Innerpeffray, Madderty and Kinkell. These areas of the great and wide tract of mid-Strathearn lie between Gask and Crieff, the first two on the north side of the Earn, Kinkell on the south. Although they contain no true villages, they have always had their own importance in Scotland's story, their names recurring again and again over the centuries. These are level, fertile lands, between the Ochils and the Highland hills, dotted with farms, woodlands and old estates.
Innerpeffray is a strange place to find down at the end of a mile-long and unmetalled side-road, near the steep banks of the river, a place packed with history and interest, yet not even a hamlet. Here, there is a nationally-renowned ancient library, a pre-Reformation chapel of some distinction, an early endowed school and a ruined castle. The chapel was old in 1508, when it rebuilt by the first Lord Drummond, father of James IV's love, Margaret Drummond, as a Collegiate foundation, and long used as the burial-place of that great family, later Earls of Perth. It is a typically long and low, two apartment building, with stone-slated roof, warm sandstone dressings and moulded doorways. There is a niche high on the east gable, and a leper's squint in the north wall, where the unfortunates could watch the celebration of Mass without entering the church. Also a stone altar, part of a painted ceiling and a priest's loft.
Nearby is the handsome whitewashed 18th century building which houses the famous Innerpeffray Library, the oldest surviving public library in Scotland, and still open to the public. There are about three thousand volumes shelved in a fine, well-lit room on the upper floor, many of great age and value, one of the most interesting being the great Marquis of Montrose's personal pocket Bible, in French, bearing his autograph. The library was founded in 1691 by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madderty, Montrose's brother-in-law, who also endowed the school in an adjoining building. Many of the books were added, about sixty years later by Robert Hay Drummond, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had inherited Innerpeffray and other great estates, and who erected the present library building.
The castle is not often visited, being not visible from the rest, on lower ground at a bend of the river to the east. It is ruinous, but the main features survive, a commodious L-planned house of the early '7th century, built by James Drummond, first Lord Madderty, younger brother of the 3rd Lord Drummond, and whose nephews became Earls of Perth and of Melfort, and ruled Scotland between them, for James VII in London. Grazing cattle alone now inherit all this circumstance.
Madderty parish covers nearly five thousand acres in mid-strath, its comparatively modern church having no village nearer than the hamlet of St. Davids, a mile away. But this must have been a highly populous area once, for just to the north-east is the site of the Abbey of Inchaffray, one of the great ancient religious houses of Scotland--now, alas, only a few neglected fangs and fragments of masonry, mostly of fairly late date, with rubbish dumped around. Yet this was the most favoured endowment of many Scottish kings, an Augustinian foundation of great influence and wealth, founded by Gilbert, 3rd Earl of Strathearn in 1200. Its famous Abbot Maurice was Bruce's great supporter, who celebrated the Mass before the Scots army at Bannockburn, and carried the Brecbennoch of Columba throughout the battle. Another Abbot was killed at Flodden. At the Reformation the huge lands were erected into a temporal lordship for the infant James Drummond, aforementioned, who became 1st Lord Madderty. It is shameful that a people so attached as the Scots to their history should abandon so many of their ancient monuments to utter neglect.
Not far to the east is the most attractive small fortified laird's house of Williamstoun, now a farmhouse and in excellent condition. It dates from the mid-, 7th century, with stair-tower and watch-chamber reached by a tiny turnpike in an angle-turret. It was built for the heir of Oliphant of Gask, who insisted on marrying the minister of Trinity-Gask's young daughter, instead of the 45-year-old sister of the Marquis of Douglas, and so was disinherited of Gask in favour of his younger brother.
Also in Madderty are two Roman camps, flanking Innerpeffray on either side of the river; and two of the nine Signal Stations mentioned under Gask. And there is, not far away, the oddly-named former railway station of Highlandman, 2 miles south-east of Crieff.
Kinkell is now best known, probably, for its bridge over the Earn-- for there is not another between Crieff and Dalreoch on the main A.9, a stretch of nearly a dozen miles. But it was a place of some importance once--a parish, indeed, and a notorious one:
Oh, what a parish, what a terrible parish,
Oh, what a parish is that of Kinkell;
They hae hangit the minister, drowned the precentor,
Dang doon the steeple and drucken the bell!
This alludes to the 17th century Reverend Richard Duncan, who was convicted of child-murder and executed at Muthill, 4 miles away, much to the anger of his parishioners, and just before the reprieve they had sought reached Strathearn. The said parishioners thereupon drowned the precentor in the Earn--presumably they considered him the guilty party, though the dead child was found under the minister's fireplace--and sold the church bell, possibly to pay the expenses of the reprieve.
The ruined, ancient pre-Reformation chapel of St. Bean is still there, near the Machany Water's confluence with Earn, in a cottage garden, with its overgrown graveyard around it, another typical two-apartment building, with no particular features. Just across the road is the lumpish and very plain yellow-washed successor, which was formerly a United Presbyterian church. The fine bridge itself hump-backed, four-arched and picturesque, is half a mile to the north-west.