William Drysdale.

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

. (page 4 of 25)
Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

who knew Gaelic. He was a Highlander from " Hell's Glen,"
Lochgoil, began teaching when 14 years of age, and was a most
capable master in writing, book-keeping, and mathematics. He
was the author of a work entitled, '' The Schoolmaster's
Manual ; being a course of practical arithmetic, more especially
designed for the use of scholars attending the Mathematical
Academy at Stirling. Printed by C. Randall, 1806." The book
was dedicated to the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council
of Stirling, and No. 6 of his accounts in double position runs


" When first the marriage-knot was tied

Betwixt my wife and me,
My age did hers as far exceed

As three times three does three :
But, after ten and half ten years

We man and wife had been,
Her age came up as near to mine
As eight is to sixteen.

Now pray,
What were our ages on our marriage-day?"


" Pa tie," who had a great many good and witty sayings, was
a strict disciplinarian, and a number of stories are told of his
' rows " with the scholars. One of his punishments was that
of placing a boy culprit amongst the girls, and a girl offender
amongst the boys. His dwelling was on the first flat of the
house 17 St. John Street, and there he died on 27th June,
1851. The following story illustrates Patie's jealousy of his
tuition. Having occasion to transact business at one of the
banks in town a few days before his last illness began, he, on
receiving the document, which had been written out by the son
of the banker, but signed by the banker himself, said, as he
looked earnestly at the signature, ''Oh yes, it's a guid han' ; but
I like Jamie's better." Jamie had been his own pupil, but papa
had not had that privilege. A number of the scholars had
agreed to take certain private lessons from Duncan, his nephew
and successor, and these were given in his house in St. John
Street. On one occasion, while the class was being held, a loud
knocking was heard through the partition. On Duncan going
to the door to see what was wanted, Patie enquired what was
going on in the room. " It's a lot of young philosophers,
uncle," his nephew replied. " Pheelosophers, pheelosophers ! "
called out Patie ; " there are far too mony o' them droun' the
young anes, Duncan ; droun' the young anes."

On the completion of the fiftieth year of his superintendence
of the Mathematical Academy, in May 1841, Mr M'Dougall was
entertained to a public dinner by about one hundred of his old
scholars, assembled from different quarters. The chair was
occupied by John, Murray, Esq. of Wester Livilands, the oldest
scholar present, and John Sawers, Esq., Procurator-Fiscal of
the County, officiated as croupier.

Duncan M'Dougall.

Duncan M'Dougall and William Young were both sterling
men and sound teachers, and were looked up to with respect by
their pupils. We remember Mr M'Dougall's invitation for a
Saturday afternoon to see the working of a small steam engine
he had fitted up, as railways and engines were not so common


then. He had a room above the school fitted up with rails, on
which he placed the engine, and inserting a heated bolt in a
cavity of the machine, it then started and made a circuit of
the room.

We wonder how many of Young's scholars remember Scott,
the helper ? What a job he had to get out his snuff-box or hand-
kerchief, from the tail of his coat. Then Cowaue's Yard (now
the site of the High School), with its row of trees, what a large
place it seemed to our eyes, but how small in reality. We have
taken the measurements as near as possible, and the " old boys "
will perhaps be surprised when we inform them the length from
the street to the front of the school is about 60 yards, and the
breadth, from " Prentice's Garden " to the Flesh Market Wall,
about 32 yards. This looks very small when the fine row of
large trees, which lined the yard, is allowed for. We feel sure
every one looks back with pleasure on the happy days spent
there at rounders, handball, Scotch and English, bools, buttons,
peeries and peeps. We do not think there is a boy now-a-days
who could " lead a button," or " lozen a ball." Money was not
so plentiful with the boys of any class, and we wonder how a
father of that time would have looked if a demand had been
made upon him for fifteen to twenty pounds for a cycle. Of
sweetmeats, there was a very poor variety Drummond, in St.
Mary's Wynd, for " bull's eyes," six a halfpenny, or two stalks
of " blackmail " for the same sum ; Scott, in Port Street, gave
only one. Acid drops and peppermints were hardly to be
thought of. Dr Drummond, who had a shop at the foot of
Broad Street, kept open between sermons on Sabbath, and did
a big trade in that line. About six or seven peppermints the
size of a shirt button, or the same number of acid drops not
much larger, could be purchased for a halfpenny. A few did
business with Peter Fisher, confectioner, whose shop was near
the top of Baker Street, on the days he made his confections
(they were then made with the swinging-pan) for what was called
'' scrapings," scrapings being that portion of the material which
stuck to the pan after the sweetmeats were made. Pastry was
a very poor selection : shortbread, " parleys/' " cookies," and
" butter bakes " were favourites. The late Mr Henry Drum-



