Browse Category Hands Across The Sea

The Landscape of Dalserf Parish

The parish of Dalserf, situated in the middle reaches of the River Clyde, occupies a unique position in the heart of what the writer Neil Munro described as ‘Clydesdale’s treasure house’. Physical and human geography have combined to create a distinctive landscape whose character has captured the attention of writers for centuries. The Lanarkshire-born poet and traveller William Lithgow (c.1585–1645) called this the ‘Paradice of Scotland’, making special reference to a landscape remarkable for its diversity that comprised ‘Cornes, Meeds, Pastorage, Woods, Parks, Orchards, Castles, Pallaces, divers kinds of Coale and earth-fewell’. It was into this contrasting landscape of collieries and castles that -Andrew Shaw was born in 1892.

The making of the physical landscape of Scotland is a fascinating and almost unbelievable story that involves colliding continents, erupting volcanoes and moving ice sheets, all part of a dramatic series of events spanning millions of years. For such a small country, Scotland has, as a result of this, a geology and a landscape that are amongst the most varied of any country on the planet.

The oldest rocks in Scotland are the Lewisian gneisses that were part of the Earth’s crust 3 billion years ago. Mostly to be found on the north-west coast and in the Outer Hebrides, these rocks represent great thicknesses of sediments and lavas that have been altered over long periods of time. The rocks that immediately underlie Dalserf Parish are much younger, but they too have been altered by dynamic processes that have reworked the land over the past 500 million years. Scotland, throughout this time span, has slowly drifted northwards across the equator, passing through the tropics before arriving in northern, more temperate regions. Deserts, tropical river deltas and the impact of 2,000-foot-high glaciers are all elements of this long journey that are reflected in today’s landscape.

Nearly 410 million years ago, two separate landmasses, with the early incarnations of Scotland and England, began to collide. As the ocean between them disappeared, and the lands merged, the marine sediments were compressed, raised and folded into a mountain chain that forms the foundation of the Southern Uplands of Scotland. The Southern Upland fault marks the northern boundary of this range, just as the Highland Boundary fault marks the southern extent of the older rocks of the Grampian Mountains, which were also created as a result of this collision of continents.

No sooner are mountains built than they are whittled down to size by wind, weather and the passage of streams and rivers that carry water and large quantities of sediment to lower ground. In the period following the geological union of Scotland and England, the mountains to the north and south eroded rapidly, depositing great quantities of sediment into the Midland Valley of Scotland between the Southern Upland and Highland Boundary faults. The land between these two fault lines sank to form a great rift valley into which flowed large rivers carrying gravels. Today, the River Clyde continues that process. Rising as a small stream in the Southern Uplands, the Clyde drops down to Roberton where it gradually begins to widen and gather momentum before winding slowly north-eastwards through the Midland Valley, a journey of 106 miles from its source to the Clyde estuary at Dumbarton.

Between 290 and 360 million years ago, during a period of geological time known as the Carboniferous, Scotland sat astride the equator, with rainforest and pockets of steamy tropical swamp covering much of the Midland Valley. Dead trees collapsing into the swamp areas -created deposits rich in carbon and subsequently, as more sediment accumulated on top, these carbon-rich layers were compressed to form vast areas of coal that were eventually to fuel the Industrial Revolution in central Scotland. Dalserf Parish stands on a great coalfield which extends over thirty miles from Douglas almost as far as Glasgow. This coalfield held nine seams of coal which were exploited at the peak of coal mining in the early twentieth century. At that time, some twenty collieries in Dalserf Parish produced over 7,000 tons of coal a day.

As a young miner, Andrew Shaw would have been familiar, not just with the coal measures that earned him a modest living, but also with the sandstones worked from a number of local quarries for use in the building of houses and dry stone dykes. The white, yellow and grey sandstones laid down during the hot and humid Carboniferous period, and the red sandstones deposited under desert conditions before and after the Carboniferous, were commonly used building materials throughout central Scotland, and in Dalserf Parish there were about ten quarries providing this easily worked freestone, as it was called. The largest of these quarries were near the banks of the Avon Water at Raploch, Machan and Broomhill, at Marlage (Fig. 1) in the centre of the parish and to the east overlooking the Clyde at Skellyton and Dalpatrick. Another stone of volcanic origin, called whinstone, was less common in the parish, only making an appearance in the form of natural intrusions or dykes at Birkenshaw, by the Avon Water, and on the upper slopes overlooking the Clyde Valley.

On a clear day, from high ground in the heart of the parish, there is a remarkable panorama in all directions. To the north-east, the eye can see as far as the peaks of Ben Lomond; The Cobbler, rising beyond the distinctive line of the Campsie Fells; and Kilpatrick Hills, which mark the northern edge of the Midland Valley. These basalt ranges were formed as a -result of vast outpourings of volcanic lava that occurred just before the creation of the Carboniferous coal measures. To the south, the conical peak of Tinto Hill is another reminder of Scotland’s turbulent volcanic history.

Two million years ago, the onset of the Ice Age brought repeated glaciations, with ice sheets moulding the hilltops, carving out corries [hollows] and crags and creating flat-bottomed valleys. The Ice Age came to an end about 12,000 years ago and, as the last of the ice sheets retreated, large deposits of sand and gravel were dumped over the land and meltwater rivers cut large valleys. The River Clyde meanders through these valley deposits creating its own distinctive course, which at Dalserf takes the form of a great loop (Fig. 2). The view from the kirkyard will have changed little since the time Andrew Shaw walked down the Manse Brae to the parish church on a Sunday. Unlike the wide vistas offered on the higher ground at Broomfield or Netherburn, the field of vision is restricted here. It is like standing in the middle of a basin. Wooded slopes rise steeply from the valley floor on each side of a river whose wide, meandering loop encloses alluvial haugh land still grazed by cattle. The haugh, or valley land, by the River Clyde gives rise to numerous names with the prefix dal-, which indicates meadow land or cleared land subject to occasional flooding. Dalpatrick, Dalbeg and, of course, Dalserf, are all local names that derive from this ancient Brittonic word.

The landscape created as a result of all of these dynamic processes resembles an island -surrounded by water courses. Dalserf Parish occupies the greater part of this island plateau, which rises gently to a height of more than 600 feet above sea level in the south. To the east and north-east, the River Clyde separates Dalserf from the parishes of Carluke and Cambusnethan, while to the west and north-west, the Avon Water flows north to meet the Clyde at Hamilton. The Cander Water, a tributary of the Avon, forms the south-western boundary of the parish, while the River Nethan flows north-east through Lesmahagow Parish to join the Clyde at Nethanfoot. From the high ground numerous small streams cut their way down the steep east-facing slope to empty into the Clyde. These streams, which occupy narrow wooded valleys, have names such as Mill Burn, Dalserf Burn, Whittrock Burn and Tammy’s Burn. The narrowest of these streams carry ‘gill’ names such as Stewart Gill (Fig. 2), Tod Burn Gill, Carcain Gill, Skelly Gill, Hall Gill and the Regill Burn, gill being an old Scots word for a -narrow wooded glen or ravine with a stream running through it. These gills have remained unchanged for many years and would, like the area around Dalserf village, be just as familiar to Andrew Shaw today as they were a century or more ago.

The landscape of the upland plateau area of Dalserf has experienced the greatest transformation, first as a result of changes in agricultural practice, and second as the consequence of the arrival and departure of industrial development, in particular coal mining. If Andrew Shaw were to return to Dalserf today, he would be surprised to encounter a landscape not bustling with activity. Since his day, the coal mines, tile works and brick works have fallen silent, and the railways that hauled coal to the ports and cities of Scotland have all disappeared, leaving only a handful of relict buildings, former rail tracks now used by walkers, and mounds of waste where nature has regained a foothold. The sights, sounds and smells that existed during the height of industrial activity a hundred years ago have gone, and the prospect is now largely rural once again, just as it was before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the early years of the nineteenth century. Modernity, though, still makes itself felt in the form of the M74 -motorway, which slices through the parish from north to south. From the high plateau, the view to the north and north-east is now dotted with the high-rise buildings of Glasgow, Motherwell and Hamilton, as well as the gently rotating blades of giant wind turbines standing sentinel beyond Carluke.

The lie of the land and the course of rivers have always had a strong influence on both communication and settlement. River valleys offer good routeways, and the Clyde is no exception. The presence of a thousand-year-old hogback burial stone in the kirkyard suggests that Vikings passed this way, but it was only in the late eighteenth century that a proper road was built along the riverside to provide a link between Glasgow and Lanark. Travellers often -preferred higher ground free from flooding, the route of the old A74 road on the west side of the parish being favoured by those travelling south to Carlisle. On this side of the parish, the ground drops away far more gently towards the Avon and Cander Waters. With the development of coal mining in the nineteenth century, new roads appeared in the landscape, one of these being the road built by the 12th Duke of Hamilton to connect the Netherburn colliery with the Lanark road at Overton (Fig. 3).

When Andrew Shaw’s family boarded the RMS Carmania to sail to America in 1905, the ship’s manifest listed their place of residence as Netherburn (Fig. 3). Now a commuter settlement, Netherburn lies on high ground close to the southern edge of Dalserf Parish. Charles Ross’s ‘Map of the Shire of Lanark’, engraved by George Cameron in 1773, makes no reference to Netherburn. Four decades later, William Forrest’s plan of ‘The County of Lanark’, engraved by J. & G. Menzies in 1816, indicates a farm called Netherburn. At that time there were only a handful of coal pits at Woodside, Swinhill and Larkhall. The Reverend James Craig and his successor the Reverend John Russell, authors of the 1840 article ‘Dalserf Parish’ in The New Statistical Account of Scotland, witnessed the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, recording eight or nine collieries. They reported that ‘The numerous new attempts for, and fittings of coal in the parish, have arisen from the speculative spirit of the age, from the impulse given by the railroad system, and the increased activity of the neighbourhood ironworks, from the hope of finding ironstone, and more especially from the expectation that a railroad from Glasgow to the north of England will pass through the parish, affording an easy transit for its mineral stores.’

By the time of Andrew Shaw’s birth in 1892, coal mining and ancillary industries were in full swing. The landscape of Dalserf had been transformed to one of industry. The 1913–14 Editions of the Ordnance Survey’s Six Inches to One Mile Maps, based on 1909–10 updates of the original 1858–9 surveys, indicate coal mining at its peak in the parish, with almost twenty collieries operating:

Bog Colliery
Dykehead Colliery
Raploch Colliery
Shawsburn Colliery
Birkrigg Colliery
Skellyton Colliery
Shaws Colliery
Swinhill Colliery
Canderigg Colliery
South Longrigg Colliery (Netherburn)
Hill Colliery
Woodside Colliery
Cornsilloch Colliery
Auldton Colliery
Over Dalserf Colliery
New Struther Colliery
Bentrigg Colliery (Netherburn)

The railway predicted by the writers of the Statistical Account in 1840 eventually arrived in 1866 with the opening of the Lesmahagow branch of the Caledonian Railway. Nearly all of the collieries were served by feeder lines or mineral railways linking with the main branch line to create a landscape dominated by the movement of coal out of the parish. The principal branch stations at Larkhall, Dalserf (Ayr Road) and Netherburn (Bents) eventually closed in 1951 when the Reverend Kenneth J. Macpherson, author of ‘The Parish of Dalserf’ in The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, reported that ‘Most of these great collieries are now out of existence, and the present production, from the remaining five, is about 750 tons a day. It seems probable that, within the next few years, coal mining in the parish will come to an end.’

The great expansion of coal mining between 1900 and the onset of the First World War had been facilitated by the introduction of coal-cutting machinery as well as electrical pumping and haulage to the far end of the coal workings. This had a decisive impact on the number of miners required to work in the pits, and for the first time in years, workers had to look beyond the parish for a source of income. Some, like the family of Andrew Shaw, decided to seek a new life beyond the shores of Scotland.

