William Drysdale.

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

. (page 23 of 25)
Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Reclaiming Blair Drummond Moss.

The piece of ground at one time called " The Moss " is a few
square miles of country which lay under a superincumbent
mass of peat and heath, from six to twelve feet thick.


In order to remove the incumbrance, and render the land
arable, Lord Kames let out the property to poor people, in
lots of about eight acres, in leases of fifty-seven years. During
the first nineteen, there was no rent exacted, during the
second, ten shillings and sixpence per acre ; and during the
third, twenty-one shillings. In order to complete the object
his Lordship had in view, he placed a large wheel upon a
stream of water, brought from the river Teith, in the immedi-
ate neighbourhood, for the express purpose. This wheel, go-
ing with the current of the stream, was fitted up with buckets,
which were filled with water in the descent, and emptied in
their ascent, into a trough, placed for its reception. Thence
it went off in a channel previously prepared for the current.
In this manner a sufficient stream of water was conveyed
through the whole length of the moss. It was then, in order
to accomplish the object originally intended, led off into the
different allotments of land, where the tenant had a part of
the light, spongy moss, which was unfit for fuel, cast into a
trench communicating with the river Forth, whither it was
borne by the stream of water admitted from the artificial
channel. The moss below, which was of a closer texture, was
then cut up and dried for fuel. Upon this moss there were
ultimately located between two and three hundred families, by
whose industry upwards of two thousand acres of as good
ground as there is in the carse have been rescued from per-
petual sterility, and rendered available for producing valuable
crops of grain, which formerly only produced a little fuel and
that, too, in a country where coal is abundant. Such a scheme
richly deserves the appellation patriotic, and reflected great
credit on the memory of Lord Kames and his advisers. A
goodly number of families brought up on the moss emigrated
to America as the term of their leases ran out.

Lord Kames died on the 27th day of December, 1782. Two
days before his death he told Dr Cullen that he earnestly
wished to be away, because he was exceedingly curious to learn
the nature and manners of another world. He added, "Doctor,
as I never could be idle in this world, I shall willingly perform
any task that may be imposed upon me."


A Clever Lassie.

A sturdy beggar woman called at a farmhouse in Strathallan,
and seeing only a young girl, she asked where her mother was.
" At Dunblane," was the reply, " selling her butter." She
then asked where her father was. " In the moss casting peats."
" And so there is nobody but you at home. You must give
me, " said she, " a guid pickle meal." The girl replied that
there was little in the house, and that it was at the bottom of
the girnel, beyond her reach. The woman, not liking to be
put off in this way, said she would lift it herself; and when
in the act, the girl tripped up her heels, and threw her into
the girnel, telling her, after securing the cover, to lie there
till she brought her father from the moss.

A Would = Be Hangman.

A Thornhill feuar, M'Pherson by name, made offer on one
occasion for the office of public executioner, then vacant. He
demanded a shilling a head, with sixpence to his father as
assistant a modest wage certainly but stipulated that he get
constant employment. Fortunately for the village another
than M'Pherson received the appointment.

A Thornhill Beadle of the Olden Time.

In 1730, James Campbell, Thornhill, wanted a roup " cried at
the skalin' o' the kirk," as the custom then was. The fee was
twopence. On this occasion one of the coins handed to George
Buchanan, the beadle, was " ane bad halfpenny," and George
accordingly refused to open his mouth. When Campbell saw
that the familiar " Ahoy! Ahoy! Ahoy! " was not forthcoming,
he proclaimed the roup himself. Such unheard of daring and
uncalled for interference with the beadle's duties roused " the
old man within," and Buchanan, forgetting for the nonce that
he was an ecclesiastical functionary, seized Campbell, and


began to maltreat him. He snatched off his bonnet before the
whole congregation, and dashed him against a stone wall.

Campbell complained to the Kirk Session, where, after being
rebuked and admonished to more " civil carriage and Christian
deportment," Buchanan was suspended from office, and ordered
to cry no more roups in all time coming, and it was unanim-
ously decided that he was to get only four shillings Scots, and
not, as before, the whole collection made for him at weddings,
as the balance might with advantage be kept for the poor. At
the same time George was informed that he should get nothing
unless he went to the weddings and collected it himself.

It is satisfactory to know that he was restored to office in
due time, and reinstated in the confidence of the Kirk Session.

George's house was somewhat roughish, if we may judge
from what follows. One day his daughter, Margaret, hunted
Elder Welsh's sheep " most desperately with two dogs, as he
was driving them to the summer's grass." She persisted, in
spite of all the elder could do, so he hit one of the dogs. Mar-
garet, as her father's daughter, gripped the said James and
struggled with him most impudently, and would hardly let go
till, through strength of hand, he dragged himself out of her
clutches. But she immediately began to throw stones and
hard clods clods being far more abundant than stones in the
parish of Kincardine wherewith she " strake him twice or
thrice, abusing him filthily with her tongue, telling him it was
not man made him an elder, but the devil, and that he was
fitter to be ane hangman than an elder."

Margaret was cited to compear, and show reason for " so
abominably abusing any man, and especially one who bears
office in the house of the Lord. Though cited, she did not
appear, and her father was told to exercise his authority as the
head of his house. At a subsequent meeting Margaret con-
fessed part, but denied a good deal of what she had been
charged with. Even in the presence of the Kirk Session she
allowed her tongue to break loose, and informed the brethren
that their brother Welsh was " ane hyprocrite, having ane face
to God and another to the devil." She was sharply rebuked
for speaking evil of dignities, and it is stated that she received
the rebuke Christianly.


Married in He'rt.

At Norrieston, the easter part of Thornhill, lived a family
of the name of Ballantyne. Jane Ballantyne, a daughter of this
family, lived for several years with a man who was not her
husband. She earnestly desired him to make her an honest
woman by the matrimonial rite. He, however, put off the
wedding-day by pleading, "Wait, Jane, till we gether mair
siller : ye ken there's nae credit for the cries, woman."
" Aweel, aweel," replied she, " we're married in he'rt, ye ken."

The Thornhill Piper.

Tourists from Stirling, travelling to or from the Lake of
Menteith or Loch Ard, must have seen the quaint and curious
figure of a piper built into the wall of a barn in the village of
Thornhill. This figure has a history. It is a relic of the
famous Napier family. David Ramsay, the pachydermatous
watchmaker in " The Fortunes of Nigel," when roused to wrath,
swore " by the bones of the immortal Napiers ; " and students
know something of this family from the short and easy methods
of arithmetical calculation invented by one of them, and
denominated logarithms. Davie's oath referred to this cele-
brated man.

Lord Francis Napier, the representative of the family in the
first part of last century, was proprietor of Ballinton, where
his handiwork is yet to be seen in the fine beeches growing
there. The Ballinton property, as well as King's Boquhapple,
probably came into the possession of the Napiers through
the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of Murdoch, Earl of Men-
teith, to Archibald Napier, the father of the inventor of
logarithms. After Lord Francis' marriage with Lord Hope-
toun's daughter, he thought of making Ballinton his principal
residence, and so pulled down the old house, with a view to
erecting a more stately and commodious building. Like many


another man, his lordship " began to build and was not able to
finish." The Ballinton property was soon after deserted and

On one of the pillars of the principal gate leading to Ballin-
ton stood our friend, the piper. In those days of his glory he
had a companion of kindred tastes, as on the other pillar stood a
drummer energetically beating time to his neighbour. These
figures were brought and placed on the parapets of the bridge
over the burn which flows a few yards east from where the
piper now stands. There they were fixed, facing each other,
and playing together in silent accompaniment to the stream
flowing below.

But people will not hold their hands. Both musicians were
tumbled off the bridge into the burn by some mischievous visi-
tor to Thornhill. The drummer was sent to " crokonition," and
the poor piper lost his left limb below the knee. For preserva-
tion, he was carried from the scene of his disaster, and built
into the barn, where he now stands, telling his old tales, and
playing his silent melodies to whoever (?) "hath ears to hear."
There are some persons to be met with who affirm that he is
the best piper they ever saw, but they lack ear. It may be
a question whether his covering of paint becomes him or not.
Be this as it may, many a pleasant smile has been occasioned
at the sight of the stout and solemn stone figure in the wall,
puffing and panting at the bagpipes.

James Macgregor (Glengyle).

