The Scotsman

The Perthshire vil­lage that just slipped away

Law­ers was home to a thriv­ing com­mu­nity – in­clud­ing a sooth­sayer – but could not hold out against the mod­ern world, says Alison Campsie

- Alison.campsie@jpi­me­ Amazon · Fortingall · Breadalbane · Wyllie

The well-tended grave­yard is re­ally the only sign of life that re­mains at the vil­lage of Law­ers in Perthshire, a place where peo­ple lived for more than 1,000 years but which grad­u­ally slipped away un­der the pres­sures of chang­ing times.

The last per­son left Law­ers in the 1926 with the re­mains of old homes, a church and a mill still found down by the edge of Loch Tay. Here, you’ll also see the last ves­tiges of the vil­lage pier which once brought parish­ioners and cat­tle from sur­round­ing set­tle­ments and later tried to tempt a fresh fu­ture for the vil­lage by wel­com­ing the new breed of Vic­to­rian trav­eller who jol­lied on steamships across the wa­ter.

By then, how­ever, it was too late for Law­ers with day trip­pers sim­ply walk­ing past the empty homes of those who had al­ready left as they made their way to Ben Law­ers or for re­fresh­ments at a nearby ho­tel.

There was noth­ing to see here - apart from the shad­ows of a way of life once lived.

The story of its demise has been re­searched by au­thor Mark Bridge­man in his new book, the Lost Vil­lage of Law­ers, which looks at the peo­ple who made this once-thriv­ing com­mu­nity, as well as its fa­mous res­i­dent, the Lady of Law­ers, a sooth­sayer who ar­rived in the 17th cen­tury and who is cred­ited with pre­dict­ing many events, in­clud­ing the High­land Clear­ances, the ar­rival of steamships on the loch and the on­set of rail travel - or ‘fire coaches’ through the Dru­mochter Pass. To­day, she is said to haunt the vil­lage that con­tin­ues to de­cay away.

Mr Bridge­man said Law­ers was once a ‘flour­ish­ing and im­por­tant com­mu­nity’ whose in­flu­ence was felt be­yond the peo­ple who called it home.

He said: “This small vil­lage of­fered work, shel­ter and ed­u­ca­tion to the once larger Lochtay­side pop­u­la­tion.”

Vil­lagers eked out their ex­is­tence on the poor up­land soils of Lochtay­side with the Min­is­ter of Fortin­gall not­ing how they sur­vived on so very lit­tle.

“They bled their cows sev­eral times in the year, boiled the blood, eat a lit­tle bit of it like bread, and a most last­ing meal it was,” the min­is­ter wrote in Kirk records.

Mr Bridge­men said the Earls of Breadal­bane at­tempted to re­lieve the pres­sure on the over-farmed land by build­ing roads and bridges to open up the coun­try­side and im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Flax pro­cess­ing was estab­lished with a vil­lager set­ting up a mill and lime kiln in 1752.

The pop­u­la­tion grew steadily be­tween 1755 and 1800 with smallpox in­oc­u­la­tion re­duc­ing the death rate and the pop­u­lar­ity of a diet rich in pota­toes im­prov­ing sur­vival rates

The re­moval of ten­anted small­hold­ings by the Breadal­bane Es­tates to make way for larger farm­steads led vil­lagers to mi­grate for work with de­pop­u­la­tion ac­cel­er­at­ing with the Clear­ances un­der the 2nd Mar­quis of Breadal­bane from 1834.

Mr Bridge­man said: “No sooner were the ten­ants turned out of their homes than the thatch was set on fire to pre­vent them from re­turn­ing. One vil­lager, who had as­sisted James Wyl­lie, the fac­tor, with the evic­tions, was him­self evicted.”

By 1841, just 17 peo­ple were crammed into just a few houses, with rents tripling over 50 years. Fer­ries stopped run­ning, as there were no pas­sen­gers to pick up, and the roof fell in on the church, al­though ser­vices were still held there. By 1891, the pop­u­la­tion was down to seven. The door was closed for the fi­nal time at the Pier Master’s House, the last in­hab­ited property, in 1936.

Mr Bridge­man said: “Now the en­croach­ing trees and un­der­growth are grad­u­ally cloak­ing what re­mains of a com­mu­nity that had ex­isted for al­most 1,000 years.

To­gether with the rav­ages of the High­land weather, there may soon be lit­tle left to re­mind us of a once unique way of life.”

The Lost Vil­lage of Law­ers by Mark Bridge­man is avail­able now on Ama­zon.

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 ??  ?? 0 Law­ers lost its last res­i­dent in 1936, around a decade after the last steamship called, with the vil­lage en­dur­ing a slow de­cay since then
0 Law­ers lost its last res­i­dent in 1936, around a decade after the last steamship called, with the vil­lage en­dur­ing a slow de­cay since then

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