Between 1791 and 1891, the year before Andrew Shaw’s birth, industrial development in Dalserf Parish had generated a tenfold increase in the population, which rose from 1,100 to 11,325. A decade later, in 1901, the number of people living in the parish had risen by a further forty per cent to 16,122. The inevitable result of this population boom was an increase in the size of existing settlements such as Larkhall, and the creation of new colliery settlements such as Netherburn, Cornsilloch, Shawsburn and Ashgillhead, where rows of colliers’ cottages were built (Fig. 4). Andrew Shaw’s parents had been married in Ashgillhead in 1881, and were still living there with their first five children at the time of the 1891 Census. The next year, after having spent ten years at Ashgillhead, the family moved to another nearby colliery settlement, Shawsburn, where Andrew’s baptism was registered in 1892. The Shaws would not recognise the area today. In the 1920s, the group of miners’ cottages at Ashgillhead were demolished as part of the national rehousing scheme to make way for the rebuilt village of Ashgill, which lies a mile from Larkhall. The cottage in Dalserf where Andrew spent most of his thirteen years in Scotland has been demolished as well. In 1894, two years after his birth, the baptismal records show that the Shaw family had moved to Burnside Cottage, at the top of Manse Brae, in Dalserf, where they continued to live at least until the birth of their last child in April 1905. It is not known why they listed Netherburn as their residence on the RMS Carmania’s manifest eight months later. Perhaps they sold their cottage to help finance their new life in America and rented a house in Netherburn shortly before emigrating in December 1905. Other family members lived in the three cottages next to Burnside Cottage, and these are still standing in Manse Brae.

Beyond the settlement of Larkhall, the industrial landscape of Dalserf Parish has all but disappeared, leaving only scattered remnants of a heritage that thrived for just over a century.

The agricultural landscape survives, with dairy and arable farming, orchards and market gardening each having played their part in helping to supply the expanding needs of the Greater Glasgow area. The fortunes of such places have risen and fallen with the economy of the day, influenced, for example, by competition from foreign imports, varying government subsidies and changing lifestyles. Market gardens that used to produce fruit and vegetables under glass have been transformed into garden centres supplying shrubs and bedding plants for modern suburban gardens, and the once-important apple, plum and pear trees, thought to have been first planted by the monks of Lesmahagow in the Middle Ages, still blossom today, reminding us that the valley of the River Clyde has its own special micro-climate. Between Lanark and Hamilton, shelter from the wind and reflections of light from the river serve to enhance conditions for growth already created by the warm Gulf Stream that blows across the Atlantic to the shores of Scotland from the south-west, often bringing rain. Compare the climate of Dalserf with that of Dawson Creek in the far north of British Columbia, Canada. Although both places lie at 55º 44’ N, Dawson Creek experiences a more continental climate, with dry summers and winters characterised by cold winds that blow south from the Arctic, bringing extensive snowfalls.

Who knows how young Andrew Shaw felt in 1905 when he left Dalserf to immigrate to America? He will have taken with him not only memories of life at Shawsburn, Netherburn and Manse Brae, but also mental images of landscapes associated with both work and play. While much has changed in 100 years, the landscape of Dalserf still retains its essential character. A sense of place is derived from the contrast between the once-industrialised upland plateau with great vistas in all directions and the natural beauty of the valley of the River Clyde with its haughs and steep wooded slopes. Writing in 1907, just over a year after Andrew Shaw had emigrated, Neil Munro captured the essence of Dalserf when he remarked how the Clyde ‘loiters and bends as if reluctant to leave so fine a place behind’. Who knows how the landscape will look a century from now?

August 2005

About the Author

David M. Munro, MBE, B.Sc., Ph.D., FRSA, FRGS, FSA Scot, is the former ­director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, an honorary professor of the University of Dundee, and an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of ­Edinburgh. He has written and broadcast extensively on landscape and travel, and has led numerous research expeditions to the tropical forests of Central America. The author and editor of a wide range of publications, Dr Munro has compiled two major geographical reference works: Chambers World Gazetteer (1988) and The Oxford Dictionary of the World (1995). He is currently also a consultant to the publishers of The Times Atlas of the World and an adviser to the British government and the United Nations on geographical names.

Andrew Shaw and The Memorial Windows

From an address to the congregation of Dalserf Parish Church at the dedication of two memorial windows on 5 December 1999.

A hundred years ago, in the summertime in Dalserf, at the foot of Manse Brae, a young boy sold strawberries.

That boy was my grandfather Andrew Shaw.

In 1892, Andrew Shaw was born in Ashgillhead, and was baptised at Shawsburn that same year. He soon moved to Burnside Cottage in Manse Brae, where he lived with his parents and ten brothers and sisters. The Shaw family raised pigs, chickens, and horses, and grew oats, corn, and hay. After working from sunrise to sunset in the coal mines, Andrew’s ­father played the violin late into the night, while each family member took turns singing by candlelight. On Sundays, Andrew’s dad was the organist at Dalserf Parish Church.

Then everything changed.

In 1905, when he was thirteen, Andrew and his entire family sailed for America. They settled in the Midwest, where Andrew worked in the coal mines, just as his father had done in Dalserf. He became a United States citizen, joined the US Army during World War I, married, and had one child, Margaret, my mother. He survived the Great Depression and later built parts for airplanes used in World War II. He died in Indiana in 1962. At his funeral it was said, ‘There wasn’t anyone who didn’t like Andy. He was a good man.’

My grandfather never returned to Scotland. But his sister Peggy did. And in her 1969 Christmas card to my mother, she wrote: ­‘Margaret, I was so thrilled to find the place where I was born. . . .’ Peggy sent my mother ­pictures and maps—and finally convinced her to go to Dalserf. ‘You will love it,’ she said. So, on my grandfather’s birthday, in May of 1980, my mother and I flew to Scotland. In that daffodil- and tulip-filled springtime in Dalserf, at the foot of Manse Brae, my mother and I discovered the spot where a young boy used to sell strawberries.

We drove down the lane leading to Dalserf Parish Church. A man was just leaving—John Craig, a church elder and the architect who was completing the restoration of the church. We asked if we could look in. Incredibly, he turned around, unlocked the door, took us inside, and spread out his drawings before us. Then John casually asked us if we wanted to go to the Queen’s Garden Party at Holyrood Palace. We thought he was joking and asked if he could give us directions to Burnside Cottage, where we thought my grandfather had been born.

We returned to Manse Brae, and at the top of the hill stood the stone cottage in Peggy’s photographs. We knocked on the door and an elderly woman invited us in. After proudly showing us her terraced garden, she poured some sherry for us in cut crystal, while she used a plain glass. Then, from a very old china cabinet, she fetched a box of jellied fruit and, smiling with delight, handed it to my mother—‘for the car’. We left Dalserf, but a few days later we called John Craig from Perth to see if he was serious about the garden party. Yes, he was! We frantically bought dresses, shoes and hats. The garden party at a real Scottish palace was a sunlit dream for us.

Since that first trip in 1980, we have returned a dozen times to Dalserf—my mother, my sister Linda and her son, my husband Charles and I. Charles’s first trip to Dalserf was for our wedding in 1985. We came by ourselves—alone—to be married quietly in my grandfather’s church. As we drove into the village, little did we know that the villagers were in the process of adopting us—two Americans whom they had never even met. And what a fairy-tale wedding it was: all the villagers attending; a flag ­inscribed ‘our own Charles and Diana’ in the churchyard; a huge forty-eight-star American flag on the stone wall; men in kilts, women in hats; some rain, some sunshine; rose petals, champagne, a piper; a magnificent gift of china; toasts, poetry, ballads, and dancing. I will never forget, at the end of the party, everyone singing to Charles and me: ‘Will ye no come back again?’

Of course we came back—for Christmas and Hogmanay one year, and in the springtime, and in the autumn. And every time we have been overwhelmed by your kindness. ‘Why?’ I once asked. ‘Hands across the sea’ was the reply. With every trip the circle widened. With every trip our connection to Dalserf became stronger. And now, that connection has been made visible through these two beautiful windows.

My mother’s longtime wish of dedicating a window to her father began to take shape only after two Scottish friends became involved. John Craig’s nephew Andrew Merrylees took time from his architectural firm in Edinburgh to diligently search for just the right artist—and worked with him and with us throughout the ­project. Thank you, Andrew.

The Reverend D. Cameron McPherson supported my mother’s dream in every way, contributed ideas, and made certain the project was officially approved. He worked with everyone involved and kept us informed continuously. He was also instrumental in the financial contribution from Dalserf Parish Church. Thank you, Cameron.

To the artist Douglas Hogg, my mother, my sisters Linda and Karen, and I would like to extend our gratitude for a beautiful, sensitive, and spiritual rendering of the original concept behind the windows: an American daughter’s love for her Scottish father.

The Idea for Memorial Windows

My mother, Margaret Hewlett, decided to commission a stained glass window for Dalserf Parish Church in 1996. She wanted to honour her father, Andrew Shaw, who had emigrated from Dalserf village to the United States in 1905. Her father and she had been very close as she grew up in Indiana. He died at the age of sixty-nine, never having returned to his homeland. But beginning in 1980, my mother made several visits to Dalserf and grew to love the parish church where her father attended services as a child. Dedicating a window to his memory was the one great wish of her lifetime.

Finding it impossible to get the project started from Houston, Texas, she and I turned for help to Andrew Merrylees, the nephew of our friend John Craig. I explained the sentiment behind my mother’s proposal in a note to Andrew dated 19 November 1998:

The idea for this window grew from an American daughter’s love for her Scottish father. The father’s gift to his daughter was his steadfast loving kindness. He treated her with gentleness and generosity during the forty years she knew him. He never reproached her in any way, ever. Devoted to his only daughter, he was never too busy to give her his time and attention.

The joy felt from steadfast loving kindness is what we would like the window to be about. We would like this spiritual feeling to be at the centre of the symbolic analogue portrayed by the artist, no matter what his style might be.

My mother began talking to the minister of the church, the Reverend Dr D. Cameron McPherson, and they both decided that the large windows on either side of the pulpit might be candidates for commemorating her father. Both Cameron and Andrew agreed to help bring her dream to fruition.

Andrew Merrylees, through his experience in his Edinburgh architectural firm, selected Douglas Hogg as the artist to remove some of the old glass in order to add a twentieth-­century statement. Douglas declined to replace the windows in their entirety. In a telephone conversation on 20 January 1999, he explained that there is ‘elegance in a modest answer’ to the challenge of retaining parts of the old windows in order to let in light and to meet budgetary requirements. Douglas felt that the old glass cast a ‘toffee-coloured glow’ into which he would cut his twentieth-century design. He felt that a sense of harmony would be created by ‘the new entering the old’.

Douglas sent two rough sketches to me in Houston, saying that he would know more about the final design as he worked with the glass. One morning I woke up at three o’clock, thinking about the windows. I went into my library half-asleep and straight away put my hand on a book about Celtic art published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I ­removed the book from the shelf and telephoned Douglas in Berwickshire to discuss his design ideas. He had that very same book on his desk. Needless to say, the project proceeded with perfect trust on our part—and we were not disappointed.

Questions about the original windows, however, nagged at me then and continued to do so—until the mystery was solved on my mother’s birthday in 2005, three years after she had died. I had always wondered if someone had commissioned the old windows, and if so, who? And when were they installed? No one could find the answers to these questions, not even an ­architectural historian in Edinburgh.

Then I casually asked Rosalind Marshall, the author of Duchess Anne, if she had ‘any tips on how to find out the facts’. She responded energetically, ‘You have come to the right person!’ For the next twelve days I felt as though we were in the middle of an exciting mystery novel, with twists and turns and dead ends conveyed via e-mail—until Dr Marshall’s perseverance paid off. I will now let her continue the story.

See “The Mystery of the Stained Glass Windows” and “The Dalserf Address”

Mystery of The Stained Glass Window

Rosalind K. Marshall

When the two beautiful stained glass windows were installed in Dalserf Parish Church in 1999, no one seemed to know anything about the original windows that now served as a background for a new contemporary design. Diana O’Niell was eager to find some details for this book. The minister had suggested she try the Kirk Session Records, which are kept in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, but of course Diana was far away across the sea in Texas and so, as I live in Edinburgh, I offered to look the next time I was at the Archives.

First of all I contacted the Church of Scotland Committee on Artistic Matters to see if the files of their Scottish Stained Glass Symposium contained any information, but we drew a blank there. Next I tried the Kirk Session Records, which have been computerised and are quick to consult. Diana had told me that the windows might date from around 1894 when Sir William Hozier of Mauldslie, later Lord Newlands, paid for extensive work to be done in the church, but all I could find was his gift of ‘an American Organ ­Harmonium’ that year. Most of the records dealt with matters such as dates for Communion services, the election of elders and the admission of new members, nor did the Lanark Presbytery Records yield anything useful.

