A Village History – Killin

8 years ago Articles

Set in the heart of Breadalbane – the Uplands of Alban – and in the heart of Perthshire, our Village and District are considered by many to be the most beautiful in Scotland.

Although the Parish of Killin extends for over twenty miles from the watershed at the County March with Argyll in the West to Loch Tay in the east, and includes the villages of Tyndrum and Crianlarich, Killin itself is near the eastern end of the Parish and about a mile from the head of Loch Tay. Two rivers, the peaceful Lochay and the turbulent Dochart emerge from their respective Glens and meet to mingle their waters for a few hundred yards before emptying into Loch Tay. The village stretches across the peninsula so formed, being somewhat over a mile in length. It was almost inevitable that a village should spring up here, from the time when mankind drew together into communities, as here is the natural meeting place of many routes. From the south up Glenogle and across Larig-Ilidh; from the west down Glendochart and Glenlochay; and from the east along both sides of Loch Tay, while numerous hill-passes give access to the surrounding Glens. To the north it is sheltered by the distinctive Tarmachan Ridge and eastward looms the mighty mass of Ben Lawers, highest of all Perthshire’s Bens (3984 feet), in the other direction the way to the West is guarded by the twin peaks of Ben More and Stobinian. As the visitor approaches from the West he finds that the road winds beside the River Dochart which roars around its island and over its rocks. The Bridge which crosses the river is a very picturesque one consisting of five unequal arches and commanding one of the best known views in the country, which every year attracts thousands of tourists, and particularly photographers, from all parts of the world. The Main Street runs roughly East and West, and at one time most of the houses were built on either side of it, but in recent years the newer houses have spread out to the North and South. For a place of its size Killin is fortunate in possessing many well equipped shops and several comfortable hotels. The Main Street, being straight and fairly wide, does not present such a traffic problem as in many Highland villages. Round the old Square or “Stance”, where in earlier days the Markets were held beside the gently flowing river Lochay, stand two Churches – the Parish Church and the Episcopal Church, a very fine Village Hall and the principal Hotel. Nearby the present Livestock Mart now caters for the considerable sale of Cattle and Sheep from the surrounding districts. The road then winds pleasantly along beside the river Lochay crossing it by an old single-arch bridge to continue along Loch Tayside.

The Origin of the Name

There are conflicting opinions as to the origin of the name Killin. The old local tradition attributes it to the belief that Fingal, the father of Ossian, lies buried in a field behind the village, hence the name Cill Fhinn – chapel or place of Fingal. Another opinion is that the name means Cill – fhionn – white or fair Church; and yet another that it is Cill-linne, or Church by the Pool.

Early Inhabitants

Before there was a Church, or any history, another race inhabited our Glens – a race whose origins have been lost, and whose very existence is only proved by the numerous tools, weapons and ornaments of stone and bronze that have been dug up at various times. There are also examples of mysterious cup-markings on rocks and stones. Near Kinnell, the ancient seat of the Macnabs, there is a particularly well preserved Stone Circle. Who were they, these “silent, vanished races” whose only memorial is carven on the imperishable rocks? What was their way of life, and who or what their gods?

The Coming of Christianity

The Coming of Christianity to Breadalbane, towards the end of the 8th Century, is attributed to St. Fillan, who, like St. Columba came from Ireland. The late Dr. Gillies in his book “In Famed Breadalbane” says that “little is known of St. Fillan’s ministry in Breadalbane, but he has left behind a gracious, imperishable tradition”. It appears that, as well as his religion, he brought civilizing influences to try to improve the lot of our wild forbears; the picturesque Mill which stands on the north bank of the river Dochart above the Bridge bears his name, and stands on the site of a meal mill he founded. In an upper room of this Mill are preserved the “Healing Stones of St. Fillan”, these are eight in number and two at least appear to have been pivot stones on which the grinding machinery of the mill revolved. The other six are water-worn, and tradition has endowed each of them with the power of healing some part of the body. Down to the present day the stones are “bedded down” afresh each Christmas Eve by the proprietor of the mill on reeds and straw “not won by the hand of man”, but gathered from the river-bank. St. Fillan’s Feast Day, known locally as “Latha Feile Faolain” falls on the 3rd Tuesday of January, and on that day for a thousand years the machinery of the Mill was stilled in honour of the Saint. Until about 25 years ago St. Fillan’s Day was observed by the local farmers as the day on which all arrangements were made for the year’s functions, such as the ploughing-match, Cattle Show etc., and especially it was the day on which all debts were paid. In the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh are preserved other relics of St. Fillan, namely his Crozier and his Bell. There relics were for many years jealously guarded by hereditary Keepers, whose family name was Dewar, and the Dewar’s Croft can still be pointed out, which for hundreds of years descended from father to son by virtue of their office. The last member of the family to hold the Crozier emigrated to Canada taking the relic with him, but after a brief sojourn there it was recovered and placed in its present home.

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