mond, father of Professor Drummond, when speaking to the
children on selfishness, used to tell that once, when a boy, he
became possessor of sixpence. After much cogitation he deter-
mined on investing his sixpence in shortbread, which he accord-
ingly did in a shop in Broad Street. He took it home, and
getting into a loft, demolished the lot, but had to pay the
penalty by having a big dose of castor oil administered to him.
Mr Drummond used to say this cured him of selfishness. Do
any of the boys or girls now dig for " loozy arnuts " (earthnuts) ?
The old school was taken down, Cowane's Yard and the Flesh
Market done away with, and the foundation-stone of the pre-
sent High School laid on 3rd August, 1854.

Allan's School.

Rae's "Arry," or Area, and School, now Allan's School.
" Geordie " Rae was teacher here, and '' dear Tammy " Adams
his helper for some time. Rae was one of the " thrashing "
masters, and if there is virtue in the " birch," he thrashed to
some purpose, as he turned out some first-class scholars, among
them the late Mr Ramsay, of Kildalton, who was for some time
M.P. for the Stirling Burghs, and was an Hospital boy. It was
said that Rae was the indirect cause of the death of one of his
pupils. " Tammy " Adams afterwards opened a school of his
own in the Oddfellows' Hall, St. Mary's Wynd, removing after-
wards to the premises in Spittal Street now occupied by Mrs
Crocket, leather-cutter.

The Grammar School (Dr. Munro's).

Dr Munro was nicknamed " Skliffy," owing to a peculiarity
in his walk. ^ This school is now the Militia Stores, at Mar
Place, where Colin Munro, editor of the " Stirling Journal,"
resided with his brother. An old pupil of Dr Munro says Dr
Munro always wore carpet " shoon " in school, and that his pet
hobby was chickens, a number of which he had always running
about him. It was generally understood he had been a clergy-
man in his earlier manhood, but, being sent to fill a pulpit at


the time of the Disruption, his discourse was considered too
learned for that particular congregation, so much so that none
of them returned to listen to him. He was, however, a " grand
old man."

Dunlop's Academy.

Mr Dunlop was an Irishman, and the Rev. James Muir, the
much-respected senior minister of the U.P. Church, Bridge of
Allan, was for some time an assistant of his.

The Stirling and Bannockburn
Caledonian Society.

The Caledonian Society had its games at the Bowling Green,
and were a source of great amusement to the townspeople. A
number of boys connected with the Society (which was main-
tained by means of public subscriptions) received their
education in the Trades' Hall School and clothes free. They
were a treat to see, little fellows with tartan coats of a " loud "
pattern, with short, clawhammered back, and large round
plated buttons, trousers of tartan, and large Kilmarnock
bonnets with feather.

Other Schools.

Mr Theodore Roeding, French master, had private classes at
his house in Queen Street, and many happy nights were spent
there. Mr Fraser and afterwards Mrs Fraser^ at the Guild
Hall ; Mr Callender in Bow Street ; Mr Campbell (" Stumpy ")
in the Barn Road ; Mr Mackie (" Fisty ") in the Trades' Hall ;
and Mr Hardie at the " 'Oo' Mill Entry," now Douglas Street,
had also large and successful schools. A large number attended
the Infant School under the North Established Church, the first
teacher being Miss Kyle, succeeded by Misses Duff, Brown, and
Smith. Mrs MacPherson, wife of Hector MacPherson, drum-
major of the 93rd Highlanders a man much respected for his
religious work at home and the Crimea was also for some time


teacher, and later Miss Gordon (now Mrs Walls, Kerse Mills),
had the superintendence of the school. Mrs Spalding, widow of
a teacher, occupied a room in an old house at the foot of
Cowane's Yard (now re-built by Mr Hodgson), where she taught
a few children from four to five years of age, and as prizes
she gave little square pieces of wood with the initials of the
gainer thereon. Mr Christie and, Mr Sinclair taught dancing,
and, we think, Mr Allan singing, at the Guild Hall.


