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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish

The town of Lenzie has a remarkable and unique history; and is a prominent object lesson to all railway companies, as showing what benefits a railway may confer upon a neighbourhood—and at the same time upon itself— when conducted on liberal commercial principles.

When the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was opened for traffic, 8th February, 1842, the name “Lenzie” had not been given to th^e locality. Gamgabber was the nearest station for the people of Kirkintilloch and the then sparsely populated district around.

When the branch railway to Lennoxtown was opened in 1851, the junction on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was called “Campsie Junction,” and the station was removed there.

The whole district was then very uninviting—cold, bare, and barren—so much so that a respected relative of ours who knew it well, used to speak of it in contempt:— "Campsie Junction! a laverock would hardly licht on’t.” There were then but few houses—possibly half-a-dozen altogether, which had been built before the Campsie branch was made. Fortunately for the locality, however, the late Mr. J. B. Thomson, passenger superintendent of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, took a fancy to live there, in a cottage on the road to Kirkintilloch. He got a telegraph wire from the station to his house for purposes of his own ; although rumour said that its primary one was to wire from Glasgow whether he wished steaks or chops for dinner. He did better than that, though, for he got a sufficient number of trains to stop regularly at the station. By and by three cottages were built “on spec.” on the south side of the station by the late Mr. M‘Callum, grocer, George Square, Glasgow, but they turned out badly, and could neither be let nor sold. They were well built and substantial, but the proper time for them had not yet come.

The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company, however, soon after set the ball a-rolling.

They gave out that any one building a villa, at a cost of not less than ^500; should travel to and from Glasgow free, for five years; and for every ^100 over ^500 ; a year would be added to the privilege—thus, a man who spent ^1,000 on his house, travelled free for ten years—and if as much as ^2,000 was spent, this gave the right for two free tickets for ten years.

This liberal and attractive policy soon bore fruit. People were tempted by the advantages of the short journey to Glasgow, the frequent trains, and the charm of travelling from five to ten years without a copper to pay—they began to think that it was not such a barren place after all. Just like Marion in the song, when she is half resolved to marry old Donald, and says, “I thocht ye’d beert aulder than threescore and twa.” First one built a villa, then another, and another, and so on. Mr. M'Callum’s three cottages were snapped up, good shops were opened, then whole squares of houses as well as villas were built, and Lenzie is now quite a large place, with all the comforts and appliances of civilisation. In fact, it is more advanced than some places with greater pretensions, for it has no hotel nor public-house, and no prison; and jogs along quite well without them.

It has three churches; a large combination public school for the parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cadder, besides good private academies; a public hall; and a Convalescent Home, of which more anon. There is also an excellent golf course, of about seven acres, with a handsome clubhouse built on it, and lawn tennis and cricket ground besides. The Kirkintilloch people are so good as to supply the place with water and gas, and take the sewage right away down to the Kelvin, where it is passed over a farm, and the innocuous residue flows into the river.

Lenzie stands in the parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cadder; the North British Railway running along almost on the boundaries of the two : no one now thinks of associating it with barrenness; for trees, shrubs, and hedges for shelter and ornament, are the order of the day, and it is quite an attractive locality. The air, although keen, is bracing and healthful.

A learned judge of the Court of Session, in an address to the Glasgow Juridical Society some years ago, made the somewhat remarkable statement that law was founded on common-sense—if that is so, surely railway directing can stand on no higher platform—and we have seen how the common-sense of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway directors nursed Lenzie into life. It was a barren farm, but by a judicious application of free-ticket manure, a good crop of villas followed.

But there arose “a new king which knew not Joseph.”

The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was sold to the great North British Railway Company* Robert Burns says, “ Common-sense was aff and up the Cowgate, fast, fast, that day,” and when the new directors came, common-sense went off by an express train, and has never returned. The North British Railway Company abandoned the old liberal policy as if it had injured them, and Lenzie was left to its own resources. Fortunately it had attained the vigour of youth, and was able to fight its own battle.

Just let us examine the nursing policy for a little, and see wherein it injures the railway company, if there is injury at all, and not, on the contrary, unmixed benefit.

When a man builds a house at Lenzie—or anywhere else within easy reach of Glasgow, near a railway station, and costing, say, £1,000, he runs a certain risk. His outlay is certain, but the future benefits are uncertain. He may build it in hope of enjoying it for many years, but the contingencies of life are so many that he may be obliged to sell it in a few years; and the chances are again his realising the cost, even after deducting a fair allowance for tear and wear during the time he may have occupied it. He is more likely to experience the truth of the proverb that “ fools build houses for wise men to occupy.”

Lose who may, however, the railway company always gain by the villa. It may be bought and sold half-a-dozen times, but, generally speaking, it is occupied; “men may come and men may go,” but the railway goes on for ever. The family requires groceries, coal, and the innumerable wants of a household, all of which come by rail and pay carriage. The children go to school in town, and pay. The lady cannot get a new servant or a new dress out from Glasgow without paying toll to the company, nor can she or her family visit their friends without the same operation, and when a dinner party of a dozen is organised to come from Glasgow, it means one pound to the railway company right off.

In consideration of the benefits accruing to the company by the erection of a villa, and the risk the owner runs ; what although they take him into and out from the city for five or ten years free—what does the sacrifice amount to when fairly Looked in the face? The trains are seldom over-crowded, and although twenty or thirty free ticket-holders were travelling from Lenzie every day, it would make no difference—it would not affect the dividend, and just see what an increase of paying traffic follows at once through their families and friends. Any one although not a railway director can see that the best and most permanent source of traffic for any railway is a town at each station.

The North British Railway Company made a mistake when they abandoned the good old enlightened policy. They may think they saved money, but that is only an optical delusion, for they lost it in the long run. Lenzie might have been a half larger to-day but for that error, and the original policy, which has shown such good results, especially for the railway company, might with advantage be resumed. That is the remedy for the congestion of Glasgow. There is ample room for a lot of people at Lenzie yet, and also at Kirkintilloch.

An immense sum has been spent in constructing the underground railway from Bellgrove via Maryhill and on to Kilsyth, along the Kelvin Valley. The sum is expended, a dividend is expected, the Kelvin Valley is all beautiful, the stations are all good and near to Glasgow, and there are thousands who would be glad to build and occupy houses if they had any inducement to do so. There is room for half-a-dozen Lenzies if the old policy were resumed. Why wait for twenty or thirty years for the traffic to come which can be nursed into life in seven or ten, upon no experimental lines either, but only doing what succeeded at Lenzie?

It is time, however, that we revert to “Campsie Junction.” The name was found to be inconvenient. People travelling from Glasgow to Campsie, on reaching Campsie Junction and hearing the name called out, thought they should get out and wait for some other train. Strangers got muddled between the names “Campsie” and “Campsie Junction,” and letters were often misdirected by mistake. At last that grand remedy for all evils—a public meeting— was called in 1869, and a resolution was passed unanimously to petition the directors to change the name from Campsie Junction to Lenzie, being the ancient name of the barony. Mr. Robert Young, one of the directors, who was thoroughly acquainted with the locality—being a native of Kirkintilloch —acted the part of “a friend at court,'" and the change was made without any difficulty. Lenzie is such a more euphonious name than Campsie Junction that the change might be estimated as of some value—say a half per cent on the Lenzie traffic.

The Kelvin Valley Railway from Maryhill to Kilsyth was opened 19th October, 1866.

The extension of the Campsie branch from Lennoxtown to Killearn was opened 19th October, 1866, and from Killeam to Aberfoyle, 1st October, 1882.

The underground railway from Bellgrove to Partick, and thence to Maryhill and Kelvin Valley, was opened 15th March, 1886. The Kilsyth and Bonnybridge Railway was opened 2nd July, 1888. All these railways are of benefit to Lenzie directly or indirectly.

The railway station of Lenzie is now large and commodious; the late Mr. Brock was station agent for over thirty years, and his successor, Mr. Carlowj has now been there twenty years*

In 1870 there were only fourteen houses in South Lenzie, as against thirty-three in North Lenzie. In 1880 there were 144 in South Lenzie, and 112 in North Lenzie.

Census, 1891.

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