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Rambles Round Glasgow
Carmyle and Kenmuir

The denizen of the populous and dinsome city is apt to look with envy on the condition of those who "live, move, and have their being" among the woods and fields, who have familiar intercourse with the free winds, and are at all times and seasons surrounded with the ever-varying shows and forms of Nature. Yet to us it appears extremely doubtful whether we of the city are not, after all, more keenly alive to the beauties of the country than our brethren of the rural districts. Familiarity, if it does not in all cases beget contempt, is almost certain to engender more or less of indifference. The man who has green leaves and bright petals ever unfolded before his eyes, and the music of bird and stream ever ringing in his ears, must of necessity become less sensible of their cheerful influences than he who only occasionally, and after considerable intervals, has the privilege of participating in such enjoyments. The clerk doomed to the irksome desk, and the operative confined to the workshop, enjoy, we doubt not, on their holidays, a more intense feeling of the beautiful in nature than the farmer who is daily among the waving grain, or the lord of the soil who can roam at will, wherever whim or caprice may lead. Under such circumstances, the excursionist from the crowded city feels that to him indeed,

"The meanest flower that decks the vale,
The simplest note that swells the gale,
The common earth, the air, the skies,
Appear an opening paradise."

Some such thoughts as these suggest themselves to our mind as, leaving the bustling streets, we take our way up the Clyde to Carmyle and Kenmuir. Leaving the precincts of the Green at Allan’s Pen, we speedily find ourselves at Rutherglen Bridge. This structure, which was erected in 1776, connects the city by its south-eastern boundary with Rutherglen and the adjacent towns and villages. it is a narrow and rather high-backed affair, barely affording scope for a couple of sour-milk carts to pass each other in safety; and must be rather trying to the nerves of outside passengers on the omnibuses which now cross it at frequent intervals, as the slightest collision with any passing body would infallibly send them "right slick" into the water. The municipality, with praiseworthy spirit, is now setting its other bridges in order, and we really think that something might be done to render this one more safe and commodious. Passing the extensive dye-works of Messrs. Henry Monteith & Co. at Barrowfield, and those of Messrs. Bartholomew at Dalmarnock, we next come, about a quarter of a mile farther up, to the fine mansion of the late Dr. Cleghorn, embowered in trees, and situated on a gentle acclivity on the south bank of the river. Nearly opposite this are the works of the Cranston-hill Water Company, surrounded by a strong earthen embankment, which effectually conceals and preserves from encroachment the various reservoirs and filters of the establishment.

The Clyde, it is said, was formerly navigable to this point, and Rutherglen, which here forms a fine feature in the landscape, with its beautiful new spire, still boasts a quay for the accommodation of that commerce which has long deserted her. Not a single cock-boat has she now to countenance the effigy of a ship in her burghal coat of arms. We have the authority of Dr. Ure, the historian of the burgh, however, for saying that up till a comparatively recent period coal gabberts of considerable burthen piled almost everyday, from the quay of Rutherglen to Greenock, with cargoes of the "diamond."

Passing Dalmarnock Bridge, an elegant structure of timber, and following the windings of the river, we shortly arrive at the Glasgow Water-works, the mighty engines of which are employed night and day, like a great heart, in propelling the crystal fluid throughout the miles and miles of pipes that extend through the labyrinths of the city. [These extensive works will soon be completely superseded and rendered useless, as the Corporation is about to supply the citizens with the limpid waters of Ioch Katrine.] The Clyde in the vicinity of the works has recently made sad havoc on the bank. A considerable portion of the soil has been carried away, trees have been undermined and levelled, and the path has, indeed, been rendered all but impassable. To make matters worse, a neighbouring proprietor, who would seem to be somewhat of a churl, has driven a pallisade of stobs along the front of his property, close almost to the water-edge, so that passengers have considerable difficulty in getting along. Fortunately the lordship of this gentleman is not of very great extent, and his forbidden territory is soon left behind.

