Of the Parish of Rutherglen, Its Extent, Agriculture, Antiquities, Trade, &c., Part II., pp.117-131.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

RUTHERGLEN Bridge, which in 1775, was thrown over Clyde, between Shawfield and Barrowfield lands, is the only bridge in the parish that is deserving of notice. It consists of 5 arches; and is not burdened with any pontage, being built by a free subscription, to which the town of Rutherglen contributed about 1000l.

OF the extensive manufactures at present carrying on in the west of Scotland, Rutherglen had only a small share. Most of the inhabitants who engage in business, on a large scale, find it their interest to settle in Glasgow. The state of trade, however, will appear by the following list of mechanics and labourers, who reside in the parish. The number of individuals, employed in each occupation is subjoined.

Trades.                                                       No.  Trades.                                                       No. 
Bakers,                                                           2  Hosiers,                                                          8 
Barbers,                                                          1  Labourers,                                                   55 
Brewers,                                                         2  Millers,                                                           2 
Carters,                                                         18  Shoemakers,                                                15 
Coal-hewers,                                                60  Smiths,                                                          37 
Coopers,                                                         3  Surgeons,                                                       1 
Farmers,                                                       26  Taylors,                                                         11 
Flax-dressers,                                                1  Watchmakers,                                               1 
Fleshers,                                                        3  Weavers,                                                    254 
Gardeners,                                                     4  Wrights and Masons,                                 34 
Hatmakers,                                                  10   

OF the weavers 10 only continue at customary work: the rest are employed in the muslin branch. Most of the masons profess also the wright business. About three fourths of the smiths are nailers, and work to employers in Glasgow. Mr. Robert Bryce hath distinguished himself for making edge-tools, especially augers and screws, both black and polished. he sells the black from 3s. 6d. to 1l. 5s. per doz. wholesale: and the polished from 13s. to 2l. 9s. 6d. per dozen. His carpenters and coopers axes and adzes are sold from 5d. to 8d. per lb. All his tools, on account of their excellent workmanship, and extremely good temper, are, in Glasgow and Greenock, preferred to any from England. His demands are always greater than he can execute. For grinding his tools he prefers the stones from Hamilton-hill, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, to Newcastle grind-stones. The former are composed of a smaller grit than the latter, but take down remarkably fast: they wear equally round, because no part of them is harder than another; and they are not intermixed with nodules and streaks of martial pyrites, which are extremely hurtful to edge-tools, and frequently render grind-stones totally useless. Mr. Bryce hath also acquired a peculiar skill in the dexterous management of Bees. He can, without killing the queen-bee, unite different swarms, or parts of swarms, and make them keep together in harmony. His apiary is sometimes stocked with 24 hives. 

RUTHERGLEN and Shawfield printfields, lately begun in the parish, give employment to about 200 persons. The former is carried on my Mr. Cummin and Co. and the latter by Mr. Dalglish. 

ALL the women in the parish find abundance of suitable employment. every 3 looms afford work to at least one woman, who winds the yarn for them. There are no fewer than 22 tambouring machines in the town. Four young girls commonly work at each; and gain, by their united labour, about 2 shillings per day. 

THE coal-works carried on at Stonelaw, by Major John Spens, are of long standing. There is no account when coals were at first wrought in this place. But from the number of old wastes the period must be very remote. At present about 126 persons are employed in the works. The water is raised by a steam engine, which, about 1776, was erected by Gabriel Grey, Esq; of Scotstoun. The coals turned out are of different qualities, but all of them are very good. They are sold on the hill at 10d. per hutch, weighing 400lb. but it commonly exceeds that weight: carriage to Glasgow is 4d. so that a cart-load of 3 hutches, weighing about 13 Cwt. is laid down in the street for 3s. 6d. But two wheeled waggons, containing 6 hutches, are commonly used. Some of them, that lately, were occasionally weighed, contained no less than 26 Cwt. of soft coal; which, however, is specifically heavier than hard coal. The empty waggon generally weighs about 8½ Cwt. It is commonly 2 feet in depth; 3½ in breadth; and 5½ in length; the wheels are 4⅔ feet in height. The whole amounting to about 34½ Cwt. is drawn by a single horse, which goes to Glasgow three times a day. Glasgow is distant from Stonelaw three miles and a half. Such heavy draughts, drawn by one horse, even for a greater length of road, is not unfrequent in this country. The horses employed are of the Lanarkshire breed. Their superior excellency, after the above-mentioned exertion of their strength, to which they are daily accustomed, need not be called in question. 

