History of Alloa

OK – so enough of the boring bit… let’s be honest – you’re not that interested anyway, and you’ll just forget all these dates and stuff? So let’s get real…

See that bit about our Alloa Tower – “magnificent, medieval monument” -> Yeah, true: get on up there, and catch the view.  One of – largest/finest/oldest Tower Houses, and no ruin. Some story – Mary Queen of Scots, etc.

Look, we know you think we’re boasting, ‘cos Stirling’s got its Castle and Monument; Dunfermline it’s Abbey (and maybe Bruce’s body); Falkirk it’s Millennium Wheel… but, hey pal, not only are you right in the middle of all that history, (“Braveheart”, “Outlaw King” and Jacobite rising etc., etc.)… our burgh motto since 1853 = IN THE FOREFRONT- that means we were the biggest and the best.

 

 

After you’ve done the Tower, get yourself up to Gartmorn Dam – only the oldest, largest man-made reservoir over 300 yrs ago… and really beautiful. While you’re up there just look around: that’s our County motto – “Look about ye” (If you want to show off – in Latin it’s “Circumspice”)

 

 

But honestly, wherever you go in the area, like Clackmannan Tower – (that’s like the Bruce’s) – look at the panoramas.

So why were we “In The Forefront” (and still could be again)? Well, the water from the Dam powered a dozen industries, including Carsebridge Distillery (used to be in Guinness Book of Records); Paton’s Mills (J.P. Coates became biggest international textile manufacturer… Roger Moore once modelled one of Paton & Baldwin’s sweaters); Breweries (by the way- Alloa used to be in Guineas Book of Records for that too) – almost a dozen of them in a town this size! Big names like Youngers began here, and Skol came here because of our excellent water.

Hey, wait a minute – just ‘cos we’re talking about the past – doesn’t mean it’s all dead and gone: History in Alloa still alive and kicking. We had the Scottish Tapestry here – (check out local panels) – but see our Glass Kiln Cone… it’s unique! Yeah – means only one of its kind, and it’s right here in Alloa [know it’s bit hard just now get official visit, and looks bit sad – but we’re working on that]

But Alloa Glass = part of biggest glass manufacturer in world! Our factory = oldest working glass plant in Europe, still on original site – possibly oldest in world! (An old hand-made Alloa Glass bottle fetched £4000.)

And what did we put in these bottles (apart from lots of milk)? Some of the best and most famous beers in the world, plus produce of five whisky distilleries.

If you guys are maybe enjoying a pint of McEwans about now… don’t say nothing to do with Alloa – ‘cos you’d be wrong:- where d’you think he grew up and learned his trade?

Go find out where he began his life here, and what he did – especially bit about “biggest ever gift to Edinburgh University”. Aye – was frae a laddie fae Alloa! An’ the hunners an’ thoosans o’ bricks that were used – not just lovely terracotta ones, but beautiful glazed white ones: came from Alloa.

 

 

Another big chunk of our history – famous brick & tile works: Alloa bricks made right here in the town – went all over the world – like our glass and pottery.

Remember – we’re not boasting: just telling you the way it was… the way it really is.

While we are on subject of famous sons & daughters of Alloa – what about David Allan – only known as the “Scottish Hogarth”! (See his paintings in the National Gallery Edinburgh.)

Ok so let’s get on now to “Trains an’ Boats an’ Planes”, [remember the song?] D’you want to hear that bit of our story? Tell you what… quickly summarise: Trains….

Once upon a time, (not fairy story) – able travel 5 different directions from Alloa Station! (We’ve got one of them back and maybe getting another – please help us.) Our FORTH BRIDGE was older than Edinburgh’s, and ours was a swing bridge: opened in the middle, we also had a Turntable… and circus elephants used to walk off train, to Alloa West End Park.

Flying Scotsman – still comes through ! [See Clip]

 

 

Boats… you wouldn’t believe: hundreds of them – including five-masted sailing ships – built in Alloa! – went all round the world and back. Just look at these.

 

 

The first import of coffee to the East coast, was by an Alloa ship; and you know the D-day films (75thanniversary) – where were many of the landing-craft built?  Biggest supplier was Alloa…. [We’re going to have to fill a book with story of Alloa Harbour over the centuries: too much to tell.] Why not go down (not far) to the bit that’s left – see what Daniel Defoe had to say about it; and why not visit us one day on the Maid of the Forth?

Planes! We know: you think we’re pulling your leg – [going to have to be another book all about them.] Top fighter plane of 1st World War – Sopwith Camel: dozens built in Alloa, and flew from Alloa’s airfield. It’s sister plane, the BE. 2e = First plane ever fly all way across Australia – (let’s repeat that): FIRST PLANE FLY ACROSS AUSTRALIA = built in Alloa. [Watch this space, and we’ll tell you more – if you’re interested.]

Talking of planes – d’you know the story of the 3 Spitfire pilots? Probably not. What about Bailey’s Pottery? The Wagonway “Spaghetti” Junction? Bronze/ Iron-age burials? First properly recorded Scottish Cricket Match? Egyptian pillar stolen by Romans? And origins of commercial whisky-making and export, in the county nearby – plus Jamieson’s?

Probably think we’re winding you up- but truth’s stranger than fiction: we couldn’t make this up – quite honestly, we ourselves are finding out so much about our local history… we’re just blown away.

OK – so we could go on all day: time for you guys to do something. So – look up at the names, dates, mottoes etc, on buildings around and above you, the chimneys on the horizon, inscribed stones beneath you; and look ahead of you at the pictures and postcards of old Alloa in the eating places/ pubs and other spots… In other words: LOOK, LISTEN and LEARN… and ask questions as you go – of others and yourself.

(Then chat about it all with friends, family and…. especially the Kids.) But most important: don’t just TALK it – go WALK it.)

(We hope we may have whetted your appetite?)