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The History of Stirlingshire
Chapter XVIII. Kinnaird and Dunmore

Immediately to the east of the Kinnaird mansion – a house built to be lived in, not looked at – we have one of the prettiest objects on this old estate, in the form of a magnificent arcade of lime trees. Within the garden there are also two planes of gigantic dimensions, growing side by side, with a rustic seat between, which were planted by Bruce, the preacher, and his wife in commemoration of their marriage. It was here where the distinguished divine passed away, without pain or sickness, in August, 1631, aged seventy-seven years. When his sight failed him, he called for the family Bible, and asked his finger to be placed on Romans viii, 28, and told those present that he died in the faith of what was there contained.

It was within this house, too, that Bruce, of Abyssinian fame, met with the fatal fall. The trophies which he brought with him from abroad are here carefully preserved, and form an interesting little museum. There are among other memorials of the exploratory tour, a cloak and cap – hemp-woven, and clad with feathers of scarlet and black – which were presented to the traveller by the chief who murdered Captain Cook; a petrified impression of a horse’s knee-joint, wonderfully distinct; a phial of water from the "fountain" of the Nile; a numerous assortment of reptiles in bottles; the clock, carried by Bruce over his rambles, which has a pendulum of triangular devices’ a great old astronomical quadrant of brass, of two or three feet radius, a camel’s load of itself; some rifles, Turkish sabres, and other arms from the Levant; helmets from Otaheiti; various fragments of Egyptian antiquities; a number of small antique bronzes, and Greek and Roman coins collected by Bruce in the countries which border the Mediterranean. The works contained in the portfolios consisted of architectural drawings of the Roman triumphal arch at Tripoli, and of aqueducts and other ancient buildings, near the site of Carthage, on the north-east coast of Africa, and unpublished botanical drawings of Abyssinian plants; and likewise a host of other odds and ends, all interesting, more or less, from certain associative stories of their own. But there was also an Ethiopic version, from the Greek, of the Book of Enoch, which the traveller placed in the hands of his countrymen by his Abyssinian expedition. These prophecies of Enoch and Noah, were well known to the early fathers of the church, although they had been entirely lost sight of during the middle ages. The work, however, is generally considered apocryphal, and no doubt belongs to a period prior to that of the Christian era. The traveller had the panels of the base of the bookcase ornamented with figures, painted in the style of the Herculaneum fresco figures, by David Allan of Edinburgh, an eminent artist of that time.

Bruce was a keen sportsman, and used to go in the season to a place thirty miles off in the Highlands, on Loch Lubnaig, called Ard Whillary, the shooting and fishing belonging to which he rented. In an enclosure of a few acres at Kinnaird, he had some fallow deer, and would show his skill as a marksman, by bringing down a fat buck with his rifle, when he intended to give a venison feast. He had a pair of swans to ornament his pond, and the neighbours said he was wont to pass off his geese for swans too.

At Kinnaird, we are on the threshold of a vast coal seam. And connected with pit No. 10 is an old engine which was erected in 1786, by Symington, for Bruce, the traveller. Although now groaning sadly under the pressure of years, the huge machine, as a pumper, has still few equals in Scotland. Previous to 1775, all the hewers and coal-bearers connected with our colleries, were held in bondage as serfs, and were actually transferable with the pits to which they were attached. Nor did the Emancipatory Act of the year mentioned do more than set them nominally free. On account of the vagueness of certain of its conditions, it failed virtually to emancipate the class for which it had been passed; and not until 1799 were the colliers completely relieved from their degrading servitude. Their slavery, no doubt, grew insensibly with the demands of commerce and manufactures in the seventeenth century. It was necessary, because no one would do the drudgery of the mine to the satisfaction of the mine-owner, in the amount of work and its price, unless under compulsion. And hence it was something far worse than any feudal serfdom – just as the commercial slavery of later times in America, in the plantation gangs, was something far more cruel and terrible than the domestic slavery practiced in the households of the early settlers. But the pitmen of those days groaned under the yoke of various other barbarisms – certain of which, however, were altogether self-imposed. The time is not yet so far gone when the wives and daughters of our miners also wrought under-ground; and well may every human feeling recoil at the bare mention of such "vulgar matrimonial crimes." But these women, in their sphere of social ostracism, knew nothing better. They simply regarded the pit as the only means by which they could earn an honest livelihood. Indeed, it was considered a most imprudent step for a young collier to marry a lass who could not wear the male-jacket and "huggers," and be below with him early and late to assist in the conveyance of the loaded hutch from the workings to the bottom of the shaft.

