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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What an active and varied few months it has been for the Society !

Most recently, to maintain seasonal traditions and just to have some fun, we sponsored a Christmas Ceilidh in the village hall with fine performances by many locals. In November we combined a Victorian Coffee Morning which featured some wonderful costumes worn by the workers and which raised £223 for Society work, and a Museum for a Day - kept short when the flu reduced the number of helpers but still, with over 150 items on display, a great success. The work on Village Vignettes Videos continued with help from a great many people including a "Tattie Night" in October in which we shot some great interviews with old squaddies in the audience about the Tattie Holidays.

Our thanks to everyone who supported these events, and our continued thanks to our out-of-town members for their renewed support and for sending us so much interesting information and recollections about early Dunning.


After last autumn's Tattie Night, at which the Society recorded on video several members' memories of the "tattie holidays", we received from Mrs Edith Myles, Wellhill, a copy of the following verse. It was written by "auld, nae previous" tattie pickers reminiscing in the Dunning Monday Club on 10th November, 1987.

We're a' tattie pickers
We come frae near an' far -
Frae way up in the Dragon,
An' oot from Thimble Row,
Frae Townhead up the Muckhart Road,
Frae Granco - up and doon -
An' some o' us hae wellingtons
An' ithers just hae shoon!

We've a' been pickin tatties
In Farmer Philip's field.
Auld Sandy is the foreman
Tae him we a' must yield.
Sometimes he draws a lang lang dreel
An' gies us awfu' bits.
Sometimes we empty the baskets,
Sometimes we're at the pits.

But noo it is oor piece time
An' by jings we mean to sit.
Wi' daffin and wi' laughin'
An' sometimes a bit o' wit
We're sure to keep fu' cheery.
For, in spite o' rain and drizzle
We're happy a' together
Till Auld Sandy blows his whistle!

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Delighted with last autumn's archaeological finds, our members take to the fields again next spring (see last page). Meantime, we hear about some other discoveries in our evening slide talks: on February 13th Kirsty Doig will tell us about her hunt for Dunning's lost churches; on February 16th Alistair Lawson advises on ancient rights-of-way; and one feature of Members Night on March 24th will be Dunning's stone mystery. And each meeting you'll find another video premiere of our own Village Vignettes.


(A letter from Mrs. Helen W. Craig, nee Sibbald, of Dumfries)

... I left Lanarkshire to come to Dunning on 1st July 1943 and left on 1st October 1946. I came to work for Mr. Neill of Rossie Farm, who incidentally died in 1993 at a nursing home in Auchterarder at the age of 92. The farm is now run by his son Robert and he has a brother in Meadowbank and a sister at Duncrub Mains.

I was employed as a dairymaid to milk, bottle and retail milk around the village, which I enjoyed very much. I am sorry to say I don't know any history of Dunning, all I know about it is of personal experiences. There were three milk vans at that time delivering around the village: Bell of Chapelbank, Hamilton of Forteviot and Neill of Rossie. I had to learn to drive and learn the milk round all in a couple of days and then I was on my own, being 21 years old at the time.

I thoroughly enjoyed it all, it was a wonderful experience. Altho' it was wartime, it was very peaceful in and around the village, everybody was so kind and good to one another and always ready to help. Mrs. Sharples ran the local dances in the hall for the "Wellcome Home" fund, which I attended, and Mrs Mitchell was the hall keeper, Louis Angus and his wife had the butchers shop and were both great characters and did a lot of charity work for Dunning. I also remember the two baker shops and Mrs. Hogg was our grocer. She was a lovely lady and I've still got a lovely picture of her. Willy Murray was a mechanic at the local garage and repaired my milk van many times.

We used to cycle to Forteviot on Saturday nights to the dances and never had any fear either going or coming late at night. During the summer nights we didn't even lock our doors. We all seemed to feel safe, changed days I may say now. I didn't go up to Kippen House, but I remember I won a competition in the village hall one night and the prize was donated by Lady Wilson, a hand painted powder bowl, which I treasured for many years.

I haven't been in Dunning for many years now. I still visit Perthshire as my sister and her son live in a farm at Methven, but I avoid going by Dunning. I just want to remember it as it was then, as I'm sure there will be many changes by now.Well, I will close by saying, altho' I've been happily married for 43 years, I can truthfully say my three years at Dunning were the most happy and exciting ones of my life.


(A note from Henry Campbell, Toronto, born in Dunning 1900, emigrated in 1923)

With good roads and the great number of cars and trucks forever on the go, traffic becomes a problem. On a visit to Dunning I was surprised to see cars tearing through the streets at dangerous speeds. I don't know when they made the road fit for traffic but I was used to the old dirt road with its potholes and ruts and stones big and small. Riding a bicycle was far from enjoyable, every time you ran over a boulder your spine felt the shock. I have to laugh at this but in the early days of cars there were very few ever passed through Dunning yet on every road before before entering the village there was a large sign which said 10 M.P.H.. I don't know why they removed them for now is when they are needed.


The speaker last spring at our AGM was Andrew Dunwell. He headed a team from the Centre for Field Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, which in autumn 1992 did excavation work in Dunning at the west gateway of a Roman temporary camp. The dig was a condition of houses being built on the site by A. & J. Stephen, which are now being constructed on what is called Roman Gate Way. With his permission, this is an informal summary of Mr. Dunwell's remarks.


These Roman military constructions were sometimes used for reconnaissance, siege and labour camps, but the most common use was as marching camps for overnight or short term stays for a campaigning army. Basically the larger the camp the more likely it is to have been a marching camp. The camp at Dunning is undoubtedly a marching camp.


We know the Romans came north of the Forth and Clyde on at least three occasions; towards the end of the first century AD with the campaigns of Agricola which led to the battle of Mons Graupius in AD 83 or 84; the middle of the second century from about AD 140 to AD 165; and around AD 208. On each of these occasions construction of temporary camps is to be expected. There may have been other expeditions not recorded, and the evidence for these may exist in what remains of the marching camps.


An advance party would seek a suitable defensible location with a water supply. When the rest of the army arrived the perimeter defences would be dug and rows of leather tents would be set up inside for the soldiers, plus other basic facilities such as ovens, toilets, etc.. The defences consisted of a single bank or rampart, the earth for which was dug from a ditch which ran almost immediately outside it. Much of what we know about what went on inside comes from Roman military manuals on how to build a temporary camp. What's left of the camps now is often little more than the perimeter defences. When the army left, tents would have been removed, clay ovens would have quickly decayed, and posts from the ramparts would either have been removed or rotted.


Typically it is the perimeter defences of the Roman camp at Dunning which provide the only evidence of its existence. A small section is visible in Kincladie Wood, where it was recognised as part of a Roman camp only in the 1940's. This now shallow ditch is 130 metres long but was only 5% of the perimeter of the entire camp, a large one covering about 114 acres. The camp's extent was made clear by aerial photographs of crop and ground marks taken in 1970-71. At Dunning the camp may still have been recognisable in the early 18th century when a Walter Macfarlane wrote in 1723 of a "trench north-east of Dunning in a level Muir". Since then, the perimeter ditches have been filled in, mostly by cultivation. The Dunning camp was large enough to have held perhaps 15,000 or more men and had 6 entrances.


The Dunning camp is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It has legal status and is protected from disturbance or development without "an adequate archaeological response". The proposed housing development was where the western entrance to the camp was located. Historic Scotland acting for the Secretary of State required complete excavation of this entrance before the building began, and we were contracted to carry it out.


Through aerial photography we knew fairly exactly where the buried entrance lay, even though there was nothing to be seen on the ground. The first thing was to get all the topsoil removed, best done by earth-moving machinery. Then we had to carefully clean the subsurface, because locating the traces of the camp required identification of differences in soil colour, which can sometimes be subtle. Gradually, with further cleaning and aching muscles, the outline of the camp entrance made itself known to us.


Digging deep and narrow sample sections, we came across a pebbled surface trackway which led into the camp entrance. At first we thought the trackway was Roman, but these hopes were dashed with the discovery of 16th-17th century pottery just above the pebbled surface. This suggests the ditches and ramparts were still upstanding to some extent around 300 years ago.


Next we dug into the titulus, a short ditch and rampart constructed in front of the camp entrance to block a direct attack on the entrance. In the titulus we discovered the only Roman artefacts, 11 shards of pottery. These turned out to be part of a cooking bowl of a type called Black Burnished Ware 2, made in the south of England. We know from other discoveries that this type of pottery was not introduced into Scotland before the middle of the second century AD. The pottery was a surprising and interesting find.


The cross-sections we dug showed that the ditches were of the usual type, a third of a metre wide and up to 1.6 metres deep, with steep V-shape and a squared channel along the base. It would be a formidable thing to cross, even though it could be done with a running jump. But it is probably not advisable if there is a rampart at the other side of the ditch and a guy with his sword ready to pounce on you when you've landed. Falling down the ditch wouldn't be recommended; the squared channel is often referred to as an "ankle-breaker".


On most excavations of temporary camps no artefacts are found whatsoever, so the discovery of dateable Roman pottery from Dunning is of considerable importance. It may provide a key link in tracing Roman army movements.


The major research involving temporary camps is to try to place them into dateable groups to understand where Roman troops travelled in Scotland. Dunning has been identified as one of the group of three similar camps, the others being Abernethy and Carpow on the south bank of the Firth of Tay. Pottery found at Abernethy has indicated that the three camps, similar in layout, were probably used by the Roman general Agricola when he defeated the Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius in AD 83-84. Indeed Dunning, or rather Duncrub Hill nearby, has been argued by some people as the site of the battle of Mons Graupius. Our discovery of the second century pottery at Dunning apparently contradicts the dates from Abernethy.


The pottery at Abernethy was found much nearer the bottom of the ditch than was the pottery from Dunning, and so appears to have been dropped sooner after the camp was constructed. It may be then that the Dunning pottery does not indicate the date of construction of the camp, but rather a later reoccupation of the camp. So it may still be proposed that Dunning camp was built in the first century by the armies of Agricola, and at the same time as Abernethy. Within this uncertainty, of course, lies the motive for carrying out future work at Dunning !

-- Taken from notes of Andrew Dunwell, speaking to the Dunning Parish Historical Society A.G.M., May 27th, 1993

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Some amazing work is often done very quietly by Historical Society members. For example, Albie Sinclair did a magnificent job in assembling many unusual items for the recent Museum for a Day. The items were loaned or donated by dozens of members and others. Since then there have been many offers to loan items for a similar event in 1994.

Perhaps you've heard that the famous Celtic Cross now standing on the Dupplin Estate, not far from Dunning Parish, is currently attracting news attention. The almost thousand-year old Cross, commemorating Kenneth McAlpine when he was the first Scottish king and Forteviot was his capital, is apparently showing signs of weathering. One suggestion is that it be moved to a new museum at Edinburgh. In keeping with a national policy of retaining historical pieces at local sites where possible, a Forteviot committee has come up with another suggestion; placing the Cross in Forteviot church. Your own committee has written to the Forteviot group supporting its proposal.

The funds to acquire a computer on which to build a Dunning historical database are steadily accumulating. A £400 grant from Tayside Region as well as a £290 operating grant from Perth & Kinross Council. Many thanks to both.


In our last newsletter we had a most interesting report from Shona Sinclair about our own first field-walk in the Dunning area and the first in South Perthshire. This is the latest news from Perth Museum:

The finds from the first archaeological field walk on 25th September, done with the help of Mike King and Rebecca Moloney, are currently under research. We are grateful to Mike King and Perth Museum Art Gallery for allowing us to use some of the more interesting finds for our recent Victorian Coffee Morning. The settlement under investigation can now be dated more accurately, as several to finds appear to be from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods:-

  1. Part of a flint artefact - possibly part of an arrowhead made of flint and probably imported from England. Date circa 2500 to 2000 BC;
  2. Sherd (a scrap or broken piece of pottery) from Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age pot. Date circa 2000 BC;
  3. Pecked stone (stone with a pitted hollow) possibly used in flint knapping. Possibly prehistoric and under research;
  4. Worked stone object possibly prehistoric scraper - under research.

The site also appears to have been farmed in the Middle Ages as 3 sherds of redware, pottery made on the east coast of Scotland 1300 to 1500, were found. Post-Mediaeval pottery from the 17th and 18th centuries, and pottery from 1850 to 1920 was discovered - brown pottery (handle/part of lid); piece of decorated pottery with shredded clay decoration; 2 sherds of pottery, made using a mould; 3 sherds of transfer pottery; various pieces of stoneware; fragments of Victorian blue glass bottles and glass slag from a glass works.

We would like to thank the members and visitors who took part and we hope to see you at our Spring field walk - wellies and poly bags at the ready!

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