Renfrewshire Copper Mines

Over the past 300 years, Renfrewshire had many coal and limestone workings. It also had a number of less common, though more valuable minerals, including copper. Copper occurs in veins among the lavas of the Renfrewshire hills, along with Barytes, which was worked at Muirshiel. Hundreds of tons of copper were worked, and many more trials (speculative shafts and tunnels) opened up for copper on the fabled ‘Lochwinnoch vein’, which ran north from Lochwinnoch via Kilmacolm to Gourock.

The earliest copper mines were above Gourock from the 1760s, owned by the Stuarts of Castlemilk. In 1782 this mine was described as being run by a respectable company from England and was doing very well as the copper was of a good quality. When the ore was dug out it was ‘broke into small pieces, washed, then strained and separated using mercury’. At least three workings are shown on a map of 1796. Water was required for power and dressing, but was also a problem when keeping the mines dry. A dam and water powered engine was constructed on the Gourock Burn to pump water out of the mines and to wash and process the ore. The mines declined, but were explored and reopened again several times, including in the 1860s. The occurrence of copper generated further trials in the area. Interest was reignited if the price of copper rose on the world market.

The second copper mining area was above Lochwinnoch. Brian Skillen’s article in RLHF Journal Vol 8 covers numerous copper mines and trials in the Calder valley, and its tributary the Kaim Burn. The lowest successful mine was on the west bank of the Calder just upstream of Bridgend. Its success generated a number of trials upstream towards Little Cloak. The best known and longest lived workings were at Kaim, where copper was found in the 1830s. Again success was limited, but more productive workings commenced in 1860s with an engine house and chimney stack. Several hundred tons of ore were produced, but the company was wound up in 1863. However the workings were reopened soon after and further mines and drainage levels driven and worked to 1870. Higher up Calder Glen, various trials were driven from the river valley in the 1860s. Small scale working around Clovenstone failed in 1865. The final workings at Kaim in 1874 went down more than 60 metres, but again were short lived.

When the railway was constructed from Bridge of Weir to Kilmacolm, copper was found in one of the cuttings, but was not rich enough to make working economic.

Overall, copper was a valuable mineral and attracted ongoing interest in Renfrewshire, especially when the price rose. Old workings were a focal point of interest, as they provided ready access to copper veins, without the expense of building new shafts. However starting a copper mine and its processing plant was capital intensive and unless productivity was high, failure was always likely.

© 2015 Stuart Nisbet

The Castle of Houston

Last month we saw how the old village of Houston was transformed into a new planned village from the 1780s. Directly to the east of the old village and church lay Houston House or Castle, which stood on a mound fronting a long avenue stretching down to the River Gryfe.

The tower is referred to as early as the 1460s, as the Nether Mains of Houston, with castle, woods and hunting grounds. By the seventeenth century the castle seems to have been of Disneyland style – a square tower, consisting of four sides around a central courtyard. The parapet overlooked the whole countryside from an elevated mound. The south or front elevation looked towards the River Gryfe and had two turrets, flanking an arched entrance with a portcullis. Underneath was a vaulted basement.

Due to the changes of owners and transformation of the estate around the time of the forming of the planned village, there was little evidence to confirm these descriptions. However the newly discovered estate plans, c.1780, show that the descriptions weren’t fantasy, but were in fact correct. They show a large square keep with a central courtyard, elevated on a mound. Even the turrets flanking the entrance can be seen on the plan.

The castle had a grand elevated setting, possibly on an earlier motte. It wassurrounded by parks and woodland. Around the house was a garden and bowling green. To one side was a ‘Pigeonhouse Park’ with a doocot. The great tree-lined avenue led south towards the River Gryfe.

By the 1780s towerhouses were in decline. Three sides of the castle were knocked down shortly after the survey was carried out, and the stone was allegedly used to clad the fronts of the new houses in Houston village. By this time the castle was described as being ‘once a large and very ancient mansion overlooking the whole country, from one of the finest spots’. By that time, only the east wing of the castle remained, but in a ruined condition, only big enough ‘to accommodate any ordinary family’.

© 2015, Stuart Nisbet, Renfrewshire Local History Forum

 

The Old Village of Houston

Houston village was traditionally one of the seventeen parish villages or kirktouns in Renfrewshire. From the middle of the eighteenth century, Houston estate passed from the Houston family through various owners, the most wealthy of whom were colonial planters, including one from Jamaica, and another who was an island Governor. The biggest changes to the village occurred from the 1780s, again with sugar and tobacco money, when the whole estate was purchase by another colonial merchant, Archibald Speirs of Elderslie.

