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MEMORABILIA OF PERTH.
S E C T.
Perth gives its name not only to the parish, but also to the extensive county in which it is situated. So many and various have been the derivations of the word which antiquarians have suggested, that Lord Hailes in his Annals thought proper to reject them all, not knowing which to prefer. Of all the conjectures on the subject, the following, by the Rev. Mr Scott, appear most rational.
“ The word Perth is pronounced by the Highlanders Peirt, or Peart. According to this pronunciation, the word is said, by some persons, to mean a finished labour, or complete piece of work ; and to refer to the building of the town, or to the fortificatione
with which it was originally surrounded. But Fordun, (vol. ii. p. 99.), when speaking of a remarkable siege which the town sustained from the Norwegians, in the time of the Picts, during which the Scots joined with the Picts in repelling the common enemy, says, “I have found, in some old writs, that the town of St John *, now called Perth, was anciently called Bertha.” The contracted pronunciations of Bertha, are Berth and Bert; and, as the letters B and P were used indiscriminately in the Gaelic language, the Highlanders might easily change the name into Perth or Pert. Bertha, in the German language, signifies celebrity, splendour, or what is deservedly illustrious, the same as Eudoxia in the Greek. who were called Eudocia by the Greeks, were by the Germans called Bertha. If the Picts, therefore, in whose territory the town was, were originally Goths or Germans, there would be no necessity of seeking for a Celtic derivation of the word Perth."
The origin of towns and cities depends on a variety of accidental and anomalous circumstances. The ford
*" The Picts, after they were converted to the Christian religion, or the Scots, after their king had succeeded to the Pictish throne, consecrated the church and bridge of Perth to St John Baptist, whom they seem also to bave chosen tutelary saint of the town. In process of time many persons gave to the town the name of St Johnston. But it was never so called in any of the public writs, nor by the inhabitants in general."
SCOTT'S STAT. ACCOUNT,
of a river ; the cell of a hermit; the inaccessibility of a mount; the fertility of a plain; the plenteous fishery of a sea-coast, or of a river, are among the causes to which the rise of most of the towns and cities of modern Europe is to be referred. The happy situation of the plain on which Perth stands, by combining many advantages, must have rendered it a frequent resort, if not one of the settled abodes, of the earliest inhabitants of the island. “ There were towns in Britain,” says Mr Scott,“ prior to the time of the Roman invasion, But it may be presumed, that they scarcely deserved the name, because of the rude state in which the arts in Britain then were ; and of the wandering manner of life to which the inhabitants, by war or otherwise, must often have been necessarily reduced. Whether, before the Romans invaded the country, there were any constant or occasional assemblage of the people in dwellings erected for them where Perth now stands, cannot, perhaps, at this distance of time, be determined with any certainty. We may therefore pass on to the generally-received opinion, which is, that the town was regularly built and fortified at the command of Agricola, while he was prosecuting his conquests on the north side of the Forth.
“ Richard of Cirencester, the discovery of whose book has thrown great light on the antiquities of Scotland, when speaking of the Horestii, says, “ Their towns were Alauna, Lindum, and Victoria *; the last
• “It is not to be supposed that the natives of the country would affix to the town the Latin name Victoria. It might have
of which was more illustrious than the rest, not only in name, but also in reality. It was built by Agricola, at the river Tay, twenty miles from the exit of that river into the sea.”
“ This is an exact description of the situation of the town of Perth, which he evidently meant; and Mr Whitaker, in his history of Manchester, applies the name accordingly. Perth, or Victoria, is reckoned to have been one of the Latin towns, on which ample privileges were always conferred.”
We have a traditional account of the origin of Perth in The Muses' Threnodie of Adamson*, of which the following is the purport;
recalled to their minds, perhaps, some signal victory over them, which had given occasion to the name. But they might make use of a word in their own language, such as Bertha, to signify that the town appeared to them an illustrious piece of work.
“ Other derivations of the name may be conjectured. Perhaps the goddess Victoria, or the Gothic deity of war, was in a particular manner worshipped by the Romans at Perth. Or perhaps the Victorian legion, which continued long in Britain, might have its principal station at Perth, either while Agricola was governor, or in the next century, when the Romans were again on the north side of the Forth, and where they remained about thir. ty years." — Scott's Stat. Account.
* “ Mr Henry Adamson, a young man of the clerical profese sion, son of James Adamson, Provost of Perth, and brother to Dr John Adamsun, Principal of the College of Edinburgh, wrote
“ Enæus Julius Agricola, in the third year
after Vespasian had sent him to be governor in Britain, viz. about the year of the Christian æra 81, led a nume, rous army round by the pass of Stirling into the coun, try on the north side of the Forth. New nations or tribes were discovered, which the Romans wasted all the way to the Tay. The people fled before them, so that Agricola, in his progress, had full leisure to
forts or castles, “ He had been nearly five years endeavouring to establish the Roman power in Scotland, when he was recalled by Domitian. At first the natives had been in use to demolish, in the winter, the summer-camps or fortresses ; but these, as well as the winter-resi. dences, were at last rendered impregnable.
" When Agricola and his army first saw the river Tay and the adjacent plain on which Perth is now si- . tuated, they cried out with one consent, Ecce Tiber! Ecce Campus Martius! Behold the Tiber! Behold the Field of Mars ! comparing what they saw to their own river, and to the extensive plain in the neigh
his metrical History of Perth about the year 1620, which was published, after his death, in the year 1638. The name which Mr Adamson gave to his book, was The Muses' Threnodie;"! but, according to the fashion of the times, when the book was to be published, it received the fantastical name of " Gall's Gabi. ons.” It is written in a very handsome and spirited manner ; and William Drummond of Hawthornden, the celebrated Scottish poet of those times, wrote a complimentary letter to Mr Adamson, desiring him to publish his work, and congratulating the town of Perth on having given birth to a citizen“ so eminent in love to her, and so dear to the Muses.”
Scott's STAT, ACCOUNT.