Priors & The Priory

Another small extract, the last one for now from “A Contribution to the History of Lanarkshire” by Dr Wilson from the 1930s. This little snippet talks about some of the final few priors and summarises the Priory ruins as of mid 1930s. Pictured are 2 rare photos, which I hope you haven’t seen yet of Blantyre Priory in the 1930s. In particular, photos of a rampart and ditch. Today, these locations are dense woodland, the features very hard to find.

“John Roull. Roull was prior of Pittenweem and was presented to Blantyre on the death of Moncrief in 1547. Four of his bastard sons were legitimated. In 1542 he sought to alienate part of the land of the Monastery of Pittenweem.

John Hamilton. Hamilton was the son of David Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh and obtained a presentation to the Priory in 1549 upon the resignation of John Roull, the presentation being in the Queen’s hands by the vacancy of the See of Glasgow.

William Chirnside. Chirnside was provost of the church at Bothwell in 1552, but exchanged it for Blantyre Priory upon the resignation of John Hamilton. In 1575 King James VI confirmed a charter of Master William Chirnsyde, the Prior of Blantyre, granted in 1557 by which he demitted to Thomas Colquhoun of Glen, a mark’s worth of land of Blantyre Craig … there being rendered to the same prior 13 shillings and 4d. of ancient rent and 3/4 in augmentation when taking possession.’The return made of its value by Mr Chirnside in 1562 states that David Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh had then a lease of the revenues of the priory, consisting of the parsonage and vicarage tithes and revenues of the parish church of Blantyre, with the church lands, manse and glebe of the same church, and also an annual payment of 25 marks from the priory of Whithorn, for all which the lessee paid 197 marks yearly. From this, 40 marks was paid to a minister for the church of Blantyre, 20 marks of a yearly pension to Mr Wm. Salmon and 13 marks to Robert Lindsay of Dunrod, being his fee as baillie to the priory, the remainder amounting to 124 marks was received by the commendator, Walter Stewart.’ The Reformation came, then desertion and silence. Chirnside conformed to the reformed religion and in 1566 he was described as minister of Blantyre and later of Luss.

The Priory now consists of some bare, broken walls with windows, fireplaces, some foundations and a detached vaulted chamber. Little is left in these ruins that has been purely monastic. Intruding trees have sprung up and grown to maturity among them. The eastern wall stands right on the edge of a cliff that is precipitous and dangerous. On looking down through the branches of many trees the dark and sluggish water of the river Clyde is seen far below. Beyond the river stand the massive ruins of Bothwell Castle, a proximity that suggests protection, intercourse and intermingling in many notable periods of Scottish history. Here for three hundred years, Priors, Sub-Priors, precentors, cellarers, and others lived their quiet conventual lives. They had their church, refectory, dormitory, stranger’s cell and porter’s lodge. They had produce and fruit from the land and fish from the river. Summer and winter, late and early, their bell would be heard echoing over land and river calling the men to their religious tasks.”

Thanks to Gordon Cook for the transcribed version of Dr Wilsons Book.

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