The village of Tullibody
stands on rising ground situated between the windings of the Forth and the
Devon, in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, the Devon takes its rise among the
burns and rivulets which flow down from the Ochil Hills.
At the upper part of the river, stands some of the most romantic scenery in
Scotland is to be, found. At the Caldron Linn the, Devon forms a series of
cascades, which rush down through precipus rocks into almost unseen depths.
Boiling about down Caldrons, it passes with a violent noise under the
Rumblin’ Brig, which spans the rocks about a hundred and twenty feet above
the bed of the river.
Another affluent of the Devon comes down from the Ochils at Castle
Campbell—Castle of Gloom, as it used to be called—a ruined building
occupying a wild and romantic situation on the summit of a high and almost
insulated rock. The mount on which it is situated is nearly encompassed on
all sides by thick bosky woods; and the mountain rivulets which tumble down
through the chasms on either side, become united at the base. The whole of
the scenes about the upper Devon are of the most romantic kind, and are
strikingly different from all other Scottish scenery.
As the river winds out from its rocky bed below the Caldron Linn, it enters
the beautiful open valley which runs along the foot of the Ochils, taking on
its way the rivulets which flow down from the mountains. It runs westward
near Dollar, Tillicoultry, Alva, and Menstrie; then, winding sharp round
towards the south near Tullibody, it joins the Forth .at Cambus a little
below the ruins of Cambuskemmeth Abbey.
Among his many beautiful verses descriptive of the rivers of Scotland, Burns
has not forgotten the Devon :—
"How pleasant .the banks of
the clear winding Devon,
With green spreading bushes and flowers blooming fair!”
The verses were composed as a
poetic compliment to Miss Charlotte Haminton, a charming lady, then residing
at Harvieston, near Dollar.
The lofty range of the Ochils is a prominent feature in the scenery of the
Devon. The hills are soft, green, and pastoral. Their sunward slopes are
here and there varied with magnificent wooded glades, intermingled with
copse and whins, which in their golden summer yellow are supremely
beautiful. The burns and streamlets come down in cascades through the deep
rifts of the hills, and are turned to use in many mills along the valley.
The glens and wooded copses
behind it are full of beauty. The old ballad nevertheless assumes the
supremacy of Menstrie, near the foot of Dunmyat:—
“Oh, Alva’s woods are bonnie,
Tillicoultry’s hills are fair,
But when I think o’ the bonnie braes o’ Menstrie,
It makes my heart aye sair.”
The village of Tullibody
looks down upon the “bonnie braes o’ Menstrie.” A valley lies between, along
which runs the clear winding Devon. A bridge spans the river near Tullibody,
from which a fine view is obtained of the winding Devon, the hill of
Bencleuch, and the village and woods of Alva at its base. In this
neighbourhood the famous adventure of James the Fifth and the Gudeman of
Ballangeich occurred. On the Gudeman’s visit to Stirling, the King
designated him as “King of the Muirs.” The cottage in which King James took
shelter lay on an eminence near Tullibody, about a mile south of the Ochils.
Tullibody seems in some way to have been connected with that mythical people
the Picts. Who were the Picts or Pechs? Many have tried to unravel the
story, but the result has been mere guesswork. Some say that they occupied
the Orkneys, Caithness, and Sutherland; others that they inhabited
Mid-Scotland, between the West Highlands and the Lowlands north of the
Forth. We hear of them at Brechin, at Galloway, and along the Picts’ Wall.
Some say they were Celts, others Scandinavians. The riddle is as yet quite
The story goes that the Picts were totally defeated by King Kenneth in the
neighbourhood of Tullibody, or Dunbodenum3 in the year 843, after five
successive battles. It is said that the final overthrow of the Piets took
place near the village of Logie, close under Dunmyat; and others that it
took place at Cambuskenneth Abbey, which “ was built by David the Second on
the very spot where his royal ancestor gave the final blow to the Pictish
In commemoration of the event it is said that a “Standing Stane” was first
erected at Tullibody,—a usual method of distinguishing the site of a battle
in ancient times. The “Standing Stane” was, however, demolished about fifty
years ago, the broken fragments being found useful in mending the roads.
The Abbot of Cambuskenneth took Tullibody under his charge, whether in
connection with the victory of Kenneth Macalpine over the Picts, or because
the place was in his immediate vicinity, does not appear. At all events, a
primitive place of worship was erected at Tullibody, which long continued to
be an appendage to the wealthy Abbey of Cambuskenneth.
At the period of the Reformation in Scotland, when the French troops under
Mary of Guise were flying westward through Fife and Clackmannan on the
arrival of the English fleet in the Forth, William Kirkaldy of Grange, to
impede their progress, destroyed the eastern arch of Tullibody bridge.
The French, under General D’Oysel, never at a loss in an emergency, unroofed
the church at Tullibody for the purpose of repairing the bridge. To use the
words of John Knox:—“Ye French, expert enough in sic feats, tuke downe ye
roofe of a paroch kirk, and made ane brig over ye water called Devon, and
sae they escapet and gaed to Stirling, and thereafter to Death.”
For a long time nothing was done to repair the church, after the French had
unroofed it. The ancient walls fell to decay, and became covered with wild
weeds. The body of the church was used as a burial-place. The place might
have gone to utter ruin but for the Aber-cromby family, who own the estate
of Tullibody. They roofed over the church, and seated it as a place of
worship. They erected some fine monuments and memorials in and about it to
the memory of the distinguished men of the family. Among them is a cenotaph
to the distinguished Sir Ealph Abercromby, the hero of Aboukir.
Having thus described the scenery of the Ochils and the Devon, amongst which
Robert Dick spent many of his early days, we proceed to relate the story of