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Borrowstounness and District
Chapter XIII. The "Trustees for the two pennies" continued

1. Period of One Hundred Years : The Four Acts Embraced in it—2. The Making of the Harbour Basin : "Slothfull" Masons : £30 Expended on Street Repairs—3. Construction of the Waggon Road and of New Street—4. Petitions from Inhabitants: Providence Road: The Syver Well and Charles Addison's Reclamation of Foreshore—6. Complaints about the Streets: The Rouping of the Street Manure: The Letting of the Bye-ales: Drummond's Imprisonment—6. Throwing Ballast into the Harbour : A Skipper Severely Dealt with —7. Causewaying of the Streets: The Trustees Get a Cart Made: Dr. Rennie's Description of the Town and its Inhabitants—8. The Town in Distress for Want of Water: Schoolyard Engine Water to be Drained off to Basin—9. Funds to be Raised by Subscription: Water to be Brought from the Western Engine: The Water from St. John's Well—10. Herring Curing at the Seaport: Regulations Prepared : Shipbuilding and Details of the Shipping—11. Trustees Decide to Erect a Patent Slip: Mr. Morton's Offer: Subscription Taken and List of Subscribers—12. Trustees Severely Criticised by Public: Their Reply to "Misrepresentations and Unmerited Censure" —13. Copy of Town Accounts for Year Ending 30th May, 1834—14. Trustees their own Sanitary Inspectors: A Candid Report: Mr. Gillespie and the "Sewers, Squalor, and Soot" of Bo'ness—15. An Urgent Appeal to Duke of Hamilton for Assistance: Trouble with People of Borrowstoun and Newtown over Water—16. The Last of the Water Trouble: Various Sources Visited and Reported on : Employment of Mr. William Gale: The Temple Pit Reservoir, Borrowstoun: Capacity of New Supply—17. The Monkland Railway Brought to Kinneil: Proposed Extension to Bo'ness: Opposition of Mr. Goldsmith: His Advisory Letters—18. Summary of Admiralty Report Ordaining Railway Company to make Promenade Rights in Promenade Bought by Railway Company.


This second instalment of early municipal history covers a period of fully one hundred years. It is only possible therefore to indicate the principal schemes undertaken by the trustees

The Old Town Hall.
(By permission of Messrs. F. Johnston &* Co., Falkirk.)

during that time. Four Acts are embraced, namely, that of 1769, already referred to, which ran to 1794; one in the latter year •which continued the term and enlarged the powers granted under the two previous Acts for the further term of twenty-one years; another in 1816, again continuing the term and enlarging the powers of the other Acts for twenty-five years; and yet another, the largest and most comprehensive of all, not passed until 1843, which was to continue until repealed. It may be mentioned that most of the larger schemes undertaken were duly authorised by these various Acts. The chief feature of the 1816 Act was the power which it gave the trustees to assess and levy from all occupiers of dwelling-houses, shops, and other buildings within the town a rate or duty not exceeding one shilling in the pound upon the rents of such, and to appoint two or more assessors. This was in addition to the usual two pennies in the pint, and was for the purpose of defraying the expenses of lighting, cleaning, and improving the streets and of erecting a town clock. The 1843 Act, again, changed the method of election, stipulated for a qualification on the part of trustees and electors, introduced a declaration when accepting office, and arranged a rotation or period of service. Moreover, as the brewing in the town and neighbourhood had become a thing of the past by that time, the two pennies duty was dropped, and the trustees for the future were known as "the trustees for the town and harbour." Under this Act the number of trustees was to be less than formerly—not fewer than nine and not more than twelve. It also named the first trustees, and these were Robert Bauchop, William Henderson, John Taylor, William Roy, John Hardie, John Anderson, Henry Rymer, James Henry, Henry Hardie, John Henderson, George Paterson, and James Meikle. Their methods were much more modern than those of the old merchants and shipmasters. And while their undertakings were important, yet the records of these do not leave us with the same distinct impression of care and capacity in all their work which those of the "trustees for the two pennies" do. The old trustees were exceedingly fortunate in having gentlemen of great diligence and skill as their clerks. We cannot trace all these, but James Scrimgeour, jun., and David Miln were both in long service under the earlier Acts, while George Henderson served continuously for a quarter of a century. A minute, dated the 4th of December, 1820, records—"The meeting takes this opportunity of expressing their acknowledgments to Mr. George Henderson for his great fidelity, accuracy, and zeal for the interest of the trust for upwards of twenty-five years he has held the office of clerk." Another George Henderson served the Town and Harbour Trustees with much ability for many years, and carried through all the intricate negotiations in connection with the extension of the railway to Bo'ness and other important matters.


Between 1750 and 1780 Borrowstounness was one of the most thriving towns on the east coast, and ranked as the third port in Scotland. This commercial activity is reflected in the minutes, for the trustees were constantly engaged in making every possible improvement at the harbour for traders. Then, as now, the continuous mud silt gave great trouble. But in October, 1762, it was resolved to construct a basin for cleaning the harbour, and in due course the work was carried out by Mr. Robert M'Kell, engineer. A double wall, moated in the heart, was run across between the two piers, enclosing about one-fourth of the harbour at the land side. This contained four sluices. During spring tides these sluices were regularly opened, and shut at full sea when a great body of water was retained. At low water they were opened, and they emptied the basin with so rapid a current that in the course of a few years a great increase to the depth of water in the harbour was made. The basin wall was of similar breadth with the two piers, and gave great accommodation. From it a middle pier, or tongue, as it was called, was also built parallel to the other two, so that the construction of the basin was in every way a great and useful scheme. Additions were afterwards made to the tongue and the piers from time to time as necessity arose. It is minuted on one occasion during the many repairs to the piers that the masons "are very slothfull in performing their day's work." The shoremaster therefore was instructed "to oversee said masons two or three times a day, and if any of them be found idle or neglecting their work to take a note of their names and to report them to the trustees as often as they shall be found that way." At a later date we find the same strict supervision over the same kind of work—"It is agreed that Daniel Drummond, the harbourman, shall work as a labourer with the masons, where he shall be directed during the whole repairs. And if it shall be found that he attends and works faithfully, and takes care to make complaint when the other workmen do not their duty, the trustees mean to make him some little present when the work is finished."

In 1769 it was found necessary to repair the streets, and £30 was allocated thus—£6 on the east pier, and £6 on the west pier, to pave it down to the basin wall; £8 from the church westward; £5 at the east end of the town; and £5 where found necessary. Dr. Roebuck, Robert Hart, and John Pearson were to see that the work was properly executed.


For several months onwards from June, 1772, there is much to be found about the construction of the waggon road. Dr. Roebuck's affairs were in the hands of his trustees, Mansfield, Hunter & Co. They recommenced operations at the coalfield, and John Allenson and John Grieve were their local managers. Evidently some pits on the hill were then opened, and the doctor's trustees wished to have a waggon way down the Wynd and along the shore to the west pier for the shipment of the coal. This presented the town trustees with several excellent opportunities, and they did not fail to seize them. They were, as it is written, "much disposed to accommodate Dr. Roebuck's trustees, so that they might not be obstructed in prosecuting their coalwork business." So they consented to the construction of the waggon way, but upon certain important terms and conditions. One of these was that a new street from the Wynd to the harbour should also be formed. Everything was to be done to the satisfaction of a special committee consisting of John Walkinshaw, Robert Hart, Alexander Buchanan, John Pearson, and John Cowan. The doctor's trustees, of course, were to bear the whole expense, including the paving of the new street with Queensferry stones "by proper bred pavers." It was thought that some of the houses at "Kirkyard Wynd foot" might be damaged in rendering entry to them more inconvenient. For these and all other claims which might arise out of the construction of the new street and the waggon way the town trustees were to be freed, and an agreement in these terms was entered into and carried out. The scheme was beset with difficulties, the chief of which was the crossing of the old street at the foot of the Wynd. Here and elsewhere the waggon way was to be 3 or 4 feet above the street level, and it was to be safely "finished off." The trustees thought that it would end at the head of the west pier, and considerable consternation prevailed when they found Allenson and Grieve proceeding with it down the pier. Such, it was thought, would prove very prejudicial to the trade of the town "by making it impossible for carts carrying down and up goods from passing each other." It was discovered also that each waggon ''is to carry about three tons of coal, which is about or near to double the weight that Dr. Roebuck's waggons formerly carried." The matter was adjusted, however, by allowing the railway to proceed, "the trustees of the doctor to stand bound to the town trustees and their successors in office to answer for and make good every damage whatever that might then or in the future be done to the pier in consequence of the railway."

All this was come to after grave deliberation; and the reason for the consent was because " the trustees of the harbour are perfectly disposed to indulge Dr. John Roebuck and his trustees to the utmost of their power consisting with the duty they owe to themselves and the public, being much convinced that the success of the coalliery of this town is perfectly connected with the trade and prosperity thereof."


Petitions from the inhabitants desiring redress of various grievances were frequent. While the new street was being made the Rev. Mr. Baillie and others craved that the road called Providence leading into the south part of the town "might either be made as it was before, or that the coal managers be ordained to throw a bridge across the waggon way, so that the said Providence Road may be rendered passable as before for leading the grain to the barnyards and other goods to and from the town." Mr. Grieve, on being sent for, agreed, "in presence of the meeting," to execute the bridge forthwith.

Another petition was received representing the ruinous situation of the "Syver Well," and praying that it might be properly repaired and a pump put into it. The trustees consented, and appointed Mr. John Cowan "to write to Mr. Sylby at Edinburgh, or any other proper person, to know at what expense the same can be done, and agree therefor, so as the town may be supplied in this necessary article of life in the most commodious manner." Mr. Sylby's estimate of £i 10s. was accepted, and it was further resolved to have the well built in with large stones.

Shortly after this Charles Addison & Sons craved that a second pump be put in at the Syver well for the purpose of supplying their brewery, the water to be filled with a cask and & cart. The inhabitants petitioned against this, and set forth the inconvenience that would arise to them if a second pump was put in the"well for "shipping water in carts." The trustees refused the request, but arranged that a pump should be erected at the Run Well instead. With reference to the Addisons, it is of interest to know that the large property to the north of Market Square, which was burned down in 1911, was built by Charles Addison. His feu charter of the ground was granted by James sixth Duke of Hamilton on the 20th of September, 1752. The narrative runs—"Whereas Charles Addison, merchant in my burgh of Borrowstounness, hath already expended a considerable sum of his own proper money in gaining the area aftermentioned from off the sea (upon which there were never any house or houses built, and which never yielded any rent or profite to me or my predecessors), and in building a strong buttress or bullwork of hewen aceler fenced with many huge stones for the support thereof,, and will be farder at a very great expence in building a dwelling-house, office houses, cellors, proper warehouses, and granaries on the said area or shoar of the said Burgh, which works were undertaken and are carrying on by him upon the-assurance of his obtaining from me a grant of the said area; Therefor and for his encouragement to compleat so laudable ane undertaking which tends to the advancement of the policy and trade of the said town," and in consideration of his paying a yearly feu-duty and on several other terms and conditions, the reclaimed ground referred to was granted him. The boundaries of the ground so feued are given as the sea on the north; the houses of Mary Wilson on the east; the High Street on the south; and the easter pier and highway leading to the same on the west.


