Kirriemuir has a list of claims to fame as long as a giant’s arm.
Kirriemuir additionally claims to have the narrowest public footpath in western Europe. Cat’s Close, situated between Grant’s Pend and Kirkwynd is a mere 40 cm (15.75 inches) wide.
It has Scotland’s oldest sweet shop, Star Rock Shop, which is aged 188 and counting.
Even the buildings here have their own identity. While grey reigns across much of Tayside and Fife, the ‘Wee Red Toon’ has a muddier appearance due to the local red sandstone.
Underpinning all this is a community spirit that some would say is Kirrie’s finest attribute. This is why local people love their town.
‘God asked us to move to the area’
Mandi Davies says Kirriemuir residents are welcomingly open-minded when she tells them that God inspired her to move to the town.
Mandi, 46, and her husband Jon had only lived in their house in Sauchie, Clackmannanshire, for two years when they decided to move to Angus.
Without any local links they initially relocated to a stop-gap property in Lochlands Caravan Park, Forfar, before moving to a maisonette in Kirriemuir two months later, in January 2021.
“I am a Christian and felt God was asking us to move to the area,” she says.
“My husband had it in his heart that we were going to move up here and I put out a message to the community and they said there was somewhere at Lochlands we could rent.
“Jon met someone on the site who needed a driver, so he got a new job within a week. It worked out really well.”
Mandi works as a receptionist at Stirling Court Hotel, which means she has accommodation available to limit the number of times she has to commute.
“I absolutely love it in Kirriemuir,” adds Mandi, who grew up in Dumfries before moving to Perthshire aged 11. “It’s just so beautiful and the people are so friendly.
“When I talk to people about my faith they’re really open-minded.
“When God tells you to do something it’s about obedience and he will show you the way. It was the voice of the Lord that told us to come here and we just knew it would work.
“You would not just give up your job and home for no reason but when you know you’ve got to go then you do it.
“I have made a lot of really good friends on a local Facebook group and I feel really at home.”
The Roods is ‘Kirrie’s Shambles’
It took a move to Aberdeen for Emma MacDonald to realise how much she valued her life in Kirriemuir.
Emma, 31, lasted only 18 months after leaving Kirrie in her late teens to do a childcare course at Aberdeen University.
“It’s nice to be a part of a community,” she says. “That was something I missed when I was in Aberdeen.
“I had friends but they were scattered around the city, while at Kirriemuir they are all here and close.
“We have so much history here with Peter Pan and also the buildings of the little red town. I am more suited to smaller places.”
“It’s not good for people living in the town to see empty shops here so when the lady next door said she was going to give up her shop I decided to take it on,” she says.
“York is famous for The Shambles and The Roods is as close to that as you get in Kirriemuir.”
Born and bred in the town, Emma has fond memories of playing in the paddling pool at Kirriemuir Den.
“I would meet other kids there and it was always bustling with life,” she recalls.
Helping Emma run the shops is her mum Eleanor, 55, who moved to Kirriemuir when she was 12.
In a strange coincidence, Eleanor had lived for the previous 10 years – between 1974 and 1984 – at Skerryvore Road in north-east Glasgow.
This is the same road that Malcolm and Angus Young, who formed AC/DC before later meeting Bon Scott, lived in before moving to Australia in 1963.
“I must be the only person living in Kirriemuir who has lived on that road,” she says.
Eleanor’s son Matthew is also a musician. He plays the guitar and is planning to study music business at Perth College next year.
‘Kirrie Connections is brilliant’
Robert Hamilton has found living in Kirriemuir a great help as he tackles dementia.
Robert, 75, had lived in Dundee for 40 years when he moved to an assisted housing unit in Kirriemuir to be closer to his daughter Roberta Fulton.
This was 18 months ago, when he was also diagnosed with dementia.
Since being in the town he has volunteered for Kirrie Connections, a hub where people living with dementia and their family carers can get advice, form new friendships and remain an active part of their community.
“Kirrie Connections is brilliant,” says Robert. “They do sing-alongs and you go on outings so you can socialise with other people.”
Robert, who worked as a theatre technician at Ninewells Hospital, is glad he made the move to Kirriemuir.
“Before I moved up here I had only passed through Kirriemuir twice,” he says.
“It’s a very friendly wee town. It has lots of wee alleyways that I am still discovering. It’s a lovely quiet place.”
‘I love it and am so proud of it’
It doesn’t matter if it’s New Orleans, New York or St Petersburg – Councillor Julie Bell has visited can compare to Kirriemuir.
As well as all the travelling, the 59-year-old has lived in Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and Forfar.
But since moving to Kirriemuir in 2003 she has been smitten with what she calls the “small town with a huge heart”.
In 2017 she became Cllr Bell, representing Kirriemuir and Dean.
“The sense of family and community you get in Kirriemuir is astounding,” she says. “I love it and am so proud of it.
“Whenever I have been away I have been grateful to get home. It’s a calming place and also exciting, with lots going.
“It’s inspiring to see people coming up with things to make it better.”
These include plans for a rock and roll memorabilia museum.
“I have been to New Orleans, New York. St Petersburg and many places in between but this is where I feel most at home.
“I’m not leaving.”
New store is confidence boost
The opening of Muir Hardware is a measure of confidence in Kirriemuir as a place for business.
Many have shifted their shopping habits online due to 14 months of lockdowns but Hamid Mahood was happy to unveil a new store at this unpredictable time.
In early May, Hamid opened Muir Hardware in the former Kirrie Connections dementia unit in Bank Street. This is opposite card shop Moments, which he also owns.
He employs shop assistant Ashleigh McVicar, 40, who moved from Newtyle to Kirriemuir three years ago.
“There’s so much for children to do at Kirriemuir,” says Ashleigh, who has also lived in Coupar Angus.
“My youngest child, Lailah, plays football for Kirrie Thistle and gymnastics at the sports centre.
“Kirrie is a hidden gem and I don’t know if a lot of people outwith the town know about it.
“Even though I have lived 15 to 20 miles away I never came here until one of my kids went to high school here.
“It’s a good sized town and there is so much here.”
‘Great place to grow up’
Music has played a big part of Davina Farquharson’s life in Kirriemuir.
Davina, 77, spent her earliest years in Southmuir before her father moved the family to Northmuir so he could be closer to his job as a farmer at Caddam Farm.
During her childhood and for much of her adult life she has sung in the Kirriemuir Amateur Operatic Society.
A decade ago, following the death of her brother Edward from cancer, she worked with Lynne Patullo on a CD – If there were no flowers – that raised £1,500 for Ninewells Hospital.
“Kirrie is not too busy and everyone’s so friendly,” says Davina, whose husband Frank passed away in 1998. “It’s the people who make this place so special.”
Davina’s grandfather Robert McDermid was a town crier who lost his arm after an accident at a local mill.
Her younger sister Sandra Macintosh, 63, moved to Blairgowrie when she was 17 but regularly returns to Kirriemuir to visit family.
She says: “It was a great place to grow up. I have so many memories of us playing in Caddam Wood and mum shouting at us to get back in for tea.”
Davina and Sandra’s grandfather Robert McDermid was a town crier who lost his arm after an accident at a local mill.
‘Everyone is friendly’
Peter Pan Park is ‘unreal’
Gayle Pfister still wakes up in the morning wondering if she is on holiday.
South African Gayle, 64, has lived in Kirriemuir since June 2020 after herself and her husband “fell in love” with Scotland on a trip to Angus to see her daughter in spring 2019.
“I loved Scotland and my husband loved Angus,” says Gayle, who previously lived in Middelburg, 80 miles east of Pretoria. “He loved the buildings and the grandness. He said he wanted to live here.”
They sold their house and were able to beat the Brexit deadline to gain pre-settled status in the UK due to having a Swiss passport from her husband’s side of the family.
Gayle, who worked in South Africa as a medical secretary, has managed to find work remotely for a supermarket clubcard call centre.
“I miss the South African weather but I love the people here and how open they are.
“We are finding more and more things of interest and you can walk much more freely than in South Africa.
“I love the Peter Pan Park and how everything is so magical in it. You look around and it is like you are in a Peter Pan storybook. It’s unreal.
“Kirriemuir has helped me focus on the here and now.”