Monthly Archives: October 2019

Monifieth Almanac – 1882

                     Extracts from Monifieth Almanacs, by David McRae.

Written 1892.


William Craighead of Monifieth

William Craighead, who is mentioned in “A Tragic Tale of Monifieth” was a schoolmaster in Monifieth in the middle of the last century.  His book on Arithmetic was a standard work  in Scotland. It was printed in Dundee, by Galbraith & Co., in 1757 and with one exception—a Catechism for the young, from the same press, published in 1755.—is the earliest known Dundee printed book–. The title is as follows:–ARITHMETIC, in all it`s parts, vulgar and decimal; as also Tables of Coins, Weights and Measures used in different Countries,&c,– by William Craighead, Schoolmaster, Monifieth, –Printed and sold by Henry Galbraith, & Co., MDCCLV11.

The book measured

6 ½ by  4 inches and contains 564 pages.  Although not of much interest in the present day, some of the examples given through the volume probably illustrate, the prices current at the time it was published.  For example, eggs 2d per dozen; raisins 4d & 8d, sugar 11 ½ d ;  tobacco 13s.; Tea 7s 8d  to 16s, Coffee 5s 9d per lb.; oranges 3d each;

hay 4 ¾ d per stone; fine cambric 11s 7d per ell; sailors wages 27s 8d per month., are a few items named.


The work was a standard one may be proved from the Edinburgh edition, published 41 years afterwards, which we have also seen. It is entitled:—– Nicholson`s edition of Craighead`s Arithmetic, carefully revised and corrected, Edinburgh, 1798.


Craighead says, at page 540 of his book,” I intend very soon to publish a complete treatise on mensuration”.

We  have seen the  following::— The Merchant`s  Companion, after a new method, calculated by W.C. , Schoolmaster, Monefieth,, Dundee , printed by H Galbraith & Co.,MDCCLX1.   This was a forerunner of numerous other “Calculators” printed in Dundee up to 1820.





Written 1894


The Lich-Wake At Monifieth


(The following is a version of the story which appeared shortly after  it occurred.)


A Tricky Parish Schoolmaster.


The Public School now standing at Monifieth was erected in 1878 and took the place of the old building in which towards the end of the last century, Mr William Craighead, presided as Schoolmaster. This was the Mr William Craighead whose popular handbook  of arithmetic  was , sometime after the occurrences here set down., in such great request for school purposes.

Mr Craighead was, at the time, was referred to as a young man, and one of much livelier tendencies than, no doubt, many of the strictly sober bodies of Monifeth considered strictly consistent with `the dignity of a parish schoolmaster`. Practical jokes of a pronounced character were frequently played at Monifieth, and a popular suspicion, was not always wrong in ascribing them to Craighead.  The custom of the “lich-wake”, corresponding largely with the surviving Irish custom of wakening the dead, had not yet died out in Scotland, and in Monifieth was frequently practiced. Scholars tell us that these ceremonies were of Saxon origin, the name being derived from the Saxon words lic, a corpse, and woecan, to sit awake.  Now, it chanced upon that, the death of a substantial farmer, in the neighbourhood, a large number of his late acquaintences were invited to the lich-wake, and among them were Craighead and Andrew Saunders, an intimate companion of his, and confederate in more than one of his youthful frolics. The similarity in the personal appearance of the Andrew Saunders and that of the dead farmer, had more than once been noticed, and this suggested to Craighead a practical joke of a rather grim nature, which after consultation between the two friends, was ultimately agreed upon.  A shroud was to be procured, and Saunders was to don it; then, after means had been found to attract the company temporarily into another room, the corpse was to be removed to an outhouse and Saunders was to take it`s place.  Then when all had returned and the opportunity seemed fitting, Craighead was to sneeze twice, and at this signal, the `supposed` corpse was to rise and the fun was to consist of the terror which their friends would exhibit.

The evening came , and all the preliminaries to this piece of humour were successfully gone through. A chest was suddenly discovered in another part of the house, standing in it`s wrong place, in the middle of the room, and apparently so heavy that nobody could move it.  The whole company adjourned to the room where this chest was, in order to try, one after  another, to lift or move it, and the whole company failed, which was not very surprising , considering that it had been carefully screwed to the floor.  After a time , the lid was burst open, and the difficulty discovered, and the general opinion at once pointed to the perpetrator of the joke as that daft hempie, Wullie Craighead, without , however, a suspicion that the ruse had any intention beyond it`s own perpetration.  Everyone returned to the watching room where, during their absence, Andrew Saunders had emerged from another passage, and after dragging the corpse to his own lurking place, had taken it`s place on the bed, shrouded.

