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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Haggs Castle and its story


THIS ancient and time-worn edifice is situated about a mile to the west of Pollokshaws, and with its belt of trees forms a fine feature in the landscape for a considerable distance around. In its better days it has combined architectural elegance with a degree of strength necessary to the security of its inmates in those good old times when the strong hand was, to an inconvenient extent, the law of the land. The walls are in some places upwards of five feet in thickness, while the durability of the material of which they are composed is obvious from the excellent state of preservation in which the carvings on their exterior surface still exist.

Several vaults or chambers (we are puzzled to say which) are still quite entire; in one of which, in the eastern gable, is an immense fireplace, redolent of hospitable associations, and which must have been capable of roasting at once a whole ox, supported by a couple of wethers, or a perfect host of minor culinary subjects. The place has now a dark, dismal, and chilly appearance, as if many, many years must have elapsed since the cheerful blaze illuminated its capacious jaws, or the jagged flames roared in its bat-haunted chimney. An elegant window and several finely carved ornaments still adorn the principal front of the edifice.

Over the main doorway, on a triangular stone, there is an antique inscription, now almost illegible, from which it appears that the castle was erected in 1585 by Sir John Maxwell and his spouse, Margaret Conyngham.

The legend is as follows

1585
Ni Domin
AEdes Strvxe
Rit Frvstra Strvis.
Sir John Maxwell of Pollok Knight
And D. Margaret Conyngham
His Wife Biggit this House.

The Latin portion of this inscription, from its arbitrary construction and curious abbreviations, has been a fruitful source of controversy to the Jonathan Oldbucks of the neighbourhood. Many and various have been the readings which have been suggested and contested with a warmth peculiar to antiquarian discussion. The most abstruse meanings have been discovered and proclaimed with flourish of trumpet, but only to be exploded by the lore of succeeding savants. Not being prepared with a theory of our own, we shall with due deference to more learned authorities, give the most recent, and what seems to our non-professional intellect the most plausible translation, which is, that it is only a fanciful rendering of the passage from Psalms—"Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it."

Concerning the history of this interesting edifice extremely little is known. It seems to have been used as a jointure house by the family of Pollok, and, indeed, was probably built for that purpose. During the time of the persecution in Scotland it appears that the Knight of Pollok, who belonged to the Covenanting party, occasionally concealed within its walls the outlawed ministers who had been driven from their homes by fear of Claverhouse and his bloodthirsty myrmidons. Information was on one occasion lodged with the Episcopal Archbishop of the district that conventicles and prayer meetings were held at the castle of Haggs, under the auspices of its proprietors; and Wodrow mentions that in 1676 Mr. Jarnieson, the ejected minister of Govan, "gave the Sacrament in the house of Haggs, within two miles of Glasgow, along with another clergyman." The family of Pollok suffered severely for the attachment which they thus exhibited to the cause of the Covenant.

By a decree of the Privy Council, dated December 2, 1684, a fine of £8,000 sterling was inflicted on Sir John Maxwell for the alleged crime of receiving into his house and holding converse with the Nonconformist ministers. On refusing to pay this enormous sum—for such in those days it really was—the worthy knight was condemned to imprisonment for sixteen months. The persecuted baronet alluded to does not seem to have lived long after this period, as we find that a Sir George Maxwell was the Lord of Pollok in 1688.


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