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Book Launch

Over one hundred and twenty parishioners and guests assembled at Strathallan School on Saturday 1st December for the launch of the long awaited book – Forgandenny, a Place in History. It was appropriate a lone piper greeted everyone for the release of this history of the parish of Forgandenny. And the assembled company were further treated to a concert of local music at Strathallan in the former chapel of the Freeland House. Such surroundings enhanced the presentations of musicians and poets from the past which brought back to memory long lost works.

Sophie Wilson gave a wonderful display of the reels and jigs written for the fiddle around 1800 by Thomas Oliphant, a musician and former president of the Royal Academy, who had been born in the parish. Her rendition of Mr Oliphant of Condie’s Welcome Home was received with enthusiasm, none more so than by Roddy Oliphant of Oliphant, a descendant of the same family, who was overseeing the concert. Further music, demonstrating the wonderful Scottish flavour of the clarsach, was performed expertly by Mandy Simsek who had travelled from Arran for the occasion. Such smooth and evocative tunes complemented Irene Macfarlane’s renditions of local poetry. The humorous “Curling Feast” and “Murder o’ a  Mappy” contrasted beautifully with the mellow and reflective “Bonnie Braes of Dron”; all written over a hundred years ago by local parishioners.  That such works have come to life so many years later has been almost a lifetime’s work for the author Gregory Ross whose efforts for so long have culminated in bringing the past of the parish once more to light.

The guests were further treated to the surroundings of Strathallan School. The author signed the copies in the wonderful surroundings of the original Freeland House built in 1530 for Thomas Oliphant of Freeland. It was equally apt that he sat under the portrait of Harry Riley, the founder of the school, who did so much to revive the village following the terrible consequences of the Great War. It is attribute to him and those that followed that so much of the fabric has been faithfully preserved from the 1730 drawing room designed by William Burn to the library of the Wood family. 

Gregory Ross has been working at Strathallan School for some twenty years and in that time he has become spellbound by the parish and Strathearn. Some local works in the past have brought the history of different areas into focus but he felt that there was a need to take a fresh look at the parish and its position in the area. “What began as an interest in local affairs soon grew into a need to understand the bigger picture”, said Gregory, “but I had no idea of the eventual enormity of the task.” And enormity is the right word for there are some five hundred and fifty pages for the reader to digest. He continued “I soon discovered that Forgandenny stood at a crossroads geographically and culturally, a crossroads that brought good times and bad.” 

In his introduction to the book, Roddy Oliphant praised the way that the author had been able to demonstrate the growth and development of the parish as one of many parishes comprising Strathearn and Scotland. “It is sometime forgotten that such places as Forgandenny are the product of the times and occasions which have shaped all of Scotland.” said Roddy. “At no time could a place like this exist in isolation but rather it had to be part of the whole country, both receiving from and giving to the nation; giving the very passion and life blood that make it the place it is today.”

In his book, Gregory Ross covers the main families of Oliphant and Ruthven who were the lairds for hundreds of years as well as the new families of Calder, Bell and Wood who steered the parish into the twentieth century.  These were not absentee landlords but personally created and oversaw the estates we still see today. But more than this, the author has not forgotten the many others whose lives are barely recorded in history but left their mark locally. Many travelled abroad for work and to start new lives; these too are recorded for the reader, and very interesting reading it makes. Forgandenny may be just one small part of a great land but can proudly boast a full part in the process that has contributed to the nation we call Scotland. Forgandenny has deservedly earned its “Place in History”    



Forgandenny parishioners 1696  

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