THE LONG LOCH AND NEILSTON PAD.
(Via BLUE CAR TO BARRHEAD.)
JOIN CAR AT STOCKWELL STREET, EGLINTON TOLL, OR SHAWLANDS CROSS.
Route—Stockwell Street—Main Street—Pollokshaws Road—Pollokshaws—Thornliebank
IN the map of Renfrewshire, “drawn by John Ainslie” in 1810, a country road is seen winding through fields and muiry land from the tollhouse at the junction of the great roads to Ayr and Irvine, where to-day the Mount Florida and Pollokshaws cars part company after passing through the Gorbals. Eglinton Toll was so named after the Earl of Eglinton, chairman of the Paisley and Johnstone Canal, opened about 1810; and where the car swings round into Pollokshaws Road at Eglinton Toll, we are on the line of the ancient highway from Glasgow to Irvine by Pollokshaws. This was a country road in the “fifties” of last century leading to Strathbungo village, the clachan of Crossmyloof, and the then far-distant Pollok Shaws. At Eglinton Toll and in the gushet formed by the junction of Eglinton Street and Pollokshaws Road, almost where now stands the Tramway shelter, there stood the old Toll House. In Pollokshaws Road, and nearer Gorbals than the Toll, there was a row of thatched cottages, with modest cabbage patches, known as the old Muir houses. These primitive biggins were located on the edge of the moor that extended south to Haggs Castle and west to Kinning Park and Plantation. The Muir houses were removed in 1871, and their site is now occupied by what are known as the St. Andrew’s Cross buildings. From the Muir houses to what we know now as Allison Street—then the highway from Rutherglen to Paisley—the road wended over the moor with on the left the clachan of Butterbiggins. The old footpath across the moor from the Cathcart Road to this ancient clachan, is represented to-day in the Butterbiggins Road, a note that speaks silently, but eloquently, of the vast changes wrought by the passing years.
Where Allison Street is bisected by the Pollokshaws Road stood the village of Strathbungo—Strabungo in 1782, the old name, and probably the correct name, for there is no “strath.” At that period, and earlier, the thatched rows of Strabungo housed a population consisting of weavers, colliers, and labourers. Coal seems to have been wrought here at an early period. In a plan of 1741 there are marked “Cammeron’s Eye” and “Sievewright’s Eye,” doubtless the old “in gaun-ee,” or passage to the coal workings; a section of these ancient workings was disclosed when the cutting was made for the railway. Among the feuars of 1773 was “David Muir collier in Marchton”; curiously enough, “Marchtoun” is the designation given to Strathbungo on the plan of 1741. It is a feuing name, used probably by the maker of the feuing plan of this part of the Pollok estate so as to fix definitely the marches occurring here—the march between Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire and the parishes of Cathcart and Govan. In these days the public road from Paisley to Rutherglen and Hamilton passed through Strathbungo: Nithsdale Street and Allison Street follow exactly the line of that venerable road.
THE DEIL’S KIRKYAIRD.
Many and vast have been the changes in this spot during the past half-century. Strathbungo’s thatched village has vanished, and so also have the cornfields which were wont to give a golden gleam to the landscape, now occupied by the retired and exclusive Regent Park. In 1850 the site of Regent Park Square was a brickfield; the land around it was agricultural. The modern place-name dates from 1860, when Sir John Maxwell feued 36 acres of the lands of Titwood, to which was then given the name Regent’s Park. On our left here are the beautiful woodland glades of Camphill Park, with its lochan whereon model yachtsmen find good sport. Long prior to the formation of the yachting pond this part of the Camphill lands was a marsh, and tradition has it that in this mossy land were buried the dead from Langside battle. It was a haunted spot, and known locally as the Deil’s Kirkyard. A weird tale is told of a strange sight seen by the woman who in 1830 stayed in the little lodge which still stands at the entrance gate to Camphill Park, opposite Regent Park Terrace. Looking out from her window one moonlight night about the hour “when churchyards yawn,” she saw a fearsome thing, the gashed and mutilated dead of Langside leave their silent abode in the old marsh ground, form into a ghastly array, and headed by his sable majesty, march down the avenue. The woman, frantic with fear, fled to the manse, where the young minister proved not only a ghostly but a good counsellor and most efficient exorcist. At all events, the ghosts of the Deil’s Kirkyard were never again seen under the pale glimpses of the moon. Camphill House and Museum in the park is an Adam creation, erected about 1780 on the site of an old thatched farmhouse. It is of interest to put on record that during the construction of the Camphill tennis courts, the workmen came on the old farm well, with much worn steps leading down to the water. Alongside they uncovered some very rude wooden piping, the undressed trunks of trees having been bored to form the pipes. These relics of a bygone time were discovered about ten yards from the top of the court nearest the gardens.
