Duncryne (The Dumpling) :: Shared Description

This hill is called Duncryne (or Duncryne Hill) on maps and notices, but is invariably known locally as the Dumpling. It is a volcanic plug; see NS4385 : Exposed rock at Duncryne.

The name is given as "Dunkryin hill" on the Pont/Blaeu map of the Lennox, published in 1654 but based on earlier surveys (c.1580s-90s); as "Duncryne" in charter #1086 (16th July 1614) in RMS ("The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland") Vol 7; and as "Dincryne (or Duncryne)" in charter #1141 (5th December 1614 ) in the same volume.

If the "cryne" element is from the Gaelic "cruinn", then the name means "round/circular dun"; the local name for the hill expresses the same idea in a more colourful way. Ian C Lees, in his book "The Campsies and the Land of Lennox", states that the name of the hill was sometimes spelled "Duncruin", which makes my explanation for the name seem at least plausible. For what it is worth, the author of the description of Kilmaronock Parish in the New Statistical Account (quoted below) gives the same derivation.

It has been said that the location was also known as the Hill of Witches, but this seems not to be an attempt to interpret the Gaelic name, but, rather, an alternative description. For more on the folklore associated with the hill, see below.

The following selection of comments from older literature includes matters historical, geological, and mythological; the comments are given here in reverse chronological order. Several of them are related, some shedding light on others.

I have interspersed some parenthetical remarks of my own, by way of explanation. I might add, as another observation of my own, that some of the mythological traditions seem uncannily like distortions of the historical events, as though, with the passage of time, dim memories of conventicles had become confused, in the popular imagination, with covens. Readers can draw their own conclusions on whether the similarities are coincidental or not.

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● Iain C Lees, "The Campsies and the Land of Lennox" (1933): "This conical hill, which is the outstanding landmark on the plain, was once the home of wizards. Farmers in the neighbourhood will tell you of meetings of the Devil and his minions round its base" (page 108).

The first sentence seems similar to one in the slightly earlier quotation from Tom S Hall given below. In addition, both passages probably owe something to the much earlier New Statistical Account (1845), also quoted below.

A little earlier in the same book, in a passage relating how the author was being shown around the village of Drymen: "He led me along the Stirling road, and I wondered where he was taking me. He halted at the gate before the old United Presbyterian Kirk, and then passed through. I followed, and he pointed out a stone built into the porch of the church. It bears the inscription 'Christ is Head over all His Body, the Church'. My guide explained how that stone had been originally placed over the doorway of a little building at the back of Duncryne Hill (sometimes Duncruin), where the congregation worshipped for a time after its formation at the end of the eighteenth century. In the early years of the nineteenth century it was decided to make Drymen their headquarters, and when they left the old church the congregation took with them the stone which set forth their principles, and built it into the porch. 'My people were at the removal of that stone from Duncryne', said my companion. 'It is about all I have to link them with the place, but what better link could I have than a stone of the Kirk where my fathers worshipped" (pages 104105).

The stone is, as of 2017, still in that building, though it is no longer in use as a church; as well as the inscription mentioned here, the stone bears the date 1761, suggesting that it came from a church of the Relief Kirk (the organisation was founded in that year). The building that Eyre-Todd was shown was built in 1819 (see the J G Smith quotation below) as the United Secession Chapel, but later (1847) became United Presbyterian; by the time Lees wrote his book, two more religious mergers had occurred, bringing the building under the banner of the United Free Church (in 1900), and the established Church of Scotland (in 1929). Hence the description as the "old" United Presbyterian Kirk.

The 1819 building itself is shown in NS4788 : Drymen Church Hall, where the old stone, brown in colour, can be seen above the entrance, on the right.

● Tom S Hall, "Citizen Rambles" (undated, c.1930): "Commanding a central position on the plains of the parish is the wooded conical hill of Duncryne the home of the wizards. An opinion has been expressed that this hill is the cave of an extinct volcano, ... This district would appear to be quite a gathering ground for devils and witches and wizards, ... Auld Clootie himself is said to have lived near by at the Deil's Craig, above Blanefield, and then, did he not hold his meetings at the Devil's Pulpit, in Finnich Glen?" (page 59).

Deil's Craig: see NS5578. See also NS4984 : The Devil's Pulpit and NS4984 : Finnich Glen. This chapter of Hall's book has the title "The Wizard's Hill".

● George Eyre-Todd, "Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine and the Trossachs" (1922): "in 1771, when Lord Stonefield, then patron, forced a minister on the parish, a large part of the congregation broke away and founded the Relief Kirk, which still stands above the modern village of Gartocharn. There was also another meeting-place, of Reformed Presbyterians, on the slope of Duncryne Hill. When it fell to ruins, through poverty, the faithful remnant tramped every Sunday to Dunbarton, and crossed the Clyde to Kilmacolm, to worship with folk of their own opinions there" (page 24).

The parish being discussed there is Kilmaronock. The building from which a stone was taken, to be incorporated into the porch of a later (1819) kirk, as noted above in the quotation from Iain C Lees, was probably the Relief Kirk, since the stone bears the date 1761 (the Relief Kirk, the organisation, was founded in that year). The other building mentioned here, the Reformed Presbyterian building, which "fell to ruins", may have supplied the pulpit and some other fittings; see J G Smith, below.

A little later in the same work, in the course of a discussion of NS4581 : The Lang Cairn and other ancient burials in the area:

"Of the people who built these monuments perhaps the last descendants were the Uruisgs, goblins, or brownies, of which traditions still remain. Sir Walter Scott tells how one of these wild men haunted Duncryne, the 'Hill of the Fairies', in this parish, and was at last got rid of by the miller overturning a pot of boiling porridge on his knees as he sat by the fire" (page 28).

● James Guthrie Smith, "Strathendrick and its Inhabitants from Early Times" (1896): the following is from a discussion of Dissenters in Drymen and surrounding district, and the church next described was built by some of the seceders: "In 1819 a church was built at Drymen at an expense of £370". A footnote to that sentence states: "The pulpit and interior fittings were brought from an old disused chapel of a Cameronian congregation which stood at the south side of Duncryne, in the parish of Kilmaronock, not a trace of which, however, is now to be found" (page 96).

The church (the one described as built in 1819) is the United Secession chapel, the building shown to George Eyre-Todd, as related in his quotation, given above; "Cameronian": originally describing the followers of the Covenanter Richard Cameron, it refers here to members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the ones who were also mentioned in the Eyre-Todd quotation.

Later in the same work: "Duncryne, in the centre of the parish, is 462 feet high. It is formed by an upheaval of the trap, which comes to the surface on the north-west face, the south of the hill being sandstone, the rock of the locality. Several trap-dykes radiate from the hill. Near the top is 'The Fox's Hole', which goes deep into the hill, and one might imagine it to be the vent of the subterranean fires which raised it to its present position" (page 275).

● Joseph Irving, in the second volume of "The Book of Dumbartonshire" (1879): "Duncryne, originally part of the possessions of the Abbey of Paisley, and celebrated as a resort of the Lennox fairies, also belongs to the Duke of Montrose, and is now covered to its summit with timber and copse." (Pages 223224). The corresponding passage in his earlier "History of Dumbartonshire" is explicit about who planted the trees: "Almost in the centre of the parish is the hill of Duncryne, remarkable for its conical shape, and which is now covered to the summit with trees planted by the late Duke of Montrose" (page 469 in the first edition, which dates from 1858; the passage is not present in the second edition, which was published in 1860).

● The "New Statistical Account" (Volume 8, 1845), in the description of Kilmaronock Parish, drawn up by Mr Peter Bain, Parochial Schoolmaster of Kilmaronock: "The three most elevated parts of its surface vary between 500 and 1000 feet above the level of the sea, which are the highest parts of the little range of hills on the west, commonly called Mount Misery, Duncryne or Duncruin, in the centre, and the elevation towards Dumbarton moor on the south."

One of the other two elevations mentioned there is NS3985 : Mount Misery; the other is not a well-defined summit, but consists of the general area beside the southern boundary of Kilmaronock Parish; the boundary runs west from NS4581 : The Lang Cairn to Red Brae, for which, see NS4481 : The Finland Burn at Red Brae. Note that all three elevations are still recognised today as good viewpoints:

(1) NS3985 : Mount Misery, with good views over Loch Lomond.

(2) NS4385 : The summit of the Dumpling.

(3) Elevation towards Dumbarton Muir: NS4582 : Gallangad Muir trig point. A sign at the start of the path to the trig point refers to that area as the "Gallangad Muir Viewpoint": NS4583 : Start of a path to Gallangad Muir Viewpoint / NS4583 : A short walk to Gallangad trig point..

The New Statistical Account then gives a detailed description of the view from Mount Misery, before turning to the Dumpling:

"The hill which I would next notice is Duncryne. Its original orthography was Duncruin, being composed of 'dun', signifying hill, and 'cruin', round; and it was probably named thus from its round or conical shape. It stands in the very centre of the parish, and is a conspicuous, beautiful, and rather a fantastic object. It rises rapidly from the plain on the west and north sides, to the height of about 450 feet, and, on the south-east, it is only about 250 feet high, whence there is a gradual descent to the plain extending for about a quarter of a mile."

What may account for the differing elevations is that the hill is, in modern geological terms, a crag-and-tail feature; that is to say, the original volcanic plug has been sculpted by glaciation. The account continues:

"The area of the base on which it stands seems to contain about two acres, from which it gradually tapers to the summit, till it contains only about two roods of surface, which is pretty level. The ascent is rendered easy by means of a pathway approaching the hill from the north-west, and winding along the north, east, and south, till it reaches the top, on the west. It is mostly all covered with soil, and the bare rock appears only in a very few places. It is now the property of the Duke of Montrose, and is covered with young oak, larches, &c. having been planted a few years ago by the late Duke."

"The body of the hill seems to be chiefly composed of a kind of trap rock, which is rendered softish by exposure to the action of the atmosphere; while, in the rest of the parish, with the exception of some trap dikes (running from south-west to north-east) and limestone, the rock is composed of a red or grey sandstone of a very solid and compacted grain. From the top of this hill, there is also a very fine view to be had of almost the whole parish, and all the objects seen from Mount Misery, with a very few exceptions."

The maps of the British Geological Survey label the surrounding area THF (Teith Formation): see LinkExternal link at the BGS Lexicon for geological details. Duncryne Hill itself, though, as a volcanic plug, is labelled "V", for agglomerate in vents.

● In the "Old Statistical Account" (Volume 11, 1795), the description of Kilmarock Parish was drawn up by the local minister Andrew White. It is much shorter than the one that would appear half a century later in the New Statistical Account, and it does not mention Duncryne at all. There is passing mention of the Dissenters who were mentioned in several of the above quotations: the minister observes that it is hard to ascertain the number of births in the parish because "many of the people, and particularly the Dissenters, decline to have them inserted in the parish register".

It is, though, worth quoting an interesting footnote from the very end of White's parish description; it reveals the roots of our word "blackmail", although the sense of the word, back then, was extortion, and not blackmail as we now understand it: the "black mail" of that day was a specific kind of protection money. Of Kilmaronock parish in the early 1700s, White writes that:

"About the beginning of the present century, the parish was much exposed to the depredation of certain freebooters, who carried off the cattle; so that the farmers, for their protection, engaged to pay them, or others, a certain tax, named 'black mail', which was regularly exacted until 1745, when a better police was established."
by Lairich Rig
More nearby... Related descriptions Selection is automatic and approximate, it might not always select closely matching descriptions

15 images use this description:

NS4286 : Gartocharn from Ross Loan by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Exposed rock at Duncryne by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Start of improved path by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Possible beacon stance by Lairich Rig
NS4483 : Fields beside Gallangad Farm by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : The Dumpling (Duncryne Hill) by Lairich Rig
NS4285 : Track to Mid Cambusmoon by Lairich Rig
NS4383 : School Road by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : The summit of the Dumpling by Lairich Rig
NS4285 : Mid Cambusmoon by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Improved path by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Field gate by Lairich Rig
NS4385 : Diversion on path by Lairich Rig
NS4286 : Field beside Ross Loan by Lairich Rig
NS4284 : Ben Ard by Lairich Rig


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Created: Thu, 16 May 2019, Updated: Thu, 16 May 2019

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