One of our volunteers recalls visiting Solsgirth House as a child, once home to Alexander Dennis, of Falkirk’s famous bus manufacturing company.
Solsgirth House, built in 1870, is a baronial-style stately home some two miles south-east of Dollar. During my childhood it was the home of the widow of Walter Alexander Jnr. (d.1959) whose father had founded Walter Alexander & Co., bus manufacturers.
My mother inveigled herself into the acquaintance of Mrs Walter Alexander – I cannot confirm there was any substance of friendship – the latter of whom was living out her days of widow-hood as a semi-recluse.
The elegant and spacious drawing room at Solsgirth contained a grand piano and I would go there on occasion to practise. I was too young, aged nine or ten, to be consciously unnerved by the experience, my fascination being drawn rather to the fact and opportunity of the instrument. The date would be set, I would turn up and go in and play (the doors were unlocked), and after an hour or two I would leave, and never a word was spoken. I think I saw Mrs Walter Alexander going up the grand red-carpeted staircase. My recollection is of a house whose days of splendour lay behind it. It was silent, with not a human in sight.
Its history was illustrious however. Back in the day, Walter (senior) had conceived the idea of turning a motor lorry into a passenger-carrying vehicle while working in a bicycle shop in 1919. During his weekends he would put into the lorry wooden seats and bicycle lamps for lights, rig a canvas covering over the top, and drive passengers between Falkirk, Denny and Bonnybridge for a penny. Alexander's, which became Alexander Dennis, is Britain's biggest bus-builder and the world's largest manufacturer of double-decker buses.
By Chris McCracken.