Thursday, April 25, 2013

Innerpeffray in the 1850s!

This week I had a spare half-hour in the Strathearn Community Library in Crieff, and decided to spend it perusing old copies of the local paper, the Strathearn Herald.

First of all I decided to have a peep at 1958-9 to see whether there was any record of my husband's birth - when he arrived in the world his parents were actually living in Crieff, although they moved on soon afterwards, so he has a kind of claim to be "local", even though I definitely don't! I was delighted to find a birth announcement, which I duly photographed so that I could amaze my husband later.

After that I was at a bit of a loose end, so I decided to look at the very earliest copies of the paper available, which were from the 1850s, when it was still known as the Crieff Herald & Strathearn Advertiser. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but by pure chance I came across a letter addressed to the editor by "An Antiquary" of Glasgow. The letter was all about Innerpeffray and its library, which is a bit of a pet subject of mine. I thought it might be fun to reproduce it here. The writer says he visited the library "some years" before, so perhaps about 1850 - now over 160 years ago! This is what it says:


SIR,  One of the most interesting localities in the neighbourhood of Crieff is Innerpeffray, as there is so much to be seen there. There are the remains of the old castle, still very entire, the ancient chapel with its graveyard and singular monuments, the library of rare and antiquated tomes, the neat modern schoolhouse, the romantic situation which they occupy, and the relics of the noble old trees which adorn it, though the latter are but few in number now. Some years ago I visited them all, and was much gratified by doing so, as they well merit even a more lengthened pilgrimage than that from Crieff. The schoolhouse was at that time untenanted, but I was happy to learn recently that it is now occupied, as the neighbouring children will thus have suitable instruction at their doors, without having to wander for miles in search of it. Several of the tombstones in the graveyard are very quaint, and well worthy of preservation although the effects of time and the weather have sadly defaced many of them, so that their curious carvings and inscriptions can now scarcely be deciphered. The most singular of the whole, however, is still quite perfect, and is such a gem, that photographs of it on a large scale, should be taken for the museum of your Mechanic’s Institution, and to sell to visitors, many of whom, I doubt not, would like to possess a facsimile of this interesting tombstone. I allude to the monument of the Faichney family, on which father and mother and all their children are not only named, but “lively effigies” of each of whom are also represented on the stone, in addition to sundry inscriptions and the ordinary churchyard emblems of mortality.
Means, too, I think, might be used for giving access to the interior of the old chapel, as doubtless much that would interest, in the shape of carvings, inscriptions, and monuments, would thus be thrown open to the inspection of the visitor. In one part of it, I saw through the locked iron gateway, the several pieces of a large and very singular sun-dial, something like the one in Drummond Castle gardens, which well merits being rescued from the vault in which it is immured, and rebuilt in front of the schoolhouse. If this were done, and I sincerely trust it will be shortly, another and most interesting addition to the antiquities of Innerpeffray would gratify the eyes of future visitors.
 I spent an hour, too, with much satisfaction in the library, which has many very rare and scarce works in divinity, history, poetry, geography, and other subjects, a few on astronomy and astrology, and also the “Breeches” Bible, which belonged to Lady Madderty. The books are generally of a class not to be met with elsewhere – the only library of a like kind which I have seen being one at Dunblane, - and the printer’s devices on the title-pages, the illustrations, and the contents of many of them were so quaint and singular, that I would willingly have spent days in that old library, as almost every volume seemed well worth a leisurely inspection. Facilities for reading them there, and also taking them home for perusal were, I understood, granted to certain parties. This I was glad to learn, but yet I regretted at the same time that the latter was permitted, as the bindings of many of the volumes were very defective, and the sheets inside quite loose, so that the latter might easily be lost; and with books of this class such a loss would be irreparable, and greatly to be deplored. Ample funds, I was told, had been left, not only for keeping the books in proper order, but also for adding to their number, from time to time, works of a similar class. Surely if the matter was properly looked after, the latter should yet be done; but, at all events, the repairing of the bindings of the volumes already there should no longer be neglected, as it was painful to see such fine old books going to ruin in this way through neglect. It is possible, however, that this may have been done, and the sun dial again restored to the light of day, since my visit to Innerpeffray, and I shall be happy to learn that such has been the case, - but if not, I trust that what I have said may induce some of your spirited townsmen to interest themselves in the preservation of the valuable old library, and the restoration of the beautiful sun-dial. Apologies for the length of this letter, I am, &c.,
Glasgow, 31st December 1856.

If you're interested, here are some pictures of some of the things "An Antiquary" describes! (NB I wonder why he felt the need to hide behind that epithet rather than giving his real name? The letter isn't wildly controversial - unless he expected angry citizens of Crieff to suggest he contributed his own time and money to preserving the books rather than suggesting they did it!)

Above: the library (left) and chapel (right)

Above: interior of the chapel, apparently closed when the Antiquary visited

Above: the Faichney monument 

Above: detail of the monument, which was to Jean Murray and James Faichney and their children

Above: the interior of the library

The one thing I don't recall seeing on any of my visits to Innerpeffray is the sun dial mentioned in the letter. You can see a photo of the one at Drummond Castle Gardens here:
I don't think I have ever seen anything like that at Innerpeffray, but I will be sure to take a look next time, and ask the librarian. 

The library at Dunblane that the Antiquary mentions is the Leighton Library and I must make a visit to that, too! It will probably be some time before I can manage that, since I don't usually have the car during the week, but when I do, I'll be sure to post some details about it. 


Addendum 28th April 2013: I visited Innerpeffray Library today and looked in vain for the sundial, either inside the church or outdoors. I then asked librarian Lara Haggerty, who told me that it is no longer at Innerpeffray. She is going to let me know what has happened to it - so watch this space!  

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