William Charles Maughan.

Annals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross online

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles MaughanAnnals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross → online text (page 16 of 31)
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with age, and clad with lichen as the rock, these twin giants lift
their verdant crests above their companions of the grove.*

In winter, when the whole sylvan scene is dazzling white with
snow, only patches of bracken or thorns peering over the fleecy mass,
while long streaks of snow lie on the stems of trees, or cluster in
thick wreaths on their pendent boughs, the twin giants stand out
with grand effect in the wintry landscape. The yews, and the other
dark firs beyond, seem to bring out the great trees, whose strange
grouping of mighty, grey, twisted boughs, bulge and twine round
one another, as though in deadly conflict they seek to rise above
their fellows, and dark hollows and caverns are formed by their fan-
tastic formation, when they leave the parent stem. All is still and
quiet, the roar of the storm is hushed, the boughs are bent with the
accumulated masses of snowflakes, and, glancing below the drooping
branches, the eye sees the swelling uplands in their silvery shroud,
crowned with distant woods, arrayed in frosty garb, and overhead,
the misty, faintly crimsoned sky, suffused with the light of a brief
winter's day. And a little way off may be seen the cold, leaden-
hued, calm waters of the bay, on the oozy sand of which are gathered
some sea-gulls, whose screaming, querulous cries break upon the
silence of the grove, and the sudden screech of the heron, in his
measured flight far above, adds harsh music to the scene.

* The following notice of these firs appeared in Gardening Illustrated, in Feb-
ruary 1891. " On the Duke of Argyll's property at Rosneath are many fine old
trees of the silver fir species, from 100 to 130 feet in height, with clean stems,
and girth 20 feet, a yard from the ground. Especially there are two fine old
silvers, called Adam and Eve, the first named has few equals in this or any
other country. They were planted over 200 years ago, and are now respectively
130 and 124 feet high, and Eve girths at 3 and 5 feet, 22 feet 8 inches and 21 feet
8 inches respectively. At 1 foot from the ground Adam girths 28 feet 10 inches
size of stem, and is 130 feet high." These trees were measured in 1817 by Sir
Thomas Dick Lauder and Lord John Campbell. The uppermost one, "Eve,"
at five feet from the ground, girthed 15 feet 9 inches, and at one foot from the
ground 19 feet 8 inches. In 1833, when the tree was again measured, the pro-
portions were 17 feet 7 inches, and 22 feet at the same distances from ground.
The other tree, "Adam," in 1833, was found by Sir T. D. Lauder and Lord
John to be, at the root, 24 feet 9 inches, and five feet up, 18 feet 2 inches.


Close beside the great silver firs may be observed the foundations
of the old mansion of Campsail, which once belonged to the Camp-
bells of Carrick, and where their representative, the sister of John
Duke of Argyll, known as Lady Carrick by the Rosneath people,
long lived, and was beloved for her good deeds. A sweet spot it
must have been, with fine mossy sward around the ancient pile,
which, in the spring, is thickly carpeted with wild hyacinths and
primroses, with a lovely peep through the opening branches of the
bay, and Helensburgh in the distance. Even now, the terraced for-
mation of the sward indicates where the pleasure grounds had been,
the old well still offers a cool draught of limpid water, and the worn
flagstones of the courtyard speak of "auld lang syne." In the earlier
part of the century, the stones of the ruinous dwelling were partly
removed to build the inn at Ardencaple, near Row, and to add to
the Ferry inn at Rosneath.

Emerging from the wood by a wicket gate, between two very lofty
and straight old silver firs, the road by the shore is regained, and the
visitor sees before him the entrance, over a low bridge, to the grounds
round the Castle. Lifting their dark bushy heads above the sur-
rounding trees, are several picturesque great Scotch firs, with red,
rugged bark, which glows warmly in the rays of the setting sun, and
harmonises well with the prevailing colour around. Beautiful peeps
of the loch and distant hills are gained as the visitor skirts the wind-
ing reaches of the rocky strand, and some specially venerable beech
trees are seen, near the old sea wall of conglomerate rock, at the
spot known as " Wallace's Leap." It was here that the hero leaped
down with his gallant steed from the summit of the rock, and though
the horse was killed, Wallace succeeded in swimming across the loch
to Cairndhu point. This was somewhere about the year 1297, when
Wallace was contending against King Edward of England.

