Kersie Mains

Kersie Mains lies on the south bank of the River Forth almost opposite to Alloa.  The land is relatively flat but the view is made picturesque by the windings of the Forth and the backdrop of the Ochil Hills to the north.  It forms the northernmost part of the parish of Airth and hence of the Falkirk district.  To its west is the estate of Throsk in Stirling district and to its south is Dunmore.  Kersie Mains is six miles from Stirling and seven from Falkirk.

The early estate encompassed the whole of the peninsula jutting out into the Forth which now includes South Alloa.  It was bounded on the east by the Plucherty Pow – a name which seems to mean promontory or peninsula (Reid 2009, 86).  The stream is now partially hidden by the later railway embankment and culverted.  In 1800 the estate still consisted of

about 325 English acres, arable land of the best quality, and a considerable quantity of moss, which can be easily improved.  There is some old pasture about the house

(Caledonian Mercury 16 June 1800, 1). 

The moss was important as a source of peat for fuel and part of what is now clumped together as “Dunmore Moss” was called Kersie Moss.  The original extent of the estate to the south is reflected in the number of farms with Kersie as part of their names as shown on Grassom’s 1817 map (see below).  To the north the river provided ample opportunity for fishing and the fishing rights were zealously guarded.  The carseland was good quality agricultural land and so the estate was well off.  In its early years it was just “Kersie” and our earliest surviving reference to it comes in the Cambuskenneth charters in 1195 as “Carsyn.”  Sometime between 1147 and 1153 a huge swathe of carseland stretching downriver from Stirling was granted to Cambuskenneth Abbey by King David.  Kersie, at the east end of this tract, along with its fishings, was included in the gift.

Like most monastic possessions, Kersie was farmed by tenants and, eventually, set in feu.  The earliest recorded principal tenant was “Henry Abircrummy in Carsy” who, along with John Abircrummy, witnessed a charter at Cambuskenneth in 1557.  Henry was married to Elspeth Foulis who died around 1591.  The family seem to have got the tenancy in the previous century due to its relationship with the abbot of Cambuskenneth who in 1467 was Henry Abercrombie.  The Abercrombies prospered and a branch took over the lands of Throsk in the barony of Cowie in the 16th century.

Despite the Reformation the Abercrombie family retained the Lands of Kersie.  In 1608 “James Abircrombie, laird of Carsye,” with the consent of his father, Henry, sold to his brother David an annual rent of £200 from the Lands of Kersie.  This document was witnessed by another of Henry’s sons, Alexander, and may have arisen from a dispute.  The last of the Abercrombies recorded by Reid (Reid 1999) were William and Christian who died around 1675 in which year the testament of Elspeth Abercrombie was executed.  She was described as “relict of Robert Heige.”

At the Reformation the superiority of the Lands of Kersie reverted to the Crown and was then sold as a secular lordship.  In 1608 the king granted to Lord George Elphinstone of Blythswood

the lands of Kersie with the manor place” which “James Abircrumbie laird of Kersie, held of the king in feu farm, in place of the monastery of Cambuskenneth.” 

The feu-tenure of the lands changed hands in the following year when John Erskine, Earl of Mar, acquired the lands and manor; at which point it was in the barony of Cowie.  Two years later Elphinstone resigned the lordship of Kersie in favour of the Earl of Mar.  They seem to have been given to a member of a cadet family for, in 1634, John Erskine of Little Sauchie sold both the lands of Kersie and Throsk to George Bruce of Carnock.  However, in 1642, they were bought back by Lord John Erskine.  Three years later he sold them to Henry Elphinstone of Calderhall at which time the king erected the estate into “the free barony of Kersie.”  When Thomas Elphinstone, his son and heir apparent, married Joanna Lauder in 1662, Henry gifted them the lands of Kersie.  The charter gives the value of the lands in terms of “old rental” which amounted to “28 merks, two tame geese and 12 capones.”  Henry was succeeded in the estate in 1673 by Richard Elphinstone, younger of Calderhall.

