Changing population

  • Overview
  • Kenmore
  • Aberfeldy
  • Perthshire
  • 5 Parishes
  • Scotland
  • Dunbartonshire

By 1841 it was becoming obvious that the population of the parishes in Highland Perthshire in which my family lived was falling. At the end of each census document there is a space left for 'Remarks of schoolmaster or other person appointed to divide the parish by the sheriff or provost'. In 1841 Alexander McGregor the schoolmaster of Dull wrote;

'The population of this parish is on the decrease since the year 1831, and I may say from year to year since 1801, principally in my opinion since 1831 owing to the farms not only in this parish but also the farms in our Highland parishes, being enlarged in order to increase the constituency, and in some measure also from emigration to North America – eight or nine families have emigrated or are in the eve of going off at this very time – this is the fifth census I have had the pleasure of taking and when I compared my books I find the population is from year to year diminishing in this Highland parish and I understand that other parishes within the limits of my acquaintance are in the same proportion, principally through the reasons alluded to. I find also that the population of this parish is always considerably less in the summer season as most of the cotters' children go to serve in the low country and return in winter and were the census taken between December and March the population here would be 700 to 800 more but that does not affect in the least the population in Scotland'.

The population movements described by Alexander McGregor continued apace for the next 100 years. While the population of Scotland rose throughout the 19th century, largely due to the booming towns of the central belt, that of Highland Perthshire progressively declined.

The data for these charts has come from various sources – the last three are all taken from Duncan DA: Return of population of Scotland at each decennial period (1883).  


The parish of Kenmore embraces most of the area round loch Tay excluding Killin at its western end. Its population was remarkably stable in the 18th century but has fallen progressively from the middle of the 19th as crofters moved to the towns or emigrated from Scotland.

The sudden fall between 1836 and 1841occurred at the time of the Breadalbane clearances.

In 1870 there were 226 smallholders in the Parish, besides 8 large farms and a number of cottars. By 1950 there were 30 farms and only some 20 smallholdings. In the process 200 dwellings, mostly built of dry-stone walls with roof timbers covered with turf and thatched with straw or rushes, fell into ruins.


See Aberfeldy for more on the development of the town.


The population of Perthshire peaked in 1831 reflecting the scope for agricultural employment and the high birth rate which led to a rapid natural increase in population. After this period there was a falling off in population levels as people left the land to go to the industrial areas. The 1920-30s saw a migration from all over Scotland overseas leading to a net decline, which trend was reversed after the second world war with the post-war baby boom and improved employment prospects.

Unlike rural Kenmore the population in 1966 was similar to that in 1801

Chart of populations of 5 parishesFor most of the period under review my Fisher ancestry lived in five adjoining parishes.

The story begins in Kenmore and for a long period they were in Fortingall. Aberfeldy where they ended up in the first half of the 18th century and again in the 20th century is an unusual village in that it is made up of part of three parishes – Logierait, Weem and Dull.

Despite the population of Aberfeldy rising very dramatically in the 19th century, depopulation of the countryside caused the total population of these five parishes to fall very significantly.



This was a destination selected by various of my ancestors as farming in the Highlands became ever more marginal and they sought a more secure income from the job opportunities becoming available in the south.


Page last updated - 18/8/16