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A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter VIII. — The Reformation Period

In 1265, the Bull of Pope Clement IV. confirmed to the Monastery of Paisley the Church of Neilston, with all its pertinents, together with the churches of “Lochwynoc, Innerwyc, Lygadwod, Katcart, Rughglen, Curmanoc, Polloc, Mernes, Kylberhan, Hestwod, Howston, Kylhelan, Harskyn, Kylmacolm, Innerkyp, Largyss, Prestwic burgh, Prestwic, Cragyn, Turnebery, Dundonald, Schanher, Haucynlec, Kilpatrik, Rosneyth, Kyllynan, Kylkeran, St. Colmanel, Sybinche, with chapels, lands, and pertinents ; also the chapel of Kylmor, at Kenlochgilpe, with its pertinents.”

Soon after the middle of the sixteenth century, a change took place. In August, 1560, the Protestants of Scotland presented a petition to the Parliament then assembled in Edinburgh, craving the abolition of the Papal doctrine, and the restoration of the purity of worship and discipline, and the appropriation of ecclesiastic revenues to the support of the ministry, the promotion of education, and the relief of the poor; and we learn that “Within foure dayis,” the Protestant religion was formally established by Act of Parliament; and the Pope’s jurisdiction in Scotland formally and finally abolished, 24th August, 1560.

Exactly a year afterwards (August, 1561), Queen Mary of Scotland, now a youthful widow and Queen-Dowager of France, and, without exception, perhaps, the most accomplished and beautiful woman of her time, arrived at the Palace of Holyrood from France. She immediately threw her influence in support of the Catholic religion, in which she had been reared and educated, and such was the charm of her condescension and grace, and her admirable prudence at this early period, that she not only enchanted the people, but made such rapid progress in their affection that, by 1563, a Catholic reaction had to some extent become established in Scotland; and as part of this general movement, we learn from Pitcairn’s Trials, “that an attempt was made to restore Popery in Neilston  that on 19th May, 1563, there were quite a number of “persons on pannel.” Forty-seven were charged with hearing confessions in different parts and celebrating Mass, in “the controiientioime of our Souerane ladies Act and Proclamatioune chargeing all her lieges that every ane of them sauld contente themeselffis in quietnes, keep peax and civile societie amangis thameselffis, and that nane of thame tak upone hand, priuatlie nor opinlie, to mak ony alteratioun or innouation of the Stait Religionne, or attempt onything agains the forme quhilk hir grace faund publictlie and uniuersallie standing at hir arrywell within this realme.” It would appear from what follows that at this time there was a certain David Fergussone, described as “ the curate of Neilstone,” implicated as one of the forty-seven, and we further learn “that the Scliir David Fergussone became in our Souerane ladies Wile (pled guilty and threw himself upon the Queen’s mercy) for the samyn cryme (i.e., contravening the Act of Proclamation) committed be him within the parroche kirk of Neilstone the foirsaid tyme.”

During the early period of the Reformation many churches were without either minister or reader; the church of Neilston was in this position until 1572, when the minister of Paisley was given charge of four parishes—Paisley, Kilbarchan, Neilston, and Mearns.

Two years after the restoration of Charles II., when the affairs of Scotland were under the administrative management of the odious Earl of Hamilton, a renegade Presbyterian—like Archbishop Sharpe, and the Earl of Lauderdale—the civil and religious liberties of the countiy, which had been gained from an unwilling Parliament since 1633, were overturned and annulled by the contemptible proceedings of the subservient Scottish Estates, and at one fell swoop by the proclamation of the Privy Council issued at Glasgow on October 1, 1662, four hundred Presbyterian ministers were expelled from their churches. These “outed” ministers, with their families, and deprived of their last year’s stipend, were forced from their homes in winter (November), because, for conscience sake, they could not seek institution to their livings at the hands of bishops of the Episcopal Church, which was then being forced upon the people of Scotland, by a breach of the King’s promise “to protect and preserve the government of the Church of Scotland as settled by law.” Nor did the tyrannous procedure end there; for, when driven from their places of worship, they sought the lonely glen, the bare hillside, or the open field for their meetings, disaster still dogged their footsteps, and two years later, by the Conventicles Act, 1604, they were deprived of the right and privilege of holding their meetings even in field or glen, and any attempt at infringement led to heavy fines being imposed.

At this period, when, as Wodrow informs us, “there was more zeal shown against presbyterians than there was against papists,” the church of Neilston fell under suspicion and vigilant observation, and the Council gave orders about meetings and conventicles in various parts of the kingdom. “On 14th April, 1663, the Chancellor declared to the Council that he had received a letter from a sure hand, that there was great abuse committed by several heritors, especially those of the parish of Neilston, tending highly to disquiet the Government.” In 1670, it would appear that matters were not going too smoothly in the parish, and the people were again to be dealt with. “On 14th June, 1670, the Council Committee order out summons against the parishioners of Neilston for a riot committed upon their minister, Mr. Alexander Kinier, one of the curates, and clerk to the Presbytery of Curates, and his wife.” It appears that sometime in May, 1670, upon a Saturday, at twelve at night, nine or ten men came into the house, beat Mr. Kinier and his wife, and plundered the house. For this outrage, the heritors were fined in 1,000 pounds Scots, and Allan Stewart, of Kirkton, was forbidden to remove from Edinburgh till it was paid.

In the midst of the general unrest and suffering—even murder was, in some instances, connected with this upheaval—it is not surprising that Scotland hailed with satisfaction and joy the arrival, at Torbay, of William Prince of Orange, on 5th November, 1688. Great changes soon followed. One of the earliest was the expulsion of the curates from their several manses. As a class, though zealous against the papacy, they seemed never to have gained the respect of the people amongst whom they were placed, but, on the contrary, were abhorred by them, so that, on their dismissal, they were hounded to the boundary of their charges by a shouting and jeering crowd, and “rabbled,” as it was called, out of the parish.

In several parishes “indulged ministers”—who had made a modified conformity—had been appointed to churches; and one of their number, Andrew Millar, indulged minister of Neilston, refused to proclaim John Davidson, in order to marriage with Jean Lochhead; for what reason is not stated.

During this period of stress and trial, when the Church was passing through the throes of persecution, and the people at the same time were struggling for their civil and religious rights; “at a time when many worthy folk in the shire of Renfrew suffered great molestation (1670—1685), Neilston had its "Communion Hill." The hill is described as being “situated a little to the south of the Cross, and owes its name to the fact that, during these times of furious trial, the people were wont to meet there and hold quiet communion.” The locality or place that best harmonizes with the description given of the hill, is the sloping hillside to the south of what is now known as Mount Pleasant, a concealed yet convenient spot for such meetings.

The Ancient Church of Neilston.

The precise date at which the main body of the original church of Neilston was erected cannot be definitely given. It is said to have been cruciform in shape, and to have had no galleries. It is also said that the ancient Gothic window in the north side represents its chancel; that there was no steeple connected with it, and that, as a consequence, the bell was hung on a large ash tree which grew near the gate, and that, during a period of seven hundred years, one family of the name of Gemmel, continued to perform the duties of church-officer and grave-digger. We shall have occasion to refer further to this family at a later part. But though precise dates are wanting for the foundation of the original church, the present church was built in 1763, additions were made to it in 1797, and it received a thorough repair in 1820. It is reported to be capable of accommodating between 800 and 900 worshippers. During the incumbency of the late Rev. Peter Macleod—to whose memory a mural tablet has been erected in the south wall—a good organ was built in the church.

There are two very handsome memorial windows of an heraldic character in the south wall, one at each side of the pulpit. Their interest centres chiefly in their local association. The thistle is a special feature in the ornamental background of the windows, into which are inserted rich and harmonious colours. In one window there is the heraldic emblazonment of the Craig family, with the motto, Vive Deo ut Vivas, and the inscription, “Erected in loving memory of Robert Craig, Merchant, St. Petersburg. Born at Capellie, Neilston. Died in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, 24th February, 1864. This window is the gift of his niece, Margaret Pollock Glen, of Carlibar, Barrhead.” In the other window, the arms of Craig and Pollock are combined, with medallions showing the family monograms with the motto, Audacter et Strenve, and the inscription, “The gift of his daughter, Margaret Pollock Glen.” Several of the other windows are filled with stained glass.

For many years the church had a wide and rather unenviable notoriety from being the subject of litigation, partly on the ground of assumed inadequate accommodation, and partly because its walls were considered to be unsafe; but chiefly because, in the year 1798, the heritors, contrary, as it turned out, to law and custom, demanded seat-rents, and let the seats by public roup in the church. The parishioners bore the evil until the year 1820, when they declined to rent the seats any longer, and resolved, at a meeting called by public notice, and held in Cochran’s schoolhouse, Barrhead, on 28th April, 1826, to go on the following Sabbath—the day after the roup—to their seats as usual in that part of the church which was formerly rouped. The heritors procured an interdict, under date “Paisley, 6th May, 1826.” But the parishioners, determined not to be deprived of hearing the gospel preached, erected in the churchyard a wooden pulpit, from which, in compliance “ to a petition to the Kirk Session, signed to the number of about 900,” the Kev. Dr. Fleming, the minister, conducted public worship for eight years, the people sitting around on forms, the recumbent gravestones, or the grass. In 1828, the General Assembly ordered the minister to return to the church, and this he did, preaching in the forenoon to the few heritors and their families, and in the afternoon in the churchyard to the parishioners.

Notwithstanding that, in 1830, the Court of Session admitted the claims of the parishioners, the heritors continued their practice, and it was not until the following year,—when the House of Lords, incidentally, as it would appear, in connection with some other case, disapproved of the charging of seat rents in parish churches,—that the parishioners were allowed to enjoy the rights of which they had been so long deprived, and for which they had so strenuously contended.

Under the ancient gothic window in the north of the church is the burial vault of the ancient family of the Mures of Caldwell. But only those members of the family who are of the direct line of succession are interred in this vault. This family held the patronage of the church of Neilston for many years, prior to disposing of the lands of Glanderston, with which the living was connected.

The Churchyard.

Until the opening of the burial-ground connected with what is now Arthurlie United Free Church, 1796,—then the United Secession Church—the churchyard which surrounds the church was, for very many years, the only place of sepulture in the parish. The small burial-ground of St. John’s Chapel, Barrhead, was opened about 1840, and the Cemetery in 1878. The graveyard around the church consists of two parts, that to the front of a line continuous with the back or north wall of the church, being the original burying ground, is common property; whilst the portion which extends from the north wall of the church to the north boundary wall of the graveyard is the “Neilston Additional Burial Ground,” and private property ; having been taken off from the Broadlie estate in 1816.

Several of the gravestones in the churchyard are of great age. One in particular, a stone lying in the triangular space in front of the church, would appear to be of great antiquity. It bears on it in full length the representation of what is said to be a “Runic Cross.” Though considerably worn, what are called the runic knots are still visible at the upper end of the shaft. I am not aware of any record of the age of this stone. Another stone in the same plot of ground has the image of a pair of large scissors cut on it, which would seem sufficiently to indicate the sartorial occupation of “the poor inhabitant below,” or possibly the scissors of fate pointing out the awful uncertainty of human life. A third stone in the same plot is said to have given great offence to a certain reverend incumbent. It was removed more than once at his instance, but somehow always found its way back again to the same place, where it still is. The legend it bears is as follows :—

“Haught Kings, Proud Priests,
And humble slaves, must all Lodge with me.”


There is also a cenotaph to the inventor of the Comet's engines, which reads as follows :—

To the Memory of
Inventor and Erector of THE
Engine of the Comet in 1811,
Which first sailed the Clyde, 1812,
And was the first (vessel) propelled by steam that regularly traded in Europe.
Born, Neilston, 10th Deer., 1782,
Died, Glasgow, 19th Novr., 1868,
Aged 86.

In the apex of the same triangular plot of ground, just inside the gateway, is a beautiful Celtic cross of grey granite, erected after the conclusion of the terrible Boer War, in South Africa, by the officers, men, and friends, of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in memory of their brave comrades, who fell at the front. It bears the following inscription :—

3rd (Renfrew) Volunteer Batt.
Loving Memory of
Born 23rd June, 1878,
Died near Rustenburg, 1st Octr., 1900.
Born 24th Aug., 1883,
Died at Kaal Spruit, 14th March, 1902.
Born 2nd July, 1883,
Died at Klerksdorp, 3rd March, 1902.
These three Volunteers from this Parish Who fell in the South African Campaign,
Erected by
The Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men, and Friends.
The Patronage of the Church.

As already stated, the patronage of Neilston church belonged to the Mures of Glanderston ; but on the purchase of that property by Speirs of Elderslie, in 1774, the presentation to the living passed into that family. Their custom, however, was to grant the congregation the privilege of electing their own minister, and that long before the Act for the abolition of patronage came into force in 1874, 37 and 38 Viet., c. 83, which, transfers the right of appointing ministers to the congregation.

In Roman Catholic times, this church was under the patronage of the Abbey of Paisley; but at the period of the establishment of Presbyteries, as we learn from Crawford, all the churches in the county, excepting two, Eaglesham and Cathcart, which are in the Presbytery of Glasgow, were united into one Presbytery, whose seat was Paisley, and formed part of the Synod of Glasgow, viz., Eastwood, Mearns, Paisley, Neilston, Lochwinnoch, Inverkip, Greenock, Port-Glasgow, Kilmacolm, Kilbarchan, Kilallan, Houston, Erskine, Inchinnan, and Renfrew. Since Crawford’s time, the ecclesiastical arrangements of the county have been greatly altered, and what was once the Presbytery of Paisley is now split up into two, viz., the Presbyteries of Paisley and Greenock, in the former of which is the Parish of Neilston.

The Parish Manse.

The manse, which was built in 1766, is pleasantly situated on an eminence at the top of Kirkhill, and is surrounded by the lands of the glebe. There is a number of fine large beech and ash trees around it; but a few years ago, some of those that grew nearest the house, were cut down under the apprehension that, through age and decay, they had become dangerous to the building, and also because they were thought to interfere with the working of the chimneys. Those that remain still give tone and character to the age of the glebe lands. The view from the front of the manse is as varied as it is extensive; commanding, as it does on a suitable day, in the direction of the east, the whole range of Campsie Fells and Kilpatrick hills, with the broad valley between. Some years ago, 1873. the old manse having been found hampered and incommodious for a family, and quite out of date as regards modern requirements, a large addition—practically a new manse—was built to the north side of the old one. This was done in such a manner that the entrance to the old house was still utilised, whilst a spacious hall and staircase were formed from part of the old premises, from which access could be had to all the rooms in the house, alike in the new and in the old parts of the building. At the time this addition was made to the manse, the church was thoroughly overhauled and repainted, and since then its comfort has been greatly increased, in the winter season, by the introduction of a hot water heating system.

The United Free Church.

Connected with this body there is a very comfortable place of worship, situated on the south side of High Street, which was opened in September, 1873, and in the north front of which is a fine rose window. There is a very successful Savings Bank attached to this church for the young of the congregation. The manse, a quite modern building, stands amongst some trees in the southern outskirts of the town.

The Roman Catholic Chapel.

There is connected with the worshippers of this denomination a commodious chapel and presbytery house, situated on the north side of Main Street. Quite recently the latter was greatly enlarged by taking in additional land from the adjoining field for garden and other purposes.

The Parish School.

Previous to the introduction of compulsory education, the parish school was a plain two-storeyed building, successor to a less pretentious erection, on the south side of High Street; the class-rooms were on the ground flat, and the teacher’s house above. Writing in 1792, the Rev. Dr. Monteath says :—“ The school-house was built large and commodious last year, i.e., 1791, with a dwelling-house in the upper storey for the teacher. The heritors also gave an area before the school for the use of the children, and a garden to the schoolmaster behind. The school may have between 60 and 70 scholars, and the wages per quarter are— Latin, 3s. ; Arithmetic, 2s. 6d. ; Writing, 2s. ; English, Is. 6d. ; with 3d. in the winter and l^d. in the summer quarters for coal.” Such was the school which had done duty from time immemorial in spreading an excellent education throughout the community, fitting scholars to take their places with credit, directly on leaving the school, in any of the faculties of the University. And such was very much its condition at the coming into force of the Education Act of 1872—an Act which revolutionised the parish schools throughout the country. The subjects taught and the scale of fees charged for the same in Neilston Parish School, when the Act came into operation, are indicated in the subjoined table, which had the sanction and approval of the qualified heritors and minister of the parish, as at 6th August, 1869, in terms of the Act 43, George III., Cap. 54 :—

Heading, 1s. per 4 weeks.
Reading and Writing, 1s. 2d.
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, 1s. 4d.
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Geography, 1s. 6d.
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, and German, 1s. 8d.

Greek, Latin, French, Mathematics, and Drawing, each 4d. extra.

Pens and ink, 1d. per month.

Fee for sewing left to be decided by schoolmaster.

Coal money, 6d., payable on 1st October, and 6d. on 1st February. School books, etc., at published prices. No deduction was made on the fees except for unavoidable absence duly certified.

At this time the school had accommodation for 279 pupils.

It will thus be seen that, at the time of coming into operation of the 1872 Act of Lord Young throughout the parishes of Scotland, the educational interests of Neilston were amply provided for, and the subjects taught were of such a character as to fully justify the people of Scotland in the pride they entertained for their national system of education, the great gift of the Reformers and the Reformation period. But under the compulsory regime of the new law, it was soon found that what suited the former educational wants of the district, were altogether inadequate for the altered conditions, and that increased school accommodation would have to be provided at an early date. In 1893, accommodation was made for 422 pupils; in 1904 again, provision was made for the accommodation of 782 pupils. Such are some of the outward and visible results of the compulsory system of education; so that the days when dissolute, careless, intemperate and indifferent parents could intellectually starve their children, are happily gone, let us hope, for ever, and the State is now wisely, though late in beginning as compared with many other countries, doing its duty in this respect to the young of all classes of society.

The Madras School.

The buildings connected with this school are situated at the bottom of Kirkhill, on the north side of the road between Barrhead and Neilston, and were erected about 1861 by the late Rev. Hugh Aird, then minister of the parish. Mr. Aird seemed to think that there was at that time a class of children in the town and neighbourhood whose educational wants were being neglected, in consequence of the fees of the parish school being higher than the parents were able to pay, though he himself had been a party to fixing the fees ; and in this school he hoped to reach the class referred to, by making the fee one penny per week. The expense incident to erecting and equipping the school was defrayed by subscription, and the then Earl of Glasgow granted a site, on merely nominal terms, on the nearest ground he had to the town. But the fact that the land was not quite at the town, came ultimately, as will be seen, to militate seriously against the school’s usefulness.

In due course, however, the erection was completed, and consists of a large hall for school purposes, a teacher’s house, with necessary offices and garden attached, all well walled in. The school was under the management of the minister and kirk-session, and for a time seemed to have met a felt want, as it was largely attended and prosperous. But with the introduction of the Education Act, 1872, its difficulties began, and ultimately it was handed over to the School Board. Under this new management, an endeavour was made to turn it to some useful purpose, but its distance from the town seemed insuperable to its success; and although the dwelling-house is still used for a teacher’s residence, the school as such has, for the present, been abandoned.

The subjoined documents are, however, of general importance, as well as of local interest, as showing the deep interest which the inhabitants had of having education brought within the reach of every class of children in the parish, and that, at a time when there was neither prospect nor expectation of the State making the education of the children of the nation an Imperial duty.

Roman Catholic School.

Connected with St. Thomas’ Roman Catholic Chapel (1861) there is a commodious school, which has quite recently undergone great enlargement and structural alteration. In point of fact, it is practically a new school, ail additional storey having been added to it, in order to meet the requirements of the Education Department.

Neilston Society for Charity.

This Society was founded in 1797, as the preamble informs us, “to establish a fund for the support and maintenance of such of their own members, their widows, or children, as may, by indisposition or misfortune, be rendered unable to maintain themselves.” Since its origin, this Society has done much good work and benefited many who little expected to require its help at the time their connection was made with it. The funds are derived from invested money and property.

Friendly Societies.

There are also in the toAvn several branches of thriving friendly societies—Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society; St. Andreav’s Order of Ancient Gardeners; Independent Order of Rechabites; Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds; and the Catholic Benefit Society.

The Agricultural Society.

This Society has existed under various names and conditions for a great many years, having originated in the old “Cow Fair” which was held at one period every second Tuesday of May in the Big Square. The Cow Fair was beginning to fall off, and mainly at the instance of Captain Anderson of Broadlie (a Waterloo veteran, in which glorious action he lost one of his legs) it Avaschanged into the Cattle Show, and for many years after the Show Avas held on his grounds of Broadlie. This Society is at present in a flourishing condition, and the members hold their annual exhibition, under the designation of “ Neilston Cattle Show,” on the first Saturday of May, when the exhibits are usually of high class, and there is a large turn-out of people.


The town has good postal arrangements with telegraph and Savings Bank attached, also telephone connection; and there is a branch of the Clydesdale Bank. Though there had been several halls connected with the town for very many years, they were small, not easy of access, and uncomfortable. Yet in one of them, known as “Jen’s Hall”—Miss Janet Anderson’s, Neilston Inn—in the beginning of the nineteenth century, R. A. Smith, the musician and composer, then in Paisley, was in the habit of giving special concerts, when some of his friend Tannahill’s beautiful lyrics, to which he had set original and appropriate music, would receive graceful rendering by the composer himself—as we have been told by no mean judge—the late Mr. Robert Andrew. These concerts were well attended and had a great vogue at the time. Still, the want of a sufficiently commodious place of meeting for lectures, assemblies, political meetings, and social gatherings had for many years been a felt desideratum. But the defect has lately been amply and liberally provided for by the generous gift of Mrs. Glen of Carlibar, to her native town, of a complete suite of halls with all their requisites. The buildings, which are known as “ The Glen Halls,” are of red sandstone and situated on the north side of the Main Street. They consist of a large hall, a lesser hall, two committee rooms or ladies’ and gentlemen’s cloak and coat rooms, and several retiring rooms behind, with kitchen, etc., and cellarage accommodation for heating apparatus beneath. The front elevation is very handsome, and the whole building is fortunate in having a good open space before it, which shows its proportions well, and affords room for vehicles turning and facilitates the alighting of parties.

The Volunteers of Neilston, a body in which Mrs. Glen for many years has taken a deep interest—her late husband, Captain Glen, having been one of their early officers—have been equally fortunate in being provided by the same generous lady with a drill hall, recreation rooms, parade ground, and armoury, with instructor’s house attached, all adjacent to the Glen Halls.

Neilston has been long famed for bleaching, owing to the abundant supply of excellent water, and though there are fewer works now than there were formerly, there is still an active trade carried on in all the departments of bleaching, laundry work, dyeing, and mercerising at Kirktonfield, Broadlie Mill, Killocli, and Gateside. There is also a large thread manufacturing work, the firm of R. F. & J. Alexander, a branch of the English Sewing Cotton Co., Limited. This work has been greatly added to and extended recently, by the closing of the Molendinar thread works, in Glasgow, from railway extension there, and gives employment to over 1,500 workers of different kinds. To meet the demand for increased house accommodation for these operatives, a large number of better-class workmen’s houses has been built at Holehouse, west of the town. Other occupations are joiners, slaters, blacksmiths, and plumbers.

Since the opening of the Caledonian Railway station in the town, several superior villas and cottages have been erected. There is a large and prosperous branch of the Co-operative Society, and also a highly useful affiliated branch of the Victoria Nursing Association, a house for the nurse having been provided, through the generosity of Mr. Alex. Martin, of Holehouse, by the erection of a cottage on Holehouse Brae. There is, also, a branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association; a Good Templar Lodge ; and formerly a company of Volunteers, now in part merged in the Territorial Forces, and a Boys’ Brigade and Boy Scouts. There also existed a useful Public Library, instituted 1852, but for a number of years past, partly owing to the difficulty of keeping up a proper supply of books, but mainly from the facility with which cheap books can be bought privately, and the ease with which library connections can be formed in Glasgow, the library has got into a state of complete decay. There are bowling green, cricket pitch, and football field, all within easy reach of both Caledonian and the Kilmarnock and Joint Line railway stations, and a curling club, instituted 1875. This club has maintained its reputation in many contests: of 41 with other clubs, it gained 28 and lost 13. In the first 15 contests, they were defeated only once, gaining 15 medals—a gold and a silver one having been won in one competition ; and in the 28 victories, they were up 362 shots, being an average of nearly 13 per victory. Such is the information supplied by their late secretary. The followers of the gentle Isaac have a Free-Water Angling Club.

There are eight licensed properties in the town, being eight fewer than in 1863.

Formerly (1837) there was a Small Debt Court held alternately, once a month, in Neilston and Barrhead, which has for many years been departed from.

Special Drainage Scheme.

The County Council having resolved to establish a Special Drainage District in Neilston, the work was begun in the spring of 1907, and, having been pushed on with great activity, was opened in 1909. The purification works are on the septic-tank principle—a system which seems to have met the difficulty of inland sewage requirements—with eight filters, arranged in two sets of four. The filters are to be treated as contact beds, and given as long as possible to drain and aerate, the opening and closing being regulated by alternating gear. Provision was made for the construction of no fewer than twenty-four sewers, varying in size from 15 to 6 inches fire-clay pipes, which, being now finished, should put the town upon a sound sanitary basis, and secure healthy surroundings for the people. It is estimated that the scheme, exclusive of site for purification works, will cost about £9,700.

Neilston and Barrhead Races.

Seventy years ago, we, like many other west-country towns, had our races, which took place on the first Tuesday of July annually. In Neilston, the race was run on the street, the course being from the Masons’ Arms to the Craig gate, near the quarry of the same name, on Kingston road, the turning post being a barrel placed there in the middle of the road. The jockeys were a couple of nondescript characters, who always turned up to ride on the race day, known as “Tory” and “Friday.” As in greater and more pretentious events of a kindred character, the patrons of our race had their favourites—the bookmaker had not then been evolved—and Friday, who was generally successful in carrying off the “blue ribbon” of the day, enjoyed that position. He had a stiff leg, or pin, and was a bit of a trickster or cheat, and somehow the sympathy of the public or crowd went out in that direction. He had, or was credited with having, which in his case served much the same purpose, a fluky way of poking his pin in front of his rival’s horse, if it was likely to dispute his position when nearing the winning-post, which scared it from coming forward, and gave him the race.

The race, in Barrhead, was run in the Aars road for some years, and, later, in a field alongside that road. But, needless to say, these racing events are now things of the past, and the only thing of their kind left in the parish is the motley affair that annually, for many years, at least, winds up the Cattle Show in Neilston, for the practice has been altogether abandoned at Barrhead. These events were, doubtless, kindred to the Cadgers’ Race, still kept up in some towns in the west—relics of a friendly rivalry that took place amongst the followers of an occupation (the cadger) that is now, in the face of railway enterprise, rapidly becoming an industry of byegone days.


Uplawmoor, or Ouplaymuir, as it is written in older documents, has a population (1901) of 220. There is no special trade carried on, the population being either residential or connected with agricultural work. The village is situated three miles to the west of Neilston, and on the very border of Ayrshire, Its situation, surroundings, and exposure are alike charming, and, within the last thirty years, it has been almost entirely rebuilt. The old houses were mostly single-storeyed and thatched, and in the thriving days of hand-loom weaving, there were nine looms in the village ; but these have all long ago passed away, and with them most of the houses they occupied have disappeared, and their places been supplied by modern buildings possessed of every comfort and convenience, substantial villas, and cottages. There is a fine church in the village known as thequoad sacra parish church of Caldwell, with large and comfortable manse attached. The foundation-stone of this church was laid in 1888, by Colonel Mure of Caldwell, with Masonic honours. There is a commodious school, with teacher’s house ; post-office and telegraph connection ; and a good water supply. There is very ample railway service, as both the Glasgow & South-Western, or Joint Line, and the Caledonian railways have stations at the village. There is an excellent golf course of eighteen holes within Caldwell policies, and the Joint Line station is within three minutes’ walk of the pavilion. Such is the provision made for healthful exercise in summer; whilst in winter, the proximity of Loch Libo gives ample scope for indulging the curlers in the roaring game. There is one licensed house in the village.


This hamlet has a population of 46, and is situated on the main turnpike between Barrhead and Lugton. Many of the place-names here about are corruptions of old names, quite descriptive of the places when first given. Previous to the formation of the turnpike road (circa 1820), the water from the glen on the hillside, which now runs down to the railway, spread out here in the hollow part of the road which then, as now, passes from Uplawmoor over the braes to Paisley by Gleniffer, and formed a “shallow ford” at this point, of which the name of the hamlet is evidently a corruption. This stream, too, has evidently a name-relation to the two farms on the hillside, “Thortor-burn” being a corruption of “Athort-the-burn,” i.e., across, or the other side of the burn; and “Bung-clug” evidently has been originally “Bank-lug,” the side, or “lug,” of the bank of the same water. After leaving Athort-the-burn glen, the water crosses the meadow to the railway, where it is now diverted to a westward course, and finds its way to Loch Libo. There is a blacksmith and farrier’s shop and a saw-mill here, and, formerly, there were two licensed properties, but, some years ago, the licences were both withdrawn, first one and then the other.

This village has a population of 396, and lies along the base of the Fereneze hills, which shelter it completely from the north winds, and is about equally distant between Barrhead and Neilston. For many years there was a cotton mill and two printfields here; the latter entered into the “Calico combine,” since which one of them has been closed, and the cotton mill has been converted into a waterproofing work; and there is also a laundry. The inhabitants are chiefly the employees of these different works. As the manufacture of waterproof cloth is a new and rising industry, prosperity has visited the place, and led to improvements being made in the dwelling-houses, bringing them more into line with modern sanitary requirements. There is one licensed property in the village.

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