Braes village has proven its resilience

Standburn acquired its name from a local stream
Standburn acquired its name from a local stream

I stopped last week in the village of Standburn to look at the little war memorial with the names of 28 men from Muiravonside and Redford Colliery who died in World War I.

The shock to a small community must have been hard to bear, but then the people of Standburn have proved themselves to be strong and resilient in the face of difficulties including a plan to effectively remove the village from the map.

Standburn is not an old community dating back only to the mid 1800s. It acquired its name from the stream that passed close to a grassy area or ‘stand’ set aside as an overnight stop for cattle and drovers moving south from the famous Falkirk trysts.

As demand for coal increased miners’ rows were built by the coal company increasing the population. The houses had only the most primitive of facilities which was the norm in those Victorian days and few were prepared to do much about it.

As late as the 1920s one visitor said that: “The system of dry-closets is in operation, and they are cleaned daily, but still are very offensive, having no doors on them. The water is got from street wells. Many of the washhouses are kept as stores by tradesmen.

“The back windows of some of the houses have corrugated iron sheets and wooden shutters instead of glass. The streets are laid with ashes and the water makes its way all over the street in every direction.”

Despite this the village had a very active social life with a new school in 1878, football team, orchestra, busy Welfare Hall, gala day and ‘Gothenberg’ pub locals called ‘The Squech’.

The late Frank Thomson, who was one of The Falkirk Herald’s best known and most admired reporters, was a Standburn man and his little book called ‘Pits, Pints and Poverty’ published in 1984 is full of anecdotes which confirm just how close-knit and lively the community was.

However, in 1934 a public inquiry into the health of the 800 inhabitants ruled that three-quarters of the 170 houses were unfit for human habitation and should be closed. Mining was already in steep decline and the coalmaster James Nimmo who owned the houses was unwilling to pay the bill to have them repaired.

The local authority decided on a bold move that ended with the building of the model village of Westquarter. Many of the folk living in Standburn did not want to uproot and move a few miles away despite the attraction of houses with electricity, baths and toilets, but those who were in the condemned houses had little choice.

It dealt a very heavy blow to Standburn which came close to becoming a deserted village. The Welfare Hall closed, abandoned houses were left to fall down, the ‘Squech’ burned down and social life dwindled away.

But the village did not vanish from the map. The families who were left supplemented over the years by newcomers helped revive village life and a new Drumbowie school was built in the 1970s. Today Standburn is a quiet country village and few folk now remember the days before the great flittings in 1936.

But standing in the shadow of the War Memorial is a long abandoned ruined house, itself a memorial to generations of hardy mining folk who once lived out their lives here.