Craighead made his way round to where the corpse lay upon the floor in a side passage, and, first carefully reconnoitering to make perfectly sure he was not being watched, conveyed it to an open outhouse. There was straw in the outhouse, and this Craighead disposed suitably, and stretched the body upon it. Returning he found the key had been carelessly left in the padlock, so, after locking the door, he pocketed this key in case of inquisitiveness on the part of anybody coming near the spot.  This done he innocently strolled back into the death chamber, and was quite unsuspected by the assembly.  The assembly, indeed, was devoting itself with great singleness of purpose to whisky, and paying small attention to the occasion of the ceremony.  Perfect decorum and quietness, however, as was customary prevailed.

“It`s a sad okeeshun, a very sad okeeshun,” said the miller, reaching for the bottle, “and it`s proper contemplation calls for a speeshul stimulus” and he took it.

“ It`s no sae sad as it micht be” said another, “ wi` neither wife nor bairns tae greet.”

They forgot the dead man`s little sister who was hidden in her little bedroom exhausted with weeping.

“Thankee Mr Christie: I`ll just trouble you for the spiritual stimulus,” said Craighead, addressing the miller. “I was reading the other day,” he added, for the information of the company in general, “ a rather singular account of a supposed temporary revivification of a corpse. The corpse got up in bed and reached for the whisky.”

“ It`s a sad, very sad okeeshun,” repeated the miller, gaxing sternly at Craighead as he handed him the liquor, “and ill-suited for sic gowk tales.”

“Matter of special interest, it seemed to me,” replied the schoolmaster;” interesting just now, particularly, and—- tichow! tichow!” he sneezed twice with violence.

No sign of movement from the bed. This was strange. He must not have heard. Craighead concluded that the sneezes had sounded too genuine and unintentional. He determined to repeat them presently, less naturally and more expressively. He guests continued looking at one another. Presently Craighead sneezed again twice, looking towards the bed as he did so.  No sign, no sound, no movement there.

What could be wrong? Surely, surely, his friend could not have fallen sleep in such a situation as that, in a shroud, lying in the bed from which the corpse he was personating had just been dragged?.  It was impossible. Yet there he lay— motionless, calm, and pale, like the body itself. Craighead felt indefinably uncomfortable and uneasy as he looked at him.  Why didn`t he get up?

“Ye`ve sair fits o` sneezing the nicht , neebor,” remarked the miller, looking at Craighead curiously.

Still gazing at his friend in the bed, Craighead indistinctly murmured something about having a cold. Then he felt cold indeed, with cold perspiration. Surely Andrew was not so pale as that when he had left him in the passage, nor his lips so white?. Perhaps he was ill. Forgetting the plot entirely, he crossed hurriedly to the bed and laid his hand on his friend`s shoulder. Then suddenly turning paler than the other, he thrust his hand beneath the breast of the shroud. His companions looked at him and at one another in astonishment. Wullie Craighead with all his gaiety, had the name of a sober man; but here he was tearing back the bed clothes off a dead body and crying like one demented.  “Bring some water, quick, quick! Or whisky, or anything He`s dying man, I tell ye, or dead!, It`s Saunders; it`s Andy Saunders!” And there sure enough as he tore the shroud away,  were seen beneath it the everyday clothes of Andrew Saunders. “What deil`s  riggs  are ye at noo Wullie Craighead?” and every man started to his feet and made for the bed. And there, in his well known suit of hodden, with the rags of the torn shroud hanging about his neck and shoulders , lay Andrew Saunders  dead!.- For some time no word could be got from William Craighead, as he sad on the bed dazed and stupid.  Then in response to repeated demands, he explained the ghastly joke in a few words. Meantime the doctor had arrived and pronounced no doubt of Saunder`s death. Then there arose an enquiry as to where the other body had been concealed, and Craighead, whose stupefication had given way to wild remorse, and self reproach, accompanied by the miller to the outhouse to bring it in.  A stable lantern was lit, and the padlock, which worked, rather stiffly, was unlocked with difficulty by means of the key which Craighead had retained.  They entered the hothouse, and there found— nothing but straw! The body had gone!.

The outhouse had no window, and no other outlet whatever beside the door, which they found securely padlocked. Craighead was certain this was, and no other outhouse, was the one in which the body had been placed ; and indeed no , none of the others were provided with a similar lock. And in the corner he recognized the disposition of the straw, which lay just as he had spread it to receive the body.  Entirely overwhelmed, he wandered aimlessly about the premises.  The rest of the party made a thorough search, but without discovering a trace of the missing body, and every man most solemnly declared  that he knew nothing whatever of the removal.  Presently, in turning into a door of the house, Craighead met the little sister.  She had heard vaguely of something of what he had done, and fled from him faintly screaming.  Crazed and maddened , he rushed from the place.  All that night he wandered over the country side, he knew not where.  Rain fell upon his bare head and drenched him through, but he knew it not.  Day broke , the sun rose and declined, and still William Craighead wandered over the adjacent country demented—- searching for a corpse that he told them had addressed him; looking for a dead man in his shroud.   Four days and nights he roamed the neighbourhood, an object of pity and fear to the inhabitants, without rest and without sleep.  Then a party went after him and, after telling him their news, fetched him with them quietly, and William Craighead returned to his school and regular duties, and lived ever after saddened and sober life.  For the body had been found in a field among brooks of Tealing, six miles or more from Monifieth, lying unruffled and apparently undisturbed in it`s shroud, just as it had lain upon the bed; and was carried away and decently buried.

