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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XXIII. General History of Culross and Tulliallan from the Middle of the Last Century to the Present Day.


ACCORDING to the Old Statistical Account of Culross, compiled in the end of the last century, a marked decrease in the population of the parish took place between 1755 and 1791, and for this several reasons are assigned. As regards the landward portion, it is asserted that the cause is to be looked for in the improvements in agriculture which had rendered a smaller number of labourers necessary for the cultivation of the soil, in the increased size of the farms, and in the fact of many of the heritors having taken the management of the land into their own hands. For the decrease of the population of the town of Culross the following, among other reasons, is stated: “The loss or decay of several branches of manufacture formerly carried on there, particularly girdlemaking and shoemaking: the former is now supplanted by the Carron Works; the latter was first checked by the last American war, which put a stop for a while to the export trade, and by this discouragement it has gradually fallen into decay.”

The general depopulation of the rural districts had, not many years before this period, engaged largely the attention both of statesmen and philanthropists; ' and Oliver Goldsmith had, by the exquisite description in his “ Deserted Village,” invested the subject with the halo of his poetical genius. The truth of the allegation could not indeed well be gainsaid, and as a truth it has only been more certainly and firmly established by the lapse of more than a century. But whilst the poet or the inveterate bewailer of bygone usages may be permitted to regret the diminished numbers of the rural inhabitants, as well as the still more notable changes in their modes of life, it must be always remembered that in the advance of culture and civilisation such a revolution becomes almost inevitable. As commerce extends and develops itself, the large towns which form its natural centres gradually increase, and absorb a large portion of the country population, which would otherwise have vegetated on a scanty supply and insufficient resources; whilst amongst those who remain, the increase in wages and the price of agricultural produce secures for them a participation in the advantages diffused by the general spread of material prosperity. In the enormous increase which has taken place in the population of the United Kingdom generally, it is mainly in the cities and large towns that this is to be found, whilst the number of inhabitants in the villages and open country has commonly diminished. Of late, indeed, there has been a tendency in the great cities to swallow up the country by the extension of suburbs, and the erection of streets and villas round railway stations, from which an easy access is obtained to and from the capital. Thus London threatens ere long to incorporate Middlesex, and Glasgow may almost be said to reach to Loch Lomond.

The same urging causes which produce the depopulation of the country and the ever-increasing growth of the large towns, transfer thither from the small burghs the trade manufactures and sources of subsistence. Skilled artisans carry their labour to a better market, commodities are procured both better and cheaper from the cities, and the immensely increased facilities for locomotion lead to travelling about, and the effacement, more or less complete, of the characteristic types of a locality. Centralisation becomes the great feature of social and commercial activity, and the smaller and more isolated establishments of human industry are overshadowed and extinguished by the mightier institutions resulting from the combination of wealth and labour.

In addition to those depressing influences, which she shared with many other rural communities, Culross was affected by some special circumstances which were peculiar to herself. The coal in her district— at least the strata lying next the surface—had been wellnigh exhausted, and the attempts to obtain a further supply had only been productive of labour and expense. The salt-pans, once fifty in number, which had studded the sea-shore, were now reduced to a few, partly in consequence of the diminished supply of coal, partly of the increasing use of rock-salt and the general decline of commercial activity; and greatest of all, the girdlemaking monopoly had both been declared untenable by the higher courts of law, and the manufacture rendered unremunerative by the establishment in the Carse of Falkirk of the famous Carron Works, where all sorts of household implements, girdles included, were produced at a cheaper rate, though certainly of an inferior quality to those made of wrought-iron.

With the departure of trade and manufactures, and the progressive tendency of society towards levelling all eccentricities of character and peculiarities of place and class, the “ annals of the parish ” become in Culross, as elsewhere, of a very prosaic and uninteresting description. This applies equally to the kirk-session and the burgh records; and these being now foreclosed, there remains little, in the absence of any remarkable incidents in connection with the great centres of public interest, that can afford entertainment or instruction to the reader.

In the case of Tulliallan the conditions were somewhat different from those of Culross. Since the days of Sir George Bruce there had been carried on here an extensive trade in the working of coal and manufacture of salt; and the latter industry seems to have continued longer, though at its period of greatest prosperity it must be regarded as belonging chiefly to the parish of Culross, which previous to 1659 comprised the principal part of the salt-making territory, as well as of the ground on which the modem town of Kincardine is built. We are informed that at one time there were thirty-five salt-pans in the parish of Tulliallan, a number which about the middle of the last century had decreased to twenty-one. All have now disappeared, the present town of Kincardine being built in great measure on the ashes resulting from the operations at the so-called West Pans; whilst those of the New Pans, about half a mile to the east, go to form a prominent grassy ridge.