Speirs carried out a survey of his whole Houston estate, which comprised more than a thousand acres of Houston parish situated along the Gryfe Water, and north towards Barochan and Kilmacolm. The proposal was to improve the lands and also to create a new planned village. Building commenced in 1781 and two streets were laid out, parallel with the Houston Burn.

Unlike Bridge of Weir and Crosslee nearby, Houston has no river running through it. Despite this, and the rural situation, the very modest Houston Burn was managed to provide power and process water for at least five new industries to provide employment in the new village. Reservoirs were built further up the burn to store water. Four bleachfields were laid out along the burn. The largest, just west of the new village, was owned by the Carlisle family of Paisley, and whitened cotton yarn, sewing thread, muslins and lawns.

In the early 1790s, Paisley merchant Robert Park purchased land beside the avenue of Houston House, including Gardeners Acre, Goosebutts, Milnhouse and Saughfence Parks. Part of the area was flooded to create a reservoir, and
a lade was diverted off the burn to create a fall of thirty feet. This drove a water wheel, which powered a cotton spinning mill, four storeys high and a hundred feet long, employing 140 locals. Textile manufacture also provided the main employment in the village itself, with 42 looms in private houses, weaving cotton, muslin, lawn and silk gauze. There was also a small centralised ‘factory’ or weaving shop where handloom weavers wove expensive fabrics. In its first decade, the village population rose from sixteen families to fifty seven.

imageThe downside to the new planned village was that we have little record of the earlier pre-improvement village. Fortunately, in recent years, the estate plans surveyed c.1780 have been rediscovered. More than a dozen colour plans show each farm on the estate, plus the old village, just before the new village was laid out. They show the old village of Houston, including the school and two pubs, clustered around the market cross and the parish kirk, which had been rebuilt in 1775.

The Houston estate plans, can be viewed at the National Library of Scotland or by contacting RLHF.

© 2015 Stuart Nisbet, Renfrewshire Local History Forum

The plan shows the pre-1780 Houston village.

 “Houstown” is the old castle

LOCHERFIELD BLEACHWORKS

In a spell of dry weather in the summer of 2014 the flow of the Locher Water (betwlocherfieldeen Kilbarchan and Bridge of Weir) was reduced to a trickle. This revealed the footings of what appeared to have been an old weir or dam with the timbers preserved by decades of immersion in water. The weir or dam, constructed in the early 1860s, was associated with Locherfield Bleach Works which was owned by Hardie, Starke & Co. Forum members have been investigating the site and its history.
This field survey into the remains of the bleach works is continuing and a second weir has been revealed on the bank of the river further downstream where a large spill tunnel exits into the river.

 

 

 

William Hair, Kilbarchan emigrant to Ulster and America

William Hair was one of the earliest Kilbarchan men known to have settled in America. He was born in Kilbarchan 1694, the youngest of the four sons of William Hair and Margaret Gardiner. His father was a tenant farmer in Birdland who paid a total of one pound and three shillings in Poll Tax in 1695. Previously the family had lived in Weitlands (Wheatlands). At this time both settlements were fermtouns, small farming settlements usually tenanted by more than one family. Wheatlands still exists today, but Birdland (variously spelled Boreland and Boarland) is long gone.

As a young man William Hair, like many Scots, moved to Ulster where he worked as a farm labourer. This move was not as successful as he had hoped and William became disillusioned. He and a companion John Paterson, who may have been a John Paterson born at Locherside in Kilbarchan Parish in 1693, set sail from Londonderry on a ship bound for Boston, America, captained by a Captain Dennis.

In 1719 William and John are recorded as single farmers from Ireland who had recently arrived in the town. However, Boston did not want to support jobless new arrivals. William Hair, now in his mid-twenties, and John Paterson were chased out of town because they were single and jobless. From there, they made their way to Providence and then inland to Brookfield, still in Massechusetts, where new arrivals were made more welcome. In 1720 they were granted a sixty acre lot of land in the north of Brookfield beside Five Mile River, where they set up a Fulling Mill. William built his house on the site. In his youth William may have had some knowledge or experience in this early-mechanised industry in one of the two fulling mills (known as waulkmills in Scotland) on the Black Cart near Kilbarchan.

