A Short History of Alloa

This book, written by Clackmannanshire Minister and local historian the Rev. Dr. Thomas Crouther Gordon D.F.C. was published by Alloa company J.B. Rae in 1937. It follows in many ways the layout of The Statistical Accounts of Scotland, in which he later participated.


by The Rev. T. CROUTHER GORDON, Ph.D., D.F.C., B.D.
Author of
"A Travelling Scholar," "The Rebel Prophet," "The History of Clackmannan."
The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Mar & Kellie, K.T.


In the centre of Scotland, and on the fringe of the industrial belt, lies the town with the euphonious name of Alloa, pleasantly situated on the left bank of the Forth with the Ochil Hills forming a glorious background. Its early history is somewhat obscure, a small hamlet clustering round the ancient Tower of the Erskines, but rising in a comparatively short period to its present flourishing industrial condition.

Owing probably to the fact that the surrounding land has belonged to one family, the development of the town has not been so haphazard as in many Scottish Towns, although there have been and are bad slums, and considerable overcrowding, both now in process of elimination by an enlightened Town Council, who steadfastly keep before them the Burgh’s rather grandiloquent motto, “In the forefront.”

Dr. Crouther Gordon has taken infinite pains in producing this little volume, for which our sincere thanks are due to him. Many interesting facts have come to light in his exhaustive researches, and in heartily commending this volume to its readers, may I express a hope that the drift to the South, of which we hear so much in these days, will not affect the growing prosperity of Alloa.

Mar & Kellie.


This short history of Alloa has been written as an attempt to fill a regrettable gap in the literature of the town. No history of the district exists, in the modern sense of that term. A certain number of small pamphlets have been issued from time to time, the proceedings of the Archaeological Society were published for a period, Lothian’s guide to the town was printed and then went out of print, while copies of John Crawford’s Memorials, naive and crude, though curiously painstaking, are now worth their weight in gold. It is a matter for regret that a thriving and progressive town like Alloa has no written history.

In preparing these pages I have searched the volumes of the Register of the Great Seal, the Lord High Treasurer’s Accounts, the Papal Registers, and the Transactions of the Privy Council. It has been my great good fortune to have written after the two volumes of the Mar and Kellie Papers have been published by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, while I have to thank the Earl of Mar and Kellie for the privilege of consulting the Diary of Lord Grange in his possession. My debt to others is indicated by the footnotes, but it is only fair to say that Crawford's Memorials, Lothian’s Alloa, and the volume Alloa and Tullibody edited by Dr. Maclean Watt, have all provided interesting and out of the way data.

I acknowledge my debt also to Mr. James Smeaton for his kindness in allowing me to consult all the material in his possession relating to the history of Alloa, and for undertaking the publication of the book.

The proofs have been corrected by my friend, the Rev. Dr. John Kennedy, of Cambuslang, and for this kindness I offer my thanks.


Alloa is by far the largest town in the smallest county in Great Britain, and yet it does not bear the county name. This anomaly is explained by its having risen to pre-eminence only since the Industrial Revolution, which has but barely touched the neighbouring county town on the hill. Alloa, therefore, has never been regarded as either ancient or historic. No famous battle has been fought near it, nor has it been the scene of any historic event. And yet the long story of its evolution is interesting, for it stretches far back into Scottish history and life, and involves personalities of royal and national renown.

Before passing to the history, let us look at the name "Alloa" and try to discover its meaning.
It has taken many forms.
In 1398 A.D. in a royal charter it was spelt "Alway," and other forms such as "Aulway," "Auleway" and "Alloway" have been used. It is certainly fanciful to connect it with the "Alauna" of the Romans. One authority says it is identical with the form Alva, and explains it as the Celtic "Allmhagh" meaning rock-plain. It is, however, unlikely that two places so near to each other should bear the same name, and whatever Alva may be, Alloa is certainly not a rock-plain.

The best and most convincing explanation offered is that by Dr. L. Maclean Watt, who connects the name with the Celtic ath-luath, pronounced ah-looa, meaning a swift ford. This is confirmed if one goes down to the shore, and looks at the Forth rushing past at a stout six knots and then listens to the lap, lap, lap of the waves. Indeed, the very repetition of the name Alloa, say six times, recalls the sound of rippling waters, and, incidentally, reveals the inner beauty of the name.

So much for the name.

It is not to be denied that the Romans occupied the highest part of the present town, known as Mar’s Hill. A Roman burying-ground has been uncovered there, and what is pronounced to be a pure gold Roman bracelet was recovered from one of the coffins. A brass coin was dug up, about a century ago, with the letters SC on one side, and the Words Augustus Tribunis on the other. Add to these facts the close proximity of Camelon, a key fortress of Agricola (A.D. 83) on his reconstructed wall from the Forth to the Clyde, and we may reasonably believe that Alloa was an outlying station of the garrison that held Camelon. More than this it would be unsafe to assert, but this at least may be claimed.

These Roman coins are indeed most valuable to the historian, and it is unfortunate that no means have been found of collating all the information contained in them. For instance, at the meeting of the Alloa Society of Natural Science and Archaeology on the 2nd of May, 1876, Mr. Miller, an engineer in Castle Street, handed over to its care a Roman coin which he had found at the foot of a tree in the Walk. But another and even more valuable coin was found by Sir Charles Oman in the Bibliothéque Nationale of Paris. It was a brass coin of Caracalla dated 209 A.D., and it was struck to popularize the military triumph of Severus in Great Britain, for it depicts Severus crossing a pontoon bridge. This type of boat-bridge indicated a broad tidal river, and for this and other reasons Oman rejects the Tyne, the Tweed, and the Solway. Only the Forth is left for consideration, but the Forth was navigable in Roman times only up as far as Alloa, and Severus had to keep closely in touch with his ships for supplies. Several lines of argument lead Sir Charles to conclude that this Roman pontoon bridge must have been constructed from what is now South Alloa across the river Forth to what is now Alloa. Thus from a quite unexpected source, a small brass coin lying hidden away in the “British Museum of France,” we have confirmation of the conjecture that the Romans occupied the ground where Alloa now stands. Oman states, "it would be an ideal place for a bridgehead fortress," and if Severus had with him an army of some 80,000 men, it will not be surprising that we have discovered traces of their occupation.

But the Romans marched away from their watch-tower, and left the Picts to live their wild lives, checked only by the superstitions and bloody rites of the Druids. We know nothing of what happened in these parts, until the curtain rises slowly again to reveal the severe and saintly figure of the Christian evangelist.

St. Mungo walks across the stage of history, on his way, as it were, from Culross, where he had been reared by St. Serf, to Glasgow, where he was destined to do his great work. In 1497 there was an altar in Alloa Kirk dedicated to this saint, and the medieval Romanists who perpetuated the name in the thirteenth century doubtless followed a sound tradition. Before the end of the sixth century, therefore, we may say that the name of Christ was known in the little hamlet of rude huts that clustered round the burn of Alloa.

The spotlight of history has to wait for another century before the curtain is once more lifted, and this time warriors crowd the stage, for the Saxons have landed in force to the east of the hamlet, and the Picts sally out to beat them off, led by the redoubtable Brude himself. We know that Finguine, son of Deleroith, died in that battle in 711 A.D., and maybe Brude too fell.

A stone cross still marks the place at Hawkhill.

It has been cleverly suggested that the term Gaberston means "The Pillar-Stone of Broth (Brude)," providing thus the link between the stone and Brude, and this link is strengthened when we remember that the burn that runs through Alloa is called “The Brathy Burn.”

These old Celtic names deserve careful study, and are our only guide-lights, dim though they may be, to a very dark patch of our history. There is some ground, therefore, for the assertion that in Pictish times battle and bloodshed were seen in the region of Alloa.

The dark and weary years that followed saw the emergence of a Scottish monarchy, and not without intrigue and treachery was the kingship of Malcolm Camnore established. His royal palace at Dunfermline was the political centre of Scotland, and he wisely defended it on the west side by a series of fortified strategical points. One of these was his own royal town of Clackmannan, where he sometimes resided himself, and in order to ensure his safety he planted an outlook on the edge of the Brathy Burn. One bold writer, without any historical authority, says that Alexander II built the Tower of Alloa in 1223 A.D. The most we can say is that the king erected a mote-and-bailey tower, suitable to defend the local inhabitants against sudden attack.

That there was a royal interest in the district, however, is proved beyond the shadow of a doubt by the charter, which Alexander III gave to William, Earl of Mar, on the 21st December, 1262, giving him the lands of Tillicoultry in free forest. Here we are not trusting to legend or oral tradition, but are on the solid rock of documentary history.

But it is not until 1398 that the name of Alloa appears in an authentic document, for it was in that year that King Robert the Third issued a charter to Sir Thomas Erskine, giving to him the barony of Alloa and the Forest of Clackmannan.

Sir Thomas Erskine was a loyal supporter of the king, having stood by him in his hour of need. There were two links between them: the lands of Erskine in Renfrewshire were in close touch with Bruce in his earlier days, and also a kinsman, Gratney, Earl of Mar, had in 1305 married the king’s sister Christian. This grant indicates that there must have been even at that time on the banks of the Brathy Burn a considerable community, who came to the castle of the laird for justice, for Sir Thomas Erskine had in his hands the power of life and death. Another charter, which lies at Alloa House, illustrates how the king, some eight years later, while living at Scone, was planning the building of a strong navy, for in a charter of the lands of Glenbrecrych to Sir John of Menteith, he stipulates that this knight must supply “a ship of twenty-six oars for the King's army, equipped with men and victuals.”

In the very year that the great king died, 1329, he remembered his nephew, the young Earl of Mar, his sister’s son, by giving him the land of Saline, which had formerly been in the hands of the Duke of Athole, and to-day, after six hundred years of change, it is still in the hands of the family of Mar. There must be few instances of the like in the whole of the modern world.

The arrival of the Erskines into the district meant a development of the hamlet, and an improvement in the conditions of the people. The humble serfs and peasants had to trudge either to Clackmannan or Tullibody to attend divine service, and so the laird obtained sanction to erect a chapel at Alloa, dedicated to St. Mungo. It was quite a small building, forty-seven feet by thirty, and was served by a monk from Cambuskenneth Abbey, being in point of fact more of a private chapel than a parish church. We know quite definitely that in 1401 and 1409 the chapel of Alloa was nothing more than an adjunct of the church of Clackmannan, but both Erskine and those who worshipped with him had so little interest in the parent church that Bishop Henry Wardlaw had to threaten them with suspension of spiritual offices, before they would contribute to repair the church of Clackmannan. That old chapel has gone, walls and steeple despite what Mr. Bryson says, as the present steeple of the old churchyard is obviously not a fourteenth century building.

Although the king had granted Alloa as a barony to one of his knights, he evidently retained certain property in it, because Sir William Bailly in 1359 levied rents for His Majesty amounting to 18s. Bailly, indeed, appears to have had some rights over certain land in Alloa, for in the presence of King and Council, on November 16th, 1360, he resigned these rights.

Previous to this Sir Robert Erskine had been straining every nerve to save his kingless country. David II was a prisoner in the hands of the English since the Battle of Durham in 1346, and fruitless efforts were made by the nobility, headed by Erskine, to come to terms with his captors. He took many journeys southwards, and it was only after eleven years of negotiation that the ransom was fixed at 100,000 merks sterling. Sir Robert’s work was just beginning, for he had to help in the finding of the money. He made a special journey to Rome to ask the Pope to allow one-tenth of the revenues of the church to be used towards Paying the ransom, and this the Pope granted for three years.

Little wonder that David tried to reward such valiant service, by appointing Erskine Justiciary of the Northern half of Scotland, and granting him the lands of Ferrytown, the meadow of Clackmannan and the park on the east of the Little Devon, “to be held for the payment of half of the service of a knight and three suits of court at the sheriff court of Clackmannan.” By resigning Strathgartney he acquired also Gaberston, the Inch and the Park lands of Clackmannan, and so we can see clearly how the estate came into being on the 6th of August, 1363. It was indeed but a poor return for the national service that Erskine had rendered, and the king must have felt this too, since he honoured his knight still further in 1366 by appointing him Captain and Keeper of the three royal castles of Stirling, Edinburgh and Dumbarton.

The governorship of Dumbarton Castle passed before the end of the century into other hands, and clearly for geographical reasons it was better that this should be so, but it is a matter of profound interest and satisfaction to the historically-minded that at the present day the Earl of Mar continues to hold the office of Governor of Stirling Castle, and each year his flag flutters from the castle walls. There is no doubt that the prestige of the House of Alloa stood very high in those fateful days in Scotland’s story, and the fact that the country weathered such a period of financial and social unrest, a time of robbery, rebellion and depredation, when even Cambuskenneth Abbey was robbed of its altar vessels, is due largely to the insight and statesmanship of Sir Robert Erskine.

This was felt by David II until he died in 1370, and Robert II in 1371 seemed to indicate his sense of debt by creating Erskine Justiciar of the Forests of Tor and Clackmannan. The rights and powers of the house were still further extended in 1387, January 2nd, when the king gave to Sir Thomas Erskine the grazing and hunting of the Forest of Clackmannan.

It will already be clear that if Alloa has contributed anything to the larger life and destiny of Scotland in the past, it has been through the house of Erskine and in no other way.

As the succeeding centuries unfold their story, the close and intimate contact with the throne will appear and reappear, and be indeed the main link that connects Alloa with the larger life of the country. True, the little hamlet grew steadily and, since Sir Thomas was the warden of all the lands and rents of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, it is likely that those who sheltered under the shadow of his tower would know something of the kindly offices of the medieval hospital.

Still, when on August 17th, 1398 the barony of “Alway” was erected into a free regality, it meant that all legal fees and fines were gifted to Sir Thomas by the king, Robert III, and so the honour was somewhat greater for the knight than for the malefactors of the barony. Thus by the end of the fourteenth century the fortunes of the Erskines were well established and their name the most highly honoured in the kingdom, and it is to their lasting glory that while other strong houses such as Douglas and Moray fought for their own hand against the throne, the Erskines were ever found to be the staunchest of the king’s men.

It may not have been quite the same in religious matters.

They differed very much from the worthy Bishop of St. Andrews about the payment of repairs for the parish church, in 1401 and 1409, for they and the good people of Alloa held that if they maintained their chapel in Alloa in good condition they were fully doing their religious duty. Still in the end their loyalty to the church was firm enough to stand the strain, and the fact that nothing more is heard of the dispute inclines us to think that Alloa paid its share of the cost of the repairs to Clackmannan Church. It can hardly be doubted that the case was further complicated by the connection that Alloa had always maintained with the Tullibody Church, of which indeed in earlier days it had been a mere appendage. Tullibody Church itself was in little better plight for since 1170 A.D. it had been the possession of the Canons of Cambuskenneth. Ecclesiastically, Alloa appears to have been nobody’s darling, and it was not until 1600, when the parishes of Tullibody and Alloa were united as one charge that matters were, for the the time being, straightened out.

This fifteenth century proved to be uneventful.

While the Stewarts were fighting their weary warfare for supremacy and for the autonomy of their throne, the people of the Brathy Burn saw little of the fighting, but they contributed their share to support the king in his struggle against a turbulent nobility. Not that the Erskines raised a sword against the crown; indeed this century saw them rise steadily in the royal favour, for in 1429 Sir Robert was created Lord Erskine, and, when in 1435 the Earl of Mar died, he made a determined effort to gain the title, because his great-grandmother had been the daughter of Gratney, Earl of Mar. To this end he enlisted the influence of Sir Alexander Forbes, who bound himself to push the Erskine claim, on condition that he would receive Achindore and other lands, if the claim succeeded. But the title of Mar was one which reverted to the crown if heirs failed, and it appears that in this century at least the claim was never allowed by the throne.

So strongly was the king opposed to the claim, indeed, that he refused Kildrummy Castle to Erskine, although it was a part of the patrimony of the Earldom of Mar, and when Erskine seized the castle as his by an ambiguous consent of the king, the king promptly seized the stronghold of Erskine at Alloa.

This was in 1442.

These were but moves and countermoves in the game of political intrigue, but the boldness of Erskine must have impressed the king, for six years later, on the 12th of June, 1448, he relieved him of the Keeper-ship of Dumbarton Castle. The House of Erskine was far too valuable an asset to the king, however, to be shorn of its prestige, and so on the 11th of September, James II confirmed the following lands to Sir Thomas, the son of Lord Erskine :—

The Lordship of Erskine, with pertinents in the shire of Renfrew, the barony of Kelly in the shire of Aberdeen, with the rents of the water of Aberdeen, the lands of Bernys in the Mearns and shire of Kincardine, the lands of Pettarowe in the shire of Forfar, the lordship of Alway and forest of Clackmannan in the shire of Clackmannan, the lands of Tulchgorme and Middlethird in the shire of Stirling, the lands of Ellem in the shire of Berwick, the lands of Nesbit and Dalglies in the shire of Roxburgh and the lands of Syntoune in the shire of Selkirk with the office of sheriff thereof.

This gives a clear indication of the possessions of Erskine in the middle of the fifteenth century. Two interesting facts emerge from the instrument of Sasine, dated 17th September, 1448, Issued on a precept from Chancery, the father is designated in it as Earl of Mar and Garviauch, but this cannot be taken to infer that the throne recognised his right to the title. In the actual charter he is designated Lord Erskine only, and it looks as if the instrument was written merely at the dictation of Lord Robert himself. The second fact is that the son entered into the lordship of Alway and forest of Clackmannan “within the outer gate of the manor of Alway.” There is no mention of the castle of Alloa, or tower or fortalice, and the term “manor” does not suggest the present noble structure of the Tower at all.

This fact Should be remembered.

The troubles in the kingdom are echoed in the district of Alloa at this period by the fact that the forest of Clackmannan supplied the royal need for timber. In 1475 the town supplied wood for His Majesty’s artillery, and four years later, when the king was besieging Dunbar, where his rebellious brother the Duke of Albany was holding out against him, Alloa came to his rescue with more timber to prosecute the siege. It has been asserted by Lesly that in the same siege Sir John Schaw of Sauchie was slain. It is satisfactory to know that the folks who nestled under the shadow of the power of the Erskines did not lag behind their laird in loyalty to James.

Towards the end of the same century we see the king smiling again upon the fortunes of Alloa, for he created the second Lord Erskine in 1489 Baron Alloa and he conceded to him the land of the barony and regality of Alway with the forest of Clackmannan, and also, be it noted, the mill of Alway. This is the first mention of the mill of Alloa, and the inference is that such a useful acquisition must have been erected by Lord Erskine since 1480. Clearly, too, the life of the little hamlet must have so increased that a mill was demanded to be built by the waters of the Brathy, for the Parkmill on the Little Devon was proving inconveniently far. Agriculture must have been producing so much grain that the laird wisely erected his own mill. In this same charter of 1489, too, there is no reference to a Tower or Castle of Alloa.

Sidelights are thrown on the life of those old days by two documents which survive. One of these, dated Sep. 26th, 1492, is an official exoneration from guilt of John Reid of Aitkenhead, who slew a certain Robert Methven of Tillicoultry. Lord Erskine acquitted Reid on the ground that he did it “in his just and extremist defence.“ Here we see at a glance what was involved in the grant of a barony, for by this Royal deputing of authority, the local knight had in his hand the awful power of life and death. In the hands of a wise and discreet laird, above all of a god-fearing laird, this power was a great benefit, for a man of character and integrity would stand to get the benefit of the doubt from one who intimately knew his home and habits. Justice, instead of being cruel and heartless as the romanticists say, was more humane and kindly, for judge knew prisoner and prisoner knew judge, sometimes from childhood. Justice, after all, as a bloodless, transcendental abstraction may be a snare and a delusion.

The other sidelight is provided by the generous action of Alexander, the third Lord Erskine, who on the 21st October, 1497, mortified the rents of certain properties in the barony of Alloa to provide an endowment for the priest who officiated at “the altar of St. Mungo in the Kirk of Alloway.” The gift was not so much for the upkeep of a person as for the continuance of spiritual exercises, for the purpose of the gift of eight pounds, thirteen shillings, and fourpence, was to speed the souls of James III, James IV and Christian Crichton, the lately deceased wife of Lord Erskine. Six years later, another gift was made by the same donor to provide a chaplain for the chapel at Alloa, which would indicate that the population was becoming so large as to occupy fully the time of a priest.

The normal sum required in those days for his upkeep was ten merks per year, but this endowment would probably still remain to the incumbent, even though James IV took the “Church of Alloway” as one of the endowments for his new Royal Chapel at Stirling which he founded in 1501. The simple fact of endowing is, therefore, significant since it indicates that the population was on the increase.

Had Alexander been able to foresee the awful slaughter at Flodden, he would have included the soul of his brave son Robert, for on that fateful 9th September, 1513, the heir of Erskine fell like a hero beside the body of his king. And so at Alloa there were wet eyes and broken hearts, and the little altar of the chapel resounded to the trembling monotone of the priest’s intercessions.

But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie,
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

One point more calls for mention, before we pass into the colourful days of the sixteenth century, and this is, in fact, the most important archeological point in the entire history of Alloa, namely, the date of the building of the Tower. Fanciful dates ranging from the thirteenth century have been advanced by lay writers. There is no document existing which definitely describes the building of the Tower, and we are left with two lines of investigation.

Firstly, we may light upon incidental evidence, lying in a contemporary document. Already it has been noticed that the “manor of Alway” is referred to on the 17th Sept., 1448, while in a royal charter of 1489 which details the Erskine possessions no mention is made of the castle or castrum. In 1497, however, a change is noticeable for a charter is placed “apud maneriem sive castrum de Alway.” and this change becomes bold and unmistakable in the charter of James IV of 1502, in which he describes Alway “cum castro, fortalicio.” So far, therefore, as the written evidence goes, we seem justified in concluding that before 1497 there was no massive structure worthy of the term “castrum,” although there would of course be a strong mote-and-bailey tower, that the castle was in process of erection in 1497, and that it was completed and defended by 1502.

If we turn to the evidence of architecture, we must call in the expert.
The one authoritative statement that has been printed is that of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments, whose expert examined Alloa Tower on 26th June, 1928. He states in his report:-

“From such evidence as remains, it may be tentatively assigned to the fifteenth century with alterations of the sixteenth, seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries.”

This is an archeological confirmation of the testimony that is yielded by the ancient documents, and with very good reason, therefore, we can say that Alloa Tower was built in the year 1497.

And so, having seen the noble Tower rise on its little eminence beside the Brathy Burn, we may pause for a moment before we plunge into the pageant of royal figures in purple and ermine that crowd the stage of history in the succeeding decades.

Another tower took its rise in this early period, not two miles distant from that of Alloa, commanding a splendid view of the Devon Valley, and it became the home of the Shaws of Sauchie.

About 1335 A.D. Sir James Shaw of Greenock married the co-heiress of Sauchie, Mary de Annand, the grand-daughter of Sir David de Annand of Sauchie, and judging from its architectural features it was about this time that Sauchie Tower was built. It was, however, not until well into the following century that the family flourished. In 1469 the name of James Shaw of Sauchie appears in a royal charter, as also in 1471, and he it was who was sent in 1474 as an ambassador to Edward IV of England to negotiate the marriage of the infant prince of Scotland to Cecilia his youngest daughter. His embassy was very successful, for he was present at the betrothal at Stirling Castle some time later.