Close at hand, there is the site of Great Hall at Scaithmuir – the house in which Sir Reginald Moore for some time resided; and who, moreover, fell into possession of said lands by his marriage with a daughter of Graham of Abercorn. A short distance east of Anton’s Hill, lies Mount Jerrat, with trees covering the ground upon which once stood a little chapel, that gave its name to the neighbouring burn whose waters, a stone-cast to the south, are collected into two small reservoirs – the one for the driving of a corn-mill, and the other for the grinding of wood-char used at Carron. The Nailor Row, a brick village, is so named from having been in former days a nail manufactory, under the management of the Caddells. The Bothkennar lands were purchased in 1363 by Sir William Moore, son of Sir Reginald. Strangely enough, Timothy Pont spells the place Both-kettard. Bo is generally thought to be a corruption of the Celtic mo, or maogh, a plain. Thus Bothkennar, or Mo-Kennar, will signify, "plain of the western headland." During the many centuries that Roman Catholicism was the religion of Scotland, the district belonged to the celebrated abbey of Cambuskenneth; and out of the parish the crown received a yearly feu-duty of some twenty-six chalders of grain; while six chalders were likewise handed over to the abbacy above-mentioned. In 1587, William Couper, bishop of Galloway, and author of some sermons and theological tracts, was ordained minister here; and remained in that capacity until 1595.

The present church is a somewhat antique and barn-looking house. It is, however, the oldest kirk in the district; and, with all its architectural simplicity, was erected at no small cost and trouble. From the sandy and brittle nature of the soil, an eminent metropolitan architect had to be engaged ere the foundation of the building could be laid. The site, together with that of the heartlessly neglected burial-ground, was granted by the Dundas family of Carronhall. William Nimmo, author of the first edition of this history, was minister of Bothkennar when he wrote the work; and he had formerly been assistant to the Rev. Mr. Gibson of St. Ninians. The accomplished scholar and antiquary died in 1780. A nunnery once stood on the present glebe, and several stones of the celestial asylum are yet to be seen. It is also worthy of note that Bothkennar was the last parish in the shire served by an Episcopalian minister. The locality at present is famed for its fruit.

Between this track and the neighbouring firth Letham Moss intervenes – leth-amh, literally "half-ocean," the division of what is subject to be overflown by the sea. In 1764 the wide peat waste was suddenly floated from its original bed a considerable distance northwards; and so violent was the action of the water welling forth from its million cavities that the wreck covered fully an acre of soil.

"Ay! this is freedom – those pure skies
Were never stained with village smoke;
The fragrant wind that through them flies
Is breathed from wastes by plough unbroke."

The moss view is extremely barren; something sui generis. As far as the eye, from some points, can see in a easterly direction, not a tree, bush, or patch of green takes pity on the bleak expanse to break its dull and dead monotony. Timber, however, rich and rare, lies in great abundance within and underneath the moss. Some few years ago, while a number of workmen were trenching in an adjoining field, they came upon a black oak of extraordinary dimensions embedded in the clay. Its circumference, exclusive of bark, was 9 feet 6 inches; and, according to ordinary calculation, the tree must have taken five or six centuries to reach that gigantic growth. When the timer was cut up, it was found in body healthy and solid. The oaks thus got year after year in the track of the old Caledonian forest invariably lie with their tops to the north-east. Beds of sea-shells, several inches deep, are also met with in many parts of the surrounding district; hence the very reasonable supposition that the waters of the Forth at one period rose as high as the lands of Kinnaird, though they are now about three miles distant.