There is every reason to believe that the renowned warrior of
Scotland did once visit Rosneath in the course of his remarkable ad-
ventures. William Hamilton of Grilbertfield, in 1721, wrote a poetic
account of the hero's achievements, which was dedicated to James,
Duke of Hamilton, Wallace had been engaged in one of his numer-


ous struggles with the English, in the neighbourhood of Cathcart,
and was on his way to visit his friend and supporter, Malcolm, Earl
of Lennox. He seems to have sacked the town of Dunbarton, and
burnt the castle of Rosneath, which was occupied by the English,
after which exploits he made his way into the strongholds of Len-
nox. Apparently he had been guided by one well affected to his
cause who,

" Directed Wallace where the Southron lay
Who set their lodgings all in a fair low,
About their ears and burnt them stub and stow.
Then to Dunbarton cave, with merry speed,
March'd long ere day, a quick exploit indeed.
Toward Rosneath next night they past along,
Where Englishmen possest that castle strong,
Who that same day unto a wedding go,
Fourscore in number, at the least, or moe.
In their return, the Scots upon them set,
Where forty did their death- wounds fairly get ;
The rest scour'd off, and to the castle fled ;
But Wallace, who in war was nicely bred,
He did the entry to the castle win,
And slew the South'ron all were found therein.
After the fliers did pursue with speed,
None did escape him, all were cut down dead.
On their purveyance seven days lodged there,
At their own ease, and merrily did fare.
Some South'ron came to visit their good kin,
But none went out, be sure, that once came in,
After he had set fire unto the place,
March'd straight to Falkland in a little space."

Such is the account of the taking of Rosneath Castle given by
Hamilton of Gilbertfield. On another of his raids against Dunbar-
ton, Wallace was very nearly being made prisoner by his relentless
foes, the English. Being in a hostelry in the town, an officer and
twenty-four men were sent to apprehend him, but he leapt out of the
window and proceeded to assault the soldiers outside. With one or
two sweeps of his terrible two-handed sword, our hero cut down the
commander of the party and a dozen of his men, while the rest fled


precipitately to the castle for refuge. Wallace's favourite weapon
was a ponderous, long, two-handed sword, which, from his great
strength, he wielded with ease, and until the last few years, a rusty
weapon, known as "Wallace's Sword" was preserved in the armoury
at Dunbarton Castle, and considerable indignation was aroused at its
removal to the Wallace Monument at Stirling, where it now rests.*

Blind Harry gives his account also of the taking and sacking of
Eosneath Castle by Wallace.

* Respecting the armour and sword of Wallace, Dr. Jamieson in his notes on
" Blind Harry " has the following remarks. " In the Castle of Dunbarton they
pretend to show the mail and, if I mistake not, also the sword of Wallace. If
he was confined in that fortress by Menteith before being sent into England, as
some have supposed, it is not improbable that his armour might be left there.
The popular belief on this head, however, is very strong." Carrick, the author
of a Life, of Sir William Wallace, has the following note on the subject of the
hero's armour. " Certain it is, if such armour was in Dunbarton Castle at the
time, it is unknown to those connected with the garrison, at present (1830) ;
and we cannot conceive that a relic, so valuable in the estimation of the public,
would have totally disappeared, without its being known what had become of
it. All that they pretend to show in the Castle of Dunbarton, as having be-
longed to Wallace, is a sword of very antique fashion, intended to be used with
both hands, but by no means of a weight that would prevent men of ordinary
strength of the present day from wielding it. There is no proof, however, that
it belonged to the Deliverer of Scotland ; and if we may credit the account
given by old people, of its having been dragged up from the bottom of the Clyde
by the anchor of a vessel, about sixty years ago, its identity becomes more than
doubtful. Such, however, is the prevalence of the report in its favour, that it
was some time since sent to London, for the inspection of certain official char-
acters connected with the Board of Ordnance. At the time it was sent off, it
wanted several inches of its length which, it seems, had been broken off by
some accident."

The sword measures from point to point four feet eleven and a half inches,
the handle is one foot two inches long, and the blade three feet nine inches in
length. It varies in breadth from two and a quarter inches at the guard, to
three quarters of an inch at the point, is six pounds in weight, and has been
welded at two different places. The following item occurs in the books of the
Lord Treasurer under date 8th December, 1505, when King James IV. visited
Dunbarton. "For bynding of ane riding sword rappyer, and binding of Wallas
sword with cordis of silk, and new hilt and plomet, new skabbard, and new
belt to the said sword, xxvjsh."


