Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter XII. — Historic Houses and Principal Families


Of the many families once large holders of property in our parish, many of whose ancestors assisted in making Scottish history, the ancient and highly esteemed family of the Mures of Caldwell is happily still with us. This family traces its descent from Sir Gilchrist Mure of Rowallan, near Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, but through Sir Reginald Mure, of the Abercorn and Cowdams branch of that family, who held the office of Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland in the year 1324—being the first year of the reign of David II. The family consider themselves of Irish extraction, and the same with the Moors, Marquises of Drogheda, their armorial bearings and motto—Duris non frangor (“Not to be broken by adversity”)—being the same. The name is found in the early records of all the three kingdoms, and is most probably of Celtic-Irish origin, a view which receives countenance from the absence of the preposition “de,” which harmonises with the idiomatic structure of Celtic names, Norman or Saxon patronymics almost always carrying that preposition. But this, though a general rule, would seem not to be absolute in this family, as the name David de More appears as a witness to a charter in the time of Alexander II. of Scotland, circa 1214, alleged to be the earliest signature of the family. There are also two other charters—of King Robert the Bruce—in which the signatures retain the preposition, even when in the Latinised form, as “Willielmi de Mora et Laurentii de Mora.”

It is understood that the most ancient seat of the family was Polkelly, near Kilmarnock, and that Sir Gilchrist Mure, first of Rowallan, had been successor to the above David de More of Polkelly. Rowallan came to the Mures through the marriage of Sir Gilchrist with Isobel Comyn, heiress of Rowallan. This Sir Gilchrist was a man of great valour, and fought at the memorable battle of Largs, 1262, being there with his followers from our parish and others, no doubt in response to the summons of the High Steward of Scotland of that period. In this battle he so distinguished himself for bravery as to be knighted on the field.

About the middle of the fourteenth century, the Mure family “obtained lustre” through the marriage, by Papal dispensation dated 22nd November, 1347, of Elizabeth (lure to her cousin Robert, Earl of Strathearn and Steward of Scotland, who afterwards succeeded to the Scottish throne as Robert II., 1370—the accession of the Stewarts to the throne of Scotland being due to the male descendants of King Robert the Bruce becoming extinct through David II. dying without children, and the succession being continued through the female line of the Bruce— Marjory, daughter of the great king, had become the wife of Walter the High Steward—sixth of his name who had enjoyed that dignity—and their son, grandson of the Bruce, succeeded to the throne as Robert II. It is thus obvious that, as King Robert II. was the first sovereign of the House of Stewart, and therefore ancestor of the long line of Stewarts who afterwards reigned in Scotland, so this daughter of the house of Mure, his wife, was mother of the whole “blood royal” of that race, and that both were ancestors, through King James I. of England, of the present reigning family of Britain.

In 1346, when the Scots resolved to ransom their king, David II., who had been taken prisoner at the battle of Nevill’s Cross, and who by that time had undergone eleven years’ imprisonment, Sir William Mure was one of the twelve nobles deputed by Parliament to negotiate the terms of ransom, when a son of the Mure family was left as one of the hostages till payment of the ransom was made. Through the death of this Sir William without issue, the Abercorn branch of the estates passed to Sir John Lindsay of Byres, ancestor of the Earl of Crawford and Lindsay.

The estate of Caldwell—in “1294 the boundaries of which marched with the Steward’s forest of Fereneze”—is understood to have come to the Mures through the marriage of Godfrey Mure with the heiress of Caldwell—she being Caldwell of that Ilk. It does not appear, however, that the whole estate belonged to her, as a younger male branch of the family retained the name, and was proprietor of Wester or Little Caldwell, which did not fall into the hands of the Mures till towards the end of the seventeenth century.

In 1513, Sir David Mure was killed on the fatal field of Flodden, there falling with the many “Flowers of the Forest” their country mourned. In 1580, Sir Robert Mure was appointed one of the jury in the trial of Lord Iluthven for the murder of Ilizzio. When Scotland became more settled, after the death of Edward I., and a regular Parliament could be convened, the “Guidman” of Wester Caldwell was one of its members; and in 1688, in the first Parliament after the Revolution, the Guidman of Wester Caldwell represented Renfrewshire.