Meantime, whilst the coal and salt trades were declining, another important industry was springing up in Tulliallan. The shipping and coasting trade, which in ancient times had been little exercised on the Forth above Culross and Borrowstounness, moved latterly higher up, and established themselves with great success at Grangemouth, Alloa, and Kincardine. With regard to the first of these places, it owed its existence originally to the formation of the Forth and Clyde Cana], which has here its eastern outlet, —a favourable situation which, combined with the proximity of the Carron Works, has maintained the ever-increasing prosperity of Grangemouth up to the present day. The same cause, and also, it is said, the exorbitant dues exacted at the port of Leith, may have contributed to the rise and prosperous career of the others. Speaking of Kincardine, the Old Statistical Account says:—

“In the beginning of this [the eighteenth] century there were no shipping of any consequence belonging to it. They had only five boats, from 10 to 20 tons burden. These were employed in carrying salt to Leith, and importing from thence wood and iron for the use of the pans and in the lime trade. They went no further. But after some ship-carpenters had come to settle in it, the spirit for shipbuilding prevailed so much, that in 1740 they had 30 vessels, from 15 to 60 tons burden, amounting to 860 tons. In 1745 several of these were employed in Government service. When the coal was working and the salt-pans going, they had abundance of exports; but since they were given up, they have had none. Yet this did not destroy their spirit for trade and shipbuilding, for they had the address and good sense to become carriers to other ports. . . . Vessels of 200 and 300 tons have been built here for the West Indian trade and the Greenland fishery. In 1786 there were nine vessels upon the stocks at one time, and the number then belonging to the place was 91, and their tonnage 5461, which is about 200 tons more than what belongs to Alloa and the whole precincts of that port at present, and more than half of the tonnage of Leith in that year.”

The prosperity above indicated as a port and shipbuilding station continued long afterwards to be enjoyed by Kincardine. About 1830 the number of shipowners in the place was calculated at upwards of fifty; whilst in proof of the extent to which the inhabitants devoted themselves to this branch of trade, it is only necessary to consult the tombstones in the churchyard at Tulliallan—to judge from which, one would conclude that almost no other profession was known. But times are now changed; and though a good many seafaring people are connected with the place, they are almost all emeriti; scarcely a vessel is to be seen in the harbour, and not one has been built for many years.

One other industry may be mentioned from which in bygone days both Culross and Tulliallan derived considerable reputation, and which till very recently employed a large number of persons in both parishes. I refer to the extensive freestone quarries at Long-annet and Blair, the latter of which has only very lately, and it is to be hoped also only temporarily, been closed. Both supply an excellent quality of building-stone, which has long been celebrated, and exported not only to distant parts of Scotland, but likewise to foreign places. Longannet quarry, on the sea-shore, about a mile below Kincardine, enjoys the most ancient renown, but for many years has been wholly abandoned. It formerly belonged to the Earls of Kincardine, and in the latter half of the seventeenth century a negotiation was opened with the proprietor by the Jews of Amsterdam, for the purpose of procuring from thence a supply of stones for building their synagogue. Circumstances prevented the arrangement being carried out; but a well-authenticated tradition prevails that the town-house and other buildings in Amsterdam were built of stones from Longannet quarry. At a later period it supplied material for the erection of the Royal Exchange, the Infirmary, and the Register Office in Edinburgh, besides that of many buildings in its own neighbourhood. Blair quarry, about two miles above Culross, has been no less famous. Like Longannet, it produces a beautiful white sandstone, soft and easy to work, and at the same time possessing the property of hardening in the open air and retaining its original whiteness unsullied. Drury Lane Theatre; St Mary’s Church, Edinburgh; and more recently, acres of buildings adjoining Bruntsfield Links, in the Scottish capital, have been built from this quarry.

The history of the two parishes for more than a century now past, resolves itself mainly into that of some of the leading county families. The earlier history of several of these has already been given, and I accordingly proceed to supplement and continue the accounts where necessary and desirable.

During the last century, almost exactly from beginning to end, Culross Abbey and the lands immediately adjoining, remained the property of the Cochranes of Ochiltree, who in 1758 succeeded to the earldom of Dundonald. The title was first bestowed on Sir William Cochrane of Cowdon, in the county of Renfrew, who, having been first created a peer by Charles I. in 1647, under the designation of Lord Cochrane of Dundonald, was in 1669 elevated by Charles II. to the dignity of earl. He died in 1686; and as his eldest son William Lord Cochrane predeceased him, he was succeeded in the title by his grandson John, who was the father of William and John Cochrane, third and fourth Earls of Dundonald, succeeding respectively in 1690 and 1705.

The second son of the first Earl of Dundonald was the Hon. Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree; and a daughter, Lady Jean Cochrane, was the wife of the famous John Graham of Claverhouse, afterwards Viscount Dundee.

The Hon. Sir John Cochrane above mentioned was a zealous Whig and Presbyterian; and having been obliged to take refuge in Holland in consequence of his negotiations with the Duke of Monmouth, he returned from thence with the Earl of Argyll in his ill-fated expedition to Scotland in 1685. On the dispersion of Argyll’s forces, Sir John Cochrane had an encounter with the king’s troops, in which Captain Cleland was killed; and having afterwards taken refuge with his uncle, Gavin Cochrane of Craig-muir, whose wife was a sister of the Captain, she denounced in revenge her nephew to the authorities. He was conducted to Edinburgh, bound and bareheaded, and only escaped death by his father, Lord Dundonald, purchasing his pardon with a considerable sum of money. Sir John subsequently managed to make his peace with James II., who sent him down to Scotland in 1687 to negotiate with the Presbyterians regarding the relaxation of the penal laws, a measure really and solely conceived by James in the interest of the Roman Catholics. Something in Sir John’s character and procedure is not quite satisfactory here. His forfeiture, however, had not yet been rescinded, and was not till after the Revolution. Little further is recorded of him. He married Margaret Strickland, daughter of Sir William Strickland of Boynton, Yorkshire, one of Cromwell’s Lords of Parliament, and was the father of William Cochrane of Ochiltree, who, as already mentioned, married Lady Mary Bruce, eldest daughter of Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine.

