PARISH OF KILSYTH.
PRESBYTERY OF GLASGOW, AND SYNOD OF GLASGOW AND
THE REV. WILLIAM BURNS, MINISTER.
Name.-Anciently, Monaebrugh, was the name of this parish, supposed to be a compound of Monaugh, hilly, and Ebrugh, streams; and the name is very descriptive of the eastern district of this parish, which, till 1649, constituted the whole parish. At that period, what is called the West Barony was disjoined from Campsie, and added to Moniabrugh,† or the East Barony, which continued to be the name of the parish till about a hundred years ago, when the whole parish was more usually designated Kilsyth. The Rev. James Robe, who was ordained minister of Kilsyth in the year 1713, and wrote his "Narrative" in 1743, speaks of the parish "Kilsyth, till lately called Moniabroch." The oldest set of tokens, so late as the year 1755, have MK stamped upon them, doubtless "Monibrugh Kirk;" and the communion cups, 1731, are marked "For the Kirk of Monaebrugh?" Thus, in solemn affairs, the older name was longer retained than in common usage. The estate of Livingstone, Viscount of Kilsyth, the great proprietor of the district, when the West and East Baronies were both included in the same parish, naturally gave name to the parish. I conjecture that the name Monibrugh, originally applied to the kirk, which was anciently on a part of the Barwood, where the burn of Abroch rises, and which well corresponds to the description implied by the name; and having been used to designate the kirk, would very naturally be applied to the whole parish, till the addition from Campsie of a valuable part of the estate of Kilsyth, gave occasion to the new name.
With regard to the etymology of Kilsyth, the first syllable is familiar to all; the second, syth, is somewhat uncertain. It is either the name of one of the saints of the Romish calendar, or derived from sythin,* which signifies peace. In the West Barony, near a ~ace called Chapel-green, there was a tumulus, in which an urn and ashes were found; and there is a tradition, that this cairn was erected over the dead slain in a battle betwixt the natives and the Romans, which was the forerunner of a peace.
† The spelling in the records is always Moniabrugh.
* See Nimmo's History of Stirlingshire
Extent and Boundaries.- In form, the parish approaches to an irregular oblong; running in length along the north highroad from Edinburgh to Glasgow 7 miles. The mean breadth is fully one-half of its length. It contains nearly 24 miles square. The rivers Carron on the north; and Kelvin running west, and Bonnyburn running east, on the south; Inchwood burn on the west; and the Bushburn, on the east,-form the natural boundaries of the parish. It lies contiguous to St Ninians and Fintray, on the north; to Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch, on the south; to Denny, on the east; and Campsie, on the west. The Kelvin, which rises at Kelvinhead, near Rochill, three miles east from the town of Kilsyth, and which runs, or rather creeps, nearly parallel to the great canal, and very near it, divides the parish from Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch, and from the county of Dumbarton. The whole of Kilsyth parish is situated north of the Kelvin, with the exception of the two houses at the jetty to the south of Kelvinhead, which, though beyond Kelvin as it now runs, are considered as in Cumbernauld, as to payment of road money, &c but not ecclesiastically. The houses at Craigmarloch are in Cumbernauld, although the westernmost house is situated where the Kelvin previously flowed. With the above exception, the parish of Kilsyth does not touch the canal, although very near in its approaches to it.
