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Old faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) online

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goodly number of years one of the most familiar figures about
town, his favourite haunts being the neighbourhood of the
Castle Esplanade and the Back Walk outskirting the Cemetery.
" Tom " was an Irishman, and, like most other blind people,
several of his perceptions were exceedingly keen. A notable
circumstance about " Tom " was that when once he was spoken
to by a person, the voice of the speaker was remembered, even
although some time should elapse before the next conversation
took place. And not only so, but the place and the subject
of conversation were not forgotten either. " Tom " was a
player on the flute, and was in request at weddings and other

Donald Dow,

The favourite of both boys and girls, though still with us, is
quite helpless. In the daytime he sits by the fire, occasionally,
on fine days in summer, being carried out and placed in a chair


on the green. He is very kindly treated by the parties with
whom he is boarded. For many years Donald perambulated
the streets of the town, touching his cap to one and all, and
always ready to give the time-of-day to whoever asked for it
from his watches, of which he had a variety. Quiet and in-
offensive, he was taken kindly notice of by townspeople and
strangers alike. He attended Mr Peter Drummond's out-door
preachings, and also some of the churches, and in singing made
up for quality by vigour, as those who sat near him knew.

N/ *' Bummin' Jamie,"

Or, " Jamie, the Bee," is also still alive. Jamie received the
cognomen from a habit he had of making a humming sound as
he walked. He was in great request among shopkeepers, being
always ready to carry a message, and as he was a big, stout
fellow, he could take a "big lift." When idle he went about,
usually with a straw in his mouth, " bumming " as he sauntered
along. He was also a first-rate street " crier," his voice having
been heard on a quiet day, and with the wind in the right
direction on the Causewayhead road. The boys annoyed
Jamie considerably, and as, when roused, he had a nasty
temper, the authorities had to send him to Larbert Asylum,
where he is in good health and quite contented.




C *f S far back as the reign of James VI. a cloth called
x - fvl shalloon was manufactured in Stirling to considerable
| \^ extent, afterwards giving way to vast tartan, manu-
^^ ^ facture, which in turn has also decayed. Under the
influence of these advantages, many wealthy burghers have
from time to time arisen in Stirling. It was no rare sight, in
the beginning of the century, to see signs over shop-doors,
ornamented by a huge figure 4, denoting that the proprietors
sold goods from all the four quarters of the globe, or, as was
piquantly interpreted, that they had fourpence of profit upon
the shilling's worth of their commodities. The emblem the
corners of which were always curiously adorned with St.
Andrew's crosses, and which, in Scotland, was understood to
give token of the enviable character of a merchant may yet
be seen on many of the gravestones in the old church-yard, as
the only mark of honour or dignity that could be bestowed.

There was in those old times a sort of comfortable burgherism
(if we may be allowed the phrase) about the better class of the
inhabitants of Stirling, which, alas, has long since passed away,
as well as the primitive system of implementing bargains by
wetting of thumbs, and sundry other simple practices. An
illustration of these is found in what is said to be an authentic
anecdote concerning a former treasurer of the town, whose
mode of keeping accounts was, perhaps, one of the most
original ever known. The venerable citizen, it is said, hung up


an old boot on each side of his chimney, into one of which he
put all the money he received, and into the other the receipts
or vouchers for the money he paid away, balancing his accounts
at the end of the year by emptying his boots, and comparing
the money left in the one with the documents deposited in the

Town Council Politics.

A great political battle was fought in 1774, and another in
1784, the Council being then divided, as it generally is, into
two parties. The more powerful distinguished themselves by
the name of "The Royal Twelve," the number they consisted
of ; and the mob, not to be behind, honoured the minority with
the title of " The Holy Nine," huzzaing them in their

A " Backstairs" Councillor.

About a century ago, in a west highland glen, in a small
cot around which grew more heather than cabbage-stocks, was
born Hugh Ross. Hugh's destiny brought him to the low-
lands, and, coming to Stirling, he began "cork" as a slater. His
vernacular easily told his nativity, and to the last it was easy
to see that he was " heeland " by his pawkiness and cunning
fawning. " Carrot-headed Hugh," as he was named, made
matrimonial proposals, was accepted by a widow, the daughter
of a Guild brother, and so became qualified, by the " Water
Charter," for rising to a post of honour at the Council table.
There may be still a few living who would know parties who
had come in contact with this " backstairs " Councillor, who,
having fallen from the roof of a house in Bow Street in 1803,
while following his occupation of slater, was killed on the spot.