HE Stirling Journal " was commenced in the year
1820, the price being 7d. "The Stirling Observer"
followed in 1836, price 4d. unstamped. Newspaper
clubs were quite common fifty years ago, a few of
the burghers joining together to subscribe for a paper, which
was read in turn as agreed upon the last reader usually
getting the paper to keep. Mr Christie, watchmaker, informs
us that about the year 1840, while apprentice with " Sandy "
Grant, he was sent down to King Street to await the arrival of
the mail coach, from which the Glasgow and Edinburgh papers
were transferred to the Post Office opposite, where he received
his paper, "The Scotsman." Sandy's club numbered about a
dozen, and much interest was taken at the time in Daniel
O'Connell. " The Scotsman " was published" on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, and cost sixpence. In 1831 its circulation was
1914 ; advertising duty, 750. " The Glasgow Herald " was
also printed twice a week, and had a circulation of 1615, the
advertising duty amounting to 1425.

News vend ing.

When a crime occurred in any town at a distance, the good
folks of Stirling did not get the particulars, as at present, in an


hour or two. The first intimation of the occurrence was pro-
bably by seeing a man with a large square frame, with cotton
stretched thereon, and set on a pole, which rested on the
ground. On this were usually pourtrayed four scenes having
reference to the crime. The man would take his stance at the
corner of a street, and give the particulars turning the views
as he proceeded, thus whetting the appetite of the beholders
for more of the " horrors," which were sold in leaflet form at the
low price of a halfpenny.

Another itinerant visitor to the town was " Jack Straw," who
appeared with a parcel of papers in one hand and some stalks
of straw in the other, intimating that " I dare not sell the paper,
and I will not sell the paper," but, to accommodate the public,
he would sell a straw and give one of the papers to the bargain.
People not up to the " sell," thinking they were getting some-
thing " racy," bought the straw, and found they had got with
it a song or tract of no value. Ballad singers were innumerable,
and mostly went in couples, a man and a woman, the songs they
sang being too often those having unsavoury, immoral allusions,
such as " Down by the Dark Arches, near to the Railway," and
"The Handsome Cabin-boy," pourtraying the adventures of a
female who went in masculine attire to sea as a cabin-boy.


IN 1814 there were, including the mail, only two coaches
a day to Edinburgh, and no steamboat at all, but in 1835
there were three steam vessels daily, carrying hundreds
of passengers, especially during the summer months ;
and even during winter the number of passengers was not incon-
siderable. The two coaches continued to run during winter. To


Glasgow, in 1814, there were only two coaches daily, one of
which merely passed through on its way from Perth. In 1835
there were nine daily from Glasgow, six of which went no
further than Stirling, while three, including the mail, went to
Perth. There was a coach daily from Stirling to Perth, two
to Alloa, and one to Callander during summer, and three times
a week during winter. An omnibus ran four times a day to
Bridge of Allan for the accommodation of persons attending the
Mineral Wells at Airthrey.

Edinburgh to Stirling in 1792.

" The Stirling Light Coach sets off from Robert Lawson's
Swan Inn, Grassmarket, Edinburgh, to George Towers's, Stir-
ling, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, at 8 o'clock in the
morning; and from George Towers's to Robert Lawson's like-
wise every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 8 in the morn-
ing. The proprietors of the Stirling Coach mean to run her at
the rate of six miles per hour for speedy conveyance of passen-
gers. 'Each seat, 8s. Gel." Courant.


The steamboats were a source of great pleasure, and there
being more water in the river between Stirling and Alloa than
now, they sailed oftener. The fares in 1837 from Stirling to
Newhaveu were Cabin, Is. ; steerage, 6d. The hours for sail-
ing ranged from five in the morning until five in the afternoon,
and public intimation was given beforehand by printed hand-
bills, and also by sound of bugle each day, an hour previous to
that of sailing. The three boats were the " Stirling Castle "
and the " Victoria " belonging to one company, and the " Ben-
lomond " to another.

Newhaven to Stirling in 1837.

The Benledie, the new Clyde built steamer, after making an


excellent run from Glasgow to Inverness, left that for Leith on
Wednesday morning with a heavy cargo of goods. On Friday
this fine vessel made her first trip from Newhaven to Stirling,
which she accomplished in three hours and seven minutes with
the greatest ease, a distance of 42 miles, being the quickest run
from Newhaven to Stirling hitherto performed. . . . The
new Benledie is a very beautiful, powerful, and fast sailing
vessel." Courant, 7th March, 1837.