William and Lady Mary Cochrane had a large family of nine sons and four daughters. Of these William, the eldest, predeceased his father, who was accordingly succeeded in the estate of Ochiltree, on his decease in 1728, by his second son Charles, who, moreover, inherited from his mother the estate of Culross Abbey. He died there, unmarried, in 1752, and was succeeded both in the Ochiltree and Culross estates, first by his brother James, and afterwards by his brother Thomas Cochrane, who in 1758 supceeded to the earldom of Dundonald.

We must now go back for a little to the elder branch of the family, which we have already traced down to the accession of John, fourth Earl of Dundonald, in 1705. He was succeeded in 1720 by his son William as fifth Earl, who died unmarried in 1725, and was succeeded in his turn by his cousin Thomas Cochrane, son of William Cochrane of Kil-maronock, who was second son of William Lord Cochrane, and brother of John, second Earl of Dundonald.

This Thomas Cochrane of Kilmaronock succeeded as sixth Earl of Dundonald, and transmitted the title to his eldest son William, who succeeded as seventh Earl of Dundonald, and was killed at the siege of Louisbourg, in America, in 1758. On this event emerging, the title devolved on his kinsman Thomas Cochrane of Culross, already mentioned, the seventh son of William and Lady Mary Cochrane, and the grandson of the old Presbyterian leader Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, second son of the first Earl of Dundonald.

Thomas Cochrane of Culross and Ochiltree succeeded his kinsman Earl William as eighth Earl of Dundonald, and died at his seat of La Mancha, in Peeblesshire, in 1778. By his second wife, Miss Jean Stuart of Torrence, Lanarkshire, he was the father of Archibald, the ninth Earl, so celebrated for his scientific attainments, and the father* of the still more renowned Lord Cochrane, afterwards tenth Earl of Dundonald.

Earl Archibald was the last of his family who held the Culross estate. Of great scientific abilities, and an active and acute but speculative disposition, he was sadly deficient in prudence, and ruined himself by the multifarious and profitless schemes in which he engaged. One special object that occupied his energies—the manufacture of coal-tar—has immortalised him, and ought fairly to be attributed to him as his own peculiar invention. For this he took out a patent, which might have been the means of making his fortune had it been properly managed, but his want of business capacity made all his scientific genius practically useless. A work for extracting the tar was erected by him at the western extremity of Low Valleyfield, and traces of the gateway and other buildings connected with it are still to be seen. His son, Lord Dundonald, the celebrated naval hero, better known as Lord Cochrane, claims in his Autobiography the merit for his father of having first discovered the illuminating powers of coal-gas. In the course of his experiments at his factory at Culross, he noticed the inflammable nature of the vapour rising during the distillation of the tar, and he accordingly fitted a gun-barrel to the pipe leading from the condenser. On applying a light to the extremity of this, a blaze of flame more vivid than that evoked by St Serf from the hazel-branch burst forth, and cast an illumination that was visible from the opposite shore at Borrowstounness. Some time afterwards, when Lord Dundonald and his son were travelling to London, they paid a visit to the celebrated James Watt, then engaged in conducting the works for the construction of steam-engines at Soho, near Birmingham. One of his assistants was Mr Murdoch, who afterwards attained a reputation scarcely inferior to that of his master, as the first to make use of coal-gas as an illuminating agent. During the visit, the incident at the tar-work at Culross was frequently discussed, and there can be little doubt that Mr Murdoch derived on this occasion the information which he afterwards turned to practical account.

The mining operations which Lord Dundonald engaged in were very extensive, comprising not only the working of the coal on the Culross estate, but likewise of that on the adjoining lands of Valleyfield and Kincardine. He also obtained a lease of the coal in the burgh territory of Culross, on the easy terms of an annual payment of five pounds, as soon as he should actually commence operations. The results of his workings are still very manifest in the remains of numerous pit-shafts, now long since closed, but which meet the eye in great frequency all over the property. The “Ding Dang” and “ Jenny Paip ” pits are still well remembered; the ground around St Mungo’s and the Abbey orchard still sounds hollow to the tread, from the numerous underground passages by which it is honeycombed; and many sits or depressions have taken place in the surface, both in and around the town of Culross, causing no little alarm. His lordship is, indeed, accused of setting very little store by the rights or convenience of his neighbours; and some curious tales, not redounding much to his credit, are related in connection with this circumstance. Among others of his encroachments, he is reputed to have carried his mining operations beneath the ground of the very church and manse; and Mr Holland, the clergyman, and his wife, are said to have had their slumbers disturbed by the din of pickaxes in the subterraneous workings beneath the matrimonial couch. The heritors had at last to interfere to interdict Lord Dundonald from undermining the property of the church, and a stoppage was put to the perpetration of any further such pranks. Then another highhanded act is recorded of him, in connection with a row of small houses in the Petty Common, about half-way between St Mungo’s and the foot of the Newgate. The tenements with their gardens behind approaching rather unpleasantly near the Abbey orchard, and thus rendering themselves an eyesore to his lordship, he was very anxious to have them removed, and had tried negotiations with the occupiers for that end, but was encountered by an obstinate refusal to come to terms. Bent on effecting his purpose, he is said, according to an account generally received in this quarter as authentic, to have caused his overseer one Sunday morning to descend the shaft of a pit, which is still pointed out, at a little distance from the houses in question, and to pull out the props by which the roof of the underground workings was supported. According to my informant, some of the luckless inhabitants of the Petty Common cottages had just stepped out to their yairds on a lovely Sabbath morning in early summer, to “ snuff the caller air ” before church-time, and note the progress visible in the leek and onion beds. To their horror they felt the ground giving way beneath their feet, and their consternation was completed by the gradual subsidence of their habitations to the depth of two or three feet, though without any loss of life or bodily injuries. My informant, a venerable old lady, who died about twenty years ago, at an age above ninety, added, further, that this partial destruction had not the effect which Lord Dundonald expected, and the people of the Petty Common, notwithstanding this partial experience of an earthquake, continued to occupy their shattered dwellings. The Culross Marches day approached, and all left their houses to see the show and take part in the festive proceedings. In their absence, Lord Dundonald caused the roofs of their cottages to be covered. 

The date at which this great mass of buildings, including the original south front of the monastery, was removed, cannot now be ascertained, but it doubtless took place when the present bend at the top of the Newgate was constructed, connecting that thoroughfare with the continuation of the main street leading northward up the hill from Culross. This bend or turn passes right through, from east to west, the site of the pile of buildings shown in Slezer1 s view. The principal object in this demolition and diversion was of course the enlargement of the Abbey garden, and securing the privacy of the mansion by shutting up the public road, which passed the latter in such inconvenient proximity. But lest I should be doing an injustice to the proprietors of the Abbey in thus ascribing to them exclusively the destruction of such extensive remains of antiquity, it is only fair to state that the monastery ruins, like so many others both in Scotland and elsewhere, seem to have been regarded as a general quarry, which might be legitimately used whenever opportunity offered or occasion required. Many walls, dikes, and buildings about Culross bear evidence, in the fine-hewn stones which they display, of the spoliation of the old monastery to supply these materials.

The buildings of the monastery must both have covered the lower manse-garden, and likewise descended beyond it into the garden of the Park.

By the assistance of their maternal grandmother, Mrs Gilchrist, tutors were at last procured for the young Cochranes. One of these, a French Roman Catholic named M. Durand, occasioned a tremendous scandal in the parish by firing off a gun one Sunday to scare the magpies, which were then very numerous about Culross, and made sad havoc of the cherries in the Abbey garden. The kirk-session, it is said, threatened to make a case of it, and were only induced to desist on the friendly interposition of Lord Dundonald.

The melancholy end became at last inevitable. The Culross estate had, in the end of last century, to be sold on behalf of Lord Dundonald’s creditors, and was ultimately disposed of in two halves; one of these going to Sir Robert Preston, who had just succeeded his brother Sir Charles as the proprietor of Valleyfield—and the other to Admiral Lord Keith, who had recently purchased the barony of Tulliallan from Mr Erskine of Cardross. As Sir Robert Preston was first cousin of Archibald, Earl of Dundonald, whose fortunes had thus come to so disastrous a wreck, and has long been himself a household word in Culross, it may not be out of place that I should now take up the history of his family from the point to which it was last brought down in my narrative.

As already mentioned, Sir George Preston, fourth Baronet of Valleyfield, married Anne, daughter of William and Lady Mary Cochrane, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. All his sons predeceased him except two, Charles and Robert, who succeeded in order to the estate as fifth and sixth Baronets. Sir Charles Preston, who had been a captain in the 26th Regiment, died comparatively a young man and unmarried. His brother Sir Robert, who succeeded him in the end of the last century, had entered the East India Company’s service, and been captain of the Asia. He accumulated an immense fortune, partly obtained by his own industry as a trader, partly inherited from a Captain Foulis, who made him his heir, and partly brought him by his wife, Miss Brown, the daughter of a wealthy London merchant. He was also indebted for no inconsiderable portion of his riches to his successful speculations in the Funds, in which it was said he was greatly aided by his political connections with William Pitt and his party. George Rose, Pitt’s secretary, was also the intimate friend of Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield. A curious circumstance in reference to their friendship connects him and Culross indirectly with the well-known annual institution of the Ministerial fish-dinner at Greenwich.

Sir Robert was for a period M.P. for Dover, and both his parliamentary duties and financial transactions led, during his earlier years, to his residing a long time in England. He had a favourite retreat, which he called his “ fishing cottage,” on the shores of Dagenham Reach, in Essex. Here he used to entertain his Mends, and none was more frequent in his visits or more welcome than Mr George (afterwards Sir George) Rose, who on one occasion brought down with him his ministerial patron William Pitt. The Premier was greatly delighted with his entertainment, and readily accepted an invitation at parting to return the following year and enjoy himself in such congenial society. For several years Mr Pitt, accompanied by Rose, made regularly every season a visit to Dagenham Reach. The time occupied in going there was in these days considerable, and it was suggested by Sir Robert, and willingly acceded to by the Minister, that the three friends should in future have their annual dinner nearer London. As the three were all members of the Trinity House, it was resolved to have their “outing” at Greenwich. An addition was now made to their party in the persons of Lord Camden and Mr Long, afterwards Lord Farnborough. Sir Robert Preston continued, as at Dagenham Reach, to act as host; but as other political magnates were successively invited, it was at last suggested, by Lord Camden that the tavern bill should no longer be defrayed exclusively by the Baronet. It was arranged, however, that he should still issue the invitations for the dinner, and he moreover insisted on furnishing to it a buck and champagne as a special contribution. To the end of his life he continued to do so, the time for meeting being usually after Trinity Monday, shortly after the rising of Parliament. Ere many years had elapsed from its first establishment, the gathering had comprised most of the Cabinet ministers, and assumed almost entirely a political complexion, the long continuance in power of the Tory party, with which Sir Robert was associated, having prevented any inconvenient interruption of his relations with the institution. The meeting had now become a stereotyped affair, and, under the appellation of the “ fish dinner,” has survived to the present day. It may not also be uninteresting to many of my readers to know that a nephew of Sir George Rose, Sir Robert Preston’s friend, has in our own day gained considerable reputation under the norm, de plume of “ Arthur Sketchley,” and as the editor of the innumerable disquisitions of the garrulous “Mrs Brown.”

