John Guthrie Smith.

The parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history online

. (page 21 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

time he gave to the world in papers read before the Royal Societies of Edin-

'■When Thomas Graham was Professor in the Andersonian he employed a young lad
named James Young to work in his laboratory and assist in preparing his experiments.
"When the Professor went to London he took James Young with him, who, from the
knowledge he thus acquired of chemistiy, was in due time appointed manager of a large
chemical work at Liverpool. It would be out of place to follow here Mr. Young of Kelly's
successful and useful career, or to show in detail how he has, by his skilful application of
chemical knowledge to the distillation of paraffin from shale, invented a light fitted alike
for the mansions of the rich from its brilliancy and beauty and for the houses of the poor
from its efficiency and economy. Mr. Young never forgot his "Alma Mater," as his
splendid gifts to the Andersonian testify. The Professor's friends were his friends too,
notably David Livingstone. James Young subscribed largely to the fund collected for
equipping the expedition sent out to Africa to search for him. He was mainly instru-
mental, too, in erecting the statue in George Square to his friend Thomas Graham.



burgh and London; and in 1837, when he succeeded Dr. Edward Turner as
Professor of Chemistry in the University of London, he stood at the head of
the chemists certainly of Great Britain, probably of the world.

When James Graham, his father, died in 1842, Professor Graham succeeded
to Ballewan, Although his busy life in London seldom allowed him to visit
Strathblane, he took much interest in his place, and it pleased him to show
it to his friends, and in his company the " Old Ha' " has seen many dis-
tinguished strangers, among others the famous German chemists, Liebig and

In 1855, as an acknowledgment of his pre-eminent services in the cause of
science, Her Majesty, on the recommendation of Lord Palmerston, then Prime
Minister, appointed Mr. Graham Master of the Mint in succession to Sir John
Herschel. It was during his tenure of this high office that his greatest scientific
work was done, and his most valuable and novel discoveries in chemistry and
its application given to the world. ^

The Master of the Mint died unmarried at his house, 4 Gordon Square,
London, i6th September, 1869.

John Cameron Graham, the new laird of Ballewan, was a young man of
twenty-two when he succeeded, and his father, John Graham, brother of the
Master of the Mint, had been only a few months dead.

John Graham, the father of the new laird, was the fourth son of James
Graham of Ballewan. He was born in 181 2. Like his distinguished brother,
his bent was towards chemistry, but in deference to his father's wishes he
entered an accountant's office in Glasgow, and served his time there. He did
not, however, pursue this calling, but applying himself diligently to the study
of chemistry he soon fitted himself for the position of chemist in the extensive
print work of Messrs. Thomas Hoyle and Sons, Manchester, a firm of which he
afterwards became a partner. During the time he was a calico printer his
knowledge of chemistry and mechanics stood him in good stead. Mr. Graham,
after being out of business and in rather delicate health for some years, was
appointed to the Mint in 1861 to take charge of the new bronze coinage about
to be issued. This was an occupation very much to his taste, and was very
successfully carried out by him ; and as head of the coining department of the
Mint he was engaged in planning improvements on the machinery for- striking
coins when he died 22nd February, 1869, at the comparatively early age of 57.

1 Thomas Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Society, Corresponding Member of the
Institute of France, and Doctor of Civil Law of Oxford. An interesting account of his
life and work is given in a lecture (published in 1870) by William Oddling, M.B., F.R.S.,
Fullerian Professor of Chemistry, and in 1884 there was published in Glasgow The Life and
Works of Thomas Graham, D.C.L., E.R.S., etc., by Dr. R. Angus Smith, LL.D., F.R.S.



Mr. John Graham was a Fellow of the Chemical Society, and his writings on
scientific subjects have been received with much approbation.^ By his marriage
to Cooper M. H. Woodcroft, daughter of John Woodcroft of Bennet Grange,
Yorkshire, he had issue, the present laird of Ballewan and two daughters. ^

Unlike his two predecessors, no pressure was put upon John Cameron
Graham, now of Ballewan, to enter the Church, but he chose for himself a
kindred learned profession, and as a barrister in London he is doing no discredit
to the talented family to which he belongs.^

^Journal of the Chefn'ical Society, Series 2, vol. vii., supplement, page v.

