(written 1951,final revision 1961)
BURGH AND PARISH OF FALKIRK
by the Rev. WILSON S. LESLIE.
Situation and Extent. The parish of Falkirk, situated in the County of Stirling, is roughly oval in shape9 nine miles long and from two to five miles in breadth, with an area of 15,152 acres, or rather more than 23+ square miles. It lies almost midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, with its main axis running east and west. The contiguous parishes by which it is bounded are, on the east, Polmont and Muiravon- side; on the south, Muiravonside and Slamannan; on the west, Cumbernauld and Denny; and on the north, Larbert and Dunipace. Within its bounds it has the following quoad sacra parishes: to the west, Bonnybridge and Camelon; to the north, Grahamston; to the east, Laurieston; and to the south-west, St. Modan's. Since the union of the churches in 1929 the parish has been divided into fifteen parochial areas.
The life of the parish to-day has its centre of gravity in the industrial burgh of Falkirk. Outside the burgh, in addition to the prosperous farms, which are conducted on the normal lines of modem practice, there are several small licensed mines producing coal and fireclay, brick works producing fireclay goods and composition bricks, a large power station and the foundries in Bonnybridge. Just beyond the parish bounds lie the works of the Dyestuffs Division of the I.C.I., and, a mile or two farther on at Grangemouth, the vast refineries built since the war under the supervision of American experts. These concerns are mentioned because they employ many from the Falkirk area.
General Appearance. Falkirk lies in the industrial belt and, indeed. has claimed to be the hub of industrial Scotland; and yet, in spite of its many iron foundries, to describe it as a smoky or grimy town would convey an entirely false impression. It is surrounded by miles of agricultural country. The Firth of Forth is only a few miles distant, and the Ochil Hills, visible from almost any part of the town, are not far off, so that the winds come blowing into Falkirk fresh from fields and sea and hills. The worst sections of the town were swept away at the turn of the century to give place to widened streets and modem blocks of shops and offices. The result is that, although unsatisfactory houses remain (and are scheduled for demolition), hardly any spot exists which could be described as a congested slum. Except in the very centre of the town even the poorest house has standing room. Air and space are everywhere. There are miles of small-sized, well-built villas, each with its garden; and many of these are owned as well as occupied by independent and self-respecting members of the working class, who bought them (or have inherited them from those who made the purchase) in happier days when prices were moderately reasonable. This is a notable feature of the social life of Falkirk. In the more modem residential districts there are many fine houses of the larger type, while, as a heritage from the spacious days of about eighty years ago, the largest of the houses have gardens which range from half an acre to seven acres.
Of the mansion houses in their own policies, South Bantaskine was demolished some time ago by the National Coal Board, which wished to develop mine-workings in its proximity; North Bantaskine has suffered the same fate, its steadings being for a time wed for pedigree short-horns, until its very recent development as a housing site; Westbank and Arnotdale have been turned into offices by the local authority. The historic Callendar House is still occupied most of the year by Lt Colonel William Forbes, and his large policies have been preserved intact on the outskirts of the town.~1
I) During 1963 a large part of this estate, including Callendar House, has been
purchased from Colonel Forbes by the town council of Falkirk. Part of this lan4 has been
sold to provide a site for Callendar Park College or Education. Plain for the remaining
large area are now being formulated.
The burgh of Falkirk does not attract visitors and makes no attempt to do so. With the exception of two establishments with accommodation of the most limited kind and a guest house, there is no residential hotel in Falkirk where one might put up for even a day or two. There is not a single boarding house that caters for summer visitors. Men having business to do in Falkirk live in Grangemouth and Polmont, or even in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling, and travel each day, and until very recently there has been little thought of dealing with this dearth of hotels and boarding houses.
Growth of the Community. While the parish of Falkirk dates from the earliest epoch of parochial organisation in Scotland, the twelfth century, the burgh is of only medium antiquity. By a charter under the great seal, granted to Alexander, Lord Livingston (who was to become Earl of Linlithgow in the following year) and dated 13 March 1600, Falkirk was created a free burgh of barony, with the customary municipal privileges; and, in a charter of 22 July 1646, in favour of James, Earl of Callendar, of the same family, the town was styled a free burgh of regality. The fifth earl of Linlithgow was forfeited for his share in the 'Fifteen rising, baronial supervision of the town disappeared, and any burghal constitution seems to have lapsed; by immemorial usage, however, certain local powers of a petty kind were exercised by the 'stentmasters (tax assessors) and the feuars' committee. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the population of the parish was increasing rapidly, as the following figures show :-
1755 (Webster's unofficial estimate) ... ... 3,932
1801 (official census) ... ... ... ... 8,838
1831 (official census) ... ... ... ... 12,743
In accordance with the terms of the first Reform Act, 1832, Falkirk became one of the new 'parliamentary burghs,' entitled, along with the burghs of Linlithgow, Airdrie, Hamilton and Lanark, to return one member of parliament; until 1918 Falkirk remained the head-burgh of its own district of burghs. Under the Burgh Reform Act of the following year, 1833, Falkirk received a municipal constitution, under which a provost, three bailies, a treasurer and seven councillors were to be elected by the £10 householders, but these bad little or no governmental responsibility or financial power prior to the passing of the Falkirk Police and Improvement Act in 1859. That statute abolished 'the minor jurisdictions' of the stentmasters and feuars of Falkirk, and transferred their powers, properties and debts to the magistrates and councillors of the parliamentary burgh, who became commissioners of police and to whom were committed the statutory duties laid down in such measures as the Burgh Police Act, 1850, and the Nuisances Removals Act, 1856; they were given specific responsibility in matters concerning weights and measures, water and gas supply. markets, streets, the police force and police courts. Since that date the police burgh has enjoyed and exercised the full range of municipal powers conveyed by the various Acts of parliament.
The Representation of the People Act, 1918, abolished the old Falkirk district of burghs, and the town became instead a part of the Stirling and Falkirk district of burghs (comprehending. besides these two, the newer burgh of Grangemouth). Under the terms of the two main twentieth century statutes dealing with the subject - the Local Government (Scotland) Acts, 1929 and 1947 - Falkirk was recognised as a 'large burgh,' with all the rights and duties appropriate to its rank. Meanwhile the old school board, instituted in accordance with the terms of the Education Act of 1872, had passed away in 1918, its functions going to the Stirlingshire education authority which in turn was super seded by the education committee of the county council; and the powers of the parish council (set up in 1894 in succession to the earlier parochial board) were transferred to the town council in accordance with the provisions of the 1929 act. The fairly steady growth of the burgh's population - particularly marked in the period of industrial expansion towards the close of the nineteenth century - appears from these figures:-
The population of the parish at these dates was
Falkirk is the largest burgh in the county of Stirling, and has been so since 1891, when it first outstripped Stirling; and, in point of population, it now ranks sixteenth in all Scotland. Its administration is in the hands of the provost, five bailies, a treasurer, the dean of guild, a police judge and eleven councillors. The principal municipal officials are the town clerk, chamberlain, medical officer of health, burgh architect, sanitary inspector and water engineer. Its rateable value, May 1961, amounted to £481,147, the gross valuation being £554,579. The rate was 24s. 10(1. in the £ and included a domestic water rate of is. 8d. The rate for 1961-2 is 22s. including a domestic water rate of 9d. The produce of a rate of id. in May 1961 was £1,972.
Two Prominent Benefactors. Two men have made munificent gifts to the town. Dr. John Aitken who died in 1919 at the age of 80, left a considerable fortune and1 according to his holograph will, one half of the residue of his estate (under three trustees consisting of the provost and two other citizens appointed by the town council) was to be devoted to creating a temperance public house as a counter-attraction to the licensed public houses; here working men would have something in the nature of a club, providing food and non-intoxicant refreshment, and offering opportunities for social intercourse and games. The Crown hotel was bought and transformed into the Temperance Cafe, but it hardly fulfils the dream of Dr. Aitken It is at present run as an ordinary cafe, patronised by all classes and containing rooms to hire for social functions and committee meetings. It does, however, perform a very valuable service for the people of Falkirk by its provision of rooms for meetings. Accommodation of this type is much needed and the Temperance Cafe's rooms are never empty during six evenings of each week. The other half of the residue of his estate went to form the Dr. Aitken Fund for the poor of Falkirk. The annual interest, which in 1961 amounted to £1,436, is allocated, chiefly to the aged, by six trustees consisting of the minister and an elder from each of the parish churches of Falkirk Old, Grahamston, and St. Modan's.
Robert Dollar, who was born in Falkirk in 1844, prospered in America and presented to the citizens of his home town the ornamental park known as Dollar Park. He also presented a carillon of thirteen bells to Falkirk Old Parish Church.
Education. There does not exist, perhaps, in Falkirk such a strong academic tradition or passion for education as is found in the north east of Scotland, but boys and girls of all classes in ever larger numbers proceed to secondary education and what lies beyond, as it becomes more clear that certified qualifications are often conditions of promotion; many also are taking advantage of the centres provided for the technical training of apprentices and young miners. In common with other parts of the county, and indeed of the country, Falkirk entered the period after the war of 1939 with provision for education which had become completely inadequate. An extensive building programme has now been carried out but there is still more to do.
New schools have been constructed in several parts of the burgh. Bantaskine, Easter Carmuirs, St. Francis' Roman Catholic and Langlees are primary schools, St. Mungo's Roman Catholic School provides secondary education to school leaving age and in October 1961 the long awaited new High School for Falkirk was opened by a former rector of the school, Sir James J. Robertson. Falkirk High School is of the grammar school type. The courses offered at the moment range very widely, the only studies now omitted being those of commercial subjects. A steady stream of pupils proceeds to universities and other centres of higher education. The record of successes in university bursary competitions is good. Many of the industrial chemists who serve the concerns in the immediate area come from Falkirk High School. Very extensive reconstruction of the old school buildings in Rennie Street which were opened in 1898 is now in progress; a large secondary school will eventually occupy these premises and will provide training at this level for pupils from a wide area round Falkirk.~'~
Falkirk Technical School, now Graeme High School, has changed in character in the years since the war. The work in technical and commercial subjects remains but foundry practice, for which a small foundry was originally built in the school, has now been discontinued. Courses in languages, courses which do not include languages, and 'modified' courses are offered, and the number of senior pupils pro ceeding to higher education is increasing. Large numbers of pupils go out to the local industries. All the secondary schools provide the opportunity to their pupils to take the Junior Leaving Certificate at the third year of their course.
The secondary schools which do not provide courses beyond the third
year are offering more varied courses to-day than was once the case. There is a move
towards vocational training in the final stages of a pupil's career. The primary schools
maintain a tradition of thorough preparation for the process of transfer to secondary
There is a school providing special treatment for handicapped children at Dawson Park and a nursery school at Meadow Street.
Details of the schools of the burgh are these:
Bainsford Primary 204 7
Bantaskine Primary 413 13
Camelon Secondary 369 15
Carmuirs Primary 645 18
Comely Park Primary 538 18
Easter Carmuirs Primary 237 7
Falkirk High 967 51
Falkirk St. Andrew's R.C. 214 6
Falkirk St. Francis' R.C. 567 16
Falkirk St. Mungo's R.C. 573 29
Graeme High 1,689 75
Langlees Primary 648 17
Victoria Primary 552 18
Dawson Park 199 14
Meadow Street Nursery 37 1
(1) Woodlands Secondary School, providing training to school leaving age.
The primary department of Falkirk High School was closed some years ago and the Northern School building is no longer used as a school.
Day release classes (for those who have left school at the age of 15) are available for apprentices in the light castings industry at Burnbank Foundry Trades Centre, Bainsford (about 200 students); for some 630 mining, electrical and mechanical engineering and machine shop trainees at the County Mining Institute, Park Street; and for about 250 apprentices and 30 intending entrants to the building trades and 130 automobile engineering apprentices at the County Trades School, Cow Wynd. Evening continuation classes are provided at Falkirk High School, in a wide range of engineering and chemical Sciences and a high level is reached; at Graeme High School, in commercial and industrial subjects; at the County Mining Institute in mining; at the Foundry Trades Centre in the appropriate trades; at Camelon in machine shop work; and in non-vocational courses (such as arts and crafts, dressmaking, cookery and country dancing) at several of the schools throughout the parish. Classes for adults, in the usual range of subjects, are held in various schools, and youth clubs (for boys and girls between IS and 18) are organised by the county youth service in Comely Park, Dawson Park, Camelon and St. Mungo's Schools in the burgh, and in Bonnybridge and Laurieston.
The completion, expected in 1962, of the new Technical College, which is being built on the road to Grangemouth, is awaited with great interest. The college is planned to accommodate some 2,000 to 2,500 students and will provide advanced technical courses in addition to those at present provided in the existing centres which will close down.~1
(1) Officially opened, September 1963. Burnbank Foundry Trades Centre and the
County Trades School have been closed. The County Mining Institute remains open as an
annexe of Falkirk Technical College A college for the training of teachers win be opened
in Callendar estate in September 1964.
Health. In accordance with the National Health Service Act,
provision for child welfare is made. Sessions are held in the fine new clinic at Westbank
which is a considerable cause of civic pride; it was opened in 1959. There mothers are
given guidance in the care of their children and there, also, immunisation and vaccination
are provided; it is indicative of the marked improvement in this aspect of preventive
medicine that the last case of diphtheria notified within the burgh was in 1951.
Vaccination against poliomyelitis and diphtheria is increasingly sought but vaccination
against smallpox is not demanded to the same extent. Family planning and marriage guidance
clinics are held in the new centre regularly, and two other centres are used, in Camelon
for immunisation clinics and at Bellsmeadow for treatment of scabies. There are three day
nurseries, each providing accommodation for some 40 children, but the demand is such that
each nursery has a waiting list.
The nursing service of the burgh was developed from the Queen's Nursing Institute, which as a voluntary organisation did splendid work for many years, and was handed over to the local authority with considerable regret. It is recognised, however, that ampler resources have increased the services; and under the new arrangement the Queen's nurses bring the same devotion and sympathy to the homes they visit. There are 21 nurses on the staff, full-time and part-time, with a superintendent and assistant superintendent, all members of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing Sisters; and they are wholly responsible for all the forms of nursing service offered by the local authority, namely. domiciliary midwifery, health visiting, home nursing and supervision of domiciliary cases of tuberculosis. Craigenhall, taken over and fitted up as a new nurses' home in addition to the home in Orchard Street, accommodates thirteen nurses and all the materials and equipment used in the service.
The domestic help service has dev~loped greatly under the terms of the National Health Service Act. It is a priceless boon, especially to semi-helpless old people living alone. The charge made varies according to financial circumstance, and where necessary an old person for a nominal sum can have a domestic help every forenoon for three hours. An urgent need is that of suitable communal accommodation for the elderly who are incapacitated, although, admittedly, most of them are unwilling to go into an institution. There are now 40 home helps, or at least one for each thousand of population, and the number is. increasing.
On the whole it can be said that the health of the burgh is good. Both the birth rate and the death rate compare well with those for Scotland as a whole and for the large burghs. Children in need of care in the burgh are looked after in Redding House in Redding by a matron and staff, who perform a particularly rewarding service to the community.
(t) The buildings now house a rehabilitation centre for subnormal children and a 'Sheltered Workshop' providing for some twelve physically handicapped persons. These centres are administered by the county and burgh authorities jointly.
There are three hospitals in the parish, all of them within the burgh boundaries. Windsor Hospital, which was at one time a poor-house, provides now 79 beds for mentally ill patients, 101 for chronically sick old people and 'part III accommodation' for 79 of the old folk of the burgh. The hospital in the south of the burgh, high on the slopes leading to Slamannan, provides treatment for sufferers from infectious disease including tuberculosis, and general medical cases. It has accommodation for 91 patients. An infectious disease hospital with 68 beds in Camelon has now closed and the buildings have become town council property.(l) Proposals to use the property as a training centre for disabled people have been considered. The largest of the hospitals is Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary, which is, as it were, the lineal descendant of Falkirk's first hospital, the Cottage Hospital, opened in 1899, with fourteen beds, two nurses, a matron and what is described in one record as 'one occasional doctor.' The Royal Infirmary is a vastly different place. Money for its erection was first found by means of a scheme by which subscribers were entitled to have free treatment for themselves and their dependants at the hospital. which was known after 1920 as Falkirk and District Infirmary. Response to the scheme was such as to enable a sum to be laid aside for the building of a new infirmary. Special appeals were made, land at Garteows was bought. the first turf was cut in 1926 by the Duchess of Montrose and, when the buildings were formally opened by Prince George, later the Duke of Kent, in January 1932. the total cost of £120,000 had been met and the new Royal Infirmary was completely free of debt.
Expansion and development have taken place since then and the infirmary is equipped with the most modem apparatus for the cure of disease. General medical and surgical treatments are given, there is a maternity wing and a geriatric unit. Accommodation is provided for 309 patients.~1~ There are no nursing homes in the parish, those few which existed in Falkirk being now closed.
Housing. Great advances have been made in housing during tile past hundred years, and yet the position is still far from satisfactory. In the latter part of the nineteenth century. as a result of industrial expansion. there was great building activity on the part of industrial firms to house their workers. Further, to meet a growing need, private persons began to build houses for renting as an investment for capital. On an unusual scale owner occupiers built houses, detached and semi-detached, of all sizes. It is much to the credit of the citizens of those days that many of those owner occupiers were tradesmen in the local industries, who were financed by the Falkirk Building Society. The result is that to day a striking number of people in moderate circumstances are the fortunate owners of well-built dwellings with gardens attached.
(1) A block to house an experimental ward unit of 60 beds, including an intensive care unit of 12 beds, as well as four new theatres, is being constructed. A new kitchen, dining rooms and pharmacy are being built. The total cost of these projects, which will be complete in the spring of 1965, will be in the region of £750,000.
The acute housing shortage after 1918 attracted critical attention and inspired much legislation in the form of the various Housing Acts; eventually Falkirk town council, in common with other local authorities, received full powers to build for the purposes of effecting slum clearance, abolishing overcrowding and meeting the general needs of the community. Since 1919, and by May 1961, there have been built in the burgh by the town council 6,243 houses, 2,864 of these before the war of 1939 and 3,379 since then. In the post-war total are included 47 houses which are conversions of old, existing houses. Before the war 1,840 flats of three apartments were built, and 542 cottages of four apartments each. Since the war the cottage of four apartments has been the most common choice, 1,153 of these having been built, while three- apartment flats (780) and three-apartment cottages (658) are next in popularity. Of the 154 two-apartment flats built or created by conversion 50 are bungalows and 70 are flats for old people. Among the latest houses built are 'maisonettes,' buildings of four storeys in which each tenant has a two-storey home. More than 360 homes throughout the burgh are of the 'all-electric' type; these are built in five main areas, the largest groups being in Bantaskine and Bainsford. Since May 1961 some 60 more houses have been completed and nearly 100 are in course of construction, again distributed, as has always been the custom, throughout the whole burgh area. The average rent is about £25 annually but rents generally are being reviewed and are likely to rise. The Scottish Special Housing Association has erected 260 houses in Easter Carmuirs. These are of traditional pattern. Private building has been limited in recent years by lack of sites. Several small housing estates have been developed, however, and demand grows.
The improvement in the standard of accommodation resulting from the building programmes which were undertaken between the wars and1 having been suspended during the second world war, were resumed after its termination, may be traced at intervals from the Census Reports. The following analysis shows the percentage of the population of the burgh living in houses of various sizes in 1911, 1931, 1951 and 1961:- Houses With
Room 2 Rooms 3 Rooms
4 Rooms 5 Rooms or more
1911 6.6 52.4 18.7 7.6 14.7
1931 6.0 45.7 25.7 10.9 11.7
1951 1.5 27.9 33.3 25.1 12.2
1961 1.2 24.2 37.5 26.5 10.6
In one respect these figures are highly encouraging: they reflect a very substantial shift from the one-roomed and two-roomed houses, of unsavoury character and evil repute, to the more commodious and hygienic houses of three or four apartments. whereas 59 per cent. of the townsfolk were living in these small, old-fashioned homes before the first world war, only 25.4 per cent. were so housed in 1961; that is1 the proportion had been considerably more than halved in 50 years. As a corollary, the percentage of the inhabitants dwelling in houses of three or four rooms had much more than doubled during the period- from 26.3 to 64.0 per cent.
There is, however, another side to the picture. Gratifying as is the diminution of the proportion of the population obliged to live in cramped and unsatisfactory homes, the actual numbers involved are likely to be still sufficiently large to be somewhat disquieting. Of the burgh's 9,995 houses in 1951, no fewer than 3,581 were of one or two rooms; this total has decreased by 1961 to 3,114, and the percentage of persons living at a density of more than 1.5 to a room, although it has decreased to less than half of the 1951 total stands at 16.5 per cent. Clearly the burgh's need for more and larger houses is still acute. A survey in 1947 showed that 78.5 per cent. of the one-roomed houses and 39.3 per cent.
of those with two rooms were overcrowded. These percentages of over crowding were based on the standard laid down in the Housing (Scot land) Act, 1935. A more exacting 'test' (of two persons for each room excluding the living room) was recommended to the local authorities by the Secretary of State in 1944; this 'bedroom standard' should be applied. he suggested, to new and, where possible, to existing houses.
Overcrowding is a very serious matter demanding constant effort by all who are directly concerned. It may cause ill health and it may well disrupt family life. Again, young couples must often face the alternatives of living with relatives in overcrowded houses or of renting a furnished room with no security of tenure. Before marriage each of the part:ners may have been accustomed to decent living conditions; then within a year they may find themselves, with a baby, confined to one small room. Their new furniture must be put into store, and for the home of their dreams they can only look hopelessly into the uncertain future. Such conditions are apt to produce frayed tempers and despondency; and they are to be condemned none the less severely because the young people often rise above them with admirable spirit and courage.
Young couples living with parents present a case with features of its own. A possessive mother can prove a disruptive force between her own offspring and the other married partner. But there is another and interesting side of the matter. Living with her mother or mother-in-law, the young wife can continue at her work and be relieved of household duties. so that the whole home benefits economically. Even when a baby arrives, the older woman may become nurse and baby-sitter. This arrangement, leaving the young couple free to go out in the evenings, may suit them so well that they are not too anxious to find a home of their own. The older folks find stimulus and interest in the life of the younger and often receive much appreciation and kindness. In the early stages it seems a happy adaptation to circumstances; but the ultimate consequences are questionable.
Problems of a different kind may arise in the new 'housing scheme.' The change from out-of-date or unfit houses of small size to large modern houses might have put a strain upon the tenants and their powers of adaptation; but most have taken the transition in their stride and many of the houses and gardens are a credit to the occupants. There are a few, however, who have not responded to the challenge, and in some cases uncultivated gardens spoil the surroundings. Many people in fact have no desire for gardens. The man who is engaged in hard physical work and has had an urban upbringing regards the garden as a burden and a nuisance rather than an amenity. The town council's programme of erection of three-storeyed flats and 'maisonettes' is now in course of development and it will be interesting to see the reaction of the tenants to this type of house.
There is a marked difference between the old-fashioned 'tenemental' houses, now disappearing. on the one hand, and both the owner occupied houses (nearly 3,000 in number) and the new council houses, on the other. The occupants of the rented flats in the former share a communal back court and use it for the traditional purposes of washing and drying clothes; there, too, are the customary coal cellars and water closets. Most of the other group, whether bungalows, flats or cottage- type houses, have gardens, which, as has been mentioned, have introduced a new element into the lives of many. But there is another and possibly more important aspect of the matter. The erection of new houses by the local authority has extended into the farther suburbs and the tenants have no option but to live at a greater distance than formerly from the central shops, the main thoroughfares, the business district, the churches and other common meeting-places. The need to foster community life has been given more consideration since building restarted after the war and sites have been ear-marked and are now being used for shops, churches and other desirable amenities. Despite the present lack of all the appropriate buildings, there is a sturdy community spirit in these suburbs. Gala days for the children have rapidly become a feature of life in the new housing areas and there was, for a time, a revival of an ancient custom in Camelon known as 'Mariners' Day.' These events are organised on a most elaborate scale by the men in the area; and the mothers spend much time and money on dressing their children in a manner worthy of a great occasion. Sometimes the 'Queen' and large numbers of people of all ages from her district parade to a church for a special service on the Sunday afternoon following the gala.
Water Supply. Falkirk's water, until 1830, came principally from a number of wells, among which were Kilns well, at the north-east comer of the Kilns, St. Marion's well, at the south side of Bell's meadow, Meadow well, at the north side of Bell's meadow, and the still extant Greenhorn's well.
The history of the piped supply starts at the end of the seventeenth century when water was brought by the Livingstones of Callendar from Parkhead to the Cross well at the steeple. Pipes, which were of lead. fed an underground cistern at the top of Drossie Road and thence lead or wooden pipes ran to the Cross well. Fully 100 years later a six-inch cast-iron pipe was laid from Drossie Road to a cistern (built in 1805), which stood at the end of Cistern Lane, where the public baths now stand. From the cistern, the water was distributed, again mainly in lead pipes, to various wells around the centre of the town. At some time between 1832 and 1857 a supply was brought from the 'mine mouth' in the glen north of Wester Shieldhill farm to supplement the original supply from Parkhead. This system was extended in cast-iron pipes through Falkirk until in 1872 and 1876 the adjoining areas of Grahamston and Bainsford respectively were supplied. From the latter date a heated controversy arose in the town as to how best to extend the water supply, which, allowing eight gallons a head daily, was becoming insufficient to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding community. fly 1879 the population was over 14,000 and consumption
had risen to ten gallons a head each day. In the following year, as a result of an extension of the 'mine mouth' supply, carried in nine-inch cast-iron pipes to the High Street, a further total of 100,000 gallons daily was secured.
There followed a stormy period (1882-5), when various schemes for obtaining additional supplies were mooted from two springs north-west of Camelon (one of them found to be subject to contamination from a cemetery), from the Earl's burn or from Loch Coulter (both in the Denny hills), and from underground sources (['it water). Parliamentary orders were drifted or promoted, the ratepayers' views were sought by plebiscite, and on one occasion the provost and some of his colleagues resigned from the council over a water dispute. Far- sighted members of the community were thinking in terms of a water company operating over a wide area, but not until 1888 were the rival schemes abandoned in favour of the formation of the Falkirk and Larbert Water Trust, whose plant comprised a small impounding reservoir on the Faughlin burn near Carronbridge feeding a larger storage reservoir, with filters, at Little Denny. These works were later increased by an extension of the Faughlin catchment area and the construction of a further storage reservoir and filters at Drumbowie. By 1899 the daily domestic consumption of water in the burgh of Falkirk had risen to 43 gallons a head and in addition 325,000 gallons a day were being used by industry throughout the trusts area.
The Falkirk and Larbert Water Trust provided the supply until 1921 when the trust amalgamated with the eastern and central districts of Stirling county to form the Stirlingshire and Falkirk Water Board. At that time the total consumption of water in the trust's area had reached 2,600,000 gallons daily and the domestic consumption remained around 40 gallons a head daily. The Stirlingshire and Falkirk Water Board took over the works of the eastern district at Buckieburn, raised the level of Loch Coulter by 12 feet 6 inches, and constructed filter plants at Longhill and Sauchie.
The drought years, 1933 and 1934, showed the board that they had very little surplus in hand, and they decided to embark on the major scheme of constructing the Carron valley reservoir, which promised to multiply their available resources by three. The reservoir was completed just before the outbreak of the war of 1939, but no steps could be taken at that time to deal with the distribution of the water into the area. The domestic consumption, largely because of new housing, had by then risen to over 50 gallons a head daily and trade users in the board's area took 1,200,000 gallons daily. Since the war, distribution has been further improved and now, in addition to the supply to the board's own area, a considerable quantity of water in bulk is supplied to new industries within the burgh of Grangemouth. But for the foresight of the board in having this water available, these industries could not have been sited where they are. The works carried out since 1946 include over 40 miles of piping and an additional filter plant at Broadside. For all purposes, including bulk supplies, the board now (in 1961) deals with over 17,500,000 gallons daily; the domestic or unmetered consumption in the burgh of Falkirk was, in 1960, 52.5 gallons a head daily.
Gas Supply. Gas was introduced to Falkirk by the Falkirk Gas Works Company, a joint stock company, formed by local business men and tradesmen in 1829 for the purpose of lighting (in the first place) High Street, Robert's Wynd and Kirk Wynd. The works were con structed at a first cost of £1,646 Ss. 74(1. and 'lighted' on 18 January 1830. A plan of the original works is still in existence. As was usual, many consumers paid for gas on a time contract basis, but where meters were in use the charge was 12s. 9d. for a thousand cubic feet From June 1831 to June 1832 the income from the sale of gas was £450 8s. 10d. For the same period the expenditure was
Coal, lime and cartage ... ... .. - ... £102 8 8
Manager ... ... ... ... ... 30 0 0
Sundry ... ... .... ... ... ... 82 4 11
Competition from the Falkirk Joint Stock Gas Company, formed in 1845, had, by 1862, forced the price of gas down to 4s. 2d. for a thousand cubic feet, but by 1867 an agreement was reached between the two companies to sell gas at Ss. 10d. Later in 1878, the works and assets of the original Falkirk Gas Works Company were sold to the Falkirk Joint Stock Gas Company for £7,500.
In 1896 the Falkirk Gas Commissioners took over the works and supply of gas from the latter company, under the Falkirk Corporation Gas Act, 1894, paying £77,050 as the purchase price of the capital assets. By about 1902 it was realised that the works, at the south-west corner of the intersection of Graham's Road and the canal, could no longer be expanded to meet the growing needs of the community, and the present site at Thornhill was chosen for the erection of new works, which were opened officially with considerable ceremony on 9 May 1906. The supply of gas to Falkirk and the adjacent communities continued to be the responsibility of the town council until 1 May 1949. when all the property of the Gas Department was vested in the Scottish Gas Board.
Ever since the erection of the works at Thornhill modernisation and expansion have continued to meet the growing domestic and industrial requirements of a steadily widening area of supply. The table below shows the amount of gas made in cubic feet,
1910 . 196,000,000 1940 442,000,000 1960 1,039,601,000
It is anticipated that the development of the grid system and the availability of supplies from the Lurgi plant in Fife may mean the closing of the works at Falkirk at some point in the future.
(1) By 1963 this closure had taken place.
Electricity. In the year 1900 Falkirk had four generating plants for supplying private consumers with electricity. In 1903 Falkirk town council promoted an order granting them power to provide their own electricity for the burgh. At about the same time the Scottish Central Electric Power Company was formed to provide electricity in the county of Stirling. The Falkirk undertaking was mainly concerned in the first instance with providing electricity for lighting, but later the demand for power as well as for light grew until in the year 1914 the output reached 1.000,000 units. Development was very rapid during the last few years in which the undertaking was operated by the town council, and the output for the year ending May 1948 was over 70.000,000 units, or seventy times that of 1914. At this time electricity in Falkirk was the cheapest in Scotland.
Under the 1947 Electricity Supply Act, electricity was nationalised and put under the care of the British Electricity Authority. Falkirk was situated in the Central sub-area of the South-East of Scotland area, which embraced roughly 400 square miles and covered the territory previously served by the Scottish Central Electric Power Company. including, among other places, Falkirk, Stirling, Bo'ness, Denny, Brox burn and Uphall. On 1 April 1955 the South-East and South-West Scotland Boards were amalgamated to form the present board and Stirling sub-area was renamed Stirling area. Control of the area is exercised from the office at Woodlands, St. Ninian's Road, Stirling. Service centres have been set up at Callendar Riggs and Newmarket Street, Falkirk, and at Stirling and Alloa, where all classes of appliances can be purchased or demonstrated, and free expert advice is given to existing and potential consumers.
Indeed the increased use of electrical appliances. added to the demand resulting from the increase in housing development, has played a considerable part in the growth of the consumption of electricity in the burgh in recent years. This growth averages more than seven per cent. each year.
Local Transport. In 1925 there were about 25 miles of roads and streets, of which ten miles were classified. At that time the main traffic routes in the town centre were of whin setts, with or without a concrete foundation, while the outlying stretches of the main roads, as well as the subsidiary streets, were of whin bottoming with various types of macadam surface coats. Since then the whole of the main roads has been widened and reconstructed to meet the needs of the ever-increasing volume of traffic. The old main roads were lifted and rebuilt, with reinforced concrete foundations, over which was laid a coat of asphalt, finished with a non-skid surface. The surface of the subsidiary roads and streets was scarified down to the foundations and replaced with a coat of bitumastic macadam, finished with a sealing coat. These processes brought the roads up to present day standards; the present mileage is 56 or thereby, of which some 15 miles are classified under the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919. It was an indication of the vitality and prosperity of the community that the vast project was carried through by which the centre of the town was transformed, the narrow wynds were widened into the present streets, and the bridge at Graham ston station as it now stands replaced its inadequate predecessor.
For passenger traffic a tramway system was constructed almost 60 years ago by the Falkirk and District Tramway Company under their order of 1901. This served the burgh and the adjoining villages of Larbert, Stenhousemuir and the village of Laurieston. In 1924 the Laurieston service was abandoned, chiefly because of the advent of the buses, while the circular route serving the burgh and the other villages was reconstructed and the rolling stock was renewed. The trams on this route were abandoned in 1936 and replaced by a bus service.
Two famous canals used to provide facilities for inland water transport, namely, the Forth and Clyde Canal from Grangemouth to Bowling, and the Union Canal from Edinburgh to Falkirk. The latter. joining the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk, is now cut off and has carried no traffic for a long number of years. The former is still in use, but on a much reduced scale and will be closed to shipping from 1 January 1963.
Road improvements are still called for. In spite of the abolition of tram-lines and the adoption of the one-way traffic system now in force, High Street is not nearly wide enough for modern needs. The narrow bridge by which Camelon Road crosses the canal has to carry a ceaseless flood of heavy traffic and is obsolete. There is a similar bridge at Bainsford where the traffic is somewhat less heavy. The widen ing of High Street is a necessary project towards which the local authority has directed its attention with some trepidation. To buy up the properties that would have to be demolished for this purpose would cost very much more than £1,000,000. (1) A permanent bridge, replacing the 'swing' bridge, was opened on 10 April 1964. Tom' note:the bridge is now being re-built as the canals are being re-opened as part of the Millennium canal project.
Some slight easing of the problem of traffic movement has been achieved by gradual development of the back areas of the large shops on the south side of High Street to permit of the unloading of vehicles in the Howgate. Extensive restrictions on parking in all the main streets are also assisting in the creation of a steady flow of traffic. No solution, however, will be achieved until the by-pass which has been planned to skirt the centre of the town on the south side, along Hodge Street and past the Royal Infirmary, is built. This road, to be of greatest value, must cross the Forth and Clyde Canal by a permanent bridge and it is only now that the approaching closure of the canal is making the building of such a bridge likely.
One additional influence on the speed of traffic through the burgh, especially on Saturdays, must be mentioned. Pedestrians in Falkirk, local and visiting, accept the fact that High Street pavements are narrow and meet the difficulty by walking unconcernedly in the street, to the visible alarm and bewilderment of motorists passing through the town, who have not elsewhere encountered this phenomenon.
Falkirk was the original home and is still the principal centre of the road passenger service operated by W. Alexander and Sons. This vast concern, which has thrown its network far and wide over the country, began in 1912 when the late Walter Alexander ran a single bus from Camelon. From then he was a pioneer in the development of motor bus services and achieved a position of pre-eminence in the industry; the familiar blue buses provide comprehensive local services within the burgh and a very large range of direct services to other parts of the country.
Three railway stations are in use in the burgh, at Grahamston, Camelon and on the southern fringe, Falkirk High station, and two are still operating near Bonnybridge. A new single-span bridge carrying the main Glasgow-Edinburgh line has recently been built at Camelon to replace the stone viaduct, some 120 years old,. now demolished.
Sanitation. The responsibilities of the sanitary inspector, originating in nineteenth century legislation but greatly amplified and more sharply defined by many orders and regulations made during the past fifty years, are summed up in the official phrase 'environmental health services.' His duties nowadays extend to the inspection of dwelling houses, schools, shops, dairies, factories, places of entertainment and lodging houses. He must detect nuisances, determine 'fitness for human habitation,' check offensive trades and control verminous infestation. He supervises slaughter houses and food supplies, samples milk, licenses dairies and ice-cream shops, and examines the methods of production used on farms and in creameries. The pollution of the atmosphere and of rivers falls within his province, as do questions concerning the purity of water supplies.
Armed with these formidable powers, the authorities have done good work. especially in modern times, towards the remedying of insanitary conditions. Their greatest achievement in Falkirk was the demolition of the slums in the centre of the town. Equally important was the accompanying measure of social reform which did away with the privy midden, the most obnoxious feature of the deplorable communal life of the nineteenth century. The installation of inside water supplies, and the provision of water closets, sinks, wash-basins and baths, have removed the unhygienic domestic practices of an earlier age; and the extent to which the people of Falkirk enjoy these amenities was revealed, for the first time, in the census of 1951. Out of 10,710 households enumerated for this purpose, all but seven had access to a piped water supply within the house and all but 17 to a kitchen sink; in each case, for every household that had to share the convenience, almost exactly seven households had exclusive use thereof. Only 14 of the households were without a water closet, though the proportion sharing this amenity was much higher (43 per cent., compared with 57 per cent. enjoying exclusive access). Less than half of the households (48.9 per cent.) had exclusive use of a fixed bath, 9.8 per cent. of them shared one, and a disturbingly high proportion, 41.3 per cent., had none. A comparison with the county at large, and with its other burghs. yields results which are much as one would expect from the high degree of industrialisation and congestion in Falkirk, on the one hand, and the survival of primitive sanitary provision, if any at all, in the landward areas, on the other. Falkirk's position as regards the exclusive use of these conveniences, collectively or individually, was weaker than that of the whole county or of the other burghs; but the households entirely without piped water, kitchen sink or water closet were relatively more numerous in the county than in its largest burgh. In respect of baths, however, Falkirk was in every way worse off than the rest - that is, it had relatively fewer residents with, and more wholly without1 this basic requirement for a decent life.
The larger residential houses and the owner occupied houses, mostly built before the day of the 'housing scheme,' as well as the modern town council houses, are, as a group, adequately equipped with the 'conveniences investigated in the course of the 1951 census-taking, and such dwellings naturally help to raise the burgh's statistical average on this score. The main defects revealed in that census, the existence of too many water closets outside the house and used in common by two or more families, and the lack of bathrooms, have been to a considerable extent remedied within the burgh by the construction of new houses and the remodelling of older buildings, coupled with, of course. demolitions of condemned houses. Grants to pay for the improvement of old houses are available under several Acts, the latest of these being the House Purchase and Rowing Act of 1959.
The public cleansing service of the burgh took its rise in the powers conferred by the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, but great advances have since been made. In the early days refuse was removed by open horse-drawn carts and simply emptied on rubbish tips. Nowadays refuse is collected twice weekly by motor vehicles from every household and shop, to be separated by mechanical appliances into its components, such as waste paper, scrap metal, textiles, bones, bottles, broken glass and cinders, which are thereafter prepared for sale. After the abstraction of the small dust, the remainder of the refuse is burned in the furnaces. The clinker from the furnaces, together with street sweepings and garden refuse, is emptied on to a tip, which is regularly covered by clean material, including the screened dust from the works; by such means, some waste land within the burgh boundaries has been restored to agricultural use, and in Camelon the foundation of what, it is hoped, may become a new sports arena is being laid.
Besides sweeping the streets and certain back courts, the cleansing department is responsible for clearing snow from the principal thorough- fares, for emptying rain-water gullies, for washing the streets, and for attending to the public conveniences and the litter bins on lamp standards. Every effort is made to assist and encourage tidy ways among the townsfolk. Fully two-thirds of the householders use the special pails given out for keeping separate all kitchen waste, which is collected twice weekly and sold for pig-feed. From April to October garden refuse is collected weekly. Even though the national need has presumably passed. the war-time practice of putting aside waste paper for salvage purposes is still observed.
The main drainage of the burgh prior to 1934 consisted of a number of concentration sewers with two outfall sewers, one at Dalderse and one at Cobblebrae. The former dealt with the sewage from the major part of the burgh and discharged it in crude form into the river Carron. The latter dealt with the Camelon area, the sewage from which passed through old settling ponds at Cobblebrae before being discharged into the river, which is tidal at both outfalls. In 1931 the town council and the county of Stirling agreed to carry out a joint drainage scheme for the burgh of Falkirk and the special drainage district covering Larbert1 West Canon and Carronshore This scheme, completed in 1934, made important alterations to the main sewers, dispensed with the settling ponds at Cobblebrae and brought all the sewage of these areas to the outfall at Dalderse, where purification works were constructed to give primary treatment to the sewage before discharging it into the river. These changes brought the drainage system to its present position. Improvements to the system by constructing additional main sewers to relieve the existing ones, by draining certain unbuilt areas which had no drainage, and by extending the purification works have been and are being carried out.
Industry. The light castings industry is the most important in the area, and Falkirk is famous all over the world for the quality and variety of its products. At the beginning of the century there were more than 20 foundries, mostly small independent family concerns, and each of them made most of the wide range of products signified by the term light castings, such as rain water pipes. soil pipes, grates, ranges, general castings and baths. There was little attempt at specialisation; and, while not unhealthy, the work was arduous and was associated with dirt and with rough conditions.
During the first world war several firms were entrusted with large orders for shells, bombs and other war materials, and these were carried out with complete satisfaction. The methods of production had, however, changed very little over the years1 and it was not until the second world war and after, that, as a result of much research, large mechanised plants were successfully installed by such firms as Allied Ironfounders, Federated Foundries, the Carron Company and Grahamston Iron Company.
By 1961, therefore, the position has changed radically. The organisation and the methods of the industry are entirely different. Ten or eleven of the foundries have gone out of business; and of those that remained six were taken over by Allied Ironfounders in 1929 and some by Federated Foundries in 1935. Both these groups have their head offices and most of their constituent companies outside Falkirk.
There was also a considerable shift of the industry to the south, and Falkirk men founded businesses in London, Leeds, Manchester and elsewhere near the great centres of population. One of the main aims in the formation of the combines was to increase manufacturing efficiency by specialisation. Each works concentrated on one or two products, and continued under the same individual management, with only major policy controlled from above.
Mechanisation meant greater efficiency and the more economic use of plant; it also reduced the heavy work involved in moulding. The proportion of unskilled labour increased, and, but for this development. the supply of skilled workers would have proved inadequate in the busy periods. Some moulders have been attracted away from their arduous trade to the well paid, semi-skilled work offered by the British Aluminium Company. This drift seems to have slowed down, and training schemes have been established for teaching apprentices; they are given an all-round knowledge of foundry practice with the object of discovering their special aptitudes. The procedure of the moulding shops is being improved, to the extent, indeed, of mechanised moulding in the most advanced foundries, and conditions have been much altered. The baths and canteens provided for moulders in almost all foundries have been most welcome. The trade is phenomenally free from strikes.
Recent research has been specially directed towards continuous- burning, fuel-saving cooking and heating appliances; and an overwhelming rush of orders has come for open fires of this type. Grates, ranges, gas and electric cookers, baths, rain water and soil goods remain among the most important products, but further advances into the production of new types of gas and electrical appliances are being made. The skill of the Falkirk moulder and the quality of his work are being well maintained, although the older men feel that pride of craftsmanship is not so strong as it once was.
Unemployment was less serious between the wars in Falkirk than in the heavy industries in the west, as the trade was helped by the demands of the housing programme. From 1945 the demand for the products of the industry was extremely heavy, but restrictions in building and a decline in demand for replacements began to affect the foundries. For some years unemployment threatened and short-time working was fairly common. Research, training, initiative and adaptability to changing conditions, however, have all helped to restore confidence locally.
Carron Works, part of which is in Falkirk and part in Larbert produces light and heavy castings and has four blast furnaces. It is interesting to note that at Carron Works William Symington (1763-1831), 'the father of marine engineering,' superintended the erection of a set of steam engines on the lines of the patents taken out in 1786. With these engines the first steamboat, built towards the end of 1789, made a satisfactory run on the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Shrapnel shell, named after Henry Shrapnel (1761-1843), was first manufactured at
Carron Works. From the first, Carron Company was famed for the production of ordnance, notably for ships of war, including the well- known 'carronades.' As early as 1765 the company acquired sea-going vessels of its own, armed with twelve-pounder carronades, for the transport of goods to London.
During the second world war the manufacture of aluminium sheets was started when the British Aluminium Company established a rolling mill in Falkirk on a site of more than 50 acres in extent. This branch has grown steadily and now employs over 2,000 workers, of whom about 25 per cent. are women. A new rolling mill costing many millions of pounds is being planned and it is anticipated that a larger labour force will be required. The mill, which is expected to be the widest in Europe, will very greatly increase the national production of aluminium. The Dyestuffs Division of Imperial Chemical Industries has built up-to-date factories for its products just outside the burgh, and these give employment to many in Falkirk. Both the British Aluminium Company and Imperial Chemical Industries have brought in a consider able number of key-men (technicians, chemists and others) from England and from other parts of Scotland, and to house these the two firms have been keen competitors in buying properties of a desirable type.
The brewery of James Aitken and Company (Falkirk) operates on a large scale. The new brewery was built on its present site nearly sixty years ago, and its products are known throughout the world, having won many awards in places as distant as India and Australia. At the London Brewers' Exhibition in 1921 the company won the cup and gold medal, the highest award at the exhibition. The water used by the brewery is drawn from two artesian wells inside the brewery grounds, from which it is mechanically pumped from a depth of 600 feet at the rate of 240 gallons a minute. The output runs to thousands of barrels a week and the bottling plant is capable of filling 1,200 dozen bottles an hour 200 workers are employed.
In 1845 James Ross founded at Lime Wharf in Camelon a chemical works which grew into Scottish Tar Distillers, a company which produces an extensive range of products including pitch, paint solvents, special fuels, naphthalene and phenol. In recent years a large coach-building industry has been developed in Camelon by W. Alexander and Sons and this expanding business is affording work to considerable numbers. Yet another new factory to make adhesives, and other products of starch, is being set up in the premises formerly known as Port Downie Iron Works. In addition there are several well-known saw mills in the district, a brass foundry, printers, aerated water manufacturing, a box factory and a firm of bookbinders who do work of high quality for libraries and public authorities throughout Europe.
The old industries of Falkirk have prospered greatly in the past and still prosper in this virile community but the widening of the range of types of employment is welcome, coinciding as it does with the adaptation of the iron-moulding skills to new demands and changing circumstances. The threat of high unemployment as a result of any decline in the iron industry is being steadily lessened.1
(1) It has not yet, however been removed. In early 1964 it was announced that the firm of R. and A. Main, Ltd., would be closed. This closure is likely to cause considerable unemployment.
The Churches. There are twelve churches of the Church of Scotland, and one each of the Baptist, Congregational3 Methodist9 Scottish Episcopal and Church of Christ Churches in the burgh. All Protestants claim some sort of connection with one or other of these; the Church of Scotland has roughly 10,000 communicants. The Roman Catholic Church, served by a priest and two assistants, has in the town some 4,500 members, although these include persons from lower age groups than the Protestant communicants. A fine, new Roman Catholic church on the site of the old one, which was destroyed by fire, was dedicated to St. Francis Xavier at the end of October 1961. The church is strikingly designed and magnificently furbished and is large enough to seat 590 people. In Camelon too, a new Roman Catholic church, also of very modern design and construction, has been opened in recent years.
Church life is vigorous and healthy, although unspectacular. Liberality to the church varies from very high to a fairly low level in the different congregations. In contrast to the morning service, the evening service is everywhere poorly attended. Within living memory there has been nothing even approaching revival excitement. Some years ago a campaign was conducted by a visiting evangelist who drew considerable crowds, but no permanent results were evident. Anti- church feeling hardly exists. There is no 'working-class' or 'middle- class' church in the town; congregations are a cross-section of the community, so that one does not come across the mistaken belief that the church is a bourgeois institution. There are several sectarian missions1 very zealous, fundamentalist, evangelical and rather critical of the churches. They form the bulk of the audience at any revivalist meeting. A Mormon community plans to establish a church in the burgh soon.
Loyalty to church and denomination is strong. Many members of the Church of Scotland have never entered any church but their own. The division between the pre-union Auld Kirk and United Free Church is still quite marked in the now united church. It was a landmark in local church life when, in 1951-2, the congregation of Falkirk Old Parish Church (during ten months of renovation which cost £11,000) received hospitality from the members of St. Andrew's Church and had joint services throughout that period.
Political Loyalties. Political convictions run very deep in Falkirk, and with a force that is all the stronger because the poorer and the richer social groups (some very poor and some very wealthy) live close together and under the eyes of each other; but there is little outward demonstration of political feeling. During the political elections after
the war. when great issues were at stake and the panics were so vehemently opposed, it was found impossible to arouse any excitement. One national newspaper reported that the contest was being conducted on the lines of old-world gentlemanly courtesy. For the most pan meetings were sparsely attended, the exceptions being the large rallies; and even at these the speakers were allowed to state their case with little and only good-nature interruption from listeners who disagreed with everything that was being said. In the main, heckling was conducted with great decorum and the answers were listened to with solemn attention. Beneath this placid surface there lay passionate political loyalties. The size of the floating vote is uncertain; but events would seem to show that most of the voters have decisively chosen their camp and that the number of those who can be swung from one side to the other is inconsiderable. Three times the constituency was contested by Lt. Colonel William Forbes, a local man, a popular figure and one who was esteemed even by those who voted against him; but he failed to break the Labour majority, for the simple reason that it was unbreakable at the time - whatever changes the future may bring.
A great mass of those employed in industry base their socialist loyalty on the assumption that a Labour government, whatever its faults, will at least have a sympathetic bias in favour of the working classes, while a Conservative government will just as naturally and inevitably have a bias in the other direction. Mutates mutandis many Conservatives support their party on similar grounds. Among the supporters of both parties there are many who have an informed grasp of their own policy and the case that can be made out for it; but the Conservatives admit that it is their opponents who between elections are most industrious in the serious study of their policy and most persistent in propaganda. Most voters, however, do not trouble about a critical examination of their political creed; they have taken a stand with the social and economic group to which they feel they naturally belong and are as unlikely to change their party loyalty as a Protestant or Roman Catholic is unlikely to change his faith. The loyalties of party politics have invaded and dominate the town council. This is perhaps unavoidable; but it is to be regretted when local issues arise which ought to be dealt with on non-party lines and regarding which a man often upholds party unity by voting against his better judgement.
Cultural Activities. In its cultural life, Falkirk has an Archaeological Society which, under the guidance of several keen and competent members, does valuable work in the district. There are several dramatic clubs with a high record in the Scottish Community Drama Association; the record of all these clubs is impressive, particularly that of the dramatic group of Falkirk High School Club which has won the Scottish final of the S.C.D.A. one-act play festival four times and the British final once, in 1931. The association often holds its competitive festivals in Falkirk town hall, not only for the immediate district but also for the whole south-eastern division.
The Falkirk Operatic Society celebrated its fiftieth year in 1953, and during its existence has given above £5,000 to charities. The Bohemian Operatic Society, founded since the war, is already well established in public esteem. The former brings in producers from Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Falkirk Choral Society, now called the Caledonia Choir, with some eighty members, has gained a fine reputation for itself and broadcasts frequently. During the war a strong joint choir, drawn from the church choirs of the district, performed oratorios; but it is significant that, when the operatic societies began their activities again, this choir was unable to continue.
There are many thriving social and cultural organisations for women. These include the Electrical Association for Women, the Women Citizens, the Soroptimist Club, a branch of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the Ladies' Landward League, the Townswomen's Guild, the Inner wheel, the Ladies' Circle and the Co-operative Guilds. The churches have strong branches of the Woman's Guild which further the influence of the church in a host of ways.
Men do not lag far behind; Rotary, Toastmasters, Round Table, several Masonic Lodges and a Toc H branch all flourish. Cultural societies with men and women members include a Workers' Educational Association which is not, however, well supported, a strong Camera Club, a Scientific Film Society, a Debating Society, an Art Club, a Gramo phone Society and an Arts Guild with a membership of a few hundreds!'~ This last is the successor to a very fine guild which existed until some years ago under the auspices of Erskine Church. Some ten years ago Falkirk town council assisted in the creation of an interesting develop ment of cultural effort in the burgh when it gave authority and support to the formation of Falkirk Arts and Civic Council, a body which, with financial aid from the town council and an executive committee composed half of town councillors and half of representatives of the constituent bodies of the Arts and Civic Council, makes every effort to foster and encourage cultural activity in the burgh. The success of this venture has depended largely on its first chairman, Mr Duncan Clark, whose influence in the field of speech-trai£ng in schools, in the early impetus given to the now flourishing and well-established Musical Festival Association of the central counties and in the whole field of amateur drama in the area, has been lasting and profound.
Falkirk remains one of the only three towns in Scotland to preserve a link, created after the war of 1939, with a French town. The Falkirk Quimper Fellowship arranges annually exchange visits between. the two towns and some thirty to forty school pupils from the burgh and the surrounding area take pan.
The catalogue of activities of a cultural and recreational nature is by no means complete. Almost every hobby from chess to cage-bird rearing, from pigeon fancying to model engineering is represented here.
(I) The Arts Guild and the Debating Society have ceased to function in 1963/4.
Floral art is becoming increasingly attractive as a subject for study and bridge retains its popularity.
Sport. Falkirk is particularly fortunate in the range of sporting activities which may be pursued. Accommodation for every one of them is not always adequate but the range is wide. Swimming, skating, dog racing, curling, cricket, tennis, badminton. mountaineering, ski-ing. motoring, cycling, bowling, weight-lifting, gymnastics and golf are all intensively practised. There is a little hockey and a great deal of country dancing. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society has hundreds of members. Curling is growing in popularity, the British Open Championship being regularly held in the local ice rink. Minia ture rifle shooting produces keen exponents and national representatives. There is not yet sufficient interest in athletics but this is growing and a local club in Victoria Park provides a useful training for young athletes. When the plans of the town council for the construction of a new sports stadium in Camelon come to fruition it is anticipated that there will be a marked increase in interest and in standard of performance in many sports.
Football. This deserves some individual mention; the area has a high reputation for the production of fine players who, too often, to the consternation of local supporters. find their way to the well-known teams of the Scottish cities or of England. Many organisations have football teams: schools, youth clubs, the uniformed youth organisations, factories and adult groups, and there is strong participation in all the various grades of league. At the top of the pyramid stand the two local professional clubs, East Stirlingshire, which has been for many years in the Second Division, and Falkirk Football Club, which, in spite of its vicissitudes, continues to command loyal local support. Indeed its association of supporters works very hard and progressively in a variety of ways to raise money to assist the club.~1 (1) East Stirling F.C., formed in 1880, rejoined the First Division in 1963-64, but has again been relegated. The Club is in the throes of considerable reorganisation
Falkirk Football Club was instituted in 1876 and celebrated the event by losing its first match to Bonnybridge Grasshoppers. The record since then, however, has been by no means without its successes and includes the winning of the Scottish Cup in 1912-13 and again in 1956-7, on which occasion, when the team returned to Falkirk, the number of serious and staid citizens who came out at midnight to cheer was astonishingly high. Attendances at matches vary with the fortunes of the team. Success brings renewed interest. Defeat tends to drive the less enthusiastic supporter away. The highest attendance recorded at Brockville Park is more than 22,000 but for most matches the attendance is less than half of that figure. Support is widespread and many men travel in from the surrounding area.
Youth Organisations. The uniformed organisations for young people are well supported. There are nine companies of the Boys' Brigade in the burgh and 23 troops of Scouts in the burgh and the area round it. Girls' Guildry is strong in membership and so are Girl Guides. of whom there are in the town eight companies as well as ten packs of Brownies. The Army Cadet Force and Sea Cadets flourish as does the Air Squadron. The record of this last group in shooting is outstanding. The Falkirk Squadron, No.470, has won, since the war, the 'Battle of Britain' trophy twelve times and the 'Punch' trophy, in competition against cadet teams of all services throughout Britain, eleven times.1~ (1) The tally of 'Punch' trophy victories has become thirteen in 1964.
Voluntary,y Services. Much valuable social work is carried on by voluntary organisations, particularly the women's clubs and associations. The Women's Voluntary Service has a variety of duties which benefit the community, one of the most appreciated being the delivery of 'meals on wheels' to old people living alone. The Old People's Welfare Associa tion carries out a task of help and encouragement which means much to the older folk, and the Friends of the Falkirk and District Hospitals Association does much to cheer those who are ill. There is, too, a group to assist sufferers from deafness and dumbness and a society to help those who are afflicted by multiple sclerosis.
Reading. Falkirk Public Library originated in 1887 in a donation by Robert Dollar of £1,000 for the purchase of books. The books obtained in this way were added to a collection, given by James Duncan, already in the possession of the Young Men's Christian Association to which the donation had been entrusted. In 1900-4 Andrew Carnegie presented £5,000 for the erection of a library building, which was opened in 1902. The books held by the Y.M.C.A. had been handed over to the town council after the adoption by the council of the Free Libraries Act in 1896. Issues during the first year of the Dollar Free Library had totalled 20,738 to 1,266 readers. Growth and development of the library since those days has been steady. In 1923 the open access system was adopted and a children's library was opened. By 1937-8 the annual issue was in the region of 180,000 books. In 1961 the libra rian, aided by a staff of eleven assistants, carried out total book issues, including reference material, numbering 410,254; of these, 350,305 were to adults and 59,949 to children. More than one third of the books issued to adults (92,123) were works of non-fiction character, history, biography and travel accounting for 30,286 issues, and 244,021 issues were of books of fiction. Of the issues to children, 11,854 were of works of non-fiction and 48,095 of fiction. The number of visits to the reference library was 14,161, a daily average of 46. There are 8,898 registered adult readers in the burgh and 3,528 in the county; the number of children in the burgh registered as readers is 4,466 and, in the county, 2,066. Book stock numbers 54,651 volumes for adults (one third of this number being works of fiction), 7,414 for children, and 4,847 volumes in all for reference.
Press. Falkirk has two newspapers. The Falkirk Herald (established in 1845) until some years ago published a small edition on Wednesdays as well as its main edition on Saturdays. Early in 1953 the Wednesday edition was discontinued. The Saturday edition is printed on the same size of sheet as those of the large dailies and runs to ten or twelve pages. It serves a very wide area surrounding the town. The Falkirk Mail (founded in 1886) is published on a much smaller scale every Friday, and is noted for accurate reporting and pungent comment ary on local affairs.~1~ A third weekly, the Falkirk Sentinel, also published on Fridays, was started in 1954, but was discontinued in 1956.
1) The Mail ceased publication on 26 October 1962.
Burgh Development. The appearance of the town has changed very considerably during the last fifty years and further extensive changes are envisaged. The steeple, a notable landmark of Gothic design, 146 feet high, survived a stroke of lightning in 1927 and will, it is hoped. survive the radical changes of the landscape round it now proposed. Streets will be widened and new roads will allow the very busy traffic on High Street to diminish. The ground floor of the steeple, incidentally, now houses a butcher's shop and there is a public house with the delightful name of 'The Pie Office' next door. Work on new shopping areas at the east end, in the centre and at the west and of High Street has begun or is being planned. People have rediscovered the beauty of the Old Parish Kirk as a result of clearances of other buildings and its approach from High Street has been enhanced by the construction of an attractive gateway which earned for the town in 1960 one of the Civic Trust Design awards. A new crematorium is almost complete; a new telephone exchange will soon be in operation; new civic chamber; are likely to be a reality by 1965. After many years of slow and patient planning Camelon Main Street will, it is believed, soon undergo the improvement so long desired. Falkirk is, indeed, in the process of very considerable physical change.
The Landward Area. This area of the parish extends from east of Laurieston to the county boundary west of the railway viaduct at Castlecary and includes Glen village and part of Bonnybridge south of the Bonny. According to the 1951 census returns the extent of the landward area of the parish was 11,180 acres. The land is good farming land in the centre of the parish area but the southern and south-eastern areas are wooded and contain areas of moon
The Roman wall of Antoninus Pius traverses the parish; the large fort of Mumrills lay immediately within the boundary on the east and the fort at Castlecary stood on the rising ground now crossed by the railway line as it approaches the Castlecary viaduct. The parish, indeed, contains in the Rough Castle area some of the best surviving sections of the wall and ditch.
Population. In 1951 the population of the landward area was 10,129 persons; in 1931 the total was 8,878, the increase in the interval of twenty years having been 1,251. The whole village of Bonnybridge was recorded as having a population of 6,065 persons while the population of Laurieston was 3,600. No figures for these villages in 1931 are available. In 1961 the population of the landward area fell to 8,473.
Agriculture. More than 2,000 acres are in crops and there are some 4,500 acres of grassland; rough grazing extends to more than 2,000 acres. One farm is entirely given over to heath and moorland. There are 79 farms in all, of which 20 are recorded as being occupied by their owners. Of the 78 farms of arable land more than half, 40. are of 75 acres and above in extent; thirteen of these have between 150 and
300 acres. Considerable acreage is devoted to the growing of mixed grain for threshing but wheat, oats, potatoes and turnips are grown In quantity. Dairy cattle outnumber beef cattle; they account for some two thirds of a total cattle population of about 3,000. and there are approximately 1.200 sheep and nearly 10,000 head of poultry, Horses have decreased considerably in numbers, 27 being now recorded; in 1945 there were 239 horses in the landward area.
Industry. There is a considerable concentration of industry in the west of the parish. Immediately outside the boundary of the burgh of Falkirk stands a large electricity generating station. Bonnybridge has been for long a centre of the ironfounding industry and its products have a high reputation throughout the world. The largest company is that of Smith and Wellstood, which acquired in July 1959 the trading assets of another well-known local firm, that of Mitchell, Russell. The firm of Smith and Wellstood was founded in 1854 by James Smith, the story of whose narrow escape from death by drowning in that year is often recounted locally. James Smith, swimming in icy waters after the sinking, as the result of collision, of the ship in which he was travelling, saved his life by squeezing into a basket which he dragged on to a raft. The basket and the shirt he waved to attract the attention of a passing ship are still preserved in the company's offices. The firm employs about 1,000 people and sends much of its production abroad. Two other foundries, that of Lane and Girvan and the Broomside foundry, known locally as 'the Puzzle,' each with well-known products, provide further employment in the area. Outside the village lie the brick-making and clay mining industries, of which the largest is the works of John G. Stein and Company near the street of houses known as Allandale. The bulk of the production of this works is of fire-bricks but quantities of basic brick are manufactured, the former being made from local clay and the latter from chrome and magnesite. Employment is provided for some 400 people including miners. Further employment is provided by other considerable brick-making enterprises and in an engineering works, while the village provides the usual retail and distributive services in which jobs are found. Cigarette manufacturing was carried on for some years but this factory has been closed.
In Glen Village there is a mine from which quantities of &re<lay are extracted and Laurieston boasts a compact industrial estate housing a number of small businesses and workshops of various types.
Housing. Between the wars 708 traditional houses were erected by
the county council in the landward area; of these 416 were built in Bonnybridge
and High Bonnybridge, 74 in Glen Village and 218 in Laurieston. Since 1945,
836 more houses have been built by the same agency; Laurieston was given 443 of these,
Bonnybridge 293, Glen Village 68, and Allandale and Castlecary 16 each. In addition 93
temporary houses were erected; of these 84 are still in use; eight houses for agricultural
workers have been provided at various points in the parish. Some private building has
taken place in recent years, mainly in Laurieston, hut the number of houses built by
private owners is small.
Religion. The church of the parish, Bonnybridge Church, lies now in the parish of Denny. It has a strong, active membership and is well supported. St. Helen's Church in High Bonnybridge is also very active. A Roman Catholic chapel in High Bonnybridge is the religious centre of a community of some 1,600 Roman Catholic members. There is a small but flourishing Gospel Assembly. In Laurieston the church has an active membership and a strong Sunday school and Bible class, The foundation stone of a new church hall was laid in December 1961. There is, in this village also, an active Gospel Assembly.
Education. There are six primary schools in the landward area of the parish. Bonnybridge Primary School, which now has 370 pupils and a staff of twelve teachers, was until recent years a secondary school providing education to school leaving age. Greenhill School and Broomhill School, High Bonnybridge. with rolls of 121 and 63 pupils respectively and staffs of four and three teachers, provide for the remaining Protestant children in the area and St. Joseph's Roman Catholic School has 287 pupils and nine members of staff. The children of the tiny village of Allandale attend Castlecary Primary School, a one4eacher school with, at the moment, twelve pupils on the roll. Children from Glen Village come to school in Falkirk while Laurieston School, with a staff of ten teachers. provides for 318 pupils.
Voluntary Organisations. The welfare of the old people of Bonnybridge is in the care of a local association and much valuable work in this and in other fields is also carried out by the ladies of the W.V.S. A club specially for old ladies is very popular. St. Andrew's Ambulance Association is active. The churches have branches of the Woman's Guild and a branch of the W.R.I. is active in Greenhill. Masonic organisations for men and for women are well supported.
The Bonnybridge area is fortunate in the range of its sports and recreational pursuits. The Territorial Army possesses a fine local band. The rifle range at Greenhill is visited by many units of the services and of the cadet organisations. Football, cricket, bowling, angling, curling and golf are all enjoyed in organised and successful clubs and teams A drama club attracts good audiences for its various productions.
The young people have Guide, Scout, Brownie and Cub groups. One Scout troop, the Twenty-seventh, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in October 1961. Rover Scouts are active and there is a Trefoil Guild.
In Glen Village welfare work for old people is carried out by the local Co-operative Society committee. There is a popular bowling club and the miners' welfare hall is the centre in which various functions take place. There are facilities for the playing of billiards and a whist club meets there. 'Bingo' is played regularly. Football is popular and a team from the local mine plays in the Welfare League.
Many Laurieston people are associated with organisations in Falkirk but there is a strong village life which is quite independent of the burgh. Bowling and tennis clubs are active; a homing pigeon society flourishes, as does a society devoted to horticulture; this society stages an annual and successful flower show. There is a new football club and country dance classes meet regularly. For the old people there is a welfare association and a fine new hall built some ten years ago. For the young people there are the church organisations for youth and the uniformed groups, with their junior associates. The British Legion lacks support at the moment but this may improve; on the other hand the local drama group is extremely active and well-supported; in January 1962 it has been placed first in the preliminary rounds of the S.C.D.A. one-act play festival and will represent the area in the divisional final competition.
Social Life. It is not easy to describe the social groupings in Falkirk because the lines of demarcation are indeterminate. No county family lives in the town itself, and no resident citizen has received a knighthood. There is no elite recognised as such by virtue of its distinction in culture, breeding or accent; and no persons exercise unquestioned leadership on the grounds of acknowledged prestige and status. There are those who 'get things done' and who, because of their prosperity, their readiness to serve public causes and their ability, do stand out as prominent and influential figures; but their place in public esteem is not merely social and depends as much upon their individual worth. What may be called 'the better class' as a definite social set does not present clear-cut features. Members of the pro fessions, who as individuals have their own recognised place, may or may not belong to it; and, if not, the reason may be either that they do not care to or cannot afford to. Also standing outside this set are a few, mostly belonging to the older generation, whose family wealth is drawn from the larger local industries and who live with a certain measure of exclusive reserve. The qualifications for entry to this set are chiefly financial; few with' money could be excluded and few without money would be at home in it Its members desire the outward marks of social distinction for their children, and to an increasing extent send them to schools outside Falkirk. In many cases they belong to local
families in the second generation of their prosperity. They live expensively. but they are not offensively snobbish and are seldom as ostentatious as they could well afford to be. They are kindly and generous and do much voluntary service for the community.
The skilled manual worker, with a powerful union at his back, the owner of his own cottage and possibly enjoying a large joint family income, has a high sense of his own value ~nd considers himself as good as any other man in the town. This attitude, which is an important local aspect of the social revolution, makes it difficult for any class to assume a position of recognised and effective superiority.
The pern~anent officials of the local authority wield much real power; and they do this in a manner which, in our age of regimentation, is to be welcomed as a sign of healthy democracy. Elected members of the local authority are possibly the true leaders in essential matters affecting the town, but their power is tied to their term of office, which is terminable at the will of the voters; they never forget that the citizens are their masters. But, apart from this consideration, they show a high sense of civic responsibility. The absence of a recognised elite may have disadvantages. as when some strong lead needs to be given to the town. As an instance, since the local Conservative candidate decided not to stand again, there is no local person to take his place.
All voluntary organisations for youth are here passing through a difficult time, inasmuch as only a small percentage of the young have the least desire to attend the functions of any kind of disciplined group. The time seems to have come to reconsider this whole matter. Before the days of wireless, cinema, television, dance-halls and skating rinks, when a hall was thrown open for anything like the Boys' Brigade, or even the Band of Hope, it was hailed as a boon and provided an escape from monotony. It supplied a need and filled a void. Now there is no void, and what was offered as a boon has to be pressed as a duty; and the question arises of whether it is in fact a duty for a youth to attend an organisation simply because the organisation is there. Certainly a youth organisation has to compete with glamorous rival amusement. on which the young spend& a deplorable amount of time and money.
Gambling of all kinds has a big hold here as elsewhere; and apprentices are drawn into the habit by a process that is irresistible. Smoking is a major economic problem in many class homes where both husband and wife smoke some 30s.worth of tobacco each week. Drunkenness is not an outstanding evil but to a disturbing extent drinking is indulged in by young men while some homes are adversely affected by the fact goes out working on shifts
Character of the People. The character Falkirk bears an unusually vital relationship to 'Touch ane, touch a' and 'Better meddle wi the de'il than the Bairns o' Falkirk.' The one suggests clannishness and pugnacity. We might be treading on dangerous ground if we proceed to consider how these qualities applied to the 'Bairns' - the name by which those are known who have been born and bred in the town - but they themselves quote these watchwords frequently and with gusto, as indicating what they are and desire to be. They are proud to think that they live up to them. It is a fact that the bond of comradeship which unites the Bairns of all social classes is remarkable in a large urbanised community which contains so many incomers, where one would expect such tribal fraternity to be lost in a larger context. As for the pugnacity they claim, in this instance self-criticism goes too far. What they might do under a sense of injustice there is no modern evidence to show; but normally their temper is not easily roused. They have been described as a mixture of Glasgow and Edinburgh; neither so ready and demonstrative with their friendship as the one, nor so reserved as the other. They have a warm-heartedness which lies deep; they are patient, tolerant, cautious, but kindly and generous, and when they do give their friendship, staunch and loyal.
The people of Falkirk are usually emotionally restrained, and resistant to political stunts and religious revivalism. This emotional restraint was strikingly illustrated on the occasion when King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses visited the town. The citizens were gratified and elated. In the heart of industrial Falkirk there is a warm loyalty to the crown, and an affectionate interest in the royal family; and in homes with a strong leftish tendency one often hears an appreciation of their exacting duties and the emphatic remark, 'I would not have their job for anything.' Now the point is that as the royal party drove from the station towards the centre of the town their approach was heralded only by a scattered burst of cheering. As they left their cars and went up the steps to enter the burgh buildings there was no demonstration. When later they made their appearance again and stood chatting with members of the council, while thousands of eyes watched intently, the crowd stood in the grip of an hypnotic silence as if they were beholding a holy ritual; and still in silence the royal party entered their cars and drove away. This was an amazing and revealing incident. An isolated cheer raised by someone bold enough to shatter the silence would have sounded like brawling in church; but it would have released an explosion of pent-up enthusiasm. The combination of emotional reserve and generosity was experienced by a minister who had come from a more spontaneously expressive community, and was perturbed by the lack of any outward sign that he was winning the favour of his congregation, when they casually raised his stipend by twenty per cent. The essential kindness of the people received a tribute from the English and Polish troops stationed here during the war, who testified that nowhere had they met with greater friendliness and hospitality.
Final Revision. 1961.
Tom Paterson (last updated 26th Oct 2020)