UK Genealogy Archives logo

Buchanan, Stirlingshire

Historical Description

BUCHANAN, a parish, in the county of STIRLING, 1 mile (N. W.) from Drymen; containing 754 inhabitants. The name of this place was originally Inchcaileoch, which it received from an island in Loch Lomond, its western boundary; but a detached portion of the parish of Luss, containing the Buchanan estates and chapel, having been annexed to it in 1621, and the inhabitants finding this religious edifice more convenient than the church, regularly attended at the former, in consequence of which the parish assumed the name of Buchanan. This appellation is of uncertain origin; but the family who used it in consequence of having, at a very early period, obtained a grant of the lands so called, sprang from Anselan, a native of Ireland, who is supposed to have located himself here in the eleventh century. From this ancient race, always more celebrated for literary than political or military fame, descended the poet and historian George Buchanan, born in 1506; Dr. Buchanan, author of works on the civil and natural history of India; and Dr. Claudius Buchanan, whose writings, designed to awaken the British nation to a sense of the necessity of extending education and religious instruction in India, are well known. The parish is situated at the western extremity of the county, bordering on Dumbartonshire, and is bounded on the south by the river Endrick. It is about twenty-four miles in length and five in breadth, and comprises 76,800 acres, of which 1500 are arable, 69,750 natural pasture and waste, 4250 in woods and plantations, and the remainder in pleasure-grounds, &c. It contains a portion of lowland, some of the islands in Loch Lomond, and a mountainous ridge belonging to the highlands, stretching along the eastern bank of the loch, and terminating the Grampian hills on the west. This ridge is altogether a dreary barren tract, consisting chiefly of sheep-pasturage, used formerly, as is supposed, for the purpose of hunting, and now abounding in grouse, black game, and other fowl.

Loch Lomond, the rich and magnificent scenery of which is perhaps unrivalled, and which has been so often described, is twenty-four miles in length and about seven at its greatest breadth, and is twenty-two feet above the level of the sea. It contains salmon, pike, eels, &c., and a fish called powans, somewhat similar to a herring. On the east it is joined by the river Endrick; the Leven quits it on the south, and, running into the Clyde, affords to boats the means of communication with Glasgow, Greenock, and other places. A steam-boat, in the summer season, plies upon this beautiful expanse of water chiefly for the accommodation of visiters. The lake is studded with above thirty islands, mostly at the southern extremity. These, together with the shores of the loch, are in general clothed with dark wood, which gave occasion to a distinction drawn some years ago by a Swiss tourist, between Lausanne and Loch Lomond: "Our lake", he said, "is the fair beauty; your's, the black". In ancient times, the lake was famed for three wonders, "waves without winds, fish without fins, and a floating island", The first phenomenon is attributed to a peculiar atmospheric effect, not easily described, but which has also been observed on the Cumberland lakes: vipers swimming from island to island account for the second; whilst the floating island is supposed to have been a detached fragment of moss, or a matted mass of aquatic plants, which ultimately fixed itself near the west side of Inch Conagan. Most of the islands in the lake are unimportant. The largest is Inchmurrin, which is two miles in length and about half as broad, and contains a considerable number of deer the property of the Duke of Montrose: at the western limit of the island, on a hill, are the ruins of a castle built by the ancient Earls of Lennox, and near the same place is a lodge of modern date erected by the same family. In the parish is the lofty mountain of Ben Lomond, the highest point of the Grampians, rising 3000 fret above the sea, and commanding from its summit, which is of conical form, a prospect, on the north, of an interminable range of mountains rising in succession, one above another; and, on the south, of all the rich and varied scenery in the great tract from the Western Isles to the Firth of Forth. It is one of the most striking and commanding objects in the whole country, having the remarkable advantage of not being overcrowned or crowded up with surrounding hills; and besides the varied and most extensive prospect it embraces in every direction, Ben Lomond in itself affords a great variety of scenery. To the south it stretches out into a slope of a very gentle declivity; the north side is awfully abrupt, and presents a concave precipice many hundred yards in depth. The whole consists of three great stages, one rising above another; and these, again, are divided into a number of smaller swelling knolls, some of which are covered with heath and crags, whilst others are smooth and verdant.

The soil, on the bank of the Endrick, is for the most part alluvial; and towards the mountains the land comprises clay, gravel, and moss, the last supplying abundance of peat. The chief agricultural produce is barley and oats, the latter of which are raised in by far the larger quantity; potatoes and turnips are also grown. But the principal wealth of the parish arises from its sheep and black-cattle, grazed on the mountainous tracts; the sheep are of the black-faced breed, and of small size. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6400. The rocks mostly consist of various kinds of slate, but the quarries formerly wrought have been discontinued. The natural wood contains about 3000 acres; the plantations are chiefly oak and larch, and were for the most part formed by the late Duke of Montrose, whose decease occurred in 1836. Buchanan House, the summer residence of the Duke of Montrose, was situated in the lower district, and surrounded by extensive and well laid-out grounds; the body of the edifice was ancient, but the wiugs comparatively of modern date. This mansion was unfortunately destroyed by fire on January 22nd, 1850: the pictures and family records were saved. At Balmaha is a manufactory for the preparation of pyroligneous acid, 700 tons of small wood are annually used in the works, and the acid and dye-stuffs extracted from it are sold to the proprietors of print-works in the vicinity of Glasgow.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Dumbarton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Duke of Montrose: the minister's stipend is £156. 12. 8., of which above a third is received from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum. The church, situated in the lower portion of the parish, is a neat edifice, built about 1764, and contains 300 sittings. A small part of the ruins of the old church still remains, in the island of Inchcaileoch. The master of the parochial school receives a salary of £30, with fees; and at Salochy, in the higher district, is a school, the master of which has £15 per annum, paid by the Edinburgh Society, and a house, with a piece of grass-land, given by the duke. A library was formed some years since.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis