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Dollar Park (Part 2)


(Click on the heading to return to Dollar Park index)

Kiosk on the left and tennis pavilion on the right, looking west.  Park benches were very popular in the 1920s.

The putting green looking north with the chimney stalks of Camelon Iron Works in the background.

On his next visit Dollar approved the pace of progress:

Great improvements have taken place in the Park and it has become one of the public gathering places in the district and frequently three thousand people use it as a recreation center on holidays and Sunday, and there is never a time when it is not visited by scores of people so I feel that in some small measure I have been able to bring a little happiness into the lives of my former townspeople.  A band stand was being built and over two thousand, five hundred seats, were also being installed...”  The Falkirk Herald noted that he had been “previously photographed by Mr J C Brown, proceeded on a tour of the Dollar Park grounds, visiting the pleasure gardens at present in course of construction, the tennis courts, putting greens, children's playgrounds, and the tea rooms.  In the pleasure grounds Mr Dollar especially admired the beautiful floral pedestal on which is set the statue of the 'Prodigal Son,' but in everything he saw and had pointed out to him he evinced a keen and close interest.  He expressed his entire satisfaction with the manner in which the grounds have been laid out and utilized, and, in particular, favoured the system of gradual progress adopted in connection with the introduction of new features.  Later, at the request of the Provost and Magistrates, Mr Dollar, to commemorate his visit and at the same time mark the attainment of his eightieth birthday, planted a 'Cypressus Lawsoniana' tree by the side of the carriageway leading to the house.” 

This augmented the already valuable arboretum with its oaks, beeches, American redwoods, birches and various types of yews.

 

Robert Dollar

planting the tree.

The seating that he mentions was in connection with the “bandstand,” which was installed at the west end of the walled garden or “entertainment enclosure” as it was now called.  This structure was in fact an open-air theatre.  It was 50ft long and 20ft broad and constructed of wood.  The floor was level with the heads of the audience, leaving plenty of storage room beneath it.  Erected under the supervision of W Gibson, the burgh engineer, it cost around £100.  However, timber to the value of £70 was gifted by the owners of four local yards.  Seating was actually provided for 800 people, with room for the same number standing.  Between the stage and the audience was a flower plot with plants arranged in the design of a harp and other musical instruments.  It was officially opened in June 1924.  Musical and theatrical performances were frequent with local talent to the fore.  Falkirk’s other parks, Victoria Park and Princes Park, were a little way out of the town and the new park was an instant success.

 

The statue of the Prodigal Son, which stands 1.7m high on its base, was executed by the Lanark sculptor Robert Forrest.  It shows a caped young man leaning on a truncated tree, with a pig between his feet.  It was probably acquired in 1854 at the sale of the artist’s work following his death two years before.  James Russel of Arnotdale was one of the group of leading citizens of the town that arranged for the purchase and display of another of Forrest’s pieces - the statue of Wellington - in Falkirk’s High Street.

 

The Prodigal Son on its brick plinth.

 At the same time as the bandstand was opened it was proposed to emulate the People’s Palace in Glasgow by having a small museum in the park.  Collections were assembled from a small number of enthusiastic antiquarians including Mungo Buchanan, who had pioneered work along the Antonine Wall.  It was formally opened in the house by one of their number, Thomas McGrouther, in June 1926.  Thereafter the public could gain entry in the afternoons.  Hypocaust pillars from the Roman fort at Rough Castle were placed outside the house.

1926 was also the year that the war memorial was unveiled (SMR 590).  It was built facing the main road and its design reflected that of the cenotaph in London.  Around it were geometric flower beds – the park had become noted for its brightly coloured displays and the greenhouses were opened to the public.

Robert Dollar on one of his trips to Peking to obtain return cargoes for his timber ships acquired two large lion statues.  He had these shipped to Falkirk and in September 1928 the Parks Department placed them on shallow concrete platforms astride the main drive where these alien creatures still guard the entrance.  They are 10ft tall and made of Chinese marble, with the lions erupting from artistically moulded oriental bases placed on legged sub-bases.  One of them has a stone ball rather than a tongue, which rolls freely inside the mouth but cannot escape – an item that fascinates children. 

Continued - See Dollar Park (Part 3)