In Airth village, which may be said to skirt the shore of the firth, there is little to interest. Thomas Lyle, the author of "Kelvin Grove," who died in Glasgow in 1859, was for some years surgeon here. The public "cross" was erected by the Elphinstones. On the south the pillar displays the Bruce arms, with a lion for the crest; on the north are those of the house of Elphinstone, with the motto, "Do well, and let them say," and the further inscription, "C.E. 1697." Charles Elphinstone, it may be remembered, was killed in a duel near Torwood by Captain William Bruce of Auchenbowie. But, what of the purpose of such a cross? For one thing, it can scarcely be regarded as any special landmark, there being no boundary requirement. Neither can it have been erected, so far as business went, as a dumb monitor for fair dealing in the market-place. Yet, in the past, stone crosses were built for a variety of uses. Among other things, they were held as peculiarly efficacious in the cure of disease that had even set at defiance the most popular of natural remedies. And we also find King Kenethus II. of Scotland decreeing that "all sepulturis sall be holdin in reverence and awe; crose set on thame, that no man sould stramp (tread) thereupon."

The trade of Airth, prior to the year 1745, was considerable; but thereafter gradually declined owing to the burning of a number of vessels at that period. The rebels having seized a small ship at a narrow part of the Fallin, by means of it transported a number of brass cannon to the harbours of Airth and Dunmore, near each of which they erected batteries and placed their "guns." Upon the king’s vessels arriving from Leith to dislodge them, a reciprocal firing began, when the commanders of the former fleet, finding their efforts ineffectual, sailed down with the tide, and gave orders to burn all the vessels lying on the river-side, to prevent them falling into the hands of the rebels, who might have used them as transports, and harassed the people. The loss of these vessels was severely felt by the inhabitants of Airth, and their trade ultimately passed to Carronshore and Grangemouth. The population of the parish in 1811 was 1,727; it is now only 1,395, of which 520 are in the village.

Dunmore is enshrouded in deep plantations. The ancestral mansion, however, is totally without ornament. East and north is a terrace garden, rich in the Cedrus deodora, Portugal-laurel, etc. Here, too, the pampas grass may be seen, with its feathery tufts and spear-like branches. Several exquisite panoramic views are to be got from this point. Alloa tower, where the old Earl of Mar resided, is within range, together with Clackmannan tower and Stirling castle.

The garden entrance is under a pine-apple of freestone. It is a masterly work, octagonal in shape at the base, and takes the form of a dome for the apple. The interior resembles the cavity of a bell. Nothing could be more artistic, in its way, than this clever piece of masonry – a most complete and creditable counterfeit of the pine fruit, with its crisp, projecting leaves.

The family chapel, elegant within and without, is approached by a leafy-roofed avenue. Delightful is the walk through this cathedral of nature. A plate within the little sanctuary bears the following inscription: - "To the glory of God, and in memory of her husband, Alexander Edward, 6th Earl of Dunmore, this church was dedicated by Catherine, Countess of Dunmore, in the year of our Lord, 1850." The windows, for the most part, are filled with Scriptural emblems; while the Decalogue occupies the wall of the chancel. Along the nave are various Biblical selections. One of the most touching of the artistic works is a memorial of marble to Elizabeth Wadsworth, wife of Charles Augustus Murray, who died at Cairo, 8th December, 1851. The death-angel points the mother heavenward; but she, though compliant in look, yet clings to the bairn to be left for a time behind. A tower stands close by the chapel, which formed part of the old Elphinstone castle. The under portion of this building is the mausoleum of the Earls of Dunmore. Monuments have also been erected here to the two latest earls deceased. The one to the memory of Alexander Edward is an obelisk of Aberdeen granite, and weighs upwards of twelve tons.

