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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It's now history. The most talked-about event in Dunning in 1997 was undoubtedly the BBC Scotland filming of part of its new science-fiction series "Invasion Earth" in Dunning parish and other parts of Strathearn in late September and early October. A few dozen local people participated as extras, and many more were spectators to the two-week invasion by film crews, actors and, most conspicuously, uniformed airforcemen and their guns and vehicles. And never has St. Serf's steeple been more dramatically lit! Dunning sets will be eagerly tuned to BBC when the series begins its scheduled run in March, with all of us looking for glimpses of Dunning in the earlier episodes and particularly the last three of the six episodes. Incidentally, there have been spin-offs from the fillming. Three local residents, Mrs. Dawn Turner, William Crowe, 8, and Claire Sneddon, 4, chosen by the casting agency as extras for "Invasion Earth", were later selected by the same agency to act in some unrelated adverts appearing on Grampian TV and elsewhere. The Historical Society has captured some of the invasion of Dunning by the "Invasion Earth" crew, and this footage appears along with many more of the Society's and the village's highlights of the year in the Society's latest video programme soon to be available: "Dunning 1997: A Year To Remember". A good souvenir, we think. See page 15 of this again expanded newsletter for details on ordering.


Over the years, it really is remarkable so many interesting people are regularly willing to travel to our wee village to speak at our DPHS meetings.

In October Murray S. Blair (whom we had heard about from our visits with the Kinross-shire Historical Society, to which he belongs) journeyed from Glasgow to talk to us about Highland dress, bringing along a handsome display of examples from his own family's collection. He soon impressed us all with his enthusiasm about his subject and with his sense of humour.

Then on a dreich November night, Ken Murdoch and his wife Anna came to the Hall to give us what must rate as one of the most interesting talks we've heard in all our lecture series. The Murdochs are obviously remarkable people. With very little help they have spent the last 14 years rebuilding Methven Castle, and the slides they showed of their work and the happy results were entrancing although Mr. Murdoch said there's still ten years' more work ahead. He shared with us many absorbing details about the history of the Castle and the rebuilding, spiced with funny anecdotes. While working at the restoration, the Murdochs (he's an architect, she a teacher) have also managed to squeeze in fifteen months building and teaching work overseas in Pakistan with the Scottish Churches World Exchange, active participation in the musical life of Perth (he is a violinist), and taking part in a charity walk from John O'Groats to Land's End. This is all the more remarkable since they're at the age when most people have retired to the quiet life.

The audience for the Murdochs' presentation was unusually small because of the weather, but fortunately those who missed it will get a second chance. On Sunday afternoon, April 19, the Society is making a follow-up trip to Methven Castle. Meet in Tron Square at 2 or go directly to the Castle for 2:30.

Finally, the November 8 themed coffee morning by the Society presented a fine display on "Village Sports", with many people lending photographs and memorabilia. Thanks to everyone who contributed baking, who loaned items and who lent a hand to running the event. The morning raised £220 for Society projects. Now, does anyone have an idea for an history theme for next autumn's coffee morning? Please let our chair Ian Philip know.



A reminiscence by ex-soldier and longtime Dunning resident Joe Taylor

Army in Tron Square Line drawing

Sketch by Henry Hoey, Croft Place.

Dunning had an army camp from 1940 when the first troops came to re-muster after Dunkirk. It was part of the defence of Strathearn Valley and camps were set up all along the strath at Auchterarder, Strathallan, Blackford and Crieff. When our Regiment of Royal Artillery arrived in March 1944 the camp here was well established. Most of the men came from the west of Scotland and the Borders and had never heard of Dunning. The camp was sited in the manse glebe (now The Glebe) and consisted of Nissen huts with one large hutment within the wall at Auchterarder Road, which was the Sergeants' Mess. The position of the houses at present follow more or less the layour of the camp.

Our division had trained to land in Norway and had therefore come from intensive training round the Aviemore area where we were skiing with wireless packs on, living in igloos etc. As well as the camp, the Quarry at Kirklands was in use as a gun park where the 25 pounder guns were kept, well hidden from aerial view.

