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The Cottars of the Glen

As we have in the preceding pages surveyed the condition, and customs, and manners of the people of the glen, and noticed also some of their superstitions and amusements, and a few of the incidents that befel, as has been supposed, a hundred years ago, from all which we derive some instruction, we now, in a few sentences, draw our remarks to a close.

The prominent character in the glen, in those days, as we have seen, was the venerable patriarch, Saunders Gray. The worthy man was the means of accomplishing much good among the simple-minded people in the midst of whom he dwelt. But Saunders was now well stricken in years, and the infirmities of age began to press upon him. He had seen much and endured much within his own little circle, and had grace given him under all to behave as a Christian man should. He had the pleasure, in his old days, of seeing his surviving daughter and her husband in prosperous circumstances, and their lovely family growing up around them. The time, however, came when the worthy man was to leave the world. Having fulfilled his days and his work on earth, his death was what was to be expected—a death of peace and triumph. His departure caused universal lamentation, and even his enemies shut their mouths. His remains were deposited between those of his wife and daughter, in the churchyard of Old Kirkbride, on the hill. No monument, however, marks his resting-place.

A number of years after the death of Saunders, the glen suddenly changed its aspect. Its stately forest, as has been noticed, fell under the stroke of the woodman's axe, and much of its glory vanished. To complete the denudation, however, the populace were next cleared away. The families—not all at once, but one by one— were quietly removed, and their deserted cottages fell to the ground; and where formerly ninety-four dwelling places could be counted, only eight now remain. The glen became gradually silent; the voices of men were not heard, and the songs of the birds were silent too.

The smith died in the glen, and so did the honest tailor, and both departed in the faith of Christ. They survived Saunders by several years, and in them were prolonged his example and his influence after he was laid in an honoured grave. Not one of the eight families resident in the glen can claim their descent from the older inhabitants, and they have none of their traditions circulating among them. These traditions are mainly retained by persons scattered here and there in the wide locality around. With some of these persons we have conversed, and with some also who, within the last generation, resided in a stray cottage here and; there in the sweet vale of their forefathers. But the glen, denuded though it be of its stately trees and its stalwart men, is still a lovely valley—one of the sweetest in all the southland of our beloved Scotland.

"O, wild-traditioned Scotland,
Thy briery barns and braes
Are full of pleasant memories,
And tales of other daysI
Thy story-haunted waters
In music gush along;
Thy bosky glens are tragedy,
Thy heathy hills are song!"

Many a time have we traversed the glen, and endeavoured to trace the foundations of the cottages of the older inhabitants. But even these have vanished; they have been cleared away for the purpose of dike-building in the locality: and even every monument of antiquity has been demolished, except one on a field near the foot of the Haunted Lin, and another farther up the stream, but beyond the basin inhabited by the cottars. Some few old names are still attached to particular spots, but these, also, in the lapse of a generation or two, will likely vanish. Auchengour, "The Field of Goats," a place once well known in the glen, is now scarcely recognised. The Chapel Hill, on the farm of Carco, with no cottage near it, is still known with its round fosse and its mound in the centre, the site of an ancient baronial hold; but it is a spot never visited, because it lies up on the breast of the hill, and far out of the way of the traveller. Its name, also, in process of time, will perish.

The names of places are gradually dropped, and that without the replacement of new ones; and this more especially is the case on the introduction of a new tenant, who may happen to be an entire stranger in the district. A curious instance of this kind took place about fifty years ago. The ancient farm of Cogshead, then, as now, a shepherd residence, had changed occupants. The new shepherd was an entire stranger, from a distant part of the country. The names of the hills, and glens, and streams, and all the places around, were utterly unknown to him. He applied to persons in the vicinity to help him in his difficulty, but none could give him any satisfactory information. The thing was hopeless—the whole herding was nameless. At last it was suggested that the old shepherd, of the name of Brown, who now had taken up his residence about Muirkirk, should be sent for. He stayed a week or two with the new herd, and reimposed all the names without one single omission, and they have been carefully retained till the present day. Thus, in one instance, the names that had been stereotyped for ages on a given locality were in danger of being almost entirely effaced.

The glen, in this way, has sustained damage to a certain extent, and even to a greater extent than may at first sight be apparent. But the recent survey of the country, and the exact mapping and naming of every spot, and house, and hill, and stream, by the Government officials, will arrest for all future time the present names, at least.

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