Falkirk’s well-to-do forced the Puirs’ Hoose to move

Greenhorn's Well is still there today
Greenhorn's Well is still there today

I was brought up in the Windsor Road area in the early 1950s when there were only a handful of new streets named after other royal castles like Balmoral and Osborne.

‘Old’ Windsor Road which linked the new scheme with Gartcows consisted of houses built on one side between the wars and on the other the grim Victorian building then known as Blinkbonny Home. Surrounded by a high stone wall this old people’s refuge started life as the Burgh of Falkirk Poors’ House in 1905 as a replacement for the Asylum for Lunatic Paupers on the corner of Cow Wynd and High Station Road.

This original ‘Puir’s Hoose’ had served the town for 50 years but its proximity to the houses of the affluent Falkirk folk led to a campaign to have the poor moved to some new place out of town and out of sight! The answer was the new building next to the park at Gartcows then known as Blinkbonny.

The name is very common in Scotland and, of course, it means a pleasant outlook which you can still appreciate from the top of the park. The man in charge of Blinkbonny Home when I was a child was called Clarke and if I remember right he was an ex-military man with only one eye - or was it one arm? I’m not sure. His official title was Governor.

The old men used to wander about the area and they always looked so old and tired though they were probably younger than I am today! By the late 1950s the institution was a hospital for the elderly and the name was changed again to Windsor Hospital. Then in 1987 it was replaced by the new Windsor Unit at Falkirk Royal Infirmary and the building was eventually demolished.

Another historical relic in the vicinity was, and still is, Greenhorn’s Well set into the high wall as it sweeps round from Windsor Road to Gartcows Drive. The ancient spring once emerged at the top of the little lane known as Well Road just below the railway.

It was said to have been a place of pilgrimage called Christ’s Well in the early Christian era though most historians think that it has been mixed up with a different spring. Another dodgy legend linked the waters to a cave visited by William Wallace, one of many such hideaways to have sheltered the great hero!

How it got the name Greenhorn is a mystery – to me anyway – but if anyone knows I’d be glad to hear. Was there a family of that name in the vicinity?

Around 1824 a group of enthusiasts in the town formed a club with the aim of restoring the well and it was probably them who had the water piped down to the main road.

As the inscription tells us, they provided the stone basin which in 1904 was reset within a handsome red granite surround by the Town Council. There was a metal cup on a chain and I remember older people taking a daily drink and claiming that it was full of health giving minerals like iron. I tried it once and it tasted pretty foul, more like sulphur that iron.

Some years ago when the health and safety lobby gained power the water was cut off and the cup disappeared. Let’s make sure that the well doesn’t suffer the same fate and that it remains to remind us of an earlier, simpler age.