Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Rambles Round Glasgow
Baldernock and Balmore

OLD father Time has passed the meridian of another year, and is again steering a downhill course towards the golden season of fruitfulness and falling leaves. The time of singing birds is almost past, and the voice of the turtle has ceased in the land. The flowers of spring and early summer have bloomed and nodded their little hours upon the stage, and now are seen no more. We have the rose by every wayside, the water-lily and the sedge by lochs and streams, the pansy and the wild thyme on bank and brae; but the primrose, the craw-flower, and their sweet sisters of the youthful year, where are they? With the gentle Ferdita, in Shakspeare’s Winter’s Tale, we could exclaim,—

"O Proserpine,
For the flowers now that, frighted, thou lett'st fall
From Dis’s waggon! daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty; violets, dim,
But sweeter than the lids of Juno’s eyes
Or Cytherea’s breath; pale primroses,
That die unmarried, ere they can behold
Bright Ploebus in his strength."

We have a special love indeed for the thin-strewn blossoms of spring. Things of beauty are they one and all, as they open amidst the smiles and tears of the opening season, each silver starlet and golden chalice redolent of love, and hope, and joy. But alas! even as it is with all that man is proud of, they come like shadows, so depart,—

"And the flowers that husk a bonnie brae
Gin anither mouth lie rotten."

In our admiration of the past, however, let us not be ungrateful for the blessings of the present. The earth is now clad with beauty as with a garment. Ten thousand radiant blooms are at this moment spreading their dewy petals of varied hue in the rays of yon rising sun, which invites us from our city home, to wander forth again among the rustling fields and shadowy woods. Let us be up then and jogging. Our good oaken staff—itself the gift of a genuine "heart of oak," and our faithful companion in many a devious excursion—seems, as if instinct with life, to leap into our grasp. After a few minutes’ walk, we find ourselves passing Port-Dundas, "the harbour on the hill," and emerging to the northward from the urban labyrinth by the Fossil Road. The morning air is clear and cool, but the cloudless sky above gives abundant indication that a melting day is before us. A gentle breeze, however, is playing over the spiky fields of wheat, and rustling with a whisper softer even than that of lovers on a moonlit bank, among the graceful pannicles of the oat and the silky awns of the bearded bere. The walk from the city in this direction is exceedingly pleasant. About a mile out we pass Fossil House, the residence of our respected sheriff, Sir Archibald Alison, Bart., the learned historian of Europe, and the accomplished essayist and critic of Blackwood. The house is a large and substantial but withal plain edifice, and is surrounded by finely timbered policies of considerable extent. The locality, although within such a short distance of the city, has a quiet and retired aspect, and seems peculiarly adapted for the indulgence of those literary tastes in which the worthy Baronet finds his principal solace during the intervals of professional business.

After skirting the enclosures of Fossil, the road gradually ascends, through a stretch of fertile and well-cultivated land, covered with luxuriant crops, to the gentle eminence of Hill-end, which commands a most magnificent and far-extended prospect to the northward. On the summit of this ridge we call a halt, of course, and do homage to the loveliness of the scene. Spread before the spectator’s gaze is the noble territory of the Lennox, with its woods and fields, and softly-swelling undulations, bounded in the extreme distance by the gray mountains of the Gaol, and on either side by the Kilpatrick and Campsie hills.

Proceeding down a pleasant and gently sloping course for a short distance, we soon arrive at Lambhill, on the margin of the Forth and Clyde Canal. There is a delightful walk, of about a mile and a-half in length, west from this point to Maryhill, along the banks of the canal, which here passes amid scenes of considerable beauty. Our present route, however, lies in an opposite direction; so, crossing the water, we turn our face northward, and soon leave Lambhill behind. A little to the right of the road we are now pursuing is Possil Marsh, one of the best botanical stations for many miles round Glasgow. This extensive bog or quagmire is covered with a dense mantle of rank aquatic vegetation, among which are a number of rather uncommon species, such as the mare’s-tail (hippuris vulgaris); the greater spearwort (ranunculus lingua), a splendid plant; the sun-dew (drocera rotundifolia), and a rich variety of others. Possil Marsh is indeed a valuable adjunct to the Botanic Gardens of our city. What the one is to exotic the other is to indigenous vegetation. For this reason its plashy brink has been for many years the favourite haunt of the local flower lovers. Here the venerable professor and his boisterous band of students come to apply practically the theoretical instructions of the class-rooms. For hours occasionally they may be seen wandering about, gathering the choicest specimens, prying with microscopic eye into the mysteries of Flora, and conversing with exemplary gravity on the number of stamens or pistils to which a certain class and order are legitimately entitled, or the form of leaf and colour of corolla which mark the distinctions of genera and species. Yet "true it is, and pity- ‘tis ‘tis true," that many of these scientific gents, who can reckon you Latin names by the hundred, feel not one spark of the deep poetry which dwells in the golden chalices they so mercilessly dissect. Dry as an algebraic formula is their knowledge of the things of beauty which are the subjects of their heartless study.

"A primrose by the river brim
A primula vulgaris is to them
And it is nothing more?’

They "consider the lilies of the field," indeed, but it is only as materials for their herbaria, while the better lesson which the Great Teacher has gleaned from their unwoven vestures of loveliness finds no sympathetic thrill in their tuneless bosoms. We would not place upon our list of friends, however, the man who owned allegiance to such a Dry-as-dust philosophy.

The margin of the marsh is now in its most luxuriant condition, being indeed one tangled mass of verdure and bloom. Forget-me-nots, bed-straws, and cinque-foil, in rich clusters, creep among the green rushes and horse-tails, forming the most delightful combinations of colour imaginable; while at every few steps the snipe springs up in tortuous flight, and the water-hen is heard fluttering amid the floating leaves, and swallows, peeseweeps and other birds in graceful curves keep hovering around. Insects of brightest hue are also here "in number numberless," sporting with merry hum in the sunny air, and reminding us of Moore’s fine simile,.—.

"The beautiful line damsel flies.
That flutter’d round the jasmine stems,
Like winged flowers or flying gems."

After lingering for a brief space at this favourite haunt of Flora, we return to the highway, and in a short time arrive at Bemulie, now the site of a comfortable looking firm-house, but formerly an important fort or station on the great wall of Antonine, to which we have previously had occasion to allude. These forts were erected along the entire line of the gigantic rampart between the Forth and Clyde, at regular distances of about two miles. The camp of New Kilpatrick, the one next to Bemulie in a westerly direction, is, in accordance with this rule, as near as may be, two miles distant, as is also the one to the east at Cadder. All traces of the fort at this place, however, are now obliterated. Not the faintest vestige even remains to mark its whereabout. The plough and the elements have effectually completed the destruction of the ancient stronghold. A little to the east, however, a deep groove on the brow of a green hill still indicates the line of the valium and military way. Various fragments of Roman art have also been from time to time discovered at Bemulie, or in its immediate vicinity. One of these, a mutilated tablet, dug from the earth towards the close of the seventeenth century, and now deposited in the Hunterian Museum, has been of important service to antiquaries, by furnishing them with a fact necessary to the integrity of our country’s history. Up to that time the locality of the several British walls and the names of their builders were matters of dispute. Only one of the Roman historians, Julius Capitolinus, in his life of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, refers to the erection of the Caledonian wall by Lollius Urbicus, legate under that august monarch. For upwards of fourteen centuries this doubtful incidental statement formed the sole basis of modern knowledge regarding the individual who erected the wall. The Bemulie tablet supplied the necessary corroborative link to prove the authenticity of the old writer. Students of the antique consequently fell into raptures on the discovery; and Gordon, who afterwards traced the vestiges of the structure from frith to frith, pronounced the shattered relic "the most invaluable jewel of antiquity that ever was found in the island of Britain since the time of the Romans." What, then, is this historic pearl of great price? It is a rude stone, seventeen inches by ten, with the following abbreviated, and, to the uninitiated, unintelligible inscription upon it:—

P. LEG. II. A.

By a rule which we do not profess to understand the Old-bucks of the day extended these mystical hieroglyphics into the following votive inscription by the Second Legion to the Legate Lollius Urbicus :—POSUIT LEGIO SECUNDA AUGUSTI PROPRÆTORI. Others translated the legend as a votive tribute by the legate himself to his august lord and master, the emperor. Where doctors differ who shall presume to decide? We might indeed have been induced to hazard an original reading of our own, but that the memory of "Aiken Drum’s lang ladle" forbids us to venture on such dangerous ground. The rigid inductions of a Cuvier, however, by means of which, from the splinter of a bone he could reproduce, as it were, an extinct animal, are not more interesting to the reflective mind than are those by which, from a few stray letters rudely carved on stone, the antiquarian has been enabled to rend the veil of oblivion, and bring into our ken the events of a long vanished era.

Passing Bemulie, where the drowsy kine are peacefully pasturing on the site of the ancient battlements, the road slopes gradually down to the Kelvin, which it crosses by a neat and substantial bridge. The river here is somewhat dull and sluggish in its character, the channel being encumbered with weedy shallows, and the margin thickly overhung with saughs and reeds of rankest growth. It wears, however, a tangled and somewhat picturesque aspect. The tall bulrushes are nodding gracefully as we linger to scan its features, and the rich yellow of the water-lily imparts a degree of brilliancy to the dark-brown and almost imperceptible current; while a group of cattle, scattered in the shade of a willow clump on the bank presents a picture which a Paul Potter or a Cooper would have loved to paint. Soft green undulations rising on either side at the same time harmonize deliciously with the comparatively rugged watercourse, and enhance the quiet loveliness of the landscape.

This bridge was the scene of a curious adventure some two-score years ago. At that period there lived in you white cottage which adorns the brow of the hill to the left, a surly old carle who had a bonny daughter, a blythe bouncing lassie of merry eighteen. The old man was reputed to be wealthy—the maid was his sole heiress; and of course, where there was beauty and prospective riches, there was no lack of wooers. To the overtures of such visitants the father showed himself peculiarly averse, nor, truth to tell, did the winsome Mary herself seem at all anxious to change her condition. But "there is a tide in the affairs of women," and at length the Rose of the Kelvin gave her heart in keeping to a handsome youth from our own good town. As usual, however, the course of true love was ruffled and fretted with difficulties. The sweetheart was poor—the father inexorable. The daughter waxed fairer and more fair—the father more flinty and more cross. In sweet stolen interviews the lovers for some time contrived to meet, notwithstanding parental vigilance, until a discovery occurred during a gloaming walk, after which the hapless Mary was strictly confined to the house. Faithful in the time of trial, her lover continued to haunt the vicinity, in hope of obtaining a glimpse of the form and face which were all the world to him, even the reflection of her figure in the gloom of the night against the lighted window, proving to him an exceeding great reward for weary hours of waiting. One dark November night, stormy and wet, he left the city as usual, in a vehicle, for the purpose of visiting the spot. Whether the driver had taken a drop too much, or whether the thick darkness had bewildered him, we cannot say, but on passing this bridge, with the impetus of the declivity from Bemulie, the machine was overturned, and the love-sick swain precipitated into the swollen Kelvin. Jehu, who had by some chance alighted safely on the bridge, instead of looking in the roaring channel for his hapless "fare," ran at once to the cottage of Mary’s father and gave the alarm. The old man and his servants immediately rushed in a body, with lanterns, &c., to the scene of the catastrophe, and instituted a minute search in every turn and eddy of the angry stream for the body of the unfortunate gentleman. It was all in vain, however, and after a couple of hours spent in fruitless exertion, they returned to the house, moralizing on the sad fate of the supposed stranger. "Hech, sirs! but he’s gotten a sudden ca’, puir fallow," said the old maidservant, settling herself by the kitchen fire, "and dootless it’ll bring a sair stoun to some heart." Her sympathetic remarks were brought to an abrupt termination by the entrance of her master, who inquired for his daughter Mary. The maid went to the chamber of her young mistress for the purpose of calling her. She was not there, however; while on the floor of the room and on the stair there was a watery track as if from dripping clothes. Great was the alarm of the old man when these suspicious circumstances were announced to him; nor, it may be surmised, was his agitation much abated when a little urchin who acted as boots to the family exclaimed, "Ay, Miss Mary’s sweetheart was here, a’ plashing wat, and she gaed oot wi’ him a gude while since wi’ her bonnet and shawl on." It was even so, however and that very night a "Ruglen wedding" consummated the happiness of the Rose of Kelvin and her "drouket Glasgow chappie." A reconciliation of course speedily ensued, and in after years the gentleman has been heard to say, that the most fortunate event in his life was being tumbled neck and heels in the dark, over a bridge, into the bosom of an angry and turbid spate.

A few minutes’ walk over an intervening elevation brings us from the Kelvin to the Allander, where the latter stream seems hastening to its junction with the former in a sweet spot about half-a-mile to the south-east. In the vicinity of the bridge by which we cross the rivulet here, there is a bluff bank of brown sand, which for many years has formed a favourite breeding-place for the sand martin or swallow. The steep breast of the declivity is honeycombed, as it were, with the excavations of the little feathered miners, which, in the season of nidification, keep continually flying to and from their sandy domiciles like bees at a hive. We have often sat for hours watching the motions of this interesting colony, or strolled about the bank culling the floral beauties with which it is so thickly studded. We cannot spare time for such dalliance with Flora to-day, however; so, passing the toll-house, beside which the toll-keeper’s little son is couched on the green, where his snowy rabbits are munching the succulent clover, we leave the highway, and by a narrow footpath, ascend the hill. Pausing for a moment on its summit, what a splendid prospect meets our gaze! To the south-west, over a richly-undulating surface, we see the ascending vapours of Sanct Mungo, with Tennant’s tall chimney, the monarch of his species, towering proudly through the cloud, with his far-floating plume of smoke. Westward, over woods and fields, the Kilpatrick Hills, with Duncombe, like an immense blue bonnet, rising over their highest brow; to the north, the vast strath of the Lennox, with Milngavie and Dougalstone in the immediate foreground. We have touched on the Roman wall already at various points, but from our present "coigne of vantage" we can trace its course at a glance for some eight or nine miles, and comprehend more distinctly than hitherto the fitness of its plan. Duntocher, Castlehill, New Kilpatrick, and Bemulie are before us now as if on a map; and we can speculate on their relative positions and the combined operations necessary for their defence against the attacks of our indomitable but savage Caledonian fathers.

Descending on the opposite side of the hill you may well ask, gentle reader, what lovely sheet of water, so calm, secluded, and still, now bursts upon our view. That is Bardowie Loch—Bardowie the beautiful; and we ask thee if a glance of it would not more than repay thee for a summer day’s journey? Yet there are thousands in our own good town—admirers of nature, too, in a fashionable way, and who travel far in search of the picturesque—who have never dreamed that such a gem exists at their own threshold as it were. With such people the far away bird alone is gifted with glorious plumage. Happier those who, with the gentle poet of "The Task," can say,—

"Scenes must be beautiful which daily viewed
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years."

Bardowie, as you will observe, is a spacious lochlet of about seventy acres in superficial extent, its irregular margin being adorned with picturesque clumps of trees, intersected here and there by patches of fresh green pasture land, while its immediate circumference is girt with a profusion of rank aquatic vegetation. Finely situated on its north-east side, and embowered among foliage, is Bardowie House, an edifice of moderate size, and somewhat timeworn, yet withal wearing an appearance of quiet cosieness and comfort. Yon towering flagstaff on the sloping bank, and yon wreaths of blue smoke curling above the old ancestral trees, lend a human interest to the scene, which would otherwise be dreary as a mountain tarn. But let us descend to the mimic beach. Did you ever witness such splendid specimens of the golden iris, such "stately foxgloves fair to see," or such fragrant foam-crowned queens of the meadow? We verily believe you never did! Everything vegetable in its nature seems indeed more than ordinarily luxuriant here. And what a rich variety there is! The botanist might wander for days by the rushy margin, and fail to exhaust its treasures. We have ourselves ere now seen an eccentric but enthusiastic band of naturalists engaged for hours in rifling the vegetable and animal productions of this tiny lake, and still some longed-for object escaped their eager scrutiny. A curious group they were, in truth, each engaged in his favourite field of study. Here a sedate entomologist, net in hand, pursuing with ludicrous earnestness the flickering moths and butterflies; there a spectacled philosopher with a long ladle groping lovingly in the water for "powheads," "scurs," and other nauseous creeping things; at yonder reedy point an ornithologist rejoicing in the discovery of a water-hen’s nest, or blowing, with puffed out cheeks and purple brow, the contents from a snipe’s egg; while the flower-gatherers, vasculum in hand, were eagerly scanning the surrounding verdure, and muttering at every step some horrid Latin name. A merry as well as a wise corps they were, and many were the good-natured jokes which from time to time they uttered at the expense of each other’s hobbies, while the echoes of the lonely loch resounded with their boisterous cachinnations. Alas! they are scattered far and wide now. Some have fallen into the long sleep; others are "far ayont the wave;" while those that remain but seldom walk together in the old familiar paths.

We must be going, however; and see, as we move, a "fisher heron, watching eels" by yon crescent of golden lilies, takes wing and floats lazily, but with a peculiar gracefulness of flight, across the still waters wherein its moving image is reflected. Now it has alighted on the farther shore, and is once more "quiet as a stone." Passing in a north-east direction by the borders of Dougalstone woods, where we regale ourselves with the piquant but delicious fruit of the wild strawberry, now red and ripe by the wayside, and by the farm-house of Dowan, we soon arrive at the kirk-toun of Baldernock. Strictly speaking, however, Baldernock is neither town, village, clachan, nor hamlet. It consists principally of two churches, an Established and a Free, both unassuming buildings, about a-quarter of a mile or so apart, with the necessary adjuncts of manses, &c., and a few stray cottages dropped here and there as if by chance, and without any apparent relationship to each other, There is an old and diminutive meal-mill in the vicinity, the happer of which at the period of our visit is at rest for want of water; and close to the parish church there is a comfortable public-house, where refreshment of excellent quality for man and beast may be obtained. The rambler who has no special objections to the "dew" may have his wants abundantly supplied in this neat hostel while the "pledged" may have their hearts’ content of nature’s brewing at a fine spring which issues from a green bank near the mill.

