and found references to sending pineapples to Edinburgh. So they had a pineapple house, and also sent peaches, eggs, all sorts of things. Just think of these delicacies going by horse and cart from Invermay and then over the ferry to Edinburgh. I think maybe some of the eggs would be a bit stale by the time they got there!

It was about that time the Drummonds built the game larder on top of the ice-house. We know from some of the letters of 1760 that the men were cutting ice from the ponds and carting it to the ice-house. So the ice-house is much older than the game-larder built on top. The Drummonds also built a new dairy and about that time they started building the Great Wall.

In 1787 Robbie Burns visited Invermay. It was just a detail in one of his diaries. He was on his way from Perth to Edinburgh and he says "Today dined at Invermay. Mrs. Belsches not very well favoured." So she can't have been a great beauty. And that's all he says about Invermay.

But back to the Great Wall. When you think about the amount of stone they needed for that wall, quite apart from the stone they needed for the house, the stables, the farm and all the other buildings, you wonder where they got all the stone from. There are small quarries all over Invermay and whether these were sufficient we don't know. The only stone that we do know was imported was the stone for the pillars that are on the old lodge, what's called the horse's head lodge. That came from a quarry near Dundee but I think everything else was quarried locally, they just dug it up and built the wall.

At that date the estate employed four masons, three wrights, two quarriers, seven labourers, a head gardener and two gardeners and six women to weed in the garden. For all of having four masons they still had difficulty getting labourers to build the wall. One of the troubles was that Colonel Belsches wouldn't pay them enough. The poor factor writes in despair that he can't get workers because the men were asking 18 pence a day.

Colonel Belsches' tax bill at that time just for the house and staff included tax on forty-nine windows, two carriages, three male servants and hair-powder. Presumably that was for the male servants!

In 1804 they built the entrance to the estate, the horse's head entrance, and there were a lot of plans produced. The originals of some of these are in the National Library in Edinburgh, but we have copies and some originals of plans made for the lodges and gardens, including different follies, for it was a great time for building follies all about estate grounds. The Colonel wanted to enlarge Invermay House but I think fortunately he had spent so much money on the Wall and other buildings he didn't have enough to do more than to add on the two front bows of the house which in fact improved it enormously.

The architect was Alexander Laing who amongst other things was architect for Usher Hall in Edinburgh. The Colonel also employed William Mickle. He was the sort of Capability Brown of Scotland; he laid out beautiful vistas or gardens for you. He produced a lot of plans for buildings for Invermay but I don't think any of them were ever built. If they were, they have completely disappeared, for we can't find any signs of them at all. They were wonderful Gothic temples in the garden with many tiers which I suppose were for the potted plants, and a wonderful palisade along the front. Certainly that was never built. There is a huge six acre sort of walled garden, a garden no longer.

The last Belsches died in 1864. He had no direct heir so the estate went through the female line to Sir John Stewart Hebden-Forbes. From him it went to his daughter who married Lord Clinton. They had a lot of other properties and I don't think they ever lived at Invermay but they came to visit from time to time, and Invermay was let. We've seen in some of the old newspapers advertisements for Invermay to be let, "nice house in the country".

The Clintons sold off all the other farms: Henhill, Inverdunning and so on and left themselves just with the two Clevages and the home farm. In 1898 Invermay was bought by Mr. John Fraser of MacDonald Fraser auctioneers in Perth. And there's a story, I don't know whether or not it's apocryphal. It's said that Fraser as a young boy was helping masons re-point the Wall and he said to the head mason "One day I'm going to own this place". And he did.

Mr. Fraser enlarged the house by adding on a wing to include a billiard room. He also installed a hydro-electric plant where the water comes down from the loch above the farm by a pipe and gushes out to the May. Down below there's a little hydro plant by the river. It was still there when we came. In 1930 Mr. Fraser left Invermay and it stood empty for a bit. A lot of the timber was sold to timber merchants over near Madderty and Mr. Calder of Ardargie bought back a bit of the woodland between Ardargie and Invermay on the other side of the May. And so it was left a very much smaller estate.

