During this period of lockdown at home I’ve decided it was time to find out more about where we live in Scotland. The area around us was thought to be one large expanse of water and was supposedly a favourite holiday resort of the ancient Caledonian monarchs.
Just five miles from our house a fording place was established at the end of the loch and, according to legend, the wife of King Magnus was accidentally drowned here. This “black ford”, as it was dubbed then perpetuated in the name of the village. It is said that William Wallace (Braveheart) defeated a small English force as they crossed a ford on the Allan Water around 1296 also very close to where we live.
I would like to share a tale that took place more recently in the 1930s. Back then the village had a grocery shop with petrol pumps and two inns. Incidentally, Robert Burns, our national bard, stayed in the Greenloaning Inn, colloquially known as Mary Ann’s after the inn Keeper Mary Anderson, on his way to Crieff in 1787.
Above the village in the Ochil hills was Whyack Farm that had been rented by Melville Jamieson. He was a member of an old legal family from Perth and had returned to Scotland after many years in East India where he was a tea planter.
From stories we are told he was an exceedingly tall and distinguished man who everyone recognised when he came into the village. Apart from his appearances there was also another distinguishing feature and it was his far from ordinary car; a very fast American Packard. A new luxury Packard car cost a six-figure sum in today’s money and as you can imagine they were a rarity in this part of Scotland.
Melville Jamieson like many tea planters had a certain liking for alcoholic beverages and regularly drank in the two hostelries in Greenloaning or in the Braco Inn a further mile down the road from Greenloaning. The story goes that Melville and his exotic fast car became known to the local police who took the decision to catch him drinking and driving on his way back home.
In those days a police car had to bring a driver they suspected of drink driving to a halt and then carry out the “touch the point of your nose with your finger” routine to bring a charge of drinking and driving. Several attempts were made to stop him on his journey home but the turn of speed from the Packard was such that Melville could be at home in bed before the police could get anywhere near him in their squad car.
A plot was hatched, and a sting operation was planned one night when he came down for a drink. A police car parked up a side street in Braco while he was enjoying his evening in the inn. As the policemen in the squad car had some time to kill, they decided to have a cup of tea in the house of the local policeman whilst they waited for Melville. At closing time, they were sitting in their car waiting for him to exit the pub. He did, but the police car wouldn’t start. The distributor rotor arm of the car was safely in Melville Jamieson’s pocket!
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com