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Kilsyth, A Parish History
Chapter XX


The Parish Church—Banton Chapel—Rev. J. Lyon—Ordination —Secession— Pursued by an Echo—Succession of Missionaries —Manse Built—Rev* James Whiteford—A Parish Quoad Sacra—William Cadell—Friendship with Dr. Roebuck— Carron Company Founded—William Archibald Cadell— —Scientific Pursuits—His Taciturnity—Sir Joseph Banks— "A Journey in Italy”—Encyclopaedia Contributions—Clever Escape—Forth and Clyde Canal—Smeaton—Hugh Baird— Canal Locks—Trial of Charlotte Dundas—Fish-tail Propeller.

The parish church of Kilsyth is a most elegant structure. The architecture of it is all that could be desired. Its only fault is the smallness of its size relative to the population of the parish. It is only seated for 850, and from the nature of the site which it occupies it cannot be extended to much advantage. This has given rise to various evils. At an early period it was the cause of a certain irregularity of attendance, and it has prevented the church from taking full advantage of times when the tide of popular life was running strongly in its favour. A considerable number have been forced into the ranks of non-conformity for no other reason than the difficulty of obtaining accommodation in the parish church. The smallness of the church was strongly felt by Dr. Burns. To take off the pressure as far as possible he did a very wise thing; he got a chapel to accommodate upwards of 400, erected in the centre of the Banton district. Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bart., W. A. Cadell, Esq., Banton, Daniel Lusk, Esq., of the paper mill, Townhead, and William Campbell, Esq., Glasgow, subscribed fifty guineas each to the scheme. The school and schoolmaster’s house were also erected about the same time. In 1837 a missionary was^first employed to work in the district, and from that date till now, Banton Church has been the only place of worship in that portion of the parish.

The Rev. J. Lyon was the first Banton missionary. Into the revival in the parish, during the ministry of Dr. Burns, he threw himself with marked zeal, and the people of Banton received their full share of that time of enrichment and refreshing. With a new church and a zealous missionary, the young congregation had a good start, and prospered. Mr. Lyon received ordination from the Presbytery of Glasgow, 13th Feb., 1840. His sermons were destitute of literary pretensions. They were plain and Scriptural, and very well adapted— delivered as they were with considerable fire—to impress the audiences that Sunday after Sunday gathered in the new place of worship. There were few of them that occupied less than an hour in delivery. In 1843, Mr. Lyon cast in his lot with the Secession, and settling in Broughty Ferry he succeeded in building up a prosperous church. He had preached for two Sundays in St. Peter’s, Dundee, for his friend the Rev. Wm. Burns, and it was this circumstance which brought him under the favourable notice of the people of Broughty Ferry. Referring to the opening of his new church in Broughty Ferry, he made, many years after, the following amongst other observations:—

“The acoustics were not what I could wish. A disagreeable echo followed me throughout the sermon, and mocked my every utterance. This was an affliction that had followed me ever since I had entered the ministry. The church in which I preached at Banton was remarkable for the sounds that were awakened by the preacher’s voice. These sounds were such that few preachers could be heard in it, and few at best could be understood when heard. It was as if the judgment spoken of by the prophet had fallen on the Banton congregation: ‘ Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand.’ For years I had to humour that echo and strive by various plans to keep it quiet. If I ventured at any time to go high, or to speak loud, I had to fire off every word with a pause like ‘a minute gun at sea.’ When I left Banton I hoped that I had left this trouble behind me. But what was my surprise when I entered the pulpit of my new church at Broughty Ferry to find that my adversary was there before me.”

Inducted to Broughty Ferry Free Church in March, 1844, he ministered to that congregation for the not inconsiderable period of forty-five years.