The title of “the Guidman”—with its coeval title of “the Laird”— are curious relics of the feudal age in Scotland. A proprietor who held his land, for service mostly, direct from the King, was “the Laird,” and usually addressed as such—as in the letter from King James VI., dated from Holyrood to the Mure of that time, elsewhere included, where he is addressed as “The Laird of Caldwell.” A proprietor who held lands from “the Laird,” by purchase or otherwise, was “the Guidman of that Ilk.” So that the member of the Scottish Parliament of 1688 was “the Guidman” of Little or Wester Caldwell, his property being holden of Greater Caldwell. It is curious to note, too, that “the Guidman” was paid the sum of 13 6s. 8d. Scots by the Laird of Caldwell for attending Parliament, as we learn from the account of charges against the estate (p. 127); probably because the former attended in place of the Laird. An equally curious matter is that those feudal laws and the burdens incident to them are still in force, as was exemplified on the recent occasion of King Edward VII. ascending the throne, when dues to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales—designated as to “The Prince and Steward of Scotland”—were collected from the Laird of Caldwell, as shown by the following casualty receipt:—

“1901.

“April 25.—To paid H.R.H. The Prince and Steward of Scotland. Casualty payable in respect of the lands of Cowdens, Ouplys, and Knock-glass. Old valued rent, 500—1/6th whereof is 83 6/8 Scots or 6 18/11 Sterling.

Ex. 6d,.....- - 6 19 5”

whilst, equally, the Laird collects from his feudatory, “the Guidman,” though the property may have been long out of his possession by purchase. These burdens are, however, more curious than grievous, as they are paid in Scots money, one-twelfth of sterling money.

The Parliament of that period was very different from the Parliament of the present day—no King’s writs summoned the knights or members: they sat by territorial right as owners of land, The members met in a single chamber : the Lords Spiritual—bishops, abbots, and priors—and the Lords Temporal.

This Wester or Little Caldwell is now known as The Hall of Caldwell, and although not the identical house, the ancient structure now standing—with its old-world aspect, deep niches in front, craw-stepped gable, and surrounded by a high Avail having a quaint arched gateway—is still a place of interesting association as having in its day returned a member for Renfrewshire to the Scottish Parliament. In 1909, Colonel Mure extended this old and historic house by adding to it a commodious modern addition.

In 1666, on 28th November, William Mure, the then Laird of Caldwell, met with a number of west country gentlemen, namely:— “Kerr of Kersland, Caldwell of that Ilk, Ralston of that Ilk, Cunningham of Bedland, Porterfield of Quarrelton, Maxwell of Blackstone—who became traitor and gave evidence against his companions at the trial— Gabriel Maxwell, minister of Dundonald, and John Carstairs, minister of Glasgow, father of Principal Carstairs”—at Shutterflat, in the parish of Beith, on the western border of Neilston parish, where they formed a squadron of cavalry of about fifty horse, chiefly from the Caldwell tenantry. These gentlemen, all of Presbyterian principles, had cast in their lot with the Covenanters in the cause of religious freedom, their immediate intention being to join a body of some strength, who had risen in the southern counties, then on the way to Edinburgh. But the disaster of Rullion Green, 1666, anticipated their action, and shattered whatever hopes they might have had, greatly increasing their calamities. Mure was attainted, and fled first to Ireland and subsequently to Holland, where he died in exile on the 9th February, 1670. His estates being forfeited, were bestowed upon the notorious General Thomas Dalziel of Binns, who, with his successors, retained possession of them until 1690, when they were returned to the family by special Act of Parliament.

The “Lady Caldwell,” on the exile and death of her husband, underwent much harsh treatment from the Government, and, without trial, she was imprisoned in the castle of Blackness for three years. As showing how harshly she was treated during her imprisonment : her youngest daughter, Ann, died in a relative’s house not far from Linlithgow and near Blackness. The Secret Council was petitioned “for liberty for the lady to come out of Blackness to see her daughter then dying.” She offered to take a guard with her or maintain the garrison as a guard, if they pleased, while she was doing her last duties to her child, yet the unnatural cruelty of the time was such that this reasonable request could not be granted.

