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Rutherglen

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Rutherglen, a royal and parliamentary burgh on the N side of the parish just described, and adjoining the Clyde. It has a station on the Caledonian railway, 2 miles SE of Glasgow. The burgh is of considerable antiquity, and tradition carries its origin back to a mythical Caledonian chief (Reuther) who lived and ruled here some two centuries before the Christian era. Though we may decline to believe in this ruler, whether in his own proper person or even in the identification of him with that Reuda, under whose leadership, according to Bede, the Scots crossed from Ireland, and who lived about 350 years after the birth of Christ, yet it is certain that there was a seat of some population here at a pretty early date. As has been already noticed, the parish was a royal demesne, and, in a supplication presented to the Scottish Parliament in 1661, David I. is said to have constituted the demesne village a royal burgh in 1126; while in the oldest extant charter, granted by King Robert the Bruce in 1324, a confirming charter of William the Lyon is quoted, and the date assigned to it is 1189. The latter monarch also granted the church to the Abbey of Paisley, and Bishop Joceline of Glasgow (1175-99) confirmed the grant. The original royalty bounds were so extensive as to include part, if not the whole, of Glasgow; and we find Bishop Walter, of Glasgow (1207-32), engaged in a dispute with both Rutherglen and Dumbarton in regard to payment of toll and custom; and though he prevailed altogether against Dumbarton, he was only able to push the boundaries of Rutherglen a short distance to the E, King Alexander II. having decided that the privileges of the burgh should extend as far as the cross of Shettleston at the E end of modern Glasgow. Then, and long after, it was the chief trading and commercial town in the lower part of the Clyde, and even in 1402, when Lanarkshire was divided into two wards, Rutherglen was declared the head burgh of the Lower Ward. Much of this early importance was no doubt due to the royal castle which stood at the town and occupied a site in King Street nearly at the point where that thoroughfare is intersected by Castle Street. It must latterly have been a stronghold of some importance, as it was one of the places strongly garrisoned by the English during the wars of independence. During the early part of Bruce's career he is said to have besieged- it several times without success; but It was eventually captured By his brother Edward about 1313. Barbour, in his account of the strengths that were then taken, says;-

'In this tyme. that thir jupertyss
Off thir castcllis. that I dewiss,
War eschewyt sa hardely,
Schir Edward the Bruce the hardy,
Had all Galloway and Nydysdale
Wonnyn till his liking all haile;
And dongyn doun the castellis halle
Rycht in the dyk, bath tour and wall
He hard then say, ang knew it weill.
That in Ruglyne wes a pele.
Thiddir he went, with his menye,
And wonnyn it in schort tyme has he.'

Unlike so many of the other castles then taken, it was not destroyed, and it remained in good order till after the battle of Langside, when the Regent Murray, in laying waste the possessions of the Hamiltons, burnt it. The great tower was subsequently repaired, and became the seat of the Hamiltons of Ellistoun, lairds of Shawfield. Shortly after the beginning of last century, this portion and the new buildings that had been added were abandoned as a residence, and being allowed to become ruinous, the stones were carried off by the inhabitants of the town, and the walls were soon levelled to the ground. The walls of the tower were very thick, and so large were the stones used in the foundation that they remained some 30 years after all the rest of the building had disappeared. Queen Mary, in her flight from the field of Langside, passed close to the S side of the town, and at a lane, called Din's Dykes, about 150 yards S of Main Street, two rustics, who were cutting grass there at the time, attempted to stop her by threatening her with their scythes. Shortly after the Reformation, Rutherglen seems to have been considered by the presbytery of Glasgow as a place needing special care and attention, and we find that in 1590 they instructed the teacher of the school of Rutherglen to desist from reading prayers, and at the same time denounced the use of sacramental wine mixed with water. In 1593 they had again to interfere with the playing of pipes and the indulging in games on Sunday, both of which were forbidden between sunrise and sunset, on pain of excommunication. Though this proclamation was ordered to be read in all churches, and especially in the church of Rutherglen, it does not seem to have had altogether the desired effect-in spirit at all events-for in 1595 the presbytery had to transmit letters to the bailie of the burgh, enjoining him to stop the profane plays introduced on the Lord's Day, 'as they fear the eternal God, and will be answerable to His kirk;' and they also made complaint as to the practice of fishing for salmon on Sunday, and of the colliers selecting the same time for the settlement of their accounts. During the Covenanting times, Rutherglen was the scene of an event which was the prelude to the armed rising which ended at Bothwell Bridge. In 1697, the irreconcilables of the Presbyterian party Had determined to publish a 'Declaration and Testimony of the true Presbyterian Party in Scotland, 'and a body of 80 horsemen, under the command of Robert Hamilton, brother of the laird of Preston, set off for Glasgow, with the intention of there publicly proclaiming their doctrine; but finding that that town was occupied by a strong garrison of royalist troops, they turned aside to Rutherglen. The day chosen was the 29th of May, the anniversary of the birthday of Charles IL, and also of the day on which he entered London at the Restoration, and the whole town was accordingly lit up with bonfires in honour of the occasion. These the Covenanters immediately extinguished, * and having lit a bonfire of their own, they therein burnt all the acts of parliament and proclamations directed against themselves and their cause, and then having read their testimony at the burgh cross, to which they also fixed a copy, they retired to Evandale and Newmilns. Claverhouse and his dragoons arrived on the 31st to investigate the matter, but none of the inhabitants seem to have been implicated, and he passed on to Loudon Hill (see Drumclog), where his force was defeated by the armed Covenanters, and thereafter came the battle of the Gallowgate in Glasgow, and of Bothwell Bridge. Rutherglen espoused the cause of electoral reform at a very early date, for in 1671 a new set was fixed whereby the practice of the council's electing their successors was abolished, and the right of election given to the Incorporated Trades and the burgesses generally. Shortly afterwards they anticipated the compulsory clauses of the Education Act of two centuries afterwards, by ordaining, in 1675, that all the inhabitants of the burgh should send their children betwixt 6 and 12 years of age 'to the comune Schoole to be educat yrat with certification that whaever neglects there dewtye herein shall be compelled to pay the quarter waidges as if there children were at the Schoole, 'and the fees were to be recoverable by poinding and imprisonment. As Glasgow rose in importance Rutherglen diminished, and in 1695 it was reckoned as one of the least of the royal burghs, the monthly cess being fixed at £1 sterling, while thereafter it became practically a quiet country village; and, though it has again become of more importance, this has arisen rather from its having become a manufacturing suburb of Glasgow than from any power existing within itself. Some old customs survived to a comparatively recent period, one of them, entirely peculiar to the place, being a ceremonious baking, on St Luke's eve, of excessively thin sour cakes, which were given to strangers visiting St Luke's Fair. A peculiar kind of sour cream was also long manufactured for sale, not only in the town itself, but in the surrounding district, but this has now also entirely ceased.

The modern town is somewhat mean in appearance, and consists of a very wide and spacious Main Street- extending along the road from Glasgow to Hamilton- with narrow lanes and streets branching off from it, the chief being Farm Loan Road (N) and Hamilton Road (S), both at the E end; Castle Street (N), near the centre; and Mill Street on the opposite side farther S. At the W end the principal street divides into two narrow branches, of which that to the N retains at first the name of Main Street, and then becomes Chapel Street, while the branch to the S is Cathcart Road. Parallel to Main Street on the N is the long narrow King Street. There are several other straggling streets, and on the low rich flat to the N and NW, beyond the railway, are the principal manufactories. The buildings, even in the main street, are very poor and irregular, many of them being very old houses, with low walls and thatched roofs. The old town-hall is a poor structure, projecting into Main Street on the N side, but the modern town-hall, erected in 1861-62 at a cost of £7000, farther W, and subsequently added to on the E, is a very handsome building which would do honour to many a much larger town. Late Baronial in style, it has a street frontage of 120 feet, and near the centre a square tower with turrets, with ogee roofs, rising to a height of 110 feet. The portion to the W, which was the first erected, contains a burgh courtroom, a council chamber, various retiring rooms, and a public hall, measuring 75 by 40 feet, and with accommodation for about 800 persons. The eastern addition contains the various burgh offices. The ancient parish church Vas immediately to the W of the burgh hall, and was a building of some note, for, according to Blind Harry, it was in it that in 1297 a truce was agreed on between Scotland and England.

'Erll of Stamffurd. was chanslar of Ingland,
With Schyr Amar this trawaill tuk on hand
A saiff condyt thai purchest off Wallace.
In Ruglen Kyrk the tryst than haiff thai set.'

and after telling How 'The gret chanslar and Amar thidder past,' and giving an account of the debate between the parties, he tells How

'Wallace said; " Schyr. we jangill bot in wayne.
My consell gyffis, I will na fabill mak,
As for a yer a finaill pess to tak.
Nocht for myself. that I bynd to your seill
I can nocht trow that euir ye will be leill;
Bot for pur folk grethye has beyne supprisyt,
I will tak peess, quhill forthir we be awisit."
Than band thai thus; thar suld be no debait,
Castell and towne suld stand in that tilk stait.
Fra that day furth, quhili a yer war a an end:
Sellyt this pess, and tuk thar leyff to wend.'

and according to the same authority, it was Here, too, that Sir John Menteith agreed to betray Wallace to the English:

'Schyr Jhon Menteth Wallace his gossop was,
A messynger Schyr Amar has gert pass
On to Schyr Jhon. and sone a tryst has set,
At Ruglyn Kyrk thir twa togydder met.'

