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Borrowstounness and District
Chapter I. Introductory

1. Topography of district—2. The Roman Wall—3. The Bridgeness Tablet—4. Other traces of the Romans—5. The Seats of the Gentry, and Villages of Olden Days: Northbank and the Setons—6. Bonhard and the Cornwalls—7. Blackness and its Castle—8. State Prison and Covenanting Prisoners—9. Beginnings of Borrowstounness and early architecture—10. What contributed to its rise.


The seaport town of Borrowstounness is situated on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, eighteen miles west of Leith. Ecclesiastically the district surrounding it embraces the Parish of Carriden and the Parish of Borrowstounness. Civilly they are now united, and form the Parish of Bo'ness and Carriden. This consists of a strip of land running along the shore from Kinneil to Blackness to a length of six miles and a breadth of from two to three miles. It is bounded by the Forth on the north; by the Parish of Abercorn on the east; by the River Avon on the west; and by the Parish of Linlithgow on the south.

The ground rises in several banks or terraces from the waterside southwards. From the low level of the seaport the outlook, though pleasant, gives little opportunity for sight-seeing. On the high grounds behind, however, there is a complete change. Here the broad river, with its immense bay between Kinneil and Grangemouth, the wooded lands of the northern shores, Culross Abbey, the whole range of the

Ockils, the Wallace Monument at Stirling, Ben Lomond, the outlying spurs of the Grampians, and the Campsie Hills to the south-west make up an almost unrivalled prospect. On the Erngath Hills, two miles to the south of the town, the top of the rise is reached, and from here the prospect is even more extensive, as eastwards we now easily discern Dunfermline and the Forth Bridge, and on clear days Arthur's Seat and the Pentland Hills. Throughout the entire uplands of the parish the prospects to the north, east, and west are magnificent, and more than compensate for the necessarily dingy and grimy state of those parts of our neighbourhood that stretch along the shore. The course of the Forth from Alloa to Borrowstounness is decidedly southeasterly, and the large bay referred to gives the river a stately appearance when the tide is flowing. Opposite Carriden it again takes a south-easterly bend to the Forth Bridge. There is a natural charm about these large and graceful curves which adds greatly to the beauty of the general prospect.

The whole district is interesting from various points of view—geological and otherwise—but many of these are remote from our present purpose. Therefore, save for a necessary but brief notice of the Roman Wall and the Roman occupation, we wish in these pages to confine ourselves mainly to some historical sketches of the district and its inhabitants for three centuries only—from the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century.

Small as our area is, we could crave for no fairer and no more stimulating environment. In truth, the whole borderlands of our beautiful Firth, north and south, possess historical associations and romantic beauties of the most enlivening and entrancing kind.

The first picture, dim even as it is, which holds our historic sense is that of the Roman occupation of North Britain. The Romans left a much deeper impression in every way in England than in Scotland, yet the evidence of their presence here is still traceable. With little effort of the imagination we can yet see their galleys in the Firth and their legions on the shore. We can picture encampments all- along the line of the Forth and Clyde rampart. We can imagine the twenty years' reign of Lollius Urbicus, the governor whom the great Emperor Antoninus appointed to the command in Britain. We recall the courage and ability displayed by this distinguished officer in his attacks on the turbulent tribes of Caledonia; his efforts for maintaining peace and improving the country by the construction of various camps and fortalices, the ruins of which, here and there, may still be seen; the formation of roads and the introduction of useful arts. And we are impressed with the physical fitness and fearless courage of the Roman soldiery.

The facts which justify these observations are matters of common history, and require no detailed recapitulation here. We cannot well omit, however, to summarise what has from time to time been discovered locally concerning the Wall, or Vallum, and other Roman antiquities.


Antiquarian research has long ago indicated, and. it is apparently now generally accepted, that when Agricola invaded Scotland (about 80 a.d.) and erected his line of forts between the Forth and Clyde, there was one placed on the high ground at Kinneil, possibly either on the site now occupied by the •old church and graveyard or on that of the present mansion-house. This is most likely, as either of these positions would command an extensive view of the Firth, and would prove an excellent situation for a watch-tower. When these forts were •connected later (about 140 a.d.) by the Wall of Lollius Urbicus, commonly known as Antonine's Wall, and Grim's or Graham's Dyke, research has again yielded indications that the seventeenth military station was at Inveravon, the eighteenth at Kinneil, and the nineteenth at Bridgeness. The rampart between the Forth and Clyde crossed the River Avon near Inveravon and proceeded in an easterly direction towards Bridgeness or Carriden. Its track has been denoted by Sibbald on the map in his work, and also on the maps of the Ordnance Surveyors, and is still visible, in places, to the eye of the antiquarian, chiefly west of Kinneil House.

