By James Irvine RobertsonT
he rivers once played a large part in the life of the locality. Early road builders failed to include bridge building in their sphere of responsibility and rope-hauled barges ferried horses, cattle, and carts whilst passengers crossed in dozens of little rowing boats. Accidents and drownings were frequent in conditions such as when an observer noted the Tummel rise seventeen feet in an afternoon. The finest ferries were across the Tay and Tummel at Logierait. There two boats were bolted together to create the platform for carriages. Tethered to a rope and pointed upstream, the current wafted them across the river. A small change of angle and back they went. A dozen or so dams now keep the Tay river system under control in all but the greatest inundation and generate 14% of Scotland's electricity.
Adjacent to the inn at Logierait was the site of the Regality Court house. Demolished in the last century this was the largest hall in Atholl where, as part of their feudal duties, the duke's lairds would gather to act as juries at trials. The prison once held Rob Roy, who escaped, and some 120 prisoners captured after the Battle of Prestonpans by the Jacobites in 1745.
The place name means 'little hollow' by the rait or castle. The rait just north of the village held an Iron Age fort; later it was the site of a hunting lodge for fourteenth century Stewart kings. Later still this became the execution mound for the Regality. One cattle thief about to meet his Maker was approached by an old woman who had lost her cow. Since he was so high on the mound, would he mind having a look around for it? His response has not been recorded. A sheep stealer was the last man hanged here with his collie dog, his aider and abettor, strung up beside him. Another's execution was being supervised by the laird of Clochfoldich. The rope broke twice, so the laird ordered one plaited from withies which did the trick. He was comprehensively cursed by the victim's mother who predicted the time would come when there would be no heir for his property. She was guilty of overkill since none of the lush estates up the Tay from here are held by the old families of the time who were vassals to the duke of Atholl. Now the execution mounds sports a tall Celtic Cross, elaborately carved, which was was erected in 1866 in memory of George, 6th duke of Atholl.
The great statesman of eighteenth century Scotland, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, was once dining with the duke of Atholl when his chamberlain, Thomas Bisset, entered to confirm that it was still his Grace's pleasure to hang a cattle thief. The duke decided not. Forbes remonstrated, saying that reprieving a condemned man was the prerogative of the king. The duke replied that since he was the one who sentenced the man, he saw no reason why he should not let him off. The duke was hereditary Sheriff of Perthshire as well as being Lord of the Regality. These powers were removed in 1747 when the government broke the power of the chiefs. His Grace was compensated to the tune of £2823-18s
The churchyard has intricately carved, double-sided gravestones which enjoyed a vogue in the first half of the eighteenth century. From these it is often possible to deduce the occupation of the deceased. A farmer will have a plough or a spade, a tailor a pair of scissors, a mason a hammer.
In 1828 William Burke was tried in Edinburgh for murder and selling the bodies of his victims for dissection. A full-blown scare throughout the nation led to sentinels being stationed by fresh graves and a rash of mortsafes were erected to give more permanent protection to the dead. Several examples can be seen here.