Connected with the affairs of this gentleman’s minority, and that of his brother James, whom he succeeded, there exists a very interesting and detailed record which was kept by their uncle, Hew Mure, who was also their guardian. The record relates to the management of the estate during the years of their minority, especially from 1644 to 1653. During this period the state of society was very unsettled both in England, after the execution of Charles I., and in Scotland, after the battle of Dunbar, and burdens vexatious and ill to bear were frequently imposed upon rural districts, where there was any degree of distrust; and it would appear that the people around Caldwell, doubtless in consequence of the Shutter-flat affair, exciting suspicion in headquarters, were grievously burdened, having alternately to maintain the rival armies of the Royalists and Republicans. From this record we get a glimpse into the social conditions of the parish, and the district around it on the western border at that time ; and we find the surrounding farmers harassed by having troops quartered upon them, the soldiers acting after the manner of ordinary brigands and highwaymen. From one item we learn that the “Inglish-men ”broke into the Tower of the Place of Caldwell, then the family residence, in midsummer, destroying much property; that at another time the “ Inglishmen ” stopped the laird on the road near the Tower, and robbed him of the horse he was riding; another item informs us that the plague had visited the western border of the parish, whilst many other items are equally important in relation to social matters, as showing the prices of many commodities of daily use, the prices of various kinds of cloth, articles of trade, harness, gloves, boots, and shoes, and dress of different kinds, with grain, peat, and such necessaries, in addition to bringing before us the very friendly relationship that then subsisted between laird and tenant, as indicated by the rebatement of rent granted by the former to the latter in consequence of losses sustained through the plague; burdens imposed by having soldiers quartered upon them, and the disturbed state of the district generally. The record further shows the quaint expressions and peculiar idioms of the Scottish tongue at a period when it was spoken and written with some degree of purity and precision, and for these reasons I have thought proper to transcribe here so much of it by selection, referring to the Caldwell Papers for a more detailed account. The sums are in Scots money.

After the exile and death of this William Mure, following on the Shutterflat affair, the estate of Caldwell was restored, as we have learned, to Barbara, his only surviving daughter, by special Act of Parliament, 19th June, 1690. But this lady, who was married to the second son of Fairlie of Fairlie, dying without issue, the succession to Caldwell fell to the Glanderston branch of the family in 1710, in right of his mother, Euphemia, sister of the last unfortunate laird.

Baron Mure, who was an intimate friend of David Hume, the philosopher and historian, was a gentleman of conspicuous ability in many walks of life, and, to great wisdom and learning, added a profound knowledge of public affairs, which found ample scope in the elevated position he occupied as Baron of the Scottish Court of Exchequer. He was eminent for his legal attainments and learning; was Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire, 1742-1761; Lord Rector of Glasgow University, 1764-5 ; and during the middle of the eighteenth century his influence in Scottish affairs was perhaps greater than that of any other person in the kingdom, as the patronage of the Crown was administered entirely through him in Scotland. This gentleman built the present house of Caldwell, from plans by Robert Adam, the eminent architect, in 1772.

A rather amusing anecdote relating to the Baron is told by his son. The son having been on tour, and having arrived at Paris with his companion, went to see the famous Chateau of Count d’Eu, then almost a rival to Versailles. In the extensive park there is a beautiful lake, and on the way to it their guide entertained them with the following story :— Many years ago, two impudent Englishmen, who had been permitted to see the place on a very hot day, took advantage of not being observed, as they thought, to bathe in the lake. The Countess, however, got word of what was going on, and immediately ran down, with her ladies, from the chateau towards the water, much to the consternation of the bathers, who had just time, before she came up, to regain their clothes and effect their retreat into a wood adjoining. The guide added that the strangers were both very tall, being above six feet high, and that, as they hurriedly dressed themselves and got off, the Princess remarked what fine fellow's they were, and how much she regretted not having arrived in time to see them get out of the water!

On repeating the story to his father on arriving at Caldwell, the Baron asked if the cicerone had told them the names of the two tall Englishmen, and on being informed in the negative, he replied—“ Then I will tell you : the one was the late Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, the other myself! ”

William Mure, grandson of the Baron, was no less distinguished and eminent in his career. His investigations into the Chronology of the Egyptian Dynasties, his elaborate dissertation on the Calendar of the Zodiac of Ancient Egypt, his Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece, and other writings—the Caldwell Papers included—place him amongst the greatest scholars and scientific investigators of modern Europe. He was Member of Parliament for the County of Renfrew. 1846-1855, and, like his eminent grandfather, had the distinguishing honour of having been returned as Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, 1847-48.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Mure of the Scots Fusilier Guards, eldest son of William Mure the historian of Greece, was born in 1830. In 1859, he married the Hon. Constance Elizabeth, third daughter of the first Lord Leconfield. He entered the 60th Rifles in 1843, and served with them in the Kaffir War in South Africa, 1851-3, under the command of General Sir George Cathcart. During the war with Russia, he served with the 79th Highlanders in the Crimea, 1854-5, taking part in the battles of Alma and Balaclava, and the siege of Sebastopol. He received the Kaffir medal, the Crimean medal and three clasps, and the Turkish medal. He retired from the service in 1860, as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Scots Fusilier Guards. On returning to his seat at Caldwell, he became well known throughout the County, in the affairs of which he took an active interest. A keen politician, he sat from 1874 to 1880 for the County of Renfrew—then undivided into East and West as at present—as so many of his ancestors had done before, and was always listened to with respectful attention when he addressed the House. He was a gentleman of chivalrous honour and self-denying disposition, and never scrupled at sacrificing even his own interest and advancement to that of his friend, where he thought there was priority of claim—as, when offered the Lord-Lieutenancy of the County by Mr. Gladstone, he at once suggested that his friend, Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, should have the honour, a suggestion which was directly acted on. He had travelled much, during which, as a keen observer, he had studied men and affairs, and was possessed of great and varied information. His early death cut short a political career of much promise.

During the Crimean war, in 1854, he was deeply impressed with the terrible sufferings of the troops during the siege of Sebastopol, which a better managed commissariat should have avoided. An incident during this period of his life shows the true soldierly sympathy with his men. He had just brought down some poor fellows from the trenches—helping the weaker of them, being a tall, powerful man, by carrying knapsacks for them from time to time—worn out and sadly in want of comforts, which, though at hand, could not be obtained, from the absence of some red-tape official. In this moment of irritation and annoyance, he casually met Russel of The Times, and was “interviewed,” a practice then less common than it is in the present day under like circumstances ; the result wus a series of inspired letters from that brilliant war correspondent, exposing the absurd rules under which military stores were then regulated, which helped, among other things, the downfall of the Government, 1854.

He died in London, 9th November, 1880, in his fifty-first year, shortly after having, for the second time, successfully contested the County. He had, in fact, contested the seat on three several occasions against the then Colonel Campbell, afterwards first Lord Blythswood, in what was known as “the battles of the Colonels,” but was unsuccessful in the first effort.

During the long minority that followed his death, the affairs of the estate were managed with great acceptance to the tenantry and neighbourhood by his widow, the Honourable Mrs. Mure, youngest daughter of Lord Leconfield, a lady of great capacity, whose interest in the well-being of the whole community was of the most generous and active character. She took a deep interest in education long before School Boards existed, and the church and manse in Uplawmoor owe their existence mainly to her generous efforts, associated with other members of the Caldwell family.

We have thus seen that the members of this family throughout the centuries of their past existence have been conspicuous for their patriotism as soldiers and their eminence in the various walks of literature, science, politics, and law, and as members of the Imperial Legislature; and the present representative of the house worthily upholds the traditions of the family.

Colonel William Mure, the present laird, had the disadvantage of losing his father when very young; but, at the expiry of the long minority, he assumed the management of the estate in 1891. Four years afterwards—25th April, 1895—he was married to the Honourable Lady Georgiana Montgomerie, elder daughter of the Earl of Eglinton and Winton, a lady who has endeared herself to the whole neighbourhood by her noble sympathies and generous disposition, whose help and influence goes out towards every good cause. Possessing the instincts that have so often characterised members of his family, Colonel Mure is a keen soldier, and when the 4th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Renfrewshire Militia) volunteered for service at the front during the war in South Africa, conscious of the responsibilities that should attach to large holders of land, he volunteered for active service with them—noblesse oblige. He saw fighting in the two colonies, Cape and Orange River, and had the honour, as Captain, of being twice mentioned in despatches— the General Officer Commanding, under date 23rd January, 1901, saying, in despatch received from Lieut.-Colonel Munro, commanding Bethune’s Mounted Infantry: “I should like to bring to the notice of the General Officer Commanding at Kronstad the excellent work done by the 4th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders M.I. The 4th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders M.I., I understand, had only shortly been raised, but have carried out the duties of mounted troops in a most satisfactory manner the whole time they have been with me. In fact, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Militia under Captain Mure leave nothing to be desired as reliable troops in action, and the mounted branch when employed on reconnoitring duties are particularly bold scouters.”

Colonel Mure is a keen and bold huntsman, and takes an active interest in dairy farming and all agricultural matters, and is held in the highest esteem by his tenantry. He is President of the Renfrewshire Agricultural Society, and was for many years a County Councillor; Provincial Grand Master of the Masonic Order in Ayrshire : believing that “ peace has its honours, no less renowned than war,” and declaring, as the result of his experience, “that he has seen enough of war, to know that the greatest blessing enjoyed by man is peace.” He is a Justice of the Peace for Renfrewshire, and a Justice of the Peace and Lieutenant-Depute for the County of Ayr.

Carlibar and Mrs. Glen.

On the north bank of the Levern adjacent to Dovecothall Bridge lies the property of Carlibar, long a possession of the Dunlop family. During its occupancy by Henry Dunlop, Esq., when that gentleman occupied the civic chair as Lord-Provost of Glasgow, the house was greatly enlarged and the grounds altered and improved. In 1871 the estate passed by purchase into the possession of Captain Robert Corse Glen, but before the house was ready for occupying, that gentleman died, after a very short illness. Since then it has been occupied by his widow, who has greatly improved its amenities by the addition of new conservatories, lodges, stable, coach-house, etc., and during the period of her occupancy, now nearly four decades, a stream of generosity has extended from it towards Neilston and Barrhead, the mere enumeration of which presents a long list:—the Glen Halls, Volunteer Drill Hall and Instructor’s House provided for Neilston ; Home for District Nurse, Barrhead; gift of 1,000 towards erection of Municipal Buildings, Barrhead; 600 towards widening Dovecothull Bridge, Barrhead ; 300 invested to provide bursaries for school children of the parish; gold chain and badge of office to Provost of Burgh of Barrhead; beautiful memorial windows in Neilston church; besides taking an active interest in providing prizes for annual shooting competitions for the Volunteers while they existed, in which corps her husband had been Captain of Neilston Company; and private charities innumerable. Indeed, every good work that has for its object the relief of distress and suffering, or the increase of the comfort and happiness of the people, has found a generous and ready helper in Mrs. Glen of Carlibar, and the esteem and respect in which she is held by the community has earned for her the well-merited designation of “Lady Glen,” the patent for the title being drawn from the general heart of the people.

Speirs of Elderslie.

This family are large landholders in the parish of Neilston. Until a few years ago they were non-resident, the shootings being mostly let. But having acquired by purchase in 189G, the property of Kirkton, the mansion-house has been converted into a shooting-lodge, and during that season, the family are occasionally in residence. Until the period at which the Anti-Patronage Act came into force, 1874, the Speirs of Elderslie were patrons of the Church of Neilston; the living being attached to the estate of Glanderston, purchased from the Mures of Caldwell by Mr. Wilson, said to have been a somewhat eccentric person, from whom it was acquired by Mr. Archibald Speirs in 1774; but the privilege of electing their own pastor was generally granted to the congregation. This family is more immediately descended from one of Glasgow’s merchant princes, who, in 17G0, in the person of Alexander Speirs, Esq., purchased the lands of Inch on the Clyde, near Renfrew. This gentleman, in right of his grandfather, Alexander Speirs or Speir, from Logie, also a Glasgow merchant, was admitted a burgess of Glasgow, 9th March, 1753. On the female side the ancestors of the family belonged to Peebles, John Speirs, Merchant. Edinburgh, father of the gentleman who purchased the lands of Inch, having married Isobel, daughter of Provost Tweedie of Peebles, at which town one of the oldest and most interesting tombstones in the churchyard has reference to the Tweedie family in 1699. Round the sides of the stone, figures can be traced representing the four seasons : a farmer sowing, a woman with a garland of flowers in her hand, a young man with a reaping-hook on his arm, and a boy blowing on his hands with his breath. In 1769, the lands of Elderslie, adjoining the property of Inch, were purchased from Mrs. Campbell of Succoth by the same gentleman, Mr. Alexander Speirs. Mrs. Campbell, whose maiden name was Helen Wallace, was a descendant of and bore the name of Scotland’s immortal hero, Sir William Wallace, with whom the name of this estate is always so intimately associated. Her husband, Archibald Campbell, had been a Writer to the Signet. In 1777-1782, Mr. Speirs built a new mansion-house on the lands of Inch, which he designated Elderslie House, and subsequently by purchase added to his property the barony of Houston and the lands of Blackburn. From 1810 till 1818, this gentleman sat in Parliament for the County of Renfrew, and his eldest son, Archibald, held a commission in the 3rd Dragoon Guards. His successor, Alexander, was at one period Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Renfrew, and sat in Parliament for Richmond in England. His son and successor, Archibald Alexander, was only four years of age when his father died in 1844. Archibald Alexander held a commission as Captain in the Scots Fusilier Guards, and in 1867 was returned in the Liberal interest Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire. In 1867, Captain Speirs married Lady Anne Pleydell-Bouverie (eldest daughter of the fourth Earl of Radnor). This gentleman died 1868, comparatively young, of enteric fever, leaving issue, one son (born posthumous), Alexander Archibald, the present proprietor, who, as a large landholder, takes an active interest in the affairs of the County. He served for several years in the 4th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but resigned his commission in 1900, as his health would not permit of his going out to South Africa with the Battalion. During the two long minorities here indicated, the estates benefited by the able and enlightened management of Mrs. Speirs (now Mrs. Ellice), and Lady Anne Speirs, who devoted themselves to the best interests of the estates on behalf of their respective sons. Mr. Speirs is a Justice of the Peace for Renfrewshire, and a member of the County Council, etc.

Captain Jack Orr.

Mr. John Orr, of Cowdenhall, was resident in South Africa at the outbreak of the Boer War on 12th October, 1899, and he at once joined the British forces, as a volunteer, under the command of General Sir George White. Nine days afterwards, at the battle of Elandslaagte, he was struck down severely wounded, being shot through the neck in one of the charges in that engagement. Much anxiety was felt in our neighbourhood at the time for the brave young soldier, he having been a favourite Volunteer officer in Neilston Company before going out to the Transvaal. Happily, no bad effects followed, and on his recovery he again went to the front, and ultimately obtaining a Captain’s command, continued till the end of the war as Captain Jack Orr.

James Orr, Esq., Cowdenhall.

This gentlemen, elder brother of Captain Jack Orr, volunteered for active service at the front, joining the Yeomanry when that body left London for South Africa. When on duty in the Orange Free State, where he was sent after his arrival in the country, he had the misfortune to be entirely incapacitated by a shot-wound through his arm, received in action at Lindley. When able to travel, he was invalided home, where, happily, his arm made a good recovery.

These gallant gentlemen are both sons of Robert Orr, Esq., of Cowdenhall.

Pioneers of Labour in the Parish.