A short distance from Wallace's leap there stands the present
castle, or rather palace of Rosneath, a noble building of massive
construction, the work of an Italian architect, Bonomi of London,
which was begun in 1803. The site is a fine one, at a greater dis-
tance from the shore than the old castle, and is said to have been
selected by the famous landscape painter, Alexander Nasmyth. The
former residence of the Argyll family long rested upon the point of
land opposite Ardencaple. It does not seem to have been a building
of any special importance, or architectural merit, but, about the year
1630, it was enlarged and embellished by the famous Marquis of
Argyll. This mansion remained until about the beginning of the
present century, when it was nearly all burnt to the ground. Upon
this occasion, the old Duke of Argyll, a pious man, calmly viewed
the conflagration from his castle of Ardencaple, opposite, and ex-
pressed his gratitude by saying, " I thank my God, I have another
house to go to." An old stone, with the date 1634, carved with the
cypher of the famous Marquis, and his wife Margaret Douglas, is now
at Inveraray castle, one of the few remains of the ancient structure.
The architecture of the new castle is a mixture of Italian and Greek,
massive and imposing, the splendid Ionic portico, with its lofty stone
pillars, is almost unequalled in Scotland. The castle is 184 feet long,
and 121 in breadth, with two very handsome fronts, each adorned
with fine Ionic columns, the stone of the finest freestone from the
famous Garscube quarry, near Glasgow, and is hewn into ponderous
blocks. From the high circular tower in the centre of the building
there is a grand panorama of wood, water, lawn and moor, affording
endless pleasure to the spectator. Each door and window is of
stately dimensions, though a large portion, both of the interior and
exterior, is quite unfinished, many of the pillars with their noble
capitals, and finely moulded balustrade above, never having been
placed in position. Inside, the rooms are lofty and finely proportioned,
one of them, the circular library under the tower, being exceedingly
elegant, with decorated friezes, and classic ceiling ornaments. Several
family portraits, one of the most recently added, the Marquis of
Lome, in full Highland costume, and an engraving of the beautiful


Miss Gunning, afterwards Duchess of Argyll, adorn the public

There is an interesting old plan of the Eosneath estate dated 1731
in the castle, which shows the houses, roads, and woods as they
existed at that date. In this plan the castle stands back from the
shore, in front of it being the "Little Green," and to the side the
" Meikle Green," and garden at the back, all bounded by what is
called the "new avenue. 1 ' Various crofts are marked at "Little
Ross," " Middle Ross," and " Meikle Ross," and at Portkill several
small cottages are situated. Near Old Kilcreggan, on the opposite
side of the road, " Ruins of an old cell " is marked, which locally is
known as the " Broken castle," though no trace of the ruins can be
seen. Near Campsail Mill there are entered an "Upper" and "Nether"
pond, no doubt for water supply. The old house of Campsail is noted
with the avenue leading straight up from the bay. Three small
cottages are marked on Campsail hill, and they remained till a few
years ago, when the new Clachan farm house was built. At the
Clachan, the cruciform Kirk is put down, and the road from the
castle and Campsail bay is noted as coming to an end at the Clachan
village. A brick yard is situated near the present schoolmaster's
house, and there are two cottages at the ferry which is called
" Clachan point." Going along the shore the " Strall " spring is
noted, with a cottage beside it, and at " The Clynders," there are
three cottages. No houses are marked as existing on the Kilcreggan
or Cove shores, but there is a pier not far from the present one. The
farms of Aiden, Ailey, Knockderry, and others, are indicated, and a
good many cottages near them, but hardly any plantations, except
on the Gallowhill, and near the castle and Campsail bay.

One delightful feature is the pleasant, old-fashioned garden at the
back of the castle, with its long stretches of mossy turf, and quaint
arrangement of laurel and heath plants, groups of flowering shrubs,
and graceful, drooping bushes, trimly kept walks with heavy box
borders, all vastly superior to the formal parterres now so much in
vogue. The soft, mossy walks seem to allure you to stroll along, and
to enjoy the scent of wallflowers, sweet peas, and mignonette. There


are quiet, retired nooks, in which you may repose, quite secluded
from observation, and listen to the cooing of the wood pigeons, the
lively strains of the chaffinch, or whitethroat, and the rich warbling
of the mavis and blackbird, from the surrounding groves, while the
songs of infancy steal over the senses, or the day dreams of youth
enrapture the mind with the languor of thrilling remembrance. The
shrill cry of the welcome and friendly peesweep, as he lightly skims
over the adjoining fields, falls upon the ear, and, as you advance, his
graceful evolutions, as he turns on the wing, bringing his white breast
into view, are pleasing to witness. And the long drawn, peculiar
wail of the curlew, which frequents all the shores near the " Green
Isle," is heard amidst the sharper notes of the various descriptions of
sea fowl which abound. Going along past Culwatty bay, on the left,
the dark thick wood is approached, in which is situated the heronry
of Rosneath, chiefly in the midst of a number of lofty Scotch and
silver firs, surrounded by a thick belt of plantation. This is a scene
of sylvan repose, forming a still retreat, which the visitor would
scarcely expect to meet. The screen of spruce, larch, and silver firs,
with rowans and beeches at intervals, is crossed by grassy glades of
turf, decked in spring with rich profusion of wild hyacinths. Only
a little distance beyond is the busy, seething world of toil and com-
merce, with the manifold wheels of industry, in ceaseless hum, while
here is all the loneliness of the grove. In the spring, however, the
woods resound with the harsh clamour of the herons, who are en-
gaged in the important work of rearing their young. The nests are
great unshapely masses of dried twigs, with a few tufts of coarse
grass inside, and there are generally four eggs in each, of a pale
green colour. Sometimes the bird will courageously defend itself, if
surprised by an intruder, while sitting on its eggs, and a blow from
the long sharp, horny bill is sufficiently severe. There were last
year over eighty nests, and as you walk below the lofty trees, when
the breeding season is in full swing, there is much stir and commotion
overhead. The herons fly to and fro, crashing amidst the boughs
with their long bodies, and spreading wings, many of them carrying
fish in their bills to satisfy the cravings of their nestlings.


Proceeding across the fields at the back of the castle, the visitor
sees the extensive pile of buildings, known locally as " The Steeple,"
facing the range of steadings of the Home Farm. There is here an
old threshing mill, worked by a water-wheel supplied by water brought
chiefly through an underground channel all the way from Lindowan
reservoir, on the moor above Kilcreggan. The buildings are
about 280 feet in length, of massive construction, and semi-Gothic
architecture, and once were ornamented by a tower, 90 feet in height,
designed by Nasmyth of Edinburgh, but which, after the great fire,
nearly fifty years ago, was curtailed of its lofty proportions. Origin-
ally this whole structure was intended to have been the castle stables,
but, for some reason or other, this was found impracticable. In front
of the Home Farm rises the Gallowhill, 414 feet above the sea, once
completely covered with a fine plantation of fir trees, but these, forty
years ago, were cut down by the proprietor. The view from the
summit of the hill is extensive, and gives a striking idea of the
diversified scenery of the Frith of Clyde. Looking towards the north
the whole of the upper part of the peninsula is seen, an undulation of
purple heather and bushy bracken, while the dark mass of mountains
above Loch Long, and their distant peaks, are faintly shrouded in
blue haze. Many burns seam the sides of the hills round the Gare-
loch, whose waters reflect the fringe of trees along its shore, amid
which nestle numerous villas, and the green fields above join on to
the moorland ridge. The russet brown of autumn spreads its mantle
over the uplands, and the plantations on both sides are glowing with
yellow and roseate tints. In the full blaze of mellow sunshine
which, on an autumn day, bathes the whole loch and surrounding
mountains, beautiful effects are gained by the delicate blending of the
warm tints of moor, glen, and sloping braes. While the edge of the
nearer rugged mountain outline is sharply defined against the sides
of receding peaks, which reflect the sun with brilliant lustre a lovely
soft haze envelopes the horizon, although the immediate foreground
is strongly coloured with the purple water and the dark green of the
pine forest. A white line of strand marks the upper reaches of the
loch, and the tawny coloured streaks of spreading brushwood give


variety of tints to the picture. Some of the old beech trees are seen
in the castle woods, their foliage flaming with yellow and crimson,
with their shining, grey trunks intervening between the red Scotch
firs and lordly oaks all presenting a sylvan picture of rare beauty.
Your solitude is undisturbed, for there is a considerable extent of
moor round the summit of the Gallowhill, and it is difficult to realise,
at certain points of the landscape, that you are so near the great
bustling world of commercial enterprise of which Glasgow is the