Topographical Appearances.-The greater part, excepting the hill and moorland district to the north, exhibits very strikingly the appearance of a considerably extended but narrow strath, which might be named Strath Kelvin; insomuch that (as Dr Rennie described in the last Statistical Account), "at one point it seems to be part of a great ditch intersecting the kingdom, terminating at the Frith of Forth on the east, and at the Clyde on the west, being nearly equidistant from either." About two miles from the east end of the parish, is Rugh-hill, the highest part of the strath whence the Kelvin runs west, and the Auchincloch Burn and Bonny Water run east. The Dullatur Bog is almost on a level with the canal, which cuts it into almost equal parts, about 160 feet above the level of the Forth at Grangemouth. The names of places, in the direction westward, clearly indicate their former state of partial immersion; e.g. Bog-side, Bog-house, Gaval, Inch-wood, Netherinch, Inchterff, Inchbelly, Auchinvoll. The north-eastern part of the parish abounds in small knolls of a very picturesque description, the soil generally light and gravelly; whereas that of the western is of a deep moss and loamy description, till it rises towards the north, which presents a southerly exposure, affording excellent green pasturage. The Kilsyth hills form part of that moderately elevated ridge which begins at Greenock, running through Kilpatrick, Baldernock, Campsie, Kilsyth, and Denny, and thus intersects the kingdom from west to east betwixt the two friths of Clyde and Forth. None of these hills rise to a height which can be termed majestic; yet the Meikleben, which seems to unite the Campsie and Kilsyth hills, is 1500 feet above the sea,----a noble looking hill, the top of which is seen from a great distance in the direction of Lanark, and forms a striking land-mark from the Frith of Forth. The Garrel Hill and Tomtain, or Lairdshill, in this parish, are 1300 feet in height From the summit of the latter, a quarter of a mile to the west of Bardowie, on the Takmadoon road (Touchmadam, supposed), there is one of the most extensive and varied views in the kingdom. Part of at least fourteen counties can be seen from it. To the south, an extensive plain stretches out to the naked eye to Broadlawhill, in the parish of Tweedsmuir, Peebles-shire; to the west, as far as Goatsfell, in Arran; to the east, to the Pentland and Lammermuir Hills; to the north-east, the Lomonds, in Fife, are seen; while the prospect to the north presents an endless succession of hills upon hills. The southern side of the strath is a more gentle rising ground, in the direction of Graham's Dike, by Callendar woods, Cumbernauld, Dykehead, Craigmarloch, Croyhill, Bar, and Strowanhill.
Meteorology.-As the parish lies along the line of hills which reaches the Atlantic to the west, showers come chiefly from that quarter, especially when the winds are westerly, which they are a considerable part of the year. The air is generally pure and salubrious. The inhabitants of the country part of the parish, with the exception of the miners, are generally healthy, and arrive at considerable longevity. One man, Robert Miller, died two years ago, at the age of 101, and had lived for the most part in this parish, and in the married state, (his wife dying at the age of 86,) for sixty-four years. There are several persons of both sexes fourscore and upwards. The town of Kilsyth is favourably situated for health, yet few of the inhabitants, (chiefly weavers,) arrive at old age.
Mr Robe (Narrative) records, that, in the year 1738, on the 27th of June, a very remarkable thunder storm took place. The morning was fair, the sky clear, the sun bright. About eleven a.m. a gleamy kind of darkness overspread the sky; a water-spout seems to have fallen; numberless torrents poured from the hills, sweeping houses, bridges, corn, and cattle all before them. Several acres in the valley were covered with stones of all sizes, from 20 tons to small gravel; in some places, from 4 to 6 feet deep. In the year 1832, June 14th, we were visited with a similar waterspout and thunder storm, with hail, and torrents of rain. For two hours, the storm was truly terrific, and threatened awful devastation.
Geology-Soil-The East Barony and the West, into which divisions the parish has been distinguished since 1649, are remarkably unlike each other. The former consists, for the most part, of a great number of rising grounds in the strath, of a gravelly description Although the soil is, for the most part, light, it is productive, and easily cultivated. Immediately around Kelvinhead, east and south, the soil is of considerable depth, of a black loam, bearing excellent crops. Proceeding westerly by Gateside, Shawend, Woodend, Barr, and the glebe, it is much shallower, a light sharp soil lying generally upon blue whin. The valley west of the town, comprising also about half-a-mile to the east of it, is the richest soil in the parish, particularly the fields along the Garrel-burn to the north of the church, and the farm of Boghouse,, and part or Gaval along Kelvinside, which yield abundant crops of all descriptions, being much of the nature of carse land. On the whole, the light gravelly soil prevails, and, consequently, it is much better adapted to the production of barley and green crop, than for wheat or beans, &c
In the East Barony, there is a considerable line of ironstone, consisting of strata from four to fourteen inches thick, separated from each other by seams of clay or chalk, and subdivided by perpendicular fissures into small square wedges from six inches to two feet, which has been worked by the Carron Company for a considerable time, and to whom the estate of Tomrawer, to the east of the village of Banton, belongs, containing two tolerably good arable farms. In the northern hilly part or both baronies, there are seams of excellent coal at no great depth, the western approaching to the nature of the best Newcastle coal, the eastern of a harder quality, but also valuable, and now more difficult to work.
The Garrel glen freestone quarry is of excellent quality, easily wrought, of a fine whitish colour, and durable; not much inferior to the famous Possil quarry near Glasgow. The water which flows through this romantic glen, possesses the remarkable quality of forming curious vegetable impressions upon the surface of freestone pillars, vulgarly called coal-stalk; rising from the seam of coal like trees from the surface of the earth. They have a close resemblance to petrifactions; and yet the substance is just freestone similar to that of the surrounding rock. They, in some instances, branch out into regular ramifications at top, as they almost always do at bottom; and these do most strikingly resemble trees of the hawthorn, or elm species. Specimens are very easily met with. In the garden of Colzium, and in the garden belonging to the manse, there are to be seen, brought from the Garrel glen, remarkably good specimens of this curious incrustation or formation nay, so commonly are they to be met with, that, in several gardens about the village, we find them set up by way of ornament.
For the following very particular and accurate account of the soil, and of
the lime and ironstone of the parish, I am indebted to the late Mr John Rennie,
farmer at Currymire.
The best of the soil is alluvial, which has been carried down by the mountain stream, (particularly in 1733, as before noticed;) it is incumbent upon moss, mud, or clay; it has been much improved, and is capable of still greater improvement by drainage, which, being encouraged by the proprietor, will make the Vale of Kilsyth equal to the richest in Scotland. Draining is still in its infancy; its advantages, however, are already seen.
The soil of the parish should be classed into three kinds, besides the hill pasture, viz.
1 The rich alluvial soil lying in the lower part of the strath, interspersed with the moss of Dullatur bog; red moss and Inchterff moss, which form but a very minute portion of the strath, not exceeding 100 acres, while the rich alluvial part of the strath in the parish is about from 1200 to 1500 acres, or nearly one-third of the arable lands of the parish.
2. The gravelly and sandy strath, running the whole length of the parish, along the edge of the above described rich alluvial soil, and, betwixt that and the higher arable land; this gravelly sandy strath is bounded on its north edge, by a large dike or break in the strata.
3. The tilly or clayey strath, running along the northern boundary of the gravelly and sandy, and between that and the hill pasture. This is the coal district of the parish, and, of course, the worst and most unproductive land of the parish, comprehending perhaps three-fifths of the arable lands of the whole parish: the soil is tilly, close-bottomed, and not alluminous, consequently very inferior.
4. The hill pasture and grass farms are covered with fine rich pasturage for cattle and sheep, to the summit of the hills.
Lime.-The lime at the west side in the West Barony, deserves the encomium bestowed on it in the last Account. About 1806, the late Mr Neilson became the tenant of all the coal and lime on the estate of Kilsyth, belonging to Sir Charles, now Sir Archibald Edmonston. He extended and improved the lime-workings, and sold during his lifetime, at an average, nearly to the amount of L.2000 yearly, to the surrounding country. At his death (1819), the work began to fall off. At present, there is not one-twentieth part of the quantity sold at these works. The chief reason is, that the present tenant, Mr James Marshall, directs his capital to the coal trade, which is still more important and profitable. The working of lime at Berryhill is entirely abandoned.
There are other posts of limestone in the same line, which have never been wrought, except a small quantity by Mr Bow of Auchinriboch, for his own use. There is another known post of good lime, farther down the hill at Riskend, dipping towards the above land; never yet wrought. In 1825, the present proprietor of Kilsyth estate caused the mines at Corrie to be opened. As far as could be discovered, the veins had been exhausted. Every mine and shaft was cleared out, which had formerly been opened. From the analysis made, there is no doubt that copper exists in these veins, but only in small quantity. The heavy spar veins seem to be superficial; and, untill more expensive operations are made, it remains uncertain whether there exist any metal of value in this range of hills. It is, however, certain that veins of heavy spar exist, seen at the surface, in various parts of these hills. The blocks of jasper in the Hailstone Burn, above Corrie, are still found, as mentioned in last Account; but nothing has been done to turn them to account.