A few years ago there died, near Auchterarder, one who was
well-known to many in Stirling and Bridge of Allan, a kind-
hearted, simple man, much liked by all who had acquaintance
with him. This was James MacGregor, the last descendant of
Gregor Ghlun Dhu (Black Knee), who in 1745 received a com-
mission from Prince Charles as colonel in the army and com-
mander of the fortresses of Doune, Cardross, and Ballinton,
all in Menteith, and had obtained from James, fourth Marquis
of Montrose, a feu charter of the lands of Glengyle, at the


west end of Loch Katrine. James MacGregor was chief of the
" Clan du'il Chiar," one of the principal houses of the Clan
Gregor, being twelfth in descent from Dougal Ciar, the ances-
tor of his line. In 1860 MacGregor sold his ancestral estates
to the late Mr James MacGregor, formerly of the Queen's
Hotel, Glasgow, and brother of Mr Donald MacGregor, Royal
Hotel, Edinburgh. Glengyle, who at the time of his death
was in his seventy-ninth year, was succeeded in the representa-
tion of the house of Dougal Ciar by Mr Norman MacGregor,
brother of the late Sir Charles Metcalf MacGregor, K.C.B.,
and descended in direct line from Robert MacGregor of Inver-
snaid, the celebrated Rob Roy, uncle of " Ghluii Dhu." He
was interred in the family burying-ground at Glengyle House.

The Haldanes of Airthrey.

On Saturday, 9th February, 1851, died James Alexander
Haldane, in the eighty-fourth year of his age and the fifty-
second of his pastoral work, the last of two wonderful men,
Robert, his brother, having predeceased him in 1841. Their
father was Captain James Haldane, who succeeded his father
as heir of Airthrey Estate, near Stirling, and who died June,

After attending the High School of Edinburgh, James
Alexander decided on a seafaring life. Robert's inclination
was for the ministry, but he also went to sea, and saw service
on board the " Foudroyaut," afterwards marrying Katherme
Cochrane Oswald, and settling down at Airthrey, where, in
April, 1787, their only child, a daughter, was born. For ten
years after his marriage he was chiefly occupied with country
pursuits, planting trees, and laying out the grounds. In 1787
he commenced the excavation of an artificial lake, into which
he conducted water from the neighbouring hills ; he also
erected a Hermitage in the woods of Airthrey, which existed
for many years. It was constructed after the model of the
woodland retreat to which Goldsmith's Angelina is led by the
" taper's hospitable ray," " the wicket opening with a latch,"


" the rushy couch," " the scrip with herbs and fruits supplied."
All the other sylvan articles of furniture described by the poet
were there, whilst on the sides of the adjacent rock, or within
the hut itself, were painted, at proper intervals, the invitation
to "the houseless child of want to accept the guiltless feast,
the blessing and repose," concluding the last with the senti-
mental moral

" Then, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego

All earth-born cares are wrong
Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long."

Mr Haldane, who in his younger days rather delighted in a
practical joke, advertised for a real hermit, but though there
were applicants, the doom to perpetual seclusion debarred
any one from accepting the post. The erection of the Hermit-
age nearly cost the designer his life, for, standing too near the
edge of the rock, giving directions to the workmen, his foot
slipped, and but for a post, which he was enabled to grasp, he
would have been precipitated to the bottom. The celebrated
Henry Erskine, with his usual ready wit, exclaimed, " It was
a post for life."

James entered the Merchant Navy in his seventeenth year,
and was' appointed Captain of the " Melville Castle " (bound
for Madras and Calcutta) just as he attained his twenty-fifth
year. The following anecdote will shew of what metal he was
made. At the close of 1793 a large East India fleet was
detained in the Downs and at Spithead, from Christmas till
April. A mutinous disposition was in December detected and
subdued, in the case of three or four men on board the
" Dutton," the men complaining that, owing to detention,
their stores were exhausted, and they demanded an additional
advance of pay to enable them to purchase tea and other com-
forts. The crew of the " Melville Castle " had received this
indulgence as a boon which it was reasonable to grant. It was
refused by the Captain of the " Dutton : " hence the mutiny.

The mutineers threatened to carry the ship into a French
port, but more serious apprehension was felt lest they should


gain access to the powder magazine, and madly end the strife
by their own death and that of all on board. At this critical
moment Captain Haldane, of the " Melville Castle," appeared
at the side of the vessel, his approach being the signal for
renewed and angry tumult. The shouts of the officers, "Come
on board, come on board," were drowned by the cries of the
mutineers, " Keep off, or we'll sink you," but in a few
moments Captain Haldane was on the quarter-deck. His first
task was to restore the officers to composure and presence of
mind. He peremptorily refused to head an immediate attack
on the mutineers, but, very calmly reasoning with the men,
sword in hand, told them they had no business there, and
asked what they hoped to effect in the presence of twenty
sail of the line. The quarter-deck was soon cleared, but,
observing there was still much confusion, and inquiring where
the chief danger lay, he was down immediately at the very
point of alarm. Two of the crew, intoxicated, and more fool-
hardy than the rest, were at the door of the powder-magazine,
threatening they would blow up the ship. One of them was
in the act of wrenching the iron bars from the door, whilst the
other had a shovel full of live coals ready to throw in. Captain
Haldane, instantly putting a pistol to the breast of the man
with the iron bar, told him that if he stirred he was a dead
man. Calling at the same time for the irons of the ship, as if
disobedience were out of the question, he saw them placed,
first on this man and then on the other. The rest of the ring-
leaders were also secured, when the crew, finding they were
overpowered, and receiving the assurance that none should be
removed that night, became quiet, and the Captain returned
to the " Melville Castle." Next day the chief mutineers were
put on board the " Regulus," and the rest of the crew went
to their duty peaceably.

"Had any one," said the narrator, "then foretold that this
daring Captain of the ' Melville Castle ' would ere long become
a minister of Christ, the pastor of a large Christian church,
and of a large congregation, nothing would have appeared so

It would take too long to give the smallest idea of the faith-
ful manner in which those two good men wrought so long for


the spiritual welfare of their fellow creatures, and it is with the
sweetest remembrance that their memory is cherished.

A Soldier's Punishment.

. On Tuesday, 16th March, 1858, a soldier belonging to the
79th Regiment, then quartered in Stirling Castle, received 50
lashes, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and to be
drummed out of barracks to the tune of the " Rogues' March,"
for purloining letters belonging to some of his comrades.

A Willing Recruit.

A good many years ago Willie Turnbull was one of the
hostlers who wrought about the Golden Lion Stables. He was
a man of splendid physique, but had the misfortune to be
minus a leg. One day, while Willie was sitting in a public-
house over a bottle of " capp," a recruiting sergeant with his
party entered and took possession of an unoccupied table.
Glancing at Turnbull, he saw a chance of getting a first-class
recruit, and accordingly moved over to the table and fell into
talk with him. After treating the hostler to liquor, he asked
him if he would not like to be a soldier. Willie said there was
nothing he would like better, and no sooner was this said than
the sergeant tendered the shilling, which was at once accepted,
and forthwith " melted," along with one or two in addition
from the sergeant, who was very proud of his splendid prize.
At length, on the sergeant proposing an adjournment to the
Castle, Turnbull said he and his " Jessie " were ready. " Your
Jessie ! " said the sergeant, " who is she ? " " My crutch, to be
sure," exclaimed Turnbull, pulling it out from below the table.
The recruiting sergeant who was an Englishman was, it may
well be understood, in a towering rage, and swore that after
this, though he saw a man with a kilt sitting on the other side
of the table from him, he would not chance another shilling
until he made himself sure that the right number of legs were
there, and that no " Jessie " was required.


Curious Letter from the Raploch to
the Magistrates.

SIR We the undersquine beg leave priest respectfully to
solicit an extension of the time allowed for us to remain at
night upon the streets say to it of 9 o'clock as is the case in
the town of Falkirk where will believe their are more anoyanc
than in Stirling were you to Grant our request we pledge our-
selves to behave in an orderly preasance and to return to our
respective place of Abode at 11 o'clock an proetest no one and if
any of us Should unfortunately get the worse of Liquor or
otherwise behav in A disorderly manner let them be taken up
and dealt with as you may think Proper. We are Sir, Your
Obt. Serveants, Mary Simpson.

Catherine Williamson.

P.S. An answer is required.
Stirling May 1858.

