The Third Statistical Account (1951, Revised 1961) by Rev Philip McCardel

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The parish of Strathblane, some twenty square miles in size, lies in the south-west corner of Stirlingshire. It was at one time part of the county of Dunbarton and as an ecclesiastical parish is still part of Dunbarton Presbytery. It is a very beautiful district. The northern boundary is formed by the Strathblane Hills. Immediately south of this the wooded Blane valley runs in a north-westerly direction. Farther south the land rises and is partly moor, partly wooded and partly culti­vated. There are many small lochs in the southern half of the parish. It has only one village. The north-west half of the village, part of which is known as Netherton, is now called Blanefield; both the railway station, which is now not used, and the post office bear that name. The south-east half of it, part of which is known as Edenkiln. is called Strathblane and again the former railway station and post office bear that name.

The first Statistical Account points out that the parish of Strathblane takes its name from the river Blane which rises in it and runs through it. The Rev. Mr. Gibb, the writer, suggests that Blane is a contraction of two Gaelic words signifying warm river. John Guthrie Smith, whose history The Parish of Strathblane was published in 1886 and from whose book much of the historical information for this account has been collected, points out that the Blane is ‘neither warmer nor colder than any other streams’. He therefore doubts whether this is the true origin. He then discusses various other possibilities. St. Blane or St. Blaan, an old Scottish saint, may have given his name to the district. Less probably St. Blaithmaic may be the source. Blatha or Flora, the name of several sainted virgins in Irish martyrology, is a third remote possi­bility. The present name may be a development from Strathblaidhean meaning the strath at the extremity. These suggestions are based on speculation rather than on evidence and the true origin of the name must, for the present at least, remain unknown.

History of the Local Community. At the time of the Roman occupation Strathblane formed part of the province of a people known to the Romans as the Damnonii or Damnii. They were a Cymric branch of the Celtic race; as the Romans occupied neighbouring districts no doubt the people came under the influence of the Christian faith and other civilising forces. After the departure of the Romans the district became the scene of many battles as the Cymry sought to resist the attacks of Picts, Scots and Saxons. The Cymric hero, Arthur, the famous king of poetry whose name is surrounded by legend, is said to have fought his celebrated twelve battles in the neighbourhood. A great boulder stone above Craigbarnet probably commemorates one of his victories. Gwallawg and his brother Cymric kings defeated the Saxon king of Bernicia or Northumberland about the year 570 at ‘Arddunion’. Standing stones in Strathblane churchyard and in a neighbouring field, part of Broadgate farm, are probably memorials to heroes. Various human remains and certain weapons which have been discovered are the relics of this or other battles. A further important battle at Maesydawc, now Mugdock, was fought in the eighth century and resulted in a victory for Teudwr, King of Strathclyde, against Telangan, King of the Picts. This victory secured the independence of Strathclyde for several genera­tions. ln 945 the kingdom was yielded to Malcolm, king of the Scots, and was finally merged in 1034 when Duncan succeeded his grandfather. By this time the inhabitants were of mixed blood of the various races. For a time the district was in name at least in the direct possession of the kings of Scotland but in 1174 King William the Lion formed the earldom of Lennox which passed from his brother to Abuin. The earls of Lennox. as did other feudal lords, bestowed estates on the church, on their relatives, and on their followers.

The barony of Mugdock and Easter Mugdock passed into the hands of the Grahams of Montrose in the thirteenth century. Mugdock Castle was their residence until the end of the seventeenth century when they acquired Buchanan Castle. After the execution of the famous Marquis of Montrose in 1650, as the result of his part in the Covenanting wars, Mugdock passed for a short time into the possession of the Marquis of Argyll but it was soon restored to the Grahams.

The first mention of Duntreath, part of which estate is in Strathblane parish, occurs in the fourteenth century. Duntreath was granted to William Edmonstone of Culloden by King James I in or before 1434. A charter of King James II in 1452 confirms this grant to Sir William and Mary, Countess of Angus, his wife, who was the sister of King James I. The bodies of the Countess and of an Edmonstone descendant are buried in the ground upon which Strathblane Church stands. The barony of Duntreath has remained and is still in the possession of the Edmonstone family. For a time the castle was in ruins (the family having other properties, were not always in residence) but was restored in the nineteenth century.

It is not possible in this account to give details of the history of this land, the estates which were formed from the larger baronies, or the history of the other land in the parish. Mugdock Castle is now in the possession of Sir Hugh Fraser, a business man. Many other estates have also changed hands in recent years. While most are still in private hands Craigcnd estate became for some years a zoological park, to which great crowds of Glasgow people flocked at the week-ends and on holidays. The zoo, however, has now ceased to exist and the castle is in process of demolition.  One of the larger houses in Mugdock is now a children’s convalescent home.  Another house, Ardunan, has become a hotel and so has Blanefield House, formerly the residence of the Coubrough family who were associated with the print and dye works, while in the grounds of Carbeth and other estates huts have been built for week-end and holiday campers.  There are more than 450 of these huts, not all within the parish, so that in the summer there are as many people living there as in the rest of the parish.

Ecclesiastical History.  Strathblane became a parish some time before 1216.  The history of the church in the district in earlier times is indefinite, though possibly St. Kessog had a chapel at Netherton.  When formed, the church was provided with tithes or teinds and further enriched with valuable lands.  This wealth was not, however, used for the benefit of the local church, as in 1316 the church and church land were granted to the Hospital of Polmadie.  In the fifteenth century they passed to the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton.  There is little doubt that during these times there would be a vicar of Strathblane in pastoral charge of the parish though at times he was ill provided.  After the Reformation, when there was a shortage of ministers throughout Scotland, Strathblane had a Reader, John Cuik.  By 1574 it had the services of a minister who also served Fintry and Campsie.  Before the end of the century Strathblane had its own minister, as it has had since.

It is not known when a church was first built but it seems certain that there was a building on the present site in pre-Reformation days.  The present building was provided in 1803 and renovated and extended in the second half of the century.  This remained the only church in the district until the second half of the nineteenth century. At the Disruption in 1843 there was no movement to establish a Free Church, though three elders resigned from the Session.  About 1870, however, a Free Church congregation was formed, mainly to accommodate Free Church families coming to the parish, and a church and manse were built at Netherton.  In the first years of this century fire destroyed the church building and a new one had to be provided.  Following on the Union of the Established and Free Churches in Scotland the two churches were united in 1934.  Extensive renovation and complete redecoration were carried out in Strathblane Church during 1958-9.  The side galleries were blocked off, a session house was designed and a new heating system installed.  In 1961 it was decided to close Blanefield Church and to use only Strathblane Church as a place of worship.

Roman Catholics came to the district and a service was held for them in the pavilion which belonged to Messrs. Coubrough of Blanefield Print Works.  Towards the end of the nineteenth century a Roman Catholic chapel was built.  There is now a resident priest who also ministers to the Catholics of Balfron and in Killearn Hospital.

The parish minister is also chaplain at Killearn Hospital and at Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital and is, in addition, honorary chaplain at Auchengillan Scout camp where he holds weekly services during the summer camping season and at special week-end camps. He conducts services for the occupants of huts at Carbeth in July and August.

Education. There was no regular parish school in Strathblane till the end of the seventeenth century. There has been a school since then although for long little money was provided either to pay the school­master or to provide and maintain the building. Even as late as 1841 the writer of the New Statistical Account, the Rev. H. Buchanan, describes the building as a ‘most ill-aired wretched hovel’. The situation to-day is more satisfactory. Yet in spite of the difficulties under which these schoolmasters laboured they appear, on the whole, to have been faithful servants of the community. The local primary school has a roll of 106 pupils and a staff of four. For secondary education the pupils travel to Balfron. The usual facilities of the modem school, meals and care of health, are provided. A valuable modern develop­ment is the use of radio. Buildings are reasonably adequate, but a new school is planned for 1965.

Agriculture. Farming has for long occupied an important place in the life of the community. The higher ground provides grazing for sheep and the lower for cattle. There are nearly 1,000 cattle and 5,000 sheep in the parish. Rough grazing occupies a little more than 4,750 acres, but acreage in crops and fallow is small, 324 acres. More than half of this is in oats. Eleven of the 24 farms are owner occupied.

Some areas of the parish are wooded and forestry work is carried on. Many local people once gained their livelihood, and a smaller number still does, as foresters, gamekeepers, gardeners and estate workers. At least one market garden has developed in recent years.

Other Industries. Local industries of various kinds once existed. The earliest mill was a meal mill on the Kirklands. This was followed by various others, one of which was also a saw-mill. The manufacture of woollen and linen yarns and cloth was an early industry. Wool was at hand and there was an abundant supply of water in burns and wells for cleaning and preparing. In addition there were two waulk mills. It was necessary to have facilities for bleaching the cloth and this resulted in the erection of four bleachfields in the parish by the end of the eighteenth century. A block print work was established at about that time too and during the nineteenth century it employed considerable numbers of men. By the end of the century large numbers were employed, the village was crowded, and employees came from Lennox­town and from Milngavie. With the development of big combines the print work was closed and, as a result, there was considerable hardship in the village for a number of years. The population dropped from 1.671 in 1891 to 880 in 1901. There were various other small industries including a certain amount of quarrying which continued until recently. At present the only process carried on is that of preparing tarred road-chips. but it is expected that quarrying will be resumed soon.

Another ‘ industry ‘ which prospered till the middle of the nineteenth century was the secret distilling of whisky. As many as thirteen stills were in operation, Mugdock wood being a favourite place for them. Two excise officers, who were on duty in the parish, presumably were persuaded to shut their eyes to what was going on. There was, however, in 1818 a bitter fight between smugglers and revenue officers which the former won.

To-day there are no industries of any size in the parish. A third of the population finds its livelihood on the land, either on the farms or on the estates, mainly as gardeners. The farms are not large and employ only one or two men each. Another third travels to Glasgow where it is engaged in many different occupations. The remainder is employed locally. There are the usual tradesmen and shopkeepers. Considerable numbers of men and women are employed in the nearby Killeam Hospital. There is also the small children’s hospital in Strathblane already mentioned. The Glasgow Water Department employs a dozen or so men in maintaining the pipe-line from Loch Katrine and perhaps twelve more men are employed in a local quarry.

The shops are nearly all family businesses. There are no branches of the multiple stores but there is a branch of the Lennoxtown Friendly Victualling Society. There are two post offices, two grocers, one butcher, one confectioner, one hairdresser and a licensed grocer. There are three hotels and two inns. Vans travel round the outlying districts and there are also vans from neighbouring villages but, because Glasgow is so convenient, most people do some shopping there; they must, for example, do so for most of their clothing.

A large number of married women, some of them with children, have part- or full-time work. Mainly they do this to maintain their standard of living in this era of high and rising costs. Some women also do it, however, because it brings variety and an outside interest to their lives. Most of these women are employed either in domestic work, for which there is in the larger houses a considerable demand, or in the hospitals. Because there are no local industries the young people are restricted in their choice of occupation unless they travel to Glasgow but this is proving to be no great handicap.

Population: The following are the population figures over the last 160 years.

180118511891190119111921193119511961
1,734 1,010 1,6718801,024 1,2751,161 1,3541,466

 The population figure has thus not altered greatly in the last fifty years, nor for that matter, in the last hundred. As industries have left the district men have been drawn away to seek employment elsewhere. The one remarkable drop in population at the end of the nineteenth century was occasioned by the removal of industry. On the other hand with the arrival of the railway and, later, cars and buses, men whose work is in Glasgow have come here to stay.

Public and Social Services. The water supply in the village comes from two sources. The Blanefield portion is supplied from the pipe­line which carries the Glasgow water from Loch Katrine to the Milngavie reservoir. The Strathblane water comes from a local supply in the Strathblane hills. Outside the village most of the houses have their own water supply from springs or small lochs. There is a touch of irony in the fact that, at Mugdock, which overlooks the Milngavie reservoir. some houses had until very recently no water laid on, so that their inhabitants had to carry it from a well in a nearby field. A plan is projected to supply the district from the Carron valley, but this supply has not yet reached the parish. For the new houses con­structed between Mugdock and Strathblane there is at the moment no supply of tapped water.

Most houses in the village are served by the main electricity supply and outside it the process of connecting up to the main supply has been steadily carried out. Some of the larger houses retain their own generators and one or two houses still use oil lamps and paraffin.

Sewage disposal for long was by septic tank or by discharge direct into the Blane river. In very recent years, however, new works for the village have been completed and surplus capacity is in fact available. In addition, in 1961 the sewer in Craigend estate was taken over and connected into the main system.

A main road runs through the village. While it is used by all types of traffic throughout the week this road is especially busy at week-ends when a steady stream of buses, cars and cycles carries city people into and through this beautiful district. A new road to by-pass the village is projected but it seems likely to be long delayed; in addition the road to Lennoxtown, it is believed, is due to be widened.

A railway line passed through the valley but it is no longer in use and the rails are being removed. The bus service is more convenient and more popular; buses, which take forty minutes to reach Glasgow, run approximately every 80 minutes. A bus runs regularly to provide transport for visitors to Killeam Hospital and there is a service from the village to Chryston. To the east of the county, however, transport by bus is less easy. A journey to Falkirk, for example, is probably best carried out by first going almost to Glasgow. The buses are busy, particularly at business hours and at the week-end. Numbers of people have, of course, their own cars.

Health Service. There are resident in the village a doctor and a district nurse. Two doctors in neighbouring villages also have patients here. The nearest maternity hospital is at Lennox Castle and some mothers go to Airthrey Castle beyond Stirling. The fever hospital at Bannockburn is also distant but certain medical treatment is available in Killearn. Some patients are sent to Glasgow hospitals. A hospital in Strathblane, a branch of Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow, provides specialised medical and surgical help for sick children. There is accommodation for 40 children. One sad lack is the shortage of facilities for old people needing care, but this is engaging the attention of the authorities. A Strathblane lady has operated a voluntary chiropody service for old age pensioners since 1954 in the Strathblane and Strathendrick area.

Village Life. The village is well provided with facilities for its social life. It has a public hall of modern structure run by a village committee. There is also a smaller hall owned by the local Co-operative society, and an attractive village club with two large rooms and a pleasant garden. This club’s amenities include billiards, table tennis and darts; a library, provided by the county, is operated from the village hall. The Boy Scouts have their own hut. The church buildings, belonging to the Church of Scotland and to the Roman Catholic Church, have already been mentioned. There is a tennis court and a bowling green. A playing field, to provide amusement for the children and facilities for various sports, has been constructed but is rather neglected.

Youth has its organisations. There is a troop of Boy Scouts, a company of Girl Guides, a pack of Brownies and a Cub pack. Sunday school is very well attended and there is a Bible class and a youth fellowship. For some time a youth club met in the school but it has ceased to exist. The youth fellowship, however, goes far to fill the gap left by the disappearance of the club; it is open to all over the age of 15 and its activities range widely, the aim being to equip and fit young people to play an active part in community life. Carol-singing proceeds are devoted to the service of old people; concerts are organised by fellowship members in Eventide homes: funds are raised for such magnificent work as cancer research.

Women’s organisations are thriving. A branch of the Church of Scotland Woman’s Guild has a membership of over seventy. This Guild exists to provide fellowship for women church members and to draw non-members into that fellowship. Talks, demonstrations and films are all employed to further its aims, and classes in particular subjects, selected because of their special interest or appropriateness, are held from time to time. The Guild also seeks to serve church and community by the very necessary service of raising money. Some women attend meetings of the Women’s Rural Institute at Dumgoyne. Evening classes organised by the education authority are held in the school at intervals, but in recent winters students of these classes have gone to Balfron to study. Instruction and practice in such activities as country dancing are, however, provided locally in the school.

A drama group was instituted in 1949 and has had a successful existence. There is also a very popular football team, Blanefield Thistle, which plays in the Strathendrick League. This team has a following in the village. Tennis, bowling and badminton have keen exponents and provide great pleasure to the members of the various clubs.

It is a matter of some pride that the parish provides quite a significant proportion of the membership of the Strathendrick Pipe Band which is centred in Balfron. The parish can produce some highly skilled masters of a difficult art, the art of piping. Angling is popular and the Loch Lomond Angling Association uses local burns as breeding grounds. Local expert opinion, however, has it that there has been recently a marked decrease in the number of salmon seen in the Blane Water in the village area, and this has caused some disquiet.

The parish welcomes annually a large number of visitors who come to stay in our midst for varying periods of time. Among these are many Scouts from the Glasgow Scouting Association who come to the tented camp at Auchengillan, a camp large enough to accommodate some 500 campers. There is, too, the ‘Camp of Scotland,’ with hard standings for some 40 tents, which is the camping meeting-ground of members of another organisation for young people. Apart from the groups who retain the right if they so wish to ‘take up their tents’ there is a large group of visitors who, while they are with us, prefer more solid accommodation. Scattered throughout the parish are some 450 holiday huts and houses, the majority being in the Carbeth area, which are visited and occupied for varying periods each year.

Housing. Home relationships form such an important part of life that it might almost be said that social history is written in stone and mortar. Certainly an examination of the houses in Strathblane parish reveals much of its history. The landed aristocracy and, later, success­ful men in commerce and industry made their homes in the district. They built large houses placed in spacious grounds and they provided lodges and small cottages for their servants and workers. This has always been a farming district and consequently there are, scattered throughout the parish, farmhouses of small and moderate size and small cottages for cowmen, ploughmen and shepherds. At one time this village was an industrial community supporting numbers of workers for whom houses of the tenement type were provided. Some of these houses remain and consist, generally, of flats with one, two or three rooms, there being only one or two tenements with more than two storeys.

Improved travelling facilities in the twentieth century enabled middle-class families, and now, also, working-class families, to travel daily to Glasgow. They built in the parish detached and semi-detached villas. Next came the movement to improve the housing conditions of the lower income groups which has produced the scheme, at the end of the village, of houses erected by the county council.

Before the war of 1939 more than 20 houses were built by the county housing authority, all of them at Strathblane. Since 1954 a further group of 93 has been constructed in the area. Ten of these are in Blanefield and the remainder in Strathblane. In addition 24 temporary houses were erected, of which by the end of 1961 some fourteen or fifteen remain in use. In 1960 a start was made to build permanent houses on the site of the post-war temporary buildings; nine such houses have been completed and are now occupied. One home for an agricultural worker has been erected by the county authority.

There are nearly 200 owner occupied houses in the parish, but this number is likely to grow. Several building firms are interested in creating housing estates in the area and some of this work has begun. Of 58 houses planned one firm has constructed 40 at the moment. A second firm has built about two dozen houses, mainly bungalows, and four or five are under construction. A third firm has indicated its plan for house construction. In addition perhaps twelve private house­holders have in recent years had houses built in the parish.

The Way of Life. Two factors have, in the past, tended to prevent our community from being a true community, that is, one with a strong underlying unity. The first of these is that it is in the country and yet lies near the city. Some of its inhabitants are town people who work in the city, whose interests sometimes lie there, who go there for shopping, entertainment and their social life. To some of these the country is but a pleasant background to their home life. Other inhabitants are essentially country folk to whom the country is a large part of their lives, their livelihood is drawn from the land and their interests are centred in the district. While this diversity has had the disadvantage of weakening the sense of unity it has also had the advantage of giving the community a wide variety of interests.

The other factor producing diversity is an economic one. Though there has been a general levelling in the twentieth century there are still considerable differences and the extremes are to be found in our little community. On the one hand there are landowners and prosperous business and professional men and farmers and on the other hand the wage-earning group. There is no local factory or market-place where all groups meet. There is some but not a great deal of mixing in the religious and social activities of the community. The ‘ better off’ tend to be those whose interests lie outside the community.

On the other hand its small size helps to make it a more real community than is the city or the city suburb. People know one another more and are more interested in one another than they would be in a larger place. The smallness of the community does create problems; hall and club committees with comparatively small memberships on which to draw have frequently found it difficult to make ends meet. It is interesting, however, that in recent years more of the people of the parish, particularly the young people, have tended to spend their leisure time in the village activities rather than in the city; the resultant increase in the strength of local organisations has been very encouraging.

Material conditions influence the way of life. Real poverty has largely disappeared and all are able to afford a reasonable supply of life’s necessities. The children are well-clothed, well-fed and healthy looking. The old people have the hardest time. Increasing costs have meant that their hard-earned savings are worth little and the old age pension, even with a supplementary pension, provides only a bare subsistence. The rest of us are probably less content with the wages we receive and the living we get from them than were our forefathers. We are probably more materialistic. The cost of the Welfare State is heavy and we tend to assume its benefits and grudge the paying of them. Furthermore we live in an age when modern knowledge and applica­tions of that knowledge have taught us to expect a gradual rise in standards and we feel, often unconsciously, that there should be plenty of everything for everybody. Several factors, chief among them two world wars, have hindered this rise and there is a consequent feeling of frustration.

Housing conditions have their important influence. There is steady improvement but much remains to be done. The shortage of houses affects particularly young married couples who are sometimes compelled to start their married life either in rooms or with in-laws. Others of the community upon whom the shortage falls heavily are older people living in tied houses, who, when they are due to retire, often have no home to which to go. Naturally these housing conditions make a full family life difficult for many.

The village, as has been noted, is fortunate in its facilities for the social side of life, for culture, sport and entertainment. There are cinemas only a few miles away and the city places of entertainment are also convenient. Every week whist drives and dances, both country and ballroom, are held and receive popular support. The licensed houses seem prosperous. Most homes have wireless and television but this has little effect on attendance at social functions. Football pools are very popular. It would be a reasonable generalisation to say that most people in their leisure hours prefer light entertainment. Where the interest is more serious it tends in the direction of crafts rather than arts: leatherwork and dressmaking classes have been popular among the womenfolk; in the summer the garden attracts many men. The pursuits of the mind are at a discount. There are, however, quite numerous exceptions to this general trend.

There are some eleven hundred people over the age of seventeen. Of these, more than four hundred are members of the Church of Scotland. There is also a number of Roman Catholics but most of the remainder are without active church connection. Most of these desire Christian baptism for their children and later send them to Sunday school which has a roll greater than that of the local day-school. They call upon the services of the ministers at a wedding or a funeral and they usually appreciate a visit from the minister to their home, particularly if there is sickness. There are broadly speaking two attitudes to the Christian faith in our community. There is that of the man who, brought up within the influence of the church and in a family whose belief in the Lordship of Jesus Christ was a real and living force, impressed by the sincerity of their strivings to live by their faith, has accepted their faith as his own and, having had himself a deep and satisfying experience, continues to believe the Christian faith to be true and supports the Church of that faith. On the other hand there is that of the man whose family has exercised no such influence on him, either because they did not practise the faith, or because the present day situation and present day thought have led him to believe that they were mistaken. To him the Christian faith is not personal. Since all religions including that of modern scientific humanism depend ultimately on personal experience and personal faith this man’s religion is represented by a question mark. The standards of conduct he accepts are in the main those produced by a society which believed the Christian faith. He remains on the fringe of the Christian community because no alternative faith attracts him but he refuses to commit himself to it.

There has been, however, in recent years a decided re-awakening of genuine interest in and active concern for the Church. Services at Christmas, Easter and Harvest Thanksgiving, in particular, are attended by congregations which fill the church. Special communion services in Holy Week are an accepted part of church life.

Family responsibilities are taken seriously. The housewife is proud of her home. With few exceptions homes are kept clean and tidy and, where resources permit, great care is taken with furnishings and decoration. Gardens are neatly kept and are a show of colour in summer. Parents are deeply interested in their children’s welfare; indeed it is true to say that the people of the village are very interested in their children in general.

Wider responsibilities are not so readily accepted, though to this there is a very notable exception. In times of trouble a true neighbourliness is shown; particularly when a sick person is living alone there is always some kind neighbour to take good care of him. There is, however, an unwillingness shown by many to take their share of social responsibility. Village activities are left to the few to run. There is little interest in the district council and not a great deal either in the county council, except occasionally, when some matter is a deep local concern. Even then, the interest is not high; when, for example, shortage of houses was acute, housing meetings were not well attended. One reason is that the community has few common interests to share with the rest of the county. Another is the realisation that the real power lies not locally but centrally in government offices. It is difficult to estimate the interest in national politics: at the latest general election it was considerable.

The last hundred years have seen great changes in our community and in the past few years the pace of change has accelerated. Many of these changes have brought opportunities for a wider, fuller, richer life. Others appear, to some at any rate, not to be progressive. Only a very bold man would hazard a guess as to the course of the next hundred years. Particularly is this so since one change has been that this community is now linked much more closely with the rest of the world and its destiny is bound inextricably with that of mankind as a whole.

Written 1951

Final Revision 1961

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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