But what of the "woods of Dunmore," so famous in song? In summer, the foliage of the trees everywhere forms a "bosky umbrage," grandly variegated. As seen from the neighbouring straths, the woods display a spread of hues changeful as the colours of harlequin’s coat. April, too, so shortly past, is a merry month with the crows, Dunmore being one of the most extensive seats of incubation. In this "sweet-coloured evening," the birds, perched in thousands across the dense mass of trees, are more than usually loquacious. But powder and shot will soon silence their clamour. And the rooks have always been a persecuted tribe. The service rendered by the destruction of noxious grubs is never felt proper compensation for the havoc played in the potato field. James I., some three hundred years ago, passed a law relative to "ruicks," which was in effect: - "That ruicks be not suffered to big in trees; and where it be tainted (legally proven) that they big, and the birds flown, and the nest found at Beltain (1st May, old style), that the trees be forfaulted to the king, with five shillings unlaw."

Not an oak, but a fir, is monarch here. The tree is said to contain upwards of 250 cubic feet of timber, and, as may readily be imagined, stands a noble specimen of the Scotch pine. The largest tree in Scotland, however, is a fine old oak, contiguous to Tullibody house, the property of Lord Abercromby. In that tree there are about 600 cubic feet of measurable timber. In the Dunmore forest, marked with many a winding path, the naturalist will find much to interest him. The wood-reed, meadow-grass, (Poa sylvatica,) grows luxuriantly. We saw a plant of the same, 7 feet in height; and a stalk of the sea-lime grass (Elymus arenarius,) which measured 4 feet 10 inches. Striking deeply into the woods, we came upon a considerable area of the Aconitum napellus; and also discovered a fern, by no means attractive, compared with its magnificent and stately neighbours, but which the practised eye of a botanist could not pass over amid the vulgar throng. The Lastrea cristata is a fern so rare, that Hooker has not dared to give a habitat for it in Scotland; while Hennedy indicates only one. This plant delights to inhabit a boggy heath, and such was the soil on which we now stood. We must confess to a high admiration – a love that we have never found misdirected – for those lovely and ever-interesting occupants of the wayside and woodland. In their graceful curves, in the delicate tracery of their fronds, in the beautiful effects of colour, and of light and shade, which they present, none of the lowlier growing plants come near them.

Nor can the old quarry be overlooked, out of which the stone of the present mansion was taken. It is, however, quite unlike its natural self – at bottom a miniature valley of shrubbery, carpeted with radiant turf; while the rocky slopes are ivy-fringed, and starred with many constellations of the flowering year. Here, also, is a rustic summer house, thatched and walled with heather. Encircling it, are various specimens of the Wellingtonia gigantean. And now appear the hermit’s cave, and elfin boulder. The latter curiosity, as the legend goes, was cast by a witch from the Ochils upon a trio of banditti, who were thereby crushed unmercifully into the nether world. The very finger-marks of "Hecate," the beldam, were shown us. The boulder, in plain language, is a conglomerate of sand and channel, and has its position, no doubt, from glacial action. On this point, indeed, the evidences of the crag and tale are quite conclusive. In an earlier geological period, a great sea swept boldly from the north-west, joining the Atlantic with the German ocean; and the gigantic icebergs which were transported by marine currents to the south-east, must naturally have deposited many of the monster boulders everywhere found across the neck of land under consideration.

Between this and Dunmore moss there are acres of beautiful ferns, although the varieties are not numerous. The Aspidium filix-mas occupies fully seven-eighths of the wood; and the variety Asplenium filix-foemina is also met with occasionally. The moss lies upon carse-clay, and is from ten to fourteen feet in thickness. It is of large extent, and was lately covered with stunted heather; but a great fire swept over its surface some years ago, leaving the mossy track a veritable black wilderness. At the present time, this wide and bleak region exhibits a striking contrast to its surroundings. On every side for miles there are pleasant fields of grass or cereals in a thriving condition, with plantations in various stages of growth and beauty. Across the dark expanse are numerous piles of peat which have been cast and stocked by the local farmers for boiler fires, and sale in the out-lying villages. And of the fuels obtained from the earth’s crust, the most obvious and accessible is peat. It is strictly a vegetable accumulation – mosses, rushes, grasses, heaths, and other marsh plants contributing to its growth, the rate of which is very difficult to approximate. Throughout the country, however, many peat-bogs show an accumulation of from three to five feet since the time of the Roman invasion, now nearly eighteen hundred years ago.

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