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Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts adjoining the Ochils
Chapter VI - Relatives at one time in Clackmnannan

I WILL now refer more particularly than I have yet done to my worthy Aunt Sarah of Clackmannan, my mother's eldest sister, and Uncle Henry. She had a passionate love for the place of her birth—Bankhead, of Tullibole; and many were the stories she used to tell us of the folks round about there—in Hood's Hill, Coldrain, the Gelvin, etc.; and so vivid were the pictures of some of the scenes she described, that you got to have quite an interest in the whole locality.

She was an exceedingly cheerful person, and her merry laugh could be heard a great way off; and so much was she esteemed, generally, in the town of her adoption, that there wasn't one in it, I believe, but would have done her a kind turn if they had had it in their power.

She attended the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Balfour (the present Lord Advocate's father), and from both him and Mrs. Balfour she ever received the greatest kindness. She used frequently to speak of the faithful visits paid her, along with others, of Mrs. Bruce of Kennet (Lord Burleigh's mother), and the many excellent tracts she left with them. She died, as I have already mentioned, in 1862, aged seventy-nine.

Uncle Henry lived with her till his death in 1833. Besides being of a decidedly poetical turn of mind, he was very fond of painting, and, though self-taught, produced some most creditable pictures, some of which adorned their rooms. One, particularly, of Alva House and the Wood Hill, in oil, was a very well-executed painting indeed, and a most faithful representation of the scene.

The farm of Bankhead was sold by my Grandfather Wilson to Lord Moncreiff about the year 1820. My brother in Dollar being anxious to become possessed of the property which once belonged to his forefathers, bought it back from Lord Moncreiff in 1859, and held possession of it for twenty-one years. In 1880 he sold it to the late Robert Mowbray, Esq., of Naemoor, to whose family it now belongs.


In the year 1835 I left school, and commenced the business of life. I went to Dunfermline, and served a three years' apprenticeship to the drapery trade, with Mr. David Inglis, Bridge Street; and was afterwards about a year in Stewart & M'Donald's, in Glasgow.

During my sojourn in Dunfermline, I had the pleasure (along with my companions who lived in the same apartments with me) of getting introduced to some very nice, kind families; amongst others, I may mention Mr. Joseph Paton, Wooer's Alley; Mr. Bonar, builder; Mr. Hay, St. Margaret Street; Mrs. Auld, High Street, etc.

Mr. Joseph Paton (Sir Noel Paton's father) was a great antiquarian, and his house was filled with a most valuable collection of old armour, antique furniture, etc., and visitors came from far and near to see his collection, and were always made welcome. Mrs. Paton was one of the kindest and most motherly of ladies, and many a happy evening we spent in their house.

Mr. Paton, I recollect, was very anxious that Robert Wright and I (both Dollar lads) should make a thorough search about the nooks and corners of Castle Campbell, and see if no old relic could be discovered; and I remember well of taking down to him a bit of an old saddle I found in one of the dungeons of the keep, and of which I was sure I had made 'a great find;' but, to my great mortification, it turned out to be a bit of a very modern saddle indeed, and all my high expectations regarding it were suddenly blighted.

The fine ruins of the old Palace and old Abbey Church of the ancient city of Dunfermline (connected as it is with the earliest of the kings and queens of our Scottish history, as also those of more recent date) are very well worth seeing; and to any one who has not been there, I would say, 'Go and see them.'

During my sojourn there, forty-five years ago, its celebrity as the seat of the manufacture of linen and woollen damask tablecloths, covers, etc., was world-wide, and it was then a very thriving town indeed, and some very extensive businesses were being carried on in it. Since then it has made great strides, and some very large manufactories have been built, and great fortunes realized, by some of its citizens who were then boys.

Mr. William M'Laren (of W. & J. M'Laren) was one of the older hands in Mr. Inglis's shop during my apprenticeship; and Mr. John M'Laren had just- left for a situation in Edinburgh, previous to my entering. Mr. William Shaw of Milnathort (now of Neilson, Shaw, & M'Gregor, Glasgow), and Messrs. Robert and William Wright of Dollar, and I lived together in the same apartments during our apprenticeships; and Mr. William Mathieson, Mr. Thomas Bonar, Mr. Noel Paton (now Sir Noel), Mr. John Cooper, Mr. James Meidrum, and Messrs. Robert and John Hay, were amongst our most intimate acquaintances. Mr. Shaw was an apprentice with Colville & Robertson, drapers; and Messrs.. Robert and William Wright were apprentices with Mr. Thomas Stevenson, writer.

Peter Taylor, Colville & Robertson, Thomas Beveridge, David Reid (afterwards Reid & Davie), J. & A. Duncanson, David Inglis, David Anderson, and William Finlayson, were the principal drapers of those days—all of whom have now passed away. To give an idea how extensively manufacturing was carried on in Dunfermline at the time of which I write, I will here give a list of the firms then in existence, which I am enabled to do through the kindness of an old and esteemed friend in Dunfermline. John Kinell, Golf- drum; Robert Balfour, Golfdrum; William Hutton, Golf- drum; David Dewar & Co., Woodhead Street; Philip & Law, Woodhead Street; John Cowper, Pittencrieff Street; Hay & Shoolbred, Pittencrieff Street; David Inglis, Bridge Street; James '& Alexander Beugo, High Street; William Hunt & Son, High Street; George Inglis & Son, East Port Street; James Inglis, East Port Street; James Blackwood, East Port Street; William & John Swan, Queen Anne Street; John Darling, Knabbie Street; James Kirkland, Knabbie Street; James & Thomas Spence & Co., St. Catherine's Wynd; David Williamson, Moodie Street; Adam & William Bowie, Moodie Street; James Hall & Co., Moodie Street; Thomas Wilson & Sons, Newrow; James Alexander, Canmore Street; Robert & George Birrel, St. Margaret Street; Alexander Bogie, St. Margaret Street; George Burt & Sons, Back of Dam; David Hogg, New- row; Robert & James Kerr, Bruce Street; William Kinnes, Canmore Street; Andrew Peebles, Guildhall Street; Thomas & John Russell, Maygate; Erskine Beveridge, St. Leonard's Works. As showing the great changes that take place in half a century, the friend who has supplied me with this list (most of whom I remember well) informs me that every one on it has now passed away.

The greater part of the fabrics were at that time wrought on the hand-loom, by weavers throughout the town. This is all changed now, and the weaving is nearly all done in large factories on the power-loom, giving e:nployment to some four or five thousand women.

Messrs. Rutherford's thread mills were at that time being carried on with great spirit, their thread having quite a name throughout the country.

Mr. Taylor, Kirkgate, Mr. Gibb, Maygate, Mr. Husband, Queen Anne Street, Mr. Henry Russell, High Street, Mr. William Drummond, High Street, Messrs. J. & A. Beugo, High Street, Mr. Samson, Bridge Street, and Mr. David Blelloch, Maygate, were the principal grocers, the last two only of whom are now left.

The Rev. Mr. Young was minister of Queen Anne Street U.P. Church; Rev. John Law, Rev. G. B. Brand, Rev. William Daiziell, Rev. Mr. Cuthbertsou, and Rev. Mr. M'Michael, of other five Dissenting churches; and the Rev. Peter Chalmers, under whom I sat, was minister of the Abbey Church. All the seven have now passed away.

The principal writers were, Mr. Thomas Stevenson, Mr. M'Donald, fiscal, Mr. Strachan, Mr. William Beveridge, sen., Mr. James Smith Ronaldson, Mr. William Warren, and Mr. Henry Bardiner - the last only, of whom is now left.

Mr. Gavin Steele, druggist, had his shop in Chalmers Street, and lived for some time in the same apartments with us in the same street.

Mr. John Miller, Bridge Street, and Messrs. William Clark and James Bonar, High Street, were the principal booksellers.


There was one great event that took place during my sojourn in Dunfermline, which I think may not be uninteresting to refer to for a little, as the like of it will not be seen in Scotland again for more than a hundred years, and that was an almost total eclipse of the sun. This wonderful phenomenon took place on a Sabbath day, the 15th May 1836, and engrossed the attention of the people far more than the sermons that were preached that day; and, indeed, it was itself a great sermon, as showing how the wonderful works of the Great Creator far transcend any piece of human mechanism and skill, and that the movements of the mighty universe of God are so perfectly controlled by Him, that the time when this eclipse was to begin, and when it was to end, were foretold to a moment, and (although the same event had not happened for nearly two hundred years before) were found to be perfectly correct.

No piece of human clockwork can at all compare to the great clockwork of the heavens, for, although circling through space with inconceivable speed, those mighty worlds by which we are surrounded, and the one in which we ourselves dwell, never vary in, the precision of their movements by a single hairbreadth, but are at the appointed spot at the appointed time, guided by the unerring hand of the Great Jehovah. Our astronomers, therefore, can say with perfect certainty, this or that eclipse, or this or that transit of a planet over the sun's disc, shall begin and end on such a day, in such an hour, and at such a minute, and have not the slightest fear of their predictions being wrong. Watches and clocks may and do vary, but the clockwork of the heavens, never. Truly we can say with the Psalmist David, and with much more emphasis than he (from our more perfect knowledge of the heavens than existed in his day), 'When we consider the heavens, the works of Thy bands, the sun, moon, and stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou graciously condescendest to visit him?'

What a wonderful body the sun is, which was on this occasion almost entirely hid from our view—one million and a quarter times bigger than this world! We can write it down in figures, but the mind cannot grasp the idea of such an enormous body, and we wonder how there can be room in the heavens to contain it. But when we think that there are hundreds of thousands of such suns as ours, with worlds, no doubt, revolving around them, like our own, we are utterly lost in amazement and overwhelmed with awe, and feel that this little world of ours—which we used to think so big—is as but a drop in the ocean of immensity. Yet how cheering it is to know that the same Creator who formed and upholds this great system of suns and worlds, created and upholds the smallest animalcule in a drop of water, and that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His knowledge; and who, moreover, when His creatures in this world sinned and rebelled against Him, sent His Son Jesus Christ into it to die for them and atone for their guilt. '0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!'

Our moon, during this eclipse, went right over the centre of the sun; and had it been only a very little bigger, or a little nearer us, the sun would have been entirely hid from our view. Although it was generally called 'total,' therefore (and it was as nearly so as it almost ever can be), there was still a streak of light— like a silver thread—right round the sun, which gave a very faint glimmer of light; but so faint, that the darkness was very awe-inspiring, and the stars in great numbers were quite visible.

It was through the kindness of Mrs. Anderson of Viewfield (a very old friend of my mother's) that I got into Mr. Inglis's shop, and during my whole three years' sojourn in Dunfermline received the greatest kindness from her. I sat in her seat in the Abbey Church, and was very frequently in Viewfield. It was from her garden I viewed this great eclipse. Mrs. Wyld, her only daughter, was then a young lady of great promise, and much esteemed by every one who knew her. Mrs. Anderson died in June 1865, aged eighty-three years, and was buried in the Abbey churchyard.

During my residence in Dunfermline there were two public 'characters' who were well known throughout the whole town—' Daft Archie,' and Bobbie Gow. We sometimes used to think that Archie 'was more rogue than fool.' He was at times rather violent, and not one to be much tampered with. Bobbie, on the other hand, was a harmless, innocent imbecile, always in a happy mood, and at times very amusing.

Before passing from my sojourn in Dunfermline, it may be interesting to refer to the means of locomotion in those days. The occasional route from Dollar to Dunfermline was to walk to Alloa, get the steamer from there to Charleston, and thence to Dunfermline by a horse railway. But the more frequent route was by Saline on 'Shanks Naigie;' and many is the time I tramped the solitary journey between the two places— distance 12 miles. How different from now-a-days, when we can be whisked about from place to place at the rate of 40 miles an hour, and take journeys of many hundreds of miles without a moment's consideration!


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