Castlecary Mill

Illus 1: 1859 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland)

This was the baronial mill of Castlecary and is first noted as one of the pertinents of the estate in 1588.  In 1654 it was purchased by John Grindlay, who is then designed “miller at the Myllne of Castillcarie” and Margaret Gilchrist his wife.  Grindlay may have been the father of his namesake who was miller at Bonny Mill in the second half of the 17th century. John probably died around 1662. He was succeeded in the post by William Grindlay who, in 1670, was named as “miller in the Miln of Castelcarie“.  The family retained its association with the mill and we find John Grindlay “in Castlecary Miln” in 1740 and William Grindlay “farmer in Castle Cary Miln” in 1749.  By 1837 the Grindlays had moved to the Bonnybridge Mill.  In that year a Mr Jack is listed as the occupier of Castlecary Mill.

By 1841 it had been adapted as a sawmill employing 16 men and shortly afterwards James Stark is noted as the farmer and miller there.  The mill is described in 1860 by the Ordnance Surveyors as

A corn and flour mill, together with a farmsteading, the buildings are one and two storeys, all slated and in very good repair. Property of the Earl of Zetland, Kerse House, Grangemouth.

In September 1865 three people from the Haggs broke into the mill by removing roof tiles from the lean-to shed and stole a small quantity of meal.  They had put the grain into sacks and carried it home.  Unfortunately for them there had been a heavy dew that night and their footprints were traced along with the periodic deposit of meal where they had laid the sacks down to take a rest.  Upon a search being conducted the sacks were recognised as belonging to William Baird and Mr Rankine who were clients at the mill.  An analysis of the meal in the wooden bin at the house showed that it contained weed seeds typical of the material still in the mill and also evidenced the same processing.  Mr Menzies of Larbert Mill was called in to act as an expert witness on this point.

James Stark described how he had processed the material which had been oats from his own fields.  On the evening of 16 September he had taken the sandy oats of that year’s crop and ground it.  It consisted of about five bolls.  He then placed it on the kiln and covered it with some empty sacks.  Later that evening he returned to check the fire of the kiln and upon leaving locked the door.  When he returned as usual on the Sunday morning, about 7am, to check the kiln again, he found the door still locked but the meal was scattered and some of it missing (Stirling Observer 30 November 1865).

Illus 2: 1896 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland). The buildings have been extended for the sawmill since the first edition.

The saw mill was worked by Alexander Gillies until his death in 1850 when his son, Robert, took over.  The family continued to run the saw mill well into the 20th century and even as late as 1930 the water wheel was to be brought up to requirements:

WATER WHEEL – OFFERS are invited for re-building breast-driven wooden water wheel, 15ft 9in diam., at CASTLECARY MILL, or for installing new iron wheel.  Apply to James R Ralston, estate overseer, Castlecary, Bonnybridge.”

(Falkirk Herald 29 November 1930, 1).

Robert Gillies junior was born at Castlecary Mill and died there 76 years later in January 1945.  He was unmarried and was presumably the last to use the water-powered sawmill.  The Ordnance Survey maps continued to label it as a flour mill until then and afterwards it was captioned “Castlecary Mill Farm.”

The stone gable of the mill can still be seen on the farm and is distinguished by its well-dressed ashlar blocks.

1654John Grindlay
1670William Grindlay
1680sJohn Grindlay
1740John Grindlay
1749William Grindlay
1808William Buchanan
1837Mr Jack
1856James Stark

Sites and Monuments Record

Castlecary MillSMR 473NS 7907 7888

G.B. Bailey, 2022