^John Graham, sixth child and fourth son of James Graham of Ballewan, was born in
1812. He married Cooper Mary Hannah Woodcroft, and had (i) Margaret, born 15th
May, 1846, married 1877 Frederick Page, surgeon, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and has issue —
Cuthbert, Clare E., Dorothy. (2) John Cameron Grahaju, now of Ballewan, born 23rd
May, 1847. (3) Helen, born i6th August, 1848, married 1882 Edwin Brough, late of
Leek, Staffordshire.

*Mr. Graham published in 1885 a second edition of Lord Blackburn's Treatise on Contract
of Sale, with many valuable chapters added by himself, and the whole brought down to the
present day.



Strathblane was erected into a parish at a very early date. The first
mention of it, " parochia de Strathblachane," is in a document defining the
boundaries of the parish of Campsie/ the church of which, and certain
lands, had been granted by the Earl of Lennox — " Alewinus Comes de leuenax
fihus et heres Alewini Comitis de leuenax " ^ — to God, St. Kentigern, the
Church of Glasgow, and Bishop Walter and his successors. Alewin was Earl of
Lennox till 1225; Walter was Bishop of Glasgow from 1207 till 1232; and in
a Bull of Pope Honorius, dated 19th October, 1216,^ the Church of "Camsi" is
mentioned among the possessions of the See of Glasgow. The date when
Strathblane was a parish can thus be fixed as not later than somewhere between
1207 and 1 2 16, and it was probably somewhat earlier.

There seem to have been no regular parishes, or districts assigned to a
particular Church, till the time of King David I., 1124-53,* and it is no doubt
to the Saxon influence from England, which was all-powerful in his reign and
that of his father, Malcolm, that we owe not only the feudalization of Scotland,
but also our present parochial system. Hitherto, in Celtic times in Scot-
land, the land belonged in common to the tribe or family who lived on it, and
it was parcelled out under certain rules, the Chief having one part, the Church
another, and the members of the tribe, family, or clan the remainder. All
these held it under some temporary tenure, certainly never in absolute property,
and always subject to "redistribution." In fact, the land was "nationalized"
much in the way which the more moderate Communists of the present day
desire to have it.

^ I^eg. Epis. Glas. p. 88. Fines et limites parochie de Campsy : " Cujiis quidem ecclesie
parochia habet fines et limites infrascriptos .... sic prosequendo rectas diuisas terr'arum de
Glaskelli et de Balneglerauch quousque ad rectas metas inter parochiam de Strathblachane et
de Campsy.

' Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 86. 3 /^^^_ j^p^^^ gias. p. 94.

^ Scotland in the Middle Ages, Innes, p. 132.


In the Lennox, most probably, the ancestors of the future earls or comes
were the Chiefs of the Levenani — the tribe or tribes of the district — for although
it has been contended, as already pointed out, that the Earls of Lennox were
of Saxon origin, the best authorities have now made it very clear that they
were Celts.

Here, however, as elsewhere in Scotland, the power of the Crown began to
assert itself after the consolidation of the kingdom under Duncan in 1034, and
particularly so in the time of Malcolm and his Saxon Queen, Margaret Atheling.
The interests of the Church of Rome also — now for the first time become a
power in Scotland — were bound up with the monarchy; the Crown, therefore,
gradually found itself in a position to claim with success the exclusive owner-
ship of the land. The feudal system was introduced, and the country given
over in property to Crown vassals in return for services to be rendered by
them. The great Crown vassals had their sub-vassals, and thus the feudalization
of Scotland was completed ; and as the Crown had succeeded in obtaining
possession of all the land in Scotland, so the Church, now all-powerful, found
means to introduce the system of tithes, under which a certain part of the
produce of the soil became in future an endowment for the clergy. The
barons or landholders thus held their estates in property under the Crown,
subject to certain services, and the maintenance of the Church was also secured.
A grant of the tithes of his estate was made by each baron to the church he
either found upon it or built, and the estate so tithed became what was after-
wards called a parish. At this early date the rector or parson of the parish
served the cure in person and drew for his stipend both the greater and lesser
tithes.^ One or other of the Earls of the Lennox no doubt so arranged the
parish of Strathblane.

