Donald Dow of Tomantianda (1873 - 1958)

One of the last native Gaelic speakers of Strathtummel

Donald Dow

In 1954 Tony Dilworth taped conversations, in Gaelic, with Donald Dow of Tomantianda as part of the Linguistic Survey of Scotland.

We were sitting together at the door of his house, sheltered from the wind and facing the sun up at Bohespic. He had one leg and a full beard and I was, as it were, at my grandfather's knee, absorbing with my thirsty mind the Highland riches of a past Strathtummel and down below us in the glen, Loch Tummel.

In one interview Donald Dow referred to the following incident as Cath Coire Muclach, the Battle of Corrymuckloch.

Tony Dilworth:

And do you have any tales about the smugglers?

Donald Dow:

Oh, everyone was at it, in those days. They had bothies on the moorland, and do you know, there was a kailyard at every one. They were making whisky for the inn-keepers and delivering it to them. That's where they were going when they met the Scots Greys. The Scots Greys were from Perth. They were out looking for the smugglers. That is where they came across the people of Strathtummel and Bohespic. They were going to Crieff with their whisky.

A kinsman of mine, Thomas Calmanach1, of the Balnabodach family, was - how would you say - in charge of the convoy. He was ahead of them. He recognised the smell of cigar smoke, a thing not usual in the country at all, except for rich people. He suspected trouble and went back.

There were fifteen carts laden with whisky. He made them unhitch the horses and tie them to the carts. He, himself, and his men went forward to meet the Scots Greys. Thomas Alasdair2, was a tremendously big and powerful man. He was six feet and five inches tall, with bones in him like a horse's. He had a stick, an oak cudgel, and in the first attack he struck the officer, half killing him. He fell out of his saddle and Thomas grabbed his sword, then killed the Captain. He also killed another two or three, and the rest of them fled. They had horses and they escaped, and they got through with the whisky.

Thomas had the sword and he stuck it into a rock crevice on the hillside by the road. It remained there for more than twenty years. There was a man from Bohespic called Iain Buidhe who was there, and he saw where Thomas had put the sword. He went to Corrymuckloch on his own, and took the sword home, and went over and gave it to the Duke of Atholl. It's in the castle over there, much admired, the Corrymuckloch sword.

Iain Buidhe, had a croft in Bohespic. He was getting old and was given the house for handing over the sword. His house is the house whose ruins you can see from the edge of the road. He got the house as a present from the Duke, for himself and his family, rent-free for as long as they lived. That's how it got the name - Tom Iain Buidhe. Before that its name was Tom Alasdair, but when Iain Buidhe got it, they gave it that name - Tom Iain Buidhe.

1 Calmanach is the Gaelic for the surname of Dow
2 Thomas, son of Alexander


In "Crieff: its traditions and characters" (Edinburgh 1881), Duncan MacAra claimed that the incident took place in the 1830s, and if this is so, then this Thomas Dow of Balnabodach was the younger son of Alexander Dow and Ann McEwan.

In the 1851 census Thomas was living with his brother at Balnabodach and is recorded as being a house proprietor. Considering the difficulty in making any sort of living in Borenich at that time, it must be assumed that the house had come from 'outside interests'. The property in question was a house in Bankfoot, just north of Perth, which he rented to John 'Bonnety' Stewart of Balcastle, whose monument is in the Borenich burial ground.

When John 'Bonnety' Stewart and his family took up residence at their new home in Bankfoot, the house was turned into the Diamond Inn. Apparently the name of the inn was inspired by the diagonal arrangement of some of the roof slates, but the premises turned out to be a diamond for all concerned. It provided John 'Bonnety' Stewart with enough income to be able to send his youngest son, Alexander, to train as a lawyer in Edinburgh. It is purely conjecture, but perhaps Thomas Dow and 'Bonnety' had more than one business arrangement.

The Diamond Inn

John Stewart and his family outside the Diamond Inn, Bankfoot


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