by James Wilson M,A. Minister of the Parish
The parish of Falkirk is between 7 and 8 miles in length from E toW., and in some parts more than 4 miles in breadth. It is bounded on the E. by the frith of Forth and the parish of Polmont; on the S. by the parishes of Polmont and Slarnannan; on the W. by Cumbernauld and Denny; and on the N. by the river Carron which separates it from the united parishes of Larbert and Dunipace. By the changes which the course of this river has undergone, a few houses belonging to this parish are now on the Larbert side; and a few which are connected with that parish, are on the Falkirk side of the river.
From a reference to the parish of Falkirk, in an action with respect to the patronage of the church and parish of Oldhamstocks, in the Presbytery of Dunbar, which depending in the year 1748 between the King and Mr Hay of Lawfield, it appears that the parishes of Denny, Slamannan, Muiravonside, and Polmont, constituted formerly parts of the parish of Falkirk. The first three of these parishes must have been very early separated from Falkirk; but it was not until the year 1724 that Polmont was formed into a parish. The minister of Polmont has not only stipend from his own parish, but also from those of Falkirk and Denny.
The estate of Callendar having been confiscated immediately after the commotion in the year 1715, it was sold about the year 1720; and such tithes as were not conveyed with the estate, were disposed of by the commissioners and trustees of the forfeited estates in Scotland to Mr Hamilton of Dichmond, under this express stipula tion, that they should be subject to the stipend of a minister for the new parish which was to be taken off the parish of Falkirk. This circumstance explains by what means it happened that stipend is paid both out of this parish and Denny to the minister of Polmont.
Falkirk is situated on the north road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is nearly an equal distance from both.
The road to Stirling and the North Highlands also passes through this town. Falkirk was
once denominated Ecclesbrae, that is, the Church on the Brow; and the name is truly
descriptive of the situation, for the town stands on an eminence, which has a declivity on
every side. In the Gaelic language it is called an Eglais bhris, but more commonly an
Eglais bhrec. The former of these phrases signifies the Broken Church, which some think is
not properly translated Falkirk, that is, the Fallen Church . In the year 1166, it was
given to the monastery of Holyroodhouse by the Bishop of St Andrew's; and as the parishes
belonging to these religious foundations were often not properly attended to with respect
to religious instruction and accomodation, so it is not improbable that the church of this
parish might have been permitted to fall into ruin, and thence the name under
consideration might have taken its rise.
An Eglais bbrec, the latter of the Gaelic designations which I mentioned, signifies the Spotted Church. To this name Buchanan, who understood the Gaelic language, gives his support, for in his History of Scotland he calls Falkirk, "Varium Sacellum." It is supposed by some, that it got its designation from the party-coloured appearance of the stones of the building.
As the wall of Antoninus which will afterwards be described, passed very near the church, and where a part of the town is built, some are of opinion, that the present name of this place is derived from Valium and Kirk, which by an easy transition became Falkirk, thereby signifying the Church upon the Wall.
The greater part of this parish is inclosed and subdivided, as well as enriched by trees, villas, and gentlemen's seats. The numerous fine trees which are in Callendar park and its neighbourhood, together with the wood belonging to the same place, add much to the pleasantness of the town of Falkirk; as it is situated in the immediate vacinity of these rural and enlivening objects. From the manse, and other places on the north side of the town, the prospect is delightful, and comprehends a fertile and well cultivated country of 12 or 14 miles square, which is bounded by the Ochil-hills and elevated situations in the counties of Stirling, Fife, and Linlithgow. Towards the N.W. the tops of some of the Highland hills are to be seen, involved in clouds and at certain seasons of the year covered with snow, when none of it is to be seen elsewhere within the whole compass of our prospect. Apart of the frith of Forth, presenting itself to view, and the vessels passing on the canal, within a mile of Falkirk, enhance considerably the beauty of the scene. When this prospect is involved in the darkness of the night, the flashes of light from the iron-works at Carron, appear in awful and sublime majesty. When a fall of rain or snow is soon to happen, the light is refracted by the thick and moist atmosphere, and considerable illuminations appear in the air above the works. These are seen at a considerable distance, and great flashes of light are thrown into the houses in this neighbourhood, which have windows towards the Carron works. Upon the eminence of the S. of Falkirk, the prospect not only comprehends the whole view which I have described, but also the scenery about Callendar house, to which I have already alluded; the vessels in the harbour of Grangemouth; the masts of those in that of Borrowstounness; the steeples of that town, and those of Dunfermline; together with a variety of striking objects on both sides of the frith of Forth, as well as those which appear in other points of the prospect.