William Hair was married three times and, between 1725 and 1755, fathered a large family of seven sons and seven daughters. When he married his first wife Elizabeth Owen in 1725, he was designated ‘a clothier, and first of the name in Brookfield’. Elizabeth was only fourteen years old when they married. Sadly, in the same year their first child Jane died in infancy. John Paterson and his wife Mary had a son John, born in 1724, and a daughter, Margaret born in 1726.

Both men still resided in Brookfield in 1748 when sixty-six tax-payers signed a petition to the Town Clerk of Brookfield asking for a second precinct with Parish privileges and a meeting house to be set up in the north of the town. Among the signatories were William Hair, John Paterson, sen., and John Paterson, jun. The proposal in the petition was rejected and after continued pressure the matter went to the House of Representatives, on March 25th, 1750. Eventually in 1754 an Act was passed, establishing the new Precinct. A congregational Meeting House was built and a Mr Forbush was appointed as minister.

William’s large family and their descendants, like most eighteenth century Americans, volunteered in the various American conflicts and wars which ravaged the country. Some family members were active in the frontier wars against the native Indians. William’s three eldest sons, Abraham, John and William fought for the British troops in the wars against the French in the 1750s. Twenty years later Abraham Hair fought against the British in the American War of Independence. John Paterson, jun. also fought for independence as a volunteer from Brookfield in Captain Nathan Hamilton’s company stationed at Ticonderoga Mills in 1776-7. In 1786, after Independence had been won, Hair family members supported local Brookfield man, Daniel Shay, in an insurrection by Massachusetts veterans and farmers to address economic grievances. This was known as Shay’s Rebellion.

Despite ancient wars and conflicts, descendants of William Hair from Kilbarchan still live in New England almost 300 years after William Hair arrived in Boston. Research into the family was inspired by an enquiry, to Renfrewshire Local History Forum from a descendant, Richard Hare of New York who, perhaps following the family tradition, was a USAF Captain in Vietnam.

© 2014 Helen Calcluth

Robert Semple – A Kilbarchan Man and the Bargarran Witches of 1697

In the last decade of the 19th century an old weaver in Kilbarchan was heard to say ‘I knew a man who knew a man who saw the last witch burnt in Paisley’. He was referring to a man who witnessed the burning of the Bargarran Witches in Paisley in 1697.  It seems unlikely that this statement could be true two hundred years after the event. The question is  –  who was this man who witnessed the burning of the witches?

In 1697, when the witch trial and the burning of the witches took place in Paisley, there was still a strong belief in witchcraft and a widespread fear of witches. The trial came about because Christine Shaw, the eleven year old daughter of John Shaw of Bargarran in Erskine Parish, was suffering various torments and was believed to have been bewitched by one of her father’s servants and other local people. The Presbytery of Paisley was determined to eradicate all superstitions and witchcraft and local ministers, doctors and the gentry were consulted. They were all of the opinion that the child was certainly bewitched. This led to the trial in Paisley where seven innocent people were accused of witchcraft. The seven “Bargarran witches” were found guilty and condemned to death. One subsequently committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell. The other six were hanged and burnt on Gallow Green in Paisley. Although this event was not in fact the last sentence of death for witchcraft, it is generally regarded as the last mass execution of Witches in Western Europe.

At the time a ten year old boy, Robert Semple, was staying with his parents, the Semples of Belltrees, in Pollock Castle the home of his uncle Sir William Pollock. The hanging and the burning of the Barragan Witches was scheduled to take place on Gallow Green in Paisley on the 10th of June, 1697, and young Robert was keen to witness the spectacle. To prevent him from going, his parents hid his shoes. However, this didn’t stop him. He managed to leave the house, and walk barefoot to Paisley where he joined the immense crowd who had gathered to watch the spectacle. The memory of this eventful day stayed with him all his life and was a tale often recounted in his old age.

kilbarchan1But where’s the Kilbarchan connection?  In 1777 Robert Semple bought land on what was then part of Milliken Estate in Kilbarchan and built Belltrees Cottage, naming it after his family’s former estate. He died in Belltrees Cottage in 1789 at the ripe old age of one hundred and two. Robert Semple was the Kilbarchan man who had witnessed the burning of the witches. His longevity gives credibility to the old weaver’s assertion, ‘I knew a man who knew a man who saw the last witch burnt in Paisley’.

