Written on the Larbert stones

Larbert kirkyard is the final resting place of many influential local people
Larbert kirkyard is the final resting place of many influential local people
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I like nothing better than a wander round an old graveyard.

It’s a great opportunity to escape for an hour and pick up the echoes from ages far distant from our own.

Falkirk district has many churchyards like Bothkennar, Muiravonside, Dunipace and Polmont but my favourite is Larbert lying just west of the Old Parish Church at the cross.

Here are the last resting places of famous men who played a significant part in the history of Scotland, as well as the teachers, ministers, iron masters, farmers and ordinary men and women who helped shape the world we live in today.

Pride of place must go to the grave of ‘Master’ Robert Bruce of Kinnaird who died in 1631 and is buried close to the pulpit of the medieval church which he helped to restore.

Bruce was one of the most powerful men in Scotland, once the right hand man of King James VI and a successor to John Knox as Minister of St Giles.

He was one of the Bruces of Airth Castle and a lawyer as well as a churchman.

He had a spectacular fall out with the King on a matter of high principle and spent his last years as an inspirational preacher confined to within three miles of his home at Kinnaird.

Thousands came to hear him preach and after his death his grave became a place of pilgrimage.

In January I wrote about Robert Burns’visit to Larbert to see another Bruce tomb. This was the huge cast iron monument to Master Robert’s descendant James Bruce, the famous Abyssinian Traveller who discovered the source of the Blue Nile.

At six foot four inches tall he was, somebody said, the biggest man you ever saw free of charge.

He spoke 11 languages and was celebrated at the court of King George III.

One writer said he was a cross between Indiana Jones and Casanova!

He died in 1794 after falling down the stairs at Kinnaird House while ‘handing’ a lady to her carriage.

Towards the north-west end of the churchyard stands the Carron enclosure.

Here behind a decorative iron railing are a number of fine stone and granite memorials to two of the great Carron families.

The huge fluted column in the centre recalls Joseph Stainton the company manager and beside it a Greek temple marks the last resting place of William Dawson, his successor and father of the famous Miss Dinah Dawson of Powfoulis.

Not far from the gate near the church door is a gravestone dated 1742 with a fantastic relief carving of a full rigged sailing ship.

The legend tells us that it is a memorial to one John Muir of Stenhouse drowned at ‘Hispaniola in Mounta-Christa’ with another of the hands of the Prince Ferdinand going over the bar for fresh water.

But my favourite stone, tells us of the life and death of one John Burne who died in 1635. Fixed to the north wall and half hidden by ivy, the stone has a poem which goes as follows:

Here lies interred within his urn,

The corps of honest, good John Burne.

Who was the eight John of that name,

That lived with love and died with fame.

In changing times, saddest disaster

Trew to his King, Lord and Master

Kind to his kindred, neighbour, friend

Whose good lyfe hade ane happie end

His soul to God he did bequeath,

His dust to lie this stone beneath.