A considerable quantity of iron-stone is turned out along with the coal, at Stonelaw. It sells at 5s. 6d. per ton on the hill, and is delivered at Clyde Iron-work for 6s. 6d. 

THE persons employed in the above-mentioned works reside mostly in the town; for which reason the country part of the parish is but thinly inhabited. There are in it, however, 31 dwelling-houses, containing 44 families; inhabited by 229 persons, of whom 106 are males, 123 females, and 27 are children under 6 years of age. The population of the whole parish, therefore, amounts to 1860 persons, of whom 907 are males; 953 females; and 297 children. The increase since the year 1755, if the return made to Doctor Webster was accurate, is no less than 891. 

ALTHOUGH the parochial register of births is, with respect to population, not much to be depended upon, yet I shall give the following list of baptisms, taken from the Sessional Records. 





















































































THE number of poor in the parish, considering its population, is not great. There are only 26 on the poor funds. They are mostly aged and infirm women. Each receives from 2s. to 5s. per month. There are besides a few indigent families, who are occasionally assisted, as the kirk Session, to whose care the oversight of the poor is intrusted, sees proper. The funds for answering the above purposes are raised from the weekly collections at the church-door on Sabbaths; from proclamations of marriage; and the annual interest of a small sum, accumulated chiefly by pious donations of charitably disposed persons. These different sources, for there is no poor tac in the parish, procured to the Session, from February 1790, to February 1791, the sum of l.52-13-3½. The disbursements, during the same period, were l.46-16-0. Balance added to the stock l.5-17-3½. One or two of the poor are allowed to beg within the bounds of the parish, but no where else. 

RUTHERGLEN is by no means destitute of grocery shops, and public houses. Of the latter there are no fewer than 26 within the town. These, although more than sufficient for ordinary demands, are not able to accommodate strangers that frequent the fairs. To supply the deficiency, every inhabitant claims a right, now established by immemorial practice, of selling ale and spirits, licence free, during the time of the fairs. This custom which is hurtful neither to the revenues of government, not the interest of the community, is profitable to some industrious families who inhabit large houses. 

THERE are few remains of antiquity, at present existing in the country part of the parish. A tumulus of earth, supposed to have been originally a burying place, was lately demolished in the estate of Shawfield, a few yards from POlmadie; and the place where it stood converted into a mill-dam. None of its contents attracted the particular attention of workmen employed in removing it. 

