John Christie, owner of Cowden Castle between Dollar and Muckhart, was born at Old Monkland on July4, 1824, son of a wealthy colliery-owner and iron-founder.

He was educated at Grange School, Northumberland before attending the University of Glasgow.

When his father died in 1859, the same year he married Alison Philips, Christie inherited vast estates in Ayrshire, Midlothian and Clackmannanshire, each associated with coal mining or iron works.

In 1865 he purchased the 524-acre Castleton estate which included Cowden House. Christie re-named it Cowden Castle.

This estate was country oriented rather than industrial like his others. Castleton took its name from a former castle on the site which had garrisoned English troops during the Wars of Independence.

In 1320, Bishop Lamberton built a house there, on the site of a Pictish fort after the lands in Muckhart were granted to him by James III. During the Civil War in the mid-17th century, the house was one of only two not raised to the ground by Montrose's troops as they passed through.

Christie was a keen traveller and over the years introduced many new plants to the estate and was one of many 19th century landowners who planted rhododendrons. He encouraged his daughters Isabella, (Ella), and Alice, to travel from an early age. His only son John had died in childhood.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh and became a fellow thanks to his proposers, including John Hutton Balfour who was the celebrated Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and botanist to Queen Victoria.

In 1887, Christie became seriously ill with pernicious anaemia and never fully recovered. It led to eccentricity, narrow-mindedness and argumentativeness although his philanthropic endeavours increased with him founding The Christie Female Industrial Homes, a series of girls orphanages, in 1889 in East Lothian.

Christie passed away on August 19, 1902, at his home in Buckingham Terrace, Edinburgh and is buried in Muckhart churchyard. His wife Alison had died eight years previously.

Following his death, Ella, and Alice, now married and known as Lady King Stewart, contested their father's will as he had left his entire estate to an orphanage he had founded without their knowledge.

They tried to enlist the support of local minister Rev. George Paulin who they had hoped would say their father was mentally ill when he drafted the will.

The minister did not agree to this. In 1903, the matter was settled with half the estate being awarded to the women and the other half to the orphanage.