Bellahouston Hospital, beneath the slopes of the park, is a grim heritage, one of the many of the great war. Beyond it and stretching to the old-fashioned Halfway, is the new-fashioned suburb of Mosspark, a few years ago a wind-swept moorland and hill, over which the peesweep and the whaup held eerie revel.
Halfway has some claim to history. Long ago it was the site of the Half-way house, appropriately enough a tavern, where the traveller bound for Paisley rested his wearied limbs what time he imbibed liquid refreshment. The present palatial tavern is the successor to one built in 1790, which in its turn succeeded an old Scottish hostel affording food for man and beast. Tradition, shadowy and unsubstantial, links the name of Queen Mary with an ancient crow-stepped wee cottage that stood until 1905 on the green by the east kirkyard wall, and by the side of the Three Ell Road, the old path leading to Govan. Tastes were doubtless more primitive in the sixteenth century; at all events, tradition says that the Queen when journeying from Crookston Castle to her stables in Govan, rested and partook of refreshment in the venerable and modest thatched cot aforesaid. What we do know is, that in 1834, and just opposite the Halfway tavern, the Glasgow and Paisley steam-driven carriage burst, several people being killed. The primary cause of the catastrophe was the abnormally heavy metalled road, a state of affairs inspired by commercial rivalry and jealousy. The bed of the carriage of the unfortunate machine is preserved at Kelvingrove Museum. Old Sandy Rodger, the Glasgow poet, thinking on the affair, became lyrical, thus:
“Wi fire tey mak ta coach pe rin
Upon to railman’s raw, man
Nainsell will saw him took ta road,
An’ teil a horse to traw, man
Anither coach to Paisley rin,
They’ll ca’ him Lauchie’s motion
But och, she was blawn a’ to bits
By rascal rogue M‘Splosion.”
The new and fashionable residential district of Cardonald is so named after the lands and old castle of Cardonald, reared in 1505 on the banks of the river Cart. The farmhouse that occupies the site has built over its doorway a stone with the initials J. S., and date 1565, and the motto of the Stewarts, “Toujours Avant”—Always Forward. The branch of the Stewarts owning the lands of Cardonald were descended from Alan Stewart, a natural son of Lennox and Marion Semple, who obtained a grant of the estate in 1487. In the continuation of Crawfurd’s “Renfrewshire,” 1782, we read of “the corn miln” of Cardonald and “the village of Cardonald where the great road from Glasgow to Paisley leads through at the four-mile stone.” And as we are whirled along this same “great road” we catch on our left a glimpse of Cardonald, and beyond, and peeping over the trees, “Crookston Castle’s lonely wa’s,” where in December nights “the wintry wind howls “wild and dreary.” And so past Ralston House wherein reside men maimed and broken in the war, and through the suburb of Hawkhead—named after the mansion and lands of Hawkhead, a seat of the Earls of Glasgow, and the site now of the well-known asylum—by snug villa and cottage and tenement into the ancient and busy and grey-toned town of Paisley.
Paisley is an old abbey town, doubtless a pleasant green spot in the far-away days of Abbot George Shaw and the gentle monks over whom he presided in 1472. Certainly it would be a pleasant green spot where the saintly Mirin made his settlement on the banks of the Cart about the year A.D. 560; and quiet and doubtless pleasant when four centuries earlier than St. Mirin, the soldiers of Rome established a camp on Oakshawhead, the Neilson Institution occupies the site-with outposts at Woodside and Castlehead. The venerable and beautiful abbey occupies doubtless the same ground as that upon which St. Mirin erected his wattle kirk. The structure of to-day is old; some parts, such as the fine three bays containing the south-east doorway, date probably from the thirteenth century. In a charter (Reg. de Pas. 5) executed not later than 1172, Walter, the High Steward, speaks of the “Church of SS. James, Mirin, and Milburga of Paisley.” There is much to see without and within the Abbey, the old Place with its quaint medieval architecture, and the tomb of Marjory Bruce—who in 1317 was killed by a fall from her horse—a rare example of early Scottish monumental sculpture. The Abbey has witnessed many strange happenings, none stranger than that enacted on a summer Sunday in June, 1697, when the Rev. Mr. Blackwell exhorted “my friends” to take note that “Satan doth rage within our bounds”—a cheery Christian utterance that was the prelude to the burning at the stake on the Gallowgreen of three warlocks and four witches—wretched poor people, victims of a monstrous clerical and legal fanaticism that plumbed the depths of cruelty and ignorance. It is pleasanter to think of Alexander Wilson, poet and ornithologist, or of that other great son of Paisley, Robert Tannahill, rambling peacefully where “keen blaws the wind o’er the braes o’ Gleniffer,” singing them and himself into the realms of immortality and abiding peace. Tannahill’s cottage is one of the shrines of Paisley; another is the stately cathedral church, erected by the munificence of the Coats family; and as we leave Paisley we pass on our left the great thread factories which have made the names of Paisley and Coats known throughout the civilised peoples of both hemispheres.
At Elderslie, some couple of miles from Paisley, we are on classic soil, for Elderslie was the birthplace of the great Scottish commoner and patriot, William Wallace. Attention is called to the fact by the handsome Cross erected by the Scottish Patriotic Association, and which stands alongside the old farmhouse, reputed to be the actual birthplace of the hero. It is probable that the basement apartments may have witnessed that event; they are obviously of great age; the upper structure is of early seventeenth century architecture.