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,
The legend is as follows
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
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
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.