About forty miles in length, the Vallum was built of sods and earth upon a foundation of stone, and its estimated height of twenty feet rested on a base twenty-four feet thick. Along its northern front ran a V-shaped ditch or moat, twenty feet deep by forty feet wide, the sloping sides of which, like those of a large reservoir, thus rendered it almost impassable. While the building plan, so to speak, of this great fortification was simple enough, we cannot but admire the cleverness and security of the whole construction. When we remember, moreover, that 50,000 men were required to garrison it, we begin to form some idea of the life and activity that must have been visible between the Forth and Clyde in those early days.

The Vallum was defended by nineteen forts placed at intervals along the line, and a military road ran within it as a necessary appendage, affording a ready communication between the forts.

Such, we are told, has been the solidity of the construction of the wall that notwithstanding the perishable nature of the materials used, the mound can still be traced after the lapse of seventeen centuries; and inscribed stones have been from time to time discovered in various parts of the line recording that the second legion and detachments from the sixth and twentieth legions, with some auxiliaries, were employed upon the works.

There have been many useful collections of facts and also many theorisings about it, locally and elsewhere, for many long years. The local narratives in the old and new Statistical Accounts are interesting and learned, particularly that of the Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie. Later, Mr. Waldie walked along the wall, and eventually wrote entertainingly and intelligently on it.2 And now Dr. Macdonald,3 with the comparatively recent discoveries of the Glasgow Archaeological Society and others before him, has skilfully surveyed the whole body of evidence relating to the subject. The impression which a first perusal of his work gives is that had it been possible to do some of the same spadework in this district as has been done at Castlecary and Roughcastle, there would have been more to describe. On second thoughts, however, we doubt after all if spadework here would yield very much, except perhaps at Inveravon. Assuming that the rampart was quite complete between Inveravon and Bridgeness, and further, that its base between these two points was a stone one of considerable width, what more likely than that during the intervening centuries these stones were mostly removed and used in the construction and reconstruction of Kinneil House and other smaller manor-houses hereabouts. If such was the case, spadework would reveal little or nothing about the rampart. As things are then, Dr. Macdonald has left us very much as we were, save for the observations which lie quotes from Mr. A. S. R. Learmonth, who was some time tenant of the farm of Nether-Kinneil. The latter, in 1861, when ploughing in the field known as the Easter Wellacres, came upon a causeway of rough stones, varying in size from one to two feet, the larger stones being on the north or lower side, and the smaller ones on the south side. It was covered with eight or ten inches of soil. The stones were removed because they were liable to break the agricultural implements. Mr. Learmonth also mentioned that his uncles, who preceded him in the farm, had removed many other parts of the causeway in that same field, and in two other fields to the west. When he came across the stone causeway, which was eighteen feet broad, he thought it was the Roman Road, or Military Way. Dr. Macdonald, however, thinks that Mr. Learmonth's description is much more applicable to the stone foundation of the rampart. Attention is also called to a slight hollow in the field at the end of the road from Nether Kinneil, known as the-Walk, or Summer-house Park, which is supposed to mark the line of the Roman Ditch. When Mr. Learmonth first observed it, this ditch had a depth of six or eight feet, but the hollow had been filled up for the purposes of ploughing and carting.

The ditch, not being so easily removed or effaced as the base of the rampart, a critical examination might reveal more of it than has yet been observed. Of course, the ground, like the ridge to the north of Riverview Terrace, by its natural formation would, in some cases, aid very practically in acting-as a barrier, but in other places it had to be extensively cut. This may be seen to the eastward of the enclosures of Kinneil. It is said that the wall could be seen at one time in a field immediately above old Grange House.


We need not here discuss the divergent views which at onetime existed concerning the eastern termination of the Wall. Probably the reason for many of these was that it was constructed somewhat gradually, and additional forts or tower® came to be erected as it progressed eastwards. That it was not erected in sections running from each end appears to be generally conceded. For a time the termination might thus have been at Kinneil, and later at Bridgeness. That the-Vallum went further than the latter place is not likely, although it is very probable that the military way was. continued eastwards, by the ridge on which Carriden House-now stands, to Cramond and Edinburgh, and ultimately joined Watling Street.

