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Fintry, Stirlingshire

Historical Description

FINTRY, a parish, in the county of Stirling, 17 miles (N.) from Glasgow; containing, with the villages of Gonachan and Newtown, and the Clachan, 884 inhabitants. This parish is said to have derived its name from Gaelic terms signifying "fair land", applied in consequence of the picturesque appearance of parts of the district, in contrast with the dreary moors and barren mountains by which they are surrounded. It is of an irregular form, extending about six miles in length from east to west, and five in breadth; and comprises 13,000 acres, of which 1000 are arable, 100 in wood and plantations, and the remainder hill and moor pasture, chiefly laid out in large sheep-farms. The surface, which embraces some of the highest grounds between the Firths of Clyde and Forth, is considerably diversified, and marked principally by three ranges of hills, and two intermediate, beautifully rural, and fertile valleys. The ranges of hills are, the Fintry hills, on the north; a continuation of the Killeam line, traversing the middle of the parish, and uniting with the Dundaff range, on the west, in St. Ninian's parish; and a southern chain, continued from the Campsie Fells and the Meikle Binn. These elevations are rich in fern, moss, and lichen, and in the various valuable botanical specimens peculiar to such localities; the moors abound with grouse and a variety of wild-fowl. The chief rivers are the Carron and the Endrick, both of which rise in the parish, and, watering the two valleys already referred to, contribute materially to enliven their delightful scenery. Of these streams, the Carron, celebrated in song, runs by the margin of the Campsie hills, and forms the boundary line, for the distance of about two miles, between Fintry and the parish of Campsie, after which, leaving the valley, it enters a new district, and eventually empties itself into the Forth. The Endrick, which receives a considerable accession to its waters by the junction of the Gonachan burn, is a bold and precipitous stream, passing in some places with great noise along its rocky and rugged channel, and exhibiting a magnificent cascade in its progress over a lofty rock, commonly called the "Loup of Fintry", ninety feet in height: it loses itself at last in Loch Lomond. Both the rivers are well stocked with trout; and in the latter, below the waterfall, a species of trout called par is exceedingly numerous.

The SOIL is in general productive; and oats and barley, which are the staple crops, are raised of very excellent quality, together with hay, a great quantity of which is obtained from an extensive tract called the Carron bog, situated near the river of the same name. The fine sheep-walks, however, formed of many small farms broken up some years ago, and upon which large numbers of live stock range, confer on the parish its chief character, and are the principal source of wealth to the landowner. About 4000 sheep are usually kept, and nearly 1000 head of cattle, besides a good supply of Ayrshire cows for the dairy, the produce of which is of superior quality, and is disposed of in the neighbouring towns and villages. Open drains are frequently cut along the margin of the hills, to the great advantage of the pastures; and several excellent farm-houses, with suitable offices, have been built in different parts of the parish within these few years. The annual value of real property in Fintry is £4610. The rocks are of several kinds, and in the northern chain of hills become so prominent as to invest the scenery with a character of singular variety and grandeur; they chiefly comprise granite, whinstone, freestone, and redstone, here called firestone. In the north-western portion of the parish is a hill called Doun, formed partly of a perpendicular rock about fifty feet in height, distributed into numerous beautiful basaltic columns. Small quantities of coal are also found in different places. The plantations, some of which are recent, consist chiefly of various sorts of fir, but intermixed with hard-wood, as oak, beech, &c.; and encompassing Culcreuch House, an ancient mansion with modern additions, situated in the north-west, is an extensive sweep of fine old timber.

Newtown, the chief village, was built to accommodate the population that sprang up in consequence of the erection of a cotton-factory by the late Mr. Speirs, about fifty years since: it is situated in the western part of the parish. The establishment contains 20,000 spindles, and employs about 260 hands, the machinery being driven by the water of the river Endrick, collected for that purpose in a reservoir of about thirty acres; and by a steam-engine, lately erected. The intercourse kept up with Glasgow by the conveyance of the raw material and the manufactured goods, is said to have been the occasion of a material improvement in the state of the roads, and to have opened a larger market for the sale of the farm produce. This village, the population of which exceeds 500, also contains a distillery, erected in 1816, and producing annually 70,000 gallons of malt whisky. There are likewise two hamlets, one called Clachan, and the other Gouachan, in the former of which are the church and manse, and in the latter the parochial school, and near it a small wool-factory. The numerous lambs bred here are generally sent for sale to Glasgow, with a part of the dairy produce, the other part being disposed of at Canipsie and Kirkintilloch; the black-cattle are sold at Falkirk.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Dumbarton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Duke of Montrose: the minister's stipend is £155, with a manse, lately rebuilt, and a glebe valued at £22 per annum. Fintry church is a neat structure with a tower at the west end, built in 1823, and containing 500 sittings. The master of the parochial school has a salary of £34, with about £20 fees, and a house and garden. Another school has lately been opened in the village, chiefly for the benefit of the children of those employed in the factory; about 100 attend in the day-time, and fifty or sixty in the evening. The premises, which are spacious, and comprise a house for the master, were erected in consequence of a legacy of £3000 left for that purpose by Mr. John Stewart, a trader in Fintry, who died in 1836. Mr. Stewart also left £500 to form a fund for a savings' bank in the parish. There is a small subscription library, which has been established several years. The only relic of antiquity is the ruin of an ancient castle with a fosse and mound, formerly the residence of the Grahams of Fintry: it stood on the south side of Fintry hill, opposite Sir John de Graham's castle in the parish of St. Ninian's, which was burnt down by Edward I. after the battle of Falkirk. The parish confers the title of Baron on the Duke of Montrose.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis