NS3678 : Carman Quarry

taken 10 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Carman Quarry
Carman Quarry
This was formerly a sandstone quarry.

Before that, as shown on the 1:10560 OS map from 1864, there was a small hill called Fairy Knowe at this location ("knowe" is equivalent to "knoll"), with a summit height of 574 feet; there was, as yet, no quarry here. The equivalent maps from 1899 to 1932 show the quarry eating away at the southern face of the Knowe, and expanding from there. I have used the title "Carman Quarry", because that is what appears on present-day mapping, but it should be noted that it this was a later name; it was originally called the Fairy Knowe Quarry.

I.M.M.MacPhail's booklet "Off the Main Road" (1976) discusses the quarry at the site of the former Fairy Knowe; the author notes that "the hillside has been altered considerably by extensive quarrying and the old name, Fairy Knowe, seems now a misnomer." The author goes on to state that "it was also in more recent times known as Mount Mallow"; Dr MacPhail is usually to be relied upon, but I have some reservations about that identification: see below, at the end of this item.

The name Fairy Knowe may be an indication of what Joseph Irving, writing in 1879, described as "a once popular superstition which still lingers in the locality"; see NS3875 : Havoc Hole for more details. In the same work, Irving also wrote that Carman Hill is "celebrated in the superstitious legends of the district". He does not give the details of these legends, but (as will be explained below) they are likely to have been connected with the Fairy Knowe, which, as my photograph shows, is located on the lower slopes of Carman Hill.

In a passage cited in one of the more recent local histories, I came across what is probably an early reference to the same beliefs: one of the works of the local author Tobias Smollett (NS3977 : The former site of Dalquhurn House, NS3878 : Latin inscription on the Smollett Monument) was the epistolary novel "The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker" (1771). In it, he has one of his characters write that "the fairies dwell in a hole of Kairmann(*), a [mountain] hard by"; that passage goes on to describe some of the associated superstitions.

[(*) Whyte and MacFarlan's 1811 survey of agriculture in the County of Dumbarton mentions, in a list of places in which limestone can be found, "Cairman in Cardross", a useful record of a form intermediate between Smollett's "Kairmann" of c.1771 and the spelling "Carman" that is found on OS maps from the first edition (c.1860) to the present day. Note that the "Cairman" in which limestone could be found is Carman Muir, and not Carman Hill itself: see LinkExternal link for more on the remnants of limestone quarrying that are scattered across Carman Muir, and for a map of the limestone outcrops and old quarry pits that can be seen there.]

Smollett mentions a number of unrelated traditions in the same passage from "Humphrey Clinker". Several of these are attested elsewhere (for example, Smollett's character writes that "Loff-Loming", i.e. Loch Lomond, "has got waves without wind, fish without fins, and a floating [island]"), so it is likely that the words quoted above about "Kairman" are an authentic record of local belief, rather than being the author's invention.

The Fairy Knowe must have been given its name for a reason, the most logical one being that the above-mentioned hole of Carman was located there.

Another faint echo of these superstitious beliefs is to be found in the following old couplet, recorded by Irving (see above):

"In at the flow of the Havock,
and out at the yetts o' Carman".

The first part of the couplet undoubtedly refers to a cave, NS3875 : Havoc Hole (see that item for more information). In the light of what Smollett wrote, it is probable that "the yetts [gates] of Carman" were a corresponding opening in the Fairy Knowe (on Carman Hill). The opening was apparently thought to lead to, or at least to communicate in some way with, the cave at Havock; that cave was, according to Irving, "reputed at one time to have been a favourite resort of the Lennox witches" (see the last-cited link for the reference).

Please note that this synthesis, namely, the reconstruction of the old beliefs, is entirely my own; I am not simply repeating someone else's theory.

The only traditions now referring to the cave at Havock are ones about William Wallace (faint echoes of similar supernatural traditions are associated with a different cave a few miles from there; it is not clear whether these were transferred from Havock, or whether they are quite independent of it).

Another belief is also worth mentioning here: the nearby hill-fort on the summit of Carman Hill was only identified from aerial photographs as recently as the 1950s. However, the prominent boulders (NS3779 : View over ancient hill-fort) that lie within its boundaries had not previously escaped notice; in the second half of the nineteenth century, the popular belief was that those stones had been set there by the Druids.

The colour of the underlying soil is best seen in the mound at the right-hand side of the photo. That mound is not the Knowe. The latter was much larger: it embraced all of the green area that appears in the foreground and middle distance of the photograph, and more besides. To the north, it extended to the line of trees that can be seen in the middle distance. Those trees stand on top of a crescent-shaped ridge that separates the green edge of the quarry from the brown hillside behind it. The ridge is a remnant of the Fairy Knowe; in fact, it is what remains of the northern edge of the Knowe: NS3679 : Northern edge of the Fairy Knowe.

Some features of geological interest can still be seen in the old quarry: NS3678 : Traces of ancient mud cracks.

To the left, the hill in the background is Carman Hill, and the "bump" visible to the right of its summit is the location of some boulders that lie within an ancient hill-fort: NS3779 : Ancient hill-fort on Carman Hill.

- - - -

On the name "Mount Mallow":

Dr MacPhail (quoted above as saying that the Fairy Knowe was known locally as Mount Mallow) is generally reliable and well informed, but I believe that the name Mount Mallow (pronounced like the word "allow", but with an "m" prefixed), although now commonly applied to nearby Carman Hill, originally referred to the next hill to the north (I have that information from someone whose father occupied the cottage, now ruined, at the top of Poachy Glen, and who is therefore very likely to know the correct use of the name).

The "next hill to the north" is Overtoun Muir. Interestingly, the name "Mullour" is shown at the high point of Overtoun Muir on the 1:25000 OS map (also, the variant spelling "Millaur" was recorded in the OS Name Books); "Mount Mallow" probably represents a vague local memory of that name. For more on this topic, see NS3680 : Moorland near Mullour on Overton Muir.

Tom S Hall, in his book "Citizen Rambles" (c.1930), after discussing "Poochy Glen" (see NS3779 : Stream flowing towards Poachy Glen), writes that "above the glen is Mount Maloy, a knoll on the uplands of Carman moor. Mount Maloy is not marked on the map, which points to the fact that it is only a local name. Then there is the Fairy Knowe Quarry, locally known as the Whinstone Quarry. Here is quarried that common redstone generally used for local building purposes".

Hall's description of Mount Mallow (he spells it Maloy) as "a knoll on the uplands of Carman moor" does not fit the spreading expanse of Overtoun Muir. This may be evidence that, even at that time (the 1930s), the name was beginning to be applied in a way that was different from its original use.

Dr MacPhail wrote that the Fairy Knowe was also known locally as Mount Mallow, but it is clear that Hall understood the name Mount Mallow to refer to a different location. For one thing, it is hard to see how the Fairy Knowe (whose site is shown in the present picture) could be described as "above the glen", that is, above Poachy Glen; but more decisive is the fact that Hall mentions the knoll "Mount Maloy", and then mentions the Fairy Knowe Quarry separately from it: they were clearly different places. A small ridge-like feature just north of Carman Hill has a knoll-like appearance, but only from certain angles: NS3779 : View along a mound.

My own opinion is that, when using the name Mount Maloy, Tom S Hall was referring to Carman Hill itself. He does not employ the name "Carman Hill" in his account of that excursion, but it is unlikely that he would fail to mention the hill; it was one of the most prominent natural features along the way.

In summary, it seems that:

(1) the name Mount Mallow originally applied to the high ground of Overtoun Muir,
(2) the name is probably a distortion of the name Mullour (with variant Millaur) given on maps and in the OS Name Books, and
(3) it later came to be applied (in popular usage) in an inconsistent way, to refer to several different features nearby, such as Carman Hill.
The former Fairy Knowe Quarry :: NS3779
Red sandstone was quarried here. The site was formerly a small hill called Fairy Knowe, but it became a quarry at the end of the nineteenth century; later maps call it Carman Quarry. It has long been disused. See LinkExternal link for an annotated satellite view putting this site in its geological context. The name "Fairy Knowe" perhaps alludes to the same superstitions as were associated with Havoc Cave: LinkExternal link
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
TIP: Click the map for Large scale mapping
Change to interactive Map >
Grid Square
NS3678, 129 images   (more nearby )
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Tuesday, 18 November, 2008   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 18 November, 2008
Geographical Context
Quarrying, Mining  Derelict, Disused 
Former (from Tags)
Near (from Tags)
Carman Hill  Carman Muir 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3690 7899 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:58.5663N 4:36.9215W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3688 7897
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
Looking for a postcode? Try this pageExternal link
Clickable map

Other Tags
Toponymy  Legend 

Click a tag, to view other nearby images.

Image classification(about): Geograph
This page has been viewed about 666 times.
View this location: KML (Google Earth) · Google MapsExternal link · Bing MapsExternal link · OS Map Checksheet · Geograph Map · geotagged! More Links for this image
W Go E
You are not logged in login | register