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Between the Ochils and the Forth
Chapter IV. - From Kincardine to Clackmanan and Alloa


The old castle and estate of Tulliallan— The Blackadder family—Kilbagie and its distillery—Kennet village— Town of Clackmannan—Clackmannan Tower and the Bruce family—Approach to Alloa—Alloa and the Earls of Mar.

A broad road, finely shaded with trees, leads northward from Kincardine to old Garterry Toll, where it is crossed by the upper road from Dunfermline, leading westwards to Clackmannan and Alloa. Just before quitting the town a road branches off to the left, winch, passing through the West Carse, will conduct the traveller, pleasantly enough, by a shorter route, to both of these places. At present, however, we shall follow the main highway.

About a mile from Kincardine is the entrance, on the right-hand side of the road, to the home-farm of Tulliallan, and on the opposite side a road through a wood which leads to the old castle of Tulliallan, a picturesque ruin, pleasantly situated among some fine old trees. Formerly the waters of the Forth almost washed its walls; but these, through the reclamations of ground which have taken place, are now at least half a mile distant. It must in its day have been a stately building, as befitted the residence of the family of Black-adder from the Merse, one of whose members in the fifteenth century married Elizabeth Edmiston, the heiress of Tulliallan. The castle is spoken of as a stronghold held by the English in the time of Edward I., who, when wintering at Dunfermline in 1304, addresses a letter from thence regarding the occupancy of the castle of "Tolly-alwyn." It had subsequently, probably, received considerable additions, so as to bring its accommodations within the palatial order. The basement storey has a fine groined roof, and one or two of the apartments on the first floor have been very magnificent.

A brother of the Laird of Tulliallan in the end of the fifteenth century was the celebrated Robert Blackadder, Archbishop of Glasgow, who both built the south transept of the cathedral in that city, and founded at Culross in 1503 the little chapel already described as occupying the supposed scene of the landing of St Thenew and birth of St Mungo. The end of the Archbishop was a singular one. Having gone on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he visited Venice on his way, and, as we are informed from a record preserved in the library of St Mark, was received with the greatest respect and honour by the Doge and his ministers. He accompanied them in the Bucentaur on the occasion of the famous annual ceremony of the wedding of Venice and the Adriatic. Shortly after this he embarked for Jaffa on board one of the vessels belonging to the Republic; but a deadly sickness having broken out among the pilgrims who were fellow-passengers with him, the "great Scotch archbishop," as he is called, also succumbed, and met his death on the waters of the Levant. A more tragical occurrence was destined to overtake his family in the next generation, when John Blackadder, the Laird of Tulliallan, was beheaded in 1530 for the murder of Sir John Inglis, Abbot of Culross, who had offended him by letting in tack some lands over his head to Erskine of Balgownie.

The Blackadders seem indeed to have been a hotheaded, fierce race, as we find in 1603 the then Laird of Tulliallan fined in 500 merks for striking in the church the Rev. Henry Forrester, minister of the parish. 4vith his gluiffis upon the face." On 24th May 1568 an order s made by the Scottish Privy Council denouncing certain persons as rebels against the king and Regent Murray, and ordering their strongholds to be searched. Among these are "Robert Bruce of Clakmannane, the tour place of Clakmannane," and "Johne Blacater of Tulliallan, the castell, tour, and fortalice of Tulliallan." Subsequent to this we find various references ill royal charters and the registers of the Privy Council to the Blackadders of Tulliallan, who seem to have continued to hold the estate till well on in the seventeenth century, when the extravagance and mismanagement of the last laird brought the family fortunes to ruin. The barony of Tulliallan then passed into the hands of the Earls of Kincardine, and when they too yielded to pecuniary misfortunes, it was purchased with their other domains by the Black Colonel Erskine of Carnock, in the end of the seventeenth century. From a descendant of his it passed, as already mentioned,

Admiral Lord Keith. John Blackadder of Troqueer, the celebrated Covenanting minister, was a cadet of this family, and latterly its representative. Most probably he belonged to the Blackadders of Inzievar,1 in the parish of Torryburn, an estate which afterwards became the property, as in the case of Tulliallan, first of the Earls of Kincardine, and then of Colonel Erskine. They occupied the old castle of Inzievar, which was described to me many years ago as a "grand gentleman's house," and in existence till within the last hundred and ten years. It stood on the site of the present garden of Fernwoodlee, as the house of Old or Nether Inzievar is now called, and was demolished about 1782 to supply stones for the erection of the present mansion.

