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History of Montrose
Chapter VII. - Approach to the Town from the South


IN approaching Montrose from the south, the road passes through the lands of W. M. Macdonald, Esq., of Rossie and St. Martin’s, &c., on the left of which road, about a mile from the town, is a number of very neat cottages, with beautiful gardens around them, edged along their whole extent by a fine hedge, the side of the brae on which they are situate, partially adorned with trees, sloping down to the Basin—a large circular sheet of water supplied by the tide, and extending seven miles in circuit. These cottages, whether as seen from the higher grounds above them, or going close past them, present a very gay and beautiful appearance in the flowery season, smiling in fair Eden’s bloom—particularly the one nearest the town, possessed by Mrs. Fell; opposite to which, at the foot of the brae leading up to Rossie Garden and the Castle, may be seen, a cottage, which, for beauty and artistic gardening, may vie with any in Scotland. This cottage, occupied by Mr. Robert Soutar, has two apple trees, with branches spread over the roof, bearing a plentiful crop, some of which, called “Glamis Tower,” weigh above a pound weight. The castle is a noble building, with battlemented towers, built by the father of the last proprietor, Horatio Ross, Esq., at a cost of 30,000, being the same price that the land cost him—that is 60,000 for both, and the same were sold to the present proprietor for 125,000, besides the rent ef the land for a year. The estate was purchased by Mr. Ross from Mr. Scott of Rossie and Dunninald, with the right of redemption, but the enormous expense of the castle put it out of Mr. Scott’s power to buy it back. This redemption clause is a wise and merciful provision, for who does not like to hear of an old established family regaining their paternal inheritance, and being restored to their ancestral honours? It is this that throws such a charm around the story of “ Ten Thousand a Year,” so well told in Blackwood?8 Magazine, when Mr. Aubrey recovered his estate by means of the patient study of the law. Over the entrance door of the castle, cut out in the stone, are the words, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Mr. Macdonald built a school-house in Ferryden many years ago, and gave the teacher a salary. It is now successfully taught by my friend Mr. Hampton, who also manages to teach the Castle Street School in the winter evenings.

Having got to the foot of Rossie-brae, towards Montrose, the road passes along a small bridge, crossing an outlet from the basin, through which small vessels had wont to pass to Old Montrose with lime and coals. At the north end of this bridge begins Inchbrayock, over which the road is continued till it reaches the magnificent suspension bridge over the Southesk, designed by Captain Samuel Brown of the Royal Navy. It was founded on 10th September, 1828, (George Paton, Esq., provost) and finished in December, 1829, at a cost of about 20,000. The distance between the points of suspension is 432 feet. The wooden bridge, which was removed to make way for the present, was a very fragile structure, requiring constant repairs. It stood, however, for 30 years, having been designed and executed by Alexander Stevens & Son, architects, begun in 1794 and finished in 1796, and extending 700 feet. Mr. William Petrie, New Wynd, was the first who rode along it on horseback, as he was also the first, 30 years afterwards, to ride on the suspension bridge. Dr. Gibson followed after, and they were cheered. Before this date, there was only a ferry over to Ferryden, when Urquhart Craig, Jamie Anderson, and Jamie Hutcheon, were the men who rowed the ferry-boats; and it must have been an unwelcome sight to them, for it laid them idle, so they marched along the bridge, with each an oar over his shoulder, and a bit of crape upon it, by way of dead march. Jamie A. had the charge of the mussel beds at Ferryden, and he drank an unmentionable quantity of whisky before breakfast, not by glasses at a time, for he put the gill-stoup to his mouth at once, and drank it off like water. Mr. Mollison met him about this time, and said he was sorry he was like to lose his bread, “Oh,” said he “I do not so much lament the loss of the bread as of the whisky.” Goods at that time, of course, were boated across, and the two carters on this side were James Crow (Gordon Crow’s grandfather), and William Drummond. Once a sugar hogshead, put on at the end of the cart, slung up the cart and hanged the horse.

The chain bridge has on several occasions suffered some rude shocks. The first, on March 19,1830, was by its having been overcrowded by people witnessing a boat-race, when they rushed to the east side as the boats passed through, and the upper chain gave way, from some imperfection about one of the saddles on the top of the north tower, and fell, resting on the lower chain. Several persons were caught between the chains, and killed on the spot; but fortunately the under chain proved sufficient to support the additional weight, otherwise the whole party would have been thrown into the water. Each chain was afterwards strengthened by two additional bars The second accident happened in October, 1838, when a fearful gale tore up and destroyed about two-thirds of it, which were thrown into the river; but the main chains- were uninjured, and the roadway was re-constructed on an entirely new and substantial plan, by Mr J. M. Rendal, C.E., at an expense of upwards of 3000. Mr Joseph Millar was the contractor, Mr David Fettis, who succeeded him, being his foreman. Several years ago, the schooner Phoenix, coal-laden, drove up against the bridge, when her masts went by the board, like slender reeds. Several other accidents of a similar nature have of late occurred.

Having crossed by the bridge, the first street is Bridge Street, a very healthy and airy street. Close to the bridge are the Public Baths, near which was an ice-house still remaining ; further on, the Royal Infirmary and Dispensary, built in 1837, in consequence of two of the doctors in the town, Drs Mason and Gibson, dying in the black fever, which was raging at the time. The Infirmary is attended by Dr. Johnston, a most skilful operator, and by Dr. Lawrence, who, one or other of them, and frequently both, visit it daily. It has got large additions made to it this year, and will now be capable of containing 70 or 80 patients. The next large house on the same side is the property of David Sutherland, Esq., ship-owner and fish-curer. This house is worthy of being noticed, on account of the freshness and durability of the stone, which looks as well as the day on which it was built—perhap’s 40 years ago, by Mr Martin Brydon of the schooner “Active” of Montrose, long a regular London trader. They came from one of the Brechin quarries. Next again, is a house built by a pebble-cutter, on the walls of which pebbles were stuck; after which, is a house with an iron railing in front, called “Chandler’s Kirk,” after an eccentric clergyman of that name for whom it was built. His son, who was coming out to the ministry, was long a teacher in Aberdeen, and one of the best writing masters there. After this house, the street is well filled up till you come to Dr. Paterson’s house, built by Mrs. Bennet in 1810 or 1811; on the opposite side to which is a plain substantial house, built by the late Collector Paton, who was also sometime provost of Montrose. It now belongs to Robert Smart, Esq. of Cononsyth. The large and massive building next to Dr. Paterson’s was built by James Leighton, Esq., town-clerk, and is now the property of Edward Smith, the young laird of Caimbank—his father, the late Dr. Smith, R.N., having died last year (1865). Passing on to the turn of the road, we come to what may be considered the greatest improvement made upon this street, in the time of Provost Sim, viz., the wall with railing enclosing a narrow strip of ground, with beautiful birch and laburnum trees, waving in the summer breeze, and adorning the scene,—formerly this was a rough unseemly brae. At the head of this street, before you turn to the left, stood the old cistern for supplying the town with water, to which the lasses used to resort with their pails and pitchers.


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