NS4178 : The Murroch Burn
near to Bonhill, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain
The Murroch Burn
(1) The physical course of the burn
The main sources of the Murroch Burn are to be found in an area of boggy ground around NS43507992, near the hill Knockshanoch. As it flows along the south-eastern edge of Nobleston Wood, the burn is reinforced by several tributary burns that flow into it from the south-east along various glens that dissect Auchenreoch Muir (c.NS4278).
The burn then flows through the deep Murroch Glen, in whose steep sides (and those of the larger tributary glens) a geological formation called Ballagan Beds is visible: it consists of thin layers of off-white nodules of cementstone (an impure limestone) interbedded with darker, thicker, crumbly layers of silty mudstone.
The Murroch Burn emerges from the steep-sided glen to flow through a wide, shallow, pebbly channel over the fairly level grassland of Kilmalid. The burn flows into the River Leven near the present-day Blue Bridge (by means of which the A82 is taken over the River Leven). When the Blue Bridge was built, the last part of the Murroch Burn's course was altered, so that it meets the Leven a few metres further downstream than it did previously. To that end, the burn is directed through a tunnel at the south-eastern end of the bridge.
(The Blue Bridge may not have been the first crossing here: according to a leaflet produced by the Strathleven Artizans, "when the new road bridge was being erected at Pelanysflait about 1970, an ancient causeway was discovered on the bed of the river".)
(2) Lime-kiln ruins
As noted above, the burn flows through the steep-sided Murroch Glen, where cementstone nodules occur in strata. As the sides of the glen erode, these nodules tend to fall into the bed of the burn. Long, narrow ridges extend down into the glen, providing a sometimes precarious means of access to the burn. At the lower end of some of these long ridges, in grassy areas enclosed by loops of the Murroch Burn, are ruins of lime-kilns, evident as circular green mounds with a central depression. The cementstone nodules provided limestone for burning, and the burn was a ready supply of water for slaking the burnt stone; the long ridges provided a means of getting to and from the kilns, and of bringing in fuel, and taking out the slaked lime. See Link for views of these lime-kiln ruins, all of which are on the north-western side of the burn.
A little lower down, where the Murroch Burn passes Murroch Farm, is the ruin of another lime-kiln: see Link for images and for more details. That kiln was larger, and it was built to a different design; it was presumably for the exclusive use of the tenants of Murroch Farm. Unlike the other lime-kilns further upstream, this one was on the south-eastern side of the burn, on the same side as Murroch Farm itself.
(3) The name "Murroch"
Anciently, the name Dumbarton (although then spelled in other ways) had a narrower application than at present; it referred specifically to Dumbarton Rock. The name Murroch, conversely, may have had a much wider application: Dr I M M MacPhail, in his book "Dumbarton through the centuries" (1972), discusses the foundation charter of the Burgh of Dumbarton, which was "sealed by Alexander II on July 8, 1222"; he goes on to observe that "in three other charters, in 1223, 1226 and 1230, Alexander gave to the newly-founded burgh the lands of Murroch (equivalent to almost the whole of the present parish of Dumbarton) and, in addition, extensive trading privileges".
A 1238 charter (in Latin) by Alexander II, King of Scots, to Maldowen, Earl of Lennox, mentions the land and port of Murrach, with fishing rights on both sides of the River Leven as far as the land of Murrach extends (the "port of Murrach" might possibly refer to the point where the Murroch Burn flowed into the River Leven; as noted above, the point of confluence is now a few metres further downstream, as a result of the creation of the Blue Bridge.
In 1248 charter, also by Alexander II, employs a different spelling, "Murvaich", possibly indicating (this is my own tentative suggestion) a connection with the Gaelic "morbhach", meaning "land prone to sea-flooding"; the River Leven is tidal here, and an area of land on the eastern side of the River Leven, just downstream from the lower reaches of the Murroch Burn, used to be flooded twice-daily; Broadmeadow Industrial Estate – Link – now occupies much of that area. Dumbarton's earliest Burgh Records show a preoccupation with the "water works", the flood defences. One such early measure, the so-called Bishop's Water-Gang (sixteenth century), soon fell into disrepair, and part of the old burgh was reclaimed by the tidal waters; the battle to permanently reclaim "the Drowned Lands" would not be won until as late as the 1850s, in connection with the creation of the railway line through Dumbarton.