Amongst those whom Carlyle would have designated the “Captains of Labour ” in our parish, the family of Cochrane, late of Kirktonfield bleaching works, occupy an early position, having first established a bleach field on the Glanderston Burn, at the base of Craig of Carnock and in the immediate neighbourhood of Glanderston House, the ruins of which are now razed to the ground. After being there for a number of years, they built Kirktonfield, on the Kirkton Burn, and removed thereto circa 1832; although 1817 is on a stone built into the gable of one of the buildings, it has no relation to the erection of the work. In these new premises an extensive trade in book-muslin and laundry work was carried on for many years, and a large number of persons, chiefly females, at that period brought mostly from the Highlands, found employment. At the death of Mr. Alexander Cochrane (whose father died February, 1849, of cholera, then epidemic in Neilston), the last of the firm, the property passed, by purchase, into the hands of James M'Haffie & Son, under whose management the concern has been enlarged, the machinery modernized, and the trade considerably changed, their principal industry being now connected with the muslins of Ayrshire, which they bleach in large quantities. The firm is now included in the Bleachers’ Combination.

The Orrs of Crofthead.

This family occupies a prominent position amongst the early pioneers of labour in the Levern valley, where they had established large mills at a very early period in the cotton trade. About fifty years ago, the concern passed into the hands of Mr. Robert Orr, a gentleman of great practical knowledge, and under him the whole aspect of the work has been changed. Taking advantage of the old mill having been burned down, he erected several large blocks of buildings with the special view of carrying on the sewing thread manufacturing industry. The several mills are filled with the most modern machinery, and lighted up from a large electrical installation on the premises, dynamos for which are driven by hydraulic power from the Levern.

These mills are now incorporated in the “English Sewing Cotton Combination,” who have added a large spool manufacturing section to the works. They are at present our largest employers of labour in the Upper District, and give employment to between fifteen and sixteen hundred employees of different trades and occupations.

J. & H. M'Connel & Co., Ltd.

This business is now established in what was formerly Broadlie flax mill, having been removed from Nether Kirkton by the late Mr. Hugh M'Connel, who obtained the mill by purchase a number of years ago, when it was in the market. Being a gentleman of enterprise and push, he soon had the whole internal arrangement changed and fitted up to bring it into line with the most approved methods of the industry. By recent changes and enlargements-greater facilities have been afforded for adding new branches of the trade, and now an active business is being carried on by the firm in all the various departments of bleaching, dyeing, and mercerising.

South Arthurlie Printing Works.

The name of Z. Heys & Sons, calico printers, South Arthurlie, has been familiar as household -words for a long series of years in Barrhead and the parish of Neilston, and in outside circles, is commensurate with all that is known of calico printing. The work was begun about sixty-eight years ago (1S42) by the late Mr. Z. Heys & Sons, since which it has gone on as a prosperous work, always abreast of the times in machinery and appliances, with the result that the material it produces is second to none in the printing trade. It gives employment to a large number of workers, and at the time of joining the Calico Printers’ Association, Limited, it was one of the most important works of the kind in Scotland. Colonel Z. John Hevs, grandson of the founder of the business, who was for so many years actively associated with the Volunteer movement in Barrhead, and whose lamented death took place whilst he was in office as Provost of the burgh, was for many years the active manager of the concern.

Grahamston Engineering Works.

The founder of this prosperous concern was Mr. John Cochran, whose family has been connected with Barrhead for a great many years. Starting business early in life, he devoted great energy and capacity to its development, with the result that some years ago it was found necessary to remove to newer and more extended premises. A man of push, and of a benevolent nature, he never hesitated to extend the helping hand, even to his own workmen, when he saw that a little help would put them in the right way of self-help. The business is now carried on by his sons, the eldest of whom, John Cochran, was the late worthy Provost of Barrhead.

The Tubal Sanitary Engineering Works.

The large sanitary engineering works of Shanks & Co., Limited, have made quite phenomenal strides within the last quarter of a century, and have now become one of the largest employers of labour in the parish. Started many years ago by the late John and Andrew Shanks, the business slowly advanced from one of .moderate dimensions to its present position. The urgent necessity which was felt in all large centres of population for more efficient sanitary methods was no sooner thoroughly understood than the demand for appliances spread like a great wave over every community at home and abroad—a demand which gave an immediate impulse to the business of Shanks & Co., who were pioneers in that industry.

