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St Mary's Church in Cowgate, Kirkintilloch
Grid reference: NS655735
Location: 55°56’8"N, 4°9’17"W
Population: 20,281
Post town: Glasgow
Postcode: G66
Dialling code: 0141
Local Government
Council: East Dunbartonshire
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth
and Kirkintilloch East

Kirkintilloch is an inland town and burgh in Dunbartonshire some eight miles northeast of central Glasgow. The town stands on the Forth and Clyde Canal, which since it was built in 1773 has been an important element in the town's prosperity and character, and which allowed it to become a port and indeed a centre for boat-building notwithstanding the great distance to the sea or to any great river.



The name of Kirkintilloch is believed to be derived from an unusual portmanteau of Old Welsh and Gaelic elements; Caer-pen-tulach (or Caer-ceann-tulach) meaning as "Fort at the end of the hillock". The fort referred to is the former Roman settlement and the hillock is a volcanic drumlin which would have offered a strategic viewpoint for miles to the West, North and East. The etymology is sometimes taken literally as "Kirk in tilloch" ("church in the field"). Its long name is often shortened by locals to the colloquial Kirkie, as reflected in a number of business names in the town.

The first known settlement on the site of what is now Kirkintilloch was of Roman origin, a fort established in what is now the Peel Park area of the town in the mid-second century, one of the northernmost posts in Roman Britannia. Through it ran the Antonine Wall, whose course continues through the centre of the town to this day, although little trace can now be seen above ground.

There is no strong evidence of habitation on the site for the following thousand years until Clan Cumming established a castle and church there in the twelfth century. A small settlement grew and was granted burgh status in 1211, becoming an important staging post for west-east journeys from Glasgow to eastern and north-eastern Scotland. From this time, a weekly market was held in the town, probably at the foot of Peel Brae (along with High Street and Cowgate, one of the three mediæval thoroughfares in the town). The castle was of some importance during mediæval wars between England and Scotland, when an English garrison was stationed there. Soldiers from this castle (Motte and Bailey) were dispatched to arrest William Wallace at Robroyston and escorted him to Dumbarton Castle. The castle may have been attacked by Scottish forces under the bishop of Glasgow - certainly the castle was levelled in this period. The mot surrounded by a ditch can still be seen at the Peel Park.

Kirkintilloch was originally in the parish of Lenzie which stretched from Cumbernauld in the East to Kirkintilloch in the West. The original parish church, St.Ninian's, was at Oxgang (where a watchtower and belfry known as the 'Auld Aisle' still stands). The move of the church to Kirkintilloch cross (now the Auld Kirk Museum) in 1644 resulted in a split of the Parish into Easter and Wester Lenzie (later Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch Parishes) The name Lenzie was later reused for Kirkintilloch's railway station on the main Glasgow to Edinburgh line, around which the later village of that name developed.

Modern prosperity came with the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal through the town in 1773, bringing the town to prominence as an inland port. The establishment of a railway link to Glasgow in the 1820s allowed Kirkintilloch to develop further as an industrial centre for weaving and a major shipbuilding centre for both canal and ocean sailing. Today, Kirkintilloch is promoted as the "Canal Capital of Scotland", in which added pride has been taken since the completion of the Canal's recent regeneration project.

Another industry of note was iron founding, with the Lion Foundry and Star foundry achieving some repute. The most important products of the Lion Foundry were the famous red postboxes and telephoneboxes K2 to K6, produced in the town until 1984 and still to be found as far afield as Taiwan and Mississippi USA.

Kirkintilloch was a "dry town" for much of its recent history, with the sale of alcohol on public premises banned from 1923 until 1967. The prohibition on the sale of alcohol had long been demanded by the Liberal Party and the temperance movement, both of which had a strong influence in the town in the early part of the 20th Century, largely due to the perceived negative effects of alcohol on the town's inhabitants.

The 1960s development plan to redevelop inner city areas of Glasgow saw Kirkintilloch used as an overspill settlement for relocated Glaswegians in combination with the new towns of Livingston and Cumbernauld, offering employment in housebuilding and an increase to the local population to its current levels.[1]


Kirkintilloch Town Hall was opened in 1906, paid for by public subscription. Listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest, it was closed by the local council in June 2004, largely due to the anticipated expense of restoring a building constructed of notoriously crumbling soft sandstone. In response the Kirkintilloch Town Hall Preservation Trust was established as a registered charity to preserve the Hall and restore it for community use.

The town is served by the William Patrick Library, which relocated from a converted private villa near Peel Park to a new building on West High Street in the 1990s. It is the main library for East Dumbartonshire Council.

Kirkintilloch underwent significant population growth in the post-Second World War period, with several new amenities erected to cater for the growing population of the town and its surrounding villages. New shopping facilities were built in the Cowgate and Townhead areas, culminating in the opening, by the Princess of Wales, of the Regent Centre shopping mall in the 1990s.

Locally, a G66+ Live! Cultural festival offers a wide range of events from talks on history in local churches to musical events in the town's local bars, such as Bar Bliss, dramas, and also entries from the schools in the G66 postcode area. G66+ Live! is annual festival taking place in June. Kirkintilloch's most successful musical ensemble is its brass band, the Kirkintilloch Band [2], who were crowned Scottish Brass Band Champions in 2007 and who have had much success in competitions both in Scotland and further afield.

An amateur theatre group, the Kirkintilloch Players, is based at the Turret Theatre in the Eastside area of Kirkintilloch, the former home of the town's Liberal Club. Earlier this year the players youth team (a cast of four) became Scottish champions, winning the Scottish Drama Association One Act Festival.

Picture gallery




  • Old Glasgow and Its Suburbs in their Celtic Gard: Also Parish of Baldernock - Kirkintilloch to Stirling - Robroyston by Neil Thomson with 80 pages. From a copy of Old Glasgow published by Coghill in 1907 with no ISBN

Outside links