New book throws light on parish in the past

Back in December I admitted in this column that my knowledge of the Maddiston area was a lot poorer than it should have been. I also praised the Maddiston and Rumford Local History Group, and David Leask in particular, for their efforts over many years. I should have waited a few weeks because I now have in my possession an amazing book just published in which David tells the story of Muiravonside, the parish established in the 17th century when it was divided off from Falkirk. Although Maddiston gets full treatment, the book covers every village, settlement, mansion house, farm and colliery in the district and very much more.

But it is far more than a history book. It is a huge collection of facts, anecdotes, memories, newspaper reports and photographs, all part of the huge collection of information compiled by David and his colleagues over many decades.

The first part of the book is a historical tour (five actually) through the parish visiting the surviving buildings and settlements and recalling those that have disappeared. Whitecross, Avonbridge, Blackbraes, Standburn, Rumford, Causewayend, Craigend, Redford, Kendieshill, Stanrigg – the list goes on and on and David provides information on the families who lived and worked there in the past and the agriculture and industry that provided their livelihoods. As well as these still familiar places we are also reminded of more obscure ones like Foggermountain, Farrenrigg, Drumbroider, Beedyke, Toppylands, Mounthooley and Gilandersland. The collieries, brickworks and railways are included in the tours along with the inns and pubs that sustained the hard working miners.

There are also what David calls the ‘‘big hooses’’ like Lathallan, now sadly in near ruin, Manuel House, Muiravonside, the long lost home of the Stirling family, and Vellore, given that name in the 1780s by a Major Duncan who modified the existing house to look like Fort Vellore in India where he had served. Parkhall, which is now the Haining Care Home, is another handsome survivor.

The second part has various themes like education, church life and gala days. For those who attended schools in the area during the last 60 or 70 years this part will be a real walk down memory lane with many pictures of the buildings and the teachers who served in them, as well as descriptions of the lessons taught.

The churches (and there were plenty of them) are also described and well illustrated, from the ancient nunnery of Manuel to the various denominations of the 19th and 20th centuries and their ministers. Gala days were popular from before the First World War through to 1996 when the last one was held and David has gathered a great number of pictures of the gala queens in all their finery. So if you (or your granny) wore the crown from the 1950s on there’s a good chance that she is in the book.

I specially enjoyed reading the section on the games children played like five stars, kick the can, and aeroplane beds for which David has kindly provided a drawing in case you fancy getting out the chalk and the peever!

For anybody with a connection to the area this book is a ‘‘must have’’. With over 350 pictures mostly in colour there is a memory on every page and it’s a snip at £10. You can get a copy by contacting the Maddiston and Rumford Society at dl011g3179@blueyonder.co.uk or by calling 01324 715634.

Introducing the book David says: “A few of us remember how it was and we have tried to recreate those memories in these pages”.

They certainly have.