Aberfeldy, which now has a population of about 2000, barely existed before 1771 when three small hamlets which then occupied the site started to come together under the lairdship of the Breadalbanes. John McArthur surveyed the Earl's 'Lands of Abberfaldie' in 1773 and included the farms to its east e.g. Murthly. He did not include the Lands of Moness which appear as a blank area on the survey.
The three main hamlets that joined together were Aberfeldy, east of the Moness or Paldie Burn, and the two hamlets of Aberfeldybeg (Gaelic, beg = little) west of the burn - (Over) Milton and Nether Milton . It also included the hamlet of Moness - see McArthur's survey of 1773. At this time the dressing and spinning flax was Aberfeldy's most important industry.
The road from Crieff to the north over Wade's bridge, which had been completed by 1734, and later the railway made Aberfeldy take off at the expense of the older communities of Kenmore, Fortingall, Dull and Weem. The expansion of Aberfeldy and its population in the 19th century is very obvious on the old maps.
Aberfeldy became a Parish in 1855. Before that it came under Dull, Logierait or Weem. The first census in which Aberfeldy was enumerated separately was 1861.
Aberfeldy is fortunate to have not one but two really excellent books setting out its history. Dr Mackay's 'Aberfeldy Past and Present' had been the definitive history of Aberfeldy. In 2010 Ruary Mackenzie Dodds gave us 'Aberfeldy The history of a Highland Community' a more up to date account of the town's development.
Evening Telegraph 13 March 1902
During the past 25 years Aberfeldy has progressed somewhat slowly, but steadily, and it may now be said to rank as one of the most up-to-date and thriving towns in the Highlands. Since its formation into a police burgh in the Jubilee year, 1877, it has made considerable advance in its extent. The granting of feu charters by the Marquis of Breadalbane in lieu of the 99 year leases gave a stimulus to building, and during the last 15 years the architectural features of the town have been improved to a greater extent than at any other period in its history. The water supply is ample and of the best quality. The drainage system lately finished is recognised as one of the most effective and complete in the country, fulfilling as it does all the latest sanitary requirements. The cleansing, paving, and lighting arrangements are satisfactory.
Electric lighting. It is to be hoped that at no distant date advantage will be taken of the great natural facilities easily available by harnessing the water power of the Falls of Moness in producing the electric light. The amenities of the town generally have been greatly enhanced by the erection of the Black Watch Memorial in 1887 when the Marquis of Breadalbane generously handed over as a free gift a feu charter giving to the Provost and Commissioners of Aberfeldy in perpetuity the ground on which the monument was erected. Among the more important buildings may be mentioned the erection of the Congregational Church, Aberfeldy Parish Church, Public School, Town Hall buildings, Auction Mart, Cottage Hospital, Railway Station, Roman Catholic Chapel, Free Church Hall, Steam Bakery, Steam Laundry, also many elegant and commodious villas, two hotels, handsome shops and offices. The last of the old thatched clay cottages in Burnside have disappeared, and in their stead stands the substantial modernised Annesley Cottages. An important improvement was the opening up of Tay Bridge Drive, Tay Bridge Terrace, and the erection of a new bridge across the Moness burn at the factory, and leading from Market Street, via Home Street, to the Railway Station. The acquisition by Messrs P and J Haggart of the Breadalbane Woollen Mills has proved a boon to the locality.
The population in 1877 was 1159, and at last census 1506 – a comparatively small increase, caused mainly by young folks drifting into the larger towns in search for employment. The village before it was converted into a police burgh stood in two parishes. East of the Moness Burn was in the Parish of Dull, and the rental in 1877 was £1709; to the west of the burn was in Logierait Parish. The valuation of the burgh in 1877 was £5294 16s 10d and today stands at £8970 3s 10d, a substantial increase. Nature and art has done much for Aberfeldy as a summer resort, and the town council do everything in their power to increase the attractions of the locality. The golf course of nine holes is charmingly situated along by the banks of the Tay and is invariably well patronised. Anglers can obtain permits at a nominal charge to fish over a fine trouting stretch of the Tay from the Breadalbane Angling Club. The railway arrangements in past years have not been very satisfactory, but efforts are now being made to remedy matters, and to induce the Highland Railway company to give a better train service.
The coming of the railway to Aberfeldy undoubtedly had huge impact on the fledgeling town. It changed the career paths of my family from farmers thet grew produce to feed themselves and their neighbours to retailers selling produce carried from afar. It also brought the numerous visitors for which James Fisher built the laundry.
The following is taken from an 'interesting retrospect' in Aberfeldy News and Visitors list for August 1911.
The Aberfeldy branch line was opened to traffic on the third day of July 1865. The construction of the branch cost more than any of the other branch lines of the Highland Railway company, amounting to over £12,000 per mile. Over 800,000 cubic yards of cutting were necessary while along the 9 miles to which it extends there are no fewer than 41 bridges over burns, rivers and roads, several of them very ornate structures. It took three years to construct.
For many years after the branch line was opened only three trains were run to and from Ballinluig Junction, one in the morning one at midday and one in the evening. As Aberfeldy increased in importance there was a consequent increase in traffic and gradually additional trains were run until today we have 8 or 9 trains running to and from the junction. The Aberfeldy branch line is one of the best paying branch lines on the Highland Railway system. Summer and winter it yields revenue. The goods traffic is very heavy, even heavier than the passenger. This is easily accounted for when it is remembered that Aberfeldy is the centre of a very large agricultural district. "Goods traffic to Aberfeldy station is over 14,000 tons annually and the the outward over 13,000 tons. Timber of course makes up the bulk of the outward traffic.
The original station buildings at Aberfeldy were constructed of wood, and were burnt to the ground about 34 years ago, the present buildings being erected in 1879.
It is often said that it would be a distinct advantage to Aberfeldy if the railway was extended to Kenmore and Killin, but it is very doubtful Aberfeldy would gain by any such extension. It would certainly lose its present importance as a terminal station and the loss in this respect might be greater than the gain in other respects.
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