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

DPHS Logo 17kb


APRIL 2000

The other day a Stirlingshire resident remarked "You come from Dunning? Ah yes, a very quiet place, isn't it. Nothing much going on there." Asked about how his own town celebrated Hogmanay this year (nothing special) and told about the thousand or more people who had taken part in Dunning's celebration, his view of us began to change.

If he'd heard more about Dunning's Hogmanay (as you will read inside) or heard about the volume and variety of other events taking place this Dunning winter, his view might have changed even more. There was the sellout Historical Society Burns Supper (so successful that many have asked for a repeat). There was a looming public programme disaster--a cancelled talk on whisky--which chair Liz Fletcher skilfully turned into great success with help from Raymond and Jean Young. They gave us a stimulating talk about construction of their remarkable new "eco-office" with straw walls, built in their Willowbank garden. Then they guided us there in a magical visit to this extraordinary structure.

What with other community events like Kirsty Doig's huge Little Harrod's sale, climaxing a drive raising over £4,500 for St. Margaret's Hospital, and a great DPHS video night...yes, our Stirling friend might have a different perception of "very quiet" Dunning the past few months.


From Dunnock Hill unquiet spirits watch
cloud fingers clutch the winter moon.
Shaken, the naked trees gesticulate
their ancient, wind-constructed rune
at blank-eyed bungalows below the ridge
where still untested heroes watch
their TV wars, clashes of their football
teams, sip chilled lager as they wait
the final battle, the decisive goal.

When red moons hang on Dunnock ridge
long spears will cast their shadows
at the strath. Staggering from hedge to hedge
Old Dougie shivers at the ghosts, knows
storms are building in the foaming clouds
and hoarse wind-sough - no noise of dog or bird
but faint a sound like plainsong can be heard
bawl of the dragon and a roar of crowds.

Walter Perrie, Dunning, 1999


Unheralded, on Burns Day, January 25/00, a front end loader bumped its way down Newton of Pitcairns carrying a monumental load. As described in an early DPHS video, there have been previous attempts to replace the famous old memorial thorntree in Thorntree Square. That old tree, planted around 1716 to mark the burning of Dunning by the Jacobites, had been trimmed into a shape like an atom bomb explosion, and had lasted until blown down by a gale in 1936. The attempts to replace it with a cultivated thorntree had never produced a satisfactory growth. Four years ago David Doig moved a wild thorntree from Dunning Den onto a wooden pallet and has since grown it on in his garden. On January 25, with help from Ian Philip and Arthur Wright, and community councillors Andrew Dickson and Tony Keene, that wild tree was taken and planted in the memorial spot in Thorntree Square. We'll tell you more about its progress in future issues.

Map of procession route 5.48kb

---Map by Henry Hoey of the Hogmanay procession route


A local resident and DPHS member who is never given to hyperbole said this of how Dunning celebrated the arrival of the year 2000: "I was very proud of Dunning that night. Whoever planned the occasion did a wonderful job. The spectacle of the torches streaming down the Dragon was unforgettable."

Unusually for Dunning there was hardly any mention in the customary newspapers, the Courier or the Perthshire Advertiser, of the event staged by Dunning's Hogmanay 2000 Committee. So we thought you might enjoy in full this newspaper account of the night, reprinted courtesy of the Strathearn Herald from its January 7/00 edition. The heading read:

Dunning Dragon slayer strikes again...and again...and again

Following numerous reports of a troublesome dragon in the area, St. Serf returned to Dunning at Hogmanay 1999 to deal with this difficult reptile, having been successful in slaying the previous one around 520 AD.

The dragon was subdued by some local maidens before being led, at the head of a torchlight procession, down the road that was named after it--"The Dragon". Over 1000 people gathered in the shadow of St. Serf's Church where the good Saint appeared and removed the dragon's head with a single swift blow of his sword.

Well, that was how it should have happened but unfortunately the sword was a bit too blunt to deal with the scales on the dragon's neck and it took a number of attempts before head and body were completely separated. After all it was a construction of steel, papier-mache, paint and varnish measuring 20 feet in length, and St. Serf only had to cope with skin, bone and gristle last time.

