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

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very neatly remarked, " My Lord, a few days after the trousers
were made the defender got married, and he has presumably
fallen a good deal out of them since." This convulsed the
whole Court with laughter, the judge not excepted. The
remark seemed somewhat of a damper to the defender, as he
descended from his elevated position rather crestfallen.


The Sacraments.

A certain clergyman in town was once visiting his parish-
ioners, and, as his custom was, " On the questions targed them
tightly." Happening to ask a servant how many sacraments
there were, he received answer " 'Deed, I canna say. You
ministers never agree about onything, -for the Back Raw folks
ha'e fower in a year, and ithers ha'e only twa."

The minister of Port of Monteith, at a diet of catechising,
asked a parishioner, "How many sacraments are there?" and
received for answer, " Five : the Kippen ane, an' Callander
ane's twa ; an' Norrieston, three ; Kincardine, fower ; an' yer
am ane, sir : that mak's five.

The Tirling Pin.

" Fair Annie cam' to her lord's yett,
And tirled at the pin."

This relic of the past can hardly be seen nowadays out of a
museum, and it may be worth while describing it for the bene-
fit of those who may never have seen one. A " tirling pin "
was simply an old-fashioned form of knocker, door bell, or
other means of summons for admittance to a house, and was
fashioned in a great many different shapes or designs ; some-
times a simple roughened bar, with a free working ring or
pendant fastened to the middle of the upper part of a door,
and used as a signal or call to those within, from which comes
the expression, " When you are passing, give a tirl at the
door." It also appears in the form of a " sneck " or door
handle, this latter variety being more elaborate in construc-
tion, and also more useful.

Reasons and Reasons Annexed.

There are reasons and reasons annexed. A builder was
consulted about heightening the walls of his neighbour's house,
which would have greatly circumscribed the view from his own


house. Accordingly he objected to undertake the job. " We
canna get stanes handy ; it'll tak' a biggish sum of money to
effect these alterations ; the auld wa's will not sustain any
addition; a big hoose is an inconvenience, as we ken to our
cost ; a wee hoose is cosy in the cauld days an' nichts o'
winter," &c., &c.

" Noo," retorted the employer of labour, " them's yer
reasons. There are reasons and reasons annexed. Lat's hear
yer reason annexed."

" Yer plan wad spoil the view frae my windows."

The Resurrectionists in Stirling.

At the Spring Circuit Court of 1822, the grave-digger and
some others were tried on a charge of lifting bodies from Stir-
ling Churchyard. They alleged that they acted by instruc-
tions of Dr John Forrest, who made a timely flight from the
town to escape prosecution. He joined the army, and ultim-
ately rose to be Inspector-General of Hospitals. A riot took
place in the streets at the time, and the 77th Regiment were
brought down from the Castle to disperse the rioters. They
fired on the mob in Spittal Street, but 110 one was injured, the
soldiers intentionally firing over the people's heads. One of
the bullets entered the " Journal " office, which was then in
Spittal Street, in the premises now occupied by Mrs Crocket,
but did no damage. For long afterwards bodies were buried
in stone or iron coffins, which were removed in six weeks or so,
and a watch was kept on newly-made graves.

Important Invention in Warfare.

It was understood that the destruction of Sveaborgh was
chiefly effected by bombshells charged with a liquid com-
bustible. An invention, precisely of the nature of these shells,
was communicated to Lord Hardinge in April, 1854, by William
Hutton, at that time writer in Stirling.


Sir Robert Peel.

In January, 1846, the Town Council petitioned Her Majesty
to dismiss Sir Robert Peel.

Walking Feat.

In May, 1842, Mr Barnett, a young officer in the 42nd Royal
Highlanders, then in Stirling Castle, undertook, for a consider-
able bet, to walk a distance of 46 miles, equipped as a private
soldier in complete marching order, within the space of 24
hours. The weight he carried, including 60 rounds of ball
cartridge, amounted to 64 Ibs. The task he performed on the
Alloa road, and accomplished it with comparative ease, having
nearly two hours to spare.

Discovery of Roman Remains in
Spittal Street.