After the secession and flight of Mr. Lyon, the fair prospects of Banton Church were blighted for a time. The church was closed till 1851, when the first of a succession of missionaries was appointed. The Rev. Mr. Wilson was appointed in 1851, Rev. J. B. Biggar in 1853, the Rev. Mr. Melville in 1854, Rev. Mr. Leitch in 1856, the Rev. Charles Hendry in 1859, the Rev. J. M‘Gavin in 1863. The Rev. Thomas Kyle settled as missionary in Banton in 1865; was ordained April 17th, 1873. Falling into ill-health, he resigned in 1875. He was succeeded by the Rev. Wm. Robertson in 1875, w^o, in his turn, was succeeded by the Rev. Malcolm M‘Neil. Having come from Canada to Banton, he received a call to the Bridge-gate parish, Glasgow. It was during the incumbency of Mr. M‘Neil that the manse at Banton was erected. The present incumbent, the Rev. James Whiteford, M.A., was a student of Glasgow, where he took a good place in the Greek classes. After having been for a considerable period of years assistant at St. Ninians, Stirling, he was ordained in February, 1S79. During his ministry the chapel has been erected into a parish quoad sacra, decree being granted by the Court of Teinds on the 6th December, 1880.

For a large number of years Banton estate has been held by the Cadell family. The most distinguished member of that family was William Archibald Cadell, traveller, mathematician, and scholar. His father was William Cadell of Cockenzie, a scion of the Calder clan. He set himself to the developing of the resources of Cockenzie, Prestonpans, and neighbourhood. He wrought the coal of the district, and set up establishments for the manufacture of salt and pottery. He was about to add iron smelting to his other businesses when he was visited by that remarkable man Dr. John Roebuck. Dr. Roebuck’s brain was teeming with all kinds of ingenious projects. The immediate cause of his Northern tour was to ascertain the practicability of establishing a foundry in Scotland. Having inspected various localities he at length fixed on a spot on the northern bank of the. Carron as one entirely suitable. In that place, by bringing workmen from England, he established in 1760 the famous Carron Company. The company was incorporated by Royal Charter, and the original capital was ^50,000 divided into 600 shares. Roebuck was a far more daring spirit than Cadell, but as respects their business habits and mechanical tastes there existed between the intellectual characters of the two men a striking similarity. Roebuck’s schemes fairly captured the Prestonpans potter and panner. By and by Cadell allowed Roebuck to go his own way, when he saw he was entering on adventures that had every assurance of success, but were entirely beyond the strength of his capital. Meanwhile, he entered along with him with zeal into the Carron project, and in the course of time it became an exceedingly valuable concern. The Carron Company is one of the Kilsyth heritors, and owns : mineral fields on the borders of the parish of considerable extent. From the time of its incorporation until now, the Carron Company has enjoyed a period of uninterrupted prosperity. But Dr. Roebuck’s rise and ruin, his connection with Cadell, and Watt and his engine, lie beyond the scope of my present design.

This William Cadell of Cockenzie, who was the original managing partner, and, along with Dr. Roebuck, the founder of the Carron Company, wa9 married to Katharine, daughter of Archibald Inglis of Auchendinny in Mid-Lothian, Hereditary Usher of Scotland. Of this couple William Archibald Cadell, of Banton, was the oldest child. He was born at his father’s residence, Carron Park, near Falkirk, on the 27th June, 1775. After receiving his education at the Edinburgh University, about 1798 he became a member of the Scottish bar. Being, however, not only possessed of the estate of Banton, but also of other ample private means, he never took up the active practice of his profession, but spent his life in carrying out scientific researches both at home and abroad. All his studies were of such a character as required a finely cultivated mind, and some of them such as required mathematical attainments of the very highest order. He has left behind him a great mass of notes and observations in various departments of life and philosophy. These MSS. are at present in the possession of James John Cadell, of Carron Park, Larbert, and also of Banton. In his youth he was a great deal in society, but in his latter years he became somewhat of a scientific and literary recluse. His vivacious early life hardened into an impenetrable taciturnity. The most unlooked-for incidents he regarded with as much complacency as if they had been part of the normal routine. He was one of those present at the sale of Eldin’s Collection of articles of virtu, in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, when the floor gave way beneath the weight of the company, and all were precipitated into the basement flat. Cadell was uninjured, and whilst others were striving to rescue the bruised and suffocating sufferers from the debris, he was hunting for his umbrella and catalogue! Having recovered them, and seeing as clearly as clouds of dust would allow that the sale was stopped for that day at least, he clambered over the wreckage and walked quietly homeward. In Queen Street he bowed to his cousin, Robert Cadell, the publisher, who was hurrying along, catalogue in hand. But he did not even inform him that there was no hurry. Robert Cadell’s first intimation of the catastrophe was the crowd outside the door, and the announcement that his cousin, William Archibald, was certainly killed!

The same William Archibald, on stepping out of the canal boat one day on his way home to Carron Park, dropped his umbrella over the side, and in catching at it slipped and fell into the canal. The waters closed over him, and for a few anxious moments the passengers thought he had stuck in the mud below. But soon a hand appeared, and in it an umbrella firmly grasped. A head followed. Then came the quiet request, “Someone hold my umbrella,” which someone did, and Mr. Cadell climbed on the bank, took back the umbrella, and without a word or gesture, or the slightest trace of discomposure, walked off!

The acquirements of Cadell were of so ripe a character that they won him the friendship of that distinguished natural historian Sir Joseph Banks. Sir Joseph did much to raise the state of science in Britain. He was a member of the Royal Society, and for a period of years president of that body. Through his interest his friend was elected a member of that venerable corporation on the 28th June, 1810. He was also a fellow of the Geological Society, and a member of the now defunct Wernerian Society. To the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh he contributed a paper on the Lines that divided each Semidiurnal Arc into six Equal Parts. In the “Annals of Philosophy,” he wrote an account of the “ Arithmetical Machine.”

Cadeirs title to remembrance rests on the two splendid volumes which he wrote, bearing the title, “A Journey in Camiola, Italy, and France.” This handsome work was published by Archibald Constable & Co., in 1820. The work is dedicated to the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Banks, Bart, G.C.B., “in testimony of the author’s great respect and esteem.” 1817 and 1818 were the years in which his travels were accomplished. The works are finely illustrated, and a large number of the drawings are from his own pencil. They contain a vast variety of information relating to the language, geography, history, antiquities, natural history, science, painters and painting, sculptors and sculpture, architecture, agriculture, the mechanical arts and manufactures of the places he visited. Cadell's volumes will ever remain a monument of an observation that was at once strikingly minute and comprehensive. While the young man was on his tour, his father, immersed though he was in business, still found time to write his son long and affectionate letters, full of all kinds of minute inquiries. His father was particularly anxious his son should learn particulars concerning the latest foreign methods of paper-making and working in metals. He kept continually before him the possibility of establishing a lucrative trade with the countries he visited. These letters reveal the cosmopolitan instincts of the father. They show him to have been an acute man of the world, and almost weakly solicitous for the welfare and prosperity of his son. It was under the constant rain and stimulus of these letters Cadell produced his magnificent work. Had Cadell’s gift of style been equal to his powers of painstaking observation, his “travels” would certainly have eclipsed the fame of “Bothen,” and “The Crescent and the Cross.” As it is, they are wonderfully entertaining, and a storehouse of reliable and accurate information.

Cadell was a contributor to the 7th edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” under the signature “B. B.” In the list of unsigned articles, he wrote the papers on “Cinnamon,” “Copper,” “Klinometer,” and “Lamp.” His supreme devotion to study rendered him somewhat indifferent to the usages of society, and, in his latter years, he was regarded by the vulgar and those who did not know him sufficiently, as “ a character.” He was a fairly accomplished linguist, and the most remarkable feat with which he is credited is that which he performed while travelling on the Continent during the war with France. He was taken prisoner. He saw his only hope of escape lay in his capability of passing himself off as a Frenchman. For a long period he maintained his disguise so perfectly that he was set at liberty. Cadell died unmarried, at Edinburgh, the 19th Feb., 1855.

