John Guthrie Smith.

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

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Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 30 of 45)
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the said schoolmasters not only pray with their scholars, but also sing a part of a psalm with
them, at least once a day."

'^ It was in this place that a certain log of wood served as a prop to support one of the school
benches. On the school being removed to the neighbourhood of the Netherton the log was
thrown aside and for many years lay on the wall of the churchyard, whence it was removed
by an old pauper woman to her house, where for some twelve years it was used by her as a
seat. On her death in 1792, fuel being wanted when her clothes and the house were
being washed up, the log was the readiest to hand, and on being split up,-, at the
first stroke it burst asunder and a quantity of money, consisting of coins of the
reigns of Queen Elizabeth, James VI., and Charles I., fell upon the floor. The value of the
whole was about £\o sterling. It was found on examination that the log, which was about
a foot and a half square, had been hollowed out through a small triangular hole cut in one
side, and after the money was placed in it the opening had been neatly closed by a piece of


In 1774 Duncan M'Farlane, who had been eleven years schoohTiaster in
the parish, " a very deserving man and exceedingly well liked," ^ got an offer
of a better place in a neighbouring parish, whereupon the heritors, who wished
to keep him in Strathblane, met and resolved that the salary of the school-
master should be raised to an hundred pounds Scots =;^ 8 6s. 8d. sterling, and
that a school and schoolmaster's house should be built at the Thorn of Cult.
Having passed these wise resolutions, they apparently took no steps to carry
them out, and Mr. M'Farlane, who had been living on in hope, finally left
the parish in 1778.

On the 9th February, 1779, matters came to a crisis. The heritors, or
rather a few of them, without consulting the Session, had appointed at a meeting
held in the Kirkhouse Inn on the i8th December, 1778, John Ferguson to be
schoolmaster at the old salary, and with no schoolhouse. Mr. Ferguson pre-
sented himself thereupon before the Session, " and laid before them the
minutes of an Election, whereby he claimed to be the established schoolmaster
of this parish, in order that upon the said ground the Session might take it under
consideration whether they would proceed to choose him as their clerk or not."

The Session indignantly refused, holding that his election was irregular and
illegal, and proceeded to put on record " their Distressful Observation of the
injuries the school sustained under the two preceding schoolmasters particularly,
who were tossed from Barn to Barn, and frequently were obliged to pay great
part of the hire of said Barns out of their own pocket, besides being obliged
always to pay the house rent for their own famillys out of the poor pittance

of a four pound sterling salary The Session also cannot but regret that

the same in one manner or other hath been the grievance of this parish ever
since the year one thousand seven hundred and fourteen, as appears from the
records of this Kirk Session and Presbytery of the Bounds."

The righteous indignation of the Session had a good effect. The principal
heritors now took the matter up, and at a meeting held in the Kirkhouse, 7th
February, 1780, resolved to allocate a legal salary of ;^8 sterling, and also to
build a school and schoolmaster's house on a site to be obtained somewhere
" betwixt the Thorn of Guilt and the Kirkburn or churchyard." They also
resolved to choose a schoolmaster at their next meeting.

All this was done; the school and schoolhouse were built in due time on
their present site at the Thorn of Cult, Netherton, on ground presented to the

wood fixed in its place by wooden pegs. Where the log originally came from no one knew,

and its contents did no one any good, for the husband of the washerwoman, a worthless,

drunken character, got hold of all and forthwith decamped. — {Statistical Account of Scotland,
Sir John Sinclair, vol. xviii. p. 583.)

1 Session Records of Strathblane.

2 H



parish by Mr. Craig of Ballewan, and on the 28th March, 1780, the heritors,
who were apparently a gifted set of men, met and proceeded to examine several
candidates for the office of schoolmaster " in the following branches, viz., in the
Latin and English tongues, writing, arithmetic, and church music," and finally
they chose and appointed John Reston. He resigned in 1783, and Andrew
Miller was his successor. He remained till 1787.

