An estate of the size and nature of North Bantaskine, which for centuries was held by a branch of the Livingston family, was bound to have had a sundial. Michael Livingston, who in 1681 wrote a well-known poem called “Patronus Redux” about his relative, the Earl of Callendar and his return to Falkirk, was evidently a cultured gentleman and would certainly have possessed a dial. Unfortunately, the estate no longer exists and the house is long demolished.
However, following the publication of this article on the FLHS website Graeme Symington from Australia got in touch to inform us of a “Falkirk” sundial that the Rankine family transported to Melbourne. John Rankine was in possession of North Bantaskine from 1800 to 1804 and it is possible that this is where he acquired the item.
The photograph, kindly provided by Graeme Symington, shows a typical Scottish sundial with the main horizontal octagonal dial on the top and a hemispherical dial on the south-facing canted face. Further dials occur on the flat subsidiary faces. No gnomen are visible – but that is not surprising as the dials would have been set to tell the time at the latitude of Scotland.
The Doric column was presumably an original feature and can be seen on the example from Dunmore Park which dates to c1812, though that is a simple copper plate. Howkerse, dated 1699, also has an odd column that at first appears to be incongruous to the large head but provides a good parallel. Classical columns appear to be an affectation of central Scotland rather than the north; normally dodecahedron heads are set on decorated square shafts.
It is rather an odd thing to transport all the way to Australia. However, these sundials were and are iconic items of the Scottish culture of the country houses in the late 17th/early18th century and an important reminder of “home.” Unfortunately, Rankine’s descendants left the sundial behind when they moved house and it is no longer at that property.