This was all part of the wonderful spectacle entitled Dunning Hogmanay 2000 that included a beacon being lit at the top of a 30 foot pole in the Dunnock Park as the procession of over 500 torch-bearers and over 400 other participants descended into the village from Newton of Pitcairns, along Bridge of Earn road to Perth Road and finally into Tron Square. Once the torches had been extinguished St. Serf appeared in his robes and performed the necessary task of slaying the dragon, complete with very authertic looking blood from the series of wounds inflicted to the dragon's neck.

The crowd were then entertained to some music, songs and fireworks from an unknown source before midnight when the bells of St. Serf's Church rang in the New Year and the organised fireworks appeared in the sky, silhouetting the Church and delighting the assembled revellers. Live music and dancing brought the official programme to an end.

Huge thanks are due to all those who worked so hard to make this a very special Hogmanay in Dunning and managed to entertain everyone from 10:30 pm in the Old Year to 1:30 am in the New Year. The whole village had enjoyed a memorable experience and looks forward to the Millennium Projects that include a Time Capsule with all the names and details of the torch-bearers being entombed in a Cairn in the village along with much more about life in this Perthshire village in the last century.

What is the future for the dragon? Well, it is hoped that it can be stripped down to the main frame before being located in the village where it will be covered in turf as a reminder of the day when St. Serf returned and slew another dragon in Dunning.

[Ed.'s note: Sandy Andrews, committee chair, adds another plan is to donate the dragon to Dunning Primary School (whose school logo of the dragon was the inspiration for the Hogmanay creature) possibly refinishing it in fibreglass]. Though there was no byline in the Herald, the above article was written by Colin Young of Dunning. Many thanks, Colin! In the same issue, Dunning freelance writer Felicity Martin did receive a byline for researching and writing an account of Strathearn 100 years ago, from which we quote this extract, again with permission :

The Strathearn Herald dated January 6, 1900, reveals that the celebration of the New Year varied considerably thoughout the area...The fact that New Year fell on a Sunday reduced the numbers assembling at the Fountain in Dunning. However as soon as the hour struck in "Dunning's ancient ivy-mantled tower" some set forth on "wanton mischief especially in the upper district--Newton of Pitcairns--where a large number of garden gates were pulled down and carried off."


Copies of our DPHS publication "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!" may be ordered (£9.95 plus £1 p"p) from the DPHS office, Old Schoolhouse, Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning PH2 0SL. Copies of the historic souvenir Dunning calendar may also be ordered, at the cost of £4.95 plus 50p p"p from the same address, or you can order through Dunning Post Office 01764 684 213.

Copies may also be ordered of a new video "Dunning Remembered" containing the four programmes at the March 16 meeting: "Dunning's Special Hogmanay" (about the Hogmanay 2000 celebrations) 12 mins., "Dunning and Its Evacuees" (about the 1999 reunion and our unique relationship with our World War II evacuees) 20 mins., "Wildlife in a Village Garden" (the David Doig/Lorne Wallace collaboration) 16 mins., and "The Thorntree" (updated version of an earlier programme about Dunning's famous tree) 9 mins., may be ordered as above either in PAL or NTSC (North American) format. Cost is £7.95 for members, £9.95 for non-members (if required, add 50p for p"p).

sketch of Craig Rossie 8.81kb

Rossie Law from Ternavie Road----Pencil sketch by Kenny Laing (1993)


Last November, committee member Brian Boag presented us with a braw talk which included expert information about the natural history of bats and flatworms. But he began with history: an account of his family's interest in the village. And he amused his audience by reading this article he had recently discovered, written in longhand by his grandfather John Boag at the family's holiday home on Auchterarder Road, Dunning. Brian calculates it was written in 1898.

A holiday is beneficial to all and it is a pleasure to be free from the turmoil of the city, to adjourn to some country village to spend a few days.

All those employed in shops, warehouses and in offices require an entire change and who is there amongst our townspeople when in search of a resort on the approach of summer, fail to find a desirable spot at a moderate cost to spend a week, a fortnight or it may be longer. Our holiday is a mistaken one if we rush off to a crowded seaside place, where immoderate charges and conventional amusements deplete our purses without giving us that complete change of living which is so necessary if we wish to make our holiday a beneficial one.

