“Whose only wish is that the information in this book will benefit the ever increasing band of people interested in our rich heritage of local history and tradition”.
(Kirkliston was designated a Conservation Area in 1977. The conservation area all lies south of the main crossroads and Main Street. It focuses on the Parish Church, The Square and the High Street but also stretches south down to encompass the remote manse and the little group of buildings at Breastmill (1672). –Wikipedia)
Kirkliston has the nickname “Cheesetown”, commonly believed to be because the workmen from Kirkliston, working on the Rail Bridge between 1883 and 1890 invariably ate cheese with their bread. We are presumably asked to believe that the landladies of workmen from other villages did not make up “pieces” with cheese.
(Or perhaps it is because of the poem below written by Robert Burns. The oldest house in the town is Castle House which has a marriage lintel stone dated 1683. Robert Burns stayed there in 1787 and inscribed this verse on a window pane, now in a Vancouver museum:
and think the business of the world is theirs.
Lo: waxen combs seem palace to bees.
And mites conceive the world to be cheese." – Wikipedia)
Kirkliston Parish Church
During the early part of the 19th century, around 1830, Kirkliston had two visits from grave robbers, who dug up freshly buried corpses to sell to the anatomy schools. In 1818 the resurrectionists carried off the bodies of a young widow who died in childbirth and a widow over 80 years of age. The Kirk Session made extensive enquiries and offered a reward of 20 guineas for information which would lead to the arrest of the robbers to no avail. The Session built a watch-house at the east gate of the kirkyard and the vigilance of the parishioners prevented any further robberies taking place
infamous Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers in 1828. - image- wikimedia public domain
Several Kirkliston witch trials are recorded. The most notable witch of Kirkliston Parish was Euphame McCalzean, daughter of Lord Cliftonhall. In July 1591 she appeared before the High Court in Edinburgh charged with crimes varying from common witchcraft to conspiring against the life of King James VI. Euphame was one of nine principals, five men and four women – at ‘the conjuring of cats’ whereby the witches claimed to have raised a great storm on 1st august 1590 that nearly wrecked the ship in which James VI and his bride Anne of Denmark were coming to Scotland from Oslo. Euphame was sentenced to be burned alive on the Castle Hill in Edinburgh. This was the most severe sentence ever pronounced by the court. Ordinarily condemned felons were strangled by the common hangman before being committed to the flames. She endured her fate with obstinancy to the last. Extracts from the Linlithgow Presbytery records show there were Kirkliston witches in the 1650’s. (The height of witch hunting was during the first half of the 1600’s. The crime of Witchcraft was abolished in Scotland in 1736. There had not been an execution of Witches during the seven years previous. The last witch execution in Scotland was Janet Horne in Dornoch in 1727.)
From 1969 to 2001 the west side of Kirkliston was the site of the Drambuie Liqueur Factory providing employment for up to 150 workers, men and women, in peak periods. There had also been a whisky distiller in the south of the town since 1795, which in later years became a malt factory. Both were demolished for housing. (The history of the Kirkliston Distillers are stories in themselves).