The king appointed Shaw governor of Stirling Castle and also made him governor of the young prince, so that he was high in the royal favour. This makes the conduct of Shaw all the more inexplicable, for in 1488 he joined the insurrection of the nobles against James III, which ended in the king’s tragic death at Sauchieburn. The new king was no less considerate, for in 1489 Shaw was again made governor of Stirling Castle, but it is likely that the Sauchie family were exceedingly useful to the crown, since the king enjoyed a loan of £1844 from Shaw, which he repaid in 1490.

An interesting entry in the Royal Treasurer’s Accounts is in 1503 when he paid to the gardener at Sauchie fourteen shillings for pears that had been brought to the king at Stirling Castle, and later still in 1529 it becomes clear that the “laird of Sauchie” was none other than the Master of the Royal Wine Cellar.

In the same year, 1529, the crowning glory was conferred by James V, who gave the lands of Banchrie to Alexander Shaw and raised them into the barony of Sauchie. Nor did the royal largesse stop there, for on the 8th February, 1536, he issued a further charter, giving to Shaw the lands of Sauchie and “Ballequharne," along with the right of presentation to the chapel of St. Blane in the barony of Sauchie.

Of the chapel of St. Blane at Sauchie there does not appear to be a vestige left at the present day, nor is there the faintest remembrance of it in the lore of the county, but it is certain from this contemporary evidence that a chapel had been built in memory of the seventh century saint.

That the king regarded Shaw with some affection is indicated by a charter of 1540, in which James refers to him as “my familiar or dear servitor,” and yet so fickle were the friendships of those days that on the 16th March, 1542, James, suspicious, no doubt, of the intrigues of Shaw, summoned him for trial to Edinburgh. Nothing serious resulted from the summons, however, for ten years later the same Shaw was appointed a commissioner of the county, and two years later, in 1554, the crown paid him twenty merks for some ‘small service unspecified. And so the Shaws of Sauchie, each like the Sultan of Omar “With his Pomp, Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.”



It was a dire tragedy for Scotland when James IV was killed at Flodden.

The country was just staggering out of the distractions of factional intrigues and minor rebellions, and an element of culture was emerging from the life of the people. Music and poetry were not only receiving royal patronage, but took on a spontaneous character of their own. Another way by which the king developed the life of the nation was by the building of ships and the increase of commerce.

This interest is reflected in the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, who in April, 1505, paid a youth two shillings to carry a letter from the king to Alloa Tower, requiring timber, presumably from the Forest of Clackmannan, for shipbuilding. Shortly after this fourteen shillings had to be paid for a boat to carry “gret treis” (great trees) for the building of the same ship, while an entry under May, 1515, states that two trees were taken to the Crag of Alloway “for pumps for the ship.” In the following year, September, 1506, the king had to pay for the victualling of the ship called “Unicorn” bound for “Alloway.”

Other materials besides timber, however, were being found profitable and useful.

The first reference to coal occurs in 1610 in the records of Cambuskenneth Abbey, and from the terms of the reference it is clear that coal was being worked at that time in the district of Sauchie, although the royalties on the coal were not being handed over according to law. Nor was the mining of coal a spasmodic effort; on the contrary it went steadily on during the century, so that regularly boats made their way up from Leith to Alloa to bear the coal to different parts.

In 1558 the sum of Five Pounds was paid to a skipper for carrying a load of coals from Alloa to Inchkeith, an island, by the way, which Alloa had some cause to remember, for in 1549 it supplied its complement of the pioneers, 400 in all, who were levied to build that fort in defence against the threatened invasion of the English.

The trade in coal expanded till it reached the Continent by the end of the century, but even so it was not without its perils. A couple of ships with coal from “Alloway” to Rotterdam were quietly sailing down the Forth on April 1608, when they were boarded by two ruffians, who demanded forty to fifty pounds for the release of each ship. The case came before the Privy Council, which had no hesitation in placing the ruffians, Wilson and Cownis, into the Tolbooth jail. The trade with Holland had the further danger of disease.

In those days the Continent was the breeding ground of plague, and Scotland had a horror of the very name. So great was the danger that the owners of Alloa port were called on to keep a strict watch on ships from Holland in 1624, lest the plague should come to the town.

The tragedy of Flodden had some curious results.

In the first place it made the laird of Alloa think seriously about his successors and descendants, for his heir had been lost in the dreadful slaughter of that battle, and so we find that in 1518 he induced young John Murray of Touchadam to take the hand of his daughter Catherine with the handsome “tocher” of 650 merks. Indeed, so keen was he on young Murray that he arranged to give Margaret, his other daughter, should Catherine not, for some reason or other, honour the bargain. Catherine, however, must have been an obedient daughter, for at the end of the same year Lord Erskine made an agreement with James Haldane of Gleneagles, a minor and a relative in the fourth degree, to marry Margaret Erskine, the “tocher” in this case having risen to 1000 merks.

The other, and more political result, was that Scotland was thrown back into party strifes by the premature death of the king, and the great houses fought desperately for the upper hand in the state. It was clear to the Lords of the Council that the life even of the young heir to the throne was in peril, and they cast about for a safe retreat for him. They decided that Edinburgh Castle and Dalkeith were not safe places, owing to the broken state of their walls, and finally they settled on Alloa, or another place, as being an "unsuspect castle". Stirling was, in fact, the castle chosen, and Lord Erskine himself as Governor of the Castle was the person responsible for the safety of the king.

The instructions he received for the custody of the royal person are interesting. As tutor, he has to teach his royal pupil in all good virtues and to read and write Latin and French, and to sleep in his chamber at night. The guard is to be made up of 20 footmen, who take turns of watching all night by fours, and these receive the watchword each night from none other than Lord Erskine himself. The king is to dine at a table by himself, while Erskine dines at another board in the same room with the captain of the guard and others. If the young king goes outside to the Park, it must be in secret and in “right fair and soft wedder (weather),” while some 6 or 8 horsemen scour the country ahead of him. In return for all the responsibility and labour of this royal task Lord Erskine was to receive the annual sum of £400.

Elaborate though these arrangements were, and well-calculated to foil the plans of Archibald Douglas, this arch-schemer yet gained possession of the young king within four years, and held him in Edinburgh Castle until 1528, when James V, now erected to the throne although but 16 years of age, escaped to Stirling and, gathering prestige, drove Angus from the kingdom. James appears to have reposed confidence in the laird of Alloa, for in December, 1535, he stayed at the Tower and was supplied there with 4 1/4 ells of purple velvet, which cost the royal exchequer £14 17s. 6d.

The royal purple was a costly affair.

This affection of James V for Lord Erskine is proved by a letter which he wrote to Alloa from Paris on the 6th January, 1537, complimenting Erskine on the “receipt of our Castel of Dunbare,” and also by his appointing him a governor of the kingdom should the king not retum from his voyage across the seas, which he started on June 12th, 1540, with the view of subjugating the Isles of the kingdom. This, the first purely personal link between the Erskines and the Crown, was the beginning of a chain that stood the wear and tear of a century, and in the end proved to be stronger than death.

An even more intimate link was the second one, for in 1542 the infant Queen, the ill-fated Mary Stuart, was placed under his charge, and this charge he kept so well that when in 1548 she was ordered to be taken out of the kingdom to the safety of France, it was Erskine who carried out the commands of the Estates with complete satisfaction.

Other matters arose in these years that touched both the sleepy little town of Alloa and the Lord in his castle. The Mastertons make their first appearance in the county at this time, for on the 17th May, 1547, a charter was granted to them of Parkmill. Extracted as they were from one of the architects of Dunfermline Abbey, they emigrated from that ilk in Fife to the eastern part of the Alloa estate, and young Ronald, as a matter of fact, married into the family of Sir David Bruce of Clackmannan.

One service, at least, these Mastertons rendered to the world, for one was Wise enough to keep an accurate - if pronouncedly Jaobite - diary of the events, both local and national, that took place in the days of the Revolution Settlement at the end of the seventeenth century. Stout churchmen, and sponsors more than once at the baptisms of the Mar children, the line became at last extinct at the end of the eighteenth century. The Remarques of Masterton, though written in annoying little contractions, throw an interesting and valuable light upon the life of the period, and betray a strong ground-swell of political partisanship.

Even more personal to the community and to Lord Erskine was the Battle of Pinkie in September of this same year 1547, for in that pyrrhic victory of Somerset there fell the son and heir of Alloa, Robert the Master of Erskine. Again there was weeping and wailing in the castle, and doubtless in the homes of the poor, for he was a brave lad. Already he had fought at Solway in 1542, had been taken prisoner and then ransomed. Once again the lordly hall gave its best for the honour and independence of the country, and the first-born of the house was cut off without lawful issue. He did leave behind him, nevertheless, as was the wont in those days, a natural son, and it is claimed, he thus became the ancestor of those redoubtable and unflinching preachers, Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, who in the eighteenth century were to quicken and liberate the soul of Scotland.*

* It is only fair to state that this ancestry has been disputed.

It is not to be thought that when the fifth lord died in 1555 the contact with royalty ceased. On the contrary it became closer and more friendly between John the sixth lord, who from boyhood had been a friend if not a confidant of Mary. Destined at first for the church and designated in 1556 as a cleric, this John was thrown by 1559 into the party wars of the kingdom, and as Keeper of Edinburgh Castle had the delicate task of maintaining an even balance between the Queen-Dowager and the Lords of the Congregation.

There is a persistent tradition that after the birth of James VI in 1565, Mary proceeded to Alloa House, where she met Lord Darnley and was reconciled to him. This is quite probable, for exactly four days after the young king was born, his mother granted to Erskine the ancient and long-sought title of Earl of Mar.

Be it remembered that this title, so closely associated with the Scottish Crown, had for centuries been persistently denied to the Erskines by the king.

Truly the star of the Erskines was in the ascendant, for the very next year Lord John was reconstituted the Keeper of Stirling Castle, and given a supply of armaments along with a smith, a carpenter and a gunner. The crowning glory came, however, when Mary committed the care of the young prince into Mar’s hands in March, 1567.*

* The legend that Mary's son died soon after birth and an infant son of the Countess of Mar was substituted in his place appeals to the popular mind, and might seem to be supported by the remarkable facial resemblance between James VI. and John, Earl of Mar, but it breaks down before the the fact that Mary - surely the best judge of the matter - never doubted that James was her own son.
Cf. G. R. Francis, “Scotland's Royal Line.” and Chambers’ Journal for October, 1923.

This royal act is enough to indicate that Mar was the most highly respected magnate of the kingdom, and it is confirmed by his appointment as Regent in 1571 with universal satisfaction. But the post of keeper of the royal person was no sinecure; rather it carried with it cares and burdens.

Darnley was brutally blown up in 1567, and the hand of the assassin seemed to be uplifted, so that Mar hastened to rally the support of Stirling Burgh in his search for the murderers, and he called upon them to use every effort to protect the life of the young king. Beside this heavy load of responsibility, Lord Mar had to keep a strict eye upon Edinburgh Castle and in March of the same year he had to submit a detailed and exhaustive inventory of the artillery and armaments of that stronghold to the Queen, from which it appears there were no less than 32 cannons, with an ample supply of powder and balls.

Nor was the possession of the young king a care that ended with itself, because the machinations at the court of Queen Elizabeth sent waves of influence - not to speak of letters of diplomacy - to Lord and Lady Mar. But the English Queen very wisely - as usual - crushed the intrigues of the Earl of Moray in London by sending a letter to Lady Mar on January 22, 1569, and she confirmed her good intentions to the life of the young king by enclosing a “token”. It is clear from the reply that the token was a very valuable one.*

* Lord Mar informs me that this token was a crystal and silver flagon, which was destroyed in the fire at Alloa House in 1800.

Another matter that demanded the grave concern of Mar was the education of the prince.

This problem he solved by constituting his wife as “governant” and by engaging George Buchanan and Peter Young as his pedagogues for his instruction in literature and religion. In his moving back and forward between Stirling Castle and Alloa Tower, it is clear that Mar must often have taken with him both the young king and his no less famous tutor George Buchanan. This appointment might be called his last decisive act, for death prevented his dabbling in the question as to whether Mary should be brought back from England after Langside to be tried according to the law of Scotland.

That Lady Mar was capable of carrying on the good offices of “governant” after the death of her husband in 1572 is proved by the fact that her son continued to be educated with James VI, and that a deep friendship was formed between them is indicated by the well attested stay of the king at Alloa Tower on 19th August, 1580. During this minority of young Mar it appears that the laird of Clackmannan took an unfair advantage of Alloa, for a contemporary spy of Walsingham, the secretary of Queen Elizabeth, informed his master that Alloa had been spoiled by the neighbouring Bruce, fortunately without serious consequences.

In fact, James regarded Alloa as his own residence, as well he might, since his cradle lies there to this day, and it is interesting to notice that in a Privy Council Act of the next year, 6th July, 1585, he ordered Sir James Campbell to be kept “in his highness house of Alloway.” Young Mar was senior to the king by three years and exercised undoubtedly an influence over him, for was it not James who called him “John Slaitis,” when on one occasion the king was outwitted?

There were times when James showed his severe displeasure at Mar’s political intrigues, but always in the end the old love triumphed, and from 1585 when he was re-appointed Keeper of Stirling Castle, he retained the good graces of his monarch. The overthrow of the old Roman Catholic religion is reflected in the settlement of James Duncanson, M.A., as the first Protestant minister of Alloa Parish in 1589, and in the allocation of certain rents from the bishoprics of St. Andrews and Dunkeld to the Earl of Mar as Keeper of Stirling Castle, not to mention revenues from the properties of the Abbacies of Scone, Lindores, Arbroath, Dunfermline and Holyroodhouse.

This was a clear case of the royal finger touching the sacred patrimony of the church, and converting it to his own use, and it throws light on how the great wealth of the old Church disappeared and was lost to the Church that succeeded it.

Another change took place at this time, which affected the people of Tullibody so deeply that they petitioned the General Assembly for redress. The great economic revival which resulted from the Reformation was reflected in a large increase in the population of Alloa, and it became clear that the church at Tullibody could no longer be regarded as the ecclesiastical centre of the parish. The presbytery therefore in 1599 declared the chapel at Alloa to be the parish church, to which all endowments were transferred. In wrath the men of Tullibody protested.

When David had founded Cambuskenneth Abbey in 1147 A.D. he granted to it the revenues of Tullibody, and through all the Middle Ages a cleric from the Abbey had dispensed the ministrations of religion to the people of the parish. The little church was hoary with antiquity, and the members were so proud of it that, besides paying the teinds to the Commendator of Cambuskenneth and raising funds for the support of a minister of their own, they actually re-built the roof, which had been stripped off in 1559.

In this year French soldiers marched through Fife towards Stirling in an effort to strengthen the hands of Mary of Guise, the Queen Mother, and the Reformers, to retard their progress, broke down the bridge over the Devon, but the commander, de Oisel by name, promptly laid hands on the stones which formed the roof of Tullibody Church, and so repaired the damage as to allow his troops to march on.

In this roofless condition the edifice stood till shortly before 1599, when the parishioners repaired it. But the protest of the people of Tullibody was unavailing and Alloa became the church of the parish for the next three centuries.

James VI must have been very happy during his boyhood days in the household of Erskine, because when he looks about for the most reliable and loyal custodier of his own Prince Henry he chooses the Earl of Mar and his aged and faithful mother. The young prince, as events proved, was not destined to wear the crown, for he died at the early age of 18, but it is very interesting to peruse the instructions issued by the king for the adequate governing of his son. The Ordinance is signed, among others, by Robert Bruce of Clackmannan, and it is noteworthy that at the Table of the Dames of Honour there sits not only Lady Mar but also Lady Clackmannane. The menu is given for this table, which details that on flesh days the meal will consist of one piece of beef, two pieces of salted mutton, one broiled fowl, with six dishes of pottage, and the second course is to be twelve dishes of roast. On fish days twelve dishes were served for the first course, including plumdames, rice, butter, eggs, fried toast, milk and bread, peas, oysters, green kail, while the second course provided for raisins, sweets and apples. It is slightly amusing that while the king was hunting down the conspirators against the true religion, and sending expeditions against the Roman Catholics in the north, he was maintaining in the household of the Castle the Catholic distinction of flesh days and fish days.

The same Earl of Mar who had his concerns over the custody of the prince, had worries also abroad in other parts. He was Keeper of Edinburgh Castle as well, and this made him responsible for all the treasure of the kingdom. On September 19th, 1594, he received a warrant from the king to open the chest containing the crown Jewels, and hand over to a Councillor a box of gold. So great a measure of wisdom did he possess, and such was his grip of affairs that he was sent as one of the ambassadors of Scotland to advance the claims of James to the English throne. This he did with great success, as history shews, and Elizabeth herself betrayed a great regard and affection for him, which she indicated by presenting him with a “very fine bason and laver of mother of pearle with severall rubies and pearles set thairin.”*

*Lord Mar tells me that this descended to the youngest son, Erskine of Aberdona and was sold at Christie’s a few years ago for £6,000 and went to America.

He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1603, and created Lord Cardross in 1606, receiving the wealth of Dryburgh, Cambuskenneth and Inchmahome, while even foreign potentates did not hesitate to win his influence, as is witnessed by Henry IV of France in 1605 sending him a jewel valued at 15,000 livres, “the Jewell of Diamonds” as he calls it in his will.

Not that Mar relished these adventures in affairs of state; on the contrary, when he had to leave Scotland to attend the King in London in 1608, he so dreaded the sickness which on several occasions had attacked him in the south that he made his will. In this, after detailing the destination of his various possessions, “he leaves his heart to his master, his sacred Majesty, and to his young sweet master (Prince Henry) he leaves his eldest son and the rest of his children, whose greatest honour is that they were brought up in house with him.” But John was not to die for a while longer, and he actually outlived the king himself, attaining the ripe age of 72. Indeed, the days of his greatest usefulness only began when in 1616 he was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, at a salary of £4,000 Scots per year. He was soon to learn, however, that the post carried with it many cares, for before he had held the appointment a fortnight he was writing letters to his master, urging him to be sparing in his grants, so low had the exchequer fallen. The very next year Scotland was thrilled by the unexpected and rare sight of its king, who, to stir its loyalty, made a flying visit to his old kingdom.

In fairness to him, it must be said that he did not forget his old haunts, for Alloa was duly warned by the Privy Council that his majesty was arriving and the town was to have 24 oxen ready for his visit. On the 21st July he actually sailed down the Forth from Stirling and landed at Alloa, but it was a visit of very short duration, and the people had but a fleeting glimpse of their king. But the visit of royalty was an exceptional affair; normally it was Mar's insistent duty to remind the king, and even Prince Henry, that the coffers could not possibly meet the demands made upon them.

Not that the king was an extravagant monarch.

His thought was constantly for others’ welfare as is proved by his trebling the pensions of certain needy persons in 1662, thus giving much worry to his bewildered Treasurer.

Another trait in the royal character is revealed by a request he made to Mar in 1623 to give what aid he could to the House of Sauchie, which was “so far hurte as if any hard dealing shoulde be used with Alexander Schaw now of Sauchie in such things as may be dew to us from him, it might threaten his utter overthrow.” It is to the lasting credit of James that he put out his hand to prevent the fall of an old and loyal house, and shews a side of his nature too often forgotten.

But the king was in his last days.

In 1625 Charles I ascended the throne and soon the change was felt. The enemies of Mar influenced the king to appoint a Commission of the Treasury to supersede him, and few letters are more restrained and dignified than the one which Mar wrote to Charles when the news reached him. After referring to his “unfriends” at court, he proceeds:-

“Sir, I confess as I am bound will I ever do as you please to direct me, but I do not doubt but your Majesty will consider the true heart of aine auld honest servant. If any man will accuse me that I have not done the duty of an honest servant, I am ready to abide my trial by the most strict form that law will allow. I humbly crave your Majesty's pardon for my boldness but if in that point I have committed any error it is only the tenderness of my reputation that the world should not think me so unhappy as not to be trusted by your Majesty, as far as all others in my place have been trusted by your Majesty's progenitors”.

The laird of Alloa was indeed shrewd enough to see that the days of his political power were drawing to a close, and each interview he had with Charles shewed him that others had wormed their way into the royal affections. He never failed to be both firm and shrewd. At Whitehall he finished his defence before the king with the mention of his three comforts, “ aine the testimony of aine honest consciens befor my God, the next is quhen I leuk upon you my just King, quha will see me treulie tryed, for I shall never beg mercie if I have doun any deid may mak me sweat; and my last comfort is quhen I leuk upon him quha is my accusar.” But none could impeach him, and though hampered and checked by the Commissioners, Earl John still cared for the monies of the king, he still pled the poverty of the royal coffers, and still went on protesting to Charles, "munie there is non in your coffers,"

Lennox might claim that Dumbarton Castle was in urgent need of repairs, but funds were so short that Mar had to put him off with a promise.

The cares of office were proving too heavy for the old statesman, and ill-health persuaded him in 1620 to demit office as Lord High Treasurer, but not before Charles, in one of his magnanimous moods, had ordered a gift of £10,000 sterling, in acknowledgement of his great and acceptable services both at home and abroad “carefullie and happilie performed.“

In view of the scarcity of money in the royal chest, it might seem very doubtful if the worthy lord received this huge sum, but a document exists which shews that the Lords of Exchequer actually paid the money over. It is pleasing to know that Earl John, ere his days ended, was rewarded in some measure for his long life of patriotic service.

While these events took place in the wider world of politics, Alloa went on quietly following the even tenor of its ways. The hand of the king was felt in local affairs, when on the death of Duncanson, the Rev. John Craigengelt was presented by Charles to the parish. Though nominally an episcopalian church, the kirk session continued to function effectively in the parish, and the king’s system of bishops was a mere series of names that never altered the character of the ecclesiastical structure. True, when a preacher became a danger, as when Joseph Lowrie, of the Kirk of Stirling, delivered irreverent speeches against Mar, he was dealt with by a Court of High Commission and confined to Glasgow, but still the power of the congregation was so great that it could insist on having him as its minister.

Charles found, however, that despite all his high-handed methods, he had to shew his face in his northern kingdom, and so elaborate preparations were made for his state visit in 1633. The Privy Council arranged that Alloa was to provide no fewer than 80 horses to carry his royal baggage, and we may take it as certain that he would be the guest of his old councillor John Earl of Mar. At any rate his feelings must have been kindly towards the House of Alloa because in the very next year, when old John died, he quickly confirmed his son in all the possessions of his father, including the port of Alloa, with the privilege of shore and anchorage and ferries. But the king’s religious policy was causing uneasiness throughout the land, and despite the fact that the Privy Council made Craigengelt a J.P. in 1636 he was foremost in protesting against Laud's Service Book, which Charles desired to impose on all the Church in 1637.

We may be sure that in Alloa Jenny Geddes was applauded as a heroine.

And while defending her rights against the Crown, the kirk was not less insistent on disciplining the morals of her members, for in Alloa parish three tapsters were fined a merk each for selling drink during the time of the sermon. The mention of Jenny Geddes recalls the fact that it was the common practice in those days for worshippers to take their seats with them to the kirk, but the custom was fraught with obvious inconvenience and so in 1646 the galleries and area of the kirk were duly seated, as was also the Sailor’s Loft.

It is not easy for us to realize now that a large and important element of the town consisted of seamen, but such was indeed the case, and when danger threatened the country from the sea, as in the Dutch War of 1672, it was to Alloa that the authorities turned to supply seamen to man the ships of war.

