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Between the Ochils and the Forth
Chapter IV. - From Cowdenbeath to Blairadam and Cleish


The drained site of Loch Ore—Its ancient island castle— Ancient Roman station—Interest attaching to Loch Ore in connection with Sir Walter Scott—Approach to Blairadam—Its classic associations—Benarty Hill and Paranwell—Ballingry church—First view of Loch Leven— Village and barony of Cleish—History of its ancient lords, the Colvilles of Ochiltree—Ruined castle of Dow hill —Gairney Bridge and its associations—The first Secession Synod—Michael Bruce,

Continuing our journey to Kinross by the Great North Road from Cowdenbeath, Lumphmnans Colliery, on the estate of the Earl of Zetland, appears between us and Lochgelly village. About a mile and a half north-north-west from Lochgelly station is the drained site of Loch Ore, formerly a considerable sheet of water, and having an island near its eastern end, on which stood a castle, anciently a seat of the Wardlaws of Torrie who in former days owned the barony of Lochore. The ruins still exist, and in Sir Robert Sibbald's time the words " Roberlus Wardlaw " were still to be seen inscribed above the main entrance. This family acquired it by the marriage of Sir Andrew Wardlaw with the heiress of the house of Yallance of Lochore, and the estate (known also as that of Inchgall) was retained by them till the reign of Charles I., when it passed from them, apparently about the same time that they quitted possession of Torrie.

The castle of Lochore must formerly have been very picturesquely situated on its islet, at a little distance from the shore, but completely surrounded by the waters of the loch. It is said to have been built by Duncan Lochore in the time of Malcolm Canmore, and is certainly very old, and of rather rude and cyclopean construction, but has become almost a wreck, having been rent into four portions. The walls are ten feet thick, and there is no appearance of any chimney, except on the first floor on the north side. There are only two storeys remaining, and on the upper one, on the west side, there is a window with lintels, the only opening of the kind that is now to be seen in the building. In the same wall, but separated from it by a rent, and what has probably been a doorway, are the pier and spring of a Gothic arch, which may have led to a central chapel on the first floor, like that in the Tower of London. The ruins are enclosed by a circular wall six feet thick, on the inner side of which, throughout almost the whole extent, has been a series of houses and offices, of which the foundations still remain. At the north-east extremity of the outer wall is the fragment of a semicircular flanking tower, and the islet, now appearing like a knoll in the meadow - ground, is planted with trees.

Loch Ore was drained in the beginning of the present century, and was anciently known as Inchgall Loch. On the south side of it is a ridge called the Clune, where the remains of two British camps are distinctly visible. At the north-west extremity is Chapel Farm, on the site of the ancient chapel of Inchgall, and close by was the celebrated Roman camp—the Victoria of Ptolemy—referred to by Sibbald and Sandy Gordon, but wbch has now unfortunately been almost entirely demolished, though faint traces are still perceptible.

Sir Robert Sibbald informs us that in his day the estate of Lochore belonged to Malcolm of Balbedie, who had erected a fine new house, with gardens and enclosures, on an eminence above the loch. Its site is occupied by a more recent mansion, which stands finely amid some good old timber, and is now divided into two dwellings, occupied respectively by the manager and superintendent of the Lochore Mining Company, who are now the owners of the estate. The property possesses some interest from having till recently belonged to Lady Scott (nee Miss Jobson of Lochore), the daughter in-law of the great Sir Walter, who, irj his visits to the neighbouring proprietor of Blairadam, used frequently to visit the grounds of Lochore, and is said to have directed the laying out of the plantations by which the estate is diversified. There if a fine old avenue lead;ng eastwards from Lochore House, and opening on the public road a little to the south-west of Ballingry church.

The country continues bleak and wild as we proceed on our journey to Kinross; but we are now entering a more attractive region at Benarty, the great verdant hill with the broad summit, on the north side of which lies Loch Leven. Benarty House occupies a pleasant situation on the southern slope, and on the top are the remains of a British camp. The wide plateau here used to be the scene of an annual gathering of the shepherds of Fife and adjoining counties, who bivouacked in the open air for several days, and spent the time in a variety of athletic sports, amid great feasting and merriment. The hill rises to the height of 1167 feet, and its lower slopes are picturesquely clothed with wood, whilst the Great North Road winds round its west flank, in the valley between the hill and the grounds of Blairadam. A little to our left, on a rising ground, is the village of Oakfield, on the old road leading north from the Crossgates and Cowdenbeath by the Kirk of Beath and Cant's Dam. From Oakfield a road leads east across a ridge for about four miles, by Gask and Ros-cobie to Redcraigs, where it joins the road running north from Dunfermline to the Rumbling Bridge and Glen Devon.

