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What a summer it has been in Dunning for visitors and reminiscences! For the Society's part, it began with the well-attended Museum of Village Memories in early July. We counted 600 visitors (and we think we missed some). Many of them came from outwith the village: former residents or people with family connections. The exhibits loaned by local people were astonishingly varied and full of surprises: a colourful display depicting the old Lawson carpentry shop, a bountiful array of antique kitchen items, demonstrations of spinning, laundering and neep-cutting, a collection of unusual trade and farm implements, and abundant old photographs pored over by visitors. Dunning did itself proud in a splendid effort by many people!

The summer saw other events like the church fete, the flower show, the Community Council's 'Setting-Agoing of St. Serf's Clock' and Duck Race. Then on September 2-3 the Historical Society added a first-ever Evacuees' Reunion, a re-billeting of some of the 300 plus evacuees who had come to Dunning as frightened bairns 55 years ago. There was a well-publicized re-enactment at Dunning School of the billeting, classroom visits with pupils at five schools, an evening get-together with Society members to see our 'Evacuees' video and recall memories on stage, and after a relaxing Saturday of tours, bowls and visiting, a smashing windup Reunion Dance to the music of the 16-piece Tayside Big Band. A great climax to a Dunning summer to remember!


Many visitors and villagers wrote kind letters of appreciation about the Evacuees' Reunion. The following was typical.

May Cameron, Glasgow: Dear folks of Dunning, what a marvellous idea to have us back, the wartime evacuees of September 3, 1939. From the moment we arrived on Friday to the time we departed Sunday, everything was 'pure dead brilliant'! The sun shone warmly and everyone smiled just as warmly to make us feel welcome as we made our way to the school. And there suddenly the atmosphere became magical, our 'Brigadoon'! Our thoughts went back to the day 55 years ago when we had first walked into the same school playground. Now the villagers greeted us with gasmask boxes containing not a frightful smelly mask, but a lovely china mug which I will always treasure. Replica labels too to wear as identification.

Today's pupils were waiting to see us grownups re-enact a scene from the past. The bell was rung, and our names were called out and then those of our hosts (whose generousity in billeting us was great!) The children watched as the newspaper and TV photographers took pictures of the occasion. We then split into groups to go to various schools. After a delicious school lunch, our group spent a pleasant hour meeting with younger pupils at Dunning. We spoke a little about war, and since they were so young we talked mostly of food and sweets we ate during wartime and what our homes had been like in the city. Then tea again, baking by older pupils. Our grateful thanks to the teachers, kitchen staff and the pupils! Later that evening, another excellent meal at the Village Hall before seeing a video of a number of us evacuees who came to Dunning. It was very pleasant.

Saturday dawned bright and we met for an historical tour of the village. Once again well planned with time taken to ensure we enjoyed the occasion. By this time everyone we met would speak to us as we passed and the children especially, on recognizing us from the day before, would call out and wave and tell us their dogs' names. Saturday afternoon a bowling match had been arranged. The rain came on but only got heavy at the end. Then into the comfort of the clubhouse and the treat of cakes and biscuits provided by the ladies of the club. The result of the match was then announced. Visitors 38, Villagers 38. A draw! Couldn't have been better!

Saturday evening. What can I say? THE DANCE! How wonderful to hear and see a big band once more. All the old Glenn Miller music. Wonderful! Everyone turned out to enjoy themselves. I won a raffle prize of daffodil bulbs which of course when they come up each year will be a lovely reminder of the reunion. Then tea and mountains of sandwiches and pastries. Some people had worked very hard! What a marvellous time was had by all and what a delightful weekend! Our thanks to everyone who made it all possible, and thanks for all the hard work and thought put into it. It truly was worth it, as we will never forget our second evacuation to Dunning.


by Joe Black, Kilry by Blairgowrie

(In the autumn of 1993, my wife Anne and I, then temporary residents of Dunning, first saw the stone slab in the nave of St. Serf's standing against the wall of the tower. We recognized the style of interfacing on the two edges of the stone as similar to decorative carvings on Pictish stones, Pictish silver and even early manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. I began to research the origins of the slab, and because of our interest and our membership in the Dunning Parish Historical Society, I gave a talk on the subject to the Society in March 1994. This article summarizes that talk.)