Kelvinhead now forms part of the Banton estate, and is held by the present representative of the Cadell family. One hundred years ago, it was tenanted by the Bairds, whose names are so closely associated with the construction of the most important work in the neighbourhood of Kilsyth, the Great Canal joining the Forth and Clyde. No part of the canal proper is in the parish of Kilsyth, but it closely skirts its southern boundary, and, roughly speaking, follows the line of the Great Roman Wall. Sometimes it runs parallel to the wall, and sometimes it intersects it. But although no part of the canal is in the parish, it is still from the Kilsyth hills its water supply is obtained. In Kilsyth loch, an artificial reservoir, into which are drained a portion of the waters of the Garrel and the Banton burn, the canal company, at a trifling outlay for embankments, have provided themselves with water storage. The reservoir is a work which reflects the greatest credit on the skill and ingenuity of the engineers.

The idea of establishing a water communication between the Forth and Clyde is as old as the time of Charles II. It was not, however, till the time of Smeaton the work began to take practical shape. That celebrated engineer made a survey of the district, and estimated the cost of the construction of a 5 ft. canal at £80,000. The necessary Parliamentary sanction having been obtained, the work was begun in 1768, under Smeaton’s superintendence. The first sod was cut by Sir Laurence Dundas on the 16th July. In the summer of 1775, the canal was completed as far as Stockingfield. By this time the capital and the £50,000 which the company had borrowed had both run done. The prospects were gloomy. The shares dropped to half their original price. When matters had come to a standstill, the Government came to the rescue and advanced £50,000. It is said that this sum was the revenue which the Government derived from the forfeited estates. On this matter there seems to be some confusion, for the sale of the possessions of the Jacobites only brought the smallest return to the Government. Be this as it may, the sum was not a gift, but a loan, on which the company were to pay the ordinary dividend. In 1786 the cutting was resumed under Robert Whitworth, and on the 28th July, 1790. it was opened from sea to sea. The ceremony of opening was performed by pouring a hogshead of water from the Forth into the Clyde, in the presence of the magistrates of Glasgow and a vast concourse of people.

Hugh Baird, so intimately associated with Whitworth in the undertaking, was the son of Nicol Baird of Kel-vinhead. Hugh was born at Westerton, in the parish of Bothkennar, on the 10th September, 1770. Nicol Baird was in the employment of the Canal Company in the year 1772. On the nth November, 1779, he was appointed surveyor or inspector of the canal. During ten years of Nicol Baird’s lifetime, his son Hugh assisted his father, who had been specially appointed to see to the construction of the canal through that difficult reach which intersected Dullatur Bog. Nicol Baird died in January, 1807. The son greatly profited by his father’s training and practical knowledge. He was an authority on the construction of locks. The canal locks were all designed and formed by him, and at the time, they were looked upon as a great engineering feat. He filled the office of resident-engineer, which was created in 1812. He was present at the trial of Symington’s paddle-wheeled vessel on the canal. The vessel was named the Charlotte Dundasy and was the first practical steamship in the world. Her powers were tested in the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1803. When Hugh Baird saw how the surge raised by the paddles washed away the canal banks, he declared if Symington could only get something which would work after the manner of a fish’s tail, and propel the vessel from behind, he would be certain of success.

It would consequently seem as if on that occasion, so memorable in the annals of steam navigation, there existed in some nebulous, ill-defined form in the brain of Hugh Baird, an idea which, if he had been careful to follow out, might have established him as the inventor of the screw propeller.

The Union Canal was opened in 1822, and Mr. Baird I was the engineer who superintended its construction. He had two sons and one daughter. The sons went to America, and one was an engineer and the other a farmer. Hugh Baird died at Kelvinhead on the 24th September, 1827. The firm who now carry on the Glasgow Great Canal Brewery and Maltings, are the lineal descendants of the Bairds of Kelvinhead.


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