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James Gibb in the Glasgow Herald (1859)

James Gibb's story of his great grandfather, James Gourlay.


[Page] 3



By the Rev. Peter Brown, Wishaw. Wishaw ; David Johnston, Main Street. Glasgow : D. Robertson.

THIS is an interesting local chroincle which represents, and, we doubt not, truly represents, the parish of Cam'nethan to be a much more important locality than most people were aware of. The author, who has exhibited considerable research, deals much more in the past than the present, and he accordingly gives us a lucid sketch of the antiquities of the parish, and enters with much spirit into the ecclesiastical vicissitudes and struggles of the people, putting upon record the devotedness of not a few godly men, whose integrity, sufferings, and endurance, have been preserved in the traditionary annals of the people. We have also a readable narrative description of the principal estates in the parish, and the families which possessed them in bygone generations, some of whom have now entirely passed away, such as the Steuarts of Coltness, some members of which were distinguished by considerable ability, and one of whom, by means of the "Coltness Papers," contributed some very important materials to the Jacobite history of the country. The Steuarts of Allanton come in for a large share of attention ; and according to the kindly spirit in which the author writes, they must have been all men of wonderful virtue and ability. We have also a very interesting chapter devoted to the history of the Belhaven family and pecrage, the honours of which are so worthily borne, and the duties so conscientiously performed, by the accomplished nobleman who now holds the title. The author, however, tells us little or nothing of the recent progress of the parish in the march of improvement, or of its present condition ; and strange to say, with the exception of one line in the dedication, he has not a word to say of the Houldsworths of Coltness, who, from spirited manner in which they have promoted the well-being of the people and district, are at least entitled to some little notice. On the whole this is a credible little book, and it will read with much interest by all who are interested in Cam'nethan and the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire. We give the following paragraph descriptive of the sufferings and escapes of some of the natives of the parish, in those perilous times when the Covenanters were " hunted like partridges on the hills":-

The battle of Bothwell Bridge was also fought on a Sabbath day - exactly three weeks after the battle of Drumclog. There were a goodly number of persons belonging to Cambusnethan at Bothwell, and were, in consequence, brought to trouble, suffering and loss. One of them was James Gourlay, who tenanted the farm of Overtown. When he perceived that the Covenanters had lost the day, he fled for safety. He was hotly pursued by a few dragoons. In his flight he found his progress interrupted by the wall which surrounded the policy of the Duke of Hamilton. If by any possibility, he could get over the wall, he was certain to escape his pursuers ; but the difficulty was how to get over. He observed a crevice between two stones in the wall - too small, however, to admit of introducing the point of his shoe. Necessity has always been the mother of invention. Putting his hand into his pocket, he drew out a clasp knife, which he managed to introduce into the crevice, and, putting his foot on it, reared hismelf, and with one spring cleared the wall, while the bullets from muskets of his pursuers whizzed past his ears. He fled towards Clyde ; and observing that a spreading branch of a tree hung close over the surface of the river, he sprang in, and under the screening shelter of this branch he stood, almost to the neck in water, till midnight. All dropping wet, he ventured homeward; but not to enjoy the comforts of his own bed or fireside. He knew of a quiet and secluded spot in Garriongill, and chose it for his hiding place. He had, however, to pay the penalty of his long cold bath, and wet clothing. They brought on an asthmatic affection, which clung to him during life. One evening he ventured home to enjoy domestic comforts, and the nursing of an affectionate wife. Some of the troopers were not far off, and were made aware that Gourlay was under his own roof. They approached the house at midnight. Gourlay, on aware of his danger, sprang out of bed - quietly drew the bar of the back door - and, committing himself to the protection of God, fled to his hiding place in the Gill. On a subsequent occasion he was less fortunate ; having been taken prisoner, and led off towards Hamilton. At a place near Hamilton, where the Clyde was fordable, there was an ale-house. The troopers having stabled their horses here, and locked Gourlay in the stable, entered the ale-house, to regale themselves, and crack their jokes over their good fortune in capturing the old Whig. Gourlay had now an opportunity of esacping, and he did not lose it.

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Linked toJames Gibb; James Gourley

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