To return to the petitions, another is referred to thus— "The trustees have laid before them a petition from the inhabitants of this town setting forth that the streets are exceedingly dirty and hardly passable, particularly at the easter coalfold opposite to Taylor's pit; also at Margaret Shifton's. door, where the water often collects so as to render the passing difficult, and even so as to endanger the health of the inhabitants; from colds and disorders in consequence of wett feet." Though they had power under the Act to keep the streets in order and " open the avenues to the town," yet the want of funds prevented their doing so. These funds were, in the first place, to be applied to the improvement of the harbour, and it alone exhausted the whole. In order to give them funds so that the requests in the above and other petitions might be attended to, the trustees resolved to "lett to publick roup" the whole of the street manure of the town. Meantime the collector was-instructed to employ a carter and a raker to cart it away. He-was also to give notice by the drum on every market day, till 2nd November, 1772, of the intended roup. William Robertson, James Tod, Alexander Buchanan, John Paris, and John Cowan were appointed to make proper regulations "as to the way and; manner of carrying off the dung." The roup was adjourned from the 2nd to the 9th, "on account of the badness of the weather." No bidders appeared at the adjourned roup, except Charles Addison, jun., who offered 5s. for the whole for the-half-year to Whitsunday. The trustees refused this, but offered to take half a guinea, and Mr. Addison agreed. In course of time this came to be a source of considerable revenue. In 1783 the bye-ales alone were exposed, and John Drummond, as the-last and highest bidder, was preferred at the sum of £27 for the year to 1st July, 1784. He failed to pay, and the trustees, got decree, and had him imprisoned. Meanwhile he had gone "and declared himself bankrupt on oath, in consequence whereof' the Bailies of Linlithgow allowed him an aliment of 7d. per day." His two cautioners attended a meeting, and the trustees, considering the hardship of their situation, agreed to their proposal to pay by two half-yearly instalments, provided they found a sufficient cautioner in a fortnight. Then the minute-continues—"As the meeting see no good reason for alimenting-John Drummond, they resolve not to do it," and they left it to-his cautioners to act in the manner as they saw cause. In after years we find that John Black was almost a regular purchaser of the tack of the bye-ales and also of the street manure, and it would thus seem he had found them profitable-concerns.


To go back a little, we find James Baird, the shoremaster,. reporting on the 8th of March, 1773, that Charles Baad, master of the sloop "Venus," had come into the harbour on Saturday with ballast, and, " contrary to the practice of all harbours and: of all law," had thrown it out late on Saturday night off the-head of the harbour. Band compeared and denied that he brought in any ballast, upon which the trustees called in John Thomson, workman, and put him on oath. He deponed that he was sent on board to get "a parcell of wands" for Dr. Roebuck & Co.'s coalworks; and that he saw a "parcell of ballast"—about twenty carts and upwards. By mid-day the wands were all taken out of the sloop, and Baad engaged him to come about eight o'clock at night, when it was dark, to assist to throw out his ballast. The sloop had been hauled off about a cable length north of the west pier, and between eight and nine Baad took him off in his small boat. When he got aboard he found Daniel Robertson, carpenter, and Baad's own men busy throwing the ballast overboard. He then commenced to help, and it was all out in about an hour.

Daniel Robertson, being also called in and sworn, corroborated. The trustees found it clearly proven that, contrary to the regulations, Baad had, "when dark, thrown over a considerable quantity of ballast off the mouth of this harbour, to the great hurt and prejudice thereof," and decerned him to pay "Ten pound sterling for this trespass." If he failed to pay, the sloop was to be distressed "by carrying off as many of her sails as when sold will amount to the sum of ten pounds, with all charges of every kind." They had some difficulty in getting the fine, but after taking possession of the sails the money was paid.


On 9th December, 1776, the trustees had before them a petition signed by William Anderson and James Dalgleish, merchants, and a good many other inhabitants, once more complaining of the great inconvenience that arose from the water lodging at the street opposite to Margaret Main's door at Taylor's " pitt," and praying the trustees to remedy the same T>y opening a water passage across the street. Mr. Cowan, to relieve the situation, gave leave to lay an open sewer across the timber yard possessed by him opposite to that part of the street complained of, and, as usual, a committee was appointed to see the work done. At the same time, the committee were empowered "to agree with causewaymen or others to execute the necessary work near to Margaret Main's house, and also to repair several broken parts of the street, namely, at Robert Beaton's door—John Mitchell's door—opposite to the Syver Well—opposite to Margaret Shifton's door—near to Mr. Thomson's, watchmaker—near to Widow Mackie's house—near Captain Hunter's house—near Mr. Edward Cowan's house, with several other small broken places of the streets and vennels." Towards the end of the period under review we find in the minutes a "copy of specification for making a cart for taking the fulzie off Bo'ness streets." All the parts are specified carefully, and the wealth of detail given is amusing. The contractor was taken bound to uphold workmanship and material for the space of twelve months after date of furnishing, which was to be within fourteen days after acceptance of estimate. James Meikle, William Marshall, and J. M. Gardner were appointed to get estimates and to accept the best.

Dr. Rennie describes some of the houses about this time as being low and crowded, and bearing the marks of antiquity. For the most part, however, they were clean and commodious. The smoke from the coalworks was a great nuisance, and continually involved the town in a cloud. Houses were blackened with soot, the air impregnated with vapour, and strangers were struck with the disreputable appearance of the place. But these nuisances were being removed from the immediate vicinity to a considerable distance, and more attention was being paid to cleaning the streets. Still, the smoke from the Grange coalworks on the east, the Bo'ness saltpans on the west, and the dust excited by the carts carrying coals to the quays for exportation occasionally inconvenienced the inhabitants. Crowded as the houses might appear to a stranger, no bad consequences were felt. Ordinary diseases were not more frequent here than in other places. In fact, health was enjoyed to a greater degree in and around Bo'ness than in many towns of its size and population. This was accounted for by the fact that the shore was washed by the Forth twice every twenty-four hours. Moreover, the vapours from the saltpans corrected any septic quality in the air. The walks about the town were romantic and inviting; the walks on the quays and on the west beach were at all times •dry and pleasant, and greatly fitted to promote health and longevity. Unfortunately, however, tippling houses were too numerous. It was to be seriously regretted that too many people were licensed to vend ardent spirits in every town and village. Such places ensnared the innocent, became the haunts •of the idle and dissipated, and ruined annually the health and morals of thousands of mankind. Perhaps if the malt tax were abolished, and an adequate additional tax laid upon British spirits, as in the days of their fathers-, malt liquor would be produced to nourish and strengthen instead of whisky, which wasted and enfeebled the constitution; or were Justices of the Peace to limit the number of licences issued by apportioning them to the population of each place and by granting them to persons of a respectable character, a multitude of grievances would be redressed. Writing of the inhabitants, Dr. Rennie •states that they were fond of a seafaring life. Many able-bodied seamen from the town were in His Majesty's service, and were distinguished for their sobriety, courage, and loyalty. Adventurers from the town also were to be found in the most distant parts of the globe. On the whole, the inhabitants were in general sober and industrious, and were of most respectable character.


The water supply of the town has been a subject which has given much anxiety to the municipal authorities since about the end of the eighteenth century, and has involved the expenditure of very large sums of money. In early days the worry was not that there were no water sources in the neighbourhood. On the contrary, there were natural springs in abundance containing water of an excellent quality. Coal mining operations, however, diverted nearly all these from their original channels. The Act of 1769 gave the trustees power to contract for springs and build reservoirs, but there were no funds. Petitions and complaints were frequently lodged, and in June, 1778, it is minuted—"Almost the whole town is in great distress for want of fresh water, which has of late become exceedingly scarce." It was therefore resolved to get estimates from properly qualified surveyors to bring water to the town through lead pipes, earthen pipes, or through wooden pipes. William Robertson, Alexander Buchanan, and John Cowan were appointed a special committee to get these. The expense, of course, was a great obstacle, for the trustees " did not at all understand that they as trustees were to pay the sum that might be found necessary for bringing water into the town, which they know no way of doing but by a voluntary subscription, with such aid as His Grace the Duke of Hamilton shall please to give." They, however, agreed to pay the expense of such plan if it did not exceed £5 5s., "and to be as much less as they can." But a few years were spent in getting the estimates, and meantime the trustees had to deal with other water affairs. For instance, it was stated at a meeting in September, 1781, that water might be had to supply the town about a hundred yards south of Mr. Main's park, immediately to the south of the town; and a committee consisting of Dr. Roebuck, John Cowan, and some others was appointed to investigate the matter. They did so, and got estimates of what it would cost to bring the said water in an open ditch from near Graham's Dyke down to the meeting-house by way of a trial. The offer of Charles St. Clair or Sinclair was accepted, and the committee was continued to see the work executed. Then, again, the water from the schoolyard engine caused "great damage to sundries," and it was resolved to obtain an estimate " for carrying that water into the bason by a level under the street and by the shortest line." Estimates were produced at next meeting from Charles Sinclair—one for £30 5s. lid., and the other for £22 5s. lid. in another way; but the trustees wished to go further into the matter, as it was considered " of some consequence not only as to the convenience, but even as to the health of many of the inhabitants, particularly the younger part, such as school boys, &c., that this hott engine water be carried off in the best and most expeditious manner through and across the streets into the bason or into the sea in the way that shall be reckoned best for the inhabitants in general."


To bring this about they thought it necessary to appoint a committee consisting of Dr. John Roebuck, James Tod, James Main, James Drummond, and John Cowan, three a quorum, "with power to them to examine, deliberate, and determine on the tract that is reckoned the best." It was further resolved to get a subscription opened for making up two-thirds of the sum wanted, the trustees agreeing to pay the other third. And in case the inhabitants fell short of subscribers for the two-thirds, including what might be given by His Grace the Duke of Hamilton, another meeting of trustees was to be called to consider if they could contribute any more than the one-third.

The trustees met on 8th November, 1781, under the presidency of Dr. Roebuck, to consider the plans, estimates, and surveys for bringing water to the town in lead pipes and in wooden pipes, to be brought from Torneyhill, from St. Johns, and from the Western Engine. The meeting was of opinion that funds could not easily be raised to bring the fresh water from any of those places in leaden pipes, and they were of opinion that wooden pipes would be insufficient. Mr. Charles Sinclair estimated the cost of getting the water brought from the Western Engine in wooden pipes at £187, which was considered reasonable, and they unanimously approved thereof, and agreed to contribute the sum of £30 towards it. Mr. James Drummond was appointed to meet with the water subscribers of the town, and to communicate to them the resolution of the meeting.

An important step in the progress of the water question is recorded in a minute of meeting dated the 9th of December, 1818. There were present Robert Bauchop, John Taylor, William Henderson, George Hart, Walter Grindlay, James Tod, Thomas Johnston, John Padon, Andrew Tod, James Johnstone, Ilay Burns, and Thomas Cowan. The committee appointed to superintend the bringing in to the town of the water from St. John's Well then reported that the pipes were now completed to their satisfaction, and that the well at the Cross was also finished. They were glad to say that the supply of water proved to be fully equal to the wants of the inhabitants. The committee also produced the New Shotts Iron Company's accounts, amounting to £218 10s. 4d., of which £38 9s. 4d. was the cost of the new cistern and well at the Cross. This had been found necessary after making trial of a less expensive mode of delivering the water, which, however, did not succeed owing to the very great pressure of water from the reservoir to the town.


Quite unexpectedly the Forth herring fishing, hitherto unknown in this part, was so successful during the season 1794-5 that hopes were entertained that herring curing would be added to the industries of the place. We discover evidences of this in the minutes. The trustees thought that the herring vessels which then occupied the piers should be made to pay a small allowance for the use of these, and also to meet the necessary repairs which carts with a great weight of fish would occasion the buildings. If "little ordinary trade was going forward," they admitted, the use of the piers could be permitted with little inconvenience. But "if trade otherwise was brisk," the herring curing would prove a great obstruction. In this view, it was right the herring vessels should pay a little. At the same time, they wished to do this " so gently as not to make £he busses avoid the harbour." The trustees, indeed, were very cautious, "this being the outset of a new business," and they were anxious not to discourage its development. A committee of three was therefore appointed to inquire into the practice and mode of charge in other places where the piers were so used, and to draw up such regulations as appeared to

R them adequate before the return of the next fishing season. On 3rd August, 1796, a meeting was called to consider the report and draft of proposed regulations of the committee. The regulations consisted of five clauses, "and with a small addition to the sixth and a slight alteration at the commencement of the seventh, unanimously adopted them, and returned - their thanks to the committee for the pains bestowed on this subject."

