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Days at the Coast

What a noble privilege art thou, O Clyde! to the denizens of our vast and smoke-enveloped city. To thee our stately Glasgow is indebted, in no limited measure, for its greatness among the industrial and commercial centres of the land. Thou art the channel through which Fortune has so lavishly poured her golden favours amongst us—the outlet by means of which the produce of our industries and skill is diffused unto the uttermost ends of the earth. Thy ships have breasted the billows of every sea, thy merchandise has enriched the children of every clime, and wheresoever the benign influences of trade are appreciated, thy honoured name is familiar as a household word. But it is not merely as the drudge of commerce that we admire thee, sweet river of our boyhood! Thy beauty excelleth even thy usefulness; and whether we trace thy many winding pathway towards thy distant mountain source, or follow thee until thy brown waters are lost in the blue of the vast Atlantic, we shall ever find thee arrayed in a vesture of rarest loveliness. There is no “ crude surfeit ” in the charms of Clydesdale. The upper, the middle, and the lower wards, into which it is divided, are widely diversified in their landscape features, presenting, in their infinite variety, an endless succession of charms to the gaze of the observant wanderer. Well, indeed, might the poet exclaim in reference to the Clyde,—

“Majestic Clutha! as a princess moving,
From the pavilion of thy morning rest,
To where the Atlantic heaves with smile approving,
And folds his daughter to his ample breast,
Throned in the sunset, monarch of the west;—
On thee he pours the treasures of his reign,
And wreathes Columbia’s riches round thy crest
The Indies love thy name, and the long train
Of myriad isles that gem the azure main.”

How sweetly suggestive are the simple words, “A day at the Coast!” Heard even amidst the living currents of the ' city’s heart, walled in from nature by miles of stone and lime, what a rush of sunny or shadowy memories they excite! Again the gliding steamer is churning its watery way adown the Clyde, with its freight of happy faces; again the noise and the bustle and the smoke of twice ten thousand chimneys are left behind, and the fresh face of nature reflects its freshness on our yearning spirits. Again the hills seem hastening to the river-side, to greet us with their green crests of foliage; again the stern old Castle-rock looms over the spreading frith, and the blue ripple is dancing in light, and the snowy wing of the sea-bird is flashing in the cloudless air. Under the wild gray hills which girdle the horizon, we see again, “in the mind’s eye,” the scattered towns and villages nestling in sheltered bays, and whitening the sunny shores as if they were smiling a welcome to us from afar. Let the magic phrase “A day at the Coast” be but whispered in our ear in the bustling street or at the silent hearth, and immediately in fancy we are ploughing once again the bosom of some mountain-shadowed lake, or circling the shores of some isle of beauty, which gladdens with its presence the glittering waste of waters. Once again we are strolling on the foamy beach, threading the flickering mazes of the rustling woods, lingering by the u howlet-haunted biggins” of other days, or climbing some height which towers in proud command, and where, 44 sole monarch of all we survey,” our senses are steeped in the sweetest influences of nature’s loveliness. Twice blessed is the beautiful to him who scans it with a loving eye. In the present it is a joy unspeakable, and from the dimness of the past it sheddeth on the eye of memory a never-ceasing lustre of gladness. In our Days at the Coast, gentle reader, if thou wilt but vouchsafe us thy welcome companionship, we shall be thy guide into many a lovely, many an impressive scene. We shall (so to speak) circumnavigate with thee the glorious Frith into which our Clyde expands ere it melts into the vasty deep; we shall familiarize thee with every feature of our noble estuary, from Dumbarton to Goatfell; we shall thread with thee its branching lochs, and linger with thee by its towns and villages, its bays and creeks, its isles and promontories; and we shall tell thee tales of this and many another day to cheer thee as we go. Old chronicles shall be ransacked, and Tradition shall be made to gossip, that thou mayest know the story of each time-honoured edifice, and of every spot which is associated with the doings of the olden time. We shall call thee to halt in thy onward course by castles old and gray, in lone kirkyards, where, underneath the heaving sward, the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep, and in nooks of sweet or savage beauty, which have been rendered sacred by the enchantments of the poet or the painter’s art. As the seasons pass, we shall mark their silent marches in the changes of leaf and flower, and our ears shall be open to the pipings of the wilding birds, as with ever-varying strains they greet the alternations of the year. In these our devious pilgrimages, doubt not, congenial reader, that we shall, ere long, become even as familiar and confidential friends. There is nothing like mutual communion with Nature and her works for opening and expanding the affections. We shall taste together of those elevating and refining influences which flowr from pensive wanderings by wood and wild, and we shall inherit in common a rich legacy of joyous memories. "Therefore,” to borrow from Wordsworth when addressing his sister at Tintem Abbey,—

“Therefore, let the moon
Shine on thee In thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee; and in after years,
When these wild ecstacies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies—oh, then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be my portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget,
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service; rather say,
With warmer love, oh I with far deeper zeal
Of holier love.”

To resume the prosaic, however, we may state that it is our intention, in the present volume, to give a series of sketches, descriptive, historical, and traditional, of the principal towns, villages, and watering-places, on the Frith of Clyde; with delineations, drawn from personal observation, of the more striking landscape features in the vicinity of the several localities. Such, in brief, is the purpose of our Days at the Coast. In the meantime, however, before proceeding with this our labour of love, we shall take a kind of bird’s-eye glance at the origin and progress of our river through its upper reaches.

The Clyde is a native, if we may be allowed the expression, of what old Heron felicitously denominates “ The Southern Highlands of Scotland.” Forming the boundary of Lanarkshire to the south, and dividing it from the shire of Dumfries, there is a scattered range of lofty mountains, consisting of the Lowthers, Leadhills, and Queensberry Hill, with a chain of considerable elevation connecting the latter with HeartfelL These are the feeders which nurse the infant Clyde, and among which it first receives “a local habitation and a name.” According to popular belief, the Clyde has its source in the same hill from which, in different directions, issue the original springs of the Tweed and the Annan. The idea is rather a pretty one; but we suspect it may be said of the Clyde, as of many other streams, that it is quite impossible to prove from what particular source it takes its rise. Rodger-law, the accredited parent of the river, is a hill about 1,400 feet above the level of the sea, and situated about five miles eastward from the village of Elvanfoot, in the parish of Crawford. The Clyde is here a rapid, frolicsome streamlet, flowing through lonely pastoral moorlands, and receiving every here and there a succession of foamy tributaries from the adjacent heights. The most important of these is the Daer, which, according to some authorities, is really the better entitled of the two streams to the honour of originating our stately river. In the vicinity of Elvanfoot, the Clyde receives the waters of the Elvan, and for some miles pursues a highly eccentric course, turning in succession towards nearly all the points in the compass, and running hither and thither at its own sweet will, and with the most beautiful disregard of consistency. In the course of a few miles it passes the lonely village of Crawford, receiving the Camps and afterwards the Glen-gonar waters, and gradually assuming a beautiful sylvan character, pursues a more leisurely and sedate course. It now divides the parishes of Crawfordjohn and Lamington, and sweeps away in a north-east direction for a distance of eleven miles, during which it is successively increased by the Roberton Bum and Garf Water on the west, and by the Wandel Bum, Heartside Bum, Lamington Bum, and Cults Water on the east. Leaving Roberton, the Clyde pursues a devious and far-winding course round the spurs of the Tinto mountains, receiving by the way the contributions of the Medwin and Douglas, the latter of which nearly doubles its volume. Approaching Lanark, the Clyde finally turns towards the west, a direction which, with partial and comparatively unimportant deviations, it continues to maintain until it assumes the proportions of an estuary below Greenock.

Swelled by the contributions alluded to, with those of countless other burns and rills of lesser note which debouch into its channel as it twines along its devious way, the Clyde has now become a large and beautiful river. After entering Lanarkshire it flows with a scarcely perceptible motion through a lengthened tract of level country, amidst verdant haughs and flowery meadows, which, in spates, it frequently overflows. Lazily and slow it draws near the upper fall, as if it were loath to take the leap. About two miles and a-half above the town of Lanark, it reaches Bonnington Linn, and, in a rock-divided stream, is plunged over a precipitous crag from an elevation of thirty feet. This is reckoned the least beautiful of the Falls. It really forms, however, a most picturesque and imposing spectacle, and in any other locality would excite the warmest admiration. A bridge has been constructed over the northern branch of the river at this point, and the various glimpses which it commands of the rugged channel and its tortured waters are exceedingly grand, especially if seen, as we last gazed upon them, in the light of a setting sun, and overhung with the brilliant tints of a miniature rainbow. Roaring and foaming along its fretted path, the Clyde now rushes with great rapidity through a narrow gully, the rocky sides of which are from eighty to a hundred feet in perpendicular height. At one point the stream is so compressed between its banks that an adventurous leaper has been known to clear it at a bound. At a distance of about half a mile below Bonnington, the second and finest of the Falls occurs. This is the famous Corra Linn. The Clyde is here precipitated in three distinct leaps over an acclivity of about eighty feet, between overhanging banks of the wildest and most bosky character. On a precipitous cliff on the southern side the cascade is overlooked by the ancient castle of Corehouse, while on the northern bank the rock is hollowed by a dreary cavern in which, according to tradition, Scotland’s great hero, Sir William Wallace, at one period concealed himself from the ken

of his Southern enemies. The accessories of this most romantic cataract possess, therefore, the combined charms of sentiment and wildest natural beauty. The poet and the painter have ever delighted to do honour to Corra Linn; and probably no other spot in “the north countrie” has figured more frequently in the verse of the one or on the canvas of the other. Wordsworth commences a beautiful efliision, which was “written in sight of Wallace’s Cave at Corra Linn,” with the following lines:—

“Lord of the vale! astounding flood!
The dullest leaf, in this thick wood,
Quakes—conscious of thy power;
The caves reply with hollow moan;
And vibrates to its central stone
Yon time-cemented tower.”

The author of “Clyde,” a descriptive poem of the last century, waxes beyond measure magniloquent in praise of Corra, Listen to the venerable bard:—

“Where ancient Corehouse hangs above the stream,
And far beneath the tumbling surges gleam,
Engulfed In crags the fretting river raves,
Chafed into foam, resound his tortured waves;
With giddy head we view the dreadful deep,
And cattle snort, and tremble at the steep,
Where down at once the foaming waters pour,
And tottering rocks repel the deafening roar;
Viewed from below, it seems from heaven they fell!
Seen from above, they seem to sink to hell!»

The poetic license has here been strained to the verge, or rather, we should perhaps say, considerably beyond the verge of bombast. Honest John Wilson is in general no-ways stinted in his praises of our stream, but in this instance he has certainly far exceeded himself. In consequence of swallowing such marvellous descriptions as he and others have given, our imagination in youth was excited to such a degree, that, on our first visit to the spot, we felt completely disappointed with the actual appearance of Corra Linn, so diminutive did it seem in comparison with the cascade of our dreams. We felt inclined, with the Cockney tourist, to pronounce it a miserable failure, and it was only after repeated inspection that its real beauties became manifest to our mind, and took up their permanent abode amongst our

dearest memories. Passing from the fierce agitations and the din of Corra, the Clyde again assumes a smooth and tranquil character, which is scarcely ruffled by a sportive leap of a few feet over a shelving rock at Dundaf, about a quarter of a mile farther down. It now glides gently away by Lanark and its mills, and pursues it course amidst softly sloping banks, which are partly covered with wood, partly arable, and partly of a rich pastoral green. The Mouse, a wild brook from the picturesque Cartland Crags, here joins the river on the north side with its murmuring tribute. Clyde’s peaceful progress is again interrupted at Stonebyres, a few miles from Lanark, where it passes through a confined and rocky channel, and is once more dashed over a precipice of eighty feet. This Fall, although unequal in picturesque effect to that at Corehouse, is both impressive and beautiful,—

“Clyde, foaming o’er his falls, tremendous roars! ”

and again proceeds in quietness, through sylvan shades and haughs of freshest verdure, upon his seaward pilgrimage. Before the descent at Bonnington, the surface of the stream is reckoned to be about 400 feet above the level of the sea; and when it leaves Stonebyres it has only an elevation of 170 feet. By its successive leaps in this vicinity, therefore, the Clyde is brought down in the world to the extent of nearly 230 feet.

The course of a stream has often been compared by the poet and the moralist to the life of man. Leaving its source, the tiny rill is a thing of purity and seeming playfulness, a happy type of innocent and merry boyhood. Gradually, as it progresses towards its destined bourne, its waxes greater in volume, and becomes, as in youth and manhood, less frolicsome and less pure, until at length it finds oblivion and rest in the bosom of the great deep. The Clyde has now “sown its wild oats;” its days of daffing and jollity are past, and henceforth we shall find it a staid and sober stream, engaged in the serious business of existence, and ministering alternately to the useful and the beautiful. Lovely are the scenes through which it now takes its stately march. Sweet, in the early summer, are the orchard blooms of apple, and pear, and plum, at this part of the vale, where for miles and miles Clyde seems to stray in one continuous garden. Rich in the autumn are its banks, thick-strewn with trees low bending beneath their loads of golden or of blushing fruit. Green lawns and yellow fields, at frequent intervals, creep down unto its fertile marge; while towns and villages, and castles old and gray, interspersed with spacious modem mansions, adom and enliven its verdant slopes. Scotland has certainly nothing which can compare with this Middle Ward of Clydesdale for fertility and simple loveliness; and we have the authority of good old William Lithgow, the celebrated traveller, for stating that there are even few localities in the world which are superior to it in these respects. The value of Lithgow’s opinion may be estimated by the following extract from the title-page of his most curious book, which was published in 1640:—“The total discourse of the rare adventures, and painful peregrinations, of long nineteen years’ travels, from Scotland to the most famous kingdoms of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Perfited by three dear-bought voyages in surveying forty-eight kingdoms, ancient and modem; twenty-one republics; ten absolute principalities, with two hundred islands, &c.” Whether it was because there was no place so dear as home to the old man’s eyes that he spoke so favourably of his native vale we cannot tell; but assuredly he conferred the palm of superiority, over all that he had seen in his many wanderings, on this portion of our valley. For a distance of about eleven miles the Clyde divides the parishes of Carluke, Cambusnethan, and Dalzell on the north, from those of Lesmahagow, Dalserf, and Hamilton on the south; and receives by the way the waters of the Nethan, the Avon, the Calder, and several other streams of lesser magnitude and note. It now approaches the ducal palace at Hamilton, sweeping in numerous graceful curves and windings through its finely-timbered domains, and dividing them from Bothwellhaugh, passes the bridge where, in other days, the soldiers of the Covenant were put to rout by the forces of Monmouth and Claverhouse. Bothwell bank, still blooming fair, and its picturesque Castle on the one hand, with Blantyre Works and the ruined Priory on the other, are successively left behind, with all their garniture of woods and braes, and, swelled by the tribute of the Rotten and North Calders, the Clyde steals slowly round Daldowie to Kenmuir and Carmyle. Not in all its course does the river wear a sweeter aspect than it presents here within a few miles of the city. Downward still it hies, turning and twining as if it would avoid the pollution which it has to encounter. There is no remede, however, and successively separating the parishes of Cambuslang and Monkland, Rutherglen and Barony, it touches at length the eastern suburb of the city, and with a fine bold curve, bounding the public Green, finds itself between the bridges in a bed of densest mud, and speedily becomes dim and drumlie with the outpourings of fetid sewers. Attempting to escape from this defilement, it falls into the hands of the River Trust at the Broomielaw. Henceforth the Clyde is in harness, “cabined, cribbed, confined,” and doomed to bear our burdens to and fro until it passes from control into the liberty of the great deep. According to a calculation in the late Dr. Thomson’s excellent treatise on heat and electricity, it appears that, at the date of that publication, the breadth of the river at the new bridge was 410 feet, and its average depth 3½ feet. The velocity of the water at the surface was 1.23 inch, and the mean velocity of the water 0.558.132 inch per second. From these data, the Dr, inferred that the total quantity of water discharged per second was 76 2/3 cubic feet. This amounts to 2,417,760,000 cubic feet, or 473,017,448 imperial gallons, or 1,877,053 tons of water poured down by the Clyde every succeeding day. Of course, during the prevalence of spates, the quantity will be indefinitely increased. The Clyde drains about one-thirtieth of Scotland, or about one-eighty-third of Great Britain.

And now, having conducted our readers in imagination down the tangled and most picturesque mazes of the upper section of the Clyde, we trust they will be prepared to sympathize with us in the subjoined address to our noble native river—an address which we penned in our youthful enthusiasm, “long, long ago:”—


O'er all the streams that Scotia pours
Deep murmuring to the sea,
With warmest love my heart still turns,
Fair, winding Clyde, to thee!
Through scenes where brightest beauty smiles,
Thy placid waters glide,
Linked to a thousand memories sweet,
My own, my native Clyde!

Let others love the tangled Forth,
Or mountain-shadowed Spey;
The Don, the Dee, wake others’ glee,
Fair Tweed, or queenly Tay;
From all their charms of wood or wild,
I ever turn with pride
To where the golden apple gleams,
On thy green banks, sweet Clyde!

It is not that thy heaving breast
A kingdom's wealth has borne,
That pregnant barks, a gorgeous crowd,
Thy spacious ports adorn;
Tis not thy cities fair to see,
Thy castled homes of pride,
That knit this heart in love to thee,
Thou proudly rolling Clyde!

An heir of poverty and toil,
Thy wealth to me is naught,
Yet thou hast treasures to my soul
With deepest pleasure fraught.
The homes of living, and the graves
Of parted friends are thine—
The loving hearts, the tried, the true,
Bright gems of sweet “Langsyne.”

Oh! honied were my joys, I ween,
When ’side thee, lovely stream!
Life dawn’d upon my wak’ning soul,
Bright as a poet's dream.
Then daisied fields to me were wealth,
Thy wateTs were a sea,
And angel voices in the clouds
The larks* far showers of glee.

How loved I, on thy pebbled marge,
To watch the minnows play!
Or on thy rippled breast to set
My tiny bark away!
Or chasing wide the painted fly,
Along thy skirt of flowers,
While on the swallow-wings of joy
Flew past the laughing hours.

Each smiling season then had charms—
Spring came with buds and flowers,
Ana wild-bird nests, with bead-like eggs,
Leaf-screened in woodland bowers;
Summer brought aye the rushy cap,
The dandelion chain;
While hips and haws, like gems were strewn
O'er Autumn’s yellow train.

But years of mingled weal and woe,
Like bubbles on thy wave,
Have passed: and friends are scattered now.
Or slumbering in the grave;
The dust of time has dimmed my soul,
And ’neath vile passion’s sway,
It’s freshness and its bloom have pass'd
For evermore away.

Yet still I love thee, gentle Clyde;
For aye, as with a spell,
Thou bring’st me back the cherished forms
In memory’s haunts that dwell!
Like sunshine on the distant hills,
Life’s early joys I see:
And from the brightness of the past,
I dream what heaven may be.

Dear stream! long may thy hills be green,
Thy woods in beauty wave,
Thy daughters still be chaste and fair,
Thy sons be true and brave!
And, oh! when from this weary heart,
Has ebbed life’s purple tide,
May it be mine, 'mongst those I’ve loved,
To rest on thy green side.

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