The famous "Harvie’s Dyke" next attracts our attention. This wall, as is well known, was erected about thirty years ago by Thomas Harvie, then proprietor of Westthorn, for the purpose of blocking up the footpath along the margin of the Clyde, from Glasgow to Carmyle, which had previously been in possession of the public from time immemorial. Great indignation was of course excited at the time by this encroachment upon popular rights. Indignant articles, letters, and pasquinades appeared in the local journals, until at length, in the summer of 1823, the ire of the citizens was roused to such a degree, that a numerous party, principally composed of weavers and other operatives from Bridgeton and Parkhead, armed with piekaxes and crow-bars, laid siege to the obnoxious barrier, and levelled it with the dust. Passing afterwards in triumph to the opposite extremity of the Westthorn estate, which was likewise defended by a strong wooden pallisade, they continued the work of destruction by setting it on fire.

While engaged in this patriotic though certainly illegal operations intelligence was brought to the excited crowd that a party of dragoons who had been sent for were approaching, when an immediate dispersion ensued. Several of the ringleaders were afterwards apprehended, and sentenced to various periods of imprisonment for their share in the transaction. The wall was speedily rebuilt, and for several years thereafter the thoroughfare was completely suspended. Thanks, however, to the public spirit of certain gentlemen connected with the city, among whom were the late Mr. George Rodger of Barrowfield Printworks, "Sandie Rodger" the poet, and Mr. Adam Ferrie, now in Canada, the warfare was resumed in the courts of law. Subscriptions in support of the popular cause were liberally furnished by all classes of citizens and, after a lengthened litigation, the case was finally terminated by a decision of the House of Lords in favour of the right of passage. The estate has now passed into other hands, and the present proprietor, with praiseworthy liberality, permits the people to enjoy without let or hindrance the beautiful bank by which the amble portion of his land is encompassed.

The scenery around Westthorn is of the most delightful description. The bank, sloping gently to the river, is clothed with fine plantations, the haunts of birds innumerable, which as we pass are joyously piping their most mellifluous strains. The swallow and the more rare sandpiper are flitting over the stream (which in its windings here rivals the linky Forth), haply disturbed by the wading angler, who, as usual, on the Clyde, is threshing the water in vain. Nor is the background less fair, as from almost every point fine views are obtained of the richly-wooded braes of Cathkin or the green slopes of Dychmont, with. the spires of Rutherglen and Cambuslang lending beauty to the middle distance.

Immediately above the lands of Westthorn, is Dalbeth, the finely-situated mansion of which is now occupied as a conventual establishment in connection with the Romish Church. Morning, noon, and evening, the rambler by the river-side bears the tinkling of bells at this spot, warning the sisterhood to their frequently recurring exercises of devotion. The curious may also, on a sunny forenoon, espy the veiled forms of the nuns, walking with measured pace on the green sward in front of the edifice, or lingering in pensive attitudes in the shadow of the surrounding trees. In this quiet and secluded locality there is nothing to disturb the contemplations of the fair devotees more harsh than the murmurings of the Clyde or the songs of the summer birds among the rustling foliage. They seem, indeed, to live a peaceful and a harmless life in their beautiful solitude, yet to our presbyterian prejudices a nunnery seems anything but a pleasant feature in a Scottish landscape. A small chapel has recently been erected in connection with the establishment and a cemetery for the reception of deceased Catholics has been formed in the neighbourhood.

In the bed of the stream at this place there was for many years a numerous colony of the large fresh-water mussel. In seasons of thought we have seen these bivalves exposed in myriads. Some of the shells contained pearls of considerable value and we have known a Cambuslang weaver, to realize a couple of pounds by the sale of a forenoon’s gathering. A friend of ours, on one occasion, picked up a shell here which was thickly studded with smell pearls. None of them, however, were very pure, and we suspect this is the case with the greater portion of those found in the Clyde. Be this as it may, their pearl-bearing character has proved fatal to the poor mussels, which are now nearly extirpated. Small particles of native gold have also been found in the sands opposite Dalbeth.

About half-a-mile farther up we arrive at the Clyde Ironworks, associated with the respected name of the late Mr. Colin Dunlop, formerly one of the representatives of Glasgow in Parliament. They are merrily blazing as we pass. The nightly glare of these smelting furnaces is familiar to every denizen of Sanct Mungo’s; many it lights home when "owre late out at e’en," and to many it serves all the purposes of a barometer, as, immediately before rain, from a very obvious cause, its brilliancy is materially increased. As an ingenious and witty poet of the west observed, in certain humorous verses addressed to the late proprietor of this extensive establishment,—

"The moon does fu’ weel when the moon’s in the lift,
But oh, the loose limmer takes mony a shift,
Whiles here and whiles there, and whiles under a hap—
But yours is the steady licht, Colin Dulap !

"Na, mair—Iike true friendship, the marker the nicht,
The mair you let out your vast columns o’ licht;
When sackcloth and sadness the heavens enwrap
‘Tis then you’re maist kind to us, Colin Dulap !"

An elegant iron bridge erected by the proprietor of the works spans the Clyde at this point, and is principally used for the transmission of coal and minerals, for smelting purposes, from Eastfield, which lies about half-a-mile southward, and is famed for the abundance and quality of its carboniferous productions. The ordinary traffic across the river, however, is at the "Bogle-hole" ford, a short distance farther up, where not only horses and carts, but men, and occasionally bonnie lasses even, with their drapery highkilted, may be seen in langsyne fashion wading from bank to bank through the amber waters. On passing the bridge we would advise our botanical friends to follow our example, and keep a sharp look out for the wild flowers which here spring forth on bank and bras in the most charming profusion. For a couple of miles or so above this, the Clyde is fringed with beautiful trees of every variety, and at this season (May) of every shade of green; while at every step the landscape assumes new features of loveliness, and every sunny nook has its own floral decorations. Among the saughs at the water edge lurks the graceful meadow rue (thalictrurn flavum); the broad leaved waterburs (petasites vulgaris) wave on the alluvial flats; while the dog violet, the primrose, cowslip, white saxifrage (saxifraga granulate), starworts of several species, and countless other things of bloom and of fragrance peep from the verdant banks, or cluster in sweet groups round the mossy stems of the overshadowIng trees.

After a delightful sylvan walk or saunter of about an hour’s duration from the "Bogle-hole," we arrive at the village or clachan—for we are puzzled to say which is its proper designation—of Carmyle, with its old-fashioned meal-mills and diasome dams, over which the foamy Clyde incessantly pours, as if murmuring with its voice of many waters at the restriction attempted to be placed on its liberty. Imagine some score or so of houses—pleasant though humble dwelling-places every one—straggling upward from the river-side, intermingled with garden-plots and trees, and a picture of the little community is before you—the inhabitants, as we learn, being principally millers, cartwrights, sawyers, and such like. There is at present only a couple of places where refreshment for the weary rambler may be obtained; and in one of these, with the reader’s leave, we shall "take our ease" for a short time, and discuss a thimbleful of the landlord’s Glenlivet and a "crumpie farl" of the goodwife’s cake, with a slice of prime cheese from Mr. Drew’s dairy, which is hard by, and the produce of which has deservedly attained a more than local fame.

On visiting Carmyle for the first time, a goodly number of years since, we were conducted to a waste spot in the vicinity, which in bygone days was the scene of a melancholy tragedy. The story, as told to us, was briefly as follows:- In the olden time there lived—the one at Carmyle, the other at Kenmuir—two young men who had been from boyhood bosom friends. Similar in tastes and dispositions, nothing ever happened to mar the harmony of their intercourse; and, in weal or in woe, they seemed destined to continue all in all to each other throughout life. At length, however, a stranger maiden came to reside in the village, and, as fate would have it, the youths fell simultaneously in love with her. The friends were rivals. One was preferred; the other of course rejected. The unfortunate suitor, from an affecionate friend, became all at once—"such power has slighted love"—transformed into the most bitter of enemies. Meeting by accident one day at the spot alluded to, angry words passed between the two who lately would have died for each other. Swords were ultimately drawn, and one fell mortally wounded. Filled with remorse at what, in his blind passion, he had done, the other in a fit of anguish laid violent hands upon himself, and both were found lying dead among the summer flowers, which were stained with their mingled life-blood. What afterwards befell the fair and innocent cause of all their woe, tradition sayeth not; but the friends, who had been so unfortunately and fatally estranged, were laid by their mourning relatives at peace in one grave, dug at the place where they fell, which has ever since been known as the "Bluidy Neuk." A ferruginous spring in the neighbourhood was long looked upon with horror by the good folks of the village, who saw in the red oxydized earth around it a mysterious connection with the blood which had there been shed. An old lady who was born in Carmyle informed us that the spot was reckoned "no canny," and that in her youth he would have been considered a bold individual who would have ventured there alone after nightfall. So regardless of such matters, however, have modern agriculturists become, that within the last few years the plough has been driven over the spot, and at the time of our visit there is a fine fresh braird waving green over the "Bluidy Neuk."

The walk, from Carmyle to Kenmuir bank, which is about three-quarters of a mile higher up the stream, is of the most pleasing description. Both banks of the river are clothed with dense masses of foliage, which are now tinted with the rich variety of shades which renders the woods of early summer almost equal in picturesque effect to those of the fall. The intensely firesh green of the beech—the leaves with "silver lining" of the saugh—the almost olive-hued elm—the leafy luxuriance of the lady-birch—the golden-budded oak—the bird-cherry or geen, one mass of snowy bloom, with the mourning robes of the pine, insensibly intermingling and softly blending one with another, produce altogether an effect which the painter may admire, but must in vain attempt to imitate. The attentive ornithologist may here see occasionally that curious and amusing bird the creeper (certhia familiaris), climbing the trees perpendicularly the sandpiper dabbling on the brown sand, or flying with its peculiar cry across the stream; or the lone waterousel sitting on a projecting stone among the gurgling waves, and quietly swatching for the minnows and sticklebacks, which form its ordinary prey.

Kenmuir bank is a steep acclivity which rises directly from the margin of the Clyde to the height of some sixty or seventy feet. It is a wild and bosky scene, covered with a picturesque profusion of timber, and is the habitat of flowers innumerable. The weaver herbalists of Camlachie and Farkhead find it a perfect storehouse of medicinal rarities; and on Sundays they may be seen in sickly groups prying into every green recess in search of plants which old Culpepper would have loved for their rare qualities, or carrying them home in odorous bundles, confident of having obtained a mastery over "all the ills that flesh is heir to." The botanist may also occasionally be seen lurking here, vasculum in hand, or on beaded knee examining the structure of some strange flower. But even the mere general lover of flowers will here find much to reward his attention. At present the May-flower (caitha palustris), the wild hyacinth, the craw-flower of Tannahill, the red campion (lychnis dioica), the odorous woodruff (asperula oderata), the globe-flower or lucken gowan (trollius europceus), and many others are in full bloom, and so thickly strewn that even as the poet says. At the foot of the bank, near its upper extremity, there is a fine spring, which is known by the name of the "Marriage Well," from a couple of curiously united trees which rise at its side and fling their shadows over its breast. To this spot, in other days, came wedding parties, on the day after marriage, to drink of the crystal water, and, in a cup of the mountain-dew, to pledge long life and happiness to the loving pair whom, on the previous day, old Hymen had made one in the bands which death alone can sever. After imbibing a draught of the sacred fluid from the cup of Diogenes, we rest a brief space on the margin of the well, and while we are listening to its faint trickling voice, let us recall a name or two from the many with which it is associated in our memory. Many, indeed, have been the friends with whom we have here held communion sweet. Most gentle and single-minded of botanists was our old and venerable companion, poor Tom Murphy, who, for many and many a year, made loving pilgrimage to Kenmuir. Well he knew each floral inhabitant that lent its odour to the green gloamin’ of this tangled nook. From earliest spring to latest autumn he knew their times and seasons. It was his pride to busk with stranger beauties the haunts of his love. Many a germ and many a root he brought from distant glens and lonely burnsides to enrich this fairy spot with their bloom. Flowers of his planting are still here, but the good old man will return no more for ever—

"By Kenmuir steep, or sweet Carmyle,
Or Blantyre’s auld monk-haunted pile,
A-wooing Flora’s early smile.
Nae mair he’ll tread;
Nature’s lone pilgrim ‘a left his toil—
Tom Murphy’s dead."

Here also came poor George Allan, one of the Harvie’s Dyke heroes, to spend his summer Sundays after the irksome toils of the week. He also was a botanist in a humble way. With the long-winded and crabbed names of the science he had but a limited acquaintance. Yet well he knew the majority of our indigenous plants by their good old Saxon names, the most musical of all, and deep was his knowledge of their medicinal virtues, real or imaginary. With all that Gerarde or Culpepper taught he was perfectly familiar, and he loved to tell of the planets by which the various herbs were influenced, and the mystic hours in which each kind required to be gathered. Many a time and oft we have met him, with a group of delighted auditors, expounding, in green and flowery nooks of the Clyde, his wondrous lore. On one occasion (a Sacramental Fast day) we found him criticising the exquisite song of "The Posie," by the bard of Coila. "I’ll no deny," he said, "that, as a thing of fancy and sentiment, Burns’ lilt is no sae far wrang; but then he has jumilt the flowers of spring, summer, and hairst a' into ae bab, a thing that’s clean contrar’ to nature. Yell never find ‘the primrose, the firstling o’ the year’ (as Burns ca’s it, although it’s no the firstling), in the same walk as the budding rose; and yet our favourite poet bauldy said he ‘wad gather them together and twine them wi’ ither flowers a’ to be a posie to his ain dear May.’ Tak’ my word for’t," he continued, "Rab was nae botanist, or he wadna ha’e made sic a mistak’; but if ye'll jist be quiet for a wee, I’ll sing ye a genuine botanical sang, written by a friend o’ mine, and ye’ll no think it the less sweet, I opine, because the mavis and the laverock, as ye hear, are chanting the accompaniments." With these preliminary remarks, and after wetting his whistle by a draught from a small pocket flask, he made the echoes of Kenmuir ring with the following, which he sung to the old Gaelic air, "I am asleep, do not waken me:"-

"When spring frae the blue lift in beauty comes smiling,
And stem icy winter gangs frowning away;
While blythe singe the mavis the bright hours begulling,
And woods a’ are basking in leafy array;
Coltsfoot and celandine
Wee gowden starnies shine.
And sweetly the primrose and violet blow;
Forth over hill and glen,
Far frau the haunts of men,
Joyously wandering, we flower-lovers go.

"When sweet simmers smile sets the braes a’ a-blooming,
And swallows return frae their haunts war the sea,
While rosebud and hawthorn their dens are perfuming,
And speedwells are bright, as a Sir maiden’s e’e;
Kingcups and daisies fair
Spangle cur meadows rare—
Lillies are glancing where clear streamlets flow;
Forth over hill and glen,
Far frae the haunts of men,
Joyously wandering, we flower-lovers go.

"When sere-leaved decay o’er the woodlands is stealing,
And bell-flowers are waving their pennons of blue,
While hairst a’ her treasures in rich fields revealing
Brings plenty and joy to the blythe reapa’s view;
Clamb’ring o’er bank and brae
Schoolboys are wandering gay,
Plundering the hazel, the bramble, and sloe;
Forth over hill and glen,
Far frae the haunts of men,
Joyously wandering, we flower-lovers go.

"Though winter in storms oar the dark earth is flying,
And flowers smile use mair on the cauld cheerless day,
Yet nature has charms ‘mong the lone woods lying,
Dear to the soul which delights In her sway;
O’er ruin’s crumbling wall
Green hangs the ivy pall,
Rich coral gems deck the rude holly bough
Where over hills and glen,
Far frae the haunts of men,
Joyously wandering, we flower-lover’s go.

"We grudge not the worldling his pomp, power, and pleasure,
Tho’ nameless and poor, down life’s rough coarse we steer,
Each field-path and hedgerow to us yields a treasure,
And ours are the beauties encircling the year;
Bird, beast, and flowery lea,
Rock, stream, and leafy tree,
Rich tendrills of love round our hearts seem to throw,
When forth over hill and glen,
Far free the haunts of men,
Joyously wandering, we flower-lovers go."

Poor Allan concluded his song amidst the plaudits of his humble compeers. Many springs and many summers have passed since last we saw him at Kenmuir. He is now a tenant of the narrow house. The flowers he loved so well return with the returning seasons, but never again shall he rejoice in the beauty of their presence.

Numerous, indeed, are the forms and faces which haunt our fancy as we linger by the Marriage Well—

"Memories grow around it thick as flowers."

But some have died at home among their own people; some on distant shores have found a stranger’s grave; and among those who are still in the land of the living, time and chance have wrought a sad dispersion.

Ascending to the brow of the bank, a prospect of great beauty meets our gaze. Far below, the Clyde is seen between the ivied trunks which bristle the steep, quivering in a sunny ripple, or stretching in wandering loveliness around the green tree-studded haughs of Daldowie on the one hand, and towards the wood-fringed banks of Carmyle on the other. That spacious mansion to the left, couching upon its own verdant lawn, is the residence of Mr. M’Call of Daldowie, and certainly a more desirable place of abode it would be difficult to imagine. In the middle distance, in the same direction, the red tower of Bothwell Church meets the eye—the Castle is lost in foliage; while, far beyond and faintly visible on the horizon, looms the dim form of Tintoe, the conical giant of the Upper Ward. To the right Cambuslang is sleeping in the sun, with the Dychmont and Cathkin hills forming a fine background to the picture which it presents. Turning to the right about, we behold, over a level and fertile expanse, thickly dotted with houses, the mighty cloud of smoke, which ever indicates the city of our habitation, with the dark outline of the old Cathedral, "St. Rollox Lum," and other prominent features of Sanct Mungo’s town peering duskily through the veil. In the distance to the right, the range of the Campsie Fells is seen stretching from Kilsyth to Dungoyne, while the Kilpatrick braes form the horizontal line to the left,. and through the gap of the Lennox, Benlomond shows his ample shoulders and snow-enveloped brow. Of a truth, sweet Kenmuir! thou commandest a magnificent panorama; and we have often marvelled that, lying within the scope of a forenoon’s walk from yon vast maze of industry, thou hast not won at least a hundred pilgrims for each one who has hitherto come to thy shrine.

As this is the turning point of our ramble, it now remains for us to decide whether we shall retrace our steps by the margin of the Clyde, a distance we should imagine of some six or seven miles, or by making an inland cut to the Glasgow and Hamilton road, find our way home by a route of about half that length. As the day is somewhat advanced, and ourselves somewhat tired withal, we conclude that the latter course is on the whole the most advisable. Striking therefore into a footpath through the green corn, we speedily find Her Majesty’s highway, and passing through Tollcross and Parkhead (commonplace villages both), arrive once more, in about an hour and a-half from the time we leave Kenmuir, at the comfortable fireside from whence, some half-dozen of hours previously, we had taken our start. Recalling our ramble, we exclaim with Wordsworth,—

"How fair appears the rural scene,
For thou, O Clyde, hast ever been
Beneficent as strong;
Pleased in refreshing dews to steep
The little trembling flowers that peep
Thy shelving rocks among!"

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