Fire & Folklore (& Skullduggery)
This week, Crieff slipped back in time to tell its history as a key market destination for 18th century cattle drovers.
The Fire, Folklore, Heroes and Villains event takes place over 4 days, over several different sites within the town centre. The audience is led around by a conspiratorial Highlander - a paid guardsman (distinguishable by his combination of red coat, kilt and red cockade) who begins with a quick crash course on his own allegiances (it depends who is asking, and who is paying his wages) to witness costumed performers portraying the tensions of the times in front of impressive, large-scale projections on surrounding buildings.
Throughout the tour, Rob Roy McGregor makes sudden, confrontational appearances, before melting off at the appearance of the King's soldiers.
They were tough times for Crieff. Hardy Highland drovers arrived en masse into the small town, each with hundreds of cattle, converging in the hills and descending into Crieff to sell their animals for the best price at 'Trysts' (market meeting places). Arguments about prices, treachery and double crossing was rife as poor and volatile men managed cattle herds worth hundreds of pounds.
Did they pay heed to the bodies swinging on Gallow's Hill, hung out as a warning to behave themselves (it is said that they would doff their Highland bonnets in respect) - or did they steal a memento of their visit, pillaging and talking anything they could lay their hands on?
Crieff's own villagers and visitors were partial to a souvenir too. We learn that they purchased bits of the gallow's scaffold the King Street blacksmith sold from his smiddy.
Rob Roy was drover and a frequent visitor to Crieff. His son was pursued through the streets and killed there. When we meet him in the street he is angry and fearful.
He wasn't always. In October 1714, Rob Roy and his men marched to Crieff Town Square and rang the town bell. In front of the gathering crowd they brazenly sang Jacobite songs and toasted their uncrowned King James VIII.
Our Guide in Crieff's Town Square
In the Town Square, an audio visual projection tells that one year later, Jacobite Highlanders returning from the indecisive Battle of Sheriffmuir, first sought food and shelter in Crieff, then at a pre-arranged time, a Captain named Cammeron, cried out the order, 'torch this place', and the town was burned to the ground. The town's people fled, but many were to perish from cold that night.
The Fire, Folklore, Heroes and Villains event is an expert production. The actors were especially fantastic and knowledgeable and the tour is a wonderful way to experience the history of familiar town.
Well done everyone involved - and thank you Crieff Co-Op staff for being stewards throughout a few chilly evenings. What a fantastic wee town we live in.
Also, Kenny got a shot of a sword and seemed to like it.
For those with an interest in guided local history, don't forget the fantastic Drover's Tryst Walking Festival is on May 22-25th this year. Find out more on out blog here.
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