Where Minard Road and Langside Avenue join, Pollokshaws Road was, within living memory, the site of the rural hamlet of Crossmyloof. In 1850 it was described as “a finely situated little hamlet,” with cabbage patches, flower gardens, and a hospitable hostelry; and from there (now Shawlands Cross) to Pollokshaws you went by a road etched on the muir and framed in broom and bracken. Away to the right stretched the Shaw Moss, overlooked by Haggs Castle—an old keep that was in process of erection when Glasgow was but the fifth burgh of importance in Scotland, and had a population of less than 7,000! It was built by Sir John Maxwell in 1585, is still sturdy, and is the residence of the factor of the Pollok estates. West from Haggs Castle, and on the Haggs Road, there stood until about 1900 the old village of Potterfield, where in 1750 was established a pottery. And so to the quaint, if not queer, town of Pollokshaws, a burgh for over a century, and annexed by Glasgow in 1912. In 1744 we find notices of a “caligo”—calico-printer at Pollokshaws, and in 1751 of a printfield; and where was born in 1735, James Tassie, a stone mason who, thanks to inherent genius, became the greatest of British artists in the modelling of cameos, intaglios, and medallions; work of amazing quality, equal to the finest of the Greek and other antique gems. His art can be studied at Kelvingrove Art Gallery, where there is a splendid collection of his exquisitely modelled portraits.
Tassie was a well-known name in the locality. In the kirkyard of Eastwood, an ancient spot which we pass on our right after leaving Pollokshaws and its round toll, there sleep many members of that family. Eastwood is a very old parish place-name; older still is that of Pollok, which seems to have been connected with a chapel or kirk about 1180, when, according to Cosmo Innes, “Peter, the son of Fulbert owner of Upper and Nether Pollok, gave to the monks of Paisley the church of Pollok with its lands and waters, plains and pastures,” which grant was confirmed by Bishop Joceline of Glasgow, who died in 1199. The lands of Pollok have been in the possession of the Maxwells since the days of Bruce, from whom Sir John Maxwell got a grant also of the lands of “Lyoncroce,” near Barrhead. They built a castle on the banks of the Cart, and the existing mansion house of Pollok was built in 1740, almost on the site of the mediaeval keep. Among the many and fine historic relics in Pollok House there is one of profound interest to Glasgow, the letter sent by Queen Mary to Sir John Maxwell on the eve of Langside battle. In it she pleads “faill not to be heir at us in Hammyltoun with all your friendis and serwandis bodin in feir of weir” (i.e., equipped for war). It is dated “off Hammyltoun the fifth of May 1568,” and signed Marie R. By the courtesy of Sir John Stirling Maxwell this interesting letter is exhibited in the case of Langside relics at the Art Galleries, Kelvingrove.
