It could be argued that Ecclesmachan is a strange place to have a parish church. Its proximity to Uphall parish kirk compared to the other neighbouring parishes, Bathgate, Kirkliston, Linlithgow and Abercorn is notable. The neighbouring parishes are an average of ten kolometres from each other whereas Ecclesmachan sits at around a kilometer and a half from Uphall parish kirk.
The original Ecclesmachan parish included pieces of land know as detached parts of the parish carved out of Linlithgow and Bathgate parishes. This was probably intended create a geographical area large enough to have enough of a population to create the revenue required for a sustainable parish (although the detached parts have now been united with the whole). It is likely that Kirklands to the east of Ecclesmachan belonged to Ecclesmachan church at some point in the past. Known as a benefice, this land may have been used to generate an income to provide for the upkeep of the kirk and its clergy.
Once one’s attention is drawn to Ecclesmachan it’s not long before you come across the Bullion well, situated about a hundred yards to the east of the Old Smiddy. Today the well is nothing to look at. Little more than a boggy part of the field that drains into the ecclesmachan, however in the past the well was had a reputation for having healing properties (Sulphurated hydrogen) and it is reported that even post reformation, people still went to the well to take the cure.
The name Bullion is in itself unusual and there are numerous sources online that attach various meanings to the name but perhaps the most tantalizing and convincing is that it is related St Martin Bulllion. St Martin Bullion (Saint Martin-le Bouillant) is another name for St Martin of Tours the fourth century saint who’s feast is celebrated on the 11th November, Martinmas. However he also had a summer feast day which was the 4th July, Julian calendar and 15th July Gregorian calendar. This feastday commemorated the translation of the saints’s relics to the and it seems he was particularly popular in Scotland. He is mentioned in a document called “A new Prognostication for the year of our Lord 1674″ as S. Martin of Bulzeon. The “z” is in fact the old and now pretty much forgotten Scots letter “yogh”, as still found in Menzies and MacFadzean. So my suspicion is the Bullion well was actually a healing well dedicated to St Martin of Bullion.
The medeival church would have been quick to see the commercial potential in a healing well and would certainly have established some form of settlement there to minister to the faithful that came to the well looking for a cure. I suspect that is why St Machan’s kirk is where it is. Originally a pilgrimage site within the parish of Uphall. There are contemporary examples of such sites such as the Balm Well opposite the gates to Mortonhall crematorium. Sited in the parish of Liberton, tradition has it that this site was founded by Saint Margaret of Scotland and was dedicated to St Katherine of Alexandria. It was once a major site for pilgrims who travelled from all over Europe to seek cures from the oily balm that surfaced in the well. It had a chapel and would have had the infrastructure to cater for gatherings of large numbers of people, but now the well finds itself an anonymous curiosity in the garden of the Toby Carvery.
Heading north out of Ecclesmachan before road starts to flank the west side of the Tar hill there are a few old buildings that mark a track that leads up the hill to Hillend Farm. This track is the original road into Ecclesmachan and its sophisticated construction suggests that this was not merely a farm track and was in all probability an ancient road from at least the middle ages. The stone cists found at Wyndford Farm in 1901 were probably Saxon so the road to Hillend may date back to that time. There has also been an uncorroborated report that there was an ecclesiastical settlement in the vicinity of Hillend Farm.
At South Queensferry we have a road called the Bullyeon Road . It’s the A904 that runs from the BP Garage west past Echline. That road continues with that name to Duntarvie Castle. Because of the Duntarvie Myre the road would than have skirted north round Duntarvie Castle and joined the north south road from Abercorn. Heading south on this road would bring this road With another leap of faith I am linking that road to the Bullion well as a pilgrim route that would have joined on to the route north across the Forth to Dunfermline and St Andrews.
When I lived in Winchburgh I stayed at Waterside Cottage which is owned by Johnny Cadzow (note the yogh 😊) and sits on the edge of the pond at Glendevon and got interested in the lane that Glendevon sits on. It runs north south and is spoken of by locals as a drove road. However I think it is much older than that and originally ran from Abercorn kirk to the Cauldstane slap on the Pentlands and from there all points south. You can still trace the line south to the Almond where it deviates slightly to ford the river. The line of the lane north of Duntarvie Mains was lost when the grounds of Hopeton House were landscaped.
The Hillend road from Ecclesmachan headed east to the Kirklands and joined the north south track that leads north to around Auldcathie Kirk by the canal where it headed towards Duntarvie castle and on to South Queensferry. This was I believe the entirety of the Builyeon Road.