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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Cathcart Castle and Sir Alan de Cathcart


ABOUT three miles south of the river Clyde at Glasgow, and at a short distance from the ancient village of Cathcart, on a steep bank which rises over the Cart, are the ruins of Cathcart Castle, a massy square tower, which must at one period have possessed great value as a place of strength and security. The date of its erection and the name of its builder are alike lost in a dark antiquity. In the days of Wallace and Bruce it was in the possession of an Alan de Cathcart, who did good service in the cause of Scottish independence. Barbour, in his national, heroic, and historic poem, The Bruce, names Sir Alan de Cathcart as having told to him a most marvellous exploit of that rashly-daring hero, Edward Bruce, brother to King Robert.

At dawn of day, on a morning so misty that nothing could be seen beyond the distance of a bowshot, Edward Bruce, leaving his infantry drawn up in a secure position, sallied forth with fifty horsemen to reconnoitre. About mid-day the mist suddenly cleared away, and showed an English host, under St. John, fifteen hundred strong, close at hand. As retreat would probably have been fatal, Edward Bruce, with his usual fearless courage, led his small party, of whom Sir Alan de Cathcart was one, with a shout, swiftly to the charge, bearing down many of their foes. Again they repeated their attack on the puzzled and dismayed English, who supposed them to be merely an advanced party of a much larger force. The English, between surprise, doubt, and the loss they had suffered in these two charges, fell into disarray, which Edward Bruce and the Scots perceiving, were thus encouraged to charge a third time, upon which the foe, who saw them coming on, turned and fled in every direction. Barbour, at the close of his story, exclaims:

"Lo! ofttimes those put to the smart
Are perforce made to pluck up heart;
So that unlikely things are done,
And to a right good ending won."

About the middle of the sixteenth century, the barony and castle of Catheart passed out of the bands of the family by sale; but, in 1801, were re-purchased by the late Earl of Cathcart, a lineal descendant of the old Scottish worthy—

"Who struggled for freedom with Bruce."

The castle seems to be one of those stubborn fragments of the past which appear destined to bid an enduring defiance alike to the war of the elements and of time. Its walls are not less than ten feet in solid thickness; but it is now roofless and charnberless, with the exception of a vault, wherein darkness is rendered visible by the light which enters at a narrow loophole. Here, probably, in the good old times, when the law of the land was the caprice of a lordling, the unhappy vassals who happened to displease their feudal superior were kept secure until it might be found convenient to dispose of them otherwise. The place has a damp, charnel-house smell, and the crumbling tower is in some parts thickly mantled with ivy, the haunt of the starling and sparrow, while the swift builds its nest and the wallflower waves in golden flowers in the loopholes and window places.


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