In August, 1827, while workmen were engaged in preparing
for the foundation of the branch of the Commercial Bank of
Scotland, now the Royal Infirmary, they discovered what was
believed to have been the remains of Roman sepulture. At a
depth of 9 feet they found portions of human bones, mixed
with ashes, small pieces of charcoal, and the broken remains of
earthen vessels. These were confined to a very narrow ridge
or trench, which extended in length to about 12 or 14 feet,
and stood east to west. At the eastern extremity the remains
were in a more perfect state, which may be accounted for by
the rock on which the whole rested having been evidently cut
or hollowed out to receive the deposit which had been placed
in it.


The Rev. James Guthrie and the
Stirling Butchers.

An old tradition was kept up in the town, that at the time
of the Reformation or, more properly, during the time of the
Episcopacy Mr James Guthrie, one of the ministers of Stir-
ling, for refusing to read the liturgy, was most impiously
attacked by the Corporation of Butchers, and almost stoned to
death. They chased the venerable martyr through the whole
town, and a stone was shown in the Vennel Close, on which
some of his blood was said to have been spilt. He escaped
their hands to fall a more distinguished victim to the tyranny
of the times. He foretold that no butcher should ever thrive
in Stirling, and the townspeople maintained that up to the end
of last century no flesher ever did good. In the Rev. Ralph
Erskine's elegiac ode on Mr Hamilton, one of the ministers of
the city of Edinburgh and who, regardless of his life, mounted
the city port and carried away the head of Mr Guthrie, and
buried it occurs this verse :

" O, Stirling, Stirling, thou hast been the seat
Of famous martyrs and confessors great ;
Some thou hast stoned, by thy fierce butcherous hive,
Which never since have had a day to thrive."

Another version of the story as to the " ban " on the fleshers
is as follows : " An early Protestant martyr, having been
stoned out of the town, retired to die in a field by the wayside
at some distance from the South Port, and was attacked, in
these his last moments, by a rapacious butcher's wife in Stirling,
who endeavoured to rob him of his clothes, and, finally, it is
said, succeeded. The St. Stephen of Stirling vented, with his
dying breath, a malediction upon the Incorporation to which
the husband of his persecutrix belonged, and ever since that
time the butchers of Stirling have never done well. There are
now (1827) actually no butchers in the town, and for one to set
up within its walls would be looked upon as madness. The
market is supplied by men who dwell in the villages around.


Of course, we need not point out to the reader that a sufficient
natural cause thus exists why a flesher practising his trade
within the town cannot succeed, and never will do so, so long
as any faith is placed in the prophecy of the martyr."

We need not say the prophecy is now a dead letter, as the
butchers' shops of Stirling can vie with places of greater pre-
tensions, and all appear to be nourishing.

How Mr. Hamilton " Boxed' Himself
to the Pulpit.

The Rev. Alex. Hamilton was incumbent of the first charge
of the Parish of Stirling from the year 1726 to that of 1738,
in the latter of which he died. He was a kindly, prudent,
and sympathising adviser with the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine in
his dilemma with the Church at the period of " The Rise of the
Secession." In his youth his father had destined him for the
bar, but the pulpit, from his schoolboy days, had been his
ambition and determination. This was the cause of a rupture
between sire and son, and he forsook his home clandestinely,
to push his fortune elsewhere. He repaired to London, and
soon found himself destitute and friendless.

In those days the beastly and brutal art, gilded over by the
name of self-defence, was held in high repute in the great
Metropolis. Observing, in his peregrinations one day, the
challenge of the champion of the ring, the youthful runaway
did not hesitate long in accepting it, and, in an engagement of
thirty-five rounds, was proclaimed the winner of the belt. The
audience being large, as well as wealthy, were neither niggardly
nor tardy in the bestowal of their purses. This unlooked-for
windfall enabled him to retrace his steps to Scotland, to pro-
secute his studies, and in a few years after he was licensed to
become a minister of the Gospel.

