Fowlis Wester

   FOWLIS WESTER, a parish, in the county of Perth; including the villages of Buchanty and Gilmerton, and containing 1609 inhabitants, of whom 187 are in the village of Fowlis Wester, 5 miles (E. N. E.) from Crieff. The origin of the name of this place, Fowlis, or Foulis, is differently accounted for. A local tradition states that one of the earls of Strathearn, wishing for a church in the vicinity of his castle here, stood on an eminence where he had a summer seat, and resolved to erect one where the sun first shone, which was on the spot it now occupies, by him denominated Fowgnolish, "under the light." Others derive the name, but erroneously, from the ancient family of Fowlis, who are said to have held property here; they came into Scotland, from France, in the reign of Malcolm Canmore, and branches of the family separated into different parts of the country, which still retain the appellation of Fowlis. The village was once a place of considerable importance, where the steward of Strathearn held his court; and about a mile east of the church, on a part of the estate of Fowlis, was formerly a castle, the seat of the ancient earls of Strathearn, but the site of which now forms a grassy mount. Here resided Mallus, or Malise, the first earl, in the reign of Alexander I.; and his grandson, Gilbert, in the year 1200, founded the monastery of Inchaffray, near the south border of the parish. The seventh earl, named also Malise, opposing Baliol, forfeited the title; and his countess, Joanna, daughter of Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, in 1320 was engaged in a plot against Robert I., for which, according to some accounts, she was condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Mary, sister of the last-mentioned earl, was married to Sir John Moray, of Drumsargard, to whom she conveyed the lands of Abercairney, in the parish; and her son. Sir Maurice Moray, is said to have been restored to the earldom, which, however, at length became extinct on his being taken prisoner, with David II. and many other noblemen, at the battle of Durham in 1346.
   The parish is six miles in extreme length and four in breadth, and contains 15,600 acres. It is situated on the north side of Strathearn, and is bounded on the north by Glen-Almond; on the south lies the parish of Madderty, on the east that of Methven, and on the west Menzie. The surface is marked by two mountain ranges, of which the northern is the highest, and forms a part of the Grampian mountains; the southern is three miles in breadth, and consists of large tracts of moss and heath, ornamented with some plantations, and interspersed with a few cottages and cultivated farms. In the south, where the surface is extremely irregular, are a number of braes, which diversify the valley lying in that direction, as well as the southern slopes of the last-named range of hills. The beautiful and meandering stream of the Almond bounds the parish for two miles; and the lands contiguous to it exhibit an assemblage of woods, hills, rocks, and cascades, with cottages, so strikingly grouped as to constitute some of the finest scenery in the county. The river Pow, rising in the mosses below Methven, runs on the south, and joins the Earn near Innerpeffray. In the west is the loch of Luag, situated in a narrow glen, from which may be seen the stupendous amphitheatre of hills around Comrie, with the famed Benvoirlich towering to the clouds.
   The soil has many varieties of gravel, sand, loam, and clay, resting chiefly on rock: though tolerably fertile, it is in many places thin and dry, and where the subsoil is clay the earth is wet and cold. On the banks of the Pow the soil is alluvial, from the inundations of the river. There are 9400 acres in tillage, 6200 in pasture, and 1000 under wood: all kinds of grain are raised, of average quality; the green crops consist of potatoes and turnips, and are produced to a large extent, with considerable quantities of hay. The cattle are the Fife, the Ayrshire, and the Teeswater; and very superior horses of the Clydesdale breed, the Garron, and the Cleveland bay, are reared in the parish. A highly-improved system of husbandry is followed, and great advances have been made in every branch of agriculture; but, though most of the arable land is inclosed with stone dykes and with hedges, much still remains to be done in this respect, and the more effectual embankment of the river Pow is required for protection in the rainy season. The rocks chiefly belong to the transition formation: the hills consist of mica-slate, with occasional beds of quartz and hornblende, and a coarse red conglomerate composed principally of hornblende porphyry, which sometimes has the appearance of common greywacke; the slate dips at the angle of 45° towards the north. In the lower part of the parish are several extensive beds of grey sandstone in thick strata, which, instead of being vertical, like the slate, are nearly horizontal: trap dykes also occur. The rateable annual value of the parish is £12,700.
   The chief mansion is the House of Abercairney, an elegant modern edifice in the form of an ancient cathedral: the House of Cultoquhey is also a substantial and commodious residence, built from a design by Smirke, in the style of the Elizabethan age. The village of Fowlis is very ancient, and still admits of great improvements, though some have recently taken place in the construction and slating of the houses. The lands of Lacock, adjoining Fowlis, form a burgh of barony, with the privilege of a weekly market and two annual fairs, none of which, however, have been lately held. St. Methvanmas' fair is held at Fowlis on the 6th of November, for the sale of black-cattle and for hiring servants; it was anciently the parish festival, instituted in honour of the saint to whom the church was dedicated. The weaving of cotton is carried on to some extent in the parish, the raw material being obtained from Glasgow: the manufacture of sieves, also, has employed several families for some generations, to supply the Perth and Fife markets, where the articles meet with a ready sale at good prices. There is a fishery on the Almond for salmon and whitetrout, which are taken at a cascade, below which a basket is suspended to receive the fish, that fall into it in attempting to overleap the cascade in their passage up the river. The turnpike-road from Perth to Crieff passes through the parish; and there are several other roads, all of which are kept in good order. The ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Auchterarder and synod of Perth and Stirling; patron, William Moray Stirling, Esq., of Abercairney. The stipend of the minister is £225, with a good manse and offices, and a glebe of seven acres, valued at £20 per annum. The church, a very ancient edifice, accommodates 800 persons with sittings. There is a parochial school, in which the usual branches of education are taught; the master has the maximum salary, with a house and garden, and about £25 in fees. In the village of Fowlis is an old Calvary cross, on one side of which is a representation of a wolf-chase; and in the parish are several Druidical temples, one of them supposed to have been the temple of an Arch-Druid, and consisting of a double concentric circle of forty stones in its outer precinct.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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