John Guthrie Smith.

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

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poses is to be had at Blairgar on Sir William Edmonstone's property, and at
Muirhouse on Mr. Ker's. There are several places too where excellent whin-
stone for road metal is to be had, and near Loch Ardinning there are beds
of a fine white *' chucky-stone " gravel much in use for garden and other
ornamental walks.

It only remains to add that there is a smithy, with a very skilful smith, at
the Netherton, an excellent joiner at Edenkill, shops at each of the three
villages, and four public-houses, and that the Blane Valley Railway and Glas-
gow Corporation Water Works pass through the parish.

^ A small still stood at the side of one of the springs from which water is now pumped up
by a wheel on the Allander some 350 feet, to supply the Castle and offices of Mugdock.
It is just possible that in the past an aqiia not exactly pura may have found its way from this
same spring to the Castle or thereabouts.

^ In making the new parish road along the edge of Mugdock Wood in the spring of last
year, the workmen turned up about eighteen inches below the surface a skeleton, the skull of
which seemed to have been injured by a violent blow. It was lying within the ruins of an old
dwelling, and possibly enough it was the remains of some one who was done to death in this
encounter.



2 1



CHAPTER XI.

OLD AND NEW STRATH BLANK.

There have been many changes in the appearance of the parish and in the
families hving in it during the eighty-six years of this century.^

Strathblane, in 1801, was much barer than it now is. There were, it is
true, the natural birch and hazel copse of the district, and a few fine old
oaks and hardwood trees around the gentlemen's seats and farm-houses, but
there were no " plantations " on Craigallian, Craigend, and Carbeth, and but
few on Duntreath, Ballewan, Leddriegreen, and the Kirklands. It is very clear,
however, that Strathblane was once densely wooded, and in some places with
magnificent trees. At Mugdock, as already noticed, oaks of great height and
girth were found lying in the moss. They had evidently been cut or blown
down when perfectly sound ; and similar trees have been found in the valley.
The remains of birch, hazel, and other trees are to be found buried beneath the
surface all over the parish.

There were more " drystane " dykes, but there were fewer hedges. If we
go back to the middle of the eighteenth century the parish was practically un-
enclosed, with the exception of Duntreath and the neighbourhood of Mugdock
and Edenkill. There is more land now under the plough than there was
eighty-six years ago, for Craigend, Carbeth, and Muirhouse were then but heathy
moors and mosses. There were then, however, many small holdings cultivated
by the lesser farmers and crofters who have disappeared, and whose patches of
arable land have relapsed into rough pasture, the marks of furrows in many a
lonely spot clearly showing this. The fields when divided were small and of

1 In the preceding century little or nothing was done to improve the parish till the very
end of it. When Chamberlayne published in 1718 his Present State of Great Britain, in his
list of " Seates in Stirlingshire," the following only are noticed in Strathblane : — "Mugdock,

Duke of Mortroses .... Duntreith, Edmonstoun's Esq Ballagan, Sterling's, Esq.

.... Craigallain, Brysson's Esq." Leddriegreen and Ballewan were simply farm-houses till
towards the close of the century, and Craigend Castle and Carbeth-Guthrie were not built
till about one hundred years after Chamberlayne wrote.



OLD AND NEW STRATHBLANE. 25 I

irregular shape, and particularly among the many " portioners " of " the three
touns of Easter Mugdock" there was still to be found land held in runrig —
one rig or ridge in a field belonging to one farm or croft, and the next
belonging to another — the form in which they had held the land as tenants
not having been changed when they became lairds.^

There was a great deal of good land wasted, too, all over the parish, heaps
of stones being left in the fields, and what are now clean and tidy head-rigs
were then very often wildernesses of brambles, thistles, and other coarse weeds.
Draining was but little practised, and such names as "The Hole," " Puddock
Hole," and " Dirty Mailins " are suggestive of very damp farms. At the begin-
ning of the century there was little or nothing in the Strath of what we now
call '-green cropping," such as turnips, potatoes, mangolds, and cabbages, and
there was more bere or barley grown than now.

Early in this century, however, matters agricultural in Strathblane rapidly
improved. The new road from Glasgow to Balfron, which in 1790 took
the place of an old and very bad one, did a little, but the parish owes more
to the Rev. Mr. Gibb, the minister who came to it in 1791, and to Archibald
Edmonstone of Spittal, who lived about the same time. Both were excellent
farmers, and by example and precept did much to stir up their neighbours. The
latter was an enterprising breeder of cattle.

In the first quarter of this century too, a great deal of planting was completed
on Duntreath, and a beginning made on Craigallian, Carbeth, and Craigend. Most
of the woods of Ballewan, Leddriegreen, and the Cult are of later date. The
plantations for the most part were well arranged, and a great improvement to
the parish, with the exception of the Cult wood. This was formed some forty
years ago and planted in the most fantastic style, hearts and diamonds, moons
and half moons of larch fir being set in a groundwork of Scots and spruce fir
in the worst possible taste, so that when the wood was young it was a positive
eyesore. Now, however, time, high winds, and the axe have improved matters
much, and the original arrangement is not very observable.-



1 These old MugJock portioners were very jealous of their property, and when the spring
ploughing was going on each of them might be seen standing guard on his own rig lest a wily
neighbour might in an unprotected moment plough off a few inches of his farm and add it to
his own.

They had, indeed, in other ways too, much to contend with. The soil is thin and unpro-
ductive, and standing high as the district does, the harvest was often late. Mr. Archibald
Smith, the old minister, whose quaint sayings in the pulpit were long remembered, on one
occasion, when returning thanks for an early and abundant harvest in the parish, added this
petition :—" But, oh, hae mercy on they pair Mugdock folk, for their victual (oats) is aye grow-
ing yet and it's as green as leeks."

^The gales in this century which made most havoc in the plantations of the parish were
those of 1856 and of January and February, 18S4.



2C2 THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.

Since the middle of last century many farm steadings and houses have gone,
some of them leaving hardly a trace behind, and many new dwellings have been
built. It may be interesting to note these changes, and to do so systematically
let us carefully perambulate the parish, beginning at the north-west corner of it.
Here on the lands of Auchengillan, at the beginning of this century were
its four steadings, those of Provan, Aitken, Ronald, and Brock. They are all
still standing except Ronald's, which was the house close to the Drymen road
and within a stone-throw of the Aitkens' steading. Forty years ago this was an
old picturesque ivy-covered dwelling, as full of life as its neighbours. It is now
a mass of crumbUng ruins, and in old Mrs. Ronald's kitchen, then warm and
bieldy, there now flourishes unheeded a fine group of sycamore trees. In a
little building close to this house, and now also gone, there was in the
beginning of this century a small " adventure " school where the youth of Auch-
eneden, Auchengillan, and the neighbourhood were taught.

Leaving this old place and passing southward along the Drymen road for
about a quarter of a mile, we arrive at the house belonging to Brock's portion
of Auchengillan. Early in this century at once a farm steading, and a little inn,
it forms now the offices of the new house to the left — Craigmore,^ as the property
is now called. Another quarter of a mile brings us to the lodge of Carbeth-
Guthrie, built in 1817 ; and a few yards farther on is the steading and public-
house of Garvel or Wester Carbeth.^ With the exception of everything being
in good order and the houses partially rebuilt, there is little change here, but
not so a little way down the road. Here near Garvel Bridge, about a hundred
yards southward of the road, stand some fine old trees, marking the site of an
old dwelling where in his day lived and farmed George Ronald, the father of
George and grandfather of John Ronald, within forty years farmers at the Cult
and elders in the church. This fine old race is gone entirely from the parish,
and only commemorated by the name the neighbouring hill now bears —
"Geordie's Brae," from the original George Ronald.

Turning back a little and coming eastward along the road leading from the
Drymen road to the Strath, we pass on our right close to the offices of Car-
beth-Guthrie, near which, a few yards off the present avenue, is the site of the
old house of Carbeth. A few stones used to mark the spot, among them the
four round ones which now form ornaments on the gateway of the north avenue.
Still keeping eastward and passing the garden, gardener's house, and various other
adjuncts of a country place, and where nothing stood seventy years ago, we
arrive at the spot where the old farm-house of Ronald's portion of Carbeth was
built. An old gnarled birch tree on the side of the road, with a few old stones

^ See pnge 40. - Sec page 46.



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OLD AND NEW STKATII BLANK.



253



round it, mark its site, just at the head of the old drove road leading to Mr.
Barns-Graham's estate.

Another steading now gone stood just within the gate at the point where this
drove road enters Mr. Graham's Carbeth. It was abandoned when the house
above Carbeth Loch, to the south-east of this old place, was built and made the
steading of the farm. There used to be several cottages with their little crofts
near this old mailing, and there was a public-house, too, where in days of old
the weary much-bebogged traveller could refresh himself with "buns and yill."
All are now either in ruins or gone, save one — the last of a picturesque little
clachan.

Getting back to the road to Strathblane, and repassing in doing so " Carbeth
Bungalow," for so Mr. M'Alister, the laird, has named, in memory of his early
days in tropical climes, a somewhat fanciful erection of his predecessor in
Carbeth-Guthrie ; we find, three or four hundred yards beyond the farm stead-
ing built by Mr. Guthrie in 181 7 or 1818, the site of another old farm-house —
that of Allereoch or Alreoch. The west end of this house is still marked by
an old ash tree standing on a mound of earth at the side of the road, and
the east end of the byre by an old tree with some stones round it. The
old ash tree at the west end seems to grow but little, and it must now be
very old. Mr. Guthrie, who, very unlike some of the modern proprietors of
Carbeth, had a great reverence for trees, did his best for it when he was
improving this road, for he carefully spared its roots, and banked up earth
round it on all sides.

Where the new house of Alreoch now stands, old James Nerval, then pro-
prietor of the soil, had built at the close of last century a house, which was
used as a joiner's shop and dwelling-house. It was a two-storey building, strong
and substantial, but when Mr. Guthrie became proprietor he was anxious to
have something more picturesque as an object of view from the drawing-room
windows of his new house at Carbeth. He removed it, therefore, and built
a very pretty cottage, which used to be much admired, standing as it did on
the margin of a beautiful wood, surrounded by evergreens and flowering trees
and shrubs. For many years it was inhabited by the foresters on Carbeth.
This pretty place never looked well after the ruthless destruction of the wood
on Blairshill, for the few trees left round it looked ragged and forlorn, and an
air of desolation prevailed. I'he new house, in which is incorporated a small
part of this cottage, is not the "thing of beauty" its predecessor was.

Leaving now the road to Strathblane at " Ballochalary Yett," and walking
up the " Red Road," the Boards Farm is passed a little distance on the left.
Here at one time there were more houses than now; and away to the south-
east near the Craigend march is the site of another vanished steading. A mile



254



THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.



farther on, and on the right, Craigallian is seen, where once stood the old
mansion house of the Brysons and the Colquhouns,^ replaced now by a large
new house, and a little farther on is the east lodge of Craigallian, near
the gate of the north approach to Mugdock Castle. Some four or five hundred
yards to the south-west, in the field called "The Sunniebraes," are traces of a
farm-house, the old steading of Mugdock Park; and down in the hollow, close
to the Allander, stood the Blackwoods' bleachfield, used for the last time fully
forty years ago. Nothing but its foundations now remains. Two or three
hundred yards farther down the stream there was a waulk mill, long since gone,
and not a vestige of it, or of the workers' houses, can now be seen. Where
Mr. Barns-Graham's south lodge now stands there were formerly several houses.
Some could be traced, and one was inhabited till lately, but the worthy laird
of Craigallian's roads and other improvements have so altered this spot that it
is impossible to describe its old appearance-
Leaving Craigallian we resume our walk westwards, and soon arrive at Mugdock
Castle. As already shown,^ a castle or fortified house has stood here for
centuries. It was originally surrounded on three sides by the loch, then much
larger, and on the fourth and south side by a short and deep moat. No one
knows, of course, what was the appearance of the rude Dineiddwg of Cymric
times, and, unfortunately, nearly as little is known of the form and style of the
middle age castle or fortalice which took its place. The south tower is still
entire ; that to the north is a mound of picturesque ruins ; and between them,
no doubt stretching towards the south-east on the site of the present house, was
an irregular pile of buildings probably of no great extent. The herryings and
destruction to which it was subjected in the middle of the seventeenth century
have been already described, and its successor, the very modest mansion of the
second Marquis of Montrose, built in 1655-56,^ was still standing in 1875 damp
and decaying. This house of 1655 was a long, two-storeyed plain dwelling,
looking down on the loch just as the present one does, and as it was modest
without, so it was . unadorned within. A vaulted room, part of the old for-
talice, was its only feature of interest,"* and the whole showed very clearly how
fallen must have been the fortunes of the family when the Chief of the
"gallant Grahams" was thankful to be lodged in so humble a dwelling.
After the fourth Marquis left Mugdock succeeding tenants had been allowed
to alter and add at will, and when it was determined in 1875 to rebuild
or restore the fine old place it was found that but little of it, save the

^ See page 47. "Pages 6-16. ■'Pages 27, 28.

* This had been utterly ruined by Bailie jNTacLellan's melancholy, though well-meant,
attempts to restore and improve meilianal stonework with modern cast-iron impostures.



OLD AND NEW STKATHBLANE.



255



south tower, could be saved. The present house, it is hoped, is somewhat in



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harmony with this fine old tower, which
is still as firm and entire as when the
Great Marquis — let us suppose — stood
on its summit and took a last fond
look of Strathblane before he started
on his memorable campaign of 1644.

Leaving the Castle we arrive at the
little burn which carries off the surplus
water of the loch. Some hundred yards
down this stream, close to the corner
of the wood where the lands of Mr.
Brown of Middle Mugdock and Mr.
Weir of Barrachan meet, there used to
be an old meal mill. The road from the
Castle to it can still be traced, but of
the mill not a fragment remains save the
embankment for the lade; and farther
down the burn, at the corner of the
little field, the part of Barrachan which
is in Strathblane, are some of the
stones which composed old " Woodsyd." ^ Away to the west, in the middle of
Mugdock Wood, there used to be a farm-house. It was the steading of the
land which now forms a great part of the wood. Its site is now occupied by
the keeper's cottage.

Timiing north-east from Woodsyd, and slowly ascending Mugdock Brae,
we come to the old Burgh of Mugdock, once an important place, with its
markets and shops and the cottages of the portioners of Mugdock and other
inhabitants. The old public-house stood at the east end, the next house but
one to the farm-house of Middleton of Mugdock. That one was "The Shoe-
maker's Yard," a little holding consisting of the patch of ground, now belonging
to Westerton, lying to the west and just outside of what is now Middleton
stackyard. The Cross was at the west end of the village. The water supply of
the Burgh of Mugdock has consisted from time immemorial of two wells. One
is just outside the village on the road to the north, and does not often fail;
the other is the " Spritts' Well," on the path between Mugdock village and
Castle and the west. This well has never been known to dry, and in seasons
of drought is the only supply the villagers have. The cattle were driven



MURAL TABLET ON THE SOUTH-EAST CORNER OF THE
NEW HOUSE OF MUGDOCK.



^ See page 69.



256 THE PARISH OF STRA THBLANE.

down to water at Mugdock Loch by a road which led nearly directly to it
from the "Shepherd's Hill." The market-place, where cattle were bought and
sold at the two fairs held in August and November, was on this Shepherd's
Hill, just where the house of Westerton of Mugdock now stands. This was the
Common of Mugdock, where, till well on in last century the sheep and cattle
of the "portioners" were nightly collected by the shepherd of the community,
after he had spent a restless day in herding them on the unenclosed ground in
the neighbourhood, and keeping them off the little cultivated patches of ground
around the old burgh. Outside of the burgh, and in different parts of Easter
Mugdock, were old mailings and crofters' houses now long extinct.

The " Law Stone of Mugdock " stands on the side of the road a few
hundred yards to the south of Middleton farm-house. It is a huge block of
freestone, and was the largest of a row of similar stones in a line to the
south-eastward of it. It was no doubt placed there with infinite labour by
some early Strathblane race, either as a place of worship or as a memorial of
the dead.^ The " Law Stone " is the sole survivor of the row, the other stones
having long ago been broken up and carried away for building purposes.

