Lesmahagow, pp.253-255.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   LESMAHAGOW, a large and important parish in the Upper ward of Lanarkshire, stretching along the south-west bank of the Clyde; bounded by the parishes of Dalserf and Carluke on the north; by Douglas and Muirkirk on the south; by Lanark and Carmichael on the east; and by Strathaven and Stonehouse on the west. It is about 14 miles in length, and in several parts is 12 in breadth, and contains 34,000 acres. The greater part of the superficies of this parish is at least 500 feet above the level of the sea; and, on the western side, where they divide the counties of Lanark and Ayr, the mountains frequently rise to an elevation of 1,200 feet. The celebrated Falls of Clyde, viz. Bonniton, Corehouse, and Stonebyres, are formed in the course of the river along the borders of Lesmahago. “The banks of the Clyde in this parish are very bold, rising in many places abruptly into hills of considerable height, everywhere divided into deep gullets, formed by the numerous brooks and torrents which fall into the river. The intermixture of coppice-woods, plantations of forest trees, and sloping open glades; of swelling eminences, deep ravines, and towering hills on both sides of the river, added to the windings of its copious stream, and the magnificent falls above-mentioned, exhibit to the eye of the passenger, at every change of situation, new landscapes strikingly sublime and beautiful.” [Old Statistical Account.] The parish is watered, in addition to the Clyde, by the Peniel, the Douglas, the Logan, the Nethan, the Kype, the Cannar, and some still more insignificant streamlets, which all find their way into the Clyde. Two-thirds or nearly three fourths of the land in the parish, is under cultivation. The principal village or post-town in the parish is called Lesmahago, or, more properly, Abbey-Green, from being built upon part of the lands attached to the principal religious house in the district in former times. It lies in a beautiful position on the banks of the Nethan, about 6 miles from the town of Lanark. The names of the other villages are Kirkfieldbank, Kirkmuirhill, Boghead, and Nethanfoot, between all of which, and the city of Glasgow, the communication is easy and frequent both by coach and carrier. The great Glasgow and Carlisle mail-road, and the Glasgow and Lanark road, run through the parish for several miles, and in addition to these the parish-roads are extensive and well-kept, and all the streams which occur in their course are spanned by substantial bridges. Not more than the third of the families in the parish are employed in agricultural pursuits, the great majority being supported by weaving, working at the coal-mines or lime-works, or acting as country artisans. In 1801, the population was 3,070; in 1811, 4,464; in 1821, 5,592; in 1831, 6,409; and, in 1841, 6,902, – composed of 3,416 males, and 3,486 females. There are 1,428 inhabited houses. Assessed property, in 1815, £17,481. – The parish is in the presbytery of Lanark, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and comprises one of the very few parochial districts in Scotland in which the charge is collegiate, which it has continued to be since the Reformation. The church is situated in the village of Abbey-Green, and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1804 for 1,330 sitters. The stipend of both ministers is the same, viz. £283 4s. 2d. per annum; each of them has a manse, and the 1st minister a glebe, the 2d a garden. The value of the glebe is about £20 per annum, and of the garden about £5. Unappropriated teinds £403 9s. 8d. Patron of both charges, the Duke of Hamilton. There is a quoad sacra church in the parish, called the North church. – The Original Burgher congregation was established in 1813, and a church was built in 1816, at an expense of £600, calculated to accommodate 530 sitters. The minister has a manse, and a stipend of £100 per annum. – The United Secession congregation at Crossford was established in 1830, in which year the church was built at an expense of £350, for 350 sitters. The minister has a stipend of £88 per annum, with £4 for sacramental expenses, in addition to a manse and glebe. There is also a small congregation of Old Independents, in which an elder officiates without any emolument. – The parish is well-supplied with the means of education, by six or seven schools, in addition to the parochial one. The principal or parochial master has the maximum salary of about £38 per annum, with fully £40 as school-fees, in addition to perquisites arising from the office of session-clerk. The heritors have granted the value of a chalder annually, which is divided among the teachers of other schools in the parish not strictly parochial; and in all, about 600 children usually attend school at the same time in the different seminaries within the bounds. 

   Lesmahago was celebrated in the olden time for its monastery. It was also called Lesmachute, from Les or Lys, signifying, in the old British language, ‘a green,’ ‘a court,’ or ‘an enclosed place,’ and Machute, a saint, who died in the 6th century, and was buried in the parish. A church was founded at a very early period in this place, and dedicated to this saint. Many relics connected with him were found and deposited in the holy building, and it appears from the accounts of the old Scottish treasurer, that James V. having obtained a bone of St. Machute, or Mahago, caused it to be encased in silver, gilt, by one John Mossman, a goldsmith in Edinburgh, at considerable expense, so that it might be carefully preserved. The tomb of the saint was illuminated by a number of wax-lights, and various donations were from time to time granted to the monks of Lesmachute for this purpose. Among others, Robert I. made a grant of a rent of 10 marks sterling, from his mills of Carluke, in lieu of which the monks were required to find a number of wax-lights, of a pound-weight each, to burn on Sundays and festival-days at the tomb of St. Machute. In the reign of David I. the church and lands of Lesmahago, with all their pertinents, were granted to the abbot and monks of Kelso, that they might hold the church as a cell of Kelso. At the same time, the king granted to the church of Lesmahago the privilege of a sanctuary, to which all persons might flee for protection, with the exception of those who were guilty of murder or dismembering. The abbot and monks of Kelso accordingly erected buildings here, and transferred to it a number of their own order, dedicating the new monastery to the Virgin Mary and St. Machute. Being less liable than Kelso to be annoyed by the invasions of the English, Lesmahago frequently formed a safe retreat to the monks of the former place; but still it was not altogether exempt from the effects of these hostile incursions. About 1336, John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, and brother of Edward llI., ravaged Clydesdale with a body of English troops, and took up his residence for a time at the abbey of Lesmahago; before leaving it, he burned the monastery and church, and sacrificed a number of people who had taken shelter within the walls. The Earl of Cornwall soon after joined his brother Edward at Perth, and some of the historians of the time state that a quarrel having arisen between the king and earl, caused by the haughtiness of the latter, he was stabbed by the monarch, and soon thereafter died, thus avenging, according to Wyntown, the burning of the abbey. That the Earl of Cornwall died at Perth in October 1336, is undoubted, but whether the burning of the monastery had anything to do with his death, or whether he fell by the hands of his royal brother, is more questionable. The monks of Lesmahago were enriched by the bequests or donations of pious individuals, or by the purchase of lands, and at various times they received charters of protection and immunity from the Scottish kings, by whom also their territory was erected into a barony, with the usual jurisdiction. At the Reformation, when the old order of things was overturned, and the tomb of the saint violated and destroyed, the rental of the monastery, according to Keith’s History, was as follows:- £1,214 4s. 6d. Scots; 15 chalders, 8 bolls, 1 firlot, and 2 pecks of bear; 41 chalders, 8 bolls, and 3 firlots of meal; and 4 chalders, 3 bolls of oats. The church property of this opulent monastery, passed in succession into the hands of several great families until it was finally purchased in the early part of the 17th century, from the Earl of Roxburgh, by James, Marquis of Hamilton. During the ferment of the Reformation, the fine ecclesiastical erections connected with the monastery, fell a sacrifice to the zealous fury of the Reformers, the whole being consumed by fire, with the exception of the tower which supported the spire of the church. The precincts of the monastery were long celebrated for their beautiful gardens, and the present village of Abbey-Green is built upon a part of the olden lawn. The parish still retains the privilege of holding a weekly market and annual fairs, which, however, are not now regarded as of much importance. There is little of interest connected with the civil history of the parish. When Queen Mary escaped from Lochleven, she remained for a few days in the Castle of Draphane or Craignethan, and the room in which she slept, before she passed on to the fatal field of Langside, is still pointed out amongst the ruins, which occupy a bold and rugged position at the junction of the streamlet Nethan with the river Clyde. This was anciently the residence of Sir James Hamilton, a bastard son of the Earl of Hamilton, who in the reign of James V. acquired an unenviable notoriety from his fierce disposition and cruel actions. In recent times, the ruins of Craignethan have become still more famous, from their undoubted identification with the Tillietudlem of ‘Old Mortality:’ see CRAIGNETHAN. The inhabitants of Lesmahago acted a prominent part in the struggle against the imposition of ‘black prelacie’ in the reigns of Charles ll. and James II., and many of the Covenanters who fell at Bothwell bridge were natives of the parish. The drum and colours used by them on that memorable occasion are still preserved. Several of the pious heroes of that time are buried in the churchyard, wilt their monuments still exist: amongst others, that of the good David Steel, who was killed by Captain Crichton, a trooper, whose very name is still considered a polluted thing in the parish. It was in Lesmahago that the celebrated Colonel Rumbold was apprehended by Hamilton of Raploch in 1685, after the dispersion of the army of Argyle. Rumbold is remembered as having been one of the Chief movers in the Ryehouse plot. At a later period, Macdonald of Kinloch-Moydart, aide-de-camp to Charles Edward Stuart, was apprehended here, while on his way to join the Prince during his chivalrous march in England, by a young clergyman named Linning, and a joiner named Meikle. For this service, Linning was afterwards rewarded by being appointed one of the ministers of the parish; but the Highlanders, on their return north, burned Meikle’s house in revenge. The unfortunate Macdonald was conveyed from Lesmahago to Edinburgh Castle, and from thence to Carlisle, where he was tried, condemned, and executed. A Roman road is known to have passed through a part of the parish, but it has long since been obliterated by the hand of improvement; a Roman vase and Roman coins have been found in the parish, and some years ago an ancient Caledonian battle-axe was dug up, and is now in the possession of the proprietor of the estate of Blackwood.