Graveyards of Glasgow: Maryhill Old Parish Church

There’s nothing much to see at Maryhill Old Parish Church Burial Ground, and I only have this one image taken by poking my phone through the firmly padlocked gates. However, I like the story behind the founding of the church, so here it is!

Maryhill’s original Parish Church was built in 1826 on land donated by Lilias Graham, owner of the Gairbraid Estate and daughter of Mary Hill who gave her name to the whole area. Lilias’s involvement did not end there – once the church was completed, the next step was to choose a minister. There were three candidates and those who rented a pew voted for their choice. There was a favourite, Mr McNaught, but Lilias preferred Mr Wilson. Her solution?  She rented every unlet pew and Mr Wilson was declared elected on 29th June, 1826.

Lilias is described as a clever, good woman and kind, generous and hospitable – but also certainly without personal attractions.  She frequently entertained friends with dinners of the more substantial kind, and after the food had been cleared she would make up a rum punch. Her guests often left rather the worse for wear, and on one occasion a gentlemen of not too good a reputation stood to his feet and cried “Come Miss Graham, I will give you a toast – honest men and bonnie lasses”. The prompt reply was “Very well, but that is neither you nor me!” Paradoxically, she and her nephew, John Dunlop, set up the first British temperance societies in Greenock and Maryhill in 1829. Do as I say, not as I do?

These stories are courtesy of Alexander Thomson who relates them in his snappily titled book of 1895: Random notes  and rambling recollections of Drydock, The Dock, or Kelvindock, all now known by the more modern name of Maryhill: 1750-1894I love the sound of Lilias!

Back to the church: Maryhill Old had a chequered history, well described by Diana Burns on the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society webpage. By 1985, it was abandoned and unsafe, and around the turn of the century it was demolished. All that remains is this sad little graveyard on Maryhill Road, neglected and unkempt.

I’m sure Lilias would be distinctly unimpressed. She herself is buried in the grander surroundings of Glasgow Cathedral’s graveyard along with her father, Robert Graham, her mother, Mary Hill, and other members of the Graham family. The tombstone is very worn, but you might just be able to make out Lilias’s name in the close up.

And that’s the end of this short series, Graveyards of Glasgow, at least until I visit a few more burial grounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed it – it’s good to finish with a feisty woman who took no nonsense.

Graveyards of Glasgow: Calton Burial Ground

Calton Burial Ground

Calton Burial Ground, founded 1787, is situated in Glasgow’s East End on Abercromby Street, which was then known as Witches Loan. How did that name come about? Witches Loan was en route from the Duke Street Cattle Market to the river, and cattle seemed to be spellbound as they passed. Was this witchcraft, or due to the cows being the victims of poor pasture and recovering when they reached lusher ground by the Clyde? You decide!

Calton at the end of the eighteenth century was a handweaving community just outside Glasgow. The decision to build the burial ground was made in December 1786 by the Incorporation of Weavers of Calton and Blackfaulds, and the original land (it was extended to the south in 1822) was purchased in January 1787. Individual plots or lairs were numbered and offered for sale, with the plots beside the walls being more expensive (£2) than the inner plots (£1).

At the peak of Calton’s prosperity, wages had risen to nearly £100 a year, but by 1787 mechanization and growth in the labour force had severely depressed wages. That summer, the Calton weavers marched through Glasgow protesting at a 25 percent wage cut and lockout. During one of these demonstrations, on 3rd September, soldiers opened fire on the protestors: three weavers were killed and three mortally wounded. This was the earliest major industrial dispute in Scottish history and the Calton weavers became Scotland’s first working-class martyrs.

On 5th September, three of the dead weavers were interred in Lair 83 which lay unclaimed until 1825 when a memorial slab was laid over the plot. In 1957 the memorial was rededicated. The two original stones were moved to the southern gate (above) and replaced with two granite slabs (below) at Lair 83.

The other significant stone we found was that of Rev James Smith, a Glasgow Presbyterian minister who moved to the US and was at one time pastor to Abraham Lincoln. He ended his days as US Consul to Dundee.

I usually find some women to write about in these graveyard posts, but not this one. I’ll make up for it next time when we visit Maryhill Old Parish Burial Ground.

Graveyards of Glasgow: Cathcart Cemetery

A few months ago, my friend Beverly McFarlane told me that she was engaged on some research about a forgotten suffragette, but she couldn’t reveal who or why. She knew I’d be intrigued, and at the end of August my anticipation was rewarded when her secret turned out to be even better than I had expected. A combination of an organisation called Protests and Suffragettes and journalist Dani Garavelli had discovered the presence of Henria Williams in Cathcart Cemetery and, via the Women’s Library, Beverly had been asked to find out more about her life. It’s worth clicking on the link in the tweet above to read the full story – suffice it to say, Henria was one of the few suffragettes who died in pursuit of the cause and her funeral was almost like that of a soldier.

Naturally, I wanted to see the grave myself and the day the article came out we set off for Cathcart, on Glasgow’s Southside, to view it. Despite Henria’s heroic send-off, the Williams family tomb had since been forgotten and neglected and was badly overgrown with a tree obscuring its angel.

But joy! Dani and fellow journalist Peter Ross (author of A tomb with a view which is high on my to-be-read list) both report that the grave has now been cleared. I feel another visit is called for …

When we had entered the cemetery we had thought it quite well kept, but the further in we got, the more overgrown it became. Henria was not the only one to be obscured. Here are a few more of the memorials which caught our eye in the main section of the cemetery.

There is also a large Jewish section where I was in pursuit of further women’s history, because Dani’s article mentioned that artist Hannah Frank is buried here. Hannah features in two of Glasgow Women’s Library’s walks: the Gorbals, where she was born in 1908 to Russian emigrants fleeing persecution, and Garnethill where she graduated from Glasgow School of Art.

In her early career Hannah was renowned for her distinctive black and white pen drawings, and she later took up sculpture. The example of her work shown next to her grave below is part of a set of murals, designed by artist Liz Peden and unveiled in 2016, under the Cleland Street railway arches in the Gorbals. Hannah’s section includes the quote “My ambition, in Longfellow’s words was to leave footprints on the sands of time”.  She almost didn’t: in 2002, by which time her work was almost forgotten, Hannah moved into a nursing home. She asked her niece Fiona to disperse her drawings and sculptures around her family and friends, but fortunately  Fiona showed the work to art curators, and from there exhibitions around the country and abroad were organised. Hannah lived a very long life, dying shortly after her 100th birthday in 2008.

This was a really interesting afternoon in a cemetery I didn’t know at all, thanks to Dani and her curiosity about a lost suffragette. The next Graveyards of Glasgow post will be Calton Burial Ground.

Graveyards of Glasgow: Western Necropolis and St Kentigern’s

Cenotaph, Western Necropolis

Glasgow’s main Necropolis, which I wrote about last time, is not the only one in the city which also boasts Southern, Eastern and Western Necropoli. I’ve yet to visit the Eastern one, the Southern has appeared in a long ago post on the Gorbals, and the Western first appeared (along with its neighbour, