A Memory of Bridge of Allan

The bridge from which this photograph was taken was a "humpitty-backed" stone bridge where a pair of arches spanned the river and a smaller arch crossed the "lade". The bridge was in service from about 1840 until the new bridge was constructed in about 1954. The strange outlook is caused by the semi-damming of the Allan Water to take off water for the "Kork'n'Seal" factory which used the water to drive its machinery. The water which did not roll over the edge was carried and concentrated along the "lade" (which I think means "lead") and finally into a canal which dropped into the factory. I learned to swim in the lade. Not only was it cold (brrrr!) but it flowed swiftly and was controlled by a pair of sluice gates which regulated the flow to the machinery of the factory some 500 yards away. The "lade-mans" cottage was immediately adjacent to the sluice gates and of course we were not allowed to swim there given how dangerous it was. Of course we swam there anyway.

On the extreme right hand side of the lade can be seen another sluice gate. This was required by ancient Scottish law so that "none impede the progress of the salmon in their free passage of the river". The salmon which migrated up the rivers each spring were allowed free passage through the bottom of this sluice-gate. Such was the volume of salmon that when there was even as little as an inch of water over the lade, the salmon would swim up the face of the dam, climbing as if they had hands. News of the beginning of this annual event would go round the town in a heartbeat and everyone would come to watch the miracle. Some of the salmon that negotiated the dam were around 3 feet in length! (I wonder if it happens today?)

In the distance, can be seen the smokestack of the "papermill" and behind it perhaps 100 feet higher ran the "Dunblane bank" a steep downhill railway section which allowed the express trains to hit 100 miles per hour on their way between Perth to Stirling through Bridge of Allan station. An incredible experience if you were on the platform at the time!

The long pool leading upstream away from the lade was some 4 to 6 feet deep and served as the intermediate swimmers' area. A very high stone wall separated the river from the road at this point, I suspect to act as a deterrent to the local children using it as a swimming pool, but we swam there anyway. A near-murder took place at this point in July 1952 when the 19-year old town bully Lachie Watt and his two kid-terroriser colleagues stood on this high place lobbing bricks from a demolished house into a group of kids swimming and playing in the river. The kids laughed and dived beneath the surface as the missiles rained down but one was finally hit on the shoulder and almost drowned. His friend who was barely 13 years of age challenged Watt to a face-to-face fight and as Watt swarmed down the wall-face using a hazel tree to assist him, the 13-year old came out of the water carrying a half-brick behind his back. As the bully swung a haymaker at the much smaller child, he was clobbered in the face with the half brick whereupon he fell semi-conscious to his knees where he was hit repeatedly around the head with the half-brick. His colleagues swarmed down the wall breaking the hazel tree forever and dragged the screaming child off their leader who, when he recovered himself, demanded that I be drowned on the spot. Lachie's colleagues were so overcome with the memory of a 13-year old attacking and overwhelming their leader that they refused to touch me and indeed left the scene in an extremely hurried manner.

My what powerful memories and what life-setting outlooks were created!

A memory shared by Alastair Macdonald , on Dec 31st, 2008.

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