I have a kind of list of things to go and have a look at if I’m ever in a certain place, and so when I found myself in Falkirk I went to have a look by the old parish church for the grave of Sir Lawrence Dundas, grandfather of the ‘real’ George Heneage Dundas, whose original home (although he bought houses all over the place) was at the Kerse, now in – or underneath – Grangemouth.
It’s not really a grave, I discovered, but a family mausoleum, originally standing in the churchyard, but joined on to the main building since the church was rebuilt in 1811.
It’s a fairly impressive little building, but there’s nothing there to say what it is or who it’s for, apart from the Dundas family crest above the door – apparently the memorial plaques have even been stolen from the coffins inside!
The graveyard was cleared in the 1960s, presumably as the town centre grew more and more closely around it, and only a few major graves were left, but some fragments from other stones have been set into the ground.
I had really gone to Falkirk to go out to the Kelpies and start walking along the Forth and Clyde canal (of which more another day), but although I had meant to start walking from the lock right by the Kelpies, I found that the extension along the river towards Grangemouth had been marked as the Charlotte Dundas trail, and couldn’t resist that.
The Charlotte Dundas was one of the very first steam powered ships – probably the first practical design – and the trials took place on the canal here or on the adjacent stretch of river.
Sir Lawrence Dundas was a major shareholder in the canal, but didn’t live to see it completed, and it was his son Thomas, the first Lord Dundas, who became involved with the steamship experiments, and named the boat after his daughter (GHD’s sister).
The boat was certainly used on the canal later on, but there were concerns that the banks would be damaged, and the ship ended up rotting away by one of the locks.
This part of the canal runs side by side with the river, which also looks a bit like a canal here, having been greatly rerouted and tamed by various industrial works. Earlier on they didn’t run so close together, but the original line of the canal was built over to provide road access to the Grangemouth docks.
It’s not that there’s anything historic to actually see along the trail, but the information was well done – about the canal, and the history of Grangemouth, and steam power, and the boat itself.
Steam as a method of power was not at all new by this stage – the first Newcomen pumping engines were nearly 100 years old, and it was more than 20 years since Watt had invented a way for his improved engine to produce rotary motion, removing the need for water on site to power industrial machines. But steam as a method of propulsion was still new, although Symington had made experiments with both boats and carriages 10 years earlier, using his own improved version of Watt’s engine.
It was obviously a great event locally, in any case, because the coat of arms of the town of Grangemouth includes a picture of the boat!