Community life 1790 - 1909

Daily Life in 1790

Hundreds of years ago the six or so miles between Tealing and Dundee or Forfar must have seemed like distance enough to place the city and the toon "far, far away". In such times, the village of Tealing, like many other places, was much more self-sufficient, producing crops and milk for consumption, as well as for sale. Life then centred around the land, the church and each other, making tight knit communities where" abody kent abody else". Large families with more than 10 children were not uncommon and kith and kin often remained in the one area for generations. Life was at times hard and uncompromising, but there was a very strong sense of community.

Writing in 1790, the Rev. John Gellatly reported for the Statistical Account that the population of Tealing had risen from 735 to 802 (made up of 158 families). He attributed the increase to the erection of some new farms and said "several young people move southward to learn the handicraft trades. The annual average of births is 23, marriages 6, of burials 18. A woman about twenty years ago died here at the age of 102. The number of considerable farmers is 13. Besides these there may be 15 or 16 who possess from 10 to 30 acres each, and 1 or 2 horses. The other great class of inhabitants is weavers, of which there are about 90 employed in the manufacture of coarse linens, which find a ready market at Dundee. The flax is mostly foreign and brought from the town just mentioned, but the far greater part of the yarn is spun in the parish".

Farming life was well covered in this account. He added "the number of horses is about 200. Black cattle being used in labour now, there are about 30 kept for that purpose, cows about 300. With regard to sheep it is remarkable that about 25 years ago there were 12 small flocks in the parish, but now there is not a single animal of the kind, save a few kept by a gentleman for the use of his own family. They were found destructive to the sown grass and liable to perish for want of proper shelter. Young black cattle have been, with great advantage, put in their place. The number of acres is about 3000. The parish does more than supply itself with the articles of oatmeal, barley, beef, ale, whisky and potatoes. Itexports to Dundee and other places.

The people always sow as soon as the season and the condition of the land permit. It must however be owned that they reap later than some of their neighbours. Harvest commonly begins about the 10th September. There are about 280 acres in wood, arable enclosed 550.The land rent is about £1400". On the issue of labour he added" as a child in this part of the country commonly finds employment at 8 or nine years of age, a labourer has seldom, entirely at least, upon his hands more than 3 children at once, that number he brings up without assistance. If they are all well, his wife, besides taking care of her family, may earn a shilling a week by spinning, nay, provided they have a cow, which is generally the case, they may earn another two shillings in the same space by the sale of butter for three months in the year. The wages of a good plough man, in general, are from £8 to £9 sterling annually, those of a maid servant, including her bounties as they are called, £3."

He described the people of Tealing as being "in general, of middle size. The condition of the people for the most part, is rather more than tolerable, and they are apparently contented with it. It might be better in some measure by making their cottages more comfortable and convenient, by raising better fences round their gardens and introducing the culture of a few more nourishing vegetables. The people have much improved in dress and manners. Among the men, instead of the bonnet and coarse home made woollens, the hat, English cloth and cotton stuffs are much worn, and almost every ploughman has his silver watch. The women still retain the plaid, but among the better sort it is now sometimes of silk or lined with silk, and numbers of them, on occasions, dress in ribbons, printed cottons, white stockings and lasted shoes.

The labouring servants, formerly ignorant and lazy, are now skilful and laborious. The farmers live in much more sociable manner and entertain with great hospitality. Their houses, formerly covered with thatch are now generally slated and contain 2 floors. As Mr Scrymsoure of Tealing resides on the spot, his improvements have been extensive. He has within these thirty years, planted 260 acres of moor-ground with trees of different kinds; among which are a thousand larches; enclosed and properly sub-divided upwards of 300 acres of arable with good stone fences, and near 100 acre of pasture and meadow ground, erected 3 considerable new farms and let a number of convenient possessions to the manufacturers at very reasonable rents upon the whole. He keeps a considerable farm in his own hand, and excites his tenants to the practice of good husbandry by his own example."

This remarkable account of Tealing in 1790 portrays an industrious place where families could find plenty of work and live reasonably well. However, writing a postscript in 1792, the Rev. Gellatly reported that there had been a sudden increase in deaths in the parish, which he attributed to "epidemical sore throat". He was deeply troubled by it and took the view that many of the deaths could have been avoided if only proper medical assistance had been available. Writing to Sir John Sinclair MP on the matter, he suggested that groups of parishes should each have established" a regular bred surgeon and a man midwife."

