The village of Balfron developed in the 19th Century, during the Industrial Revolution, a cotton mill. The Ballindalloch Cotton Works was built on the River Endrick and a planned village was constructed on both sides of the main road between the river and the Clachan to accommodate mill workers.
A bleachfield was created and on the other side of the river in the Parish of Killearn, Endrickfield Printworks was built by John Monteith & Co., in co-partnership with Robert Dunmore, for the printing of calico. Although the works were in Killearn Parish, the workers lived in Balfron, in that part of the village which still retains the name Printers Row.
In about 1861, the Rev. Alexander* Niven describes Ballindalloch Cotton Works:
An extensive Cotton work on the banks of the Endrick Water, the building varies from one to six storeys in height and was erected in 1789. The machinery is propelled by water of about 30 horse power. This work employs about 250 persons when in full operation, chiefly females. Property of W. and A. Jeffrey, Balfron.
He also describes the school:
A two storey building in the village of Balfron, used as a School for the education of the children employed at Ballindalloch Mill, the ground floor constitutes the School Room, the upper Storey as the Teacher’s residence, the number of pupils depends on the number in employment at the Mill. The Teacher receives his support from the Mill Owner, the education afforded consists of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.
The Works were described in 1844 in the following terms:
“Ballindalloch Cotton Works, situate in the Parish of Balfron, and the county of Stirling, 19 miles distant from Glasgow, containing 10752 mule spindles, of which 1248 are self-acting (Smith & Orr’s patent), with the necessary preparation, driven by a water wheel 28 feet diameter, calculated to be equal to 35 horse-power, with a steam engine to assist in dry seasons of 16 horse-power, the supply of water being obtained from the river Endrick and from a reservoir covering 30 imperial acres … The total extent of land, including site of works, dwelling houses, &c., is about 77 imperial acres …”
The 77 acres were divided into two areas, 35 for the works, etc., and 42 acres further down stream which were used for many years as a printfield. Finally there was one other acre belonging to the works which had a large school house with a dwelling above it.
Extract from The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Dunbarton, Stirling, Clackmannan
Previous to the year 1780, this parish was, strictly speaking, rural. Agricultural pursuits occupied the population, if a population could be really said to be occupied, who were of necessity compelled, from the low state of agricultural pursuits, to pass fully the half of their time in idleness. But in the year 1780 a very material change took place in the parish, by the establishment of an agency for manufacturing calicoes, under the influence and patronage of a very enterprising and intelligent man,— the late Mr Dunmore of Ballindalloch and Ballikinrain, in whom were united the activity of the country gentleman and the liberality of the merchant; and to whom this part of the country is indebted lor many valuable improvements, of which certainly not the least are its high-roads. The calico establishment, however, did not turn out very satisfactorily; Mr. Dunmore, therefore, formed a connection with the Buchanans of Carstone in Killearn parish, who had just then built the Deanston Cotton Works, near Doune, in Perthshire; and with these gentlemen, in the year 1789, he built the cotton-mill in this parish, known in trade by the Ballindalloch Cotton Works. Mr. Archibald Buchanan, the younger of the two enterprising and ingenious brothers, the partners of Mr. Dunmore, had been taught the practical parts of cotton-spinning at Cromford in Derby, under the well known Arkwright, the original inventor of cotton-spinning by means of machinery. In the year 1789, cotton-spinning was, under this company, introduced into this parish, and from that time, down to the year 1793, was successfully carried on by them. But in the year 1783 (?), Messrs James and Archibald Buchanan transferred the property to Messrs James Finlay and Company, merchants, Glasgow, who still (1845) continue to be proprietors, and who, at their several works at Deanston, Catrine, and Balfron, give constant employment to 2500 hands. The works at Balfron are driven by a stream from the Endrick, which, in dry seasons, is kept nearly uniform by water from a reservoir of 33 Scotch acres, constructed about thirty years ago, in Dundaft* Moor, one of the oldest estates of the Montrose family, and contiguous to the ruins of the castle of Sir John De Graham, the friend of Wallace. This stream falls on a water wheel of almost 30 horse power, which drives 12,000 mule spindles with their preparations. Two hundred and fifty-eight hands or thereby, and these chiefly females, are now employed at the works. It is understood to be the first cotton work in Scotland at least, in which female spinners were exclusively employed.
In the year 1792, Messrs John Monteith and Company, of Glasgow, established and carried on for several years an extensive printing-work; but it was found to be too distant from coal to be conducted with advantage. It was therefore abandoned. The site and property were purchased by the proprietors of the cotton works, Messrs James Finlay and Company, and have not been again turned by them to any manufacturing purpose.
*The Rev. Alexander Niven MA was born on 8th January 1798, the 3rd son of the minister of Dunkeld.
Ed Uni of St Andrews 1817. Pres by Thomas, Earl of Kinnoul 19th Jul 1824.
Married 22nd Sept 1829 Eliza Brown, dau of minister of St John’s Glasgow. His 2nd son became minister of Pollockshields; his 3rd son became minister of North Parish, Paisley.
He rebuilt Balfron Church where he was the minister from 1825 until he died on 14th Feb 1872.
On the 4th July 1941 when on passage from Southend-on-Sea to Grangemouth with a cargo of sand, the SS Balfron foundered and was lost off Hyburn Wyke, north of Scarborough. She was a British Steam Coaster of 362 tons built in 1920 by Scotts, of Bowling, for The South Shield Steamship Co Ltd, managed by Walker & Bain, Grangemouth.
The Balfron was bombed and sunk when 3 miles off Ravenscar, after being attacked by German aircraft. Four of her crew, including her Master, Angus Leitch, went missing, presumed killed, and are remembered at Tower Hill Memorial (panel below).
This un-named bell was found close by the wreck.
Not perhaps of immediate interest to most, but my interest was aroused when I read that one Balfron church bell was apparently cast in 1791, and the other in 1888.
The earlier (small) bell was cast by “John Wilfone & Co” of 73 Trongate, Glasgow. The 43 inch bell was supplied by the Gorbals Brass and Bell Foundry in 1888. It was presented by Rev Alexander Slessor, who was minister here 1878-1904, and inscribed ‘Voco, Venite in Domini Temphum’.
Ranald Clouston’s “Church Bells of Stirling and Kinross” records that in the 1940s a 17 and 3/8th inches bell was preserved in the church. It was inscribed:
Gifted by Robert Dunmore of Ballindalloch 1791. (See image above)
The book notes that there was, before the church was rebuilt in 1832, a bell tree at the churchyard gate.
The bell is probably the work of John Wilson & Co of 73 Trongate, Glasgow. The manufacturers initials were inscribed inside the bell, which is, apparently a rarity.
So, where is this bell?
Any campanologists out there who might know something about our church bells?
Balfron war memorial takes the form of a tall cairn with a very attractive bronze memorial tablet set into the face. The memorial stands on a small island in the main street in front of the kirk.
The signing of the peace treaty was celebrated on throughout the County with pageants, children’s galas, torchlight processions and bonfires.
There is no exact figure for First World War dead from Stirlingshire.
Permanent memorials to the dead were paid for by subscriptions and set up in communities during the first half of the 1920s.
W A Robertson (Architect)
Mr Archibald Dawson (Designer)
Messrs Simpson (Mason)
Site cost: £450
Unveiled : 29 Jan 1922, attended by the Duke of Montrose
WWI ROLL OF HONOUR:
Adam Hugh Fleming Highland Light Infantry
Battison George Royal Engineers
Battison Peter Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Battison Tom Seaforth Highlanders
Craig Frank Australians
Craig Guthrie Australians
Edmond James Highland Light Infantry
Fairweather Andrew Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Fyfe James Tait Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Horne David Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Horne John Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Horne Robert Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
MacDonald Duncan Royal Army Service Corps
MacKinnon Finlay Royal Air Force
McCallum Peter Canadians
McCallum Hugh Gordon Highlanders
McGill James Downs Royal Engineers
McLaggan John Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
McLaggan William Royal Army Service Corps
McLaren John Royal Scots Fusiliers
McLean John Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
McLean William Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Montgomery Archibald Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Montgomery William Scots Guards
Morrison A. Douglas Cameron Highlanders
Paterson William Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Shaw James Seaforth Highlanders
Stewart Alexander Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Stewart Robert Royal Army Medical Corps
Stewart William Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Taylor Robert F. Royal Army Service Corps
Walker Alexander Highland Light Infantry
WWII ROLL OF HONOUR:
Hay Alex Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders
Gilliland Samuel Royal Air Force
Gourlay Robert Merchant Navy
McFarlane Charles S.A.S.
Miller David Commandos
The South Church, in Spinner Street, was converted into residential accommodation.
The story of its turbulent beginnings is told in a pamphlet, Balfron Church 1303-2003, by Alexander Primrose. It closed when the last minister, Rev. William Dunbar Allan, retired in 1967.
The South Church was built during Rev. James Lindsay’s ministry, (1871-abt 1909) at a cost of £2,300 and was opened on 7th May 1882. Because of his wise, statesman-like ways, he was known as the ‘Father of the church’. He was followed by Rev. George Turner MA, who married 9 Sep 1944 Janet McNaught, daughter of John McLintock of Balfron.
The church was linked on 30th June 1959 with Fintry. This linking arrangement terminated on 11th July 1967 to permit the union on the same date with Balfron North under the name of Balfron. Services continued til December 1968 in the South Church under the new minister of Balfron Church, Rev. John Jamieson, whilst an extensive programme of renovation and redecoration took place. The pipe organ was removed to ‘the North Church‘.
The South Church continued in use as a hall for church activities. It was also used by organisations such as the Mothers and Toddlers Group until it was sold in 1991.
The funds raised from the sale were allocated to the building of the Church Rooms attached to Balfron Church
Note: ‘The ground within the boundaries [of this sketch]…was a sub feu belonging to the managers &c of the UP Church, Balfron up till the 29th March 1859 when the said managers entered into a negotiation with M Robertson Esqr, banker, Balfron, and made an excamb of all the ground except twenty two falls and thirty four ells, scotch measure, being little more than the site of the church, which is marked with a thorn hedge from Laigh Cotton Street, to the foot road leading to Hill-head or Banachs.’
Robert Dunmore, merchant in Glasgow, was the only surviving son of Thomas Dunmore of Kelvinside, merchant in Glasgow who was credited with being one of the first Glasgow merchants to become involved in the Virginia tobacco trade, and Helen Wilson his wife. He was born 23rd November 1744.
Robert Dunmore was at one time a very rich man and besides possessing Kelvinside and Gilmorehill, which were made over to him by his father, he owned Bankeir, Newlands, Blairskaith, Bahvill, Ballindalloch, and other lands.
Among other involvements in slave-owership, Robert Dunmore and his partners (William Cunningham or Cuninghame, Thomas Crawford, Adam Lightbody and Patrick Dougall) were shown as in possession of the Hermon Hill estate in St Mary Jamaica 1782-1788 and as mortgagees-in-possession of Union estate in St Mary 1785-1792.
But here, Mr. Dunmore was perceived as a very public-spirited, excellent man, and Strathendrick is much indebted to him for many improvements. Through his means, public roads were made and bridges built, manufactures on a large scale set on foot, and an extensive system of planting introduced. In December 1792 the British Government, alarmed by the threatening attitude of the Revolutionary Government of France, called out the militia throughout the country and summoned Parliament. These proceedings were, unfortunately, the cause of a most severe commercial crisis in the spring of 1793, during which many of the banks and greatest mercantile houses in Scotland failed. Mr. Dunmore was involved in this widespread disaster, and the extensive estates which he held in his own right were sold. He was declared bankrupt in 1797.
In December 1792 the British Government, alarmed by the threatening attitude of the Revolutionary Government of France, called out the militia throughout the country and summoned Parliament. These proceedings were, unfortunately, the cause of a most severe commercial crisis in the spring of 1793, during which many of the banks and greatest mercantile houses in Scotland failed. Mr. Dunmore was involved in this widespread disaster, and the extensive estates which he held in his own right were sold.
He died in 1799. Janet Napier of Ballikinrain, his widow, whom he had married in 1776, died 1st May 1801 and was buried in Killearn churchyard on the 4th of the same month.
Janet Napier of Ballikinrain and her husband, Robert Dunmore, had a large family.
Balfron’s Dunmore Street is named in his memory.
A young woman named Jean Kay or Wright lived at Edenbellie, Balfron, in Stirling. She had been a widow for four months, and was possessed of some property. The young Macgregors were probably in desperate straits . Cattle-lifting and blackmailing were extinct callings. It occurred to one of them (you suspect James) that a marriage might be arranged between the widow and Robin.
Accordingly, on the 3rd of December 1 750, a band of them entered the house. Jean hid herself in a closet, but the terrific Gaelic curses were too much for the mother, and she produced the trembling girl, who pleaded in vain the sudden nature of the proposal.
Her request for time to consider was scornfully rejected. She was presently thrown over a horse and carried off from place to place in the Highlands, where, after about three months, a mock form of marriage was gone through. Robin had an almost childish faith in the efficacy of the ceremony. Jean was brought to Edinburgh, and there he lost grip of her. The poor thing speedily died from fright and fatigue, and proceedings against the three brothers for hamesucken, or forcible attack on a house, as well as various other Offences involved, were taken.
Again Robin could not be found, and was outlawed. But the other two were put on their trial . Robert was acquitted ; J ames was tried on the 5th August 1 752. The jury returned a special verdict . It seems they meant that he Should be punished, but not capitally. There was some doubt as to the legal effect of the verdict, so the case was adjourned for further consideration to the 20th of November of that year, when the Court was to fix the appropriate sentence, which there is reason to believe would have been capital . But on the 16th he escaped from the Castle, to which he had been removed, the Tolbooth not being considered sufficiently secure. The town was full of Highlanders, as caddies, chairmen, even City Guard itself . There were rumours of a rescue, for clan feeling was strong.
No doubt the authorities had in their mind the leading case of Captain Porteous .
Extracted from R.L.S. by Francis Watt, 1913
A distinguished person connected with this parish, is the Inventor of Logarithms, Napier of Edinbelly and of Merchiston ; to whom, in the opinion of Hume the historian, the title of a great man is more justly due than to any other which his country ever produced.
He was born in the year 1550, and in the year 1617 he died, at Merchiston Castle, in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. Of this latter fact there is, we believe, little doubt; but as to the place of his birth, this is involved in some obscurity, there being little else to guide us on this point than the tradition of the country; and upon this Balfron, in common with some other parishes, lays claim to having been the birth-place of this great man. It is quite certain that Edinbelly, in this parish, did belong to the Napiers, for many years; that the same family became the proprietors of Culcreuch; and that Sir William Napier of Milliken, as the representative of the Napiers of Culcreuch, was, in Edinburgh, in 1818, served heir and lineal representative of John Napier, the Inventor of the Logarithms.
Thus the two families are identified, namely, the Culcreuch Napiers, and the Edinbelly Napiers. Now, we believe that John Napier was born in Edinbelly, and not at Drumbeg, as is occasionally alleged; because, though the Napiers had property in Drymen parish, still there was no house on the property which could be supposed a mansion suitable to the consequence of the family. Drumbeg, the spot which local tradition assigns, is mentioned by authors as ” an obscure spot.”
In point of fact, it is a very common thatched farmhouse, whereas the remains of the mansion-house of Edinbelly, in Balfron parish, are still in existence; and the arms of the family are yet to be seen on the wall of what was part of the original house. This of itself is a circumstance which marks the character of the mansion, and assigns the status of the owner. But there is another circumstance in connection with this matter, that ought not to be forgotten.
In the year 1593, we find Napier publishing his Exposition on the Revelations; and in his preface addressed to the King, he shows very strongly his adherence to the strict Presbyterian principles of the time, his preference to which may be traced very naturally to his intimacy with the fifth Earl of Glencairn, whose seat, Ballindalloch, was within a mile and a-half of Edinbelly, the residence of his boyhood, if not his birth-place.
Otherwise, it is difficult to account for Napier’s predilection for these principles, seeing that the bias of his mind might naturally have been to the other side, when it is remembered that his father was Master of the Mint, to one who had no great partiality to the Presbyterian party. When it is stated besides, that, upon the Edinbelly property, not many years ago, there was a monument standing, raised to the memory of this great man in accordance with the tradition, which assigned this property as his birth-place, we are inclined to believe that, though at Gartness (In 1571, Napier, aged 21, returned to Scotland, and bought a castle at Gartness in 1574.) and Drumbeg he may have resided, yet at Edinbelly the Inventor of the Logarithms first saw the light.
Edinbelly, the place in question, is, at present (1845), the property of the much respected and deservedly esteemed Robert Dunmore Napier, Esq. of Ballikinrain.
The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Dunbarton, Stirling, Clackmannan