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Physically the stone in St. Serf's is like a narrow tomb-stone three feet ten and a half inches high, one foot seven inches wide, and five and a half inches thick made of dressed sandstone. There is sculpting in relief on the front and two edges. No carving is apparent on the rear of the stone, which is fairly blackened by age on all sides, but the front shows the carving of a cross. The diagram is taken from a 'rubbing' made around 1891 by an antiquarian, Mr. A. Hutcheson from Broughty Ferry.

The diagram is much clearer than the original stone, the carving being badly worn and stained. In the front of the slab there is a wide transverse band and at each end there is a cross. The lower cross is only half complete (which turns out to be very unusual) leaving one and a half crosses, each with a 'ring of glory' circling the intersections of the vertical and horizontal arms of the cross.

The rest of the stone is unornamented except for the rather crude interfacing or plaiting on the right and left hand edges. The plait looks to have four strands.

In the jargon of the experts the stone would be described as a 'slab cross' almost certainly pre-1100 A.D. and therefore predating the endowment of St. Serf's in 1219.

There are between 500 and 600 such stones in Scotland, some still in the open air, such as the beautiful Dupplin Cross, some in local churches and many in museums such as Meigle, St. Vigeans, and the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

All research in such stones inevitably leads to a brilliant work of classification called 'The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland' by J. Romilly Allen and J. Anderson, published in 1903, a work commissioned by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Romilly Allen travelled extensively round Scotland between 1890 and 1903 recording each stone, often illustrated by a photograph and giving a detailled description of the location, type of stone and the nature of the sculpted design. A superb first edition of his book is in the Local History Section in the new Bell Library in Perth. It is from this volume that the preceding diagram is taken.

Romilly Allen classifies the stones into 3 distinct groups as follows:

  1. Often crude stones, undressed, and bearing one or more of the traditional Pictish symbols but excised as opposed to sculptured.
  2. Symbol bearing monuments which have sculptured crosses (normally on the front) and Pictish symbols on the reverse.
  3. This is a more miscellaneous class where dates and boundaries are disputed by contemporary scholars. Generally they are slab crosses or free standing crosses, often ornamented but not carrying any of the Pictish symbols described above. The Dunning stone belongs to Class 3 which probably dates it to between the 10th and 11th centuries A.D.

Romilly Allen also documented the types of cross and plaiting or interfacing.

There were a number of previous attempts in the 19th century to classify and record the Scottish stones notably in the 'Ancient Sculptured Monuments of Angus' by Patrick Chalmers published in 1848, and in a beautiful 2 volume work (1858 and 1867) by J. Stuart, also at the Bell. However the first public mention of the Dunning stone is in a short list of stones made by Romilly Allen to his paymasters, the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland in May 1890, giving details of the range and number of the stones he proposed to cover in his catalogue. Here the Dunning stone is mentioned as a Class 3 pre-1100 slab cross.

In his paragraph on the Dunning stone in ECMS Allen acknowledges a debt to Mr. Alex Hutcheson, F.S.A. Scotland for having first called Allen's attention to its existence and sending him rubbings of it. Hutcheson was an architect by profession and a keen local historian particularly in the Carse of Gowrie and Dundee areas. There is a record of his meeting with Romilly Allen at Forteviot in 1891 to discuss the discovery of a damaged stone there and it may be that Hutcheson gave Allen the rubbing of the St. Serf's stone on that occasion.

There is also local mention of the Dunning stone in the Rev. John Wilson's book on Dunning. He was minister of St. Serf's from 1861 to 1878 and a good local historian. Partly to help to provide funds for the Dunning public water supply he wrote his lively little book, full of church history, anecdote, biographies of local worthies etc. published in 1873. His son W. Wilson, then minister of the Trossachs, published an update and extension of his father's book in 1906.

Both editions are in the Bell Library and the 1906 edition is normally in the Library van which visits Dunning weekly.

There is a fascinating (and macabre) account of how the stone was rediscovered in the foundations of St. Serf's during major repair work in 1868, midway through the Rev. John Wilson's ministry. The paragraph describing the event reads like an eyewitness account of a series of discoveries including the Gothic arch at the foot of the tower, buried in masonry.

As was normal in medieval times the nave in the church had been used as a cemetery and 'large quanitities of remains' were exposed during the excavations--the family vaults identifying the bones of Rollos of Duncrub, Graemes of Garvock, Mercers of Clevage and other prominent local families.

Amid the bones was also discovered 'the old baptism font of the popish times', damaged by 'too zealous reformers'. (This font was removed to the church at Duncrub: does any reader know where it is now?)

A further discovery was 'an old tombstone, found among the bones in the nave...with the Saxon form of the cross sculptured on its front and the nature of the moulding on the border bespeak a much earlier date than that which we have assigned for the building of the church' (page 12, 1873 edition).

The description of the 1906 edition is more extensive and a footnote adds that Mr. A. Hutchinson (sic) FSA Scot Dundee has examined the stone and described it as the 'true Celtic type', deducing that the stone was evidence of an earlier than 1200 A.D. ecclesiatical settlement pre-dating St. Serf's.

This ancient slab cross was rediscovered therefore among the bones of prominent families of the Dunning area and significantly with the damaged font which almost certainly had been thrown there by 'iconoclasts' after the Reformation (1560 onwards). Is it too fanciful to think that the cross also was hurled away as a relic of the Catholic past? Reading any accounts of John Knox's meeting at Perth in 1559 reveals the intensity of passions against the artefacts of the Roman church and the destructive frenzy which was engendered in the common people of Perth. Comparable frenzies in the good people of Dunning probably led to the damaging of the St. Serf's font and the burial of the slab cross.

Finally the sculptured plaiting on the two edges of the slab is unusual. Class 2 stones particularly are often heavily decorated with such interlacing patterns (e.g. the Dupplin Cross) of an astonishing variety. Looking through Romilly Allen's chapter on such interlacing work I can find only one example of such plaiting which is very similar to the Dunning stone: Kirriemuir No. 4. It has to be said that the plaiting of the Dunning stone is sometimes crude and amateurish but nonetheless interesting with the unknown sculptor modelling himself on a form of Celtic decoration which dates back to earliest Pictish times.

To summarize, the stone in St. Serf's is a Class 3 slab stone almost certainly pre-dating St. Serf's itself. Both the type of sculptured cross and the interfacing of the edges are unusual. The circumstance of the slab's discovery are remarkable and the history of the stone is only known for certain from 1868. It is however a reasonable conjecture that it was 'dinged doon' after the Reformation as a Romish artefact with pagan associations!

Finally even if zealous Dunningites buried the stone in the sixteenth century the stone has been well looked after since its rediscovery, sensibly inside the church and avoiding further damage through weather and erosion. It is to be hoped that contemporary Dunningites will ensure that the stone is given a position of prominence in the refurbishing of St. Serf's and that it is suitably protected from wind, weather, rain and any latter day iconoclasts!

Joe Black, 1994


by Helen Laidlaw, New Lowell, Ontario

Personal anecdotes of a happy childhood spent in Dunning May 1924 to April 1937.

My name was Helen Robertson locally called Ellen. I first saw the light of day at Circus Street and my first recollection of being on this earth (I could only have been three years old) was of an old lady, Minnie Glen, who visited my Granny (Jane Scott). Minnie wore button boots. She would sit and swing her foot and I was absolutely terrified of the boots. Another lady who came to have a cup of tea with Granny was the fishwife from Arbroath, 3 creels and 1 basket on her back, dressed in the fishwives clothing, striped grey cotton shirt and blouse. I was fascinated that she smoked a clap pipe with only half a stem, a jaw warmer I think they were called.