Hugh made his first appearance at the Council table in 1789,
when the Banks's and Littlejohns were keenly contending for
supremacy, and to the latter he nailed his colours. Having
been " cut " the following year, he re-entered by the " back
stairs " again in 1793 ; got cut in 1794, and re-appeared in


1795 and 1796, serving his patrons with the utmost fidelity,
who had, for the time being, fairly established themselves as
the premum mobile. The servility of this Councillor was such
that, when a motion was proposed and met by an amendment,
he was sure to qualify his vote by a singular admission of his
weakness. " What Pailie Lit tie John pe say I say too." Thus
to the fascination of a name he surrendered his judgment with
obsequious innocence.

On the occasion of electing a Provost, a member of Council,
in joke, proposed Hugh for the honour, which was duly
seconded, and, to carry on the fun, each one round the table
was in turn giving his vote in the same way ; when the Town
Clerk, seeing the serious position affairs were assuming,
started up, exclaiming, " For God's sake, gentlemen, beware
of what you are doing ; for if you proceed further, Hugh Ross
will certainly be your Provost, and no one will be able to unseat
him.'' This put a sudden end to the joke, and Hugh for ever
lost his chance of being Provost of the burgh.

It is not a little singular that, amid the strife of party,
helped by such sycophants as Hugh Ross, the debts of the
burgh, instead of increasing, should have been diminishing.
In 1795, being under commission by the Court of Session, the
debts amounted to 6293 13s. 6gd. ; in 1790, under the restored
charter, to 4744 9s. 5^d. ; two years after they were 1000
less ; and at the Michaelmas returns of 1797 they amounted
only to 2934 9s. 5jd. It is observable, too, that during this
period the Town Council had expended upon improvements in
the burgh no less than 7000, a condition of things we are
apt to wonder at, for it has universally been allowed that the
Town Councils of the olden times were none of the purest and
self-denying, receiving from us of the nineteenth century very
little credit for their public spirit and economy.

Anecdote of Pre- Reform Times.

In September, 1827, the Stirling Guildry who had the right
of election of four of the members of the Town Council sent
as representatives the following gentlemen, viz., Alexander


Mouat (Dean of the Guildry), William Forbes, Peter Stoddart,
and William Wright, all men of advanced views and indepen-
dent opinions. In the course of the years 1827-28 these mem-
bers of the Council formed a party for reforming the close
corporations, and soon obtained a number of adherents. The
Convener of the Seven Incorporated Trades William Miller,
tailor having died, the reform and anti-reform parties in the
Council stood equal, there being ten on either side. Provost
Buchan threw in his lot with the reformers, but it was
necessary, before any action could be taken, to secure a
majority, and by some means or other the Deacon of the Tailors
was gained over from the other side. Unfortunately, however,-
the deacon got involved in business difficulties, and was obliged
to take refuge in the Sanctuary of Holyrood. Here he was
maintained for several months at the cost of the reform party,
and his affairs were arranged in time to allow him to take
part in the election at Michaelmas, 1828.

On the morning of the Council meeting the " young party "
breakfasted together in the Provost's house in Lower Castlehill
(the house opposite Allan Park IT. P. Church Mission Hall), and
afterwards marched to the Town House in Broad Street. The
first business was to fill the vacancy in the Council caused by
the death of Convener Miller, and the reform party succeeded
in carrying John Stewart, hammerman (whose smithy stood on
the ground in King Street now occupied by ex-Bailie Menzies'
premises), a victory which enabled them to eject all their
opponents from office. There was great rejoicing in the burgh
over the defeat of the anti-reformers, the bells being rung and
a procession taking place, in which a pole was carried with a
flesher's apron fixed half-mast high, the fleshers at that time
being the predominant incorporation of the Seven Trades, and
their deacon the leader of the anti-reform party.

The Burgh Buildings.

