Songs, Poems and Prose about the Vale of Leven
Over the last couple of hundred years we have had a few songs, poems and prose written about the Vale of Leven. Some of the more popular of these are listed below. We would very much welcome any more contributions. If you have any old written material about the Vale please forward it to us and we will include it on this page.
The novel, "A Lass of Lennox" was written by James Strang probably sometime in the 1870s and published in 1899. The setting is a fictional place called "The Vale of Lennox". Most of you will recognize the setting as a thinly disguised Vale of Leven. For those times it was slightly salacious and racy and it is an interesting addition to the website so we decided to make it available for Kindle users.
We have converted these as free downloads to PDF, Epub format for your Kindle and the Mobi Version for PDAs and Smartphones. If you use these devices you should know which format you require.
A Lass of Lennox
See this link for Amazon Kindle instructions that may help you.
The Old Vale and its Memories is a book that is well known locally. It was published away back in 1927. Two years later The Epilogue to the Old Vale and its Memories was published.
Once again we have converted these as free downloads to PDF, Epub format for your Kindle and the Mobi Version for PDAs and Smartphones.
Hugh Caldwell's Poetry (Includes download of the text of his book)
Hugh Caldwell was a local poet who died in 1903. His work, mostly written about local places and events, is humble, observant and humourous. It is not celebrated in this area as it should be because it does convey an honest appreciation of what life was like in the Vale of Leven in the late 1800s.
No one would claim that Caldwell's poetry reached the standard of Robert Burns' works but Caldwell was evidently an admirer of Burns and his influence can be seen in lots of his work. His poem "I Canna get a lad" is a good example of his humourous work.
I CANNA GET A LAD
I'm a big, stoot, strappin' hizzie, on the verge o' twenty-three;
I'm as modest, neat, and tidy as a country girl could be;
My hame has mony comforts, yet my heart is seldom glad,
And the cause o' a' my sorrow is I canna get a lad.
I can wash, knit, darn, and bake, patch claes and scrub a flair;
Cook a dizen different dishes for a nobleman and mair;
Work the best ten-fingered dochter ever Scottish mither had,
And I dinna ken the reason that I shouldna get a lad.
Big Peggy roun' the corner, "Black Fanny" up the stair,
And soor‑faced Sally Sorkins wi' the ginger-coloured hair,
And gabblin' Jenny Jenkins, they're everything that's bad,
Yet I am quate and dacent, and I canna get a lad.
There's lang, lean Tibby Fowler, wha everybody kens,
Her faither some sax years sin' gat jile for stealin' hens;
She's ugly and untidy, and ever puirly clad,
Yet she's haen a dizen offers, and I canna get a lad.
Auld "teethless Jean," the widdy, wi' the funny goggle e'e,
Has buried twa braw husbands, and intends to bury three;
She'll sune wed Johnny Maurley—puir sowl! he must be mad
To coort yon auld dune limmer, and me canna get a lad.
If only "Crookit Chairlie" or bashfu' John M'Nee
Wad mak' a sweet proposal to a thrifty lass like me,
I'd brichten up his hoosie, and never mak' him sad,
For the dreary garret waits me if I canna get a lad.
Katherine Drain's poetry is also an accurate reflection of life in the Vale of Leven at the turn of the 19th Century.
Dear, gentle reader, I implore thee,
When I shall place my book before thee—
Look not with scorn,
But with thy sweetest smile advise me,
And do not coldly criticise me—
Thou art but born.
Dame Nature from her lofty station
Can shower the gifts, while education,
She may refuse it.
But the charm, for poetry hath endeared me,
And to keep the life in one who reared me
I freely choose it.
Some lift the pen for pleasure only,
While I, in hours so sad find lonely,
My soul doth pour.
And when in bed I should be sleeping,
Line after line, I sit here keeping
The wolf from the door.
Then kindly read my simple story,
Free from fiction’s tales of glory
Or dreadful crimes,
And this heart great joy shall bound in
Should you have any merit found in
Loch Lomond Rhymes.
Katherine Drain 1902
We are once again indebted to Graham Lappin for providing the text of both of the above books. Graham is a collector of all things Vale of Leven and a regular contributor of content to this website.
In years of research Graham also tracked down some other local poets. The most notable of these is perhaps William Harriston who offered an insight into the Vale and its circumstances in the early nineteenth century in his works William Harriston was born in Glasgow around 1780. As a child he was schooled and was an avid reader but his father became ill and in the reduced family circumstances, aged nine, he was apprenticed to a weaver who grudged even the day off to attend his father’s funeral.
At fourteen, he became a journeyman and moved to Strathblane where he met and married his wife Margaret M‘Gregor. About this time war was declared on France. Most likely he joined the Dumbarton Fencibles raised by Lord Stonefield in 1794 in response to, and with them served a total of eight years in Ireland, being gone, in the first instance for six years with no home leave!