About half a mile north from Oakfield is the village of Kelty, where there is a large colliery, and three-quarters of a mile farther on is the village of Mary-burgh, from which the original title of the Blairadam estate, as acquired by the ancestor of the present proprietor, is derived. Midway between Kelty and Mary-burgh is the hamlet of Bridge End, where the Kelty Burn from Blairadam grounds crosses the road. Returning again to the Great North Road, we pass on our left Blairadam Lodge, at the distance of 2 miles from Crossgates, and 4 from Kinross. The mansion of Blairadam (Sir Charles Elphinstone Adam), pleasantly situated amid the trees in its park, appears on the rising ground to our left. About a mile and a quarter due south from it, and within the Blairadam grounds, are the Keiry Craigs, which Sir Walter Scott has rendered classical as the halting-place of John Auchtermuchty, the Kinross carrier, in 'The Abbot.'

Blairadam has many interesting reminiscences. In the early pari of last century the estate, then known as that of Blair or Blair-Crambeth, was purchased by William Adam, architect and king's mason, who erected here a mansion and village, to which he gave the name of Maryburgh ; and by the last appellation the property was known both during his time and that of his son and successor. He died in 1748, having previously done much to adorn the property in the way of plantations, which Pennant comments on in his Tour as almost the only appearance of woods that presented itself to him between Queensferry and Kinross. Two of his sons were the celebrated architects, James and Robert Adam, from whom the Adelphi Buildings in London received their designation. A daughter married John Clerk of Eldin, an accomplished draughtsman, as his collection of views of numerous places in Scotland amply testifies, and father of the well-known Lord Eldin of Court of Session celebrity. The grandson of the founder of the family was the Right Honourable William Adam, Chief Comnrssioner of the Jury Court in Scotland, and though an ardent Whig, the bosom friend of Sir Walter Scott. The latter was for many years in the custom of paying a visit n summer to Blairadam, as ;t was now designed—the Chief Commissioner having changed its title to this from Maryburgh. Many other eminent persons have been entertained here, and among these, the renowned dramatist and parliamentary leader, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who on one occasion, when contemplating from Blairadam House, Loch Leven and the adjacent scenery, gave utterance, it is said, to the following impromptu :—

"How pleasant, away from the turmoil of party,
To sit at this window and look at Benarty !"

On the right-hand side of the way, near Blairadam smithy, a road branches off by the north side of Benarty, and leads to Ballingry church, at a distance of about two and a half miles. It is worth traversing, for more reasons than one. After proceeding along it about half a mile, the traveller arrives at the hamlet of Paranwell, a place which derives its name from a copious spring of excellent water in the neighbourhood. It seems to be a contraction for "Padan-Aram well," and a similar patr.archal appellation has been bestowed on the hill on the east side of Benarty House, which is called " Harran " or "Haran Hill." In a field on the north side of the road at Paranwell stands an arch, erected by a proprietor of Blairadam across a ravine through which anciently the road passed from St Johnston or Perth, through Kelty by the Kirk of Beath to Queensferry. The defile was formerly much deeper than it is now, and was planted on each side with trees. It is exceedingly likely that Queen Mary took this route in escaping from Loch Leven Castle; and we are informed by Lindsay of Pitscottie that she and Lord Darn-ley in 1564 passed this way in going south from Perth, and were nearly -'ntercepted by the Earl of Rothes and , certain confederates, who, it is alleged, were dissatisfied with the marriage, then in prospect, of this celebrated pair, and " thought to have taine my Lord Darnely from the queine." The latter had been warned of the design, and she and Darnley had passed Paranwell on their way to Queensferry ere the conspirators made their appearance. Such is the story, as referred to in an inscription on the arch, which states that it was placed there by Willum Adam in 1838. About a hundred yards farther on is an old ruined house with another inscription on it—evidently of the same date as that on the arch—"This house in the reign of James V. belonged to Squire Meldrum of Cleish and Binns, celebrated in a poem of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount."

The road from Paranwell to Ballingry (pronounced Bingry) church, passes through the woodland on the north slope of Benarty, and commands from its terracelike elevation of nearly 500 feet a fine view of the country over Loch Ore to the ridge of Lochgelly. The lodge of Benarty House (Thomas Constable, Esq.) is on the right hand side of the road, about one and a quarter mile east from Paranwell, and Ballingry church is reached in other three-quarters of a mile. The latter is a plain modern building, but the adjoining manse looks very comfortable. A little farther eastward is the hamlet of Shank, where there is a small inn or public-house and a smithy. From this the road continues to Auchmoor Bridge and Leslie, and another highway leads due south from Shank to Lochgelly station, at a distance of about three miles.

Shortly after pass.ng Blairadam Lodge, a beautiful prospect is presented of Loch Leven, expanding itself like a vast mirror, with its girdle of hills on the east and south, those on the former side being the West Lomonds, which comprise from north to south Bishop Hill, rising to the height of 1470, Munduff to 1491, and Greenhead Hill to 1000 feet. They are composed of beds ot sandstone, with a surmounting cap of basalt. At their feet, on the slope between them and the loch, nestle the villages of Wester and Easter Balgedie, Kinnesswood, and Scotlandwell; whilst at a place called Levenmouth, at the south-east extremity of the loch, the river Leven debouches itself through the valley between Kinneston Craigs and Benarty. From thence it pursues its course down to the Firth of Forth by the town of Leslie, supplying the wants of numerous manufactories on its way, and discharging itself into the sea at Leven. On the south side of the loch rises Benarty, with the finely wooded gorge on its west flank, through which the Great North Road passes ; whilst branching off here from the latter to the right a road skirts the southern shore of Loch Leven by the base of Benarty, and is joined at Auchmoor Bridge by the road leading from Kinross round the head of the loch through Kinnesswood and Scotlandwell. I shall presently have occasion to delineate in detail Loch Leven and its banks.

At the third milestone from Kinross, on the Great North Road, the latter is joined by the highway which leads from Saline and the western extremity of Fife to Kinross through the broad strath or valley between the Cleish hills and the Oehils. If we proceed along this for about a mile and a half, we reach the village of Cleish, with its church and manse, and three-quarters of a mile farther west we come to Cleish Castle or the Place of Cleish (Harry Young, Esq.), an ancient mansion, formerly one of the principal seats of the Lords Colville of Ochiltree, and which, after long existing as a stately ruin, was about forty years ago restored and made habitable. Behind it is some fine old timber, including till lately a specially magnificent silver fir, one of the finest of the kind to be found in Scotland. It rose altogether to the height of about 120 feet, but after presenting a circumference of 15 feet to an elevation of 22 feet from the ground, it branched off into several enormous boughs, each of which would of itself have constituted a large tree. One of these had a circumference of 10 feet. It was blown down some years ago, and fell with a tremendous crash, causing to the inmates of Cleish Castle a shock resembling that of an earthquake. The great limb was disposed of for 30. One of its companions, also a mighty tree, still stands, and so does a grand yew-hedge, one of the glories of the old castle.

The barony of Cleish came into the possession of the Colvilles of Ochiltree in the early part of the sixteenth century, and was made over in 1537 by Sir James Col-ville of Easter Wemyss to his natural son Robert. The same Sir James had exchanged in 1530 his ancestral estate of Ochiltree in Ayrshire for that of East Wemyss in Fife, along with the territory of Lochoreshire in the same county. Robert Colville, thus made Laird of Cleish, became a zealous Reformer, and was killed at the siege of Leith in 1560. A strange story is recorded regarding him in the ' Coronis,' or Supplement to Row's ' History of the Church of Scotland,' by the latter's son, William Row of Ceres. At least we are informed by an annotator on Row's MSS. that the hero of the adventure ascribed to "Enquire Meldrum" was really Robert Colville of Cleish, who has thus been confounded with a William Meldrum of Cleish and Binns, who lived in the reigns of James IV. and V., and whose extraordinary adventures form the subject of Sir I)a\id Lindsay's poem of "Squire Meldrum." We have already heard something of this worthy in connection with an old house on his estate of Binns, near Paranwell, which is now incorporated with the Blairadam property.

William Row tells the story with a good deal of lively humour. It would seem that Robert Colville's reforming zeal was not shared by his wife, who, being a devoted adherent of the ancient faith, and at this time in an "interesting condition," had despatched a messenger to the chapel of Our Lady of Loretto at Musselburgh, with a handsome gift to the shrine as a propitiation in expectancy of the coming event. Her husband resolved the last miracle at Loretto to follow the envoy and see what came of his mission. As it happened, there was then a great excitement at the chapel of Loretto (also called St Allaret's chapel), in prospect of a great miracle which the priests had stated would take place there on the following day, when a man who had been blind from his birth, and been known to the public as a blind beggar, would receive his sight through the intercession of the saint. T'ic ceremony took place as announced, on a scaffold erected for the occasion; and the man, apparently stone blind, opened his eyes, and was cured of his malady in presence of an immense multitude. Colville was convinced there was some trick in the matter, and, to satisfy himself, he accosted afterwards the subject of the interposition, and induced him to proceed to Edinburgh, where, on arriving with St Allaret's protege at his lodgings, the Laird of Cleish locked the door, and, under threat of immediate death, extorted from the terrified wight the confession that the whole affair was an imposture. He had been, it seems, in the service of the nuns of the Sciennes convent, near Edinburgh, as a shepherd, and had a faculty of turning up at pleasure the whites of his eyes so as to counterfeit blindness. The sisters communicated this circumstance to some ecclesiastical friends of theirs, who thought they might turn it to account in support of the Church's influence with the populace. They accordingly kept him perdu for a long period, and then sent him out to the roadside to beg as a blind man. When he had acted for some time in this capacity, they then advertised the performance of the miracle, and brought him out to " play his pavie " on the scaffold at Musselburgh.

The story goes on to say that Colville promised to befriend the man and take him into his service, but insisted that he should first make a retractation and exposure of the cheat at the market-cross of Edinburgh, immediately after doing which they would take horse and escape into Fife. This was agreed to; and master and man, after the latter had made his declaration to the lieges, succeeded in making good their flight, crossed the Forth at Queensferry, and arrived safely at Cleish. What Mrs Colville thought of the matter we are not informed; but shortly afterwards, the arrival at Cleish of John Row, the historian's father, who had just returned from Rome on a mission to the Pope, called forth a narrative of the transaction from Colville's servant. It is said that the Roman Catholic emissary was so struck with the story as to be shaken in his belief in the ancient faith, which he shortly afterwards renounced to become an earnest Protestant, and ultimately to die minister of Perth.

Robert Colville was succeeded in the Cleish estate by his son, also named Robert, who in 1569 obtained a grant of the hereditary bailiary of Culross, which had previously, under the abbots of that monastery, been exercised by the Earls of Argyll. He was succeeded by his son, Robert Colville, who died in 1634, and was followed by a son also named Robert—making thus four Robert Colvilles of Cleish in uninterrupted succession. Notwithstanding their severance from the ancient family estate of Ochiltree, this branch of the Colvilles seems always to have taken from it the ir principal designation. The fourth Robeit Colville of Cleish was knighted by Charles I., and raised to the peerage by Charles II. in 1651, with the title of Lord Colville of Ochiltree.

Besides Robert Colville, the first Sir James Colvi'le of Easter Wemyss had another illegitimate son, named J ames, who in 1560, along with other properties, received from William Colville, commendator of Culross, a grant of the lands of Crombie, then belonging to Culross Abbey, and now included in the parish of Torryburn in Fife. These wrere afterwards inherited or acquired by his collateral descendants, the Colvilles of Cleish, whom we afterwards find possessors of both estates, and residing alternately at the respective mansions on each.1 After the death of the third and last Lord Colville of Ochiltree in 1723, the Cleish estate seems to have been sold, and the castle allowed to go to ruin.

