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Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts adjoining the Ochils
Appendix to the Second Edition


ON Thursday, the 2nd of August 1883, a similar flood to that of 1877 was again experienced on the south side of the Ochils. Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, after a pouring-down rain, Tillicoultry Burn suddenly came down in one great wall of water of some seven or eight feet high, with a noise that was heard a great way off, and had a most alarming appearance. The suddenness of the rush, and the great volume of water, again made it evident that a waterspout or waterspouts had burst on the hills above us; and it being only six years since a similar occurrence took place, and that previously no such event had happened during this century, the dwellers at the foot of the Ochils are beginning to feel justly alarmed at the frequency of such calamities, and to think that some great meteorological change is coming over the climate in this part of the country.

The damage done during this flood in Tillicoultry was comparatively trifling compared with the previous one, from the simple fact that we were better prepared for it. After that flood the burn was deepened, and strongly-cemented protecting walls built, and the water, till it reached Lower Mill Street, was confined to the channel of the burn. There, however, it again overflowed its bed, and the High Street was flooded for some; hours to the depth of about three feet, and hundreds of tons of stones and gravel deposited on Lower Mill and High Streets. Four or five large streams of water were seen pouring over the tops of the hills, where usually no water runs. The general opinion seemed to be that the height of water in this flood was quite as great as that of 1877.

Dollar almost escaped the great rush of water this time, but in Alva there has been nothing seen like it during this century. The second uppermost stone bridge and retaining walls of the burn were swept away, while the lower houses of the Green Square were flooded to the depth of four feet. The water burst through the back wall of Mr. Perry's bakehouse, and, after completely wrecking it, rushed 'through Mr. Drysdale's shop, entirely destroying a large portion of his stock of books, paper, type, etc., causing serious loss to both gentlemen. Messrs. John Henderson & Son, manufacturers, and Mr. Porteous, also suffered considerable damage to their premises ; and a field to the east of their works was seriously flooded, and great loss sustained. This flood, in Alva, was very much more serious than that of 1877, the water having risen quite three feet higher. Great damage was done in the glen, and the dam-head filled to the brim with debris.

An Alva gentleman, who was driving over from Aba, could not account for the singular appearance of the hills, as they seemed to be literally covered with white foam; but when he got into Alva, and found a great part of the village deep under water, the mystery was then explained.

The 'Back Burn' at Tillicoultry House did enormous damage, a large portion of the garden wall having been thrown down, and a considerable piece of the garden completely wrecked. Mr. Cameron hadhis crops very seriously damaged, and his loss would come to a large sum. A deep gully of about a hundred yards in length and three to four feet wide was made in the road that passes his house, rendering it quite impassable. Mr. Orr's west lodge was again surrounded with water, and but for the loopholes which he had thoughtfully caused to be made in the wall at the south side of the public road after the last great flood, it would again probably have been tumbled over, as before, into the field.


In these days of ocean telegraphs; great bridges over wide rivers—as at Queensferry and Dundee; proposed tunnels under broad arms of the ocean—as the Channel Tunnel to France; the gigantic ocean canals of the isthmuses of Suez and Panama; the Mont Cenis and St. Gothard tunnels; the talked of great canal of the Jordan Valley,—I don't think some of our go-ahead young folks would be very much surprised although they heard that it was proposed to have a tunnel through the centre of the globe, giving us a 'short cut' to Australia. Well, what is at present contemplated is not quite so alarming as that, but it is nothing less than a proposed railway to the top of Ben Cleugh. 'A railway to the top of Ben Cleugh!' I think I hear some of our timorous ones say; 'why, it is enough to take away one's breath.' Yet so it is in verity, and the line has been actually surveyed, and it is seriously proposed, it is said, to carry the project through. Well, after that we really need not be surprised at anything. Good folks are shaking their heads, and saying, 'Ah! it will never do.' But have they good reason for saying so? Look at some of the railways already constructed throughout the world that are carried much higher than 2363 feet—the height of Ben Cleugh. But then the cautious folks are saying, 'Just think how it would disturb and annoy the sheep.' Would it? I grant that for the first few days it would; but after getting accustomed to the trains for a week or two, they would not only not run away when one was passing, but would actually scarcely condescend to lift their heads to look at it. This we can see any day in Glen Ogle, and other parts of the Callander and Oban and on the Highland railways. I trust the scheme will be carried through, as it will bring our beautiful Ochils more into notice throughout the kingdom than they have hitherto been, and attract crowds of tourists to our really picturesque neighbourhood in the summer season. The grand scenery on the Devon—at the Caldron Linn, the Rumbling Bridge, the Devil's Mill, the Black Linn of Glendevon, the Vicar's Bridge, etc., and the romantic old ruin of Castle Campbell, with the really unsurpassed scenery of its beautiful glen, would then become more widely known than they are at present, great as is the number that annually visit them. How delightful it would be, after visiting all the places I have named, to finish up with a railway trip to the top of Ben Cleugh, where the visitor would then behold one of the finest panoramas, I believe, in the world. That it is considered so by those who have travelled far is the very general opinion. I have heard it told of a gentleman, who once met the present worthy laird of Alva (the proprietor of Ben Cleugh) when in the Holy Land, that he remarked to him that in all his travels he had nowhere beheld such magnificent scenery as from the top of Ben Cleugh in Scotland; and when he said so he was ignorant of the fact that it was the laird of Ben Cleugh he was talking to.

