Of the Borough of Rutherglen, its Charters, Set, Antiquities, &c., Part IX., pp.89-98.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

HAVING made the above digression, it may not be unnecessary to observe, that of late, owing to various causes, the ancient custom of encircling church-yards with rows of trees, is, in many placed, discontinued. It is otherwise in Rutherglen. The church-yard, though situated in the middle of the town, is surrounded with a beautiful row of trees, about 50 in number; which, besides being an ornament for the town, adds not a little to the solemnity of the church. It appears by the council records, that the Magistrates and Council 1660, ordered the trees, then grown old with age, to be cut down, and others to be planted in their room. These, having served their time, were cut down 1715, when the trees at present occupying their place, were planted. It is to be hoped that the community of Rutherglen will imitate the praise worthy example of their predecessors, and take a pleasure, in seeing their borough exhibiting to posterity, a striking imitation of a religious custom, the most ancient, perhaps, next to that of sacrificing, at present existing in the world. 

THE Ministers of Rutherglen, since the Reformation, as their names are found in the records of the presbytery of Glasgow, are the following.

   Mr. John Muirhead, of the family of Lauchap, admitted on the 16th Decem. 1586. He left Rutherglen and went to Glasford, or “parsonage of Castle Sympell, the 8th Dec. 1587.” 

   Mr. Alexander Rowatt, from Dalziel, admitted 25th April, 1592. He went, ann. 1595, to the Barony of Glasgow, in which he was the first minister. He left the Barony and went to Cadder, 1611. 

   Mr. Archibald Glen, admitted 30th March, 1596. He was a man of great abilities and learning. He left Rutherglen and went to Carmunnock, 1603. 

   Mr. William Hamilton, son of John Hamilton of Newtoun, admitted 18th April, 1604. 

   Mr. Robert Young, admitted 21st Aug. 1611. – His son, Mr. William Young, was ordained assistant and successor to his father, 28th May, 1647. – Mr. William was succeeded by another assistant, of whom Principal Baillie, in his Letters, says, “He was a manikin of small parts.” 

   Mr. John Dickson was third assistant to Mr. Robert Young, and succeeded him in his charge. He was turned out at the Restoration, and his church given to Mr. Hugh Blair, jun. who was ordained, 1661: and continued until the Revolution, when he was turned out, and Mr. Dickson replaced; where he continued till his death, Jan. 1700. 

   Mr. Alexander Muir, ordained 17th Dec. 1701. 

   Mr. Alexander Maxwell, ordained 22d Sept. 1719. 

   Mr. William Maxwell, his brother, admitted 19th Aug. 1742. 

   Mr. James Furlong, the present incumbent, from the Chapel of Ease in Glasgow, admitted, 1780.

THE stipend, including the allowance for communion elements, is 147 bolls, 14¾ pecks of victual: of which, 55 bolls are of oats; 34 of barley; and the rest of oatmeal. It is, however, mostly paid in money, according to the market price of the victual. It appears from the records of the presbytery of Glasgow, that the stipend, ann. 1586, was no more than 60 marks. But the mark, at that period, contained double at least the quantity of silver that it does at present; and was, it is probable, eight or ten times more valuable. 

THE glebe contains 4½ acres; part of which is occupied by the manse and offices. The manse was rebuilt, ann. 1781: and, besides the materials of the old manse, cost the parish the sum of L. 187. 

THE right of patronage was anciently lodged in the abbot of Paisley. After the Reformation it belonged to the Hamiltons of Eliestoun, and, having passed through several families along with the estate, was, 1724, sold by Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, Esq; for the perpetual retention of eight bolls of tiend meal, payable from his lands within the royalty. “The Magistrates and Council; the heritors residing within the borough and thirteen pund land thereof; the members of the kirk-session; and the tenants of Shawfield, have jointly the right of presentation.” 

THE public School is generally well frequented. the salary is L. 10 ster. yearly. The stated wages are two shillings, per quarter, for English: and half a crown for Writing, Arithmetic and Latin. 

RUTHERGLEN gives the title of Earl, to Douglas, Duke of Queensberry. The first who was honoured with that title was Lord John Hamilton, third son of William and Anne, Duke and Duchess of Hamilton. He was, by king William, created Earl on the 15th April, 1697. He left only one child, Anne, Countess of Rutherglen, who married William, Earl of March, grandson of the first Duke of Queensberry, to which title his descendants succeeded, upon failure of the elder branch. 

THE following account of a few ancient customs, still observed in Rutherglen, will, it is hoped, be acceptable to the public. 

ONE of no small antiquity is, riding the marches on Laudemer day. The Magistrates, with a considerable number of the council and inhabitants, assemble at the cross; from which they proceed, in martial order, with drums beating, &c. and in that manner, go round the boundaries of the royalty, to see if any encroachments have been made on them. These boundaries are distinguished by march-stones, set up at small distances from each other. In some places there are two rows, about seven feet distant. The stones are shaped at the top, somewhat resembling a man’s head; but the lower part is square. This peculiar form was originally intended to represent god Terminus, of whom they are so many rude images. Every new burgess comes under an obligation to provide a march-stone, at his own expence, and to cut upon it the initials of his name, and the year in which it was set up. 

IT has been a custom, time out of memory, for the riders of the marches to deck their hats, drum, &c. with broom; and to combat with one another at the newly erected stone; out of respect, perhaps, to the deity whose image they had set up, or that they might the better remember the precise direction of the boundary at that place. This part of the exercise is now postponed till the survey is over, and the company have returned to the cross, where, having previously provided themselves with broom bushes, they exhibit a mock engagement, and fight, seemingly with great fury, till their weapons fail them, when they part in good friendship, and frequently, not until they have testified their affection over a flowing bumper. They ride the marches at least once in two years. 

ANOTHER ancient custom, for the observance of which Rutherglen has long been famous, is the baking of four cakes. Some peculiar circumstances, attending the operation, render an account of the manner in which it is done, not altogether unnecessary. About eight or ten days before St. Luke’s fair, (for they are baked a no other time of the year) a certain quantity of oatmeal is made into dough, with warm water, and laid up in a vessel to ferment. Being brought to a proper degree of fermentation and consistency, it is rolled up into balls, proportionable to the intended largeness of the cakes. With the dough is commonly mixed a small quantity of sugar, and a little anise seed, or cinnamon. The baking is executed by women only; and they seldom begin their work till after sun-set, and a night or two before the fair. A large space of the house, chosen for the purpose, is marked out by a line drawn upon it. The area within is considered as consecrated ground: and is not, by any of the by-standers, to be touched with impunity. A transgression incurs a small fine, which is always laid out on drink for the use of the company. This hallowed spot is occupied by six or eight women, all whom, except the toaster, seat themselves on the ground, in a circular figure, having their feet turned towards the fire. Each of them is provided with a bake-board, about two feet square, which they hold on their knees. The woman who toasts the cakes, which is done on a girdle suspended over the fire, is called the Queen, or Bride; and the rest are called her maidens. These are distinguished from one another, by names given them for the occasion. She who sits next the fire, towards the east, is called the Todler: her companion on the left is called the Hodler;1 and the rest have arbitrary names given them by the bride, as Mrs. Baker, best and worst maids, &c. The operation is begun by the todler, who takes a ball of the dough, forms it into a small cake, and then casts it on the bake-board of the hodler, who beats it out a little thinner. This being done, she, in her turn, throws it on the board of her neighbour; and thus it goes round from east to west, in the direction of the course of the sun, until it comes to the toaster, by which time it is as thin and smooth as a sheet of paper. The first cake that is cast on the girdle is usually named as a gift to some well known cuckold, from a superstitious opinion, that thereby the rest will be preserved from mischance. Sometimes the cake is so thin as to be carried, by the current of air, up into the chimney. As the baking is wholly performed by the hand, a great deal of noise is the consequence. The beats, however, are not irregular, nor destitute of an agreeable harmony; especially when they are accompanied with vocal music, which is frequently the case. Great dexterity is necessary, not only to beat out the cakes, with no other instrument than the hand, so that no part of them shall be thicker than another; but especially to cast them from one board on another, without ruffling or breaking them. The toasting requires considerable skill: for which reason the most experienced person in the company is chosen for that part of the work. One cake is sent round in quick succession to another, so that none of the company is suffered to be idle. The whole is a scene of activity, mirth and diversion; and might afford an excellent subject for a picture. 

AS there is no account, even by tradition itself, concerning the origin of this custom, it must be very ancient. The bread thus baked was, doubtless, never intended for common use. It is not easy to conceive why mankind, especially in a rude age, would strictly observe so many ceremonies, and be at so great pains in making a cake, which, when folded together, makes but a scanty mouthful. Besides, it is always given away in presents to strangers, who frequent the fair. The custom seems to have been originally derived from Paganism, and to contain not a few of the sacred rites peculiar to that impure religion: as the leavened dough, and the mixing it with sugar and spices; the consecrated ground, &c. &c. But the particular deity, for whose honour these cakes were at first made, is not, perhaps, easy to determine. Probably it was no other than the one known in scripture, Jer. vii. 18. by the name of the “queen of heaven,” and to whom cakes were likewise kneaded by women. 

BESIDES baking four cakes, it has, for a long time past, been a custom in Rutherglen to prepare salt roasts for St. Luke’s fair. Till of late almost every house in town was furnished with some dozens of them. They were the chief article of provision asked for by strangers who frequented the market; and were, not without reason, considered as a powerful preventive against intoxication. But the high price of butcher meat has now, in a great measure, brought them into disuse. 

THE town, however, continues to be famous for making sour cream of an excellent quality. It is made in the following manner. A certain quantity of sweet milk is put into a wooden vessel, or vat, which is placed in a proper degree of heat, and covered with a linen cloth. In due time the serous, or watery part of the milk begins to separate from the rest, and is called whig. When the separation is complete, which, according to circumstances, requires more or less time, the whig is drawn off by means of a cock and pale, or spigot in fauset, as it is called in England, and which is placed near the bottom of the vessel. The substance that remains is then beat with a large spoon, or ladle, till the oleaginous and caseous particles of which it is composed are properly mixed. A small quantity of sweet milk is sometimes added, to correct the acidity, if it is overmuch. The cream, thus prepared, is agreeable to the taste, and nourishing to the constitution. It finds a ready sale in Glasgow, where it is sold at four-pence the Scotch pint; the same price which it brought 40 years ago. 

FROM the above account, it appears that Rutherglen cream is greatly superior to that which is procured from butter-milk; either by means of placing the vessel containing it among hot water, or by milking among it warm milk from the cow. Cream made in the latter of these ways is, in this country, called a hatted coag. Both kinds are destitute of the fat part of the milk, which part chiefly constitutes the richness of good cream.

1  These names are descriptive of the manner in which the women, so called, perform their part of the work. To todle, is to walk or move slowly like a child. To hodle, is to walk or move more quickly. 

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