Recent articles I’ve read about buildings being at risk is a timely reminder that we need to be a lot more vigilant than we have been in the past.
The least our children should expect is that we hand over our built inheritance in as good a condition as we received it and that our neglect, carelessness or wish to make a fast buck does not deprive the future of the best of the past.
However, things are never as simple as they seem. Often the difficulties faced are very formidable and we make a mistake if we put the onus solely on the owners or the local authorities when the problems are often outwith their control.
Take the A listed Forbes’ Mausoleum for example. This important building stands about 800 yards south east of Callendar House and dates back nearly 200 years. Its condition has been a matter of concern for years and several people have contacted me to express their anger at the level of vandalism and graffiti.
Their demand is ‘something should be done’ and few would disagree, for the Mausoleum is a link back to one of Falkirk’s most significant men, the formidable William Forbes, whom I spoke about last week.
In 1783 he paid just over £80,000 for the former Livingston family estates and by this astute purchase he became the second biggest landowner in Stirlingshire.
He devoted his energies to transforming his estates and his forceful and aggressive methods made him unpopular . . . but even richer.
No decision, religious, educational, industrial or agricultural, was free from his influence and he helped make the Falkirk we know today.
When he died in 1815 his family commissioned the architect Archibald Elliot to design his Mausoleum and the huge Greek style temple is the result.
It is set on what experts call a drum podium and has 12 fluted Doric columns and a domed roof. Around the top is a verse from the Greek poet Lucian which roughly translates as ‘you cannae take it wi’ you when you go’!
After William a number of his successors and their wives and children were laid to rest there and a small graveyard was established for estate workers in the surrounding enclosure.
It is, of course, many years since the last burial and ease of access has meant that the site, hidden by the surrounding woodlands, has become a place where young folk gather, and damage to both graveyard and building result.
The Mausoleum lies outside the park and is not owned by Falkirk Council but by the Forbes family who have tried for years to make repairs and prevent further damage.
But it is a thankless task, for as soon as things are cleaned up, the sprayers return and the rubbish accumulates. The authorities are not too keen on the constant removal of graffiti because the very process damages the stone even more than the spray paint!
What is the answer? I don’t know but it must surely involve teaching the present and future generations that these things belong to them and their children and should be respected and protected. And that job is for all of us.