After a brief interval of rest we bid farewell to Baldernock—which is really a delightful rural locality, with its cosie cottages, well-stocked gardens, umbrageous trees, and wide extending prospects—and pursue our course towards the north-east. On one hand, we have a thick belt of planting; on the other, a fine undulating stretch of country, arabIe, woodland, and pastoral, bounded by the Campsie Fells, the Kilpatrick hills, and the far mountains of the Highlands. Every turn of the road alters the features of the surrounding landscape, and brings new beauties to our ken. The wayside, too, is rife with floral loveliness. This dry stane dike, with its divot covering, is one lengthened flowerborder. Every crevice has its own minute fern, every gap its own rose-bush. here is one tall rose-tree, in full bearing, which, in its ambition, has actually taken root on the summit of the wall. The Hindoo Shaster says, "The almond tree is like unto the good man, for if you strike its branches, they send down upon you a shower of scented blossoms." Our own wild rose, you see, teaches the same lesson, for by merely giving it "a gude rough shake," we have been enveloped in rosebuds. Let us endeavour to take the fragrant admonition to heart; but meanwhile, here we are at Craigmadie Wood. Within the dense umbrage before us lies concealed a stately mansion, which is at present the residence of Spens Black, Esq. Our intention, however, is not to trespass on the hospitality of that gentleman, but to inspect the "auld howlet-haunted biggin" of Craigmadie Castle, which is situated on a rising ground in the vicinity of the modem house. By an intricate footpath through the leafy maze, and after several times going astray among the tall ferns and flickering shadows, we at length reach the spot. A mere fragment, shattered and weatherworn, is all that now remains of this once lordly mansion. One solitary tower, shorn of its fair proportions, yet sturdy even in decay, is the sole vestige of its former grandeur. The roof and the greater part of the walls have tumbled in, probably centuries ago; yet, under the debris, a vaulted dungeon-like chamber continues almost entire. The entrance is choked up with rubbish, but by a narrow loophole in the wall the visitor obtains a peep into its interior, which is gloomy in the extreme. There is little, indeed, to interest the archaeologist in this crumbling edifice of the dead; but the poet might find abundant material for the exercise of his muse within its deserted and dreary precincts, and the painter obtain a suggestive snatch of beauty from its not unpicturesque desolation. Nature, we may further mention, has been peculiarly kind to this mouldering relic of the past. Indeed, we have never seen ruin so richly garbed with vegetation as in this instance. The green ivy hangs dense over certain portions of the structure while every seam and sear is fringed with foliage of the minuter ferns and rock plants. On the summit of the walls a Scotch fir and an ash have taken up their station, like warders, with a wild rose, which is in bloom at the period of our visit, "scenting the dewy air," while on a projection below is a broad patch of thyme, crimsoned with blossoms. Little is known of the origin and history of Craigmadie Castle. In the thirteenth century it was in the possession of the ancient family of the Galbraiths of Baldernock, who obtained it in the reign of Alexander II., with the surrounding barony, from Maldwin, Earl of Lennox. About the beginning of the fourteenth century the possessions of this family passed, by marriage with the heiress, to David Hamilton, son of Lord Hamilton, whose descendants afterwards took the title of Bardowie, and of whom the late Dr. Francis Hamilton was the lineal representative. Regarding the circumstances under which the edifice was permitted to fall into decay history contains no record.

Adjoining Craigmadie Wood to the east, and bearing the same name, is an extensive tract of moorland, wild, rugged, and covered with heather. To this dreary expanse we now proceed, to visit the far-famed "Auld Wives’ Lifts." These are situated in the centre of a spacious natural amphitheatre in the middle of the waste, and consist of three immense masses of solid stone, two of which are prismatic in shape and lying side by side, while the third, which is nearly eighteen feet in length by eleven in breadth and seven in thickness, is firmly poised above them, so as to form as it were an immense and somewhat rude altar. According to popular belief this curious structure was formed by the united exertions of three old women, in those days when, through the agency of the enemy of man, certain wrinkled crones were occasionally gifted with supernatural powers, by means of which they could take an aerial midnight jaunt on a bind-weed at pleasure, and work all imaginable kinds of mischief on their unfortunate neighbours. Three of these "weird sisters" on one occasion, it seems, engaged in a trial of strength, in which the victory was to be declared in favour of the individual who should carry a large stone to the greatest distance. One took up her "lift," and bearing it along for some time, dropped it at this place; the second next lifted her ponderous burden, and bore it forward, but by some mischance let it fall close to that of her predecessor; on seeing this, however, the third, who seems to have been a Herculean witch indeed, raised a much larger mass than either, and to show her superiority, hurled it with ease on the top of the two preceding stones. Such is the popular myth, and to this day the natives of Baldernock, Strathblane, and Campsie, to which localities the Titanic auld wives respectively belonged, have occasionally serious bickerings regarding the wreath of victory. Heads have been broken in the dispute, but we understand that, after all, it has never yet been properly decided.

