To LUGGIE’S SOURCE BY THE ROMAN WALL, KIRKINTILLOCH, BADENHEATH AND TORBRAX.
(Via RED CAR TO BISHOPBRIGGS.)
JOIN CAR AT JAMAICA STREET, OR JUNCTION OF RENFIELD STREET AND SAUCHIEHALL STREET.
Route—Union Street—Renfield Street—Parliamentary Road—Castle Street—Springburn Road—Bishopbriggs.
RENFIELD STREET, named after Campbell of Blythswood’s estate of Renfield near Renfrew, takes the car into the east tentacle of Sauchiehall Street, one of the city’s main arteries and a favourite haunt of shopper and lounger. This busy thoroughfare, with its palatial drapery palaces beloved of the fair sex, is an epitome of the vast and almost incredibly rapid expansion of business and social Glasgow. A century ago Sauchiehall Street was a rural country road. Let me quote from a description penned about the year 1860 by a Glasgow born man. He is speaking of Sauchiehall Street in his boyhood days:—“I recollect it well as a very dreary road with scarcely a house, and hedges on both sides; a number of old saugh trees grew in the parks. The College and Grammar School boys used often to go that way to skate and slide on the Saturdays on Gillespie’s Ponds, near what is now India Street. If we did not leave the ice till dusk we preferred going home by Anderston Walk, along which we made a rush to Grahamston (a little village of thatched cottages that occupied that part of Argyle Street near Jamaica Street and under the Caledonian Station bridge), where we got the first glimpse of the town’s lamps, rather than return by the dismal Sauchiehall Road.” It is a very old road. In a protocol of 23rd April, 1550, it is described as “the street called ‘ane commowne loyne’ on the north;” it was an ancient loan that stretched westwards to the then far distant village of Partick. It is a curious thought that this “common loan” of 1550 and “dismal road” of 1800 is now a throbbing thoroughfare, one of the great business streets of our city.
So up Parliamentary Road and into Castle Street, the old highway leading to the Bishop’s Castle which stood opposite the Cathedral and on the open space familiar to us as Cathedral Square. In 1258 reference is made to the Castle of Glasgow, and to the Bishop’s Palace as being outwith the keep. Bishop John Cameron in 1426 erected a great tower on the Bishop’s Palace, and it was this great tower that was the last portion of the castle to be removed at the final demolition a century ago. In the Art Galleries at Kelvingrove is a fine drawing, done in 1780, by Hearne, the English artist-antiquary, showing the Castle and Palace buildings at that period and before the process of demolition had begun.
Along Castle Street, into the St. Rollox district, passing on the right the basin, and crossing of the Old Monkland canal, constructed in 1769 for the benefit of the Lanarkshire collieries, now linked up with the Forth and Clyde Canal, opened from Kirkintilloch to Stockingfield in 1775 and wholly completed in 1790. This district derives its name from the ancient chapel of St. Roche the confessor, called in a Minute of Council in 1647 “Sein Rokis Kirk,” and founded about 1500 by Thomas Muirhead, canon of Glasgow and prebendary of Stobo. Its site is not known exactly, but it stood on what was then “the common muir” of Glasgow and to the north of the Stable Green Port, one of the city ports or gates adjacent to the wall surrounding the Bishop’s Castle.
St. Rollox is known the world over for its chemical works, erected. in 1800; the famous Tennant’s Stalk, taken down last year, was 435 feet in height; Townsend’s Stalk, 440 feet. The St. Rollox works link up with Scottish literary history. James Tennant of Glenconner farm, in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, was the son of the “guid auld Glen,” immortalised by Burns in his rhyming epistle to James Tennant of Glenconner, which opens thus pithily—
“Auld comrade dear and brither sinner,
How’s a’ the folk about Glenconner?”
John Tennant—“auld Glen,” the father—accompanied Burns to Nithsdale in February, 1788, to inspect certain farms, and on Tennant’s advice the poet fixed on Ellisland. In the epistle, Burns refers to “my auld school fellow, Preacher Willie,” the Rev. William Tennant, LL.D., and also to his brother, “Wabster Charlie.” Here we get a link, for “Wabster Charlie” Tennant became the founder of the St. Rollox chemical works, and was the grandfather of the late Sir Charles Tennant of the Glen, who died in 1906.
Passing Sighthill Cemetery on the left is Keppochill Road, the terminus of the Renfrew, Whiteinch, and Springburn tramway, and on the right Flemington Street, in which are situated the administration building of the North British Locomotive Company, adjacent to their Hydepark Works and Atlas Works.
It is of interest to recall that the Hydepark Works, Springburn, were founded in 1837 in Hydepark Street, Finnieston, by Walter Montgomerie Neilson, son of the inventor of the “hot blast,” and were latterly of worldwide reputation as Neilson, Reid & Co.
The Atlas Works, on the other side of the railway, were founded in 1884 by the Clyde Locomotive Co., Ltd., and in 1887 were acquired by Sharp. Stewart & Co., Ltd., of Manchester. These two firms, with that of Dubs & Co., Polmadie (now Queen’s Park Works), now form the North British Locomotive Company, Ltd. The chairman is Sir Hugh Reid, Bart., LL.D., who succeeded the late Sir William Lorimer, LL.D.
