From the past

William Simpson and St Ninians

Our William Simpson was the son of Francis Simpson of Plean (1760-1831) and his first wife Jean Sophia Cadell (1785-1806), daughter of William Cadell of Banton, a managing partner in Carron Iron Works. He died at Malta in 1827 aged just 22 years. There are two memorials to him at St Ninians. First, on the inner east wall of the church beside the door, a marble plaque records:

Secondly, the small grassed area enclosed by walls and railings and adjoining the old cemetery has been known as the William Simpson's Asylum Burial Ground at St Ninians Glebe.

In 1829 Francis Simpson informed the four parishes of St Ninians, Falkirk, Larbert, and Dunipace that they would each receive £500 in memory of his son. No part of the money could be spent, but it was to be invested and the income applied for the benefit of the poor of the parish. A further condition was that each bequest was to be recorded on a marble slab erected in the church; all four are still extant. I have traced the operations of these bequests through to the early 1900s. In the case of St Ninians, the money (along with other funds) was generally lent out to individuals in the form of bonds for varying amounts on the security of property. There was usually about £20 annually from the Simpson bequest for disbursement at St Ninians: elders received cash to be used in their districts; payments were made to individuals for clothing, coal, rent, food, education and such things. Also, in the 1840s, soup kitchens were supported at St Ninians and Cambusbarron the `hungry forties' were not just an Irish problem.

Francis Simpson left money, property and detailed instructions for the establishment at Plean of William Simpson's Asylum, which opened in June 1836. Its inmates were to be men of advanced years and reduced circumstances, preference being given to those who had served in the Navy or Army. Simpson stipulated that, when vacancies arose among his original Trustees, one of these positions should be taken up by the minister of St Ninians and his successors. The Asylum (later, Home) operated much as Francis Simpson had intended until the mid 1990s, by which time it had taken on a more general role in social services.

The Trustees also took on the responsibility to bury deceased inmates. Initially, this was done in Plean Churchyard indeed the Trustees had been largely responsible for the establishment of Plean Church, which opened in March 1839. By 1927 ground at Plean was exhausted. Several lairs were then purchased at Bannockburn, but in 1932 a little less than half an acre of St Ninians Glebe was purchased by the Trustees from Stirling Presbytery; part of this was used for a burial ground. The Trustees did not provide gravestones there is however one plaque on the south wall commemorating Benjamin Henry Silk (1875-1961). Nevertheless, thanks to a plan of the ground and burial records, we do know who is buried in this ground and where. There were some 74 burials in 20 lairs along the west and south walls between 1934 and 1974. Burials then reverted to Bannockburn.

Ian Tweddle