John Guthrie Smith.

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

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the French, Coq-a-l'ane, meaning "nonsense" or "cock and bull story." A little to the west
of Cockmylane is a very large boulder, standing where three lairds' lands meet (Craigend,
Craigallian, and Duntreath). It is called "The Gowk's Stane," and may have got this name
from the " anticks " performed there by the fool or jester in these old plays.

^ There is a vague story floating about in the district about a witch in connection with Loch
Ardinning. It is said that one of the lairds of Craigbarnet had one of these unfortunate
creatures drowned there, and that when she was dying she cursed the family of Stirling and also

2 K



258



THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.



at the cross-road at Milndavie gate there used to stand, on the Blue Risk/
a cottage, now gone many years ; and farther east Hillhead farm-house occupied
the place where Napier Lodge is now built. About half a mile to the south of
this point stands Mr. Robert Jameson's new house — Ardunan. At the end of
the old road that runs at the back of the manse there used to be an old
house, Vicarland, and it was here too that the old original vicarage of Roman
Catholic times stood. Going farther east, and up the side of the Blane, we
come upon the old houses at Kirklands, once cottars' or small farmers' houses.
It was here "Old Burrie" — James Stirling of Craigbarnet— lived in concealment
after his escape from Dumbarton Castle, where he was imprisoned after the
rising of "the '45." There is a tradition, too, that Prince Charles Edward was
once here, though what he was doing at this place is hard to conjecture. Near
these houses stood " Brunthouse," a steading long since removed. To the east
of Dunglass, and nearly opposite " The Hole " farm, was another farm-steading,
now quite gone. It was called " The Hill " : families of Ewings and Gardners
were latterly the farmers in it. The old mill of the Kirklands was just at the
foot of the hills, north-east of Broadgate farm. The water which supplied it
was led from the Blane by a lade which can still be traced. It started from
the burn a few hundred yards above the house at Ballagan.^ Other buildings
on the Kirklands estate, now gone, were two small farm-steadings between
Broadgate and the church.

The old church and manse were still standing at the beginning of this
century, the former on its present site, the latter on the other side of the
stream, to the north of the old tree in the garden by the side of the burn, and
the Kirkhouse Inn still drove its roaring trade just at the churchyard gate.

At the east side of the churchyard gate there formerly stood a small build-
ing, adjoining the present cottage. It was used as a guard-house by the
persons employed in watching the churchyard against the depredations of body
snatchers or resurrectionists. Happily there is now no need of such precautions:
the place, therefore, was removed when the improvements on the church and
churchyard were made in Dr. Pearson's time. There had been built into the

the loch, which thereafter was to be without living inhabitant. The story goes that this curse
weighed heavily on the late Craigbarnet, and that he was at great pains stocking the loch with
fish so as to show the impotency of the witch's curse. The author believes that there is no
truth in the story. There are no traces of witches in Strathblane either in the Session or
Presbytery Records. The loch certainly was carefully stocked with fish in the late laird's
time, but the object was no doubt for sport for himself and friends and from no superstitious
feeling.

1 Blue Risk means "a bleak waste land" or "a cold marshy place," from the Scottish
words Bla or Blae and Reesk, Reisque, or Reisk. The common Scottish surname "Risk"
was first given to a man living on such a place.

2 This mill in Blaeu's Atlas of 1663 is called " Lemkill Mill."



OLD AND NE W STRA THBLANE. 259

wall of this guard-house a font, or more likely a piscina, which had done duty
in old Strathblane Church in Roman Catholic times. When the house was taken
down this relic of antiquity was preserved, and it now forms the baptismal font
in the Parish Church. It has, however, been so much smoothed down, and
added to, and decorated that it is quite unrecognizable even by those who
knew it well and regarded it with a certain awe in its pristine form.

There were formerly three small bleachfields and a waulk mill on the Blane
below the manse and above the modern Blanefield; and farther down the
stream, a little to the east of the Castle, was the old mill of Duntreath. Its
site can still be traced. A thatched cottage, of which there are now no traces,
stood on the north side of the road not far from the modern Parklea; and
a little distance from it, between INIiddle and Wester Ballewan, about the
beginning of the present century, was a "side" school in a little cottage on
the south side of the road nearly opposite Middle Ballewan. This also has
quite disappeared.^

On the Duntreath estate there were many farm and other houses, now gone.
Near the mill on the south side of the Blane were the steadings of Capponhill
and Shennanend ; ^ and farther south-west, on the side of the old road which
runs from Dungoiach to Carbeth, stood Bronniecroft, the remains of the garden
of which can still be traced. On Arlehaven were several small farmers' and
crofters' houses, Auchentall being the principal one. Its site was a little to the
west of Tammiegilt : a solitary plane tree stands near the spot. North-west of
this farm was Roseyards with its steading. Near the north end of Dungoiach
Loan was a row of houses, and at Blairquhosh was a smithy overshadowed by
the big oak tree which flourishes in the present farm-yard. ^ Upon the hill to
the north was the farm-house of Caldhame, now no more ; and still traceable
are the remains of cottages at Spittal where three families dwelt. On the
Ballewan estate was Cantiewheerie, where two families lived; and a little south
of it were other two cottages, now quite gone. Duntreath and the neighbour-

^ The mills and bleachfields on the Blane did no harm to the fish with which the stream
then abounded. In 1604 James Kincaid of that ilk, and James Kincaid, his son, were bound
in 500 merks "not to slay salmon in the waters of the Clyd, Lewin, Blanis, Kalvin, or branches
thereof," and late in last century "burning the water," as the method of killing salmon by
torchlight is called, was a common sport on the Blane. The trout fishing, too, till well on in
this century, was veiy good ; but the Blanefield Printworks, which have benefited in many ways
the people of the Strath, have been fatal to the fish.

2 Shennan is probably Shaen-dun = 01d Fort. The little farm of Shennanend possibly, there-
fore, got its name from being the near neighbour of Old Duntreath.

*John Mason, "My Lord," was a well-known smith there. He is laid in the churchyard,
near the gate, in the burying-place of his family, an old Strathblane race. On the tombstone
is a crown and a hand holding a hammer, but whether this is a graceful allusion to his calling
and his aristocratic nickname, or in memory of some ancestor who was a member of the
Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow, is uncertain.



26o THE PARISH OF STRA THBLANE.

hood were thus in old days well peopled, and it had a yearly fair of its own on
the third Tuesday of January.

Chief among the new buildings in this district of the parish are DunmuUin,
built on Wester Ballewan, and bought by Sir William Edmonstone in 1878 ;
Blairquhosh House, built on Blairquhosh Edmonstone in 1857 for Mr, Webster,
at that time factor for Duntreath ; and Parklea, Mr. Anthony S. Coubrough's
excellent house. Parklea stands close to Gateside, where a little back from the
road there used to be a small inn, with a large open square in front of it.
This inn was a favourite resort of drovers, who rested and refreshed themselves
therein, while their flocks and herds did the same in the square in front, or in
the Corrieacre, just at hand.^ The distillery at Burnfoot, now called Glen Guin,
is also a comparatively modern addition to Strathblane, having been erected
about 1836.

The Castle of Duntreath, too, though certainly not a modern building, has
undergone many changes since 1863. It was never a large building, indeed
the original plan, which was apparently a quadrangle, was never fully carried
out. The last addition was made by Sir James Edmonstone, who died in
161 8, and it was probably completed by him long before his death. He built
the western part of the old pile, and in order to commemorate the event he
had the curious mural tablet sculptured bearing his initials and his coat of
arms supported on the hump of a rather attenuated camel. ^ He placed this
stone on the outside of the building, and in the wall of the old western tower he
inserted another with the initials S J E K— Sir James Edmonstone, Knight —
incised thereon. Both of these stones grace the walls of Duntreath in its restored
state, and both by skilful treatment have renewed their youth in a remarkable way.
After the family went to live in Ireland the Castle was much neglected, but was
kept entire till about the middle of the eighteenth century, when the factor on
the estate, being in want of slates to complete a new farm-house, took them
from the roof of the old castle. This was the beginning of the rapid decay
which followed. Before the late Sir Archibald rebuilt Duntreath in 1863, it
was a complete ruin, covered with beautiful ivy, ferns, and wild flowers. The
Dumb Laird's tower, at the south-east corner of the quadrangle, was always a
point of special interest to the visitor, as well as a flower bed in the garden
below, formed of earth brought from Ireland to commemorate the long and
honourable connection of the Edmonstones with the sister isle. This tower was
taken down and rebuilt when the castle was restored, and the principal entrance
is through it. The public road ran close to the Castle before 1791, and

1 Corrieacre is now allied Corriedale, and has a pretty little house built on it.
-A woodcut of this interesting stone is given at page 115.



OLD AND NE W STRA THBLANE. 2 6 1

around the old place were clustered the houses of retainers, and cottages
inhabited by the joiner, blacksmith, tailor, schoolmaster, and such like indis-
pensable officers and artificers of the barony.

There are three villages in the parish of Strathblane — Edenkill, Mugdock,
and Netherton.

Edenkill, the oldest, is probably coeval with the ecclesiastical buildings
of the parish near which it lies. It is much the same size as it was at the
beginning of the century, but it is hardly so picturesque, many of its thatched
cottages having given place to common-place two-storeyed slated tenements.

Mugdock was" for long the most important place in the parish, though one
can hardly now imagine that the quiet little spot of to-day was once " The
Towne and Burgh of Mugdock " and " Head Burgh of the Regalitie of
Montrose, with a weekly mercat ilk Fryday and two free faires yearlie." There
are fewer houses in Mugdock than there were when the century opened.

The old village of Netherton of Strathblane stood at the Thorn of Cult.
It consisted of the smithy, which is still there ; and since the latter part of last
century, of the school-house, and two rows of cottages parallel with the road,
and occupying very much the space where the Free Church and manse now
stand. It had its two shops, one of which was also the ale-house. This pretty
thatched cottage, now gone, was long occupied by Jenny Brash, after whom the
Netherton Bum and Glen are often called, and whose " lum " far away on the
top of the hills still "reeks" furiously when the storm is at the highest.^

Nothing is now left of Old Netherton save the smithy and the school-house,
and its very name seems likely to perish, for the factory originally called Blane
Printfield has expanded to such ample proportions, and covered its environs
with so many workers' houses, that the whole of Netherton and neighbourhood,
with its post-office and railway station, is now usually, but improperly, called
" Blanefield."

The first new houses at New Netherton were a few cottages near the works,
then followed the two-storeyed tenement, where there has now been for many
years an east approach to Blanefield House, and afterwards cottages and
tenements sprang up in all directions as the printfield grew and prospered.

About forty years ago the Society of Rechabites — a temperance body — built a
hall on the north side of the public road a few hundred yards to the east of
Blanefield House gate, and just to the south of St. MacKessog's Well. The

^ " Jenny's Lum " is a fissure in the rock through which the Netherton, or Jenny's Burn takes
a leap from the top of the Strathblane hills into the valley below. When the burn is in spate,
and the wind strong from the south-west, the falling water is blown backwards and upwards,
and the volumes of spray so formed are exactly like dense gray smoke issuing from a chimney.
Hence the name.



262 THE PA RISH OF STRA THBLA NE.

society unfortunately did not prosper, and the hall was sold and is now converted
into dwelling-houses. To the east of this hall Allan Ewing, for long forester at
Carbeth Guthrie, soon afterwards built a small shop and dwelling-house. This
is now a public-house. Just on the other side of the road is a much older
house, long occupied as a shop. The Corporation of Glasgow have also- a neat
establishment at Netherton for the use of their waterworks officials in the parish ;
but with the exception of these four houses and the smithy, the school, and
the Free Church and manse, all the other buildings at Netherton are more or
less connected with the printworks.

This century, especially the last forty years of it, has seen great changes at
Netherton, but there is nothing there that has changed so much as the house at
Blanefield. When the late Mr. Anthony Park Coubrough became its possessor
it was a small plain tenement. He gradually enlarged and improved it and its
surroundings. His son, the present proprietor, Mr. John Coubrough, has added
to its attractions, and Blanefield is now a handsome, well-appointed house,
surrounded by gardens and well-kept grounds.

There have been many changes made on the roads as well as on the houses in
Strathblane during the last 150 years. The principal road in the parish is that
from Glasgow to Balfron, which passes through the valley. It was altered
in 1 791, by forming a new road from a point in New Kilpatrick, near the
present Burnbrae Dyeworks, to the old bridge in the village of Edenkill.
Here it rejoined the old road which it had superseded up to this point. The
old line of road is still, however, in use for local purposes, and has been very
little altered, the only changes being certain straightenings which were made when
the Mugdock Reservoir was being formed. There was, too, an alteration made
on the road through the valley from a point a little to the west of Gatehouse,
to a point near Blairquhosh, a new piece of road a little to the north of the
old one, which was afterwards disused, being made for this distance. ^ There is
no change on the Drymen Road, which runs through the western side of the
parish^ but there has been on the roads which connect the Drymen Road
and the Balfron Road. Thus when James Smith was rearranging Craigend
in the early part of this century, he turned aside from his new castle the

1 The new road was made in 1791, but by 1798 it was found that the tolls authorized to be
levied by an Act 30 George III. were inadequate for the upkeeping of the roads in this district.
Another Act was therefore passed in 1798, which authorized the levying of heavier tolls. One
of the clauses in this Act is as follows : — " And whereas for several years bypast it has been a
Common Practice for Persons of all Descriptions to make the Sabbath Day a Day for Travell-
ing and Amusement, Be it therefore enacted That from and after the passing of this Act, all
and every Person or Persons who shall travel on the Lord's Day or King's Fast with any
Horse or other Beast, Chaise, or other Carriage, shall pay at every Toll Bar erected, or to be
erected in virtue of this Act, before they are allowed to pass. Double the Tolls and Duties
hereby authorized to be taken."



OLD AND NE W S TEA THBLANE. 263

road which, leaving Broadmeadows on the Drymen Road, enters the parish at
the bridge over the Allander, and passing close to Craigallian and Craigend,
joined the old road from Glasgow close to the present Craigend gate; and Mr.
Guthrie, when he was forming his little estate, altered the road which passed
through Carbeth. Both of these roads have been, however, again altered, though
at other points — the first by Mr. Barns-Graham in 1884, when he formed a
new piece of road to the southward, so as to remove the traffic a little farther
from his new house, and to enable him to use the old road for part of his
approach from the south ; and the second when the road down the Cult Brae
was altered so as to secure a better gradient. This work was done very much
at the instance of Mr. M'Alister of Carbeth Guthrie, and largely under his
oversight.^

In our accounts of the lands and families of Strathblane, and in the ecclesi-
astical chapters of this book, we have mentioned incidentally most of the
principal events which have taken place in the parish, and the only point
which seems to require farther notice is the former relations of Strathblane to
her Highland neighbours. ^ It is the more proper to do so as without doubt
the parish was for centuries kept in a state of unrest and often of misery, and
both agriculture and sheep and cattle breeding were seriously hindered by the
raids of cattle lifters and " broken men " from the north. ^

^ There have also been minor alterations and improvements on the old roads of the parish.
An attempt has been made on the map of Old Strathblane to show these roads and drove
roads as accurately as is now possible.

" We may, however, venture to afford space for a foot-note in order to notice an event
"wonderful if true " which happened in the neighbourhood of Mugdock in 1652. It is best
given in the words of the old chronicler. " And now I thocht guid to note how that in
Februar 1652 thair wes sene in day licht ane amiie of ten or xii thousand men marching on
the north side of Calder aboue Balmoir, and about Mugdok, neir to Glasgow, all marching in
armes, both horse and fute, furnescht with swordis, pickis, musketis culuerins drummis and
trumpettis, quilk maid all the pepill about to flie away with their horse, cattell and guidis.
At length the pepill sent out to the fieldis quhair the army marched to vnderstand thair erand,
bot they evanisched." — Nicol's MS. Diary, vol. 1. p. 65, Analeda Scotica.

^ Strathblane, however, in much older times was affected for good by its neighbours. It was
in the year 80 that the Romans penetrated to our district, and the arrival of the warlike strangers
no doubt alarmed the simple dwellers in the strath, and as Agricola spent the summer of 81
partly in the neighbourhood of Strathblane, occupying his time in securing his northern
conquests by building a chain of forts between the Forth and the Clyde, so the inhabitants of
Strathblane and Campsie seem forthwith to have followed the example of the Roman general
and built on the Strathblane and Campsie Hills opposing forts and ramparts. The remains of
these ancient fortifications can be very easily traced, particularly on the slopes to the north of
Craigbarnet. But the Romans did more than teacli the old Cymry to build forts and make
trenches. During the long centuries they remained in this country they no doubt greatly
civilized and probably partly Christianized the inhabitants of it. Strathblane, it is true, lay
beyond the Roman wall, and was thus unconquered, but not far off was the great military
station at East Kilpatrick, and the lads of our future parish no doubt joined the Roman
legions, for it must be remembered that these were largely recruited or raised in the provinces,
the superior officers only being, what we are apt to think their whole armies were, inhabitants



264



THE PARISH OF STRA THBLANE.



The only way the parishioners had of effectually protecting themselves from
these marauders was by paying " black-mail " to some Highland " gentleman/'
who in consideration of such payment bound himself to restore all cattle, sheep,
and property which were stolen by his brother " gentlemen " — in other words,
by " setting a thief to catch a thief." Unfortunately for the people of Strath-
blane, the Government did not approve of these demoralizing bargains, which
were common all along the Highland border, and while doing little to protect
property, they made very stringent laws against "blackmail." Thus by an Act
of Parliament in 1567^ it was made a capital crime to pay it, and in 1587-
another Act was passed in which the Justice-Clerk was ordained to pursue
payers or takers of black-mail and do justice upon them. Self-preservation, how-
ever, was stronger than these Acts of Parliament, and they were often evaded
or allowed to fall into disuse. A complaint to the Privy Council,^ 20th
January, 1584-85, shows how His Majesty's " gude and peciable subjectis in-
habiting the cuntreis of the Lennox, Menteyth, Strivilingschyre and Stratherne,
ar havelie opprest be reif, stouth, sorning, and utheris crymes dalie and
nychtlie usit upoun thame be certane thevis, lymmaris and sornaris, laitie
brokin lowis upoun thame furth of the brayis of the cuntreis nixt adjacent " and
though certain persons from the several districts affected were ordered to give
information as to the best means of repressing these outrages. Sir James Edmon-
stone of Duntreath and John Cunninghame of Drumquhassle and Easter Mug-
dock being those chosen from Strathblane, no remedy was found for the evil,
and black-mail came in time to be tolerated and even legalized as the follow-
ing curious document shows : — " At Stirling in ane quarter sessioun held by sum
Justices of his highnes' ^ Peace, upon the third day of ffebruery 165 1 the Laird
of Touch being Chyrsman upon reading of ane petition given in be Captain
Macgregor mackand mention That several heritors and inhabitants of the
paroches of Campsie, Dennie, Baldernock, Strathblane, Killearn, Gargunnock
and utheris w'in the Schirrefdome of Stirling Did agree with him to oversee
and preserve thair houses goods and geir frae oppressioun and accordinghe did
pay him and now that sum persones delay to mack payment according to agree-
ment and use of payment Thairfoir it is ordered that all heritors and inhabitants
of the paroches afoirsaid mack payment to the said Captain Macgregor of their
proportionnes for his said service till the first of ffebry last past without delay.

or citizens of Rome. The lassies, too, fell in love, and married the stalwart centurions and
soldiers just as they would do, in similar circumstances, at the present day. Strathblane thus,
while retaining its freedom, was, we may be sure, much benefited by the presence and
example of the strangers from the sunny South.

1 Act Par. Jac. VI. cap. 27, 1567. -Act Par. Jac. VI. cap. 59, 1587.

^ Reg. P. C. 0/ Scot., vol. iii. p. 718. ■* Oliver Cromwell.



OLD AND NEW STRATHB LANE.



265



All constables in the several paroches are hereby commandit to see this order
put in execution as they \vill answer the contrair. It is also hereby declared
that all qo have been ingadgit in payment sail be liberat after such time that
they goe to Captain Hew Macgregor and declare to him that they are not to
expect any service frae him or he to expect any payment frae them — Just
Copie — Extracted be James Stirling CI of the Peace ffor Archibald Edmonstone
bailzie of Duntreedi to be published at the Kirk of Strablane." ^

After a time this payment to the Macgregors by the Strathblane lairds seems
to have been given up, possibly through the Acts against black-mail being again
enforced, and forthwith the thieving and cattle lifting recommenced and became
so insufferable that on the 12th February, 1691, a petition was presented to the
Privy Council by Houston of that ilk, Cochrane of Kilmaronock, and Craig of
Leddriegreen, " complaining that they were so harassed by thieves and broken
men that it was impossible for them to pay taxes, and praying that the Council
would allow them to employ one of the ■Macgregors who had consented to keep
watch for their security if paid and entertained." ^ The Council gave their
permission, and to do the Macgregors justice they carried out their part of the