In Spring 2014, I was given a copy of an old account of various historical events in Blantyre, primarily centering around Barnhill. This old account was given to Alex Rochead’s wife when she was a teacher at Auchinraith Primary. The words were actually written much earlier around 1940 and they actually relate to events 80 years before that around 1860. The late historian James Cornfield was shown the words in this account and believed them to be written by The Templeton Blacksmith, who was based at the time at Barnhill on Broompark Road. This section relates to Memories of Pech Brae, Barnhill and Milheugh Mills. There is reference to “The Lang Dominie”, old Scots for “the tall Schoolmaster or clergyman”. Remember, the tale is told in the context of events happening in 1860.
“Any reader why cares to visit the spot will find this corner of Blantyre full of interest. Barnhill, at the top of the brae, is probably the oldest part of Blantyre; one house has the date 1536, carved on it. The steep hill leading down to the water is called the “Peth” brae. (When the Lang Dominie climbs back up he calls it the “Pech” brae for his “wind” is not what it used to be).
Near the foot of the steep incline are cottages called Pathfoot and branching off here is a narrow bridle path leading to a ford at Dyesholm, half a mile north of Milheugh. Down this path went Mary, Queen of Scots on her way from Cadzow Castle to fateful Langside. She crossed the water at Dyesholm and had a drink at a well beyond, Queen Mary’s Well (it has disappeared lately).
Steep as the Peth brae is, folk used to carry meal on their back up it from Dyesholm in bygone days. Old Peggy Morrison told the Smith of this when he was a boy; her father was miller there. (on Pech Brae). A short distance west of Pathfoot on the roadside near the bridge stood the mill. Very little is to be seen of it now but it is possible to trace the kiln on the north side of the road, quite close to our “markings”. On the south side of the road stood the mill proper. The lade ran across what is now the lawn of Milheugh House; the tailrace can be traced where it crossed the road. The fact that Queen Mary crossed the Cawther at the ford at Dyesholm would seem to show there was no bridge at Milheugh at that time but we cannot find out when the bridge was built.
The mill however as we will show later goes back to almost to Bannockburn. Old illustrations show the bridge to have been originally a circular arch but the mineral workings of the past 70 years have altered things. As the Pawky Smith says, “Milheugh brig is probably one of the finest examples in the word of a circular arch which had definitely changed into a pointed arch, while still remaining a useful bridge”. It must have strongly and well built.
The working of coal under the bridge was from Dixon’s Number 4 near Barnhill. The first sod was cut over 70 years ago by the Smith’s father who had to promise first of all that he would pay the workmen the usual penalty. It did not cost 25/- a bottle in those days.
The brae on the west side of the bridge leading up to the farm is called Lindsay Brae but we cannot trace the origin of the name.”
I have to say the account of the Mill at Millheugh being dated back to Bannockburn , i think is fanciful and exaggerated. Such a building would surely be as old as the Priory itself, and if true, would have been one of the oldest buildings in Blantyre. The whole account though is interesting as a nice recollection of times gone by in that area. Pictured is Millheugh Bridge at the foot of the Pech Brae in the 1910’s.