He was settled in Airth, where he soon gained the esteem

and attachment of his parishioners, so much so that, upon their

hearing of his call to Stirling they did all they could to hinder

him from going to the Presbytery to formally accept it. Having



mounted his horse to go to Stirling on this errand, after passing
the old schoolhouse he was surrounded by a crowd of villagers
determined to prevent him. Finding arguments and pleadings
useless, they had recourse to stratagem ; one, more forward
than the rest, unslipped the buckles, and left the horse bridle-
less. Those who knew Mr Hamilton's character were sure this
circumstance would cause no inconvenience, and so, pushing
his way as best he could through the throng, without check
or guide of his horse, he was on the eve of spurring it on in
spite of all obstacles, when the individual ran after him and
replaced the bridle, thus leaving him to pursue his determined

During his incumbency in Airth his family had grown up,
and it is likewise told of him that the education he gave them
was by no means stinted, for, knowing the advantage of his
pugilistic younger days, he engaged a fencing-master for his
sons, who, one day after having finished their lessons, wished
their father to give him a tilt or two. Mr Hamilton, in no
wise afraid of his opponent, at once took up the foil, but before
long the calisthenic professor found out his mistake, as he very
soon had to leave off the offensive and act on the defensive.
But even this would not do, for, with all the guards he was
master of, he could not parry the thrusts of his reverend
antagonist, but was shortly sent three or four times round the

It is likewise recorded that Mr Hamilton was the young
student who removed the Rev. James Guthrie's head from the
shameful and degrading place his murderers had placed it in in
Edinburgh, it is doubtful if this statement be authentic, as,
upon a comparison of some dates, it cannot well be made to

Mr Hamilton was a keen bowler, and attended often at
Cowane's Hospital green. One day a young English officer,
with a tongue more accustomed to irreverence than otherwise,
was profuse in venting his profane language in presence of the
divine. Mr Hamilton admonished him, and desired him to" ban
not." The fiery son of Mars felt exasperated at the intrusive-
ness of so officious, burghal-like a companion, counted his
honour as at stake, and sent a challenge to his reprover. The


worthy pastor accepted the same, and proposed to his friend
to meet him armed with his own weapons of war, while the
challenger should bring his best sword, or brace of pistols, &c.,
as he chose. Having gone home to the manse, he arrayed
himself in his canonicals, and taking his Bible under his arm,
he arrived at the spot appointed for the pass of arms but,
lo ! when the courageous vulture of blood saw whom he had to
deal with, he tendered an apology and begged his pardon, mak-
ing a promise to be more circumspect for the future over his
unruly member.

The Forth Salmon.

The Forth at one time produced vast quantities of excellent
salmon, and when there was little commerce, this fish con-
stituted the chief food of the people of Stirling, although by
no means appreciated in the way it now is, as a luxury. The
good people of the town had, moreover, in early days a right
to purchase it cheaper than strangers, and it was their practice
to give it to their children and servants as a common article
of diet. It is recorded of the apprentices of the town that,
before engaging with masters, they generally stipulated that
they were not to dine on salmon oftener than four times a

The spirlings of the Forth seem to have been the staple fish
in Lent during the reign of James IV. That monarch was in
the habit of spending Lent in the Franciscan Monastery of
Stirling, where, by fasting and other penances, he endeavoured
to appease his conscience for his concern in the death of his
father. The poet Dunbar writes what he calls a "Dirigie to
the King bydand ower lang in Stirling," in which he attempts
to prevail upon his Majesty to

Cum hame and dwell iiae mair in Stirling,
Quhair fish to sell are nane but spirling ;
Credo gustare, statim vinum Edinburgi.


Shore Dues.

In 1847 the Shore Dues were let for 730, a rise of 240 on
the rental of the preceding year.


On 17th March, 1852, Mr James Johnstone, shipbuilder,
launched a perfect model of a ship, clipper build, which ex-
ceeded 500 tons burden, and was named the " Stirling " by Mrs
Paul of Glasgow. It made its maiden voyage to Australia with
passengers and goods. On 5th May, 1856, he launched the
" William Mitchell," the dimensions of which were Extreme
length over all, 180 feet ; length of keel, 152 feet ; depth of
hold, 18 feet ; breadth, 28 feet, the burden of the vessel being
1000 tons. Miss Thomson, daughter of one of the owners,
named the vessel, and a vast crowd witnessed the launch, the
band of the Highland Borderers being also present.

Roadside Canals.

In 1810 Mr Alexander M'Gibbon, writer, Broad Street,
published a "Report as to Improving the Navigation of the
River Forth, &c., and Advantages of Small Canals Demons-
trated." After describing the beauties of the scenery through
which the rivers flow, and the utility of canals, he showed the
practicability of placing canals by the roadside through enlarg-
ing the ditches so that they could be waterways for boats
carrying one ton burden. He further showed the cost of land
carriage and the advantage of small canals, and said "For
example, on the present Blair Drummond road, a horse at all
times will easily draw 15 cwts. of dead weight. Make it the
finest toll road in the kingdom, yet the same horse will, with
great difficulty, draw a ton. To make this road turnpike is esti-
mated to cost 400 per mile between Stirling and a mile beyond
Drip Bridge, and beyond that only 200 per mile. An iron
railway costs from 700 to 1000 per mile. A horse will draw


four waggons containing one ton each. Now, to float a boat
carrying one ton would require little more than a kerse ditch,
viz., 4 feet wide at the bottom and 10 feet wide at the top,
and two feet deep. One of the ditches at the side of the road,
made a little wider, would do. But though made entirely new,
the cutting would only cost 22 per mile. A horse would draw
thirty of these boats ; and the advantage of having these
separate boats, instead of one or two long ones, would be this :
that instead of locks, these boats, of one ton each, could be
drawn up a hill on machines, and thus inland navigation carried
through the whole interior country. One mile of the road will
thus make 18 miles of the canal ; and one mile of the railway
45 miles of the canal. The thing is as plain as noon day."

His proposed canals took in the whole district, some of them
the most outlandish places.

A "Tip" to the Forth Navigation

Continuing, Mr M'Gibbon said " To open a navigation from
Alloa to Stirling Shore, for vessels of 300 tons, would cost as
follows :

To building a water-dyke on the Manor and
Sow Fords, three feet high, 500 ells long,

being 14 roods, at 10 per rood, 140

To building a water-dyke on the Abbey Ford, 140

To the wooden boxing, 50

To erecting the wooden boxing at each ford,

12 10s. each, 37 10

To deepening Manor and Sow Fords, 150

To deepening Abbey Ford, 300

To making a cut through the Hood 343

1060 10

Thus, for a mere trifle, Stirling can be made a foreign port,
which I really consider a great discovery."


The Abbey Fair.

The " Fair " used to be the day of days in Cambuskenneth.
The folks from Stirling and surrounding districts made it a
custom to go there on a specified day when the gooseberries
were ripe and as there were a number of public-houses in the
village at that time, they got what would prevent illness from
overgorging. The fair has been thought to be a relic of
monkish hospitality. It certainly looks not unlike it, for it is
well-known that the monks were fond of living on good terms
with their neighbours, and this might be a cheap and easy way
of accomplishing their object. The fair is still held, but it is
a shadow of the past.

"The Abbey Ford," is believed to have been put there by
the monks for the purpose of communicating more freely with,
and the conveyance of heavy articles from, the other side of
the river. If such be the fact, they are entitled to small
thanks for their pains, as it is now a serious obstruction in the
navigation of the river.

Whether the farm called " The Hood " derives its name from
some fancied resemblance it may bear to a monk's hood or
cowl, must be left to be settled by some antiquarian society.

The Abbey Tower: Mr. Anderson's

A cow belonging to Mr Anderson, farmer in Hood, while
grazing about the bottom of the tower, perceiving the door
open, walked in, and alighting upon the entrance to the stair,
made an effort to ascend. Once in the narrow staircase
"crummie" was compelled to complete the experiment, so
that the first intimation Mr Anderson got of the curiosity of
his cow was from her lowing from the balcony of the tower.
Had such a circumstance happened in some of the dark ages
which have passed over the monastery, it would have made a


tolerable miracle. This inquisitive " hawky " was lowered from
the top of the belfry by means of a pulley, as it was impossible
to compel her to return by the way she came.

Neighbourly Feeling at the Abbey.

About sixty years ago a young man in Cambuskenneth had
been guilty of a breach of church order, and before he could
be re-admitted to privileges, it was necessary for him to sub-
mit to public rebuke and censure in the presence of the whole
congregation. In order to take the edge of this off their
neighbour, the entire male population of the village without
any previous concert with the transgressor resolved to attend
the same church upon the occasion, and place themselves near
him. When the culprit was called upon to receive censure, the
whole of the men stood bolt upright round about him, so that
it was quite impossible for the gossips to discover who was the
offender. This was fulfilling, at least literally, the injunction
of Scripture, which exhorts us to " Bear one another's burden,"
but whether the really true import of the precept was observed
may be left to the decision of the divine.

