It’s always fascinating to find out about life in Fearnan in the past and, if we turned the clock back to the first half of the 20th century, we would find not just a hotel, but a shop, a post office, petrol pumps and……….. a bus! All on the one site at the Tigh an Loan Hotel.
The hotel bus, like the hotel itself, belonged to John Stewart. It not only served the hotel, but was also used to make deliveries from the shop to the surrounding area, including Glen Lyon. It was a 15-seater Albion bus, registration ES 5150, which doubled as the village hearse when the need arose.
The bus is pictured here with John Stewart (with moustache). The basket on top will be the hotel laundry, ready to go to Fisher’s Laundry in Aberfeldy. If you look closely, you can see part of one of the old petrol pumps on the left at the back of the picture.
John Stewart did not drive the bus himself but his daughters, Dolly and Mia, regularly took the controls. Thursday was the delivery day for Glen Lyon, but it was also the day for cleaning the hotel silver and Dolly would give instructions for this before setting off with the deliveries. The member of staff responsible for cleaning the silver would relate how she polished away with one ear cocked for the distinctive sound of the bus returning down the brae – by which time she was expected to have completed her task.
This particular bus was first registered in 1922 and although we don’t know how long it remained in Fearnan, we do know what happened to it. It became a TV and film star, appearing in episodes of the BBC’s first series of Dr Finlay’s Casebook in the fictional town of Tannoch Brae, and in two films – ‘Regeneration’ and ‘The Happy Lands’! It is now known as The Pride of Tannoch Brae and is held in the collection of the Biggar Albion Foundation. It can be seen here.
The hotel continued to run a bus for many years, and to deliver to Glen Lyon. A different bus is pictured below in Glen Lyon, with one of the natural road hazards. The same bus is also pictured with Angus McInnes who we think was one of the drivers of the bus.
The year that John Stewart bought his first bus, ES 5150, was also the year that he ceased to be a tenant hotelier and bought the hotel from the Breadalbane Estate.
This was 1922, the year the third Marquis of Breadalbane died with no heirs and the vast estate of some half million acres started to be broken up to cover debts and death duties (thereby fulfilling one of the prophesies of the Lady of Lawers).
The significance of this for Fearnan was that many people in the village were also able to become owner-occupiers instead of tenants. The village was sold as a single entity and an intermediary, Henry James Kennaway of Auchterarder, travelled to Edinburgh for the sale. After this, the individual tenants in the village were able to purchase their own crofts from the intermediary, the price being £55 per croft. The agreement included the same grazing rights on the Cow Park (one cow per croft) and access to a well for water (there were three in the village). However, salmon fishing rights on the loch were lost at this time.
(Many thanks to Alastair Barnett who’s curiosity led him to trace the bus to its present location and to Shenac Kelloe for the photographs and family memories.)
Returning to the present day, the Coffee Morning on the 20th October was attended by a relatively small but highly sociable group. The sun at least shone for this event, but the Remembrance Service at the War Memorial on Sunday 8th November took place in driving rain. However, it was well attended by warmly wrapped-up members of the community and soup was served in the village hall after the service.
Our next event is the annual Mulled Wine and Mince Pies which is on Saturday 5th December at 3.30pm in the village hall, cost £5.00. A donation from the proceeds will be made to village hall funds.
On Friday 13th November, friends and family gathered to say farewell to Laurie Lane who died on the 2nd November.
Laurie was laid to rest in a lovely spot overlooking the countryside in Hillhead Cemetery Logierait, after which we travelled back to Fearnan for tea in the village hall. Laurie was a member of the FVA Committee and served as Treasurer for many years, helping to ensure the smooth-running of the Association. Laurie will be much missed by the village for many reasons, but his knowledge of coffee and his particular talent for making the best and freshest coffee and tea will be noticeably missed at all our future events.