After the peace of Amiens in 1802, the Dumbarton Fencibles were disbanded and he was able to resume his work as a weaver. But the reductions in trade with the Continent during Napoleon’s campaigns and blockade of the Netherlands and the resultant slump in wages in the weaving trade around 1808 forced him to seek employment as a fisherman on the Leven. DOWNLOAD >
Other works that Graham has collected that can be downloaded here are from Duncan Mathieson, James McNab Jnr, Duncan Ferguson and "TD". Some of these were sourced from old newspapers of the time available in Dumbarton Library.
A fellow member of the Alexandria Burns Club, Duncan McLean, has also written some local poetry. Some of this appears on this page and one poem is a lament about the Old Vale and the ruinous damage inflicted on Alexandria by the planning authorities back in the 1970s. Duncan calls this poem the "Wail o' the Vale".
The Wail o’ the Vale
As I look roon aboot me
an’ see what they have done,
They’ve torn the beauty fae ye
And created ye a slum,
No’ any Cosy Corner, Nae Bank,
Nae Co-op, nae Pawn,
McKim and Kerr and Duffy,
And Don di Felice a' gone.
Victoria and Albert, Steven, Mitchell, John,
Alexander, some say Craft street,
Noo where can we a' staun?
Matha Thompson’s, Kelly’s, Jack’s, McNaughton’s tae,
The Fountain Bar, McLeran’s and Boardman’s Grapes, away.
Susanna hud a school o’ fame,
The Main Street it hud wan the same,
The gas works hud its lights pit oot,
And the auld Vale laundry’s doon tae soot,
The auld Hibs hall in Random Street,
Where many a yin danced wi happy feet,
It’s nae longer staunin’ there,
And come tae that it’s aw laid bare.
John Angus wis the baker, who made the guid tea-bread.
McLetchie wis the man who cam tae fetch ye when ye deid.
And there’s no anither Melly if yer lookin fur a feed.
Matha Haggerty, a plumber, Kinloch wis wan an aw,
Their places staun nae longer,
They too have hud tae fa’,
Wull Tyler wis the Jiner, doon Tooraladdie lane,
The Shincut oot o’ Bridge Street,
Intae Bank Street, near the train.
Nae Donald Hunter, Cannon or Co-operative coal,
And a' that’s left o’ where they were,
Is jist a great big hole.
Johnnie Bain’s garage, Sarah White’s wee shop,
Anither bit o’ Bridge Street that’s hud an awfy knock.
No any midnight grocer
Nae fruiter man named Dan,
No any Bunny Baxter, anither barber man,
Nae Granny Smith, Nae Mrs Moss,
And Riddy Broonin he’s a loss.
Nae Burgess and Buchanan,
Who collected aw the rents,
And if ye didny pey them,
Then ye hud tae pitch a tent,
Doon alang the Leven side on the Cricket park,
Or else it wis a flittin’ soon efter it wis dark.
Cherly Smith, the Slater
hud a place in Mitchell Street,
Bob Martin wis his neebor
jist alang the same wee street,
He worked in his auld smiddy
and he made an awfy din,
But some aulder yins they tell me
it belanged tae Jock McGinn.
Nae Argyll or Millburn Terrace,
It’s enough tae make ye greet,
In that wan in the Main Street,
That’s where Dick man did yer feet,
And if ye still think ye need him,
tae gi’e yer feet a treat,
Then ye’ll get him no faur fae me,
Alang in Middleton Street.
John Glen’s in Castle Danger,
Wi’ pumps an’ paraffin ile,
He takes ye up the hill noo, aw dressed in tails and tile,
He’s worth it, every penny, fur dae’in it in style,
He’ll tak’ ye our tae Cardross but no fur wulks or tea,
He’ll huv ye done well fired, and awfy deid ye’ll be.
Noo some will likely question aw av hud tae say,
But this wis how it wis laid oot, in aboot ma day,
But when the change is completed and the beauty’s aw restored,
Then we will hiv whit we can call,
The beautiful Vale once more.
Noo there’s plenty a could write aboot.
If a took time tae think,
For a hiv plenty paper and av plenty pen and ink,
But if you don’t mind I’ll jist sit doon and hae anither drink!
BEAUTIFUL VALE OF THE LEVEN
1. Oh where is the land that can boast aught so fair,
As the Queen of Scotch Lakes midst the pure mountain air,
‘Tis not the Rhine Valley that any could win
To the beautiful scenes of the Vale of the Leven
Beautiful Vale, Beautiful Vale
Beautiful Vale of the Leven
2. It is sheltered all round from the wild storm and gale
While the old Castle Rock point far up the Vale
Ben Lomond in friendship nods back to the Clyde
And the hills of Carman shade its western side
3. I have viewed it in sunshine, I have viewed it in shade
I have viewed it in summer with blossom arrayed
I have seen it in winter, when clad o’er wi’ snow
But to me it is lovely in mid’st of them a’
4. Its sons that are scatter’d far over the earth
Oft remember the Vale that at first gave them birth
And the kind friends they left when they bade it adieu
Oft they long to look back jsut to see it a-new
5. When the cares and the toils of this life are near o’er
And my bark is nearing yon beautiful shore
My last wish is this, that to me it be given
To be laid to my rest in the Vale of the Leven
Words and Music by James Shanks, Farmer Ladyton Farm, Bonhill
NOTE: As you can see on the song-sheet the music as well as the words is attributed to James Shanks of Ladyton Farm, Bonhill. That does a disservice to John B MacKenzie which this note corrects. MacKenzie started out as a teacher at Main Street School, Alexandria under James Mushet, and became Mushet's son-in-law before going on to be a Church of Scotland minister in Polmont. John Neill in his biographical sketch of James Mushet in "Records and Reminiscences of Bonhill Parish" said of Mackenzie "Besides being a scholar, Mr McKenzie was a very capable musician and teacher of music......Mr Mackenzie collaborated with Mr James Shanks in composing the music for that popular and lovely song "Beautiful Vale of the Leven."
Vale historian Allan McLean, who corrected some of the entries to Temple & Ferguson's "The Old Vale and its Memories", produced a brief history of Vale FC and who in his day was regarded as the Vale historian of record, goes further than "collaborates". In a letter to the Lennox Herald on 20th January 1934 McLean writes that the words for Beautiful Vale were written by James Shanks, and the music was written by John Mackenzie "later married to Mary Mushet". It was sung in the Public Hall for the first time on 25th April 1884 by Miss Nixon. She had to sing it 3 times for the delighted audience.
Given that Shanks wrote other poems and put words to other tunes such as Scots Wha Hae, the fairest description of the creation of Beautiful Vale is that they both collaborated on the song, with Shanks writing the words and MacKenzie writing the music.
THE BRAES O’ BONULL (Bonhill)
Oh weel dae I mind o’ ma earlier days
When mony’s a time I climbed the high braes.
A’ sat by the burnie that’s aye runnin still,
The wee burn that runs doon the braes o’ Bonull
[CHORUS: The braes o’Bonull are aye clad wi’ weans
Some pullin daisies and ithers chippin stanes,
The crying o’ the cuckoo and the roarin’ o’ the bull
And you’ll aye be contented on the braes o’ Bonull]
If ye want tae walk yer lass, I’ll tell you whaur tae gang,
Just go up the Slunger and as ye go alang
Ask her there to be your wife and kiss her at her will
And then gie her a dauner o’er the braes o’ Bonull.
Noo I’m getting auld and I’m sorry for to say,
My legs they are frail and my hair is turning gray
Noo I sit by the door on my three legit still
And watch the bairnies playing on the braes o’ Bonull
Noo I maun away, I hae bide’t rather lang,
And I hope you’re a’ content wi’ my wee bit humble sang,
But if we ever meet again and hae another gill
We’ll drink success to the days we spent on the braes o’ Bonull
Words and Music Unknown
Braes o' Bonhill
There was an alternative Braes o' Bonhill sung to a different tune. This was written by James Shanks (who also wrote "Beautiful Vale"). It was published in the Dumbarton Herald in 1883.
The summer has ended ’midst storm, sleet, and rain,
The harvest, though late, has been gathered again;
Now water in torrents runs down each mountain rill,
But there’s cosie nooks and glens ’mang the braes o’ Bonhill.
The braes o’ Bonhill, the braes o’ Bonhill,
There’s cosie nooks and glens ’mang the braes o’ Bonhill.
How many have rambled in life’s flowery morn,
And courted their lassie ’neath some shady thorn;
And wo’ed, won, and wed her, and cross’d life’s hill,
And now sleep at the foot o’ the braes o’ Bonhill.
Her sons far have wandered on many a foreign soil,
In search of Dame Fortune and her fickle smile;
Oft some old Scottish ditty has made their heart thrill,
And brought friends and hame to mind ’mang the braes o’ Bonhill.
Oh, who has not scrambled up the quarry brae,
To visit the Pappart on some sunny day;
And rove amang the heather wi’ heart and good will,
And viewed famed Lochlomond from the braes o’ Bonhill.
Though fate has decreed we must oft part to roam,
Far over the wide ocean from dear friends and home;
Yet the scenes of our childhood will oft our heart fill,
And the happy days we spent on the braes o’ Bonhill.
Long in peace may the monuments of trade dot the Vale,
While the fair winding Leven flows on through the dale;
May the loves and the friendships be faithful and still,
As they were in days that are past on the braes o’ Bonhill.
Dumbarton Herald, June, 1883.
This version of the "Braes" was sung to the tune of "Sae will we yet", a traditional Scottish tune. You can here the music as the Corries sing their version of "Sae will we yet" here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeSL2WkXT-Y
THE VALLEY WHERE THE LEVEN FLOWS
Words and Music by Archibald McFarlane
A SPRIG O' PURPLE HEATHER
Words and Music Unknown
LASS OF LEVENVALE
Words by Ross Crawford Music by Ian Gourlay
QUEEN OF SCOTTISH LAKES
Words and Music by Archibald McFarlane
Prose: A Scottish Scientist Looks at His Keyboard
This is an essay that is not about the Vale per se but it was written by someone from the Vale, Dr Graeme R. A. Wyllie, Laboratory coordinator, Department of Chemistry, Concordia College Minnesota.
Graeme's father Bob told me about this one evening in the bowling club. Graeme was asked to contribute to a project at Concordia College called "Djembe", which means “all of us come together” in Bamanakan, the language of the Republic of Mali in Africa.
Djembe is "A collaboration of the Office of Intercultural Affairs and the global studies program, the journal features work from students, faculty and staff. The 18 articles focus on everything from pollution in China to what it’s like to be Scottish in America."
Download a PDF copy of Graeme's article here.
We received this poem (written by her grandfather Richard Lees) from local woman, Hazel Mills.
Hazel Mills here. I have come across some of my Papa's poetry - one in particular I thought might be interesting as if refers to some old places around the vale. My Papa's name was Richard Lees (born 18th July, 1901 at 81 Alexander Street. Married to Jane Elizabeth Miller. Had 6 children - Richard, James (my dad), Elizabeth, Heather, Nancy and Irene. He died on 9th October, 1969 at home in Lansbury Street, Alexandria)."
We've had songs o' the Highlands,
The Lowlands and Islands.
Songs o' the mountains and songs o' the sea.
But there's one little spot which I think beats the lot.
Its a grand little town and its aye dear tae me.
Its my own town, my home town, the Vale o' the Leven.
And as for its beauty, well seein's believin'.
You can view it in length, on its wonderful span.
Frae the auld Pappert Well or the Hills o' Carman.
Or on midsummer evening should you care just tae dally
And watch the Leven meander its way through the valley.
Its crystal clear waters, how smoothly they glide
Frae yon bonnie banks tae the mooth o' the Clyde.
But time marches on, an' wae it brought changes
The auld toon alters daily, as mans haun rearranges.
New buildings spring up, where the auld used tae be.
They say, where noo stauns the Fountain, there yince stood a tree.
Gone are many guid auld place names, but fond memories linger still
O' Sauchie Ha', the Cannon Row and Burn o' Bonhill,
Sunnyside has vanished and so has Torry Loan.
Parkneuk is long forgotten as weel as Skittey Loan.
Nae mair the young men walk their lass up roond the Rickety Moss.
Or slops quietly doon the Puggy Line for a game at Pitch and Toss.
Nae mair on summer Sunday Morn, Paw, Maw an' a' the weans
Set oot tae hae a picnic up near the Staunin Stanes.
Yet there wis mony a bonnie lassie who wis asked tae name the day
As she walked hame roond the Slunger an' doon the Dummies Brae
The Wee Field and Sparrow Castle hae disappeared frae view,
While the Auld Mill Dam at Jamestown is still remembered by a few.
For when the school bell went at four o'clock
There wis weans on every haun, wi bits saved frae their playpiece
Tae feed "Auld Jock the Swan".
The nicht the works stopped for the holidays at the start o' Glesca Fair,
It wis off tae the Burns Concert tae hae a richt guid terr.
The lassies dressed, a' in their best, the young men spruced up like lords.
Frae far and near they came each year tae exercise their vocal chords.
And when at last the nicht had passed, in laughter, song and story,
Each lad and dame gaed traipsin hame, as dawn broke in a' its glory.
But noo the years are stealin' up on ye, and ye settle by the fire,
Wae yer paper, pipe and slippers and the young yins they enquire
"Where wis the the Slunger Daddy, and where wis Sauchie Ha'?".
Ye whisper "wheesht, gie me peace, awa and ask yer Maw"
And noo, lets congratulate the Cooncil, who hiv laid oot tidy sums
In creatin' braw new housing schemes, and demolishing the slums.
Mair power tae their elbows, may success reward thus zeal
And for yin and a', baith big and sma' a bright and prosperous new Vale.
Note: While written in a different style this poem touches on similar subjects to Duncan McLean's Wail o' the Vale (above). Perhaps because he passed away in 1969 before the Alexandria town centre redevelopment, Richard's poem is a bit more tolerant to the changes that were taking place and he even managed to be complimentary to the local "Cooncil".
Duncan's poem was written quite a few years after Richard had passed away and it was not quite so complimentary since he was able to see the results of the Vale town centre "development".
World War 1 Poetry
In a major realignment of the nation’s volunteer forces in 1908, the Dumbartonshire Rifle Volunteers were re-organized as the Ninth Battalion Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a territorial unit of the regular army. The battalion was composed of eight companies; Helensburgh (A), Kirkintilloch (B), Dumbarton (C), Milngavie (D), Bonhill and Jamestown (E), Alexandria and Renton (F), Clydebank (G), and Yoker (H).
At the outbreak of World War I, the Battalion assembled in Dumbarton and on Tuesday, August 11th, left by train for Bedford. The poetry of this early period of the war reflects the patriotic fervour, urging young men to join-up. Duncan Mathieson was a strong contributor as also was G.Q. in Canada who hearkens back to the glory days of football in Renton. These poems come from various sources and they can be downloaded as a PDF here.
A Quiz for Jeely Eaters
By Andrew Stewart
This is very popular poem - a bit of a local classic that discusses times, places and events gone by. Many more senior Vale people will still remember much of this.
Have you seen the Cannon Raw or passed by Sauchieha'
Have you listened to the word of Gavie Granger?
Did you ever know the thrill o'sledgin fast doon Ritchie Hill?
Have you seen the dunnies doon at Castle Danger?
Have you listened to the lark singin up in Brawley's Park?
Did you ever take stroll up to the "Tank"?
Have you climbed the "Dummies Brae", to the Slunger made your way?
Have you ever fished for troot at Shallowbank?
Did ye ken the "Irish Lawn" - Have you heard the Jimston Baun?
Have you walked up tae the Pappert Well?
Before you were a swimmer did you walk the Pan Lade skimmer?
Have you heard the pealing of the Auld Craft bell?
Have you wondered who could bide in a place called Sunnyside?
Did you ever play up at the "Tank Wids" when a boy?
Did you ever go at all to the Palace or the Hall?
Or did you see Jock Miller in "Rob Roy"?
Have you joukit ower the tin at Millburn tae get in
When Wullie Robb was goalie for the Vale?
Have you spent a summer day jist dookin' up the bay
And come home late wi' some unlikely tale?
Did you walk with expectation up by the Old Plantation
and cross the field toward McLellan's Brae?
With a heart as light as a feather did you stroll among the heather
and rest there at the closing of the day?
Wi' Balloch choc-o-bloc have you walked the old Slip-dock
and felt like Blondin walking o'er the falls?
Did you find it so entrancing, when you went to Sanny's dancin
Doon North Street at the Northern Halls?
Have you heard the ghostly moan as you passed the "Taurry Loan"
Or the spooks at "Sparrow Castle" up Braheid?
Have you seen the Tinker's waddin up forenenst the Mull o' Hadden
Did you ever cross Carman wi' some pieces and a pan
Or walked o'er Stoney Mollan to Ardmore?
Yet you never seemed to tire as you kinneled up the fire
and sampled Caurdross tea doon by the shore?
Did you ever make a stop at Leckie's barber shop
And found auld Bob Scott was in the chair
And heard him pour derision on a "Cooncil withoot vision"
As Tam the barber tried to cut his hair?
Dif you hire a bike frae Taig, or go to Grannie Craig
to buy her Candy Cheuchers in a poke,
Dis you ever go to meet some freens in Wilson Street,
Where the smell o' gas would mak ye choke?
Have you ever heard a turn at a concert up the Burn?
Or seen the "Wumman Hoose" at Dilllichip?
Did you march behind the baun' wi' a wee flag in your haun'
Up Bank Street at the Cooperative trip?
Have you seen the shining brass as the Bowl Carts used to pass
Wi' names like Methven, Mathieson and Lang?
Do you mind o' Paw Gargaro as he pushed his ice cream barrow
And the tunes the wee melodeon man sang?
You'll hae mind o' Lee's Bar, or Doctor Cullen's car
That banged its way around the neighbourhood.
Was there magic in the air when you went to Balloch Fair
And walked the waterside at Fisherwood?
You'll hae mind o' Allan Bayne who delighted every wean
By makin' up wee rhymes aboot their names.
And you'll ken fine who I'm meaning' when I mention Paddy Keenan
And Jeck Rabb the Warden at Linnbrane?
Now if you've answered all of this series o' sentimental queries
And understood my reminiscing tale.
You know your way about and can say without a doubt
You're a Native "Jeely Eater" frae the Vale!
Read the answers to the Jeely Eaters Quiz >
Since the above was first published we have received more information about Andrew Stewart, who wrote the Jeely Eater's Quiz. Local woman Linda Houston, now living in Atlanta Georgia, tells us that Andrew Stewart was a good friend of her mum's and that she knew Andrew and his wife Jessie as her "aunt and uncle". Andrew worked in Burroughs, he was from the Vale but lived in Dumbarton for many years after getting married. He and Jessie later settled back in the Vale, first in the Haldane then in Burnbrae.
After he passed away in 1995 aunt Jessie showed Linda a book of his poetry. Sadly she never lived to see his work featured on the Internet but Linda tells us she would have been delighted to know that this was happening. Just this year Linda put a new memorial bench to both of them in the Christie park. This replaces the one one that had been placed there when Andrew passed away.
