July 29th 1732
The coal mines of Perth Town Muir
Tramcar at Cherrybank, picture Donald Paton
In 1713, the Town Council conceived the imaginative idea of planting it up with trees - birch, elm, planes, and firs among others. The area became much frequented, particularly during the summer months and provided “delightful walks for the citizens” .
On the far west of the Muir there was a large plantation of Scots firs from which people were entitled to remove a cart-load of trees for five shillings. They first obtained a line from the Town Clerk which was presented to the wood-keeper. He not only acted as custodian for the woods but also operated an ale-house, and was more than fond of a glass himself. “It was usual, when one went with a line to have three carts instead of one in readiness, and while the purchaser was dozing the forrester, and paying him the usual fee, the men got the carts loaded and driven away.” About the year 1800, the woods accidentally caught fire and were destroyed. The land was later feud off as holdings.
There had always been a belief that there were coal deposits below the Muir. In 1688 the Town Council ordered “their Treasurer, Patrick Robertson, to write and desire Mr Mylne, the King’s master- mason to send upon the town’s expenses, two men he had recommended to them for finding out coal in the Common Muir.”
This was done and two weeks later there was another entry ordering “the Treasurer to bestow upon Alexander Steel 1,000 merks to defray expenses in finding out coal in the Town’s Muir.” It was not money well spent and no coal was discovered.
The belief that coal was present continued to linger on and in 1732 the Council entered into a curious contract with Stephen Thomas, an Englishman. He proposed “to find out coal in the Town’s Muir, called the Burrow Muir, and that if the Town Council will give him a tack of said ground for that purpose, and of the coal when found, for the space of twenty years, without paying any rent and with the privilege of selling his coals and carrying them into the town. He agrees to become bound to leave a sufficient gorge of workable coal to the town at the expiration of the said 20 years. The Council recommend to the Magistrates to enter into contract with Mr Thomas on the above terms, with the provision that if he finds not workable coal within the space of seven years the tack shall be void.”
Once again the attempt was completely unsuccessful. There were allegations at the time that the men had been bribed by the Fife colliers, but the unpalatable fact was that there were no coal deposits beneath the Muir.