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November 4th 1806

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The aphrodisiac waters of Pitkeathly Wells

Pitkeathly Wells was already a popular spar when visited by the Rev. James Hall from London. James Hall later wrote a book, ‘Travels in Scotland by an Unusual Route.’ His unusual route was to travel around Scotland keeping to the coastline, or occasionally, as in this case, travelling along the banks of some of the larger rivers such as the Tay, thereby visiting Dundee and Perth. He allows himself a further slight deviation at times and so visits both Bridge of Earn and Abernethy.

“At Pitkeathly I found not many invalids but a great number that had come there merely for the sake of the beautiful scenery, and pleasing rides in the neighbourhood, and what seemed not the last object, festivity. Most of the visitors take up their quarters at neighbouring villages. It is well known that things are commonly done sub dio, in Scotland, for which greater conveniency, as well as privacy, is required in some other countries. The morning after my arrival, having drunk a pint of the waters, I strolled about before breakfast, reflecting upon the indelicacy of both men and women, almost everywhere, in sight of one another, running constantly behind bushes and hedges; but it was not long before I completely sympathised with them.

As I stayed here for several days I tried what effect the water would have on my horse; and from what I observed, perceived that it had the same effect on quadrupeds as on bipeds. I fell in here with a handsome and sensible young woman from Aberdeenshire, whose maiden name was Mitchel. She was very happily married to a medical gentleman in this neighbourhood. Her father who was a man of some property, was very religious. And had prayers in his family every evening and morning. Having four daughters, he firmly resolved, that as every person not only ought to pray, but not to be ashamed to pray, and as no one could be the worthy master of a family, so none should gain his consent to marry his daughters till he heard them pray, and approved their talents in this exercise. His daughters being all of them handsome, and tolerably well educated, had many of the young men as suitors; but as none of them would say prayers before him he dismissed them all.

After the young women, especially the eldest, had been long teased by this conduct of their father’s, and had used many arguments on their part to show that a young man might be a good man, and make a good enough husband, though he could not say long prayers in the family. At length a genteel, well bred young man fell in love with the eldest, and came frequently to the house to see her. Her father suspected the young man’s intentions but said nothing. At length the young man, having got the young woman’s consent, one evening after tea, while walking in the garden, told the father of his intention, who seemed not to disapprove of it. When they went in, it being summer, and near the hour of supper, the young woman’s father, as usual, ordered the Bible and Psalm books to be brought. This being done, he asked the young man to read and sing a portion of the Psalms, which the young man declined doing, on the ground that he could not sing. Having read a chapter from the Bible, he then desired the young man to say prayers, which he also declined, upon the grounds that he was not much in the practice of saying prayers in public. Prayers being over, they went out to walk while the cloth was laying for supper. “Hark ye, young man,”  said the father “I have no objections to your age, your appearance, nor to your fortune, but I desire you never to enter my house as a suitor for my daughter’s affections, till you have not only learned to pray to your God, but also not to be ashamed to do it in public” 

The young man took this address of the father so much amiss, that he went and said to the young woman, “Farewell” , and never entered the house again.

The young woman, who was angry, remonstrated with the father on his having so often disappointed her, and had this reply: “Trust in God, he will send you a husband that can pray.”  Nobody asked her in marriage for some time, and she was, as they vulgarly say, at her last prayers. However, a physician recommended it to her youngest sister, for some complaint, to go to Pitkeathely Wells, and her eldest sister went to accompany her. During the six weeks they stayed at Pitkeathely, where there are often public dances and meetings of various kinds, a young man of property and amiable manners saw her, fell in love with her, and carried her home in his carriage with her sister, near a hundred miles , to her father’s, to obtain his consent. This young lover did not need to be asked to pray, but proposed to perform this duty; which, having done to the father’s satisfaction, he consented to the marriage, and they have children and are happy, as already mentioned.” 

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