Get your free website from Spanglefish
This is a free Spanglefish 2 website.


Many years ago, more than I care to remember, I came to the Forgandenny to begin a new life. Like many before me, the magic of the place helped me and my family to settle and we remain here to this day. A quick look at a map shows that the parish covers a vast area, which I was amazed later to find, was only a fraction of the original parish. Nestled between Forteviot and Abernethy, Forgandenny presents the poor cousin without the rich heritage of a royal palace or a Pictish tower; without a historical society like Dunning or even a hotel like Bridge of Earn. In fact, Forgandenny seemed asleep and forgotten so I wondered if this had always been the case. It was obvious at first meeting that there was a wealth of different architectural features and that the parish contained grand houses and old cottages, farms and steadings, old roads and forgotten paths. Early encounters with residents allowed me glimpses of a past through a range of objects and photographs and the names of countless families who no longer live locally.

The motivation to look at the past begins always with such glimpses but I had no idea of the task that I would eventually work on for so many years. It really began with a photograph that I found on a trip to the Perth Museum of a new cottage built in 1878 for the gamekeeper at Freeland. It was one of a few photographs but this one intrigued me as it was clearly of a house near where I lived that had been added to considerably over the years. I could make out the lines of the cottage in the lower story of the house and the old kennels were nearby, unchanged. To digress, the original cottage had been sold with land when the Freeland estate was broken up in 1919 and was on land always known as Oakbank. The smallholding was to keep the name but this was thought to be confusing with the rest of Oakbank not in the deal so the sale proceeded under the name of Coventry; named after one of the old estate parks. But, I was told that the house now named Coventrees was, in fact, two hundred and fifty years old and had been built on land used in the past by a witches’ coven, hence the house name. Not really convinced, I began an early search on the park name Coventry and found it to be so recorded five hundred years ago. In fact, the house of Freeland stands on the lands of Coventry. Further searches led to documents, which detailed the lands of Coventry back to the beginning of the twelfth century. Experts tell me Coventry was a British name most likely from Coban's Tref; Coban or Colban being a popular Pictish name. Another place Pitquhannatrie also mixes the Pictish and British naming systems. In addition, Forgandenny has a wealth of other old names, both Pictish and Gaelic as will be shown, based on the name of the mother of St. Columba.

That Forgandenny does not have a centralised, recorded history probably stems from the fact that many records were lost in a disastrous fire in 1866 and more recent records seem to be missing due to church mergers; hopefully to resurface at some time. So no minister felt obliged, like John Wilson at Dunning and Neil Meldrum at Forteviot, to put pen to paper for public consumption and the work of past historians has not survived their departure. Therefore, I want to share with you a journey that I have made through time and space in search of the real Forgandenny. In researching this book I have travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of people and places, both living and dead. I have met with an unreserved welcome from all and rarely has an individual not displayed a genuine pride in being able to offer assistance and freely share their knowledge. I will never forget the warmth shown by Dr. and Mrs Leedham to an unexpected stranger who turned up at their door in Shrewsbury; their house had been home to a young Lord Ruthven at the end of the eighteenth century. The wealth of information has been quite overwhelming, much of it new and original whether secreted away unknown like the Ruthven of Freeland Papers or available but uninterpreted like an early photograph of Forgandenny Church at the Perth Museum.

From the first I felt that Forgandenny could not exist in isolation so to produce such a history would merely enforce the idea of the sleepy backwater. Rather, I felt that the records needed to be placed in a historical and geographical context. Indeed, parishioners rarely suffered or rejoiced alone but always with other parishes, other areas and other countries. Jessie Coulthart, interviewed in Forgandenny following the accession of King Edward VII having then lived under five sovereigns, said in response - "Do I remember the stagecoach days? Of course I do and what a commotion the arrival of the stagecoach made, especially at Christmas and New Year time when folks were travelling from one place to another to visit their friends. The sound of the horn in the distance was a signal for the village to turn out." Throughout my journey, I have discovered that the parish has always been a warm and friendly place, ever ready to welcome visitors and much loved by all in the community.  The three churches that formed in the parish all had a succession of co-operative ministers who did everything in their power to ameliorate the extremism shown at times within their ideologies while providing essential security for their flocks.

So I unashamedly present this history of the parish chronologically in context with all the affairs of each era. It is a facet of written history that records become more numerous and detailed with the passage of time. You will be pleased to note that my own editing has removed some forty five percent of that detail and the content has settled down to a more direct message. Historical research is a dangerous and tortuous road in itself and diversions can be equally long and winding. So many individuals have emerged from the mist of time to live again, deservedly so for their magnificent work should never be forgotten. One especially comes to mind. A man named Edward Rutherford who for little reward steered the parish through the most dangerous time before and after the ’45 and was in a position to come to the assistance of so many from other parishes. And I am still amazed that the image I formed in my mind of one Lord Ruthven as I followed his life from cradle to grave was so close to his actual picture that I found by chance at a later date.

Forgandenny’s children influenced and were influenced by all that was happening to the nation. They travelled widely all over the world and left their mark in such ways never to be forgotten. They found the world a smaller place in past times despite the vast distances covered and times taken. Inevitably the home parish never left their thoughts whether ploughing with a Forgandenny shire horse on the Otago Plain in New Zealand, gambling on a Mississippi river boat, standing in front of the royal palace in Peking, giving birth in a tepee in Toronto or policing the frontier near Capetown. Forgandenny parish leaders valued education and care above all and give lie to many ideas of the subjective ruthlessness of past times. Despite leaving the parish for fresh pastures many individuals took important roles in their new communities because of that education and care. It would be impossible also to write of Forgandenny without including Pathstruie, now in Forteviot Parish, and Aberdalgie, both lacking their own histories, and the Bridge of Earn which grew into a large village due to its position. People from these places interacted throughout history with those of Forgandenny. In the same way, you may find interesting details from many other parishes in Strathearn especially Forteviot, Dunning and Dron.

Part of my journey led me to identify the genealogy of many parish families in conjunction with their descendents and, although there is not enough room in this volume, those records exist in detail and are available on request. I do, therefore, make no excuse for the use of the dates of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths, deplored by many writers as uninteresting, as these records form the only glimpse of the lives of most people in the past. Similarly I have investigated the course of land ownership since records began and these too are available to interested parties. I believe that it is so important to share accurate information on our past especially now that we all face a “truth by consensus” ideology in our own lives and it is a testimony to so many hard working researchers that the real facts are made available. William Arnot, then a minister in Glasgow, recounted in his memoirs as a child that while walking with his father Robert past the Forgandenny butcher’s shop his father pointed to one of the sheep heads hanging outside. “There,” said William's father, “See that tongue, that’s the only one I know never told a lie.” I also hope that anyone interested can use this book as a springboard for their own investigations: I am sure that there is much more to be discovered. And what of the future? Are our current recording systems as efficient as those of the past? What record will we leave of ourselves for two hundred years in the future? I wonder?

I have taken 1930 as the cut off for this book. This was a year of great changes in social life whereby the care of the communities was completely centralised on a grand scale outwith the parish. Gone the lairds, the school boards, the heritors and elders; gone the ministers, sextons, beadles and precentors; gone the weavers, dressmakers, shoemakers, brewers, joiners and carters; gone too the large agricultural settlements and many parish families. So this is their record and as a friend of mine said recently – I always knew the place was more important than I thought.

Sketch of Forgandenny Church by the writer Laurence Oliphant - 1840

Click for Map
sitemap | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement