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Kirriemuir

(The Wee Red Toon)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Kirriemuir, a town and a parish of W Forfarshire. The town stands, 455 feet above sea-level, on the left bank of winding Gairie Burn, which separates it from the suburb of Southmuir; as terminus of a branch of the Caledonian, with a commodious station, rebuilt in 1872, it is 3 miles NW of Kirriemuir Junction and 5 WNW of Forfar. Situated on the NW side of Strathmore, partly on level ground, and partly on the skirt of a hill, it commands from its higher portion a brilliant view of a great extent of Strathmore, and chiefly consists of streets arranged in a manner similar to the arms and shaft of an anchor. Not a few of its houses still are mean enough, but great improvements which have been carried out of recent years give pleasing indications of the presence both of taste and of successful industry. Kirriemuir has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and the National, Union, and British Linen Co.'s Banks, 14 insurance agencies, 8 principal inns, 2 Good Templar lodges, a beautiful public -cemetery, a public park, a gas-light company, a horticultural society, and cricket, bowling, curling, and foot-ball clubs. The parish church is a handsome edifice of 1786, with a neat spire and 900 sittings. South quoad sacra parish church, built as a chapel of ease in 1836 at a cost of £1340, acquired its parochial status in 1870, and contains 1021 sittings. Other places of worship are the North and South Free churches, two U.P. churches-one built in 1853, and containing 500 sittings, the other fitted up from a trades' hall of 1815 in 1833, and containing 604; a United Original Secession church (1807; 400 sittings), and St Mary's Episcopal church (1795; 300 sittings). Webster's Seminary, and a public, an industrial, and an Episcopal school, with respective accommodation for 310, 400, 190, and 180 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 174, 400, 120, and 141, and grants of £144, 11s., £345, 6s. 6d., £89, 6s., and £97, 0s. 7d. The first of these was founded in 1835 with the bequest (1829) of John Webster, Esq.; the second was built in 1875 at a cost of £2700. A weekly corn and provision market is held on Friday; four cattle fairs have been extinct for several years; a horse fair is held on the second Friday of March; a cattle and horse fair on the Wednesday after Glamis May fair, on 24 July or the Wednesday after, on the Wednesday after 18 Oct., and on the Wednesday after Glamis November fair; and a hiring fair is held on the Term Day if a Friday, otherwise on the Friday after. Some business is done in the supply of handicraft produce, and in the retail supply of miscellaneous goods to the surrounding country; the weaving of brown linen is the staple branch of industry; and, amid the great and many changes elsewhere in the linen manufacture, it here had long the singular character of always having been carried on by means solely of the hand-loom. Recently, however, two large power-loom factories have been erected. The weavers, in some years, particularly in 1826 and 1841, suffered severely from a great fall of wages; and often have had to struggle with poverty and privation; but they have manfully breasted every difficulty, and are admitted throughout the county to be expert and skilful operatives. Among them have been men of marked intelligence. One, David Sands, who flourished in 1760, invented a method of weaving double cloth for the use of stay-makers, and wove and finished in the loom three seamless shirts. The manufacture began to assume importance about the middle of the last century, and so early as 1792 produced osnaburgs and coarse linens to the yearly value of £30,000. It turned out annually, before the close of the century, 1, 800,000 yards of stamped linen; and year by year the produce has increased till now it reaches between 10, 000,000 and 15, 000,000 yards, whilst giving employment in the town and neighbourhood to over 2000 weavers. The feud of the weavers of Kirriemuir and the sutors of Forfar has been already noticed under the latter town.

Kirriemuir is a burgh of barony, under the Earl of Home; but, as a burgh, it has neither property, revenue, nor debt. A baron bailie, appointed by the superior, up to the year 1875 was the only magistrate, and presided as judge in a police and barony court. In 1875 the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act was adopted, and the affairs of the town have since been managed by the commissioners appointed under it. The magistrates of police now preside in the police court; but the baron bailie still presides in the barony court held in connection with certain of the fairs. A sheriff small debt court sits on the third Monday of January, March, May, July, September, and November; and the district justices of peace hold courts as occasion requires. Burgh valuation (1883) £8635, 1s. 6d. Pop. of entire town (1831) 4014, (1861) 4686, (1871) 4145, (1881) 4390, of whom 2493 were females, whilst 2937 were in Kirriemuir proper or the police burgh and 1453 in the Southmuir suburb.

