7. Carman House

Carman Hill

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright January 2019, Lairich Rig; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.

Carman House

The name "Carman House" is used here to refer to the house that stood to the west of Carman Reservoir. It is not to be confused with Carman Cottage, at the head of the Poachy Glen, described earlier in this article.


The Ordnance Survey name books from c.1860 describe Carman (Farm) as follows: "A farm house and offices. The property of Alexander Smollet Esqr".
 Carman House, four trees in 1991; own picture, January 1991
Four trees stood beside the former site of the house.
(My own photo, January 1991).

The cuttings in Dumbarton Library include a useful description of Carman House, written by Mr John Sinclair of Bellsmyre. In his notes, it is mentioned that the Lacey family occupied the house early in the twentieth century. At one time, also early in the twentienth century, the house was shared between two families, the McKinleys and the Mitchells.

Tom S Hall, in his second book of "Citizen Rambles" (c.1933) mentions his encounter with Peter McKinley; note that he uses the name "Carman Cottage" to refer to this building: "I had a very interesting crack with Peter McKinley, who lives in Carman Cottage, and by doing so called down upon myself the wrath of his guidwife, who had his dinner 'ready and waiting'. This cottage stands where the once important Carman horse fair was held; gone is its importance, but not its memories, but some of the roads to the fair are little more than memories".

John Sinclair himself, in his notes, employs the same usage as the present article: Carman House for the building being described here, and Carman Cottage for the one at the head of Poachy Glen. He states that Carman House was "a funny house not nice" (in contrast, he says that Carman Cottage, for which he gives the nickname "the divet house" divot? "was a nicer-looking house"). His notes also contain a hand-drawn diagram of the layout of Carman House; this includes a lobby that was added to the house by its last occupant, a certain Willie Johnson, a one-eyed chimney sweep and volunteer fireman.
 Carman House, three trees in 2002; own picture, January 2002
Storms later brought down one of the trees.
(My own photo, January 2002)

That last tenant is also mentioned in passing by C Dennett in "The Old Renton" (Vol 1, 1995): "the cottage next to the trees used to be tenanted by a Mr Wullie Johnston who was a slater and plasterer, and is reputed to have carried cwt sacks of cement on his shoulders up the hill to his house; a veritable Hercules".

The house itself is long gone, but the area in which it stood is shown below.

The house has left few remains, but some slabs are visible among the grass:
NS3778 : The former site of Carman House by Lairich RigNS3778 : The remains of Carman House by Lairich Rig(left) Site of the house; note the slabs in the foreground.
(right) The same area from a different angle.
NS3778 : The former site of Carman House by Lairich RigNS3778 : The former site of Carman House by Lairich RigThese later pictures show the slabs more clearly.

The site remains conspicuous, not just on account of the trees standing nearby, but also because of the noticeably green enclosure beside the house:
NS3778 : The site of Carman House by Lairich RigNS3778 : The site of Carman House by Lairich RigNS3778 : The site of Carman farmstead by Lairich Rig(left) A view from Cardross Road in slowly-dissipating mist.
(middle) The site of the building is in the foreground.
(right) A view from the other side of the trees.

The building was long and narrow, and was oriented E-W. A semicircular garden was attached to the northern side of the eastern two-thirds or so of the building:
NS3778 : Carman House: dyke enclosing garden by Lairich RigNS3778 : Carman House: dyke enclosing garden by Lairich RigThis curving dyke enclosed the garden of the house.

For those who wish to see the house as it was, some pictures are given in a PDF documentExternal link (2.9 MB) about Carman Fair, at the Vale of Leven website. In that article, note that the two pictures on page one (one of which shows the location, and the other the house standing beside the four trees), and the much closer photograph on page four, are definitely views of the building that I am discussing here, namely, the one to the west of Carman Reservoir. The picture on page five, though, is perhaps the other building, Carman Cottage, at the head of Poachy Glen. That PDF article is well worth reading for its account of the Fair and of related activities.

Field system

In the OS Name Book entry already quoted, it will be seen that this location was referred to as a "farmhouse" and offices. As is appropriate for a farmhouse, there is an adjacent field system. On my annotated satellite imageExternal link of the area, I have used purple pins to mark the immediate vicinity of Carman House; these are included within a larger pattern of yellow lines, which corresponds to the field system associated with the farm.
NS3778 : Old boundary on Carman Muir by Lairich RigNS3778 : Enclosure at Carman: western side by Lairich RigRidges, part of the old field system.
NS3678 : Old boundary on Carman Muir by Lairich RigNS3778 : Old boundary on Carman Muir by Lairich RigOther parts of the field system.

Horse fair

As mentioned earlier in this article, a cattle fair was held on Carman Hill, dying away at the end of the nineteenth century. A horse fair (see note 1) was subsequently held beside Carman House. In the 1950s/60s, a great many bottles could be unearthed near the site of the house; for the duration of the horse fair, a licence was granted to sell alcoholic drinks here.


(1) Among the cuttings in Dumbarton Library, I came across some relevant comments from John Mitchell; it seems that his assertion that the cattle fair was held on Carman Hill, and not beside this house, has been challenged more than once. In his note among the cuttings, he states that it is the later horse fair (and not the cattle fair) that was held beside the house, and that this is what survived almost into living memory. That a horse fair was held beside the house is clear enough: John Sinclair reports (in his note, already mentioned, also among the cuttings in Dumbarton Library) that the house was called the "Mare House" (he adds that Carman Road was called "Market Street"), and Tom S Hall's "Citizen Rambles" explicitly states, as quoted above, that a horse fair had been held beside the house.


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