Descending the hill, and rejoining the road leading over to Kil-
creggan, the small hamlet of Mill of Campsail is reached. The old
meal mill is a picturesque building of rubble work, " harled " over,
but has long since lost its pristine whiteness, and is, in many places,
thickly covered over with a soft mossy growth like green velvet. A
rich mantle of lichens covers the roof, and thick layers of downy
moss overspread the stone work and eaves, while ferns have obtained
a lodgment in many parts, and hang their graceful fronds over the
old walls. There is a date, 1752, on the lintel stone of the door, low
down, and another date, 1777, is cut on the stone projection at the
gable, probably indicating when it was enlarged. The old wheel,
with its water trough, and the wooden shoot down which there
trickles a tiny rivulet of water, is a favourite subject for artists.
Peter M'Xeilage, the present miller, is a member of a family who
have tenanted the mill and croft adjoining for many generations, and
he finds it very different from what it used to be in his father's life-
time, when the farmers in the district all used to bring in their grain
to be ground. His father made the first cart with wheels which came
to the mill, for, before that time, the grain was brought on horses'
backs in bags. The road past the mill was made about a century ago,
and the miller's cottage was built in 1827 ; a few years before, the

* In the month of May, in taking a walk along the shore, the following wild
flowers may be gathered : Daisy, buttercup, cowslip, whin, broom, hyacinth,
lesser celandine, goat weed, stillaria religinosa, primrose, star of Bethlehem,
pink campion, dog's mercury, blue borage, violet, speedwell, cuckoo flower,
wood sorrel, forget-me-not, and a few more.


old cottages, which used to stand in the field opposite the mill across
the burn, were all pulled down. In these primitive days the farmers
used to dry their oats with peat fires before coming to the mill, for
coals were unknown in the district. At that time there were no
fanners for separating the chaff from the grain, and this operation
was done on the summit of the mound at the side of the miller's
house, known as the " Shelling hill," where, on a breezy day, the
grain and chaff were thrown into the air from bags and basket till the
required result was got. His father and Donald Turner, the smith
at the Clachan, were both baptised one Sabbath afternoon about
1792, in the open air, on the " Shelling- hill," by the Burgher minister,
Mr. Henderson of Kilmalcolm.

Just beyond the Mill is the Free Church, a plain building, erected
over the quarry from whence the stones used were extracted, but
some notable men have preached within its walls, including many of
those worthies who guided the fortunes of that Church after the
Disruption. On the hillside, beside the plantation surrounding the
church, sixty years ago, there was a sweetly secluded hamlet, called
the Millbrae, access to which was gained by a path across the whin
clad, rocky brae, where the sheep wandered at will. Several pretty
cottages were there, with gardens, fruit trees, and many wild roses,
some of which still remain, with broken stems and torn branches, to
tell of the happy, ruddy-faced children, whose joyous voices resounded
in this now silent spot. A romantic and suggestive scene, from
which the spectator could survey the opening of the Gareloch, with
the villas of Row beyond, looking almost like a picture on the
Italian lakes, richly bowered amid .trees, and the verdant crest of
hills overhanging the sorrowful Glenfruin bounding the view.

Eeturning to the road, the traveller opens up the broad estuary
of the Clyde, with its rippling waters ploughed by many a passing
vessel, and turning back, the calm land-locked Mill bay lies em-
bosomed in trees. This bay has a charm of its own, and, on a
summer day, presents effects of colour, light and shade, subtle and
full of beauty. The water near the shore may be dark sapphire, out
in the open loch a shimmering opal, the green turf touching the


strand, and the perfume breathing beeches and oaks reflected in the
waves, the sloping hills round the Gareloch closing in one side of the
picture, with gleaming patches of sunshine bringing into contrast the
lowering and frowning mountains beyond Loch Long. Suddenly, a
change comes, the colours on the mobile surface of the loch are
reversed, smooth bright folds seem to agitate the waters near the
shore, while, further out, the depths look unnaturally calm and
dark, ominous of a coming storm. Yet here and there tender streaks
of sunshine lovingly linger between the silvery boughs of the lofty
silver firs, towering above the grove. Looking round upon the broad

Online LibraryWilliam Charles MaughanAnnals of Garelochside, being an account historical and topographical of the parishes of Row, Rosneath and Cardross → online text (page 16 of 31)