One incident at Circus Street I remember was waking up one night to discover that there was no Mother or Father in bed. I went down to the byre barefoot. My Dad was helping the cow have a calf, my first bit of nature education. My mother looked after the dairy and Dad worked at Dupplin. He actually was a butcher, he came to Dunning from Perth before the 1914-1918 war, and worked for Geordie Graham Butcher. In the early thirties my Dad has his own shop at the corner of Perth Road and Lower Granco.

My parents bought Burnbrae from Miss Cousin. I would have been about four and made my first real friend, Campbell Arnott (his father was a shoemaker). We used to go the the 'wee school' hand in hand every Wednesday and Friday for games and dancing. If it was raining he always brought his spare raincoat for me when he called either for us to go to school or to play at his house. At that time they lived above the Baking Society. One day going to school he informed me "Ellen, your breeks are hingin' doon". On occasions when I see my brother Sandy he jokingly tells me "my breeks are hingin' doon". .

Today looking back on the 'wee school' teachers, Miss Philip and Miss Gray, any child under their tuition had to have the best foundation of schooling available. For myself they instilled in me, I am sure, a love for school. A story my Dad remembered: Miss Philip was telling the Bible story of Christ feeding the Five Thousand with bread from Heaven and fish from the sea. Kenny Reid (whose father was a blacksmith at Peter Stevens) in no uncertain terms informed Miss Philip his Mother didn't get their bread from Heaven, she got hers from the Baking Society.

My next best friend until the day I left Dunning was Nan Urquhart, who came to the village from Dunfermline. Her father was also a butcher. Nan and I were always so busy, we both loved the "big school" under the tutorship of Misses Patterson, Fordyce, Mungle, McRitchie and Johnson, Mrs. Fairweather and Mr. Benzies. Miss Mungle wrote poetry and had a book published. George Benzies was awarded her poetry book for the boys and I won for the girls.

Easter Sundays we used to go on a picnic to the Tory Bridge and roll our Easter Eggs down the Brae in the field by the bridge. Is the spring we gathered Primroses and Blue Bells by the armful in the Den, and played in the burn on nice summer days. Up near Pauley there was a cave and we pretended that was where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid. Also Robert the Bruce met up with the spider there and made his famous quote: try, try and try again.

We periodically played house in the hollow of a huge oak tree in the wooded area by Oswald Villa. We left our housekeeping items there all the time and they were never touched. The trees in that area were loaded with crows and today when I hear crows in our Maples and Willows it always brings back happy memories. I know there has to be progress but you cannot imagine my dismay on visiting Dunning and the trees were all gone. My Granny and I used to gather kindling down there. My Mother also had a few chickens in there and one year a pig, her cows and Mrs. McLellans's cows grazed in what is now the Golf Course.

When we moved to Burnbrae we lived next door to the Crows. Mrs. Crow taught me to iron. I had to sit by the kitchen table and she would show me how to comb out fringes and iron starched clothes. Mrs. Crow did Lady Wilson's personal laundry. No electric irons then, iron heated on the open fire. Mr. Crow was my friend also. If I was out playing when he came down the street he would always stick a peppermint in my mouth. Occasionally I was invited to stay for tea and he would say "Come over here till I rub your belly and see if you had enough to eat". I remember going with Johnnie Crow and my Dad to the Broom in John's little three-wheeled roadster to see the Scots Greys on a recruiting drive. Jenny (Mrs. John Lindsay) came to visit me when I was in Dunning in 1966 when my Dad died. She asked me if I remembered her Dad's pear tree (Mr. Crow shared his pears with us every year). He gave my Mother a vegetable marrow one year, and she made jam with it. Ugh!

Disaster befell me one winter's night when I was 7 years old. My sister Betty owned a pair of leather gaiters (goodness we are now dating ourselves). Everyone sat around the fire and I was sitting on the floor behind everyone struggling and sweating to put on those gaiters with a button hook when lo and behold the button hook slipped and went up my nose and caught across the top of the septum. The howls and the screams! I had visions of this hook being there the rest of my life, however after Dad got me calmed down it was quite easily removed.

Guy Fawkes Night 1935, Nan and I stole two cigarettes from her Dad's flat fifty. We had no matches. Nan lived in the upper flat of Jack Dunn's house and we decided we would get a light from the gas mantle in the stair. We must have been making more noise than necessary. Mr. Dunn came out the door yelling "Wha's doon there?" Nan fell off the window sill, broke the mantle and left the three of us in darkness. It's doubtful Mr. Dunn ever knew who was in the stair. I don't know what happened to the cigarettes, we probably dropped them in our haste to get out the door.

Mrs. Deuchars lived in the old house at the bottom of the brae from us. She was besotted with my brother John (Jocky) as a baby. Occasionally my sister Betty and I were designated to look after him when he was around a year old. We would put him in Mrs. Deuchars' door (dark as the black hole of Calcutta down there. We knew she would respond to his "Ka Ka Ka Ka" as he called her. Up would go her window (a ritual) "You two little buggers, if I get a hold of you I'll kick your arses up that brae." We just kept on going!

We bought our sweeties on the way to the 'wee school' from Maw Dow's. Or we bought a half penny worth of brown sugar at Davie Hurry's grocers, licked out of a paper bag, oh so nice and sticky, stalk of rock with a ring on it and McIntoshes Highland Creamy Toffee at Meg Winton's, fish and chips at Belle Flockhart's. The Bains and the Grants also had fish and chip shops in the Upper Granco, as did my Uncle Eck along with his dairy. He also made and sold ice cream for a while. Nancy Letham (Mrs. David Hurry Jnr.) was my Sunday School teacher, Miss Young of Garvock was our Brown Owl, Lillian Shearer and Lady Rosalind Rollo were Girl Guide leaders. We had Sunday School picnics at Kippen and also Brownie and Guide Christmas parties there. For a few years my Dad went to Dollar with the Boys Brigade as their cook. Rev. Jimmy McKinnon was the Leader.

We left Dunning in April 1937. Peter Stevens drove us to the train. That day was the most traumatic of my nearly 13 years of life on earth. I cried all the way. Mr. Stevens said "You're only going to Edinburgh, lassie, no the other end of the world". My sister's reaction when I married my husband Bruce, a Canadian, in August 1945, "Remember what Mr. Stevens said the day you left Dunning?" I said to her "Yes, Betty, but this is different".

Shortly after we left Dunning all my friends left also. Tottie McKeich went to Auchterarder, Nan Dalling to Helensburgh, Isobel Reid to Perth. Nan Urquhart's father left with Jack Dunn to go to New Zealand and when they hadn't heard from him after a few months, her Mother and brother Jim went back to Dunfermline. I saw Nan before I came to Canada and they still had not heard anything of her Father. Since then we drifted apart. Mrs. Dunn told me on one of my visits to Dunning Jack had left Bill Urquhart at the boat and hadn't seen him either.

I have become Canadianized, I guess, and home is where you hang your hat, not necessarily where your heart is. Even my two little Yorkshire terriers have their Dunning connections: Drambhui (Dram) of Ochil and Tot of Ochil. I have the almost identical picture that's in A Village of Crossroads and Characters hanging in my hallway drawn by my brother John. He was surprised when I sent him an old school picture and could remember all the names. He would be equally surprised if he learns I could go around all the village and name the residents when I lived there except with a few lapses in the Dragon.

There are many more memories, but let me end with a bit of verse I wrote:

Across the Atlantic, I've made many trips
Both by plane and by ships.
I've seen every province and every State
The sights and sounds they have been great
But the sound I have known and loved so well
Was the curfew, rung by St. Serf's bell.

Helen Laidlaw, New Lowell, Ontario

P.S. A couple of recommendations for research: Peter McNab, Rowan Cottage, Bridge of Earn Road had many many pictures and had started a history of the village.
Geordie Watt, who was a friend of my brother Davies, was a baker with the Baking Society and in later years moved to Comrie. While he was in Dunning, he wrote poetry of the village and had some published in one of the newspapers. I did have a copy but unfortunately we lost our house in the Barrie Tornado of 1985 and it went with the wind.


The group called the Friends of the Ochils has instituted a new award this year, to honour local contributions to 'understanding of the Ochils area'. Of a total of nine nominations received, two have been submitted by your Dunning Parish Historical Society. The first project we nominated is the 'Guide to an Ancient Kirkyard', the work of the Society team led by Ken Laing which has done such an excellent job of transcribing the gravestone inscriptions in St. Serf's for easy access by visitors, and which will this winter be putting the information onto computer for even easier access. The second nomination we made is of 'The Unsung Trailblazer' to honour the years of quiet work by David Doig in developing and maintaining a nature and history trail in Dunning Parish, as well as his contributions in guiding tours, laying out fieldwalks, and in photographing and speaking about the area. Winner of the award will be announced in November, 1994.


As we go to press, the Society's second archaeological fieldwalk is scheduled to be held exactly a year after our hugely successful first attempt on September 25/93. The first walk was held on Ian McLaren's Baldinnes farm next to Leadketty. The event was coordinated by archaeologist Mike King of Perth Museum and Art Gallery and co-sponsored by our Society. It attracted close to 80 walkers and turned up the first good ground evidence of the Late Neolithic/Bronze Age complex near Dunning which has been indicated principally by cropmarks photographed from the air. The 1993 walkers found part of a perhaps 4500 year old flint tool, and even more remarkably , a durable shard of pottery cast about 4000 years ago. And the pottery was found right in the centre of where cropmarks indicated an enclosure (an early form of settlement) had been built by prehistoric settlers clearing the forest. We'll tell you in the next newsletter about the results of this year's walk on Ian Philip's Leadketty Farm.


To all the very generous people who have recently donated objects and photographs to our growing unofficial archives, many thanks! We appreciate these gifts, and the loan of photos to copy: they'll form the basis for future presentations like the Museum of Village Memories. We're pleased that our membership is growing too. The annual membership is now due and should be sent to the Treasurer, Jane Young, Dunning Parish Historical Society, Meadowland, Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning PH2 0SL.


Thurs., Oct. 20 7:30 pm, Village Hall. Well-known writer Rennie McOwan speaks of witches, drovers and much more in a show titled "Are The Ochils Worth Preserving?" Auchterarder's history group will join us.

Sat., Nov. 5 10 am-12 noon, Village Hall. Our Coffee Morning, with a fine exhibit of Dunning postcards from John Crow's extensive collection.

Thur,, Nov. 17 Because of the delay in opening Perth's new Bell Library, our visit to the new local history department and archives has been rescheduled to tonight. Please call Grace McFarlane 684 376 to join this special Dunning-slanted tour. Transportation to be pooled.

Thurs., Dec. 1 7:30 pm, Dunning Primary School. After so many centuries, will the famous Dupplin Cross be taken from Forteviot? The Rev. Colin Williamson reports on the campaign to keep the Cross.

Thurs., Jan. 12/95 7:30 pm, Dunning Primary School. Leading Dunning historian Ken Laing returns to entertain us with slides and stories about some famous local structures, 'Tall Towers, Tall Tales'.

Thurs., Feb. 9 7:30 pm, Dunning School. "Farm Film Night", rare and entertaining old footage on historic farming and gardening from the Scottish Film Archives plus a Village Vignette video featuring Dunning folk.

Thurs., Mar. 2 7:30 pm, Dunning School. Another video-making night, this time asking you in the audience to recall memories of World War II.

Thurs., Apr. 6 7:30 pm, Village Hall. We host the Forteviot WRI on a tour of historic Dunning, with all of us joining in to hear about a famous family from Dunning and Forteviot's past.

Sun., Apr. 23 A History Mystery coach tour to points beyond Perthshire! More details to come.

Thurs., May 18 7:30 pm, Dunning School. Our Annual General Meeting with special guest Dr. Sheila Douglas of Perth, a folklorist whose fascinating presentation will blend legends, local history and music.

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