Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Annals of Garelochside
Chapter I - Topography; Succession of Ministers; Ecclesiastical State


THERE is considerable beauty of scenery, and much that is of great historical interest in the parish of Cardross, which is partly bounded by the waters of the Frith of Clyde, and by the river Leven issuing from Loch Lomond. No doubt the name is derived from "Ross," a point or headland, and "Car," a moorland ridge, and the church formerly stood on the high ground above the Leven, near its confluence with the Clyde. It is bounded on the south by the Clyde, on the west by the Parish of Row, and on the north it marches with Luss and Bonhill parishes. Its extreme length may be about eight miles, and its breadth varies from one and a half to three miles. In former times the parish appears not to have extended much farther along the shores of the Frith of Clyde than the site of the present church. Some lands in Glenfruin, and on the Gareloch, and even as far as Loch Long, then belonged to it, although these were detached from it in 1643, when the parish received an addition on its western boundary.

Cardross was part of the lordship of the old Earls of Lennox, but portions of it were held by their vassals before the wars of the suecession. In the middle of the thirteenth century Earl Maldoven of Lennox granted to Donald Macynel a land in Glenfreone called Kealbride, which is held on a fourth part of a "harathor," bounded by the Lavaran and the burn called Crose, as they run from the hill and fall into the Freone; the reddendo, the twentieth part of the service of a man-at-arms. The grant is witnessed by the Earl's brother, Amelec, of whose large appanage Glenfruin formed a part. Before 1294, John Napier held Kilmahew of the Earl, giving three suits at his head court, and paying what is exigible for a quarter of land in Lennox.

Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, resigned into the hands of the King, Robert I., a plough of land of Cardross, getting in compensation the half of the lands of Lekkie in Stirlingshire. The King, about 1322, gave over the lands of Hoyden, within the Barony of Cardross, to Adam son of Alan, and he had a specific object in view in acquiring land in the parish. For upon a bank overhanging the river Leven, near its junction with the Clyde, the hero of Bannockburn built a castle, and surrounded it with a park, which was called the King's Park of Cardross. At the first milestone out of Dunbarton, along the Cardross road, there is a wooded knoll which bears the name of Castlehill, although there are no traces of any ruined buildings to be seen. Having divested himself of the cares and vexations of government, the monarch found relief in the chase, and indulged in hunting excursions, and made short voyages along the neighbouring waters of the Gareloch and Loch Long, and the broad estuary of the Clyde, while he was kept in security by the neighbouring castle of Dunbar-ton. Within the walls of his residence, in view of the fine mountain ranges which throw their dark shadows over the placid waters of Loch Lomond, the patriot king breathed his last on 7th June, 1329.

An interesting account of the closing days of the heroic King is given by Fraser Tytler, the historian, in his life of Robert Bruce. "By the advice of his physicians he retired to Cardross, a beautiful retreat situated upon the Clyde, about six miles from Dunbarton, where, amid the intervals from pain and sickness, his time appears to have been much occupied in making experiments in the construction and sailing of vessels, with a view, probably, towards the establishment of a more effective naval force in Scotland. We learn this fact from the accounts of his High Chamberlain, which are yet preserved, and the same records acquaint us that in these kingly amusements he often enjoyed the society of Randolph. [The King's expenses at Cardross. The following are a few of the entries from the "Cardross Household Book," as given by Irving in Dumbartonshire—"Item. To wood for the scaffolding of the new chalmer, 3s.; making a door for do., 6d. To 100 large boards, 3s. 4d. To Giles the huntsman for his allowance for one year, six weeks, three days, 1 chalder 35 bolls meal. Grant to do by the King's command, 26s. 8d. To a net for taking large and small fish, 40s. To two masts for the ship, 8s. To persons employed in raising the masts three times, 3s. To working 80 tons of iron for the use of the ships and the castle at 4d. per stone, 26s. 8d. To bringing the King's great ship from the Frith into the river near the castle, and carrying the rigging to the castle, 3s. To twelve men sent from Dunbarton to the Target to bring back the King's great ship, 28s. To thirty loads of firing to be used in the work of the windows, 22s. 6d. To conveying Peter the fool to Target (on Loch Fyne), 1s. 6d. The house for the falcons cost 2s.; a fishing net, 40s.; seeds for the orchard, Is. 6d.; green olive oil for painting the royal chamber, 10s.; chalk for the same, 6d.; a chalder of lime for whitewashing it, 8s.; and tin nails and glass for the windows, 3s. 4d."] His lighter pleasures consisted in hunting and hawking, when his health permitted; in sailing upon the Clyde, and superintending his mariners and shipwrights in their occupations; in enlarging and enclosing his park, and making additions to his palace. As even the most trivial circumstances are interesting when they regard so eminent a man, it may be mentioned that he kept a lion, the expense of whose maintenance forms an item in the chamberlain's accounts; and that his active mind, even under the pressure of increasing disease, seems to have taken an interest in the labours of the architects, painters, goldsmiths, and inferior artists, who belonged to his establishment. In compliance with the manners of the times, he maintained a fool, for whose comfort he was solicitous, and in whose society he took delight. He entertained his clergy and his barons, who visited him from time to time, at his rural palace, in a style of noble and abundant hospitality. The minutest parts of his expenditure appear to have been arranged with the greatest order, and his lowest officers and servants, his huntsmen, falconers, dog-keepers, gardeners, and park-stewards, provided for in rude but regular abundance. His gifts and largesses to the officers of his household, to his nurse and other old servants, and to the most favourite amongst his nobles, were frequent and ample; his charity in the support of many indigent persons, by small annual salaries or regular allowances of meat and flour, was extensive, and well directed; whilst a pleasing view of his generosity, combined with his love of letters, is presented by his presents to `poor clerks' for the purpose of enabling them to carry on their education "at the schools."

The scene has been often described when the King, feeling his last hour drawing near, charged his old friend and companion in arms, Sir James Douglas, to take, as soon as he was dead, his embalmed heart and deposit it in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. This was done, and Sir James Douglas duly set out with a body of chosen companions for the Holy Land, with his precious charge enclosed in a silver casket, but being attacked by the Saracens, and surrounded by overwhelming numbers, he flung the casket before him, exclaiming, "Pass onward as thou was wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die."

In addition to the Parish Church near Dunbarton, there was a chapel at Kilmahew, dedicated to St. Mahew, probably Macceus, one of the companions of St. Patrick, which gave its name to the lands. Both the Chapel and lands of Kilmahew belonged to the Cochrans in the time of David II., but in the fifteenth century they had reverted to the Napiers. Between the years 1208 and 1233, Maldoven, Earl of Lennox, granted to Walter, Bishop of Glasgow, as mensal to the bishoprick, the Church of Cardross, along with its lands and fishings, reserving the right of his brother, Dungal, who was also in orders, and may likely have held this benefice as well as that of Kilpatrick. Before 1432 this parish had been erected into a prebend for a canon of the cathedral. The rectory of Cardross is taxed in Baiamond's Tax Roll at 61 13s. 4d., and in the Libellus Taxationum at 66 13s. 4d., and the Vicar pensionar gave up his living at the Reformation as of 10 yearly value. In the year 1467 the chapel of Kilmahew was rebuilt, and on the 10th May, George, Bishop of Argyll, with license from the Bishop of Glasgow, clad in his mitre and pontifical robes, consecrated the chapel and cemetery, dedicated to St. Mahew. He also granted, in name and by consent of Duncan Napare of Kilmahew, and James Napare his heir, to God and St. Mahew, and a chaplain to celebrate in the newly consecrated chapel, forty shillings and tenpence yearly, out of tenements in the Burgh of Dunbarton, with a croft adjoining the chapel.

From these particulars chiefly gathered from Origines Parochiales, it will be seen that the ecclesiastical history of the parish extends to a very early period. As far back as 1225 mention is made of the Kirk of Cardross, and for three centuries the Bishops of Glasgow and their Deans and Chapters held it. The old church was a small oblong building, forty feet in length and twenty in breadth, with a tower at one end. All that now remains of that ancient building is the eastern gable, in which is a small pointed doorway, and also some remains of the lower parts of the side walls. Near it was the manse, and the Clachan of Under Kirkton of Cardross. The church stood on the side of the public road which ran along the shore and thence to Ardmore and Row, and it did service as the parish kirk until the year 1644. When the old church ceased to be used for worship, it gradually fell into decay until the year 1805, when the Levengrove estate passed from the possession of Richard Dennistoun of Kelvin-grove into the hands of the Dixons, and the churchyard was despoiled of its monuments, ploughed over, and actually included in the grounds of the new proprietor of the estate. Two venerable flat gravestones are still to be seen near the walls of the church, the one outside ornamented with a shield and cross bones, and the other, inside the church, with a largo cross on its face, and, at one end, the words, "The xii. Aprel," at the other, "Heir Lyes 17." Inside the ruins rest the remains of a number of the Dixon family, but the old mansion house of Levengrove, where Robert Burns the poet on his second Highland tour in 1787, travelling on horseback from Arrochar along Loch Lomondside, was welcomed by Mr. M'Aulay, the lawyer, and his family, is now entirely obliterated from the scene. The whole of these grounds, the ruins of the old kirk, the site of the mansion, and the holy well of St. Serf, are all included in the fine park of Levengrove, which was the handsome gift to their native town of the eminent shipbuilders John MIMillan and Peter Denny, LL. D.

In the year 1644, the next church of Cardross was built, on the site which it at present occupies near the village, and is thus much nearer the centre of the parish. It was a small unadorned structure, capable only of holding about 400 persons, and, after being used down to the year 1826, was pulled down, and the present existing edifice was erected. The situation is a commanding one, with a beautiful view across the broad estuary of the Clyde down to the mountains of Argyllshire, and a belt of old trees shelters the sacred structure. Its architecture is Gothic, of a similar character to many churches built about that period, the solid square tower over the entrance being its main feature. The church is seated for 800, and within the last few years received considerable renovations through the liberality of the late Mr. Donaldson, of Keppoch ; there are also four stained glass memorial windows representing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, given by the representatives of heritors of Cardross. The glebe consists of 9 acres of good arable ground, and there is a large and commodious manse embowered in old trees.

There is nothing of special interest about the Communion vessels of the parish church. The cups which are in use at present are dated February 1867. Metal tokens of the usual type in Scottish country churches dated 2nd December, 1858, were used until recently. Much older ones used to exist stamped Car on one side, and on the other Mr. E., 1767—no doubt in the ministry of Mr. Edmonstone,but of these there are none now to be found. There are also two very old-fashioned ladles for collections. From an old document it appears that on 21st September, 1727, Mrs. Wallace, the widow of the previous minister, handed over the following articles which were used in the service of the church. Two silver communion cups, two large flagons, one "bason," Acts of Assembly 1690-1723, a table-cloth used at the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, with four towels, a pulpit cloth and brass plate given by Ir. Wallace to the Session. Up till the summer of 1895 the good old custom of the Fast day was kept up in Cardross Parish, but following the easy-going tendencies of modern ecclesiastical authorities, the preliminary day of worship has been abrogated. As one of the respected old elders of the church sorrowfully remarked to the author, he remembered when the Fast day services were even more fully attended than those of the Sabbath.

The boundaries of the Parish of Cardross have been considerably altered, as we learn from the pages of Old Cardross. From it we are informed, "until 1643 the parish of Cardross was bounded on the west by the Auchenfroe Burn, which divided it from Rosneath, but on the other hand it included Bennachra, and the lands in Glenfruin, and on the shore of the upper part of the Gareloch. In that year Glenfruin was disjoined from Cardross to make part of the parish of Row, which was then being formed; and in lieu of this the lands lying eastward from Meikle Kirkmichael, and also Dalquharn, in the Vale of Leven, were detached from Rosneath and added to Cardross. In 1659 the lands of Bennachra were disjoined from Cardross and annexed to the parish of Luss."

The following is the succession of ministers of Cardross as given in Irving's History of the County.

1480. Robert BIackadder, son of Sir Patrick Blackadder of Tulliallan and Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Sir James Edmonstone of that ilk, was rector of Cardross in 1480. He was employed by James III. on a mission to the Papal Court. While at Rome, the bishopric of Aberdeen fell vacant, and having ingratiated himself into the favour of Pope Sixtus IV., he was consecrated to that See. In 1484 an opportunity occurred for preferment to which his abilities gave him a claim, and he was translated to Glasgow. In his person that See was advanced to Archiepiscopal rank; and he continued to perform itsfunctions and to execute various important charges in the domain of politics until 1508, when he undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from which he did not return, dying on the 28th July of that year.
1512. James Stewart, rector. Promoted in 1518 to the Provostry of Dunbarton ; at this time Peter Fleming was curate, and Thomas Ald, vicar pensionar.
1529. Patrick Shaw, succeeded as rector, and is mentioned as such in 1529.
1558. Symon Shaw was parson of Cardross, and rector of Kilbarchan in 1558.
John Bell filled this benefice soon after the Reformation, and about this time William Cuik was reader, with 20 merks salary.
1569. John Flattisburry was exhorter, with 40 merks and the vicarage pension, manse and glebe.
1572. Thomas Archibald, rector, and was succeeded some time after in 1592 by
1592. James Cunningham died 1603.
1603. James Cunningham similar in name to last was presented, but died same year.
1603. John Blackburn was appointed rector. He was Dean of the Faculty of Glasgow College, and was translated to the Laigh Kirk of that city.
1616. Robert Watson was appointed, and continued to exercise the functions of the ministry till 1650, when falling into ill-health, he resigned his office and benefice into the hands of the Presbytery, reserving, however, the manse and glebe during his life, and also all the teinds above seven chalders, which he gave as a provision for his successor. The Right of Patronage having been abolished by Statute the parishioners gave a call to his son.
1651. Robert Watson, who was ordained in 1651. He conformed to the restored order of things in 1663, and died in 1671. He was married to a daughter of Principal Baillie.
1672. James Gartshore was next presented to the charge, and
eleven years afterwards, was translated to Tranent.
1683. Hugh Gordon. A brief entry in the Wodrow MS. in the
Advocates' Library, states that he was "ousted at the
1689. X eill Gillies, who in 1679 had been chaplain to Archibald, Earl of Argyll, was minister at Cardross at the re-erection of Presbyterianism in 1689. He was translated to Glasgow in 1690.
1690. James Gordon, 'lane Ireland minister," had a popular call. Ile died in 1693.
1695. Archibald Wallace was admitted in 1695. Dying in 1725, the Crown presented John Smith, but the parishioners refused to receive him, and gave a call to John Edmonstone.
1726. John Edmonstone was appointed by the Crown, and ordained in 1726. lie was minister of the parish for forty-four years. A Latin inscription on his tombstone in the churchyard records his many high qualities. On his death, John Davidson, minister of Old Kilpatrick, was nominated to the parish, but declined.
1774. John 1sI'Aulay was inducted minister of the parish in 1774. He was born at Harris, where his father was minister, in 1720. Graduated as M.A. at King's College, Aberdeen. Ile was ordained minister of South Uist in 1745, and in the course of the same year acquired some notoriety in his district by furnishing information, through his father, which nearly led to the capture of the Pretender, Prince Charles. In 1756 Mr. M'Aulay removed to Lismore, and nine years afterwards made a second change to Inveraray, where be was minister when Dr. Johnson made his famous journey to the Hebrides. He married Margaret, daughter of Colin Campbell of Inversregan, and twelve children were born of the marriage. One of them was the well-known Zachary M'Aulay, the father of the celebrated historian, Lord Macaulay.
1790. Alexander M'Aulay was presented to Cardross by the Crown in 1790, but a counter-presentation was given to Abraham Forrest by Sir James Colquhoun, who claimed the right of patronage. The Civil Courts decided in favour of .Mr. M'Aulay.
1801 Archibald `ViIson, for a good many years before his death, was unfit for much parochial work.
1838. William Dunn, who was born in 1811 in the parish of Doune, Perthshire, where his father held a small farm. Educated at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, and after leaving college held a tutorship for some time. His first appointment after being licensed was that of missionary to the district of Stockbridge, in Edinburgh, and then was elected first minister of St. Peter's Church, Glasgow, in July, 1836. After two years of assiduous work in this field, be was offered, and accepted the appointment of assistant and successor to the Rev. Mr. Wilson of Cardross. In 1839 he succeeded to the full charge on Mr. Wilson's death, and for forty years gave most earnest and faithful service in this parish, leaving behind him a name greatly honoured and beloved. Although he sympathised with the views of the "non-intrusion" party, yet in 1843 he felt constrained to cast in his lot with those who remained in the church of their fathers, and the great bulk of his congregation stood by their loved minister. Mr. Dunn was a model pastor of a flock, and went in and out amongst his people with disinterested and affectionate zeal. In 1845 he married Miss Croil, the step-daughter of Mr. Donaldson of Keppoch, one of his own hcritors, who worthily assisted her. husband in his parochial duties, and who still survives. In 1877 Mr. Dunn appointed as his assistant the Rev. William Maxwell, M.A., recently licensed, and four years afterwards the latter was ordained assistant and successor. Mr. Dunn died on 8th December, 1885, aged 74 years, and his funeral sermon was preached by one, whose father had been for over forty years his intimate and beloved friend, the Rev. Professor Story, long minister of Rosneath, and now Professor of Church History in Glasgow University. He was a man of striking simplicity and gentleness of manner, full of devotion to His Master's work, exuberant in large-hearted benevolence, and intense in his sympathies for those in anguish or sorrow.
1885. William Maxwell, M.A., a native of Hamilton, and received his early education at the academy of that town, and afterwards attended Glasgow University. Mr. Maxwell always had the pleasantest relations with Mr. Dunn, and very soon acquired the complete confidence and esteem of the congregation of the Parish Church. In parochial and educational matters he takes a warm interest, being an active member of the School Board, and his scholarly tastes and general culture, with his faithful discharge of his ministerial duties, have ever been appreciated by his attached congregation. He adheres to the good old lines in worship and doctrine which have so long prevailed in the parish, retaining the Fast day before the Sacrament till a few months ago, and worthily maintains the honoured position held by the ministers of Cardross. Mr. Maxwell has kindly allowed the author to give his translations of the Latin inscriptions on several of the ancient tombs in the churchyard, as well as furnished information regarding the parish.

The situation of Cardross church is a remarkably fine one, placed as it is on an eminence looking away down the noble Frith of Clyde and its mountain background, and shaded by a few old beech and oak trees which flourish in full luxuriance of summer foliage. Of massive construction, and with fine lines of Gothic architecture, it is an ornament to the district, and has many features of interest. The red sandstone of which it is built is hewn in solid blocks, and at the east end on the gable there is a stone Latin cross of uncommon form, a most unusual decoration in churches of the earlier part of the century. It stands nearly upon the foundation of the previous building, which was an unadorned structure of small dimensions. Few are left who worshipped in the old church, but one native of the parish, Alexander Ewing, who long was carrier between Dunbarton and Glasgow, still survives, in his 96th year, and distinctly remembers the old church and its minister, the Rev. Archibald Wilson. It was a narrow, barn-like structure, with the pulpit at the side wall, and opposite were the gallery seats of the Dennistouns, Smolletts, and the Bontines of Ardoch, and the Kilmahew family. A small room off the Dennistoun pew enabled the occupants to enjoy a little repose between the services, there being an hour's interval. There was a small bell tower from which the bell was suspended which summoned the inhabitants to worship, and on sacramental occasions there would be sometimes a contingent from the opposite shores of Port-Glasgow to hear some notable preacher in the "tent " in the churchyard.

Inside the churchyard are some interesting tombs, especially those of the old ministers at the corner of the enclosure nearest the road. The oldest is in memory of the Rev. Robert Watson, who died in 1671, and the translation of the Latin inscription runs as follows:

"Sacred to the memory of Master Robert Watson. Oh ! sad to tell, this humble tomb contains Watson, for twice ten years parish minister of Cardross, a brilliant, ornament in the mystic sciences, a helper of the wretched, and a distinguished athlete for the Lord ; eloquent, fluent, in piety second to none; having fought a good fight, now encircled with the crown. He died 7th September, 1671, aged 42 years."

Adjoining this is the tomb of Rev. James Gordon who died in 1693, and his tombstone is well preserved, though the lettering is beginning to be obliterated.

To the memory of Master James Gordon, minister of Cardross. Gordon fell by the stroke of all-conquering Death, and his distinguished frame lies by this tombstone. He proved by his cleverness that the sublime parts comprehend more wonderful things than belong to nature; high souled, in good things daring as the eagle, but as to praises indifferent, nor did the highest wisdom lie hid from the learned man. Too early did the joys of life above snatch him from us."

The Rev. John Edmonstone's grave adjoins, quaintly adorned with death head, cross bones, and hour glass, and the long Latin inscription is fairly legible. It concludes with the following eulogy: "From the commencement of his duties to the end of his days a firm upholder of honest virtue, and an unswerving ally and champion of Christian peace, tender and compassionate to the ignorant and erring, patient and forbearing to the wayward, he died 21 March, 1771, in his 80th year."

There are a good many old tombstones in the churchyard, but there is nothing of special interest to record. On one of them, to the memory of Mrs. Bruce, there is an extremely elegant Latin in. scription by a former professor of Humanity in Glasgow, one sentence of which contains a beautiful thought, "sat sibi, sed suis, eheu quam breviter vixit," which may be rendered, "enough for herself, but for her friends, alas, how brief she lived." Several of the former lords of the soil have large enclosed tombs, regular walled structures, pompously adorned with coats of arms, the Dennistoun tomb in particular, which abuts on to the church wall, is a large building constructed of massive stones.

There existed in pre-ILeformation times, in the parishes of Cardross and Row, several chapels erected for the requirements of the scattered population, such as Kilbride in Glenfruin, the chapel of St. Michael at Faslane, that of Kirkmichael at Helensburgh, St. Blanc at CamisEskan, and the chapel of Kilmahew. The latter is situated on the lands known as Kirkton of Kilmahew, on the road from Cardross to Balloch. It was erected about 1467, and a little way off, shaded by some fine trees, is the schoolmaster's house and garden, where stood in former days the priest's house. Formerly, on the same site, there was a chapel in the days of David II., but in May, 1467, a new building, dedicated to St. Mochta or llahew, confessor, was consecrated by George, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. The present ruin, with its moss grown gables and venerable aspect, is doubtless the same chapel, and, though small, would be sufficient for the sparse population of the period. It was of some architectural pretentions, the mouldings and arches are of good design, and the sombre shade cast by a spreading plane tree is in keeping with the old graveyard adjoining. This is the last resting place of the earlier Napiers of Kilmahew, Buchanans of Drumhead, whose descendants still own that property, and others. At the Reformation, a Reader under the minister of Rosneath was substituted for the Romish paraphernalia and relics of Popery, but owing to the church being removed to its present site at Cardross, there was no need of the old chapel, which thus fell into decay. The chapel for a time was used as a schoolhouse, for in terms of an agreement between Robert Napier of Kilmahew and the general body of the heritors, Kilmahew bound himself "to give the use of the chapell, and to mortifie to the schulemaister annually five bolls ane firlot of teind bear, and also a house and a piece of land extending to about an acre, together with ane piece of land for pasture, which was of old possest by the priest of Kilmahew in time of superstitione and popery; third, to entertain the schulemaister in meat, drink, and bedding in household with himself within the house of Kilmahew, so long as he shall discharge the duty of family exercise and prayer within the said family."

From the Statistical Account of the Parish of Cardross, published in 1796 under the auspices of Sir John Sinclair, Bart., of Ulbster, we learn the following. It was written by the Rev. Alexander Macaulay, minister of the parish, whose nephew was the illustrious historian, Lord Macaulay. Agriculture is stated to be in a somewhat backward condition, although the action of the proprietors in enclosing their farm lands is commended. Oats and bear are the common crops, but wheat, peas, and potatoes are much cultivated; fields are being laid down in clover and rye-grass, but the culture of turnips is in its infancy. Limestone is used for manure, and much sea-ware is distributed over the fields, and street-manure imported from Greenock and Port-Glasgow at a cost of 2s. per cart. Drainage is greatly required on account of the incessant rains which prevail and drench the fields with water. Formerly every farmer used to keep a few sheep, but now, except on three farms, this practice is entirely given over. Not much attention is given to the breed of milk-cows. The farm-houses are neat and well constructed, and every year increasing in numbers. Nearly 200 acres are planted with Scotch firs and larches, and are succeeding well. Coal is the principal fuel, 12 cwt. of which brought by water costs 5s. sterling, unloaded in Cardross bay. Land is rising in value, and the increase of manufactures on the river Leven occasions an influx of people, and consequently greater demand for whatever the farms produce. The printfields of Dalquhurn and Cordale are stated to be the most extensive of any in Scotland, the Stirlings being then, as now, the great dyers and bleachers in the Vale of Leven. This eminent firm, as far back as the year 1772, purchased the estate of Cordale, which was formed of a neck of land owing to the river forsaking its former channel, and thus being a suitable place for the erection of their bleaching works. In the summer of 1792 there were no less than 876 persons employed at the Dalquhurn and Cordale works. The goods manufactured are said to rival in the London market even the very best produced at the first English printfields.

An account is given of the foundation of the village of Renton by Mrs. Smollett of Bonhill in the year 1782. Her estate being contiguous to the rapidly increasing works set agoing by Messrs. Stirling, the site was favourable for the erection of dwellings for the numerous hands employed. The village was named by way of compliment to the wife of Mr. Smollett's son, Alexander, who had married Miss Cecilia Renton, one of the Edinburgh belles of the period. It consisted of three principal streets, which ran in a direction from north to south, parallel to one another. These were intersected by a number of other streets, all laid off at regular distances, and the houses were rapidly taken up. Other houses were being built in the vicinity of the Leven to accommodate the workers upon the lands of Mr. Dennistoun and Mr. Graham of Gartmore. Two houses in the village of Renton had been licensed by the Justices to sell spirits of home produce, and the number of public-houses had diminished.

The yair fishings are stated to be peculiar to this parish. The yair is a structure of rough stones gathered from the beach stretching out a considerable distance and forming three sides of a square, but riot visible till the tide is more than half way out. As the tide retires a quantity of fish, herrings in abundance, and often salmon are caught in the enclosure, and secured with a hand net. The rights of the proprietors to these fishings are of high antiquity, being granted by, crown charters more than 500 years ago, and they are carefully guarded. Education is provided for the 40 or 50 scholars who attend at the school, but the fees are paid direct to the master, who draws no salary from the heritors. The proprietor of Kilmahew gives 5 sterling annually out of a sum bequeathed for this purpose, and the teacher enjoys some other privileges, of pasture for a cow, and 5 for his office of session-clerk. The poor of the parish are well maintained by Mrs. Moore's mortification, which at that time produced a revenue of 70 per annum, in addition to the church door collections.

In this account of the parish there is but a very brief notice of the antiquities of Cardross. All that is said is in reference to the palace of King Robert the Bruce, as follows:—"A little west of the Leven, upon a small eminence called Castle-hill stood, it is said, a castle at times the residence of King Robert Bruce. In this castle, of which no vestige is now discernible, that favourite prince, as history and tradition informs us, breathed his last. A farm in the neighbourhood still pays to the superior a feu-duty called dog meal. This tax is supposed to have been originally imposed for the maintenance of his Majesty's hounds."

It would appear that at one time it was intended to erect salt-works at the peninsula of Ardmore, for a memorandum was addressed to the Court of Directors of the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies, dated 8th January, 1697, bearing upon this project. The report is by Mr. James Smyth, who had repaired to the river Clyde according to order to him and to Mr. Cragg by the Court of Directors of the Company trading to Africa and the Indies, to intimate the cost of enclosing ground for the said company's intended saltwork. The spot selected extended to 100 acres of land on the north side of the hill of Ardmore, the greater part belonging to the laird of Fairholme. Details were given of the thickness of the stone wall required, and the cost of the same, and it was added, "a tunn of coal may be set on the shoar at the place for 3s. sterling per tunn or thereby."

There is a further minute of agreement between Mr. William Dunlop, Principal of the College of Glasgow in name of the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies and Noble of Ferme. This bears that the "said Company having design to set up salt works and to enclose bayes of the sea, and two bayes seem to be convenient lying adjacent to the laird of Ferme, his lands of Ardmore and Ardardan ; because several parts of said lands are benefitted by the sea wrack, which groweth and cometh ashoar in said bayes, which benefitte they lose by the Company enclosing of same, whereby the said lands may come to be damaged and impaired as to their yearly rent. Therefore the Company oblige themselves and contract to pay to the laird of Ferme the full rent which these lands doe and have ordinarily payed these seven years byegone. And because the said laird of Ferme hath ane zaire in said deep baye for taking of herrings the benefits of which will be lost by enclosing of said baye, therefore the said Company doth agree to pay such sum of money in all time coming as shall be determined and awarded by six or eight discreet and knowing persons." Provisions were made that the Company should be able to cut stones from the craigs and quarries, and have land on which to build the needful houses they required. Care also was taken that the laird should be compensated for any damage done by workmen and others to his "gress and orchards."

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus