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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter III - The Town of Biggar


BIGGAR, in all likelihood, was an ancient British village. It may possibly be the Gadanica of the Romans, a town which was situated near the Clyde in this locality, but the exact site of which has much perplexed our modern antiquaries. However this may be, it can certainly boast of considerable antiquity, as it is mentioned in some of the earliest Scottish records extant. We have no means of knowing what sort of town it was in primitive times, but in all probability it was a mere accumulation of mud and turf cabins, possessing the miserable accommodation of the wigwams of the Indian or the huts of our own Highland population. During the early part of last century, the houses were still of small dimensions, and for the most part covered with thatch. The appearance of the town at that time was remarkable on account of the number of malt-kilns with which it was studded, several of the inhabitants being maltmen by profession, and the whole of them being evidently great drinkers of ale. Like most old towns, it was, down to a recent period, kept in a very dirty and unhealthy condition. Dunghills, peatstacks, noxious gutters, and fulzie of different sorts, were to be seen in all directions. This state of things has been now very much changed for the better. A number of good houses have been built, ornamental trees planted, gas-lamps to light the street put up, shops enlarged and embellished, old houses that incommoded the street pulled down, the common sewers covered, and all unseemly accumulations removed; so that the High Street, as may be observed from the engraving, has now a very spacious and respectable appearance.

The town of Biggar at present consists of a main street, two back streets, and a suburb called the Westraw. The houses in general are small, consisting of one and two stories. They are built of whinstone, from quarries in the neighbourhood, with corners, rybats, and lintels of freestone, brought from Deepsykehead, Libberton, and other places at a distance, as there is no sandstone in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. The covering of the houses are thatch and slates, roofing tiles being nearly unknown. In entering the town from the east, we have first a few isolated houses called the Townhead, and then the toll-bar,—4 a merry place in days of yore,1 when the tollhouse was tenanted by Nicol Porteous. On the right or north side of the street is Bow’s Well, and a little below it the house occupied for some time by John, eleventh Lord Elphinstone, in consequence of Boghall Castle, the ancient seat of the family, having fallen into disrepair. This same house was also long occupied by that burgh worthy, Bailie Thomas CarmichaeL He was appointed depute bailie by Robert Leckie, head bailie and factor, in the year 1744, and took a leading part in the management of the affairs of the town and barony till his death, in 1795, when he had reached the patriarchal age of eighty-two years. On the other side of the street is a large house, once the residence of Dr Baillie, a distinguished Biggar physician of last century. The street here widens to a very considerable extent, and is far more spacious than the streets usually found in old towns. The reason of this, no doubt, was to afford space for the large fairs annually held here. On the south side of the street is the Langvout, so called from the houses, which once stood here, having arched roofs. The Langvout of old was occupied by a family of the name of Boe, most likely the progenitors of Drs Boe, father and son, well-known physicians at one time in Biggar. The keystone of the jambs of one of these vaulted houses was finely ornamented with the Lockhart arms. When the house was demolished, this sculptured stone came into the possession of Adam Sim, Esq. of Coulter, and was presented by that gentleman to the late William Lockhart, Esq. of Milton Lockhart. In the hall of Milton Lockhart House it is still to be seen, placed on a bracket, and preserved with great care. Here a wretched hovel was employed, for a number of years, as the town prison; and here drunk beggars, the lunatic that fired Nannie Muir’s house, the tinker who felled his companion at the Ba’ Green, and other disturbers of the peace, were placed in durance vile. The Langvout gate was, in olden times, the principal passage to Biggar Moss.

A little farther down are Silverk-nowes, long the property of a family of the name of Brown. Andrew Brown, and his spouse Margaret Tod, flourished here during the first half of the last century. They were succeeded by Richard Brown, weaver, whose spouse was Isabella, or, as she was generally called, Tibbie Forrest. This worthy couple had several children, of whom may be mentioned Andrew, John, an officer of excise, and Janet, who long lived in the inheritance at Silver-knowes, and died there within the last thirty years.