The most wonderful engineering feat that has yet been accomplished—so far as steep railways are concerned—is the short line in Switzerland between Montreux and Glion, which is the steepest railway in the world. The ascent commences, and continues for some little distance, at an angle of 32 degrees, which then increases to 57 degrees. The carriages are raised and lowered by means of a wire rope, and the various patent breaks that are employed are considered so efficient, that, in the event of the rope breaking, the carriages can at once be brought to a stand-still.

When the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was constructed, it was at that time considered essential to have them as nearly level as possible; and hence it is, I understand, the most level railway in Scotland, and can, in consequence, be wrought at less expense than any other. To have thought then of making a railway to the top of Ben Cleugh would have been considered sheer madness. But now, with our increased experience, it will be thought very little of.


I have now to record a most romantic story in real life, connected with Gateside, around which a profound mystery still hangs, and which probably may never be thoroughly cleared up, but which is at this moment engrossing the keen interest of a highly-respectable family now resident in England. Exactly one hundred and forty-one years ago, a beautifully-dressed baby boy was found (by the then proprietor of the estate, Mr. Clerk Burns) lying in the malt-kiln of Gateside brewery; and enclosed in its dress a large sum of money, which clearly showed that this mysterious little stranger belonged to wealthy parents, whoever they were. All efforts to discover them, however, proving abortive, there was no alternative left but to adopt the little 'foundling,' which the good folks of Gateside accordingly did. Having made up their minds to do so, they then saw it to be their duty to have the child baptized; and following the custom—which at that time seems to have been generally adopted—of naming 'foundlings' after the place where they were found, he was baptized John Dollar, the first time, I believe, that the name of 'Dollar' was ever applied to a family. (In connection with this giving of names to 'foundlings,' another case that happened about the same time in the neighbourhood of Dollar is very amusing. A baby girl was found at the head of a 'hairst-rigg,' and the good folks of Dollar had her baptized Jenny Rigghead.) I herewith give a copy of the registration of John Dollar's baptism, taken from the old session records of Dollar (now deposited in the Register Office, Edinburgh). It is as follows :-

'Frida,, July 300t, 1742. 'Dollar. The child that was found in Clerk Burns' malt-kiln-logie was baptized. 'James Sorley, weaver in Dollar, being sponsor.'

This James Sorley would be Willie Sorley's grandfather, whom I used to hear very much spoken of in my young days, and who built the row of houses close to the crofts in the old town, and which then went (and, I suppose, still does) by the name of 'Sorley's Raw.'

After this mysterious 'foundling' grew up to manhood, he suddenly and most unaccountably disappeared from Dollar, no one knew to where; and his exit from the locality created as much talk and surmise as his advent into it had done. It then seemed evident to all that during all those years he was in Dollar, the eye of her who had given him birth had been watching over him, and, when the suitable time came, had him removed from the locality, but where to was shrouded in mystery, and for a hundred and twenty years it has remained so. But now this mystery has so far been cleared up, and it is to be hoped that some day it will be all brought to light.

A stranger gentleman, Mr. Dollar, lately visited Dollar, and had come expressly from a southern county in England to make inquiries about an ancestor of his, whom he knew came from Dollar, but about whom he had little or no information, and was very anxious to learn something regarding him. His ancestor's name was peculiar, and a hundred and twenty years ago was unknown in England, till one day a gentleman suddenly and mysteriously made his appearance in the midst of the good folks of this southern county, but no one at the time knew from where, his name being John Dollar. Now, this John Dollar has numerous descendants in England, to the third and fourth generation, and it was one of those who came to Dollar a few weeks ago to make inquiry about this ancestor of his, who had, it seems, after he was settled in England for some time, made it known from what part of the world he had so mysteriously dropped in among them.

On hearing the story of the mysterious baby 'foundling,' Mr. Dollar became intensely interested, and in order to ascertain, if possible, the name of this infant, he went to Edinburgh, and searched the old session-records of Dollar, now deposited in the Register House. We can easily conceive, then, how immensely his interest would be increased when he discovered that this little foundling's name was Dollar; and that now, therefore, part of the mystery that had rested over it for a hundred and twenty years was cleared away. He copied the entry from the session-records, a copy of which I have already given. It seems quite clear, then, that when the grown-up man John Dollar mysteriously disappeared from Dollar, he as mysteriously made his appearance in one of the southern counties of England, and that thus far, therefore, the mystery regarding him is cleared up. But who were his parents is still to be found out, and may be this may some day be accomplished.

There are parties living in Dollar at present who recollect well of their parents speaking of this ' foundling' baby of Gateside, and of the great excitement it caused in Dollar when it was discovered, and the very general desire that existed to find out who its parents were, but that this was never accomplished.

Here is a fine romance, then, in real life, and a splendid subject for some of our great romance writers of the present day, and perhaps some of them may be induced to take it up.

We can easily picture to ourselves the anguish of heart suffered by the poor mother of John Dollar, after leaving her helpless babe at Gatceide on that to her most dreadful night, and what a terrible feeling of remorse would pursue her through all her after life.


Since issuing the first edition of this book, I have learned from a gentleman who was a 'piecer' in his young days with old Mr. Paton, Kilncraigs, Alloa, when he commenced business, that stocking-yarn was spun there before the late Mr. John. Mitchell came to Kilncraigs; and that in the incident related by me in it in connection with this, Mr. Mitchell must have referred to some special new shade he had introduced, or some new description of yarn, and that I must have taken him up wrong. I now take this opportunity, therefore, of correcting the error, by omitting the paragraph altogether, and am very sorry the mistake had been made.

W. G.

TILLICOULTRY, December 1, 1883.


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