Airth Mercat Cross Sundial (M2)

In the 16th and 17th centuries a new settlement developed on the shore at Airth around a harbour and became known as Low or Laigh Airth.  The coastal community thrived and in 1597 was erected anew into a burgh of barony with a free port.  To commemorate the centenary of this even a magnificent mercat cross was erected in the new market-place at the junction of the Main Street and Shore Road.

Illus : Airth Mercat Cross

The cross has a stepped octagonal pedestal, an octagonal shaft with a splayed base, and a square head with an acorn finial.  Its total height is 17ft 2ins.  Each face of the head is carved, and has a cavetto arched pediment above it supported on Doric columns at the corners. On the north-west face is a shield, with helm and mantling and a griffon for the crest, charged: a chevron between three boars’ heads erased.  The initials C E appear on the pediment, and signify Charles, 9th Lord Elphinstone, who evidently set up the cross in 1697.  The north-east face bears a similar heraldic assemblage, but the shield in this case is charged: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, a chevron between three boars’ heads erased; 2nd and 3rd, a saltire and chief with a mullet in the dexter corner.  These are the arms of Charles Elphinstone’s parents, Sir Richard Elphinstone and Jane Bruce of Airth, whose initials appear on the pediment above.  Beneath both shields runs the family motto “DOE WELL LET THEM SAY.”  The south-west and south-east faces bear shield-shaped sundials, the metal gnomons of which are still in place.  These shields have scrolled cresting above them and swags or crossed quills below. On the shield of the south-east face is engraved “fugit hora” – the hour flees.  Here the pediment contains the date 1697, whilst that on the south-west carries crossed sprays of foliage.

The 1697 cross was renovated for the parochial council by Robert Brown, mason, Airth, in 1893 and the copper alloy gnomons renewed and carefully adjusted.  It was conserved again in 2010 by Falkirk Council.

Airth Mercat CrossSMR 155NS 89906 87355
Sites & Monuments Records

G.B. Bailey, 2021