I have already described one of John Blackadder's adventures as holder of a conventicle in 1670 at the Hill of Beath. In 1674 he held another one near Dunfermline, which was attended by 3000 persons. In 1678 he presided at one near Culross, and with this object crossed the water from Borrowstounness in the early morning of a beautiful Sabbath-day in July. After landing he rode, we are informed, two miles to the place of meeting, which is described as being situated beside a burn, two miles below Culross and one mile beyond Blairhall. Most probably some sequestered spot on the Bluther Burn, near Shiresmill—perhaps Comrie Dean—is meant.

Blackadder was at last apprehended and brought before the Privy Council in 1681. He was condemned to imprisonment in the Bass, and in the course of his examination was asked by General Dalziel if he belonged to the house of Tulliallan. "Yes, General," he replied, "I do, and am the nearest alive to represent that family, though it is now brought low and ruined." He was confined for four years in the Bass prison, and after two applications to the Privy Council, was ordered to be liberated on coming under recognisances for 5000 merks to confine himself to the town of Edinburgh. But the order came too late; he died on the Bass in December 1685, and was buried in the churchyard of North Berwick. A son of his entered the army and achieved some distinction as Colonel Blackadder.

Passing the ancient hamlet of Dalquhamy, we arrive, near the second milestone from Kincardine, at the entrance to the paper-works of Kilbagie (J. A. Weir, Esq.) These have been formed out of the once famous distillery of Kilbagie, which many people will think has been thus reformed in more senses than one. A hundred years ago t was the most extensive distillery in Scotland, producing more than 3000 tuns of whisky annually, for which upwards of 30,000 imperial quarters of grain were used up, supplying with food about 7000 cattle in its outhouses, and keeping in cultivation in the neighbourhood for its exclusive use about 850 acres. The buildings covered about 7 acres of ground, and there was both a canal and tramway leading down from the distillery to the creek of Kennet Pans on the Forth. Burns has spoken of the "dear Kilbagie," an appellation which, however, is only to be understood as one of affection, seeing that in those days the whisky produced here was retailed at a penny a gill, so that it was an inestimable boon to his own "Jolly Beggars," who could thus enjoy at Poosie Nancy's hostelry the happiness of getting "blind fou" for fourpenee. Long after that Kilbagie continued to flourish, but, as with other institutions, hard times came and the distillery went down. One of the last incidents that I remember hearing connected with it was about thirty years ago, when a great vat of imprisoned spirit burst its bonds, and flowing down the Kincardine road, proved like Falstaff to be not merely frolicsome itself, but the cause of a variety of gambols on the part of others, who rushed to partake of its exhilarating influences.

A little beyond Kilbagie, and about a quarter of a mile south from Garterry Toll, a road to the left joins the Dunfermline and Alloa road at the village of Kennet. This is a clean and substantial-looking village, inhabited chiefly by the miners employed in the coal-works of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who owns the Kennet estate in this neighbourhood. The Kennet woods lie on the left-hand side of the road, and the lodge of the avenue leading to his lordship's mansion is passed at a little distance after getting through the village. The family of the Bruces of Kennet dispute with that of Elgin the honour of being the head of the family since the Bruces of Clackmannan, to whom the position undoubtedly belonged, became extinct on the death of Henry Bruce, the last Laird of Clackmannan, in 1772. The present Lord Balfour of Burleigh succeeded, as Bruce of Kennet, about twenty years ago, in making good his right to the peerage of Balfour of Burleigh, which had been in abeyance for nearly a hundred and fifty years. The romantic story in connection with the ancient holder of this title has already been detailed in treating of Burleigh Castle in Kinross-shire.