It only remains to be added, in reference to the above, that Sir Robert Preston took care that a memorial of the symposia at Dagenham Reach should be preserved at Culross. At the east end of the burgh, by the sea-shore, opposite the present ruin of Lord Bruce’s Hospital, there used to be, in the memory of one or two persons still living, several saltpans, which were supplied with sea-water from a huge reservoir or bucket-pat by means of a pumping apparatus. After purchasing the Culross estate from the creditors of his cousin Lord Dundonald, Sir Robert set to converting the bucket-pat into a large salt-water pond, which might be filled and emptied at flow and ebb tide, whilst on its bank he constructed a small “ fishing cottage,” after the model of the one at Dagenham Reach in which he had unconsciously originated the institution of the Ministerial Whitebait dinners. I am not aware whether he gave any entertainments here of a similar character, but it was his favourite haunt or lounge of a forenoon, down to a short period previous to his death. Here he held his levees, transacted his business, and listened to any applications or petitions, which, in consequence of his connection with the East India Company and the Trinity House, were presented to him in considerable abundance, with the view of obtaining the benefit of his patronage.

Here, too, Captain S-, a veteran naval commander, residing in Low Valleyfield, used to come and read the newspapers to him in his latter days, when his sight began to fail. In return, the Captain had the entrSe to the Valleyfield hospitalities, and, as I have heard his widow (the same old lady who gave me the account of Lord Dundonald) say, “Mony a gude dinner he got.”

Sir Robert was a thorough gourmand, and his gourmandise does not appear to have been of a very delicate or refined character; it resembled, indeed, more the coarse and barbaric magnificence of Apicius or Lucullus than the elegant sybaritism of Dr Kitchener or Dr V^ron. Profusion there was of meat and drink, but there was little variety or ingenuity in the cuisine. His Christmas-pie, which took eight men to cany, and remained during the festive season on his sideboard as a pikce de resistance, was the talk of the country-side, and its wonders were magnified by popular report. He himself used to keep turtles in the salt-water pond at the fishing-cottage, and men were regularly employed to go out into the Firth with nets and bring in supplies of fish. A vigorous constitution and unbounded powers of digestion must have been his fortune through life, to have enjoyed its good things so keenly, and at the same time preserved his health unimpaired to the patriarchal age of ninety-five years.

In playing the grand seigneur Sir Robert was an adept; and to do him justice, he exhibited all the princeliness and generous liberality which might be supposed to become such a character. He kept open house at Valleyfield, and, like the old country gentleman—

“Whilst he feasted all the great,
He ne’er forgot the small.”

No countryman or messenger of any kind that happened to come to his house was ever sent empty away; and no broken meats were allowed to reappear at his table, but were distributed in liberal doles to the poor bodies. The buildings, offices, park-gates, walls, &c., on his estate, all attest to this day the magnificent scale on which he acted; and he was also a liberal promoter of objects of public utility. He repaired and remodelled Culross Church, almost entirely at his own expense—though, as we shall see, he displayed little taste in his renovations; and he also exhibited a sad degree of vandalism in authorising the destruction of a large portion of the ruins of the monastery. In another matter, too, he showed commendable activity and an interest in antiquarian research, when he caused the examination to be made that resulted, as already recorded, in the discovery of the heart of Lord Edward Bruce, the unfortunate duellist. Some further particulars regarding the relic will be found in the following chapter.

