The Craw Road rises Northwards from Crosshill street, and climbs sharply at a slant across the face of the Campsies, to a point high above Campsie Glen, passing Campsie Golf Course on the way, and turns off north-eastward at the car park, across the hills to Fintry, crossing the strangely named Nineteen-times Burn and the source of the River Carron which runs Eastward. The stone building on the road is the former Campsiemuir Tollhouse, a lonely 18th century building which is now derelict
See: Campsiemuir Toll below
The gradients of the old Craw Road from Lennoxtown to Fintry, which was an old Drover's road, were so steep that goods taken across had to be carried on horseback. Coal was carried in Hundredweight (Cwt) sacks; a load of coal per horse was usually 3 Cwts., but since the gradient went up to 1 in 6, a horse could only pull half a load. The term 'load of meal' was the amount of meal a horse was expected to carry, and equaled two Bolls..
The new Craw Road was formed towards the end of the 1700s, mainly due to the efforts of Mr. Drummond of Ballindalloch, and Mr. Peter Speirs of Culcruech (also reported to be a tobacco merchant in Glasgow). Between them they financed the realigning and regrading of the road. They had the gradients reduced to a level which would allow wheeled traffic to negotiate it, so easing the transport to and from Glasgow and to the canal in Kirkintilloch.
In earlier times the Craw Road was a drove-road over the hills and was frequently used by Rob Roy and the MacGregors, who extorted protection money from the Campsie Lairds and farmers, but was later used to carry coal from the pits of the south to the new industries which sprang up in the Endrick Valley. The coal-horse must have had a stiff climb.
Anyone climbing to the summit of the Campsies from above the bend in the Craw Road, for the purpose of seeing the beautiful, panoramic views, may come across the remains of Crichton's Cairn; a cairn which has a few myths attached to it.
According to one, the cairn was erected in memory of a kind of local Hercules called Crichton, who had undertaken a bet to carry a load of meal to the top of the hill. He won his wager, but dropped dead immediately afterwards. Another story was that Crichton was a famous smuggler, who was overtaken and killed by gaugers, and a third was that the same Crichton had committed suicide by hanging himself on that lone peak. This version seems the most incredible since there were/are only a few low lying bushes around the area. Not a tree in sight on which to commit the awful deed!
Perhaps the most reasonable story is that of a long time resident who relayed his story to Nimmo. He said, " There was ance a minister in the parish, a won'erfu' strong man, that they ca'd Crichton, that could walk, eatin' a pease-bannock a' the time, frae the manse at the Clachan, to the top o' the hill in 20 minutes. Noo, it'll tak' an or'nary body near double o' that time. And the minister was sae proud o' his speelin' poo'rs that he used to gang up and study his sermons there; and as he was weel likit by a'body, when he dee't the folk bigget (built) the cairn and ca'd it efter him. That's the way I've aye heard it accounted for; but whether it's true or no, I'm sure I dinna ken".
In corroboration of the above statement, there was a minister called James Crichton, who was inducted into the Parish of Campsie on April 23rd, 1623. It's impossible to say if he was the Crichton alluded to in the statement, but it's known that studying his sermons at a great height, did not produce good fruit, since he was subsequently deposed for what was termed 'corrupt doctrine'.
Tom Paterson states that, the Rev. Crichton is supposed to have built the cairn at the top of the Campsie ridge, one stone a day before breakfast between 1623 and 1629. The 1623 date coincides with the date on which he was inducted.
This version of events appears to have been accepted, maybe somewhat
grudgingly, by Lees, who states that "The
Rev. John Crichton, the parish minister of Campsie, must have been a long-limbed, powerful man if he could climb from the manse beside the church to the
summit in twenty minutes, as tradition alleges."
Looking at the area today, my inclination is to agree with Dr Lees. Although not ruling it out as an impossible task, it would take someone with unbelievable strength to accomplish it. The Cairn is not so high, but the sheer climb from the Clachan to the Cairn would be extremely taxing, and prove an arduous undertaking for even the most athletic and determined individual.
Is a Well high up the Crow Road, around the bend beyond the car park. It was used to slake the thirst of weary travellers, and no doubt coal horses and other animals would also have appreciated it. The water is clear, cold, spring water, which filters down the hills into the well.
Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, are thoughts of a drinking cup attached to the well, many years ago, though none is in evidence today.
Although known locally as a monument to Jamie Wright, the site has also become a monument to James Mackintosh Slimmen (1865-1898) and his verses about the water at the Well - a highjacked monument! Hijacked by Slimmon's friends!. There is now more information available about Slimmon than there is about poor Jamie Wright.
As the Craw Road swings off north-eastward above the car park and heads for Fintry, it crosses the oddly named Nineteen Times Burn, and reaches the former Campsiemuir Tollhouse, a lonely late 18th century crumbling building, now used as a store for a modern cottage which stands nearby. Architecturally, it is of no special interest, since it is similar to many other cottages of the time, however, one feature worth noting is a large stone slab inscribed with the toll charges. The slab which is built in to the south side, near the east end, was reportedly covered in whitewash by the owner in 1953.
The present owners,
Mr. & Mrs. Gilchrist have the granite large slab propped up at the front of
the building, but unfortunately, there is no longer any evidence of the Toll
charges on the slab.
The couple, who have lived
in the house opposite the Tollhouse for 12 years, have campaigned since 1998 to
be allowed to restore the building to it's original state, with a view to
encouraging tourists, but all of their attempts have been thwarted by
bureaucracy. The earliest record of occupancy they have been able to find is by
a Mr. John Grassam in 1812. The building was included in the list of Buildings
of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in September 6th 1979, but was
subsequently removed from the list.
In The Scots Magazine,
June 1995, Tom Weir discusses the then newly issued Campsie Trail phamphlet, and
reminisces about treks and cycle rides which took him over the same trail in the
1950's. He recalls the Old Toll House, then occupied by roadman Jimmy McEwan and
his family, as a relic of the days when sheep and cattle drovers heading for the
Falkirk Tryst had to pay money on their cattle and sheep before they could pass.
Jimmy sold bottles of lemonade to Tom when he (Tom) was a cyclist in his teenage
Picture, courtesy of Scots Magazine Picture, courtesy of May Gilchrist
Picture courtesy of May Gilchrist
There was another toll-house at Balquharrage on the Torrance Road. It was here that the Rev. Lapslie, constantly hard up and always in debt, would attempt to pass without paying the required toll.
He often borrowed a horse to ride to Glasgow to attend meetings, and on these occasions he generally contrived to evade payment at Balquharrage. He always made some excuse, generally that he had no small change and would pay next journey. Sometimes went into the toll-house to admire the young toll-keepers live birds and the cages he made for them, then he would pat him on the head and say he was a clever boy, thus trying to please him by complimenting him - hoping he would forget about the toll money.
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