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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter IV - Biggar Burn


BIGGAR BURN rises in the north of the parish, and flow? at first in a southerly and then in an easterly direction. After running a course of about nine miles, it falls into the Tweed nearly opposite Merlin’s Grave, in the parish of Drummelzier. On its right bank, near its source, are the lands of Carwood, consisting of 947 Scots acres. At one period they formed a separate feu, and were for many years, as we learn from documents in the Wigton charter chest, held by a family of the name of Carwood. The male line becoming extinct, the heiress, Janet Carwood, was married to a younger son of one of the Lords Fleming, and the lands continued in this branch of the Flemings for a number of years. Richard Bannatyne says, that in 1572 they belonged to John Fleming, a brother of the then Lord Fleming. .They were, at length, greatly encumbered with debt; and this being cleared off by Lord Fleming, they came back to the possession of the main branch of the Flemings. They consequently formed part of Admiral Fleming’s Biggar estate, when the entail of it was set aside in 1830, and almost the whole of it was sold. Carwood, at that time, was purchased by Mr Robert Gray, son of the Rev. Thomas Gray, Broughton, and for many years a well-known grocer in Argyle Square, Edinburgh. That gentleman immediately set to the work of improvement with most laudable vigour. In a few years he reclaimed 400 acres of muirland, formed 50 enclosures of thorn, turf, and stone, and planted 200 acres with trees. In 1832 he erected an elegant mansion-house, and surrounded it with shrubberies and plantations. Carwood is now the property of W. G. Mitchell, Esq.

On the left side of Biggar Burn are the lands of Biggar Shields and 'Ballwaistie,’ and a place called in former times *Betwixt the Hills" They comprise 1132 Scots acres. This extensive possession belonged at one period to the Fleming family. They appear to have sold it, or granted a wadset over it, previous to 1677; for, in November of that year, John Cheisley of Kerswell, near Carnwath, was retoured heir of his father John, (in the lands and meadow of Scheills and Betwixt the Hills, a part of the lands called Balweistie, and lands of Heaviesyde, in the parish of Biggar. In a rent-roll of the Earl of Wigton’s Biggar property, in 1671, it is stated that the heritor of Biggar Shields and Betwixt the Hills paid to his Lordship yearly 4 fiftie punds of tiend duty, and eight bolls of tiend meal.1 It was purchased in 1806 by Mr Joseph Stain ton, manager of the Carron Company. At that time it was almost wholly a sheep-walk, and was let at a rent of L.150 per annum. In 1817 and the three following years, Mr Stainton carried on a series of very extensive improvements on this estate. ‘ He re claimed 600 acres, drained extensively, erected 18 miles of stone dykes, and planted 15 miles of thorn hedges, and 265 acres with forest trees. The yearly rental, we suppose, now exceeds L.1000.

Farther down the stream are the lands of Persilands, and of what were anciently called the Over and the Nether Wells, which most likely, by the time of Queen Mary, were disjoined from the Biggar estate, and held as a separate possession. Some years afterwards, viz., in 1614, the proprietor of these lands was William Fleming, no doubt a cadet of the family of the lord superior. In a document entitled ‘ The Rentall of the mealies, fermes, and other deuties payable to the Earl of Wigtoun furth of the Barrony of Biggar in 1671,* it is stated that John Muirhead was heritor of these lands, and paid five merks yearly as feu-duty. He was succeeded by his son James, who left the lands to George Muirhead, most likely his son, who died in 1751, and'bequeathed them to his wife, Mary Dickson, a sister of the Rev. David Dickson, minister of Newlands. This lady afterwards married the Rev. John Noble of Libberton, and at her death left the estate of Persilands to her nephew, the Rev. David Dickson. This divine, after being licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Biggar, was for some time assistant to his aunt’s husband, Mr Noble. He was afterwards settled at Bothkennar, and ultimately translated to Edinburgh. He was a very popular preacher, and a strenuous partisan of the evangelical party in the Church. He died in 1820, and the estate of Persilands became the patrimony of his son, Dr David Dickson, a distinguished scholar, philanthropist, and divine, and for nearly forty years one of the ministers of the West Kirk, Edinburgh. He had thus an intimate connection with the parish of Biggar; but the pastoral duties and benevolent schemes with which he was always deeply engrossed, prevented him from visiting it often, or taking any great interest in its affairs. He died on the 28th July 1842, and the estate, after continuing a few years in his family, was sold to Mr Mitchell of Carwood. The farm-house and offices were recently rebuilt, and a carved stone, containing several initials, the date 1658, and two Latin inscriptions, one of them ‘ Nisi Dominus frustra,* and very likely belonging to one of the old mansion-houses of the Persilands, was placed for preservation in the end of a stable.

To the west of the Persilands is a spot where formerly stood a small farm-steading called Hillriggs. Towards the end of last century it was occupied by a shepherd of the name of Kemp. This was the father of George Mickle Kemp, who acquired so great celebrity as the architect of the Scott Monument at Edinburgh. The architect was in the habit of stating that he was born here; and we have not as yet obtained any information to make us doubt that this statement is incorrect. At all events, he lived here when a child under his father’s roof. In his tenth year, after his father had gone to reside in another locality, lie paid a visit to the famed chapel of Iioslin; and being of an impressible and poetical temperament, he contemplated the pillars, arches, and emblematical devices of this edifice with wonder and admiration. He was bred to the trade of a joiner; and on the expiry of his apprenticeship, he set out on a tour for the purpose of improving himself in his profession, and gratifying his taste for architectural drawing. He wrought at his trade in many towns of Scotland, England, and France, and prolonged his stay especially in those which contained remarkable specimens of Gothic architecture. He was in the habit of studying all their details, and making a sketch of their chief peculiarities. He spent also a portion of his time in acquiring a knowledge of drawing and perspective, in which he made considerable progress.

Kemp at length returned home, entered into the marriage state, and commenced business on his own account as a joiner. Not meeting with the success which he expected, he threw aside the saw and hammer, and devoted himself to the work of architectural drawing, from which he derived a very small and precarious income. He still practised his old habits of sketching the remains of ancient castles, abbeys, etc.; and, in fact, at this time Burns* account of Captain Grose was strictly applicable to him:—

"By some auld houlet-haunted biggin,
Or kirk deserted by its riggin,
It's ten to ane yell fin’ him snug in
Some eldrich part.’

He was engaged in taking sketches of the Abbey of Kilwinning, when a professional friend, whom he chanced to meet, advised him to try his hand at a design for the monument to Sir Walter Scott at Edinburgh. Acting on this advice, he hastened home to his residence in Edinburgh, and in five days produced the design of a splendid Gothic cross, drawn in its principal details from Melrose Abbey. In due time he lodged the drawing of his plan, to which he attached the name of 4 John Morvo.* The Committee appointed to forward the monument had offered prizes for the three best designs; and when they came to decide on the merits of those submitted for competition, they fixed on John Morvo’s cross as one of the three to which a prize should be awarded. They were at a loss to know who John Morvo was, not being aware that the name was assumed, and that, in fact, it was the designation of a famous mason of former days, who, in an inscription on Melrose Abbey, is said to have:

"Had in kepyng all mason werk
Of Santandroya, ye Hie Kirk
Of Glasgow, Melroe, and Paslay,
Of Niddiadaill, and of Galway.*

On the morning of the day on which the prizes were to be decided, Mr Kemp had gone to Linlithgow to take drawings of some portions of its ruined palace; and on returning in the evening, he was delighted to find that some person had told his wife that a prize had been awarded to the design of John Morvo. When it became known that the beautiful and most appropriate Gothic cross was the production of so humble and unassuming a man as George Kemp, a strong prejudice was manifested in some quarters against it, and the Committee at first refused to adopt it. They advertised a second time for new designs, and a few were obtained. Kemp stuck to his cross, and gave in an improved drawing of his original plan. The Committee still hesitated and objected. It was alleged to be a mere copy of some Gothic building, and to be of so inaccurate and unsubstantial a construction, that it even could not be erected. Mr Kemp himself satisfactorily showed that the first charge was entirely without foundation ; and in regard to the second, Mr Burn, a professional architect of high reputation, who was consulted by the Committee, declared ‘ his admiration of Mr Kemp's design, its purity as a Gothic composition, and more particularly the constructive skill exhibited throughout, in the combination of the graceful features of that style of architecture, in such a manner as to satisfy any professional man of the correctness of its principle, and the perfect solidity which it would possess when built.’ The Committee were, therefore, induced, in March 1838, to recommend the adoption of Mr Kemp’s plan, as ‘ an imposing structure, 135 feet in height, of beautiful proportions, in strict conformity with the purity in taste and style of Melrose Abbey, from which it is in all its details derived.’ It was afterwards resolved, in order to give a still more impressive effect to the structure, to enlarge it to the height of 200 feet above the surface of the ground.

The building of the monument was entrusted to Mr David Lind, and Mr Kemp himself was appointed superintendent of works. Mr Kemp was now placed in circumstances of comparative comfort; he had acquired a celebrity which he had hardly dared at one time to contemplate, and he had the prospect of being largely employed, and raised to a state of affluence. Unfortunately, one dark night when on his way home, he fell into the Union Canal, and was drowned. Mr Kemp was a remarkably modest and unassuming individual. He was averse to anything like forwardness and obtrusion. His merits were thus not readily observed, and often failed to secure him that attention to which he was entitled. He was of a social disposition. He loved to spend an hour with a friend to discuss the progress of art, or the topics of the day. He had cultivated his mind with some assiduity, and wrote tolerably good versos, some of which appeared in newspapers and periodicals. His architectural genius was of a high order. Ilis Scott Monument was a noble conception, and will perpetuate his name to distant ages. It holds, and is likely long to hold, a chief place amid the splendid structures that adorn the capital of* our native land.

A little farther down is the farm of Foreknowes and Rawhead, which some years ago belonged to the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone. a brother of Admiral Fleming, and well known as a Governor of Bombay, and afterwards of Madras, and as the author of an interesting work on the Kingdom of Cabul. He retired from the offices which he held in India in 1827, and died at Hookwood Park, Surrey, o‘ii the 20th November 1859. This property was purchased from Mr Elphinstone by Mr Gillespie of Biggar Park, and sold by him to the Free Church College, Edinburgh, having been purchased with funds bequeathed for the benefit of that institution.

We next come to the mill which has ground the meal and malt of the parishioners for a long period, as it is mentioned in some very old documents connected with the parish. It is also referred to in one of Dr Pennicuick’s Poems, published upwards of one hundred and fifty years ago, entitled ‘The Tragedy of the Duke of Alva, alias Gray beard; being the complaint of the brandy bottle lost by a poor carrier, having fallen from the handle, and found again by a company of the Presbytery of Peebles, near Kinkaidylaw, as they returned from Glasgow immediately after they had taken the test.’ The graybeard, address ing their reverences, said,

‘O sons of Levi! messengers of grace!
Have some regard to my old reverend face,
My broken shoulder and my wrinkled brow
Plead fast for pity, and supply from you.
Help, godly sirs ; and, if it be your will,
Convey me safely home to Biggar Mill,
Where, wand’ring to the widow, I was lost.
Alas! I fear the Carrier pays the cost.

In spite of these and other sympathetic appeals, the holy brethren resolved that they would regale themselves with the inspiring contents of the graybeard, let the consequences be what they might.

'Right blythe they were, and drank to ane another,
And ay the word went round, Here’s to you, brother.’

The. poor widow of Biggar Mill was thus deprived of her jar of brandy, and in all likelihood the carrier had to pay the expense of the carouse.

Biggar Burn, a little above the mill, enters a deep ravine called the Burn Braes, and, after passing the mill, flows along in serpentine meanders, like the Links of Forth in miniature. On the right bank are the ruins of the wauk mill and dyeing establishment of Thomas Cosh, and his son-in-law Angus Campbell, and the picturesque suburb of Westraw, with its finely sloping gardens. The indwellers in Westraw were wont to reckon themselves a sort of separate community from the inhabitants of the town of Biggar. They had distinct societies and coteriea of their own. They had their own peatmoss, their own birlemen, and their own amusements. Between the boys of the two places there was a standing feud of old date. This was constantly manifesting itself in pugilistic encounters; but at a certain season of the year it broke out in a general bicker or melee on the Burn Braes. The weapons employed were slings, stones, and sticks. The tact and heroism at times displayed in attacking and defending these braes, would have done no discredit to a regular army. The wounds inflicted were often severe, and sometimes left scars and injuries that the sufferers carried with them to the grave. The baron bailie, Mathew Cree, and his henchmen the chief constables of the town, sometimes made a sally on the belligerents; and it was a rare sight to see these worthy powers put to flight by repeated volleys of stones, or at other times forcing the youthful warriors to shift their ground, and take refuge behind the mill-planting, or to scatter themselves over Cuttimuir or Kennedy’s Oxgate. A lad having lost an eye in one of these encounters, the better disposed portion of the inhabitants at length rose against them, and happily succeeded in putting a stop to them, it is to be hoped, for ever.

The lands behind the Westraw swell into a gentle upland, now crowned with trees, called the Knock. These lands belonged at one time to the Knights Templars. So late as the 20th of March 1620, we find a precept of Sasine granted to John Smith, of two oxgates of Templelands, with the annuals or teinds thereof, in the Westraw of Biggar. In former times, it was a common thing to hold and compute land by oxgates. In the old writs of Biggar, of which there are a large number in the Wigton charter chest, we notice references to the following oxgates:—Chamberlain’s, Fleming’s, Goldie’s, Hillhead, Mosside, Smith’s, Spittle, Staine, Stainehead, and Telfer’s. The lands of Westraw, or 1 Waaterraw,’ as it is often called in the old writs, consisted of eight oxgates. These oxgates were, in 1671, possessed by Archibald Watson, Thomas, James, William, and Alexander Robb, and William Valange, who ‘payd for ilk oxgang twentie punds;’ ane boll of meall, ane boll of beer, and ane boll and half of hill oats,’ and for the whole twenty-four kain fowls.

On the left bank are the Kirkhill, the Kirk and the Kirkyard, the Moat-knowe, and the Preaching Brae. The Preaching Brae is the spot at which open-air discourses were delivered on sacramental and other extraordinary occasions. The tent was pitched near the edge of the Burn, and the crowd rose rank above rank on the rising ground in front. Many of the chief Dissenting divines of Scotland, especially those of former generations, preached here, and attracted

immense multitudes from the country round. The clergy, at these assemblies, generally put forth their best abilities. Many persons were wont to date from them their first serious concern for their eternal interests. The spectacle was reverential and picturesque, reminding one of the conventicles of old, to see a large throng of people worshipping their Creator under the blue canopy of heaven; and the heart was touched to hear ‘the sweet acclaim of praise’ arise from thousands of pious lips, and swell on the fitful breeze. Hie practice of preaching here has been discontinued for well nigh forty years, so that few of the present generation of Biggar inhabitants have seen a Bum Brae conventicle at all approximating in magnitude and rapt devotion to those of former times.

On these braes the inhabitants have long carried on the practice of washing and bleaching their clothes. Attempts have several times been made to deprive them of this privilege. A keen war has hence arisen between them and the tacksmen of the grounds; but the result has hitherto been, that the wives and maidens have remained in possession of the field.

A little farther down is a level spot called Angus's Green, on which the Biggar gymnastic sports are annually held in the middle of June. These sports have hitherto been popular, and have been largely patronized; but, like similar amusements in other parts of the country, they are understood to be now on the wane, and, unless their patrons make vigorous efforts to uphold them, the probability is that ere long they will be abandoned. The curious excavations here, in connection with the Moat-knowe, have, unfortunately, in the desire for improvement, been filled up and defaced.

