Ninian's, St.


Ninian's, St.
   NINIAN'S, ST., a parish, in the county of Stirling; containing, with the late quoad sacra parishes of Bannockburn and Plean, and the villages of Cambusbarron, St. Ninian's, Torbrex, and the Whins of Milton, 10,080 inhabitants, of whom 1295 are in the village of St. Ninian's, 1 mile (S.) from Stirling. The original name of this place was Egglis, from a church founded here at a very remote period, and which is thought to have been for many ages the only church between the rivers Forth and Carron. It is supposed to have subsequently derived its present appellation from Ninianus, an eminent disciple of Palladius, and who was sent by Pope Celestine to oppose the Pelagian heresy, which at that time infested the Scottish church. Owing to its situation, bordering upon the confines of Northumbria and Cumbria on the south, and the territories of the Picts and Scots on the north, the district appears to have been exposed to incessant devastation from the hostilities and incursions of contending rivals; and even after the final establishment of the Scottish monarchy under Kenneth II., it seems to have been for many years the seat of turbulence and war. In 1314, the memorable battle of Bannockburn took place in this parish between the English army, consisting of 100,000 men under Edward II., and 30,000 of the Scots, commanded by Robert Bruce; it terminated in the entire defeat of the English, and the permanent establishment of the independence of the Scottish crown. The English, on the night previous to the battle, were encamped at West Plean; the Scottish forces were drawn up in three divisions, in front of an eminence called the Gillies Hills, on the opposite bank of the rivulet or burn which has given name to the encounter. On the following morning of the 24th of June, the English, descending from the heights, crossed the Bannock burn, and, their cavalry falling into numerous pits which the Scots had by order of Bruce dug for their annoyance, and filled with iron caltrops, were thrown into confusion; and a total rout of the English troops ensued, from which Edward, after the loss of nearly half of his men, narrowly escaped. During the engagement, the Scottish standard was placed in the cavity of an upright block of granite, on the summit of an eminence called Caldan Hill, within half a mile of the village of St. Ninian's. This stone is still preserved, under the appellation of the "Bored Stone," as a memorial of the victory; and to secure it from the avidity of numerous visiters to obtain fragments for converting into trinkets, it has lately been inclosed with an iron palisade.
   In 1448, a battle took place at Sauchieburn, in the parish, not far from Bannockburn, between James III. and the confederate lords who had rebelled against him; on which occasion the king, retreating unattended from the field, in attempting to cross the burn on his way to the Forth, was cast from his horse at Milton, and carried into the house of a miller near the spot. On the king's recovery from the state of insensibility into which the fall had thrown him, he made himself known, and requested his host to send for a priest; and one of his pursuers, coming up at the time, and personating a confessor, obtained admission to the king, and stabbed him to the heart. In 1511, the Earl of Lennox, who was holding a parliament at Stirling as regent of Scotland, during the minority of James V., was attacked by a party who had marched from Edinburgh during the night, and, in a skirmish on the following day at Newhouse, near the village of St. Ninian's, received a wound of which he afterwards died. During the usurpation of Cromwell, though no battle took place within the limits of the parish, it suffered greatly from the passage of the contending armies, which frequently marched through it, and encamped in the immediate vicinity. In September, 1745, the Pretender with his army passed through the parish, and spent one night at Bannockburn House, upon the invitation of Sir Hugh Paterson, its proprietor; and on his return in 1746, he made it his head-quarters, while his followers were quartered in the surrounding villages. On the morning of the 17th of January, he assembled his army on Plean moor, whence they marched to Falkirk, and obtained a victory over the royalist forces; but on the approach of the Duke of Cumberland, they retreated towards the north, having previously blown up the church of St. Ninian's, which they had converted into a powder-magazine, and which, with the exception of the steeple, was entirely destroyed.
   The parish is partly bounded on the north by the river Forth, and on the south by the Carron, and is about thirteen miles in length and seven miles in extreme breadth; comprising 35,000 acres, of which 20,000 are arable and in good cultivation, 2000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, moor, and waste. The surface is pleasingly diversified with hills and gentle undulations. Of the hills the principal are the Dundaff and the Earl's hill, forming part of the Lennox range in the south-west, but the higher has not an elevation of more than 1000 feet above the level of the sea: in one district of the parish the Highlands are mostly covered with heath, affording tolerable pasturage for sheep and cattle. Along the banks of the rivers are some fine tracts of level ground. The principal river is the Forth, which flows along the boundary of the parish in strikingly picturesque windings, and afterwards expanding into a spacious frith in its course toward the east, unites with the German Sea between Crail and Dunbar. The Carron, which has its source in the adjoining parish of Fintry, and for some miles bounds this parish, runs eastward into the Frith of Forth at Grangemouth; and there are numerous smaller streams, which intersect the lands in various directions. The Bannock burn rises in Loch Coulter, in the parish, and, winding to the north, joins the river Forth; the Endrick flows westward, and falls into Loch Lomond, and the Earl's burn and some less important streams run southward into the Carron. Loch Coulter, in the south-west, is about two miles in circumference, and in some parts of great depth. Salmon, whiting, sea-trout, and smelts are found in the Forth, and perch and pike in Loch Coulter; common trout are found also in the smaller streams, and other kinds of fish. The moorlands abound with grouse and other game; partridges are to be seen in great numbers, and wild-ducks frequent the lake.
