Limerigg may not be the furthest outpost of Falkirk district but it certainly feels like it as you drive south for eight miles uphill to the border with Lanarkshire.
I made the trip last week to visit the Primary School which along with its ‘big brother’ in Slamannan will celebrate its 140th anniversary later this year.
The children of both were remembering Robert Burns by performing poetry, song, music and dance and it was great to hear young folk wrapping their tongues round some of our trickier Scots words and enjoying every minute of it. They were a credit to their teachers and parents.
I have written about Slamannan in the past but missed Limerigg so last week’s visit is a good enough reason to put that right.
The village lies just two miles beyond Slamannan close to the shores of the Black Loch and its name immediately suggests that the area was a source of lime for use in agriculture and industry. However as John Reid has shown in his comprehensive examination of our place names, lime was carted to Slamannan from miles away because there was no local supply. Instead he suggests that the name really refers to the proximity to the loch itself with the ‘lime’ part from the ancient Celtic ‘lima’ meaning water or flood.
It appears as Lymerig in 1639 but the settlement, like Slamannan itself, dates to the coal boom of the mid 19th century.
The opening of the railway in 1840 provided a speedy method of getting coal north to the Union Canal and new pits opened up all over the area including at Limerigg.
Miners rows were built to house the families who came to dig the coal and the population steadily rose so that by the end of the century there were more than a thousand people in the village which consisted of two main groups of houses along the road from Slamannan, Low Limerigg and High Limerigg close to the Loch.
The Church of Scotland established a Mission Church in 1880 with a new building five years later and there was the new school already mentioned which had opened in October 1876.
There was also a branch of the local Co-operative Society from 1881.
Many of the incoming miners came from Ireland and since most were Catholics, a chapel was built in Barnsmuir and a school not long after.
As well as mining the villagers worked at coke ovens or in the Limerigg Oil Works which opened around 1870 in Low Limerigg manufacturing various oils from shale which had been discovered during the coal excavation. It was no small venture having the capacity to refine 30,000 gallons of crude oil each month using “46 horizontal retorts”.
Of course everything depended on coal and when the seams became difficult to work the boom came to an end. By 1900 many families had left in search of work as the mines closed along with the coke ovens and oil works.
As the population declined services like shops, schools and churches disappeared. The new school survived though the number of children attending declined.
The replacement of most of the miners rows with houses built by the Council helped to halt the decline but today the village suffers from lack of facilities. The only shop is closed and the people have little choice but to make the two mile trip to Slamannan for the necessities of life.
But if those talented children are anything to go by then the village has much to look forward to whatever the future has in store.