Fall of Stonebyres, pp.21-24.

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          Deep, deep down, and far within,
Toils with the rocks the roaring linn;
Then issuing forth one foamy wave,
White as the snowy charger’s tail.
SCOTT.

 

THE fall of Stonebyres is distant from Lanark, about two and a half miles, and is nearly the same distance below that of Corehouse. It receives its name from the estate of Stonebyres, in the neighbourhood of which it is. The road from Glasgow to Lanark, by Hamilton and Dalserf, passes within a few hundred yards of it; and as the grounds are here open and unenclosed, it can be viewed without troubling the proprietors or their servants, as is necessary in seeing the two upper falls. Every facility is, no doubt, afforded at Bonniton, and admission to the grounds cheerfully granted; the visitor, however, is not allowed to enter them alone, but is always accompanied by a servant, and dragged from one point of view to another, without being allowed time to recover from his first astonishment, or to examine the scenery as he would wish.

A narrow pathway, which branches off from the public road, leading through a small wood, brings the spectator to a projecting part of the precipitous banks, from whence the fall is seen to great advantage. The banks are here quite perpendicular, and of great height; and the spectator finds himself suddenly placed on this projecting point, with only a small tree to support him. In front, the river is seen pouring over a height of eighty feet, a sheet of white and billowy foam. As at the fall of Corehouse, the river makes here three distinct leaps, before it reaches the boiling chasm below; though when it is large this is not observed, and the water is projected over in one unbroken torrent. The rocks which overhang the fall are black, wild, and rugged, and appear as if they had undergone the action of fire; they are fringed with trees, but these possess neither the beauty, nor the majesty, of those which overhang the other falls. Indeed, Stonebyres has a much more horrid, and savage aspect than either of them. The very dangerous situation too, from which it is viewed, certainly increases this feeling; and the spectator, can hardly continue long to contemplate a scene, where he is so much excited, though certainly possessing, in a high degree, wild and savage grandeur. The grounds on both banks, are more in a state of nature, than those either of Bonniton or Corehouse; and nothing has been done to modify the original wildness of the scene. A mill has been erected on the very brink of the fall, but at present it seems to be unoccupied.

It is possible, from the place where it is generally viewed, to descend to the bed of the river, and thus to go almost to the bottom of the fall; but this is an undertaking, the hazard of which, few dare, or indeed ought to risk, as the slightest false step, would most certainly lead to instant death. Yet it would seem that Pennant had descended. He says of this fall, “it consists of two precipitous cataracts, falling one above the other into a small chasm, bounded by lofty rocks, forming an amazing theatre to the view of those who take the pains to descend to the bottom.” It is not uncommon to observe, some quiet brother of the angle, diminished by the height from which he is seen, almost to the appearance of a pigmy, who has overcome the  dangers of this slippery path, plying his rod in the foaming abyss at the bottom of the cataract, disregarding its noise or fury, and apparently as unconcerned as if he were following his sport on the banks of some silent stream, flowing amid rich and fertile meadows. Stonebyres is the greatest height to which salmon can ascend in the Clyde. Their attempts during spawning season to overleap the fall, are incessant and amusing; but its great height baffles their utmost efforts. They are, however, seen continually springing into the air, their bright scales glittering in the sunbeams, and again falling back into the raging pool, below the fall.

The estate of Stonebyres is the property of Daniel Vere, Esq. the present representative of the ancient family of De Vere, or Weir, who have long possessed lands in Lanarkshire. This property has belonged to the same family for several hundred years. The house of Stonebyres is situated on the top of a hill to the south of the river; it is of great antiquity, and appears to have been originally a place of considerable strength.

Below the fall of Corehouse, the banks of the river begin to recede into green and sloping hills, which form a beautiful relief after the rocky chasm, through which it had, for some distance, previously been flowing. Many fine meadows, and richly wooded rising grounds, on which stand various gentlemen’s seats, ornament its course, till it reaches Stonebyres. Indeed, few more beautiful scenes can be seen, than that from the high grounds above the bridge of Lanark; the variety of hill and dale, the water and its various windings, the groups of fine wood, scattered in various situations, give it altogether a very charming effect.

On the low grounds, near the river, and immediately beneath the hills on which stands the old town of Lanark, is the village of New Lanark, and its extensive Cotton Factories. This place, from the singular tenets of the gentleman who was long the proprietor, is well known, and has often been described. It is a remarkably clean, well built village, but possesses in itself no other beauty. It is, no doubt, interesting, as a manufacturing establishment of great importance, and some may perhaps value it from the principles, which have been attempted to be there developed; but most certainly, its straight lines, and large regular built Factories, entirely destroy the picturesque beauty of that portion of the river, where it is situated.

About two or three miles below Stonebyres, at a place called Orchard, on the north bank of the Clyde, resides an individual, whom it would hardly be doing justice to, to pass unmentioned, in our remarks on this part of the country. We allude to Mr. Robert Forrest, who, as a sculptor, is now pretty well known in Scotland. His statue of the great reformer, John Knox, at Glasgow, and that of Lord Melville, more recently executed by him for Edinburgh, afford sufficient evidence of his talents, in this difficult and ingenious branch of the fine arts. Mr. Forrest is remarkable as an instance of perfectly native and self-taught genius. He has resided all his life in this neighbourhood, where he was born: and has had little opportunity of studying sculpture, either from books, from the instructions of others, or from the examination of fine models. From his earliest youth, however, he exhibited marks of a taste for the art. When a shepherd boy on the hills, it is said, he was accustomed to amuse himself, with making small clay models: he was afterwards bred a mason, in which business he is still engaged, and for a long period he was accustomed to exercise his skill, in cutting figures of men and animals in stone. Many years ago, he executed a statue of the patriot Wallace, which he presented to the town of Lanark. It has been placed in a niche, in the steeple of the Church there, where it still stands, a monument alike of the patriot, and of the public spirit and talents of the artist. Mr. Forrest has a lease of a quarry at Overton, about a mile below Nethan Bridge, where he carries on his business. Here this ingenious man is usually to be found, working among his Journeymen and apprentices at his ordinary occupation, though certainly he is worthy of one much higher. A great number of his statues, are places all around the top of the quarry, and as it is near the side of the road, they have rather a singular appearance in the eyes of strangers, unacquainted with the place. It is not unworthy of remark, that most of these statues have occupied their present situation, which is quite exposed, and at a distance from any houses, for a number of years, yet such is the respect, in which Mr. Forrest is held by the surrounding population, that no attempt has been ever made in the slightest degree, to injure or deface any one of them. Mr. Forrest is about 39 years of age, of the middle size, with a mild and rather interesting countenance. His manners are modest and unassuming; and he is obliging and attentive to strangers, who visit the quarry.

it is not a little singular, that another artist, who has already exhibited talents of no ordinary description, has made his appearance in this place. Mr. John Greenshields, residing at Willans, in the neighbourhood of Mr. Forrest’s quarry, was bred a mason; and continued to work at his business in that neighbourhood, and also at Glasgow, till he was thirty years of age, without either himself, or any one else, having the least conception, that he had any genius for sculpture. Indeed, he never, during all that period, even attempted to carve a stone, or to do any thing more than prepare an ordinary stone, for the wall of a house. At the time Mr. Forrest was engaged with the Melville statue, Mr. Greenshields, who was in his employment, was set to block out some parts of it, which he did to Mr. Forrest’s satisfaction. After this, he began to think of attempting something himself. In the winter evenings, after his day’s labour was over, he executed in stone, a figure of a dog; and afterwards, modeled his father’s and his brother’s likenesses in clay. These attempts having been seen and commended by various individuals, he was excited to cultivate the talent, he had so accidentally discovered he possessed. he immediately began, so far as his opportunities admitted, to study the principles of the art; read every book upon it he could procure and purchased several small plaster of Paris models. He continued to execute various figures, copied from others; and at length he modeled and executed in stone a small statue of Lord Byron. He, last year, did one of the late Mr. Canning, four feet high; and he is at present engaged on the third statue, which he has done from his own designs. This is a colossal statue of his Royal Highness the late Duke of York. It was not finished when we saw it, (March, 1828,) but it was then sufficiently advanced, to show the judgement and talents of the artist. The likeness is taken from the bust by Nollekens, which is said to be very correct; the design of the figure, however, is entirely Mr. Greenshield’s own. His Royal Highness is in a Field Marshall’s uniform; and it is truly surprising, what a degree of dignity and grace has been given the figure, and how admirably the most minute parts of the dress and decorations are executed by this rural artist, who assuredly never saw a Field Marshall, and could have but few opportunities of seeing any officer above the rank of a Colonel, in his life. The stone which he has used, is one of great beauty, and nearly as white as marble, for which indeed, at a short distance, it might easily be mistaken; and is perfectly free, notwithstanding the great size of the block, from any spot or mark whatever. It is from a quarry on the estate of Robert Lockhart, Esq. of Cambusnethan, who gave it free of charge to the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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