About three miles from Kincardine, and two from Alloa, a road turns aside on the left to the ancient county town of Clackmannan, a place which the hero in one of Professor Aytoun's stories declares he had often heard of, but had never met any person by whom it had actually been seen. The traveller will now have the opportunity for himself of making its acquaintance. In some respects, as far as a deserted appearance is concerned, it may remind him of Culross, but it wants the quaint picturesqueness of the latter as regards streets and houses, which in Clackmannan have a decidedly mean and uninteresting appearance. The town, however, occupies a tine salubrious position, stragghng up the ridge of a hill, with the old Tower and park, of which I shall have something to say presently, forming the termination of the principal street. The church is a handsome building, in the modern Gothic style, with an elegant tower, and forms a prominent landmark in sailing up the Forth from Kincardine to Stirling. The manse adjoining is a snug, comfortable-looking building, and both command a fine view, and have a warm, sunny exposure.

There are several inns or public-houses in Clackmannan. Opposite the principal one, in the centre of the main street, stands a huge shapeless mass of basalt, from which the town derives, it is believed, its name; and there can be little doubt that this denotes the Clach (Gaelic for "stone") of Mannan. I have already1 ventured a conjecture as to the etymology of the last term. Mr Skene tells us that the name was applied anciently to the district on both sides of the Forth, extending on the south from the mouth of the Esk at Musselburgh to that of the Carron at Grangemouth, and on the north shore comprising the greater part of the modern county of Clackmannan. He does not offer, however, any explanation of the term, of which there are two notable nstances—Clackmannan on the north and Slamannan on the south bank of the Forth, the former denoting the Stone or Stones and the latter the Hill or Moor of Mannan. A foolish story is told of King Robert the Bruce having left his glove (manan) on the stone, and thus given rise to the name, as signifying "the stone of the glove." Whatever opinion we may entertain regarding the appellation, it is certain that the stone is of great and mysterious antiquity. Beside it stands a sort of bell-tower with a clock. Clackmannan is the old county town, and till a comparatively recent period the county courts used to be held here, though they and all the offices connected with them have now been transferred to Alloa. Clackmannan fair, though greatly diminished in importance, is still an annual gathering in the end of August. It was formally established by James V. in his minority, " with advise and consent of our derrest cousing and tutoure Johne, duke of Albanye, &c. and this warrant was ratified by a royal charter in 1542. It proceeds on the preamble that there had been for some time a yearly concourse of merchants at ^Clackmannan, and the fair is appointed to be held on the Feast of St Bartholomew (24th August).

The old Tower of Clackmannan, in its park or chase at the top of the hill, forms a landmark for many miles • round, and is well deserving of a visit. There is ready access to the park by a gate at the head of the main street of the town, and entrance to the building itself may be obtained by applying to the custodian, who resides in one of the cottages near the gate. The Tower and adjoining estate are now the property of the Earl of Zetland, who has been at considerable expense in repairing and keeping in order this interesting relic of antiquity. It is a sort of double tower, is 79 feet high, and contains a number of apartments which are almost all accessible. Formerly there adjoined it a mansion, occupied by the later Lairds of Clackmannan, in which Mrs Catherine Bruce, widow of the last proprietor, Henry Bruce, received Robert Burns and his friend Dr Adair, on the occasion of a visit made by them here from Harviestoun, at the foot of the Ochils. The old lady died shortly afterwards in consequence of a fall, at the great age of ninety-five, and bequeathed to Lord Elgin, whom she considered as the proper head of the family, the great sword and helmet of King Robert the Bruce, which had been possessed by the members of her house as an heirloom.

The precise relationship of the Lairds of Clackmannan to King Robert the Bruce is a matter of dubiety, though it has been surmised with some degree of probability that the first of them was the descendant of an illegitimate son of Edward Bruce, King Robert's brother. It is certain that a charter was granted by David II. (King Robert's son) to a Robert Bruce, of the lands of Clackmannan, in which he styles the recipient his "consanguineus," or cousin, whatever propinquity this may be supposed to denote. Old Mrs Bruce, indeed, had a much more exalted idea of the belongings of her progenitors. When asked whether her ancestors were descended from Robert the Bruce, she would reply, " No; the Bruces were descended from my family."

It is commonly stated that Clackmannan Tower was built by King Robert Bruce; and there can be little doubt of its having been erected at that period, and of both the kmg and his son having occasionally made it their residence. The surrounding lands were royal property, and the platform on which the castle stands is termed the King's Seat or King's Seat Hill. An extensive forest, known as the Forest of Clackmannan, stretched around, and many royal grants are in existence bestowing on Churchmen and others rights of pasturage of cattle and swine within its boundaries. In 1305, Edward I., then apparently master of Scotland, orders twenty oaks fit for timber to be given to the monastery of St Andrews from the forest of Clackmannan, to repair the priory houses. A large portion of the natural wood of which the ancient forest consisted was preserved till near the end of the last century, and a very small portion of it still subsists within the grounds of the Earl of Mar and Kellie at Alloa. The hamlet of Forest Mill, too, on the road to Dollar, with its adjoining tract of woodland, preserves the memory of the old forest of Clackmannan.

To visit Clackmannan we have diverged from the modern highway, and will therefore return to it, passing down the lane on the north side of the principal street near the clock tower and great stone. Having joined the road to Alloa at a distance from the latter of two miles, we continue downhill, and cross the Black Devon, which is here spanned by Mary Bridge, an older structure on the same site having been known as Queen Mary's Bridge. Ascending then a little in a northerly direction, we turn westwards at the new cemetery, and continuing for upwards of a mile close to and parallel with the Stirling and Dunfermline railway, we enter the east suburbs of Alloa. A little before coming to the town, on our left, within Alloa Park, on the summit of the rising ground called the Hawkhill, is a large standing-stone, having carved on it, on both sides, a simple cross. Near it a cist or stone coffin containing human bones was found.

Alloa (Hotels: The Crown and The Royal Oak—also The Victoria, near the railway station) is a pleasantly situated town on the north shore of the Forth, which here commences that singular course of windings- that render the passage by water to Stirling a voyage of nearly twenty miles, whilst by road the distance is only seven. The alluvial soil and carse-land included within those reaches is extremely fertile and valuable, giving rise to the old rhyme—

"A crook o' the Forth
Is worth an earldom o' the north."

The rocky ridge on which Clackmannan is built descends gradually in passing upwards from thence to Alloa, and at last comes to a termination near the harbour of that town, where it meets the alluvial ground of the Carse. On the termination of this rock the old tower of the Earls of Mar, and the old portion of Alloa, are built. The principal street of Alloa passes through the town nearly front cast to west, sending forth numerous branch streets, of which those on the north side conduct to the neighbourhood of the railway station and the road to Tillicoultry and Dollar, whilst those on the south lead to the river, the ferry, and the harbour.

The town has a population of nearly 9000, and carries on an extensive trade in shipping, in woollen and worsted manufactures, and in the making of glass and brewing of ale. The Alloa breweries especially have long been famous, though the sweet ale for which they enjoyed a reputation throughout Scotland, is no longer made here, the public taste having come to evince a decided preference for " bitter beer." A railway bridge has recently been completed across the Forth, and a direct communication has thus been established by way of Larbert with Glasgow, without entailing on travellers the necessity of going round by Stirling. A ferry gives access to South Alloa, which is a busy and thriving, though not particularly attractive place. The Forth forms two islands or "inches" here—one opposite the town, called Alloa Inch, and the other a little farther up, entitled Tullibody Inch. Within the port of Alloa are included, on the north side of the river, the town itself, and the creeks of Kincardine, Kennet Pans, Clackmannan, Cambus, and Manor; and on the south, Airth, Dunmore or Elphinston, and Fall in. together with the shore of Stirling. New docks were formed a few years ago.

Round the old Tower of Alloa, erected previous to r3oo, the town gradually grew up under the protection and sovereignty of the lords of the territory. This seems originally, like Clackmannan, to have been a royal demesne, and in 1365 it was bestowed by David II. on Lord Erskine, in exchange for the estate of Strathgartney in Perthshire. A descendant of his claimed right to the earldom of Mar, and was served heir to the title in 1438. Robert Erskine, fourth Earl of Mar, of this family, fell at the battle of Flodden; and his successor, John, fifth Earl, became Regent of Scotland during the minority of Queen Mary, and had the custody of the person of his infant sovereign previous to her being sent away to France. The son and successor of the last-named Earl has attained still greater renown as Regent Mar, and governor of James VI., who occasionally, while a boy, it is said, resided in Alloa Tower, under the strict discipline of George Buchanan, who spared not the rod, and treated with scorn the remonstrances of the Regent's wife, the Countess of Mar, on behalf of his royal pupil.

On 27th July 1566, shortly after the birth of James, his mother, Queen Mary, whilst temporarily reconciled to her husband, Lord Darnley, paid a visit to the Earl of Mar at Alloa Tower, and remained there for two days. Darnley was also there, but he made the journey to Alloa by Stirling Bridge, whilst the Queen sailed up the Forth under the conduct of Bothwell, as Lord High Admiral of Scotland. On the 29th she returned to Edinburgh, and on 1st August again made the voyage to Alloa, and was joined there as before by her husband. They spent other two days with Lord Mar, and on 4th August the Queen again returned to Edinburgh. It might also seem to have been as k souvenir of this visit that the Mar family had long in their possession a portrait of the unfortunate Queen on copper, and believed, on good grounds, to be a genuine likeness. In reality, however, it is said to have been given by Mary to one of her attendants at Fotheringay before her execution. It would appear that the elder brother of Charles I., who died prematurely — the gallant Prince Henry — spent several years of his childhood at Alloa Tower.

In 1670 a notice is recorded of the marriage, at her father's seat at Alloa, of Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of the Earl of Mar, to the Marquis of Douglas, who proved in every respect a bad husband. The unfortunate lady had, in consequence of his irregularities and harsh treatment, to obtain from him a judicial separation or divorce. She is the heroine of the well-known plaintive ballad, " Waly, waly."

Alloa Tower has a height of 89 feet, and its walls are 11 feet in thickness. It stands within the grounds of Alloa Park, on the east side of the town, and had formerly connected with it a more recent building, which was destroyed by fire in 1800. In this conflagration the portrait of Queen Mary perished. At a little distance is the modern mansion of Alloa Park, the residence of the Earl of Mar and Kellie, which was erected in 1838. The gardens adjoining were laid out by the celebrated John, Earl of Mar, who took the principal share in the Jacobite insurrection of 1715, and incurred thereby forfeiture of his title, which was only rescinded in 1824. He formed the gardens at Alloa House under the direction of Le Notre, the celebrated landscape-gardener of Louis XIV., and they were long the admiration of the country round for their beauty, though they had a rival in those of Culross Abbey, belonging to the Earl of Kincardine.

This Jacobite Earl of Mar had not only a turn for landscape-gardening, but a very decided talent for mechanics and engineering, which might have been much more profitably cultivated than the military proclivities which led their owner into so much trouble. He built John Street in Alloa, with its fine "Walk" and rows of lime-trees. He also constructed at the east end of the parish, and about two miles north from the town of Alloa, the reservoir known as Gartmorn Dam, which covers a space of 162 imperial acres. This was with the object of providing a supply of water for the collieries on his lordship's estate, and to effect this he caused a dam to be thrown across the Black Devon at the hamlet of Forest Mill, four miles north from Kincardine. From the river thus raised in level 16 feet, he conducted, by an aqueduct of four miles, in a westerly direction, the water into the great reservoir which he had prepared for its reception. It is perhaps the largest artificial lake in Scotland, and being bordered by the fine woodlands of Shaw Park, is by no means the least picturesque.

Lord Mar had also a share in the planning of the North and South Bridges, and laying out of the New Town of Edinburgh, and he is also said to have been the original projector of the Forth and Clyde Canal. He was twice married: first to Lady Mary Hay, daughter of the Earl of Kinnoull; and secondly, to Lady Frances Pierrepoint, sister of the celebrated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and daughter of Evelyn, Duke of Kingston. He followed the Pretender to Rome, and afterwards to Paris and Aix-la-Chapelle, where he died in 1732. He left a son, Thomas, Lord Erskine, who died without issue; and also a daughter, Lady Frances Erskine, who married her cousin, John Francis Erskine, eldest son of James Erskine, Lord Grange, younger brother of the attainted Earl. Most of the forfeited Mar estates had meanwhile been purchased by Lord Grange and another member of the family, and settled successively on Thomas, Lord Erskine, his sister Lady Frances, and their heirs. In consequence of this arrangement, the Alloa property remained vested in the Erslines, but the lands of Mar in Aberdeenshire had to be sold after the Rebellion.

John Francis Erskiie, grandson of Lord Grange, became the representative of the Erskine family on the death of his father in 1785, and in 1824 he was restored by Act of Parliament to the dignity of Earl of Mar. He died in 1826, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Thomas, who survived only for a short period, and died in 1828. His son and successor, John Francis, established in 1835 his right to the earldom of Kellie, in addition to that of Mar, and died in 1866 without issue. A younger brother of the last, Henry David Erskine, inherited as heir-male the Kellie peerage, and claimed that of Mar also, on the ground of the peerage having been reconstituted by Queen Mary in 1565, and made-transmissible only to heirs-male. This position, however, was disputed by Mr John Francis Goodeve, son of Lady Frances Goodeve, sister of the late Earl, on the ground that the ancient earldom of Mar, which admitted of female succession, had never been abrogated, and remained unaffected by the subsequent creation of Queen Mary. A long and tedious lawsuit ensued, and the matter was ultimately referred to the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords, who gave as their verdict that the peerage created by Queen Mary must be regarded as a new one; and as it only recognised heirs-male, the Earl of Kellie was the person to whom it rightfully belonged. Still Mr Goodeve was not satisfied, and persistently brought forward, at the election of Scottish peers to serve in the imperial Parliament, his claim to be admitted to vote as Earl of Mar under the original and ancient peerage. The matter has now been settled by a royal rescript and Act of Parliament, under which Mr Goodeve's claim to the earldom of Mar has been declared, under the ancient peerage, equally good with that of the Earl of Kellie under the patent of 1565. The former accordingly takes rank in the Scottish Peerage as Earl of Mar, whilst the latter bears the combined title of Earl of Mar and Kellie. The present holder of the last is Walter Cqpingsby Erskine, whose father, Henry David Erskine, Earl of Kellie, died in 1872 during the progress of the lawsuit.

The parish church of Alloa is a handsome Gothic building erected in 1819, and the tower of an older church still stands in the churchyard. There are also Free and U.P. churches. An Episcopal chapel was built by the Earl of Mar and Kellie in 1869. Among the public edifices may be mentioned the Municipal and County Buildings, the new Post-office adjoining the Crown Hotel, and the Museum of Natural History and Antiquities. Around and in the suburbs of the town are many handsome villas—more especially the splendid mansion of J. T. Paton, Esq., at the western extremity of the town, on the Stirling road.


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