However, my friend at the Symposium reminded me about the Heritors’ Records, the minutes and accounts of wealthy landowners who had to support the church financially. These have not yet been digitised, and they had to be brought out of one of the Archive stores, but it was well worth the trouble. First of all there were details of Sir William paying for the north aisle to be taken down and rebuilt to double its former size, so that he and his tenants could occupy half of it. They had not had seats there before, but now there would be enough pews to accommodate ninety people in all. There were arrangements for the various tradesmen to send in their estimates and it was agreed that while the work was being done, worship would be held in Rosebank and the Mission Halls at Netherburn and Ashgillhead. The 12th Duke of Hamilton offered to pay for the remodelling of the pews in the main part of the church so that they matched the ones being put in the new aisle. The Heritors’ Records also mentioned the Reverend Henry Gibson of Dumbreck saying he was going to put up a monument to his parents, and then Sir William W. Hozier giving a new clock for the steeple. The Heritors gave him ‘hearty thanks for such a handsome presentation’.

That was interesting, but even better was a short entry over the page. There in the minutes for the Heritors’ Meeting of 5 December 1894 was the information Diana was seeking. The Reverend William P. Rorison, minister of Dalserf, was asking permission to put in the church ‘two windows of coloured glass on each side of the pulpit, as a presentation from Mrs Rorison and himself’ and ‘the Heritors courteously agreed and thanked Mr Rorison.’ The mystery of the stained glass windows was solved at last! The donors had been none other than Andrew Shaw’s minister and his wife.

According to the Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, volume 3, page 247, William Peebles Rorison (1826–1907) was the only son of William Rorison, minister of Stair. He was educated at Glasgow University and presented by Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton to Dalserf Parish Church on 25 February 1851. He was ordained on 1 May that year, was eventually made Doctor of Divinity by his old university in 1900 and died on 11 March 1907, having spent his entire career at Dalserf. The Reverend William Rorison was buried at Stair, but it is at Dalserf where the windows he donated over a hundred years ago still reside. They serve as a background for a new twentieth-century design commissioned by the American descendants of one of Dr Rorison’s young parishioners.

Yes, the mystery is solved, thanks to hands across the sea!


June 2005

About the Author

Rosalind K. Marshall, MA, Ph.D., FRSL, FRSA, FSA Scot, read Scottish History at Edinburgh University and her prize-winning Ph.D. thesis, based on the Duke of Hamilton’s Archives, subsequently became her first best-selling book, The Days of Duchess Anne. Specialising in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century history and women’s studies, she has since written a dozen more books, including biographies of Mary of Guise and John Knox, as well as numerous scholarly articles. For twenty-six years she combined her writing career with her position as historian at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Her latest book, Queen Mary’s Women: Female Relatives, Servants, Friends and Enemies, was published in October 2006. Dr Marshall is currently writing a new history of St Giles’ Cathedral, to be published by Saint Andrew Press in 2009. She is vice-chairman of the Virtual Hamilton Palace Trust.

Janet Murray

Janet (Jen) Clark Murray (née Ritchie)
14 March 1899 – 4 January 2007

Tim Keeler, Grandson-in-law

Jen Ritchie was born on 14 March 1899, in the reign of Queen Victoria. Her long and eventful life quite unbelievably spanned three centuries. She was the daughter of Laurence Ritchie and Mary McDonald, of the village of Dalserf, and was the youngest of six children. Jen was baptised by the minister of Dalserf church, the Reverend Dr William P. Rorison, who had himself been born in the reign of King George IV, back in the 1820s.

By her own account, Jen had a happy and contented rural childhood. She attended Dalserf school for a while, and then later, at the age of twelve, she attended the Shawsburn school. Both schools required a walk of a mile or so from home.

Even at an early age Jen displayed her unselfish nature when one day there was a bus crash up on the main road, and an injured mother and her distressed daughter were helped to the cottage in Dalserf village. Seeing how upset she was, Jen with great sacrifice gave away her favourite new doll to the little girl as a measure of comforting her. This sense of caring for others was to show itself time and time again throughout Jen’s long life.

Like most of her contemporaries, Jen left school at the age of fourteen, and by the latter part of the First World War she could be found working at the Singer factory in Clydebank, inspecting the fabric of aeroplanes before they were delivered to the battlefields. After the war she entered service in Dunblane, firstly with the Mitchell family, who were well known at that time as Glasgow ­tobacco barons, and then later with John Reith, who ultimately ­became the first director general of the BBC. She would recount how on one occasion Mr Reith nearly fell off his chair when she asked permission to change her day off so as to go, believe it or not, to a classical music recital at Dunblane Cathedral.

