Rutherglen, pp.626-628.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   RUTHERGLEN, a small parish in the Lower ward of the county of Lanark, containing a royal burgh of the same name, from which the landward part is understood to have received its appellation. It extends along the south bank of the river Clyde, immediately above the city of Glasgow; 3 miles in length by 1¼ in breadth. It is bounded by the Clyde on the north; the parish of Govan on the west; Cathcart on the south-west; Carmunnock on the south; and Cambuslang on the east. The whole superficies of the parish is arable, and in general well-enclosed. It occupies a very pleasant position in the vale of Clyde, forming the lower portion of the declivity of Cathkin hills, and is beautifully diversified with a regular succession of small hills and narrow dales; excepting next the river, where it forms itself into some very delightful and fertile plains. Rutherglen has long been celebrated for the spirited manner in which its agricultural operations are conducted. This parish was one of the first which witnessed an improvement in the most important implement of husbandry, and for many years the ‘Rutherglen ploughs’ were celebrated all over the West country. They were first made in the parish about a century ago [mid 18th century], and, according to Lord Karnes, must have been among the first improved ploughs made in the northern portion of the kingdom. The mode of their construction was proposed by Lady Stewart of Coltness, who, female though she was, had a masculine head for promoting agricultural improvement. The name of this parish is also well known in connection with the superior breed of West country horses which are reared in it, but still more from the numbers of the same degree of excellence which are sold at its fairs. These horses are appropriately fitted for draught, and their power, hardihood, and docility, have caused them to be esteemed over the whole kingdom. They are generally of the Lanark and Carnwath breed, which was introduced into the country about a century and half ago. [For further particulars on this head, see article LANARKSHIRE.] The parish abounds in coal, and several mines have long been in full and prosperous operation, some of them producing a considerable quantity of ironstone. In other respects it is a most industrious locality, and contains two printfields, a chemical work, a cotton-mill, an extensive Turkey-red dye-work, and a large body of handloom muslin weavers, both in the town and landward districts, whose shuttles are principally set in motion by the capital of Glasgow manufacturers. The burgh is the post-town. By the census of 1841, the population of the landward portion of the parish is 888. Assessed property of the parish, as distinct from the burgh, £4,508. – Rutherglen is situated in the presbytery of Glasgow, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patrons, the magistrates and council, the heritors residing in the burgh, the members of the kirk-session, and the proprietors and tenants of the lands of Shawfield. Originally the presentation belonged to the abbots of Paisley; but subsequent to the Reformation, it fell into the hands of the Hamiltons of Eliestoun, and finally passed into the possession of Mr. Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, by whom, in 1724, it was sold to the parties above-named. The stipend of the parish amounts to £280, but it is very difficult of collection, from being paid by about 150 heritors, about a third of whom pay less than 5s., and some of them so low as 2d. each. No fewer than 471 persons voted at a recent election of minister. There is a quoad sacra allocation in the parish belonging to the West church, which accommodates 800 sitters; and a Relief church, which contains 950 sittings. In addition to the burgh or parochial school, – the emoluments of which are not stated in Government education returns, – there are 7 or 8 other schools at which the ordinary branches are taught. There is little of interest in the history of the parish which does not more properly belong to the account of the burgh. The old church was celebrated as being the place in which a peace was concluded between England and Scotland in February, 1297; and still more is it remembered in Scottish story as the place where the base Sir John Monteith agreed with the English to betray Wallace. In Henry’s Life of Wallace this contract is detailed in the lines beginning – 

————————“A messynger Schir Amar, has gart pass 

———————— On to Schir Jhon, and sone a tryst has set 

———————— At Ruglan kirk yir twa togydder met, 

———————— Yan Wallany said Schir Jhon you know yis thing,” &c. 

During the progress of the battle of Langside, Queen Mary occupied a position at a short distance from Rutherglen; and Ure in his History thus notices an incident which then took place:- “About 150 yards to the south of the main street is a kind of lane, known by the name of Dins-dykes. A circumstance which befell the unfortunate Queen Mary, immediately after her forces were routed at the battle of Langside, has ever since continued to characterize this place with an indelible mark of opprobrium. Her majesty during the battle stood on a rising ground about a mile from Rutherglen. She no sooner saw her army defeated than she took her precipitate flight to the South. Dins-dykes unfortunately lay in her way. Two rustics who were at that instant cutting grass hard by, seeing her majesty fleeing in haste, rudely attempted to intercept her, and threatened to cut her in pieces with their scythes if she presumed to proceed a step further. Neither beauty, nor even royalty itself, can at all times secure the unfortunate, when they have to do with the unfeeling or the revengeful. Relief, however, was at hand; and her majesty proceeded in her flight.” [Part VII.

   RUTHERGLEN, vulgarly pronounced Ruglen, a royal burgh in the above parish, and in the Lower ward of the county of Lanark. It is situated on the south bank of the Clyde. Hamilton of Wishaw thus quaintly and truthfully describes its position:- “It lyes in a pleasant and fertile soill, near to the river of Clyde, about 2 miles above Glasgow; it hath had very little trade for some ages past, because Glasgow lyes between it and the sea, and that all merchandising men of any metall goe to dwell there. It hath ane pleasant green upon the river of Clyde, belonging to the town in commonty.” In having outlived its former importance, Rutherglen is only in the position of many other of the old quiet rural burghs of Scotland. It no doubt owed its existence as a municipality to its castle, which, in the olden time, when might was right, attached no small degree of dignity to the locality in which it was situated. So early as 1126 at least, it was erected into a free burgh, as appears from a supplication to the Scottish parliament in 1661, wherein it is stated to have obtained a charter from King David I. in that year; and it cannot now be ascertained whether that charter was the original foundation of the burgh, or only a renewal of some former grant. This charter of King David has been lost, but it is referred to in one of Robert I., dated “20th April, 1324. The burgh received various other grants from different kings of Scotland, including Robert II., James V., James VI., and Charles I. The charter of James VI. is the most detailed in its provisions, and confirms and confers important burghal privileges to the citizens. It contains a description of the then property of the burgh, and grants power to elect a provost, bailies, dean-of-guild, treasurer, and all other magistrates, with the usual liberties and privileges pertaining to royal burghs, such as holding markets, fairs, &c. It is not a little curious that the city of Glasgow was at one time comprehended within the original limits of the burgh of Rutherglen; and it was only by a petition presented to the throne that Alexander II., in the year 1226, abridged its powers, so far as they referred to Glasgow. At this early date Rutherglen, besides being a place of considerable strength, appears to have been, at the date of its erection into a royal burgh, the only trading and commercial town in the west part of the country; and as Glasgow at the same time only consisted of a few clergymen’s houses clustered around the cathedral, the former was no doubt regarded as the most important and enterprising of the two.1 The constitution of the burgh of Rutherglen was similar to those of the other royal burghs in Scotland down to the year 1670; but a change was then made by which the community obtained greater power in the choice of the magistrates and council than was enjoyed in any of the other burghs; inasmuch as it was declared, that in the new sett then granted to the burgh, that the town-council should consist of 15 persons, 11 of whom should be chosen out of leets presented by the four incorporated trades, and the other four out of a list presented by “the remanent burgesses, inhabitants within the said burgh and territory thereof, bearing scot and lot within the same; and that in choosing the magistrates, viz. the provost and the bailies, 30 persons should be added to the council by the council itself, to have a vote along with them in such choice.” This comparatively liberal system existed down till the passing of the Reform bill, and in the old ‘close time,’ the superior freedom and privileges of Rutherglen were frequently regarded with invidious feelings by the other burghs. According to the report of the Government Commissioners in 1833, the total property of the burgh amounted to about £10,000 in value, producing more than £400 per annum, the principal item in its resources consisting of the town-green, extending to 32 acres of arable land. Rutherglen consists principally of one main line of street, with several diverging lines, and notwithstanding its vicinity to Glasgow, its appearance is decidedly rural, the principal part of its inhabitants being weavers, colliers, or workers employed in the print-fields and other public works in the neighbourhood. Population of the town and parish, in 1801, 2,437; in 1811, 3,529; in 1821, 4,640; in 1831, 5,503. At the last census of 1841, there were 6,510, with 1,289 inhabited houses. In the olden time Rutherglen was privileged to send a member to the Scottish parliament, whose expenses were paid at the rate of 3s. Scots per diem during his attendance there. At the Union in 1707, it had an equal share with Glasgow, Renfrew, and Dumbarton, in sending a representative to parliament; and since the passing of the Reform bill, it has been associated for the same purpose with Kilmarnock, Dumbarton, Port-Glasgow, and Renfrew. The constituency, in 1841, amounted to 170. Rutherglen formerly gave the title of Earl to one of the Hamilton family, and latterly it passed into the house of Queensberry, and expired with the last Duke of that name in 1810. 

   In times that have passed away, Rutherglen, no doubt, owed a very considerable share of its importance to its castle, which was long considered one of the ancient fortresses of the kingdom. In the struggle between Bruce and Baliol, it fell into the hands of the English, and was besieged by Bruce in 1309, on which occasion the English king sent his nephew, the young Earl of Gloucester, to the rescue of the garrison, but with what success is not very distinctly stated in history. The castle was kept in good  repair till a short time after the battle of Langside, when it was burnt by orders of the Regent Moray, from revenge on the family of Hamilton, in whose custody it then remained. One of the principal towers was, however, soon repaired, and being enlarged, became the seat of the Hamiltons, lairds of Shawfield; but on the decline of this family, about 140 years since, it fell into decay, and was soon levelled with the ground. Like almost every other town in the west of Scotland, Rutherglen is associated with the Covenanters. On the 29th May, 1679, the birth and restoration of Charles II. was celebrated there with all the usual marks of rejoicing; but, in the midst of the gaiety, a body of about 80 men, who had been incensed at the persecutions of the government, entered the town, and after having sung psalms and prayed, and having chosen a leader, burned the acts of parliament against conventicles at the cross. This was the first public appearance of the “rising” which was afterwards scattered at Bothwell bridge; but whether any of the members of this original gathering belonged to the town of Rutherglen, is now uncertain. It appears, too, from the ecclesiastical records, that Ruglen obtained a degree of unenviable notoriety from being frequently under the notice of the presbytery of the bounds. The presbytery of Glasgow, in 1590, instructed the doctor of the school of Rutherglen to desist from reading prayers, and they complained that those who supplied wine for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper mixed it with water. In 1593, the presbytery prohibited the playing of pipes on Sundays, from sun rising to its going down, on pain of excommunication, and forbade all pastimes on Sundays, which prohibition was ordered to be read in all the kirks, but especially in the kirk of Ruglen. In 1595, the presbytery transmitted letters to the bailies of Rutherglen, to stay the profane plays introduced in Ruglen on the Lord’s-day, “as they fear the eternal God, and will be answerable to his kirk.”* They also complained of the practice of fishing salmon, and of the colliers in Ruglen settling their accounts on Sunday.2 Rutherglen used long to be famous for the baking of sour cakes, and the making of salt roasts, previous to St. Luke’s fair; but the observance has gone into desuetude. Sour cream of a peculiar gout used also to be made in the burgh, and extensively sold into Glasgow, but this branch of industry has now also almost entirely passed away.

1  The following curious note appears in Ure’s History of Rutherglen:- ‘The existence of Rutherglen, as a considerable town, prior to the building of the cathedral itself, appears from the following traditional account universally known in this part of the country:- It is told that when the High Church was beginning to be built, a passage below ground was made between it and the church of Rutherglen, and that the Picts or Pechs, as they are vulgarly – but perhaps more properly – called, came from Rutherglen through this hidden way every morning, and returned at night, all the time the church was building. Although the subterraneous passage is, like Dædalus’ wings, undoubtedly fabulous, yet the story is, like his, not destitute of meaning. It shows that Rutherglen was the only place in the neighbourhood where the workmen could find, at that time, proper victuals, and accommodations for themselves. Every thing uncommon, as the building of the High Church was, and the crowds of artists employed in the work, raised the astonishment of the ignorant vulgar. Inchantments and miracles were very plenty in that superstitious age, hence the story of the underground passage, and many other wonders which then appeared, and which are, to this day, handed down by tradition from father to son.” [Footnote 3, Part III.

2  At a later period, the civil authorities appear to have been no less solicitous to elevate the moral status of those under their care; and the following proclamation, by the magistrates and council, for restraining the propensities of a drunkard, may be considered somewhat curious at the present day. It is quoted as follows in Ure’s history:- 1688. “The Provest, Baillies, and Counsell, considdring the frequent drinking and drunkennes of J—— P——, Cowper; and the severall abuses committed be him frequentlie; and that no admonitione, nor punishment, can get him restrained theirfra. Whairfor, the saides Provest, Baillies, and Counsell, doe heirby inhibit, and discharge, all the brewers and sellers of drink within this burgh, that they, nor ane of them, presume to give or sell any drink to the said J—— P——, except what they sell to his wyfe and bairnes for the use of the howse and family. Under the paine of fyve punds money toties quoties, as they contravene heirin. And ordaines intimatione to be made heirof be towke of drum.” [Part VII.

*  “Cases of ordinary discipline for immorality occur, with wearisome regularity, at almost every diet of the presbytery, as do likewise cases of Sabbath-breaking. On one occasion an individual is charged with “ye sclandeir done be slaying on ye Lordes daye of salmont and red fische;” and accusations for attending stage plays on Sunday are frequent – these, curiously enough, being almost invariably enacted at Rutherglen.” MacGeorge’s ‘Old Glasgow,’ Ecclesiastical History

8 thoughts on “Rutherglen, pp.626-628.

  1. Interesting piece re the tunnel running between the church in Rutherglen and the High Church and mention of Picts. As a boy I knew well the tunnel story which I understood came out further east near the castle and River. Mention of the Picts recalls the numerous finds of Roman origin in and around Ruglen which was tidal up until the weir was built downstream at Glasgow. I still remember the remnant remains of boat yards down at the Clyde. I wonder if several old stories have been conflated by Ure. I’m curious as to the identity of what he describes as the high Church? I’m only aware of the Parish Church where I was told as a boy that Menteith met the English reputedly and did the desl to betray Wallace and where to this day you can see the Sentry boxes where I was told the guards stood to protect graves from Body snatchers.
    Id like to read more of Ure’s history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s certainly an interesting place to look into. Anything in purple tends to be a link I’ve created to the source quoted from or for further information on the subject under discussion. There’s a whole bunch of links throughout this post that take you to chapters from Ure’s ‘History of Rutherglen’, as well as the contents page to that book, as I typed & uploaded it back at the start of this year, and also Paisley & Kilmarnock’s articles recently posted from the same publication as this Rutherglen post, ‘Gazetteer of Scotland’ (1847).

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