But how it came where it was found no man ever knew.


Looking Ahead

While we wait to re-start our talks can we recommend the following.


The second lecture of the 2019/2020 season of the Pictish Arts Society will be held on Friday 18 October.  The venue is the upstairs gallery of Brechin Town House Museum in the High Street.

Dr Alex Woolf will consider Rethinking the disappearance of the Picts: From Pictland to Alba 12 years on.

Fresh from his recent appearance at the Pictish Arts Society Annual Conference in Forfar, Dr Alex Woolf makes a welcome return to our Brechin venue.

In 2007 Alex published From Pictland to Alba, 789-1070, a book that has become essential reading for anyone interested in the Picts.  Using the fragmentary historical sources available, the book examines the decline and disappearance of the Picts, their language and culture.  It charts the concurrent rise of the Gaelic-speaking Scots who replaced them as the dominant cultural and political force in what was once Pictavia, leading to the emergence of the new kingdom of Alba.

In the 12 years since publication, much has changed, not least in Alex’ own mind.  Many scholars now subscribe to his proposition that relocates the pre-eminent Pictish kingdom of Fortriu to the Moray Firth area.  His suggested relocation for the pivotal battle of Dunnichen from Angus to the upper Spey valley continues to spark debate.  And of course, much archaeological evidence has come to light in the intervening years, for example from Aberdeen University’s Northern Picts project.

So with all this in mind, Alex will use this talk as an opportunity to review how his thinking on the disappearance of the Picts has changed since 2007.  In particular, he will focus on the role of Cinaed mac Ailpín and his dynasty.   He will examine the meaning and usage of the word Alba and the appearance of the term Scottas for the ruler of the northern kingdom.

Dr Alex Woolf was educated at the University of Sheffield where he read Medieval English and Medieval History as an undergraduate and undertook postgraduate studies in the Department of Archaeology. Since leaving Sheffield he has lectured in Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and in Celtic and Early Scottish History and Culture at Edinburgh. He has been lecturing in history at the University of St Andrews since 2001. His research and teaching has largely focused on Britain and Ireland in the pre-Norman era.

Doors open at Brechin Museum at 7.00 pm for a 7.30 pm start. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available after the talks which are free to members and £3.00 to non-members. All are welcome.

The Courier Saturday 5th October – It’s ‘now or never’

It’s ‘now or never’ for local history society

APPEAL: Group urges tradesmen to help bring property up to scratch

Monifieth Local History Society is on the verge of signing a “now or never” lease to secure its future. The group was ready to pull the plug on a flit to the former Angus Council/ police office at 81 High Street after declaring the building unfit for purpose. However, members have now decided to press ahead with the move and are asking local tradesmen to help them bring the property up to scratch. The group, which raised thousands of pounds towards its £6,000 target for the project, is also appealing for volunteers to help with cleaning and unpacking some of the items which have been in storage until now.

It is hoped a lease agreement can be signed by the end of this month. Angus Council insisted the building is only in need of “minor cosmetic repairs” which will be carried out after the transfer is finalised. The Monifieth collection includes thousands of photographs and artefacts relating to local life, built up over more than a decade and a half.

President Margaret Copland said there were no other suitable premises locally so the group had decided to make a go of the property. “After years of searching for accommodation in the town centre, this is the last opportunity and we cannot let it be missed,” she said. “It has been a struggle but we are almost there. It is a now or never situation.” She said finally having a base for the town’s treasures would be a dream come true, but stressed there was still a vast amount of work to be done and she has issued a rallying call to the community. She said: “Monifieth Local History Society has worked extremely hard, and at a financial cost, to acquire appropriate accommodation to display the community’s heritage property, and honour their wishes that they remain in Monifieth where they belong. “We now ask the Monifieth community for their help and support to resume and improve on the free services we provided for 15 years. “Whatever their age, skills or interests, we can find them something to do. Then they can say ‘we helped set up the House of Memories Community Heritage Centre’. “We need tradesmen, cleaners and people to assist with unpacking all the community items that have been in storage. We also need committed volunteers to help with running the day to day business of the centre.”