Column: Thousands turned out to greet Victoria and Albert

Callendar House at the time of Queen Victoria's visit to Falkirk.
Callendar House at the time of Queen Victoria's visit to Falkirk.

Falkirk has seen its fair share of Royal visits especially in recent decades and I well 
remember being dragged along in the early 1950s to wave a flag at the passing limo containing the new Queen on her way to the Burgh Buildings in Newmarket Street.

In earlier centuries the crowned heads came on more serious business like the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ Edward I who marched here to confront William Wallace in 1298.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Mary Queen of Scots was a regular visitor to Callendar House during her short reign in Scotland in the 1560s though we don’t know if she ventured up to the town to sample the High Street shops.

Not until the arrival of newspapers do we have blow by blow accounts of what were by then major events in the life of small communities.

Such a spectacle took place on September 13, 1842, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made their first, and only, visit to the town.

Just five years after her coronation, the young Queen visited Scotland, a trip which included a carriage ride through what is now Falkirk district.

The great and the good along with thousands of their employees and members of the public turned out to demonstrate their loyalty and to catch a glimpse of the “low bodied phaeton” carriage surrounded by a troop of Enniskillen Dragoons.

One journalist said that the town was bedecked with hundreds of banners as well as flags, and triumphal arches and that the “whole population of Falkirk were on tiptoe” while the Queen “cast a gratified eye on the tens of thousands assembled to behold her . . . and replied with gracious bows and condescending smiles”.

After passing through the High Street the procession entered the gates of Callendar Park accompanied by William Forbes and hundreds of his tenants on horseback as well as the coal master John Wilson of South Bantaskine at the head of 100 of his employees on foot.

The carriage stopped outside the front door of the house while the horses were changed and Her Majesty had a four minute chat to her host.

One report claimed that 15,000 people rushed into the park to witness this brief encounter!

Mr Forbes wearing his uniform as Deputy Lieutenant of Stirlingshire along with the Earl of Zetland then accompanied the Royal Party out of the Callendar grounds close to Laurieston Toll where the Skew Bridge stands today.

The Earl was no stranger to the young Queen.

A decade before, when it became clear that Victoria would succeed her uncle King William IV, her family, the Kents, set about preparing her for her future life.

Unfortunately they were ‘‘financially embarrassed” and had to borrow large sums of money from their wealthy friends. One of their main benefactors was Sir Lawrence Dundas and his reward was to be created the first Earl of Zetland when she reached the throne.

His son, now the second Earl, assumed the role of royal host and in Polmont his tenants lined the street alongside a huge triumphal arch decorated with flowers.

There were bands playing all along the route and “every house, even the meanest cottage was adorned with flowers and banners”.

As they approached Linlithgow Bridge the Royal Party and the huge following of mounted men stopped to admire the new railway viaduct over the River Avon where a train with a number of carriages had halted to watch the procession.

After handing Victoria over to the West Lothian contingent, Mr Forbes’ tenants headed back to Callendar House where 180 were provided with a slap up meal!