Sandy Grant and the Steamboat.

When steamboats began to ply between Stirling and New-
haven, a party of merchants agreed to have a sail down the
river. They started early one morning, had breakfast and
dinner on board, and were enjoying their toddy late in the
afternoon, when they were informed of the arrival of the boat
at Newhaven. Before landing, Sandy Grant, a well-known
watchmaker in Bow Street, who was in the chair, rose and pro-
posed prosperity to the Stirling steamboat ; remarking that no
doubt the coaches would soon go down, now that the steam-
boat could make the journey in so short a time.

Quick Travelling in 1840.

In November, 1840, the late Mr David Pollock, of the Stirling
Port Custom, was in Glasgow, and having some business to do
in Paisley, went thither in the railway train, which carried him
in 14 minutes. His business was completed in 12 minutes, and
a return train being about to start, he threw himself into one
of the carriages, and at the end of another 13 minutes was again
in Glasgow. In all 39 minutes. In October, 1850, trains ran
from Glasgow to Stirling in 50 minutes.




OFFINS were either carried shoulder-high, or on
spokes, with a mortcloth covering them. Several of the
institutions in town had special cloths, which were lent
for the occasion to members. These were made of
velvet, some of them being of considerable value. Mourners
were dressed in full suits of black, with "weepers," which were
bands of linen fixed at the cuffs of the coat. Crape was worn
on the hat ; and the nearer the kinship the larger the amount
of crape and linen, and the longer were these worn. When
hearses came into fashion, people of distinction were conveyed
therein, and were preceded by " saulies," hired men in skull-
caps and carrying batons covered with crape. People invited
to the house of the deceased were treated to wine or whisky
with cake, after which the minister attending prayed, and the
cortege started for the churchyard.

Paupers' Funerals.

The burial of a pauper at present is not all that could be
wished, but what would the folks now-a-days say to a scene as
described by a well-known townsman ? He says " I was pass-
ing up Queen Street one day, when I saw, driving up Bridge
Street, a cart followed by five or six frail old men, who were
hardly able to keep up with it, though it was going at an
ordinary walking pace. On looking, I saw a coffin laid slant-
ways on the cart, so that space could be got for it. In this
manner I followed it to the old churchyard, and, after deposit-
ing its burden, it returned down town, halted at a baker's shop,
where it took on a load of bread, and conveyed it to the Castle
for the use of the soldiers." The gentleman was so disgusted
with the sight, that he set about and collected as much as
purchased a second-hand hearse, which was in use for a number
of years. In 1858 a pauper's coffin was placed on a small cart,
not unlike a wheelbarrow, and drawn to the churchyard by a



OIREES were held in the Guild Hall or Corn Ex-
change, Mr Marshall, late hatter, with the late Mr
Wands, china merchant, and the late Mr Scott, con-
fectioner, delighting the lieges with their songs and
instrumental music.

Mr Anderson, the " Wizard of the North," came yearly with
his entertainment, and a great treat for the bairns was Boyd's
" Marionettes." Boyd usually rented a disused printing office
in the Vennel Close, Baker Street, now occupied as a bake-
house, and many delightful nights were spent there by the
youngsters, gazing at his wonderful figures, or listening to
" The bridge is broken, it cannot now be mended, fol-de-diddle
al al, fol-de-diddle-ido," or " My mither ment my auld breeks,
and wow but they were duddy, O." Then Foxy Boyd, his
son, a young boy (named after the Honourable Fox Maule),
didn't he dance the Highland Fling or the Sword Dance in
first-rate style ! Foxy is now an elderly man, and an employer
of labour in a city not far away. Singers and other enter-
tainers gave the town a look in occasionally.

The School of Arts lectures were well patronised. They
were held in the Court-House. Great fun was caused by the
amazing experiments, and the extraordinary smells occasion-
ally arising. But the lectures were, with few exceptions,
entertaining and instructive. There was also a lending library
connected with the Institution.