   The soil, though varying greatly in different localities, is generally fertile, and in many parts luxuriantly rich. The carse grounds along the banks of the Forth appear to have been at some remote period an extensive morass, and gradually reclaimed from the encroachment of the river, above the level of which they have now attained a moderate degree of elevation, forming a fine tract of arable land. The central districts, which, as distinguished from the carse and moorlands, are called dry-field, and occupy the most extensive portion of the parish, are usually arable; and the soil, though inferior to that of the carse lands, from which the ground rises abruptly to a considerable height, is fertile and productive. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses. The system of husbandry is in a very improved state; a due regard to the rotation of crops is carefully observed, and the lands generally are in a high state of cultivation: thorough-draining and subsoil-ploughing have been extensively practised; and the lands have been well inclosed, the lower with fences of thorn, and the higher with dykes of stone, both kept in good repair. Several of the farm houses and offices, also, have been recently rebuilt in a substantial and commodious style; but there are still many of a very inferior order. The hills and moorlands afford good pasture for sheep and cattle, of which considerable numbers are reared, the former in the higher, and the latter in the lower of the moorlands, where the heath has been supplanted with grass: the sheep, whereof about 5000 are pastured, are mostly of the native breed; and the cattle, of which there are more than 1000, of the Highland black-breed. The dairy-farms are well managed, and large quantities of butter and cheese of excellent quality are forwarded to Stirling; the sheep and cattle are chiefly sent to Falkirk, and sold to dealers for the supply of the southern markets. The rateable annual value of the parish is £49,082.
   There are but few remains of ancient wood: the forests with which this part of the country was overspread are supposed to have been cut down by the Romans, to prevent their affording shelter to the natives, who, concealing themselves, frequently issued thence in numbers, and obstructed their progress. The plantations, mostly of modern growth, consist of firs of all kinds, not surpassed in luxuriance by any in the country, and of the various kinds of forest-trees, for which the soil is well adapted; many of the ash-trees in the park of Carnock are of very stately growth, and on the lands of Touch are some oaks, and a cedar of Libanus said to be the largest of the sort in Britain. The principal substrata are, sandstone, limestone, greenstone, clay-slate, and coal: there are also extensive quarries of freestone at Catscraig, Blackcraig, and Craigbeg, where about seventy persons are employed. The limestone, which is very abundant, is wrought at Craigend and Murray's Hall, affording constant occupation to about forty men; and coal of excellent quality has been long in operation. The principal collieries are at Greenyards, Bannockburn, Plean, and Auchenbowie; the two last are wrought by the proprietors of the lands, and those of Greenyards and Bannockburn by a company holding the mines on lease. The several collieries give employment to more than 400 persons, for whom, in addition to their wages, houses and gardens are provided at a nominal rent: the quantity of coal annually produced averages above 60,000 tons. Clay of good quality for bricks and tiles is also found in the parish; and at Throsk some works have been established, which are in full operation, engaging nearly thirty men: great numbers of tiles for draining are made at these works. There are numerous mansion-houses belonging to the landed-proprietors, of which the tastefully embellished and richly planted demesnes add much to the beauty of the scenery; the principal are, Auchenbowie, Bannockburn, Craigforth, Carnock, Plean, Polmaise, Sauchie, Throsk, and Touch.
