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Rambles Round Glasgow
Barrhead and Neilston


"Now westlin’ winds and slaughtering guns
Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather,
The muircock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather;
Now waving grain wide o’er the plain
Delights the weary farmer,
And the moon shines bright, as I rove at night
To muse upon my charmer."—Burns.

How rapid are the steps of the year, and how marked with change! Every footfall is on a new flower, every succeeding glance is greeted with a fresh mutation of scene. Gray Winter unfolds his mantle of gloom, and forth cometh with sunshine and song the gentle young Spring. April and May, her lovely handmaidens, with leaves and flowers adorn the earth, and pass away; while June, the golden-sceptred, stalks athwart the gowany meads and the waving brairds, to be followed in turn by the eldest born of Summer, rosy July, with his burning radiance bleaching the new-mown hay, and bringing the rich russet hue of ripeness to the whispering grain. Next cometh August, a mature and stately matron, bidding us "lift up our eyes and behold how the fields are already white unto the harvest." September, full-handed and crowned with mellowing fruits, treads close upon her heels, to give place in turn unto the wild October, with his "coat of many colours," which "chill November’s surly blast" rends pitilessly from his shoulders, leaving pale nature once more drapeless and cold in the stern embrace of the Frost King. Another circle is completed, another span of our allotted pilgrimage is meted out unto us; and, looking mournfully back on the days we have wasted or misspent, we ask in weary bitterness of heart, "Is another of our years really dead?’

There are few localities in the vicinity of our city which will more abundantly repay a visit from the rambler than the vale of the Levern and the adjacent country. If our readers have any doubts of the fact, let them favour us with their company this beautiful autumnal day, and we are mistaken if at its close, they are not effectually removed. Let us be supposed then as starting on our way to the terminus of the Glasgow and Barrhead Railway. The train is in waiting, the engine in harness, giving an impatient snort now and then, as if eager for the journey, while the guards and other officials are running to and fro as if they had an overwhelming amount of business on hand, and were afraid they would never be able to accomplish it before the ringing of the decisive "third bell." It is all make-believe, however; passengers come slowly in, and one can see at a glance that the fellows could easily, and we doubt not would willingly, manage double the traffic that passes along this quiet yet beautiful, and well-managed little line. The "last man," who comes in puffing and blowing at a furious rate, having at length taken his seat and commenced wiping his reeking and high-coloured visage, there is a slamming of doors, a cry of "all right," a shrill whistle, and we are rushing away as if on the wings of the wind, among the dewy fields. We speedily pass Strathbungo, Camphill, Crossmyloof, and the wood-crowned heights of Langside. Haggs Castle, dreary even in the level radiance of morning, goes flitting past, frowning amidst its encircling trees on the surrounding landscape.

Passing Pollokshaws and the wide-spreading policies of Sir John, the country opens finely to our view, presenting a gently undulating surface, covered with luxuriant crops, and studded with gentlemen’s seats and comfortable farmsteadings, with here and there a tall chimney peering up amidst the verdant fields, and indicating that the riches of the country are not confined to its surface. Leaving Kinnishead, where the train rests a few moments, and looking westward, we obtain a view of "Crookston Castle’s ruined wa’," towering in the distance, and calling to remembrance the story of Scotia’s fair ill-fated queen, the beautiful Mary of many sorrows. Ere we have time to heave a sigh, however, over the sad associations of the scene, the unsympathizing and most unsentimental engine whirls us past the red hills of the Hurlet, amid sights and scents unholy, past Nitshill, with its quarries, coal-pits, and belching volumes of smoke, and about half-an-hour after starting, deposits us safely at Grahamstone, a clean and tidy-looking suburb of Barrhead, nestling finely at the base of the Fereneze Braes, and overlooking a picturesque sweep of the murmuring Levern.

The village of Barrhead is entirely of modern origin, having sprung into existence subsequently to, and in a great measure in consequence of, the establishment of manufactures on the Levern. Within the memory of persons still living there was scarcely a single house on the site of this now extensive and thriving community. The first printfield was erected at Fereneze in 1773; the first bleachfield about the same time; and the first cotton mill (which was also the second in Scotland) at Dovecothall in 1780. Since that period the public works have gradually increased in number, until now the Levern and several tributary streamlets are beaded, as it were, with industrial establishments. No other water in Scotland of anything like equal dimensions, we verily believe, contributes nearly so much to the manufacturing prosperity of the country, as does the Levern in its short course of some six or seven miles. A sadly tortured stream-let it is, in truth. What with dams, and lades, mill-wheels and colouring matters of every hue, with which its bosom is fretted and stained at every turn, it has really a pitiable common-sewer aspect by the time it gets sneaking into the Cart beyond Crookston. Its pollution, however, is associated with the prosperity of the Barrhead people. Their printfields, factories, and bleachfields, are dependent on its originally pellucid waters, and without them their "decline and fall" would speedily be consummated. Long, therefore, may it continue a willing and useful drudge! Lackadaisical poets may whine over the decay of sentiment, and puling painters maunder about the destruction of the beautiful; but to our mind the most interesting of streams is that on the banks of which exists an industrious, a comfortable, and an intelligent population.

Barrhead is composed of a congeries of villages on the south side of the Levern, to which they are all less or more contiguous, and bearing respectively the names of Barrhead, Newton, Ralston, Dovecothall, &c. These divisions are only locally known, however, and indeed, properly speaking, they now form but one united community, and are generally known under the collective name of Barrhead, a designation derived from a certain farm which formed the site of the earliest built houses in the locality. The village consists principally of one street, running from east to west, and about half-a-mile in length, with a number of irregular and straggling oflshoots. The houses are for the most part plain two-storeyed edifices, without the slightest pretensions to architectural elegance. They have generally a snug, comfortable look, however, and in the rear of the majority we were pleased to observe a well-stocked kailyard, with abundance of curly-headed greens, and a proportionate quantity of leeks and onions. Many of the shops would not discredit Glasgow or Paisley. There are no fewer than four places of worship in the village—namely, one connected with the Establishment, a Free, and a United Presbyterian, while a Roman Catholic chapel crowns a rising ground in the outskirts. It would seem, therefore, that the spiritual wants of the inhabitants are by no means inadequately provided for. In the matter of seminaries for the instruction of the rising generation, also, the supply, as we understand, is anything but defective. One of these, the Bourock School, a spacious and well-aired apartment, abundantly furnished with the means and appliances of juvenile tuition, we visit, and are specially gratified by the aptitude and proficiency manifested by the various classes under the judicious management of our friend, Mr. John Murray, teacher of the establishment. Nor is the machinery for the intellectual improvement of the adult population defective. We observe several shops for the sale of books and periodicals, and we learn that for many years a Mechanics’ Institution has maintained a comparatively vigorous and healthy existence in the village. Under the efficient management of a committee composed principally, if not entirely, of intelligent artisans, the institution, by its interesting annual courses of lectures on science and literature, which are generally well attended, must undoubtedly be instrumental in the diffusion of many useful and refining influences among the operatives of this important district. The library of the Levern Mechanics’ Institution, a catalogue of which we had lately the pleasure of inspecting. is really one of a highly valuable character. It contains altogether about fifteen hundred volumes in the various departments of literature, science, and art, among which are many of the works of our best modem authors. Among the recent additions we may mention Dr. Wilson’s Prehistoric Annals, Macaulay’s Essays, Hanna’s Life of Chalmers, and Cockburn’s Biography of Jeffrey. Of a truth we live in a marvellous age. Think of such productions, even as they issue from the press, circulating in the houses of our working men, ye sceptics of human progress! and acknowledge the fallacy of your misgivings. "The world still moves," say we with Galileo of old (though in a different sense), let the misanthrope and the doubter murmur as they may. "I have taken note of it," says the royal Dane; "the age is grown so picked, that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, that he galls his kibe." What would Hamlet have said had he lived in our day!

Of course there are other aspects in which we might look at Barrhead. There are no lack of public-houses of high and low degree in the village, most of which look as if they did a pretty fair stroke of business. Anything but an encouraging symptom we must admit this to be. Still, the Barrheadians—what a name!—do not seem in this respect to be "ony waur than their neebors." On a Saturday night, of course, there is occasionally a spree; but the strong infusion of pugnacious Irish blood among the population, will easily account for this fact; while the absence of a proper police force leaves riotously inclined parties in a great measure to the freedom of their own will. The navvies, indeed, who are the principal offenders in this respect, and who revel in the Donnybrook license accorded to them, are not unfrequently heard to apostrophize the village affectionately, as "Sweet little Barrhead! where there’s never a jail nor police-office." The quiet and orderly inhabitants, however, who fortunately form an overwhelming majority, are doubtless tempted occasionally to wish that they had either a "jail or a police-office" among them, for the purpose of keeping these mischief-loving vagabonds in due subordination. It is said that midnight rows have become much less frequent since the establishment of a Roman Catholic priest in the locality a few years since. If this is really the case, it is but fair that his reverence should receive due credit as a peacemaker. Would that the priestly influences were never directed to the furtherance of less beneficial purposes!

In the vicinity of Barrhead there are a number of handsome mansions, generally surrounded with umbrageous timber, pleasure grounds, and gardens. Among these we may mention Trees, the residence of James M’Culloch, Esq., situated on a gentle declivity of the braes; Fereneze House, the seat of John Graham, Esq. of Fereneze and Craigallion; and Arthwlee Howe, the seat of William Lowades, Esq. A little to the eastward of the village, on the north bank of the Levern also, there are the remains of an ancient keep, called "Stewart’s Rais," or more frequently by the inhabitants, "the auld Tower." This relic of antiquity is now in a sadly dilapidated condition, and seems fast hastening to utter destruction. It is quadrangular in form, and the massive walls, which are now shattered and crumbling, have been evidently at one period of great strength. A strong arched roof, which formerly spanned a chamber in the interior, was demolished at no very distant date, along with certain portions of the exterior walls, for the purpose of erecting an edifice in the vicinity. Extremely little is to be learned either from history or tradition concerning this structure. According to Crawfurd, the quaint old historian of Renfrewshire, it formerly belonged to a family named Halrig, a branch of the house of Darnley; and he mentions that he had seen an antique charter, of date 1484, whereby the lands of Halrig and Rids were granted to Alexander Stuart, upon the resignation of his father, Hector Stuart, by John, Lord Darnley and Earl of Lennox. At what period it passed from its former lords we cannot now ascertain; but in recent times it has more than once changed proprietors. None of these parties, however, seem to have taken any special care of the "auld Tower." As the sole relic of bygone days which the village can boast, we should certainly have imagined that parties connected with the locality would feel an interest in its preservation from impending destruction. This does not, we regret to say, appear to be the case, and in all probability, ere many years have elapsed, this ancient home of the haughty Stuarts will be numbered among the things that were.

Leaving Barrhead in a south-easterly direction, we now proceed towards a curious basaltic hill, called "the Craig of Carnock," situated about a mile and a-half from the village. Our course lies through a pleasant country path, amidst green hedgerows, belts and clumps of planting, and fertile fields, the cereal coverings of which, "a’ fading green and yellow" in the rich radiance of an autumnal day, are rustling sweetly in the westlin’ breeze. The waysides also are fringed with indigenous bloom—the purple-tufted vetch, the golden bed-straw, and the fragrant meadow-queen—while at intervals the wild raspbushes, adorned with their crimson berries, offer a tempting refreshment to the passing bird, and doubtless attract from time to time the attention of little bare-footed ramblers, from the neighbouring village. The time of roses is past, but the hips and the haws will soon put on their "red, red coats;" the coral beads are even now in clusters on the drooping mountain ash, while the bramble trails over every ditch with its delicious load of fast-purpling fruit. Well does the light-hearted school-boy love the rough-stemmed bramble, with its jetty bunches creeping over the waste; and often, in sunny days of yore, have our fingers and lips known the stain of its juicy blobs, when in juvenile raids from the town,

"The bramble berries were our food,
The water was our wine,
And the linnet to the self—same bush
came after us to dine.
And grow it in the woods sae green,
Or grow it on the brae,
We like to meet the bramble-bush
Where’er our footsteps gae."

As we gradually ascend, see how picturesquely varied the surface of the surrounding country becomes. Now we have a gray lichened crag cropping out with its crown of heather and tangled foliage; now we have a little runlet jinking among the seggans, and singing a sweet undersong as it steals down its tiny glen; and anon we have a far-stretching landscape, with yellow slopes, "like golden shields flung down from the sun," in the foreground, and high towering hills beyond. But now, brown Carnock, like a c-couchant lion, appears to our left, and we must turn aside to place our foot upon his head. As we proceed, what dreary, weather-beaten mansion, so desolate looking among its "old ancestral trees," have we here, rising as if to intercept our further progress? This is Glanderston House, formerly a seat of the Mures of Caldwell, and still, although for many years deserted by its lords, not unworthy, as you will perceive, of a leisurely inspection. So here, by the grass-grown gate, let us for a few minutes give ourselves pause, while we endeavour to summarize its story.

"In this parish of Neilston," says old Crawfurd, writing in 1710, "is Glanderston, the residence of William Mure, upon a small rivulet, adorned with regular orchards and large meadows, beautified with a great deal of regular and beautiful planting. The house was of an old model, which the present generation thought fit to demolish, and in place of the old one hath raised a pretty house of a new model, with several well-finished apartments." The lands of Glanderston, as we lean from the same authority, were conferred, in 1507, by Matthew, first Earl of Lennox, upon his brother, John Stewart, from the family of whom they passed, by marriage, into the possession of John Mare of Caldwell, who disposed of them to his brother-german, William Mure, in 1554. The house and lands of Glanderston, subsequently to Crawfurd’s time, passed into the possession of a gentleman named Wilson, an eccentric personage, of whom tradition still preserves certain rather discreditable memorials. An instance may be narrated. It is said that Mr. Wilson, who was a professed Episcopalian, on first coming to reside on his estate, called his domestic servants together one evening for the purpose of reading prayers according to the formula of the English Church. It is well known that the Scotch peasantry have a peculiarly strong repugnance to prayers which are not of an extemporaneous nature. Accordingly the unusual service was scarcely commenced by the master of the household (who, by the by, was supposed, uncharitably enough, to be rather the waur o’ the wee drap at the time), than certain whisperings and suppressed titterings were heard among the audience. Mr. Wilson, whose temper was anything but apostolic, paused, and with an eye of fire looked around, when of course every face was at once screwed into an expression of the most rigid gravity and demureness. Suppressing his passion at the unseemly interruption, he again proceeded, without audible remark, with his devotions. Before he had uttered half a dozen sentences, however, the smothered laughter broke out more loudly than before. This was too much for the excitable laird. Up he got "like & prophet in drink," as Burns has it, flung the prayer-book to the wall, and casting a withering scowl on the now terrified domestics, burst out into a torrent of profanity, denounced those present as a pack of graceless —, and declared they might all go to the — for him, as he would never pray for a single soul of them again. "This unchristian resolution," said our informant, a venerable old dame, "the thochtless cat-witted body stuck till like a bur, and ye may guess that nae gude cam o’t. He took sair to the dram, fell into straits, sell’t his property to Mr. Speirs o’ Ellerslie, whose fimily ha’e been ever sin syne in the lairdship o’t; and it’s said," continued our somewhat garrulous authority, "that he afterwards dee’t in the Gorbals o’ Glasgow, no without folk suspeckin’, however, Gude forgi’e us! that he had laid hauns on himsel’."

A century and a-half have not passed without making alterations for the worse on what Crawfurd calls the "pretty house of a new model," and its adjuncts. The edifice is still entire, and with a somewhat auld warld aspect maintains an air of picturesque dignity, with its craw-stepped gables and windows, surmounted with peaked entablatures. Over several of the windows alluded to the date 1697 appears, with the initials T.W. and W.M. elegantly carved in the dark stone. The orchards are no more; but a considerable portion of the fine old trees, including a stately avenue of beech, still adorn the vicinity. Where the rivulet formerly meandered an extensive dam is now formed—not at all, in our opinion, to the disadvantage of the landscape, however much it may have tended to the obliteration of its ancient characteristics.

We may mention, before leaving Glanderston, that the house has got rather a dubious name among the country people around; For some years it was totally uninhabited, at which time it was, in appearance, dreary and desolate in the extreme. Latterly it has been partially occupied by various parties; but it has been rumoured that "strange noises" have been from time to time heard by the residents within its gloomy walls. One nervous lady who resided for some months in the edifice was in the habit of waiting outside in the afternoons, afraid to venture within until accompanied by her husband, in whose presence his ghost-ship did not, it seems, choose to indulge in any of his noisy pranks. A gamekeeper now resides on the premises, a sworn foe to "vermin and trespassers" of all descriptions. We are not aware whether spirits of mischief belong to either of these classes; but we are inclined to suspect they do, from the fact that not one of them has dared to show his face inside, by night or by day, since the burly individual alluded to has taken up his quarters there.

To the east of Glanderston, and in its immediate neighbourhood is "the Craig of Carnock"—a detached hillock of basaltic formation—presenting a sort of fac-simile in miniature of "Arthur’s Seat." From certain points of view it has a precisely similar resemblance to a lion crouching preparatory to the fatal spring. Up this romantic eminence we now wend our toilsome way, and in a few minutes reach its commanding summit. Here there is a species of chair or throne, formed by nature in the solid rock, and popularly called the "Queen’s Seat," from a tradition that the beauteous Mary on one occasion rested on the spot. Being somewhat "forfoughten" with our sped, we make no stand on the score of ceremony whatever, but plump ourselves right down into the royal resting-place. A regal prospect indeed now greets our gaze. At our feet is an old-fashioned farm-steading, where cattle are finely grouped around the door, and where

"Hens in the midden, ducks in dubs are seen."

Stretching away to the eastward is the undulating expanse of the Mearns, with the parish church and the old tower rising amidst a very sea of wavy knolls. Turning to the north we have the reservoirs of the Gorbals Gravitation Company mapped before us, with Upper Pollok peeping from its girdle of leaves, and far over the smoke of our own good town, the fells of Carnpsie looking blue in the distance. Barrhead, Neilston, and the vale of Levern, with the sunny Fereneze range, meet our eyes in succession, as we vacate our throne and gradually turn from the westward toward the south. Nor is the summit of the Craig unworthy an attentive inspection. At one place the columns of basalt, projecting from the soil, and strewn in ponderous fragments around, bear a striking resemblance to a Druidical circle. One vast and somewhat regularly formed mass might well seem a rude altar designed for direst sacrifice. The impression that pagan rites may have been celebrated here is somewhat strengthened by the remains of a green embankment, which is evidently of artificial origin, and which may be easily traced for some distance around the spot. Let some of our archaeologists visit the Craig by all means, and investigate the matter.

Making our descent by the southern end of the Craig, where, on the steep declivity, there is a perfect stream, as it were, of rocky fragments, confusedly hurled from the impending brow by the decomposing elements, and passing round the margin of the loch-like dam, we now direct our steps through the fields towards Neilston Pad, which, like a vast pillion (whence its name), rises to the horizon before us. Passing Burnside Farm, where the members of the establishment—young and old, collie and all—are busy with their hay-harvest, and where we are regaled with a bowl of cold milk by the gaucy gudewife; and by Muirhead, where we are greeted by the house-dog’s honest but rather annoying bark, and along a delicious flower-fringed field-path, familiar to our tread in other days, we arrive at the farm-house of Snipes, nestling near the foot of the lofty Pad.

At the base of the Pad there is an immense mass of trap, many tons in weight, half-embedded in the soil, and evidently precipitated at some former period from the rugged cliffs above. There is also a similar ponderous fragment beneath the western brow of Carnock. In accordance with that strong tendency to myth-manufacture which exists in the minds of the Scottish peasantry, we have of course a legend regarding the masses of rock alluded to. It is briefly as follows :—In those days when there were giants in the land (a period of which chronology unfortunately takes no cognizance), two of these Titanic gentlemen resolved to have a trial of strength. The test agreed upon was "throwing the stone," an exercise at which, being Caledonian giants, they were probably both proficients. Accordingly, one took his stand on Carnock, and raising a huge rock, hurled it with such force that it alighted at the very foot of the Pad, which may be about a mile and a-half distant. This, it must be conceded, was a pretty fair throw, and sufficient to take the shine out of any ordinary opponent. Nothing daunted, however, the other gigantic competitor walked leisurely to the summit of the Pad, and tearing a vast piece from the cliff; poised it for a moment on his upraised arm, and pitched it with such force that it fairly cleared the Craig of Carnock, and fell on the farther side, where it still remains as a weighty testimony of his superior prowess, and a striking proof of the degeneracy into which the people of modern times have fallen.

Leaving the Giant’s Stone, we now ascend the Pad by a circuitous path which slopes gradually upwards to the summit, which is about 800 feet above the level of the sea. In form the Pad is a spacious table-land, somewhat quadrangular in shape, with steep precipitous sides, which are partly covered with a dense bosky wood, and partly with a close velvety sward, fretted with projecting crags, and intersected by sheep-walks. From its elevation and its isolated position, the Pad commands a series of delightful prospects. Looking southward we have the bleak expanse of the Mearns Moor, with here and there a solitary farm-house; while the long loch, treeless and bare, lies glittering among the dreary hills. This lonely moorland loch is the birthplace of the Levern, which is seen meandering in its downward course towards the scene of its labours in the vale below. To the south west, through a fine opening in the hills, the spectator has a wide tract of Ayrshire spread before him, with the Arran mountains and the rock of Ailsa in the distance. The white sails of passing vessels and the dark hulls of stately steamers, with their smoky trails, floating far over the blue water, are distinctly visible; while to the north and east are seen the villages of Neilston and Barrhead, the town of Paisley, and our own cloud-capp’d city, with the wide basin of the Clyde, bounded by the far mountains of the Highlands. Every change of position, indeed, brings a new picture into view, while each succeeding one seems to surpass its predecessors in variety, grandeur, and loveliness. But pen or pencil would fail to convey even the faintest conception of the landscape-features visible from the Pad, so we must even leave the imagination of the reader to complete the outlines of the sketch we have so imperfectly indicated. But the summit of the Pad has charms of its own, independently of the picturesque. As we linger on the spot we see the timid bare hirplin’ past, and the partridges in whirring coveys circling round. The wheat-ear, that beauteous haunter of lonely places, flits before us as we move; and see, among the crimson bells of the heather, now in its prime, the nest of a mosscheeper, with five wee gaping gorlins clad in puddock hair. What a cosie beild is theirs, with its screen of rich red blossoms! The parent bird, with a chirp of maternal anxiety, keeps hovering near, as we hang in pensive admiration over her helpless little ones. Poor thing! thou hast no cause to fear that we will harry thy lowly home. We have seen the day, indeed, when our hand knew not ruth towards the wild bird’s treasure, but that was long ago in our thoughtless boyhood. We have since learned mercy in our own bereavement, and we would address thee, lovely little flutterer of the waste in the words of one who dearly loved such harmless creatures as thou art,—

"I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken nature’s social union,
And justifies the ill opinion
That mak’s thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
And fellow-mortal."

So, fare-thee-well, wee birdie! and may neither cruel hawk nor bare-footed urchin invade thy little chamber of bloom. Now we approach a nook

"Where the blaeberries grow —
‘Hang the bonnie bloomin’ heather,"

and we are at once upon our knees. How delicious are the rich ripe bluish-purple berries of this lowly bit bussie, and here we have them in gowpens! Of a truth this is the choicest of our indigenous wild fruits, so pleasant is it both to eye and palate. Many and many a sunny hour have we spent streekit upon the heather, prying among the myrtle-like leaves for the purple beads; but never have we found them more abundant than here. Should the linnet come to the self-same bush we are afraid he would dine but sparely. There is still plenty for bird and body, however; so, with deep-dyed lips, we tear ourselves away from the table which we have so opportunely found furnished for our refreshment in the wilderness. The acid juice of the sourock removes the stains incarnadine from lips and fingers; and, nothing kenspeekle, we descend on Neilston.

The village of Neilston is finely situated on the brow of a gentle eminence, overlooking a considerable expanse of country. It is a compact, neat, and withal somewhat old-fashioned little township, with few features calling for special remark. While Barrhead has been going a-head, Neilston has remained comparatively stationary. The houses are for the most part plain two-storeyed edifices, some of which have evidently stood the tear and wear of many years. There is a considerable number of shops of various descriptions, some of which are large and showy, but the majority have an old world and decidedly village aspect. The church, a handsome edifice with an elegant spire, was erected in 1763, on the site of a more ancient ecclesiastical structure, one of the Gothic windows of which, however, has been preserved, and now forms the principal adornment of its less pretending successor. Since the period of its erection the church has undergone various alterations and repairs, and judging from outward inspection seems to be now in excellent condition. The church-yard is a spacious area, and contains numerous headstones and monumental structures, none of which, however, strike us as being in any way remarkable. On the occasion of a dispute in 1826 between the heritors of the parish and the poorer class of the parishioners on the subject of church accommodation, Dr. Fleming, the late minister, preached for eight successive years, summer and winter, in this church-yard; During this time an expensive and annoying litigation was carried on between the parties, which ultimately terminated, as is generally known, in the virtual success of the minister and the poor of his congregation. The heritors, meanwhile, for the most part attended public worship in a neighbouring dissenting meeting-house, which Dr. Fleming, who was a keen wit, had satirically called "the Jawhole," as being a sort of receptacle for the refuse of his congregation. One Sunday, during the Doctor’s open-air services, a goose was thrown over the wall of the church-yard, by one of the discontented heritors, as was not unnaturally supposed. The poor animal on alighting in the crowd set up a loud cry, which at once distracted the attention of the auditory from the discourse of the minister. The Doctor on observing the occurrence paused for a moment, and drawing his fingers over his beard, drily observed, "Poor thing, what a pity it is they did not send ye down the road to gabble with kindred cattle in the Jawhole; but I daresay," he continued, "it is perhaps as well that when they have not the grace to show their own flees here, they should at least send a suitable proxy."

The origin of the name of Neilston is a favourite subject of speculation, and has been accounted for in various ways by local etymologists. Certain parties derive it from an imaginary general of the Danish monarch Haco, named Neil, who, flying from the fatal field of Largs, was overtaken here and put to death. Over his grave a tumulus, according to the custom of the age, was erected, and called Neilston, from which, according to this theory, the locality ultimately received its name. Others find its origin in a stone erected over a supposed Highland chief; named Neil, who was killed (for the purpose, we suspect) at the battle of Harlaw, in the reign of Malcolm III. Unfortunately for these specious derivations, an ancient document, the "Chartulary of Paisley Abbey," mentions that in 1160, many years before the Danish invasion or the insurrection which was terminated at Harlaw, Robert de Croc of Croestown, assigns the patronage of "Neilstoun" to the monks of St. Mirren’s, on condition that masses should be regularly said for the benefit of his soul. This leaves us still out at sea in our etymological speculations on this momentous question, where we must probably be content to remain, unless we adopt the shamefully simple solution that Neilston may have received its name from some individual rejoicing in the Celtic cognomen of Neil, who may have resided here at some period, and left his name as a legacy to the locality.

Proceeding down hill, in a south-west direction, to the Paisley and Irvine road, and passing Crofthead Mill, and the handsome residence of its proprietor, a few minutes’ walk brings us to the ruins of Cowdon Ha’, situated on the summit of a steep bank, beneath which, by the side of the high-way, the Cowdon Burn rushes murmuring on to its junction with the Levern in the immediate vicinity. "In this parish of Neilston," says old Crawfurd, "lie the lands of Cowdon, which gave the first title of Lord to Sir William Cochran, afterwards Earl of Dundonald. An ancient family of the Spreuls did possess the forementioned lands for many years." From the Spreuls it passed into the possession of the Cochrans, from whom it was ultimately transferred to the Mures of Caldwell, who still retain it. With regard to the origin or history of the mansion, which has now mouldered away to a few crumbling vestiges, we now know almost nothing. The spot is still "beautiful exceedingly," however, with its rows of time-honoured trees, which stand drearily round the decaying walls, like mourners at a deathbed. Alas! for the pride of earth—for those who call themselves the lords of the soil, and who strut and fret their little hour of vain glory upon the stage, but who, even like the common herd, must pass away and be heard no more! Well has the royal bard of Israel said—"Men heap up wealth, yet do not know to whom it will pertain." "A cadet of the noble family of Darnley," says the late Rev. Dr. Fleming, in describing his parish, "held Arthurlee Glanderston was possessed by the ancient and highly respectable family of the Mures of Caldwell; Neilstonside was held by a descendant of Sir William Wallace’s family of Elderslie; the barony of Side belonged to a cadet of the honourable house of Skelmorlie; Cowdonhall was long possessed by the distinguished family of the Spreuls, and by Sir William Cochran of Dundonald. Not one of all these has now a house in the parish, nor an acre of land in it, saving Lord Glasgow and Colonel Mure. All has changed hands. What a striking lesson! Sic transit gloria mundi."

