MODERN BRIDGE of ALLAN and SOME of its MAKERS
A paper read by ALEXANDER MORRISON, Town Clerk To Chalmers Church Social Union 17th January 1927
In December, 1922, I read a paper on Old Bridge of Allan to Chalmers Church Social Union. In the course of my paper I mentioned the names of a number of men who in their time were intimately associated with the life of Bridge of Allan. The day after I read my paper, and, indeed, for many days after, I was repeatedly asked why I had not referred to Dr. Paterson. My answer was the simple one that I had been dealing with old Bridge of Allan, while Dr. Paterson belonged to modern Bridge of Allan. It will not be long before Dr. Paterson is brought into this picture. Might I be allowed to make one other explanation, in advance this time? The title of my paper is “Modern Bridge of Allan and Some of its Makers.” I cannot possibly deal with all of them. Those mentioned must be accepted as types of the good people of our village, who during the last hundred years have served their fellow-men faithfully and well in their respective spheres of influence and usefulness.
AN OCTOBER BREAKFAST PARTY.
On a fine October morning in the year 1852 there was a pleasant function in the, Royal Hotel. The festival took the form of a public breakfast to Major John Alexander Henderson of Westerton, and the occasion was utilised to present the Major with a superb dinner service of silver plate. The dinner service was the gift of one hundred friends in token of their estimation of Major Henderson’s of devotedness to the public welfare, and in recognition his unceasing efforts for the social comfort, the recreations, and the general convenience of the numerous visitors to Bridge of Allan. Not content with the presentation of the dinner service by their male friends, the ladies of Bridge of. Allan presented the gallant Major with a separate testimony of their regard in the form of a grand piano. When the Major had returned thanks, several toasts were drunk, some complimentary verses were recited in his honour, and towards noon the party broke up.
Major Henderson, who was largely the creator of Bridge of Allan as we know it, was the second son of Edward Alexander of Powis. Major Henderson succeeded his kinsman, Dr. John Henderson, as Laird of Westerton, and, dying a bachelor, he in turn was succeeded by his brother, General Sir James Edward Alexander.
But let us see who were the leading participants in that function of October, 1852, other than the principal figure himself.
MR JOHN McVICAR.
Mr John Ross McVicar presided over the gathering, and made the presentation of the dinner service. The croupiers were the kindly Sheriff of the County (Sir John Hay, Baronet) and Mr Ebenezer Burn of Haugh; while the presentation of the ladies’ gift was made on their behalf by Dr. Alexander Paterson. Sir John Hay and Mr Ebenezer Burn have long since passed away, and perhaps the only person of their generation with us to-day is Mr Burn’s widow, Mrs Burn of The Lea, so well-known to the older people of Bridge of Allan for her unfailing charm.
Let us linger for a moment over John Ross McVicar, the peerless chairman of a gathering such as that of which 1 have been speaking. For many years during the earlier, part of the nineteenth century, Mr M’Vicar was the tenant under the Lairds of Keir of Keirfield Works. In the words of the late Provost Drysdale, in some notes he left on eminent Bridge of Allan men, John Ross McVicar was “the Bridge of Allan boy par excellence.” As a youth he took a high place at school and college, and he began life admirably equipped for the battle which lay before him. In addition to his business qualifications Mr M, ‘Vicar was a brilliant artist, and he had outstanding social gifts. Because of his happy disposition and his genius for friendship with rich and poor alike, Mr McVicar was the inevitable chairman of all the Bridge of Allan festive gatherings of his time. Had he been a less-gifted and more prosaic man his fate might have been happier. He gave his life without stint for the people of a much wider circle than Bridge of Allan, and surely no man was ever more beloved. But those of his generation had all the same remark to make of him: “Yes, Mr McVicar was good; he was too good, too good.”
Mr McVicar left Bridge of Allan to become the agent of the Union Bank at Stirling in August 1851. On leaving the village for Stirling he was entertained at a public dinner and presented with a handsome piece of plate, in token of the estimation of his public services and private worth. But Bridge of Allan could not do without Mr McVicar and he was brought back to preside at the presentation to Major Henderson, as he had done at so many other Bridge of Allan functions.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S WELL KNOWN DOCTOR.
What of the man who acted as spokesman of the ladies on Major Henderson’s day of honour – Dr. Alexander Paterson? Dr. Paterson, who was born in Dundee on 16th June 1822, graduated at Edinburgh University on the 1st of August 1843. He had long cherished the ambition to be an Edinburgh doctor, and the day after he graduated he put up his plate in that classic city. But his health was breaking down, and on the advice of Dr. Clason, whose father had been Parish Minister of Logie, he decided to settle in Bridge of Allan. Accordingly, in the month of February 1844, he left the port of Leith in a steamboat and landed at Cambuskenneth, which was then the “seaport” of Bridge of Allan. With his bag in his hand the young doctor walked from Cambuskenneth. It was dark ere he reached his destination, and going slightly off his way at Coneyhill, he fell headlong down the hill. A rough reception for Bridge of Allan to give to the man who was to be more closely associated with it in the public mind than any other person who ever resided within its bounds! On 22nd April 1898, after 55 years of hard, unselfish work, Dr. Paterson died at Fernfield. No adequate impression of the part played by Dr. Paterson in the life of Bridge of Allan can be given in this paper. One outstanding characteristic should be mentioned however Dr. Paterson drew no line through his patients. The cry of the sufferer was the same to him whether it came from the castle or the cottage. And if he drove five miles into the country at two o’clock on winter morning, and got neither a fee for his services nor the cost of his cab well, it was all in the day’s work.
Dr. Paterson was a well-known grower of orchids, and this hobby brought about a friendship between him and the late Mr Joseph Chamberlain. On one occasion Mr Chamberlain paid Dr. Paterson a, visit. At that time Mr Chamberlain was at the height of his Radicalism. And Dr. Paterson such a staunch Tory, too! I remember well the torchlight procession got up by Mr Chamberlain’s admirers, and the appearance of Mr Chamberlain at the front door of Fernfield, where he made a short speech in appreciation of the welcome he had received. I might explain that I was not in the torchlight procession. My feeling about Mr Chamberlain, boy though I was at the time, was that he’ was a dangerous man! He was outpacing Mr Gladstone, and Mr Gladstone went at just the right pace for me! Dr. Paterson used to claim jokingly in that Mr Chamberlain owed his political conversion to his visit to Fernfield. If he did, I think everyone will agree that Dr. Paterson had more influence on the political history of Great Britain than any man of his time.
Another of Dr. Paterson’s friends was Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, the author of “Rab and his Friends.” Dr. Brown was a visitor to Bridge of Allan who appreciated highly the restorative qualities of our climate. The bond between Dr. Paterson and Dr. John Brown was their love of animals. Dr. Brown wanted to find a good home for a parrot and he wrote Dr. Paterson asking if he would take it. He addressed his letter to “Dr. Alexander Paterson, the great bird and beast man, Bridge of Allan.” Dr. Paterson at once replied that it would afford him great pleasure to take the bird, and he addressed his reply to
Dr. John Brown the great dog man, Edinburgh” There was a greater allowance for a sense of humour in the Post Office then than there is today, and Dr. Paterson’s letter duly reached its destination.
But Dr. Paterson’s proclivities for practical joking were not confined to his dealings with distinguished Edinburgh doctors. He played many a trick on the boys of Bridge of Allan. As a result of one of the doctor’s most persistent ways of getting at the youngsters all the boys of Bridge of Allan in his time became expert climbers. Many a time have I climbed a, lamp-post to take my bonnet-it was bonnets, not caps, we wore in those days-from the crossbar of the lamp, on which it had been dexterously placed by Dr. Paterson with the aid of his
But I would much rather have climbed all the lampposts in Bridge of Allan than have been under the necessity of having a professional visit from the doctor. In my experience, Dr. Paterson’s invariable prescription for a, boy who had been eating green apples, or doing something of that kind, was castor oil. The thought of it was enough to make any boy careful!,
A REMARKABLE BRIDGE OF ALLAN MAN: DAVID RUTHERFORD.
Let me now say a few words about a remarkable man, David Rutherford, born as long ago as the year 1765. In my boyhood and youth I knew people who knew David Rutherford intimately, and I heard much of him from them, much that savoured of the apocryphal, but was. literally true. David Rutherford was for upwards of fifty years manager of the Keirfield Bleachworks. He was a man of most inflexible integrity, intimately acquainted with the principles and details of his business, and unremittingly attentive to his duties. Besides being a good business man, he was a kind husband, a wise father, and a good neighbour. David Rutherford was a man of regular and studious habits, and after he had done his duty by his employer, by his family, and by his friends, he devoted the remaining hours of the day-for he lived a, full day the cultivation of his own mind. And great indeed were his attainments both in science and literature. In chemistry, in particular, he was’ an expert, but his knowledge of English literature, also, was both extensive and accurate. He possessed, moreover, a working knowledge of the classics, and took great pleasure in reading the gospel in the original Greek. He had a taste for poetical composition, and his powers of versification were very considerable. For twenty years lie spent his leisure hours writing, and adapting to appropriate music, a new version of the Psalms in a, great variety of measures.
May I quote the first psalm in David Rutherford’s version?
Blessed is he whom wicked men
In vain to sin entice;
Who shuns the ungodly, nor the seat
Of scorners occupies;
But in Jehovah’s holy law
Enjoys supreme delight;
Who on his precepts meditates,
With pleasure, day and night.
As, planted on a river’s bank,
Fair flourishes a tree
Of foliage ever green, and fruit
Brings forth abundantly;
So shall the righteous prosper; him
Jehovah thus shall bless,
That every good design of his
Shall meet deserv’d success.
Not thus the ungodly; soon shall end
Their seeming prosprous day;
Then’ shall they be like useless chaff
Driven by the winds away.
When judged, the ungodly, never can
Their awful doom sustain;
Nor sinners in the assembly of
The righteous shall remain.
Jehovah, with approving eye,
The just man’s path surveys;
But in the pit of ruin end
The wicked’s crooked ways.
It is true that David Rutherford had the originals of the psalms to work on, but the specimen of his work I have quoted will show that his verse had real merit. In many of the psalms lie uses quite a different measure from that in which the original is written, and always with remarkable effect.
Of David Rutherford Provost Drysdale says: “Another very notable man was David Rutherford, the manager of the field, a man greatly beloved for his forgiving spirit.”
When David Rutherford died in October, 1842, a gentleman (doubtless his employer Mr McVicar) wrote to the mourning family: “Take him all in all, his piety and integrity, his manner of life, purity, and cheerfulness of conversation, his Christian principles and practice, we shall not see his like again.”
But what do we know of David Rutherford’s family? I have before me as I write a bundle of letters which give us some indication of the life lived in David Rutherford’s home. David Rutherford had a number of children, and of four of these, two sons and two daughters, notice must be taken. The sons were John and Charles, and the daughters Mary and Susan. John became the Bridge of Allan doctor, and Charles the Bridge of Allan chemist.
The time of which I am writing round the year 1833, Mary was married, but the doctor and Charles and Susan would appear to have been at home. Susan had many friends, and had many invitations to visit them I am not sure whether the fact that she had a bachelor brother, twenty-five years old, a rising doctor added to the interest in Susan, but, undoubtedly, Susan had charms of her own. Poor Susan 1 Everybody wanted her. If she didn’t accept the invitations she got, her friends wrote and reproached her. On the other hand, if she did go from home, almost forthwith her father began to write to her, asking her if she wouldn’t shorten her visit and come home as soon as possible, as lie and her mother were missing her terribly. If she didn’t conic home quite soon the messages became more urgent, friends were coming, and they simply could not do without her; and home Susan had to go!
DAVID RUTHERFORD’S SON: DR. JOHN RUTHERFORD.
One of Susan’s most persistent correspondents was a young lady in Bo’ness, whose. Christian name was Margaret, but I cannot come to a decision as to where Margaret’s real interest lay, whether in Susan or the young doctor. The members of Margaret’s household, her father, her mother, and herself, all seemed to be in perpetual need of a visit from Dr. Rutherford, and, if the doctor could not go to Bo’ness, then those of his patients who were able to do so, usually Margaret alone, had to go to Bridge of Allan. But one great deterrent was Margaret’s fear of sea-sickness. In a letter to Susan, dated 10th January, 1833, Margaret apologises for not having written immediately after a visit to Keirfield. Margaret had been home in Bo’ness for ten days, but she had suffered so terribly from ‘Sea-sickness during her journey down the Forth that until then she had been unable to write the letter which courtesy alone demanded. In another letter to Susan, Margaret says it would be so nice if the-doctor could come off the steamer at Bo’ness any time he was passing to Edinburgh. It will be remembered that Dr. Paterson came by steamer to Cambuskenneth. Truly, coming to and getting home from Bridge of Allan was an adventure in the good old days a hundred years ago!
The letters to Susan disclose a more serious state of affairs, however, than the troublesomeness of the journey lip and down the Forth. Smallpox and cholera were raging throughout the country. In one of her letters Margaret said she thought Bridge of Allan was the one place in Scotland which would escape. But Bridge of Allan didn’t escape, and, when cholera struck the district in 1846, Dr. Rutherford was naturally in the thick of it. “Dr. Rutherford,” Provost Drysdale says ” was most assiduous in his attention to those stricken of the plague. He caught it himself, and, though cured, his constitution got such a Shock that he died soon after.” Provost Drysdale adds: “Dr. Rutherford was a man of very refined taste and had great poetic fancy. He rendered the Song of Songs into musical measure, and wrote some fine local poems. He was an elder in Lecropt Church, and rendered great service at the large communions which were held then.” Thus passed Bridge of Allan’s, beloved physician on 3rd June, 1849, at the early age of forty-one.
DAVID RUTHERFORD’S GRANDSON: MR WILLIAM BAIRD.
But we are not done with David Rutherford yet. His daughter Mary married James Baird, and her son was William Baird, the agent of the Union Bank in Bridge of Allan immediately prior to Mr Robert Jenkins. William Baird was- surely Bridge of Allan’s best-loved son. In addition to being agent of the Union Bank he held several public appointments, including those of secretary of the Bridge of Allan Gaslight Company, and secretary of the Bridge of Allan Water Company. He was also clerk to the deacons’ court of Bridge of Allan Free Church. On 3rd January, 1871, to the intense grief of the entire community, when only thirty-six years of age, William Baird passed over to the majority. All the makers of modern Bridge of Allan have passed, or will yet pass, the same way, but it is especially sad that two lives with such potentialities for service to their fellows as those of Dr. Rutherford and William Baird, uncle and nephew, should have been cut short when they had no more than reached maturity.
THE MINERAL WATERS.
