Monday, 22 December 2014

Place Rivalries (Part Two) - Kirriemuir V. Forfar

Forfar and Kirriemuir were at loggerheads for may years in a dispute over the ownership of a useless piece of land, Muir Moss, near Ballinshoe.  In the plague year 1645 the poet and historian William Drummond of Hawthornden came to Forfar one evening, but he was refused lodging for fear of the disease.  He travelled on to Kirriemuir and received a warm welcome, despite the lateness of his arrival.  Hearing about the feud with Forfar, he wrote to the latter's provost.  The provost wrongly thought the letter was a judgement on the ownership of Muir Moss sent by the Commission of Estates, so he summoned the whole council and the minister.  Solemnly opening the letter, he found Drummond's message:

                                    The Kirriemurians and the Forfarians
                                    met at Muir Moss,
                                    the Kirriemurians beat the Forfarians
                                    back to the Cross;
                                    sutors ye are, and sutors ye'll be,
                                    fye upon Forfar,
                                    Kirriemuir bears the gree.

   This poem, which seems rather obscure now, recalls a legendary fight between the two towns.  J. M. Barrie included a version of this tulzie in his Auld Licht Idylls (1888), calling it the Battle of Cabbylatch (after the name of a piece of ground near Glamis).  A Kirriemuir man named Tammas Lunan had the misfortune to die in Forfar.  His body was carried to the parish boundary by Forfar men who refused to venture into enemy territory.  A Kirriemuir party came to collect the corpse, but the two sides argued about the precise location of the border.  A battle ensued, the Forfar folk fled and Kirriemuir won the day.
   The towns' quarrel seems to have impoverished Ballinshoe (pronounced Benshie), as this traditional local rhyme demonstrates:

                                     The beggars o Benshie,
                                      the cairds o Lour,
                                      the sutors o Forfar,
                                      the weavers o Kirriemuir.

                                      James Matthew Barrie00.jpg

                                              J. M. Barrie

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