What seemed to settle the eastern termination of the-Wall was the finding at Bridgeness, in 1868, on the little rocky promontory close to the shore, what Dr. Macdonald describes as the largest and finest of the legionary tablets. The tablet was presented by Mr. Henry Cadell, of Grange, to the National Museum of the Antiquaries of Scotland,

Edinburgh. It is nine feet two inches long by three feet eleven inches high, and is elaborately decorated. These tablets", a number of which are preserved in Glasgow Museum, seem to have been put up in pairs, one at each end of an assigned piece of work; and the opinion has been expressed that some day the companion tablet to the Bridgeness one may be turned up at Inveravon, unless destroyed long ago.

The rectangular beaded moulding in the centre contains a Latin inscription, well spaced and finely cut, which reads as follows: —

Imp. Cses. Tito. iElio Hadri. Antonino AVG. Pio P.P. Leg. II.


Extended this reads—"Imperatori Csesari Tito Ælio Hadriano Antonino Augusto, Pio Patriae, Legio II. Augusta, Per Milia Passuum IIIIDCLII. Fecit." And translated—" To the Emperor Csesar Titus iElius Hadrian Antoninus, Augustus, Pious Father of his country, the Second Legion (the Augustan) made [the Vallum] for 4652 passus."

The tablet clearly belongs to the Wall of 139. The Roman pace of two steps was about five feet (4484), so that the whole of this portion was four miles four hundred and sixty-five yards, the distance to the Avon.

Left and right, within a framework of pillars, are two finely-carved illustrations. The left one depicts a horseman, armed and helmeted, galloping; he carries a shield on -his arm, and with spear held in position thrusts downwards at four naked Caledonians; one of the Caledonians is already decapitated, but has been armed with a spear and an oblong shield; another, who is just falling dead, has an oblong shield in his hand, while a sword lies at his side; the remaining two are defenceless. The illustration on the right hand contains a number of figures and depicts the important sacrifice of the Suovetaurilia, or ceremony of purification, with which the Romans were wont to initiate battles and other great national undertakings. In the under part of the panel is an altar, and beside it the three animals to be sacrificed— a boar or swine (sus), a sheep (ovis), and a bull (taurus), from which the name is derived. Some antiquarians, in view of this illustration, hold that the Wall really began, in place of terminating, at Bridgeness; but it is hopeless to discuss such arguments.

A facsimile of the inscription has been set up at Bridgeness in a framework of stones found on the spot.

Dr. Macdonald mentions that when found the tablet was lying with its face down, in a sloping direction, and, like all the others regarding which there was detailed information, it had the appearance of being deliberately hidden. Those who were supporters of the contention that the eastern termination of the Wall was at Camden were inclined to assert that the stone had been removed from its original position for the purpose of concealment either by the Romans themselves on being finally recalled to Rome, or by the Caledonians, who were left in unmolested possession, and who would not particularly relish the memorial which their conquerors had left behind. But, as Dr. Macdonald says, it is not easy to believe that either Roman or Caledonian would have been at the pains to transport so huge a block for more than half a mile before disposing of it.


The district has shown other evidences of the Roman occupation besides the ditch, rampart, and tablet, and to these we turn for a moment.

Near the farm steading of Upper Kinneil, and a little to the south of the Wall, there was—as will be seen from the map—a small tumulus or cairn, locally known by the name of the Laughing Hill. On its being opened to obtain stones for drains, four stone coffins and four urns were found. The coffins contained black mould, and the urns, which were full of human bones, were inverted and placed upon flat stones. Probably the bodies were burned, and after the calcined bones were collected and put into the urns the remaining ashes were put into the coffins. The bones, when first discovered, were almost white; when exposed to the air they very soon became black and crumbled to dust. Several pieces of charcoal were among them.

A stone coffin and an urn similar to those already mentioned were unearthed in the north side of the eminence called Bell's Knowe, immediately above the town of Bo'ness; also a curious battleaxe, coins, and other antiquities in different parts of the parish.

A gold coin, of the reign of Vespasian, was found upon the site of Carriden House, near which a Roman station was thought to have been situated. Miln, one of the owners of Carriden, .Sibbald says, when adding a wing or "jamb" to the house, came on a stone with the head of an eagle engraven upon it, which he placed in the wall. He also got some Roman "potterie" there.

To the south of the farmhouse of Walton there is a flat-topped hillock, now used as a stackyard. Here, in the course of some excavations twenty years ago, a number of coffins, constructed of shale and stone slabs and containing human remains, were discovered. Locally these were pronounced to be Roman, but we have the authority of Dr. Joseph Anderson, of the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, for saying that the place appears to have been a small cemetery of native origin, and to have had no connection with any Roman remains in the neighbouihood. The find revived in some minds an old contention that the Roman Wall ended here, and not at Bridgeness. Other and stronger evidence, as we have seen, made the contention a weak one, and it made no headway. The name of the farm, too, was said to connect it definitely with "the Wall" ; but, again, it was shown that it was far more likely that the name was derived from a "well" or spring in the vicinity. In some maps it is certainly marked "Roman Camp or Station." We must not forget, in considering this matter, that the road which comes east from Upper Kinneil and Rousland and over the Erngath Hills by the golf course and Bonsyde was one of the old Roman roads, though not the Military Way. It may not have run direct from Bonsyde to the Walton, but traces of it have been found about the Boroughmuir and also at Grougfoot, near the Walton.

High on the roadside, a hundred yards or so west of the present farmhouse of Inveravon, stand the ruins of an old tower. Sibbald and some others somewhat hastily pronounced it a Roman watch-tower, but calmer judgments declared it to be one of the corner towers of the Castle of Inveravon built on the site of the Roman station. As bearing out the fact that there was such a castle reference is made to the Auchinleck Chronicle of James II., where it is mentioned that in the beginning of March, 1455, James " kest-down the Castell of Inneraryne and syne incontinent passed till Glasgow."

The plateau at Inveravon, on which, first of all, the old Roman station and then the castle of the Douglases were situated, is in a very conspicuous place. Doubtless both the station and the castle were fairly extensive, and were the plateau properly explored with pick and shovel antiquarians might be rewarded with discoveries. Dr. Rennie5 notes that in a window of the adjacent farmhouse were several hieroglyphic characters which, although much venerated for their antiquity, were not understood.


Sibbald, writing of our district, remarks that in the seventeenth century this part of the coast had increased much in people. From the Palace of Kinneil for some two miles there were almost continuous buildings upon the coast. Above it, upon the sloping ground from the hills of Irongath (or Erngath), there were several seats of the gentry and several villages well peopled because of the coal pits all over that ground.

The villages referred to would include Borrowstoun, where, besides colliers, there were maltsters and weavers; the Muirhouse, corrupted to Muirhouses and Murrayes in Carriden Parish; Little Carriden, east of this and on the south side of the old burial road; and Bonhard, on the high ground in the vicinity of the old castle or keep of that name. Then, on the shore, there were Thirlestane, Grangepans, Cowdenhill, Bridgeness, and Cuffabouts.

The land in those days was broken up into several small estates, and Sibbald's "seats of the gentry" probably included that old mansion-house and garden near Borrowstoun Farm, now the property of the Laird of Grange; the house and garden of North Kinglass, or Little Kinglass, at one time the home of the Hamiltons of Kinglass; Gauze House, or Gawes, likewise a Hamiltonian domicile; and on a ridge of high land above Bridgeness, Old Grange, recently demolished; and further west Carriden House. In the valley east of Bonhard lay the Walton, then a separate estate, and the seat of Sir Colin Campbell; and further east the small property of Dyland.

On the hill, a mile from the sea, were the mansions of Northbank and Bonhard, the homes of the Setons and the Corn walls respectively.

The old house of Northbank, now a farm shed, was long one of the domiciles of Sir Walter Seton of Abercorn, Northbank, and Carriden, eldest son of Alexander Seton of Graden.6 He was a brother of the Rev. Alexander Seton, some time Episcopal incumbent in St. Michael's, Linlithgow, whose ministry was marred with almost continual strife with the Town Council. It is said that Mr. Seton was appointed to Linlithgow by the Bishop of St. Andrews, probably through the influence of Sir Walter. At any rate, when his minister brother became involved with the Linlithgow magistrates, he is said to have done all he could, by conference with the parties and otherwise, to compose their differences. The breach, however, widened, ending, unfortunately, in the deposition of Mr. Seton in 1690.

Sir Walter was heritable Sheriff of Linlithgowshire, as Laird of Abercorn. He also held the office of Taxmaster of the Customs in the reign of Charles Second, by whom he was created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Royal patent in 1663, under the designation of Abercorn, the designation being to him and his heirs male whatsoever. He appears afterwards to have been designed by the title of Northbank.

His official position as "Fermorer" (farmer) of the Customs, seems to have been the subject of serious contention, but of what nature we do not know. His name often appears, as we shall see, in the Privy Council orders dealing with the plague, and no doubt the instructions there given him were given because of his official position. His wife was a Christian Dunbar, and they had three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Walter, second baronet, became an advocate and commissary clerk of Edinburgh; the second, Alexander, was the ancestor of the Setons of Preston and Ekolsund; the third, George, factor to the Earl of Winton, died unmarried. One of the daughters, Grisel, was married to Edward Hodge, designed as a shipmaster in Grangepans, by whom she had a son and two daughters.

Walter, the second baronet, died on 3rd January, 1708, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Henry. Northbank is now part of Kinneil estate.


West of Northbank is Bonhard Castle. This old mansion stands on an excellent site which, in addition to affording some fine prospects to the north over the Firth," looks down on the fertile valley of the Binns and Philpstoun. It has been wonderfully preserved. Although no longer one of the seats of the gentry, it is still inhabited, having been divided into six dwelling-houses. It is a fine old place yet, with its entrance drive, ancient dovecot, and walled garden. One authority7 tells

Bonhard Castle. (From a photograph by Eric Jamieson, Bo'ness.)

us that, notwithstanding the old-world air about the house, it is quite modern in its arrangements, and retains none of the defensive features which frequently prevailed in Scotland till a late period. Its walls are about three feet thick, and the rooms are provided with fairly large windows. The present entrance door in the south front is an old window opened out to form a door. Of the L plan, the house has an octagonal staircase turret in the re-entering angle, in which also is the original entrance. The place is well worth a visit, and inside there are some finely panelled ceilings and ornamental fireplaces still to be seen.

Concerning the old dovecot, there is to be found on its west gable, says the same authority, all the lettered and heraldic history to be found at Bonhard of the Cornwall family. Not much can be made out at first sight, but on a careful examination the Cornwall arms impaled with the arms of a branch of the Seton family can be satisfactorily traced, above which is the motto, "We Beig, Ze. Se. Yarle " (We build, ye see, warily), with the date 1591 and the initials N. C. & M. S. The N. C. has been identified as the initials of Nicholas Cornwall, and the M. S. represent those of his third wife, who was a Marie Seton. Nicholas, who for a period occupied the position of Provost of Linlithgow, died in 1607, aged seventy years.

Peter Cornwall, the father of Nicholas, built a town-house in Linlithgow in 1527, and was the first to assume the abore arms. The house was demolished in 1870, and among the stones taken from it was one containing the date, the motto of the Cornwalls, and a matrix for a metal plate. The plate containing the arms crumbled away on being touched. Waldie8mentions that it bore the device of a bird, with a stalk of corn in its mouth, standing on the top of a wall. John, the hero of the family, fell at Flodden. He was one of six who were dressed up in the same style as the king, to whom he bore a great resemblance.

The Cornwalls owned the lands of Flask, now Springfield, and a large portion of Bonnytoun, and were closely connected, civilly and ecclesiastically, with the royal and ancient burgh. As Dr. Ferguson9 puts it, a Cornwall was Provost of Linlithgow, a Cornwall was one of the chantry-priests in St. Michael's before the Reformation, and two Cornwalls are found among her Protestant ministers.

The ministers were Robert Cornwall and his son John Cornwall, who died in 1646, after a service of twenty years in St. Michael's. Robert had another son, who was minister of Muiravonside.

But the family was also intimately associated with our own town and seaport. There was a "Walter Cornwall of Bonhard, who, in December, 1639, compeared before the Town Council of Linlithgow, along with Mr. Richard Dickson, minister of Kinneil, as a deputation from the Presbytery concerning a matter in which the Rev. John Cornwall was involved. Then, in 1679, we find a James Cornwall of Bonhard appointed as one of the special commission to try six persons in Bo'ness for witchcraft. Again, a Walter Cornwall of Bonhard was appointed bailie of the regality of Borrowstounness about the year 1692. With Thomas Cornwall, his son, it would seem that the connection of the family with the district ceased, and the house and lands, along with those of Northbank, were acquired by James fourth Duke of Hamilton in 1742.


On the shore at the eastern end of the parish stands sentinel-like the old fortress of Blackness. Situated on a rocky promontory, it projects into the Forth, and seawards represents the hull of a ship. The chief part of the building is a strong oblong tower or keep with a circular staircase tower at the north-east angle. This staircase was probably added at a date subsequent to the erection of the keep. The keep is still preserved, although much altered, and stands detached, with a considerable space of ground, surrounded with a strong wall. A large part of the wall still remains, and has a thick parapet with large portholes or embrasures for cannon cut through it similar to those at Stirling. The other buildings comprise a combination of old and new structures, and a sketch in the Royal Scottish Academy shows the landward or south front, the interior of which is seen as it now stands. The exterior has been deprived of its parapet, and the walls are heightened and covered with a plain roof.10 In short, save for its ramparts and dungeons, the castle as we see it is comparatively modern.

The powerful Douglases, who seriously menaced the power of the King in the reign of James II., held the Castles of Inveravon, Blackness, and Abercorn. But in one of the subsequent raids on the Douglas lands Blackness Castle was destroyed. It remained for a time ruinous, and by special charter in 1465 the Burgh of Linlithgow—of which town in its palmy days Blackness was the seaport— received power to demolish the ruin and utilise the stones for the purpose of constructing a new port or pier at Blackness. The hill and rock from St. Ninian's Chapel to the sea, all round the promontory, were to belong in future to the burgh. The principal reason for this grant, Waldie says, was the " vexations, troubles, harassments, and extortions" formerly practised by those who held the castle upon the merchants of the burgh and others frequenting the port. It is almost certain, however, that the burgh never entered into possession under this charter. Besides, the grant was recalled by an Act of 1476 revoking all grants made in the minority of James III., and especially of such places as were considered to be " keys of the kingdom." The foundations of St. Ninian's Chapel are still traceable on the top of the Castlehill.

An English fleet, in 1481, is said to have burnt the shipping at Blackness, then a considerable seaport. The castle, some think, was destroyed at this time also; but, if so, it must have been quickly rebuilt, for in 1489 it was in use as a State prison. Nearly sixty years after this—1548—during the Regency of the Earl of Arran, it was for a time garrisoned by the French. When the Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, was made Regent the castle again came into possession of the French, but in April, 1566, it was taken from them by the Sheriff of Linlithgow. In February, 1571, it was manned with a garrison by Lord Claud Hamilton, a zealous partisan of Queen Mary; and it appears to have been held in her interest until February, 1573, when it was delivered up to the Regent, the Earl of Morton. During their occupancy the Queen's troops, it is said, made an inroad upon the opposite coast, when they "spoulzeit" the towns there, and returned to Blackness with considerable booty. On two occasions during the same period an attack was made upon the castle by the Queen's enemies within the realm. And we also find at this time that a ship of war, well furnished with artillery, was sent from Leith to "asseige" the castle, but was driven from the station where she had cast anchor by the violence of the weather. Once more an attempt was shortly thereafter made to carry the place by surprise. It failed, however, as the garrison was on the alert.

A rather tragic story of the castle is told in connection with the betrayal of Sir James Kirkaldy by his wife to the Regent Morton. Sir James, on arrival from France with the arrears of the Queen's dowry, had been made prisoner by the keeper of the castle, who, in his absence and unknown to him, had gone over to the other side. While in prison Kirkaldy managed to gain over the men, and keep the castle. His wife came to visit him, and he was induced to accompany her for a short way when leaving. He was then seized by the keeper of Linlithgow Palace, who was waiting for him in hiding, and sent next day to Edinburgh. Shortly after this he made his escape, and eight days later his wife was found lying strangled in her bedroom. Kirkaldy was executed the same year.


But in contemplating the long history of the castle—its many destructions and its many rebuildings, its many owners and its many uses—the most vital memories circle round the great; and successful struggle of our forefathers for the-principles of civil and religious liberty. In the reign of James VI. it was the principal State prison of Scotland. A& such its dungeons confined many a godly minister and many distinguished persons who were martyrs for the truth. In 1584 Andrew Melville was ordered to be " warded " here. He-had disputed the authority of the King and his Council to-interfere with the doctrines taught in a sermon he had delivered at St. Andrews. After the warrant was served on him, however, he escaped to Berwick.

During the same year the clergy in and near Edinburgh were apprised that measures prejudicial to " the Kirk and its-discipline " were to be resolved on at a meeting of Parliament appointed to be held in May. They prevailed upon David Lindsay, minister at Leith, who was most acceptable to the Court, to intercede with the King for the interposition of his authority till the Assembly should be heard'in the matter. When entering the gate of the palace, in discharge of his-commission, however, he was apprehended and carried to Blackness. There also the ministers of Edinburgh were condemned to a temporary confinement in 1587 for refusing to pray for Queen Mary.

In 1594 the Earl of Angus, one of the excommunicated, lords, was required to deliver himself up to custody in Blackness-till he should undergo a trial; but, refusing, was subsequently with the others found guilty of high treason.

From August, 1605, till towards the close of the following-year John Welsh, minister of Ayr, who had married John Knox's daughter Elizabeth, and five other clergymen, were-confined in the castle for refusing to condemn the Assembly that had met a short time before at Aberdeen in defiance-of the King's command. Their trial took place at Linlithgow, where the High Court of Justiciary had been temporarily-established, away from the risings and troubles which such an occasion was sure at that time to cause among the populace-of Edinburgh. After a notoriously unfair trial the ministers.

b were found guilty by the Court, and ' banished the King's dominions upon the pain of death," but were re-committed to Blackness, for a time at least. Welsh was courageously defended by Thomas Hope, afterwards the celebrated Sir Thomas, who, in great contrast to his contemporaries at the bar, was no truckler to the King. Welsh is said to have thanked him in Court for his exertions, remarking that he felt assured that Hope's posterity would rise to the highest honours. The various descendants of Sir Thomas Hope have long been large landowners in the county, and many of them have held important positions in the service of the State.

About the same time a State prisoner of a different description was lodged here for a few days pending his transference to Edinburgh Castle. This was Gilbert Brown, Abbot of New Abbey, described as " a trafficking and seducing Papist."

In 1624 William Rigg, one of the bailies of Edinburgh, was deprived of his office of magistrate, condemned to be imprisoned in Blackness Castle, and fined £50,000 Scots, for challenging the doctrine taught by the Episcopal clergy. He was charged with being the chief ringleader of the non-conformitants in Edinburgh, and with contributing liberally to the printing of books which crossed the course of "conformitie."

John Hamilton, second Lord Barganv, and at that time possessor of Carriden estate, was also a prisoner there in 1679. His offence was that of entertaining notorious rebels in his house and declaring that Scotland would never be well till it was clear of Episcopacy. His trial, however, was never brought on for want of evidence. Another sufferer was John Hay of Lochloy, who was in 1683 committed prisoner for the space of thirteen months, "pairtly in the tolbuith of Edinburgh and pairtly in the Castle of Blackness." His offence was hearing the nonconforming ministers.

Waldie relates that, after his victory at Dunbar, Cromwell, on his advance towards Stirling, made some fortifications at the palace at Linlithgow, and that Blackness Castle surrendered after a short siege in April, 1651. Lord Ochiltree, found guilty of accusing the Duke of Hamilton of treason, lay a prisoner there from 1631, and was one of those released by Cromwell's Government after the battle of Worcester. The cell in which he was so long imprisoned can still be seen. Waldie further states that, according to one record, the castle was "blowne up with a powder traine" on 3rd April, 1652; and he remarks that at its upblowing the devil was seen on its walls. Very congenial to the devil of popular estimation was this kind of work.

Before this time, however, Blackness had become a busy seaport and mart of, trade, intimately connected with the county town. It had a large Custom-house, was the centre of a considerable population, and had in its neighbourhood mills, fisheries, coal works, and saltpans. But its seaport and industries have long since ceased to be, and the place is now a modest yet popular summer resort. The castle is in use as a Government military store, under the charge of a military guard from Edinburgh Castle.


What really led to the decay of Blackness in the seventeenth century was the sudden rise of Borrowstounness, "the town on the Ness," as it was called in its early days to distinguish it from the original "town" of the district, the village of Kinneil. We often hear Bo'ness described as "our ancient town," but this is not correct, for, despite its ancient-like appearance in places, it is far from being old, comparatively speaking. In fact, so far as the records show, it cannot be more than three hundred and fifty years old. We begin to trace mention of it about the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. Sibbald, speaking of its sudden rise, tells us of Sir Robert Drummond of Meidhope (Midhope, near Hopetoun), an old laird who lived till after the Restoration (1660). This gentleman, in his old age, was in the habit of telling several of his neighbours that he well remembered the time when there was only one house where Borrowstounness and Camden then stood. But whose house it was, or where it was situated, we are afraid cannot be discovered now.

By oral tradition we have it that the first settlers were fishers, sailors, and miners. Narrow as the space of flat land along the shore now is, it must have been much narrower in those early days, as the foreshore then lay along the north side of the present North Street. The small building-space thus available on the low or shore ground would account for the irregularity of the early buildings. Houses and huts were evidently put up wherever a spot of ground could be conveniently got. Some of us can remember that many of the old houses, not so long ago demolished, were under the level of the street. This would come about when the shore-ground to the north of them was reclaimed and made up, very likely to a considerable height, above the original level of the ground on the shore border, where the first houses were erected and a street was formed. A jocular reason used to be given for the houses being below the street level. The sailors were so much accustomed going below to their cabins that they preferred to get to their houses by a similar process, and built them accordingly. One candid writer has told us, and truly, that the town is very irregularly built, contrasting unfavourably with the beauty of the situation. In modern descriptions of it we are usually informed that it contains two principal streets, which are narrow, running from west to east for a considerable distance, and converging in one. An early record describes it as a long town consisting only of one street, extending along the shore close to the water, and we have no doubt this accurately described the town in its early years.

It is said to have derived its name from the old village of Borrowstoun, situated on the high ground about a mile to the south on the turnpike road to Linlithgow, and still in existence. Borrowstoun, again, is thought to have meant the town of the borough as being in the vicinity of Linlithgow, the county town. Ness, of course, signifies a naze or point of land projecting into the sea, and, if we look at the configuration of the coast, the projecting naze is yet quite discernible.

The early settlers, as we have indicated, seem to have had little idea of architectural beauty or arrangement, and huddled the houses together. In many cases encroachments in the shape of outside stairs and porches were made on the thoroughfares, thereby making it a very difficult and costly task to accomplish the improvements which had to be undertaken by the Local Authority from time to time in later years. Many of the houses were built gable-on to the sea, a practice common in most seaport towns, and several typical instances of this are yet to be seen both in Borrowstounness and Grangepans.


Mr. Johnston, writing of the "auld-warld " look of the town, suggests that a painter with an eye and a taste for the antique in urban architecture might do worse than try his brush in this quarter. Here he would find some streets narrow enough and tortuous enough and erratic enough to be at once accepted as fit for reproduction on his canvas. He would here discover no lack of strange nooks and corners, and see houses in plenty that have all the quaint characteristics so beloved of artists. This was said in 1890; and before the wholesale demolitions which took place in 1902 in the heart of the town, it is gratifying to know that several artists made numerous water-colour and other sketches of the neighbourhood, and especially of its older quarters. These therefore will long preserve for many of us and our successors the quaint and "auld-warld" features of the seaport.

To what individuals or influences, local or external, Borrowstounness owed its somewhat sudden start in life it is difficult to say. It is not likely that the Forth herring fishing, which at a later date was very successful for a time, was one of these. Nor do we think the quest for whales had then become a craze with the inhabitants. What seems more likely to have contributed to its rise was the presence in the neighbourhood of the shore of an abundance of coal. Coal had been discovered in the district some centuries before, but it is evident that about the time we are writing of it was being wrought, not, perhaps, at a great depth, but still fairly extensively, by the Hamilton family or their lessees, in what was known as the coal-heugh of Borrowstounness.

The young town had the advantage of a natural harbour or creek, which was situated practically in the vicinity of the present harbour. There was then neither west nor east pier. Vessels were simply loaded and unloaded at low water by means of a causeway run out into the mud, the remains of which were discovered when enlargements and improvements at the harbour were being made long years after. Coal and salt were among early exports, chiefly to Holland and the Baltic. When the Union of the Crowns took place, in 1603, a great impetus was given to the commerce of the country, on the east coast, at any rate, and the infant port evidently shared in it. This prosperous trade induced a number of rich merchants from the west country, shipowners and others, who saw possibilities of great developments in the place, to acquire property or to reside here. The town and population therefore rapidly increased. These were the days, of course, when Glasgow and the Clyde had not yet indicated anything of their coming commercial magnitude, and when a Glasgow Customs officer was appointed to Bo'ness "on promotion."

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