Tag Archives: Black Watch

Kirriemuir Camera Obscura

Where better to start my occasional blogs for the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, than with The Kirriemuir Camera Obscura –  a great example of the richness of Scotland’s beautiful built heritage.


The Camera Obscura can be found inside the cricket pavilion situated on Kirriemuir Hill which was gifted to the town by Kirriemuir’s famous (and perhaps most controversial) son, author and playwright J.M.Barrie.

At a cost of £25,000 it was designed by architect Frank Drummond Thomson of Dundee.  Thomson designed numerous public and private buildings in Dundee including the Blackness and Coldside libraries, Alhambra Cinema (now the Whitehall Theatre) and the King’s Theatre.  Thomson won the pavilion design competition because his plans were closest to Barrie’s original idea for the building:

“It should not be ornate, or call attention to itself, but should be something that settles down quietly as belonging to the Hill – a Kirrie building, not something from the outside”.

Thomson’s design created a structure with no roof support posts thus providing an uninterrupted view of the cricket game from all parts of the pavilion. However, the most significant architectural feature was the incorporation of the Camera Obscura.


Now one of only four in Scotland it provides panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside including the Sidlaws to the south, the Ochils to the west, and the Grampians to the north.

Opened on 7th June 1930, J.M. Barrie’s speech was broadcast by the B.B.C. using an innovative system of microphones and amplifiers set up by the Dundee branch of the Edison-Swan Electric Company Ltd.

Over the years various caretakers have looked after the pavilion and Camera Obscura including Charles Melvin (1885-1941) who in November 1917 received the Victoria Cross while serving with the Black Watch in Iraq.

In 2015 the management of the Pavilion passed from the National Trust for Scotland to the Kirriemuir Regeneration Group whose enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers provide guided tours.  It is well worth a visit  – check the Camera Obscura Facebook page for 2016 opening hours.



Sources: Dundee Courier 7 June 1930 p.6; Falkirk Herald 11 June 1930 p.15; Dundee Courier 18 July 1941 p.2; Dictionary of Scottish Architects





Lance Corporal William NIVEN 1st Battalion Black Watch. Service No. 8104.

William Niven has sat for over twenty years on the periphery of my father’s family tree.  A chance conversation at the end of last year made me unearth the hand written tree that an elderly relative sent to my Dad and research William.

Today is the centenary of piper William Niven’s death at La Bassee.

William Niven was born 14th October 1878 at Fordelhill, Leuchars, Fife where his father James Niven worked as a farm servant.  He married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Cramb Lammond on 19th December 1913 at Laidlaw’s Temperance Hotel, St Leonard’s  Street, Perth.

On the 10th February 1915 his death was announced in the Perthshire Advertiser:

“Stanley Soldier Killed

Mrs Niven, who since the outbreak of war has resided with relatives in Commercial Street, Bridgend, Perth, was officially notified to-day of the death of her husband, Corporal William Niven, of the 1st Black Watch.  The deceased served for eight years in the Army, and was called up with the reserves.  Prior to August he was employed as postman at Stanley.  Sad to relate, a baby was born to Mrs Niven a short time ago.”

Five days later the Dundee Evening Telegraph published the following photograph and summary of his service.

William Niven

“The parents of Corporal William Niven, 1st Black Watch, who reside at Bridgend, Ceres, have received information that their son had been killed in action at La Bassee on the 25th January.  He enlisted in the Black Watch at Perth in 1901, and was eight years with the colours.  He served most of his time in India, but he also took part in the South African War, for which he held the medal.  He was called up with the Reserves when the war broke out, and took part in the great struggle round Mons and Charleroi, and was wounded in the retreat from Mons.  After being in hospital for some time in France he once more returned to the firing line, fighting in all engagements with his regiment in which they were engaged until he fell at La Bassee.  He was 36.”

We Will Remember Them.

Sources: www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk ;  www.thebritishnewspaperarchives.co.uk.