A writer in 1796 tells us that “a very populous village named Pollok Shaws lies in that part of the parish which approaches Glasgow.” In 1296, “Giles of the Estnode,” swore fealty to Edward I.; “John Goldsmit bachelor in degrees,” is vicar of Eastwood and Cathcart in 1485 and rector of the University of Glasgow in 1491; in 1678, the “Highland Host,” which the Government of the time brought from the north to oppress and shoot, if thought fit, the folks in the west of Scotland who favoured the Covenant, “ravaged Eastwood parish, taking away pots, pans, and everything portable”; and on 15th March, 1699, we read in the Paisley Presbytery Records that “the Lord Justice Clerk is to be seen at Pollok (in Eastwood) about witches.” Four years after the witch scare there was appointed as minister of Eastwood, Robert Wodrow, the famous historian of the infamous “religious” persecution of the Covenanters. This good man rests in the old kirkyard amongst his ain folk, where the handsome monument to his memory states that he passed away on 21st March, 1734, in his 55th year. In the kirkyard is to be seen a remnant of the kirk in which Wodrow ministered; the present Parish church, a structure with a tower that is a notable landmark in the district, stands on our left just on leaving Pollokshaws. It was erected in 1863 in succession to the kirk of 1782, the first to be reared on the present site. Opposite the kirk, and embosomed in a grove of stately beech and elm, stands the grey and ancient castellated mansion of Auldhouse. The oldest portion may be of fifteenth century date, probably older; in any case the place-name is very old. As far back as 1265, “Roger, the son of Reginald de Aldhus,” resigns certain lands in the neighbourhood, which he described as the “dos” of St. Conval the resting place or cell: this saint, whom we met at Inchinnan in our Renfrew ramble, doubtless had a cell, kil or chapel, at Eastwood. He is the tutelary saint of the parish.
So to Thornliebank village, still blessed with a touch of the rural, and where, if we leave the car, there is a pleasant and modest ramble of about three miles, passing Carnwadric farm (there is a fine Saxon flavour about that name) and quaint Kennishead to the Cowglen road, thence hack to Pollokshaws and the round toll. As a centre of industry, Thornliebank was founded in 1778, when a Robert Osburn started as a “linnen printer,” his works being north of “the great road leading from Pollokshaws to Stewarton,” at Thorny Bank, as the district is named in the maps of that period. In 1789 the linnen printer’s work was acquired by John Crum, merchant in the Gallowgate; and this enterprising and fine family carried on the business until 1893, when it passed to the Calico Printers Association. The lands of the Crum family were bought by Mr. Cameron Corbett (Lord Rowallan), and the Rouken Glen portion was gifted as a public park to the citizens of Glasgow. At Thornliebank our car touches Rouken Glen; an alternative route to this park is from Shawlands Cross, via the modern and beautiful suburb of Giffnock. As a public park, Rouken Glen has few rivals in this or any other city. It is full of wide, green spaces, wooded slopes, and lovely lanes, deep set in over-arching bush and tree; a glen of rare beauty through which Auldhouse Burn tumbles over rocky scaurs, and of this glen in our park, Christopher North said it was “the loveliest of linns that ever sounded in the solitary silence of Nature.” On a summer day it is full of pleasant sounds and sweet suggestions of woods and streams and of the stir of birds and the winds. Amid those pleasant sights and sounds, city folk forget the streets and their stony sermons, the wersh mental fruits of the noise and money grabbing fever of the city. And in Rouken Glen as in the Linn Park, a reasonable person may get “a’ the comforts o’ the Sautmerket” in the comfortable tea rooms within the fine old mansion house of the estate.
After Thornliebank the car takes us past the old crow-stepped and quaint farmhouse of Darnley, beyond which lie the rifle ranges of that name. Darnley was of old the residence of that branch of the Stewarts who succeeded about 1300 the Crocs in Crookston, or Crockston Castle. On 10th January, 1361, the High Steward of Scotland granted to his cousin, “John Stewart of Darnley knight,” the lands of Crokyston and Inchinane; and in 1461 Sir John Steuart of Darnley was created Lord Darnley, and assumed the title of the Earl of Lennox. To the south-east, and near Patterton, is the farm of Capelrig, ance a possession of the Knights Templars. and where still stands the shaft of one of three ancient crosses or stones, the second at Lyoncross, near Neilston, and the third (perhaps) at Crosstobs, which we passed outside of Barrhead on our Crookston Castle ramble. An ancient and persistent tradition says that somewhere between those crosses there is buried, in gold and silver, a king’s ransom
Yont Capelrig and Lyon Cross
And eke the auld hare stane,
There’s rowth o’ bonnie siller lies
Wha finds the king will sain.
