Kirkintilloch is an ancient town, whose name refers to an even earlier time. You could be forgiven for thinking that any Scottish town name beginning with "kirk" has a church connection. In this case you'd be wrong. Kirkintilloch actually comes from Caerpentaloch, meaning Fort at the Head of the Hill. It was first recorded, written as Kirkintulach, in the 1200s.
The fort in question was one of those along the line of the Roman Antonine Wall, and its remains were sited on the small hill which now forms part of Peel Park in the town. The line of the wall itself has long been obscured through Kirkintilloch, but there are other Roman sites along its line nearby. The best of these is at Bar Hill, three miles from Kirkintilloch.
Kirkintilloch started to grow in the mid 1700s, when turnpike roads helped promote the development of textile based industries such as a bleach works. A further boost arrived with the building of the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1785 which passed right through the centre of Kirkintilloch.
In 1826 the Monklands and Kirkintilloch Railway started using horse-drawn wagons carrying coal from the rapidly growing coalfields around Coatbridge to a transfer point on the Forth and Clyde Canal in Kirkintilloch. From there it was shipped by canal to Falkirk or Edinburgh. By the 1830s over 50,000 tonnes of coal each year were being moved in this way, together with several thousand tonnes of iron from the Monklands steel industry.
Kirkintilloch in the 1900s was perhaps most famous for being one of the few totally dry areas of Scotland: alcohol was prohibited from sale as a result of the strength of the local temperance movement. This situation lasted right through to the 1970s when the influx of population from Glasgow moving into new housing developments in Kirkintilloch changed the balance of local opinion, and Kirkintilloch's period of prohibition was voted down.
Today's Kirkintilloch is an interesting mixture of different elements. The restoration of the Forth and Clyde Canal has brought a steady flow of water-borne tourists to a town which seeks to blend the old and the new. Perhaps most successfully this blend finds the magnificent new William Patrick Library looking across the road at the equally magnificent, but very much older, Barony Chambers. The chambers were built in 1815 to provide a meeting room for the Town Council, jail and parish school. Today it is used as offices by the museum service.
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