After a long day’s journey across Scotland, Roy Fleming, his Aunt Jennie, his Uncle James and his cousin Minnie arrived in Dunkeld, Perthshire, 11 July 1903.
We land at Dunkeld 8:10+. Bella and Jeannie Smith are there to meet us. Send our grips down to Mrs. Duff’s with Mr. Fisher, and we six walk down and call at Smith’s house where we are welcomed. [From Roy’s Journal]
The Smiths were relatives on the Stewart side – Roy’s father’s mother. Jean Stewart’s sister Margaret married Alexander Robertson, and their daughter Elizabeth married Hugh Smith. Roy said of Elizabeth – “Mrs Smith is very much like Aunt Jessie [Jessie Agnew]– inclined perhaps to be a little more jokey.” Bella and Jeannie, delightful young women of 26 and 24 years, were Mrs. Smith’s (Elizabeth’s) daughters – Jeannie was a bookkeeper and Bella “a 1st assistant in P.O and a telegraph operator”. Roy later praised Bella to his cousin C.A. Fleming in Owen Sound as “handsome, clever and bright” and “the most genteel person” he met in Scotland. (Perhaps Roy was smitten.)(1) Tom and Andrew, who are often mentioned in the journal, were young men of 25 and 21 years, both employed as blacksmiths. (There were three other daughters: Margaret, Jessie, and Elizabeth). (2)
The next day, the Flemings joined the Smith family at the Sunday service in the Dunkeld Cathedral, and repaired to the Smiths afterwards. They would spend the next ten days, until July 23, touring old family haunts, visiting relatives and friends, walking the hills of Perthshire, and absorbing every moment.
They were staying at Mrs. Duff’s on Atholl Street in Dunkeld. During their stay, James told the story that when he was a schoolboy he had been egged on to fight Duff – he refused until Duff called him a coward. Later Mrs. Duff, rather than scolding James, gave him “a piece of head cheese and oat bannock and asked him not to hurt her boy anymore.” Might this family have been related to the “young Duff” James had known?
First on their agenda was to find their roots in Dowally, Ballinluig, Logierait, and Kirrandrum in the valleys of the Tay and Tummel. No cars here – they travelled by Patrick’s Livery. (3)
James’s wife, Grace Robertson, had come from Dowally. James and his daughter Minnie were interested in locating family graves in the Dowally Churchyard. There they found many familiar names from family tales.
As they passed through Ballinluig, James pointed out spots where he remembered there was good angling on the Tummel, and where he had herded cattle as a child. Crossing the bridge to Logierait, they found the monument to Alexander Mackenzie, father of the Alexander Mackenzie who served as the second prime minister in Canada.
[Compare 1903 picture of the hotel to today as seen through Google Streetview 2016 A827 – Google Maps-Logierait]
At the Logierait Cemetery, Mrs. Smith guided them to the graves of Stewarts. They found the grave of John Stewart, Jean’s brother, who died in 1845. According to Mrs. Smith, he “died of a most peculiar unknown disease – doctors wanted his body – a safe [cage of iron bars] was put on and no mark put on the grave to prevent grave robbery. Mrs. Smith’s mother – Mrs. Robertson (her brother) buried a hapenny in a certain spot to find out if the grave was dug into – she later looked for the coin, could not find it.”
To the west of Ballinluig was Kirrandrum, the farm that Jean Stewart’s father James Stewart had managed, and where all the Fleming children, except Jennie, had spent their early years. They were able to identify the remains of the old stone house Alexander had built, and gaze at the spectacular view of the countryside.
Looking before you is one of the grandest sights of Scotland, the bright, broad rivers of the Tay and the Tummel join their two valleys and their rivers before you, to flow onward to old Dunkeld and Perth to Dundee by the sea. The majestic hills tower on the farther side are crowned by the 6th Duke of Atholl’s cross, on the sight of the old Royal castle, down at the foot of the slope rests the peaceful little village of Ballinluig. The Highland RR train puffs up the valley – loses itself in the great pass of Killiecrankie so hallowed to Scotchmen, for the death of their hero Bonnie Dundee. Miles of country lie before you, the green verdure, shaggy hills, some to be covered with the purple bloom of the heather, the bright, silent water, make a great living picture. [Roy’s Travel Journal]
They ended the day with a visit to the school in Tulliemet that Alexander Fleming had helped establish and James had attended as a boy.
On subsequent days they undertook extended touring in the Dunkeld area to:
• Murthly Castle from the 14th century and the Murthly Estate – and continuing as a tourist attraction.
• Loch of the Lowes to the east – now a wildlife reserve.
• Loch of Clunie, the village of Clunie, and the island with the partially crumbling Clunie Castle with roots to early Scotland.
• Blairgowrie, where they must have seen some Pictish stones, for this, is an ancient part of Scotland.
Dunkeld itself was an ancient centre for Caledonia. St Columba, who brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland in the sixth century, had come this way and, according to legend told to Roy, “took off his sandals, washed his feet, and applied the soft silvery sand at the shore [of the Tay ]to the soles of his feet, which were sore from walking”. There may still be relics of Saint Columba in the Dunkeld Cathedral. (5)
Roy, Jennie, and Jeanne Smith took a day (July 18) to go to Dundee and St. Andrews. At Dundee, they were most interested in the two-mile-long Tay Bridge where, in December 1879, a passenger train plunged into the waters when several spans collapsed – all souls perished – the memory of this horrific event was still fresh in 1903.