It is unknown whether or not St. Blane had a chapel at the well in Killearn
where he is said to have slaked his thirst and baptized his converts, and which
lies to the west of the sunny haughs of Duntreath, and it is equally uncertain
whether or not a chapel was dedicated to St. Kessog or Mackessog at
the Netherton of Strathblane, where there is still a well named after this

^ The tithes of a parish were divided into two parts. The greater or rectorial tithes —
" Decimae bladi or Decimae garbales " — were those of the grain, and consisted of the tenth
sheaf after the corn was ripened and cut. These sheaves were led, or taken, from the harvest
field by the rector of the parish or those who had a right to them. Tlie lesser or vicarial
tithes — " Decimae faeni or Decimae vicariae " — were those of hay, garden stuff, and other tithable
produce such as Iambs, calves, cheese, etc. In the case of Strathblane the vicar was what was
called a vicar pensioner, that is to say, he had commuted his tithes for a yearly pension or
stipend. Thus both the " Decimae garbales" and the " Decimae vicarine " went together to the
rector for the time being. In our parish from an early date the rector was represented successively
by the Hospital of Polmadie, the Cathedral of Glasgow, and the Collegiate Church of Dum-
barton. The dues for marriages, baptisms, and funerals, and offerings at the altar went usually,
though by no means always, to the vicar.


saint,^ but there is no doubt that from early times there was a church on the
same site as now. On the hillside to the south of the Parish Church stands the
old village of Edenkill, so named, when Celtic was the language of the Strath,
from its being "a place sloping towards the church." In a charter by Maldoven
Earl of Lennox granting lands in Strathblane to Sir David Graham, the expres-
sion is used, " where the church is built," vbi ecclesia fundata est ; and it is
known from other circumstances that this grant included the part of Strathblane
where the Parish Church now stands. "The Kirklands," too, are in the im-
mediate neighbourhood of it, and on the road which comes up the Strath from
the west, at the top of the hill, a few hundred yards from the Netherton,
and where the church first comes in view, stood of old a cross where the
pilgrim said his first prayer when approaching the sacred edifice. This place
is still called the " Crossbill." ^ It may be that the fine estate afterwards
called the Kirklands, and comprehending Broadgate, Muirhouse, and originally
also Ballagan, was a part of the tribal lands of the Levenani belonging to the
Church and never out of its possession, but it is more probable that it was
gifted to Strathblane for ecclesiastical purposes by one of the first Earls of
Lennox, who were devoted sons of the Church. It is certain it was early
annexed to it.

Strathblane, then, was early in the thirteenth century a regular parish, pro-
vided with a church, endowed with tithes or teinds, and further enriched with
valuable lands. The Rector himself served the cure, and no doubt the services
were conducted with propriety and decorum, the more especially as in all pro-
bability the Castle of Mugdock, and possibly another at Ballagan, were abodes
of the pious earls, the parish thus enjoying the advantage of having them as
" resident heritors."

^ " Ane well callit Sanct Makkessokis well." This allusion occurs in a deed defining the
marches of Cult Craigbarnet, printed in the appendix.

2 If Strathblane was not dedicated to St. Blaan or Blane or to St. Blaithmaic, or to the
Virgin Martyr St. Blatha, and it is very improbable that it was to any of them, our most
likely patron saint is either Saint Patrick, Saint Kessog or Mackessog— both of whom have
wells in the parish — or Saint Machan, who had several churches dedicated to him in Lanark-
shire, and also the neighbouring church of Campsie. There is a passage in the will of Walter
Stirling of Ballagan, who died 6th June, 1549, which, if he was buried in Strathblane
Churchyard, would certainly prove that the church was dedicated to St. Machan^'* Corpusque
meum sepeliendum fore in humo Sancti Mathani " — but this may refer to Campsie, where
also, from the family connection with the place, he was very likely to have been buried. St.
Patrick's Well is on the Bank of Mugdock, just on the border of Kilpatrick, and perhaps in
old days, before boundaries were very well defined, it may have been included in that parish ; we
may perhaps, therefore, conclude that St. Patrick had no special connection with Strathblane.
St. Mackessog's Well is near the old Clachan of Netherton — a very likely spot for the site of
a church. This Saint was held in great honour in the Lennox, of which he is supposed to
have been a native, and it is not at all improbable that a very early church in Strathblane
was dedicated to him.


But this happy state of affairs did not last long, for before 13 16 the church
and church lands of Strathblane were gifted to the hospital of Polmadie,

This was an evil event for the parish. Hitherto the cure had been properly
served by the Rector, but now both the teinds and the Kirklands were taken for
the support of the brothers and sisters of Polmadie, and the unfortunate parish
of Strathblane was either left uncared for or put under the charge of a vicar
who probably was more intent in collecting with difticulty the lesser tithes,
if he was allowed to draw them, and his dues for marriages, baptisms, etc.,
upon which with difficulty he kept soul and body together, than in attending
to the temporal wants of the poor and needy and administering to all the
consolations of religion.


The Hospital of St. John of Polmadie^ was in the parish of Govan, and
was a foundation for poor men and women. ^ It was governed by a master,
keeper,^ or rector,^ and was in existence in the time of King Alexander HI.,
who died in 1285.^ An important part of its endowments was the church
and Kirklands of Strathblane.

We have no means of knowing when Strathblane was annexed to it, but
it certainly was before 13 16, for in that year there is a charter by King
Robert I.'' to the master and brothers and sisters of the hospital, confirming
to them the privileges they enjoyed in the time of King Alexander, his pre-
decessor, apparently both as regarded their house and the lands of Strath-
blane, " terra de Strablathy." There is no record of any further grant to the
hospital till 1320, when Bishop John Wischart (or Bishop John Lindesay, for
it is not quite certain who was Bishop at that date) granted to it half of
the lands of Little Govan.' In 1333 Malcolm Earl of Lennox confirmed its
liberties and privileges,^ and this is the first time on record that the Lennox
family is mentioned in connection with a property which eventually fell into
their hands.

^ " Sancti Johannis de Polmadde." — (Rymers Foedera.)

2 " Domus pauperum de Polmadde" [Reg. Epis. Gins. pp. 295, 301); "fratribus et sorori-
bus Hospitalis de Polniade." — {Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 225.)

^ " Polmade . . . . te magistrum et custodem ejusdem domus." — {Reg. Epis. Glas p

* " Polmade .... ipsius hospitalis Rectore." — {Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 327.)
^ Charter by King Robert I. confirming the privileges which the hospital enjoyed " tempore
Regis Alexandri predecessoris nostri." — {Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 225.)
^ Reg. Epis. Glas., p. 225.

" " Medietatem totius terre nostre de Parua Gouan." — {Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 229.)
** Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 248.




The office of master, keeper, or rector — for it went by all these names — was
much coveted, but so far as known its occupants never rose to distinction.
I'he earliest on record is Sir Patrick, called Floker. He was presented to it in
1316 by Robert Wischart — the patriot Bishop of Glasgow and friend of both
Wallace and Bruce — and to enable him to keep the brethren and sisters in
proper order and correct their faults he was loosed from his charge at Kil-
patrick on certain conditions.^

King Edward II., who claimed both temporal and spiritual rights in Scot-
land, appointed in 13 19 a number of Englishmen to prebends in Glasgow
Cathedral, and he appointed also a master to Polmadie, one William de Houk,^
but it is more than doubtful if the English nominee ever enjoyed any of the
fruits of office. In 1347 Margaret Logie, King David the Second's young wife,
who claimed the right of patronage in virtue of a gift, or alleged gift, of
the Bishoprick of Glasgow made to her by the King, appointed Sir William
of Kirkintilloch to the mastership, ^ and before 1403 the Earl of Lennox, who
for the second time appears in connection with this hospital, appointed Sir
William Cuningham, Vicar of Dundonald, to the office. This presentation was
resented by the Bishop of Glasgow, who threatened the Earl's presentee with
excommunication if he accepted it.'' Whether he did so or not does not
appear; but no doubt the Bishop exercised, as well as claimed patronage,
for in 1 39 1 he had presented Gilliane de Vaux to a sistership in the house.^

These conflicts between the Earls of Lennox and the Bishops of Glasgow
])robably originated in the fact that the two most valuable grants to the
hospital, viz., the church and Kirklands of Strathblane, and the half lands of
Little Govan, had been made respectively by an Earl of Lennox and a Bishop
of Glasgow. Be this, however, as it may, the matter was finally arranged at a
conference held in the Castle of Edinburgh, between Duncan Earl of Lennox
and Wilh'am Bishop of Glasgow, on the 7th January, 1424. The Earl
there agreed after much discussion, post plura colloquia, to give up to the
See of Glasgow any rights he had over the hospital of Polmadie and its an-
nexed church of Strathblane.^

This was probably the end of the hospital so far as it was used as a home
for the poor, and its endowments for their relief, and all traces of the old
building have long ago disappeared. It now remains to show what has be-
come of its endowments, so far at least as the Kirklands of Strathblane and

^ Reg. Epis. Glas. pp. 223, 224.

'•' " Willielmus de Houk, de custodia hospitii Sancli Johanni.'; de Polmadde in Cliddesdale. "
— {Rymer's Fcedera.)

"^ Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 278. '^ Keg. Epis. Glas. p. 295.

' Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 293. " Reg. Epis. Glas. pp. 359, 360.


Little Govan or Polmadie are concerned, which were probably its only
landed property. The history of the Kirklands is given in a previous
chapter ; that of Little Govan or Polmadie is as follows.

The whole parish of Govan, in which Polmadie is situated, belonged, both
lands and teinds, to the Catliedral of Glasgow, and had been soon after 1174
erected into a prebend. In 1320, however, as already shown, John Bishop of
Glasgow granted half of his lands of Little Govan to the hospital. This half
of Little Govan was made up of a portion of Polmadie, and was apparently a
four merle land of old extent. The part of Govan which still belonged to the
Cathedral, and which contained the rest of the lands of Polmadie, remained a
prebend till the Reformation. In 1577, the lands and churches of the Diocese
of Glasgow having been taken possession of or fallen into the hands of the
Crown, King James VI. granted to the University of Glasgow the church of
Govan — that is the teinds of Govan — and the University of Glasgow is still
the titular, and enjoys those teinds with the exception of the part of them
which make up the stipend of the Rev. John Macleod, D.D., the minister of
the parish.^

In 1590 the parish of Govan was feued out to the tenants then upon it, and
so was the Polmadie part of it.- Both of its divisions — viz., the portion which
had remained with the rest of Govan the property of the Cathedral up to the
Reformation and the other portion, the four merk land which by this time, as
afterwards explained, belonged to the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton — were
feued out to the same people, families of Mures and Cummings.

When the possessions of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton were secular-
ized the Earls of Lennox became superiors of the whole, including the four merk
lands of Polmadie. When the Marquis of Montrose in the beginning of the
eighteenth century bought the regality of the Lennox, he occupied the same
position, and now, by purchase from James Duke of Montrose by Mr. Spiers

^ Up to the end of 1621 the Principal of the University of Glasgow was also minister or
parson of Govan, and served the cure. It was found, however, that this arrangement did not
work well, as the Principal could not "in ane good maner and sufficient measure .... fulfil
the office both of ane parsoune in the kiik of Govan and of ane doctour in the said Colledge,"
nor could the people of Govan " be, as is requisit for their edificatioun, attended, instructed,
catechized, visited, comforted, governed " without a regular minister living in the parish. On the
20th December, 1621, the offices were accordingly disjoined and a minister provided for the
parish, with the manse and glebe and a certain stipend. — Midi. Al. Univ. Glas. vol. i. pp.
215, 216.)

'■'In 1606 the feuars of Polmadie (both the Crown part and the Collegiate Church part)
were " Georg Mure, merchand burgess of Glasw " and " Mathew Kumming." — {Man Al.
Univ. Glas. vol. i. p. 191.) In 1636 there is a Retour of the special service of Margaret
Mure to her father Mathew Mure in half of the lands (Elderslie Writs), and in the beginning
of the next century the Cummings still held their half in the person of "Jno Cummins," but
the Mures had disappeared and "James Peadie"' was in possession of their feu. — (Montrose
Writs.) It is unnecessary to trace these families any farther.



of Elderslie in 1793, the present young laird of Elderslie is the superior, the
Misses Steven of Bellahouston and others being the feuars or possessors in
property of the hospital's part of Polmadie.


Having thus disposed of the old hospital of Polmadie, we return to the
history of the Church of Strathblane, with or without its Kirklands, for as
explained already (note, p. 127) it is possible that it was the church only
which was made over to the Bishop.

The interview between the Bishop of Glasgow and the Earl of Lennox in
Edinburgh Castle, and the surrender which the Earl made of his rights in the
old hospital were, no doubt, to pave the way for the erection of the hospital
and the church of Strathblane into an additional prebend in the Cathedral of
Glasgow. This the succeeding Bishop, John Cameron, carried out on the 12th
January, 1427,^ and the whole transaction was confirmed by a Bull of Pope
Martin, dated at Rome, 5th December, 1429.2

The object of this new prebend was to improve the music in the Cathedral.
The prebendary, therefore, was to be a thorough musician,^ and among his other
duties was the instruction of four boys for the choir. He was to pay them a