ON THURSDAY, January 7, 1869, Tillicoultry woke up to the news that one of its own was missing.

James Houston of Stirling Street had not returned home from a walk over the Ochil Hills from Blackford to Tillicoultry.

The 38-year-old weaver had taken the train to the Perthshire village on New Year’s Day to visit his sister who lived there and had been expected to return the following day.

His family were not particularly concerned about him, believing he had stayed with his sister for a little longer.

By the Wednesday, Mrs Houston had become concerned for the welfare of her husband.

She told her brother, and he made his way to Blackford where he was informed Houston had left on the Saturday to walk home over the hills as it was only nine miles.

According to him, Houston had been warned against doing this by another who had been visiting the house that same day, but he ignored them and went on his way.

Snow was lying on the ground and mist covered the hills.

Mrs Houston’s brother returned to the family home and informed her what he had found out, and after the news broke, the town crier was sent round the town on the Thursday around midday to ask for volunteers to search the hills for the missing man.

Around 100 young men gathered at the Popular Institute at the top of Ochil Street then they began their search for Houston.

When they reached the farm at Black Hill House, they discovered that Houston had called at the house on the Saturday at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and after resting a while, went on his way.

He had assured the householder he would make it home in good time, as the farm was situated half-way between Blackford and Tillicoultry.

A party of around 45 men from Alva and another 55 from the areas around Blackford joined the search, each small group taking a specific area to look at, but there was still no sign of Houston.

On Friday the search resumed, with every man given a parcel to see them through the day, and each group made up of 12 volunteers.

At around midday, the body of Houston was discovered lying beside the River Devon around a mile and half from Black Hill House.

It was thought he had become disorientated and lost his way in the snow and mist.

He left behind a widow and six children.