THE MOORLANDS O’ BALLAGIECH.
(Via YELLOW CAR TO CLARKSTON.)
JOIN CAR AT CHARING CROSS, JAMAICA STREET, OR EGLINTON TOLL.
Route—Jamaica Street—Eglinton Street—Victoria Road—Battlefield Road—Holmlea Road—Clarkston Road
Jamaica Street to Clarkston, 5 miles.
THE hill o’ Ballagiech is of modest height, 1084 feet above sea level, a mere moudiewart compared with the majestic bens which keep watch and ward over the valley of the Clyde. Yet, thanks to its being upreared on the very backbone of Scotland, Ballagiech offers the wayfarer a magnificent panorama of land and sea, of mountain, moorland, and loch. Ailsa Craig and the hills of Galloway on the south, the peaks of Arran, Ben Lomond, Ben Voirlich, Ben Ledi, the Kilpatrick Hills and the Campsie Fells, the spacious valley of the Clyde from Dumbuck to where it melts into the blue ether beyond Airdrie, Wishaw, and Carluke. “Mosses, waters, slaps and stiles,” stretching far east until they are lost on the dark shoulders of Eldrig, where the birthplace of the White Cart is to be found. And over all rests for ever the full charm of freshness, and the open air and the rare peace that one inhales when listening to the haunting cry of the whaup and the call of the peesweep. There you have a fit banquet for the gods. So to Ballagiech.
The car route is interesting. At Langside you sweep round the shoulder of Queen’s Park, one of the most beautiful of the many open spaces which the foresight and wisdom of the Town Council have preserved for the citizens. This park was known formerly as Pathhead Farm, and was acquired in 1857 from Mr. Neale Thomson of Camphill. The price paid was £30,000 for 143 acres. It was “laid out” by the famous landscape gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton, and this work was carried out by the unemployed in 1858-59. The formal opening took place on 11th September, 1862. It may be here noted that the adjoining estate of Camphill—now part of the Queen’s Park—was sold in 1886 by Mr. Neale Thomson to Hutchesons’ Hospital Trustees for £24,448, and on 4th May, 1893, it was bought by the city for £63,000. Camphill derives its name from an ancient British camp, circular, which crowns the hilltop, and where, in 1867, in the course of excavations, there was found eight feet down a large quantity of half-burned grain, specimens of which are preserved in Kelvingrove Museum. Obviously this grain formed the contents of an ancient drying kiln, possibly a relic of the Roman legions or possibly of pre-Roman British origin.
Langside Road, which passes up the hill past the Victoria Infirmary on the right of the car line, was the old Lang Loan which witnessed, on the morning of the 13th of May, 1568, the closing scene of the Battle of Langside. The opposing forces met in a hand-to-hand struggle in this Lang Loan, and so closely were the pikes crossed that, when the soldiers behind discharged their pistols and threw them in the faces of their foes, they remained lying on the crossed weapons. Vast indeed has been the change in the landscape since that tragedy was enacted on the bosky slopes which led to the clachan of Langside. The green whin-clad slopes and the wild heath that stretched between the hills of Langside and Clincart have vanished, and the solitary reminder that on this ground once upon a tune there were heard the bloody shouts of war, “man’s deepest shame and God’s heaviest scourge”—so said truly that honest divine, Dr. Thomas Guthrie—is the ornate pillar that shares the shoulder of the hill with two Scottish kirks.
Crossing the handsome bridge over the White Cart, on the left, and peeping over the trees, stands the ancient keep of Cathcart, whose long life goes back to the days of Wallace and Bruce, when its laird, Alan de Cathcart, fought in the wars of Scottish Independence, and spanning the river beneath the castle is the Auld Brig of Cathcart, built 1624, which in pre-railroad days carried the highway from the south to Glasgow. Alongside the bridge is the old snuff mill, but it no longer grinds the grateful sneeshin’; bridge, mill, river and foliage form a picturesque group that has lured generations of Glasgow artists to the spot. Its sylvan sweetness has inspired others of the fraternity of God’s own folk, for the poets have also responded to the woodland charm. Campbell, who was wont to frequent the manse of Cathcart, sings of—
Scenes of my childhood and dear to my heart,
Ye green waving woods on the margin of Cart.
And James Grahame, lingering on the river banks, conjured up the golden age of boyhood when—
Forth from my low-roofed home I wandered blythe
Down to thy side, sweet Cart.
Industrial progress meets us on the right in Weir’s great works, and we pass, on the right, also the handsome Couper Institute and Library opened in April, 1923. A little further on the chaste swatch of Suburbia, known as Muirend, brings the traveller to the end of Glasgow town and the beginning of “the country.”
So to the Linn Park, where a pleasant afternoon may be spent in wandering around Glasgow’s latest and one of her best and biggest open spaces. The splendid estate and mansion of Linn were acquired in 1918 from the Gordons of Aikenhead. The river Cart meanders through this beautiful woodland, in the summer time astir with life and movement and the sweet sounds of our song birds. By the river banks, dipping and winding and rising, go many paths that lead to cool and quiet spots, or to open green spaces ablaze with sunshine and warmth. Glorious places these for tired city mothers and their children; kindly places, fragrant and green and peaceful; naught to break the stillness but the finest of all things that life has to offer, the wimple of the passing stream and the laughter of happy children. Grateful indeed should the citizens feel towards a Corporation that gives to all such pleasant places wherein to escape from the tumult and the stir. And this park boasts of the finest bandstand in Britain, where, in a seated arena, 2,000 people may in complete comfort enjoy the humours of a comedy or the finest of music from orchestra or band. The ancient social glories of the mansion of Linn have departed, and it now serves the more democratic and communally useful purposes of a restaurant.
A mile and a bittock in the car, passing en route the clachan of Netherlee, takes you to the terminus and Clarkston. Clarkston has of late years developed into a gracious city suburb, with the usual concomitants of bowling green and golf course and fresh air, the latter in abundance and bracing. It is happily situated on the borders of a beautiful countryside, where you may pree the delights of hills and meadows and deep country paths. We go by the highway to the kirktown of Eaglesham; that is to say, if you be a member of the ancient and honourable (and glorious) fraternity of tramps. If not of that fraternity you take the romping motor ’bus and miss a lot of joys. Among these, the joy of exploring the wonders of Waterfoot, that fairy-haunted spot beloved of the brotherhood of Dick Tinto. Christopher North’s “lovely Earn” here merges into the White Cart, yet the two combined suffice only to make such a burnie as would “wimple ower a linn.” The leonine Christopher spent his boyhood by the banks of the Earn, and when an old man, and recalling the days o’ auld langsyne, he penned loving lines on the voices that were still, but which for him yet mingled with the gentle murmur of the Earn and the Cart. At Waterfoot, canny and philosophic Waltonians smoke their pipes and watch lazily the lines floating on the bosom of the stream, and artists transfer on to canvas or “Whatman” the sunlight that filters through the sylvan shades and plays on the ancient mill and the old grey bridge. Three miles along a country road which marches with the Cart brings the wayfarer to Eaglesham, still a quaint upland village and a health-giving spot, where the sun and the sharp moorland air will quickly mottle the pallid countenance with the pattern of the fern.
TO POLNOON AND CART’S SOURCE.
A half mile from Eaglesham and on the banks of the Cart stand the ruined mill of Millhall and the dam of Polnoon. In a clump of trees on a knoll a couple of hundred yards from the dam are to be seen the mouldering vestiges of the ancient keep of Polnoon. The storm and shine of wellnigh six centuries have almost obliterated this castle of the powerful chiefs of Montgomery. Shattered and insignificant though the ruins be, yet their story links us with great events in Scottish history and literature; in the latter with the Scots and English ballads of “Chevy Chase” and “Otterburn,” in history with the Sir John de Montgomery, who, at the battle of Otterburn in 1388, took Percy prisoner. A more or less reliable but persistent tradition has it that it was with Percy’s ransom or “poind” money the castle of Polnoon was built. The dam and ruined mill are most picturesque. They offer a feast of Corot-like colour, and a composition tempting alike to brush and camera. The second road to the right, a walk of a mile past the ruined mill, will take you due south and twice over the River Cart, here but a purling brook. On this south-going road you pass Currachfaulds, and a quarter of a mile further on you reach the grey and weather-beaten farm answering to the philologically stimulating name of Rawhead (a Celtic or Teutonic root?) a memory perhaps of the days when the ancient Pictish was spoken on the moorlands of Cart head. An old field path leads from Rawhead to the Cart, here as our sketch shows, the most modest of brooks but clear as crystal and the home of fat trout. From this point it is a comparatively easy tramp of a couple of miles over bent lands and through peat haggs to the source of the White Cart, a gleaming eye of silver and green on the dark shoulder of Eldrig. The summit level is not far above the source, and at the little cairn which crowns the top you are 1215 feet above sea level, a splendid vantage point that commands a magnificent panorama of moorland and green and smiling fields, of villages and the distant city, with the Campsies and Dungoyne filling up the background. The road back to Eaglesham is about four miles and is easily followed.
Eaglesham may boast of a respectable antiquity. A Montgomery of Eaglesham witnessed the endowment charter of the Monastery of Paisley about 1170. The barony of Eaglesham was owned by the Montgomeries for centuries. It was a place of some importance. In the Acts of the old Scottish Parliament it is mentioned in 1672, when Alexander, eighth Earl of Eglinton, obtained an Act for the holding of “a yeirlie fair and weiklie mercat at the Kirktoune of Eaglesham.” The Earl’s petition is given in full in the Acts of the Scottish Parliament, and therein it is stated that the village obtained an Act for the holding of “a yeirlie fair and weiklie mercat at the Kirktoune of Eaglesham.” The Earl’s petition is given in full in the Acts of the Scottish Parliament, and therein it is stated that the village was then “above six miles distant from any burgh royal whar mercats or frie fairs are kept, and lying on the King’s highway, is a most fit and convenient place for keeping mercats.” The yearly fair was “keepit” on the 24th of April, and there was also “ane weeklie mercat for buying and selling of a’ sort of merchandis necessar and useful for the communitie.” There are other memories. In the shadow of the kirk—rebuilt in 1790—lies the dust of two local victims of the devilry of sectarian strife and its inevitable accompaniment, persecution; and these deeds are done under the cloak of the religion of love and peace! Of the Eaglesham martyrs, tradition says they were attending a conventicle on the moors to the north of the valley—where we are going. They were arrested on their way home, and were shot at Cowplie, a farm which stood at the foot of Mellowther Hill, about three miles south of the village. They rest at peace in the kirkyard of Eaglesham. On the monument erected to their memory we read how “Here lie Gabriel Thomson and Robert Lockhart, who were killed for owning the Covenanted Testimony.” This killing took place on 1st May, 1685.
James Wodrow, father of the famous historian of the sufferings of the kirk folk, was born at the hill of Eaglesham in 1637. He became Divinity Professor in the College of Glasgow, and his son Robert, the future historian, studied under him. While a student Robert was chosen to be Librarian of the College (that is the old College which stood from 1450 to 1870 in the High Street of Glasgow), a position he held for four years. In 1703 he was licensed to preach, was appointed minister of Eastwood, where he ministered until his death, in 1734, and this rugged but faithful recorder of the story of the Covenanting days sleeps among his ain folk in the kirkyard of old Eastwood, which you pass in the car between Pollokshaws and Thornliebank, and, on your right, just before coming to the new cemetery on the left.
In 1429, Eaglesham parish church was constituted a prebend of the Cathedral of Glasgow, and the manse of the rector of Eaglesham stood near and was of similar architecture to the existing Provand’s Lordship, the fifteenth century house at Cathedral Square. The village was ancient and doubtless very old-fashioned, for in 1796 we are informed by a writer of the period the Earl of Eglinton began to build “a new town upon a very extensive and elegant plan. It consists of two rows of elegantly-built houses, all of freestone with a large space between laid out in fine green fields and a fine gurgling streamlet running down the middle. Towards the higher end and on the rivulet the cotton mill stands.” The fine gurgling streamlet still falls down the brae, but the cotton mill has vanished. We see its ruins beside the ancient “moot hill.” In the early years of last century the cotton mill of Eaglesham gave employment to over 200 persons who manipulated its 15,312 spindles. It belonged to Maclean & Brodie, and had been erected by Murdoch & Aiken, engineers, Glasgow. The machinery was driven by a water-wheel of iron 45 feet in diameter and of 50 horse power. The mill was burned to the ground in 1870; the sketch of the building was drawn from a very rare photograph taken in 1868. Beside the picturesque but pathetic ruins of the vanished mill is the green Moothill, a well-preserved relic of a far-distant age. It strikes the oldest note in the district, and it was probably the meeting place of the tribe or tribes who peopled the uplands of Eaglesham when, in the sixth century, St. Mungo founded his church on the green braes by the Molendinar. Alternatively this mound may have been a fortified Mote-hill; but the place-name of tradition, Moot-hill, points rather to its having been the place of the Moot or meeting—i.e., place of judgment.
And so to the moors. The village straggles up a steep hill, and we have a stiffish climb, leaving the houses behind, until, on the left, we pass Picketlaw reservoir, where we are 700 feet above sea level and tasting the caller airs that blow free across the wide moorlands. Picketlaw enshrines a memory of the Covenanting times when pickets or sentries were posted on the law to give warning to the conventicles of the approach of the dragoons. The rise of the road is sharp, but the going is good. In half a mile you reach the High Dam, and are 850 feet above the sea, and the next mile takes you to the road summit, 975 feet, with the grey slopes of Ballagiech on your right. The highway runs along the lower shoulder of the hill. A climb of a little over 100 feet and you stand on the crown of Ballagiech. A glorious panorama of mountain, moor, and loch more than repays the long tramp from Clarkston. You are 1,084 feet above sea level. The eye roves over a great and storied swatch of Scotland. To the south, and glowing like a richly-toned carpet of Araby, are the broad green fields and the hills and streams, and flowery dells of the Land of Burns, and set like a turquoise gem on the bosom of the blue Clyde is Ailsa Craig, the “craggy ocean pyramid” of that fine English poet, Keats. The Alpine peaks of Arran, Ben Lomond, and the titans of the north; on the west, Loudoun Hill and the battlefield of Drumclog, and the wild and desolate moorlands of Lochgoin, and Glasgow as a centrepiece of the canvas. From our vantage point the city is a pattern of tender blues, suggestive of romance and of many other pleasant things which reality tends to shatter. To those who care, as all true ramblers must care, for the bliss of solitude, then on Ballagiech you may revel in it, your deep inward joy intensified by the eerie cry of the passing whaup.
Across the dark moorland, about a couple of miles to the south, is the ancient and historic farm of Lochgoin, tenanted for over six hundred years, and in unbroken line, by the family of Howie. The Howies of Lochgoin occupy an honoured niche in the Scottish pantheon. Theirs is surely a record of physical stability unparalleled in our country; their moral and mental attributes appear to have been equally fine. They stood courageously by the side of the persecuted “remnant”; it would have “paid them better” to have ranged themselves with the minions of the State, who were shooting men in the name of religion and law and order. But the farmers of Lochgoin were of finer fibre. Lochgoin was a place of refuge for the hunted, and difficult of approach to the hunters, and many a weary Covenanter found rest and peace in that lonely house among the moors. It is still lonely. From Ballagiech, a mile and a bittock on the highway, and you take the old farm road on the left, whereon another mile and a bittock takes you to the grey and sturdy-looking and low-built farm of Lochgoin, with its lintel stone bearing the date 1197. The Howies offer a courteous welcome to the stranger who desires to see the rare relics preserved from covenanting times—the flag carried by the Fenwick folks at Drumclog and Bothwell Brig, the side drums which beat the advance and retreat at those battles, the sword of Captain John Paton, and the Bible which he handed down to his wife from the scaffold in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, where he suffered death on the 8th of May, 1684, “for the cause of Jesus Christ and the Covenant,” the manuscript of “The Scots Worthies,” of which notable work John Howie of Lochgoin was the author, and many other “auld nick nackets” of Scottish interest, as well as a fine collection of prehistoric flint arrowheads and kindred curiosities.
From Lochgoin you may come back to Eaglesham by the old covenanters’ road, a “hidden road” which skirts the waters of Lochgoin, Kilmarnock’s water supply, and a mile further on, and, also on our right, the loch of Dunwan, which was wont long ago to supply the power for the mills of Eaglesham. From Dunwan it is barely a mile to the highway by which we came. You strike it after passing, on your right, the farm of West Revoch and almost at the High Dam, which we passed on our way to Ballagiech. The covenanters’ path shortens materially the return journey, and it is a path whereon we drink to the full of the cup of loneliness which the moorlands have in their keeping.
EAGLESHAM TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF ROBERT POLLOK—THE STAR AND GARTER—KIRKTOUN OF MEARNS—AND MEARNS CASTLE.
There is another and a very fine ramble with Eaglesham as the starting point, of course, taking the tramway car to Clarkston and walking or motoring to Eaglesham, as described in the Ballagiech tramp. Go up the west street of Eaglesham and, just outside the village and on your right, take the old road that branches off the Ballagiech highway. It is little more than a trackway or minor farm road, but it winds across a fine stretch of moorland and at a high altitude, whereon you breathe the purest and most bracing of airs; and, if the airt of the wind be east, you get it as snell as do the folks of Fife and the Lothians when the east haar comes sweeping up the Forth. As I say, the track is at a high altitude and also lonely, therefore pleasant indeed to the wayfarer: your eye moves over miles of moorland and upland, over wide sweeps of wan grass and heath, with patches of a lovely green around distant farms. So you go for almost two miles, when, on the edge of the ridge over which the trackway runs, you reach the mouldering ruins of what was the farm of Mid Moorhouse, now little more than a gable end. From the ruined farm you look down the brae to North Moorhouse, where Robert Pollok was born in 1798. When the poet was seven years of age the family removed from North to Mid Moorhouse, and it was here that he penned his “Ode to Moorhouse.” In it he dwells lovingly on the “garden of his boyhood days,” speaking of the old trees—“four trees I pass not by”—as if they were human friends—
“Tall trees they were
And old and had been old a century
Before my day.
None living could say aught
About their youth; but they were goodly trees,
And oft I wondered as I sat and thought
Beneath their summer shade, or in the night
Of winter heard the spirits of the wind
Growling among their boughs, how they had grown
So high in such a rough, tempestuous place.”
Pollok sleeps far from the little garden of his boyhood. He died on the 18th September, 1827, at Southampton, and his tombstone in the kirkyard of the English seaport tells those who care to read that this is—
The Grave of Robert Pollok, A.M.,
Author of “The Course of Time.”
His Immortal Poem is his Monument.
The memory of that gentle soul throws a halo of beauty over this place of ruin. Rank grass waves over his boyhood’s garden, its flowers and their fragrance have passed like the snows of yester year. But two of his “tall trees” remain—one an elm, towering in majesty above its neighbours; the other, in the sere and yellow of its days. Strong trees and sturdy to stand a century’s gales in “such a rough tempestuous place.” It is a windswept solitary spot, 830 feet above sea level, and exposed to every wind that blows, and a forgotten, neglected spot, for there is naught to remind us that here a Scottish poet of no mean fame spent his boyhood and penned the justly famous “Course of Time.” In these times when memorials are raised in their cohorts to the glories of war, might not a foot of brass or copper be fashioned to the memory of one who sang of peace; alas, poor Pollok chose an unfashionable theme!
So you go down the brae face to North Moorhouse, a bein farm town, and there you may see the room—now a plebeian, albeit practical “pantry”—in which the poet was born. At North Moorhouse you cross the Earn water. On your left is Logan’s Well, and the farm road takes you to the Fenwick road, almost at the junction of the modern highway and the old coaching road, where there does stand a monument with a bronze medallion of Pollok. We shall go citywards by the old coaching way, for it was along this road that, in August, 1817, Robert Pollok tramped. We may see him—that is to say, the wayfarer with the “seeing eye” will visualise him, a fine young countryman, erect and graceful, five feet nine in stature (the same height as Burns), broad in the shoulder, muscular and with remarkably black keen and expressive eyes (reminding us of Burns), swinging along to Glasgow town and its college. The old highway is fragrant still with the memory of that young figure.
The old Star and Garter, alas, no longer a coaching inn welcoming “man and beast,” saw him pass and doubtless cheered him on the quest after the elusive Temple of Fame. From the Star and Garter—the name is redolent of coaching days and coaching ways—now a farm, a tramp of a couple of miles along this most pleasant of roads, and you pass the Kirkton of Mearns with its quaint kirk built about 1780; and, in the manse, peeping through a leafy screen, the genial and big-hearted Christopher North spent “the golden days of boyhood.” And just below the kirk is the picturesque caravansary, the old Red Lion, built two centuries ago by one of the Howies of Lochgoin. His name and that of his spouse are to be read above the doorway of this snug hostel. Pass the Red Lion, and take the road which strikes off sharply to the right, a tree-sheltered road that takes you past the tree-clad knoll, whereon stands the hoary keep of Mearns, a well-preserved survival of fifteenth century architecture, interesting to students of architecture because of the fact that we can fix exactly the date of its erection. James II., in 1449, gave a licence to Lord Maxwell “to big a castle on ye Baronie of Mearnis in Renfrushir,” and to surround it with strong walls and ditches and iron gates, and to erect on the top of it warlike appliances. So runs the charter, and the castle of to-day is a tribute to the men who had to design and “big” its sturdy walls. In 1648, Sir George Maxwell of Pollok sold the barony and castle of Mearns to the Stewarts of Blackhall—near Paisley, and described in the Crookston Castle and Barrhead ramble—and it now belongs to the Glasgow family of Fairweather. At the castle the road to the right takes the wayfarer down to Waterfoot and an easy mile to Clarkston and the car.