A spooky tale about Blantyre’s oldest building, continued from Part 1 yesterday….if you recall, Lord Blantyre was called to come to the assistance of his wife at Blantyre Priory after some strange ghostly goings on in 1663……
Lady Blantyre was forced to take out an action for support against Lord Blantyre in the court, wherein she made a number of allegations against him, but in particular, averring that the house at Blantyre that she was expected to bide in was “troubled with ane evill spirit or somewhat of the kind so that the same is no ways habitable.” She had been given the house in ‘liferent’ by a charter dated the 7th of September 1649. After much contention and deliberation she was given the mansion house of Cardonald to live in with her children and servants.
So Alexander, fourth Lord Blantyre again had charge of the place where his grandfather had entertained James VI on at least two separate occasions, and where many of Scotland’s important documents received the royal seal during the earlier part of the century.
PRIORY LEFT TO RUIN
Alexander Stewart, the fourth Lord Blantyre, must have died sometime in the 1680s, his son, also Alexander, who would become the fifth Lord Blantyre, spent much of his childhood playing in and around the old Blantyre Priory, we wonder how it might have affected him. On the one hand it must have been a great place for a young lad to run around and play and explore, having his very own large orchard on one side and the River Clyde with its salmon on the other, but then, as his mother had complained, many of the chambers of the thirteenth century Priory were subterranean, and as well as being unhealthy might have seemed quite a creepy old haunt to an impressionable little boy.
And so the old Augustinian Priory at Blantyre was left abandoned, and as early as 1748 Walter MacFarlane from Arrochar, in his ‘Geographical Collections” noted, “Upon the south bank of the river, stands the Craig of Blantyre anciently the residence of the Pryours of Blantyre but now belongs to the Lord Blantyre, the house is quite ruinous,” and a century further on, in 1859, the Royal Ordinance Surveyors noted that large portions of the walls and house had been ‘robbed out’ by a local farmer who had carted them to nearby Craigknowe Farm to construct walls and outbuildings. Interestingly the Farmer at Craigknowe Farm in June 1872, Alexander McTyre physically assaulted a party of three gentlemen cutting through one of his wheat fields to visit the ruins of the Priory. McTyre stated that he was fed up with his crops being damaged by visitors to the old site, he was fined 30 shillings, and a debate arose in the civil courts regarding whether there was a ‘right of way’ there or not.
Some notable visitors came to see the old priory ruins, including Queen Victoria’s fourth child and second son, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, also Dorothy and William Wordsworth, and authoress Mary Shelley.
In 1710, there was a man known around Blantyre Priory named Gardiner, who claimed to have a supernatural gift. It was said he could tell what ailed a person just by looking at their urine. Sometimes, it was alleged that he could tell what the illness was even as the person was approaching him. Gardiner stated that he had this ‘gift’ since childhood, when he would tell the local farmers what was wrong with their cattle just by looking to the urine, “he would have knouen the coue’s distemper by her urine.” This ‘knowledge’ developed into an ability to read the ailments of humans, “he knoues not hou he was brought to observe men and weemen’s urine.”
When he prescribed anything for those who consulted with him, and he didn’t always suggest a remedy, he would instruct the patient to take innocent herbs and plants that could be found nearby, in fact many books published in the nineteenth century on Flora and fauna give details of a great variety of such plants that could still be found round the old Priory grounds. Gardiner’s wife took the fees from the visitors, but to her credit it was recorded that she often gave back a little, nonetheless, he continued to be thronged every day and was said to collect about five or six guineas a week. Sometime Gardiner went into fits for days, and would not speak a word to anyone.
His usual method of identifying a disease was to hold up the urine to the light, and he would experience like symptoms through his arm swelling, or inwardly in his liver, allowing him to make an accurate diagnosis. There was a case where a young religious lady, who suffered from a long term illness, was being coaxed by her friends to go to the man at the Priory, but she said, “Perhaps he hath a devil!” Her acquaintances though, would not give up, and at length she agreed to see Gardiner. It is told that as she was still coming towards him, Gardiner called out, “What doe you, coming to a devil?” And apparently nobody had ever mentioned to Gardiner what the young lady had suggested concerning him.
Around this time people began to visit the well at Blantyre Park, well known for its healing properties. This was found by some to be a dubious exercise also, Rev. Robert Wodrow, minister at Eastwood in Renfrewshire, brought his son to Blantyre Park in July 1730, but sadly he recorded, “My son, Sandy, this moneth, at Blantyr-well, falls worse. He went out in a cart, and fainted; and continued so ill, that we found proper to bring him home. I do not see that the minerall watters have been of any use to him. He is in the Lord’s hands, and it’s possible his life will not be very long.”
With thanks to Gordon Cook for this great tale!