Name.--St Ninians is the
name by which the parish has long been known, though it is difficult
to say when, or for what reason, it was first given. The labours
of Ninian in the close of the fourth and beginning of the fifth
century, were chiefly confined to Galloway, of which Keith styles
him the first Bishop. There is no evidence that he ever was in
this part of the country-far less that he introduced Christianity
into it ;-nay, if we may believe Tertullian,
before the close of the second century, the
preachers of the Gospel had not only gone beyond the wall of Antonine,
but beyond the utmost extent to which the Roman arms had ever
reached. The original name of the parish was Egglis, Eggluis,
or Eccles, the Church,--nor was it till the simple forms of Culdee
worship were overwhelmed by the superstitions of Rome, that either
churches or parishes were sainted. So late as the twelfth century,
it retained its Original name. In 1147, David 1 founded the Abbey
of Cambuskenneth and gave to it certain lands in this parish ;
and during his reign, Robert, Bishop of St Andrews, granted to
the same Abbey, " the Church of Egglis, St Ninians, with
its Chapels of Dunipace and Lithbert and all its other chapels
and oratories, and all other pertinents." During the occupation
of the Romans, Stirling was considered merely as a watch-tower
or station ; and if St Ninians was, perhaps, for a time the only
church in the district between the Forth and Carron, it might,
even after others had sprung up around it, still retain the name
of the Church. In 1459, another Ninian became Bishop of Galloway,
and in this century the deanery of the Chapel Royal at Stirling
was annexed to that bishoprick ; the Dean was invested with Epis
copal jurisdiction, and the bishop was designated, " Candidae
Casae et Capellae Regiae Strivelingensis Episcopus." But
though this brings one of the name near to us, it cannot be ascertained
after which of the two the parish was named, or when and by whom
the change of name was
effected. One thing is certain, that, long after the parish was
called St Ninians, the village in the parish register is styled
Kirktown ; and it is only since 1724 that this name was entirely
Boundaries and Extent- St Ninians, it is said, once comprehended the whole district between the Forth and Carron. With the exception of the small space occupied by the parish of Stirling, the Forth is still its northern boundary for many miles; by which, it is separated from the parishes of Kincardine, Lecropt, Logie, and Alloa On the east, it is bounded by Airth; on the west, by Gargunnock and Fintry. The Carron on the south, for nearly six miles, separates it from Kilsyth and Denny, the parishes of Dunipace and Larbert forming the remainder of its southern boundary.
From the Church to Randieford, on the west, is a
distance of more than eleven miles; to Powbridge, on the east,
about seven, though in a direct line, the distance between these
extreme points may not be above 15 or 16 miles. The greatest breadth
is 7 miles; but, owing to the windings of the Forth and other
causes, it is very irregular, and at both extremities is not more
than three miles. A parallelogram of ten miles by six is more
than the parish would fill up. Eleven miles by five is nearer
the truth; fifty-five square miles-certainly, not under this,
and probably very little above it.
Topographical Appearances.- There
are three distinct regions, as to climate, soil, and appearance,
into which the parish is naturally divided- the moorlands, dryfield,
The moorlands form the eastern extremity of that
range of hills, which runs across nearly the whole of the narrow
isthmus which separates the Clyde from the Forth. Some of these
rise to a considerable height, and have particular names given
to them; but, as a whole, they are denominated the Lennox hills.
In this parish, we have the Dundaff hills and the Earl's hills.
The highest does not rise more than 1000 feet above the level
of the sea. On the north, there is a large track covered with
heath; but, as you descend to the south, the pasture is much improved,
and along the banks or the
Carron, there is a narrow strip of well-cultivated land. The moorlands
contain more than one-third of the whole parish.
Descending from the moorlands to the dryfield, you meet with a bold range of basaltic columns, stretching from the south-west to the north-east; and by means of the King's Park, the Castle of Stirling, and the Abbey craig, appearing to form a connection between the Lennox and the Ochil hills. These are very irregular in height, rising at some places to more than 100 feet; and as some of them are bare, and some planted to the very brink, they have a very picturesque appearance. This is increased by the deep gorges, or intervening spaces through which the water appears to have forced its way; their eastern slopes having much the appearance of being left in their present state by the subsidence of. that element. The dryfield in general slopes to the north and east, though it is so variegated, that it is difficult to bring it under any general description. There are in it several level tracks of considerable extent, but it is mostly undulating; and these undulations occasionally terminate in steep banks, or swell up into rounded tops. Nearly the whole is well cultivated, enclosed, and beautified with hedgerows and plantations.
The boundary which separates the dryfield from the carse is still more marked than that which divides the former from the moor-lands. It has much the appearance of the bank of a river or estuary, concurring with many other facts to prove that the carses were once under water. As many trunks and roots of trees have been, and still are to be found in them, they must afterwards have been covered with wood. The marks of the axe show that the trees were not overturned by tempests, nor were they cut down for fuel, else they would not have been left on the ground. The Romans complain that the natives concealed themselves in the woods, and issuing thence, often unexpectedly assailed their wall and forts. It may, therefore, be reasonably concluded that the forests were cut down by them; that the country being laid bare as far as the Forth, they might be relieved from the sudden incursions of their troublesome neighbours.* The trees thus left on the damp ground would gradually form the morass in which the whole carses, from Falkirk to Stirling, are said to have been, when Edward invaded Scotland. A few patches of moss still remain in this parish, but, in general, the carses are in a state of high culture, and produce abundant crops' In some places banks are raised against the overflowing of the Forth, and throughout their whole extent the land seldom rises more than from twelve to twenty feet above the level of the sea.
*The woods are supposed to have been cut down at the beginning of the third century, after the return of Severus from his expedition to the north, in which it is said he lost 50,000 of his men.
The heaviest rains and strongest winds are from the south-west, and of these our high grounds have an abundant share; but from their position, as forming the eastern extremity of the range of the Lennox hills, they are equally exposed to the winds and rains from the east; and it is believed there are few places in Scotland, in which more rain falls than in the moorlands of this parish.
Climate.-In general, the inhabitants of the parish are healthy, and many of them live to a great age. Within these few years, one person died in the 101st year of his age. Several deaths have taken place between 95 and 100; and we have still a few persons above 90, and a goodly number upwards of 80. In former times, agues were common in the carses, and rheumatism is still prevalent, particularly in the moorlands. Marshes and stagnant water having been completely removed by thorough draining, agues are now not known in the carses; but no such remedy for rheumatism has been found. There is frequently very considerable mortality among children from measles, scarlet-fever, and other diseases peculiar to childhood. Though almost every variety of disease peculiar to this country is to be found in the parish, yet no disease so frequent and uniform in its character occurs as to entitle it to the appellation of endemic, The common continued fever, often terminating in typhus, is frequent among the adult population of every age and sex. It does not appear that there is any material difference between the diseases of those that reside in villages, and those that live in the country; yet it is believed that the greatest number of aged persons, in proportion to the population, will be found among those residing in the country. Nor is this to be ascribed to the superior purity of the air they breathe; it may with greater propriety be imputed to their more simple and regular habits of life.
Hydrography.-The Forth, the Bodotria of the Romans, when it conies into contact with this parish, is not attractive either for its beauty or the volume of its waters; but during its course of sixteen miles, in which it forms our northern boundary, it receives such accessions from the Teith, the Allan, the Devon, on the north, and from the Bannock, and other small streams on the south, that it not only becomes a magnificent river, but speedily swells out into an arm of the sea. It is navigable as far as Stirling, and the tide is perceptible for a mile above the town. The banks of the river are in general very low; and in several places, artificial mounds are necessary to prevent its overflowings. Lime and coal are shipped at Fallin; brick and the at Throsk. These are our only harbours. Though we have other great rive; it may perhaps be marked as a singularity, that we have streams flowing in every direction. At Randyford, the Endrick runs to the west, and empties itself into Loch Lomond, whilst about half a mile to the south the Carron runs to the eastward, and discharges its waters into the Forth at Grangemouth. The Earl's Burn, and five or six lesser streams, run south, and increase the waters of the Carron. The Bannock, with an equal number of smaller rivulets, take a northerly direction, and fall into the Forth ; whilst several small rivulets, rising about the middle of the Drylands, run duly east and, uniting together, pass through the parish of Airth, and fall into the frith nearly opposite to Tulliallan.
A little to the west of the Earl's Hill, there is a large artificial dam, for collecting water to supply the works on the Carron. On the evening of the 25th of October 1839, the waters burst forth, and did considerable damage; but whether it was owing to the earthquake, which was distinctly felt in many parts of the parish that night, has not been clearly ascertained. The only lake in the parish is Loch Coulter, about two miles in circumference; shallow to the west, but very deep to the north-east.
In 1755, during the great earthquake by which Lisbon was destroyed1 Loch Coulter was greatly agitated, and it was then, it is supposed, that a large stone, in weight about a ton, was raised from its bed, and carried towards the shore. Several years ago, a neighbouring farmer, availing himself of a hard frost, seized upon all the stone that was above water, so that now no part of it is visible, and the cairn of stones with which it is surrounded is generally covered with water.
Auchentillilin's Spout on the Carron, and Gilmour's Linn In Touch Burn, are our only cascades. They are both beautiful; but, neither from the quantity of water, nor the height of the fall, not above 20 feet, are they deserving of any particular description.*
*The accounts given of the Carron Bog are a good deal exaggerated.
Geology and Mineralogy.-This
extensive parish presents geological appearances of very considerable
interest. The flat district, or carse, which extends from
the banks of the Forth to the rising ground on the south, a mean
distance of about two miles, appears at a former period to have
been completely submerged in water. The vast quantities of marine
shells which are scattered in beds over-the whole of this portion
of the parish, furnish moon-. testable proof, that the land, which
now yields the richest crops, has been reclaimed from the wide
domain of waters. Immediately beneath the surface, there is a
bed of clay, from six to eight feet in thickness, which gradually
shades into a soft alluvial deposit, or a bluish colour, resembling
exactly in smell and appearance the larger quantities of mud which
lay along the banks of the river Forth. Underneath these clay
and alluvial beds, at a depth of twenty feet, there occurs a layer
of moss, about two feet in thickness, in which are found the bark
and flora of the birch and hazel tree, in a high state of preservation.
Next in order are boulders, imbedded in clay or sand, and consisting
chiefly of greenstone, hornblende, porphyries, schist, and quartz,
in small pieces. These are occasionally intermixed with conglomerate
and sandstone. And what renders these boulder beds strikingly
remarkable, is the fact, that they run in straight lines from
north-west to south-east. Wherever the current of the river has
crossed them, and laid them bare, they can be traced for several
miles, running in the above direction. If these stones have been
abraded from their native rocks, in the high country on the north
and west, by a current of water, their linear position will indicate
the direction in which it has flowed. The boulders are succeeded,
after a thin division of sand, by regular strata of sandstone
and shale, which alternate, until, at the depth of twenty fathoms,
they are interrupted by a seam of coal 2 feet 10 inches in thickness.
The quality of this coal is not distinctly ascertained, as it
never has been wrought.
|Analysis of the Carse Soil|
|Carbonate of lime||2|
Passing to the upland district of the parish, the
geological features are entirely changed. The surface is rough
and unequal, and broken by deep gorges, which beautifully contrast
with the bold and precipitous rocks by which they are overhung.
The rock here, of most frequent occurrence, is trap. It is of
great thickness, and, in the western faces of the craigs, stands
in polygonal columnar forms, perfectly perpendicular to the horizon.
These craggy rocks, which are uniformly steep in the western side,
slope gently toward the east. They repose upon a bed of sandstone,
of a whitish-grey colour; but in passing downward it becomes a
whitish-yellow, and at last shades away into a yellowish-brown.
A general idea of the different strata of rock may
be conveyed in the following accurate table of Lieutenant-Colonel
Imrie, as given in the second volume of the Memoirs of the Wernerian
Natural History Society.
|Table of Strata at Murray's Hall||feet|
|1||Vegetable soil, about||2|
|3||Trap, amorphous, -||16|
|4||A narrow line of trap much decomposed,||2|
|7||Narrow strip of slate-clay.||-|
|10||Dark bluish-grey limestone,||3|
|11||Slaty-clay mixed with glance coal,||4|
|12||Sandstone, . .||13|
|13||Slate-clay containing narrow lines of sandstone,||8|
|14||Slate.clay almost black,||17|
|15||Dark-bluish grey limestone with entrochi|
|and small particles of pyrites imbedded,||6|
|16||Bituminous shale passing into slate-clay,||6|
|17||Bituminous shale with a mixture of calca.||-|
|reous matter and pyrites, depth unknown.|
A few simple minerals are found in this district
of the parish. Calc-spar is obtained along with the limestone.