We can only briefly indicate these "Regulations for the curing of herrings at the harbour of Borrowstounness." The persons in charge of all "busses" or herring vessels on entering the harbour were to state whether they meant to cure any of their fish upon the quays. If so, they were to be charged 4d. per ton register for the privilege in addition to the anchorage duty. If no notice was given, and herrings were found on the quays beyond the space of forty-eight hours, they were to be seized and sold, and the proceeds converted to the use of the harbour. If any vessel did not cure to the extent of her full loading, the person in charge, on making testimony of the reason, was to receive a return of such part of the curing dues as the collector thought fit. Those not having vessels, but who might purchase herrings and cure them on the quays, were likewise subjected to the payment of dues, six barrels to be reckoned as equal to a ton register. Very unfortunately the herrings never returned to this part of the Firth in any quantity, and so the careful preparations of the trustees to foster the "new business" and at the same time to increase the harbour revenue proved futile.

Shipbuilding was engaged in on a fairly extensive scale at Borrowstounness from about the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth centuries. Towards the end of the former there were two builders of note—Robert Hart and Thomas Boag, and the vessels built were from 300 to 350 tons burden. The Grays from Kincardine came later, and the last builder on the ground was one Meldrum. He built a ship called the "Ebenezer" and another called the "Isabella."

The shipping2 belonging to the town at this time consisted of twenty-five sail, 17 of them being brigantines of from 70 to 170 tons per register. Eight were sloops from 20 to 70 tons per register, and altogether the shipping employed about 170 men and boys. Of the brigantines six were under contract to sail regularly once every fourteen days to and from London. They were all fine vessels, from 147 to 167 tons per register. The remaining eleven brigantines and also one of the sloops were chiefly engaged in the Baltic trade. The other seven sloops were for the canal and coasting.


We have seen how anxious the trustees always were to improve and extend the trade, and therefore we are not astonished to find that in July, 1781, they saw "of what great utility the having a dry dock properly executed in the bason would be to the trade and commerce of this town." They agreed to meet again in a fortnight "to consider this very essential piece of business," Dr. Roebuck and Mr. Cowan meantime to procure plans and estimates. The proposal, however, fell through, but was not entirely lost sight of. About forty years after it was still thought necessary that either a dry dock or a patent slip be erected for the purpose of repairing ships. After full consideration, the trustees decided to erect a slip, as in their view it would answer the purpose better and cost less money.

On 11th September, 1820, it was reported that a letter had been received from Mr. Thomas Morton, Leith, offering to execute the slip, with all its appendages and necessary excavation and building, for £865. As this sum was not at the disposal of the trustees, they proposed to make a public subscription. Each trustee promised to exert himself to procure the sum required. Mr. Morton was requested to guarantee the work for two years, and to extend the size of the slip so that it might be capable of taking vessels up to 360 tons register. Mr. Morton's offer, however, was not to be accepted until it was seen what subscriptions were obtained. By 4th December the Harbour Committee reported that subscriptions to the amount required had been received, and the meeting accepted Mr. Morton's offer. This slip was the second of the kind he erected in the country.

The following is a copy of the subscription list as recorded in the minutes, with a note of the conditions on which the slip was to be held. It was to be the joint property of the subscribers; the subscriptions were to be paid as soon as the work was completed and fit for use; the rates for the use of the slip were to be fixed by a majority of the subscribers, who were to vote according to their shares of £25 each vote. The Harbour Trustees were to maintain the gate and the basin wall, and the harbourmaster was to take charge of the slip and collect the dues thereof. In consideration of all this and of the money already expended towards the accommodation of the slip, one-half of the revenue arising from it was to form a part of the town's funds after deducting the rent of that part of the premises taken by the trustees from the Duke of Hamilton.

The slip did not turn out a success, largely owing to the falling fortunes of the seaport about that time. And as the Rev. Dr. Rennie used to say, it certainly proved a slip, for it did not pay any dividend.


As we have said more than once, the affairs of the town and harbour were well managed. Nevertheless, the actions of the trustees were carefully watched and sometimes severely criticised by various members of the community. This was particularly the case in December, 1825. At a meeting of trustees held on the 12th of that month a long letter or memorial representing certain alleged grievances was submitted. It was subscribed by John Stephens, Peter Petrie, Thomas Boag, Arthur Thomson, Thomas Collins, Robert Boyd, and George Wallace. These parties stated that they had consulted the Sheriff of the county about their grievances, and had been advised by him to apply directly to the Lord Advocate. Before taking this step, however, and in the hope of rendering it unnecessary, they thought it expedient to submit their complaints direct. They hoped the trustees would consider them attentively, and grant what they believed was the general wish of the inhabitants of the town. Shortly put, their grievances were—(1) The want of a sufficient supply of soft water, and the deficiency of wells. As a cause of the deficient water supply, it was stated the diameter of the water pipes was completely inadequate to the consumption of 630 families. Seven years had elapsed without any effectual steps being taken to remedy the evil, and, although the assessment had been increased, they were not aware that it was the intention of the trustees to apply it to this most necessary purpose. (2) The assessment had not been imposed in terms of the Act on proprietors occupying their own houses. (3) That the specific, and consequently the primary, purposes for which the power of assessing was granted by the Act had been totally disregarded, and the intentions of the Legislature for the good of the town entirely frustrated. The last, although perhaps the most direct violation of the statute, was what the complainers were disposed to insist least upon. Lighting the streets and a public clock, however desirable, were not to be compared with that essential necessary of life, an adequate supply of good water. Their request therefore was that the trustees would devote the assessment solely to the supplying of all parts of the town with water, that they would cause pipes of a sufficient size to be laid from St. John's Well to the reservoir, that they would leave a branch pipe at the corner of the school area for the accommodation of the scholars and of nearly thirty families residing in that quarter (a great proportion of whom were old people, and very unable to carry water up the hill), and that they would cause two additional wells to be erected for the benefit of the east and west ends of the town, and adopt such regulations as would prevent any of the water from being carried out of the parish. They concluded by stating that if the trustees refused their requests, they would feel it a duty incumbent on them to resist payment of the assessment, and to seek redress in a higher quarter.