An ancient rhyme surely? Where does this treasure lie? No one knows, but we may take it that this floating waif of tradition preserves the shadowy memory of some past event. “There’s aye water where the stirkie droons,” and the treasure awaits a finder whom other folks than the king will bless, or “sain,” as the old verse has it.
TO LOCH LIBO.
Leave the tram at Barrhead, halfway through the town, at the Neilston Road stopping place. Tramp a quarter of a mile and you come to where the road parts; be sure and take the highway that bears to the right. We are here at the entrance to the curious geologic gap or valley through which there ebbs and flows, by road and rail, the great flood of commerce from Glasgow to the south. Geologists tell us that this gap, which extends from Barrhead to Loch Libo, represents a fracture in the crust of our old earth. The learned analysis of the unromantic geologist is not in harmony with the rambler’s synthetic vision. Time has healed the fracture, and in these days we wander through a green and pleasant valley, a sheltered vale set in a framework of fertile hills. Our highway is good going. We have the Levern stream as a companion. The tint of the water speaks eloquently of the tang of the thread mills; yet on a summer afternoon the glancing sunshine helps to adjust the balance between nature and industry. A pleasant tramp of a little over a mile takes us to the mills of lower Neilston.
The ancient and the modern dwell amicably together at Neilston. Writing about eighty years ago, a gossipy local chronicler remarks that “there is perhaps no country parish in Scotland that abounds so much in thriving and populous villages as Neilston, and all has arisen owing to the introduction of manufacturing establishments on a great scale.” Neilston disputes with Rothesay the honour of having had the first cotton mill in Scotland. We are told that in 1791 there were only two small cotton mills in the parish, one of these at Dovecot Hall, the other at Gateside, the number of workers being six hundred. To-day there are several mills which each employ, in busy seasons, double that number of workers. Neilston village stands on the brow of the great escarpment overlooking our highway. It is a clean little place, windswept and essentially healthy. Old memories cling around Neilston. The barony was held about 1200 by the Crocs of Crockstoun (Crookston) Castle, one of whom gave the patronage of the kirk of Neilston to the abbey of Paisley; and in the registers of the Monastery “de Passelet,” Robert Croc, in 1180, is described as a “special friend of our house.” The kirk of Neilston claims to occupy the highest situation of any ecclesiastical edifice in broad Scotland. It is a quaint little structure and comparatively modern, having been built in 1762, large enough doubtless for the congregation of that period, for in 1780 the village consisted of but fifty-three houses.
BASS JOHN, APOTHECARY.
Leaving the mills of lower Neilston and Neilston railway station, we are on the pleasantest of country roads, tree bordered and quiet. The burn that wimples on our right takes its name from the lands of Cowdon, which, according to Crawfurd, the Renfrewshire historian, “gave title of Lord to Sir William Cochrane, afterwards Lord of Dundonald;” and he adds, “An ancient family of the Sprewls did possess the forementioned lands for many years.” This is of interest to the Glasgow citizen. M‘Ure, the city’s first historian, speaks of John Spreul, “a learned man designed in the year 1507 magister artmin brother of the house of Cowdon,” and John Spreul, of the same family, apothecary in Glasgow in 1677, underwent terrible sufferings at the hands of the legal and clerical persecutors of the Covenanters. He was put to the torture of The Boot, thrown into prison, his wife and family turned out of house and shop; and he finally spent six years’ solitary confinement on the Bass Rock, whereby he got the appellation of “Bass John,” all of which was done under the cloak of a “holy and righteous” cause! Spreul’s Court is a memory of this family; it was a venerable race. Hamilton of Wishaw, in his Accompte of the Sheriffdom of Renfrew, tells us that “Walter Spreule wes Seniscall to Malcolm Earle of Lennox” about 1294, and he adds, “Thir Spruiles are several times mentioned in the cartulary of Paisley.”
A LIVING PICTURE.
