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Pitlochry 1792

In 1792 Alexander Stewart, the worthy minister at the Manse of Moulin, was writing in his study his own version of the people and the place of Pitlochry. True, he had not yet met the Reverend Charles Simeon of Cambridge, who was destined to change his ministry and bring revival to Atholl, but he had a brilliant mind and a ready pen. He sees the little village and the church in its midst and congratulates himself that the parishioners are healthy and free from epidemics. Vaccination has now become general and smallpox is rare. Clean clothes are now ending skin diseases. The Tummel yields a plentiful supply of trout and salmon, and as he scans the sky he can discern not only the wood-pigeon and the hawk but also the high-flying eagle. The 1749 souls in his parish do not unduly worry him, for though some young spirits may take the south road to the big cities he knows they will creep back some day to “ linger our life’s taper to a close.’’

There are no competing dissenting bodies in his parish, he is monarch of all he surveys. The birches flash in the wind, the oaks stand firm against the weather, and now, since Menzies of Culdares in 1723 brought the first larch cones from the Tyrol, the hillsides are bright green with the first leaves of this delightful tree. No spacious waggon was to be seen and only one four-wheeled
chaise existed in the whole parish. The cart wheels were
only forty inches in diameter, so that carts were little larger than a wheel-barrow in which the minister’s man brought peats for the winter fire. Beef on the manse table cost 3 pence 13 per pound,if you could buy it. Veal sold at 2 pence, mutton at 3 pence, and pork at 4 pence per pound. Hen’s fetched 6 pence each and eggs 2 pence per dozen, milk 2 pence a Scotch pint and butter 8 pence
per 22 ounces. A cart of peats, weighing 5 cwts, fetched
1 shilling 2 pence. The field-worker got 6 pence per day, the carpenter 1 shilling with his food added, and the maid at the manse was lucky to be earning £3 per year besides her board.

The minister is not easy about these conditions, so he
works out in detail the family budget. With husband and
wife both toiling they make not more than £15. But
they have to meet expenses amounting to £17. They
are short of money, which, as Micawber would have said,
added up to misery. Yet Stewart will tell you that the
families are wondrously happy and enjoy a sound education at the village school. These were indeed the days of miracles.

From the manse window you may see women spinning linen at the doors of their homes, as many as sixteen cuts per day. The nimbler ones can spin with both hands. From the manse window also you might catch a glimpse of the other side of the Hotel, where the Moulin Market is being held. Dealers have arrived from the south to snap up the spindles of linen at half-a-crown each, for not fewer than 23,000 of these would be spun in a single winter in the parish. Even girls of ten learned the art. After the purchase the dealers would repair to the Hotel, for it would be a cold February day. No wonder, too, that the seven lint mills of the place were kept busy.

In the street the language you hear is Gaelic, but if
business required it some could converse in English. The
minister regrets that too many Sassenach expressions are creeping into the pure Gaelic and corrupting the language of Eden.

No one knows when the church was built, but a lintel
stone bears the date 1613 in 1704 the building was widened and in 1787 it was re-seated, with new windows and ceiling. A new bell was hung in 1749, made by R. Bakker, Rotterdam, and bearing the appropriate text Now Is The Accepted Time. In 1758 a new manse was erected by the heritors, large and many-roomed, which the minister maintained on £90 per year, but only his wife could tell you how it was done. Two licensed stills of thirty gallons each and twenty- four ale-shops gave ample chance to get drunk, but Mr Stewart seldom saw a drunk man in the street or even at a wedding or funeral. The market-days were characterised by moderation. But what vexed his pastoral heart was to see superstitions linked to christenings and burials, relics of Celtic mythology and magic. He mourns that the games of wrestling and putting-the stone are not preferred to the
sports of football, shinty, and the effeminate art of dancing ! But, taken all in all, the worthy pastor is happy in his parish and his people, and as he looks out from his study window he feels that every prospect pleases and the lines have fallen for him in pleasant places.

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