Many have traversed the greater part of Scotland but few, I daresay, have yet visited the village of Dunning situated at the base of the Ochil Hills in that part of Central Perthshire called Strathearn. Being only ten miles distant from the Fair City it is of easy access from every centre and is only distant from its railway station by about two miles.

It is an ideal country hamlet and like other Perthshire villages, it has many attractions and advantages and my advice to those who are in search of a place, let them hesitate no longer but at once proceed thereto.

The district is purely an agricultural one and there is nothing more pleasant or more refreshing than to put up in such a fertile district when the fields are in crop of variegated colours and giving out sweet perfumes or it may be when the farmer is busy with harvest. The fertility of the land serves to make Strathearn what it really is. Of recent years the village of Dunning has been much frequented by strangers from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and it is shown every year from the increased demand for houses that the place is an attractive one. Residenters no doubt find it a help of support by letting furnished apartments, with the result that accommodation is becoming better as each summer comes round and all is possibly done by the villagers to meet the want of the visitors.

The village is well provided with shops of all kinds and vehicles can be obtained at the various hotels and posting establishments at very moderate costs.

Dunning and surrounding district is the property of Lord Rollo whose mansion called Duncrub Castle is located about half a mile from the village and to it is attached his private chapel, with beautiful policy grounds around. Close to the village are many large mansion houses namely that of Pitcairns, Kippen, Garvock, Invermay, Dupplin and Gask. The last two are much larger than the property of the earl of Kinnoul (ed.-our interpretation of the original handwritten text).

Gask House overlooks the lovely flowing River Earn and from which come the old familiar song the "Auld House".

Dunning village was built by the Romans many years ago and to its memory stands a thorn tree planted 150 years ago, in a square. It is one of the two villages in Scotland which possesses a very ancient tower or steeple, said to be erected by the Romans.

In close proximity to the village stands an old castle, Kelty (sic) castle, situated at the foot of the hill and in a glen of the same name. If its walls could speak many a tale of war could be told as it was a principal seat in those times of the Roman invasion. It was a ruin until only a few years ago when it was renovated by the Laird and again made habitable. About a mile distant to the west of the village situated in a wood at the road side a strange monument meets the passers by. Built of rough stone with a cross at the top it bears the word "Maggie Wall burnt here as a witch 1657". It is dated very far back, some 241 years ago.

The roads leading into the village are numerous, there being no less than six, with innumerable ones branching off from them and all will be found to be kept in first rate order, which in particular is well adapted for the cyclist.

There are many fine drives to be had but which must be arranged for by the intended tourist. By the road to the West of the village one can reach Auchterarder and Crieff the former about 4 1/2 miles and the latter about 12 miles distant. To the East one road leads to Perth 10 miles distant and another to Bridge of Earn and Glenfarg 10 and 15 miles respectively. To the North the road crosses over the River Earn and come on to various villages in another Strath called Strathmore.

There are two roads to the South over the Ochil Hills the one leading to Milnathort and Kinross, the other to Rumbling Bridge, Dollar and Glendevon. As mentioned these roads are intersected by others which thus enables the excursionist to take circular routes of various distances and scenery ever changeable, in whatever direction one takes, meets the eye.

Whilst travelling in Strathearn, vast level country is seen with the Ochil Hills on the one side and the Grampians on the other and intermingled with woods and plantations of various shapes and sizes.

The Ochil range of hills being so close to the village strangers can reach it without difficulty and from Craig Rossie their highest peak, a lang view, unequalled, can be obtained and it is one which no stranger should miss.

When the weather is clear one can see a very great distance, as far as Dunblane, Stirling and the Trossachs to the left. Right across is to be seen Crieff, Logiealmond and many minor villages. Looking to the East, Dundee can be seen as well as the Tay Bridge and to the south, range after range of hills, with the Lomonds near to Loch Leven in Kinrossshire pearing (sic) up at a distance.

With Perth city so near and other minor towns the visitor to Dunning has sufficient wherewith to devote his or her times and the railway facilities are of the best whereby they can go and return the same day.

