Special Feature

The World’s Largest Vine!

As many of our readers will know, in the first half of the twentieth century, Kippen was renowned as the home of the biggest vine in the world, (second largest was in Kew Gardens.)  This, and other vines, had been planted in 1891 by Duncan Buchanan in greenhouses in Cauldhame.

Income from the vine was initially derived from the sale of grapes (as far afield as Harrods), given that fruit from abroad was not readily available in those days.  As time went on, this income was supplemented by an increasing volume of tourist trade.  In the early 1960s, it was estimated that the vine was attracting over 20,000 visitors annually, with peak daily numbers in excess of 1,000.

However, maintenance of the vine and its companions was extremely labour-intensive and very specialised, and in 1964, Selby Buchanan reluctantly decided to cut it down.

The full history of the vine, with many illustrations, was documented in 1991 in a booklet by Alan Edwards (a member of the Buchanan family with personal memories of the vine).  This had gone out of print, but was resurrected in 2013 by Kippen Heritage, and has been available to buy in McNicolls, Rhubarb Lime and The Inn.  That reprint sold its last copy recently, and a small print run resulted in its re-introduction in early March.

It is intended to publish an expanded version towards the end of this year, telling what has happened to offspring of the original vine since it was cut down.  It is known that many greenhouses in Kippen, from Cauldhame to Shirgarton, have cuttings.  There are also plants in Culzean Castle, with Alan Edwards in Angus, and at locations in Surrey and Buckinghamshire.

The Wee Vine would very much like to know of other descendants, so please email us details (and photos) at enquiries@theweevine.org.

Stuart Thomson & Rick Dekker


Special Feature

Volunteering in the Solomon Islands

My name is Torin Price and I am currently a 6th form student at Balfron High School.

Come summer next year that is going to change in quite a dramatic way for me. After a 5-day selection course on the Isle of Coll I’m pleased to say that, as part of a volunteering programme with Project Trust, I will be spending a year in the Solomon Islands!

I’ll be sent with just one other person from the UK and I will be teaching English to secondary school students whilst immersing myself in the local community – helping in whatever way I can. Although I don’t know exactly where I will be posted, I’m told it will be a rural setting. I and my partner will live within that rural community for a full 12 months.

Project Trust itself is a charity that specializes in sending school leavers away for a year to help communities in less developed nations. They send pairs of volunteers to 21 different countries around the globe for 12-month periods. They primarily focus on sending people to teach in primary and secondary schools, although they can also offer opportunities in social care and outward bound.

The organization started in 1967 and is now reaching its 50th year of operation. In these 50 years the Trust has sent over 7,000 volunteers abroad to South America, Africa, Asia and now Oceania. They are one of the most respected gap year organizations in the UK, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity for school leavers to immerse themselves in a completely different lifestyle, culture and community to what they’re used to.

The Solomon Islands lie in the southern Pacific Ocean, just east of Papua New Guinea. The small nation has a population of 599,000, only a thousand people more than Glasgow! There are 6 main islands and over 900 smaller ones. The country is hugely diverse with 70 local dialects spoken. Even though the official language is English, only 2% of the population actually speaks it.


final final

The economy is very poor with its gross domestic product (GDP) per person similar to many African countries, which makes it fall under the classification of underdeveloped. As a result, many basic facilities lacks funding for maintenance or even staffing, including schools. This means that the country often has to rely on foreign aid to support the education system, which is where I come in.

To do this I’m required to contribute to the funding. For me to travel to the Solomon Islands, cover living costs and insurance, and not put any of the expense upon the community, I need to raise just over £6,000.

So, over the next 8 months I will be wearing myself thin fundraising, trying to reach my total by the end of July. I’m planning on hosting multiple events, whilst also doing a sponsored swim/run and hosting several afternoon teas, amongst other things. I would really appreciate any contribution (no matter how small) to help me reach my total.

If you would like to get in touch to find out any more information, or to give me a donation towards my year away, please contact me at: Ardenlea, Fintry Road, Kippen (Tel 01786 870395; mobile 07402151709); email torinprice@gmail.com. Or donate online on my Virgin Money Giving page:


Please feel free to visit my Facebook Page where I’ve got more information, and I will post updates on my progress and advertise any events that I’ll be holding.


Torin (Price).


Special Feature

Flanders Moss NNR

2 Bogs, a swamp and some islands.

The Scottish Natural Heritage Stirling National Nature Reserve team manages 3 NNRs across central Scotland and we are quite often asked what do you actually do? What does managing nature reserves actually entail? Well, now you can find out.

We have just started a new blog called “2 bogs, a swamp and some islands” after the types of reserves that we work on. These sites are Flanders Moss, which you will all know, plus another bog site called Blawhorn Moss near to Bathgate, and the Loch Lomond NNR which is swampy land around the Endrick Mouth, part of Loch Lomond, plus 5 islands on the loch itself. Flanders Moss is the biggest of the sites and the most visited, so there will be more posts about it than the other reserves. All these sites are very difficult to see beyond the boardwalks and paths so the blog will give you the chance to see the distant corners of these special reserves without getting your feet wet.

We aim to update the blog 2-3 times a week and the posts will tell of what wildlife we are seeing on the reserves, what work we are doing and whom we are meeting on the sites.

So, if you are keen to find out more about these special nature reserves then, have a look, the web address is below:


For those on Facebook you can also follow what is happening on NNRs across Scotland with the Facebook page Scotland’s National Nature Reserves. All our blog posts will also feature here.


Flanders Moss Improvements

My email inbox has been steadily filling with complaints about the state of the access track to Flanders. I can only apologise that it is so rough at the moment. It is disappointing that in the last 2 years we have spent quite a bit of money on it, to no long term improvement. So all I can say is that we are busy applying for more money to re-profile the track and get an improved surface that lasts much longer, but this work may take a little while to come to fruition so, please bear with us.

More positive news is that we hope to improve the path and boardwalk over the winter to give a drier path. The wettest part of the path will be replaced with a new section of boardwalk, the flooded areas of boardwalk will be raised and the rest of the path will be resurfaced. So the hope is that by next spring we will have a much improved surface all the way around.

In the car park, the wildflower meadow has had a good summer. It has now had its annual haircut and there will be another 400 wildflower plugs planted soon which will help to make the meadow a colourful and wildlife-rich welcome to the reserve.

If you would like more information about Flanders Moss NNR you can find it on the NNR Scotland website (www.nnr-scotland.org.uk) or contact me, David Pickett on david.pickett@snh.gov.uk.


Special Feature

Kippen Kirkyard Project

First of all, apologies for the omission, in the last edition of The Wee Vine, of the 1859 eulogy to James Kay composed by J. S. Dunn of Arngomery. It is now included following this article.

Work in the Kirkyard was somewhat hampered in late Spring by the presence of contractors building the bus shelter and using the entrance area for storage and cement mixing, so the first task on their departure was to clear up the debris left by them.

The above process exposed, what was initially believed to be a coping stone dislodged from the entrance wall, a memorial stone with an inscription to the memory of Duncan Robertson and his wife Mary McGrigor, dated 1830! Unfortunately, as a result of years of having been lying, partially buried, in a direct route from the gate, the inscription is barely readable but archive material has identified that they lived in Arnprior and that two further Robertson burials followed in the same lair in 1892 and 1903.


In a similar vein one of the Kippen Heritage group was playing bridge with a Ms Fairlie who mentioned her forbears lived in Kippen (Loaningfoot), and had connections with the Aikman family. Coincidentally ‘Aikman’ is recorded as occupying lair No. 1 but there is no longer a stone in that position. Further on-site investigation has discovered the Aikman grave slab, dated 1786 several yards away; it appears to have been moved perhaps to protect it during slate removal on the Smiddy roof as a quantity of discarded slate was uncovered where the stone should have been!

As stones, long buried, are uncovered we are always very interested to know if anyone has any knowledge or information about the deceased, therefore we will continue to report any discoveries in The Wee Vine and be available to visitors to assist in locating memorials as was the case recently when Canadian visitors arrived at the Kirkyard.

Dale and Anita Galbraith searching for Galbraith stones with Dale's brother

Dale and Anita Galbraith from Canada, on holiday with Dale’s brother who now lives in
Texas, were pleased to gain access to Kippen’s historic kirkyard. They were researching their family history and looking for graveyards where ancestors named Galbraith were buried. They had come from Culcreuch Castle Hotel, the ancestral seat of the Scottish clan Galbraith for over 700 years where it was suggested to them to explore Kippen’s kirkyard. It was not to disappoint. A relevant stone was quickly located. Subsequent research by a Kippen heritage group member revealed a further significant number of Galbraith burials. This information will be forwarded to the family in Canada.

These are 3 early examples to encourage the Heritage group as to the importance of the project, in its early stages, to restore the kirkyard and enable archive material to be matched with stones and made easily accessible to people both on site and across the world on line.

Irene Chapman & June Waley, Kippen Heritage

Special Feature

Lines on the Death of James Kay, Kippen

DIED 17th October 1859

What do I hear? Can it be true
That he has bid this world adieu
To dwell in one so fair?
And yet his footprints can be seen
Down by the turnings of the Green,
But he himself’s not there.

This morn he rose in usual health
And rich in love if not in wealth,
By noonday he was gone;
Now nothing but the clay is left,
The body is of the soul bereft,
For God has claimed his own.

He was beloved by old and young,
The very babe with lisping tongue,
Loved to pronounce his name;
For he, with his enchanting lyre,
Set youthful maidens’ hearts on fire,
And kindled love’s bright flame.

The young men too they did rejoice
Whene’er they heard his cheerful voice,
Or saw his smiling face;
Whene’er under his arm was seen
His little bag of darkest green,
They something then could trace.

But now his race on earth is done,
No longer will his fingers run
Along fair Scotland’s pride!
Alas! we never more will hear
His music that once charmed our ear,
It’s now laid too aside.

He now is free from care and pain,
We will ne’er see his face again;
But this we all can say –
It will be long before we find
Another with a heart so kind
As our friend, Jamie Kay.

J. S. Dunn, Arngomery

Galbraith family from Canada looking for their ancestors buried in the Kippen Graveyard.

Special Feature

Music for Syria

On the evening of Saturday 4th March Kippen Kirk was filled almost to capacity with people coming together to enjoy a performance by a Syrian classical guitarist, Ayman Jarjour, a musician of world renown. Ayman has played with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra and the Syrian Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also performed widely across many continents. He holds a Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School in New York and a Bachelor’s degree from the Royal Conservatory of music in Madrid. Having lived and taught in several countries Stirling is now his home.

During the set-up, John Fulton had the chance to imagine himself in concert.

The evening began by projecting powerful images of the reality of the horrors experienced in war-torn Syria, a refugee camp and finally the smiling faces of two young men now settling in the Forth Valley and volunteering as coaches for a young lads football team.

Ayman invited requests before embarking on his chosen performance which demonstrated his immense talent. He played pieces from a wide range of composers from many nationalities.

Refreshments were a wonderful taste of Syria, prepared by a refugee woman now living in Stirling and wishing to show her gratitude for the welcome, friendship and support that she and her family have received as they begin a new life in Scotland.

With the generosity of many villagers, and those from further afield who made donations, the sum of £2,641 was achieved. With the added value of gift aid this will make a significant contribution to two charities. Ayman is involved with many charities working inside and outside Syria, to help refugees and people remaining in Syria and affected by the war.

One third of the proceeds have gone to Stirling Citizens for Sanctuary. This new charity has been established to befriend and support those Syrian refugees now settling in our area. Medical Aid and Support for Syria is also a new charity which aims to get medical supplies to areas of need in Syria. Two thirds of the donations have gone to this cause.

Thanks to all who helped with organisation and to all who attended and contributed generously to a memorable evening.

June Waley

Special Feature

Classics at Kippen

Words and Music from the Somme

In 1918 my grandfather, James McCowan of Brig-O-Frew Farm, Kippen, returned from the First World War without his brother Duncan, who was tragically killed in action after his 21st birthday.

9 years ago, my husband Grant and I visited his war grave in northern France with my parents. Mum never knew her Uncle Duncan. My dad also lost 2 uncles in the war and their fiancées never married. Mum said that Grandpa rarely spoke about the horrors of the trenches and he never went back to see his brother Duncan’s grave. It was incredibly moving for us to pay our respects at those war graves 2 generations later and, as we drove past the family farm near Kippen on our way back from France, we realised we had made the journey home which Uncle Duncan never did. There are few families, like ours, which were left untouched by the horrors of WW1 and I’m sure you will have similar stories to tell like mine.

The words and music which flowed from the poets, writers and musicians who fought at the Somme, expressed things which as Victor Hugo said “cannot remain silent”. The wonderful song cycle “A Shropshire Lad” (words by Housman and music by George Butterworth) is such a piece. When I sat, in a performance class at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where I work, listening to a student sing these wonderful songs, I felt compelled to put on a performance to commemorate those who so tragically lost their lives or were so deeply affected by the events of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago. That day at college “Words and Music from the Somme” was born, the 6th in our “Classics at Kippen” concert series, which was established 4 years ago, to provide a wonderful community event, to give students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland a performing platform and to raise money for local charities. What better charity could we raise money for than Erskine, founded 100 years ago, to help the war wounded from this terrible time in our history?

On 12 November, armistice weekend, nearly 350 people crowded into Kippen Parish Church for a presentation of “Words and Music from the Somme”. This highly artistic programme given by colleagues and students from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, was a poignant, deeply moving and, I hope, fitting memorial to those from our small community and beyond, who fought for our freedom 100 years ago. I am a great believer in the words of the children’s hymn “Jesus bids us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine”. The work of Erskine still carries on a century later doing an incredible work in their small corner and I’m delighted to say that, in our small corner of Kippen, we raised over £10,000 for this extremely worthy charity! Thank you so very very much to all those who donated and to the many people who helped behind the scenes to make this event possible.

We all come to an event like this or watch the newsreels on our TV with many different thoughts, feelings and opinions on war and the politics of war and, as we look around us at the many wars still being fought in our world today, it is hard to make sense of it and wonder if we have learned from the mistakes of the past or, indeed, made any progress. We ended our programme on Nov 12th with a poem by the war poet Siegfried Sassoon called “Aftermath”. May I finish with some of his words?

“Have you forgotten yet? The past is just the same and war’s a bloody game. Have you forgotten yet? Look down and swear by the slain of the war that you will never forget. Do you ever stop to ask: “Is it all going to happen again?” Have you forgotten yet? Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you will never forget”

“Lord, as we remember with sadness the horrors of war, help us to work for a better understanding between races and nations. Open our eyes to see our own part in discord and aggression between peoples, forgive us our pride and divisions, and renew in us the search for peace so that trust may replace suspicion, friendship replace fear, and your spirit of reconciliation be known among us. Amen”

(Taken from “War Cries”, a book of military prayers compiled by Rev. Mark Davidson)

Kathleen McKellar Ferguson (Coubrough)