We are now able to offer a downloadable (PDF) copy of the book. This was compiled from original documents by Jimmy Cameron who was a relative of Andrew. Jimmy now lives in the south. His mother Ella Cameron, who was a local school teacher was Andrew's cousin.
Knowledgable, informative, humourous, sad and entertaining, Andrew's poetry and prose is all of these and well worthy of being included on the Vale of Leven website. Read the taster featured in the right hand column called "Yae Time". I defy anyone to read this without feeling the genuine sadness that Andew conveys with his words.
Graham Lappin sent us some more interesting Vale poetry from the 1800's.
Tom Bamford, late of Bonhill in April 1868 wrote.
THE VALE OF LEVEN—PAST AND PRESENT
I reached the trough stane safe and soun’,
And for a short time sat me doon—
But, O, my heart was unco sair
That mornin’ I was sittin’ there.
For weel I mind when a wee thing
My sisters here I used tae bring
Tae get a drink at this trough stane;
But noo I’m sitting here my lane.
We a’ hae parted lang ago;
My parents noo are lying low—
Their race is run, their warfare’s past,
And they have reached their haven at last.
There’s Cowborough’s farm and the High Glen,
The Cordale Loan, where old Cockpen
Contrived tae live sae lang at ease,
But, O, we laddies did him tease.
But from this point my eyes I turn
Tae look upon the auld red burn;
It’s gae much changed since I hae min’—
There’s a new hoose built there since syne.
There’s Ladyton upon the hill,
Aye much aboot the same think still;
The toozie weaver’s noo awa’,
That man that a’ folks did misca.
The cottages are much the same—
At least as far as I hae gane—
McAllan’s, Brock’s, Parker’s an’ a’,
Are much the same when I went awa’.
But what’sthis noo that does appear,
There’s some queer change has been wrought here,
The dyke’s awa’, the auld yett tae,
That I used tae climb on every day.
A fine big cottage is noo built here;
It makes the ithers a’roon look queer—
A splendid place it is a’ roon,
The finest cottage in the toon.
Dear me, I’m noo at Biggam’s Loan,
I hear his big dog growl and groan;
Doon this same loan I’ve often run,
And played with Biggam’s oldest son.
We used tae gallop through the glen;
But John McFarlane didna ken
We gathered beach nuts on the grun’,
And had what we a’ ca’d fine fun.
I’m at Bain’s Loan.
This dear spot by me can never be forgot,
For here the Braehead callants met,
They were a happy cheery set.
We play’d at rounders and kee-ho,
The bools an’ a was a great go—
Smugglers, cricket and the peerie,
These were the games that kept us cheery.
But frae these haunts time has me torn—
I see the room where I was born—
Those stately trees, with arms wide spread,
Were often viewed by those that’s dead.
When summer clad those trees in green
Under their shade I’ve often been,
And sung myself asleep at noon,
I slept there often lang and soun’.
The smithy tae has changed a wee,
For just before the cherry tree
They’ve built a nice bit shoppie there,
That sells provisions and hardware.
What doesna ken the cooper’s tae
That’s at the tap o’ Bonhill brae!
The Kirkland Loan’s before the door,
Where printers wrought in days o’ yore.
There is one place—the auld kirkyard—
That every exile doth regard;
With reverence we see them tread
Through this old city of the dead.
Their eye then lights upon a stane
That marks a spot where lies their ain,
Though dead they speak; hear what they say—
Salvation seek before delay.
The reply came in May 1868 from a worthy with the soubriquet of Delta.
When Tam sat doon at the trough stane
His muse was nae way stinted,
But gied him wit tae write the lines
That lately I saw printed.
Though changes he has noticed weel,
There’s some he missed, that’s plain,
For at the trough stane dirls noo
A ladle an’ a chain;
Which on a warm day handy is
For every passer by,
Tae tak’ a drink o’ water noo—
That is, if they are dry.
Nobleston Farm is no much changed
Since last I saw Bonhill,
For Coubrough still aye jogs alang,
His family toilin’ still.
But Ladyton has seen a change
Since Wylie gaed awa’;
The grun’ is better ploughed since then—
It’s no the same at a’.
The cottages by the road side
Are still aboot the same,
But noo they’ve got a new ane built—
“Balquhidder” is its name.
But bare they’ve made puir “Lissa” look
By cuttin’ doon the trees,
Whaever ordered that break doon
Hasna been ill tae please.
Here’s Biggam’s Loan, so named from one
Wha plies old Adam’s calling;
His trusty watch-dog, Captain’s dead,
Nae mair he’ll hear us bawling.
And noo the Glen—wha disna mind
The fun sae cheery there?
But masters new aye mak’ new laws—
We’ll rant in it nae mair.
But where’s Bain’s Loan, I think it’s changed—
O dear, I’m like tae greet—
For noo it’s got anither name,
They ca’ it Raglan Street.