© 2014, Helen Calcluth

Eaglesham Orry

eagle1Renfrewshire Local History Forum has introduced a new series of archaeology fieldtrips in the ‘Old Renfrewshire’. Our first archaeology walk in the series took place in Eaglesham and was led by Susan Hunter, a member of the Forum and of the Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists.

Susan started the walk at Glasgow Street at the bottom of the Orry, an A-shaped green area in the centre of the Eaglesham village covering 15 acres, bordered on the north by Montgomery Street and on the south by Polnoon Street. The Orry was gifted to the inhabitants of Eaglesham in the late 18th century by the 10th Earl of Eglinton as part of his planned village.

Susan pointed out areas of archaeological and historic interest as we made our way up the length of the Orry – the sites of old lades, tunnels and reservoirs on the Kikton Burn, old field boundaries , Moat Hill which was an early meeting place for judicial and other assemblies, Mid Road Bridge which was rebuilt by the feuars in 1835, and sites recently identified by geo-phys surveys where old buildings formerly stood.

However, the highlight of the day was the site and archaeological remains of the New Orry Cotton Mill built in the middle of the Orry, probably in 1791. The mill was the principal employer in Eaglesham for more than seventy years with as many as 200 employees in 1845. The main building was an impressive five storeys high. The mill’s history ended when it was destroyed by fire in 1876.

The walk up the Orry ended at the site of the Earl of Eglinton’s dog kennels. We then visited the site of an of an older cotton mill built in the late eighteenth century at Townhead at the top of the old village. Finally, we walked down Montgomery Street to visit the churchyard to see the Covenanter Memorial, commemorating the killing of martyrs Robert Lochkhart and Gabriel Thomson, who were put to death by the Highland Dragoons after attending a conventicle meeting in 1685.

Everyone attending the fieldtrip found this a most interesting and enjoyable day. We hope over the coming months to continue this series of walks in the local Strathgryffe area.

Some members of our group gathering outside the Eglinton Arms

Some members of our group gathering outside the Eglinton Arms

Castle Semple Garden: Medieval to Victorian

The estate of Castle Semple in Renfrewshire was the seat of a leading Scottish landowner since the medieval period. The Semples were part of the Royal Court from the reign of Alexander II in the 13th century. By the 1580s Castle Semple included gardens, parks and woodland, evident on Timothy Pont’s survey.

The status of the estate is reflected in charters by King James IV to John Lord Semple in 1501, granting the lands, park, tower, and the fortalice of Lochwinnoch, and lands of Castleton. In 1504 John Lord Semple built a Collegiate Chapel amongst the gardens and orchards of Castle Semple, just behind the Castle of Semple. The precincts included ten roods (2.5 acres) of land directly adjacent, for priests’ dwelling houses, gardens and fruit trees.

Castle Semple Collegiate Chapel survived the Reformation, and the priest’s gardens merged with Castle Semple’s garden. A detailed survey of 1733 shows a scatter of buildings and small enclosures directly south of the Chapel. Renfrewshire Local History Forum (RLHF) have carried out fieldwork on the site, including geophysics, which has identified several structures and at least one building, possibly a priest’s dwelling, near the Chapel and garden.

The fortunes of the Semples declined in the late 17th century. In 1726 Castle Semple was sold to Colonel William McDowall, a sugar planter recently returned from the Caribbean. At the same time, the Colonel purchased the Shawfield Mansion in Glasgow with its five acre garden, orchards and pavilions.

At Castle Semple, the Colonel demolished the old Castle of Semple, one of the largest towerhouses in the west of Scotland. On the same site he built one of the earliest Palladian country villas in Scotland. The mansion had a panoramic frontage, including four pavilions fronting Castle Semple Loch. Although the mansion was demolished to its basement in the 20th century, the four pavilions survive, each as private dwellings.

In the late 1720s, Colonel McDowall employed surveyor John Watt, uncle of James the engineer, to measure the old garden. He described the ‘old garden in which the chapel house stands’, enclosed by a wall and measuring 3 acres 2 roods.

He also brought garden expert William Bouchert to Castle Semple to lay out his new estate and policies. Bouchert carried out planting and improvements for many other leading estates, including Castle Kennedy, Auchincruive, Blair Castle, Duff House, and Rossdhu. From 1727 to 1730, Bouchert diverted the burn behind Castle Semple to feed water features, including fish ponds and cascades. Beside the ponds, an ice house and a grotto survive.