A new bell costing 98 gilders, was procured from Holland in 1668, and in 1673 the church itself was rebuilt and restored. This, however, could not have been a very extensive restoration, because in 1680 the Archbishop of St. Andrews to his honour launched a scheme of renovation, involving no less a sum than £5,800 Scots. The heritors found the money for this, and were recouped by parishioners buying their pews outright. "In the Old Kirk the pulpit stood in the middle of the north wall of the church. On the east side there were the Mar gallery and Mar aisle; on the south side there were the Sailors’ Loft and the Cambus and Tullibody Loft, and on the west side there was the Common Gallery, chiefly for the colliers and trades. In the course of time, however, these lofts were found insufficient; and so a second tier of seats, forming a second gallery, was erected over the western gallery."

No actual mention is made of a stool of repentance being there, but the Session Records make it plain that discipline was maintained, Lads were threatened with three hours of the the “jougs” for playing “Bullets” on the Sabbath, a game that involved the throwing of an iron ball with a leather sling’; and in 1658 there was actually a trial for witch-craft in Alloa Kirk, when the Presbytery arraigned Margaret Duchill, who confessed that she had had several meetings with the Devil.

Fortunately, Margaret died before the Presbytery pronounced the sentence upon her.

Both Bruce of Kennet and the Laird of Clackmannan were also sitting in judgment on Margaret, in virtue of their being Justices of Peace. The power of the kirk reached a man even after death, for on 15th January, 1679, the session enacted that tombstones must not exceed two feet in height and two feet in breadth, which explains why the stones at that period seem to us to be so uniformly small. And yet if the kirk could frown, it could also rejoice, and on the 19th February, 1688, the worthy parish minister, James Wright, held a public service of thanksgiving for the fact that the Queen had at last conceived! What grim irony lies in the fact that this child became the Pretender!

These were colourful days, when the Stuarts rose and fell with tragic suddenness, and Alloa was not to pass through this distracted time without tasting something of the horrors of civil war. Everyone knows how Charles organized his cavaliers in England to fight his battles against Cromwell and his roundheads, and how in Scotland the royal banner was carried by the Marquis of Montrose.

In his northern campaign of 1644 Montrose had occupied Mar's stronghold of Kildrummie in Strathdon, not, it would seem, without Mar’s approval, and there is preserved in the Mar Chest an undertaking given by Farquharson of Invercauld to Lord Mar and his son, that he will defend Kildrummie, and “be a friend to the King’s friends and an enemy to his enemies to the utmost of his power.” This points to the sympathies of the Laird of Alloa being with Charles, which is not to be wondered at, considering the recent royal gift of £10,000, and yet Mar, like so many other magnates of that unsettled time, had to keep a very precarious balance between the Parliamentarian and the Royal parties. The very next year, on the 14th August, 1645, Montrose and his wild Irishmen, having swept down Glenfarg and sacked and burned Castle Campbell above Dollar, fell upon Alloa and looted the town. One shudders to imagine the scenes that must have been enacted in the quiet country township, for never in living memory had war so much as knocked at the door.

The natives of Alloa may never have been guilty of the excessive religious passions of the Covenanters, but this unbridled sacking of their homes and shops by Montrose's men must have antagonized their sympathies completely, nor could it have assuaged their wrath to see the Marquis himself entertained handsomely to dinner in Alloa Tower that very night. Besides, Lord Erskine himself, the son and heir, was fighting under the flag of Montrose ever since the Battle of Kilsyth and he was present at the Battle of Philiphaugh.

In less than a year’s time the cause was lost, and it taxed the great influence of even the redoubtable David Leslie to shield Lord Mar from the sentence of the Committee of Estates, while young Erskine, regarded as “a delinquent of the first class” was fined no less a sum than 18,000 merks, and his caution money was fixed at £40,000.

The memory of Montrose smarted for many a day in the mind of Alloa.

It must have brought a wry smile to the faces of the congregation in the Alloa Kirk, when on March 17th, 1650, the Reverend James Wright read aloud the Church’s reply to the last and most famous pamphlet issued by Montrose. The great Marquis was now an exile in Gothenburg, and sought to rally the dying love of Scotsmen for their king by issuing a printed declaration offering the king's pardon, and in a noble ending, he summoned them "to play the man for their people and the cities of their God." The reply of the Church to this appeal, which Wright read in Alloa, was to deliver Montrose into the hands of the Devil. And this was the last that the peace-loving people by the side of the Brathy Burn heard of the misguided Marquis.

These were indeed exciting times, for Charles was executed in 1649 and Montrose in 1650 was beheaded in Edinburgh. Cromwell and the days of the Commonwealth had arrived.

But Charles II was a true son of his father, and continued his plotting and scheming to gain the throne. He planned an attack upon Ireland, and it must be the echo of this we hear when we come upon a curious charter in the Register of the Great Seal, which concedes to Francis Hermon, a Londoner, all the lands of the Earl of Mar. This Hermon was nothing more than a tailor in Covent Garden, and it looks as if Charles, anxious for funds for his expedition and like all the Stuarts seizing the chance of the moment, handed over the lands of Mar for cash. Hermon, at any rate, made a poor bargain, for on the 17th January, 1653, The Keepers, who acted for the king during the interregnum, granted all the lands of the Earl of Mar to James Stevenson, a merchant and burgess of Stirling for the sum of £8,243 6s.

It is clear that Mar was very much out of favour with the Roundheads, and suffered accordingly in the day of their power, but in a few years the king came back to his throne, and in the first Parliament after the Restoration it was Mar who carried the Sword and who was soon re-instated as Governor of Stirling Castle. Charles must have returned to him all his possessions, and when in 1674 his son,the young Earl Charles, married the daughter of the Earl of Panmure he gave a tocher of no less than 50,000 merks. This together with 8,500 merks, which he realised from cutting the timber on the policies of Alloa, must have made him fairly wealthy. Commerce seems to have developed all round at that time, for Alloa Mercat Cross is referred to in official circles, with its "Muckle Mercat" and five yearly ones, and Masterton, the caustic diarist of Parkmill, under the year 1678 mentions the laying down of a new highland road to the west of his house, which points to the development of the country.

It will be worth while at this point in our history to pause for a moment, and gain closer view of the life of that time in the pages of Turnbull's diary. The second half of the seventeenth century was distinguished in literature by a passion for writing diaries. The practice affected all kinds of people, from Samuel Pepys in Whitehall to Thomas Boston, the young probationer preacher, and Masterton the small landowner of Parkmill. Fortunately the young minister who came to Alloa parish in 1690, George Turnbull, kept an accurate diary of the events of his life and of the parish, and this throws quite a flood of light on the times.

He was called not by the congregation, but by the heritors and the elders, and within a year of his induction he had completed his examination of the parish, which considering the membership was in the region of 1,400 was a considerable feat. That examination was a formidable affair, for it included the catechizing of each household in the essentials of the faith. At the Sacrament in 1692 no fewer than five ministers came to assist Turnbull, each succeeding the other during the whole season with long and eloquent discourses. In 1694 there were no less than twelve tables, Which indicates that Turnbull's ministry was telling in Alloa. He ran an afternoon course of lectures on the chief principles of religion, and on Fridays he delivered a weekly sermon on Hosea. He records an earthquake at four o’clock in the morning on January 13th, 1696, and thanks God for delivering him from French pirates who infested the waters of the Forth. While in Edinburgh at the Assembly in 1697 he records that Thomas Aikinhead was executed for blasphemy on the Gallow Lee, the first and only execution that has taken place in Scotland for this offence. He mentions as worth recording - and surely it is worth recording - that Mr. Rule the minister of Stirling, despite his eighty years, preached for three hours, "nether memory nor strength failing."

He is most interesting when dealing with his own personal affairs.

There was a streak of the valetudinarian in him, and he notes carefully when he took “physicke,” when he had a cold, when his son’s clothes went on fire, when his son had four leeches fastened on his ear to cure the “kinkhoast.”

Probably the most amusing part of the diary deals with his goat-milk cure at Aberfoyle. At that time Aberfoyle was evidently regarded as a wild and dangerous land, for Turnbull writes, “the people rude and ignorant, but not unkind after the highland way, providence having in ane unexpected manner sent me up hither for my milke, in the midst of my barbarous and disaffected neighbours, I looked to God, waitted, and does waitt for his protection, and blessing to the means”. And so this interesting divine writes on faithfully through page after page, revealing at one time his perplexity of soul and at another his gratitude to God.

It is all very fascinating and beautiful.

If a worthy divine like Turnbull shews us one side of the life of that time, we catch a glimpse of the other side of life from a brass collar, which was dragged up from the bed of the River Forth between Cambus and Throsk, and on which was found the following inscription: “Alexander Steuart, found guilty of death for theft. at Perth, 5th December, 1701, and gifted by the Justiciars as a perpetual servant to Sir John Aresken of Alva.” This reveals to us that the cruelty of the older death penalty was being to some extent realized, and was being commuted to perpetual slavery.

Even so, the times were hard and the punishment severe.

This kind of thing, however, did not affect the people so much as the arrival of John Logan to succeed the worthy Turnbull as the pastor of the place. He was twice called before he consented to come, and he remained here all through the excitements of the Fifteen Rising, but unfortunately he did not harness himself to the task of writing a Diary. He no doubt had enough to occupy him, for we read that the Session had some difficulty in expelling Adam Skirvin from the post of schoolmaster. He was a strong Jacobite, and insisted on drinking the health of “The King over the Water,” and it took six months of manoeuvring to eject him from his post.

And now it is interesting to notice the career of the most famous of all the Mars, John, the leader of the Fifteen Rising, had dabbled in politics since 1696, and Queen Anne in 1705 had such confidence in his loyalty that she appointed him Secretary of State for Scotland, chiefly because of his success in effecting the Union of the Parliaments. He was made a Knight of the Thistle on 14th August, 1706, and was clearly the most influential man in the kingdom. His office brought him into close touch with university life, for the Principal of Glasgow asked him for a grant to re-start the chairs of Humanity and Medicine, while a certain Dr. Pitcairn urged him to appoint his friend Bower to the chair of Mathematics in Aberdeen, testifying in the last sentence of his letter, “I speak freelie, for I’m half fou."

And yet even while Mar was pushing forward the Union, he was not unconscious of the feelings of the rank and file of Scotland, nor was he without misgivings of his own.

John Logan, for one, told him plainly in a letter of 27th August, 1706, that while the clergy of Scotland refrained from making the situation politically difficult, the rank and file were against any form of incorporating union with England, no matter what the terms might be.

The people were not willing to sacrifice much for the Stuarts, for when Sir George Bing drove off the French Fleet at Inchkeith in March, 1708, as it came to herald the arrival of the Pretender in Angus, the only echo we find is a letter of Lord Grange’s saying, “if the people of Alloa do not readily concur to defend both their own houses and my brother's from being insulted. they are strange people.”

Still Mar himself saw with his own eyes in the streets of Edinburgh an ugly mob of Jacobite who, despite the Town Guard, drank the Pretender’s health in public. The Laird of Alloa was in truth becoming less and less enamoured of the political arena, and only the pressing requests of the Queen and the Duke of Queensberry induced him to undertake the journey south. He confesses in a letter of June 29th, 1708, that “If it were not the Queen and your Grace’s commands I am very unwilling just now to leave my gardens.”

Earl John was indeed finding great pleasure in his garden, which he planned on a large and splendid scale, calling to his aid the skill of Le Notre, the celebrated landscape gardener of Louis XIV. That the earl was creating a nation-wide reputation as the owner of an unique garden is confirmed by the testimony of Alexander Rait, who visited the district in 1722 and who has left on record that Alloa House was famous for its magnificent garden. It was not without significance that it was in 1714, during the life of the same lord that Lime Tree Walk was planted, and the skippers of Alloa, taking advantage of the kindness of a laird so obviously disposed towards the best interests of the community, approached him in 1710 with the request that he would provide a Custom-House to be built at the Shore.

One point became clear as Queen Anne’s life drew to its close: the union of the two countries would be a dubious benefit to Scotland, and the temper of the people was rising. The accession of the Hanovarian George marked the breaking point for Mar, for one of the first acts of the new Monarch was to dismiss him from his high office. In vain he sought an interview with the king, who completed his indiscretions by removing John from the Governorship of Stirling Castle. Such churlish conduct threw this influential statesman into the Jacobite cause with an enthusiasm stimulated by chagrin and disappointment, so that by the 17th of September of the same year, 1715, Mar was actually commissioned by the Chevalier as the Commander-in-Chief of his forces in Scotland.

On the 13th October Mar was lying in camp at Perth with 917 horse and 2,666 foot, waiting ‘the arrival of General Gordon from lnveraray with reinforcements, and urging the king, i.e., the Chevalier, to leave France and land immediately. The unfurling of the Stuart flag on the Braes of Mar in September had been accompanied by plans for a rising in the South, but the southern Jacobites were crushed at Preston and on the 13th of November Mar had to retire to Perth after the inconclusive fight at Sherriffmuir.

Listen to the Commander-in-Chief's own description of the battle:-

“Your Majesty's army, which I have the honour to command, fought the enemie at Sherriff-Muir, behaved scandalously and run away, but our right near Dunblain, the 13th of this moneth. Our left routed the enemies left and most of their body. Their right followed and pursued our left, which made me not adventure to prosecute and push our advantage on our right so far as otherwayes wee might have done. How-ever wee keept the field of battle, and the enemies retired to Dunblain. The army had lyen without cover the night before, and wee had no provisions there, which obliged me to march the armie back two miles that night, which was the nearest place where I could get any quarters. Next day I found the army reduced to a small number, more by the Highlanders going home than by any loss were sustained, which was but very small.”

It is said, although we do not know on whose authority, that Earl John fought bravely himself at Sherriffmuir and even had his horse shot under him. “This, Sir” proceeds the disspirited Commander to his king, “is a melancholy account” and truly no king would dream of arriving upon such an unpropitious scene to claim his crown. The Chevalier could not have received this letter when he arrived at Peterhead in December, but he pluckily marched south to Scone supported by Mar and his men, only however to be turned back by the fear of Argyle’s attack to Montrose, where he re-embarked for exile. It mattered little that King James made Mar a Duke and heaped other titles upon him. He had thrown his dice and lost, and he knew it. Henceforth he was an exile, and Alloa saw him no more.

For some years he endeavoured to guide the Jacobite cause from Rome; then he was appointed by James the minister at the French Court, but the master for whom he had sacrificed so much dismissed him from his service in 1724, probably on the ground that he had accepted a pension from the British government. John saw that the Stuart cause was lost and he forsook their interests. Although he tried to secure a pardon from King George, this was refused and he was never permitted to return from exile. His health failing in 1729 he left Paris for Aix-la-Chapelle and died there in 1732.

He was described as “the crouked-backed count” and his nickname was “Bobbing John,” but his presence was nevertheless courtly and his flair for affairs was considerable. His real forte seemed to lie, however, rather in landscape gardening and architecture, and it is known that he whiled away his exile by drawing plans for the new town of Edinburgh, which have since been realized, and he actually outlined a project for the Forth and Clyde Canal many years before it was realized. By a cruel kind of irony it was the money that accrued from the sale of estates confiscated in the ’45 Rising which paid for the Canal when it was made.

As a result of his rebellion Mar’s title was attainted and his estates confiscated, but in 1734 his brother Lord Grange arranged for the purchase of the Lordship of Alloa from the government. Grange took a quite different line in politics. He played the part of the stout Presbyterian and was the true friend of the kirk.

Raised to the bench in 1706, he became Lord Justice Clerk in 1710, but later in 1734 he actually resigned his seat and entered Parliament. He was a great help, by his legal acumen and skill, to the Assemblies of the kirk, besides being an antiquary of repute. The chief social act of his life was to secure that the Alloa possessions of Lord Mar would fall to his son Lord Erskine, but Grange was to achieve fame for the uniqueness of his domestic relationship.

He had married Rachel, daughter of John Chiesly of Dalry, a lady Who seemed to inherit a good share of her father’s vindictive and ungovernable nature, for he had distinguished himself by killing Sir George Lockhart, the President of the Court of Session, in 1689.

The marriage was a most unhappy one.

Her husband had a confessedly difficult task to keep the balance even between his Jacobite and Presbyterian sympathies, and she shewed her antagonism to him by threatening to divulge his dealings with the disinherited Stuarts, and when this failed it is said she even attempted to murder him. In any case she seems to have been a confirmed drunkard. Grange, first, gave her £100 a year and separated from her, and when this proved ineffective and inconvenient, he arranged that she should be abducted. She was seized in 1730 in a house in Edinburgh, and carried off to Heiskar, an island near North Uist, and there she remained for two years. Later she spent seven years on St. Kilda, where a bold attempt was made to secure her release. This failed and Grange had her transferred to Skye, where at Idragil she died in 1749. Simon Lord Lovat, a contemporary, says that Grange was fully justified in the measures he took against such an impossible wife, and the lawyer himself remarks laconically “we had not then a madhouse to lock up such unhappy people in.”

Grange was a strong character, with a deeply religious strain in him, which appears in his religious memoirs preserved at Alloa House. He must also have had a grim sense of humour, for it is said that in 1732, some seventeen years before she died, he successfully staged her ceremonial funeral at Alloa before the unsuspecting public. In any case it must be unique in the stories of Lord Justice Clerks that he should have so forcibly abducted his own wife. These amusing episodes should not blind us to other events that were happening in the district of Alloa at this time.

In the very year of Mar’s rising, steam power was first used to raise coal in the county, and few could have foreseen the tremendous change that this invention was to effect in the centuries to follow, while in 1731 at the Brathy Burn, a mill was built consisting of seven pairs of stones driven by water, on the ground of the Alloa Estate and this was leased to Messrs. A. & A. Mitchell.

The making of whisky was started in 1760 at Glenochil Distillery, and it is probable that, like Kilbagie, it found a good outlet for its produce in the London market. The making of ale was started in 1774 by Robert Meiklejohn, but this establishment was finally absorbed by the more renowned firm of George Younger, who actually started business in 1762 and have since gone on increasing in property, capital and output.

The history of the coal industry in the district would form a volume by itself, but it is worth remembering that coal has been wrought since 1519, although it was only in the middle of the eighteenth century that mining became scientific.

Steam-power of a primitive kind was used in 1715, as we have seen, but in 1764 a steam-engine after the pattern of Newcomen was built at Collyland, and two years later a railway was laid down to bring the coal two long miles to the ships in Alloa Harbour. This railway was made of fir trees, which functioned as rails, a very unique, but not very permanent form of transport. The fir-tree had to give way to the cast-iron and finally to the steel rail. At this period, while the men did the picking, the women did the carrying of the coal, and equipped with baskets they trudged up and down the shafts with amazing dexterity and speed. Some women were able to carry as heavy a load as three hundredweights. The men were actually the property of the owners of the mine, and Lord Cockburn in his memoirs states that, even at the end of the century, miners wore collars of metal, stamped with the names of their owners. Not only so, but the wife and children were regarded as belonging to the mine, and were bought and sold with the property. This was a lamentable state of affairs, and produced degradation of character and habits. Lord Erskine was confronted by a ceaseless round of courts and sentences, and he hit upon the novel idea of the Court of Equity. He appointed five colliers to sit in judgment on their fellows, and try and punish offences, and the court continued to function happily and effectively until after 1842.

In 1775 slavery in mines was abolished by Act of Parliament, but the servitude of centuries took long to die out. In 1785 the first stone of the first house in the New Town of Alloa was laid. Five years later a graving dock, the property of Dr. Duncanson, was built, and here many fast ships were completed in the old thrilling days of the sailing ship. Here Thomas Adamson launched many a useful vessel, and the largest of all was the “Bleville” of 750 tons which went to a French company in Havre. During the late war, of course, several ships of even larger tonnage were launched from the Alloa Shipyard.

The copper works of Willison started at the same time as the graving dock, and this work went hand in hand with the brewing and distilling trades, not less than with the requirements of the developing woollen trade. By 1799 Carsebridge had started the making of whisky and was producing something like 4,000 gallons per week.

A glance at a few personalities that moved in the streets of old Alloa at that time will be worth while. The middle decades of the century saw the saintly figure of John Alexander in Alloa, who, arriving in the town in 1724, when episcopacy was at a low ebb, carried on his cause quietly and held his little crowd of people together by love and piety. Later in 1743 he was actually elected Bishop of Dunkeld, and ruled his diocese from the distant parish of Alloa. He succeeded in building a small chapel in the Vennel, which is now no longer used. Two years later the minister of Tillicoultry, John Taylor by name, was called to Alloa Parish, and he after an undistinguished ministry of twelve years, was succeeded by James Gordon from Alford.

An Anti-Burgher congregation started in Alloa in 1746, and its origin is interesting.

Since the time when Thomas Boston lived in the Ferrytown a “praying society ” had existed there, and these societies had increased in the intervening half-century, so that when the Erskines protested against patronage and launched out their church on a different principle, they were supported by these more spiritually-minded brethren. Alloa was the focus of religious feeling at the time, and there the new cause started. Within a year the little enthusiastic congregation had built itself a church “ower the burn,” but trouble soon arose over the Burgher’s Oath.

This oath is as follows:-

"I protest before God . . . . that I profess and allow with my heart the true religion presently professed within this realm, and authorized by the laws thereof ” . . . . Some objected to taking this oath; others saw no wrong in so doing.

The Anti-Burghers, who objected, must have thriven in the next decade, for they had instituted a College in Alloa for the training of their students, and to this College Michael Bruce of Kinnesswood actually applied for admission, hoping in this Way to secure some teaching post in Alloa to eke out his small resources. He was rejected on the ground that he was really a Burgher and not an Anti-Burgher. So Alloa on the ground of a flimsy and forgotten distinction missed the honour of housing one of Scotland’s sweetest poets, an honour that came to Forest Mill some months later in 1766.

The arrival of James Syme in 1750 as minister of the parish was a much more exciting affair. Having been tutor to Sir Ralph Abercromby of Tullibody, Syme arrived with all the authority of the Assembly behind him, and accompanied by both Alexander and George Abercromby. A great crowd composed mostly of miners gave them a hostile reception at the Grange and so badly handled them that they had to leave the town quickly.

Some months later, better precautions were taken, for four companies of soldiers arrived in the town in good time for the ordination and the ceremony was carried through without a hitch. Such were the acerbities of religious conflict in those days. Well, Syme did not enjoy his hard-won honours more than three years and he was succeeded by the “star preacher” Dr. James Fordyce who meteorically brightened the firmament of Alloa for seven years and then speedily fell into the dark abyss of valetudinarian life in Bath. The fine long ministry of 43 years of James Frame followed, who though presented by George II. to the charge was eminently happy and successful and lived to the opening years of the nineteenth century.

Another departure in the religious life of the community was the inauguration of a Masonic Lodge in 1757. It was called the Lodge of St. John, and was really disjoined from Stirling brethren. The rising tide of rationalism is indicated by the flourishing state of the lodge, for by 1762 the Lodge Was able to stage a “grand and solemn procession through the town” on the anniversary of the coronation of George III., with music, candles, bonfires, wines, and thundering cannons. A few years later, in 1768 to be precise, a fine clock was erected by the Parish Church on St. Mungo’s Steeple, the handiwork of James Miller of Alloa.

The only artist of note which Alloa has produced was David Allan.