Among the principal makers of Bridge of Allan were its Mineral Waters. I have told in another paper how Sir Robert Abercromby of Airthrey, in 1820, had the waters analysed, and how the discovery of their qualities led to the rise of Bridge of Allan as the principal Spa of Scotland, and to the subsequent development by the Lairds of Westerton and Airthrey of modern Bridge of Allan. To-day, if I may put it so, the mineral waters are again and, for myself, I am convinced that in the melting pot, I if wisely developed, they will once more make an important contribution to the prosperity of Bridge of Allan.
But among Bridge of Allan’s waters we must not forget the part played by Allan Water. Day and night, year in year out, the Allan drives the wheels of the many mills on its banks. The Allan never goes on strike; it never asks for an eight-hour day. But many of us do not think of the Allan in its associations with the industries of the district. What Bridge of Allan boy is there who does not, first of all, think of the Allan as the place where he learned to guddle for trout, where he many times cut his feet, and into which he sometimes fell headlong? Was the Allan not the place in which, or on the banks of which, he spent practically the whole of the summer? Was there not a time when he knew every stone in the bed of the river from Kippenross to the Forth, when he knew the bottom of every pool between the Damhead and the Fishers’ Green as well as he knows Henderson Street to-day? In broad Scotland there are few boys’ rivers like the Allan. It is not too big, as the Forth is; it is not too small; indeed, it is just the size of a river a boy has most use for. How can it be otherwise, then, than that the Bridge of Allan boy should regard the Allan as one of the greatest of the contributors to his making and upbringing?
The fame of Allan Water is not confined to our own locality. The Banks of Allan Water are renowned wherever English-speaking people are, to be found. M. G. Lewis may, or may not, have had our Allan Water in his mind when he wrote his famous song, but he was frequently in Scotland with his friend, Sir Walter Scott, and the miller’s daughter and the soldier were indigenous to the soil. Let that pass. Allan Water has been written of and made the scene of romance by a greater than Lewis. Has not Robert Louis Stevenson told us that a meadow and bank on a corner on the river was among his favourite places in the world? And has he not made the little eyot of dense freshwater sand, for all time now to be associated with the names of David Balfour and Allan Breck, where, as a child, he waded deep in butterburrs, one of the most interesting spots in the World of Romance?
But even a greater than R.L.S. has sung of Allan Water. Has our great National poet, Robert Burns, not made his contribution to the romance of the district By Allan Stream?”
By Allan stream I chanced to rove.
While Phoebus sank beyond Ben Ledi;
The winds were whispering through the grove,
The yellow corn was waving ready:
I listened to a lover’s sang,
And thought on youthfu’ pleasures mony;
And aye the wild wood echoes rang
0, dearly do I loe thee. Annie!
0 happy be the woodbine bower.
Nae nightly bogle make it eerie
Nor ever sorrow stain the hour,
The place and time I met my dearie
Her head upon my throbbing breast
She, sinking, said, “I’m thine for ever!”
While mony a kiss the seal imprest,
The sacred vow, -we ne’er should sever.
The haunt o’ Spring’s the primrose
The Simmer joys the flocks to follow:
Now cheery thro’ her shortening day
Is Autumn, in her weeds o’ yellow!
But can they melt the glowing heart,
Or chain the soul in speechless pleasure,
Or thro’ each nerve the rapture dart.
Like meeting her, our bosom’s treasure.
Truly, Allan Water has been one of the makers of modern Bridge of Allan, as it was of old Bridge of Allan, and will be of the Bridge of Allan which is yet to be.
While I am in the vicinity of the Allan I wish to mention two men who were closely associated with it in their day? I refer to James and Robert McRobie, the tenants of the Airthrey Paper Mill towards the end of the 18th, and during the earlier part of the 19th, century. These two men were most successful in their business of papermakers, and they, besides, exercised a great moral influence in the community. James McRobie and Robert were both anti-burgers, but this did not prevent James from taking a very useful part in the work of the heritors of the Parish of Logie. Many references to him are to lie found in the heritors’ minute books, and he even got his name into the heritors’ minutes for a somewhat unusual reason. After the present Parish Church of Logie was opened the heritors agreed to sell the materials of the old church, excepting the back isle and the west gable of the church. On 28th November 1809, Sir Robert Abercromby bought the west gable for £3. 10s, and the heritors directed that the bell was to be taken down and laid up in the .session house. On 1st August 1815, Mr James McRobie bought the old bell, for £2. 14s. On 3rd February 1844, Lord Abercromby caused it to be reported to the heritors that the bell of the old Church of Logie had been sent by Mr McRobie to Mr Harvey, watchmaker in Stirling, to be repaired. In the circumstances the heritors’ law agent had obtained an interdict against Mr Harvey’s parting with the bell. Investigations proved that Mr McRobie had bought and paid for the bell twenty-nine years previously. The interesting question arises: Was it the bell of the old church of Logie which, for so many years, three times a day, recalled the workers in the paper mill to a sense of duty?
John McRobie, the son of Robert McRobie and Margaret Stuart, took his father’s place as a leading man in the village. From Provost Drysdale’s notes I find that John McRobie started the first public library in Bridge of Allan. Mr McRobie, Provost Drysdale says, had a large class for young men which was a profound influence in the community. From what I have been able to say about the McRobies – and how much more I could say if I had time – it will be realised that they were makers of Bridge of Allan in more senses than one. They were, indeed, excellent specimens of that sturdy seceder stock to which Scotland owes so much more than many of us realise to-day.
THE AUTHOR OF “A WEEK AT BRIDGE OF ALLAN.”
Before I leave the earlier portion of the period with which I am dealing I wish to refer to two men who took their share in building up Bridge of Allan. The first of these is the Rev. Charles Rogers, LLD., and the other General Sir James Edward Alexander, K.C.B., of Westerton. These two men were contemporaries, and they had much in common. They were both Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and they had an ardent desire to further, each in his own way, the interests of what was in their time the acknowledged Queen of Scottish Spas. Dr. Rogers was the chaplain to the Forces, at Stirling Castle, but his official duties far from utilised his abundant energy. Dr. Rogers wrote Bridge of Allan’s classic “A Week at Bridge of Allan,” a book which ran into edition after edition, and attracted great attention. If one thing remained to complete the making of Bridge of Allan “A Week at Bridge of Allan” did it.
But Dr. Rogers was associated with a still greater achievement. He originated the idea of erecting the Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig, and, in the teeth of hostility from most influential quarters, he carried the project through
to a triumphant conclusion. Had Dr. Rogers lived until to-day he would have been a proud man to read in “The Scots Observer” of 9th October 1926, that “The Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig, overlooking the whole centre of Scotland, is one of the most impressive national memorials in the world.” What a contrast to the things said about Dr. Rogers and his project! And what an encouragement to hold on to a good cause!
I am proud to think that, when Dr. Rogers was at the most difficult point in his great endeavour, the man who stood by him most loyally, and acted as the secretary of his committee, was the man destined to be the first Town Clerk of Bridge of Allan, Mr Ebenezer Morrison.
Of those who took any part in the erection of the Monument there are probably very few alive to-day, but it may interest my hearers to know that at least one of the subscribers is still hale and hearty, despite the fact that he celebrated his 90th birthday last May. My friend to whom I refer is a good Scotsman, for long resident in America, born in Durrisdeer, Dumfriesshire, and now spending the evening of his days in Berkeley California. My old friend’s daughter was acclaimed by the American nation as the most distinguished American woman who gave her life in the Great War. But need this be surprising when I tell you that my friend rejoices in the name of William Wallace!
After this, may I hope pardonable, digression; let us return to our tale.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S SOLDIER LAIRD: GENERAL SIR JAMES EDWARD ALEXANDER KCB
The gentleman I bracketed with Dr. Charles Roger was Sir James Alexander. In 1858 Sir James succeeded his brother, Major John Alexander Henderson, as laird of Westerton, and he took up his residence at Westerton House early in 1860. In this paper I cannot attempt to tell the life-story of Sir James Alexander. Sir James traced his ancestry from Alastair, son of Donald, Lord of the Isles, to the famous statesman and author, Sir William, Alexander of Menstrie, the first Earl of Stirling, and thence through the Alexanders of Stirling and Powis. Not the least illustrious scion of this House was our hero, Sir James, who, as a soldier, an explorer, and an antiquary, rendered many signal services to his country.
Nothing Sir James did as an antiquarian must be allowed to obscure his record as a soldier, but he is perhaps best known for his work in bringing Cleopatra’s Needle to London, where it is now picturesquely situated on the Thames Embankment. This obelisk had been presented to the British Government in recognition of the services rendered to Egypt by Lord Nelson and Sir Ralph
Abercromby. The Government, however, made no attempt to remove it, and, although appealed to, declined to render any assistance, and it fell to Sir James, with the assistance of his friend, Sir Erasmus Wilson, who met the bill of costs of £10,000, to bring the 3,300 year-old monument to England.
But our particular interest in Sir James is as the dignified and gracious head of our village. A great supporter of manly sports, he resuscitated the Bridge of Allan Games, which, begun in 1852 had fallen into abeyance for a short time. Sir James’s interest in the welfare of his people was not confined to their physical development. A scholar himself, he took an active share in the work of the School Board of Logie from its establishment in 1873, and, until failing health laid him aside, he took a keen personal interest in the children of the schools in the parish.
On 2nd of April 1885, Sir James died full of years and honours. What he stood for in the respect and affection of the people of Bridge of Allan it is impossible for me to tell.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S “CROOK IN THE LOT”
At this stage it is fitting that I should mention what Thomas Boston would have called Bridge of Allan’s crook in the lot, the gasworks! Gas undertakings of all sorts and sizes have experienced the greatest crisis in their history during the past dozen years, and at no time have they been in greater difficulties than at the moment at which I write.
The Bridge of Allan Gas Light Company was formed by that maker of modern Bridge of Allan, Mr John McVicar, and he was its first chairman. Succeeding chairmen were Mr John Pullar and Mr Laurence Pullar. From the names I have mentioned it will be realised that the management of the company was as, good as it could be right through its history. For better or worse, the Town Council of 1913 decided, and the ratepayers in public meeting concurred with them in the decision, that in the interests of the gas consumers it was desirable, taking the long view, that the gas undertaking should pass into the hands of the community. Accordingly, at Whitsunday 1914, the transfer took place. Had the question come up for consideration in 1915 a different decision would almost certainly have been arrived at. But only those who knew the world was to go up in flames on the 4th of August 1914, and warned us of it in advance, are entitled to criticise the Town Council and the ratepayers for their decision of 1913. For myself, I do not know any one who quite comes within this category!
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S EPIC: THE STRUGGLE FOR A WATER SUPPLY.
Curiously enough, the great majority of our people imagine that the gas question has been the outstanding one in Bridge of Allan, and that the water which they use so copiously has just dropped in the form of gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. But this is all wrong. The struggle for Bridge of Allan’s water supply has been Bridge of Allan’s epic.
Sixty years ago Bridge of Allan drew its supply of water from many and varied sources. The lairds of Westerton, Keir, and Airthrey each did his best to meet the needs of his own people. But the various supplies of water were primitive and precarious in the extreme. Just over sixty years ago a band of brave men took upon themselves the duty of providing Bridge of Allan with an adequate supply of water. The names of these men should always be remembered by those who have benefited from their self-sacrificing labours. The seven men were Mr John Pullar, who was their chairman and leader, Dr. Thomas Ellis, Mr Robert Philp, sen., Mr John Bayne, Mr Williain Haldane, Mr Robert Lucas, and Mr David McLaren.
Think of the financial risks these men and their fellow-adventurers ran. They had to get an Act of Parliament, and they had to fight the proprietor of Airthrey at every step of the way. Sixty years ago the rights of the landed proprietor were sacrosanct, and in the end of the day the promoters of the Water Act staggered out of the conflict with an Act of Parliament cumbered with every burden the ingenuity of man could devise.
Undismayed, Mr John Pullar and his friends buckled to the construction of the reservoir, the formation of a clear-water tank, and the laying of a complete distributary system. Having at last got everything in order, the company proceeded to supply the community of Bridge of Allan with water. They required only the experience of a few summers to realise that, with the burdens imposed by Act of Parliament, they had undertaken what was, for them, nearly an impossible task. However, Mr John Pullar and his friends had done everything which was humanly possible when Mr Pullar, to the grief of the entire community, was cut off on the 1st of October 1883.
For a time Mr John Bayne filled the place in the company rendered vacant by the death of Mr Pullar, and he, in turn, was succeeded as chairman by Dr. William Haldane. By this time the financial position of the company had begun to improve, but, instead of paying a larger dividend to the shareholders, Dr. Haldane made one of his principal contributions to the public welfare by getting an Act of Parliament passed, in 1897, giving the company powers to raise the embankment of the reservoir and to construct filters. The filters were laid down in 1898, but the severely limited rating powers of the company would not permit of the raising of the embankment of the reservoir as well.
Through the generosity of Mr Donald Graham of Airthrey, and, after Mr Graham’s death, by the goodness of Mrs Graham, the situation as regards the, quantity of water which might be taken from the lade at Pendreich was greatly eased. An eight-inch pipe from the lade to the reservoir was by permission and as a privilege substituted for the four-inch pipe authorised by the Act of Parliament. But how inadequate even this great gift of Mr and Mrs Graham was to the needs of the situation will be remembered by all those who have any recollection of the conditions which prevailed in the summer of 1919 and, indeed, in many other summers.
MR EDMUND PULLAR’S MUNIFICENT GIFT.
Mr Edmund Pullar succeeded Dr. Haldane as chairman of the Water Company about a quarter of a century ago and for twenty years he gave unremitting attention to the problems which faced him and his fellow directors. For a time Mr Pullar had it in view to carry through joint scheme for the construction of a new reservoir on the Wharry Burn to meet the needs of both the Bridge of Allan and Dunblane districts.
Ultimately Mr Pullar came to the conclusion that the one thing to do was to acquire the whole of the interests in the Water Company and present the undertaking, unburdened, to the people of Bridge of Allan, in order that they themselves might face and solve the problems of their water supply. At a cost of £17,080, Mr Pullar, in 1919, bought up the shares and debentures of the company, and, also at his own charges, obtained the Bridge of Allan Water Act of that year transferring the waterworks to the town.
This munificent gift was followed by the passing of the Bridge of Allan Water Act of 1921, giving the Town Council power to extend the reservoir and to buy up all the troublesome rights incorporated in the Act of 1866. For the passing of the Act of and the carrying through of the works authorised by the Act, much credit is due to ex-Provost Inness. Only those who were closely associated with Provost Innes will ever fully realise how much Bridge of Allan owes to him for his contribution to the solution of the problem of our water supply.
It will be gathered from what I have said that the names which will always be associated with Bridge of Allan’s water supply are those of Mr John Pullar, Dr. William Haldane, Mr Edmund Pullar, and Provost Innes, but there is one other gentleman whose name must not be omitted. I refer to Mr R. A. Hill, so well-known to the members of Chalmers Church as our leading office-bearer from youth to middle-age. Hill was for nearly thirty years secretary of the Water Company. For the whole of that time he shared with Dr. Haldane and Mr Edmund Pullar the anxiety which crisis after crisis in the situation at the reservoir inevitably brought, and he took a full share in the promotion of the Water Act of 1897.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN BECOMES A BURGH.
We come now, in the course of our story, to erection of Bridge of Allan into a Burgh. Before the passing of the Local Government Act of 1889, under which County Councils came into being, County Government in Scotland was at a most primitive stage of its existence, and the only course open to a community which wanted its affairs conducted on a regular system was to form itself into a Burgh. In 1870 eight progressive men petitioned the Sheriff of the County to declare Bridge of Allan a populous place within the terms of the Burgh Police Act. These men, in the order given in the records were Mr Robert Philp, sen., Mr Williaim Baird, Mr 0swald Robertson, Dr. W. E. Gordon, Mr Duncan Brodie,
Dr. Alexander Paterson, Mr John McIsaac and Mr Peter Jaffray. It is the law of life, and quite a good law too, in its results, that every forward movement meets with opposition, and the eight men whose names I have given were not much older before they found they were up against opposition of the most formidable kind, some of it reasoned, much of it unreasoned. In the end they triumphed and on 28th September 1870, after a poll taken the previous day, the Sheriff declared that by 80 votes to 66 the Act had been adopted. By this narrow margin of 14 votes did Bridge of Allan come to a decision to live its own life as a community, and to develop itself as it thought right in its own eyes. Had the vote been 66 for the adoption of the Act and 80 against, a different tale would have had to be told, and Bridge of Allan to-day would have been a sorry place compared with what it is.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S FIRST CHIEF MAGISTRATE: MR JOHN PULLAR.
On 26th October 1870, the first election of Police Commissioners took place, when the gentlemen chosen were found to be:- Mr William Baird, Mr John Pullar, Mr Robert Philp, sen., Mr James Drysdale, Mr John Bayne, Mr Robert Lucas, Mr Duncan Brodie, Mr John Lyell, and Mr Gilbert, Farie. Mr Bayne declined office, and his place was filled by the co-option of Mr George Millar. Fortunately, Mr Bayne accepted office a year later, so that the great services he was qualified to render to the Burgh were only postponed, not lost. Five days after the election of the Commissioners the first Chief Magistrate of the infant Burgh was chosen. Naturally, the choice fell on that remarkable man, John Pullar. Few communities, large or small, have been better served by any man than Bridge of Allan was by Mr. John Pullar. He had qualities of leadership which were incomparable, and during his term of office as Chief Magistrate, which lasted from 1870 to 1873 he gave service just as faithful and almost as strenuous as he had given earlier as the chief promoter of the Water Company. I think I am safe in saying that Mr John Pullar created a greater impression on those who came into contact with him in public life than any Bridge of Allan man of his time. Bridge of Allan men who were middle-aged a generation ago had all the same thing to say of him. One and all they declared that he was the greatest man Bridge of Allan ever had, or ever would have. I often expostulated with them. Surely, I said, whatever view they took of Mr Pullar as compared with previous Bridge of Allan men, they weren’t going to take up the role of prophet! But they were adamant. They placed Mr John Pullar before every Bridge of Allan man, past, present, or future, and from that position they would not budge by a hairbreadth. Unfortunately, no one will ever be able to say whether they were right or wrong.
THREE EARLY CHIEF MAGISTRATES: MR ROBERT PHILP, Sen; MR DAVID McLAREN; MR ROBERT BALDIE.
Mr Robert Philp, sen., was Chief Magistrate from 1873 till 1875, Mr David McLaren from 1875 till 1876, and Mr Robert Baldie from 1876 till 1880. All three gave service of great value. It was perhaps not surprising that Mr
Philp should have been anxious to do what he could for the welfare of the community, as he was the proprietor of the Royal Hotel, and was personally concerned in the prosperity of Bridge of Allan. Mr David McLaren, too, had a natural interest in Bridge of Allan. A Bridge of Allan boy, who had had a prosperous career in India, it was only fitting that he should interest himself in the affairs of his place. But Mr Baldie was in a different category. A busy architect, with his office in Glasgow and his home in Bridge of Allan, he found time for ten years, for four of which he was Chief Magistrate, to serve as a Commissioner. Mr Baldie brought great gifts to Bridge of Allan by placing his professional skill and experience of public affairs at the service of the people of Bridge of Allan, and for all he did for our town he should be gratefully remembered to-day.
MR LAURENCE PULLAR.
Mr Baldie was succeeded in the office of Chief Magistrate by one who was the last survivor of those who took part in the formation of the Burgh fifty-six years ago, Mr Laurence Pullar, LL.D. Mr Laurence Pullar held office as Chief Magistrate from 1880 till 1886, and all that time the work of creating Bridge of Allan went steadily on. From 1870 till 1886 may be regarded as the earlier constructive period of Bridge of Allan’s life as a Burgh, and by the time Mr Laurence Pullar’s tenure of office was ended there wasn’t much left to be done under the powers then conferred upon the Commissioners of Police Burghs.
Mr Laurence Pullar has many claims to the gratitude of the community besides those due to his services as a Commissioner and Magistrate of the Burgh. As the leading promoter of the movement for the erection of the Museum Hall, Mr Pullar has placed the people of Bridge of Allan in his debt for all time. Among Mr Pullar’s principal coadjutors in the erection of our beautiful hall was his brother, Mr Edimind Pullar, Dr. William Haldane, Mr Oswald Robertson, Mr John G. Curror, solicitor, Stirling, and Robert, Jenkins. These six men, and the Ladies, and gentlemen who worked with them, took upon themselves a heavy task, but having put their hand to the plough they never looked back.
A PICTURESQUE CHIEF MAGISTRATE: MR JAMES DRYSDALE.
In the order of things, we now come to Bridge of Allan’s picturesque Chief Magistrate, Mr James Drysdale. Elected a Commissioner of the Burgh in 1870, Mr Drysdale was chosen as Chief Magistrate in 1886. He served as Chief Magistrate for two terms of three years. He thereafter served a further term of three years as a Commissioner and retired from office in November 1895, after twenty-five years service at the Council table. Provost Drysdale’s chief contribution to the good government of the Burgh was the alacrity with which he induced the Commissioners to take over the management of the highways in the Burgh on the passing of the Roads and Streets in Police Burghs Act of 1891. Many, many pence in the pound has the transfer of the roads from County to Burgh control saved the ratepayers of Bridge of Allan, but, with his long experience of public life, nobody would have been more surprised than Provost Drysdale had anybody suggested that he deserved the thanks of his fellows for what he had done !
But we do not think of Provost Drysdale only as the occupant of a seat in the Council Chamber. Churchman, Sunday School superintendent, social reformer, politician, traveller, local historian, County Councillor, Parish Councillor, member of the School Board, member of the County Licensing Court, bowler, curler, golfer, all-round athlete, who, at seventy, could walk a man of twenty-five off his feet, and took a wicked delight in doing it; skilful angler, humorist, what was he not? I have quite accidentally, mentioned Provost Drysdale’s capacity for humour last. May I give a typical sally? Many years ago, when motor charabancs were not, and, instead, there reigned the three-horse brake, the members of the Y.M.C.A.. were wont on the. Queen’s birthday holiday to drive to some such place as the Trossachs or Lochearnhead, and there spend the day. On one occasion, after some happy hours, on the Edinarnple side of Lochearn, the party having crossed from the hotel side in boats, the driver of our brake, a genial fellow who rejoiced in the name of Winter, at four o’clock came to the side of the loch and shouted across to us that it was time to go, home. At once Provost Drysdale took up the challenge, and, in that stentorian voice of his, expressing the feeling of everyone, shouted back: ” Gloomy Winter, go away!’-‘
BRIDGE OF ALLAN‘S FIRST PROVOST: MR JOHN GRAHAM.
But I must pass on to deal briefly with the gentleman who succeeded Provost Drysdale, Mr John Graham. Mr Graham was the last of our men to hold the office of Chief Magistrate, and the first to hold that of Provost of Bridge of Allan, although the title of Provost had, by public acclamation, been bestowed on Provost Drysdale. Provost Graham occupied the first place in the counsels of the Burgh for over four years, from November 1892, until 15th May 1893, as Chief Magistrate, and from the latter date until his death in December 1896, as Provost. While not a man of the varied interests of his immediate predecessor, Provost Graham was of a true public spirit, and, in many capabilities, he served the town of his adoption faithfully and well.
A DEVOTED SON OF BRIDGE OF ALLAN: PROVOST PHILP.
We come now to the first of three great personal friends, each of whom held the office of Provost of Bridge of Allan. The three friends I refer to were Mr Robert Philp, jun., Mr Robert MacDonald, and Mr John Walker McCall. As different in temperament as men could well be, they had this in common, a profound interest in the welfare of the town in which Provost Philp first saw the light, and in which the others had made their home.
On the death of Provost Graham, that devoted son of Bridge of Allan, Mr Robert Philp, jun., was appointed interim Provost until November 1897. Thereafter he served three full terms in succession, retiring in 1906 to be succeeded by Mr Robert MacDonald. No movement big with fate was made by the Town Council while Provost Philp filled the civic chair, unless the adoption of the Burghs Gas Supply Act in 1903, under which, the Town Council took over the Gasworks eleven years later, could be thus described. But Provost Philp was far from being an idle Provost. Right through his ten years tenure of office he gave ungrudgingly of his time and energy to the service of the people of his birthplace.
THE PUBLIC INTERESTS ASSOCIATION.
Many Years ago now Provost Philp and I together made two ventures in new constructional work. In 1895 we set going the movement for the formation of the Golf Club; and eleven years later we had the Public Interests Association formed. Provost Philp was the first chairman of the Public Interests Association, and for twenty-one years I have been secretary. The work of this important association is now divided up into sections, and we have in Dr. W. H. Welsh, Mr Robert Flockhart, and Mr Alexander J. Inglis, who are mainly responsible for the running of the Scottish Central Lawn Tennis Tournament, and in Mr W. L. Pullar and Provost Dunbar, who carry the principal share of the burden of our wonderful musical season, men who are doing work of the highest value for Bridge of Allan.
As I come down to the men who are, happily, still with us my task becomes just the least bit more difficult. We are told never to speak ill of the dead. Some people balance this injunction by never speaking well of the living! But I am going to keep to the same line all through. I have not mentioned, and I do not intend to mention, the name of any man who has not in the past deserved, or does not to-day deserve, well of his fellows.
Bridge of Allan owes everything it has to Nature and to the varying gifts and qualities of the men who have swayed its destinies. In Provost Philp we had the
perfervid Scot; in Provost MacDonald we have the true Highlander, just one remove from Morven. During Provost MacDonald’s term of office, events, which had marched before, began to trot; nowadays they simply gallop! Owing to the rapid development of motor traffic during the first decade of the century the road problem, between 1906 and 1909, emerged life-size. Streets which were designed to meet the needs of fifty years ago had their surfaces literally crushed into pulp by the new traffic, and they had to be re-constructed to stand up to the new burden they had to carry. A most successful beginning in this work was made by Provost MacDonald and his Council. But more than this was done. The narrow, tortuous Paper Mill Road whose condition had been discussed by successive road authorities for years, was widened by Provost MacDonald and converted into the spacious and beautiful Blairforkie Drive. Thus, when Provost MacDonald came to lay down the reins of office in 1909, he left Bridge of Allan fairly on the way to becoming, in many ways, a more attractive place than it had ever been in its history.
In one respect Provost MacDonald, may I take the risk of saying it, set an example to all the other Provosts under whom I have had the honour to serve. In the public meetings of the Council he himself never departed from the Standing Orders, and he never allowed any other member of the Council to do so, a golden rule for all Provosts and chairmen of public bodies.
As Provost MacDonald way be present when I read this paper, I must not give way to my temptation to speak of his many fine qualities, a good churchman, a lover of good books, above all a lover of Nature, golfer, bowler, curler. To many of us he is well-known for the qualities I have enumerated. But may I say this, that no one who hasn’t seen him five miles up a Highland burn with two dozen trout in his basket can really claim to know him!
What can we say of Provost McCall, that Ayrshire Scot with a Glasgow upbringing, except that he was one of the most generous-hearted of Bridge of Allan’s citizens, generous alike with his time and energy and with his money? A man of great natural gifts, and of cultured mind, Provost McCall came to Bridge of Allan in early middle life. From the first he took an active interest in public affairs. He was an exceptionally able lecturer, and many a good cause profited from the proceeds of an evening’s entertainment given by him. It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of any public movement which did not find a friend in Provost McCall. Called to the chair to succeed Provost MacDonald, he held office until 1912. In 1910, on the accession of His Majesty King George V., Provost McCall made the first Royal Proclamation promulgated in Bridge of Allan. Until that time the honour of making Royal Proclamations had been reserved for the Provosts of Royal Burghs, but no Provost of a Royal Burgh acquitted himself more worthily on that 10th day of May 1910, than did Provost McCall. Before his elevation to the civic chair, Provost McCall did much to brighten Bridge of Allan by providing a number of open-air band concerts every summer, but, by the time he became Provost, all the money which could be found had to be spent on the, re-construction of the streets. In 1912 Provost McCall concluded a long spell of useful service in the Town Council, but he remained a friend of good causes until the end.
Provost MCall’s successor was a man who might have stepped out of Wilson’s “Tales of the Borders,” and who brought to bear on the civic problems of his time the fighting spirit of his ancestors, all with excellent results for Bridge of Allan. As Senior Bailie and Convener of Roads Committee during Provost McCall’s term of office, Provost Turnbull had for three years done little but make roads. Indeed, he might be described as the General Wade of Bridge of Allan. During his Provostship, after much anxious consideration, Henderson Street was laid in slag tar-macadam, a material practically untried in Scotland at that time. Laid down in 1913, with an expectancy of life of five years, portions of Henderson Street are, fourteen years later, good for several years to come, and the shortest life of any portion was ten years. Some idea of the increase in road costs may be gathered when I mention that it took nearly as much last summer to re-lay the stretch of Henderson Street between Graham Street and Melville Place, as it did in 1913 to lay the whole street from the eastern Burgh boundary at St. Ann’s to the Bridge. Thus are the difficulties of the makers of Modern Bridge of Allan increased.
In July 1914, Provost Turnbull had the honour of receiving Their Majesties King George V. and Queen Mary, and Princess Mary, on the very spot from which Provost McCall had announced the accession of His Majesty four years earlier. In three weeks from the date of their Majesties’ visit the world had crashed, and for two years Provost Turnbull had to turn from the tasks of peace to those of war. In 1916, after four years of office as Provost, the crown of a long period of fruitful service on the Council, Provost Turnbull retired, to be succeeded by a man who had already given proof of his qualifications for high office, Mr James Brown. To-day, Provost Turnbull is serving Bridge of Allan with his accustomed force as the County Councillor for the southern division of the Burgh.
Provost Brown was the third of the Chief Magistrates of Bridge of Allan to be sprung from Seceder stock, his predecessors being Provost Drysdale and Provost McCall. Every man with a pure Secession ancestry resembles every other Seceder in at least one respect. Every one of them has a peculiar clarity of vision, with nothing blurred about it. Probably it was this very quality which made men become Seceders two hundred years ago. And surely the Seceder’s clearness of vision was sent down direct to our good friend Provost Brown. Provost Brown had held office as Provost for only sixteen months when his sudden and unlooked-for death robbed Bridge of its most worthy citizens. But, while his tenure of the Provostship was of brief duration, Provost Brown had played an important part in the life of the town as chairman of the Military Tribunal set up to determine which men should join the Army during the fateful years of 1916 to 1918, and which should remain at home to carry on the necessary work of the nation. As chairman of the Tribunal, Provost Brown’s judgments, which were invariably accepted by his colleagues, were models of soundness and impartiality, and, almost without exception, they were upheld by the Appeal Tribunal when challenged. Many trying days in the Tribunal were followed by as many sleepless nights for Provost Brown, and there can be little doubt that his work as chairman of the Tribunal wore out a tired heart and hastened his end.
Mr James Alexander Innes, of whose services I have already spoken, succeeded Provost Brown, and held office as Provost from April 1918, until November 1923. During his two terms of the Provostship, Provost Innes may be said to have thought of little else than water. From the land of George McDonald, Provost Innes brought with him to Bridge of Allan a full supply, of those qualities of tenacity of purpose and resourcefulness of mind which characterise the good people of the northeast of Scotland. As the result of his efforts, we eastern entrance to our beautiful Burgh.
Our latest Provost to complete a term of service is Mr John Bain, who took up office on the retirement of Provost Innes in 1923, and laid down the burden of the Provostship in November last. The outstanding feature of Provost Bain’s period was the passing of the Bridge of Allan Electricity Supply Order of 1925. The Provostship, however, does not consist in one supreme effort spread over a period of years. Rather does it take the form of continuous attention to administrative details, all designed to contribute to the comfort and well-being of every member of the community. For all his services, in one public capacity and another, Provost Bain has richly earned the thanks of his fellow-citizens. Provost Bain’s startlingly sudden death, less than a month after he had laid down the reins of office, removed from many of us a life-long and true friend.
A PRESENT-DAY PROVOST: MR JOHN DUNBAR.
For me to say much of Mr John Dunbar in his capacity of Provost, to which high office he was elected on 5th November 1926, would necessarily involve an excursion into the region of prophecy. And this is not permissible in what is essentially a historical paper! But Provost Dunbar has already a good record of public service to his credit. He has now filled every office in the Town Council over a period of fourteen years. He has, in addition, given sustained and faithful service in connection with the management of the Golf Club, and to a wide public he is known as the painstaking and highly efficient secretary of the Concerts and Lectures Committee of the Public Interests Association. As I have said, until Provost Dunbar has completed his term of office it will not be possible to write an appreciation of his work, but I am confident he will prove himself a worthy successor to the Chief Magistrates and Provosts; who have held office since that day in October 1870, when, Mr John Pullar was appointed as the first civic head of Bridge of Allan.
Provost Dunbar’s colleagues on the Town Council to-day are:- Bailie The Rev. Canon MacCulloch, D.D; Bailie The Rev. John Moore, B.D; ex-Bailie Andrew Robertson, Treasurer Andrew Thomson, Councillor James Rodger, J.P., Councillor D. McGrigor Fleming, Councillor A. Arnold Sanderson, and Councillor William McLaren.
A GROUP OF GOOD CITIZENS.
In my survey of the makers of Modern Bridge of Allan I have, perforce, had to treat mainly of those who have held the highest office. But the work of a Town Council is not done by the Provost alone, but by all of its members, whatever rank they may hold. Before I conclude, therefore, I wish to name one or two typical men who for one reason or another never reached the chair. The first of these is a man we might have met in the work of the Police Commission between forty and fifty years ago, Mr William Cousine. A somewhat stern, yet withal kindly, man, Mr Cousine gave invaluable constructive service to the infant municipality. Mr Cousine was the type of clear-headed man whose cool judgment is required to balance that of the man carried away for the moment by some overmastering idea.
Except that he was a man with a kindly manner instead of a stern one, Mr John Carmichael, who served both as a Commissioner and as a Magistrate, was a man with much the same kind of outlook, and gave much the same kind of service as Mr Cousine.
Mr Joseph Mackay, so long associated in the mind of Bridge of Allan with the Hydropathic, and with the Free Church, gave valued service both on the Town Council and the School Board, as he also did as session clerk of our congregation.
Mr James Henderson, a shrewd, outspoken man, as Councillor and Bailie, made a definite and most helpful contribution to the discussions and work of the Town Council.
Mention must be made, too, of Bailie John McIntyre, who, in spite of the claims of a large business, which demanded his close personal attention, for many years took a serious share in the work of the Town Council.
Neither must reference to Bailie John Erskine be omitted. Mr Erskine was a man of outstanding qualities, straight in speech and straight in action, who for a quarter of a century devoted all his leisure, if Mr Erskine could be said ever to have had any leisure, to the welfare of the people of Bridge of Allan. A comparatively early death prevented Bridge of Allan from having, in the person of Mr Erskine, a Provost at once dignified and efficient.
Mr Peter Maclaren, a son of Bridge of Allan, with an intense love for his native place, would have been Provost had his duties permitted him to accept the office. He was the senior member of the Council of his time, and no man ever did better work at the Council table, but, when pressed to accept the Provostship, Mr Maclaren could only reply that one whose private duties absorbed his unbroken attention from day to day, and from hour to hour, could not possibly find time for those public duties which might demand attention at any moment.
Mr William B. Pullar never aspired to be Provost, but he served on the Council for a number of years. Mr Pullar brought a fresh and cultured mind to bear on our municipal Problems. Every man makes his own special contribution. Mr Pullar hated mud. He maintained that the time we spent on the footpaths was an appreciable portion of our life, and that the footpaths should be brought up to a standard equivalent to their responsibilities. The fruits of Mr Pullar’s work are, to our comfort, still with us.
Mr Daniel M. Watson was one of three young men who, in the year 1862, founded the Bridge of Allan branch of the Y.M.C.A. After a successful business career, Mr Watson returned to the scenes of his boyhood, and in due course he became a member of the Town Council. As Convener of Roads Committee he was for some years Provost MacDonald’s right-hand man. Bailie Watson concentrated on the new problems of road construction, and, just twenty years ago, in collaboration with our Burgh Surveyor, Mr Harry Blackadder, laid down a stretch of road surface composed of ordinary road-metal grouted with boiling tar. Many leading road engineers visited Bridge of Allan to inspect the new form of road surface, and the fact that the method, first successfully employed by Bailie Watson and Mr Blackadder, has become of almost universal application in the construction of rural and semi-rural roads carrying heavy traffic, proves the soundness of the idea evolved by them.