One undertaking of Sir Robert’s proved rather disastrous as a pecuniary speculation, but has probably tended as much as any other circumstance to immortalise his name, which is not likely to be ever forgotten as long as Preston Island, with its picturesque congeries of old buildings, rises as a landmark from the surface of the Firth of Forth. I have already referred to it in the opening chapter as bisecting the chord which joins the two extremities of the arc that constitutes the beautiful Bay of Culross. Previous to Sir Robert’s accession to the Valleyfield estate, this islet was nothing more than a plateau formed at the eastern extremity of the Craigmore or great range of rocks that crosses the entrance of Culross Bay, and extends some distance up the Forth in a direction parallel to the shore. The seams of coal which were so extensively developed on the mainland were here cropping out at the surface, and a tempting opportunity seemed to be afforded of both emulating the fame of Sir George Bruce in his celebrated moat, and also of realising a vast profit. Preston Island, with the adjacent rocks, being situated on the foreshore, and within low-water mark, were an appanage, it may be observed, to Sir Robert’s paternal estate of Valleyfield, Having conceived the idea of working the coal here, he carried out the project with all the magnificence that was so much his characteristic. A pit was sunk on the plateau, an engine-house with suitable gear and appliances erected, dwellings built for the colliers, and as there was no fresh water on the island, a supply was conveyed from the shore by means of pipes laid beneath the bottom of the sea. A range of salt-pans was also, at a subsequent period, erected; but here we are rather anticipating matters. The mining operations commenced and were carried on for several years with great activity. At last a fearful explosion of fire-damp took place, in which several men lost their lives; and so affected, it is said, was Sir Robert by this tragic occurrence, that it led him to conceive the idea of abandoning the undertaking altogether. It had not indeed been a profitable one for him hitherto; and when he gave it up finally, he found that the speculation had involved him in a loss of at least 30,000. More fortunate, however, than many others who have signalised themselves by their “follies,” his means were amply sufficient to leave him still, after so great a loss, in possession of an immense fortune.

After the coal-workings were abandoned on the island, the locality was still utilised for the manufacture of salt, and several long obelisk-like chimneys were added to the buildings with which the little space had already been crowned. One man, with his family, was tacksman or lessee of the salt-pans on the island, as I can remember, at the distance now of more than forty years; and the habits of this little community were said to partake a good deal of the gipsy fashion in their wild and isolated life. They were regarded as a sort of pariahs by the more civilised inhabitants of the adjoining shore; and I well remember hearing mentioned, as one of the concomitants of their wild existence, what to the Scottish mind has generally been a very dreadful circumstance—the feet that their children could not read. They, however, at last quitted the place, from what cause I know not, and were succeeded by another tacksman, whose life, too, was a curious one. In his young days he is said to have been extremely penurious, and by dint of scraping and saving had amassed the sum of 500, with which he now commenced the trade of salt-making. He might have succeeded sufficiently well in this vocation had he not added to his legitimate occupation the perilous one of an unlicensed distiller of whisky—an adventure for which, indeed, the island, by its situation, afforded tempting facilities. “ Very gude drink he made,” old Hannah, the saltwife, used to remark. Doubtless many a comfortable cup she had partaken of in her professional visits to the island for the purchase of the commodity she travelled in. “ Very gude whisky it was; and they would ne’er hae fund it oot had it no been for the difference in the reek.”

This dissimilarity in the smoke arising from the different descriptions of fuel used in the respective manufactures of salt and whisky, had probably attracted the attention of the excise officers; and I have also heard that one or two men who had been employed to convey over in carts from the mainland a clandestine supply of malt, had turned informers, either designedly or in the way of gossip. Be this as it may, the smuggling tacksman got a hint of the descent intended to be made on him by the authorities, and saved himself by a precipitate flight. He disappeared from the neighbourhood for many years; but latterly, after the prosecution against him had become only a remembrance, he returned to the parish of Culross, and died a few years ago in straitened circumstances in Newmills. All the money that he had saved perished in this adventure, and the island has never been inhabited since his departure. It now stands, with its buildings, a lonely though very picturesque landmark, which, I understand, being inserted as such in the Admiralty charts of the Firth of Forth, cannot now be dismantled or removed. To a stranger, indeed, it has all the appearance of an old cathedral or monastery rising from the surface of the water; and the traveller, in approaching Culross, might be almost deluded into the idea that in the old buildings on Preston Island he beholds the ruins of its abbey.

In 1830, Sir Walter Scott paid a visit to Valleyfield and Culross, the only one that he seems ever to have made to this part of the country. He had been on his annual excursion to Blair-Adam, in Kinross-shire, the seat of his friend the Right Honourable William Adam, Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court. In explanation of a reference made in the following extract from Sir Walter’s diary, it may be stated that the vandalism which was so conspicuous a feature in Sir Robert Preston’s character had manifested itself most prominently in his disposal of the fine old mansion of Culross Abbey, which had become his property with the rest of the estate. Apparently he had conceived the idea of obliterating, if possible, every monument that told of a more distinguished family in the parish than that of the Prestons. Some one, too, it is said, remarked to him one day that ‘the Abbey was a finer mansion than Valleyfield. His jealousy was roused into action, and he forthwith proceeded to make a ruin of the grand old habitation of the Bruces and Cochranes. The roof was taken off, the window-frames and doors removed, and the whole building gutted and dismantled. The gallery on the first floor was converted into an aviary, and covered with a roof of tiles. A similar spirit of demolition was shown by him in his degradation of the old family-mansion of Blairhall, the estate of which he had purchased from the Ronaldson-Dickson family, who had succeeded in possession the Stewarts, cadets of the Bute family. But in his latter years he resolved to restore Culross Abbey as a dower-house for Lady Preston, in the probable event, as it was deemed, of her surviving him—an expectation, however, which proved fallacious. The work of reparation had just commenced about the period of Sir Walter Scott’s visit to Valleyfield.

“June 19 [1830].

“After breakfast to Culross, where the veteran Sir Robert Preston showed us his curiosities. Life has done as much for him as most people. In his ninety-second year he has an ample fortune, a sound understanding, not the least decay of eyes, ears, or taste, is as big as two men, and eats like three. Yet he, too, experiences the singtda prcedantur, and has lost something since I last saw him. If his appearance renders old age tolerable, it does not make it desirable. But I fear, when death comes, we shall be xmwilling, for all that, to part with our bundle of sticks. Sif Robert amuses himself with repairing the old House of Culross, built by the Lord Bruce. What it is destined for is not very evident. It is too near his own mansion of Valleyfield to be useful as a residence, if indeed it could be formed into a comfortable modem house. But it is rather like a banqueting-house. Well, he follows his own fancy. We had a sumptuous cold dinner. Sir Adam grieves it was not hot—so little can war and want break a man to circumstances. The beauty of Culross consists in magnificent terraces rising on the sea-beach and commanding the opposite shore of Lothian. The house is repairing in the style of James VI. There are some fine relics of the old monastery, with large Saxon arches. At Anstruther I saw with pleasure the painting by Raeburn of my old friend Adam Holland, Esq., who was in the external circumstances, but not in frolic or fancy, my prototype for Paul Pleydell.”

Sir Walter’s powers had by this time begun to fail, and there are one or two inaccuracies and omissions in the above. I have received an account of the visit in question from one of Mr Holland’s sons who accompanied the party to Valleyfield. He informs me that the company from Blair-Adam, including Sir Adam Fergusson, breakfasted at Lus-car, near Camock, the seat of his father, Adam Holland, Esq. of Gask, who himself was a son of the Rev. Mr Holland, minister of the first charge of Culross. Mr Adam Rolland was a W.S., and also a colleague of Sir Walter Scott as one of the principal Clerks of Session. “Anstruther” is here clearly a mistake for Luscar, a place to which we have already had occasion to refer as the seat of the Covenanter Stobow captured by Captain Creichton. Mr Rolland says, moreover, that whilst Sir Walter was exceedingly genial and pleasant in his father’s house, this pleasant condition was much disturbed by the sulky and dissatisfied manner of Sir Robert Preston, who hated as much a luncheon or cold collation as Sir Adam Fergusson, but apparently had considered it incumbent on him to furnish such a refection to his guests. It may also be mentioned that the 19 th of June 1830 was the Saturday before the Culross Sacrament, which is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, and is, or rather used to be, preceded by a religious service on the Saturday afternoons. In consequence of this, when Sir Walter visited the ruins of the monastery, he was unable to see the interior of the church.

As Sir Robert Preston had no children, and only three nieces, who were also childless, it became a matter of considerable speculation as to how he might ultimately devise the huge fortune and estates that he possessed. His paternal estate of "Valleyfield, indeed, was guarded by a strict entail; but he regarded with hostile feelings the family of Mr Clarke of Comrie, in whom this inheritance was ' vested as descendants of his sister, Mrs Mary Preston or Wellwood, wife of Robert Wellwood of Garvock. Lord Dundonald, the unfortunate projector, who died at Paris in 1831, was Sir Robert’s first cousin; and though there had been various causes of dissension between the families, it is nevertheless averred that Sir Robert intended to make the celebrated Lord Cochrane, Earl Archibald’s eldest son, his heir. Unfortunately for the latter, he gave, it is said, mortal offence to the testy old Baronet by sending an excuse for not coming down from England to the funeral of Lady Preston. Setting aside then all his relatives, with the exception of the three nieces above referred to, he devised the whole of the estates belonging exclusively to himself, to be enjoyed first successively by his nieces, and then, on the death of the last survivor, to vest in the Elgin family, by whom they have been enjoyed since 1864. In terms of Sir Robert’s bequest, and also in accordance with a family compact, this large inheritance is now the property of the Hon. Robert Preston Bruce, M.P. for Fifeshire, and immediate younger brother of the present Earl of Elgin. As regards the estate of Valleyfield proper, this now belongs to R. Clarke Campbell Preston, Esq., son of the Rev. W. Clarke Preston, who succeeded to the estate under the original entail, on the death in 1864 of Lady Hay, last surviving niece of Sir Robert Preston. The baronetcy, on the death of the latter in 1834, had become extinct as regarded the male descendants of Sir George Preston, the first Baronet by the deed of creation of Charles I. in 1637. It then passed, in terms of the patent, to the representative of Robert Preston, Lord of Session, younger brother of Sir George, the first Baronet, and ancestor of the Prestons of Gorton. The title was accordingly now taken up by Mr Preston of Lutton, in the county of Lincolnshire, as seventh Baronet of Valleyfield. He was succeeded by his son Sir Robert, and he again by his brother Sir Henry Preston.

Some notice is due to the first of Sir Robert Preston’s nieces, who succeeded him both in the ancestral estate of Valleyfield and as liferentrix of his other estates. This was Miss Anne Campbell Preston, daughter of Colonel Patrick Preston, Sir Robert’s eldest brother, and heiress through her mother of the estate of Femton or Ferntower, in the neighbourhood of Crieff. She married, in 1809, Sir David Baird, the hero of Seringapatam, who afterwards lost his arm by a cannon-ball at Corunna. He employed himself, while at Alexandria in the beginning of the century, in the attempt to place Cleopatra’s Needle on board ship and transport it to England—a project which failed at the time, but has in our own time been attended with complete success. Lady Baird was a woman of considerable vigour and originality of character. For her husband, Sir David, who died in 1829, Lady Baird cherished an immense reverence, and erected a granite obelisk to his memory on an eminence on her estate, at a cost of 15,000. She also paid 1500 guineas to Sir David Wilkie for his picture of Sir David Baird finding Tippoo Saib’s body. Unfortunately for herself, she was animated by a strong litigious spirit, which was constantly embroiling her in lawsuits, the principal objects of her animosity being her uncle’s trustees. A great part of her substance was spent in this unprofitable manner; and though doubtless she possessed many good qualities, her memory is preserved about Culross as of one who, in the old Scottish phrase, was a “ dour and stour wife.” She was succeeded first by her sister Miss Preston, and afterwards by her cousin Lady Hay, widow of Sir John Hay of King’s Meadows, Peeblesshire. On the demise of the latter, as already mentioned, in 1864, the Valleyfield estate went to the Rev. W. Clarke Preston—and the other property of Sir Robert, including Blairhall and the Culross estate, to the Elgin family.

