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The Annals of Penicuik
Chapter I - Topography of the Parish

It has been frequently said that the parish of Penicuik, in the shire of _Midlothian, bore at one time the name of St. Mungo. Such is the statement in the New. Statistical Account of the parish, which was written in 1839 by the Rev. W. Scott Moncrieff'; while the writer of the old Statistical Account in 1793, the Rev. Thomas M'Courty, quotes Sir James Clerk as having been of that opinion. The assertion has been frequently repeated ; but it has no documentary evidence in its favour. It is probable that the first primitive church-building erected in the district may have been dedicated to that saint; and it is of course possible that the name may have been applied to a portion of the land surrounding it: but at best this is only a supposition. It is moreover positively known that in the eleventh century the barony, then co-equal with the parish, was called Penicok. This word, according to the best authorities, was originally spelt Pen-y-coc, signifying the Hill of the Cuckoo, and the name was probably suggested to our ancient British ancestors by the number of these birds frequenting the native woodlands in spring-time.

At first the name might only be applied to some hillock or upland, but when afterwards the country was divided into parishes it would no doubt be readily accepted, by those whose duty it was to supply their nomenclature, as being suitable for the whole of the newly defined area. It has been stated that the parish of Glencorse was at a subsequent period formed from certain sections of land taken from Penicuik and Pentland, but this record is not authentic. So far as can he ascertained, the boundaries of Penicuik as originally fixed continued undisturbed until about the middle of the seventeenth century. At that period the small parishes of Mount Lothian and St. Catherine's were suppressed, and annexed to Penicuik. In consequence of these changes in the original plan of the parish, its boundaries now present a very curious and irregular outline, including within them a total area of 18,9669 acres of hill and dale, moorland, and cultivated land.

Any one desirous of studying the physical features of the parish of Penicuik could not do better than place himself on a summit of one or other of the symmetrical and beautiful Pentland hills which traverse it from north-east to south-west. From this vantage-point lie would see the whole area of the parish spread out as a leap before him. If, to be-in with, he sought to study its Hydrographr, he could trace the river Esk flowing through it in a south-easterly direction, and with its tributary streams and wooded banks giving diversity and beauty to the landscape. Not far from its source, and unflooded by more than one little rivulet, it would be seen entering the grounds of Newhall, made famous as the scene of Ramsay's beautiful Scottish pastoral. Flowing onwards, its stream increased by the Carlops Burn, and the Monks or Ninemileburn, it passes beneath Marfield Loch, the only natural sheet of water in the parish, and with the physical peculiarity of having no apparent means of inlet or outlet. After disappearing into the beautifully wooded policies of Penicuik, and before it finally leaves the parish, the further channel of the river is deepened and widened by its other tributaries, the Harkenburn, Silverburn, Hareburn, and Blackblu•n. There would also be visible to the spectator on the hill, the dome-like enclosures at Saltersike and Silverhurn, covering the copious springs from which the village of Penicuik receives its plentiful supply of excellent water. Within the grounds of Sir George Clerk there might be hidden from his sight by their fringe of woodland the three beautiful artificial lakes known as IIurly Cove and the Low and High Ponds. The first and last mentioned were made by Baron Sir John Clerk, and were favourite resorts of that learned antiquarian. The High Pond is a lovely sheet of water, extending to over six acres, and much enhances the attractiveness of the policies surrounding the mansion-house.

The springs of water throughout the parish are also numerous, and it cannot be doubted that their presence has been an important factor in the development of the paper-making industry, thus having a bearing upon the prosperity of the whole district.

Passing on to notice other physical features of the parish, the eye of the observer would be gratified by the wealth of woodland which enriches the landscape. On the Penicuik estate alone there are 1273 acres of trees, fairly well distributed in belts of planting over its entire area. '1'llis useful rural improvement upon the property of the Clerk family was begun some two hundred years ago by the first Baronet of that name. It was developed to a considerable extent by his son and grandson, especially in the vicinity of the mansion-house, but it remained to their descendant, the late Right Honourable Sir George Clerk, to extend to its present limits the enlightened system of laying down strips and clumps of trees for the benefit of shelter, and for the purpose of beautifying his estate generally. On the Newhall property, situated in the south-west of the parish, the woodlands, Which were at one time fairly abundant, are now unfortunately becoming thin, and as much in need of replanting as the soil around them is in want of draining.

It will undoubtedly be it matter of regret to the intelligent observer that a lame portion of the land of the parish still remains ill a state of nature. The existence of such wet masses as Harlaw Muir, Auchencorth Moss, Springfield, Wellington, Halls, and Rosemay Muirs, with the additional 1268 acres of unreclaimed ground at Mountlothian, must, it is to he feared, affect adversely the climate of the district. In consequence of so much wild land lying to the south and south-east, it is not surprising that although much of it is hidden from view by strips of plantation, the bleakest portion of the parish is that approached by the Lamancha road at Leadburn, called in olden times Leckbernard. My readers may be familiar with the description given of it in The Strange Adventrrres of a Phaeton, by William Black the novelist. He there speaks of the little inn and its surroundings as a cut-throat-looking place, calculated to impress the traveller with awe and terror. This exaggerated account, from the diary of a weary and hungry traveller, written under ulnfavourable atmospheric conditions, is no true picture of the place; but it is satisfactory to he able to record that since that time much has been clone by the proprietors of the small estates of Stellknowe and Leadurn Park to beautify and improve the amenities of this upland portion of our parish.