The Wright Family Tree (after Leslie Hodgson)

The next holders of the superiority were the Wright family.  It appears that Edward Wright, who became Principal of Glasgow University in 1662, acquired the lands in liferent and that his son, James, took possession in feu around 1677.  The presence of William and James Abercrombie Wright in 1616 hints that possession of the lands may have been obtained through marriage.  In 1735 Richard Wright is recorded as having signed a petition against an irregular election in Stirlingshire.  His sister, Anne, subsequently inherited.  She married Alexander Gibson of Cliftonhall where she died in October 1761.  Their son, Alexander Gibson-Wright of Cliftonhall and Kersie, married Peggy Gibson of Durie in 1768.  Their only child, Helen Gibson, took possession in 1794.  She had married Captain Alexander Charles Maitland of the 49th Regiment in 1786.  In 1810 it passed to their son, Alexander Maitland Gibson.  He was followed in 1823 by Alexander Gibson of Cliftonhall and then by Sir Alexander Maitland of Cliftonhall.  It subsequently passed into the possession of the Earls of Dunmore.

Illus 2: Pont’s Map of the 1580s (National Library of Scotland).

For the most part these feudal superiors were absentee landlords.  The mention of a manor from 1608 onwards demonstrates the presence on the lands of Kersie of a substantial dwelling and we must assume that it was erected by the Abercrombie family in the mid-16th century.  Pont’s map of the 1580s shows a three-storey towerhouse set within a parkland enclosure.  Travellers to the Kersie or Alloa Ferry would have skirted the house on their journey.  This was an ancient crossing and is shown on Roy’s map in the 1750s.

Illus 3: 16th Century Window Slit.

The towerhouse appears to have been completely remodelled or replaced in the 17th century.  Fleming noted that

The internal walls in some places are very thick, one gable being of the enormous thickness of 8 feet, shewing that the present building has been erected on or incorporated with an older one

(Fleming 1902). 

This was an exaggeration – the west gable is the thickest but is only 5ft thick.  It does, however, appear to have been the earliest part of the existing building, along with the northern return wall to the east which contains a narrow window slit on the ground floor with a glazing slot.  There are also hints on this gable of a stone vault.  To the east of the window just mentioned there appears to have been an early doorway.  North-facing doors are typical of this period.

The 16th century building was a three-storey manor house rather than a towerhouse.  At some point it was extended to the east to form a west/east range measuring 43ft 3in by 18ft 6in, possibly with a vaulted lower floor.  A date in the late 16th or early 17th century would suit.

Illus 5: Ground Floor Plan c1677.
Illus 6: Roman Numerals on the Roof Timbers.
Illus 4: Ground Floor Plan late 16th Century.

The plan and general scale of the existing house are typical of the second half of the 17th century and required further work at that time to make it so.  As completed, the house is an L-shaped building, with a north wing measuring 29ft by 21ft 9in, and a large rectangular staircase-tower in the re-entrant angle.  The new entrance would have been at the foot of this tower and is still in position with its rounded arrises.  There is said to have been an inscription set over the lintel but this area is now obscured by the harling.  The stone vault was removed and a wooden floor inserted at a lower level.  The kitchen was moved into the north wing, re-using the fireplace lintel.  Initially the north wing may only have been two storeys in height but was later raised an extra floor.  This resulted in a slight difference in floor levels on the second floor between the main block and the stairwell on the one hand and the north wing on the other.  The broad scale and platt stair is stone up to the second floor, but timber thereafter – the attic floor being assigned to servants.  In the north wing the roof rafters are numbered for positioning and have been dressed with an adze.

The house was three storeys and an attic in height, but the ground level has since been raised on the west and south and this has partially hidden the basement floor.  The walls, which have an average thickness of 2ft 4in, are of harled rubble and finish in an ogival eaves-course.  The roof is slated and the gables have a projecting table-course.  

Illus: Kersie Mains looking south.

The house is not dissimilar to those nearby at Orchardhead and Newton dating to the 1670s (probably to 1678).  That at Orchardhead is best recorded and we might expect the original fenestration in the main south façade at Kersie to have been comparable.  At Kersie, however there are now five rather than three windows on the upper floors.  The similarity with Orchardhead extends to a square sundial at Kersie with two faces projects from the south-west angle.  A doorway which gave access to the basement of the north wing before the change of levels was effected is now buried.  Most of the 17th century superiors for Kersie had larger properties with mansions elsewhere and it is unlikely that any of them would have rebuilt that near Airth.  The most probable candidate is James Wright who is first mentioned in connection with the estate in 1677.  It was his father, Edward Wright, who was the Principal of the University of Glasgow from 1662 to 1683.

James Wright, also had property at Newton of Bothkennar and so his brother, Dr William Wright, lived at Kersie in the 1690s.  The Newton property passed to James’ nephew Edward.  When James died around 1700 Kersie went to his nephew John, and then in 1717 to another nephew, Richard.  Richard had married Cecilia Stewart, one of many daughters of Lord Tillicoultry.

During the 1745 Jacobite incidents, Kersie was engulfed in the action.  The Highland army passed through the area relatively quickly in September 1745 on its way to Edinburgh and Stirlingshire fell under its control.  In October 1745 a Jacobite patrol encountered Thomas Christie at Kersie.  He was the Deputy Collector of cess for Stirlingshire and was promptly seized and carried to Callendar House as a prisoner.  That November Richard Wright died and his son Edward, a physician in Edinburgh inherited. He probably stayed at Kersie whilst Edinburgh was still in turmoil.

Things became quiet during the main Jacobite army’s sojourn to England but livened up soon after its return to the area.  On 4 January 1746 Elcho’s cavalry was forwarded to Elphinstone (modern Dunmore), and Lord Elcho took up residence with Mr Wright at Kersie House.  Elcho had been briefly engaged to Miss Graham of Airth the year before and now his casual acquaintance with the area was to be put to the test.  His task was to guard the Forth crossings in the area which had been re-established with the departure of the government’s representatives.  A gun battery was established at Airth and Cromarty’s Regiment was dispatched to Alloa.  It was Elcho’s presence at Kersie that led to one of the more audacious missions of the war – a commando-style raid that reads like something from a Boys’ Own magazine.

On 9 January the Vulture sloop joined the Pearl and a small Hanoverian force under Colonel Leighton on the Forth near Higgin’s Neuck.  Here the officers consulted with Walter Grossett, who had spent much of his working life on this part of the river as a customs officer, and they concocted the daring plan of action.  Under cover of darkness 50 of Colonel Leighton’s foot soldiers, in a large boat from Kinghorn which had been specifically fitted out with a platform, joined up with two armed boats from the sloops each carrying the same number of sailors.  The Kinghorn boat was then placed in tow and together they proceeded stealthily up the river passing Airth.  As they boldly approached Alloa their pilots, local men recruited by Grossett, must have known how vulnerable they were.  Intelligence reports had been reaching the government task force regularly whilst they were at sea and they knew that the cannon had arrived at Alloa and that a formidable battery commanded the Forth passage from the quay.  Silently they slipped past the port unobserved.

Sticking to the main channel of the river the raiding party moved away from the searching eyes at Alloa.  As the danger from that source receded, the men steeled themselves for the operation ahead.  After three quarters of a mile the pilots guided them to a small wooden pier on the south bank.  Here the soldiers quickly disembarked and moved towards a nearby house.  The house was surrounded and entry forced.  Intelligence reports had reliably informed them that this was the temporary residence of one of the leading Jacobite officers, Lord Elcho.  It was very late at night and they felt sure that they would find their prey in Kersie House with the intention of snatching his person.  The capture of this influential Jacobite lord and his return to Edinburgh would be quite a propaganda coup.  A room to room search was conducted, but to no avail.  The raiders returned to their boats empty handed and disappointed. As chance would have it Lord Elcho had left the house about half an hour earlier.  After snatching just a few hours sleep he had returned to Elphinstone Pans to supervise the raising of another battery there under the cover of darkness.  His presence there was quite unpredictable and foiled what would otherwise have been a daring and celebrated abduction. 

Illus 8: (a) View of the Forth with Kersie on the right
(b) the Rickle Pier at Kersie.

The three government boats at Kersie House now set off down the river on their return journey.  Their intention was to approach Alloa from up river where the Jacobite brig carrying the cannon for the siege of Stirling Castle lay in readiness – a direction that would be totally unexpected – and to set fire to her.  Reports had led them to believe that the brig might attempt a sailing that night, in which case they would be in a good position to intercept it.  The operation of boarding her had been made easier by the platform on the Kinghorn boat.  On their way, however, this boat being heavily laden with men and equipment hit a mud bank and grounded.  The soldiers on board panicked, and

one of the Sailors forgetting where he was; Caul’d out to his Comrades,  “Damm you pull away for we are aground;” which by the Calmness of the Night being over heard by the Sentrys on the Rebells Cannon on the opposite Shore at Alloa Quay, they were thereby alarmed.”

Cromarty’s Regiment beat to arms and lined the northern shore, but were too far away to use their muskets effectively. 

Illus 9: Kersie Mains looking north-east.

This stand-off lasted for some time and when the boat was eventually refloated it steered well away from Cromarty’s men and the mission at Alloa had to be abandoned. The tide carried the boats quickly past the batteries at Alloa and Elphinstone, both of which opened fire on them.  Their aim in the poor light against such a rapidly moving small target was not very good, and much of the shot and shrapnel that hit its target lay embedded in the flax mats tied to the sides of the boats.  One man on the Pearl’s boat died straight away, and another lost a leg.  How many others were wounded, and how many subsequently died we are not told.

Illus 10: Plans of Kersie Mains c1770.

It is not known if the Wrights were Jacobite supporters, but that they were not punished suggests that Elcho was not in their house by their invitation.  It was after the Jacobite interlude that alterations were made to the building.  The fenestration of five closely-spaced windows on each floor of the south façade appears to be Georgian and was probably created from a smaller number.  Their jambs are wrought with an edge-roll moulding which makes them distinctive.  It was part of an older building tradition such as can be found at Airth Castle, but the square sills are stylistically later.  The change in window design was extended round to the west frontage where the upper floor may have been used as a library.  The panelled chimneys with moulded caps would also fit this period better.

In July 1758 Hugh Stewart, second son to Lord Tillicoultry and brother to Sir Robert Stewart, died there (Caledonian Mercury 27 July 1758, 3).  He was the brother of Cecilia, the mother of Edward Wright MD and FRS.  Edward died at his house of Kersie on 20 August 1761 (ibid 29 August 1761, 3) aged 95 years.  He had been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society on 5 April 1759 as a result of the various “curious communications” that he had published in its Transactions.  He always wore black and looked more like a minister than the laird of the place.  He practised his profession in Edinburgh and had spent most of his time there and “abroad” (meaning away from the estate) until three years before his death when he had returned to Kersie.  Here he was taken ill one night and in the morning bled himself with a pen-knife.  Drs D Airling of Stirling, and Graham, of the West Country, attended him. 

Illus 11: Kersie looking east.

He was uncommonly tall, so much so, that his coffin could not be contained in the hearse, the door of which was left open at his burial with part of the coffin protruding out of it.

Dr Edward Wright not having issue, the lands and house then passed to his father’s sister, Anna Wright of Kersie, Lady Cliftonhall, as set out in the will of James Wright in 1697.  She also died that year at Cliftonhall on 27October.  She had married Alexander Gibson of Cliftonhall and in accordance with the 1697 tailzie he took the name Alexander Gibson Wright; the property remained with that family who do not seem to have used it for their residence.  Alexander gifted Edward Wright’s substantial collection of books at Kersie to the Faculty of Physicians in Edinburgh.

Illus 12: Roy’s Map, c1755 (National Library of Scotland).

The major alterations carried out in the late 1740s included laying out the grounds.  A tree-lined avenue was planted facing south-east towards the main road and secondary lines were created to shelter the house.  The “old pasture” referred to in 1800 was the Policy of this period and is clearly depicted in green on Roy’s map.

Illus 13: The Sea Wall at Kersie looking east.

In 1785 Alexander Gibson Wright, in Edinburgh, wrote concerning the encroachments of the water of Forth upon his lands of Kersie and the landing-place of the Alloa Ferry (Reid notes).  A substantial ashlar stone coastal wall was subsequently constructed (now buried under building debris as the result of the construction of a house in 2012).  According to the Statistical Account the fish caught in the River Forth at this time were salmon, herrings, flounders, trout and sometimes cod and turbot.  The ferry at Kersie belonged to John Francis Erskine who had not long before built a pier on each side of the river to allow it to be more conveniently used at all states of the tide.  A petition was submitted to Parliament in 1793 asking for a turnpike road to extend from Grangemouth to Kersie Ferry but it was to be two decades before it was completed (Reid 1992).

Illus 14: Grassom’s Map of 1817 showing the new Turnpike Road from Dunmore to Kersie where a toll is marked.

It would seem that Alexander Gibson Wright rented the house out.  William Edmondstone, late lieutenant of 60th Regiment, died at Kersie on 27 Nov 1790 (Gentleman’s Magazine 1790).  Ten years later his father, John Edmonstone of Cambuswallace, also died there on 20 May 1800 (Aberdeen Press and Journal 2 June 1800, 3) and this seems to have marked a temporary end to it use as a house for the gentry.  For a while it became the dwellinghouse of a working farm.

“To be let, for nineteen years, from Martinmas 1801, the ESTATE of KERSIE, lying on the south side of the river Forth, opposite to the town of Alloa, with the house, offices, garden, & c.  It consists of about 325 English acres, arable land of the best quality, and a considerable quantity of moss, which can be easily improved.  There is some old pasture about the house.  It is six miles from Stirling, and seven from Falkirk, in a rich populous country, with abundance of coal in the immediate neighbourhood, and lime by water carriage.  The new road from the Falkirk road to Stirling will pass near to these lands.

Will be let in one, two, or three farms, as tenants may incline.

Offers will be received by the proprietor at Clifton Hall, near Edinburgh…”

(Caledonian Mercury 16 June 1800, 1).
Illus 15: Floor Plans of Kersie Mains c1860 (after RCAHMS).

In 1818 it was noted that a farmer lived in the main house but there was a report that Alexander Maitland Gibson might come to live there, in which case it would require considerable work.  That this happened is confirmed by the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1865 which states that it was the “Property and formerly residence of Sir Alexander Maitland, Bart., Clifton Hall, Ratho, Edinburghshire.”

Illus 16: The Lobby Door with panelled frame and slender engaged Columns.

The new doorway on the south façade has features characteristic of this period.  It was inserted into the central window and was reached by steps with iron rails to either side as shown in Fleming’s drawing.  The fine entrance lobby and the panelled doors on the first and second floors probably belong to this refit.

The window and door architraves on the first floor of the main block are finer than elsewhere with fluting and panelling.  The stone fireplace in the west room is a well-executed piece of work and is echoed by one on the floor above.

The mouldings of the architraves on the second floor are bolder, bolection in form, and provide a suitable contrast.  Here the doors are hung on L-shaped strap hinges and may be from the previous century.

Illus 17: Left – the East Room on the First Floor. 
Right – the Fireplace in the West Room.

The mouldings of the architraves on the second floor are bolder, bolection in form, and provide a suitable contrast.  Here the doors are hung on L-shaped strap hinges and may be from the previous century.

Illus 18: Strap Hinge on the Second Floor.

Not surprisingly the attic floor does not have such ornate woodwork. Even here the fireplaces in the two gables have carved stone surrounds. The double round mouldings on the lower sections may be older than the mantels.

Illus19: Fireplace in the East Attic.

The result was a well-appointed house fit for the minor aristocracy.  Its period of use as their residence was short-lived and the Gibson Wrights and Maitlands lived elsewhere.  In the 1850s the house was let along with the farm. 

A porch was added onto the west side of the north wing which meant converting the central window into a doorway.  The window to its right was reduced in size (and hence has straight arrises).  The north wing was further extended by a single storey so that it could be used as a farmhouse.  For some unknown reason this extension sits at a slight angle to the older building. These alterations were executed prior to the first edition Ordnance Survey map

The farm was largely arable but as time went on more and more of the land was put into pasture.  John Bauchop was the tenant farmer in 1854 when he sold by public roup at the farm 32 fat stots, 6 fat queys, 1 fat bull, 10 fat pigs and 30 shot pigs (Stirling Observer 19 January 1854, 1).  In October 1862 the death of Miss Elizabeth Mitchell was recorded at Kersie Mains, but by 1865 Alexander Christie was the farmer.  In that year he married Jeanie, eldest daughter of William Chrystal, farmer, Cowden.  A pure bred short-horned pedigree bull was advertised to serve cows at 10s 6d each at Kersie Mains for the 1867 season (Stirling Observer 1 May 1867).  Christie died shortly afterwards and the farm was advertised again in 1869:

“To let, for 19 years, entry at Martinmas, 1869, THE FARM of KERSIE MAINS, situated at South Alloa, in the Parish of Airth, and distant about five miles from the market town of Stirling, and about seven from Falkirk. The Farm contains 243 Imperial Acres or thereby, and consists of the best description of Carse Land, capable of producing full crops of all kinds, and of the highest quality.

The dwelling-house and steadings are ample and commodious.  The branch of the Caledonian Railway to South Alloa terminated on the lands, and in other ways there is the greatest facility for carriage of produce and manures both by land and water.

The entry will be favourable to a tenant, as the farm is in excellent heart, and in a full rotation of cropping.  A plan of the Farm will be shown, and other requisite information given…  The Farm overseer at Kerse Mains will point out the boundaries…”

(Falkirk Herald 24 July 1869).

Alexander Christie was not the only one to die on the farm that year.  A boy hunting rabbits on Kersie Mains discovered the body of the stationmaster from Airth Road Station operated by the Caledonian Railway Company.  Mr Sutherland was lying beside a thorn bush and partly concealed.  The police constable at Airth was informed and an investigation ensued.

Illus 20: 1862 Ordnance Survey Map showing the House and Farmsteading of Kersie Mains (National Library of Scotland).

The farmsteading to the south-west of Kersie Mains had been extended in the beginning of the 20th century to form a square around a courtyard and included a thrashing mill propelled by a steam engine of eight horse power (Ordnance Survey Name Book).  It also incorporated bothies so that farm labourers could live on the farm.

Wanted, two women, as out-door workers, accustomed to farm work.  A free house and coal, with constant work on the farm.  Apply at Kersie Mains, South Alloa

(Alloa Advertiser 21 January 1871, 1).

The Earl of Dunmore now acquired the lands of Kersie and late in 1869 Daniel Mclean succeeded Christie in the tenancy.  He had been a farmer for 25 years, latterly at Hillwood in Ratho, Midlothian, and went to Kersie Mains with great expectations.  He joined the Airth School Board in 1873.  He was there for seven years but had a run of bad luck with poor harvests, vandalism and deaths amongst his livestock.  An example of the vandalism occurred in May 1874 when James Meiklejohn of Airth set fire to two barley stacks on the farm and they were completely consumed.  The rent was £725 a year and Mclean was unable to make a profit and so he gave it up in 1876.  The stock and implements at the resulting displenishing sale are instructive as regards the nature of the farming:

“Grain crop – 10 stacks of wheat, 35 of barley, 56 of oats, 56 of beans, and 4500 stones of rye grass hay.

Green crop – 8 acres of yellow turnips.

Live stock – Horses – 8 work horses, 1 harness do, 1 two year old filly, 1 one year-old colt.

Cattle – 5 milch cows, 4 six-quarter-old stots, 4 calves, 1 two year old shorthorn bull.

Swine – 4 brood sows and a few young pigs; 1 boar.

Implements – 6 coup carts, 6 hay carts, 5 ploughs, 2 drill ploughs, 1 two-drill turnip sowing machine, 1 four-horse grubber, 1 three do., 1 two do., 2 pair of brake harrows, 5 set of harrows, 4 stone rollers. 2 wooden do., 2 reaping machines, and 1 horse rake, 1 dogcart, 10 sets of horse harness, 2 barn fanners with riddles, and a lot of miscellaneous articles…”

(Perthshire Constitutional & Journal 23 October 1876, 3).

The farm now consisting of 220 Imperial acres of arable and 15 acres of pasture was put up for rent.  The new tenant was William Findlayson, who in December 1879 married Mary Cowan, elder daughter of the late Ebenezer Alexander, Taylorton.  A water supply was brought in to the house in 1883 from Alloa on the other side of the Forth.

1881 Census Kersie Mains

WilliamFINDLAYSONHeadMarried29Farmer of 216 acres employingCumbernauld
Mary C.FINDLAYSONWifeMarried21St. Ninians
JessieFINDLAYSONDaughter4 mAirth
IsabellaMARSHALLServantUnmarried20General ServantLarbert
JohnBAIRDServantUnmarried18Farm ServantAlloa
Henrietta A.SPENSHead72NoneBengal, India
Isabel F.SPENSDaughter41NoneBombay, India
MargaretEDINGTONServant34Ladies MaidTyningham, Haddington
IsabellaMCCULLOCHServant31CookRosemarkie, Ross and Cromarty
MaryMEIKLEHAMServant40LaundressKilpatrick, Dumbarton
JaneINNESServant33HousemaidCaisnie, Aberdeen
AlexanderMCINTYREServant73GroomPort Glasgow, Renfrew
Lathallan House
WilliamFAIRNEYHeadM38Agricultural labourerClackmannan
WilliamFAIRNEYSon14Agricultural labourerCulross
DavidPAULHeadM50Farmer of 160 acres employing 3 menDenny
Agnes H.PAULDaughterU18Denny
RobertPAULServantU20Farm servantDunfermline
BetsyPAULServantU16Domestic servantFalkirk
JohnARMSTRONGHeadM55BlacksmithSt Ninians
JamesARMSTRONGSonU16Saw mill LabourerDunipace
JessieARMSTRONGDaughter12ScholarSt Ninians
AlexanderARMSTRONGSon8ScholarSt Ninians
ThomasARMSTRONGSon6ScholarSt Ninians

In 1881 the Paul family worked the eastern side of the estate and this is reflected in the census.

Rents had been set high and the tenant farmers at Kersie Mains seem to have struggled to make a profit.  Finlayson stayed until the end of the 1885 season and there was yet another displenishing sale.  By December James Gray had moved in and there followed a period of stability.  The Gray family ran a mixed farm but specialised in breeding horses, especially Clydesdales.  From 1886 until 1937 they won prizes at numerous agricultural competitions.  James Gray had farmed at Birkenwood Farm near Gargunnuck for 25 years before moving to Kersie Mains and his son, James, took over the old farm.  Another son, Henry had Hawkshill Farm in Kincardine.  James Gray senior died in October 1909 aged 72.  The youngest son, Andrew took over at Kersie and continued to exhibit Clydesdales.

Andrew Gray married Margaret Henderson, eldest daughter of James Christie, West Carse. Gargunnock, in June 1914.  By then the storm clouds of war had appeared.  As early as May 1911 the local company of the Army Service Corps (Territorial Force) had a route march to Kersie.  The company mustered 30 in number with four wagons and seven riding horses under the command of Lieutenant H. Wilson and Second Lieutenant G. Ritchie.  They proceeded to Kersie on a Saturday afternoon, where they pitched their camp for the evening. After breakfast on Sunday morning the camp was struck and they were gone (Falkirk Herald 6 May 1911).  They were back in July 1913 (ibid 5 July 1913).

Andrew Gray continued to win prizes, but latterly his efforts switched to chevalier barley and bullocks.  Sheep and heifers were also to be found on the farm and boys, milk girls and ploughmen (married) were hired as necessary.  He stopped showing horses in 1937.  In 1942 disaster struck.  The Ministry of Agriculture officials confirmed an outbreak of foot and mouth disease on the farm and a standstill order was placed on a 15 mile radius.  This included portions of Fife, Clackmannan, Perth, Stirling, Dumbarton, Lanark and West Lothian.  The 60 head of cattle at Kersie Mains had to be destroyed.  Further outbreaks occurred at Tillicoultry.  Important cattle and sheep sales at Stirling markets were cancelled.

Illus 21: Aerial Photograph of Kersie Mains c1950 showing the Prefabs on the road to South Alloa.
Illus 22: Kersie Mains in 1953 (RCAHMS).

The family survived this event and continued to farm at Kersie Mains, finally giving way to Mitchell relatives.  In 2019 the old manor house was bought by Paterson Garden Buildings Ltd who had operated from the neighbouring site of Kersiebank for some years.


Henry Abercrombie           1550s
Henry Abercrombie1600s
James Abercrombie (son)1608 –
William Abercrombie Wright– 1616
James Abercrombie Wright1616 –
William Abercrombie         – 1675
Edward Wright1675-1677
James Wright1677-1701
John Wright1702-1714
Richard Wright    1717-1745
Edward Wright    1745-1761
Alexander Gibson1762
Helen Gibson       1794
John Edmonstone– 1800
Alexander M Gibson (son)1810
Alexander Gibson of Cliftonhall     1823
Sir Alexander Maitland of Cliftonhall1850s
John Bauchop     1854
Alexander Christie1865-1869
Daniel Mclean     1869-1876
William Finlayson1876-1909
James Gray1885-1909
Andrew Gray1909-1950s
John Mitchell       1990s
Paterson Garden Buildings Ltd.2019 –

Feudal Superiors

Cambuskenneth Abbey    c1150-1560s
Lord George Elphinstone1608-1610
John Erskine, Earl of Marr1610-c1620
John Erskine of Little Sauchiec1620-1634
George Bruce of Carnock1634-1642
Lord John Erskine1642-1645
Henry Elphinstone of Calderhall     1645 –
Sir Thomas Elphinstone (son)          1662
Richard Elphinstone of Calderhall (son)1675-1677
James Wright       1677 –
John Wrightc1710-1714
Richard Wright                    1714 –
Edward Wright                    1740s
Alexander Gibson1770s
Helen Gibson1794
Alexander M Gibson (son)1810
Alexander Gibson of Cliftonhall     1823
Sir Alexander Maitland of Cliftonhall1850s
Earl of Dunmore1870s –


Bailey, G.B.1996Falkirk or Paradise!  The Battle of Falkirk Muir 17 January 1746.
Fleming, J.S.1902Ancient Castles and Mansions of the Stirling Nobility.
Hodgson, L.2001The Search for Edward Wright.  Unpublished.
RCAHMS1963Stirlingshire: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments.
Reid, J.           1992‘Local Roads in the Eighteenth Century,’ Calatria 2, 85-96.
Reid, J.           1999‘The Lands and Baronies of the Parish of Airth.’ Calatria 13, 47-80.
Reid, J.           2009The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire.
Ure, R.1793‘The Old Statistical Account of the Parish of Airth,’ Calatria 1 (1999), 109-116.

Geoff B. Bailey, 2022