Crieff is famous for its modern-day celebrity connections – both Hollywood star Ewan McGregor and his famous uncle Denis Lawson both hail from the picturesque Perthshire town. But here are five weird and wonderful people we bet you didn’t know had a connection with the Strath capital…
- David ‘Monterey’ Jacks (1822 – 1909)
Credited with establishing the Californian dairy business that created and marketed the famous Monterey Jack cheese, this famous son of Crieff has a dark past. Emigrating to the US in 1841 with his two brothers, Jacks was a controversial landowner who was notorious for acquiring thousands of acres in and around Monterey. Working his way up to treasurer of Monterey County, just as the state had shifted from Mexican to American control, Jacks hatched a plan to evict tenants and grab the land for himself. A devout Presbyterian, Jack donated a great deal of money to religious causes later in life, including support of missionary work, as well as helping to found the Pacific Grove retreat.
- Sophie Stewart (1908 – 1977)
Born in Crieff, actress Sophie Stewart was a star of the silver screen during the golden age of film. The highlight of her long career was her 1937 role starring as Lady Blakeney alongside James Mason in The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The striking brunette also appeared in Who Goes Next? (1938), Marigold (1938), Nurse Edith Cavell (1939), The Lamp Still Burns (1943), Strawberry Roan (1945), Uncle Silas (1947), Devil Girl from Mars (1954) and No Time for Tears (1957) during her long career. She was married to fellow actor Ellis Irving and died in Cupar, Fife, aged 69 in June 1977.
- Pontius Pilate (date of birth unknown)
Yes, really! The Roman governor of Judaea (26-36AD) who presided at the trial of Jesus and gave the order for crucifixion was reputedly born in or around Crieff. Legend has it that his father was a Roman officer posted to the area who married a local woman and Pilate was born here before the family moved to Judaea. The circumstances surrounding Pilate’s death (circa 39AD) are mysterious. According to some accounts, Emperor Caligula ordered condemned Pilate to death by execution or suicide. Other accounts suggest he was exiled and committed suicide. Another local legend claims he is buried under an ancient yew tree in the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall.
- William Bayne – Napoleon’s Bonapart’s grandfather
Probably not. But it’s a great story regardless! Believe it or not, there’s some suggestion that Napoleon’s grandfather was a local man called William Bayne who hailed from Balloch on the outskirts of Crieff. According to local history website, www.strathearn.com Bayne was forced to leave Scotland after the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. He and his family were said to have been shipwrecked in Corsica and settled there. Bayne and his party became known as Boun-de-parte and after two generations the surname Bonaparte was used. Was William Bayne of Strathearn really the grandfather of great Napoleon Bonaparte?
- Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788)
There’s probably not a town, city or village in Scotland that doesn’t claim a connection with Charles Edward Stewart, but visitors to Crieff can actually visit the Drummond Arms Hotel where the Young Pretender held his last war council before his defeat at Culloden. Unfortunately, the Category B local landmark has been lying derelict for years and its future remains in doubt. A bunkhouse, offices or new affordable homes are just some of the ideas that have been proposed over the years amid community hopes that the historic town centre property can be revived.