09 May 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”. 
alanbrownweb_007The River Tay rises on the borders of Argyll where it’s called the River Coninish.  It then drops steeply to Crianlarich, possibly the most signposted village in Scotland, where it becomes the River Dochart and flows into Loch Tay at Killin. 
It exits the eastern end of the loch at Kenmore as the River Tay and flows for another 117 miles before entering the North Sea at Dundee en route to Europe.  And boy, is it tired.
You’d better know, too, that the difference in rainfall between the east end and the west end of Loch Tay is some 20 inches per year; in other words, there’s an increase of one inch of rain for every mile you travel the length of the loch from Kenmore towards Killin, but that’s only when it rains.
Despite being made of the same type of rock as the north side, the south side of Loch Tay contains a number of what scientists call igneous rocks.  These are the oldest type of all, coming from the Greek word for fire (igneous, not rocks.)
But now for the really interesting historical facts. The presence of this type of rock has led over the years to the discovery and development of several copper and lead mines.  How fascinating, I hear you say, but what’s your real point, Alan? Well, don’t be so impatient because - a roll on the drums followed by a sandwich on the piano - one of these copper mines was used as a location for filming the cinematic epic Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1974.
For those with long memories, or film buffs or avid watchers of You Tube, the Killer Rabbit scene in the movie was shot outside the Tomnadashan Mine at the Killin end of Loch Tay.
And so it came to pass - no; that’s more suited to Life of Brian - that for the 25th anniversary DVD release of the movie, two of the cast, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, returned to be interviewed in front of the cave … but they couldn’t remember where it was. 
They wandered up and down the hills for hours and, in desperation, asked directions from the locals, saying that they couldn’t miss it as it had a killer rabbit in it.
However, this clue wasn’t enough to find the location and so, according to eyewitness reports, Messrs Palin and Jones performed a comic turn at the lochside to general amusement.  According to one spectator: “It was priceless stuff, and some of the looks they were getting were unbelievable.”
And I’ll be doing some more burrowing into our fascinating past next month.

Alan Brown



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