Nelly Holmes,

A well-known, little, old woman, was a privileged beggar,
although she never would allow herself to be called such with-
out giving a withering broadside of " Billingsgate." Nelly's
tongue was " nae scandal," and a laugh was the only rejoinder
that could be given her. The Newhaven fishwives have been
famed for their desperate onslaughts with the tongue, but
Nelly could, when " the maut got abooii the meal," in this
respect outhaven Newhaven. In her later years Nelly was
left to seek a precarious livelihood from the hands of passing
charity, and for the last twelve months of her life was an inmate
of an hospital in St. John Street, receiving her last bread from
the Parochial Board. She was kind to children, and had the
hour of her funeral been known, there is little doubt that many
who had been her favourites in their childhood's days would
have followed it to the grave.


Marriage of a Nonogenarian.

Andrew Carruthers, for long one of the town guides, was a
tailor to trade, and was named after his uncle, Bishop Car-
ruthers, of the Roman Catholic Church, Edinburgh, where his
father was a master joiner. He came to Stirling early in life,
and always considered himself a "Son of the Rock." Jean
Winkie, his spouse, came of very respectable Stirling folks,
and though both of them were bothered with " tempers," they
got on fairly well together. Latterly they lived in St. Mary's
Wynd, and had for a time been receiving a weekly dole from
the Parochial Board, but the members learning they were not
married, the sum was discontinued. On its being suggested to
the couple that they should be lawfully married, and thus
overcome the objection made, they at once said they were
quite agreeable.

On the proposed marriage " getting wind," the neighbours
vied with each other in showing little kindnesses to the couple,
the " sweep," among the rest, saying he would " soop the lum,"
which he accordingly did. The neighbours set to work and
" cleaned up " the room, and put things in order for the
auspicious occasion, though Jean was put in bad temper for a
time through the house having been taken possession of. The
marriage day arrived, and on the Provost appearing, accom-
panied by one of his daughters, who had with her a bride-
cake made specially for the occasion, he was agreeably
surprised to find both Andrew and Jean very tidily dressed,
and the house in everything neat and clean. The table was
covered with a clean damask cloth, and on it a set of tea
dishes, presented by the matron of the hospital. A young lady
was also there to act as bridesmaid, and the minister of Mary-
kirk Parish performed the ceremony, and the couple afterwards
recovered their parish allowance. Married life did not last
long, however, with Andrew and Jean : a year or two saw the
end of their earthly pilgrimage, Andrew dying at the age of
96, and Jean aged about 72.


The Stirling Jug.

This specially interesting, and at one time very important
article, the Standard Pint Measure, has, as a relic of the past
(being over four hundred and sixty years old), after many
vicissitudes, found an appropriate resting-place in the Smith
Institute, Stirling.

By an Act of the Scottish Parliament, in 1437, various burghs
in Scotland were appointed to keep the standard weights and
measures, and issue duplicates to the several burghs as occasion
necessitated. To Edinburgh, being then the principal market
for cloth, was assigned the Ell wand ; to Perth, for yarn, the
Reel ; to Lanark, the chief wool market, the Pound ; to Lin-
lithgow, by reason of her great trade in grain, the Firlot ; and
to Stirling, at the period specially famous for distilled and fer-
mented liquors, the Pint. Although 1437 has been assigned,
on account of the statute of that year, as the period when the
Jug came into existence, yet by many antiquarians it is believed
that its origin dates much further back indeed, the reign of
David I. (1124-1153) is claimed as the time when it first came
into use, and that the Act of 1437 had reference to the ratifica-
tion of former privileges. Be that as it may, there is not the
slightest doubt as to the authenticity of the article in question,
which is made of brass or yeltine ; is in the form of a hollow
cone truncated ; is 6 inches in depth, 4.17 inches in diameter
at the mouth, and 5.25 inches at the bottom ; and weighs 14
Ibs. 10 oz. 1 dr. 18 grs. Scottish Troy. The handle is fixed
with two brass nails ; and the whole has the appearance of
rudeness, quite in Seeping with the early awe when it was first
instituted as the standard of liquid measure for the Kingdom.
On the front, near the mouth, in relief, there is a shield bear-
ing the lion rampant, the Scottish national arms ; and near the
bottom is another shield, bearing an ape passant gardant, with
the letter S below, supposed to be the armorial bearing of the
foreign artist who probably was employed to fabricate the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25

Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 25)