You may have heard of the Falkirk Tryst, but did you know how Camelon was involved?
Around the Falkirk district, place names give clues as to the activities of the cattle drovers of the eighteenth century. Drove Loans in Larbert and Bonnybridge mark the route of the huge traffic which would pass along that way. Cattle and sheep, raised in the Highlands and Islands, were brought each year in the autumn months to the markets of Crieff and Falkirk to be sold to merchants supplying English customers.
The drovers walked the cattle many miles along routes made permanent by convenience and tradition. The animals swam across from the islands, or were ferried in small boats. The drovers themselves, with their dogs and ponies, lived a rough life with the beasts they had in their charge.
In the 1770s, the Falkirk market was situated near the remains of the Roman Fort at Roughcastle close to the present site of The Falkirk Wheel. Nearby was a large field, known locally as Tents Park, where there were sellers of food and all things that might persuade a drover to part with his hard-earned cash.
Thousands of cattle and sheep thronged the market. The animals changed hands and some of the drovers continued walking them south, while others returned to their homes in the north. One of the routes south passed near the memorial to the Battle of Falkirk at Bantaskine.
Camelon’s time as the site of the great market came to an end when the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal made a barrier across the traditional route. A new site for the market was identified in Larbert. The coming of the railways made transport of cattle to the English markets comparatively easy and the Tryst gradually changed into a fair of rides and sideshows.
By Elizabeth Cox, Hidden Heritage: Camelon and Tamfourhill volunteer.