A little farther down, some thirty years ago, stood the hut of Janet Watson, commonly known by the name of ‘Daft Jenny.* She was the daughter of John Watson and Isabella Vallance. In her early days she was employed in hawking small wares about the country, in a basket; but at length, manifesting decided symptoms of insanity, she was placed in confinement, became dependent on the parochial funds, and lived here in her solitary apartment for many years. Her appearance was most singular. She had a wild and excited expression of countenance. She was commonly dressed in a blue cotton gown, or in a blue flannel petticoat and jupe, or short-gown. She wore on her head a plain mutch, or ‘toy,’ as it was here called, while on one shoulder hung a plaid; and in her left hand she invariably held an old tobacco pipe and a tattered Bible, which she frequently kissed or held to her breast. She was fastened by the leg with a strong iron chain, to prevent her from making her escape, and committing injury on the persons and property of the inhabitants. Her language was rambling and incoherent, and largely interlarded with snatches of songs, texts of Scripture, and the names of persons with whom she had been acquainted. At times it was uttered in a low and subdued tone, and all of a sudden it was poured forth with a vehemence and excitement that made all the neighbourhood re-echo. She was somewhat outrageous. She would heave the parritch cog, the frying pan, and other utensils in which she received her food, over the top of the adjacent houses, and assail persons who came near her with sticks and stones. When she broke her chain, or contrived to slip it off her leg, she commonly ran to the Relief Manse, erected on the site of her father's cottage; and there she broke the windows, or pulled up the bushes and plants in the garden. She was thus a great terror to the juvenile population; and when the cry arose, ‘Jenny’s loose/ every boy and girl made speedily to a place of protection.

Her father, surnamed the ‘Whistling Laird,’ was a singular sort of a man. In his early days he had spent some time in North America, and had there acquired a habit of making various articles of domestic use. In the side of a brae, near the place at which his daughter’s hut stood, he erected a curious and primitive-looking building of stones, turf, and wood, and covered it with a roof composed partly of paper and pitch, and hence it was commonly known by the name of the ‘ Castle o’ Clouts.’ He made the whole of his own clothes, including his shoes and leathern cap; and he produced some rare pieces of joiner’s work, in the shape of carts, wheelbarrows, etc. His first wife, Isabella Vallance, died early; and, during the war in Spain, he married a woman commonly called ‘ Jock’s Jenny,’ who had been previously married to a labourer in Biggar, at one time well known in that town by the soubriquet of 4 Whistling Jock,’ from a bumming sort of whistle in which he indulged as he went from one place to another. During the exciting times of the Continental War, ‘Whistling Jock’ was fired with the ambition of being a soldier; so he deserted his wife, and went to fight the battles of his country in the Spanish Peninsula. He very likely carried on little epistolary correspondence with his wife, even when he first went abroad, but at length it ceased altogether; and as his regiment had frequently been engaged with the enemy, Jenny suspected that he had lost his life in some of the sanguinary contests then so common in Spain. She wrote a letter inquiring after him to the War Office, and, by some mistake or other, he was reported to have been killed. When the Whistling Laird, therefore, made proposals of marriage to her, she considered she was at liberty to accept them, as she said, in her stuttering manner, ‘The War Office had told her that Dock was killed at Pain, far ayont Gasco.’ They therefore were joined in wedlock, and Hved contentedly till the conclusion of the war, when ‘Dock’ suddenly made his appearance in his tattered regimentals, and confronted the astounded pair. Jenny would rather have preferred to live with ‘Don,’ as she called her husband number two, as, in her estimation, ‘he was a good religious man;’ but Whistling Jock maintained, that, by priority of engagement, he had a preferable claim. With threats and pleadings, Jenny was prevailed on to go with Dock, and the Whistling Laird was left in solitary blessedness for the remainder of his life.

John Watson was a person of sagacity and information. He allowed himself, however, on one occasion, to be made the victim of a rather laughable, though to him a very mortifying hoax. One day he received by post a large letter with a huge seal, purporting to be from the Provost and Magistrates of Edinburgh, and inviting him to accept of the office of hangman, then vacant by the death of John High. He was not only thoroughly convinced that the letter was genuine, but he was vastly elated at the idea of receiving so great a mark of attention and honour from the municipal authorities of the Scottish metropolis. He said the post which they had conferred on him might not in general estimation be held to be very respectable, yet it was most necessary, and therefore laudable; because, if the laws were not duly carried out, society would soon be thrown into a state of anarchy. In spite of the remonstrances of his friends, he set out to Edinburgh, and presented himself at the Council Chambers. He boldly announced that he had come from Biggar to accept of the office of hangman. The clerks in the office informed him that it had already been filled up. This sad announcement at once laid all his bright hopes in the dust. He declared that he had been very unfairly treated, and produced the document putting the office in question at his acceptance. The communication was declared to be an arrant forgery, and John had no other alternative than to trudge back to Biggar, it may be a wiser, but certainly a most angry and disappointed man.

A little farther on are the Gras Works, erected in 1839 by a joint-stock company. Gas is supplied to the community at 7s. per 1000 cubic feet. The undertaking, while it has been a great advantage to the inhabitants, has also been a profitable speculation for the shareholders. We have next on the side of the Bum a range of premises used as & brewery by James Steel, and afterwards by Mr James Bell. No brewing has been carried on here for several years. Adjoining is the Wynd, dear to the recollection of Westraw callants, when it was tenanted by such worthies as John Davidson, tailor; David Loch, and Andrew Steel, carters, etc. Here is the Cadger’s Brig, supposed to be a Roman work. It is far from unlikely that the Romans threw a bridge across this stream, which often in winter is considerably swollen, and is then not easily fordable; but the present erection is perhaps more modem. By whatever party it was built, it was, no doubt, largely taken advantage of by the numerous cadgers that at one time passed through Biggar to the great mart for their merchandise, the Scottish capital; and hence, in all likelihood, its name. The popular tradition, however, is, that it first received its name from the circumstance of its having been used by Sir William Wallace, when he visited the English camp at Biggar in the guise of a cadger. It is very narrow, and being without parapet-walls, it was crossed with great difficulty in dark nights. About forty years ago, a substitute for these walls was found in an iron railing, which was erected under the auspices of Mr James Bell, brewer. A little below is a bridge in connection with the turnpike road to Dumfries, built in 1823, and embanked at each end with the earth that formed the Cross-knowe.


Cadger's Brig

Below these bridges is the Ba’ Green, supposed af one time to have been the public park of the town, where, among other pastimes, football was played. Football was long a favourite amusement in this as well as in other districts of Scotland. It was cried down by the edicts of James I., and other sovereigns, who wished to substitute archery in its place; but it still prevailed. It was a rough and savage pastime. Severe wounds were often inflicted from falls and kicks, and fights were not uncommon from alleged instances of unfair play. The sport was also carried on in the Main or High Street of Biggar, particularly on public occasions, when a number of the country people were in town.

It was then most irregular and tumultuous. Every one took what side he pleased. The fury and violence were terrible. A dozen or two of the combatants would be lying sprawling on the ground at one time, and an unhappy wight would be knocked through a window, or overturned in a filthy open sewer. This pastime has been discontinued. Draughts, quoits, curling, and bowling, are now the favourite amusements. The Bowling-green lies contiguous to the Moat-knowe. It is neatly constructed, is kept in excellent order, and conduces much to the recreation and health of a portion of the inhabitants.

On the side opposite to the Ba’ Green is the small holding of the Blawhill; and here, by the side of the stream, is Jenny’s Well, to which the inhabitants established a right about thirty-five years ago, when an attempt was made to shut up the road to it by the proprietor of the adjoining grounds. The meeting of Westraw wives, with Mr James Bell, brewer, at their head, to defend their ancient light, was , a fine display of indignant and independent Biggar feeling. The proprietor entered the case before the Sheriff at Lanark; but in the end had sense enough to withdraw it, and pay all expenses. So this remarkably cool and copious spring will remain in all time coming to supply refreshing draughts to the Biggar people, and to remind them that in this free country might cannot always triumph over right.

On the right are the lands of Boghall Mains, now finely subdivided and improved. The farm-steading, built about thirty years ago, is one of the most elegant and substantial in the county. It cost the proprietor L.1500, and the tenant L.800 in cartages.

Biggar Burn, after receiving a small stream from Hartree, takes the name of Biggar Water. The first reference to Biggar Water in any of our public muniments, so far as we have observed, is in a document giving a detail of the perambulation of the Marches of Stobo, which is supposed to have taken place between 1202 and 1207. This document, after referring to various boundaries of that parish, goes on to say, And so by the hill top between Glenubswirles to the Bum of Glenkeht (the Muirbum), and so downwards aa that Bum falls into the Bigre.’ The other tributaries of Biggar Water are Skirling Burn, Kilbucho Bum, Broughton Bum, and Holmes Water. In a ditch or small bum running from the Westraw Moss, the strange phenomenon is sometimes seen* of a portion of the waters of the Clyde flowing into Biggar Water. This, of course, only takes place when the Clyde is greatly flooded; but it shows how small an effort would be requisite to turn the waters of Clyde into those of the Tweed. At the place where the level is most favourable for such a project, the Clyde has actually formed a channel of some length in this direction. The tradition regarding it is, that the wizard, Michael Scott, entered into a paction with the devil, by which he obtained liberty to take the Clyde across the Westraw Moss and the lands of Boghall as fast as a horse could trot, on condition, however, that he would not look behind him during the operation. He commenced the work; but the angry waters made such a terrific noise, that he could not resist the temptation to look back to see the cause of the uproar. The spell was thus broken, and the waters fled back to their old channel, but left a very decided trace of the devious course which they had been forced to take.

The Symington, Biggar, and Broughton Railway passes along the valley of Biggar Water. The first sod of this line was cut on the 30th of September 1858, by Mrs Baillie Cochrane of Lamington, amid the applauding demonstrations of a great concourse of spectators, who had marched to the spot from Biggar with banners and bands of music. It was opened on the 5th of November 1860. The length of it is little more than eight miles; and the tract over which it passes, being extremely level, presented little engineering difficulty It crosses the Clyde, near the Moat of Wolf-Clyde, by a viaduct, the piers and abutments of which are of stone, and the arches, seven in number, of malleable iron. Three of the arches are each 62 feet wide, and are what are called ‘ lattice ’ girders; and the other four are each 27 feet wide, and are called ‘ plate ’ girders. The whole weight of iron employed is 44 tons, and the cost was L.4150. At this point is the first station, the second is at Boghall, the third is at Braidford Bridge, and the present terminus is at Broughton, but steps are in the course of being taken to carry the line down the Tweed to Peebles. This railway can hardly fail to confer a great benefit on the district, in conveying agricultural products to the marts in the east and west, and in bringing coals, lime, and other articles which the district requires.

The tract through which Biggar water flows, especially on its north bank, was till recently a dreary, unprofitable, and deleterious waste, relieved only here and there with a stunted birch tree. It was composed of peat-moss, and vast quantities of peat for fuel had been dug here. The surface was consequently studded with deep excavations, filled with water, and almost impassable. When a stray stot or stirk ventured to intrude into this boggy and treacherous track, the probability was, that it plunged into a deep hole, or stuck fast in the mud; and then great was the labour of men and boys to drag it from its dangerous position, and preserve it from destruction. This waste appears to have been in early times called the Nether Moss, and latterly it was known by the name of Biggar Bogs. In 1832, a poem appeared in a periodical called the 'Edinburgh Spectator,’ which contained a sort of ironical eulogium on the Bogs of Biggar. One of the stanzas ran thus:—

1'Othe Bogs of Biggar
Both clean and trig are,
With the frogs a chirping
Uncommon sweet;
And some bulrushes,
And stunted bushes,
To meet your wishes,
So small and neat.'

The growing crops in the neighbourhood of this dismal swamp, except in early years, were very liable to be damaged by frost, and were thus often rendered unfit for seed, and sometimes even for food. The feuars of Biggar, who rented nearly all the Bog parks, were occasionally subjected to heavy losses from this cause. The late Rev. William Watson, incumbent of the parish, had one of the Bog parks; but in consequence of the soil being drier, and lying at a greater distance from the swampy ground, his crops generally suffered less damage from the frosts than some of his neighbours, and thus excited their envy. One very frosty autumnal morning, Mr Watson met the late William Clerk, merchant, Biggar, and accosting him, said,

'William, this is a snell morning; I am afraid the oats in the Bog parks must have sustained damage.* *Aye, Mr Watson,' was the reply, 'there's nae respect o’ persons this morning.'

Various efforts were, from time to time, made to bring some portions of this tract under cultivation. The great difficulty to contend with was the want of a sufficient descent, to carry off the superfluous moisture with which the lands were saturated. The whole valley was nearly a dead level, and the channel of Biggar Water was only a few inches below the surface. Drains, cut to any depth, were worse than useless. They only had the effect of bringing water in greater abundance on the adjoining grounds. To obviate these obstructions to drainage, the late Mr Murray of Heavyside cut a large ditch parallel to the stream, but at some distance from it, and at the termination of the ditch erected a water-wheel, with buckets, by which he lifted the water to a higher elevation, and thus was enabled to dry a considerable portion of his bog lands. This wheel, which wrought very effectually, was the workmanship of the ingenious millwright of Biggar, Mr James Watt. The adjoining proprietors at length resolved to deepen Biggar Water to such an extent as to ensure a proper declivity, and prevent it from being filled up with mud and weeds, as had hitherto been the case. This important work was, accordingly, carried out under the superintendence of Mr George Ferguson, and completed in 1858. Some hundred acres of land along the banks of the stream have, consequently, been drained and cultivated, and are now annually covered with most luxuriant crops, while the atmosphere around has been rendered vastly more salubrious and agreeable.

In this dreary flat stood a hamlet called John’s Ilolm. John (iaims and Archibald Brown were two of the tenants of this place, a hundred and thirty years ago. The buildings have now entirely disappeared, so that it is difficult to ascertain the exact spot on which they stood.

This level tract was, no doubt, at a very remote period, covered with the sea. The stones, to a great depth, appear to have travelled from a distance, and have the smooth rounded shape that is produced by the action of water. Mr Robert Chambers, in his curious and interesting work on ‘Ancient Sea Margins,’ states, that the central mountain range of southern Scotland, from which the Tweed and Clyde take their almost contiguous origin, bears marks of ancient sea levels at coincident heights on both sides. He enumerates various places at the height of 628 feet on the Ettrick, Gala, and Tweed, which present flat projections, supposed to be formed by the action of the sea, and then says, * It is remarkable, however, that the broad passage or col between the Tweed and Clyde at Biggar, much of the basis of which is occupied by a moss, is given at 628 feet above the sea. When the sea stood at this height, the two estuaries of Clyde and Tweed joined in a shallow sound at Biggar, and the southern province of Scotland formed two islands, or rather group of islands.’

It is a matter of some regret that the Fleming family, so long connected with this parish, have, from time to time, disposed of nearly all the extensive lands that they once possessed here and in the neighbourhood. With Glenholm, Kilbucho, and Thankerton they have long ceased to have any connection, and the whole of their inheritance in the parish of Biggar has now dwindled down to a few acres. This regret is qualified by the circumstance, that they had long allowed their lands in this parish to remain in a very neglected state. They held out no inducement to improvement. Being nonresident, and possessed of little superfluous wealth, they neither showed any example of activity, nor expended the necessary capital to promote the due cultivation of the soil; and thus it continued, from year to year, in the same dismal and unprofitable state. When the entail was broken, fully thirty years ago, and the portion of Biggar parish which they still held was sold, it fortunately fell into the hands of men who lost no time in commencing the work of improvement. New farm-steadings were built, drains were cut, dykes were erected, and trees and hedgerows were planted. Two thousand acres of land, by the enterprise and resources of the new proprietors, Lord Murray of Langlees, George Gillespie, Esq. of Biggar Park, Robert Gray, Esq. of Carwood, Thomas Murray, Esq. of Heavyside, and William Murray, Esq. of Spittal, very soon assumed a new appearance, and became vastly more valuable.

The whole lands in the parish of Biggar comprise, as we have said, 5852 Scots acres. The soil consists principally of clay, sand, gravel, loam, and peat-moss. It rears good crops of oats, barley, pease, turnips, and potatoes, but is not adapted for beans and wheat. The dairy is here an object of great attention. Most of the farmers keep a stock of milk cows; and the butter and cheese, both full milk and skim milk, which they produce, are held in high repute in the marts of the eastern and western metropolis, and very often receive premiums at the shows of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. In the north part of the parish, near the source of Biggar Burn, the soil is of a poor description, and appears to be too scantily supplied with the phosphates that are necessary for strengthening and fertilizing the soil. It is supposed that it is from this cause that the cattle are often attacked with a disease called the ‘stiffness,’ or ‘cripple.* Those persons who wish to obtain information regarding this disease, which has hitherto been little investigated in this country, are referred to an article ‘On Arthritic or Bone Disease,* by Mr William Thorburn, Henchilend, in the January number of the ‘Veterinary Review* for 1861, and to various observations on the subject by Mr John Gamgee, both in that periodical and in his work on ‘The Domestic Animals in Health and Disease.*


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