In the beginning of the century the site of the Burgh Build-
ings in King Street was occupied by the Meal Market, a stone
wall with a large red-painted gate facing what was then called


Quality Street. When the question of doing away with the
Meal Market came up in the Town Council in 1815, it divided
the members into two parties, viz., the Broad Street party,
headed by Provost Anderson, and the Low Town party, headed
by Bailie (afterwards Provost) Gillies. On the vote being
taken, the proposal to abolish the Meal Market was carried by
the narrow majority of one, and it was resolved to build an
Athenseum. It was originally intended to give the first floor
of the building for a County Hall, but the county people re-
fusing to subscribe towards the erection, this intention was
departed from.

The foundation-stone was laid with masonic honours in pre-
sence of a large assemblage, the prayer on the occasion being
offered up by the Reverend John Russell (Burns's " Black
Russell "), one of the ministers of the East Church. The open-
ing took place on 17th January, 1818, the shops on the ground
floor being sold to Patrick Connal, merchant, and the shop to
the right (or east) was first occupied by Miss Fletcher, haber-
dasher ; the shop facing the Corn Exchange being taken by
Messrs Drummond & Sons, seedsmen.

The premises were afterwards purchased by Messrs A. & J.
Mouat, drapers, who opened the shops right through, and
carried on business there for many years. The first floor was
let to the Stirling Subscription Reading-Room, and the top
flat to the Stirling Library. In 1873 the Council resolved to
occupy the building themselves, and tlie Reading-room was
converted into the Town Clerk's office, while the place occupied
by the Library was fitted up as the Council Chamber.

The statue of Wallace (for which the arched portico was
built in 1859) was executed by Mr Handyside Ritchie, and was
presented to the town by the late Mr William Drummoud.

Names of Streets.

At the Town Council meeting on 20th November, 1843, Bailie
Rankin stated that there were two places in town that had no
names, namely, from the foot of King Street to the foot of
Friars Wynd, and from there to the foot of Queen Street. He


also said there were two county gentlemen who took a deep
interest in the prosperity of the town one of them, as was
well-known, being the instigator of the movement for the
thoroughfare being made. He would therefore submit that
the space from the foot of King Street to the Royal Hotel be
called Murray Street (after the grand-uncle of Colonel Murray
of Polmaise) ; and from the Royal Hotel to the foot of Queen
Street, Ramsay Street (after Mr Ramsay of Baniton) ; and
from the Royal Hotel down to Mr Henderson's buildings at the
top of Forth Place, be named Maxwell Street, after Mrs
Murray. This was agreed to, and it was also agreed to name
two places in Dumbarton Road Albert Place and Victoria Place
respectively, after the Prince Consort and Queen Victoria.

Drummond Place owes its name to the late Mr Peter Drum-
mond ; George Street, formed in 1876, was called after Provost
George Christie ; and James Street commemorates Bailie
James Ronald, who built the first house in the street.

Orchard Place received its name in a very quiet way. James
Gentles, slater, had removed to a house there, but not being
pleased with its then name of "Dirten Tide," had a small
board painted with the words, " Orchard Place " (the district
having at one time been an orchard), which he affixed to a
house at the end of the street, and no one objecting, the name
was recognised by all.

Shops of Last Century.

Up till the end of last century the shops in the town used
to be long narrow arches or pends, frequently without a fire-
place in them. In these the shopkeepers sat from morning till
night waiting for customers. The reason for building the
under part of houses in the form of arches was to make them
more durable, and to render the under part, where the shops
were, more strong and proof against fire and nocturnal


Wolf Crag : The Burgh Arms*

During the reign of Donald V., near the end of the ninth
century, two Northumbrian princes, named Ostrict and Ella,
had acquired by conquest all south of the Forth from Stirling
and toward the eastern coasts. The town pf Stirling was
under the rule of these Anglo-Saxons some twenty-eight years.
During this period the Danes, under their magical flag, the
" Black Raven," had visited Britain for pillage. Pursuing
their depredations to the north, each town inhabited by Anglo-
Saxons was as well guarded and watched as could be for the
approach of such reckless spoilers, and at the " South Port,"
the south entry into Stirling, a sentinel was set. One night
fatigue had overcome the man on duty, and he fell asleep at
his post, but was awakened by the growl of a wolf, which had
left the woody wilds and climbed on a rock in the immediate
neighbourhood. He awoke in good time to perceive some of
the northern hordes on the approach, and timeously alarmed
the garrison, who speedily caused the invaders to retreat. The
incident of the cries of the wolf was regarded as a favourable
omen, and the crag received the name of " Wolf Crag."

Mottoes having been introduced into England by the Saxons,
the Northumbrian Anglo-Saxons adopted the design of the wolf
recumbent on a rock, as the armorial bearings of the town. In
an ancient seal belonging to the burgh, it is understood there
are seen seven stars set in the sky ; and the rock on which
reclines the wolf is strewn with branches of trees, apparently
indicative of the Druidical or Pagan idea of heaven superin-
tending the affairs of this part of " Sylvae Caledonia." The
Reformers' Gazette, 27th May, 1854.

The Provost's Dress.

In contrast with the robe now worn on special occasions, it
may be of interest to know that the dress of the Provost in
olden times was a black gown, fastened under the chin, narrow
at the top, and gradually increasing in dimensions as it came
to the bottom ; he also wore bands like a clergyman.


The Dean of Guild's Chain.

The present chain of office pertaining to the office of Dean
of Guild was first worn by Ebenezer Bow, the then Dean of
Guild (and who had his place of business near the head of King
Street), on the occasion of the visit of George IV. in 1822.

The Town Officers' Uniform or Livery.

-On gala days and public occasions the Magistrates and Town
Council were preceded by five formidable personages, four of
them town officers and the other the town drummer, attired
in their gaudy livery of scarlet, their heads adorned with cocked
hats, and bearing halberts, the brightness of which, however,
intimated that they had very little duty to perform except
that of show.

The frontispiece of this volume, while affording the reader
some conception of the picturesquely quaint character of the
dress worn by the town officers "at publick parades," does not
convey an adequate idea of its richness. In the " Burgh
Records," under date 20th July, 1607, an entry appears as
follows : " Ordinis the thesaurare to provyde and furnes
George Crawfurde, drummare, and Johnne Forbes, pyper, ilk
ane of thame, with breikis and schankis of ryd stemmyng (a
woollen cloth) ; " and again, under date 2nd June, 1622, there
is the following : " The counsell ordines the thesaurare to by
and furnes to the foure officiares and to the drummare and
pyper, ilk ane of thame, ane garment of rid Ingleshe kaser
(cashmere), viz., coit, breikis, and shankes, with whyte knett-
ingis, wrocht in guide fassoun." As early as 1520 there is a
record of the appointment of seriandis, or officers of the burgh,
but the above is the first occasion on which the livery is spoken
of, and it is incomplete in detail, no mention being made of
the shoes, hats, swords, or halberts. The furnishing of these,
however, is now and again referred to. On 10th May, 1647,
" It is statut and ordainit that everie gildbrother provyd ane


halbert and have the same in his buithe, and those that wantis
buithes to have it in thair houses, .... ilk persone under
the payne of fyve punds." On 17th August, 1663, "The
thesaurer is appoynted to send to Holland for twentie new
halbertis for the townes use ; " and on 1st April, 1738, " The
councill .... agree that the officers be furnished and
provided with new swords mounted with brass handles, to be
worn by them on all publick occasions in time Comeing ;
. . . . and that the price of the whole four be six pound

The livery of the Guildry Officer is a green coat and vest,
green knee-breeches, white stockings, shoes with buckles, and
tall hat ; facings, yellow. That of the Trades Officer is similar
to the above, but dark blue, with red facings.

The Trades' " Blue Blanket."

The " Blue Blanket " of the Seven Incorporated Trades is
a banner about 2 yards square, and is made up of ribbons
and silk, eight inches broad, sewed together, of a dingy flesh-
colour and faded sky-blue, with a St. Andrew's Cross in white
silk from corner to corner. The upper edge is stretched on a
piece of wood, the ends of which are fixed to poles for carrying.
The Convener is provided with a sash of rich white silk, 2J
yards long, having a fringe eight inches deep, and he wears
an ancient sword on great occasions. He walks under the
banner, the floating ends of which are held by ribbons, the
"Blanket" requiring four craftsmen to bear it aloft. The
tradition is that when Mary Queen of Scots granted the charter
of privilege, on 16th April, 1556, to the Stirling Trades, she
presented them with a banner made by herself and her maids
of honour. Having the banner unfurled at the Cross in
Broad Street was the signal for the Trades to fly to arms and
rally round the Convener, each burgess being required to bring
along with him two pecks of meal and a bag of onions for his
subsistence while his services were required. The " Blanket "
was kept in a strong oak box furnished with seven locks, each
deacon having a key, so that all had to be present before the
box could be opened.