Also in the Quarry, a replica of a glider was built so that practice could be undertaken in the loading and unloading of the guns and equipment which would be needed when the invasion of Norway took place.

In the village various buildings had been requisitioned for army use. Dunning was therefore well integrated into the everyday routine of the Army.

The Dunning Hotel was the Officers' Mess. Officers were billetted in various houses in the vicinity. Burnbank House, Kirkstyle Square, formed the offices for the Regiment. The existing side door was the entry to the army cobblers. The Masonic Hall was the Quartermaster's Store which supplied all personal equipment: uniforms, boots, bedding etc. What is now the Doctor's Surgery was a Signal Store. These Signal Stores housed all the radios, cables and all accoutrements to do with communications. The house "Wilmar" in Thorntree Square was also a Signal Store. In recent years, this house has been completely renovated but occupies the same site as the original. "Tarland" at the top of Lower Granco Street was partly Signal Store and partly the Medical Officer's Surgery.

It should be explained that the regiment being Royal Artillery, the wireless equipment is a very essential part of any gunfire action. Signallers go forward laying cables from gun positions to observation posts which are in areas occupied by infantry. Messages are then relayed to the gunners giving ranges to the target, hence the reason for the amount of signal equipment and the number of Signal Stores. Space had to be given to the maintenance of all the equipment.

The whole of Lower Granco Street was also lined with Quads, the powerful vehicle for pulling the guns, and Limbers, the mobile two wheeled carriages for carrying the ammunition. This entailed sentries walking up and down the street twenty-four hours every day to guard them.

At the foot of Lower Granco Street on the right hand side going towards the Burn, the vennel led to the Vehicle Workshops. These were housed in two huge sheds which stood on what is now the west end of Ochil Gardens. The Lower Granco was at that time a bustling place!

The troops, playing various neighbouring regiments, used the field at Pitcairns on the Bridge of Earn Road, for football etc. They also played teams from the RAF who were stationed at Gask.

Part of the aerodrome at Gask was designed as a replica of an aircraft carrier, as far as dimensions were concerned. Pilots practised landing and take-offs to familiarise themselves with the problems. Some RAF personnel stayed in Dunning.

The local ladies ran a very successful canteen for the troops in the Village Hall. This was highly popular with the soldiers. A cup of tea cost one penny, a re-fill a halfpenny. Beans on toast was another firm favourite!

Dances in the Village Hall were organised twice weekly, Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Hall was packed. The boys also went dancing in Aytoun Hall, Auchterarder, hiring a taxi from Shepherd's Garage in Auchterarder and collecting partners on the way through Aberuthven!

What was popularly known as the "Passion Waggon", a three ton truck, went to Perth each weekend, packed with troops. The truck was parked at the Queen's Barracks (police headquarters is now on the site) and the boys made a beeline to York House (now Shenanigans, York Place) and the Pavilion.

The Pavilion no longer exists but was sited on the edge of the South Inch car park at the corner of Marshall Place and Edinburgh Road.

Line drawing 5.8kb

Lady Wilson, Kippen House, invited the officers from time to time to play bridge.

There was a buzz of activity across the whole village.

On leaving Dunning just after D-Day, the Division landed in France and took part in the recapture of Walcheren Island at the mouth of the River Schelde, Holland. The Division was also involved at Nijmegen Bridge and Arnhem, the Rhine crossing, and on into Bremen in Germany itself. At Bremen, one of the gunners lost his leg when the last shot was fired on their position, just as the war ended. To land in a country like Holland, no hills and waterlogged, was a tremendous irony after the rigorous mountain training which the men had undertaken. Such are the fortunes of war!

Over the years, my wife Betty (Betty Hutchison of the Lower Granco, Dunning whom I had met here) and I have had many visits from army friends and our commanding officer who was also here in Dunning with us. He keeps in touch with as many of his immediate troops as possible. They are all keen to walk around the village, to see the old haunts, and to view the changes over the years.

