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Between the Ochils and the Forth
Chapter V. - Another Way from Dunfermline to Alloa


Road from Dunfermline to Carnock—Baldridge—Luscar— Village and church of Carnock— Their associations with Scottish ecclesiastical history—John Row and Thomas Gillespie—Sasramtntal occasions at Carnock—Roadfrom Carnock to Clackmannan and Alloa.

In proceeding from Dunfermline to Alloa by way of Carnock and Comrie village, we have to pursue some intricate windings through not very attractive suburbs; but having once got clear of the town, the road, though somewhat bleak and exposed, becomes sufficiently interesting. Dunfermline, as already explained, is built on both sides of a very picturesque and romantic glen, which the builders of Bridge and Chalmers Streets seem to have exercised all their powers to exclude from general knowledge and observation. Had such a laying-out of building-ground to be made at the present day, there is no doubt that a different procedure would be followed. Instead of constructing the houses so that only the back windows command a view of the glen, whilst from the street itself no general observer would ever divine that any such gorge existed, there would be a series of elegant terraces, "cliffs," "drives," and "views," which would have seized every picturesque " coign of vantage," and been eagerly bought up as feuing-ground by the well-to-do inhabitants of the place. As it is, it is for the most part only citizens of the humbler class who can contemplate from their dwellings the romantic braes and precipices of the Tower or Pittencrieff Glen. We shall get a few glimpses of it as we wend our way out of the town to Carnock.

There is a nook in the glen just behind the houses in Bruce Street—formerly known as the Collier Row— which deserves a visit, from the association which it is reported to bear with the sainted Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm Canmore. At the bottom of a steep winding path which leads down from the h ill above, and close to the water's edge, is a niche or cavern scooped out of the rock, which is said to have been an oratory to which the good queen was in the habit of retiring for secret prayer. Her husband Malcolm, it is added, had entertained some unworthy suspicions as to the real object of his wife's visits to this spot, but had them completely dispelled on following her thither and finding no companion with her in the shape either of angel or devil. This so-called oratory of Queen Margaret is reached through rather a tortuous series of narrow passages which lead from Bruce Street to the steep path just mentioned, and may remind one of the labyrinth of lanes in London leading from Smithfield by Half Moon Passage to Aldersgate Street. It is necessary to obtain the key of the door leading to the glen, and this may be procured from Mr George Robertson in Bridge Street, the Government custodian of Dunfermline Abbey.

Proceeding on our journey, we pass the entrance to Wooers Alley Cottage, romantically situated on the edge of the glen, and which deserves notice as the place where Sir Noel Paton, the distinguished artist, spent his youth. His father, Mr Joseph Paton, was a zealous antiquary, and had formed a most unique and interesting museum of antiquities, which, it is to be regretted, were dispersed after his death. The museum comprised relics of all kinds from different parts of Scotland, and used to be one of the leading objects of interest in the town.

About this same neighbourhood we are probably near the place where Sir Robert Sibbald, the historian of Fife, tells us that he had a narrow escape. He was journeying from the Duke of Perth's mansion of Drummond Castle to Dunfermline, and had, without knowing it, approached in the dark what he calls the precipice at the north-west extremity of the town. His horse, however, had been more observant, and by coming to a standstill saved his master's life. Passing " Buffie's Brae," and winding round by Provost Walls's grain and flour mills, we find ourselves first in the suburb of Baldridge Burn, and then in that of Rumbling Well, after which we reach that of Milesmark, where we are a mile from "the Cannon," and two and a half from Carnock. To the north of us, on our 'ight, is the estate of Baldridge, now the property of the Wellwoods of Pitliver, but which m former days belonged to the Gedds, a zealous Jacobite family who took active part n the rebellions both of 1715 and 1745. Besides Baldridge they owned an estate near Burntisland. A boarding-school of high repute for young ladies used to be kept in Edinburgh by the Misses Gedd, members of this family. Another Miss Gedd, who married a Mr Buntine, a brewer in Dunfermline, died in 1820 at the age of ninety-five, and was well known to my mother, whom I have often heard speak of the old lady and her reminiscences of Prince Charlie and his times. One of these, I remember, regarded a relation of hers who had led down a dance with the Chevalier at Holyrood.

After passing through the village of Milesmark, and proceeding westwards about a mile, we see in front of us the steeple of Carnock church, an interesting object in the landscape, and on our right, within a mile of the village, the mansion and grounds of Luscar (Mrs Hastie). This formerly comprised East and "West or Stobie's Luscar, so called from an Adam Stobie or Stobow, a zealous Covenanter, who owned it in the days of Charles II., and was captured here in a malt-kiln by Captain Creichton, as related in his Memoirs edited by Dean Swift. Stobow was conveyed to Edinburgh, brought before the Privy Council, and sentenced to the payment of a heavy fine and transportation beyond sea. He contrived, however, to be landed in England, and ultimately returned to his native country, where he survived the Revolution, and died peacefully on his patrimonial estate of Luscar in 1711 at the advanced age of ninety-one. He lies buried in Carnock churchyard besi de Row, the historian of the Church, whose granddaughter he married. A daughter of Stobow married Andrew Rolland of Gask, a descendant of whom became proprietor of the whole estate of Luscar; and another descendant from the same ancestor is now the wife of Principal Rainy, one of the leaders of the Free Church.

Carnock is a small village, not unpicturesquely situated on the banks of the burn of the same name, which, coming down from Luscar Dean, after a course of several miles is joined first by the Comrie and then by the Grange burns, and ultimately falls into the sea at New-mill Bridge under the designation of the Newmill or Bluther burn. The country round, however, is rather bleak and exposed, though in the southern portion of the parish, about the village of Cairneyhill, which belongs to Carnock, there is some good land. The present church stands in the centre, and the old ruined church with its churchyard at the north-west extremity, of the village. I can remember the latter being used for public worship, and of the foundation-stone being laid of the former, my father, if I mistake not, as an heritor in an adjoining parish, performing the ceremony on that occasion. I well remember the dinner which followed in the schoolhouse, and though not admitted myself to the feast, standing with the minister's son and other boys outside and listening to the cheers and rattling of glasses which followed the toasts. It was high time that a new church should be built for Carnock, as the old one was both one of the smallest and most uncomfortable in Scotland. It had existed from Roman Catholic times, and been an appanage of the hospital of Scotlandwell <n Kinross-shire, and for some time after the Reformation it remained under the charge of the " parson " of that place, who seems to have allowed the little church of Carnock to go almost to ruin. On Sir George Bruce, the merchant prince of Culross, however, purchasing in 1602 the estate of Carnock from Lord Lindsay of the Byres, he "skleated" and otherwise repaired the church, which hitherto had only been covered with heather. The pulpit bears the date 1674, and the old church bell bore 1638, as does also the bridge over Carnock burn. There used to be, at a little distance from the church, an ancient cross, supported by six rounds of stone steps, and from these last, the cross itself having been apparently removed, at some distant epoch there sprang a venerable thorn tree, which till at least the end of the last century continued to flourish vigorously, and was a favourite trysting-place for the inhabitants. Indeed the kirk-session seem to have deemed it necessary to interpose their authority to prevent the place in question being used as a Sunday lounge. The whole fabric was removed many years ago for the purpose of widening the road.

John Row, the historian of the Church, was appointed minister of Carnock in 1592, and continued in that capacity till his death in 1646. He was the son of John Row, minister successively of Kennoway and Perth, and Margaret Bethune, daughter of the Laird of Balfour, and was remarkable from childhood for his scholarly proclivities, having at a very early age been instructed in Hebrew by his father, who was a man of great learning. The elder Row seems to have been bred a lawyer, and was sent on the eve of the Reformation on a mission to Rome, from which in 1558 he returned by way of Eyemouth with important powers conferred on him by the Pope for the purpose of averting the threatened changes in the Church. But he proved, to use the expression of his grandson, "corbie messenger " to his Holiness, and was ere long led to renounce the ancient faith. One of the main causes of his conversion was, it is alleged, an interview with the Laird of Cleish, who had been the chief instrument in detecting the fraud of the priests of the chapel of Loretto at Musselburgh, regarding a man whose eyesight was said to have been miraculously restored. He became a zealous and active Reformer, and died in 1580.

