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Between the Ochils and the Forth
Chapter V. - From the Cauldron Linn to the Forth


The Vicar's Bridge—Lower course of the Devon—Sauchie Town—Tullibody—Its church and other objects of interest—Farm of the "King of the Muirs,"

At a little distance below the Cauldron Linn, about half-way between the Dollar and Rumbling Bridge stations, the Devon is crossed by a viaduct on the Alloa and Kinross railway. Here, too, it receives the West Gairney, a stream coming down from Kinross-shire, and known in the upper part of its course by the name of the Pow. Farther down still, about three-quarters of a mile above Dollar, it is crossed by the Vicar's Bridge, an ancient structure, originally erected by Thomas Forrest, the good Vicar of Dollar, but till within a comparatively recent period only a narrow bridge of nine feet in breadth, without any parapet; it was consequently impassable for vehicles. The more recent portion is on the west side, and here an inscription has been put up to the memory of the Vicar. The scenery around, though differing much from that at the Rumbling Bridge, is still very picturesque, and immediately above the bridge there is a good trouting-pool.

From the Rumbling to the Vicar's Bridge the course of the Devon has been through a deep, densely wooded ravine, but shortly after reaching the last-named point, the valley begins to widen out, and before reaching the vicinity of Tillicoultry, it is fringed by a broad belt of meadowland. This characteristic increases as it advances to the sea, and latterly the river makes its way through a dead level of carse-land.

Beyond Tillicoultry, and near the Devon Ironworks, on the right bank of the river, is the old ruin of Sauchie Tower, formerly the residence of the Shaws, the ancient proprietors of the Sauchie estate. This afterwards came into the possession of the Earl of Cathcart, and ultimately was acquired by the Earl of Mansfield, to whom it now belongs. The present mansion-house of the estate is called Shaw Park, and is picturesquely situated at the north-west extremity of Gartmorn dam, on an eminence covered with wood and commanding an extensive view. Sauchie is now a quoad sacra parish formed out of Clackmannan.

The long terrace that extends along the south bank of the Devon from the neighbourhood of the Rumbling Bridge almost to the mouth of the stream, by Powmill and Blairingone, comes to a termination at the ancient village of Tullibody, two miles to the north-west of Alloa. From this point a road leads almost due north, crossing the Devon by an ancient, high-arched bridge, and joining, a little to the east of Menstrie, the highway from Stirling to Dollar by the foot of the Oehils. Tullibody, from various reasons, is well deserving of attention. It formed originally a parish itself, and even claimed to be the mother church of Alloa, to which, notwithstanding a considerable amount of opposition, it was annexed by an ecclesiastical decree in the year 1600. Originally it belonged to the Abbey of Cambuskenneth.

Tullibody is rather an irregularly built straggling village, but it commands a fine view of the Ochils and the Devon valley. Robert Dick, the naturalist and baker of Thurso, whose biography has been written by Mr Sm'les, was born at Tullibody in 1811, and passed here the years of his boyhood and youth. It is also notable in connection with the Abercromby family, who own a large amount of property in the parish, and take from it part of the title of their peerage. Tullibody House, the old mansion of the estate, stands close to the Forth, a little above Alloa. The celebrated Sir Ralph Abercromby, the hero of Alexandria, is sometimes stated to have been born there, but the more generally received account is that his birthplace was at another of the family seats at Menstrie. He was the eldest son of George Abercromby of Tullibody, who acquired also the property of Brucefield in Clackmannanshire, and retired thither after having made over the Tullibody estate to Sir Ralph. After the latter's death, a peerage was bestowed on his widow, and thus transmitted to his descendant, the present Lord Abercromby.

Tullibody is now a quoad sacra parish. The church, after long remaining a ruin, was converted into a mausoleum for the Abercromby family, and latterly, about half a century ago, was refitted as a place of worship. In the middle of the sixteenth century it had been subjected to peculiarly contumelious treatment at the hands of a French army which had come over to assist Mary of Guise in her struggles with the Reformers. They had retreated from the east of Fife, to which they had previously marched round by Stirling Bridge from Edinburgh and Linlithgow, and were now compelled to return on the same track by the arrival of a fleet of English vessels in the mouth of the Firth. Meantime, to cut off their retreat to the west, Kirkaldy of Grange had broken down the bridge over the Devon at Tullibody. The French arriving there and finding their passage interrupted, took off the roof from Tullibody church, and employed the beams in improvising a new bridge. Crossing the river by this means, they arrived at Stirling, and at last managed to reach Leith.

In 844 Tullibody is said to have been the scene of an engagement between Kenneth, the Scottish claimant to the throne, as representing his father Alpin, and Drust or Drest, the Pictish monarch by whom Alpin had been defeated and slain. It resulted in the entire discomfiture of Urust; and the supremacy over Alban, or Scotland to the north of the Forth, was thus ensured for ever to the Scottish dynasty. The field of victory was long marked by a memorial stone, which more than half a century ago was removed, but its site is still pointed out, about fifty yards from the " Haer Stane." The last is a shapeless mass of basalt, of whose history nothing is known. It stands on the declivity of Baingle Brae, to the southwest of the village, and was formerly surrounded by a number of smaller stones, after the manner of the so-called Druidical circles.

At the north end of the church of Tullibody is a stone coffin, called the "Maiden's Stone," which is said to commemorate the faithlessness of a priest who had betrayed a young lady of good family in the neighbourhood. She died of a broken heart, and expressed as her last request a wish that her coffin should remain for ever at the church-door, as a warning and testimony against the treachery of man. The occurrence, the legend says, took place on the eve of the Reformation, and the guilty ecclesiastic, who had to save himself by flight, was the last priest who officiated at Tullibody.

To the east of the village is a large wood, known as Tullibody Wood, in which Montrose and his Highlanders encamped on their way to the field of Kilsyth. During the eventful year 1745, when the Highlanders were marching down on the low country and threatening Stirling, Ebenezer Erskine, one of the leaders of the Secession, held here his Sunday services. Just outside of it, at its north-east extremity, is the farm called the " King o' the Muirs," noted in connection with an alleged adventure of James V. It is said that this monarch, having been belated when out hunting in the upper barony of Alloa, and become separated from his attendants, sought shelter in a farmhouse, where he remained for the night and received the utmost hospitality. In special token of goodwill, his host desired his wife to kill the hen that roosted next the cock, as being the fattest, and prepare it for his guest's supper. The king was much gratified by all this kindness, but strictly preserved his incognito, and when he left next morning, requested the farmer, a man of the name of Donaldson, to call next day at Stirling Castle, and ask for the Goodman of Ballengeich. Donaldson did so, and of course was much astonished to find that he had been entertaining the king. James presented him with the farm which he cultivated—apparently a portion of the Crown lands —though it afterwards came into the possession of the Mar family. ' Whatever reliance may be placed on this story, it is certain that it was occupied for generations by a family of the name of Donaldson, who were, however, dispossessed by the Erskines about a hundred years ago. It has been alleged, in excuse of this apparent act of severity, that the Donaldson who was then tenant had become incorrigibly idle and negligent in the management of his farm, as well as in the payment of his rent, and that Mr Erskine, after that his patience had been tried beyond endurance, was at last obliged with great reluctance to turn him out of his holding. He retired to Alloa and died there, but retained to the last the title of "king."


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