Priory Visit, 1904

An interesting article which appeared in the Wishaw Press in March 1904. The reporter taking time to tell of how the new tram cars had opened up new areas to him, like visiting Blantyre Priory for example. In his own words, unedited.

Blantyre Priory is photographed that very year in Gilmour’s Directory, a photo I’ve colourised to show what the reporter was looking at, and although still then a ruin, it was very much more intact than today. He writes:

“The electric cars are a boom in many ways ; I found them so one day this week particularly when I had a trip from Wishaw to Blantyre and, mentally, to the Middle Ages all for quite a nominal sum. A brief account of it may prove interesting to the readers of the Press. A smart run through the crisp, frosty air brought me to the village, and a walk of a mile to the Clyde opposite Bothwell Castle.”

“In the midst of a lovely bit of scenery there still remains an old and tottering fragment of Blantyre Priory. Wordsworth calls it most picturesque, and says in his Notes (1836), ” Rock and ruin are so blended that it is impossible to separate the one from the other. Nothing can be more beautiful than the little remnant of this holy place. Elm trees grow out of the walls and overshadow a small but very elegant window. It can scarcely be conceived what a grace the Castle and Priory impart to each other.”

“This Priory of Blantyre, of which nothing but the elms and a few stones remain, was founded by Alexander II about the end of the 13th century. Like the abbeys of Scone and Jedburgh, it was inhabited by the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. These ecclesiastics were brought to Scotland by Athelwolphus, prior of St. Oswald, in Yorkshire, and afterwards Bishop of Carlisle, who established them first at Scone in 1114 under King Alexander I.”

“They wore a white robe with a black mantle hanging as far down as the ground, and followed the rules laid down by St. Angustine, Bishop of Hippo. It is Interesting to learn from Spottiswoode that at the dissolution of the monasteries, Walter Stuart, Commandator of Blantyre Priory and Lord Privy Seal in 1595, was made a peer with the title of Lord Blantyre in 1606, and that the present Lord Blantyre is descended from him.”

“Miss Jane Porter in her ” Story of the Scottish chiefs,” makes use of the legend which asserts the existence of a subterranean passage from the Priory, under the bed of the Clyde, and across to the Castle. Another legend tells that Sir William Wallace took shelter in the Priory when pursued by the English soldiery, and that he escaped by one of its windows over a deep precipice.”

“From Keith we learn that the Monastery was not rich, the revenue being £131 6s 7.5d only. The little Priory was built on the rock among the woods. It is described as a “cell” of the Abbacy of Jedburgh, and was used in time of war as a place of retiral for the monks, William Hamilton of Wishaw, in his “Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew” (1710), tells us that upon the south bank of the river Clyde “stands the Craig of Blantyre, anciently the residence of the Priors of Blantyre,” and that “Lord Blantyre had one fruitful orchard at the old Priorie, where he is sometymes in use to dwell.” Whilst enjoying the pretty scene, I mused on those times of old, and pictured to my mind the white-robed fraternity repeating the psalter in the old romantic church or telling their beads beneath the shade of the old elm trees. Then I came away, back to everyday life by the electric car.”

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