The trustees greatly resented the tone and temper of this memorial, and especially the threat to appeal to the Lord Advocate. Seven very lengthy resolutions were adopted by them by way of reply, and the meeting authorised the clerk to send Mr. Stephens a copy of them for the information of himself and the other complainers. They also ordered two hundred copies to be printed and circulated amongst the inhabitants. The substance of their defence amounted to this—It was quite erroneous to say that the house assessment had been laid on for the special purpose of supplying water. On the contrary, as they specially pointed out, the Act authorising its imposition did not so much as mention the water question. They claimed that they were as much interested as any one could be in the town having a good water supply. Since 1816, they stated, no less than £432 lis. 4d. had been expended for that purpose, being upwards of £100 more than the whole sum yet levied by assessment. They also fully explained their present financial position, and what led up to it, and closed thus: — " The trustees conclude by remarking that they have long suffered in silence the misrepresentations and unmerited censure of those who are more ready to find fault with than to aid them in the service of the public. But now that a formal complaint is made, they deem it only doing justice to themselves to submit this explanation to the candid consideration of the inhabitants at large."

The following is a copy of the annual statement of trust funds submitted by Mr. William Henderson for the year ending 30th May, 1834. When we compare this short and simple document with the elaborate annual volume of 80 folio pages which is now its successor we rub our eyes indeed.



The trustees of the town and harbour were their own sanitary inspectors. Below we give extracts from the report of a special committee, which, along with the Parochial Board, inspected the whole town in October, 1848. Their methods were thorough, and they called a spade a spade. They found the following : —

Gardner's Land—Horrid.

King Street—A yard and closed door heaped with filth from the windows and two dunghills.

Peebles' pigstye—Bad; his cellar ought to have a door or built up.

Beneficent Society's Land—Bad drain, dunghill, and nuisance.

Slidry Stane—A noxious drain.

Wilson's house at Slidry Stane—One continued mass of filth.

John Marshall's property—Horrid.

Providence stair—Three dunghills.

Mrs. Peddie's backdoor—The yard wants paving; two ugly dunghills.

Robertson's dunghill, &c.—Disgusting.

Mrs. Wallace complains of two pools in the foundry yard below her bedroom window.

Walker, butcher, kills at his shop, also Stevenson, in his shop.

The Duke of Hamilton's property at the east end of Corbiehall is in a most wretched condition, as the whole of the Duke's property here is, without exception. Would recommend the whole of the Duke's property to be divided into sections, say, of four or five families each.

Nimmo obstructs the pen close with his carts.

Boslem's house ought to be whitewashed.

These things do not make pleasant reading, and with the smoke of the saltpans and coalpits, they undoubtedly combined to give the seaport the unenviable reputation of being a "terribly dirty place." But it would be an entirely unfounded statement to make now. It was, we think, even a bold thing to say in 1879,3 when Mr. Gillespie wrote about the "sewers, squalor, and soot" of Bo'ness. We may as well hear him out— "Bo'ness, as we have said, is both dull and dirty. Its situation, for one thing, is very low, which militates against its sanitary interests. It is ill-constructed and worse kept; each narrow, crooked street is in a more neglected condition than its neighbour; and the authorities apparently leave everything to the laws of Nature, not thinking it part of their business to make the place clean, healthy, or sweet. The architecture is said to have been once admirably described by an old gentleman with the aid of a decanter and a handful of nutshells thus— ' You see this decanter; this is the church.' Then taking the shells and pouring them over the decanter, he said, ' And these are the houses.' Nothing could be truer. There is not one regular street in the town. The poor lieges, too, have the same wretchedly ' reekit' appearance as the place itself. And thus, looking at Bo'ness with its back to the wall, it is strange to think of it as a proud Burgh of Regality. With the exception of the queer-looking old church, it has not a house that would do credit to the humblest clachan." No doubt Bo'ness was at that time in a pretty low way. It was practically stagnant, and grass grew in some of the streets. Mr. Gillespie termed it a condition of comparative indigence. But he was good enough to herald the approach of brighter and better days, in view of the "enterprising and important works being carried out in the extension of the harbour and the construction of a dock."


We must return, however, to the minutes. There are frequent references throughout these to letters and appeals to His Grace the Duke of Hamilton. We can only mention one, which was in the form of a petition, and the most appealing of all. It was apparently presented at Hamilton by a deputation from the trustees, consisting of John Anderson, Archibald Hunter, Peter Mills, and George Henderson, their clerk. The date of the document is 19th October, 1848, and is signed by Mr. Henderson, "your Grace's faithful and devoted servant." He acquainted His Grace—(1) That the streets in many places were very narrow and wretchedly paved, and susceptible of repair, alteration, and improvement. (2) That the town was most miserably supplied with water in consequence of the mineral workings drawing off the chief supply. Also that the inhabitants were unable to obtain anything like an adequate supply of fresh water for domestic purposes even by standing their turn for hours at the public wells of the town. This annoyance to the inhabitants was the source of many unseemly brawls and disputes. And the want of a copious water supply was clearly standing in the way of the improvement of the sanitary condition of the town. (3) That the authorities and people of the town were without any proper place in which to meet for the discussion and discharge of the town's business, nor was there a hall or public room in which a public meeting of the inhabitants could for any useful purpose be convened.

Coming to financial affairs, Mr. Henderson points out that the trustees were deeply in debt, the arrears of many years. They had not money to meet the ordinary expenditure required for the town and harbour. They had not the means to pave and improve the streets. They could not afford a better supply of water to the inhabitants, and they could not provide public buildings. In this dilemma they applied to His Grace for assistance. And they respectfully suggested that the case would be met by granting to the town at a merely nominal rent a lease of the Town's Customs and the building called the Town House (part of which is presently used as a county lock-up, a large portion still remaining unoccupied). This favour, he was sure, would go far to enable the trustees to execute the improvements so much required, and would confer a lasting benefit upon the inhabitants.

The Duke was good enough to comply, and he and his factor gave every assistance in connection with the endeavours of the trustees to increase the water supply.

In October, the following year, "the people of Borrowstoun and the inhabitants of Newtown" resented some operations connected with the cutting of deep drains at Borrowstoun, by which the trustees "had every prospect of materially increasing their water supply." They therefore wrote to Mr. Webster, the Duke's factor, to use his influence to stop this interference and to assure the people that the trustees had no intention whatever to deprive the Borrowstoun people of their supply of water. On the contrary, they wished to improve it both for them and the town of Bo'ness. For this purpose they proposed to considerably enlarge the fountain of St. John's Well, which was to be properly enclosed, and a pump put into it for the use of the inhabitants of Borrowstoun.


The last phase of the ever-recurring water question which comes within our notice here is by far the most important. From 1846 to 1852 the trustees were almost constantly engaged, sometimes unaided and sometimes with the assistance of experts, in visiting and reporting upon various suggested sources for a new and enlarged supply. They examined two springs in the neighbourhood of Inveravon, the first called Langlands and the second Cold Wells. Both were found highly satisfactory in quality and quantity. No heavy cuttings were required for •either. A spring on the lands of Balderstone was also visited, and found suitable in every way. In fact, the committee of inspection unanimously recommended the trustees "to turn their attention to this quarter, being so much nearer to the town, as well as to the pipes which bring the present supply." The method of bringing the water over the hill was by "the plan of a syphon." Mr. Wilson, of Kinneil Ironworks, was next approached for a supply of pit water from the Snab pit. He was quite agreeable to give this. The water was to be filtered, and a pond was to be constructed near the east side of that field above the distillery and south of Mr. Yannan's garden. In the midst of these inquiries the trustees received a letter from James Dunlop, Braehead, with " a short and simple" •suggestion. This was that the Dean or Gil Burn, where "a reservoir was formed by Nature capable of containing a quantity of water sufficient to supply in the most complete manner throughout the whole year the inhabitants of Bo'ness. It is -excellently suited either for culinary or cleansing purposes, and far superior for the latter purpose to your present supply from St. John's Well." He also pointed out that the quality of the water from the Snab pit was very hard, and very likely would soon become salt or brackish. His suggestion, he ventured to think, was a most useful one, and he hoped the trustees would take the trouble to examine the site. They did so, but considered the plan " quite ridiculous." A resolution was then made to adopt the Snab pit scheme, but it was negatived by a majority of one vote. Mr. Webster, the Duke's factor, took a great interest in the Cold Wells scheme, and obtained estimates for bringing that supply to the town. These amounted to £1000, but the scheme was abandoned as being far beyond the resources of the trustees even with the aid of a public subscription. The Snab pit water was once more pushed for a while, and Mr. Hall Blyth, C.E., Edinburgh, was engaged. After a time, however, the idea was finally abandoned. The engineer who at last relieved the minds of the trustees, after many visits and the preparation of many specifications, was Mr. William Gale, C.E., Glasgow. He was introduced to the trustees through Mr. Robert Steele, of the Bo'ness Foundry Company. Mr. Gale was stated to be eminently qualified for such an undertaking, and was more employed in bringing water into towns by gravitation than any other engineer in Scotland. The site ultimately fixed on was known as the Temple pit at Borrowstoun. Much interest was taken by the inhabitants in the selection of the site and mode of construction. A public meeting was held, and a special committee of the inhabitants, consisting of William Simpson, James Gray, and Robert Morris, kept in close touch with the movements of the trustees. They especially gave great assistance with the public subscription lists which were opened. These were "not confined to proprietors or any other class, but open to all holding property in or otherwise connected with the town, or having an interest in its welfare, whether residents or not." The resolution to proceed with the Temple pit reservoir was come to at a meeting of trustees held on 14th April, 1852. Those in office at the time appear to have been John Anderson, John Henderson, John Marshall, James Meikle, James Kirkwood, John Taylor, Peter Mills, Henry Rymer, James Jamieson, William Millar, Robert M'Nair, and William Donaldson. The contract was advertised, and fourteen tenders were received, mostly from Glasgow. The joint offer of Allan Henderson and George Gray was accepted at £158 4s. 2£d., being the lowest. Some of the offers were more than double that figure. The work was completed towards the end of the year. Mr. Alexander Gale was inspector, and in a long report made to the trustees in October we find this information: —"As now completed, the reservoir will contain 182'900 cubic feet, or 1,143,100 gallons. Taking the population of the town at 3000, this would keep up a supply of 5 gallons per day for seventy-six days, independent of any supply from St. John's Well or any casual shower that may fall during that time."


The establishment of the Kinneil furnaces by Mr. John Wilson, Dundy van, resulted in the Monkland Railway constructing a single line to Kinneil for goods traffic. It was opened on the 17th of March, 1851, by a trainload from Arden for the ironworks. And it is almost of romantic interest to know that the engine of that train was in charge of Mr. William Thomson, who afterwards became a successful merchant and Provost of the seaport. The extension of the railway to Bo'ness was the next 6tep, but it was a serious thing for the town in one sense, for it meant the probable destruction of the west beach and the Corbiehall foreshore. The trustees were fully alive both to the numerous advantages which the extension of the railway would give, and also to the curtailment of public rights which were involved. Their minutes at this period are full of many interesting items, and contain a lengthy correspondence with the railway company, the Admiralty, and others. A Mr. J. H. Goldsmith appears to have been the people's champion. His letters are dated from Bo'ness, and he writes as if he were a member of the legal profession. But who he was we have been quite unable to discover. On the 13th of January, 1851, he wrote the trustees pointing out " the great and manifest injury which the inhabitants would suffer at the hands of the Slamannan and Bo'ness railway now constructing." These evils, he stated, might have been avoided by compelling the company to carry their railway on arches to its terminus. The west beach and western foreshore were then, we believe, much lower than now, and at the time Mr. Goldsmith wrote it would seem that the railway could easily have been led in as he suggested, on a long viaduct, thus leaving free access to the shore as hitherto through its arches. What, he continues, the inhabitants required, and had a right to demand at the hands

James Watt and his Outhouse at Kinneil.
(From a photograph by David Grant, Bo'ness.)

of the trustees, was their ancient bleaching and bathing ground, and the " freest possible unimpeded ebb and flow of the tide." Should they be unfortunately deprived of these rights compensation by thousands, not hundreds, should be sought for by them and obtained. Was it too late, he asks, to repair past inactivity by immediately sending a deputation to London? He trusted that the ill-advised stipulation for the building of three bridges did not give the power to fill up and make land between the railway and the waggon way. If it did not do so they had a good case, and their present negotiations might be broken off. They thus would have a fair field to begin de novo.

It had been resolved by the trustees that their resolution asking for £1000 for servitude rights on the beach should first of all be sent to Mr. Thomas Stevenson,5 C.E., Edinburgh, to be reported by him to the Admiralty. This produced another letter of protest from Mr. Goldsmith on the 29th of January. At the end he begs to be excused for his hasty and rapidly digested remarks should they be deemed intrusive. The "remarks" consisted principally of the advice that caution was very necessary, and of a re-expression of his opinion that a deputation should be sent to London. The railway company, he says, had been there and told their tale. Why should the trustees not do so also? The telegraph, railway, writers, engineers, and London agents had been put in requisition against them. Why not go and do likewise? The battle was not to the strongest nor the race to the swiftest! "Remember," he concludes, "the fable of the bundle of sticks. United, like you, they were strong—disunited, easily broken and frail! "

By the 3rd of February an agreement had been entered into between the trustees and the railway company. This Mr. Goldsmith had perused, and on finding that it did not exclude the right of the inhabitants to negotiate for compensation for the loss of their beach servitude he once more took up his pen. This time he urged the calling together of the inhabitants. He says, " Had I seen the agreement sooner I should have advised this course. The agreement is bad law in many particulars." And with these words he disappears from the scene as suddenly and mysteriously as he had entered upon it.

Amongst the other correspondence we find the information that most of the young whales that were then caught in the Firth near Bo'ness were cut up on the beach west from the harbour, and thereafter carted along it to the whale-fishing company's boil house.


The following is a summary of a letter from the Admiralty to the trustees, dated 18th February, which explains the exact position of affairs. It was based upon the careful report of Mr. Stevenson, who on behalf of the Admiralty had inspected the ground and heard the views of parties. It may be mentioned that on that occasion the trustees took the opportunity of mentioning to him that the slag thrown out at Kinneil Ironworks into the Firth had done great injury to the beach, and insisted on his reporting this to the Admiralty:—The railway was to be carried on an embankment from the pier of Bo'ness harbour to the salt pond. This was a distance of 500 yards. Being generally about 100 feet seaward of high water mark the line would clearly be interposed between the shore and the sea. All access by the public to the shore for the purposes of walking, bathing, and drying clothes, and also for carts as hitherto, would thus be cut off. Beyond the site of the railway embankment the foreshore was flat and muddy, and there were one or more jetties there which would be cut off and rendered useless. It would be of little benefit to the inhabitants to have openings or archways under the railway, as immediately outside .of the embankment the foreshore was soft mud. The slip of land intervening between the railway and the embankment must be filled up, as otherwise it would become filthy and a nuisance to the town when no longer washed by the sea. Undoubtedly by the construction of the railway the public would be deprived of some advantages and of access to the sea heretofore enjoyed.

The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, says the writer in conclusion, could therefore only treat this case in the same manner as a number of others of a like character, namely, that at the embankment, and between the railway and the sea wall for retaining the same, there be laid out and for ever maintained by the company a public way or walk, not less than 300 yards in length and not less than 12 feet wide; that three level crossings, or timber footway crossings, over the railway, not less than 6 feet high, be provided to give the public access to the public way at specified sites; that three flights of steps leading from the public way to the foot of the sea wall of the embankment be provided; and that the necessary culverts or drains across the railway be put in to keep the town dry or clean as heretofore. The parties having landing jetties on the line of the shore to be cut off would require to have others erected outside of the sea face of the railway embankment by the company, with access thereto across the railway. And, lastly, the arch already made under the railway near the salt pond would fall to be maintained by the railway company, along with a proper road leading to the same—a clear headway of 7 feet to be allowed under the arch.

This then explains the origin of the promenade, which was shortly afterwards constructed on the lines just indicated. It existed for a long number of years, and, being the property of the townspeople, was well taken advantage of. The three level crossings were not a success, as they were frequently blocked by long trains of waggons when railway traffic at the harbour began to develop. Several accidents—some of them fatal— occurred, for which the railway company had to pay compensation. The inhabitants therefore were ultimately approached many years ago to sell their rights to the North British Railway Company. After long negotiations it was eventually arranged that in exchange for their rights and privileges they receive £150 per annum for all time. This was then believed to he an advantageous arrangement, and the annual income gradually accumulated and came to form what was known as the Promenade Fund or Common Good. However, in the many changes and re-arrangements made with the railway company in subsequent years, the annual payment seems to have become merged in something else, and the Promenade Fund long ago exhausted in public improvements.

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