The Pont/Blaeu map of the Lennox (published in 1654, but based on surveys carried out in c.1580s-90s) does not name the burn, but uses "Morehauch" for the name of the farm; this, however, is an aberration, and later maps would revert to spellings that are closer to the present-day form "Murroch" and the early-thirteenth-century "Murrach".
John Thomson's 1832 "Atlas of Scotland", in its map of Dumbartonshire, employs the present-day name Murroch for the farm, as do Ordnance Survey maps from the first edition (1860) down to the present day.
(4) Places shown near the Murroch Burn on various pre-OS maps:
Shown near the burn on the aforementioned 1654 Pont/Blaeu map, which was based on late-sixteenth-century surveys, are "Kirkmichel" (Kirkmichael, later called Levenside, and still later Strathleven), "Kilmandyrbrid" (Kilmalid), "Gushoom" (Gooseholm), "Headdykes" (Highdykes), "Achrioch" (Auchenreoch), "Lanhead" (Loaninghead), "Maryland" (name unchanged), and "Breadfield" (also called Broadfield, but now long-gone).
Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (c.1740s-50s) names neither the burn nor Murroch Farm, but it does name several places nearby: for example, "Gusom" (modern Gooseholm), "Glen", "Connelsmill", "Ardoch hill" (Ardochhill), "Cowlair" (which, if a farm, is not otherwise recorded), "Lonanhead" (Loaninghead), and "Ashentree(?)" (reading uncertain).
One of those places, Connelsmill, is (so far as I am aware) shown on no other map, but it was named after a family who dwelt there (amongst the Burgesses of Dumbarton were "Thomas Connell, son to William Connell, sometime in Connell's Mill" and "James Connell, son to Robert Connell at Connell's Mill", entered as Burgesses of Dumbarton on 18 Nov 1700 and 7 Sep 1747, respectively). It is possibly the same as the "Miln" marked on Charles Ross' 1777 "Map of the Shire of Dumbarton" as being just to the south of the (unnamed) Murroch Burn, and just to the east of the road.
(My guess at the location of Connell's Mill, based on the very meagre map evidence, on the topography needed for a mill, and on the assumption that it is the same as Ross' "Miln", places it somewhere in the vicinity of NS40137749, where a house presently stands. A building is shown there on the first-edition OS map of 1860: it is named on the map revision of c.1896 as "Strathleven Cottage". The present-day house there is called Glen Cottage, a name that seems to suggests a real or imagined connection with the "Glen" that is shown upstream of "Connelsmill" on Roy's map; this, though, may be mere coincidence.)
A 1777 "Map of the Shire of Dumbarton" by Charles Ross shows "Gateside", "Miln" and "Livenside" (Levenside/Strathleven).
John Ainslie's 1821 "Map of the Southern Part of Scotland" shows, near the burn, "Gooseholme", "Loaninghead", the oddly-named and (so far as I know) otherwise unrecorded "Peddledubs".
James Thomson's 1832 map of Dumbartonshire (in his "Atlas of Scotland") shows "Gateside", "Kilmalid", "Murroch", and "Lonninhead" (Loaninghead).
Of the various places described above, several remained in existence long enough to be recorded on the first-edition OS map (surveyed in 1860), namely, Loaninghead, Gateside, Kilmalid, Gooseholm, and Ardochhill. Kirkmichael/Levenside survives in the form of present-day Strathleven House.
Maryland Farm, Highdykes Farm and Murroch Farm are still in existence.
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- Grid Square
- NS4178, 48 images (more nearby )
- Lairich Rig (find more nearby)
- Image classification?
- Date Taken
- Friday, 11 December, 2009 (more nearby)
- Thursday, 17 December, 2009
- Geographical Context
- Burn (more nearby)
- Subject Location
OSGB36: NS 4168 7864 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:58.4738N 4:32.3181W
- Photographer Location
- OSGB36: NS 4170 7863
- View Direction
- West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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