Dollar is the most easterly of a line of four settlements strung along the foot of the southern edge of the Ochil Hills. But while the other "Hillfoots" owe most of their growth to the boom in the textile industry from the end of the 1700s, Dollar's story is more complex.
Dollar's early story is closely linked to that of Castle Campbell, which lies above the town at the head of Dollar Glen, protected by the deep ravines of the Burn of Care on one side and the Burn of Sorrow on the other. Originally known as Castle Gloom, the castle became the main lowland seat of the Dukes of Argyll from the late 1400s until 1654, when it was burned down in retaliation for the Argyll's support for Cromwell.
Dollar's early life revolved around servicing the needs of the castle, which explains why the short High Street is high up in the village, close to the mouth of Dollar Glen. Residents would have had feudal obligations to supply the castle with a range of commodities, including the first locally mined coal.
It was not until the 1700s that Dollar began to recover. Lead and copper mines opened up in Dollar Glen, and in 1736 a colliery began operations between Dollar and the River Devon to the south. Later in the 1700s ironstone was also extracted from Dollar Glen, and for a while an ironworks was established in the town.
By the end of the 1700s textiles were replacing metal extraction as Dollar's main industry. This started with the establishment of an extensive bleachfield for fine linens from Dunfermline. At a bleachfield the material was first soaked in vats of warm lye (sodium hydroxide) before being laid out to bleach in the sun and wind for a number of days. Then it was boiled with lye, and later with buttermilk and bran, before being rubbed by hand with soap and water. This labour-intensive cycle was repeated as often as needed until the linen was white, the whole process taking anything up to two months.
In 1818 Dollar Academy was founded by John McNab, a local who had made his fortune in shipping. The buildings were designed by the eminent architect William Henry Playfair on a remarkably grand scale. During the remainder of the century the physical influence of the Academy helped move Dollar away from what could have remained a primarily industrial town into what is now by some margin the most attractive and upmarket of the Hillfoot settlements.
The presence of Castle Campbell also helped. From the late 1800s access to the castle was improved and tourists started to arrive in considerable numbers, resulting in developments like the Castle Campbell Hotel on Bridge Street.
Dollar did not turn away entirely from its industrial past. In the 1920s Dollar Colliery was established east of the town and a further pit was opened in the 1950s. The pits closed in 1973 and the railway line that had connected them to the Kincardine Power Station was removed: though passenger services had ceased nine years earlier.
Dollar has until recently been the home of another industry. In 1985 Harviestoun Brewery was established in a barn at Dollarfield, just to the south of the town. They expanded their capacity in 1991, but in 2004 the need to increase capacity still further led to their relocation to a industrial estate at nearby Alva.
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