The pundlers o’ Kirriemuir

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Some years ago the Kirriemuir Townhouse 400 Group in the town put on a display in the museum alliteratively called “Prisoners, Pundlers, Postage, Police and Pills”.

This was an exhibition celebrating the four centuries of the various functions which the Town House building - which I believe is the oldest building in public use today in Angus - had seen. The exhibition brought to life the lengthy and diverse history of the building with all of its varied uses as well as some of the characters who have inhabited it, such as Tam Barnett, the town’s drummer, and the local rogues that inhabited the cells under the old tollbooth.

I, like many others, had never heard of the term ‘pundler’ but discovered that a pundler was “a beam distinguished with the marks of their weight, which hath a stone upon the one end, and a hook on the other end, for hanging up the cassie in which their victuall is”. So I think the mechanism looked like or resembled a steelyard or weigh balance, on which goods were weighed and this brought to mind the old ways of weighing, which we never seem to consider these days.

Later public weighing facilities in the town were done by the public steelyards set into the streets and were used for weighing the loads carried on horse drawn carts.

In Kirriemuir at the top of Marywell Brae there was a weighbridge for horse-drawn carts coming up from the railway station and it remained there until the 1920s when a larger weighbridge was installed at the front of the Town Hall.

If you look closely, you can see where the sign for the weighbridge was screwed on to the wall at the entrance to the Kirkwynd. When the weighbridge was sited at the Town Hall there was a booth for the operator to sit in and record the weights of the passing lorries from his wee buckie.

After the weighbridge moved to the Town Hall it served the local community until around 1990. The operator’s brick booth was finally removed in the early years of this decade as part of the building’s refurbishment.

The Lyell Memorial Hall was where, from the 1940s to 1960s, Angus County Council Weights and Measures Department staff checked annually all the private weighing apparatus for those who had their own steelyards, like the farmers and the coal merchants.

Even small shops like the grocers’ had little beam balances for weighing vegetables and they were usually of highly polished brass, as were their weights. Also in the old time chemist’s shop there were baby weighing scales which brings us back to where we started, as the Old Town House which was once a chemist’s shop.

Yours aye