1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Falkirk

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FALKIRK, a municipal and police burgh of Stirlingshire, Scotland. Pop. (1891) 19,769; (1901) 29,280. It is situated on high ground overlooking the fertile Carse of Falkirk, 11 m. S.E. of Stirling, and about midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Grangemouth, its port, lies 3 m. to the N.E., and the Forth & Clyde Canal passes to the north, and the Union Canal to the south of the town. Falkirk now comprises the suburbs of Laurieston (E.), Grahamston and Bainsford (N.), and Camelon (W.). The principal structures include the burgh and county buildings, town hall, the Dollar free library and Camelon fever hospital. The present church, with a steeple 146 ft. high, dates only from 1811. In the churchyard are buried Sir John Graham, Sir John Stewart who fell in the battle of 1298, and Sir Robert Munro and his brother, Dr Duncan Munro, killed in the battle of 1746. The town is under the control of a council with provost and bailies, and combines with Airdrie, Hamilton, Lanark and Linlithgow (the Falkirk group of burghs) to return a member to parliament. The district is rich in coal and iron, which supply the predominant industries, Falkirk being the chief seat of the light casting trade in Scotland; but tanning, flour-milling, brewing, distilling and the manufacture of explosives (Nobel’s) and chemicals are also carried on. Trysts or sales of cattle, sheep and horses are held thrice a year (August, September and October) on Stenhousemuir, 3 m. N.W. They were transferred hither from Crieff in 1770, and were formerly the most important in the kingdom, but have to a great extent been replaced by the local weekly auction marts. Carron, 2 m. N.N.W., is famous for the iron-works established in 1760 by Dr John Roebuck (1718–1794), whose advising engineers were successively John Smeaton and James Watt. The short iron guns of large calibre designed by General Robert Melville, and first cast in 1779, were called carronades from this their place of manufacture.

Falkirk is a town of considerable antiquity. Its original name was the Gaelic Eaglais breac, “church of speckled or mottled stone,” which Simeon of Durham (fl. 1130) transliterated as Egglesbreth. By the end of the 13th century appears the form Faukirke (the present local pronunciation), which is merely a translation of the Gaelic fau or faw, meaning “dun,” “pale red.” The first church was built by Malcolm Canmore (d. 1093). Falkirk was made a burgh of barony in 1600 and a burgh of regality in 1646, but on the forfeiture of the earl of Linlithgow in 1715, its superiority was vested in the crown. Callender House, immediately to the S., was the seat of the earl and his ancestors. The mansion was visited by Queen Mary, captured by Cromwell, and occupied by Generals Monk and Hawley. The wall of Antoninus ran through, the grounds, and the district is rich in Roman remains, Camelon, about 2 m. W., being the site of a Roman settlement; Merchiston Hall, to the N.W., was the birthplace of Admiral Sir Charles Napier. The eastern suburb of Laurieston was first called Langtoune, then Merchistown, and received its present name after Sir Lawrence Dundas of Kerse, who had promoted its welfare. At Polmont, farther east, which gives the title of baron to the duke of Hamilton, is the school of Blair Lodge, besides coal-mines and other industries.

Batttles of Falkirk.—The battle of the 22nd of July 1298 was fought between the forces of King Edward I. of England and those of the Scottish national party under Sir William Wallace. The latter, after long baffling the king’s attempts to bring him to battle, had taken up a strong position south of the town behind a morass. They were formed in four deep and close masses (“schiltrons”) of pikemen, the light troops screening the front and flanks and a body of men-at-arms standing in reserve. It was perhaps hoped that the English cavalry would plunge into the morass, for no serious precautions were taken as to the flanks, but in any case Wallace desired no more than to receive an attack at the halt, trusting wholly to his massed pikes. The English right wing first appeared, tried the morass in vain, and then set out to turn it by a long détour; the main battle under the king halted in front of it, while the left wing under Antony Bec, bishop of Durham, was able to reach the head of the marsh without much delay. Once on the enemy’s side of the obstacle the bishop halted to wait for Edward, who was now following him, but his undisciplined barons, shouting “’Tis not for thee, bishop, to teach us war. Go say mass!” drove off the Scottish archers and men-at-arms and charged the nearest square of pikes, which repulsed them with heavy losses. On the other flank the right wing, its flank march completed, charged with the same result. But Edward, who had now joined the bishop with the centre or “main battle,” peremptorily ordered the cavalry to stand fast, and, taught by his experience in the Welsh wars, brought up his archers. The longbow here scored its first victory in a pitched battle. Before long gaps appeared in the close ranks of pike heads, and after sufficient preparation Edward again launched his men-at-arms to the charge. The shaken masses then gave way one after the other, and the Scots fled in all directions.

The second battle of Falkirk, fought on the 17th of January 1746 between the Highlanders under Prince Charles and the British forces under General Hawley, resulted in the defeat of the latter. It is remarkable only for the bad conduct of the British dragoons and the steadiness of the infantry. Hawley retreated to Linlithgow, leaving all his baggage, 700 prisoners and seven guns in the enemy’s hands.