To the landscape painter, photographer, angler, cyclist and to all lovers of nature, let them make Dunning their headquarters, for there each will find scope for his or her favourite pastime and besides witll get good mountain aire (sic) and I am sure they would return each and all to their respective homes in our crowded cities invigorated and well pleased at having spent their holiday in Dunning.

Written longhand by John Boag, 1898


The following is a clipping passed along by Rita Campbell of Newton of Pitcairns. It comes from an old magazine, a Family Circle of April 1970

DUNN: This surname originated from a description that was given to horses, as well as men. It stemmed from the Old English dunn, meaning dull brown, and this was used as a reference to the colour of a horse. In the case of a man, it was given to one who was dark or swarthy.

The surname is closely associated with that of Dunning, which was Old English for the son of Dunn, or the son of one who was dark or swarthy. The name Dunning was first recorded in 1066 and again in the Domesday Book for Gloucestershire.

William Dun (1180) also came from Gloucestershire, while John Le Dunn of Hertfordshire (1198) was the first man to be recorded with the modern version of the surname. The first branch of the family resident in the West Country was John Dun of Somerset, in 1271, while Adam Le Dun resided in Worcestershire in the year 1275.

A few families inherited the name through living at, or near, Dunning, Lower Strathern (sic), Perthshire. Many miles away, Gillemichel De Dunin was at one time owner of Dunn's Torr, later changed to Dunster. This village, near Minehead in Somerset was owned by the family from 1066 to 1138, and then again in 1208.

Sketch of Procession


Small sketch of block 1.24kb

In our January newsletter we printed a reproduction from a letterpress block recently found in Dundee and kindly donated to the Society by Miles and Babs Sneddon. The blank-centred block, which seemed unused, had on its bottom corners the dates 1939 and 1945 and in the bottom centre a drawing of what appeared to be St. Serf's steeple. We asked if anyone could identify the block and its purpose.

The first reply came from Joe Black who lives at Reekie Linn House, Kilry by Blairgowrie: "My wife and I are 'country' members of DPHS and invariably enjoy your newsletters--we lived in Dunning for a year about 5 years ago and have retained an interest in both the place and your Society!
Our interest was aroused by the 'mystery' letterpress block described in Newsletter 30. We think it might have been a design for either a war memorial or a company honour roll. You still see 'corporate' memorial tablets on the walls of commercial premises, recording the names and ranks of their employees killed (very common in post offices and railway stations). Perhaps a design was commissioned for such a plaque in miniature and the project abandoned. Lastly are you sure the church is St. Serf's? There is, for example, a similar saddle backed church in Muthill.
Keep up the good work!

Joe and Anne Black's suggestion of it being a memorial honour roll was indeed close to the mark, as you'll learn.

Confirmation that the sketch on the letterpress block did portray Dunning came from a couple of local members. Chrissie Isdale said that her late husband Jim had a war document like the design on the block. Then Henry Hoey showed up with just such a document, which had been given to his father. It was headed the Dunning Welcome Home Fund, was addressed to Henry's father, also Henry Hoey, and was signed by Mrs. Margaret Sharples (mother of DPHS member Gordon Sharples, who sadly we must report died on February 20 past).

With additional leads and clues from Charlie Laing, Mrs. Jessie (Dunn) Lester, Len Smith and John Stockley we think we have put together the pieces of the mystery block story.

During World War II, Dunning had a War Comfort Committee (apparently a continuation of a committee from World War I--the minute books of this committee are in the possession of Charlie Laing). After the outbreak of World War II the War Comfort Committee was busy sending gifts like warm clothing and food to locals away in the services. Funding for the gifts was raised through efforts like whist drives. Later in the war, when British and other troops were stationed in Dunning, the War Comfort Committee also ran a canteen for troops billeted here.

At the end of the war, John Dougall, an Edinburgh art teacher who had moved to Dunning after retirement, was asked to design a Dunning Roll of Honour parchment with the names of local residents who served in the armed services during World War II. That framed parchment, which contains the names of 102 people including 16 women, presently hangs in the reading room of Dunning Village Hall.

Apparently a Welcome Home Committee which had been formed (perhaps the War Comfort Committee with a new name) liked the design of this Honour Roll, and asked John Dougall to design a similar thank you document which would be given to each of the surviving servicemen and women. The document was apparently to accompany a gift. Just what the gift was nobody can now remember: Charlie and Jessie think it was likely a small amount of money, perhaps two to five pounds, which may have been what was left in the coffers when the War Comfort Committee ceased to operate.

That's what we've learned so far about the mystery letterpress block. Why the block given to us appears so spotless and unused remains an unanswered question.

Our thanks to everyone who helped unravel the mystery of this latest addition to the Society's collection of historic Dunning items. On page is a photocopy of the certificate given to Henry Hoey senior.


full sketch of block 12.8kb

The Text Reads:
ARDSHIEL, DUNNING, 26th April 1946
to H Hoey
We, the committee of the above, have great pleasure in enclosing herewith, on behalf of the residents and friends of Dunning and district, the accompanying gift.
It is hoped it will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given - a token of appreciation for the part you have played in the war, and as a gesture of goodwill from your friends in this community.
M Sharples, Hon. Secretary.


Photo of Black Watch soldier 12.7kb

Private Henry Hoey, who served in the Black Watch from 1939 to 1945. He had been an agricultural labourer at Masterfield farm in Dunning, where he lived in a tied house with his wife and family. An immediate effect of his enlisting was that his wife and three children had to move out of their home.


Recollections of World War II evacuees and a Wee Scottish village.
Collected and edited by Lorne A. Wallace.
Published by the Dunning Parish Historical Society.

This is an exceptional and valuable book. If it had not been written now it could never have been written because the authors would no longer be with us. Here are recollections in their own words--vivid, vibrant, sad and humorous-- by a generation of city children who experienced an aspect of World War II unique in the history of wars: the organised (sometimes disorganised) dispersal of thousands of children from their homes in bomb threatened cities to the homes of strangers in remote villages. This well-intentioned, albeit by modern standards highly arbitrary, operation changed the lives of many youngsters now old. For a few there were failures and misery, exploitation and harsh indifference--for others there was great kindness and startling new experiences which enriched their lives forever. Presented in the very words of the survivors this collection of memories presents an insight into the children's lives which no novelist could equal. It is a fine book which should be read not only by those who can 'just remember' what it was like when war broke out, but by those born later who may hardly believe that government can have had the authority to devise and impose such a scheme. This collection relates only to one village, Dunning, but it was not untypical--only infinitely more enlightened than most others in tracing the history of the evacuees who experienced its hospitality during the war years.

Dr. Joan Macintosh, Auchterarder, in the Perthshire Advertiser

"Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!" This is indeed a remarkable book. The evacuees' stories are not only vividly told in their own words but the others who were also intimately involved--those who helped with the distribution, who taught them, who lived alongside them, and of course those who opened their homes--tell their own side of the story. And with the focus being on one small Perthshire village there is a completeness here, a moving story with considerable depth and not a little humour. The book is well illustrated with photographs, linocuts and maps and is excellent value at £9.95. The only drawback is that potential purchasers might be put off by the parochial-sounding phrase in the title--'a wee Scottish village'. In fact, this book is a must for anyone interested in, and moved by, the stories of the evacuees, one of the great dramas of the Home Front during World War II.

Jeremy Duncan, Local Studies Librarian, A.K. Bell Library, Perth

Linocut of Keltie Castle 5.44kb

Keltie Castle. Linocut by Albie Sinclair from "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!"

I often find myself making initial responses to books just from the cover, before I even open them. In this regard this is excellent; the front and back covers are self-explanatory, clearly setting out what the book is about and luring you into reading further with the evocative photos.

The book itself is nothing short of excellent; a triumph of local historical research, community involvement and the preserving of local knowledge before it disappears. It's only after you begin to read that you gradually come to appreciate the combination of recorded archive reminiscences, archive photographs and the life of the present community. In many ways Dunning is lucky not to have changed too much, so that the atmosphere, landmarks and even people of the past still survive, but allowing for that good fortune, this is a magnificent effort in recording what exists before it inevitably began to fade.

