The Clachan Oak
Balfron originally grew up around the Clachan Oak which stands on the common green outside the Church of Scotland at the top of the village, and is the symbol of the Community Council. Known locally as the Hanging Tree, the oak was recorded in 1867 as being in a “flourishing condition”. Its short trunk is now completely hollow, and held together by 3 iron hoops. These were not an early form of tree surgery – they had a more sinister purpose. Until the end of the 18th century petty criminals were chained to the tree with an iron neck collar, where they were subjected to public ridicule. The practice apparently ended after one woman, left unattended while her husband visited the local pub, slipped and was strangled. There is much debate as to whether it was William Wallace or Rob Roy who sheltered under the tree, but as both had local connections – and were 400 years apart – it could have accommodated both! The tree has recently undergone extensive work to improve its condition and ensure that it remains the living emblem of Balfron for many years to come. In 2014 it came third in Scotland’s Tree of the Year competition.
The wolves, the weavers, and the flying machines.
Legend has it that “Bail’-a-bhroin”, the ‘Village of Mourning’, was named after the wolves that descended from the hills to take the village children. There is no evidence for this whatever, but it makes for a great story! In the 18th century the village was transformed from a tranquil backwater into a thriving industrial community when a cotton mill was built on the banks of the Endrick River, and Robert Dunmore built a ‘planned village’ stretching from the Ballindalloch Bridge to the Clachan. At its height some 400 workers were employed at the Mill. But by the mid-19th century mechanisation took its toll and the village returned to an agricultural subsistence. The legacy of the Mill remains strong through street names like Cotton Street, Weaver’s Winnel, and Spinner Street. Balfron is also the birthplace of the acclaimed architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875), who was responsible for many major Glasgow landmarks, and left his mark on the village with the South Manse in Dunmore Street. In the early 20th century Balfron was home to the pioneering Barnwell brothers, Harold and Frank, who used the village fields to test their experimental flying machines. Both went on to have an innovative impact on the emerging world of aircraft design.
Today Balfron is a lively village with a growing population served by both the Balfron Primary School and High School. With the Fire Service, Police Station, Registry Office and Library, it is the hub village for the Strathendrick district. You can keep up to date with its organisations and activities, whether it be the popular Balfron 10k road race in April, or the annual Balfron Bash in August, through these pages.