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 Cowdons 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 ;
"Ive leeved here for the last four years, and never saw onything waur
than mysel, unless maybe now and then a fou man. Im thinkin," she
added, "the wee drap whiskys 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.
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 pawnt or sellt,
Cursed let him be."