A Village History – Killin

3 years ago Blogs

Set in the heart of Breadalbane – the Uplands of Alban – and in the heart of Perthshire, our Village and District are considered by many to be the most beautiful in Scotland.

Although the Parish of Killin extends for over twenty miles from the watershed at the County March with Argyll in the West to Loch Tay in the east, and includes the villages of Tyndrum and Crianlarich, Killin itself is near the eastern end of the Parish and about a mile from the head of Loch Tay. Two rivers, the peaceful Lochay and the turbulent Dochart emerge from their respective Glens and meet to mingle their waters for a few hundred yards before emptying into Loch Tay. The village stretches across the peninsula so formed, being somewhat over a mile in length. It was almost inevitable that a village should spring up here, from the time when mankind drew together into communities, as here is the natural meeting place of many routes. From the south up Glenogle and across Larig-Ilidh; from the west down Glendochart and Glenlochay; and from the east along both sides of Loch Tay, while numerous hill-passes give access to the surrounding Glens. To the north it is sheltered by the distinctive Tarmachan Ridge and eastward looms the mighty mass of Ben Lawers, highest of all Perthshire’s Bens (3984 feet), in the other direction the way to the West is guarded by the twin peaks of Ben More and Stobinian. As the visitor approaches from the West he finds that the road winds beside the River Dochart which roars around its island and over its rocks. The Bridge which crosses the river is a very picturesque one consisting of five unequal arches and commanding one of the best known views in the country, which every year attracts thousands of tourists, and particularly photographers, from all parts of the world. The Main Street runs roughly East and West, and at one time most of the houses were built on either side of it, but in recent years the newer houses have spread out to the North and South. For a place of its size Killin is fortunate in possessing many well equipped shops and several comfortable hotels. The Main Street, being straight and fairly wide, does not present such a traffic problem as in many Highland villages. Round the old Square or “Stance”, where in earlier days the Markets were held beside the gently flowing river Lochay, stand two Churches – the Parish Church and the Episcopal Church, a very fine Village Hall and the principal Hotel. Nearby the present Livestock Mart now caters for the considerable sale of Cattle and Sheep from the surrounding districts. The road then winds pleasantly along beside the river Lochay crossing it by an old single-arch bridge to continue along Loch Tayside.

The Origin of the Name

There are conflicting opinions as to the origin of the name Killin. The old local tradition attributes it to the belief that Fingal, the father of Ossian, lies buried in a field behind the village, hence the name Cill Fhinn – chapel or place of Fingal. Another opinion is that the name means Cill – fhionn – white or fair Church; and yet another that it is Cill-linne, or Church by the Pool.

Early Inhabitants

Before there was a Church, or any history, another race inhabited our Glens – a race whose origins have been lost, and whose very existence is only proved by the numerous tools, weapons and ornaments of stone and bronze that have been dug up at various times. There are also examples of mysterious cup-markings on rocks and stones. Near Kinnell, the ancient seat of the Macnabs, there is a particularly well preserved Stone Circle. Who were they, these “silent, vanished races” whose only memorial is carven on the imperishable rocks? What was their way of life, and who or what their gods?

The Coming of Christianity

The Coming of Christianity to Breadalbane, towards the end of the 8th Century, is attributed to St. Fillan, who, like St. Columba came from Ireland. The late Dr. Gillies in his book “In Famed Breadalbane” says that “little is known of St. Fillan’s ministry in Breadalbane, but he has left behind a gracious, imperishable tradition”. It appears that, as well as his religion, he brought civilizing influences to try to improve the lot of our wild forbears; the picturesque Mill which stands on the north bank of the river Dochart above the Bridge bears his name, and stands on the site of a meal mill he founded. In an upper room of this Mill are preserved the “Healing Stones of St. Fillan”, these are eight in number and two at least appear to have been pivot stones on which the grinding machinery of the mill revolved. The other six are water-worn, and tradition has endowed each of them with the power of healing some part of the body. Down to the present day the stones are “bedded down” afresh each Christmas Eve by the proprietor of the mill on reeds and straw “not won by the hand of man”, but gathered from the river-bank. St. Fillan’s Feast Day, known locally as “Latha Feile Faolain” falls on the 3rd Tuesday of January, and on that day for a thousand years the machinery of the Mill was stilled in honour of the Saint. Until about 25 years ago St. Fillan’s Day was observed by the local farmers as the day on which all arrangements were made for the year’s functions, such as the ploughing-match, Cattle Show etc., and especially it was the day on which all debts were paid. In the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh are preserved other relics of St. Fillan, namely his Crozier and his Bell. There relics were for many years jealously guarded by hereditary Keepers, whose family name was Dewar, and the Dewar’s Croft can still be pointed out, which for hundreds of years descended from father to son by virtue of their office. The last member of the family to hold the Crozier emigrated to Canada taking the relic with him, but after a brief sojourn there it was recovered and placed in its present home.

  • wakefieldfhs

    I was hoping that someone with local knowledge could possibly help. My relative, Alexander Riach, a mason, was living in Killin at the time of the 1871 census, at 2 Hut, with his family and a few lodgers. I was wondering were there any works going on at the time that would need a man like Alexander, or was the bridge being built or repaired. He was a very experienced mason and had years of experience with cranes, needed for such employment. He later worked on Kew Bridge, London.

    Another question, where would 2 Hut be, would they be temporary housing for people doing work at a specific place?

    Hope someone can add a few answers to my questions,

    Thank you
    Carol

    • Ben Lawers

      I passed this along to Gillean Ford of the Killin Heritage Society who had this info:
      It must be to do with the constructionof the Callander to Oban railway. The first stage of that was to the top of
      Glen Ogle, which was known as Killin Station, despite it being a few miles fromthe village. This first stretch of the railway was opened on 1st June 1870. The 1871 census has huts, including one ‘hut at Station” ie Killin Station. Others folks are listed as ‘railwaylabourers’.

      By1871 they would have begun work on the next stretch of the line towards Crianlarich. When you walk the route there are many areas of stone walls, cuttings, bridges etc so a Black Smith Mason would have had plenty of work to do. The huts would be for labourers working on the construction. Some would have their families with them and the wife would feed the lodgers etc. These huts would provide very basic dormitory type accommodation for the labourers who are listed as ‘lodgers’. The huts were often taken apart and moved to another stretch of the construction route and rebuilt.

      The 1871 census includes hundreds of folk working on the Callander to Oban railway at that time, all
      registered as living in Killin. Huts 1 to 8, Main Hut, Hut at Station, Line 2 Hut Cookwell, Line 3 Hut Contmore, Line Raby Hut, Price RabyHut & so on. All these must have been on the route of the next stage of the
      line from Glen Ogle westwards. The Riachfamily were one of many, mainly from all over Scotland and England, who worked on the construction of the railway and where the wife cooked, cleaned, laundered etc for the lodgers. Number of lodgers varied from one to 17.

      • wakefieldfhs

        Thank you very much for your reply.

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