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March 4th 1627

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The dour denizens of the Carse of Gowrie

The Carse of Gowrie, before modern methods of land drainage transformed the area, tended to be swampy, particularly in wet weather. Though the heavy clay was potentially very fertile, most of the cultivation took place on the uplands, where the lighter soil and the natural drainage produced acceptable crops.

William Lithgow, the traveller, writing in 1627 was enthusiastic about the Carse calling it “the garden of Angus, (it is actually in Perthshire) yea the diamond-plot of Tay.”  He was less complementary about the residents. “The inhabitants being only defective in affableness and communicating courtesies of natural things, whence sprung this proverb ‘The kerls (churls) of the Carse.” 

Writing a century and a half later the Minister of Kilspindie, who was somewhat cantankerous himself, complained that the common people were “dull, obstinate, rude and unmannerly.” 

There is a story that possibly illustrates the peculiar characteristics of the people. One of the lairds in the area, more than usually exasperated by the slowness and stupidity of his workpeople, berated them with these words. “I think I could make a more sensible race of servants out of the clay of my own fields.” 

His servants accepted the rebuke without comment, but some nights later as the laird was riding home his horse stumbled and threw him into a clay-hole which was so deep that it was impossible to get out without help. He shouted and shouted for help until at last an old ploughman passed by on his way home. The moonlight enabled him to recognise the familiar face at the bottom of the pit. He smiled happily. “Oh its you laird. I see you’re making your men. A weel I’ll no disturb you,”  and he continued his way homeward.

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