Of the church which was dedicated to the Virgin, and Had altars of the Holy Trinity and St Nicholas, the only part now remaining is the quaint low tower with its curious spire, the rest having been demolished in 1794 when the present hideous structure about 30 yards farther W was constructed. It is somewhat curious that the dedication of the church was to the Virgin, while the chief fair was held on St Luke's day in October. The modern church has 880 sittings, and is surrounded by a churchyard. The West Church, on the S side of Chapel Street, was built in 1836 as a chapel of ease, and stood unused for some time after the Disruption, but it was constituted a quoad sacra charge in 1868. It contains 880 sittings. In 1883 the Established Church also purchased the former Congregational church. The First Free church on the NW, in Glasgow Road, erected soon after the Disruption, is a plain Gothic building with 820 sittings and a square pinnacled tower. The Second Free church, in Farm Loan Road to the E, was erected in 1871-72, at a cost of £3000, as a Reformed Presbyterian church, but passed into possession of the Free Church when the two denominations were united in 1876. It is a good Early English building, with 750 sittings and a SW tower and spire rising to a Height of 128 feet. The U.P. church, a very plain building of 1836, in King Street, contains 950 sittings. The Roman Catholic church (St Andrew), on the S side of Main Street, is a plain building of 1853, with 600 sittings. There are also a Wesleyan Methodist congregation meeting in a building in Cathcart Road, a Free Church mission in King Street, and a Congregational church (1881) at Wardlawhill, whilst an Evangelistic hall is at present in course of erection. St John's Masonic Hall is a poor building erected in Cathcart Road, in 1875, at a cost of £1500. Under the burgh school board are the Burgh, Farie Street, and Macdonald's schools, which, with accommodation for respectively 250, 400, and 259 pupils, had, in 1884, attendances of 216, 442, and 280, and grants of £184, 17s., £383, 7s., and £211, 14s. A Free Church school has been closed, but there is also a Roman Catholic school with accommodation for 405 pupils, and an attendance of over 250. The Macdonald school was erected originally by subscription and partly endowed with the interest of £500 bequeathed by Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonald for the education of Protestant children in the town and parish of Rutherglen. Under the Educational Endowments Act it is proposed to spend the interest of this money in bursaries.

Municipal matters are attended to by a provost, 2 bailies, a treasurer, a dean of guild, and 13 councillors. The corporation revenue is about £1900. The police force is united with that of the county. There is a gas company with works on the SW of the town. Rutherglen has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, under Glasgow, offices of the Com. banks, agencies of 9 insurance companies, and a newspaper, The Reformer (L., 1875),published on Saturday. Among the miscellaneous institutions may be noticed a public library and reading Seal of Rutherglen. room, a masonic lodge (St John's, 347), a young men's Christian association, and other local societies. There are fairs on the first Friday after 11 March, the first Friday after 4 May, the first Tuesday after 4 June, the first Friday after 25 July, the first Friday after 25 August, the Wednesday before the first Friday of November, the first Friday of November, and the Friday after 25 November. Several of these, particularly the one in May called Beltane Fair, and that in November called St Luke's Fair, are famous for the sale of horses and cattle, and for the large number of buyers and sellers who attend them. The inhabitants of the town and district are employed in the coal pits, quarries, and brick-works in the neighbourhood, or in the industrial works connected with the burgh, these latter being factories, chemical works, dye works, a paper mill, a pottery, tube works, a small boat building yard, rope and twine works, and spindle works. Rutherglen unites with Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Port Glasgow, and Renfrew in returning a member to serve in Parliament. Parliamentary constituency (1885) 1609; municipal 1633. Valuation of parliamentary burgh (1875) £30, 659, (1885) £34, 556. Pop. of royal burgh (1831) 4741, (1861) 8071, (1871) 9239, (1881) 11, 473, of whom 5502 were males and 5971 females; of parliamentary burgh (1861) 8062, (1871) 9453, (1881) 11, 265, of whom 5435 were males and 5830 females. Houses (1881) 2343 inhabited, 243 uninhabited, and 7 building. Of the whole population in the same year, 2784 males and 1369 females were connected with industrial handicrafts, or are dealers in manufactured substances, and of these 1295 men and 37 women were connected with mineral substances alone; while there were 2064 boys and 2068 girls of school age. See also Ure's History of Rutherglen and East Kilbryde (Glasg. 1793).—Ord. Sur., shs. 30, 31, 1866-67.

* The fifth article of their own testimony was 'against that presumptuous act for imposing ane holy anniversary-day as they call it, to be kept yearly upon the 29th of May as a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the king's birth and restoration: whereby the appointers have intruded upon the Lord's prerogative and the observers have given the glory to the creature that is due to our Lord Redeemer. and rejoiced over the setting up of an usurping power to the destroying the interest of Christ in the land.'

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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