The parish consists of two mutually detached sections, lying 1¾ mile asunder at the narrowest, and separated one from another by a strip of Kingoldrum-the main or Strathmore division containing the town, and the north-western or Grampian division. The latter, bounded N, NE, and E by Cortachy, S by Kingoldrum, SW by Lintrathen, and NW by Glenisla, has an utmost length from NW to SE of 11 miles, with an utmost width of 4¼ miles; whilst the main body is bounded N by Cortachy, NE by Tannadice, E by Oathlaw, SE by Forfar and Glamis, S by Glamis, SW by Airlie, and W and NW by Kingoldrum, having an almost equal extreme length and breadth from N to S and from E to W of 5¾ and 57/8 miles. The area of the whole is 35, 6581/8 acres, of which 20,6306/7 belong to the north-western division, and 562/3 are water. Prosen Water, rising in the north-western extremity of the Grampian section on the western slope of Mayar at an altitude of 2750 feet, runs 123/8 miles through the interior, and then 3 furlongs along the Kingoldrum border; during this course it receives the tribute of sixteen burns. Where it quits this section, the surface declines to 690 feet above sea-level, thence rising north-westward to 2196 feet at Cat Law, 1998 at Corwharn, 2302 at Broom Hill, 3105 at Driesh, and 3043 at Mayar, of which the three first culminate on the south-western, and the two last on the northern, boundary. After flowing 2¾ miles south-south-eastward along the mutual border of Cortachy and Kingoldrum, Prosen Water winds 27/8 miles east-by-southward along all the Cortachy boundary of the main division of Kirriemuir, till it falls into the South Esk, which itself runs 2 miles east-south-eastward along all the Tannadice border, and which from the interior is joined by Carity Burn, first tracing 1¼ mile of the north-western boundary, and next flowing 5¼ miles eastward across the northern interior. The southern is drained by Gairie Burn, winding 65/8 miles south-south-eastward, till it passes off into Glamis on its way to Dean Water, and itself fed by Dairsie Burn, which traces 3 miles of the south-western and southern boundary. In the ex'treme S the surface sinks to 190, along the South Esk in the NE to 295, feet above sea-level; and between these points it rises to 631 feet at the Hill of Kirriemuir, 513 at Cloisterbank, and 1018 at Culhawk Hill. The principal rocks of the Grampian section are mica slate, hornblende slate, and gneiss; those of the Strathmore section are mainly Devonian, with occasional protrusions of trap. Limestone has been quarried and calcined. The soil of the arable tracts of the Grampian section is partly thin and light, partly mossy, and generally wet; that in considerable belts on both the northern and southern borders of the Strathmore section is sandy; and that of the central and larger portions of the same section is mostly a black mould on a subsoil of so-called 'morter.' Of the north-western division, at least five-sixths are waste, and one-thirty-sixth is under wood; of the main body one-eighth is under plantations in fine arrangements of clumps and groves, eleven-sixteenths are regularly or occasionally in tillage, and nearly all the rest of the area is chiefly pasture and partly moss, the Mosses of Kinnordy and Balloch being constantly used for supplies of peat. Extant antiquities are tumuli and uninscribed monumental stones; querns, arrowheads, battle-axes, and two canoes or currachs have been discovered from time to time; and not so long ago two ponderous rocking-stones stood a little NW of the hill that overlooks the town. Inverquharity Castle is noticed by itself. Within this parish several skirmishes were fought arising out of the Ogihies' feuds; and the Battle of Arbroath (1446) must have been a grievous blow to Kirriemuir. Mansions, noticed separately, are Kinnordy, Shielhill, Logie, and Balnaboth; and 7 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 14 of between £100 and £500, 17 of from £50 to £100, and 98 of from £20 to £50. The north-western division has formed, since 1874, the quoad sacra parish of Glenprosen; the south-eastern division, also in the presbytery of Forfar and synod of Angus and Mearns, is divided ecclesiastically between Kirriemuir proper and Kirriemuir South Church, the former a living worth £346. Five pre-Reformation chapels, besides the parish church, were in Kirriemuir- one in the town, near a plot of ground called in old writs the Kirkyard; one in Glenprosen, which continued to be used till the erection of the modern mission church there; one at a place called Chapeltown, 3¼ miles N by W of the town; one at Kilnhill, 2 miles E by N of the town; and one near Ballinshae, 3 miles ESE, the site of which, still enclosed with a wall, was used as a family burying-place. Four public schools- Carroch, Glenprosen, Padanaram, and Roundyhill- with respective accommodation for 50, 50, 60, and 80 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 50, 50, 61, and 68, and grants of £33, 14s. 6d., £35, 6s., £41, 12s., and £50, 16s. Valuation (1857) £21,850, (1883) £31, 910, 8s. 7d., plus £1762 for railway. Pop. (1801) 4421, (1831) 6425, (1861) 7359, (1871) 6420, (1881) 6616, of whom 3740 were in Kirriemuir proper, 2701 in Kirriemuir South Parish, and 1v75 in Glenprosen.—Ord. Sur., shs. 56, 57, 65, 1868-70.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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