Catalogue of lost hotels and inns

A few weeks ago we pondered on the loss of the local country inns, but we have lost many of the hotels and inns in the town of Kirriemuir as well.

Inns have played an important part of Scottish life and they can be traced back to an Act of 1366 which stated that “The Chamberlains ordered to see that sufficient inns are provided in the burghs”.

I wonder if this Act is still in effect as we in Kirrie and Forfar are sadly short of accommodation for the traveller.

Kirrie fared well in the trade in black cattle travelling from the highlands to the markets in the south and we have a direct link in the place name of Herdhill which was clearly a cattle stance on the route south.

The town will be remembered for having many a busy market day when the drovers arrived and the smell of the drovers and their wet dogs arrived from far and wide.

The main hotels in the town were the Crown, the Airlie and the Commercial Hotels. All gone, and only the Airlie is remembered. The Crown became the Ogilvy Arms in later years but the ‘Og’ is merely recalled in the name of the pub in part of the old building, which was in fact a pend through to the stables of the Crown Hotel. You can see clearly where the pend has been built up in the wee Roods.

The Commercial has not been a hotel for many years and yet is the highest building in the town centre and is now converted to flats.

What can I say about our oldest hotel, the Airlie, a sad sight in its ruinous state today, compared to its heyday when it was the hub of the community on market days and was home to many clubs and organisations who met there, such as the Kirrie and District Agricultural Association. The hall was known locally as the Great Eastern when it was built in 1864, as it resembled an upturned hull. It was given the cognomen after the iron sailing steam ship SS Great Eastern, the largest ship ever built at the time and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Other lost hotels were the Railway and the Union hotels in Bank Street. The Globe Hotel/Inn was at 1 Bank Street. Mrs Caw ran a family grocers there in 1883 but prior to that it was the Globe Hotel.

A survivor is the Gairie Inn which moved from the site of the ‘Old Gairie Inn’ along to the top of Marywell Brae. The site of the ‘Old Gairie Inn’ was between High Street and Crofthead known in the 1850s as Lindsay’s Close. The Duke of Cumberland was reputed to have stayed for one night in this old inn when he was in the area searching for refugees in the glens after the fateful fight – hence his name surviving in the town centre.

The Temperance Hotel at No. 25 Bank Street was owned by the Scottish Temperance League, and therefore providing nothing by way of wines and spirits. The hotel was first run by David Gibson who also hired horses and by 1896 it was being run by Andrew Peters (another horse-hirer). The building itself jutted further out into Bank Street than now, and was separated from the Schoolwynd by some single storey houses. In holiday season, when literally hundreds of people flocked to Kirrie, the Northmuir and the Glens, the horses were kept busy ferrying coach loads of holidaymakers up the rough and twisty glen roads on coaching tours. After some demolition and re-alignment work in more recent times, the Thrums Hotel appears in its present form – no longer under the control of the temperance league!

I fear the loss of another hotel soon in the form of the Newton Hotel which has been a major feature of the Southmuir since 1825 and was the scene of one of Kirrie’s greatest crimes which resulted in the famous High Court case which I have written of before, but at least it has been given a lick of paint and the bar is still open.

After the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the English laws relating to public houses were copied in Scotland although I’m sure many of the readers will recall the differences in drinking up times here and south of the border in the 1960s.

Space limits me and I note I have not mentioned the watering holes of the “Hole e’ wa” in Glamis Road and the Northmuir pub which has also undergone many name and style changes.

But there may be more tales on Kirrie’s hostelries in due course.

Yours aye,