14th September 1813

The weather very Tempestuous with wind and rain.  The Wheat is all cut down and put into the Barnyards but the Oats will be liable to be shaken with the wind.

The Second Tryst of Falkirk.  The number of black cattle, sheep and horses were very considerable and sold well.

Comment from guest blogger, local historian and author, Marie Gibb:

The Falkirk Tryst (or “meeting place”) was a famous cattle fair held throughout August, September and October each year.  During the 18th and 19th centuries the Tryst was held in several locations in the area surrounding Falkirk town, eventually settling in Stenhousemuir.

Sheep and other livestock were also sold, but the main commodity was cattle. Huge numbers were herded along ancient drove roads, tended by men not only capable of negotiating hundreds of miles on foot, keeping their charges fed, watered, rested and in good condition, but also able to negotiate some shrewd buying and selling on behalf of their Highland laird.  On a cold, wet night, with no inn nearby, they thought nothing of staying out in the field with their charges, wrapped only in their plaids and sustained by a makeshift supper of oatmeal and water. 

Where possible, drovers deliberately avoided towns and villages, choosing instead more isolated routes on better drained higher ground.  Low-lying bog, marsh and mud slowed progress considerably, and could lead to hoof infections.  Less populated tracks had the added bonus of avoiding delays at toll gates on turnpike roads – together with their associated fees. 

The growth of the railway system in the 1840s saw a steady decline in the drovers’ trade, however, as cattle could now be transported quickly and in better condition.  This coincided, too, with available grazing land becoming harder to find. 

At its height, though, the Tryst would have been quite a spectacle – around 200 acres filled with tens of thousands of bellowing cattle, barking dogs, sideshows, fast-food sellers, entertainers, and hawkers of every commodity. 

They say that at the battle of Waterloo, several soldiers from Falkirk watched in open-mouthed amazement as vast legions of troops and horses poured into the field to take up their positions.

One lad wondered out loud what this spectacle reminded him of, to which his companion warmly replied “just o’ the last Tryst o’ Falkirk” …[1]

Further reading:

For a comprehensive account of drovers and their way of life, see:

Haldane, A.R.B, The Drove Roads of Scotland, Birlinn, 2008.

Toulson, Shirley, The Drovers, Shire Publications, 2005.

[1] The Naval and Military Magazine, Vol 3, 1828; Miscellany, p (i); T.Clerk Smith, London.

Related web pages: (accessed 08/09/2013)

http://www.falkirklocalhistorysociety.co.uk/home/index.php?id=26

http://www.fife.50megs.com/scottish-drovers.html

[1] The Naval and Military Magazine, Vol 3, 1828; Miscellany, p (i); T.Clerk Smith, London.

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