A Sma Glen Mystery

It was a quiet night at the Foulford Inn on the night of the 9th of October 1926.  Outside it was blowing a gale, two men stood at the bar, grateful to be inside, where it was warm and dry.

Elizabeth Gorrie, the 24-year-old daughter of the owners of the inn, was sitting in the parlour when she thought she heard some shouting outside, She was sure someone was shouting “hey” this happened three times.  Elizabeth went into the bar and told her mother, they ran out to see a horse-drawn delivery van standing directly in front of the inn.  Slumped in front was 63-year-old Alexander Chalmers from 7 West High Street Crieff.

Chalmers worked for D & J McEwen in Crieff and would travel up the Sma’ Glen and along Glenquaich acting as a mobile grocers shop.

Elizabeth and her mother and father John Gorrie – who had also heard three cries of “hey” while he was working in the stables at the rear of the inn helped – the injured man from the van. Blood poured down the delivery-mans face from a deep cut above his right eye Chalmers stated that he had been attacked in the glen, saying “they hit me on the head with something”. He also stated that he had been at a dance the previous night. Alexander Chalmers was carried into the Foulford Inn, where he again told off being attacked this time saying his attackers had hit him with one of his lanterns. He then died from his injuries.   

A Dr William Haig from Crieff and Perth’s Dr Wickenden carried out a post-mortem stated that the cause of death was a loss of blood, together with concussion and shock.  The injuries consisted of a cut above the right eye; two puncture wounds to the back of the head and bruising on top of the head and a cut on the left hand. Whatever had struck Chalmers on the face had been done in a downward motion.  

It was thought that a passing car might have hit Chalmers while he was standing by the road lighting his lamps causing him to spin around and hit his head on the van, or the storm caused a flying tree branch to catch him and that might account for the wounds to the head. 

At the inquiry that was held on the 14th of January 1927 a unanimous verdict of accidental death was reached.  

But was Alexander Chalmers killed by a serious of unfortunate events? Did a passing car clip him causing him to spin around and hit his van or did a flying tree branch smash a lamp into his face as he was lighting the lantern? Elizabeth stated at the inquest investigating the death that Chalmers always lit the lamps while sitting in the van. She said that he took the lamps from their brackets and tucked one under his arm when he lit the other, so he did not get out of the van to light the lamps, both doctors had agreed that the wound to the face could not have occurred while Chalmers was seated.  

Although severely injured and rambling when pulled out of his van at the Foulford Inn on the night of the 9th of October. He Stated he had been to a dance when he had not, he also said two or three times that had been attacked, he was not so incoherent as to not know the name of the owner of the Inn calling him John and asking for his horse to be taken care off. The two lamps were found, one lying at the side of the road, the other 500 yards away on the way to Buchanty, a route the delivery van had not taken.   

Was the death of Alexander Chalmers due to a supernatural occurrence, was he attacked by a “Mist Man”. The Dundee Evening Telegraph dated on the 16th of May 1927, some seven months after the death of Chalmers tells a strange story.  Under the heading “The Mist-Man in the Sma’ Glen” the writer tells of an eerie experience he and his friend witnessed in the Glen. The two men who were cycling when they were caught up in a dense mist, one of them looked around and saw quite clearly a tall man wearing a long overcoat walking over the moor about 50 yards away.  The man leaving his bike ran towards the stranger who had disappeared behind a small hillock. When the cyclist rounded the mound there was no sign of the strange man, there was nowhere he could have hidden no trees or buildings just bleak, desolate moorland.  He could see clearly for 200 yards in every direction. The man in the long coat had just vanished into thin air. It was no trick of the light or figment of the imagination as both the cyclists had seen the stranger. In an atmosphere of increasing menace, both cyclists mounted their bikes and “lost no time in getting away”.  

Whatever happened to Alexander Chalmers be it an accident or something more sinister in the Sma’ Glen one stormy night in 1926 will remain a mystery. 

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