Lena’s Brae/The Lena Brae
During 1986-7 there was discussion in the Strathard News about the origins of a place name in Strathard. Because of its historical interest, the relevant extracts were collected and re-published in Strathard Life, Issue 113, Summer 2019, as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
With the onset of winter, the Community Industry squads have been… continuing with the repairs to the wall at Lena’s Brae.
The Aberfoyle Project, Strathard News, December 1986
A821 looking East over the shoulder of Lena’s Brae
I am intrigued with the mention of ‘repairs to the wall at Lena’s Brae’ in your December issue – No! not the repairs to the wall, but ‘Lena’s Brae.’ As I’ve always been considered to be a bit daft about the past of the district I immediately begin to wonder about this Lena, who gave her name to a hill. Who was Lena? We can only conjecture! Was Lena the Queen of the Water Kelpies who lived in the Brae? It is known that fairies lived in the Knowe, so why not kelpies in the Brae? Next door neighbours, so to speak!
Maybe Lena was a witch who, while flying home to Aberfoil one night, ran out of fuel and crash landed near here, making a great hole which is now always filled with water. Or was Lena an early Madame Cyn who had funny parties at the top of the Brae? It is a bit unfortunate for all this conjecture that our friend Lena’s name sounds exactly like the Gaelic for a ford or river crossing which was sited nearby and was one of two fords at Aberfoyle, the other being in the vicinity of Renagour. The bridge over the river was rebuilt somewhere about 1830 after having been destroyed for over a hundred years and so the usage of the fords would sharply decline after that, as there seems no point in getting your feet, or your knees, wet, if there’s a bridge! And so ‘Lena’ would be left in peace until some fifty years later they built the railway right through her Brae and then the road over her Brae. Enough of this factual stuff; I think I prefer our ‘Lena’ as a Kelpie or a witch, so, to pot with history!
Ian R Nicholson, Strathard News, April 1987
In reply to Ian Nicholson’s most amusing narrative regarding Lena’s Brae, I remember having a long chat with the late Gordon Livingstone who was a keen local historian of some repute. The name intrigued Gordon, he did some considerable research into the name and came across the story that Lena was really leaning! The brae was leaning towards the river, probably as a part of the geological upheavals in the area being on the highland boundary fault. The Gaelic name ALEANNAN BRAE I have had translated by a Gaelic scholar to Lovers Glen. So maybe Ian wasn’t far off the mark with his romantic notions. It is at this site that there was a ford which crossed the river on an old Drovers Road to Callander.
Lena’s Brae beyond the A821 from the old Railway line (photo: Alan Cooper)
June Cloggie, Editor’s Reply, Strathard News, July 1987
It is with some trepidation that I enter the lists to explain the name “The Lena Brae” – note the prefix “The”. The name was given during the agricultural revolution when different ideas and crops were being tried out throughout Scotland. At that time the Aberfoyle area of today was a series of crofts strung along the north side of the river, each croft being situated against the hill and the fields running down to the riverside. The method of cultivation was the rig system which helped drainage and these can still be seen clearly in the football field. The reader will be wondering what all that has to do with The Lena Brae, so to explanations. In the words of that popular song of the 60s or was it the 70s “Let’s go for a little walk”, which will take us up The Lena Brae over the top and down the slight incline towards the new Forestry Offices. Before the entrance – about 50yds – into the offices if we look over the hedge or what remains of it on the left hand side, a large circular pond will be found right at the road side. This pond is probably what is termed in geographical language a Bow Lake or what remains of one. It is this pond which is responsible for the name The Lena Brae. A tour round the Aberfoyle area will soon establish the fact that this pond is the only one on the north side of the river. Although there are a few on the south side in the Kirkton Haughs, this one on the north side was very necessary to the crofters of this area at that time, the reason being that flax had become a crop which was grown to improve the farming. Flax has to be pulled out by the root and immersed in water for a considerable time to loosen the fibres which are then spun into linen.
A821 looking West, with Lena’s Brae top right and the pond in the foreground
The pond on the reverse side of the Lena Brae was where the Aberfoyle crofters dooked their flax. Transport in those days of course was by shank’s pony although there would also be the odd horse. This meant considerable numbers (big families) of people walking out to the pond with their flax. When it was time to collect the linen fibres the same thing would happen in reverse. The brae which was much steeper in those days – it was blasted to allow road & rail through – began to be called the linen brae. As the Scots like to shorten words, the last ‘n’ was soon dropped and as the ‘i ‘was probably pronounced ‘e’ they soon began calling it The Lena Brae. All this is factual of course and can be checked. I believe Alistair MacMair who was District Officer with the Forestry wrote or was writing a book on the Crofts of Aberfoyle and District. I do not know if anything was published. It would make interesting reading.
Revell McKeand, Strathard News, October 1987