The building which at one time did duty as a theatre, and
which was demolished a few years ago, was situated at the
Shore Road, alongside the old rope walk, with entrance by the
Howff Close. Little sufficed in those days in Stirling, as it
was a most unlikely building for such a purpose. Still, com-
panies of really good actors among them the great MacKay,
the original " Bailie," and Joe Power walked tke stage there.
It was opened on 25th June, 1829 (under the management of
Mr Stanley, of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, who was sup-


ported by a first-rate company), with the play of " George
Heriot, or the Fortunes of Nigel." Mr and Mrs Ramsay of
Bariiton, and the Provost and Magistrates of the town, gave
their patronage. The theatre was continued for three years,
but, for want of patronage, had to be given up, and the building
was converted into dwelling-houses.


RD is to be here next week ! " What joyful news
for the youngsters. Aye, and the oldsters too!
What a commotion. The " Valley " after this was
the place of places ; there was always some one up to
see, in case the fairies had made the ring in their absence.
Amateur horsemanship was all the go. What a weary wait
for the great night. At last, 011 the arrival of the party, what
a stir! The men could hardly get the ring made by reason of
the crowd of would-be helpers. But when the eventful even-
ing arrived, the sight of the immense concourse, which lined
the Valley and every nook and corner of the " Ladies' Rock/'
gave an idea of what a splendid place it must have been for
the tournaments long ago. Oh, what fun with the clowns, the
funny man, and the ringmaster ! What admiration of the lady
riders, of the men on horseback, the trapeze, and all other
feats of a circus, and all in the open-air, and without charge.

The climax was reached, however, when a commotion was
seen to take place amongst some of the onlookers, and a stout,
old carter body, apparently very much the worse for drink,
would force himself into the ring. He " could ride a horse as
well as any of them." The hubbub increased until the clowns'
attention was drawn to the spot, and didn't they take their
fun off the old man ? They would have him into the ring, and
into the ring he would go. He would be on a horse, and a
horse is got, but what with his girth and inebriety, he cannot


hold on. At last, with the help of the clowns and the ring-
master, he gets a hold; off he goes with his arms around the
horse's neck, amid the hilarious mirth of the multitude, and,
after many a narrow escape from falling, he gets on his feet
on the horse's back. And then a cord is slily pulled, the
carter's dress is thrown to the winds, and, instead of an old
drunken carter, behold, Sir William Wallace, Joan of Arc, a
sailor, a fishwife, and other characters. Were there ever
happier folks than those Valley beholders ? I trow not. With
all the money now spent on so-called fashionable amusement,
I am certain none will ever captivate the multitude as Ord did.
Tickets for a lottery were sold during the performance, and
envied persons they were who gained the gold watch, the boll
of oatmeal, or one of the timepieces or dress-pieces given as
prizes. When darkness set in a splendid display of fire-works
took place.


E great event of the year in Stirling for a time was
the Races, which usually lasted two days, and three
when the Caledonian Hunt took place. For weeks
previous to the event the boys would be preparing,
giving constant attendance at the "race course," principally
near the grand stand. The Misses Graham, who lived in a
shop (long since demolished) at the corner of Jail Wynd and
Broad Street, were kept busy with their needles making
" racers' caps " for the embryo jockeys. They cost one penny
each, and were made of glazed calico. Straw and green
(Ramsay) and yellow (Merry) were the favourites, other
colours being nowhere, and many a race was run by the young-
sters at different parts of the town, each with his favourite


A week or ten days before the races a handbill would appear
with the words, " Sons of the Rock, turn out, and strike the
iron while it is hot." This poster was put out by the late John
Stupart, 'afterwards Chief-Constable in town, but a young
man at the time. A crowd of boys carrying sticks would
assemble at the Guild Hall, and after being addressed by
" Johnnie," and told their duties, were marched along the
walks, and whenever a "thimbler" or "prick the garter" was
found, he was at once set upon and chased off the ground.
This continued until the days of meeting, which were the days
for business. Led by the redoubtable "Johnnie," his band
followed him in amongst the tents, behind the tents, upon the
heights, and all other places likely to hide a foe, some of them
being very badly used in the melees. At times they would
show fight, but numbers always prevailed. Johnnie and his
baud, no doubt, saved many a poor countryman from being
robbed, and as soon as the races were over the band was

The day before the races the Corn Exchange area and King
Street were filled with stands, and the town was over-run by
men and boys selling " c'rect card, or sheet list for the races,
the names of the horses, and colours of the riders," a great
trade being done in these. On the opening morning what a
sight on the roads by way of " Cowane's Yard " down the

Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 25)