The Farm of Queenshaugh

Is so called from the fact that it was the place where the
Queen's cows were pastured ; and a better or more secure place
it would be difficult to find, for while the soil is excellent
being equal to any in the neighbourhood, and sufficiently large
for a dairy it is nearly surrounded by water, which, upon most
occasions, is deep enough to prevent the predatory efforts of
marauders ; and as the entrance by land does not much exceed
one hundred yards in breadth, it could the more easily be
defended against the thievish propensities of neighbours.

The Kays of Shiphaugh.

Until quite recently the farm of Shiphaugh was tenanted by
the family of Kay, whose forebears had been in its possession


for hundreds of years. There is an affecting anecdote con-
nected with the family at the time of the plague. Two sisters,
daughters of the then tenant, going to church in Stirling, and
passing through a field called Cowpark, one of them found a
velvet necklet, which she put round her neck. The result was
that both of them were speedily seized with distemper, and
died within a short time of each other. Their grave is in the
piece of ground now used as the stackyard.

The Wicked Laird of Tillicoultry and
the Monks of Cambuskenneth.

One of the things worthy of notice in Tillicoultry is said to
be a large stone in the churchyard, which is the subject of a
curious and amusing old legend, strikingly illustrative of at
least one-half of the proverb, that '' it is kittle shooting at
craws and clergy." In the parish of Tillicoultry, as in other
places, there once lived a wicked laird, -who happened, on one
occasion, to quarrel with one of the monks of Cambuskenneth
about the payment of certain church dues, and, in the course of
debate, was so far exasperated that, forgetting entirely the
respect due to a churchman, he knocked the holy father down.
Of course a man who had been guilty of such an outrage could
not live long : he died, therefore, and was buried. But as he
had not been afflicted by any supernatural torment upon his
deathbed ; as he had neither drawn air into his lungs and
breathed it out blue flame, nor had supplies of water carried to
him by relays of servants to cool his feet, which set the floor
on fire, and made cold water splutter and boil as it was dashed
upon them ; more than all, as he had died unshriven, and with-
out having expiated his offence by a consolatory legacy of lands
to the church,, something yet remained to be done to mani-
fest the indignation of heaven at his impious act. He was
buried, as dead men are wont to be ; but his spirit did not walk
as the spirits of wicked men were wont to do. That would
have been too equivocal ; it might have been said that he had
murdered men as well as knocked down priests. But mark his


punishment ! The hand, the sacrilegious hand, was found, on
the morning after the funeral, projecting above the grave,
clenched as if in the act of giving a blow. The people were
dreadfully alarmed ; but what could they do but exclaim in
astonishment, sain themselves, wish they might never do any-
thing to incur so dreadful a judgment ; then take up the unholy
corpse, adjust the arm by its side, and again commit it to the
earth. On the following morning great numbers repaired to
the churchyard to see whether the laird's arm had again been
rejected of the grave. There it was, thrust up and clenched as
before. The process of interment was repeated, and again
came up the clenched fist. Again it was repeated, and so on for
more than a week. The people were then in a state little short
of distraction. They had applied to the priests of Cambus-
keuueth, but they, with much shaking of heads, had refused to
interfere. The news spread far and wide, and hundreds
gathered to witness the miracle. Hundreds, however, could
not bury the laird more effectually than a single sexton. At
last an expedient was thought of by which the power of num-
bers could be turned to account. They united to bring from
a considerable distance, and roll upon the grave, the huge
stone which now marks the spot, after which the clenched fist
no longer appeared. It need scarcely be suggested that if any
person had been daring enough to watch the place by night,
they would probably have beheld a detachment of imps, who
had wickedly assumed the dress of monks, come and undo the
work of sepulture, leaving the hand exposed. When the story
is told on the spot at the present day the rustic narrator looks
cautiously round the edge of the mass of rock, half afraid that
his tale will be confirmed by the appearence of the clenched
fist growing out, like a mushroom, between the stone and the

It was at one time customary in Scotland, when a child
happened to strike, or, as the phrase has it, to lift its hand to
a parent, to say, " Weel, weel, my man, your hand'll wag abune
the grave for that."

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