The lands of Cowdon passed in 1766 to the Mures of Caldwell and Cowdon Ha’, the erstwhile residence of the Dundonalds, and “Thir Spruiles” stood on an eminence to our left as we head for Loch Libo. With pardonable parochial enthusiasm the reverend gentleman who penned, in 1840, the New Statistical Account of the parish, asserts that “Loch Libo presents a scene of unparalleled beauty and excels in picturesque scenery Rydal Water in Cumberland,” while the gushing poetess, Miss Aird, eulogises the lochan as
“A scene for poet’s song or painter’s eye,
A living picture glow’d in ev’ry hue,
As e’er was painted on Venetian sky,
As ever Titian or Paolo drew!”
All of which, like that estimable mariner, Captain Cuttle, we may duly “make a note of,” at the same time taking the liberty of adding Mr. Samuel Weller’s opinion that “They’re a-comin’ of it rayther strong.” Undoubtedly charming, however, is the modest sheet of water, and when the summer sun is glinting over the hills of Libo and kissing the surface of the loch, I agree cordially with the lady who terms it “a scene for poet’s song or painter’s eye.” The crumbling remains of old coal pits may be detected on the southwest bank of the loch. The Rev. John Monteath, writing in 1790, remarks “There is just now a coal pit working at the west end of Loch Libo, with a steam engine upon it, the property of William Mure, Esq., rented at £60 per annum.” A few years after these words were penned, the waters of the loch burst in upon the miners, seven in number, deluged the pit, and drowned the poor fellows. Their bodies were never recovered, and to this day they rest in their grim tomb by the side of the little loch. Peeping over the trees on the hillside above the loch is the old Peel of Caldwell, a well-preserved fourteenth century relic, all that remains of the Castle of Caldwell, the home of the Caldwells about 1350, and latterly of that other old race, the Mures of Caldwell.
THE LONELY LONG LOCH.
The first road to the left past Loch Libo wanders uphill through the picturesquely situated village of Caldwell. Pass the village by the fine highway which leads to Neilston and take the old country road branching off on the right. It crosses Uplawmoor, “a path among the hills,” for we rise seven hundred feet in a couple of miles, which brings us to Commore Dam, where we are again in touch with the Levern and the highway to Stewarton. Cut off the main road about a quarter of a mile from the Dam, and keeping to the old road on the left, we pass on the right the bien farm of Harelaw. It gives a name to Harelaw Dam, which lies hidden among the hills about half a mile beyond the steading. Our path crosses the Levern, here a mere brawling brook, as it bids the dam adieu and scuttles across the scaurs for Commore. Leave the road at Moyne Farm and skirt Harelaw Darn on its southern edge.
The track is rough, and where it can be followed a mere sheep pad. It is tough walking, mostly bog and marsh, which leads us through a moorland wilderness round the steep shoulder of the scaur that shuts out the Long Loch from the rest of the world. It is a lonely spot, and in it is the Long Loch, the cradle of the Levern Water. Those who love solitude will meet and embrace it on this bare and unblessed moorland, where there is naught of human life and where we hear naught but the half wail of the peesweep or eerie cry of the curlew.
Step across the Levern where it bids farewell to its lonely parent and keep to the moor on the north of Harelaw Dam, with the hump of Neilston Pad due north. You will come to an old grass-carpeted road, an old coaching road, a relic of the post horn and the pre-Telford and MacAdam days. This track, it is little more, passes wider the shadow of Neilston Pad, which is a comparatively easy climb leading to a rare reward. On the plateau or pad you are 854 feet above sea level. From this windswept eyrie the view is superb, a matchless panorama of sea and mountain land and moorland and agricultural land—the hills of Galloway and Ayrshire, Ailsa Craig and the Firth of Clyde with its shipping, the peaks of Arran, Ben Lomond, and the Highland hills, Dungoyne, the Campsie Fells, and the valley of the Clyde, and Glasgow town, grey and blue and purple and gold, a haunt of faery, so surely does distance lend enchantment to a view. We look down at Neilston village and Barrhead, and the homeward way lies clear.