"But some must laugh, and some must weep,
Thus runs the world away."

The Irvine road, along which our course now lies, sweeps through a broad valley, bounded on one side by the Fereneze range, which here turns somewhat abruptly to the southwest, and on the other by a series of detached hills which stretch away towards the Mearns Moor. The scenery is finely varied, and, as we proceed, the heights on either hand gradually approximate, and the landscape assumes a more quiet and secluded aspect. At Shilford toll, which we soon reach, we turn aside, and ascend by a green lane the braes to the right. On attaining a considerable elevation, and moving a short way towards the west, our gaze is arrested in sweet surprise by the prospect of a lovely little lake sleeping in the verdant bosom of the valley we have just left. This is Lochlibo, certainly one of the most picturesque lakes in miniature that our country can boast. It is only sixteen acres in superficial extent, but gazing on its varied beauties, the spectator never dreams of finding fault with its diminutive size. In form it is nearly oval, and being protected on either side by lofty and well-wooded hills, its waters are generally smooth as a mirror, and reflect with delightful effect the dense umbrageous green of the encircling trees. The beauties of Lochlibo seem almost to have turned the head of good William Semple, who, in his work on Renfrewshire, indulges in a description of the locality which can only be paralleled by the celebrated "Groves of Blarney." Listen to his strangely inverted depiction, gentle reader:—"The small lake or basin at the east end, which is formed by the gentle current, is surrounded by a number of young planting, and shrubs of various kinds, which separate it from the other parts of nature, and shade in this retreat a kind of silence by solitary paths, with are now and will be long frequented by sentimental visitors, and a safe asylum for the tuneful bird." Other and abler pens than Semple’s, however, have attempted to do justice to Lochlibo. The late Dr. Fleming was enthusiastic in its praise, and asserted that it was superior to Rydal, in Cumberland, while Miss Aird has thrown the halo of poesy over its material charms. Lochlibo abounds in perch and pike, while its surface is enlivened with the graceful heron and the wild duck, which, like "the swan on still St. Mary’s Lake," as described in the poetry of Wordsworth, "floats double duck and shadow." Lugton Water, we may also mention, has its origin here. This lovely stream, in its meandering course, adorns the pleasure grounds of Eglinton, and after passing "the Castle o’ Montgomerie," falls into the Garnock near Kilwinning.

In the immediate vicinity of our present position is Corkindale Law, to which we now proceed, and in a brief space find ourselves located on its verdant summit, which, although not more than 900 feet above the level of the sea, commands a circle of scenery surpassing in extent and beauty anything that we have ever previously witnessed. We have had our foot on the brow of Benlomond, on the rugged crest of Goat-fell, and on many other Alpine peaks "baith hereaboots and far awa," but the prospects of Corkindale Law seem to our mind vastly superior to those which can be obtained from any of these high places of the land. Yet so gentle is the ascent, and so smooth appears the surface when the top is once attained, that the spectator can scarcely suppose he is even standing on a hill. To attempt anything like a full description of a landscape range so extensive and varied, is out of the question. We can only indicate a few of its more prominent features. We may mention, then, in the first place, that on an ordinary clear day, such as this on which we have fortunately fallen, half the counties of Scotland, with portions of England, and, it is said, of Ireland also (though for this we will not vouch), are within the range of vision. Looking to the north we have the Kilpatrick hills, the rock of Dumbarton, the vale of Leven, with a glimpse of Lochlomond and several of its islands while Benlomond, Benlodi, the Cobbler, and countless other cloudcapt peaks are seen, heaving their heads to the sky on the misty horizon. Turning to the east we have the fertile valley and basin of the Clyde, from Tintoe (which is seen from crown to base) down to Kilpatrick. The three wards of Clydesdale, indeed, with their innumerable towns, villages, and mansions, are spread as it were at your feet while the Campsie, western Lomonds of Fife, Bathgate, and Pentland hills are visible beyond. Direct your face now to the south, and immediately before you are the Lead, Cumnock, and Sanquhar hills, with the heights of Kirkcudbrightshire; while Saddleback and Skiddow, in Cumberland, loom dimly in the distance. The most beautiful prospect of all remains, however, and by turning to the south-west it bursts upon you in all its grandeur and variety. At your feet are seen the woods and glades of Eglinton, with a wide expanse of Ayrshire, sloping gradually downward to the sea, on the irregular margin of which are visible the towns of Irvine, Troon, and Ayr, with the brown hills of Carrick, and far away the opening of Lochryan and a portion of Galloway. Amid the waters, on which numerous snowy sails are moving to and fro, the huge rock of Ailsa stands proudly up, while the Arran bills and the headland of Kintyre are stretched out on the horizon. In certain states of the atmosphere, it is said, the mountains of Morn and Newry, in Ireland, are visible far over the blue waves; but as they do not choose to come within our ken, we shall not venture to include them in our outline. And an outline merely it is, in truth and of necessity for who could paint the infinite blendings of light and shadow, the ever-varying colours, and the life of which the wondrous picture is composed? Let those who would comprehend its magnificence, themselves visit the favoured spot where now we linger amid the beauty of earth, and sea, and sky.

Long, indeed, might one linger here without exhausting the varied features of loveliness which on every point of the compass are profusely scattered. The scenes amid which we have hitherto been deviously rambling are here brought before us at a single glance. On the living map we can at once trace the courses to and fro of our numerous excursions, while we recall the many hours of gladness which we have spent among them. But the sun is wearing towards the far west, and our shadow indicates the way we must now be going. Descending from our elevation, we return by a field-path which sweeps round the southern shoulder of the Fereneze range to the vale of the Levern. Nearly opposite Neilston, which is now seen in the enchantment of distance towering on the north-east side of the stream, we arrive at the opening of Kiloch Glen, a beautifully wooded and romantic defile in the braes along which we have been proceeding. Down this glen the Killoch Burn rushes, to its junction with the Levern, over a succession of precipitous rocks, forming in its progress three picturesque cascades, which resemble in a striking degree—although they are, of course, on a much smaller scale—the celebrated Falls of Clyde. There is a footpath along one side of the ravine, from which the several falls are seen to great advantage through partial openings in the trees, the umbrageous foliage of which forms a delightful natural setting for the various pictures. In the lower and upper falls, the water, with considerable din, is precipitated in one foaming mass over their respective declivities, which, reckoning by the eye, may be from ten to fifteen feet in height. The mid fall, which is much higher than either of the others, is broken by projecting rocks, on which the brown waters are churned into whiteness only to be again dashed into the dark hollow below. In the channel of the stream the wagtails are flitting about while we thread the shadowy mazes of the glen; and the trill of the redbreast, sole songster of the autumn day, blends sweetly with the voices of the rushing waters. Two little urchins are at the same time douking, like juvenile kelpies, in one of the linns, the snowy whiteness of their bodies contrasting finely with the rich amber fluid in which they are half immersed, while their shrill exclamations of delight, as they "splash" each other in very wantonness of spirit, ring joyously in the green gloaming of the wood. Nor has Flora been unkind to this fairy glen. Feathery breckans fringe every rock, while the steep sloping banks are profusely tangled with intermingled verdure and bloom. It was here, on a sweet spring day of langsyne, that we first made the acquaintance of the wild hyacinth or craw-flower, the odorous woodruft and the silver starwort—a winsome trio; and wherever now in our walks we meet these floral favourites, a vision of Killoch flashes athwart our memory, with the "old familiar faces" of our companions on the occasion. The Muses have also flapped their radiant pinions over this hallowed scene. Tannahill sings of "Glen-Killoch’s sunny brae," and Scadlock, a humble poet of the locality, has devoted several effusions to its praise. The productions of this nameless son of song, who was a friend and correspondent of Tannahill, are generally possessed of but little merit, yet he is occasionally happy in his descriptive sketches of nature, while a vein of genuine tenderness is manifested in several of his lyrics. We shall bid farewell to Killoch by repeating two of his simple stanzas in reference to the scene, but which are not, as our readers will observe, by any means applicable to its present aspect,—

"Cauld the norland wind doth blaw,
Deep the fields are clad wi' snaw;
While wither’d is the birken shaw,
And Nature ‘s wae and dreary.

"Hark! the storms around us swell,
Raving doon Glen-Killoch dell,
Where aft wi’ thee, my bonnie Bell,
I’ve wander’d blythe and cheery."

Leaving the glen at its upper extremity, we now proceed along the summit of the Fereneze Braes, in a northerly direction, and speedily arrive at an old thorn, well known in the neighbourhood as the "Kissing-tree", stem and branches of this sturdy old bush or tree are thickly studded with nails, which have been driven in, from time to time, by youthful lovers who are in the habit of visiting the spot. From the toughness of the wood, it is no easy matter to send a nail "home" into it; and the swain who manages to accomplish the feat, in presence of his sweetheart, is held fully entitled to "ae fond kiss" on the spot. Success in the operation, we may however mention, is considered an augury of constancy. Hence the appropriateness of the reward.

From the "Kissing-tree" a fine prospect of the vale of Levern, almost from its origin in the long loch until it loses itself in the Cart, is obtained, with Neilston Pad, Craig of Carnock, and a wide extent of country beyond. The villages of Neilston and Barrhead, also, are here seen to great advantage; the latter seemingly almost at the feet of the spectator.

"But wat ye wha’s in yon toun
The e’enin’ sun shines sweet upon?
There’s kind friends in yon toun,
Your humble servant waiting on?’

So, regretting that we have neither a nail nor a lass, we bid adieu to the nail-coated thorn, and make our way downhill to Barrhead, where we shall bid our wearied readers a courteous good night, as we have "a craw to pluck in mine host’s" with a genial "squad" of the natives So, au revoir!


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