One other public servant I must mention before I close this chapter. I refer to ex-Bailie Andrew Robertson. Nature clearly intended to utilise Bailie Robertson as a Professor of English Literature, but the Bailie lost his way early in life and arrived in Bridge of Allan a little boy of eleven or twelve. Perhaps, after all, he has played as useful a part as he would had he become the occupant of a University Chair. For much the same reason as that put forward by Mr. Peter Maclaren, Mr Robertson was unable to accede to the pressing request of his colleagues that he should become Provost of Bridge of Allan. But this has not prevented him from giving valued service to the town. As honorary treasurer he had a firm grip of the finances of the Burgh. For seven years he was Convener or the Gas Committee, and, in this capacity, quietly and in the most efficient way, shouldered the burden of the Gas Undertaking, badly hit as it was for the time by the conditions arising out of the War. Since November 1924, Bailie Robertson has been in quieter waters as Convener of the Committee which makes provision for our ablutions and our libations.
OUR SENIOR BAILIE AND OUR JUNIOR BAILIE.
Dare I pass on without referring to the two gentlemen who on this day of grace respectively hold the offices of Senior Bailie and Junior Bailie of the Burgh of Bridge of Allan? In our Senior Bailie we have an eminent Doctor of Divinity of the University of St. Andrews: in our Junior Bailie a scholarly Bachelor of Divinity of the University of Glasgow. Surely this is a combination of scholarship and intellect worthy of special notice.- But our Senior Bailie not only holds one of the most treasured degrees conferred by the Universities of Great Britain he holds the high rank of Canon of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Eloquent of speech, Dr. MacCulloch is, besides, a writer of distinction. “The Misty Isle of Skye ” has become a classic, but it is only one of the many volumes which stand to his credit. Dr. MacCulloch has served on the Education Authority of the County of, Stirling. He has been Chairman of the Logie School Management Committee, and is a member of Logic Parish Council. But Dr. MacCulloch’s interests are far from being of a purely local character. He takes a leading, place in the councils of his Church, and as one of the Scottish members of the British Council of the World Alliance for promoting International Friendship through the Churches, and Chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Alliance, he exercises a wide and ever-growing influence.
The necessity for husbanding his eyesight compelled the Rev. John Moore to give up the active work of the ministry some twenty years ago. On his retiral Mr Moore made his home in Bridge of Allan. What was a minor personal calamity for Mr Moore has proved to be fraught with nothing but good for Bridge of Allan. To-day he is our Junior Magistrate; he is one of the Bridge of Allan members of the Stirlingshire County Council; he represents Bridge of Allan on several important Stirlingshire Joint Committees; he is Chairman of the Logie School Management Committee, and he is a member of Logie Parish Council. These are only a few of the public offices he holds. In short, Bailie Moore lives a busy life wholly devoted to the public service. He combines in a rare degree the qualities of clear thinking and lucid speech. He seldom requires to revise his judgments. He is, indeed, the exact type of the man who is suggested in the, proverb which says that “He who keeps to the straight road never loses the way.”
BRIDGE OF ALLAN’S LADY COUNCILLORS.
So far, I have referred only to men when speaking of the public personages of the district. Until a few years ago I could have done no other, but within recent times Bridge of Allan has been favoured with the presence of two ladies in her Councils. Mrs Fitzgerald of Alangrange has for a number of years been a member of the Parish Council, and on that body she has given just the service which might have been expected of one of her generous instincts, shrewdness of mind, and devotion to duty. Mrs Fitzgerald has, however, greater claims to distinction than membership of the Parish Council affords. In respect of her manifold public services she has been honoured by being appointed one of the first women Justices of the Peace for the County of Stirling.
On the Town Council, Mrs Motion of The Hawthorns has just completed four years of faithful service. The daughter of an Aberdeenshire doctor, who literally wore himself out in a practice extending over a wide country district, Mrs Motion had a clear idea of what public service involves and her whole life’s training had equipped her for the branch of public work which she took up in November 1922. The construction of the tennis courts, and the handing over of them free of charge to the town, may have been Mrs Motion’s principal piece of work, but there was no sphere of the Council’s operations in which she did not make a characteristically capable contribution.
MR ROBERT JENKINS.
I must break the rule I have followed throughout the greater portion of this paper of speaking only of those who have served on the recognised public bodies. No reference to the men who have contributed to the building up of Bridge of Allan would be complete which did not make special mention of Mr Robert Jenkins. Mr Jenkins succeeded Mr William Baird as agent of the Union Bank in 1871, and for the long period of forty-five years he was one of the mainstays of our community. No bank ever had a more devoted or more efficient agent, and his devotion to duty and his efficiency as a banker were equalled by his continuous and unvarying interest in the welfare of the institutions and of the people of Bridge of Allan.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN’S GENEROUS BENEFACTOR: MR EDMUND PULLAR.
One other name, Mr Edmund Pullar. In the course of this paper I have made more than one passing reference to Mr Edmund Pullar, but the briefest specific mention must be made of him if I am not to be accused of having left out one of the most important figures in our local history.
Mr Edmund Pullar, as most of us know, was a younger brother of Mr John Pullar and Mr Laurence Pullar. In many, respects he was a very different man from either of his brothers, but all three were essentially of the same stock. To attempt to tell the story of Edmund Pullar’s life in, and work for, Bridge of Allan, would be to tell the story of Bridge of Allan for the last fifty, years over again. His thought, and the intense, love he had, for Bridge of Allan were evidenced in a thousand ways. His gifts to Bridge of Allan and to Bridge of Allan institutions were innumerable, and in more than one instance princely, but it was well said of him on a recent public occasion that, after all, his greatest gift to Bridge of Allan had been just his own devoted life.
OTHER MAKERS OF MODERN BRIDGE OF ALLAN.
It was my intention to say something of the work of those makers of modern Bridge of Allan who have served on the County Council, the Parochial Board, and the Parish Council, on the School Board, or on the more recently instituted School Management Committee. But I dare not go on.
Some day, if I have the opportunity, I may tell of the men who served Bridge of Allan under the men of Menstrie when Bridge of Allan was a thorn in the flesh of a parish of which Menstrie was still the capital; of the men of more recent times who served on the Parish Council under the guidance of Mr Donald Graham of Airthrey, Mr Morries Stirling of Gogar, and that great and good Scotsman, the Rev. Dr. Menzies Fergusson of Logie, or who still serve on the parish Council under the chairmanship of our esteemed townsman Mr John McGregor. I might also, with advantage, say something of the men who served on the School Board or on the School Management Committee under Sir James Alexander, Dr. William. Haldane, the Rev. Dr. Menzies Fergusson, and the Rev. Canon MacCulloch, or who still serve on the School Management Committee under the chairmanship of the Rev. John Moore.
I would fain tell you, too, of the work done for Bridge of Allan, through the agency of the Public Interests Association, by men like Colonel Alexander of Westerton, the Rev. Duncan Cameron, Mr Davidson Kelly, Dr. Fraser, Dr. Mitchell, Mr W. Holdsworth Lunn, Mr John Dunn, the Rev. Ian MacDonald, Mr Francis Richardson, and Mr Kenneth Aird, to name only a few of those who have taken a share in the work of that interesting and useful Association.
More important still, I have said nothing of the influence as makers of modern Bridge of Allan of the Churches, or of the many less formal religious and social organisations, or of our Schools and Schoolmasters, but I must leave this side of my subject to be dealt with by someone more competent to do so than myself.