It may be remarked here that the greater part of the parish of Culross is now possessed by the descendants of the great Sir George Bruce. The only exceptions are the estate of Blair Castle, recently purchased by C. H. Miller, Esq., from the last representative of the Dundases of Blair; that of Comrie, belonging to A. V. Smith Sligo, Esq. of Inzievar, and formerly belonging to Mr Clarke, grandfather of Mr R. Clarke Campbell Preston; a portion of the estate of Tulliallan, belonging to Lady W. G. Osborne Elphinstone; the small estate of Dunimarle or Castlehill, formerly belonging to the ancient family of Blaw; and one or two small properties immediately adjoining the town of Culross. The heritors of the parish who are thus descended are the Hon. R. P. Bruce, descended lineally from Robert Bruce of Broomhall, Sir George’s younger son; John J. Dalgleish, Esq. of West Grange and Balgownie, whose maternal grandmother, Mrs Johnston of Sands, was younger daughter of Captain Wellwood of Garvock, whose mother was a sister of Sir Robert Preston, and granddaughter through her mother— Lady Mary Cochrane—of Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine; Laurence Johnston, Esq. of Sands, who stands to Sir George Bruce in the same degree of relationship as Mr Dalgleish; and R. Clarke Campbell Preston, Esq. of Valleyfield, who also stands in the same degree through his paternal grandmother, Mrs Clarke of Comrie, elder daughter of Captain Wellwood and sister of Mrs Johnston.

The baronies of Tulliallan and Kincardine, which were acquired by the Black Colonel in the beginning of the last century, were inherited by his only surviving son, John Erskine of Camock, the celebrated Scottish jurist. By his first marriage with Miss Melvill of Bargawie, John Erskine was the father of Dr Erskine, the clergyman, and to him he bequeathed the original estates of the family, with the exception of those in the parish of Tulliallan.

These last, with the estate of Cardross in Menteith, which he had purchased himself at a judicial sale, he left to James Erskine, the eldest son of his second marriage with Miss Stirling of Keir. James Erskine of Cardross married Lady Christian Bruce, second daughter of William, eighth Earl of Kincardine, and was the father of David Erskine, who married the daughter of John, eleventh Lord Elphin-stone. A younger brother of Lord Elphinstone, the Hon. George Keith Elphinstone, afterwards raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Keith, purchased the estate of Tulliallan from David Erskine of Cardross.

Lord Keith had distinguished himself greatly as a naval commander, and attained the rank of admiral. By his mother, Lady Clementina Fleming or Elphinstone, daughter of John, sixth Earl of Wigton, he was nearly related to the celebrated brothers Keith—the Earl Marischal and Marshal Keith — his maternal grandmother, Lady Mary Keith, Countess of Wigton, being the sister of these renowned brothers. This last-named lady was heir of line to the Earl Marischal, whose title had been forfeited for his accession to the rebellion of 1715; but the claim to the forfeited honour passed to Alexander Keith of Ravelston, near Edinburgh, as nearest male representative, and descended from William, third Earl Marischal, who died about 1530. The title has never, however, been revived or advanced since the death of George, tenth Earl Marischal, at Potsdam, in Prussia, in 1778, twenty years after that of his brother, Marshal Keith, at the battle of Hochkirchen.

Lord Keith married, first, Miss Mercer of Aldie, and had by her one daughter, the Hon. Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, who succeeded him in the peerage as Baroness or Lady Keith. She married a French nobleman, Auguste Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahault de la Billardrie, and had by him four daughters, the eldest of whom married Lord Shelburne, afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne. The Keith peerage is now extinct, being limited to the first Baron and the heirs-male of his body, whom failing to his daughter Margaret and the heirs-male of her body. Lady Keith died in 1867.

By his second wife, Heather Maria, Dr Johnson’s “Queenie,” and the eldest daughter of the philosopher’s great friends Mr and Mrs Thrale of Streat-ham, Lord Keith had only one daughter, the Hon. Georgiana Augusta Henrietta, who married, first, the Hon. Augustus John Villiers, son of the Earl of Jersey; and secondly, Lord William Godolphin Osborne, brother of the eighth and uncle of the present Duke of Leeds. She now possesses, under the title of Lady W. G. Osborne Elphinstone, the estate of Tulliallan, Lord Keith having devised it to his two daughters successively, and afterwards to the representative of his elder daughter. The property will thus ultimately vest in the Lansdowne family.

The history of the two parishes may now be said to have been brought down from the earliest times to the present day. It is now my province to describe their existing monuments, so as to illustrate and complete that history.


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