In writing of the physical features of a parish it is customary to give some account of its Flora and Fauna, as well as of its Geology and Mineralogy. Iii consideration, however, of the number of books already published by specialists dealing in an exhaustive and scientific manner with these subjects, as they are found, not in Penicuik parish only, but, in Midlothian generally, it is needless to give a further description of them in this volume. In another chapter allusion is made to the working of coal, but it may be mentioned here that limestone was also quarried and burnt for a considerable period at the kilns of Fullerton and Mountlothian. The competition, however, which ultimately arose from quarries more favourably situated in regard to their proximity to railway stations finally made local traffic unremunerative, and the kilns are rapidly becoming unfit for further service. Extensive beds of sand and ;ravel exist quite close to the village, and are worked by local contractors. There are also several valuable quarries of freestone throughout the parish, notably that at Mar-field, from which were taken the stones to build a portion of Penicuik House and much of the present village, and which still affords abundant material to supply the needs of the district.

Apart from the natural beauties of wood and water and hedgerows, which would delight the eve of the spectator as he gazed down from the Pentland steeps upon our parish, several other objects of interest might arrest leis attention. Embowered amidst its woods might be seen the turrets of the mansion of Newhall—a building rich in its associations with amen eminent in letters and in art who used to reside within its walls, the guests of a former proprietor. Farther down the river, the crumbling ruins of Brunstane Castle would remind him of the feudal times, when a Crichton finessed and plotted within then, regardless of his country's weal, so long as his own ambition was satisfied.

On the other side of the Esk, and directly eastwards, the handsome obelisk at Ravensneuk, dedicated to Allan Ramsay, would recall time fact that the Clerks of Penicuik as well as time Forbeses of Newhall were time patrons and friends of that faithful delineator of the manners and customs of the rustics of a past generation. The beautiful spire at the offices of Penicuik house plight reasonably suggest to the onlooker the proximity of a place for Divine worship rather than it stable. At first designed by Sir James Clerk for the parish church at Penicuik, but its erection there being forbidden by his fellow-heritors, the Baronet determined to see the creation of his brain in stone and lime, and hence the presence of this unusual and imposing structure at the entrance to the stable-yard. Opposite it is the large dome representative of Arthur's O'On, folly described in another chapter while behind is the stately tower erected by Baron Clerk as a landmark, as well as to serve the useful of it dovecot for his family. Most imposing of all, however, is the mansion-house of Penicuik—one of the finest houses, if not indeed the very finest, in all the shire. Tile central portion of it was designed and built in 1761 by Sir James Clerk, the third Baronet, after his return from it long residence in Italy, with a mind enriched by classical tastes and ideas. The two wings were erected under the supervision of Mr. David Bryce, an Edinburgh architect, in 1857, but they do not improve the general appearance of the building.

The fine taste of Sir James was further shown in the internal treatment of his princely mansion. The rich mural decorations by Alexander Runciman, in the drawing-room known as Ossian's Hall, are familiar to all students of decorative art, while the adornment bv the same artist of one of the cupolas surmounting
the staircase with scenes from the life of Queen Margaret is remarkable for its richness of tone and dramatic power of illustration.

The house itself contains a rich store of antiquarian and artistic treasures, all of which have been very ably described in a recent publication by Mr. John M. Gray, F.S.A., the cultured Curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Newbigging House, the residence of former proprietor, occupied a site close behind the present mansion. A sketch of this pieturesque and interesting old building, by John Clerk of Eldin, has happily been preserved, and is reproduced in the volume of his etchings printed by the Bannatyne Club.

In its time it also was the finest family residence in Midlothian. It was in all probability erected by Lord President Preston, shortly after he acquired the Penicuik estate in 1609.

If, before allowing his eve finally to rest upon the village of Penicuik, nestling under the very shadow of the hills upon which he stands, our intelligent observer looked again towards the southern limits of the parish, his attention might be arrested by a large group of red brick buildings, known as the Wellington Reformatory Farin School. This excellent institution was founded in the year 1859 for the reformation of juvenile offenders. Owing much to the enlightened efforts of the late Sheriff Cleghorn, the late Bailie Thomas Russell, and Mr. John Cowan of Beeslack, aided by the energy and Christian influence of its late excellent Superintendent, Mr. John Craster, it has from small beginnings grown to be a large and beneficial agency, not only for the eradication of habits of vice, but for training its inmates in handicrafts which fit them for a useful and successful career in after-life. In the thirty years of its existence nearly 900 lads have passed through the Wellington Reformatory. While not a few of them, by industry and good conduct, occupy important appointments at home, many others, owing to the wise provision made by the Directors for emigration, have attained to positions of comfort and influence in other lands. The training received by the lads in agricultural work, boot-making, and other handicrafts, fit them in an especial manner for after success in life. Although 830 feet above sea-level, the system of farming adopted and carried on by them, under experienced supervision, has resulted in a marvellous improvement of time lands belonging to the institution. Where, thirty years ago, a few sheep and cattle struggled for a scanty subsistence on time wet and peaty soil, heavy crops of cereals, turnips, and potatoes are now produced. The large boot-factory, with machinery driven by steam-power, turns out annually boots and shoes to the value of' nearly L 3000. Primary as well as technical instruction is not forgotten, and Government reports continue most favourable year by year as to the passes of the lads in the ordinary educational subjects.

Mr. Craster, the first Governor of time Wellington, died on the 2d of July 1890, regretted by all who knew him, and by none more than those lads whose master and helper lie had been. The Directors unanimously appointed his son, Mr. John Craster, to succeed him as Governor.

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