It is little wonder, considering how shabbily schoolmasters were treated in
Strathblane up to this time, that they took every means in their power to add
to their miserable salaries. Accordingly we find that here, as in many other
parishes in Scotland up to the end of last century, the cruel practice of throwing
at cocks and cockfights took place annually on Fasterns E'en for the benefit
of the schoolmaster.^ The sports were arranged in this way : Every boy who
could, brought a fighting cock to school, and on payment of twopence to the
master all were pitted together, however unequally matched. The cocks
that would not fight were the master's portion, and also those who died in
battle, but the cruelty did not end here. The cocks that would not fight —
" Fuggies," classically so-called — were fastened to a stake in the playground
and were killed one after another in the brutal game of " Cockthrowing," the
charge being a halfpenny a throw. The master got the halfpennies and the dead
birds, and as an encouragement and reward to the scholars when all was over,
regaled them with cold punch or other spirituous liquor.^ " Forced con-
tributions " were also levied in the form of " gifts " of two or three pence each
on Hansel Monday, or as "an offering" on Candlemas Day, and the scholars
were also required to bring with them daily during the cold season a peat each
to keep the school fire a-burning.

Mr. Miller left the parish in 1787, and was succeeded by Benjamin

Matters scholastic did not improve in Strathblane during Mr. Hepburn's
tenure of office, and accusations of neglect of the children and of intemperance
became at length so heavy and frequent that the Session and heritors in 1796
seriously thought of proceeding against him with a view to his removal; but

"^ Gloaviing of Life : a Memoir of James Stirling, page 13.

^ Why the poor cocks were so horribly punished on this particular day is ratheT a puzzle.
Some say that on one occasion, when the Danes had invaded this country, our Saxon
ancestors, one Fasterns E'en caught their whole army asleep, and were then and there pro-
ceeding to massacre them when an unlucky cock crowed and woke them up and so saved
them. Hence this day was devoted in all time coming to the punishment of the unpatriotic
bird. Another rather far-fetched reason is this, that on this day the cock suffered this annual
barbarity by way of punishment for St. Peter's crime in denying his Lord and Master. This
is brought out in the following old couplet : —

" May'st thou be punished for St. Peter's crime,
And on Shrove Tuesday perish in thy prime."



at this juncture Mr. Hepburn suggested that, to avoid scandal, he would volun-
tarily retire, provided he received such a certificate as would enable him to
procure a situation in another parish. This was thought an excellent solution
of the difficulty, and the Session carried out faithfully their part of the bargain
by giving him "an ample certificate in his favour," dated 13th July, 1796; and
the Presbytery of Dumbarton, no doubt moved thereto by the Session, also
attested his qualifications. Everything being thus arranged, it was supposed
that Mr. Hepburn, in implement of his part of the bargain, would at once
remove himself from Strathblane to some other sphere of usefulness ; but this
formed no part of his plan, his character and gifts were certified by Session and
Presbytery, and why should Strathblane lose his valuable services ? So he
declined to leave the parish, and when on the 28th March, 1797, certain heritors
of Strathblane, rendered desperate by the continued loud complaints of the
parish, brought his conduct before the Presbytery of Dumbarton with a view to
his dismissal from office, and produced in proof thereof various minutes of
heritors and Session meetings, Mr. Hepburn triumphantly produced the " ample
certificate " of the Session and the attestation by the Presbytery of the year
before as a sufficient answer to all the charges against him. The Presbytery on
inquiry into the whole affair very properly disapproved of the Session's pro-
ceedings, and the end of the matter was that Mr. Hepburn was induced to
leave the parish, but only in consideration of receiving a pension for life from
the heritors and Session.

It must be confessed that the parochial authorities were very properly
punished for their disingenuous attempt to get rid of their schoolmaster at the
expense, perhaps, of a too confiding neighbouring parish. But were it not that
a truthful chronicler is bound to narrate facts as he finds them, the story of
this single recorded stumble in the honourable career of the Session of Strath-
blane would not have been forced from his reluctant pen.

The school and schoolhouse, which had been erected in 1 781 or thereby,
after so much trouble and so many delays, had never been very satisfactory ;
and when the new church was building in 1803 it was resolved by the heritors
that both of them should have slated roofs made of the materials of the old
church, that the walls should be raised six feet, and that new floors of lime
and smithy ashes should be laid in the school and schoolmaster's kitchen. They
also agreed to furnish a rood of ground for a garden for the schoolmaster im-
mediately behind the schoolhouse, and they fixed the salary at three hundred
and fifty merks Scots = ;^i9 8s. 9^d. sterling, and apportioned the fees for
teaching thus — For teaching English, 2s. per quarter ; reading and writing
English, 2S. 6d. per quarter; arithmetic and reading and writing English, 3s.
per quarter; and for teaching Latin, 3s. per quarter — all these improvements


and arrangements being in obedience to a recent Act of Parliament " for
making better provision for the schoolmasters in Scotland." ^

For about ten years things went on with little change, and there is nothing
of interest in the school to record till the appointment of Gavin CuUen as
schoolmaster, i6th April, 1813. Mr. CuUen taught more branches than had
hitherto been the custom in Strathblane and accordingly a new scale of fees was
sanctioned by the heritors: English, 3s. per quarter; English and writing, 4s. per
quarter; English, writing, and arithmetic, 5s. per quarter; English, writing,
arithmetic, and book-keeping, 6s. per quarter; Latin, Greek, and French in
addition, 8s. per quarter; and English grammar, 6s. per quarter.- Mr. Cullen
resigned in 1818, and on the 9th July of that year Andrew Kessen, teacher
at Milngavie, was elected schoolmaster at Strathblane. It was resolved at the
same time that the school should be somewhat improved by sinking tlie floor
" so as to increase the height of the roof, for the sake of better air to the
children." The appointment of Mr. Kessen was a very good one, and both as
an elder and schoolmaster he did his duty faithfully in the parish for twenty
years, the heritors showing their appreciation of his services by fixing his salary,
in 1829, at the maximum allowed by the "Schoolmasters' Act" of 1803, viz..
the price of two chalders of oatmeal annually, such being per chalder
jQx'] los. 23^d. sterling. Mr. Kessen left the parish in 1838, and Parlane
Macfarlane was appointed his successor.

Mr. Macfarlane conducted the education of the parish till 1862, when the
present esteemed master, John J. M'Ewan, was appointed.

The old schoolhouse of 1781 must have been but a sorry affair, for despite
the raising of the walls six feet in 1802 and the sinking of the floor "to increase
the height of the roof" in 181 8, it remained a very airless, uncomfortable
place till it was swept away in 1854 and the nucleus of the present com-
modious school built.^ A room for a girls' school was also added and Miss
Ann Auld was the first female teacher.

' About the beginning of the present century there was a small " adventure " school taught
in a little building, now in ruins, on the side of the Drymen Road, just at the entrance to
Aitken's Auchengillan ; and a little later John Blair had an adventure or " side " school at
Meadowhead, in a cottage which used to stand on the south side of the road opposite Middle

"The Registers of Baptisms in the parish of Strathblane, preserved in the General Register
House in Edinburgh, begin in 1672. From 1685 onwards they are very distinctly copied from
the originals by Gavin Cullen, " Parochial Schoolmaster and Session Clerk of Strathblane,"
and both originals and copies are preserved. Any one who has occasion to consult these
registers may well bless the memory of this worthy man. The Killearn and Kilpatrick Registers
of Baptisms, in both of which many Strathblane people are mentioned, begin respectively in
1694 and 1691. They are both tolerably legible.

"* " I think I see the schule-hoose yet
.Sae dingy, auld, an' grey,


On the new Education Act coming into operation the first School Board of
Strathblane remodelled and extended the schoolhouse, the work being finished
in the spring of 1875. The next Board in 1878 further improved the school
and schoolmaster's house, and now, by the liberality of the Messrs. Coubrough
of Blanefield and in memory of their father, Mr. Anthony Park Coubrough, who
was from the first a most useful member of each School Board, a further im-
portant addition has been made to the building.

Under Mr. M'Ewan education in Strathblane, hampered in extent as it is
by the working of the present Act, prospers. There is now, unfortunately,
little, if any, Latin, Greek, and mathematics taught, and this is not as it was
in the days of Mr. Cullen, Mr. Kessen, and even of Mr. Macfarlane, but this
is through no fault of Mr. M'Ewan, who is as well qualified to teach as the
best of them. The fault lies with the present Education Act, which practically
makes it impossible for children in country parishes to get very much beyond
the three R's. It is to be hoped that before long the Legislature may amend
this state of matters, and that Strathblane School may be enabled to turn out
classical and mathematical scholars fitted to take their places at once under the
professors at the universities.

Whaur laddie prisoners, lithe o' limb

Pined to be cot at play ;
An' whan the govvden twal-oors cam'

Ran oot like madcap fule,
Wi' a hap-stap doon the precipice

At Parlane's auld-warl' schule.