And here’s the “Plumb;” or rather this
Is where it used tae be.
It’s noo closed up by something which
Is like a grate tae see.
A ladle here they’ve got, I see,
For folk tae tak’ a drink;
Whaever put the ladle there
Showed some guid sense, I think.
Noo Campbell’s smiddy comes in view—
Or rather it’s his shop;
But since I’ve daunder’d on this length,
I think it’s time tae stop.
Some ither time I’ll maybe scrawl
A verse or twa tae fit,
An get up tae the Cannon Raw—
If it’s ay staunnin’ yet.
ODE TO LEVEN WATER
On Leven’s banks while free to rove,
And tune the rural pipe to love,
I envied not the happiest swain
That ever trod the Arcadian plain.
Pure stream, in whose transparent wave
My youthful limbs I wont to lave;
No torrents stain thy limpid source,
No rocks impede thy dimpling course,
That sweetly warbles o’er its bed,
With white round polished pebbles spread;
While, lightly poised, the scaly brood
In myriads cleave the crystal flood;
The springing trout in speckled pride;
The salmon, monarch of the tide;
The ruthless pike intent on war;
The silver eel and mottled par.
Devolving from thy parent lake,
A charming maze thy waters make,
By bowers of birch, and groves of pine,
And hedges flowered with eglantine.
Still on thy banks so gaily green,
May numerous herds and flocks be seen;
And lassies chanting o’er the pail,
And shepherd’s piping in the dale;
And ancient faith that knows no guile,
And industry embrowned with toil;
And hearts resolved and hands prepared,
The blessings they enjoy to guard!
James Ferguson wrote in February 1853
MODERNISED VERSION OF SMOLLETT’S “ODE TO LEVEN WATER.”
“On Leven’s banks,” while free to walk,
Inhaling smoke from many a stalk,
I envy not the bliss of some
Who breathe the fumes of Tennant’s “lum.”
Dark stream! In whose polluted wave
The fishes die, like martyrs brave;
Where anglers, with the prin and rod,
Can find nor “ruthless pike” nor cod;
Where “springing trout” and “mottled par”
In “myriads” often poison’d are,
As dyers in thy “crystal flood”
Pour oxygen and bullocks’ blood,
Tall chimney stalks, in smoky pride,
Their sooty heads rear on thy side,
While huge brick-stoves, and sheds of broom,
Upon thy banks do sternly “loom.”
Devolving from the “Queen of Lakes,”
A winding course thy water takes,
While in its progress to the Clyde,
With hundred motley stuffs is dyed.
Upon thy banks, where “flocks and herds,”
And “lasses chanting,” like the birds,
And “piper,” piping, oft did stray
By sylvan groves the lifelong day,
Nought now remains to tell the tale
That once thou wert a lovely vale;
But smoke, and soot, and Turkey-red,
Proclaim to all thy beauty fled.
We enter noo a classic vale,
To picture which I well may fail,
Sin’ Smollett somewhaur does it ca’
Auld “Caledon’s Arcadia;”
And if ‘twas wi’ a partial e’e
He looked upon the scene, sin he
Could boast himsel’ a Leven bairn,
Born doun by here at auld Dalquhurn,
Whaur was the ill I’d like to ken
Tho’ he did say? I’d draw me ten
Arcadias frae Campsie Glen,
Ee’n wi’ my sma’ artistic skill,
Nor think I did Arcadia ill.
But as we’re noo on guarded ground,
An’ lest I poaching should be found,
Let’s tak’ the valley at a bound,
An’ wi’ my keelyvine in haun,
In musin’ mood, I’se tak’ my staun
On Balloch’s gran’ suspension brig,
O’ which she’s nae dout unco big,
An’ to my knowledge geyan fenny
To mak’, by times, an honest penny:
Sae when ye cross, be sure to min’
To slip her sic a modest coin,
Tho’ aiblins, an’ ye speak her fair,
She’ll let ye back, nor charge ye mair.
O lovely vale, meand’ring stream,
Bright wanderer thro’ the Poet’s dream,
Who wont his youthful limbs to lave
’Mid thy wood-girt, song-lisping wave,
Deep-drinking of a thrilling joy,
Which time nor change could e’er destroy.
What tho’ the ruthless wheels of trade,
Some o’ thy charms hae prostrate laid,
Curtailed thee o’ thy birken bowers,
Song-trilling birds an’ laughing flowers;
Despoiled, in part, thy bless’d retreats
O’ their pristine Arcadian sweets,
Robbing thy pastoral braes and meads
O’ shepherds wi’ their oaten reeds’
Doun-tumblin’ cots, uprootin’ trees,
To plant dye-warks an’ factories,
Whause vile impurities molest
An’ stain thy ance pellucid breast,
Thou still hast charms to be admired,
Wad poets deign to be inspired;
An’ for thy noble minnie’s sake,
Loch Lomond, Scotia’s royal lake,
Wha still has walth o’ sunny smiles
To cheer thee mid thy fretfu’ toils,
Thou’lt aye to ilka Scottish heart
Be dear, as now to mine thou art.