In front of the new mansion, facing the loch, an inner court was formed, enclosed on four sides by the house, the inner east and west pavilions, and a low wall to the front. A stone path crossed the inner court from the front door of the house to the wall, where three steps led up to an outer court, consisting of a flower garden and large oval lawn.

To the rear of the mansion, the Colonel retained the footprint of the Semple’s original garden and orchard, covering five acres. By 1780 the old garden was partly a bowling green. In the western half, closer to the Collegiate Church, were vineries, peach and citrus houses, a conservatory and a hot house. The hot house was described as the best in Scotland, equal to that of the Duke of Argyle.

 

Plan of gardens 1780

Plan of gardens 1780

From the 1780s, Castle Semple’s garden was transferred 500m north to a new location on a south-facing slope at the old settlement of Sheills. This developed gradually into the massive buttressed walled garden with brick and sandstone details. The walls still survive, although the garden’s pavilions and outbuildings have been unroofed for a century and are in a ruinous state

 

View of walled garden from ruined pavilion

View of walled garden from ruined pavilion

In 1835 the garden was described as being laid out with great beauty, with long ranges of conservatories, hot-houses with the choicest fruits, a pinery, extensive flower-garden, shrubberies of rare plants, a fish-pond surrounded by every variety of rock plants, and every requisite for horticultural purposes.

Castle Semple estate survives as a Country Park, relatively untouched by modern development. Its gardens and policies provide a unique opportunity to study the estate of leading landowners over 700 years and RLHF are continuing research and fieldwork on the estate.

© 2014 Stuart Nisbet, Renfrewshire Local History Forum

Bridge of Weir’s Hidden Tunnels

Bridge of Weir is one of at least eighteen planned and unplanned villages in the old County of Renfrew which originated as cotton spinning settlements. The short stretch of the River Gryfe running through the village supported at least ten separate mills, thanks to the development of an ingenious system of dams, tunnels and lades. The last of Bridge of Weir’s mills disappeared with the demolition of Clydesdale Leather Works in the past decade. Although all the mill buildings may be gone, fieldwork is showing that most of the system of lades and tunnels which powered the mills still survives.

The village originated at a narrow rocky gorge, which provided a suitable bridging point of the Gryfe. The village straddles a geological boundary, between the plateau lavas of the Renfrewshire hills, and the flatter Carboniferous plain of the Cart Basin below. There is no actual waterfall, simply a succession of rapids, dropping nearly ten metres over a distance of some 500 metres. Traditionally the main fall powered a grain mill, the Mill of Gryfe. By the 1770s lint and waulk mills had been added.

The site was brought to the attention of cotton spinners by the enterprising Mill of Gryfe owner, who placed adverts in the Glasgow press in 1790. By 1794 the village had three large cotton mills. By the 1840s a dozen individual mill sites were in use, varying greatly in size, all powered by the Gryfe.

The key to the water system was a succession of five dams. The top dam served Burngill cotton mill and leather works. When the railway came, the viaduct had to negotiate not only the river, via a five-span skewed viaduct with segmental arches, but also the cotton mill and lade. The legs of the viaduct straddle the underground lade system which still survives in a brick-lined tunnel. The tunnel passes under the mill site and exits at an arch visible from the upstream side of the Bridge of Weir. Remote investigation with a camera has revealed that this leads into the original 1792 tailrace tunnel, cut through solid rock, with a vaulted masonry roof.

Burngill Tailrace

Burngill Tailrace

Further down, the second weir powered lint and cotton mills, but the dam was washed away in a flood many years ago. The next two dams or weirs are at the main fall on the river and served an upper and lower lade system. The start of the upper lade and a sluice gate still survive by the river path. This powered at least six mills, including two grain mills, two cotton mills, a saw mill and a bleachworks.

Corn Tunnel

Corn Tunnel

The water from each mill discharged directly into the lower lade, which was also fed by its own dam, and then carried on to serve the big cotton mill. Brick tailrace arches can still be seen beside the rubble lade wall. Inside, remote photography again reveals long brick tunnels, leading back under the former mill sites. Further down the rock-cut lower lade are the walls and windows of an eighteenth century grain mill.

The lower lade leads to the site of the Laigh Gryfe cotton mill, the lowest and biggest in the village. The mill was burnt down in 1898, but a leather works rose from the ashes in 1905. This was built on the footprint of the 1794 cotton mill, from its lower walls. Until recently, two storeys of the original cotton mill survived facing the river. The leather works survived until 2002, when it was demolished.

