NS4274 : Dumbuck Quarry

taken 13 years ago, near to Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

This is 1 of 7 images, with title Dumbuck Quarry in this square
Dumbuck Quarry
Dumbuck Quarry
Dumbuck Quarry, or Dumbuckhill Quarry (as it is often called), provides aggregates for the construction industry. This photograph was taken from the south-western slopes of double-peaked Dumbowie Hill; the terraced side of the south-eastern summit of that hill can be seen on the left (NS4275 : Dumbowie Hill: south-eastern summit), and the River Clyde on the right.

Quarrying has removed much of Dumbuck Hill, which is a volcanic plug. There are several other volcanic plugs in the area; see Link

For a few of the earlier pictures that show the hill or its quarry, see NS4274 : Access road to Dumbuck Quarry, NS4274 : Dumbuck Quarry, NS4274 : Dumbuck Quarry, NS4073 : Westferry crannog, NS4272 : The M8 and Dumbuck Quarry, and NS4274 : Dumbuck Hill, Dunbartonshire.

The first-edition OS map (surveyed in 1860 and published in 1864) shows three interesting features on the hill, which, at that time, had not yet been quarried. Two of the features are caves. As seen from the adjacent shore, there are two rocky crags at the southern end of Dumbuck Quarry; see NS4173 : Dumbuck Crannog from the south for a typical view. One of those crags also appears, among trees, at the right-hand side of the present view; see NS4174 : Dumbuck Hill: detail for a closer view of it, showing some columnar jointing. The first-edition OS map shows Wallace's Cave beside the eastern crag, and Rhymer's Cave on the western side of the western crag (the map does not pinpoint their locations exactly).

The name Wallace's Cave requires little further comment; the name of William Wallace is associated with other caves in which, according to tradition, he took refuge; compare, for example NS3875 : Havoc Hole, also known as Wallace's Cave, in the former sea-cliffs at the raised beach at Havoc. He was associated with the cave at Dumbuck for the same reason; tradition has it that he took refuge here several times.

In connection with the other location, Rhymer's Cave, it should first be pointed out that Dumbuck is sometimes known locally as the Sleeping Giant, a name that well describes its appearance from certain angles: see, for example, NS4372 : A Field, in which view the "head" is at the left, and the "body" from the centre to the right (the resemblance remains when viewed from the other side; see the background in NS3877 : Dalmoak House).

The name Rhymer's Cave, shown on the earliest OS map, is a reference to Thomas of Erceldoune (now called Earlston, NT5738 : Rhymer's Tower, Earlston); he was also known as True Thomas, but he is probably best remembered as Thomas the Rhymer. Although his name is associated with many legends, he was a historical person: he lived in the thirteenth century (see, for example, NT5633 : The Rhymer Stone and NT5633 : Plaque with compass point). In the past (see below), there was a legend that Thomas is sleeping in a cave in Dumbuck Hill. I consider it likely that the local name "the Sleeping Giant" has its origins in a hazy memory of this legend; the physical appearance of the hill would probably play a large part in changing the nature of the story so that it now refers only to the resemblance to a sleeping figure.

For each name shown on the Ordnance Survey map, the Object Name Books, which are handwritten, give authorities for the name (and for any alternative spellings), and they provide other descriptive comments. The authorities for the names Wallace's Cave and Rhymer's Cave were Mr Geils of Dumbuck (see below) and a certain Mr Blackstop (probably a mis-transcription of the name of George Blackstock, the land steward of the Dumbuck Estate). The relevant descriptive comments are of some interest: "Wallace's Cave tradition says it was on this hill Wallace planned and watched his opportunities for attacking and capturing Dumbarton Castle. The place pointed out as his men's hiding place which is called Wallace's Cave, upon the authorities opposite, is a wooded hollow on the top between a small ledge of rock and the main or steep rock falling to the road below. The hollow would easily conceal one or two hundred men and commands Dumbarton Castle too. At the bottom of the precipice on the west there is a projecting portion forming a covering or cave beneath called the Rhymer's Cave which is said to have been a favourite resort of Thomas the Rhymer and prophesier of Eichyldown. This [the name "Rhymer's Cave"] is adopted upon the same authorities as given for Wallace's Cave and both names are well known."

Local tradition had certainly associated Thomas with Dumbuck Hill by the early nineteenth century: in May of 1824, a traveller on the River Clyde had the hill pointed out to her as the place where Thomas would appear on his return from Fairyland. The traveller in whose diary this incident is related was Mrs Mary Ann Watts Hughes, and the tradition seems to have been widely known by that time (as seen by the fact that someone else made the same observation to her about the hill shortly after the incident noted above). However, without earlier documentary evidence, there is no way of knowing how old the tradition is. See also pages 129-130 of "The Athenaeum: an Original Literary Miscellany" (1830) for further contemporary notice of the association of Thomas with Dumbuck Hill.

The third of the features marked on the first-edition OS map is a flagstaff, which was located at about NS42067466, in the area that has now been excavated by quarrying. The (intact) hill can be seen, with the flagstaff visible upon it, in the background of David Octavius Hill's painting, "View of Dumbarton from Kirkton Hill": see LinkExternal link at ArtUK for the picture (the flagstaff is not easily discernible in the online version of the painting, but I have viewed the original painting itself, where it is clearly visible).

The painting was originally said to have been painted after 1853; in fact, that date can be further refined to 1857 or later, based on the following information (which I passed on; the painting is now, accordingly, captioned as being painted after 1857):

The flagstaff was presented by the Oddfellows of Dumbarton to their colleague, Captain John Edward Geils (see NS4673 : The Geils Memorial), the laird of Dumbuck (for more on the Dumbarton branch of the Oddfellows, see NS4075 : The Oddfellows' Monument). On the day, the presentation was made by local historian Donald MacLeod (NS4075 : The gravestone of Donald MacLeod), who was a pastmaster of that organisation: MacLeod delivered an address which he had written; in turn, the laird of Dumbuck granted him the liberty of the hill.

The OS Object Name Book gives the text of an inscription on the flagstaff: "Presented by the Loyal Dixon Lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows to John Edward Geils Esqr of Dumbuck along with an address September 5th 1857".

The history of the ownership of the Dumbuck lands is as follows: the Edmonstones of Duntreath (c.NS5381) acquired them, c.1732, from several different proprietors. In 1815, General Thomas Geils of Ardmore (NS3178) and Geilston (NS3378) bought the lands of Dumbuck from Sir Charles Edmonstone. The lands of Dumbuck and Mains of Colquhoun later passed to the general's eldest son, Colonel Andrew Geils (see also NS3477 : Cardross Old Parish Church). The above-mentioned laird of Dumbuck, John Edward Geils, succeeded to the lands of Dumbuck as the colonel's fifth son, and oldest surviving son; his four older brothers had perished at sea while heading from Ceylon (as it then was) to Britain.

For the memorial, within the kirkyard of NS4673 : Old Kilpatrick Parish Church, to those members of the Geils family who were associated with the lands of Dumbuck, see NS4673 : The Geils Memorial, where additional information can be found on the aforementioned John Edward Geils (for those who were instead associated with Cardross and its surroundings, see NS3477 : The Geils family burial ground, a gated enclosure within the churchyard of NS3477 : Cardross Old Parish Church).

See "The Clyde District of Dumbarton" (1886), by Donald MacLeod, for the history of these lands, and for the details of the presentation at the flagstaff (he does not give the date or the precise year in the book, but it was mentioned above). The author also recounts there a legend rather similar to the one about Thomas the Rhymer, except that it is set in the time of the Roman occupation: a band of native warriors disappear into an opening in the side of Dumbuck Hill; the opening closes after them, and the warriors are said to be sleeping in a huge cave in the hill, until the time when they will be called to a final battle. MacLeod was also aware that there was a "Rhymer's Cave" on the hill: he mentions it by name, but makes no further comment on it.
Dumbuck Quarry

The quarry, which supplies aggregates for the construction industry, is also known as Dumbuckhill Quarry. It has consumed much of Dumbuck Hill, which was a volcanic plug, located at the edge of the Kilpatrick Hills. The quarry was mothballed in 2011, but its new owners resumed operations there just a few years later.

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Grid Square
NS4274, 128 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Friday, 8 August, 2008   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 24 January, 2012
Geographical Context
Quarrying, Mining 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4214 7477 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.3987N 4:31.7403W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4213 7518
View Direction
SOUTH (about 180 degrees)
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Legend  Thomas the Rhymer 

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