In 1934 my father-in-law bought the place. He'd been looking for a country place where officials of Wemyss Coal Company, the family business, could come for holidays. He thought Invermay would be splendid, not too far from Fife. So it was used for that up to the war. My husband and his brother used to come up as boys and play on the estate, so he's known it longer than I have. During the Second World War, there was of course no petrol to come up from Fife and nobody taking holidays anyway. Glasgow Corporation was looking for places for evacuees, and so it was used for children from Glasgow. So many of them have come back to see us over the years, and have said "Oh we did enjoy our time at Invermay, it was such a lovely place" and they look around for all the little corners which they remembered as children. The inside of the house is a bit different but the estate itself they find much the same.

In 1946, November, my husband and I moved into Invermay. It was empty and very cold. There was a billiard table and a big sofa and nothing else. We slept on the billiard table, for that was all the furniture we had. The electricity wasn't working because the batteries for the hydro scheme had long gone bust. Perhaps some of you will remember that the winter of 1946-7 was probably the coldest winter we had for a very long time. The snow was very deep outside. You got a bucket of coal a week if you were lucky. We hadn't had time to get in logs or anything like that so the only thing we could do was to hack at the laurel bushes outside the house. Imagine trying to make a fire with green wet laurel! It really really was cold.

Gradually we got furnished and we got stuck in and about 1950 we restored the old house because it was beginning to get terribly derelict. The roof was sagging like an old cow's back, the ivy was covering it and growing through the walls to the inside. So we started the job ourselves, then realised it was too big a job and then we had it properly done. It was re-pointed and completely re-roofed. What was sad was that we couldn't use the old stone slates because they were too far gone. But we managed to collect enough old slates so that the roof was in keeping with the building.

Then, in 1952, we planted lots of beech hedges and we re-pointed the Great Wall. The Great Wall is quite amusing because while the old stones for it came locally, the original lime for the mortar came from the Earl of Elgin's kilns in Fife. And that was my great-great-grandfather, who was also the Elgin Marbles Elgin. We looked up the estate records and the lime sent to Colonel Belsches had come by sea from the south coast of Fife around to the Tay, up the Earn to the Bridge of Earn and then was carted from Bridge of Earn. So when I got to Invermay I found myself surrounded by my own ground, you might say.

We've done a bit of restoring to some of the other buildings. We restored the game-larder because its roof had fallen through and three years ago we had to re-roof the house because the sarking was going. It hadn't been done apparently since about 1800. There was a note in the records that slates came from Easedale in 1801. I can't think why they were re-roofing the house in 1801 when it was built in 1760.

At present we are restoring, indeed you could say re-making inside, the old stable block and making it into a house for our son Charles and his wife and family. So we have been busy over the years.

-Lady Jean Wemyss, November 23/95. The talk concluded with a fine show of slides taken by Lady Jean's husband, Captain David Wemyss.

VICTORIAN DOLL'S HEAD (Leadketty find)

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Sketch by Fraser Stewart

Perth Museum archaeologist Mark Hall has given the Society some of the fieldwalking finds from the Dunning walks. Member Fraser Stewart of Bridge of Earn kindly volunteered to catalogue these for us and has provided us with this and the sketch on the following page.

VICTORIAN PIPE (found at Leadketty)

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sketch by Fraser Stewart


For three years, 1993-4-5, the Society participated with the Tayside and Fife Fieldwalkers group in holding archaeological fieldwalks on farms near Dunning. The last two, on the same field at Ian Philip's Leadketty holding, yielded several interesting finds of flints dating to the Neolithic and, even more startling, to Mesolithic times (perhaps 8 to 10 thousand years ago). The finds were analysed by Donald Henson of York, a pre-historian specialising in flints, and here is the gist of his findings:

The distribution of the collection seems to fall into two clusters. Most of the artefacts occurred in the western part of the field. There was a lesser concentration to the east that appeared to be separated from the main body of finds.

