Craigielinn Waterfall and its dark past


James Brannan – Death at Craigie Linn
Browsing through old newspapers, a single sentence in the Worcestershire Chronicle newspaper, dated 14th May 1892, caught my interest.


At first, it was intriguing to think of someone dancing anywhere near the edge of a cliff, and even more so as the story appeared to have a local Renfrewshire connection.
Who was James Brannan? Why was he dancing on a cliff? Was he alone? Where is there a cliff in Paisley?

The story was featured in newspapers throughout Britain, with each report providing some new piece of information to add to the sad story.
• James had been a young man; and the cliff was 70ft high, and was deep in the Gleniffer Braes.

12th May 1892 Manchester Courier


 Another man called Burnside had also been involved; and James had died in Paisley Infirmary.

21st May 1892 Reading Mercury


• One press report suggested that Brannan and Burnside had been ‘Foolhardy Dancers’.

Maryport Advertiser 14th May 1892

• James Brannan died as a result of his injuries; Burnside was unhurt.

brannan death

Dundee Evening Telegraph 11th May 1892

• The Dundee Evening Telegraph of 09th May 1892 offered another, more detailed, report of the accident. At this point, James was still unconscious in hospital.

brannan details

Serious Accident at Gleniffer.
Fall over Craigie Linn.

An accident of a serious nature occurred on Saturday afternoon at The Glen, which was open to the public on that day, it being the first Saturday of the month. Among the many who went up to the Braes to enjoy the afternoon in that picturesque spot were two young men, James Brannan, 19 years of age, a machinist, and James Burnside, 18 years of age, a boot finisher, who left Paisley at half-past three o’clock for the Glen in company with a piper. 
It was about five o’clock when they were on the brae above Craigie Linn dancing a Highland schottische. They were only five yards from the edge of the precipice on the East side, where the rock rises like a wall a distance of 50 feet from the rugged channel of the burn. While swinging round in the dance both slipped over the linn and fell to the bottom. 
Burnside appears to have had a remarkable escape, sustaining only some bruises and shock to the system; but the other lad suffers from a fractured skull and compound fracture of the left pelvis. He was rendered unconscious. An ambulance wagon was telephoned for, and in it Brannan was conveyed to the Infirmary, Burnside, who was able to walk with assistance, being taken in a cab. Last night the former was still unconscious, and the latter so far recovered in the afternoon that he left the Institution.
Large numbers of persons were congregated on the hillside, and the greatest excitement prevailed when the accident occurred.

Dundee Telegraph 09th May 1892


Death Certificate
James Brannan was registered as James Brannigan on his Death Certificate, and a corrected entry was made in 1893, to provide further details about his injuries, and cause of death.

brannan corrected

The original death certificate listed his injuries as fracture to the base of skull and left pelvic bone. This was certified by the Procurator Fiscal’s office, with the cause of death confirmed as being from injuries sustained from falling over a precipice at a height of 64 feet, 4 days before his death.


Accidents in the Gleniffer Braes
Sadly, James Brannan was not the first, nor the last, person to have been killed or injured in the Craigie Linn area.
On 15th August 1868, a young boy aged 16, named David Scott, of 27 Thread Street, Paisley, slipped and fell whilst collecting rowan berries.


Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette – Monday 17 August 1868

david scott

Greenock Advertiser – Tuesday 18 August 1868

david scott

Edinburgh Evening Courant – Tuesday 18 August 1868

david scott

Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser – Saturday 22 August 1868


John o’ Groat Journal – Thursday 27 August 1868

Brannan Family – Paisley ‘textile’ connections
It was only when looking for some more information about James Brannan in the census records, that it became apparent that there were some interesting ‘textile’ industry connections, as two of his three sisters, Flora and Lizzie, along with other family members, had at various points been employed in the local thread mills.

Flora Brannan born in 1864, was aged 17 in the 1881 census, and living at 3 Garthland Street, Paisley, with her parents and four siblings (John, Ellen, James and Elizabeth). Her occupation, at that time, was a thread mill worker.
On the 13th July 1883, she married Adam Stevenson at the Abercorn Rooms, Paisley. He was a weaver’s beamer living at 27 Queen Street, Paisley. His father, Andrew Stevenson, had been a shawl weaver.
Flora’s occupation was listed, on the marriage certificate, as a thread mill worker, and she left her ‘mark, which was counter-signed by two witnesses.
By the 1891 census they were living at Cross Row, Blantyre with two children, John, aged 4, and Annie, aged 2. Their older son Andrew, aged 6, was staying as a ‘visitor’ with Flora’s parents, Michael and Annie Brannan, at Lawn Street, Paisley. Adam’s occupation was given as a Power Loom Beamer.
In the 1901 census, the family were back in Paisley, staying at 10 Underwood Road, along with their six children.
Andrew, now aged 17, and occupied as a Beamer; John, now aged 14; Annie, now aged 12; Adam, aged 8; Janet, aged 4; and Flora, aged 2

The 1911 census shows Adam (aged 50, a beamer) and Flora aged 47) at 16 McKerrell Street, Paisley, with their five younger children – John aged 24, a plumber; Adam aged 18, a sawyer in a thread mill; Annie aged 22 , a cop winder in a thread mill; Nettie aged 14; Flossie aged 12; William Lamont, a relative, aged 20.
Flora died on 23rd December 1923, aged 61, from bronchitis. She had been living at 34 McKerrell Street, Paisley
Elizabeth Brannan born in 1877, was aged 4 in the 1881 census, and living at 3 Garthland Street, Paisley. By 1891, the family were in Lawn Street, Paisley, and Lizzie now aged 14, had her occupation given as a mill worker.
On the 24th December 1897 she married Charles Cockburn, at 18 Moss Street, Paisley. Charles, then 20, resided at 11 Mossvale Street, Paisley, and his occupation was listed as an Iron Dresser (Operative). Elizabeth, aged 21, was living at 50 Caledonia Street, Paisley, and was, by then, a thread mill worker.
Four years later, the family were living at 3 Abbey Terrace, Paisley (1901 census) and had two children, Elizabeth aged 3, and Michaelina aged 1. Michaelina died in 1904, aged 4.
Elizabeth died in March 1909, as a result of a post-partum haemorrhage. Her address at the time was 21 Wallace Street, Paisley.

Ellen (Helen) Brannan, born in 1869, was aged 12, and a scholar, in the 1881 census. She married John Lamont in 1890, and by 1891 they were living in Lawn Street, Paisley, with new baby William.
By the 1901 census, Helen and John (a cloth presser) had moved to 20 Great Hamilton Street, Paisley, and now had five children;
William aged 10, James aged 6, Annie aged 4, John aged 2, and Adam a baby.

Helen died on January 06th 1954, aged 84, and had been staying at 76 Glasgow Road, Paisley.

John Brannan, James’ older brother, was born in 1861, and worked as a plumber.
At the time of the 1891 census, he was possibly in America, as his son William was born in the United States in 1892.
By 1901, John, Margaret and family were living at 20 Lawn Street (upper left), Paisley.
John aged 14, a butchers boy; William aged 9; James aged 5; and Annie aged 16, a thread baller in the mill.



(c) 2018 maureen cassells

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