High Constables and Town Guard.

The Magistrates were assisted in the preservation of peace
and good order in the burgh by a regularly organised body,
called High Constables, who were governed by a captain, two
lieutenants, a treasurer, and a secretary, the whole (including
the office-bearers) numbering thirty-six, and acting voluntarily
which they did to the letter to a set of printed regulations
furnished by the Magistrates, under whose control they were
placed. They could be depended on to act promptly in any
case of emergency. Besides the Constables, eight of the in-
habitants mounted guard each night, following each other in
rotation until the duty had gone round the whole community.
A sergeant had command of the night guard, and had a regular
salary. The inhabitants performed this duty mostly by substi-
tutes, there being always parties ready to engage, although
the pay was only one shilling each night. They perambulated
the streets twice or thrice each night, and if an individual was
found who had been making " too free " with liquor, if peace-
able he was allowed to go, of ten, on condition of his standing
a treat all round ; but if obstreperous, then the guard-house
was his domicile for the night.

The Town Guard and the Lady.

On one occasion the sergeant of the town guard was sur-
prised, while mustering his forces, by observing among them
a big stout personage, who was to all appearance a stranger,
at least to him, and on his asking for whom he attended, he
was told, "for myself." He then asked the name, when he

was utterly confounded on being told that she was Mrs D ,

who lived in St. Mary's Wynd. She was dressed in a man's
topcoat and cap, and carried a formidable " rung," and as her
size and strength were superior to any there, she would have
been a great acquisition to his force. But as a female guardian
was not the rule, she was told so, and that she would require to


provide a male substitute. To this, however, she made firm
refusal, and the sergeant had to go without one of his men
that night at least.

The Town Guard in an Awkward

The inhabitants of Broad Street were alarmed one night by
loud cries and signs of a commotion on the street. On windows
being opened, the " bold guard " were each seen lying on the
street and three or four men standing over them. It was
nothing more serious, however, than that a number of officers
from the Castle, who had been at a party in town, had got
" elevated," and for a " lark " attacked the guard and laid them
on their backs on the street. They knew, however, how to
mend matters, which they did to such extent that the guard
were on the lookout for some time after, so that the operation
might be repeated.

Walking the Marches.

On 18th March, 1611, it is minuted that the Council
" Statutes and apointes ane visitatione of the tounes merches
to be yeirlie on the Mononday nixt, and immediatelie following
the electioun and admissioun of the provost, baillies, and
counsall, and 011 the Mononday nixt efter the feist of Peashe,
yerlie." Forty-two years later the subject is again dealt with,
as appears under date 28th February, 1653 : "The counsall hes
condiscendit that fra this tyme furthe the tounes mertche be
perambulat and gone threw yeirlie upouii the first Taysday of
Mertche and that they shall begin the morne, being the first
Taysday of Mertche this year, and for that end the baillies,
deane of gild and convenar, withe the haill counsall and sutche
old men and young men as salbe wairnit to attend thame are
to wait on the morne and meit together in the morning."

The place of meeting for the walkers has always been " The
Whins," but, like other ancient landmarks, " The Whins " have
long ago disappeared, and the name only remains. " The


Whins " existed where the grounds of the West Free Church
and the Territorial School now are, at the lower end of Upper
Bridge Street.

Old Style of Celebrating the King's

On the occasion of the King's birthday, the members of the
Stirling Guildry, the Seven Incorporated Trades, and others
assembled in Broad Street, on the invitation of the Town Coun-
cil, for the purpose of drinking His Majesty's health. The
party formed three sides of a square in front of the Town
House, with a military band in the centre, and a firing party
from the Castle outside. The Magistrates and Council met
in the Council Chamber (now the Parochial Board-room), and
afterwards came down stairs to take part in the demonstration.
Glasses were served out, and a round of wine allowed for each
of the three toasts usually drunk, a feu-de-joie accompanying

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