At St. Andrews their purpose was to walk the impressive ruins of the cathedral. Jennie was impressed enough to write at length:
The walls around the cathedral are like great fortifications, the cathedral itself being the largest in Scotland. We could not imagine what such would be built for. Thousands of graves and monuments and old stone slabs to mark the whereabouts of some departed one lie here. The two ends of the cathedral are in fairly good preservation, but the rest has fallen. [Jennie’s Diary]
On the next day, July 19, Roy, Jennie, James, Minnie travelled to the City of Perth to walk about and then take a train to Scone (pronounced Scoon) where they hoped to see the Scone Palace where Mary Queen of Scots had slept. Unfortunately, it was closed to the public. They boarded another train to Loch Leven and crossed that lake with the assistance of “two strong oarsmen” (Jennie recalled). They had to walk some distance to the collapsing ruins of the castle – another place where Mary had been held a prisoner.
Never idle, on Sunday, July 19th after supper, Roy and Andrew Smith climbed Craigie Barns – a height of 1,000 feet– for the most splendid view in all directions of Dunkeld, the winding Tay, and the Grampian Mountains. Roy was reminded of John Everett Millais’ (1829-1896) landscape paintings of Perthshire.(4)
The image below is not by Millais, but it is the view of Dunkeld and Birnam from Craigiebarns painted by Sutton Palmer, English painter (1854-1933)
July 20 they headed north from Dunkeld to Blair Atholl, where the Duke of Atholl’s estate is, and also the Old Blair Kirk with the Atholl Vault of eminent burials.
James, on this occasion, sang a verse of Robert Tannahill’s poem “The Braes o’ Balquhither”.
Will ye go, lassie go,
To the braes o’ Balquhidder?
Where the blaeberries grow,
‘Mangst the bonnie powerful heather;
Where the roe and the deer,
Lightly bounding together,
Sport the lang summer’s e’en
‘Mang the braes o’ Balquhidder.
Will you go, lassie, go?
As Jennie expressed in a letter home, “they” were “touring hard”.
… for instance, yesterday [July 20] got up at 7 am, walked a mile to the trains, then went to Blair Athol, walked 2 ½ or three miles to the grave of “Bonnie Dundee” at Blair Kirk (saw the Grave of the Dowager Duchess of Athol too). Examined many of the old tombstones then gathered the inclosed gowans of the Gow of Bonnie Dundee – then walk the 3 miles back to our train. Through unequalled scenery – then went back two or three stations to a junction and waited a while and took train in another direction to Grantly [Grandtully] Castle, on arriving there found we had to walk two or three miles so tried to get a rig and could sit, then Roy tried to rent a wheel, and go himself but could not, – then finally got a farmer to hitch his dog cart and take us there and back. Roy took a snapshot of the castle and then went and examined all around the Church, he and the guide then returned. Took train home when we arrived at 7:15, walked the 2 miles (?) from the station, eat our suppers and then Tom Smith took us through the Duke of Atholl’s fine grounds, a walk of two or three miles at least. This ended one day. [Jennie Fleming to Christina, Stuart, Ruth, Ann (nieces and nephew), 21 July 1903]
On their last day (July 22), Roy, James, Minnie, and Bella Smith drove about in a dog cart and were joined by John Fleming, colloquially called “the Yankee”, a cousin with whom the Fleming family had kept in touch since the 1840s. John was 67 years, just a bit younger than James, enormously proud of being seen with Roy, his young Canadian relative. Almost at the last moment, they fitted in a visit with the Grahams at Dowally, also relatives on the Fleming side.
Next day, as Jennie so very matter-of-factly recorded – “Bade good bye to Dunkeld and came to Stirling”. We know it had to be wrenching for them to leave the Highlands. James and Minnie accompanied Jennie and Roy to Edinburgh for some sightseeing and returned to Dunkeld and other travels in the UK for their next three weeks. Jennie and Roy continued by train to London and then the continent with the Polytechnic Touring Association, an organization that catered to the less affluent. As Jennie wrote with the Polytechnic, they would “travel with company and guide, we go by Paris and return by the Rhine”. They had three weeks to sightsee in France, Switzerland, and Italy.
All Flemings returned to Liverpool to board the Tunisian for Montreal on August 20, 1903. Thus ended a trip of a lifetime for all of them, and in every case, it was their last trip abroad. We are grateful that Jennie and Roy kept these journals to record their itinerary and daily observations and to diarize the awe they felt as they travelled through Scotland.
References: All links accessed 27 March 2018
- Letter Roy Fleming to C.A. Fleming, 14 October 1903, Fleming Family Papers
- Source 1901 Scottish Census – Parish: Dunkeld and Dowally; ED: 1; Page: 4; Line: 1; Roll: CSSCT1901_119. Database: Ancestry.ca
- David Patrick is listed as a livery stable keeper on Atholl St in the 1903 Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory of Scotland, Scottish Post Office Directories, p 1187
- John Everett Millais is not forgotten. See this article in the Telegram, “Millais and the canvases of Scotland’s heart” by Nick Trend, 28 September 2007 (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/scotland/738410/Millais-and-the-canvases-of-Scotlands-heart.html)
- History of Dunkeld and a good collection of photos may be viewed at Wikipedia
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkeld_and_Birnam )