Daily Life in 1836

Just less than fifty years later in 1836, the Rev David B Mellis's account of the parish was less detailed than the earlier one, but was nevertheless informative. He reported that the population had fluctuated;

1811 779
1821 725
1831 766

and he put the decrease from 1790 down to the enlarging of farms and the tendency for manufacturing jobs in the cities to attract villagers. The annual average of births was 17, marriages 5, of burials 8 -down on all counts. 3670 acres of land were either cultivated or occasionally in tillage and the average rent of arable land per acre was £1 and 15 shillings. Grazing a cow or ox cost £3 for the year. A common country labourer earned 10 shillings a week in the summer and 9 shillings weekly in the winter. He added " there are about thirteen thrashing machines in the parish, driven by water. As to cropping, the prevailing mode is to subject anyone field to the following rotation: green crop, barley with grass, hay crop, pasture, and afterwards oats. The distance from Dundee being only five or six miles, a ready and eligible market is obtained for all kinds of agricultural produce and, on the other hand, the transportation of manure from the town to the country is carried on to great extent. The general duration of leases is nineteen years. There are some quarries in the parish, from which a good deal of pavement is extracted and conveyed to Dundee". The value of sales from the quarries in 1836 was £200 per annum.

The total value of produce and manufacture had increased to £17,565 per annum, but whisky and coarse linen had disappeared from the list of produce reported in 1790. Intriguingly, Rev. Mellis stated" there are in the parish one inn and two ale-houses, but they do not appear to have produced, to any considerable extent, a deteriorating effect on the morals of the people".

During the 16th and 17th centuries several prominent families had obtained interests in portions of the Barony of Tealing -including the Ogilvys, the Lords Boyd, the Campbells of Lundie, Kinnaird of Clochindarge, the Grahams of Claverhouse (later called Lord Douglas) and the Earl of Strathmore. But from the early 1400s until the early 1700s the Maxwells of Tealing dominated. However, in 1836, the Rev Mellis reported that "the family of Mr Scrymseour (later to be known as the Fothringham Scrymseours) is the only one of influence or importance resident in the parish".

Turn of the Century

Throughout the 19th century, change was taking place in the church and in the schools apace. When the Rev. B Mellis and the majority of his congregation "came out" to form the Tealing Free Church in 1843, local people must have experienced great upheaval. Children would have been moved from parish and farm schools to the Free Church School. There may have been tension between those who moved on and those few who remained in the congregation of Tealing Parish Church. At the very least, such momentous events would have been the source of much discussion, debate and concentration. In 1872, compulsory education was introduced for all children aged between 5 and 13 years, changing the shape of the workforce and limiting the availability of children to work on the land. Farmers were concerned that production would be affected and lobbied on the timing of the school holidays to ensure the availability of child labour for harvesting.

Mrs Eisler, a former teacher at Tealing Primary School, provided the following poem. Written by H Lamont, it tells of the grand day had by all at the Tealing Bazaar in 1909 and provides a revealing and entertaining snapshot of community life at the time.


Hae ye heard O' the doings we're haeing at Tealin'?

Maun it beats a, does the way we're a feeling
The pressure O' folk wha've come frae near & afar
Tae buy a' the goods frae the Tealin' Bazaar.

The schule, superintended by dominie Dunn,
For the nonce was gie'd o'er tae a kinds o'fun;
Frae the moment 'twis opened by Mrs Hay Morray,
Folk frae Nor', South, East, West earn' a' in a hurry.

The stalls gaily deck'd by one Mr Martin
Were fu at the time the proceedings were startin'
But, losh, by the time the day was weel o'er,
O' articles left there scarce was a score

What was sold, to recount would tak' mony weeks,
For great and for sma' o'baith sexes, were breeks,
While semmits for fat and for lean hung the wa',
Wi" socks O' a fits for great and for sma'.

Of cheer for the stammak there was a gran' stock
O' Gibson's Iam'd candy and sweeties an rock,
There was tea and besides other known tee-tee-drinks,
But a few had a dram in their pouches methinks,

Ma certes the air wi the music was fu',
An a saxpence to heart I for ane didna' rue',
The pianny was hammer'd by Florrie and Mabel
We' a phonograph rival on David Fife's table.

There were songs new and auld at the beck o'Miss Slidders
But Jane Anne's "Auld Hoose" knock'd them a; into smidders
There's ane Mrs Miller wha'd walk'd five lang miles,
Tae quash the precentor who came up with a smile,

While the row that was raised 'ONE only could quell,
He's kent a aboot by the name Willy Bell,
A douce gentle, godfearin' elder is he
As only aboot the broad Mearns ye would see

Just the lad that I warrant will see things a richt
In the kirk where he stan's as a bricht shining licht;
An he disna mind greetin' his leader in prayer
When they dinna quite hit it wi' just a wee swear.

But eneucho sic clatter, the part to entrance
Was the jig and the reels O; the threepenny dance;
Wi' skirl and wi' screech and fine hieland frenzy
Excitement rose high when oot stepp'd McKenzie.

There, danc'd Keay O'Newmains and Mrs McLeod
David Taylor wha helped wi' the phonograph loud,
Mrs Martin and spouse and parson Macaulay
footed it oot o'er the floor gay and brawly
But nicht maun draw on and day licht maun flee,
Say the mony guid wishes frae bonny Dundee;
So we'll store up a lauch when thochts aye come stealin'
O' the day that we spent Bazaarin' at Tealin'.

H Lamont, 4 September 1909

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