Until 1892 a large flat sandstone slab lay beside the Bogton Road just to the west of the Bonny Water at a place called Bonnyfoot Bridge. The place is a little to the east of what is now the Roughmute Refuse Disposal Depot. The venerated stone was engraved “MAK./ 1646, F.G.” and according to local tradition passed on from generation to generation it marked the spot where Francis Gordon was killed when fleeing the Battle Of Kilsyth. This was then the main road between Kilsyth and Falkirk and crossed the river by a ford – the bridge was only built in 1766. It is a long way from the battlefield and says a lot for the massacres that ensued from the rout. Legend has it that it was erected by his fiancée who was heart-broken and who religiously made the annual pilgrimage to the hallowed spot until her own death many decades later. She became a familiar sight to the people of the area and the location became steeped in the local history.
Over the passing years many visitors made the trip to see the stone and it was often pointed out as feature of a local interest. Originally the stone was located on the north side of the road on the bank of the Bonny. Over a century after the stone had been placed there the land was bought from James Spottiswoode, who owned the Dunipace estate, by Carron Company which intended to divert water from the Bonny into the River Carron above their weir near Dunipace Bridge so that it could be used to power its works. This scheme was never executed. However, the flooding of the Bonny undermined the stone and it was moved to the field on the south side of the road in order to preserve it. Then, around 1836, the tenant farmer asked for permission from Thomas Spottiswoode to remove the stone as it was in the way of his agricultural work. It was taken the short distance to the roadside by several workmen and carefully placed on an earth platform created for the purpose.
John Morrison, a poet of local repute, wrote a poem entitled “The Tomb Stone” and included a sketch. He says the “date and initials are still legible” and even now “1646, F.G.” is quite distinct.
The slab was 3½ft long by 2½ft broad and about 6ins thick. It had originally been longer but at some point in its travels one end had been lost. Around 1891 a party of walkers from Bonnybridge visited Kilsyth where they were shown around the historic sites of the area by the local minister who had a keen interest in the Battle of Kilsyth. They mentioned the Soldier’s Stone to him and so he arranged a return visit. Rev P. Anton met the Bonnybridge residents, who included A P Scott, and they visited Headswood and inspected the “Scoto-Roman urn” found there a few years before. From Headswood the party proceeded to Bonny-foot-bridge and found the Soldier’s Stone. The roadside was a little overgrown and Rev Anton offered to write to Stirling County Council to see if it would tidy the site up and perhaps have the stone set vertically. The local thanked him and thought little more about it until a few months later they saw that the stone had disappeared. Eventually they ascertained that Anton had removed it to Kilsyth. It transpired that the interfering minister had indeed written to the Council saying that the neglected stone should be set vertically and enclosed by an iron railing, failing which he would take it to Kilsyth to display it there. The Council naturally wrote back to say that it was happy to have the stone properly displayed beside the road, but that it was unable to finance the project.
There was an uproar amongst the indignant population that they had been robbed of this historic monument. A P Scott wrote that
“the spot has been robbed of its sacredness, and the treasured memories may soon be lost, as the stone with its memorable associations cannot command the same freshness and attention in the silent habitations of “departed spirits” whence it was taken.”
A delegation was sent to Kilsyth, including the owner of Dunipace estate who offered to pay to have the stone set into the boundary wall with an iron railing at its former location. The righteous minister refused to return the stone. Before long he had a mason add an inscription to the underside of the stone:
“THERE IS A CONSTANT/ TRADITION THAT THIS STONE/ MARKED THE GRAVE OF/ FRANCIS GORDON, CADET OF/ A NOBLE COVENANTING FAMILY,/ WHO FLEEING FROM THE BOTTLE/ OF KILSYTH – FOUGHT 15TH/ AUGUST, 1645 – WAS OVERTAKEN/ AND SLAIN BY ONE OF MONTROSE’S/ CLANSMEN AT BONNYFOOT BRIDGE,/ DENNY. THE KILSYTH KIRK-SESSION,/ WITH THE AUTHORITY OF THE/ COUNTY COUNCIL, REMOVED/ THE STONE TO THIS PARISH,/ FEBRUARY, 1892.”
This just added fuel to the flames – Denny instead of Dunipace!
There is a slight problem with the date inscribed on the stone as the battle took place on 15 August 1645 and the stone has “1646.” This could be explained as the date of erection of the stone. However there is also the possibility that the legend is wrong and that this is another victim of the plague and not of warfare.
Soldier’s Stone SMR 2236 NS 8417 8130
Bogton Bridge, River Bonny SMR 1591 NS8418 8129