Second (New) Statistical Account - Stirlingshire
PARISH OF FALKIRK.*
PRESBYTERY OF LINLITHGOW, SYNOD OF LOTHIAN AND
THE REV. WILLIAM BEGG, Minister
THE REV. THOMAS GORDON, 2d Congregation, Minister
THE REV. JAMES W. TAYLOR, Grangemouth, Minister
Drawn up 1840, revised 1841, by John Burn, Esq. Writer Falkirk.
I-TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
Name, Boundaries,&c, etc.-FALKIRK appears to have been a town of some note in the eleventh century. The origin and etymology of the name are involved in much obscurity. The town is supposed to have been at one time denominated Ecclesbrae, or the Church on the Brow, as descriptive of its situation. In the Gaelic language it is called Eglais bhris, or the fallen church, and sometimes Eglais bhrec; signifying the spotted church. The name last mentioned has been translated Vario Sacello, and as such appears in charters of a comparatively recent date, supposed to have arisen from the colour of the stones used in the building, or from the different kinds of architecture of which it was composed. Another supposition is, that the present name is formed of the Latin word vallum, and the Saxon, kirk, originating in the circumstance, that the church stands on or near the line of the ancient wall of Antoninus.
The parish of Falkirk is situated in the eastern division of the county of Stirling, is separated from the Frith of Forth by a small part of the parish of Polmont, and extends 'about nine miles in length, and from two to five in breadth. It is bounded on the east, by the parishes of Polmont and Muiravonside; on the south,, by Muiravonside and Slamannan; on the west, by Cumbernauld and Denny; and on the north, by the river Carron, which divides it from Dunipace, Larbert, and Bothkennar. The course of the Carron, however, having, many years ago, in several places, been altered, some parts of this parish are bow on the northern side; and certain small parts of the parishes of Larbert and Bothkennar are on the southern, or Falkirk side of the river.
The parish is of an oblong shape, stretching from the north-east to the south-west; and about four miles to the south, it is indented by parts of Polmont and Cumbernauld on the east and west, in nearly opposite directions.
Topographical Appearances.- From the eminence on which the town is situated, northward to the river Carron, forming about a third part of the parish, the ground is perfectly flat, and consists of fertile carse soil in tile highest state of cultivation. For a considerable space southward from the town, the country rises gradually to the height of about 600 feet above the level of the sea. Of this district the greater part is arable, and is diversified by wood of natural growth, and by thriving plantations. Near to the southern boundary, there is an extensive moss, which gives to that part of the parish a dreary aspect. To the east and west of the town the ground is of an undulating shape, and is in general in an improved state. From the heights on the south a view may be obtained, scarcely excelled in Scotland for richness, 'variety, and extent. in the north-west, and at the distance of thirty miles, are to be seen Benledi and Ben voirlich, raising their lofty heads in wild sublimity. Within a more contracted range, circumscribed by the high grounds above Kilsyth and Denny, and by the Ochils and the Saline hills, many interesting objects meet the eye in a landscape studded with stately mansions; and with several towns and villages, while the broad expanse of the Forth intersects, enlivens, and beautifies the scene. When viewed from the north also1 the town and wooded rising-grounds behind are picturesque and imposing.
Climate, &c.-The climate of the parish, upon the whole, is mild and temperate, although cold easterly winds generally prevail in spring and the beginning of summer. These have been the cause of great injury to vegetation, and render the fruit crop very precarious. In some seasons the verdure of the hedge-rows on the sides exposed to the north and east, has been entirely destroyed. Near the centre of the parish, there is more warmth than either to the north or south. At Grangemouth, when the wind blows from the sea, the air is extremely cold, while it is mild in the interior. On the approach of winter and during the early spring months, snow frequently covers the ground in the higher parts, when it is unknown in the lower. The parish is remarkably healthy. There are 110 diseases peculiar to it, and many of the inhabitants live to a good old age. At one time, fever and ague were prevalent to a considerable extent, especially in the Carse; but now, from the superabundant moisture being drained off; and probably from the condition of the population being improved, ague is quite unknown.
Mineralogy.-Coal is found in the higher districts, in such abundance as not only to be sufficient for home consumption, but quantities are sent by the Union Canal for the supply of the metropolis. Ironstone, limestone, and sandstone are found in the same districts with the coal, one stratum of limestone being often found above, and another below a stratum of coal. Veins of ores of silver, copper, lead, and cobalt are said to have been raised at different periods, but not in considerable quantities. In some parts of the Carse, borings have been made, not to such a depth as to enable us to speak with certainty respecting the mineral contents; but as the locality is almost in the centre of the great northern coal basin, there is every reason to believe that coal may there be found, and of good quality.
Hydrography.-As already stated, the parish is bounded on the north by the Carron. This river, famed in Celtic antiquities, and rendered classic from its connection with incidents in Scottish history, takes its rise in the central parts of the county. It flows in an easterly direction with a sinuous course for about fourteen miles, and joins the Forth a little below the port of Grangemouth. At full tide, it is navigable for vessels of 200 tons burden, as far as the village of Carronshore, which may be two miles from its embouchure. Above this it is a transparent stream, and abounds with trout, perch, eels, &c.; but farther down it has a muddy bed, by which the water is discoloured. It seeks its way to the Forth through a deposit of the richest alluvial matter.
A rivulet at Castlecary divides the parish on the west from Cumbernauld, in the county of Dumbarton. Here there is a cascade of eighty feet in height, embowered in overhanging woods. A little to the northward, the rivulet joins Bonnywater, separating this parish from Denny and from a part of Dunipace. This stream falls into the Carron, about a mile below the village of Bonnybridge.
The Grange burn divides the parish from Polmont for two miles on the east. It has its rise in the upper part of the parish of Polmont, and, running northward, unites with the Carron near Grangemouth. Formerly its junction was at that town, but, by a recent alteration, afterwards described, the stream joins the Carron farther down.
There are several other small rivulets or burns which find their way to the Carron. The only one of these worth noticing, is the Light-water burn, near to the village of Camelon. This streamlet flows in the centre of what, to all appearance, must at some remote period, have formed the bed of a considerable river. The regular banks on each side, with the different windings1 distinctly show this, and in the vicinity the face of the country has every appearance of a sea coast. Bays, headlands, and other similar indications may be easily traced. Close by, is the site of the ancient city of Camden, which tradition represents to have been a sea-port, and where fragments of anchors and ancient boats have been found imbedded in the soil. The sea is now four or five miles distant.
There are three small lochs in the upper parts of the parish, but in
regard to them nothing remarkable can be stated.