   The village of St. Ninian's is pleasantly situated at the junction of the roads from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Stirling, and consists principally of one narrow street of ancient houses irregularly built, most of which, being whitewashed, impart to it a cheerful and lively aspect. The steeple of the church destroyed by the Highland forces of the Pretender is still remaining entire, and, being at a considerable distance from the new church, built on a different site, forms a singularly striking feature in the scenery of the village. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the manufacture of carpets, tartans, and plaidings, of which the most extensive establishments are at Bannockburn, and which is also carried on at Cambusbarron and in some of the hamlets, affording occupation to more than 1500 persons, and producing goods to the amount of £130,000 annually. The tanning and currying of leather, for which there are two establishments at St. Ninian's, and one at Bannockburn, are also pursued to a considerable extent: in these works fifty persons are employed, and the value of the hides annually prepared is estimated at £30,000. About 200 persons are engaged in making nails, which form a staple article of trade, and of which the number weekly produced is estimated at nearly 1,350,000; the making of malt is carried on in the village, and also at Bannockburn and Sauchenford, and the quantity annually averages almost 30,000 bushels. There were formerly not less than six distilleries in the parish, but at present there is only one, near the hamlet of Chartreshall; and of numerous breweries, the only one remaining is at St. Ninian's, upon a very moderate scale. The villages of Bannockburn, Cambusbarron, Plean, Torbrex, and the Whins of Milton, are all described under their respective heads. The nearest market-town is Stirling, whence letters are brought daily by a messenger to St. Ninian's and to Bannockburn; at which latter place, fairs for cattle are held on the second Tuesday, O.S., in June and October. Facility of communication is maintained by the high road from Edinburgh to the north by Stirling, which runs for six miles through the parish, by the post-road from Glasgow to Stirling, which intersects it for four miles, and joins the former at the village of St. Ninian's; by the road from Dumbarton to the ferry at Alloa, passing for twelve miles through the parish; and the road from Carron-Bridge, which connects the southern district with the roads to Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is in contemplation to form a branch line from Stirling, to join the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway near Falkirk, which, if carried into effect, will run through the eastern part of the parish, and add materially to the facility of conveyance for its mineral and agricultural produce.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Stirling and synod of Perth and Stirling. The minister's stipend is £345. 3. 9., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patrons, the heads of families who are communicants. There is also an assistant minister, who receives a stipend of £50 from the teinds, and contributions from the parishioners amounting to about £80 per annum. The church, situated in the village of St. Ninian's, was built in 1750, and is a plain substantial structure containing 1500 sittings. At Buckieburn is a chapel built about the middle of the last century, for the accommodation of the inhabitants of that moorland district, who are five miles distant from the parish church, and in which divine service is performed by the parochial minister or his assistant. Churches, also, have been erected at Bannockburn and Plean, to each of which a quoad sacra district was till lately assigned, by act of the General Assembly; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church, Relief, and United Secession. The parochial school affords a very complete course of instruction to about 100 children: the master, who keeps an assistant, has a salary of £34. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average £65. There are several other schools; two or three of them have a trifling endowment, and the rest are solely dependent on the fees. The late Francis Simpson, Esq., of East Plean, who died in 1831, had built a large cottage for the reception of aged and poor men, chiefly soldiers and sailors, and bequeathed property in monies and land, producing an income of nearly £1000 per annum, in trust, for their benefit. The trustees have enlarged the building into a spacious asylum, in which are more than thirty aged men, who are lodged, clothed, and fed, and have each a moderate allowance of pocketmoney. The same Mr. Simpson, a few years before his death, gave to the Kirk Session £500, of which he directed the interest to be annually divided among the poor of the parish, but "so as not to relieve the heritors from their bounden duty of supporting them." William Wordie, Esq., of Cambusbarron, towards the close of the last century, bequeathed £1120 to the Kirk Session, appropriating the interest for distribution on the 4th of October among the poorest inhabitants of the parish, not being common beggars. Mr. Greenock, of Whitehouse, left £500 for the payment of £10 annually to the schoolmaster of Cambusbarron, and for the application of the remainder of the proceeds to pious uses; and the late Mr. Mc Gibbon, of Greenyards, bequeathed £200, and Mrs. Brotherstone, of Touch, £50, to the poor, subject to no restriction.
   The Roman road from the Forth to Stirling, of which some vestiges may be traced, passed for several miles through the parish; and there are remains of not less than five Roman stations. The ancient castle of Sir John de Graham, the intimate friend and zealous adherent of Sir William Wallace, and who was killed while fighting by the side of that hero in the battle of Falkirk, is still standing, though in ruins; it appears to have been of great strength. In the massive walls of the old house of Sauchie, the loop-holes for the discharge of arrows and other missiles are yet in good preservation. On the lands of Carnock are some remains of Bruce Castle, a circular tower of moderate dimensions; and at no great distance from it, at Plean Mill, are the ruins of a square fortress, of which the greater portion has been removed at various times to furnish materials for buildings on the farm. There are also numerous cairns and tumuli, remains of Druidical monuments, and other ancient fortresses in various parts; and on the removal of a cairn on the lands of Sauchie, some few years since, two coffins of freestone, of unequal size, were discovered. While levelling a field on the lands of Craigengelt, a circular mound twelve feet high, and 300 feet in circumference at the base, which was surrounded by twelve upright stones, was found to contain a stone coffin with the remains of a skeleton of ordinary stature, and various other relics of antiquity, of which a stone battle-axe of fine workmanship, and a ring of chased gold in which had been a gem of some kind, have been preserved. Sir John de Graham; Henry, the historian; and Harvey, a painter, were natives of the parish. The Duke of Montrose takes his title of Viscount Dundaff from lands here.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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