Five or six hundred yards nearly due south of this old stone, and just on
the brow of the " Bank of Mugdock," is " St. Patrick's Well." This used to
be a sacred well, and yearly, on the 1st of May, up to the beginning of this
century, many a pilgrim used to visit its healing waters ; perhaps a cripple
barely able to hobble to the spot, or a mother with an ailing child, or a cottar
with a sick cow, all with melancholy superstition seeking to propitiate some
great spirit — clearly not a Christian one — by depositing a small coin or stone
in the well, or hanging on the branches of an old thorn tree which used to
wave over it scraps of cloth or other trifling articles belonging to the patient
brought to be cured. The ist of May, or Beltane, was a day specially devoted
to Baal — the old god of Scotland — and no doubt this was one of the spots
sacred to him, and the Christian inhabitants of Strathblane and Kilpatrick were
in reality, though unknowingly, worshipping the god of their remote forefathers
when they performed those unmeaning rites there. When better days came it
was natural to transfer the veneration paid to the old well from a pagan to a
Christian patron ; the missionaries of the new faith therefore taught their converts
to call it, after the patron saint of the adjoining district, " St. Patrick's Well."

And now retracing our steps a little, and continuing our walk in a north-
westerly direction, we arrive at a spot just above the north-east corner of
Mugdock Loch where stood the old house of Peach. A few ash trees mark

^ Most probably the latter ; for when the late James Shearer was levelling the field in which
these stones were placed he discovered a number of stone coffins close to them.



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OLD AND NEW STRATHB LANE.



257



its site, but not a stone of it remains, and yet for hundreds of years it was the
most prominent object from the Lord of Mugdock's Castle, and generation after
generation was born there. It was early in the possession of a family of
Grahams, relatives of the Dougalston family. Margaret Graham, one of them,
was wife of John Smith, who was out with the Great Marquis in 1645. ^"^
1734 Peach was bought by James Smith and added to the Craigend estate.
The house was removed between fifty and sixty years ago.^ Looking westward
from Peach, and supposing ourselves carried back to the beginning of this
century, the comfortable square house of Craigend, then not long built, could
be plainly seen — a house that was soon to give place to a castle which it would
have been well for an old Strathblane race had it never been built.

Leaving Peach, and proceeding due north, we arrive at Dumbroch Loch —
the Loch Farchar of Blaeu's Atlas of 1663 — and here early in the century was
still standing an old farm-house in which lived Ebenezer Paterson, the farmer
of Dumbroch. This has long ago disappeared, but the memory of old Ebenezer
still lingers in the name often given to the neighbouring sheet of water —
"Ebbie's Loch." 2

Coming straight down towards the valley we arrive at Cockmylane,^ where
there was a small distillery fifty or sixty years ago. Its site is close to the
spot where the hill is pierced for the waterworks tunnel. Its foundation can still
be traced. The place where the miller now lives used to be called the " Shillin
Hill," and in the immediate neighbourhood several families had houses. After
James Smith bought Milndavie he added greatly to the storage capacity of the
several dams which held the water for the mill. He did this by raising the
embankments at Dumbroch Loch and the Deil's Craig Dam and also at Loch
Ardinning, by arrangement with Mr. Stirling of Craigbarnet.^ Going eastwards,

^ Its last inhabitant was the late Andrew Macfarlane, whose excellent spouse, Margaret
George, the representative of an old Strathblane race, still survives, and has given the author
much valuable information about old people and places.

^Within the last few years this loch is sometimes called "Abbey Loch" or "The Abbey
Loch." This has arisen from " Ebbie " being mistaken for "Abbey" by some one who did
not know the history of the place. It is hardly necessary to say that there never was an
abbey in Strathblane, and that the lands of Dumbroch never were in the possession of one
in any other parish.

^ Cockmylane is perhaps a corruption of the old Scottish word Cockalane, meaning " a
comic play or satyre " ; and it may be that Cockmylane was the spot where in pre-Reformation
times such were enacted in the parish. It is derived, like many other Scottish words, from



Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 31 of 45)