Bridge of Allan: trial of a new Fire Engine

Mossgrove, the house that has been our family home for more than two decades, was built by William Cousine in 1880:

William Cousine [1836-1888] was the first Captain of Bridge of Allan Fire Brigade. Here he is [standing atop of the fire engine] with his crew:

According to J. J Mckay, William Cousine was “a burly figure of a man, under 5 feet, short legs, fat and broad shouldered, with a thick neck, double-chin, ruddy complexion and red hair.”

William Cousine  was known as ‘Bylie Cousine.’  J. J Mckay, in sharing a description of Cousine, said: believe me, it was a very appropriate description.” 

There was considerable rivalry between Gilbert Farie, Chemist, Strathallan, and William Cousine [Gilbert Farie was also of a diminutive stature].  I am not sure how it came about, but they got into a protracted legal wrangle over a bulk purchase of champagne.


What follows ia a timeline of newspaper articles relating to William Cousine and Bridge of Allan’s Fire Brigade:

August 1863:

October 1874:

November 1874:

December 1874:

January 1877:

February 1877:

February 1883:

December 1888:

July 1921:

April 1947:


William Cousine by J. J. McKay

In his day and generation he was a striking or conspicuous figure in the village. He built Cousine’s Buildings in 1882 on the site occupied by four ‘but and ben’ single-storey houses, which although primitive, according to modern standards, were picturesque in their setting and quite up to date when first built. Before erecting the present houses he had to demolish the older ones, and clear the site, whether he put the Lamp there is an open question. My own opinion is that it was the old time Burgh Commission instituted in 1870 that erected the lamp. I may be wrong of course because he may probably have paid the Commissioners to do the job, which is quite probable. It will be noticed that the lamp is exactly the same as the Burgh pattern lamps, and I form my opinion on this fact. However we have to take things as we find them.

William Cousine was a burly figure of a man, under 5 feet, short legs, fat and broad shouldered, with a thick neck, double-chin, ruddy complexion and red hair. Quite probably he may have been at one time a Burgh Commissioner, I would not know. I do know though that he was not at any time Provost, or in his day Chief Magistrate, but he may, if he really was a Commissioner, risen to the rank of Baillie. That however was NOT why he was known as ‘Bylie Cousine.’ It was his make up and figure that earned him this nick-name, and believe me, it was a very appropriate description. He was a joiner in trade and built the shop now occupied by Robertson & Ramsay, my uncle, William McGregor (father of J. McKay McGregor) was his foreman. He also built four houses in Westerton Drive – Westerton Villa, the house adjoining, and the two cottages next to them (including Moss cottage, later Mossgrove.) Building in his day was cheap, also labour and materials when compared with modern standards.

William Cousine died about 1888 or 1889 and left NO will. The next of kin was a nephew, a bookseller and News Agent, and I think he had a business in Crossgates (Fife.) William Cousine led a very quiet life, and was not connected with any local institutions except the Fire Brigade of which he was Captain for a good many years. His next in command was his foreman William McGregor. When Bylie Cousine got up on top of the old Fire Engine he remained there and issued or shouted his orders to his Lieutenants who saw that they were executed, that is the only public service I remember of him.

William Cousine was a bachelor and lodged in Limetrees, Union Street. It cannot be said of him that he was a popular personality, but most wee men have generally big minds!! And of course the genteel folks up the hill then always referred to him as “Bailie” Cousine. It was only the village folk who dubbed him “Bylie.”

I have omitted to tell you that William Cousine was the first Burgh Surveyor or Engineer (part time) appointed by the Burgh Commission (now the Town Council) in 1870

2 Replies to “Bridge of Allan: trial of a new Fire Engine”

  1. Thanks for this biography of the man and background to the early days of the fire brigade. I’m always struck by the rather brutal and unmasked opinionated assertions of editors in the 1800s regarding the verity or otherwise of statements made by correspondents. They could never be accused of being “blate” as we’d say.

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