---Joe Taylor (ex-Royal Artillery Cadzow, Lower Granco Street, Dunning


in memoriam J.S. Wilson
by Walter Perrie

Reprinted, with kind permission of the author, from his book "From Milady's Wood" published in the Scottish Contemporary Poets series, 1997, by Scottish Cultural Press

Dark ribbon the mourners, mostly men
winds along the street and square
trailing the flagrant coffin
and crumples at the gateway where
village and our service ends.

Cold seeps throu;gh soles and the folk subdued
as trees this January day
black, exposed as we wait bare-headed
to file the cemetery pathway's
short road ridged with frozen mud.

The stones here are relatively new.
In the old yard, all fallen together
lichen-crusted with the authority
of crumbling things the incisions are
ciphers, blank for irony

flaking, the old red sandstone
upright for something illegible
past all mind or minding what has been
or ever will.

On the very rim of the village
the green strath waits to be given
into her broad-minded pasturage,
to the long and lovely Strath of Earn,
heart and the body's homage
guarded by Voirlich and Stuc a' Chroin.


Two years have dragged by since a public inquiry was held to decide about relocation of the Dupplin Cross which stands in an open field on Dupplin Estate near the village of Forteviot. Our Society joined then with other local groups and many national organisations in opposing an attempt by the National Museum to move the ninth century carved stone cross to a new museum being built in Edinburgh. Historic Scotland guidelines recommend that important monuments like this should be kept locally whenever possible, and we supported the proposal that this Strathearn monument be housed close by in Forteviot Church.

This was also for taxpayers an inexpensive solution. The Friends of the Dupplin Cross, headed by the Rev. Colin Williamson, had found an American benefactor who is willing to underwrite the Forteviot Church installation.

Despite the inquiry's recommendation that the Dupplin Trust (the technical owners of the Cross since it is located on the Dupplin Estate) should meet with Historic Scotland and local groups to discuss this renewed proposal, all requests to the Trust and to Historic Scotland for such a meeting with locals have been stalemated for well over a year.

The idea of moving the Cross had come originally from National Museum archaeologists who said it should be protected quickly to save it from crumbling through exposure to severe weather.

In October, with another winter looming and the possibility of more damage to the Cross, Rev. Williamson appealed to the new Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, to intervene and persuade the Trust and Historic Scotland to meet with local people.

When this appeal to the Scottish Secretary appeared on the front page of the Perthshire Advertiser October 10/97, the news reporter quoted Lord Forteviot of the Dupplin Trust as saying he is opposed to such talks and is now considering an idea to house the monument in the proposed extension of Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Lord Forteviot is reported as saying "Further talks with all the interested groups would serve no useful purpose whatsoever as enough talking was done before and during the public inquiry".

Since the cost-effective offer to house the Cross in Forteviot Church still stands, let's hope that Mr. Dewar will be able to initiate some democratic and fruitful discussions among the interested parties, and save from the elements this fine example of national and Strathearn heritage.


On September 25, 1997, Lord Eric John Stapylton Rollo of Pitcairns, 13th Lord Rollo and Baron Dunning, died after a long decline in a Kinross nursing home. He was 81 years old and had succeeded his father in 1947. He is survived by his wife Lady Suzanne Rollo, two sons and a daughter. After a private funeral October 1 at St. Kessog's Anglican church, Auchterarder, he was buried in St. Kessog's churchyard. Lord Rollo had served as our honorary president since the Dunning Parish Historical Society was formed in the spring of 1992. A passionate devotee of golf, Lord Rollo had also served the Dunning Golf Club in the past as honorary president. He is succeeded by his son David Eric Howard Rollo, who like his father was educated at Eton and served as a captain in the Grenadier Guards. The 14th Lord Rollo was born in 1943. In 1971 he married Felicity Anne Christian. They have three sons. Our condolences go out to the Rollo family together with our best wishes to the 14th Lord.


Three years ago, Jeremy Duncan, head of the Local Studies department at the A.K. Bell. Library, was approached by a representative of the Edinburgh publishing house John Donald and asked if he knew anyone who might be prepared to write a history guide book about Perthshire. In fact, he was asked, would you be interested? He was. Three years later the man whom some of you will know as a pleasant and helpful guide to the local history shelves at A.K. Bell has turned out a fine 272 page book: Perth and Kinross, The Big County. It is neither straight history nor a tourist guide but a detailed and charming combination of both. In paperback and priced at £11.95, it will make a good field guide for both locals and visitors to use in exploring and savouring the many corners of the county. And it's also a good armchair read to dip into of a cold winter evening.


As the latest contribution to printed village history, Dunning native Charles Laing has written and published on his own a delightful booklet entitled: "The Way It Was, Dunning: How I Remember It". Charlie has spoken for some time about the many shops and businesses which he could remember from the twenties and thirties in Dunning, when the village was largely self-sufficient. It has been a great regret to him that many people who've moved to the village since, often inhabiting the very buildings where businesses once existed, don't know anything of those early shops and businesses.

Now , he has remedied that lack of information with a booklet that packs in its few pages a great many interestingly told details, along with humorous comments on village life.

Charlie has generously offered the profits from the sale of the booklets to the Historical Society, of which he has always been a great supporter. Copies can be obtained locally from the Dunning Post Office at £1.50, or by mail for £2.00 (including mailing costs) by contacting David Williams, Burnbank House, Kirkstyle Square, Dunning PH2 0RR, telephone 01764 684 232.

This June at a date yet to be decided, Charlie will lead a tour of the village pointing out the places mentioned in his booklet for members of the Historical Society and anyone else interested. Watch for the date in our next newsletter.

On the inside back cover of his booklet, Charlie has included the verse on The Thorntree, which appears opposite. By coincidence we had for this issue of the newsletter already obtained the words of the verse from member John Stockley Sr. As Charlie points out, the verse refers to the nightly curfew he can recall well from the twenties and thirtes. Dunning, he thinks, was one of the last places in Scotland to have such a curfew.

Geordie Watt, the author of this verse, once lived in Thorntree Square and was a friend of Charlie's. Until about ten years ago Mr. Watt used to come from Comrie, where he'd moved, and visited the Thorntree Inn to recite this and other verses of an evening. His widow still lives in Comrie.


a verse by Geordie Watt

There's been songs about trees since the world it was new,
Of the rowan, the oak, the ash and yew,
But I'll sing o' one that's much dearer to me,
And it stands there in Dunning:
The auld thorn tree.

It was planted to mind us o' things o' the past,
And has weathered thro' mony's a long winter's blast,
But its memories will aye bring a tear tae ma ee,
For as laddies we played round
The auld thorn tree.

When the grass had been cut, on its auld wizent ruits,
On the wall we made sparks wi' oor tackity buits,
And we'd climb ower its boughs wi' their lead-covered shells,
And forget to be hame wi' the eight o'clock bells.

The Mallochs, the Flockharts, the Steins and the Keys,
Like strays in the wind they've gone a' different ways,
But I'm safe to say they're all wishful to be
Back hame here in Dunning near
The auld thorn tree.

There is Burdie and Swanney, the Laidlaws and Bun,
And Ackie and Crosbie and of course Smiler Dunn,
Ginger and Cassie and Toosh and McGhie,
All playing the gither, round
The auld thorn tree.

Some have gone far, for fortune and fame,
And some o' these laddies will never come hame,
But I'll think of them aye as they used to be
In those happy days, round
The auld thorn tree.

Our thanks to member John Stockley for passing along this verse. Perhaps with Charlie Laing's help we can begin identifying some of the people mentioned in these verses. If not, is there anyone else out there who can help identify them?


We've received a letter from Norman F.C. Dunning, who lives in Hampshire and who has corresponded with local people for some time. He wants us to pass along the information that he is on the Internet, and has a Home Page about the family name of Dunning. He asks anyone interested to note his address on the Internet:
HTTP://Our World Compuserve Com/Homepages/Norman Dunning

On his Home Page he explains that according to Black's "Surnames of Scotland", the family name comes from our village, the founder of the old family being Anechol, Thane of Dunning, c. 1199. The demis of the Dunning dynasty "appears to coincide with the coming of the Rollos, Norman knights who were granted the lands of Duncrub and Dunning in the 14th century." Mr. Dunning also notes that none of the old parish records and church records going back to the 17th century have any reference to Dunnings.


There is still a Historical Society subcommittee quietly working away on a history database and Website on which to store the Society's accumulated history records like the graveyard survey, old photographs and documents etc. for access by pupils, members and Internet users. We still haven't purchased any equipment because we await access to an office we hope to lease in the old Infant School. The Dunning Community Association, our landlord, obtained a grant to install gas heating in the building, with carpeting then to be put in place. Hopefully the office, and with it the Website equipment purchase, will become reality before too much longer.


Joe and Jessie Lester of Circus Street tell us that on the property they once owned on Tron Square there was an annual feu duty to be paid to the superior. It included "one fat hen and one red (or white) rose". We may be hearing more oddities like this when several of our members tell us at our February 19 meeting about the research they have recently been conducting into the deeds of their own homes. It should make for an interesting evening.


Members Ron and Anne Taylor have recently begun researching the history of their home, Blaeberry Toll, which stands high above Dunning on the road to Yetts of Muckhart. With the help of Jo Peattie of A.K. Bell Library Archives, they've unearthed several relevant documents about the early tolls paid, and minutes of meetings of The Dunning Turnpike Trustees. Ron and Anne are keen to hear from anyone else who has stories or information about the Blaeberry Hill Tollhouse. If you have, would you please phone them at 01764 684 657, or write to Blaeberry Toll, Muckhart Road, Dunning PH2 0RD? It's heartening to hear of individual Society members undertaking local research projects like this!



Choose from any two of: An Introduction to Dunning (9'), The Butler's Son (13'40"), The Return of the P.O.W. (11;12"), The Tattie Holidays (13'07"), Tattie Memories (17'20"), The Patient Art of Fieldwalking (13:48"), Dunning '93 Flood (10'), The Thorntree (8'14"), The Evacuees (13'48" or 20'34")




Thursday, January 15/98, 7:30 pm Village Hall. Video Memories of Dunning. When historians look back over recent years in Dunning, their research will be immeasurably helped by video footage of local events shot by retired policeman Bob Palmer of Ochil Gardens. His camera has caught the flavour of events like the starting of the steeple clock, bowling club finals and village hall concerts, and caught too the faces and personalities of the people who participated. For his presentation, Bob has carefully selected a cross-section of events and people from over the years.

Thursday, February 19, 7:30 pm Village Hall. Houses With Stories to Tell. Peggy Smith, Janet Crowe, Felicity Martin and Arthur Wright each live in a Dunning home which has served a dual purpose, that is as a millhouse or a dairyman's cottage or a weaver's workshop. Tonight these members take turns describing what they've found of the histories of their very different homes.

Thursday, March 19, 7:30 pm Village Hall. Pictures Galore. Slides and video both feature in this presentation. Kirsty Doig talks about the Ebenezer Stone above Dunning, with slides by husband David. Then we see "Tales of the Tradesmen" which began last season in a live video-making session featuring Hector Whytock, Bill Clark, Jim Smith, Derick Phillips, Tom Hoey, John Crow and Betty Bridgeford. We'll also see other video features in which David Doig and Lorne Wallace lend a hand.

Sunday aft., April 19 As a follow-up to November's delightful talk by Ken Murdoch (see p. 2), we visit his Methven Castle. Meet 2 pm in Tron Square to share a ride, or go direct at 2:30 to the Castle.

Thursday, May 14, 7:30 pm, Village Hall. Our annual general meeting with special guest Edward Peterson, Aberuthven author and artist, in a slide/talk he titles "Unveiling the Mystery of Ancient Man".

Coming up: A visit from (and maybe to) our local history colleagues in Dunkeld and Birnam; a tour of "Dunning As I Remember It" with Charlie Laing; history readings by our celebrated local resident, actress Clare Richards; and much much more.

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