Andrew, who was born in the year 1763, was the most distinguished. He early showed an aptitude for learning, and attended different schools, but was chiefly indebted for instruction, in some of the higher branches of education, to Mr Thorbum of Quothquan, afterwards Dr Thorbum of Shields. One of his teachers, struck with his aptitude and ability, said publicly, in the hearing of the other scholars, ‘You are a clever boy; you will one day be a minister of Edinburgh; a prediction which was afterwards verified. After going through the usual curriculum of literary, philosophical, and theological study at the University, he was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Biggar. He was then employed for a short time as a tutor in a family, one of the female members of which became his first wife. In 1787 he was ordained to the pastoral charge of the Scottish Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia; and continued in this situation till 1795, when he was presented to the living of Lochmaben, in Dumfriesshire. On the passage home from Halifax, he had the good fortune to be on board the same vessel with Prince William Henry, afterwards William IV., who was delighted with his fine taste and literary acquirements, and took much pleasure in his conversation. In 1799 the Town Council of Edinburgh appointed him to the charge of the New Greyfriars Church, and during the year following translated him to the Old Church, as cplleague to Dr Grieve. On the death of Dr Blair, in 1801, he was appointed by the Crown Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh, being chiefly indebted, it is said, for this appointment to the efforts of his old acquaintance Prince William. In 1813 he had the honour of filling the dignified office of Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He died at Primrose Bank, near Edinburgh, on the 19th of February 1834, in the seventy-first year of his age, and was interred in the Greyfriars churchyard.

Dr Brown’s style was elegant and ornate, though somewhat diffuse, and his manner of delivery insinuating rather than commanding. He manifested much gravity and earnestness in his prelections from the pulpit, and indulged in an ample range of illustration, clothed in beautiful language that rendered them very effective. He excelled especially in prayer. His devotional sentiments were delivered with a fervour and an aptness of expression that led captive the thoughts and feelings of his fellow-worshippers. His lectures in the Rhetoric class were elegant and instructive, and from time to time were subjected to careful revision, in order to render them still more correct and complete. He spent a considerable portion of time in composing a history of America, and for the purpose of procuring information for this work, he paid several visits to London, and also to Paris. Persons to whom he read portions of it, spoke of it as highly elaborate and interesting, constructed on the model of the best historical specimens of the ancient classics, particularly in the curious conferences and harangues of the Indian chiefs. He delayed the publication of it in order to obtain fuller information, and thus to make it more complete ; but he died before he had put it in such a state as he considered fit to lay before the public.

It is worthy of notice, that when the grave of Dr Brown’s forefathers in Biggar churchyard was opened for the interment either of his brother or his sister, a box was found in it, three feet long, one foot broad, and upwards of one foot deep. On the outside of it was a plate, ornamented with elegant figures, and bearing the following inscription:—* The remains of Jane, daughter of Sir T. A. S. of B., and wife of Sir T. A. S., Knt., who died abroad 14th of May 1799; together with those of her infant daughter and only child, who survived her but six weeks. Collected and brought home by the kind offices of a particular friend of her surviving husband, the Rev. A. B., and privately deposited at Biggar, N. B., 1805.* The box, on being opened, was found to contain the bones and skulls of the lady and her infant, embedded in a quantity of fine yellow and red sand. No person at Biggar was aware that this box had been deposited in the churchyard; and many conjectures were hazarded, how it could have been placed there without being noticed, and who the parties were to whom the inscription referred. It was, no doubt, buried there by the directions of Dr Brown; but everything else connected with it still remains an entire mystery.

The part of the street in front of Silver-knowes was appointed by the Baron’s Court as the place for the show and sale of stallions on fair and market days. Farther down was the Tron-knowe, where the public weighing beam stood, and where all weighable ware, such as butter, cheese, lint, etc., were exposed for sale. From this spot the engraved view of the town was taken. A little below was the Cross-knowe, a small eminence twenty or thirty feet in height, crowned with the Cross. The Cross had an octagonal basis of solid masonry, about four feet in height; and from the centre of the platform above rose the shaft, which was without ornament of any kind. The Cross stone had a hole in its centre, and the date 1632; and the apex, which was square, had vertical dials on its four sides, and the initials 1J. E. W.,* John Earl of Wigton, with the date 1694. These two stones were, in the autumn of 1860, built into the south gable of the new Com Exchange for preservation, with an inscription below them, intimating that they were ‘part of the Old Cross of Biggar.* The oldest of these dates, viz., 1632, is not understood to be the period at which the Cross was erected. It can hardly be doubted that the Cross was at least as old as the time at which Biggar was created a burgh of barony, viz., in 1451. The dates, no doubt, referred to the time at which the stones on which they were inscribed were erected on the shaft, in place of others that had fallen into decay, or had been accidentally overturned and broken. At the Cross, state documents, acts of the Bailies Court, and the different fairs, were proclaimed by tuck of drum; and here the juveniles met for amusement, and the townsmen to discuss the topics of the day. Here, on market and fair days, assembled a motley crowd of people from the country round, to transact business; while the sacred symbol above their heads reminded them of a leading point in their religious belief, and warned them to be candid and honest in their dealings, and to cultivate peace and goodwill with their fellow-men. The shaft of the Gross, with the two


FROM A SKETCH BY THE LATE M JOHN PAIRMAN.

stones referred to, were taken down about fifty years ago; and the pedestal, and the knowe on which it stood, were removed in 1823, to make room for a hotel, which at that time was projected on the Tontine system, but was never proceeded with. The removal of the Cross-knowe, so prominent a feature in the Main Street of the town, and so much identified with the recreations of the young and the loungings of the old, furnished a theme of great lamentation to the Biggar poets. James Affleck composed a dirge, in which he made the knowe bewail its fate in very doleful terms, and preach a sermon on the changeable character of all sublunary things. Remembering with melancholy satisfaction the scenes which it had witnessed, it exclaims:—

‘I’ve been the haunt on market days,
The haunt o’ monie a fair,—
The lads and lasses, men and wives,
To me wad a’ repair; •

‘And blythesome bairnies on my sides
Wi’ pleasure they wad row,
While worn-out age wad station keep
On Biggar auld Cross-knowe.’

It ended with this bit of serious moralising:—

"I've served my time, and must away;
Then why should earth repine?
Vain mortals I view your coming fate,
It may be- seen in mine.

"Before old age Bhall press you sore,
Still wiser may ye grow,
Lay this to heart,—You must depart,
Like Biggar auld Cross-knowe.'

The most effective poem on the removal of the Cross-knowe was, however, composed by Mr Robert Rae, a native of Biggar, and son of Thomas Rae, a mason in that town. Mr Rae was born in 1805, and at an early age removed, with his father and the other members of his family, to the west of Scotland. While still a boy, he returned to Biggar, and lived some time with his uncle, Robert Pairman, merchant. In his fourteenth year he went to Glasgow, and filled various situations. While resident in that city, he published a volume of poems, which met with a ready sale, particularly in Biggar, as some of his pieces had a reference to that locality. Among others we may mention "Hillrigs Jean,* and ‘Wallace’s Address to his Army after the Battle of Biggar.’ About ten years ago he went to London, and obtained a situation in an extensive mercantile house. It was from London that he addressed the verses on Biggar auld Cross-knowe to his cousin, Dr Pairman, of Biggar. Mr Rae died at Glasgow in the summer of 1861. As his poem on the auld Cross-knowe is the production of a Biggar man, as it contains many local allusions very happily expressed, and is pervaded by a fine genial spirit of affectionate attachment to scenes dear to every native of Biggar, we cannot forbear giving a considerable portion of it, more especially as it has never before been published. It is entitled—

A YAMMERIN’ AULt) MAN’S LAMENT FOR BIGGAR AULD CORSE-KNOWE.

"OI waes me for the auld Corse-knowe;
Twice forty years hae come and gane
Sin’ first I sprauchilt up its browe,
A wee bit thochtless, happy wean.
Noo a’ day lang I sit and grane,
And Bcart wi’ grief my lyart powe,
To think there’s neither yird nor stane
O what was ance the auld Corse-knowe.

"We grue to read hoo Vandals bar’d
Their thirsty swurds owre auncient Rome;
And yet the heathen blackguards spar’d
Aneugh to mark its dreadfu’ doom.
But waur than Vandals hae been here
{Deil rax their thrapples In a tow),
Wha left nae wee bit object near
To tell whaur stood the auld Corse-knowe.

"Hoo strange that scenes we lo’ed when young
Should sere auld age wi’ pleasure fill!
The wild wi’ hips and hazels hung,
The wee bum dancin’ down the hill,
The clatter o’ the auld grey mill
That peers owre Biggar’s grassy howe,
Were dear to me; but dearer still,
My heart’s delicht,—the auld Corse-knowe.

"I’ve wander’d mony a far aff track,
In mony a sweet wild spot I’ve been;
But aye my heart gaed yemin’ back
To bairatime’s ever-hallow’d scene.
Whaur Hartree Hills, wi* simmer green,
Dear Bizzyberry’s rugged browe,
And Tintock, frae his azure screen,
A’ smiled upon the auld Corse-knowe.

"For O! a thousand Memories kin’
Roun’ that dear hillock ever clung;
And aye its sounds o’ auld langsyne
(Sweet sounds!) owre a’ my wandrin’s hung.
The lowin' staros, that nichtly flung
Their glory owre the gloamin’a browe,
Aye seem'd tae me as if they sung,
“There's nae spot like the auld Corse-knowe"'

"In yon kirkyard, whaur, glimmerin' grey,
Heidstanes rise thick ’mang hillocks green,
Lies ae kin* chiel,* wha shar'd the wae
That brings the draps to my auld een.
His limner's han' and fancy keen
Did mak the ready canvas glowe
Wi' weel-kent groups, ilk face a frien',
A’ clusterin' roun' the auld Corse-knowe.

