Visit to Cragganfearn

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Cragganfearn looking east – rock foundations, wall, and sheep in the background (Photo: G Harris)

Where there had once been a village of four families at “Upper Cragganfearn”, only the crumbling walls of a steading and the foundations to a few cottages and farm buildings remain.

Sheep graze in the fields of this quiet place. It was windy on the sunny June afternoon when Eddie Thomson of Heartland Tours led me to the site. Along the small stream, he pointed out the remnant of what might have been a sawmill. Past the gate, we could see a stone building that still stood high on the hill. We made our way uphill on a path and across the fields, nodding to the nearby sheep, to come to marvellous panoramic views of the hills.

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Steading (farm building) – joint residence and barn. (Photo: G. Harris)

The standing building had two parts to accommodate people and their animals. The part with windows would have been the residence, and the adjoining part (not walled off from the residence) for a cow and maybe sheep.

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View north and west of the hills from Cragganfearn. (Photo: G Harris)

Cragganfearn, although it has probably been unoccupied since the early 1900s,  is still marked on Scottish Ordnance Survey maps. It is about three kilometres east of the town of Ballinluig, in the hills (or braes) of Tulliemet on the western slope of Creagan Ruathair. It rises steeply from 250 meters to 290 and higher.

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Scotland Ordnance Survey One- Inch 1885-1903 Hills for Logierait. Obtained from https://maps.nls.uk/

Archaeology Scotland (1) describes the ruins as an “enclosure” —

NO 0018 5357 On a rocky knoll, an oval enclosure, 40 x 25m, over 3–5m rubble wall is divided into four parts on different levels, one containing a circular enclosure. Stone clearance piled site margins.

Roy Fleming visited Cragganfearn in 1900 and 1903. As told in the posting – Laird of Cragganfearn – Roy had come to believe incorrectly that Flemings had owned the land at one time and that this was their ancestral home.

Flemings, who may have been related to Roy’s family line, did live and work here in the late 1700s and 1800s when the Douglas family held the land under a feu agreement.  John Fleming, an uncle to John the Yankee who was Roy’s main informant, became the tenant farmer for Sir Robert  Dick when Dick added the 260-acre farm to his Tulliemet Estate in 1809.  It reverted to the Duke of Atholl in 1889.

Roy visited  John Fleming at this farm in 1903. By this time John and his sister Isabella were the last residents, perhaps living in the farm building that still stands and tending to a vegetable garden.

The writer visited Cragganfearn in 1903 in company with our cousin John Fleming, “The Yankee” who was born there and lived there at that time with his invalid sister Isabella. After passing Tullymet House the road to the place was not a public way as we had to open a couple or gates along the way. There were the remains of four or five dwellings where the Flemings and their helpers once lived, now empty and deserted. The house that John and his sister lived in was small but comfortable. On this occasion John presented me with a picture of his brother James the famous Scottish athlete, in Highland costume, with his many medals won, also a reader which had been used at Tullymet School. [ Source: Roy Fleming, family papers. ]

When Isabella died in 1924 at age 76, it was noted in her obituary that she had been born at Cragganfearn. (2)

Most of her days were spent on the Braes of Tulliemet. In Cragganfearn, the village of her birth, there were in all four families comprising the village of her birth, there were 32 inhabitants where not a single inhabitant now resides. Deceased was the last surviving sister of the late James Fleming, one of Scotland’s most famous athletes.

The living conditions were surely harsh – the long walk from the main road and up the steep slope, the strong winter winds,  the stone cottage without amenities – but John and Isabella had the view and the beauty of the land.

More information about the Cragganfearn site is available from Canmore, National Record of the Historic Environment, which has a  few images and a rough sketch of the layout of Cragganfearn. For more maps, see National Library of Scotland, map images – and search for Logierait.

References:

1. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, New Series Volume 6, 2005 The Journal of the Council of Scottish Archaelogy edited by Robin Turner

2. “Tulliemet’s deserted braies—death of last sister of famous Scottish athlete,” Perth newspaper, January 1924  quoted by Roy F. Fleming ,“Scotland Pieces”. Similar obituary in “Death well known Atholl woman,” Dundee Evening Telegraph, 16 January 1924; digital image, British Newspaper Archive, (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 17 April 2018)

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