John Row, the younger, when his father died, was oply twelve years old, and he was indebted for his upbringing to the care of his uncle, the Laird of Balfour, to whose children he acted for a while as tutor. He studied for the ministry at the recently erected University of Edinburgh, and in 1592, on the application of Lord Lindsay of the Byres, then proprietor of Carnock, he was presented to that parish by the Presbytery of Dunfermline. The parish church, as already mentioned, was at that time in a state of great dilapidation through the supine neglect of the minister of Scotlandwell, who owned the tithes. The year after Row's admission to the living, the roof fell in one Sunday at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, a time when in ordinary circumstances the congregation would all have been assembled inside. It happened providentially on this occasion that there had been a surcease of ordinances, in consequence of the minister suffering from a tertian fever which detained him at Aberdour for some months on a bed of sickness. In consequence of this disaster the parson of Scotland-well had to renew the roof, and the whole building was thoroughly repaired nine years afterwards by Sir George Bruce. It had another new roof placed on it by Sir George's son in 1641.

The stipend of Carnock, which to this day is very small, was in Row's time so miserably inadequate that it was a constant wonder to his friends how he managed to subsist at all He was, however, a man not only of the most ardent piety, but of the most unselfish and philosophical disposition regarding worldly matters. Though he received various offers for bettering himself by removal to another charge, he steadily resisted all inducements to withdraw himself from the little flock whose spiritual oversight he had undertaken. Mr Colville, the minister of Culross, offered to exchange charges with him, on the ground of the number of communicants in that parish being so great, though the stipend was much better than that of Carnock. Row declined this as he had done other offers of translation.

He was not destined, however, to pass a life of obscurity or quiet, for such were the fervour and activity of his ministrat'ons, that under his superintendence the communion occasions at Carnock acquired a celebrity which they retained for more than 200 years afterwards. Persons flocked to them from all parts of the country, and we are told that these included many of the nobility and gentry. Row did not himself, it seems, take a prominent part in the services, but he endeavoured to assemble all the most famous preachers that could be procured. And after the establishment of Episcopacy in the first years of the seventeenth century, when many ministers who refused to comply with the new order of things were suspended from their charges or otherwise incapacitated, such recusants were heartily welcome to and heard with eagerness at the Carnock communions.

Row was indeed a strenuous opponent of Episcopacy, and had his lot been cast in other places, his resistance might have :involved him in severe penalties, if they had not brought about actual deposition. But he was a great favourite with Sir George Bruce, who used his influence on Row's behalf with the then Archbishop of St Andrews, and thereby prevented any strong measures being taken against the minister of Carnock, though for two years during the predominance of Episcopacy his ministrations were interdicted except within his own parish. It is even, said the Archbishop was bribed by Sir George, with the annual despatch to St Andrews of a shipload of coals from Culross, to wink at Row's shortcomings.

After Jenny Geddes had thrown her stool, and the uproar thus inaugurated in the High Church of Edinburgh had spread over the kingdom, leading to the dethronement of the bishops and re-establishment of Presbytery, a sort of Indian summer gilded the last days of John Row. He was summoned to Edinburgh to preach in the Greyfriars' Church, and he took a prominent part in the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638. During the years that immediately followed he seems to have worked with unabated zeal; but he was now an old man, and in January 1646 he died after a few days' illness. Shortly after being placed in Carnock he had married Grizel Ferguson, daughter of the celebrated minister of Dunfermline of that name, and who is said to have made him an excellent wife. They had four sons, all of whom studied for the ministry—the eldest, John, becoming in 1652 Principal of King's College, though shortly after the Restoration he was deposed. Another, Robert, became minister of Abercorn; a third, James, was minister of Monz'ievaird and Strowan; and a fourth, William, became minister of Ceres, and added a "Coronis" or continuation to the ' History of the Church' which his father left in MSS., and which was published along with it by the Wodrow Society.

Row lies buried at the east end of the old church of Camock, and beside him He his granddaughter and her husband Adam Stobow of Luscar, the celebrated Covenanter already mentioned. After his death, George Belfrage was appointed to the church of Carnock, but was deposed after the Restoration by Archbishop Sharp. Carnock, though an insignificant place in itself, figures prominently in the history of the Church of Scotland. There is first her association with John Row. Then in 1699 the ministry in her pulpit fell to James Hogg, so famous for his vindication of the principles laid down in ' The Marrow of Modern Divinity,' and the part taken by him in the " Marrow " controversy. He was minister of Carnock from 1699 to 1736.

But the most noteworthy association connected with Carnock is that of the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Gillespie, who was deposed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and became in consequence the founder of the Relief Church, long an influential body, which about forty years ago united with the majority of the Burghers and Antiburghers to form the United Presbyterian denomination. Mr Gillespie was presented to the church of Carnock by Colonel Erskine in 1741. He had long been a zealous member of the Evangelical party in the Church, having in early life known intimately Boston of Ettrick, and afterwards attending the academy at Northampton, presided over by Dr Doddridge, with whom he became a great favourite. In after-days he was a frequent correspondent with Dr Doddridge, and also with President Edwards of New England.

After having officiated Ľn Camock for about eleven years, a great commotion arose in the Dunfermline Presbytery, to which Carnock belongs, regarding the settlement of Mr Richardson as minister of Inverkeithing. Mr Richardson had been nominated by the patron, and found satisfactory by the Presbytery as far as morals and competency were concerned, but a strong aversion was displayed towards him by the majority of the parishioners over whom it was proposed that he should minister in spiritual things. So strong was this feeling that the Presbytery refused at first to give effect to the presentation of Mr Richardson; but the matter having been brought before the General Assembly, the subordinate judicature was peremptorily ordered to proceed forthwith with the induction and ordination of the patron's nominee. Six members of the Presbytery, including Mr Gillespie, gave in a memorial or representation to the Assembly, stating their conviction of the impropriety of forcing Mr Richardson on a recusant congregation, and that it was not merely contrary to their consciences, but, as they deemed it, contrary to the fundamental laws of the Church to proceed with the induction in such circumstances. The Moderate party were now in the majority in the Church, and high-handed measures had come to be regarded by them as necessary for maintaining the position which they had taken up, of the supreme authority of the Church courts, as distinguished from lay opinion and control. It is much to be regretted by every lover of the Church of Scotland that they were ever tempted to assert such an authority in the way which they followed on the present occasion. By a majority of forty-six it was carried in the Assembly that to punish the contumacy of the Dunfermline Presbytery in delaying to obey the orders of the supreme ecclesiastical court one of them should be deposed. The six members were each called successively to the bar of the Assembly and asked if he adhered to the memorial which he had presented. Five of them simply declared their adherence to it; but Mr Gillespie, besides doing so, presented an additional paper which he read as reaffirming his views on the subject. The vote was then taken as to whether he should be made the scapegoat. Only fifty-six members voted, and of these fifty-two voted for deposition. The whole affair seems to have been carried through with scandalous haste. The sentence of deposition was pronounced on a Saturday, and the same day Gillespie returned to Carnock. It is said that it was late at night when he returned, and his wife not expecting him had retired to bed. When he knocked at the door for admittance she rose, went to the window, and desired to know who it was that was seeking entrance at so unseasonable an hour. "The deposed minister of Carnock," was the reply.

Next morning Mr Gillespie would not allow the church bell to be rung; but assembling the people in the churchyard, he explained to them briefly, without any censorious comment, what had happened, and then proceeded to the ordinary Sunday services. He continued throughout the ensuing summer to hold these meetings in the churchyard, which were resorted to by crowds of people, more especially from Dunfermline; but he had at last to cease holding them there, and take up his position on the public highway. Ultimately a church was built for him in Dunfermline, and in it he continued to minister till his death to a large congregation. Such was the origin of the Relief Church. Gillespie, notwithstanding the treatment he had received from the highest ecclesiastical judicature, seems nevertheless to have remained an ardent lover of the Church of Scotland, and is said to have expressed on h.s deathbed a wish that h^s congregation should return to the fold of the Establishment. Dr Erskine, the Evangelical leader n the Church, repeats this statement in his preface to Gillespie's ' Treatise on Temptation '; and although Dr I.indsay, in his 'Life of Gillespie,' disputes its correctness, there seems no reason to doubt its substantial truth. Gillespie died on 19th January 1774, and was buried in the Old Abbey Church of Dunfermline—in the north wall of which, a few years ago, a slab of marble was fixed in memory of him, though its admission was objected to for some time by the officers of State, on account of its containing a reference to Gillespie's deposition for "refusing to take part in a forced presentation to Inverkeithing."

The old house of Newbigging, situated on the rising ground to the right a little before entering the village of Carnock, used to be the summer residence for many years of John Erskine of Carnock, son of Colonel Erskine, and Professor of Scots Law in the L'niversity of Edinburgh. Here it is said that his celebrated ' Institutes of the Law of Scotland,' long a text-book for students of Scots law, were compiled. His son, Dr Erskine, minister of the Greyfriars', succeeded him in the Carnock estate; and Robert Gillespie, Thomas's brother, was his factor. A daughter of Dr Erskine marred Mr Steuart of Duneam, and the property thus passed to her son, by whom, about thirty years ago, it was sold to Mr Hutchison of Kirkcaldy. It was afterwards disposed of by the latter to Mr Hastie, M.P., and it is now the property of his widow, Mrs Hastie.

The sacramental occasions at Carnock, the celebrity of which seems to have commenced under the ministry of John Row, continued long afterwards to attract crowds of people from all parts of the country. The tent, a sort of covered pulpit or platform, was erected in the glen or hollow below the bridge, and the audience stood or reclined on the adjoining grassy slopes in the open air. Here a succession of preachers held forth; whilst the church was reserved for the rites of the Holy Communion, which was administered to the recipients in a series of services or tables, which were protracted to a late hour in the afternoon. Viewed merely from an aesthetic standpoint, these gatherings must have been very picturesque; but attracting as they did a host of idlers and excursionists from Dunfermline and the country round, who came merely for an outing, they were inevitably accompanied with a large amount of licence and disorder—such as Burns has very graphically described in his " Holy Fair." The story, often repeated, is, I believe, quite authentic, that when servants took employment in a household in this part of the country, they were accustomed to stipulate that they should have l'iberty to attend either Torryburn Fair or Carnock Sacrament—each of these occasions presenting apparently an equal amount of attraction. The Carnock gatherings had at last become such a scandal that, on the appo'ntment of the Rev. William Gilston to the ministry of the parish in 1827, he resolved to have these village saturnalia abolished and this, with the concurrence of the heritors and kirk-session, he effected. The tent preachings were given up, and a great and lasting improvement took place as regards order and propriety. It said that on the first Communion which took place under the new arrangement, the receipts of the principal inn or public-house in Carnock, which 011 such occasions had generally averaged five pounds, now barely amounted to half-a-crown.

About a mile anil a half to the west of Carnock, the traveller arrives at Comrie village, which has in great measure been created by the establishment in this neighbourhood of the Forth Ironworks, which, after promising for a time to change the whole aspect of the country as regards industrial activity, at last collapsed into desolation. Several mining villages which were erected n connection with them, arc now either wholly obliterated, or present a still drearier appearance in the form of unroofed and dismantled cottages. Comrie village still remains, but all its bustle and activity have vanished.

The remainder of the road to Garterry Toll is a very lonely one, and it is quite possible that the wayfarer may traverse it without meeting a single person—though the road is both wide and kept in excellent order. It belongs wholly to' the detached portion of Perthshire which comprises the parishes of Culross and Tulliallan, and is separated from the larger division of the county by Saline and Clackmannan. Most of the present road from Comrie village belongs to Culross parish, the greater part of which, from its northern boundary, lies extended to the right and left of the spectator after he has emerged from the Comrie woods, a little beyond the road which leads down to the town of Culross, about three miles distant, by East Grange station and the hamlet of Shiresmill. The last-named place, though only consisting of a mill, a smithy, and two or three houses, deserves some notice as the birthplace of Robert Pont, a celebrated minister of the Church of Scotland immediately subsequent to the Reformation. He became "commissioner of Moray," an office which seems to have resembled that of an ecclesiastical superintendent or bishop; and he also acted for a time as one of the senators of the College of Justice. He officiated latterly as minister of St Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh. An interesting circumstance recorded of him is his appointment as reviser of the new metrical version of the Psalms, and he also compiled the first Presbyterian catechism. He married Catherine Masterton of East Grange, in Culross parish ; and a daughter of theirs became the wife of Adam Blackadder, grandfather of the celebrated John Blackadder of Troqueer, the Covenanting minister. In 1599 he published at Edinburgh a curious little volume entitled ' A Newe Treatise of the righte reckoning of Yeares and Ages of the World,' and dedicated to Alexander Seton, then President of the Court of Session, and afterwards first Earl of Dunfermline. Pont was the first to congratulate James VI. on his accession to the English throne. He died in 1606, at the age of eighty-one. He had a son, Timothy, a distinguished mathematician and geographer, who became minister of Dunnet.

There is now a fine open country before the traveller, with the rising ground on the right crested by the Dow Craig and the pine-woods of Brankston Grange —standing out from which, on its platform of greensward, is the mansion of that designation on the estate of West Grange (John J. Dalgleish, Esq.). Proceeding downhill, through a pretty bit of woodland, Bogside station, on the Stirling and Dunfermline railway, is passed. Enclosed within a wood at a little distance from the road, on the south side, is a tolerably complete British camp. On the opposite side to the north, at the western extremity of the pine-woods, will be seen the Hartshaw Mill, now the property of Lord Abercromby, and formerly that of the Stewarts of Rosyth, who were saddled, during the civil wars of the seventeenth century, for their Royalist proclivities, with the burden of supplying timber from their lands of Hartshaw for the rebuilding of the houses in Dollar and Muckhart parishes which had been destroyed by Montrose's army. An ancient tower, similar to those at Clackmannan and Sauchie, existed here at one time, but in the beginning of the last century was demolished, like " Arthur's Oon," to build the mi'l and its dam-dyke. On the rising ground a little farther to the west is seen the mansion of Bruce-field-—once a stately house, and the residence for a long time of the gallant Sir Ralph Abercromby, the hero of Alexandr a, but now very much dilapidated and almost unoccupied. There are some fine old trees about it, and the grounds form occasionally the resort of a picnic party from Kincardine or Alloa.

From Bogside station (8 miles from Dunfermline and 6 from Alloa) there is a long hill to climb, but after reaching the top there is a very pleasant bit of breezy upland, with almost a mountain flavour about it, and at one point a magnificent view of the Forth and its banks up to Stirling Castle and Ben Lomond. Clackmannan with its tower and church appear in the middle distance, whilst on the right hand the Oehils, with their verdant sides and rounded summits, bound the northern prospect from earth to sky. Descending afterwards a long hill, we reach the old turnpike of Garterry, with the cross-roads to Kincardine and Dollar; and nearly half a mile farther the village of Kennet, from which, as already detailed, the distance to Alloa by the north outskirt of Clackmannan is about 3^ miles. By taking the route that we have just traversed, the distance of Alloa from Dunfermline is shortened by 2 miles, the amount being only 14 miles in all.

The railway between Dunfermline and Alloa is sufficiently direct, but passes through the bleakest and most uninteresting part of the country, having been originally laid down thus in the expectation of receiving an immense amount of traffic from the then newly started Forth Ironworks on the Oakley and Blair estates. It does not pass by a single village or even hamlet between Dunfermline and Alloa, for the town of Kincardine is more than three miles distant from the so-called Kincardine station, and that of Clackmannan is at least a mile from the foot of the ridge on which the town stands. Nor is there any large population scattered through the country adjoining the line, which, on the contrary, rarely presents to the passenger the view even of a farmhouse, and between Bogside and Clackmannan passes through a tract of peat-moss and desolate woodland. To complete the fiasco, the Forth Ironworks, for the accommodation of which the convenience of the inhabitants of the villages and populous district on the shores of the Forth was set aside, have long since not merely been closed, but the buildings themselves, which with their furnaces used to form so prominent an object at Oakley station, have now been almost entirely demolished, and nothing but heaps of rubbish remains to tell of their site. Altogether, though the route is certainly the most direct that could have been taken, there are few lines of railway in Scotland on which the traveller will find so little either to attract or interest him as on this route. Speed is, of course, a matter of paramount importance in these days; but the traveller who wishes to receive some pleasure, and retain some remembrance of what he has seen, will be infinitely more gratified in both of these respects by walking or driving along the road, either by the north or south, from Dunfermline to Alloa.


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