" Oh, wae's me on yon auld hacked dask

Whaur we, wi' copy set,
Sat glowrin' at the floo'rs oot by

In dreamy fond regret ;
For, on the dyke foment oor een,

Whan spring her cups did fill,
Blue peeriewinkie stars were seen

At back o' Parlane's schule.

" But oh, waesuck, thae days are gane,
The auld schule's knockit doon ;
Nae peeriewinkie's een o' blue

Deck dewy spring-time's croon.
A new-fledged race noo speel the braes,

But I lo'e the memories still,
An' a govvden haze floats roon the days
I spent in Parlane's schule."

From Poems by Thomas Thorpe, of Strathblane.



The parish of Strathblane is for the most part rural and its industries are
agricultural and pastoral ; but it has also for ages had, on a small scale, its
mills and manufactures.

The earliest mill of any kind in the parish was no doubt the Kirklands
meal mill already mentioned, and long ago extinct : following it were the
Mugdock and Duntreath mills, now also gone, and that of Milndavie, which is
to-day not only a meal mill but also an extensive saw mill.

The manufacture of woollen and linen yarns and cloth was an early industry
in Strathblane. The raw material for the former was plentifully produced by
the sheep which fed on the grassy hills of the parish, and the flax or lint which
was used for the latter was grown more or less on every farm and croft how-
ever small. The cleaning and preparing of the wool and lint was done by the
gudewife and the lassies at the sides of the burns and wells with which the
])arish abounds ; and the numerous weavers wove into cloth the woollen and
linen yarns which were spun at the wheel. For the further preparation of the
woollen fabrics there were two waulk mills in the parish. One of them was
on the Blane, a little above the modern Blanefield, and now lost among
the Dumbroch works, and the other was on the AUander, a little below

It was natural where there was so much spinning and weaving, and also so
much fine water, that there should be facilities for bleaching the cloth. Ac-
cordingly we find before the end of last century that there were four bleachfields
in the parish. Three were on the Blane, between the Manse and Blanefield:
Dumbroch was the oldest of them, and was originally used solely for bleaching
native webs; the other two on the Blane were principally employed in bleach-
ing tapes and yarns for the inkle factories in Glasgow. Dumbroch survived
the others. At the beginning of this century it belonged to Archibald Lyle, and
there were afterwards in it, successively, tenants of the names of Hamilton,


Hunter and Rotherham, and Pender. James Smith of Craigend bought the lands
and bleachfield of Dumbroch in 1818; and when the Fenders left it, about
1844, it was worked successively by Thomas Edington ; Archibald and Charles
Smith, brothers of the laird of Craigend, who lost a great deal of money
in it; Mathew Miller; and Robert Graham, who had it till about 1854, when
Mr. Coubrough of Blanefield took it. He did not work it very long, and the
last person who actually used Dumbroch as a bleachfield was Mr. Crum of
Thornliebank, who rented it in 1855 for the time during which his own works,
which had been burnt down, were being rebuilt.

The fourth bleachfield was at the other side of the parish. In the year
1 781 William Blackwood, who had originally been a bleacher at Dalsholm in
Kilpatrick, erected a bleachwork on the AUander at Craigallian, and carried on
business there under his own name, but for some time in partnership with
David Dunlop. On his son John arriving, in 18 10, at an age to be associated
with him in business, his father took him into partnership, and they carried
on the bleaching concern under the firm of William Blackwood & Son. The
business prospered, and in 1841, the premises at CraigalUan being too small,
and the more extensive works of Craigton, in the neighbouring parish of East
Kilpatrick, being vacant, William Blackwood & Son removed thither, and there
they still continue to turn out the same good work which they had produced
so long in Strathblane. Old William Blackwood died in 1845. The Black-
woods were the first and last in Craigallian, and the old work, long a complete
ruin, has now almost disappeared, the stonework of it having been lately largely
used in making " metal " for the laird of Craigallian's extensive and excellent
new roads and approaches.

Another industry in Strathblane was an inkle or tape manufactory. This
was started in 1793 by the firm of M'Leroy, Finlay & Co.^ It was built on
a field which was known as Netherton Park, part of the estate of Ballewan,
and was feued from Milliken Craig, the proprietor. The inkle business did not
prosper, and the works were vacant by 1797.

In the meantime, however, or rather a little before this time, in the year
1790, Walter Weir — a Strathblane man — had started a block printing factory at
Wester Ballewan, at what is now called the Ha'. In 1797 he removed to the
inkle factory at Netherton, by this time vacant, and continued to carry on an
increasing business there till 1809, when he retired. Thus began this great work
which now occupies so important a position in the parish both socially and

After Mr. Weir retired the printwork was carried on by Messrs. Aitken,

iThe partners of this firm were John M'Leroy, William Finlay, William Milliken, and
James M'Leroy, merchants in Glasgow.


M'Indoe & Foyer till 1825, when they failed, Mr. Foyer at this time selling the
Cult to Sir Archibald Edmonstone, who thus reunited to Duntreath a very old
part of the estate.

Messrs. Sharp & Buchanan next took up the work, and continued in it till
1839 or 1840, when they stopped; and following them were Messrs. M'Gregor,
Pollock & Brown. 1 Mr. Anthony Park Coubrough joined in 1841, and
eventually the concern, after being carried on by Mr. M'Gregor and Mr.
Coubrough jointly for some time, passed entirely into the hands of the latter,
whose family now hold it.^

Another industry was a saw mill at Dungoyach, started some forty years
ago by John Carrick, and stopped about 1866; and another is the flock mill
at Dumbroch, built about twelve years ago by Mr. David Hamilton, and still
in his possession.

The first licensed distillery in the parish was at Cockmylane, just where the
tunnel for the Glasgow Waterworks enters the hill. Alexander Parlane built it
some sixty years ago and worked it, but it has long been stopped, a few traces
of it only remaining.

In 1836 Burnfoot Distillery, recently renamed "Glen Guin," was erected
by George Connell on a ninety-nine years' tack from John Buchanan of Carbeth,
then proprietor of Blairquhosh Cunninghame. Mr. Connell was followed by Mr.
M'Lellan, and the Messrs. Lang Brothers now possess it. •' Burnfitt " whisky
has always been peculiarly grateful to the Strathblane palate.

Another industry — if so improper and demoralizing an occupation can be
called one — was making whisky secretly in small stills.^ This was carried on,
till about sixty years ago, to an enormous extent, and almost unchecked. It is
true there were two Revenue officers always on duty in the parish, but they were
no doubt bribed to shut their eyes to what was going on. It used to be
common enough to see in the early morning from the hill behind Netherton
village the smoke of some thirteen stills going at once. Bands of men came

^ Mr. M'Gregor was the father of Mrs. M'Ewan of the Schoolhouse.

- Anthony Park Coubrough represented one branch of an old race long settled in Strathblane
and neighbouring parishes. He was born in iSiO and died in 1883. Public spirited and
energetic, he was a very useful man in the parish, and it is not out of place to record here
how much indebted the parishioners are to him for the Pavilion, as he called the Public Hall,
he erected for the parish on his own property. This Hall has proved of the greatest use for
public meetings, lectures, concerts, and social gatherings, and has been the means of bringing
together, for their mutual good, all classes of the community in a way which could not be
done before. By his marriage to Hannah Butler, who was born at Bolton-le-Moors in 1809
and died at Blanefield in 1878, he had John, now of Blanefield, Anthony Sykes, Ellis Wood,
Adam Adair, Mary Butler, who died an infant, Alfred Park, and Harold Ross.

•^ The Church was well aware of the evils which sprang from it, and in the General
Assembly of 1744 passed an Act against "the sinful and pernicious practise of smuggling,"
"and ordains the same to be read from the pulpits of all the parish churches within



out from Glasgow to buy and carry away the illicit spirits, and many a
scene of violence and bloodshed has been witnessed between Strathblane and
Glasgow in the conflicts between these desperate men and the Revenue
officers. Mugdock Wood was a favourite place both for small stills ^ and
also as a rendezvous for the sellers and buyers of the whisky, and was the
scene in 18 18 of a terrible fight between them and the Revenue officers
and a party of soldiers. The smugglers were victorious, and after seizing and
destroying the soldiers' weapons, pursued them from the field of battle. ^

There are no workings of either coal or limestone in the parish, and the
only other industry to be mentioned is that of quarrying. There are, it is true,
no extensive or valuable quarries in Strathblane, but freestone for building pur-

Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 30 of 45)