09 April 2014

This month I’m digging  deeper into the history of this part of Perthshire which was home to a race called the Picts who called it Birkavia: “the land between the pylons and the turbines”. 
Loch Tay is home to the osprey, a very much protected species of bird.  One evening, a local gamekeeper set out a snare in the hope of catching a pheasant.  Next morning there was a dead osprey in the snare.  Rather than waste the fine bird he cooked and ate it.
alanbrownweb_007Naturally word spread and he was arrested and charged.  In court, the magistrate lectured him on the consequences of his act but acquitted him because of the accidental nature of the crime.
As he was leaving court, the magistrate called him over and whispered: “By the way, I just wondered … what did it taste like?”  “Like a cross between a golden eagle and a swan“, said the keeper.

The Lady of Lawers
Around 1630, there lived in the village of Lawers a young lady named Mary Campbell.  Local tradition has it that she lived where now stand the ruins of a house known as Tigh Ban-tighearna Labhuir – “the House of the Lady of Lawers” - and her claim to fame was her ability to see into the future.
She foretold how “the feather of the goose would drive the memory from man“,  a reference to the destructive influence of writing upon the power of remembrance.  She predicted “how fire-coaches would be seen crossing Drumochter Pass” – a prophecy of the coming of the Highland Railway - and she foresaw a period when the population would increase greatly and the land would be intensively cultivated, predicting “a meal mill on every stream and a plough in the hands of every lad.” 
This came true at the end of the 18th century when there were 14 mills on the loch side and some 200 ploughs on the south side alone. 
She then foretold of a time “when the district would first be riddled, and then sifted of its people“, and how “the jaw of the sheep would drive the plough out of the ground.”  This came to pass when the 2nd Marquis of Breadalbane embarked upon his own Highland Clearances, turning the area into a massive sheep-run.
She was buried beside the old church of Lawers with which so many of her sayings are associated but some of her prophesies remain unfulfilled:
“A strange heir will come to Balloch (Taymouth Castle) when the Boar’s Stone at Fearnan topples over.”  We’re praying it isn’t Donald Trump.
“The time will  come when Ben Lawers will become so cold that it will chill and waste the land for seven miles.” Two of the past three Christmases came pretty close, didn‘t they?
Finally, “a team in dark blue jerseys with white shorts will win the World Cup.” Well, we won’t hold our breath over that one.

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