The raw materials used are highly varied, with the west cluster having the highest proportion of coloured flint. Of various artefact "types", the western cluster has more cores, flakes and bipolar pieces, as well as the only blade pieces.

The low numbers of artefacts make it difficult to draw firm conclusions. However, differences in raw materials and artefact types are consistent and are supported by examination of the retouched pieces. Dating of the retouched artefacts can only be tentative given the broken nature of many items, however, there is a significant difference between the two concentrations: the western concentration contains all the datable mesolithic items (5 in all) while neolithic material is present over the whole area (4 in each concentration).

Conclusion. The apparent division of the field into 2 separate concentrations is reflected in the raw materials used, types of artefacts and datable retouched pieces. Three phases of activity can be recognised. However the small numbers of artefacts make any conclusion highly tentative.

*the chance loss of gun flints representing hunting between the 17th and 18th centuries.
*using a wide variety of raw materials but favouring coloured and grey flints
*tool manufacture and use are represented, the presence of bipolar pieces and the greater number of broken pieces reflect an expedient approach to tool making and raw material procurement.
*found throughout the field
*more restricted use of raw materials, dominated by grey flint with significant amounts of coloured flint and red 'quartz', no translucent or brown-black flint but having white quartz
*artefact types represent tool use rather than manufacture and probably that of a residential site rather than a transitory hunting camp
*restricted to the western concentration

The above notes are from Donald Henson's analysis. And following are the comments of fieldwalk leader Mike King:

"Leadketty shows a very important complex of cropmarks, several of which are very rare in Scotland. The causeway-enclosure is possibly unique, and also the funnel-mouthed pit enclosure is very rare: it seems to contain one henge and a stone-circle, indicating a settlement.

Fieldwalking here is pioneering work in the examination of sites without excavating. And it's very positive that we have located so many mesolithic and neolithic flints. Continued study of cropmarks and of new finds of flints may reveal it to be of national significance.

As well as walking again the fields already walked, we should really widen field walking out to any other fields around Dunning. If any farmer is willing to help, we would be most grateful as there may well be sites yet unrevealed."


Sunday afternoon, April 20, 12:30 pm. As guests of the Kinross-shire Historical Society, we'll visit the Loch Leven island where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. Meet at 12:30 p.m. in Tron Square to share rides. Ferry charge: £2.30 adult (£1.55 seniors). If the weather's inclement, we'll be entertained otherwise at Kinross. If you can go, please call Patricia Wallace 684 581.

Saturday, May 10, 10 am. Meet at Tron Square for an intriguing Highlands coach tour, including visits to the reconstructed crannog at Loch Tay, Castle Menzies and picturesque Killin. The price of 7po 10 for members (£12 non-members) covers coach and high tea, admissions extra. Please book asap with Peter Duncan 684 243.

Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2 pm. Our annual AGM will be held in the Village Hall. Then by shared cars we'll join Dr. Joan Macintosh at Aberuthven to visit some ancient ruins and follow her to her Auchterarder house for a garden tea to celebrate the house's 200th birthday.

Saturday morning, June 21, 10 am. Assemble at Tron Square, for a history and natural history walk at the Greenhill nature reserve and nearby former hill farms. Bring lunch. Leaders: David Doig, Ken Laing.

Friday evening, July 18. After last year's sell-out success we're staging another Scottish barn dance at Ian Philip's Leadketty farm. To avoid disappointment, watch for local announcement of tickets going on sale, or contact treasurer Bill Peebles now at 01764 684 782.

Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24. Scottish churches are holding a special celebration of the anniversary of Scottish saints, including one in which Dunning has particular interest, St. Serf. More details in July's newsletter of a special event planned this weekend. Mark the dates on your calendar!

Thursday, September 11, 7:30 pm, St. Serf's Church. In a setting where several members are honoured, Rollo Clan archivist Cameron Rollo tells stories of this family famous in Dunning history.

Coming up in the autumn: a coffee-morning/special exhibit on a village sporting theme, another video event, and a man tells us about renovating his own castle.

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