In time Jen became an accomplished singer and an accompanist at the piano, playing in musical events and concerts in church halls around the area. Music and song continued to interest Jen for the rest of her life, not only through singing in the choir at Dalserf church, but also in attending concerts in Hamilton and Glasgow. Variety and music hall performances were another favourite, and over the years to come Jen always looked forward with great enthusiasm to a visit to Glasgow.

Jen married John Murray, an engineering fitter, in April 1928. John was born at Coatbridge, in 1898, and at the time of their marriage lived at Overton. He and Jen set up home at Waterloo, near Wishaw, where their only child, John, was born in 1929. In 1933, they moved to 1 Kirk Road, Dalserf, the cottage which Jen was to occupy for fifty-five years. In those early days, the cottages were thatched on top and lit by paraffin lamps indoors. Luckily, the two were never brought together, and by the mid-1930s electricity came to the village. Holidays were often spent in places such as Dunoon and Arbroath.

Jen and her husband were from a working-class background, and they had to sacrifice a great deal to enable their son John to attend Hamilton Academy and then later to go up to Glasgow University. But Jen never complained about these things; to her, life was for living and for getting on with things. There was never a dull moment in her company, and she had a great talent for lifting one’s spirits.

At the beginning of World War II, Jen took in evacuees for a while. Over the years, there were many visitors to the village. People who had moved away came back during their holidays to have a look around and catch up on the news. Strangers enquiring about deceased relatives inevitably knocked at 1 Kirk Road, the most obvious and prominent place to start. Jen’s memory was so good and reached so far back in time that it was not long before local historians and researchers became regular visitors, too. She was often asked to give her opinion about long-forgotten people and places. This practice continued long after Jen had retired to Ballantyne House.

Although life was hard and luxuries few and far between, a great deal of time in the village was spent out-of-doors, particularly in the summer when Jen tended the ­garden, growing any amount of fruits and vegetables. Tomato chutney was a great favourite, as was Jen’s renowned raspberry jam. Few visitors left without a jar or two in their bag, and the Murray family could rely upon an all-year-round supply.

Sadly, Jen’s husband John died in the late 1970s, and although she stayed on at Kirk Road until 1988, Jen suddenly announced to the family one day that she had made the decision to move to the newly built Ballantyne House care home. By then she was eighty-nine, and life on her own, particularly in the winter months, was becoming more difficult.

Jen became the very first resident at Ballantyne House and, by chance, her bedroom looked across the fields to the exact same spot where she had attended Shawsburn school seventy-five years earlier. That small coincidence made Jen feel quite at home.

With quiet authority she took on the responsibility of organising the flowers and house plants around Ballantyne House, something she had learned to do over the years at Dalserf church, where generations of Ritchies had served as beadles, gravediggers and cleaners. Like most of them, Jen had been involved on a regular basis since her childhood days in the village. The Woman’s Guild, the church choir and the Red Cross all benefited from her help and support. One wonders how she managed to fit everything in yet still remain calm and composed.

Jen worked hard all of her life helping friends and neighbours alike. She was an early riser, maintaining that it was the best part of the day for getting things done. She often wrote her letters at that time. She was also a great knitter; most of her friends and relatives have got at least one of her tea cosies in their drawer at home. It was also fascinating to watch her skill at crochet work, another favourite occupation.

In March 1999, friends and family were delighted to help Jen celebrate her 100th birthday. She had to have two celebrations as there was not enough room to have all the guests at just the one party. At the Popinjay, Jen stood up for quite a few minutes, ­microphone in hand, delivering her speech in a clear voice as if it was the kind of thing she did all the time.

At Ballantyne House, Jen continued to receive regular visits from her relatives and friends. Many of her visitors were local, others came from farther afield. Some were the relatives of other residents who simply kept coming because Jen had befriended them. She was a great help in assisting newcomers to settle in to their new surroundings, giving them the necessary comfort and reassurance that there was nothing to worry about.

In a way, Jen did that for all of us at one time or another, and although we might believe that this is the end of an era, there will be something of her that will continue to be with us always.

January 2007