Visit of Derwyn and Andrew Crozier-Smith to Strathblane

Past News & Events

May 19-22 2023

Back in the summer of 2022 we received an email, out of the blue, from Derwyn in the Canadian town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, asking for help in arranging a research visit to Strathblane to study the history and heritage of his great-great-uncle – the famous John Guthrie Smith. Smith’s book, ‘The Parish of Strathblane and its Inhabitants from Early Times’,’ published in 1886, has been regarded as the definitive account of the history of the Blane Valley.

Derwyn is a 77-year-old retired teacher training manager whose family originates from the 1869 marriage of William Smith (a descendant of Guthrie Smith) to a Canadian lady, Emma Corrie Crozier, and their family’s subsequent evolution in Saskatchewan. His grandson Andrew is 26.

Derwyn and his grandson Andrew duly arrived at Glasgow Airport on the afternoon of Friday May 19 and were welcomed by Anne and Alastair Balfour on behalf of the society. Over the next three days they undertook a detailed programme of visits and tours around the village and the Trossachs, which uncovered a fascinating amount of information about their predecessor and his works. Here’s the schedule:

Friday: lodged at the Kirkhouse Inn, and taken to dinner at Killearn’s Old Mill by Anne, Alastair and Jane and Steve Parfitt – in fulfilment of Andrew’s wish to see ‘a traditional Scottish pub’.

Saturday: Anne and Alastair gave the Crozier-Smiths a walking tour around the village, including a pause at the War Memorial (left) and taking in our new community library.  Derwyn was most impressed at our achievement in funding and building the library.

Then, along with more than 70 Heritage members, Derwyn and Andrew joined us at our 30th Anniversary Garden Party in Alastair Wallace’s magnificent walled garden at The Old Manse.

Piper Andrew Wallace from Strathendrick Pipe Band set the scene for a splendid party

With masses of help from members, gazebos were erected, tables set up and a great spread of sandwiches, cakes and home baking was laid on.

It was really noticeable again that, although this is probably the largest event that we have ever attempted, so many folk turned out to tackle the myriad of jobs involved that everything went smoothly. So many that it’s impossible to list all those who pitched in.

But special mention has to go to Jane (our tireless treasurer and membership secretary) and Steve Parfitt who organised the provision of tables, chairs and gazebos with help from Jamie and Diane Millar, Willie Oswald, Alan Morris and Tony Lenehan with his invaluable trailer.

Susan Kelly pulled together a great catering team with Julie Hutchison, Anne Muir, Diane Hodgkinson and Emily Brown, who poured gallons of teas, coffees and soft drinks. The Village Club and Kirkrooms kindly lent tables, chairs, mugs and flasks.

Keith and Margaret Vass efficiently sold raffle tickets which, together with the £5 ticket price, enabled the society to raise a superb £530 from the party towards our new website. And Keith Hyam borrowed the church’s PA system to enable Alastair to deafen the party guests.

Despite the less-than-friendly weather it was a great success, thanks in no small part to Strathendrick Pipe Band piper Andrew Wallace’s spirited playing. Derwyn drew an excellent prize raffle, which distributed more than 20 items back into the membership.

The day concluded with supper at Anne and Alastair’s house.

Andrew with the newly-revealed Smith gravestone

Sunday: Anne took Derwyn and Andrew to Strathblane Church for the morning service, after which – equipped with spades and trowels – they investigated the last-known resting place of the Smiths’ family grave in the church graveyard, which dates back to 1685 (!). Great was their excitement when they peeled back a layer of grass to reveal the actual gravestone, still in excellent condition and complete with the family’s crest. That was a real find! After photography the grass was carefully laid back over the gravestone to preserve it for future generations.

Later, after a tour of the former Guthrie Smith estate at Carbeth Guthrie, Anne took them to Duntreath for afternoon tea courtesy of Sir Archie and Lady Julie Edmonstone, together with their daughter Lissa, son Nicky and daughter-in-law Arabella. A tour of the castle and its grounds was laid on, and Derwyn and Andrew were thoroughly well received.

Tea at Duntreath

After all this excitement Anne then took our visitors on an extensive tour of the Trossachs, calling by Aberfoyle, Dukes Pass, Loch Katrine, Callander and Lake of Menteith.

The day ended with dinner at the Kirkhouse.

Monday: Began with a visit to Mugdock Country Park and a guided tour by the efficient Jo of Mugdock Park Rangers of the Castle, where in the late 19th century Guthrie Smith built a substantial home amid the ruins of the 13th century Tower that is all that remains of the original 16th century fortifications. Derwyn and Andrew were tickled pink by being able to gain access to the Tower and up on to its roof, which offers an excellent view over the park and up to the Campsies.  They also enjoyed playing squires at the medieval dining table which is part of the Tower’s well-presented decoration to look as it would have in days of yore.

Derwyn and Andrew at Mugdock’s Visitor Centre
inside the Tower

We then whisked our visitors to Glengoyne for the compulsory whisky distillery tour, and sampling. After a quick lunch chez nous Derwyn and Andrew departed the village for Glasgow Airport, stopping en route to inspect the Smiths’ imposing mausoleum at Old Renfrew Parish Church. Admittedly the stone building has seen better days, having been broken into some years ago by inquisitive locals, although the burial inscriptions of the family members interred there remain largely intact. As the church is now closed and unoccupied, it’s an open question of how long the site and its graveyard will remain accessible.

Glasgow Airport was not the end of the Crozier-Smiths’ travels as they were off to Belfast to inspect other parts of the family’s widespread history, before heading back to London and then the Isle of Wight where yet more branches of the family were awaiting discovery.

In conclusion, this was a busy but enjoyable and insightful visit by two people with a good understanding already of their family’s past lives in the Blane Valley – Derwyn had previously visited in the early ‘90s. It’s not difficult to imagine that in future years, particularly once our website goes live, Strathblane Heritage will receive more requests for help for visitors wishing to explore their local history.

We wonder whether this represents a potential opportunity for someone with a taxi or tour-bus business………..

Alastair and Anne Balfour

May 30/23


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