Dollar Park: Philanthropist Robert Dollar's great-great granddaughter visits park he gave to Falkirk
The great-great grandaughter of Falkirk’s most famous philanthropist was “visibly moved” when she saw the work being done in the park he gave the town more than a century ago.
Darayn Hickingbotham, great-great granddaughter of Captain Robert Dollar, paid a visit to the park that still bears her relative’s name – and she was delighted to hear about the good work now taking place there.
The small mansion house at the heart of the estate, Arnotdale, is now a cafe owned and run by the charity Cyrenians, and Ms Hickingbotham heard more about their work on her whistle-stop tour.
On her visit last Thursday, accompanied by her mother, she also met representatives of the Friends of Dollar Park, who have helped to rejuvenate the park in recent years.
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Jonathan Reid, general manager of Arnotdale, said: “She was visibly moved at times to see the work that’s going on and the legacy that her ancestor left.
“I think she was very touched by it all – she’s said she wants to come back and do some gardening next year.
“She was talking about the homeless problems in San Francisco and so she was asking about the work we do and is really keen to get involved.”
Cyrenians support homeless people, helping them build confidence and gain the skills they need to find employment and move to a more settled life.
Ms Hickingbotham also saw how the park’s walled garden – which lay neglected for many years – has been beautifully restored by the charity in partnership with Falkirk Council’s Justice team.
And she heard some little known stories about her great-great grandfather from a former Provost of Falkirk, Pat Reid, who had researched the town’s famous benefactor for the occasion.
After enjoying lunch, most of the visit was taken up admiring the garden and grounds of Arnotdale and she was fascinated to see the floral clock being planted for the summer.
Jonathan said: “I think the civic pride and community spirit really got to her and because it’s based around something her grandfather left for that very purpose, it really moved her.
“She saw the war memorial and then went into the walled garden where the community payback scheme is really working – giving people back a bit of pride.
“The whole thing just tied in so nicely with what the park was intended to be in its infancy.”
Robert Dollar was a self-made millionaire who left Falkirk with his family at the age of 13 and made his fortune in timber and shipping. He was to become one of the richest men in the world – but never forgot the town where he was born.
He bought Arnotdale and its grounds for the residents of the burgh – many of whom worked hard in grimy foundries – so they could enjoy some leisure time and the park was formally opened in 1922.
“For them, the park was an oasis and while that might not be quite the case any more, we still view it as a hidden gem,” said Jonathan.