He was born in 1744 in a small house at the Shore, where his father appears to have been Harbourmaster after clerking for the Alloa Colliery. His artistic genius became apparent at an early age, for while still a boy at school he had his foot burned, and being confined to the kitchen he passed the time by chalking figures on the floor. Later on he ventured pictures of his mother working at her spinning wheel, which although amateurish yet indicated a measure of talent. These youthful efforts came to the notice of Lady Cathcart, who introduced him first to Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of the attainted Earl of Mar and then to Mrs. Abercromby of Tullibody, and together they financed his further training for art both in Glasgow and finally at Rome. While at Rome he achieved his greatest success by winning the gold medal of the Academy, for a picture entitled “The Origin of Painting.” It consists of a Corinthian maid tracing the profile of her lover from his shadow on the wall. In 1777 he returned to London for two years; then he was appointed the Master of the Edinburgh Academy of Arts, which he appears to have remained until his death in 1796. His pictures include “The Highland Wedding,” the "Cottar’s Saturday Night," and "Dunfermline Kirk." As a small return for their generous help, Allan sent to Lady Erskine a picture of “Hercules captivated by Omphale” and to Mr Abercromby another picture of “A Madonna on Marble,” which later was housed in Airthrey Castle.

In a letter, written from Rome, dated April 23rd, 1773, advising Lady Erskine of the arrival of the two pictures he says :-

"I am very well, thank God, at present, and begin to be much employed. I work very hard but am very happy. . . . I am dejected to find that since being abroad we have had the misfortune to loose (sic) our father, who was one of the most honest and best of fathers. . . . I hope by degrees to let all my friends have some of my pictures. . . .”

The letter reveals a youth of fine feeling and good character, the typical Scots “lad o’ pairts” making good in the big world. Although but 48 when he died, Allan was recognised by the world of art as a painter of genius, and was called familiarly “The Scottish Hogarth.”

While Allan was head of the Edinburgh Academy of Arts he must almost certainly have met the noted Joseph Farington, R.A., who in 1789 toured Scotland to find fresh and romantic material for his artistic genius. He executed some fine views of Edinburgh, after which he crossed the Forth and reproduced bits of old St. Andrews, Clackmannan, Stirling. He also visited Alloa House that same year and his work is hanging on the walls of Alloa House at the Present time. He executed two fine views, one of the Forth at Alloa, with the ships in the water, and one of the Ochils, while his sketch of Alloa House turned out to be most valuable.

Before the eighteenth century closed a description of Alloa was written and published, which permits us to obtain a clear and interesting picture of the life of the town, just before the Industrial Revolution arrived to change its habits and commerce.

The Tower at that time dominated the town and the older half of the houses still clustered round it, and indeed it appears that earlier still the houses of the town almost surrounded the Tower. Although the streets were narrow and irregular, there was a quiet beauty imparted to the place by the splendid array of trees scattered by the rebellious Earl of Mar. One feature was a fine black poplar, which measured 13 1/2 feet in the trunk.

The harbour was a busy centre of shipping, and the quay, built of rough hewn stone still visible to-day, helped to form a pow at the point where the Brathy Burn fell into the River. Besides a fine dry dock, Alloa boasted also of a King’s Ferry complete with boats and piers.

The glass works were situated then, as they are to-day, just to the west of the Ferry, and a special waggon way brought coals to the glass house at a very cheap rate. The writer comments, “The extent to which the manufactory of glass has been carried is amazing,” but one wonders what he would say nowadays, when one sees the marvellous machines that turn out bottles so rapidly and so beautifully in the very same glass-house.

Many people had indulged in fishing salmon at Alloa by means of what was called the “pock-net,” but this having been condemned by Act of Parliament salmon fishing seems to have fallen into abeyance. Herrings, garvie, parling, whiting, haddock and sea trout were all caught in the river, particularly by the folk who lived on the Inches. Porpoises now and then appeared and even small whales were seen.

Further up the river at Cambus General Abercromby received as much as £40 for the let of his fishing, and ships of tolerable burden landed cargoes at Cambus and at the mouth of the Devon for the brewery and the mills. One interesting point is that all these lands, together with parts of Throsk and Kersie were “thirled” to the mill of West Cambus.

At the beginning of the century, Lord Mar had devised and carried out the scheme of an artificial lake to the north-east of Alloa, in order to supply his coal works with water to drive the machinery. This he did by diverting the waters of the Black Devon at a point near Forest Mill, and by erecting a bankhead of some 320 yards at Gartmorn. But by the end of the century the water supplied more than the coal works. First a mill for grinding snuff was kept going, then one for grinding wood and dyestuffs. After supplying a lint mill, the water proceeded to Alloa and set going the mill there which ground wheat, oats, malt and Pearl barley, the wheels of the same mill being 19 feet in diameter. Altogether, in 1795 the little lade from the Black Devon drove seven mills, beautified the town of Alloa, and kept clean and sweet the harbour itself.

Agriculture appears to have been in a sad condition, but with changes in leases, enlarging of farms, abolition of thirlage and constructing of fences a vast improvement was being effected. Only six threshing machines existed in the whole area. The old awkward carts were being replaced by large ones with iron axles, but let us catch a last glimpse of those crude carts that were used in the eighteenth century.

“The carts in common use consisted of a few boards ill put together, and of a size not larger than a good wheel-barrow, placed upon a thick wooden axle, which was fixed to some low wheels, composed of three pieces of wood, joined together by two or three large wooden pins. The axle turned round with the tumbril wheels.”

Although there was no market for grain in the district, the farmers easily sold their produce by private bargain, accepting either the Midlothian price or the current price at the time of delivery. The crop of hay, which was not used by the farmer at all, was disposed of to the collieries of the district.

The conditions in the pits were interesting if rather barbarous. A collier bound himself to the pit for a certain term of years, and this despite the 1775 Act. He had a free house and garden, a quantity of meal sufficient for his family and seven or more hundredweights of coal per week. The women and children carried the coal up the traps or stairs, and were paid 4d. per 30 cwt. Altogether a collier earned on the average, £30 per year. Sometimes he worked for ten or twelve hours at a stretch and preferred to Work at night.

“Many of the young women are pretty. On Sundays and holidays both men and women are clean and neatly dressed. They eat considerably more meat than other labourers, and are on the whole a happy race of people. . . . The Women live longer than the men.”

520 people of both sexes and all ages were under the wing of the Alloa Colliery in 1791.

So far as the manufacturers of the town were concerned, a decreasing trade was done in the making of camblets, only some 40 looms working in the town, although the making of narrow and broad cloths was beginning. A supply of webs of muslin from Glasgow kept several other workers busy.

The fairs in the town were on the second Wednesdays of February, May, August and November, and the market days on Wednesday and Saturday.

It is interesting to notice that the total population in the parish in 1755 was, according to Dr. Webster, 5,816 persons, while in 1791 it had decreased by over a thousand to 4,802. The decrease may have been accounted for by the failure of the great distilleries, which were taxed out of existence by the government. The Excise duty had actually fallen in a few years from 180,000 pounds sterling to about 5,000.

At the same time there must have been a definite rise in the level of living, because in 1763 there were only four bakers in Alloa, While in 1793 there were no less than fourteen, all busily employed.

The condition of the public roads was bad, owing to the lately flourishing state of the distilleries, and the labour required for their upkeep was supplied by the cottars and farmers. In addition, every feuar in Alloa was under obligation to turn out and lend a hand should any damage be done to the damhead of Gartmorn. But the cry for the new turnpike road was beginning to rise from all over the country, and it is clear that a new era was beginning to dawn in regard to transport.

The parish kirk, which had been repaired and enlarged in 1680, was an incommodious building, only 65 feet long and 30 feet broad. By extensions and galleries the capacity was increased until in 1793 it was able to accommodate every Sunday about 900 people. It is hardly credible that in that idol-hating age the douce people of Alloa should have looked up each Sabbath to the prominent statues of St. Mungo and Moses.

Yet so it was.

The old Catholic saint might have been condoned on the ground that he probably brought the light of the gospel to the people on the banks of the Brathy Burn in the old, old days of paganism. But a new church was in prospect, for Lady Charlotte Erskine bequeathed no less than £1,200 for this purpose, besides providing some £800 for the maintenance of an assistant minister. It is common knowledge that the church came to be built in 1819, and continues to provide a graceful and outstanding landmark for the whole district. Nor did the pious and generous Lady Charlotte forget the educational needs of the community, for she left £300 to help in this and in the catechizing of the scholars of a Sunday evening. The school received boarders and gave a good, sound education. Other private schools existed and two separate schools for the children of colliers.

In addition to the usual type of wild life, there were to be seen in Alloa in 1793 foxes, badgers, otters and polecats. The birds, too, were interesting, for besides ‘finches and larks, and such kind, people had no difficulty in seeing quails, curlews, herons, bittern, and hawks.

The eighteenth century's lack of the archaeological sense is revealed by the fact that the antiquity the writer of the account knows of is the Standing Stone at Hawkhilll! One point however he makes, and it is worth noting, is that the old pegple of the parish could remember seeing on the soft surface of the stone the figure of a man on horseback.



The typical feature of life in Alloa during the nineteenth century was a rapid expansion in all aspects of civic life. The ease with which coal was procured, in addition to its cheapness, attracted and developed industry, and following in the wake of this commercial boom, education and the social amenities advanced with giant strides. This, of course, was precisely what was taking place throughout the country as a whole, and as the British trader and soldier added colony after colony to the Empire, trade increased by leaps and bounds and prosperity abounded. While wealth multiplied fabulously in the hands of the energetic Victorian man of business, the level of general comfort and culture rose perceptibly. Three great trades like coal, wool and liquor soon brought employment to the quiet town, and the population increased apace. At first all that was demanded was accommodation, and in the earlier years of the century the New Town steadily arose on the western side of the Burn. But soon this new population became conscious of other needs besides housing, and the demand for education and social amenities became clamant.

Schools churches, halls and recreational centres increased and multiplied, and the old-fashioned street wells that had supplied the meagre wants of older people became insufficient to satisfy the more fashionable habits of the new population, and the whole water system had to be completely changed. The narrow, twisting, irregular streets were ugly and unhealthy, and in the plans for the New Town broad streets were laid down, stretching away to the West.

The century opened with a calamity to the laird’s house, for on the 28th of August, 1800, the fine pile at Alloa Tower was consumed with fire. It was said that a servant had been searching below a bed with a lighted candle, and the bed caught fire. Soon the whole building was ablaze, and everyone had to snatch at whatever belongings lay to hand and clear out of the burning rooms. Fortunately no lives were lost, but as no engine could be got and the water in the Burn had dried up, no part of the building could be saved except the strong-walled Tower itself. By two o’clock in the morning the roof had fallen in, but not before the extremely valuable family papers were rescued with some pieces of furniture and most of the pictures. Despite the efforts of the Volunteers, who turned out to give assistance, a very valuable painting done on copper, of Queen of Scots was consumed. It was believed to be the only original painting of her in Scotland and to have been given by the Queen before her execution to one of her ladies-in-waiting. It had come to the house of Mar through a religious house in Antwerp, where the lady-in-waiting had ended her days. Sir John Stoddart, who saw it, said it portrayed a sour-faced, aged woman*.

* A miniature of this, done by Bogle about 1797, hangs in Alloa House, and the features are not sour.

The following year a different blow came to the district in the heroic death of Sir Ralph Abercromby of Tullibody, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Aboukir on March 21st, 1801.

Educated at Rugby and Edinburgh University, he was destined for law, but the glories of a more active and adventurous life lured him into the army, where he saw service in the Seven Years’ War, and studied the tactics of Frederick the Great. He disapproved, however, of the government’s harsh attitude to the American colonists, and was allowed to retire in 1783 as Colonel of the King’s Irish Infantry. Although M.P. for Clackmannanshire he found political life uncongenial, and retired to a quiet family life in Edinburgh.

But such was not to be his lot.