The name of the street mentioned, Flemington, enshrines a very old memory, worth recalling as a bit of Old Glasgow lore. In a protocol of 11th February, 1568, there is recorded a conveyance to “James Fleming, citizen of Glasgow, and Helen Conygham, spouses, a parcel or piece of the common of the City of Glasgow, extending to the Balgray dykes on the north, the great hill (Garngad?) on the south, and the common passage to the Bischoppis Briggis on the west.” In 1582 James Fleming resigned these lands in favour of William Fleming, also “two acres of land in the croft called Sanct Rolkis Croft and a town called Flemyngtoun in the muir which goes to Bischopis Briges.” The modern street formed through these lands was called Flemington Street, thus securing the continuance of the name by which it was known three centuries and a half ago, to the old burghers of Glasgow town.
A further interesting factor is suggested by the place-names used in the ancient documents quoted above. Our car takes us to Bishopbriggs, the still pleasantly rural village in Cadder Parish, said by some local histories and gazetteers to have derived its name from certain rigs or ridges of land which belonged to the Bishops of Glasgow. A document of 1572 describes a “loyne”—the present Castle Street—“leading to the Bischoppis Briggis on the West.” I think there is little doubt that we have here the origin of the name, and it is probable that it was applied to a bridge erected by one of the Bishops for facilitating communication with his rentallers and used in connection with the principal highway from Glasgow to the north and east.
At Bishopbriggs you are welcomed by the country, and a pleasant country road leads one through verdant spaces screened by verdant foliage, down to the woods of Cadder, through which the canal runs like a silver thread among the woodland verdure. It is a little over a mile's tramp to Cadder, another couple takes you into Kirkintilloch. From Cadder to Kirkintilloch the wayfarer's way is along the brow of the southern escarpment of the fertile vale of Kelvin, whereon the Roman engineers—able fellows—sixteen hundred years ago ran the alignment of the great Roman Wall, whose mouldering lines can be still followed across Scotland and many relics of the ancient invaders have been found in and around Cadder district. In 1773, while digging the canal near the village of Cadder, the workmen found an altar top and a mill stone, while in 1852 in trenching part of the glebe of the manse of Cadder four unfinished altars, a tablet, and a quantity of Roman pottery were discovered. We have equally direct evidence in the fine tumulus near Cadder Kirk—a neat little Scots kirk of 1830. This tumulus or mound has a circumference of 395 feet at the base. It is 20 feet above the surface level, and on the northern face the ancient ditch is still 7 feet deep and 30 feet wide. All the old writers on the Roman Wall refer to this Cadder mound as of Roman origin—Alexander Gordon in his “Itinerarium Septentrionale of 1726” (he is the old “Sandy Gordon” spoken of by Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck); Horsley in 1732; Roy the engineer, who penned in 1793 the wonderful “Military Antiquities of the Romans in Britain;” and finally Stuart, in his “Caledonia Romana” of 1845, says it is likely to have been a Roman castellum or watch tower, an opinion homologated by the latest authorities on the subject. The Roman wall and ditch cross the line of the canal at the bend to the north of the manse. The remains of the former show in a strip of wood close to the field boundaries, and the lines of the ditch are well marked as they traverse the farm of Easter Cadder—to our left as we cross the canal by the main highway a mile beyond Cadder village and within sight of Kirkintilloch.
We are bound for the Luggie’s source, and beneath the shadow of the steep breastwork on which stands the venerable town of Kirkintilloch, we find the Luggie and the classic Kelvin embracing one another. Alack, this loving merger is consummated in a place of faded beauty. Doubtless at a not remote period the Luggie was a winsome little burn warranting poor Gray’s assertion that “fairer stream rolled never golden sand into the sea.” That must have been in the good old times of which the poets prattle and mere mundane men fondly dream. Modern industry and its captains have no overwhelming respect for the silvery brook and the pebbled beach, and the dark and turgid pool where the little Luggie mingles with its classic parent is a silent but impressive tribute to the power ot commerce. Withal, the Luggie retains many virginal charms for those who inherit the wayfarer’s love of the open road and for the wan moorlands where the spirit of silence reigns. The highways and byways which will take us to the source, the silver eyelet on the heath by Palacerigg possess the subtle charm to lure us onward.
The ancient and modern rub shoulders on the High Street of Kirkintilloch. It is a place of old memories. Picturesque crow-stepped gabled houses greet the eye, houses which witnessed Prince Charlie and his Highlanders march past on that dismal trek that closed on the stricken field of Culloden. There are older memories, memories that link the town with the red tragedy that took place on a February day of 1306 in the church of the Minorite Friars at Dumfries. The Comyns held the lands of Lenzie and Cumbernauld prior to the slaying of the Red Comyn, after which deed Bruce granted to the Flemings—one of whom was with him in the Dumfries kirk-the “whole barony of Kirkintilloch with its pertinents.” And centuries before that deed was wrought Roman engineers built at Kirkintilloch one of the great forts of the great wall. It may be that the Peel of Kirkintilloch, the grassy turfed lines and ramparts which show so clearly in the public park of to-day, were constructed by Roman hands. Gordon, Horsley, and Roy say so; Macdonald, the latest authority, believes that the Peel was the mediaeval castle of the Comyns. Time and space forbid discussion. Let us to the Cowgate, through which we pass on our path to the “sweet Luggie” of David Gray. We pass the famous “Old Aisle” kirkyard, the church of which was founded by Thorald, owner of the barony of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld about 1140.
The Luggie owes its fame to the genius of David Gray. Born, like Burns, in a humble but-and-ben on the banks of the burn, Gray’s brief span of life was little more than “a piece of childhood thrown away.” He died in his twenty-third year. His lot in life was of the “poortith cauld,” and he withered and sank before that chilling blast. Yet he left behind him some poems of rare beauty. Says Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton, who composed the inscription of Gray’s monument in the Auld Aisle Kirkyard) he “sang his little brook into fame, and the Luggie is now numbered with the streams illustrious in Scottish song.” William Freeland, editor of the Glasgow “Evening Times,” and a poet who struck a fine lyrical note, wrote of Gray—
“He thrilled me with his tender line,
The beauty of his mortal youth.”
Gray passed over the dark bourne in December, 1861, at Duntiblae, the wayside clachan which we pass on our right at Waterside, the old-fashioned village on the Luggie a mile and a good bittock out of Kirkintilloch. The young artist and the photographer will find much to interest them at Waterside. There are some remarkably fine “bits” combining the township with its garden patches chequering the grassy slopes, the old ruined mill and the still waters of the ancient dam. Under a summer sky it is as fair a pastoral as one could wish to gaze upon.
From Waterside a stretch of nearly two miles by the banks of the Luggie and we come to Badenheath, the erstwhile home of the Boyds of Kilmarnock. This late fifteenth century keep is but a fragment of its former self. It has been built of fine regularly coursed masonry, which has proved too strong a temptation to the needy builders of later and presumably more enlightened times. My sketch shows its ruined state, the result largely of having been used for many years as a free quarry, to the great advantage of many neighbouring byres and dykes. One of the Boyds of Badenheath fought under his father, Lord Boyd, for the Queen’s cause at Langside in 1568, and this gentleman made his will “at Badingeath the xiii day of July 1611 yearis” and left “ye yeerlie proffet of four akers of landes in Kirkintilloch to the puir folks.” From the Boyds the Peel of Badenheath passed about 1670 to the Coupers, one of whom in November, 1708, married Margaret Thom, a relative of the Rev. William Thom, minister of Govan, the celebrated wit about whom there are some good yarns in Alison’s “Anecdotage of Glasgow.” At Badenheath take to the highway, cross the Luggie, and go straight through Mollinburn, where there is a hostel and good ale. So, by a shady old-world road which branches off the main highway, pass on our right the farms of North Medrox and a mile further on North Myvet, down to the Luggie Ford, seven miles from Kirkintilloch and only three from the fountainhead on the moorlands of Palacerigg. From the ford the banks of the stream may again form our highway to Luggiebank hamlet. The water is a wee drumlie, but the setting is picturesque and the rambler tastes the joys of wandering amid wood and water and wilderness. The bed of the stream at Luggiebank lies deep down in a bosky gorge, and looking from the bridge which carries the Carlisle and Stirling highway at a respectable altitude over the Luggie, we catch a charming vista of the tree-clad banks and bends and reaches of the streamlet.
The Luggie is here but a wimpling burn, full of the daintiness and joy of the age of innocence. It skirts the brae on which Torbrex is set, and hurries and scurries with quite reckless haste to lose its virgin beauty in the dell by the chemical work. On these wan moorlands the Glasgow Corporation has established great peat works connected with the Palacerigg Farm Colony. The building, square and commonplace, strikes a cold and unromantic note on the wide spaces of the moor, yet it has an effective touch when seen silhouetted against the eastern sky, showing up grey and mysterious amidst the withered heath and bent. Colour and life, however, linger by our Luggie’s side, where are patches of lovelier green between which the modest little brook goes bickering blythely, forgetful apparently of the important topographical fact that at this point in its career it has the honour of forming the county boundary. At the old Rowan Tree on the moor which we must pass to reach the source of the stream, we step from Dumbartonshire to Lanarkshire. Far up on these moors and where the eye rests gratefully on saffron grass and green moss, and where the ear lists to the trickling of hidden water and to the strange music of
secret birds, the wayfarer finds the source of the little Luggie, a silvery patch on the dusky face of the lonely moorlands.
This is a rare ramble by the highways and byways along the borders of the shires of Dumbarton and Lanark, a ramble where there is a rowth of interests, and interests, and where we quaff great draughts of our country’s caller air. To return, retrace your path to Torbrex and Tannoch farm, and at Tannoch you are a mile and a bittock from Cumbernauld Station, where the expenditure of a modest shilling will take you back to Glasgow town.