The inventive genius of the late Mr. John Shanks, one of the founders of the firm, had early solved many of the difficulties of practical sanitary appliances, with the consequence that his inventions and patents were largely sought after, and as their fame spread, so the business developed, until the formation of a Limited Company extended the powers of dealing with their enormously growing trade. Now the sanitary productions of the Tubal Company are to be met with in every country in the world. Mr. William Shanks of this firm was the first Provost of the Burgh of Barrhead.

Arthurlie.

We learn from Crawford’s History of the County, when speaking of the properties in the parish of Neilston, that “Arthurlie was anciently the inheritance of a family of the surname of Stewart, a branch of the noble house of Darnley,” and that at a later date it became “the property of Allan Pollock, Esq., of Arthurlie.” It would appear that, after remaining in the Pollock family for several generations, it passed, through the failure of heirs male, to Gavin Ralston, sometime of Woodside, in the parish of Beith, through his marriage with Annabella, daughter of James Pollock, Esq., of Arthurlie, at his death, 1780.

The name of this property has, somehow, been persistently associated by tradition with that of Arthur, the early king of the Britons, the hero of “Round Table” fame, and champion of many battles against the Saxons, as well as Piets and Scots, during the latter part of the fifth and beginning of the sixth centuries. There is possibly just a sufficient substratum of fact in this tradition (for he is not entirely a person of romance) to give countenance to this origin of the name. Strathclyde, as we have seen in the earlier chapter on this subject, at one period stretched along the western border of our country, as far south as North Wales, and as Arthur is said by Skene to have fought several battles in Ayrshire, and invaded the district of the Lennox, it is quite within the probable that he marched north from Ayrshire through the part of Renfrewshire now corresponding to Neilston parish, to the great ford across the Clyde at Renfrew, leading to the Lennox, which would be his most natural course. In support of this contention, the jEncyclopedia Britannica, Vol. II., p. 651, says:—“The historical Arthur is now regarded as a 6th century leader, the "Dux Bellorura" of the northern Cambria and Strathclyde, against the incroaching Angles and Saxons of the east coast, and the Picts and Scots from beyond the Forth and Clyde. Such is approximately the result of recent research.” He is said to have perished at Camelon, Falkirk, through treachery. In the field that abuts against Arthurlie policies to the west, known as the Crossstane park, from time immemorial has stood what is known as the Arthurlie Stone. This stone has always traditionally been thought to mark either the grave of Arthur or some conspicuous leader of that name. The stone is more particularly referred to under Antiquities.

In its early history, the barony of Arthurlie would seem to have been a large, important, and valuable estate ; but, latterly, becoming much divided, passed into the possession of several proprietors, till now the number of Arthurlies about Barrhead is sufficiently perplexing. Robertson, in his continuation of Crawford, says “that of Arthurlie proper, Mr. Lowndes’ may be considered the principal;” but that is not borne out by reference to the table of values he supplies, in which the rent value of Lowndes’ Arthurlie is given as 6 6s. 8d. Scots, while that of Pollock’s Arthurlie is stated to be 136.

Arthurlie continued in the possession of Gavin Ralston for a number of years, during which time Newton-Ralston, now the Craigheads district of Barrhead, was feued by him from the lands of Arthurlie as the beginning of a new town. In 1806, the property was acquired by purchase from Gavin Ralston by Henry Dunlop, Esq., the latter being connected to the Ralston family by marriage. The family of Dunlop was amongst the earliest pioneers of trade in the Levern valley, being especially associated with the early introduction and development of the cotton industry—Gateside mill, now part of Millfield print-works, having been erected and carried on by them under the firm of James Dunlop & Son. On the estate of Arthurlie passing into the hands of Mr. Dunlop, several alterations were carried out. The gardens were removed to a higher and more southern position, and Ralston’s old residence was pulled down and the present mansion-house erected.

Henry Barclay Dunlop, Esq., of Arthurlie, the present proprietor, is a Justice of the Peace and Deputy-Lieutenant for the County, and County Councillor for the third division of the Burgh of Barrhead. In his earlier days he was a major of the Renfrewshire Militia, lately the 4th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.


Return to Book Index Page