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Don't Look Up Mah Kilt!

Like all Highland Line railway stations, Blair Atholl is blessed with a metal lattice-work footbridge. The design of the footbridge evokes railway heyday and is a unique and highly attractive part of the railway station landscape.

These footbridges are/were popular throughout the rail network and they form an essential part of the railway infrastructure and heritage along with signal boxes, platform waiting rooms, semaphore signals and other features reminiscent of a bygone and, many would argue, a much better and romantic age. The footbridge design however gave the eighth Duke of Atholl, John Stewart Murray who held the title from 1917 until 1942, cause for concern.

The concern was for the “modesty” of gentlemen – and possibly more specifically the Duke himself - wearing “correct” highland dress, namely the kilt. The bridge after all is of considerable height and the metal lattice work would give anyone of such a mind a splendid opportunity of determining whether the wearers of kilts were true Scots. The Duke decreed that the decorative lattice work be panelled both up the sides and along the top (a move that might also protect kilt-wearers from unexpected icy blasts of wind!) This, of course, had the unfortunate side-effect of completely diluting the appearance and impact of the decorative metalwork which was accordingly rendered far less striking.

The panelling was first recorded in 1925, but it was gone by 1930. Whether or not the Duke had abandoned highland dress by then is open to conjecture. The museum is grateful to Howard Geddes for this story which is mentioned in his splendid book “Blair Atholl’s Railway”, a volume full of wonderful pictures and facts charting the history of this significant part of the village’s evolution. Copies of the book are available in the museum shop.

The railway is a highly important part of Blair Atholl's history and the museum has a good section in gallery 3 containing artefacts and photographs of the railway from more storied times. Our most prized exhibit is the magnificent PT23 semaphore signal which until three years ago regulated down traffic into Pitlochry station.

It fell the unfortunate victim to modernisation, but we were delighted to have the opportunity of salvaging it, adding it to our collection and thereby saving it for posterity. We also post regular photographs of Blair Atholl station and other historic images of the Highland Line on our facebook page, so if you haven't already liked and/or followed us please feel free to access our page and do so.

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