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Round and About the Area

Dollar Park (Part 4)

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

The Aviary looking South-West in the snow

p1961.jpgExtending the appeal of the park an aviary and a pets’ corner were added in the early 1930s.  The “zoo” included rabbits, guinea pigs, a squirrel, and even a monkey.  The aviary housed an owl, a white cockatoo, pheasants, budgerigars, a magpie and a hawk.  In 1952 it was noted that the aviary still held “exotic” birds.  1931 saw the installation of an outdoor draught board.  This was still being advertised in 1973 and can be seen opposite the tennis pavilion.

The sloping bank on the west side of the main entrance lent itself to formal floral displays and before long became the floral clock.  In the 1930s the hands were formed from plants – and so it only told the correct time twice a day.  In 1959 Falkirk Rotary Club donated the mechanism for a working clock, helped by a donation from Robert Dollar’s son.

In the Second World War the park became the centre of Falkirk’s Holidays at Home campaign.  The stage of the “bandstand” was roofed and changing rooms provided.  Military bands featured heavily in a packed programme.  In the summer of 1943 the bands included the Band of the Royal Scots, Glasgow Corporation Gas Dept Band, Royal Dragoons Band, Royal Corps of Signals Band, Jack Short’s Concert Party, the National Fire Service Silver Band, a piano recital, Alexander’s Transport Pipe Band and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Band.  On a more practical level extra toilets were fitted up near the bandstand.  The iron railings on the west side of the park were not removed for scrap because Walter Mitchell, the occupant of the neighbouring property, kept cattle in the parkland to the rear of his house.  He also ran a market garden.

To the south of the mansion a report centre was constructed early in 1939.  This brick single storey building with a thick flat concrete roof was intended to coordinate the town’s response to enemy actions, particularly bombing raids.  The Home Guard provided protection in the hours of darkness.

In the years of austerity the park was still popular.  The gardeners’ nursery was extended in 1959 and the new hothouses with their ferns, palms and dark green tropical shrubs were well visited.  In 1961 a large toilet block was constructed just east of the walled garden at a cost of £3,000.  In the 1960s Falkirk Council acquired South Bantaskine estate in which was a bronze sculpture of a boy riding a seahorse.  This had been executed by the famous English sculptor, Alfred Hardiman RA (1891-1949) to commemorate the peace of 1918.  It was transferred to Dollar Park for safekeeping and replaced the bird at the centre of the fountain.  This was unfortunate for such an important work and the water and the public caused its deterioration.

Just beyond the Peking lions a number of trees were removed in 1960/61 to create a small rock garden on the east side of the main drive.  This garden was created specifically for the blind with scented flowers and braille signposts for guides.

 Pond announcement in "The Falkirk Herald"

paddling pool.TIF

In 1963 Falkirk Round Table reached its target of £1,000 to enable it to construct at small paddling pool to the east of the tennis pavilion (where the children’s playground is now).  It consisted of two connecting ponds, one 40ft in diameter and 12ins deep, and the other 20ft in diameter and 6ins deep.  Constructed in concrete with paving, it created a kidney-shaped layout.  Nearby punch and Judy shows attracted children.  A table tennis area was established opposite the tennis pavilion/kiosk.  The bandstand had to be dismantled in the late 1960s.

In 1990 Falkirk District Council rationalised its horticultural activities and centralised its nurseries.  Such activities ceased at Dollar Park.  For a short time thereafter the walled garden was used as a training centre for a Youth Opportunity Project.

100_2179 small.jpgSheila McKechnie, looking north.

A bronze bust of Sheila McKechnie OBE, a Scottish trade unionist, housing campaigner and consumer activist, was placed on a tall plinth not far from the war memorial in 2006.  She had been born in Camelon in 1948.  The bust is by Suzanne Robinson.  In 2012 the revival of the walled garden began when a new bandstand was constructed there using cast iron pillars reclaimed from Grahamston Railway Station and lent for the purpose by the SRPS.  This was immediately followed by a picnic area, a rock pond, a reading area, a sunken chess board with a Roman arch, and new paths and lawns to present an informal setting; completed in 2015.

In summary the infrastructure of the park appears as:

·         1922   Park opened.

·         1924   Bandstand/open air theatre built

·         1926   Museum launched; war memorial unveiled

·         1928   Peking lions installed

·         1930   Zoo and aviary

·         1931   Outdoor draughts board

·         c1943 Bandstand roofed

·         1959   Hothouses erected; floral clock tells time

·         c1960 Seahorse statue moved to the park

·         1961   Toilet block

·         1963   Paddling pool built

·         2012   New bandstand

·         2015   Walled garden re-opened as an informal leisure area

(left): The Boy riding Seahorse Fountain in the 1970s.  Note the wooden trellises and the greenhouses in the walled garden











 (Right) Draughts board looking north. 

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