Statistical account of Kilsyth 1791

By the Rev Mr Robert Rennie

P214                                     Statistical Account


Number XI



  By the Rev. Mr ROBERT RENNIE

THIS parish consists of two baronies, the east and the west. The former for many ages has been called Monaebrugh. The latter Kilsyth ; but till the year 1649, it belonged to the parish of Campsie.

Origin of the Names.— The etymology of the names is uncertain. It seems even dubious whether they be of Latin or Gaelic origin. If the name Kilsyth be derived from the Latin, it may perhaps have been a compound of cella, a church, chapel, or burying ground, and Ceta, a Romish saint. And it was certain that there was a chapel in the district ; for though it is now rased to the foundation, the place still bears the name of Chapelgreen, being the site of a school.

If the name be of Gaelic original, it is most probably derived from cuil, a cell or burying ground, and Scoth, peace. This derivation is equally plausible as the other. For near Chapelgreen, which is almost in the centre of the west barony,


there was formerly a tumulus or cairn of stones. That this tumulus was a burying ground or funeral pile, is certain ; for an urn and ashes were some time ago found in it. And there is a faint tradition, that it was erected over the dead, slain in a memorable battle, fought between the natives and the Romans ; which was the forerunner of a peace. It is but justice to say, however, that the same tradition bears, that the natives were surprised unarmed, and therefore, had re course to the first offensive weapon that offered, which was their scyths or sickles,  And from this circumstance, it is said, the district derived its name.

The etymology of Monaebrugh is as uncertain. Gentlemen acquainted with the Gaelic suppose it to he a compound of monaugh, hilly, and ebroch, a place full of rivulets. And it must be acknowledged, that this is descriptive of the general appearance of that district. For it contains an endless succession of hill and dale, from one end to the other, and it is intersected by a great variety of rills.

Others have supposed it to he of Latin original. If so, it is perhaps a compound of mena, a monk, and Ebroch, the name of a small rivulet which runs through this district. And in confirmation of this there is a tradition in this parish, that a certain saint, whose name is not recorded, had a hermitage in a sequestered glen upon this very rivulet.

Situation. — The whole parish is situated in the county of Stirling.  But it is the southermost extremity of it.  The form of it is an irregular oblong square,  running in length along the great high way, leading from Edinburgh to Glasgow, 7 miles. The breadth is nearly one half of its length. Of course, it contains nearly 24 miles square, or about 15000 acres. The rivers Carron on the north, and Kelvin on the south, Inchwood burn on the west and the Bush burn on the east


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South appears like the sea in a calm; while the hills on the north seem to raise like islands out of the main, or like the tumultuous waves of the ocean in a storm.

Though there is scarcely a peep between any of the hills to the north, yet there in an infinite variety of scenery of every kind to the south. The Firths of Forth and Clyde, with the islands they contain ; a vast variety of lakes and rivers, woods and wilds, with innumerable rich corn fields and inclosures; the great canal, and villages, towns, cities and shires, add beauty, variety, and grandeur to the whole.

Soil. - Where there is such an uneven surface, there must of course be a great variety of soil. In general a light sandy or gravelly bottom is most prevalent ; excepting in the rich, beautiful,, and extensive valley west of the town. It consists of a rich loamy fertile soil, from 2 to 2 ½  feet thick ; and contains upwards of 600 acres. The west barony is upon the whole the richest; approaching often to clay: the east is more gravelly. In some places the surface is almost entirely covered with small stones, from the quarter of a pound to two or three pounds weight. These however, are not supposed to he injurious, but rather an advantage to the soil. They are said to prevent the ground from heaving and casting the seed in spring,- to shelter the tender blade in summer. They are supposed likewise to prevent the scorching rays of the sun from withering the corns,- to retain the moisture in great drought ; and, by retaining also the heat all the summer night. to promote vegetation. Perhaps the principal advantage is generally overlooked ; which is, that they throw off a kind of laminous rind or shell, like the coats of an onion, which, being mixed with calcareous earth, moulders down and meliorates the grounds. The sandy soil which prevails here, though light and shallow, is generally productive; always easily cultivated and  


and susceptible of much improvement at a moderate expense. Being naturally dry, it suits best with a wet summer; and would almost require a shower every day.

Climate —Of course, it is very well adapted to our climate, which is rather watery. As we lie along that line of hills which reaches the Atlantic on the west, we are exposed to frequent heavy showers from that quarter; especially when the wind is westerly, which it generally is for nine months in the year. The hills at Greenock attract the clouds that rise from the Western Ocean. And if the wind is high, it conveys them along the whole line of hills. If there is only a gentle breeze, which veers a little to the N. W. the clouds follow the line of the Clyde, and leave that of the hills at Dumbarton or Kilpatrick, This, of course, is the point to which the husbandman, in hay time, and harvest, looks with eager suspense: And it is a kind of barometer which seldom fails. For, if the clouds leave the hills at Kilpatrick, and follow the line of the Clyde, we may rest assured, that we shall escape the shower; but we can seldom escape, when the clouds follow the direction of the hills.

But though the climate is in a certain degree moist, it is far from being unhealthy. The air is in general pure and salubrious perhaps more so than either near the east or west coast. For as we lie at an equal distance from both, we are of course free from the peculiar inconveniences of either. We are seldom visited with the fogs which prevail in the east ; and are not exposed to the almost incessant rains, which predominate in the west. The fogs seldom rise so high ; and the clouds are often expended before they reach us. Hence, in summer and harvest the sky with us is often clear and serene; when at Greenock it is cloudy, dark, and lowrlng, and on the frith of Forth thick and foggy; as may be seen at a distance from our hills;

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