A tumulus, likewise of earth, still remains at Galloflat, about half a mile east from the town. This name, the Gaelic orthography of which is Gallouflath, or more properly Callouflath, is com pounded of Callou, a safe retreat; and flath a hero. This mound was anciently surrounded with a ditch, the traces of which were visible so late as the year 1773. At that period the proprietor, Mr. Patrick Robertson, writer in Glasgow, ordered the ditch to be enlarged and converted into a fish-pond. During the operation, a passage 6 feet broad, and laid with unhewn stones, was discovered, leading up to the top of the mound, Near to this passage was dug up two brass or copper vessels, shaped like a porringer. Each held about a choppin, and was full of earth: they were white on the inside; but from what cause I could not learn. They had broad handles, about 9 inches in length, having cut upon them the name Congallus, or Convallus. These antique vessels, owing to negligence, are now irrecoverably lost. the mound, close to which they were found, is about 12 feet in height; 260 round the base; and 108 round the area on the top. In the middle of this area, and a foot and a half under the surface, was discovered a flat whinstone, about 18 inches in diameter, having a large hole cut through in the middle, and a smaller one near the edge. Beside the stone were found three beads of an antique shape. One of them is preserved by Mr. Patrick Robertson writer to the Signet, Edinburgh. The colour is a fine green of a verdigrease hue; and the enamel is, in general, pretty entire. The perforation in the middle is remarkably wide; and the external surface is set off to advantage by a ribbed ornament, as in pl. I. fig. 6. in which the true dimensions of the bead are preserved. This ancient amulet exhibits a beautiful example of the first, but rude method, of cutting and graving upon stones, that is known in the world. Cutting upon stones and making straight lines, preceded engraving, or making any other kinds of figures upon them. “With a sharp-pointed stone the early inhabitants of the world might scratch straight lines upon the polished surfaces of other stones, of a softer texture; nay, with such a diamond, properly set in a handle, they might make such lines and dotes even upon the hardest.” The bead being made of the old Egyptian paste, anciently so much admired in Europe, there is every reason to believe that it was originally brought from the East; and afterwards worn as an amulet by persons of the first distinction in the nation. “The famous old glass manufactures of Egypt, Tyre, and Sidon, which furnished the Phoenicians with great and various objects of exportation to all Europe, and to the remotest nations, would of course very soon furnish their sagacious neighbours, the Greeks, with the very best materials for speculation and imitation. In Egypt they made, in remotest antiquity, rich coloured glass and enamels, of which various proofs are found amongst the Egyptian antiquities; and the traders dispersed them over all the world in various forms, even in that of glass-beads; and, we have very good reasons to apprehend, for purposes similar to those for which our christian traders in slaves, manufacture and export them to the coast of Guinea and Madagascar. Such glass-beads, sometimes curious and apparently Phoenician workmanship, and here in England erroneously enough called Druids’ beads, are frequently found in the urns and sepulchral monuments of the barbarous nations, which the Phoenicians formerly visited, for the laudable purpose of bartering baubles for amber, gold, tin, slaves, girls, and other valuable commodities.”1

THESE beads are, both in England and Scotland, commonly called snake, or adder stones. “Of these the vulgar opinion in Cornwall and most part of Wales is, that they are produced, through all Cornwall, by snakes joining their heads together and hissing, which forms a kind of bubble like a ring about the head of one of them, which the rest by continual hissing blow on till it comes off at the tail, when it immediately hardens and resembles a glass ring. Whoever found it was to prosper in all his undertakings. These rings are called glain nadroedh, or gemme anguinæ. Glune in Irish signifies glass. In Monmouthshire they are called main magl, and corruptly glaim for glain. They are small glass amulets, commonly about half as wide as our finger rings, but much thicker, usually of a green colour, though some are blue, and others curiously waved with blue, red, and white. Mr. Lhuyd has seen two or three earthen rings of this kind but glazed with blue and adorned with transverse strokes or furrows on the outside. The smallest of them might be supposed to have been glass beads worn for ornaments by the Romans, because some quantities of them, with several amber beads, had been lately discovered in a stone-pit near Gardford in Berkshire, where they also dig up Roman coins, skeletons, and pieces of arms and armour. But it may be objected that a battle being fought between the Romans and Britons, as appears by the bones and arms, these glass beads might as properly belong to the latter. And indeed it seems very likely that these snake-stones, as we call them, were used as charms or amulets among the Druids of Britain on the same occasion as the snake-eggs among the Gaulish Druids. For Pliny, who lived when these priests were in request, and saw one of these snake-eggs, gives the same account of the origin of them as our common people do of their glain nair. There is, says that naturalist, a kind of egg in great repute in Gaul disregarded (omissum) by the Greeks. A number of snakes in summer rolling together, form themselves into a kind of mass with the saliva of their mouths and froth of their bodies, and produce what is called the anguinum, or snake’s egg. The Druids say this, by their hissing, is borne up into the air, and must be caught in a mantle before it reaches the earth. The person who catches it must escape on horseback, for the snakes will pursue him till they are stopped by a river. The proof of it is, if it floats against the stream even when set in gold. As the Magicians know how to conceal their secret arts, they pretend it must be caught in a certain period of the moon, as if it was in the power of man to influence the operation of the snakes. I have seen one of these eggs, about the size of a small round apple, covered with a cartilageneous crust, like the claws of the arms of the polypus, and used as a druidical symbol. It is said to be wonderfully efficacious in promoting of law suits and procuring favourable audience of princes, insomuch that I am well assured a Roman Knight among the Vocontii was put to death by the late Emperor Claudius, merely for having one of them in his bosom as a trial. Thus, continues Mr. Lhuyd; we find it very evident that the opinion of the vulgar concerning the generation of these adder-beads, or snake-stones, is no other than a relic of superstition, or, perhaps, imposture of the Druids; but whether what we call snake-stones be the very same amulets that the British Druids made use of, or whether this fabulous origin was ascribed formerly to the same thing and in aftertimes applied to these glass-beads I shall not undertake to determine. Dr. Borlase, who had penetrated more deeply into the druidical monuments of this kingdom than any other writer before or since, observes, that instead of the natural anguinum, which must have been very rare, artificial rings of stone, glass, and sometimes baked clay2 was substituted as of equal validity.3

THE account which, in Scotland, is usually given of the formation of the adder-stone is not much more rational. The common report is, that, at a certain season of the year, a great number of adders assemble themselves together, and that the largest among them casts his skin, which he does by quick convolutions of his body. Through this exuviæ the rest of the serpents force their way with great agility; every one, at passing through, leaving a slime or slough behind it. By degrees the skin becomes considerably thick, and, upon drying, takes the form in which it is afterwards found. To come near the adders whilst thus employed is said to be attended with no small danger. A circumstance which is reported to have happened in Mossflander, a well known peat-moss, lying in the counties of Stirling and Perth, is frequently mentioned as a proof of this. A man travelling through the moss, as the story says, chanced to go hard by the place, where a great number of serpents were employed in making a stone. Being perceived by them, they instantly set up a horrid hissing, and, with one accord, darted after the man, who was forced to flee with all his might, to save his life. At length, finding himself about to be overtaken by his incensed pursuers, he threw away his plaid, that he might run with greater speed. By this circumstance he made a fortunate escape: for, returning next day, in search of the plaid, he found it full of holes made by the adders, who had forced themselves through it, and thereby wrecked their vengeance on their imaginary enemy. 

THE adder-stone, thus produced, or the beads and rings substituted in its place, is thought by superstitious people to possess many wonderful properties. It is used as a charm to insure prosperity, and to prevent the malicious attacks of evil spirits. In this case it must be closely kept in an iron box to secure it from the Fairies, who are supposed to have an utter abhorrence at iron. It is also worn as an amulet about the necks of children to cure sore eyes, the chincough and some other diseases; and to assist them in cutting their teeth. It is sometimes boiled in water as a specific for diseases in cattle: but frequently the cure is supposed to be performed by only rubbing with the stone the part affected. These foolish notions, however, are now happily exploded; being retained by none but a few credulous people, who, although without design on their part, exhibit a striking proof of the gross absurdities of the former ages of superstition, and tell us, in the most persuasive language, how much we should value the superior knowledge that now prevails.

1  Introduction to Tassie’s Gems, by R. S. Raspe
2  In the year 1790, one of Cornelian was found at Easter Glentore, in the parish of New Monkland. It is in the possession of John Watt of Luggiebank, Esq. 
3  Cambden’s Britannia, Lond. 1787. Vol. II. p. 571.

2 thoughts on “Of the Parish of Rutherglen, Its Extent, Agriculture, Antiquities, Trade, &c., Part II., pp.117-131.

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