One anonymous poet gives a good impression of the industry of the Vale in May, 1867.
ODE TO LEVEN WATER
On Leven when the stream is low
And all our printworks on do go
The dark as porter down does flow
The river lounging lazily.
But Leven saw another sight
When Smollett of its charms did write
Inviting all to drink delight
From its Arcadian scenery.
With trout and salmon, par and eel
Each angler then with rod and reel
His basket filled; and proud did feel
Of piscatorial victory.
At morn, and oft, e’er break of day
To work now natives wend their way
Where fire and steam in madness play
And drive the grim machinery.
Here cloth is printed, dyed and steamed,
Bleached, tentered, and in water streamed,
Starched, mangled, calendered and beamed
And folded very carefully.
Now many meet where few did part;
Because of this, our fancy art
And all the Vale is one great mart
Of printing manufacturies.
A year later, in June 1868, there was another similar attempt by Laudator Temporis Acti.
ODE ON LEVEN WATER
“On Leven’s banks, where free to rove,
And tune the rural pipe to love,”
In boyhood’s days I’ve often strayed
Past gasping river trout, betrayed
By deadly poison, flowing ever
Into the sluggish muddy river
From stench-holes nigh—“On Leven’s banks,”
Dear Toby (pray accept my thanks
For this thy cue), should’st thou by chance
From Stygian realms vouchsafe a glance,
Thou surely would’st reverse thy sentence—
Things are so altered since thou went hence.
The “round, white, polished pebbles” now
Are smutty as king Pluto’s brow,
When, Proserpinas’ mandate scorning,
He keeps on bousing till the morning.
For rural pipes, we’ve got, alas!
Mere metal pipes of lead and brass,
Cloacic eke of chymic paper,
Still spewing forth their noisome vapour,
And many coloured sludge, and stench, all
Making the air so pestilential
That “swains” and “lasses” hence have fled
To purer regions.
No more is heard the thresher’s flail,
Or “shepherd piping in the dale;”
The mill drums out the one, the other
Is shoved aside with little bother
By science son, who proudly bawls
His platitudes in crowded halls;
Cramming his audience with “such stuff
As dreams are made of.” But enough,
My grey goose quill, enough of this.
Thy owner still was wont to hiss;
And, since I’ve ta’en thee for my tool,
It seems I, too, must play the fool.
As I sit and think about
These troubled times of fads and styles
My thoughts drift back in time across
The paths and lanes of memories miles
I dream of days that ne’er seemed dull
In bygone days Braeheid Bunull
The seasons then they seemed to be
Far better or far worse to me
For summer sun it always shone
Far warmer in the pleasant morn
Till winter snows came ower the hill
In bygone days Braeheid Bunull
Off tae the shops upon the brae
Butchers, Bakers, Grocers tae
The weans for errands always went
Wi’ money that was often lent
An’ staun’ in queues tae buy the news
Fae Buntine’s paper shop Bunull
Upon the hill the old Black Bull
Wis hame for quite a few
For on these days when work was done
There was little else to do
The overpowering smell of ale
It drifted roon aboot
Till, “Time gents please! It’s nine o’ clock”
“It’s time that you were oot!”
And then they’d staun ootside in groups
Tae patter an’ tae chaff
An sup away at “Kerry oots”
Or sing a song and laugh
Some drifted roon the back tae see
The quoiters test their skill
Against the best in the land
An’ place a bet for thrills
The Sunday quiet was always stirred
By Kirk bells in the morn
And paper boys would wake folk up
Tae a new day that was born
The Sunday ritual once again
Apart fae church bell tunes
The joy and expectation o’
“Oor Wullie” and “The Broons”
In auld Braeheid in days gone by
Where characters abound
None more than in auld “Geordie Street”
Were many to be found
Wull Stark and Annie Bogle
An’ auld deef Murray too
Were characters without a doubt
To name but just a few
Jock Paul an’ big fat Broon
I doubt if you would ever find
Sae mony in any toon
Wee Lizzie an’ wee Tommy
The perfect man and wife
Ower tae the “pictures” every night
Tae get away fae life
The Hall an’ Strand, “The Great Escape”
On cauld, wet winter nights
A poke o’ sweeties in her pooch
One o’ the many sights
The walk along the Ladyton
Past Jimmy Wilson’s plot
On up the hill ower sanstane rock
An’ by the Hawker’s hut
Through fern an’ through bracken
Across the ripplin’ burn
The wooded paths an’ sunny glades
Then through the gates in turn
The skylark and the curlew
Upon the Pappert hill
The walk alang “The Slunger”
Are memories I have still
The cryin’ o’ the cuckoo
An’ the roarin’ o’ the bull
Were more than just words o’ a song
In bygone days Bunull.
By Tom Weir