Working through the result of this archive is generally straightforward, though an index would have been a help to anyone looking for specific names or places. Given the lack of an index, the contents page is useful; not so much for the chapter titles, which don't mean much until you read those pages, but because of the sections into which the material has been divided. However, if you put yourself into the mind of an outsider, say a college student using this book as one of many sources on evacuees in general, the contents page is not as immediately helpful as it would be to someone from Dunning itself.

The reminiscences and photographs are excellent. the stories are lively and interesting, even to readers not from Dunning. In many ways the stories work because they are often the universal experiences and feelings of children, describing what children did and how they lived. I would have thought the book could easily be used by school pupils anywhere in Scotland, and there should certainly be a copy in every school library.

Craig Mair, head of history, Wm. Wallace High, Stirling

While working on a World War II project with my Primary 7 class, I was introduced to the book "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies" by the grandparent of one of my pupils. I purchased the book for myself as I felt I could use the personal stories in the book now and in future years with my classes.

Of the many books/stories I have read to my classes I felt this one gave a true insight into the hardships and privations suffered by children at that time, and I could build up a good picture of life for evacuees and host families for my pupils. As the years pass by it will become more difficult to find people with a clear memory of that time.

Mrs. Irene Duncan, teacher, Grange Primary School, Monifeith


Tron Square is named because there was a weigh-bridge (tron) in the square (it's now buried beneath tarmac in front of Jim Crow's office).

Circus Street used to be Shuttle Street.

Station Road used to be The Alley.

St. Serf's Terrace used to be Smiddy Close (where a blacksmith had his forge).

Auchterarder Road was once the High Street, then Commercial Street.

The lane leading down to the garages from the gate of St. Serf's Church is School Lane. The church school used to be down there.

Meadowbank Farmhouse was the Parsonage, the residence of the vicar of Duncrub Chapel.

Two cherry trees on the hill in Rollo Park beyond the playground were planted to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Two smaller cherry trees there were planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Ditches was a road which ran from the ford at the bottom of the Granco to Leadketty.

Muckhart Road was once the Coal Road.

Perth Road started at the War Memorial. Chalmers Street ran from Bridgend to Upper Granco.

--Contributed by Peter Duncan

The DPHS newsletter is published quarterly.
Editor: Lorne Wallace.
Please send correspondence to the DPHS office, Old Schoolhouse,
Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning PH2 0SL.


Saturday, April 15 10:00 am "D' you Ken the Den?" Especially for new members who don't know Dunning Den well, David Doig has kindly agreed to lead a walk through the bluebells. Numbers must be limited, so please reserve a place in advance by calling David at 684 321.

Thursday, May 11, Village Hall, 7:30 pm. Our Annual General Meeting. Speaker Ian Philip will describe the incredibly long history of his "Leadketty, More than Just a Place to Barndance!". It's preparation for a field trip there in June.

Saturday, May 20. 10 am, Tron Square. Our annual bus trip takes us this year to Glasgow and Callander: first stop, the famous Burrell Collection, then nearby Pollok House (National Trust), and finally high tea at Callander. If you'd like to book a place on this always popular outing (it's informative and a great social occasion) would you please contact Peter Duncan (01764 684 243) as soon as possible. Non-members will be welcomed, with DPHS members receiving a discount: Non-members £17.50, members £15.00. (National Trust members deduct £3.20).

Saturday, June 10. 2:00 pm, Tron Square. A field trip to inspect the hidden treasures of Leadketty, an out of the way corner of Dunning, with Ian Philip and Arthur Wright as our guides.

August, on a date yet to be decided in the mid-month: A Bat Walk. Brian Boag who gave us a memorable talk last autumn on various historical and natural historical topics, will lead us on an evening walk to see some of the bats living near and in Dunning. Exact date and time will be announced in our next newsletter.

Coming up: in early September, a meeting in St. Serf's about what's about to happen to this landmark church; in October it's back to weaving history with new member Alf Marshall; there's a themed coffee morning in November; and Dec. 7, Iain Stothard gives his postponed talk on "Whisky".

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