The French War called him out to service in 1793, and now his career was to be punctuated by a series of failures, which only illustrated his brilliance, before the final victory that cost him his life. He retreated with the British Army into Holland, but it was a skilful retreat, which gained for him a knighthood of the Bath. For a time he commanded the West Indies, annexing among other places Demarara and Granada to the British Crown. In 1797 he commanded the forces in Ireland and strove for peace and civil government. He revived the morale of the Army there, but bigotry and hatred in the councils of Ireland combated his valiant efforts and he had to resign, to the bitter regret of all lovers of Ireland. Another expedition to Holland in 1799 ended in failure. Then in 1801 he was asked to command a force, intended to dispossess the French of Egypt. After a brilliant landing at Alexandria, his fresh and eager troops met the enemy at Aboukir and routed them. But in the action a spent ball struck the General, and he died seven days later. The Duke of York paid him a worthy tribute.

“His steady observance of discipline, his ever-Watchful attention to the health and wants of his troops, the persevering and unconquerable spirit which marked his military career, the splendour of his actions in the field and the heroism of his death, are worthy the imitation of all who desire, like him, a life of heroism and a death of glory.”

His monument is erected in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and his widow, created Baroness Abercromby of Tullibody and Aboukir - an intriguing combination of titles - was granted a pension of £2,000 a year. And so the district shared somewhat in the glory that gathered round the head of a national hero.

While notable events happened on the international stage, quiet ventures were being started on the banks of the Forth. At Cambus in 1806 the distillery was started, which was later to come into the hands of Mr. Robert Moubray, and in 1813 the first regular steamer began to ply between Stirling and Alloa, glorying in the appropriate name of “S.S. Stirling.” She was built at Greenock, but Kincardine shipbuilders were not to be outdone by the West and so in 1815 they made two ships, “The Morning Star” and “The Lady of the Lake,” which plied steadily between Alloa and Edinburgh. These ships were followed by several others, such as “The Comet,” “Stirling Castle,” “Forth,” “Victoria,” and, within living memory, the “Prince of Wales.” As the century advanced, however, the road transport and the railways became so speedy and comfortable that trade left the ships and the people travelled by land.

Other beginnings at this time include the now famous mills of Patons & Baldwins. It does not appear possible to give the precise date when the business started, but it is certain that Kilncraigs in 1813 was remarkable for its smallness. When John Paton brought the first spinning-jenny into the mill, crowds of curious people turned out to see it. The motive power at that time was not steam, but the old water-wheel by the side of the Burn. Even by 1837 only 80 hands were employed, and only 450 in 1870.

From such small beginnings has grown this vast commercial combine which to-day covers almost the whole of the area occupied by the old town of Alloa, and last year produced a united profit of more than £440,000.

The same year, 1813, saw also the start of The Press by James Lothian. This versatile teacher had conducted a school at Charlestown near Dunfermline, under the aegis of Lord Elgin, but seeing better prospects in Alloa he removed in this year, and jointly ran The Press and a school for the best families in the town. He had a mechanical flair, which enabled him to devise a series of printing presses, and this so captivated his mind that in 1818 he gave up his school and concentrated all his genius on the printing trade. This led him in 1841 to issue a monthly periodical, which became so popular that after nine years he issued it fortnightly, and in 1855 it blossomed forth as the Alloa Advertiser. After 1862 Lothian’s son carried on the printing and publishing business, which finally came into the hands of Mr. Buchan, the late proprietor.

But the Lothian Press was not without its rival, for John Marshall, besides his book-selling establishment, began a printing press as early as 1836, although he died before it was well under way. Alexander Wingate, however, carried on the concern and in 1844 issued a monthly sheet under the name of the Clackmannan Advertiser, which later under the management of S. N. Morrison became a Saturday newspaper under the title of The Alloa Journal, presently carried on by Mr. Malcolm Gardiner.

The news of the Battle of Waterloo was hailed with delight throughout the world, and in no place more gladly than in the district of Alloa. Young Bruce of Kennet, aged only 16, carried the colours of the Grenadier Guards in the battle, while his younger brother, a “middy” on the “Bellerophon” witnessed the surrender of Napoleon on the quarter-deck. Nor was the House of Mar backward in the fight, for John the fourteenth Earl, at the prime age of 20, made his appearance in the same regiment (Grenadiers) as a subaltern at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo. Retiring from the army with the rank of captain, John applied himself diligently on his father’s estate, to which he succeeded at the vigorous age of 33. He it was who built the present splendid mansion to the east of the old Tower, to replace the one which had been burnt in 1800, and he planted trees and built boundary walls. Nor was he content merely to supervise the work. He laid aside his jacket and gave a hand with the good work, labouring beside the workmen. One example of his work is the long wall which stretches alongside the main Alloa to Clackmannan road to the East Gate of the policies. He was a keen yachtsman and horseman, and with his pronounced political opinions he earned for himself the sobriquet of “The Daft Earl.”

A sample of his opinions is found in his advice to the people of Alloa, “not to resort to the brutal behaviour which characterised other places on the subject of revolt; but to continue to evince that quiet demeanour, which had characterised them in ancient times, and which had tended to the prosperity of the place and of themselves: for it must be in the recollection of many that a great number of individuals here began with nothing but their own industry and good conduct to support them, and they have now amassed considerable wealth.

Attempts at compulsory measures (such as such ridiculous things as illuminations) are by no means liberty, but the very reverse of it. Every proprietor should do with his own house what he thinks best. And if houses were defended, as in former times, those who throw missiles might expect to receive others in return, and perhaps of as destructive a nature. Which would soon put an end to mobs, and such-like blackguard things. Puddings in the belly are better than bullets.”

Such was the homely wisdom of the “Daft Earl.” He did, indeed, protest against gaslight, but the place was the poorer when he died in 1866, and his double title of Mar and Kellie passed to his cousin.

But Lord Mar was not the only big builder of his day.

It was indeed a day of building of all kinds. Besides the steady increase in the number of dwelling-houses, John McNellan built a brewery in 1816, which later became well-known as Calder’s Brewery.

In 1819 the stately turrets of Alloa Parish Church rose to view, principally through the interest and benefactions of Lady Charlotte Erskine, who, as already stated, donated £1,200 for this purpose and also £800 for the salary of an assistant minister.

In 1803 the Rev. James Maxton had been presented to the parish by King George III., and after two years in the district he married Jean, the daughter of Alexander Bald. His ministry was marked by fidelity and sincerity, and he was succeeded by the Rev. Peter Brotherston, D.D., who came from Dysart in 1828. Brotherston was one of three clerical Peters who ruled the district between them. The Rev. Peter Balfour of Clackmannan was a very tall gentleman, and the locals dubbed him “Perpendicular Peter.” The Rev. Peter McDowal of the Moncrieff Church was particularly saintly, on which account he was called “Pious Peter.” The Rev. Peter Brotherston was named “Peppery Peter” and we can only conclude that he was of an irritable and explosive temper. His wife and he were buried on the same day in the same grave in 1862.

Both the Rev. William Shaw, M.A., who came in 1863 and the Rev. Alexander Bryson who followed him in 1870 were both presented by the Crown to the parish, and the latter exercised a long and effective ministry in the town. The eloquent and unconventional ministry of the Rev. Lauchlan Maclean Watt, D.D., which began in 1901 is fresh in the memory of many now living, and through being both minister of Glasgow Cathedral and Moderator of the Church of Scotland, he has made his name the most illustrious in the long roll.

Other building included the erection of the Alloa Academy, the foundation stone of which was laid on May 3rd, 1825, since when a distinguished succession of scholars has emerged from it, including Wranglers of Cambridge and great journalists and notable lawyers.

Two additional cones were added to the glass-works in 1825, an indication of the adventurous spirit of the new company, which soon began the manufacture of crown glass and pieces of crystal. The venture throve for a time, but the Excise laws were in some way infringed by executing this kind of work, and the manufacture of it was dropped, leaving only the making of green glass bottles.

In 1826 Lord Mar shewed his interest in the kirk by installing a clock in the church tower and also a fine bell, all of which cost £324. Another very important piece of building work for the town was the complete repairing and re-building of the embankment of Gartmorn Dam in 1827. Lord Mar some seven years previously had given a grant of water from the Dam to the town, and this was led through by means of wooden pipes, but now there were signs of the banking giving way under the tremendous pressure of the water, and John Craich, the manager of the colliery, undertook the repair at a cost of £300.

Another building which came into being at this time was the foundry, started by J. B. Maxton, near the Shore, where engines of all kinds and sizes were constructed, one, described as a “beautiful engine” actually developing two hundred horse-power. Ships which required repairs to their engines and castings were moored alongside the foundry.

It was in 1834 that Alloa House was re-built, while six years later the Episcopalians built a church on the Clackmannan Road near Shillinghill, which continued to be their place of worship until 1869, when the Earl of Kellie built the present church in Broad Street at a cost of £5,000. The Chalmers Church was opened for public worship on the 24th April, 1855, and signalised the event by an offering of £245. This was far exceeded by the West Church, which when it was opened on June 30th, 1864, made a good beginning with a collection of £720.

Another handsome building was erected the following year by Alexander Paton, who spent £5,500 on a new school for the young people attending the Kilncraigs mill. It was at this time also that the hospital movement was started under the aegis of the Earl of Kellie, who on 24th February, 1867, gave £300 and the site, and so a beginning was made for the fine pile which is now the County Hospital and which supplies such a great need in the whole community.

Probably the most significant of all building projects at this period was the opening of the railway line to Dunfermline in 1850, for by this means rapid and easy transport was achieved for the exports and imports of the town. And these were on the steady increase, for while in 1850 24,000 quarts of malt were consumed by the brewers of the town, and 80,000 barrels of ale were exported to all parts of the world, yielding a tax of £23,000, in 1871 100,000 barrels were produced, and in addition at Carsebridge Distillery alone 48,000 gallons of spirits were produced in one week.

The wool mill also showed the same kind of amazing increase, and thus it was that from a small, quiet, country town, clustered round a burn, Alloa sprang in a generation into a thriving centre of industry and life, and its population rose to be by far the greatest in the whole county.

The development of social life is evidenced by the start of a Burns Club in 1859, while a year later the Volunteer Rifle Corps shewed that the patriotic spirit was emerging in the community.

1862 saw the beginning of the co-operative movement in the town, and this has steadily increased, until now it overshadows all other businesses in the burgh.

There was one society flourishing in the second half of last century which bravely held aloft the torch of knowledge. This was the Society of Natural Science and Archaeology, which was evidently started in 1863 and went on steadily with erudite and sometimes brilliant papers on learned and scientific themes. Considerable funds were gathered, many articles of antiquarian interest were given to the care of the society, and it boasted a fine Museum.

How times have changed!

These objects, some of them irreplaceable, have been allowed to mould away through lack of public interest, and now the handsome Museum has been transformed into the local library. As one peruses the pages of these Reports, one is struck by the zeal and ability of the men who gave of their best to the Society, and the historian of the future will be glad to resort to these pages for valuable information and data.

Another point of historic interest is the removal of the county court from Clackmannan to Alloa. In 1795 Dr. Moodie states that the sheriff sometimes held his court in the county town, but we know that the last of these was held in Clackmannan on the 21st of January, 1822.

Thereafter justice was dispensed in Alloa, which, as we have seen, became rapidly the outstanding town of the whole county. First, the court was held in the old Alloa Assembly Room for some twenty years, and then in 1842 the Tontine Hotel was acquired and reconstructed for the purposes of a Court-Room and Prison. This, however, was unsatisfactory and after considerable delay the imposing Court-House and County Buildings were completed which now grace the head of Mar Street. And so some much-needed dignity was added to the dispensing of justice.

These facts, selected from a great mass of data, give sufficient indication of the evolution of the present town of Alloa, and in so far as they bring the story of the town right into the present they complete the work of the historian, who is essentially concerned with the past and not the present.

They illustrate how this throbbing centre of industrial life came into being, and how the sleepy village on the side of the Brathy Burn, under the shadow of the medieval castle, played its humble part in the story of the nation both as the cradle of its kings and the stronghold of its greatest statesmen.

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