Heavy spar is met with in several parts of the moorland district
Ironstone of excellent quality is found in balls, in the roof
of the upper coal seam at Auchenbowie, and has been wrought along
with the coal for the list fifteen years; calc-tuff is also obtained
at the same place. The common jasper and agate are sometimes met
with. In the soil and sub-soil are found blocks of granite, small-grained
gneiss, mica-slate with garnets, clay-slate, red sandstone, quartz,
compact felspar, claystone porphyry, sandstone, chlorite slate,
conglomerate rocks, basaltic hornblende, and sometimes shale and
coal blended with calcareous spar.
Few fossil organic remains are found in the parish.
Those that belong to the animal kingdom are chiefly bivalve shells.
A few of the univalve shells are also met with in the shale accompanying
the limestone. When sinking the coal-pits in Plean, a bed of shale
is met with, composed almost entirely
or bivalve shells, belonging to the Mytilus
genus. In the vegetable kingdom are found the remains of Lepidodendron,
Stigmaria, and Sigillaria.
Coal-The coal mines are
exceedingly valuable, and have been very extensively wrought.
They lie on the south-east side of the parish, in ground considerably
lower than that wherein the trap rocks abound. The collieries
of Greenyards, Bannockburn, Plean, and Auchenbowie, may be regarded
as forming one large coal-field. There are several small seams
of little value, but the two best ones are wrought. Of these,
the lower is the most important, being both thicker and of better
quality than the other.
The dip of the coal is toward the north-east, and
the crop can be distinctly traced toward the west and south-west.
On the north, however, the dip of the coal is not so well known,
but, so far as can be ascertained, it is either cut off altogether,
or sunk to a depth which has not yet been reached, The angle of
dip is one foot in three on the north side, which seems to form
the boundary line of the great northern coal formations in Scotland.
At Bannockburn the strata dip one foot in eleven; at Greenyards,
one foot in six.
The sections of the coal, and the depth of the shafts at Green-yards are as follow
|Greenyards' deepest shaft||72 fathoms|
|Rough or mid coal||0 4|
|Stone division||0 2|
|Main coal||2 3|
Hard sandstone and pavement form the roof of this
At Bannockburn both the thickness and quality of the coal undergo a very considerable change. The following section shows the difference:
Upper or roof coal, . 0 04
Slate coal, . 0 84
Mid coal, 1 0
Line clay, 2 6
Main coal, . 1 10 -
The roof here consists of shale and pavement, and
the deepest shaft to the main is 58 fathoms. A shaft, however,
is now in progr6ss on the inclination of dip, the depth of which
will be 95 fathoms.
On the lands of Bannockburn the upper and less valuable seam of coal has been wrought for tVe last three years. Its quality is inferior to that of the main coal, and its average thickness is 19 inches. The strata of rock of most frequent occurrence in the district where the coal mines are situated, are sandstone and shale. Bars of ironstone are found in some of the shale beds. There is also a vein of limestone, of bluish-gray colour, thickly incrusted with marine shells. The coal mities in this parish are extensively wrought, and have been long celebrated for the excellent coals which they produce. For durability and strength of heat, the best Bannockburn coal is scarcely equalled, and certainly not surpassed, by any other coal in Scotland.
Section otcoal at Plean, (deepest shaft 83 fathoms.)
Roof coal, 0 6
Stone, . 0 2
Mid coal, 0 9
Fire clay, . . 1 11
Main coal, 1 10
The soils of the parish may be arranged under three
varieties' 1 the new alluvial or carse; 2. the old alluvial; 3.
the untransported, or that which is formed by the disintegration
of the trap rocks. The old alluvial may be subdivided into the
dryfield and moorland-the one is upon a gravelly subsoil, whilst
the subsoil of the other is a retentive clay. lihe following analysis
will show the constituent parts of the old alluvial and untransported
|Analysis of old alluvial soil||Analysis of soil on trap rocks|
|Water, - .
Oxide of iron,
Oxide of iron,
Organic matter, .
Much is doing in the parish to improve the soil. Draining and trenching, and an improved mode of cropping, will soon banish from the farmer's nomenclature such terms as sour soil, wet soil, stiff soil.
The common bat is a well known animal. The extent
of the wings is about nine inches. One was caught at Plean which
measured eleven inches.
The hedgehog is found in most places of the parish. The badger is seldom met with. Foxes are plentiful. They are subject to a disease that causes the hair to fall from their tail. In that state, they are sometimes found dead. The weasel is common in hedge-banks and stone walls-a great destroyer of mice and other vermin. A white variety exists in the neighbourhood of Auchenbowie. The foumart occasionally makes its appearance in the poultry-yard, and often commits great ravages among domestic fowls. The otter is found on the banks of rivers and lakes. Among the many safe retreats of that animal, few will match with the following: The water which comes from the old coal-workings of Bannockburn and Auchenbowie joins the river Bannock, a little below the village of Bannockburn. Up this river the otter has found its way, and when it has reached the excavations it is safe. Its footsteps are seen on the sand banks that are thrown up by the water. Attempts have been made to destroy them, but they always escape. When danger approaches, they retire into one of the many intricate windings of the place, and are secure from farther molestations.
The squirrel is common in the woods; but it is not always content with hazel- nuts, beech-mast, and fir-cones ; - it frequently attempts to climb over garden walls, and is sometimes successful. It carries away the fruit for its young. A young man at West Plean, one summer day, after he had eaten his dinner, lay down under a tree. He had not remained long in that state when he felt something stirring about him. When he got up a squirrel ran from him towards a tree. When it got behind a branch it peeped over it in a playful mood, seeming to en-joy the joke. It was probably the few crumbs of bread that remained in his pocket, that induced this lively animal to approach so near him.
The water vole, or water rat, is found about the
banks of rivers and ditches, and lives chiefly on the roots of
water plants. Dr Fleming, in his Natural History of British Animals,
says, "It is probable that this species becomes torpid in
the cold months." It has been found, however, to be very
active in winter. A gentleman belonging to the parish had his
crop of celery destroyed one winter by these animals. In the months
of December and January, the crops began to look sickly. When
it was examined to ascertain the cause, a tunnel was found to
run along the centre of the ridge. The moles were blamed for the
mischief. A mole trap was set in the passage; but, instead of
moles being caught, three of the water voles were captured.
The roe is plentiful in the upland district of the
parish, particularly in the woods of Plean, Auchenbowie, and Sauchie.
The black-grouse and moor-fowl are found in the moorland district of the parish. Partridges are plentiful. This season, that beautiful little bird the golden-wren has made its appearance. In the short days of winter, it is very active in examining the chinks of the trunks of old trees, and pouncing upon the unsuspecting insect that had laid itself up for the winter. The yellow wagtails commonly build their nests in the heaps of coals that are placed near the mouth of the coal-pit. They have a strong attachment for their young ones. Last year a coal heap required to be removed, and in it was found a yellow wagtail's nest, with young ones in it. The old birds showed great anxiety at the removal of their brood: they followed those who had the nest. A shelve was put up in a pig-sty, and the nest placed upon it, and the old ones came and fed their young, until they were able to shift for themselves. They seemed to pay no regard to the inhabitants of the sty. It seldom happens that such opposite characters are found sleeping in the same dormitory.
The wild duck frequents the small lochs of the parish;
and the wild goose is sometimes to be seen in Loch Coulter.
The salmon, whiting, sea-trout, and smelt are found in the Forth, the perch and pike in Loch Coulter, and the minnow, stickleback, and common trout, in the small streams of the parish.
The viper or adder is sometimes met with, basking in the sun on banks facing the south.
Forests or Plantation &-From its variety of soil and climate almost every species of tree to be found in Scotland prospers in this parish. The specimens of the fir tribe may be mentioned as equal if not superior to what are to be met with in other parts of the country. The largest plantations are on the lands of Sauchie and Touch, amounting to nearly a thousand acres. It may be questioned if there is as much more ground under wood in all the rest of the parish. In front of Bannockburn House there are two silver firs, Pinus picea, remarkable at once for their size and appearance. In the same park there is a very beautiful and large sweet chestnut. The ash trees in the park of Carnock are of great size,-one of them Is counted the largest in Stirlingshire. In the woods of Touch, there are some very large old oak trees, and a fine cedar, supposed to be the largest in Britain. We have very little natural wood in this district; and though there are numerous fruit trees scattered through the parish as well as in the gardens, there is hardly in it any thing that deserves the name of an orchard.
Botany.-Being of considerable
extent, and including almost every variety of soil and surface,
except high hills and sea shore, this parish presents a fertile
field for the researches of the botanist. A list of all the plants
found in it would occupy too much space for a work of this nature;
but the following comprehends most of the rare or interesting
ones that are to be met with.
A tropa Belladonna