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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Rutherglen Castle, and Hamilton of Ellistoun, the Persecutor


THE Castle of Rutherglen seems to have been at one time a place of considerable strength and importance. This structure, which was said to have been erected by Reuther, a king whose name is associated with the origin of the town, was, indeed, ranked among the fortresses of the country.

During the troubles which broke out in consequence of the contested claims of Bruce and Baliol, the usurper, Edward of England, took possession of this and other castles of Scotland.

According to Blind Harry, the biographer of Wallace, a peace was concluded here between England and Scotland in 1297. From the same authority we learn that it was also at this place that the fause Menteith engaged for English gold to consign his name to eternal infamy, by the betrayal of the peerless Knight of Ellerslie.

Robert the Bruce, when he raised the standard of his country’s independence, determined to wrest this important place of strength from the English. He accordingly laid siege to it in the year 1309. On hearing of this, Edward sent his nephew, the young Earl of Gloucester (who was also related to Bruce), to relieve the garrison. What the result was is somewhat doubtful. In 1313, however, the Scottish king took possession of Rutherglen Castle, having driven the English from the country and made a descent upon England, carrying fire and sword into several of the northern counties, which found it to their interest to purchase peace.

The castle continued in existence until the Battle of Langside, when it was burned to the ground by the Regent Murray, as an act of vengeance on the house of Hamilton, in whose hands it then was. One of the towers was afterwards repaired and fitted up as a residence by Hamilton of Ellistoun, who was then laird of Shawfield and other property in the vicinity.

On the decline of the family it was again suffered to fall into decay, and at length became entirely dilapidated, and was levelled with the ground. It may be mentioned that the ruin of the Hamilton family was generally ascribed, at the time, to the immediate judgment of heaven drawn down upon them by their persecuting spirit.

At the period when our covenanting forefathers made such a noble stand for liberty of conscience and the independence of the National Church, the minister of Rutherglen was a Rev. John Dickson. In consequence of an information lodged by Sir James Hamilton of Ellistoun, this good man was dragged from his church, and put in prison. We shall quote a passage from Wodrow’s History, to show the sequel :—" Mr. Dickson was kept in durance till the Parliaments sat, when his church was vacated and he was brought into much trouble. We shall afterwards find him a prisoner in the Bass for near seven years; and yet he got through his troubles, and returned to his charge at Rutherglen, and for several years after the Revolution served his Master there, till his death in a good old age.

"While that family who pursued him is awhile extinct, and their house, as Mr. Douglas foretold, in the hearing of some yet alive, after it had become a habitation for owls, the foundation stones of it were digged up." Such is the story as given by good Mr. Wodrow, minister of Eastwood or Pollokshaws, and who wrote immediately after the event. He further says :—" The inhabitants there (that is, at Rutherglen, cannot but observe that the informers, accusers, and witnesses against Mr. Dickson, some of them then magistrates of the town, are brought so low that they are supported by the charity of the parish."


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