On 3 December 1917, a little after 13:00, a large fireball was seen to cross southern Scotland. A short time later, an explosion was heard and four objects were seen or heard to crash to the ground around the towns of Coupar Angus and Blairgowrie in the Strathmore area of central Scotland.

How was the fall reported?

The Strathmore fall generated considerable press coverage at the time. Reports of the fall, particularly the airborne phase before it struck the Earth, were published in the newspapers. 

The Astronomer Royal for Edinburgh, Dr RA Sampson, placed a small item in The Scotsman newspaper asking people to write in with their own observations (Sampson refers to the meteorite as the Coupar-Angus Meteorite). Numerous responses were received and the letters sent to the newspapers contained a lot of information and some vivid descriptions. 

Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

"A scintillating incandescent mass”

"It was seen traversing the sky as a scintillating incandescent mass in what appeared to be from a direction slightly to the south of due east to the north of due west."
"Even in the brilliant light of a particularly fine day, and at a little past noon, it was a particularly fine object." 

Images above: Letters from Edinburgh. Evening Dispatch.
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“Its brightness was extraordinary”

"I observed the meteorite quite distinctly. It was low down on the horizon, due north. Its brightness was extraordinary."

Images above: Meteorite at Coupar-Angus. Scotsman. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“Bombshells from space”

"I was walking along Hope Street in a northerly direction, when my attention was suddenly arrested by a sudden trembling of the ground and the noise as of a distant heavy gun."

Images above: Letters from St Andrews. Dundee Advertiser.
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“A brilliant shooting star falling towards the south-west”

"On Monday afternoon, at 1.15, after I crossed the Green at Aboyne, one of my assistants meeting me inquired if I had observed the brilliant 'shooting star' falling towards the south-west. Unfortunately, I had not, as my back was towards the direction of the falling body."

Images above: Letters from Aboyne, etc. Scotsman.
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“Heard it fizzin’”

"Between the sarking and the ceiling she saw something and heard it 'fizzin'. Immediately the idea of a bomb suggested itself, and she came down at once." 

Images above: Bolt from above, Dundee Advertiser. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“Strange projectile penetrates roof of house”.

"It appears that in Coupar Angus especially a mysterious noise was very distinctly heard, and what added to the mystery was the fact that the lodge at Keithick House, Coupar Angus, was struck with some object that penetrated the roof of the house."

Images above: Mysterious Occurrence at Coupar Angus. Dundee Courier. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

“Community thrown into a state of consternation”

"The community of Coupar Angus was thrown into a state of great consternation on Monday afternoon by a terrific atmospheric noise, which plainly was not thunder."

Images above: Bolt from above, Dundee Advertiser. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

The four objects were all recovered and found to be pieces of a large meteorite. Collectively the meteorite was eventually named the Strathmore Meteorite and is the largest fall ever recorded in Scotland.

Where did the Strathmore Meteorite fall?

The four fragments are called South Corston, Keithick, Carsie and Easter Essendy after the farms or properties in which they landed. 

Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Easter Essendy 

The Easter Essendy fragment is the most northwesterly of the four fragments. It is also the largest of the four, weighing in at a hefty 10.2kg. Although it was not observed to hit the ground, workers at the farm thought they heard a heavy thud and saw a flock of sheep scattering. They estimated it to be about 500 yards (450m) from the farm steading. When this was investigated the farm workers found that the stone had created a hole about 450mm deep and the same wide.

Easter Essendy fragment
Weight 10.2kg
National Museums Scotland reference: G.1917.9.1

Fall site at Easter Essendy Farm showing the hole made by the meteorite. In the background is the Loch of Drumellie or Marlee Loch. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Keithick

The Keithick fragment has become the most famous of the four fragments as it fell through the roof of The South Lodge of the Keithick Estate, about 2.5km south-west of Coupar Angus. The house was occupied by Mr and Mrs Hill and their daughter Mary. Having heard what they thought was a knock at the back door but found no-one there, Mary looked around the house and spotted the hole in the roof and, climbing a ladder, looked in the hole and saw the stone resting on the ceiling. A local tradesman was called to repair the roof and while doing this recovered the stone before finishing the repair.

Two images showing the South Lodge at Keithick. By the time the photograph was taken the roof had been repaired so a hole was added to the negative to show where the meteorite struck. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Keithick fragment
Weight: 1.16kg
On loan

Carsie 

For many years, the Carsie fragment held the honour of being one of the few British meteorites to have been observed to hit the ground. The stone was seen to fall by Mrs Grace Welsh, who lived at Carsie Farm about 4km south of Blairgowrie. She stated to the police that she saw it “strike and sink into the frozen ground in a ploughed field about 30 yards (27m) from where I was standing.” The Carsie fragment is distinguished from the other fragments by its shape, being more angular, and by the abundance of flow lines on the fusion crust.

Mrs Grace Welsh of Carsie Farm pointing to the spot where the meteorite fell. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

Corston

The most south-easterly of the four fall sites is at the farm of South Corston, 3km south east of Coupar Angus. It fell on to the lawn about 50m from the farm house. It was the last of the fragments to be recovered. Farm hands working in a nearby field were aware of something falling near the house but nothing was found until four days later, when it was discovered by the gardener, Mr William Duff, on 7 December. The impact made a hole in the ground about 125mm wide and 150mm deep.

Photograph of the fall site at South Corston showing the meteorite next to the hole made by its fall. Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

What role did Henry Coates play in the discovery?

A key figure in the story of the Strathmore meteorite is Henry Coates (1859 – 1935), curator of Perth and Kinross Museum. It is due to his diligence and foresight that we know so much. 

After the fall, he gathered information and eye-witness statements and photographed the individual fragments and fall sites. All this information was compiled by Henry and published in a paper entitled The History of the Strathmore Meteoric Fall on 3rd December 1917.

Henry developed an interest in natural history from an early age, joining the Perthshire Society for Natural Science in 1875 and becoming president in 1896. In 1895, he helped to set up a Natural History museum in Perth, the forerunner of the present museum. Henry was curator of the museum between 1914 and 1918.

Henry Coates, curator of the Perthshire Natural History Museum from 1914–1918. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.

"An authoritive statement"

"As there still exists a certain amount of doubt in the public mind regarding the phenomena which were witnessed in the Coupar Angus and Blairgowrie districts on Monday 3rd inst., I suggested to the Chief Constable of Perthshire, who agreed, to the publication of the following facts:"

Images above: The Meteorite, An Authoritative Statement. Dundee Advertiser. 
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

"Interesting address by Mr Henry Coates"

"Mr Coates remarked that few people realised the extraordinary interest and rarity from a scientific point of view of the phenomena which had been witnessed in their midst of Monday."

Images above: Perth Rotarians. Perthshire Constitutional.
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council

Meteorites can and do strike any part of the Earth at any time. It is estimated that between 18,000 and 80,000 objects land on the Earth’s surface every year. Yet, only four meteorites have ever been recovered in Scotland.
- Peter Davidson, Senior Curator of Mineralogy,

Down to Earth

Celebrating the centenary of the Strathmore Meteorite, Down to Earth is a small display at the National Museum of Scotland (10 November 2017 to 1 April 2018), that reunites the four fragments for the first time along with pieces of the three other meteorites found on Scottish soil.

 Peter Davidson, Senior Curator of Mineralogy, examines a fragment of the Strathmore Meteorite

With support from Perth Museum and Art Gallery and the Natural History Museum, London.

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