By ascending the hill behind Cleish Castle the summit of Dumglow is reached—the highest point (1240 feet) in the Cleish range. A magnificent prospect is commanded from it of Loch Leven and the plain of Kinross, as well as of the lower basin of the Forth, taking in the Bass, North Berwick Law, and the range of Lammermuir. A similar view, though from a lower elevation, is obtained by the traveller in journeying from Dunfermline to Kinross by the old road which leads from the Gask Toll by Lochornie Farm over the heights of Craigencat and Craigencrow down Nivingston Hill. The localities in this upland region are thus combined in the popular rhyme—

" Craigencat and Craigencrow, Dowhill, King Seat, and Dumglow."

Several lochs exist here, the largest being Loch Glow or the White loch, whilst to the east of it is the Dow loch, and to the west the Black and the Lurg lochs. Loch Glow used to be famous for its perch, and was greatly resorted to by anglers from Dunfermline and the neighbouring country, but the fishing is now strictly preserved.

At Nivingston House the old road across the hill joins the highway leading eastwards from Cleish to the Great North Road. The junction is about half a mile east from Cleish village, and near this, in a stone dyke opposite the mansion of Nivingston, used to be a large rock known as the "Lecture Stane," which is said in Roman Catholic times to have been used for the support of the cofrin during the reading of the burial service. Several ineffectual attempts had in bygone days been made to blast it—a circumstance which induced the belief that the stone was charmed, and for a long time no further endeavour of the kind was instituted. But about thirty years ago an irreverent contractor for the repairs of the dyke dispelled all such notions with a strong and effectual charge of powder, by which this interesting relic was blown to fragments.

Returning to the Great North Road by Cleish Mill, and passing on our left a highway which leads by a nearer and more d reel route to Kinross, we see on an eminence to the right the ruins of the castle of Dowhill, formerly the property of the Lindsays, who enjoyed baronial rank, and suffered severely during the persecuting times for their Covenanting proclivities. It is now included in the estate of Blairadam, and must at one time have been a place of great importance and size, but has been much diminished in consequence of having served during the last century as a very convenient quarry. At present it is a square-Jooking castellated ruin, with a circular tower at the south-west corner, and the remains of a pepper-box turret on the west side. At the east end is what may have been a sort of keep, and at the north-east corner, but detached from the rest of the building, ;s the fragment of a lower. A range of buildings probably extended from this to the east wall. The remains of the castle consist of a basement storey, with what looks like a large chimney, which had been carried up through the centre of the building, and seems to have served all the floors, as 110 fireplace appears in the outer walls. The first floor, with its windows and embrasures, remains entire, and there had probably been above this another storey. The apartments on the basement are vaulted, and the south wall presents a fine front of dressed stone.

I have before me a print taken from a drawing by John Clerk of Eldin, and giving a view of Dowhill Castle from the south-west as it appeared in 1770. There is not much difference between its aspect then and that at the present day, except that resting on the south wall, but not extending along the whole front, an apparently inhabited building is seen, with a delta-shaped roof, through which two chimneys protrude. The pepper-box turret on the west side, though ruinous, is much more entire than at present, and the circular tower at the corner is provided with a roof. There are a good many trees about the castle, and in the distance appears Loch Leven, with the Castle Island and the Lomond hills.

The Gairney burn, which flows eastwards through the Cleish valley into Loch Leven, crosses the Great North Road at Gairney Bridge, two miles from Kinross. The farm-steading which bears the same name, and is situated close to the road a little to the south of the bridge, is famous in the history of the Secession Church, as occupying the site of the little public-house where the four fathers of the Secession—Ebenezer Erskine of Stirling, Alexander Moncreiff of Abernethy, William Wilson of Perth, and James Fisher of Kinclaven—on being deposed in 1733 by the Commission of the General Assembly, held a few weeks subsequently their first Presbytery or Synod. They received shortly afterwards the accession of four new members — Ralph Erskine of Dunfermline (Ebenezer's brother), Thomas Maif of Orwell, Thomas Nairn of Abbotshall, and James Thomson of Burntisland,—and were thenceforward known as the Associate Presbytery or Associate Synod. To commemorate the event an obelisk has lately been erected near the farm on the roadside.

Another interesting circumstance connected with this locality is that of the amiable and lamented young poet. Michael Bruce, having here for some time taught a school. The schoolhouse was also on the site of the present farm-steading.


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