THE HILL OF DECHMONT, CALDERWOOD GLEN AND CASTLE AND EAST KILBRIDE.
(Via WHITE CAR TO BURNSIDE.)
JOIN CAR AT JAMAICA STREET, GLASGOW CROSS, OR BRIDGETON CROSS.
Route—Argyle Street—London Street—Bridgeton Cross—Rutherglen Bridge—Glasgow Road—Main Street, Rutherglen—Burnside.
ON the first of July, 1636, there arrived at Glasgow Cross, William Brereton, an English man, “a gentleman of Cheshire, who subsequently distinguished himself in the Parliamentary Army.” Brereton was a wayfarer. He has left us a record of his wayfaring throughout Holland and the Low Countries, England, Scotland, and Ireland, during the years 1634 and 1636. His manuscript passed through the hands of Sir Walter Scott; it was published in 1844 by the Chetham Society. From it we learn that this early visitor was vastly impressed by our city, “which hath about twenty thousand persons in the town which is famous for the church which is the fairest and stateliest in Scotland, from the Tole boothe and Bridge; and this Tole-boothe is placed in the middle of the town near unto the Cross, is a very fair and high built house and said to be the fairest in this kingdom.” The town is “built like a cross, in the middle of which the Cross is placed which looks into four streets, though indeed they be but two straight streets, the one reaching from the Bridge a mile long, the other which crosseth that is much shorter.” Thus the Glasgow of 1636. Ten years prior to Brereton’s visit there had been erected “in the middle of the town” the Tolbooth, whose tower Brereton admired and we gaze upon to-day. In the Town Council Records of 15th March, 1626, we read that “the said day the grund stane of the Tolbuithe of Glasgow was laid.”
The Council Records afford us curious glimpses of the homely ways of our civic body. What more homely note than that of 5th May, 1655, when the treasurer was ordained “to pay to the weemen quha dichts the Tolboothe four dolloars.” In these enlightened times we do not “dicht,” we use a vacuum cleaner. And strange surely is the note of 12th March, 1698, when the treasurer paid to “Alex. Cuningham servitor to the jaylor sixtie six pund aucht shiling Scots as expense in mentaineing witches and warlocks in the Tolbuith.” The old Tolbooth, which housed the witches and warlocks, was taken down in 1814, but fortunately the Magistrates and Council by a majority of 15 to 9 resolved “that the old steeple be preserved, supported, and repaired.” With equal vision the Magistrates and Council of to-day agreed to preserve this rare old Glasgow landmark, one of the few left to us. The old steeple has witnessed many historic scenes and vast changes in streetscape since the days of William Brereton. It saw Cromwell and his dour and stalwart Roundheads in 1650; its windy battlements bore some grim relics about 1684, when the bleeding heads of certain Scottish covenanters were “stuck on spikes at the east side of the steeple,” and in the ’45 it looked down on the last scion of the Stuart kings riding past at the head of his Highland Host. We who pass it on the car to-day are witnessing another great change in the streetscape of the historic Cross and its Steeple, and we may take it that the grey old steeple itself will witness many more and much stranger scenes in the future than it has done in its long and varied past.
So along London Street, passing on the right that quaint survival of eighteenth century Glasgow, Charlotte Street, a quiet thoroughfare and charged with the atmosphere of the quiet times when David Dale perambulated its planestanes; and at No. 30 in this street was born that genial poet and Scottish old buck of the tartan plaid, Professor John Stuart Blackie. On the right is Glasgow Green, the oldest bit of common land in the city, but shorn of much of its original size, thanks to certain acquisitive gentlemen of other generations. The earliest record of any direct effort towards the laying out of the Green is of 28th March, 1600, when “it is statute be the provest, balleis and counsall that the haill inhabitants within this toun, bothe fre and unfrie being warnit be sound of drum send furth out of ilk hous ane servant to the Greyne to the common work of makin the calsaye” (causeway). On the Green stands the Obelisk, the first monument erected in this country to the memory of Nelson; and the People’s Palace, built in 1898, at a cost of £16,000, and well equipped as an Art Gallery and Museum.
At Bridgeton Cross the car swings into the Main Street of what was a century ago the village of Bridgeton. In 1838 there were 2,200 weavers in the village, many of whom played their part in the Reform Bill fight of the thirties. At that period a pleasant farm, known as Morgan’s Farm, stood at the junction of the Old and New Dalmarnock Roads, while what is now Graham Street was a sylvan avenue leading through the fields to Barrowfield Farm. East from this farm was a coal pit, and a horse tramway ran from it alongside the avenue referred to, crossed London Road, and along what is now Peel Street and Brook Street, where there was a depot. The fields and grounds of the farm of Barrowfield have long vanished, and industrial enterprise has substituted railways and works! Bridgeton has a claim to literary fame, for within its bounds were born Sandy Rodger, the author of “Robin Tamson’s Smiddy,” “The Mucking o’ Geordie’s Byre,” and other well-known Scots songs; and Sam Whitelock, another weaver poet; while Hugh Macdonald, the famous Glasgow rambler and poet, was for some time a member of the printing firm, Macdonald, M‘Gibbon & Muirhead, in Rumford Street. William Freeland, poet and journalist and editor of the Glasgow “Evening Times,” was an apprentice, I believe, with Hugh’s unsuccessful firm. We cross the Clyde by Rutherglen Bridge, a handsome stone structure re-erected in 1893-96 on the site of the old bridge erected in 1776. This old bridge was said to resemble closely the Auld Brig o’ Glasgow (built by Bishop Rae in 1350, removed 1847), and had steep gradients with a narrow side-path and five arches. Prior to its erection the only means of communication had been by means of a ford or by going round by Glasgow Bridge. At Farme, farther to our east, stands Dalmarnock Bridge, built in 1889. The first Dalmarnock bridge was erected in 1821, and the second in 1848. At Strathclyde, between the Rutherglen and Dalmarnock bridges, are the Caledonian Railway bridges built in 1861 and 1893.
Over the Clyde and we are in Rutherglen town, probably the oldest Royal Burgh in Scotland. At all events, no burgh can produce evidence that it was erected earlier than Rutherglen. That it was a Royal Burgh during the days of David I., who reigned 1124 to 1153, is undoubted, a charter by him in favour of Rutherglen being referred to in one by Robert the Bruce, dated 1323, and preserved in the Town Clerk’s chambers of the burgh. From the Royal Burgh angle of vision, Glasgow is a mere child of yesterday, her charter being granted as late as 16th October 1636. Rutherglen’s history is an honourable record. It goes far back on the pathway of time. In the Exchequer Rolls of date 1327-1330, we are told that David II. gave from time to time 6s. 8d. “to light the church of St. Conval at Rutherglen.” This is the same saint that we met at Inchinnan, and the fact quoted above suggests that he established a chapel at Rutherglen. We do not know definitely; but we do know that Rutherglen was important enough to command lengthy mention in the pages of Blind Harry. In his metrical romance, or, rather, life of Wallace, he states “in 1297, within the walls of Ru’glen Kirk,” a peace was concluded between England and Scotland, the negotiators being Wallace and the English chancellor, Earl Stamford, and the leader of the English Army, Sir Aymer de Valence. Blind Harry in describing the scene says:—
“In Ruglen Kyrk the tryst then haiff thai set
A promes maid to meet Wallace: but let
Ye day off yis approchyt wonder fast
Ye gret chanslar and Aylmer yidder past,”
and so on. But romance gives place to tragedy—the great historic tragedy of the betrayal of Wallace. This took place on the 5th of August, 1305, at the same kirk of Rutherglen, when the “fause Menteith” engaged for “English Gold”—gold appears still to be the bugbear of international affairs—to betray the Scottish hero. As Henry the Minstrel, or “Blind Harry,” wrote his Wallace about 1450, the events he describes would be fresh in the folk memory, and on the main points he is probably correct.
Rutherglen has other memories and memories of a time when she was the chief trading centre and shipping port on the Clyde, and exacted dues on all goods bought or sold in Glasgow. Part of her old quay still stands, and time was when as many as twenty boats could be seen lying off the quay waiting for coals. That was in 1760. Later on the well-known Rutherglen shipbuilder, T. B. Seath (“Tammy Seath”) ran two paddle steamers carrying 350 passengers each, between the east side of the weir at Hutchesontown Bridge and Rutherglen Quay, and these excursions, begun in 1856, lasted over three summer seasons. Alas, Rutherglen’s shipping glories have gone like the snows of yester year! The ancient Royal Burgh has been left behind by her young neighbour, Glasgow, in the race for commercial and industrial supremacy. This may have been due to apathy or carelessness, probably a little of both. There it is, and the status of this old burgh of honourable and royal lineage finds, I think, subtle expression in the homely descriptive note anent “Ru’glen’s wee roun’ red’lums”.
From Rutherglen with its auld kirk and yett, and its ancient castle of Farme, owned in 1389 by the Douglases, we go by leafy Stonelaw Road and Stonelaw woods (public since 1900), and the square keep of Stonelaw Tower to Burnside, where we are at the terminus, and the country beckons to us. Burnside is modern, a place of villas and emphatically attractive in its residential atmosphere. The “Burn” of the place-name has vanished, and a railway dissects the green fields, yet withal, there is much of charm lingering around this vigorous suburb.
Where our car tentacle ends, the way leads through the railway bridge and on to the highway, which bears upward on the left. Go straight ahead. The road is on the shoulder of the Cathkins, and steadily rising, gives the wayfarer a clear glimpse of the great mosaic of industry and agriculture which forms the countryside. The highway dips into a tree-shadowed bend, rises and passes a picturesque wayside smiddy. So to Greentreehill—a place-name suggestive of pleasant things—where the East Kilbride road goes to the right. We will reach the upland village later on and by another route. Meantime, keep straight ahead and upward, with Dechmont Hill—our immediate objective—and its flagstaff nodding to us to come along. And at Greentreehill we are 431 feet above sea level and in the midst of a countryside rich in colour, and if you go in summer days you will find yellow the dominant keynote, tiny golden pimpernels and bird’s foot trefoil, yellow iris in the marshy hollows and great golden patches of the mustard plant fretting the green fields, a brilliant foreground to the purely grey masses of the city upon which we are looking down.
Another mile’s tramping, easy going, as it is downward, and, keeping a sharp eye on the left, you will catch the footpath which takes us through the field into the wood that fringes Dechmont. A stiffish climb carries you to the flagstaff, at the base of which you are exactly 602 feet above sea level. For a modest hill, Dechmont is endowed with a remarkable vision. Its setting is ideal, a bold ridge rising out of a comparatively level strath like the prow of some great ship heaving upward from the waters of the sea. The outlook is impressive. At our feet is the tall, grey, high-shouldered Gilbertfield, the battlemented Scottish keep of the seventeenth century; Cambuslang, Uddingston, Coatbridge, Airdrie, dark smudges on a smiling landscape; coal mines have scarred the green country, their lofty brick stalks showing above the tree tops and sending smoky pennons athwart the sky line: far ayont the greys of commerce Ben Lomond is seen, a delicate blue silhouette in the north, while dim on the south-east are the round shoulders of Coulter Fell, and the sharp tipped pyramid of Tinto, with the Pentlands etched delicately against the southern horizon. The spirit of Romance has fled from the landscape, but he has mercifully left his cloak, and out of it there emerges the wonderful vista I have described. On Dechmont crest we are standing on an old ancient place. From time immemorial up to the beginning of last century, the Beltane fires were lit on Dechmont; the foundations of ancient buildings lie beneath the green sod, ancient coins have been found, and human remains which mouldered into dust when exposed to the air—links with “old, unhappy, far-off things,” and with an age and a race which have vanished into the mists of memory.
From the summit a path leads down to Dechmont farm, on the east flank of the hill and down to the public road, where we turn to the right—that is, keeping the hill on the right—and a tramp of a mile will take us through the railway bridge and on to the fine highway leading to Blantyre. We go to the left. A quarter of a mile ahead is the Calder Water and the entrance gates—on the right—to the glen of Calderwood. Here we have one of the loveliest of western glens, magnificent in its grouping of craggy heights, sprinkled with trees and with the amber-tinted Calder winding through the richly wooded and festooned valley.
To drink to the full of its beauty, leave the carriage drive some fifty yards from the entrance, and take the green carpeted path which leads down to the left. This woodland way takes us between roofing arcades of oak and elm, and birch and noble fir, where the shadows change, and the russet leaves of yester year form a grateful matting for the feet. You go down into cool places of dim green shadows, over old rustic bridges which span mossy hollows, and on and up through green aisles, a paradise for birds, and fit setting for their tender threnody, and so to the Castle of Calderwood, tall and grey and ornate of tower, but not grim; well kept as befits its enterprising owners, the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society. My sketch depicts the older section of the castle—late eighteenth century work. The original keep of Calderwood was the home for six centuries of the Maxwells. The ancient castle collapsed in 1773.
It is barely two miles from the castle to East Kilbride, and you go due west from the keep, passing Brankumhall, where you strike the highway. Keep to the right, and a few hundred yards takes you to the cross roads. On your right is Long Calderwood, celebrated as the birthplace of the famous brothers William and John Hunter, two men whose names stand out amongst the literati of Europe—one the apostle of surgery, the other no less distinguished as a physician and a scientific engineer. William Hunter’s name will be for all time associated with the University of Glasgow, whose material resources he enriched by the fine museum, the Hunterian, he gifted to that seat of learning. At a little distance from Long Calderwood is the house once occupied by their equally distinguished niece, Joanna Baillie, who resided here after the death of her father, Dr. Baillie, professor of Divinity at Glasgow. Her sweet and tuneful poetry secured for her the friendship of Sir Walter Scott, a bond that lasted for half a century and whose memory strikes one of the famous notes in Scottish literature. From where we stand at the cross roads, and looking due south, there is to be seen, about a mile away, Mount Cameron, the residence of another Scotswoman notable in history, and who during the ’45 played a prominent part on the Jacobite stage—Jean Cameron. She was a zealous supporter of the representative of the exiled house of Stuart, and her active exertions made her name familiar throughout Britain at that strenuous time. After the curtain had fallen on the bloody field of Culloden, Jean Cameron retired to what was then and is still a bleak and solitary spot, then known as Blacklaw, now as Cameron Mount, about a mile south of East Kilbride. She died in 1773, and was buried in a little wood on the south side of her house; the grave is now in an open field and respected, although the land is regularly ploughed.
And from the cross road it is an easy mile to East Kilbride, a clean and still quaint upland township which rejoices in an atmosphere charged with the bracing moorland airs that blow free and often, and sweetened by the breath of gorse and heather in this health-giving district. The place-name Kilbride is suggestive. It speaks of a link with St. Bridget, otherwise St. Bride, one of the most popular of the Irish saints, not only in Ireland, but also in Scotland, where her cultus was widespread. St. Bridget is believed to have been born in 451 A.D., and to have died in 525. This saintly being is said to preside over fire, over art, over all beauty beneath the sky and beneath the sea. We find traces of her cultus on the Mull of Galloway, in the south, in Arran, where she gives a name to the parish of Kilbride, in the Hebrides, in Melrose Abbey, where there is a chapel to St. Bridget, in the historic St. Bride’s Kirk of Douglas, wherein is preserved in a silver heart-shaped case the heart of “the good Sir James Douglas” who fought at Bannockburn, and also the heart of Archibald Bell the Cat; and at Dunsyre, and at East Kilbride, the last constituting a prebend of Glasgow Cathedral for the maintenance of the chanter.
There are no traces remaining of the chapel of St. Bride, but doubtless the parish kirk occupies the site once sacred to the gentle Irish saint. This kirk, or rather its lanthorn—crowned tower, similar to the Tolbooth Steeple at Glasgow Cross and St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh—is the dominating note in East Kilbride, second place being taken appropriately enough by the famous Loupin-on Stane which adorns and lends interest to the village square. But the kirk is a modern erection, as is indicated by the sculptured advertisement over its doorway, “James Pollock, builder, 1774,” and so for antiquity and modesty the Loupin-on Stane has it. Local legend throws a halo over a wee thatched cottage, crow-stepped and clean, in which it is said was born the immortal Kate Dalrymple, heroine of William Watt’s comic and famous song.
In a wee cot hoose far ayont the muir,
Whaur peesweeps, plovers, and whaups cry dreary,
There lived an auld maid for mony a lang year,
Wham ne’er a wooer did e’er ca’ dearie:
A lanely lass was Kate Dalrymple,
A thrifty quean was Kate Dalrymple,
Nae music except the clear burnie’s wimple
Was heard roond the dwallin’ o’ Kate Dalrymple.
Alas, local tradition, like Homer, nods in this case. Kate may, probably did, know the cottage now associated with her name, but her birthplace was not within the village, but really “far ayont the muir.” It has vanished long ago and the hare kitties on its hearthstane.
An old link with Scottish history, and with some of the principal actors on its early stage, is to be found in the connection of the Cumins with the district. That once powerful family owned the lands of Kilbride long anterior to the reign of Robert the Bruce, but these were forfeited on the death, in the kirk of Dumfries, of the Red Comyn or Cumin at the hands of Bruce when Kirkpatrick made siccar. Another family of note in East Kilbride was that of Lickprevick. The castle of that name stood about a mile south of the village, but not a solitary stone remains to indicate its site; yet, the family, who built and owned it for centuries, was there long before and long after the days of the Bruce. More interesting is it to recall the fact that one of the Lickprevick’s was printer to James VI. of Scotland, and to the bibliophile books from Lickprevick’s Press are things to treasure. But the family and their baronial halls have passed into the dustbin of time, and excepting to the industrious disciples of Thomas Frognall Dibdin the very name is but “a fable, a phantom, a show.”
By our Loupin-on Stane is a comfortable hostelry, wherein the wayfarer “may take mine ease” before tackling the homeward airt by the grass-grown trackway---a Roman way. says tradition—that leads out of the township, past the old peel of Mains and uphill for two miles on to the Carmunnock highway and the Cathkin Braes. Mains Castle, on our left, is a well-preserved tower of the Border peel order. The existing relic is very old, the upper courses of early fifteenth century work, the lower portion built probably by the Cumins, who owned the lands of Mains. These lands and castle were granted to John Lindsay of Dunrode, who was airt and pairt in the murder of the Red Cumin in Dumfries Kirk. The Lindsays held Mains until about 1700. Of the last of the race, it is said he was a proud man and oppressive, and his name is preserved only to recall a cruel deed wrought upon one of his retainers. The man had dared, at a curling match, to differ from his lord and master. The bold baron could not brook such an attitude on the part of an inferior human. He ordered a hole to be made in the ice, into which the poor wretch was thrust and drowned. The place where was thus vindicated knightly honour is known as Crawford’s Hole, the name of the victim of this good old feudal discipline. Tradition, if weak in fact is usually strong in moral justice, tells us that this Laird Lindsay was forced ultimately to subsist on charity, and died in absolute poverty in a barn of one of his former tenants.
So to the Carmunnock road, whereon if you follow it to the left a tramp of two miles takes you into the quaint and pleasantly tree-sheltered village of Carmunnock, whence another couple of miles downhill and on a rare highway takes you to the Kirk of Cathcart and the Mount Florida car terminus. Alternatively you go down the slope of the Cathkins, where before you is another magnificent panorama of the Vale of Clyde from Tinto Tap to the Hill of Dumbuck. On the way down you pass the well of the crystal waters, cool in summer as in winter, and known as Queen Mary’s Well. Tradition steps in here to say that from the Cathkins the hapless Scottish Queen saw her army defeated at Langside, and she and her Maries rested by the side of this little spring. And tradition points also to Castlemilk, embosomed in the woods on our left, and whispers that the Queen slept in Castlemilk the evening before the battle. The indefatigable English historian of royalty, Miss Strickland, states that from the battlements of the keep of Castlemilk the Queen saw Murray’s troops riding from Glasgow bridge to the field of Langside, a pretty tale that might have been true did not the high ground of Aikenhead intervene and render the incident a physical impossibility. On our right is Blairbeth House, a favourite haunt of the poet Campbell, and before us is the straight road to Rutherglen and the tramway car.