Between the three huge blocks there is a narrow and somewhat tortuous passage, through which every unmarried visitant to the spot, who is not desirous of living a life of single blessedness, is recommended to scramble in a direction contrary to the course of the sun. Parties failing to perform this necessary ceremonial in honour of the genius loci, either willingly or through neglect, are understood to have forfeited for ever the favour of Hymen, and even although they should afterwards become benedictines, need never expect to witness a tiny group of olive branches springing up around their table! Such, according to the popular creed, are the mysterious influences of the "Auld Wives’ Lifts." We need hardly mention further, that when the lads and lasses of the neighbourhood visit the locality, they invariably submit to the ordeal, or that on such occasions there is abundance of good-humoured raillery and loud-ringing laughter.

Antiquaries have a different method of accounting for the origin of the "Auld Wives’ Lifts," although even they have their differences of opinion on the subject. By some this gigantic cromlech is supposed to be a Druidical altar, whereon, in a dim prehistoric era, the dark rites of pagan worship may have been celebrated. In support of this theory it is stated that, until a comparatively recent period, the remains of an encircling grove of oak trees were visible on the surrounding heights, which, from their gentle ascending slopes, also seem peculiarly adapted for the accommodation of worshipping crowds, who might assemble to witness the sacrifice of human victims whose blood was shed at the rude shrine of Moloch. From the form and appearance, as well as the situation of this lone structure, indeed, this theory seems to our mind exceedingly probable, and with an inward persuasion of its truthfulness, we experience a gruesome but not altogether disagreeable feeling pervading us as we stand upon the stone of blood, which now, thank heaven! has forgotten the purpose of its erection. ‘We think of the lines written by Keats,—

 "There is a pleasure on the heath
where Druids old have been,
Where mantles gray have rustled by
And swept the nettles green."

The name of Craigmadie, which in the Celtic, by no strained derivation, means the "Rock of God," seems to us an additional evidence that the structure was erected for purposes connected with worship. The cromlech, according to this view of the matter, has given a name to the moor on which it is situated, a supposition which, to our mind, seems not at all improbable.

In his excellent and elaborate work, the Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Mr. Daniel Wilson, lately honorary Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, but now a resident in Canada, has given an engraving and a brief description of the "Auld Wives’ Lifts." This gentleman has adopted the opinion that all cromlechs (and of course this amongst others) are of a monumental nature, and that the cavity between the stones was designed for the reception of human remains. From an inspection of this specimen, and with all due deference to so learned an authority, we can only say that it seems to us exceedingly ill adapted for such a purpose. The chamber, as we have said, is highly irregular in form; in fact, it seems rather an accidental effect than the design of the cromlech that it is there at all. The superior block appears somewhat geometrical in form, especially on its upper surface, but the under surface and the two lower stones are rude and unshapely in the extreme. Regarded as an altar we recognize a certain degree of fitness in the appearance and proportions of the cromlech of Craigmadie, but considered as a sepulchral chamber, it violates all our notions of suitability to the desired end. We may mention that the draughtsman of Mr. Wilson has been unfortunate in the point of view from which his sketch of the "Auld Wives’ Lifts" is taken, the orifice being left entirely out of sight. He has also failed to convey an adequate idea of the magnitude of the three masses of which the structure is composed.

Ascending the rising ground in the vicinity we obtain a splendid prospect of the surrounding country. We do not, however, see across the island from sea to sea, as certain parties have done. Nevertheless, the spot is well worthy of a visit for its landscape beauties alone. The vast basin of the Clyde, from Kilpatrick to Dychmont, is stretched to the south-west, at the spectator’s feet as it were, with Glasgow, Paisley, and countless other towns, villages, and gentlemen’s seats, scattered on its breast; while the line of the horizon is formed by the Gleniffer and Fereneze Braes, Ballygeich, Neilston Pad, and Cathkin. Turning in a north-west direction we have, across the dreary moor, the Campsie Fells, scarred by the Clachan and Fin Glens, and the ravine of Ballagan, with the peak of Dungoyne overhanging the sweet strath of the Blane. But we must make our descent; so, taking a farewell glance at the old altar, lichened and gray, around. which the wild birds which our presence has disturbed are already settling eerily, we turn our face towards Balmore, which is situated about three miles to the south-east. It is principally down hill, however, so that we shall accomplish the distance, as Paddy would say, "in less than no time."

As we pursue our downward course the country becomes gradually more and more fertile, until having passed in succession the farms of East and West Blairskaith and Glenorchard, we find ourselves among green English-like lanes, with verdant hedgerows and overshadowing trees, entering the village of Balmore, which is finely situated on the margin of an extensive haugh, bounded to the west by the river Kelvin. Balmore is an excellent specimen of an old-fashioned Scottish clachan. It is of no great extent, nor does it seem at all ambitious to increase its dimensions. We should say indeed, that, judging from appearances, it is "a finished town." The houses are, in the majority of instances, plain and of one storey, with kail-yards attached to them, and lying east and west of the road, with a strong tendency to avoid anything like orderly arrangement. host of the tenements are at the same time "theekit" in the primitive fashion, while the gables are generally surmounted by "craw-steps" and dwarfish lums, which, like wrinkles on the human face, are indicative of an advanced age. A sprinkling of trees increases the rural aspect of the town. Then there are the usual branches of old world village trade. A gaucy public-house of course there is. The souter’s sign, "awee thocht agee," meets your eye here; there is the beild of the tailor, as you are informed by a homely collocation of ill-formed letters; this, again, by the heterogeneous assemblage of scones, snaps, peeries, bobbins, red herrings, and tape, in the window, must be "the bit shopie of Jenny a’ things," an indispensable personage in every small community; while the cart-wheel at, and the horse-shoe on, the door of this biggin’, tells in unmistakeable terms where the smiddy is located. The presence of wabsters is also announced, as you pass along, by the jingling of the shuttle. It is at the same time evident, by the number of female faces peering from doors and winnocks, as the stranger moves along, that the gudewives and lasses here are not altogether free from the sin that doth most easily beset their sex in other and more polished localities.

There are two curiosities in Balmore; and what does the reader think these may be? Why, nothing less than a "big tree" and a live poet and novelist. The former of these (to give precedence according to local etiquette), a stately ash, with a trunk thirty-nine feet in height clear of branches, and a fine umbrageous head, is the pride and glory of the village. He would require to be a bold and a stalwart man who dared to utter a hint in disparagement of this sylvan giant within "earshot" of Balmore. [This splendid ash, the finest of which the west of Scotland could boast, was cut down and sold for coach-building purposes during the summer of 1855. This was a most cruel case of "tree murder," as Miss Mitford calls this hateful crime.] Such ceremony would be superfluous, we suspect, in the case of the author. Yet Thomas Hamilton Dickson is no ordinary man, as the reader will readily surmise when we tell him that honest Thomas has produced no fewer than two poetical publications, a historical novel, and an autobiography! We have not the pleasure of an introduction to this village genius; but we are informed that he is a buirdly chiel, with flowing locks and a good development of cranium; and that when "snoddit up" on a Sunday, with shirt-collar a la Byron, he has quite a Christopher-Northish appearance. Mr. Dickson is, as we understand, in somewhat humble circumstances; but, from the autobiography alluded to, it appears that, like St. Patrick, he is "come of decent people," and can boast a pedigree of which any duke in the country might well be proud. One is quite astonished, indeed, at the number of great men whom he can boast among his progenitors. Since a period considerably prior to the days of Wallace scarcely a great battle has occurred in which the Dicksons have not distinguished themselves by extraordinary feats of "derring-do." We regret to say that the descendant of such a line of heroes has been at length permitted, by an ungrateful country, to sink below the level of Lindley Murray. Yet so it is. We have glanced over the writings, poetical and prose, of Mr. Dickson, and are most unwillingly compelled to admit the sad fact. There is a considerable amount of originality, however, in the subjects of his muse, as will be admitted when we mention the titles of two of his pieces. They are as follows :—"Verses on a young lady refusing to accept a ticket to a ball with the author;" and "Lines on a young lady refusing to dance" with the same illustrious individual. These are both, as may be easily supposed, deeply tinged with the pathetic. The second, however, concludes with the following spirited lines:-

"By fury! mock me not again,
So ruthless at your will;
Must I endure your proud disdain?
Yes, no! by Jove, sit still!"

One little gem (gude gear gangs in sma’ bouk) is worthy of being transcribed entire. It is headed "Worthlessness," and runs thus,—

"A man without a principle
Is like a town without a wall,
Or a nation free of people,
Or a horse in an empty stall."

The Hibernianism in this is delightful above measure, and we might cull many such, if time and space permitted, from the inspired pages of the Balmore poet. We must refrain, however; but, before parting with our author, and lest we should do him an unintentional injustice, we must quote one other specimen, which, to tell the truth, occurring where it does, takes us completely by surprise:-


"She's on my heart, she’s in my thoughts,
At midnight, morn, and noon;
December’s snow beholds her there,
And there the rose of June.

"I never breathe her lovely name
When wine and mirth go round,
But oh! the gentle moonlit air
Knows well the silver sound.

"I care not if a thousand hear,
When other maids I praise;
I would not have her brother by
when upon her I gaze.

"The dew were from the lily gone,
The gold had lost its shine,
If any but my love herself
Could hear me call her mine."

Now, good-bye, Thomas! There is simplicity, tenderness, and truth in these lines; and for their sake we will not even allude to thy "Historical Novel of Clamourtown." Would that thou hadst always written thus! but of course the muse, like other coquettes, will only dance when it pleases herself—so, good-bye! And now for Cadder. [Alas! alasl for the credit of the Balmore bard, the verses we have just quoted turn out, on subsequent inquiry, to have been the composition of quite a different writer. Honest Thomas has appropriated them, without acknowledgement, from the pages of Miss Jewsbury.]

Round the fertile haugh of Balmore, the Kelvin, confined by an artificial embankment, makes a bold and graceful sweep. On one side of the stream are luxuriant crops, extending field beyond field over an alluvial plain; on the other are the umbrageous woods of Cadder, covering hundreds of acres, and enclosing leafy glades and sylvan recesses innumerable. Crossing the haugh in a south-west direction we soon reach the dull and sluggish water, which is here crossed by a picturesque line of large stepping stones. One of these masses is hewn into the form of a tablet, and at the period of our visit a group of serious-looking spectacled individuals are engaged in examining it with profound interest. Lingering for a moment, as they obstruct the passage, we learn from their conversation that they are one and all firmly persuaded that the stone in question is neither more nor less than an ancient Roman landmark. "True," one of them remarks in a pompous sort of tone, "there is no inscription on it, but then exposure to the weather and the rude trampling to which it has been subjected, will easily account for that; whilst its characteristic peculiarities of form, and its vicinity to a Roman station, are at least highly probable evidences of its ancient origin." One of the party, adjusting his spectacles, proposes to take an accurate measurement of the valuable relic; another, who seems an artist, at once commences sketching it; while a third mutters something about a communication to the Antiquarian Society. At this moment a couple of sweethearts from the neighbouring village, taking a gloaming walk, come tripping athwart the Kelvin. Being detained a moment in their passage by the enthusiastic philosophers, as we ourselves have been, the lad carelessly asks what they are looking at. "Why, my good fellow (answers one of the savans, with a rich Irish accent), its neyther more nor less, my jewel, than an ancient Roman tablet, a relic of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, which, by some dreadful and unaccountable misthake, has been tumbled into this dirty wather." On hearing this, the girl, who has been hanging back somewhat bashfully, at once steps forward, asking rather glibly to be shown the object of their adoration. It is of course pointed out to her, when, immediately after glancing at it, she bursts into a most unfeminine guffaw, exclaiming at the same time, at the top of her voice, "Antoninus Pius! A’tweel I wat ye’re a set o’ fules, far a’ sae wise-like as ye leuk. It’s naething o’ the kin’; for it’s jist Redbog’s auld cheese-press that I’ve wrought mony a day mysel’, and whilk was cuist aside when they got yon new-fangled machine. Antoninus Pius, quotha!"

Cadder is a lovely little village, consisting of a neat modern Gothic church and a number of cottages, not very many, scattered picturesquely about, and perfectly embowered among trees. The name is said to be derived from a British word signifying "a place beautifully embellished with wood and water," and it must be admitted that it well deserves the name. In the vicinity of the village there are well defined traces of a small Roman camp, which we glance at, en passant, but as the sun is now below the horizon, we are compelled to hurry on our way. We soon cross the canal, which passes near the village, and in a few minutes thereafter reach the Glasgow and Kirkintilloch Road, by which, passing through the villages of Bishopbriggs and Springburn, we ultimately make our way into the city, arriving at the "Bell a’ the Brae" just as the clocks are "chappin’ ten."

Return to Book Index


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus