Site icon Random Scottish History

Of the Borough of Rutherglen, its Charters, Set, Antiquities, &c., Part X., pp.98-106.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

BEFORE I finish the account of the borough, it will be necessary to make a few remarks on the character of the inhabitants. It may, in general, be observed, that they were always attached to the interest of government. Perhaps the only circumstance that seemingly contradicts this assertion, was an affair which happened on the 29th of May, 1679. On that day, both the birth and restoration of the King, was, at Rutherglen, celebrated with bonfires,1 and other marks of rejoicing. A body of men, about 80 in number, who were incensed at government on account of the persecutions to which it gave its sanction, assembled at the cross of Rutherglen, with a fixed resolution to execute a plan they had previously concerted: but whether any of them were inhabitants of the town is uncertain. Having chosen a leader, they sung psalms and prayed. The acts of parliament against Conventicles were committed to the flames of the bonfire, which was immediately extinguished. This was the first public appearance of the Bothwell-bridge association, or rebellion, as it is sometimes called. 

THE following is the account which Guthrie, in his history of Scotland, gives of the above-mentioned transaction. “In the year 1679, immediately after Sharp, Bishop of St. Andrew’s death, that the cruelty of Lord Lauderdale and his party arose to such a height against the Presbyterians, that many of them resolved to assert their liberty by taking up arms. Bout 80 of them assembled in Rutherglen: a young preacher, one Hamilton, was declared their head; and on the 29th of May they drew up a declaration against all the acts of parliament relating to religion, and publickly committed them to the flames of the bonfires that had been lighted up in commemoration of the day. After a successful engagement with Capt. Graham of Claverhouse, they took possession of the town of Hamilton. After a slight skirmish they made themselves masters of Glasgow, but were soon afterwards totally defeated at Bothwell-bridge by the Duke of Monmouth. This was on the 22d of June, so that the whole lasted no longer than 14 days.” 

THE inhabitants of Rutherglen are considerable adepts in borough politics. This, however, does not, in general, obstruct an industrious application to their several employments. But their tranquillity meets, at times, with short interruptions. A competition for their influence, in a vote for a member of parliament, sometimes convulses the community; enervates the sinews of industry; and brings ruin on some few individuals. On these occasions one would be ready to think, that liberty was turned into licentiousness, and that the privileges of royal boroughs were curses, instead of blessings, to the persons possessed of them. But where is the constitution that that is free from defects? or where the people that may not in some instances go wrong? 

IT may, however, be observed, that the inhabitants are so far from being bad members of society, that none of them have, in the memory of man, committed any crime, for which they were brought to public punishment. 

THE community of Rutherglen is strongly attached to the established church of Scotland. There is not, in the whole town, above seven or eight families belonging to different parties of the Secession. 

TO this part of the history properly belongs an account of the different trades and occupations of the inhabitants. That account, however, shall be reserved for the next chapter, in which is given a table containing the number of individuals employed in each, through the whole parish. 

THE following is a list of the Commissioners from Rutherglen, to the Parliament of Scotland, as their names are inserted in the records of Parliament. It may be observed that sometimes, in these records, the boroughs, whose representatives were present, are only mentioned, but the names of the Commissioners from Rutherglen, who were present at the Parliaments held, 1st June, 1478:- 19th March, 1480-1:- 18th March, 1481-2:- 2d Dec. 1482:- 6th Oct. 1488:- 10th Nov. 1579, are not mentioned in the records. But the following are marked.2

23d Oct. 1579,

Rob. Lindsay.

13th July, 1587,

David Spens.3

20th Sept. 1612,

And. Pinkertoun.

28th June, 1617,

Rob. Lindsay, & James Riddell.

25th July, 1621,

John Pinkertoun.

20th June, 1633,

John Scott.

1st Jan. 1661,

David Spens.

19th Oct. 1669,

James Riddell.

22d July, 1670,

James Riddell.

12th June, 1672,

James Riddell.

12th Nov. 1673,

David Spens.

14th March, 1689,

John Scott, in the Convention.

5th June, 1689,


15th April, 1690,


18th April, 1693,


9th May, 1695,


8th April, 1696,


19th July, 1698,


21st May, 1700,


29th Oct. 1700,


6th May, 1703,

George Spens.

6th July, 1704,


28th June, 1705,


3d Oct. 1706,


THE following are the names of the Provosts of Rutherglen, as these names are recorded in the Council books. Most of the records of the Borough, prior to about the year 1570, are irrecoverably lost.

1616, John Riddell
1660,      do.
1704, Andrew Leitch.
1748, John Paterson.
1617, Andrew Pinkertoun.
1661, John Scott.
1705, George Spens.
1749, David Scott.
1662,      do.
1706, Andrew Leitch.
1750, Robert Spens.
1619, John Riddell.
1663,      do.
1707, George Spens.
1620, Andrew Pinkertoun.
1664,      do.
1708, Andrew Leitch.
1752, John Paterson.
1621, John Pinkertoun.
1665, Robert Spens.
1709, George Spens.
1753, David Scott.
1622,      do.
1666,      do.
1710, John Moore.
1754, Robert Spens.
1623,      do.
1667,      do.
1711, Robert Bowman.
1755, David Scott.
1624,      do.
1668, Andrew Harvie.
1712, Andrew Leitch.
1756, Robert Spens.
1625, Thomas Wilkie.
1669,      do.
1713, Patrick Witherspone.
1757, Allan Scott.
1626,      do.
1670, James Riddell.
1714, Andrew Leitch.
1758, Robert Spens.
1627, John Pinkertoun.
1671, Andrew Harvie.
1715, George Spens.
1759, Allan Scott.
1628,      do.
1672, Robert Spens.
1716, John Moore.
1760, Robert Spens.
1629,      do.
1673, William Riddell.
1717, George Spens.
1761, Allan Scott.
1630,      do.
1674, John Robisone.
1718, David Scott.
1762, Robert Spens.
1631,      do.
1675, Andrew Leitch.
1719, George Spens.
1763, Allan Scott.
1632,      do.
1676, William Riddell.
1720, David Scott.
1764, Robert Spens.
1633,      do.
1677, Robert Spens.
1721, George Spens.
1765, George White.
1634,      do.
1678, William Riddell.
1722, David Scott.
1766, Robert Spens.
1635, Thomas Wilkie.
1679, Robert Spens.
1723, George Spens.
1767, Gabriel Grey.
1636,      do.
1680, William Riddell.
1724, David Scott.
1770, Allan Scott.
1637, John Pinkertoun.
1681, Andrew Leitch.
1725, George Spens.
1771, Gabriel Grey.
1638, Thomas Wilkie.
1682, Robert Spens.
1726, David Scott.
1772, Robert Spens.
1639, John Pinkertoun.
1683, Andrew Harvie.
1727, George Spens.
1773, James Fleming.
1640, Thomas Wilkie.
1684, Andrew Leitch.
1728, Andrew Leitch.
1774, Gabriel Grey.
1641, John Scott.
1685, Andrew Harvie.
1729, David Scott.
1775, James Fleming.
1642, John Scott.
1686,      do.4
1730, Andrew Leitch.
1776, Gabriel Grey.
1643,      do.
1687,      do.4
1731, David Scott.
1777, Neil McVicar.
1644,      do.
1688,      do.4
1732, George Spens.
1778, George White.
1645,      do.
1689, Robert Bowman.
1733, David Scott.
1779, James Farie.
1646,      do.
1690, John Witherspone.
1734, George Spens.
1780, George White.
1647,      do.
1691, Robert Bowman.
1735, David Scott.
1781, Gabriel Grey.
1648,      do.
1692, John Scott.
1736, George Spens.
1782, William Parkhill.
1649,      do.
1693, David Scott.
1737, David Scott.
1783, Gabriel Grey.
1650, Andrew Pinkertoun.
1694, John Witherspone.
1738, Andrew Leitch.
1784, George White.
1651, John Scott.
1695, John Harvie.
1739, James Farie.
1785, Gabriel Grey.
1652,      do.
1696, John Witherspone.
1740, Andrew Leitch.
1786, George White.
1653,      do.
1697, George Spens.
1741, James Farie.
1787, Gabriel Grey.
1654,      do.
1698, Andrew Leitch.
1788, George White.
1655,      do.
1699, George Spens.
1743, David Pinkertoun.
1789, Archibald Reid.
1656,      do.
1700, Andrew Leitch.
1790, George White.
1657, Walter Riddell.
1701, George Spens.
1745, William Moor.
1791, Major John Spens.
1658, Robert Spens.
1702, Andrew Leitch.
1746, Andrew Leitch.
1659, Andrew Pinkertoun.
1703, George Spens.
1747, William Moor.
1  In the council records of Rutherglen, bonfires were, till of late, generally called bailfires, a contraction for Baalfires, meaning fires kindled up to the honour of Baal. The making of bonfires, as tokens of rejoicing, seems to have originated from a festival dedicated, by the Druids, to the sun. “On the first day of May, which day was dedicated to Belinus or the Sun, they held an annual festival: and kindled prodigious fires in all their sacred places, and performed sacrifices, with many other solemnities. it is thought, that at midsummer, and again early in November, other annual festivals were held; on the first, the people assembled to implore the friendly influence of Heaven on their fields and pastures: on the latter, they came to return thanks for the favourable seasons and the increase with which the gods had blessed their labours.” Strutt’s Chron. of eng. vol. I. p. 196. 
It would appear that so late as two centuries ago, great fires were superstitiously kindled, in this part of the country. The presbytery of Glasgow, to put a stop to this idolatrous rite, ordered all the ministers within their bounds “to try who made Beannefires last midsummer-even.” Records of the presb. of Glas. ann. 1586. 
This custom, which must have prevailed in Scotland, long before the introduction of Christianity into the nation, have rise to the expression belten, the name given to the first day of May, and a well known term of the year. the word is derived from the Gælic Baal tien, which means the fire of Baal. To this day the custom of making great fires, Taanles, or Bleazes, about the beginning of summer, or Belten time, as it is commonly expressed, is continued all along the strath of Clyde. On some nights a dozen or more of these fires may be seen at one view. They are mostly kindled on rising ground, that they may be seen at a greater distance. They are not, however, attended now with any superstitious rite; but only in compliance with an old custom, the original meaning of which is not generally known by the commonality. 
2  The Commissioners had their charges paid, out of the town’s revenues, at the rate of 3l. Scots, per diem, during their attendance at parliament. 
3  This Gentleman was an ancestor of Major John Spens the present Provost. 
4  By the order of the King no Provost was elected, during 3 years, and Andrew Harvie was continued in office.
Exit mobile version