Tattie Kirk
The octagonal 'Tattie Kirk' Linlithgow

Falkirk - a local history

The town of Falkirk lies in an area rich in history. Many of the most influential characters fo Scottish history have been associated with the district - Braveheart himself, William Wallace came to the town and fought a famous battle here in 1298 - the first battle of two in the town's story. Mary Queen of Scots was great friends with a local noble family, the Livingstons, who lived in Callendar House, one of the town's mansions, from the14th to the 18th century. Their daughter, Mary was one of the queen's ladies in waiting - the Four Marys. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie came to the town - his Jacobite troops taking part victoriously in the 2nd Battle of Falkirk in 1746.

The town's name comes from Scots gaelic meaning 'speckled church'. The 'Faw Kirk' eventually became Falkirk but a more ancient name was recently commemorated in a new hostelry in the town centre being named Ecchlesbreach from the original gaelic.

Reminders of the town's past are easily seen. Central to the modern day shopping area is the Steeple - formerly the town's gaol. This tall tower, symbol of the town and its football club has been there since 1814 ,designed by David Hamilton but a steeple has stood on that spot since the late 17th century. The Steeple was struck by lightening in 1927 but rebuilt to its original design.

Map of Falkirk
Click map for a larger image

Also in the High Street is the parish church. It stands on the site of the church that gave Falkirk its name and within its graveyard lie the remains of Sir John de Graeme, a knight who fought with Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The same knight gave his name to Graeme High School.

Graeme High is also located in an area rich in history. Directly opposite to the school can be found the ditch of the Roman Antonine Wall. Pupils can make good use of this when trying to recreate the life of a Roman soldier in Scotland during the occupation, especially if the history department decides to visit on a cold rainy typical winter's day.

Falkirk is still an industrial centre, though the old industries like the many Iron foundries have had their hey day and most have closed. The most famous Carron Iron Works has been demolished except for its clock tower and many of the young Falkirk 'Bairns' as we from Falkirk are known have little idea of its glorious past making iron goods such as baths, man- hole covers and even large cannons, known as Carronades. Still today in many foreign climes, if you look at the man-hole covers under your feet, you will see the name Carron, Falkirk or one of the other foundries of the town, like Grahamston Iron Company.

This company is also famous for the remarkable gates which grace the entrance to the works. Made for an exhibition in Edinburgh, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886, these are probably the largest cast-iron gates in the world.

Further legacy of these times is present in the two canals which flow through the town - the Union and the Forth and Clyde. These have for many years been neglected but recently there has been work to try and restore parts of the canals and make them an asset to the town once more. At one time using these canals, goods could be transported across Central Scotland from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The Seagull trust, at present organises trips for disabled groups along the Union Canal from a boathouse in Falkirk.

Falkirk has even made the Guiness Book of Records with the entry of the smallest street - Tolbooth Street, which is just behind the Steeple in the High Street.

'Better meddle wi' the Devil, than the Bairns of Falkirk' is the old saying which gave the townspeople their nickname and throughout the world, the Bairns of Falkirk remain proud of their heritage, keeping up to date with events through the much loved and eagerly awaited weekly newspaper, The Falkirk Herald, which this year celebrates its 150th Anniversary.

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