Falkirk’s Cow Wynd was gateway to business

Falkirk's Cow Wynd looking towards the High Street with Sime's tool shop on the left
Falkirk's Cow Wynd looking towards the High Street with Sime's tool shop on the left

Falkirk’s Cow Wynd is one of the most ancient streets in the burgh.

Many people think that it only dates to the great cattle trysts of the 18th century, but the truth is that cows have been walking the southbound route for at least five centuries. Of course it’s quite likely that the black highland cattle heading for the trysts on Reddingmuir did come through the town and, later the beasts sold at Stenhousemuir might have passed on their way southwards to the cities of England.

But they were the johnnie-come-lately brigade following the paths of the town animals making their daily trek up to the south muir of the town to spend the daylight hours grazing the fields before returning at night.

The first mentions we have of the street comes from property records in the mid 1600s when the street is called ‘Cowgate’ or ‘Koowynde’. At the time the town was protected by a wall with five stone ‘ports’ or entrances, one of which was on the Cow Wynd.

It probably stood near the end of Booth Place and after passing through the port the street was known as the Cow Loan, a narrow grassy lane outside the built up area.

At various times it was called the ‘Common Loan’ and even the ‘Kine Loan’. The inhabitants were ordered to hand over their cattle to the ‘common herd’ who sounded his horn at dawn and brought them back at dusk.

The arrival of Carron Works in 1759 changed everything, including the Wynd. For every ton of iron produced the works need 10 tons of coal and the new mines which opened up the Braes in Shieldhill and elsewhere were major providers.

Weekly, hundreds of carts of coal descended the hilly road towards the town, passed through the narrow Cow Wynd before crossing the High Street and entering the Kirk Wynd for the long journey to Carron.

One observer said that the each carter could see the previous one ahead of him and the following one coming behind, all day, every day!

For a time the name Cow Wynd gave way to Coalhill Road, but the population resisted the change just as they did a century later when the Town Council chose High Station Road because they thought Cow Wynd was “not a very pretty name”.

There was a public outcry although it still took eight years and a change of council to return to the old name in 1906. The Wynd has been home to a number of well known buildings, not least the little octagonal ‘Tattie Kirk’ the home of a breakaway congregation from the Erskine Church built in 1806.

They moved in 1879 to Grahams Road but the little building survives along with its connected graveyard. Another survivor is the Drill Hall which the modern road realignment has placed outside the Cow Wynd.

The building, now the gymnastics centre, was opened in 1899 to house the Falkirk company of the Stirlingshire Volunteers and played a part in the preparations locally for both world wars.

Two other buildings worthy of mention are the hall built in 1901 which became the Burlington Ballroom.

This is of especially fond memory to those who tripped the light fantastic in the 1950s and 60s, and the amazing Aladdin’s cave that was Sime’s tool shop.

Here the DIY enthusiast could find anything from a pan head rivet to a six inch nail and buy just the one!

A sad day when both the ‘Burlie’ and Simes finally closed their doors.