Ironstone,-The Carron Company have continued to work the ironstone at Banton, to much the same extent as stated in the last Account (about 5000 tons per annum; number of miners betwixt 50 and 60.) The ironstone on Mr Cadell's lands has been almost wrought out. The operations of the Company are now chiefly on their own lands, where they have fourteen different seams or bands of ironstone, wrought at various depths. Some of these seams are not of good quality, and, therefore, are not wrought; others are excellent. They vary in thickness from six to eighteen inches. Besides these, there is a band about thirty fathoms, called the fine stone, which is of superior quality and thickness; little of it, however, can be reached, as it is under water. The same seam of ironstone extends to the lands of Tomphin, where it has never been wrought. Large fields of ironstone are known to exist over the West Barony; but, excepting a partial working of a band or two at West-side, underlying the limestone a few fathoms, none have ever been wrought.
Coals.-Great part of the parish is a coal-field: but it is not of so much value as might be anticipated, from the broken nature of the strata, by dikes and hitches, which are everywhere met with. The principal dike is known to run into the River Forth near Airth, and commence's in this parish at Tomphin. This dike varies both in material and thickness. It is, at some places, thirty feet thick, at others double that number of yards. At some places, it consists of the hardest basalts, at others the softest blaes, and at others a mass of freestone debris, or solid freestone, or rotten whinstone, interspersed with round balls, &c. &c. It sends off, and receives many branches in its course within the parish. The seams are various, and of very different quality.' The Balcastle coal is admirable, much of the nature of the best English coal. In some pits lately opened near to Chapel-green, the coal was at first of a very inferior quality, but now it is good. The coal in the east is, though harder, yet valuable, and adapted for the oven and smith's furnace or forge. A great proportion of the coal at Balcastle and in the West Barony generally, is charred, and carried away for furnaces.
Hydrography.-The two rivers which form the boundaries of the parish on the north and south, are the Carron and the Kelvin. The former, as its name imports, is a winding stream, especially so far as it bounds this parish. The bonny links of Carron water are celebrated. For three miles it runs in a somewhat slow and serpentine course, through an extensive meadow. It is a delightful trouting stream, and is much frequented by anglers, for many miles round.
The Kelvin, taking its rise near the House of Kelvinhead, on the land of Ruchill, in a kind of marsh, descends in a very small rill to the low ground on the south, near to the great canal, where it soon receives an accession from a part of Shawend burn, and, farther west, from the Garrel and Ebroch. It moves slowly through the valley westward, upwards of four miles in this parish. At Inchbelly; where it leaves us, it becomes a beautiful stream; its banks green, smooth, and wooded. Till the year 1792, it was choked up with flags, rushes, and water-lilies, frequently overflowing the adjacent valley, and giving it the appearance of a great lake. The late Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bart. of Duntreath, grandfather to the present proprietor of the same name, who purchased the estate of Kilsyth in 1784, proprietor of the lands to the north of the Kelvin for about four miles, projected and carried into effect a great improvement, under the inspection, and. according to the plan, of Robert Whitworth, engineer,---by straightening, deepening, and embanking, as described in the former Account. The sloping green bank, with its skirting of wood near Inchterff and Inchbelly, was formed under the eye, and at the expense of the late Captain Lennox of Woodhead. It must be acknowledged that the river, so far as this parish can claim it, is the reverse of picturesque, having the appearance of a small canal; but the useful must here be regarded as the beautiful, or, at any rate, as more than an equivalent As the Kelvin proceeds and approaches Glasgow, it becomes a fine stream; the aqueduct over it, and the dock where the canal branches off to Bowling Bay, have given it a celebrity, of which, at its rise, and while it bounds this parish, it gave no promise. Both our rivers, Carron and Kelvin, are known to song, but still better known to commerce. Who has not heard of Carron Works and Kelvin Dock?
There are several rivulets and burns in this parish. The most remarkable is the Garrel, as its name denotes, a rough, brawling stream. It rises on the Garrel Hill, one of the Kilsyth range; its whole course, till it runs into the Kelvin, is above three miles. In a mile and a-half it falls 1000 feet, having a great number of cataracts in its course. The narrow chasms worn by its rapid. and powerful stream in winter, are singularly romantic, and well repay the fatigue and occasional wetting of the curious visitor. The course or bed of the Garrel burn, below the Garrel Mill, is, for the most part, dry, its waters being carried off to the Town-head Loch, to the east of Colzium, excepting in a spate, when it comes down with great fury. When it arrives at the Burn Green, near the town of Kilsyth, it is joined and replenished by the small burn of Ebroch, which rises at the foot of the Barwood, about one mile east, and then joins the Kelvin, after flowing half a mile in the valley westward.
The whole of the low ground was, at one period, a loch or morass; but now, we have only one, the Townhead Loch, which is chiefly artificial, and a reservoir for supplying the canal. It is of an oval form, full three-quarters of a mile long, and from one-quarter to half a mile broad. It covers seventy-five acres imperial. The country round it, especially on the north, is very rugged and barren. A few firs are planted at the east end, and of late, a considerable plantation of trees has been formed at the west end. The old trees near the house of Mr Marshall of Townhead, with the island near the south-west end, give the whole the semblance of a natural sheet of water of great beauty. The banks have been raised, and the sluices, formerly of mason-work, are now of cast or malleable iron. A couple of swans were, a few years ago, brought to this loch; but they soon became tired of their situation It abounds in excellent trout. It was originally an extensive hollow, as if scooped out for the purpose. At one place only, was there a deep opening, by filling up which to the height of twenty-five feet, the work was at once completed; and, by leaving a sluice in the centre, it can be filled or emptied at pleasure. The expense was remarkably moderate, in proportion to the extent of surface, and the quantity of water it contains. The whole is finished in an ingenious manner. There are two other mountain-streams worthy of notice in the West Barony, viz. the Quinzie and Nether inch burns, which flow from the same fountain at Burnhead, on West-side farm, to the south of the Corrie-hill.
Springs.-There is no district, where there is a greater abundance of springs or wholesome water. Wellshot, opposite Auchinvolle, St Mirron's well, south of Woodend, and Kitty-fristy well, on the hill-road to Stirling, known to all foot-passengers, are powerful springs, of most delicious water. The town is chiefly supplied by conductors from the Barwood, south-east of the town. The mineral spring at Dovecot wood is now scarcely perceptible. There is one in the glen near Garrel mill.
Botany.-Our romantic-glens of Garrel, Colzium, Old Place, &c have not, so far as I know, been minutely explored by the professed. botanist. The Campsie glens have been more frequented, being nearer Glasgow, and more easy of access. The sloe, hawthorn, hyacinth, wild rasp, the elder, the bramble, and the hazel prevail. The scented woodruff is to be found in our rocky glens. Much has been done, of late years, in the planting of trees, which, with inclosures and neat farmhouses, has, given quite a new aspect to this parish.
There are a few fine specimens of aged yew trees at Townhead, near the loch, and a very few oaks of no great size*. The plantations at Ruchhill in the East Barony, and in the West Barony near Corrie, Lossit, Old Place, &c. are thriving and beautiful We cannot boast of fruit trees. It is the early and successful cultivation of the most useful Solanum tuberosum (potato,) on which the fame of this parish, in so far as botany is concerned, chiefly depends. " It not only gave birth to the gentleman who first introduced the culture of potatoes into this country, but it was the, scene of his earliest experiments." The gentleman referred to was Robert Graham, Esq. of Tamrawer, in the East Barony. It was in the year 1789, that he commenced this work of utility. Before that period, he and others had raised the potato in the garden; but there was a prejudice against raising it in the field. He planted half an acre of ground on the croft of Neilstone, to the north of the town of Kilsyth, where he at that' time resided as factor on the estate of Kilsyth. This excited the attention ofthe neighbourhood, and the practice spread extensively. Some noblemen, as well as farmers and agriculturists, came from a distance, among others the unfortunate Earl of Perth,-to observe the mode of culture, and the success of the experiments. Mr Graham rented lands in the vicinity of Renfrew, Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and for many years obtained premiums for cultivating the potato.
* What has been regarded as a great curiosity in nature history, may be here noticed. An ivy of considerable size growing without support of wall or wood extraneous to itself, doubling, over and over, with a large shrubby head waving in the wind, and braving all weathers, stands near the front of the manse. The solution is, that the offices stood there till 1816, on one end of which the ivy clung. The wall being removed, the ivy supported itself, till last winter; or early in spring, when the high winds were too powerful, and it is now no more.
II Civil history
IV Kilsyth Industry
V Kilsyth Economy