*For mony a hundred years it stood,
And micht hae Been sax thousand fair.
Defyin' time, and storm, and flood,
To lay its auld foundations bare.
Oure fathers lo'ed to linger there,
And see their wee anes roun' them rowe;
But a' are gane, and never mair
Wi' joy shall ring the auld Corse-knowe.

"Hech! Sirs! the cronies o' my youth,—
Affleck, that kept us in a roar;
The Fiddler, wi' his unco drouth,
Can't hae anither fortnicht's splore;
The Elder cocks his thooms no more,
Nor Pinkies heckles at his tow!
Man! Biggar's no like days o' yore,
It wants mair than the auld Corse-knowe.

*Yet aye I hear thro' memory’s spell,
At dead o' nicht come doun the lum,
The tinkle o' Saunt Mary's bell,
Or tuck o' auld John Hilson's drum;
Syne fancy leads me back to some
Tremendous hurlyhacket rowe,
Whan ‘Roarin' Dillie,' lang since dumb,
Gaed thund'rin' doun the auld Corse-knowe.

"That rulin’ power, auld Bailie Cree,
Aye cried the fairs wi' loud huzza;
An', faith! nae blateness show’d, whan he
To prick -the-garters gaed the law.
Nae mace had he, but baton braw,
The guid to fend, the bad to cowe;
Nae chair o' state in gilded ha',
His rostrum was the auld Corse-knowe.

"Oure farmers noo, ilk market day,
Like donert nowte gang np and down,
And Biggar Fair and Whupman Play
Are but a^vain and empty soun,
A bonfire still may licht the toun,
But ah I nae mair its sacred lowe
Can bum the auld year out, or croun’
The young ane, on the auld Corse-knowe.

*Noo stoiterin’ doun life's lanesome brae,
Nae langer aught can pleasure gie;
For a' I lo'ed hae passed away,
Like ripples oure the changefu' sea.
But sune I'll lay me doun tae dee,
The yird will hap my weary powe,
And hane sail ever mum for me
As I've dune for the auld Corse-knowe.

"But far abune yon murky lift,
A warld o’ sinless beauty lies,
Whaur frien'ahips, scattered here like drift,
Shall bloom beneath unclouded skies,
There ’mang the hills o' Paradise,
Or where its gladsome rivers rowe,
Rejoicing in immortal ties,
I'll weep nae mair the auld Corse-knowe.'

It is fortunate that a sketch of the Cross and the Cross-knowe, as they appeared when standing entire in 1807, was painted by Mr John Pairman, artist. His sketch, which was long in the possession of his brother Robert, merchant, Biggar, was presented by that gentleman to Mr Sim of Coulter. The engraving of it which adorns this volume will, no doubt, be duly appreciated by the inhabitants of Biggar, as to the old it will recall a spot associated with many youthful recollections, and to the young it will present a feature in the town which has for many years disappeared, but which must often, in their hearing, have been referred to and described. .The figures with which the artist has peopled the Cross-knowe, were intended to represent various worthies, who were wont to frequent it on market days at the time the sketch was made. Among these may be mentioned, Colonel Dickson of Hartree; James Gladstone of Wester Toflcombs; John Paterson, farmer, East Toftcombs; William Lindsay, meal-dealer, Perryfiats; John Minto, carrier, Biggar; David Loch, horse-dealer, Biggar; Mr Dickson of Baddinsgal, commonly called (01d Barrinsgal;' Robert Tait, Spittal Muir, commonly known by the title of ‘Sir Robert; James Stodart, Covington Billhead.’ Immediately at the back of the Cross-knowe, as shown in the engraving, stood the Market House, or the ‘ Meal House,' as it was generally called. What sort of building it was in former times, it is not easy to say ; but latterly it was a house of one storey, and had a most melancholy look. It was opened every Thursday, the market day, for the transaction of business, and occasionally on other days for the sale of various commodities. Internally it was most uninviting, and was greatly infested with rats and mice, which rendered it quite unsafe to deposit meal or grain within its walls. The rats and mice were old colonists. Some fifty years ago, Affleck, the town poet, penned a jeu d'esprit, which he termed an ‘ Address of the Rats and Mice to two disputants (Nicol Porteous, toll-keeper, and William Brechan, baker), who had disagreed about a bargain of oatmeal, which was deposited by an order of the Sheriff in the Meal House, Biggar, until the plea then pending should be settled.1 This was a glorious arrangement for the rats and mice, aa they were thus enabled to live for a time in the midst of abundance. This building had long been felt to be nearly useless; and it was in so dismal and dilapidated a condition as to be a discredit to the place. A number of the leading men of the town and neighbourhood, therefore, resolved to raise funds by shares, to erect a Com Exchange of & more elegant and commodious description. The site of the old Meal House, with some adjoining ground, and also the right to levy the market customs* were readily obtained, at a moderate price, from the late Colonel John Fleming, the proprietor. Plans were procured from David M'Gibbon, Esq., architect, Edinburgh ; and the execution of the work was intrusted to Messrs Jack and White, builders, Edinburgh. The foundation-stone was laid with masonic honours on the 24th of August 1860, by W. E. Hope Vere, Esq. of Craigie Hall and Blackwood, Provincial Grand Master Mason of the Upper Ward of Clydesdale, assisted by deputations of masonic brethren from twelve different lodges. The completion of the building was celebrated by a public dinner, which took place on Thursday, the 14th of November 1861, and which was presided over by Sir Edward Colebrooke, Bart, M.P, while A. Baillie Cochrane, Esq., M.P., acted as croupier. At a meeting of the shareholders held a week afterwards—viz., on the 21st November—a code of regulations for conducting the business of the market, tdong with a table of admission rates, and market and storage dues^ was agreed to, and the general business of the Exchange was opened in a formal manner. The attendance of buyers and sellers was numerous. The following is the statement of the day's transactions as it appeared in the newspapers:—

BIGGAR CORN MARKET, November 21.

The Exchange is a chaste and tastefdl erection, in the Elizabethan style of architecture, and forms a great ornament to the street, as will be observed from the engraving of the High Street given in this work. A tower springing from the north-west comer, is intended to contain a clock, which will be a great benefit to the town. The basement storey is devoted to storage purposes; and above it are the large hall, sixty-two feet by thirty-five, for the disposal of grain and seeds ; and in the higher part of the front of the building are a spacious reading-room and a consulting-room. The large hall, which is principally lighted from the roof, is so constructed that it will answer not only for commercial purposes, but also for public meetings, concerts, balls, etc. In the same quarter is John’s Loan, the entrance to which is observable in the engraving of the Cross-knowe, the new Subscription School, and the Police Station, erected in 1860. A little farther down from the Com Exchange are the spacious premises of the Royal Bank, conspicuous in the engraving of the High Street; and at some distance onwards are Malcolm’s Well, the South United Presbyterian Meeting-house and Manse, and then the large building of the Commercial Bank, erected in 1833.

On the other side of the street, nearly opposite Silver-knowes, is the tenement once occupied by James Affleck, tailor and poet. James Affleck was bom at Drummelzier on the 8th of September 1776. Owing to the poverty of his parents, he was kept but a short time at school, and went early to employment with the neighbouring farmers. He was then bound as an apprentice to Gilbert Tait, a tailor in his native village. He served with him three and a half years, and was chiefly employed, as was then the almost universal custom of country tailors, in sewing in the houses of his master’s customers, having, as he said, not unfrequently to travel six or eight miles in a wintry morning, and work by candle-light for an hour or two before I received a morsel of breakfast, often wetted to the ankles in the morasses and rivulets which intersected our almost trackless way.’ After the expiry of his apprenticeship, he resided a short time, first, at Netherton of Crawfordjohn, and then at the town of Ayr, and last of all set up his staff as a master tailor at Biggar, in the year 1793. In 1802 he published a volume of poetry, which sold readily, and brought him some pecuniary reward. He issued a second volume of poems in 1817, with a portrait from a painting by Mr John Pairman; and in 1818 he published a poem in two parts, entitled ‘The Waes of Whisky.’ A posthumous volume of his poems, with a biographical sketch, was published in 1836 by his son John, who, at the same time, inserted some poetical productions of his own.

Affleck’s merits as a poet do not rank high. The divine afflatus was wholly awanting. His poems are very indifferent prose turned into rhyme. It would be difficult to select a single verse from his published works, and hold it up as a specimen of vigorous expression, original thought, or poetic inspiration. His poems, nevertheless, are interesting, as during a period of forty years his muse was ever busy with all sorts of local incidents, and, in fact, no event of any consequence transpired in the town or neighbourhood which did not evoke from him some poetic effusion. He was of an eminently social temperament. Shortly after his settlement at Biggar, he was initiated into the mysteries of freemasonry in the lodge of Biggar Free Operatives, and took a great interest and pleasure in the meetings and festivities of the brethren, always contributing not a little to their harmony and conviviality by the singing or recitation of his own productions, and, as chaplain, invoking a blessing on refreshments with such felicity of expression, and such manifestations of devotional feeling, as never failed to call forth the admiration of all present. He excelled in conversation, and was full of anecdotes and shrewd observations on life and manners. He was a great favourite in all the houses in which he was in the habit of being employed in the way of his profession. He made the winter evenings seem short, with his stories, his recitations, and remarks, and was commonly to be seen with a group of anxious listeners, to whom the words of Goldsmith were applicable:—

‘And still they gazed, aild still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.*

He was an excellent tradesman, and never allowed his conversational and poetical displays, nor the cultivation of the muse, to prevent him from producing a good day’s work. It is to be lamented that in his latter days he became somewhat irregular in his habits. Intoxicating drink, which has mastered many a strong man, acquired, at times, too great ascendancy over him, and perhaps had some effect in laying him prematurely in the grave. He died on the 8th of September 1835, in the 59th year of his age, and was interred in the churchyard of Biggar.

A little farther down, and very near the spot at which the engraved view of the town begins, is an old house, once occupied by Bichard Johnston and his spouse Nannie Muir, and subsequently by Mr Mathew Robertson, grocer. This house, or rather, perhaps, one which in former times stood on the same spot, was called the Tower or Fortalice. How it acquired this name, it is impossible now to say; but the probability is, that, as it stood in a commanding position, it was a fortified building for the defence of the town, or it may have been a stronghold of the Lords of the Manor at an earlier period than the castle of Boghall itself. The Tower House, and a half borrow land connected with it, belonged at one time to a Luke Tervat, in Toffccombs. On the 11th of July 1659, it was bequeathed by James Brown, merchant, Biggar, to the Rev. Alexander Livingston, minister of Biggar, and Alexander Hay, in Stane, and others, then elders in tbe parish of Biggar, and their successors in office. The annual rent drawn from this property was, for a number of years, L.12 Scots, which was expended in aid of the funds for support of the poor. In 1774 it was sold by the kirk session, and ultimately fell into the hands of Richard Johnstone and his spouse Agnes Muir. After this period the Tower House witnessed more strange scenes than any other house in Biggax. It was for many years used as a lodging-house by its landlady Nannie Muir, and was, during that time, patronized by all the ‘randy gangrel bodies’ that frequented the Upper Ward. A score of teapots round Nannie’s kitchen-fire on a morning was no uncommon spectacle. Drinking, dancing, and fighting at times, prevailed, though, in general, Nannie ruled her hostelry with a commanding hand. Had a Bums been admitted to its apartments during a winter’s evening, he would have witnessed many a scene similar to those which he has so graphically described in his ‘Jolly Beggars.’

On the same side of the street are the Elphinstone Arms Inn, where the omnibus is stationed in the engraving; the Freemasons’ Hall and Commercial Inn; the Crown Inn, which, before the days of railways, was largely patronized by carriers; the North United Presbyterian Church; the old Burgher manse; the National Bank; the Established Church manse, rebuilt in 1805, and to which an addition was made in 1827; the parish school; the schoolmaster’s house; the school green, and the kirkstyle, with its noble array of beech and ash trees skirting the road on the west. A little farther down the street is a large house, adjoining the one last seen in the engraving, but is not itself visible, which was once the property of a family of the name of Vallance, and now of the successors of the late James and William Paterson. This was one of the chief inns of Biggar during last century. It is remarkable as the house in which some of the officers of the Highland army, in December 1745, made their quarters, during their stay in Biggar. The exact day of the arrival of the Highland army at Biggar has been preserved in the Session Records. The statement occurs in connection with the birth and baptism of James Carmichael, son of Bailie Thomas Carmichael, and his spouse Violet Craig. It is recorded that he was ‘bom 22d December 1745, and baptized 24th thereof, being the day Biggar was alarmed with the coming of the Highland army thereto, after their retreat from Prince William, second son to George II., King of Great Britain, etc., with whom they would not engage.’ Unfortunately, no account has been preserved of the numbers of the Highland army that visited Biggar, the length of time which they remained, or the manner in which they conducted themselves. William Vallance, commonly called ‘Laird Will,’ with whom we ourselves, in our early years, have conversed, and whose father was proprietor and occupier of the inn to which we now refer, was in the habit of saying that he was some six or seven years of age when the Highlanders came to Biggar. Intimation of their approach haying been obtained, he mounted his father’s horses, and fled to the solitudes of the Tweeddale mountains, to preserve them from the fangs of the Hielandmen, who carried off or pressed into their service all the horses on which they could lay their hands. A little farther west are the Bridgend, the Wynd, and the Westraw. In the landward part of the parish, in this direction, are Langlees, for some time the property of the late Lord Murray; the Batts, now called Springfield; the Lindsay Lands, Biggar Park (Alexander Gillespie, Esq.), and Mosside.

Views of the town of Biggar have several times been sketched and engraved. A view of the upper part of the town, and the Church, with Bizzyberry in the background, was inserted in the ‘ Edinburgh Magazine* for May 1790. Another view of it, with an accompanying letterpress description, appeared in the * Scots Magazine* for October 1815. This is taken from Hartree, and embraces Hartree House, Boghall Castle, the town of Biggar, and the adjacent heights to the north-west. No artist, so far as we are aware, in more recent times, has considered Biggar and its adjacent scenery picturesque and attractive enough to induce him to expend time and labour in transferring a representation of them to canvas. The people of Biggar, however, are thoroughly convinced that their town presents some picturesque features, and that the scenery around, if not striking, is pleasing and diversified. At a meeting held at Biggar in 1848, under the auspices of the Edinburgh Biggar Club, the Rev. John Christison, minister of the parish, drew the following very playful contrast between Edinburgh and Biggar:—* Any one standing between the old and new towns of Edinburgh, and looking along the valley of the Nor1 Loch, commanded a very splendid view; but Biggar had an old and new town as well as Edinburgh, and a beautiful valley lying between them, and as pretty a stream winding through it as the eye could light on, on a summer’s day. (Cheers.) The whole, as many travellers had remarked, formed no bad representation in miniature of the famous Links of Forth. The view of the Edinburgh spectator would no doubt comprehend a greater variety of grand and picturesque objects ; but would it rival in sweetness the view of their own bum braes, on the one side, beautiful in their pastoral simplicity,—“when unadorned, adorned the most”—(cheers)—and on the other, crowned with lofty trees, the growth of centuries, rising like towers, their leafy battlements scathed with ages of elemental war? (Great applause.) The Edinburgh view had many an architectural boast. Theirs had but one, but it was a gem—the Church—(cheers)—old, venerable, grey, calling up hosts of visions of the olden time, when it had its full establishment of provost, prebends, singing boys, singing girls, tributary kirks, such as Dunrod in far Galloway, etc., etc. Edinburgh had a splendid viaduct stretching from town to town; but it must yield in historical interest to their own Cadger Brig—(applause)—on which the foot of the immortal Wallace was planted in one of the most heroic stands he ever made. (Prolonged applause.) Edinburgh had its castle, itself a magnificent object, and rich in associations of the past. He confessed it was difficult to find a parallel here, and, away from home, he would scarcely have ventured on one. But in Biggar, which he knew to be strong in local attachment, he thought he might refer to that respectable eminence, the Moat Knowe—(laughter and applause)—from which many a beacon had blazed in the days of yore, and which had witnessed many a valiant fight—as, for instance, that memorable one, the battle of Biggar, in which, if ancient chroniclers may be in aught believed, not less than 60,000 men were routed in one day. Let the people of Edinburgh, with all their scuffles about the castle, show anything like that.1 (Enthusiastic cheers.) The view from Biggar, though embracing the now fertile vale that stretches from Tinto to Broughton, is decidedly of an Alpine character. Hills appear on eveiy hand. The Common, 1260 feet above the level of the sea, lies on the north-west, and was till recently covered with heather; but has now been subdivided by belts of plantations, and subjected to the inroads of the plough. Bizzyberry, 1150 feet above the level of the sea, is on the north, commanding a fine view from its summit— retaining not a few traces of ancient military operations, and having, on the north side, a rock called Wallace’s Seat, and Wallace’s Well, at which that hero is said to have quenched his thirst after the battle of Biggar. On the east and south are the Broughton, Kilbucho, and Hartree hills; the tops of some of them are encircled with deep trenches, most likely dug in times of invasion in order to afford security to the cattle of the district. Cardon and Coulter Fell are two of the most conspicuous mountains in this direction, the latter of which is said to be 2330 feet above the level of the sea, thus coming within a few feet of the height of Tinto, and nearly verifying the old rhyme—

'The height atween Tintock-tap and Coulter Fell
Is just three quarters of an ell.’

The most striking mountain near Biggar is certainly Tinto, which rises majestically from the plain to the height of 2336 feet above the level of the sea. It is crowned with a huge cairn of stones, on which Druidical and beacon fires are said to have blazed in remote times, and on which huge piles of combustibles have illumined the country round in our own day, to mark seasons of rejoicing, such as the proclamation of peace in 1814, and the first visit of Queen Victoria to the 4 land of the mountain and the flood,’ in 1842. Regarding Tin-tock-tap there is the following rhyme:—

'On Tintock-tap there is a mist,
And in the mist there is a kist,
And in the kist there is a caup,
And in the caup there is a drap;
Take up the caup, drink, aff the drap,
And set the caup on Tintock-tap.’

In 1808 the late Sir Alexander Boswell published a ballad, entitled ‘The Spirit of Tintoc, or Johnnie Bell and the Kelpie,’ in which there is a special reference to the famed caup. Johnnie Bell, a droughty tailor, entertained as his guest auld Robin Scott, as great a lover of strong drink as himself. Robin was invited to ‘pree’ the contents of a graybeard, and, finding the liquor good, drank the whole at a single draught, much to the mortification of the tailor, who thus exclaimed:

‘The graybeard’a toom, I maun hae drink ;
I’ve no a plack to buy a drap.
My heart is up, and away Til link,
There’s drink for nought on Tintoc-tap.’

He instantly donned his blue bonnet, armed himself with a rowan-tree staff, and set out on his journey. During his progress he fell into a bum, and was seized by a water-kelpie, when a brownie whistled in his ear,—

*And muttered thrice the magic spell,
Thrice Cockatrice and Gallowlee,
When Kelpie shrieked, O Johnnie Bell!
My charm is broken, you are free! ’

Graining at length the summit of the hill, after much toilsome clambering, and having fortified himself with 'a quid o' the right Virginia,’ Stilla, ‘Queen of the Spirits of Fire,’ appears to him, and bids him begone; but bold Johnnie Bell, not so easily to be daunted, defies the Queen and all the race of weird sisters, whom he overcomes by repeating the mystical words, ‘ Gallowlee and Cockatrice.’ Thus compelled, and Stilla having

'- stamped on the grasslees yeaid,
A fire and cauldron quick arose;
The tailor rubb’d his head and beard,
And lick’d his lips, and cock’d his nose.

‘The fire low’d, and the cauldron hiss’d,
And the hell-steam rose baith red and blue*
When the guardian-spirit of the kist
Swell’d to the wond’ring tailor’s view.

‘The lid o’ the kist wi’ a clap flew up—
And fou to the brim out flew the cap;
The thirsty tailor at ae sup
Drank it a’, baith dreg and drap.

‘The kist and cap, by cantrip spell,
Wi1 whirring birr, in flinders flew;
But what became o’ Johnnie Bell,
Gude kens! I ken nae mair than you!*

The following reference is made to Tintock-tap in the well-known song of ‘Tibbie Fowler’:—

‘Be a lassie e’er sae black,
Gin she hae the name o’ siller,
Set her up on Tintock-tap,
The wind wad blaw a man till her.’

With regard to the view from the summit of Tinto, Dr Mac-knight, in an excellent paper read before the ‘Wernerian Natural History Society ’ on the 11th April 1812, says, ‘The expanse of country which it embraces appears unbounded on the west side, but towards the north it is terminated by the majestic Benlomond, and the lofty ranges of the Highlands, crowding irregularly into view in a manner extremely picturesque. In the opposite direction of southeast, the prominent features of the view are the bold, undulating mountain lines, the finely grouped masses, and the ultimate swells and deep hollows of the Tweeddale hills. Amongst the most remarkable is Coulter Fell, distinguished as the rival of Tinto itself, in size and height These magnificent objects, presenting themselves on the one hand, form an admirable and striking contrast to the delightful view, on the other hand, of the level country that stretches along the banks of the Clyde. This noble stream, which shows in its course so many charms of natural scenery, and whose fine sweeps through the mountain valley and lower districts of Lanarkshire are so great an embellishment of the whole prospect, may, in truth, be said to carry along with it beauty and fertility from its very source. It is equally pleasing and unexpected to find, at the height of 600 feet above the level of the sea, a tract of land so rich in soil, so well cultivated, and so extensively clothed with plantations, as the district spreading around the foot of the mountain, from Hyndford House to Symington and Coulter, and up the river to a considerable distance. The effect of the landscape is completed by the number of villas, and other marks of population and comfort, which everywhere appear in the vicinity of the Clyde. There are few elevations in the United Kingdom, where a finer assemblage of the grand and the beautiful in nature may be contemplated, than from Tinto.’

*The number of the inhabitants of the town and parish of Biggar in early times cannot now be ascertained. The probability is, that in remote times the inhabitants of the landward part of the parish were much more numerous than what they are at present. On most of the farms there were several cottars9 houses, which have nearly all disappeared. Edmonstone or Candy had evidently a considerable population; and many dwelling-places, such as Batyhall, Hillhead, Johns-holm, Little Boghall, Foreknowes, Between the Hills, etc., mentioned in ancient records, do not now exist. The amount of the population in 1755 was 1098. In 1791 it had sunk down to 962; but after this period it continued for some time steadily, though slowly, to increase. In 1801 it was 1216; in 1811, 1876; in 1821, 1727; and in 1831, 1915. In 1841 it was 1865; in 1851, 2049; and in 1861, 2000.

The expense of erecting a house at Biggar, from the want of ready access to good and cheap building materials, has hitherto been considerable; and this has acted as a decided barrier to the increase of the town, as such a return in the shape of rent could not be obtained as to induce capitalists to expend their money in this direction. By the opening of a Branch Railway to Biggar, this disadvantage has, to some extent, been obviated; and therefore we may calculate that the town will, ere long, be largely increased.


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