When the site was redeveloped, despite its importance to the origins of village, no investigation was carried out of the eighteenth century mill walls, buried lade, wheel pit and tailrace. Fortunately photos survive of the brick arched tailrace which exited to the river. A short distance below the mill site is the fifth dam which served the cotton mill at Crosslee via a very long lade.

The full lade system may yet return to service as it has the capacity to generate a substantial amount of free power from the flow in the Gryfe.

© 2014 Stuart Nisbet

John Cunninghame of Craigends (1759 – 1822),

John Cunninghame, Laird of Craigends, when he was in his mid-fifties, wrote a personal diary covering the years 1814-15. More than one hundred years later, in 1919, the diary was published by James Durham, his great-grandson. As one would expect, the dairy includes entries about his estate and business duties including haymaking, sheep shearing, pruning vines, checking his hothouse, buying Highland cattle at the June Thorn Fair in 1814 and at Johnstone Fair the following year, engaging and dismissing staff, collecting rent from his tenants, attending to his property in Port Glasgow and going to Paisley to ‘bank my West India income’. There were also entries noting his public duties such as attending heritors and session meetings to distribute the poor funds, inspecting Hardgate Toll and attending meetings concerning local toll roads in need of repair or alteration.

But business entries are far outnumbered by numerous entries about his health and the weather. Although John Cunninghame was a devout Christian, either a minor ailment or inclement weather seems always to have occurred on a Saturday justifying his non-attendance at church the following day. He suffered from numerous minor ailments and, more seriously, from gout. The ‘running off of the last of the wine’ (58 dozen and two bottles) in March, 1814, may have contributed to his gout! However, despite his painful illness he still frequently managed to go hunting with friends at Formakin, Barrochan Mill and Kilmacolm on his favourite horse, Empress.

John Cunninghame of Craigends and his wife Margaret were married in 1800 and by 1815 and had eleven children. Their family social circle, as one would expect, was largely confined to local gentry of his own class and Mr John Monteith, the Houston and Killallan minister. Mrs Monteith, ‘a kind good woman’ was a close friend of Margaret. She even stayed over at Craigends to help when new babies were born.

Other family friends mentioned in the diary include the Flemings of Barochan, Lady Stewart at Torr, the Porterfields of Duchal, the Alexanders of Soutbar, Sir John and Lady Maxwell of Pollock, the Napiers of Blackstoun, Mr Douglas (Kilbachan parish minister) and the Napiers of Milliken, who at that time were renting Alexander Spiers’s Glentyan House in Kilbarchan. On a visit to Glentyan, John Cunninghame was introduced to William Milliken Napier’s new bride, Elizabeth Stirling, whom he described as ‘very agreeable, tho’ not such a beauty as I had been led to think she was’. These families frequently visited each other for dinner. The main modes of transport used to visit friends were horseback or private horse and chaise for short distances, post horses on occasion for longer journeys and boats on the Johnstone Canal.

John Cunninghame had a keen interest in the lives of his children. This personal involvement of a father with his children seems more in keeping with the present day than the early nineteenth century. Entries in the diary record the birth of his youngest son, Boyd, on 11th March 1814, with intimate details on problems with the wet nurse, and an entry on the nineteenth of March saying ‘Mrs C slept well. Baby going finely’. The diary details John Cunninghame’s arrangements for the younger children to go on holiday to Largs ‘for ‘sea bathing’. He and his wife journeyed to Largs at the end of May to book a holiday house at the cost of £11 for the season. He also noted calling the doctor when the children had chickenpox, when Lillie cut and bruised her cheek and when Willie fell from a horse. Another entry mentions taking his eight year old daughter, Fanny, to Paisley to have a haircut. His older boys were educated in Edinburgh under ‘the care and instruction’ of Robert Smith until December 1814, when he became the minister in Lochwinnoch, and was replaced by David Brown. John Cunninghame mentions sending a watch to his eldest son, thirteen year old Willie, in Edinburgh.

The diary surprisingly makes no mention of politics or the Battle of Waterloo. John Cunninghame’s Diary is simply a very ordinary day to day account of the family life of a country laird who suffered from ill health, loved his family and attended to his immediate estate and public duties. He died in 1822 and was buried in Kilbarchan. His gravestone is displayed high on the wall inside the entrance tower of Kilbarchan old Parish Church.

© 2014, Helen Calcluth