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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Weird Stories of Cowdon Mansion House


ABOUT a mile and a half to the north-east of Annisland, at the end of Great Western Road, there is a considerable eminence called Clober, or Cowdonhill, which commands an extensive and beautiful prospect of the surrounding country. On the summit of this elevation, and overshadowed by a girdle of trees, stands the ancient mansion of Cowdon, a dreary, desolate, and woebegone-looking edifice. This structure is two storeys in height, and has at one time been of considerable extent.

It was in bygone years the seat of a family named Crawford. About the beginning of last century it passed by marriage, with the extensive estates attached to it, into the possession of John Sprewl, who thenceforth adopted the name of Sprewl-Crawford. From various dates, which are still legible on the walls, it would appear that the building has undergone extensive alterations at different periods. Over the doorway there is a heraldic carving, much defaced by time, but on which a bird and a star are still discernable. On one of the gables, which has been built with the old material, there is .a star, with the date, 1666; and on the front of the tenement, in a sadly dilapidated condition, is a sun-dial, with the name of John Sprewl and Isabella Crawford inscribed on it, with date, 1707.

Strange stories are current in the countryside concerning this bleak house. A spot is pointed out in the neighbourhood where the grass will not grow, and which, according to tradition, was the scene of some dark deed in days of yore. Couple this fact with the circumstance that a quantity of human bones were, many years ago, found in a portion of the edifice, which was known as Cowdon’s Den, and the intelligent reader will have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the house must be haunted.

Such, according to popular rumour, is indeed the case. People shake their heads when spoken to on the subject, and hint more than they are willing to express. One old lady of the Crawford family, we are informed, having hidden a pot of gold in a niche of the wall during her life, could

"Get nae rest in her grave"

afterwards, until she revealed the secret.

A story is also told of a certain wicked laird, a friend and associate of Claverhouse, the persecutor, who was aa occasional visitor here. This worthy, on his death-bed, is said to have ordered the servants to keep immense quantities of coals on the fire, that he might have a foretaste of what was awaiting him in the state of existence upon which he was about to enter. Of course, such an uncanny end could forbode no good for the future; and it is said the laird is still doomed to re-visit, "in his shirt of fire," the glimpses of the moon! If such be really the case (and we are not by any means prepared to prove the reverse), it must certainly gall him sadly, if spirits care for such sublunary things, to witness the decay which has recently befallen his former dwelling.

Externally, it has indeed a most ghastly and doleful appearance, while the interior, sic transit gloria mundi, is inhabited, not by owls and bats, but by several families of colliers. A section of the edifice has been fitted up as a counting-house and store for a neighbouring colliery. We ask a decent-looking woman, whom we meet at the door of the venerable mansion, if she is not afraid to live in a house which bears such an ominous character?

"Atweel, no," she replies ; "I’ve leeved here for the last four years, and never saw onything waur than mysel’, unless maybe now and then a fou man. I’m thinkin’," she added, "the wee drap whisky’s the warst speerit that noo-a-days enters the auld rickle o’ a biggin’."

A curious relic of antiquity was for many generations in the possession of the family. This was a silver spoon, the mouthpiece of which was not less than three inches in diameter, and had the following legend inscribed on it:—

"This spoon I leave in legacie
To the maist mouthed Crawfurd after me.
1480."

At a subsequent date the following limping, but pithy, lines were also engraven on this gigantic table implement :—

"This spoon you see
Is left in legacy,
If any pawn’t or sell’t,
Cursed let him be."


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