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Earthquake House Comrie

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Earthquake House
Earthquake house

Earthquake House, Comrie, Perthshire, is one of the oldest permanent seismic observatories in the country, established in a small, square building. The house lies near the A85, located in a field near Ross, at the western end of Comrie.

Comrie lies on the Highland Boundary Fault, and is the reason for its nicknames of the Shakin' Toon, or Shakey Toun.


July 1597 saw the first recording of a Perthshire earthquake, in the diary of James Melville

The late 18th century marked the first recording of shock waves in Comrie itself, with the Reverends Taylor and Gilfillan documenting strange movements, noises and tremors with a major series of 70 shocks in 1789, also referred to in the Statistical Accounts of November 5, 1789.[1]

With the Great Earthquake of 1839, postmaster Peter Macfarlane and shoemaker James Drummond, the Comrie Pioneers, set up the first seismometer on the site in 1840, and Drummond began to keep formal records using an intensity scale devised by Macfarlane. By 1841, the Committee for the Investigation of Scottish and Irish Earthquakes had been formed. Additional instruments were made available, but by 1844, activity and interest had declined. In 1860, the Committee renewed its activities, and 1869 saw a renewed period of seismic activity. By 1874, Earthquake House had been built, directly on top of the local bedrock, and the Mallet seismometer installed. Once again activity declined, the site fell into disuse, and by 1911 was decaying and redundant.

In 1977, it was designated a building of special architectural or historical interest, making it one of the smallest listed buildings in Britain. The British Geological Survey (BGS) supplied new equipment, and in 1988 Earthquake House was restored and automated. Large windows were installed, allowing visitors to view both the new and period equipment installed within the building, where a model of the original Mallet seismometer had been restored.

The Mallet seismometer consisted of two wooden beams placed in a north/south and east/west orientation. Wooden cylinders of increasing diameter were placed on the beams, and surrounded by sand to stop them rolling if they fell. Narrower, less stable cylinders would fall before their wider neighbours, therefore providing a relative indication of the strength of any event which might occur.

Thursday June 9 2006

On Thursday, June 9, 2006, an earthquake measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale, centred on Applecross on the northwest coast of Scotland, shook parts of the Highlands. Residents in Gairloch, Achnasheen, Stromeferry and Ardaneaskan phoned the British Geological Survey when they heard what was described as a "loud bang", and houses were shaken. Since earthquakes are relatively unusual in the area, the indication were initially thought to be the effect of a supersonic aircraft or a heavy lorry passing by, however it was the biggest earthquake in the Highlands since September 2004, when the island of Raasay experienced an event of magnitude 3.3.


1 Reference to the Statistical Accounts of November 5, 1789

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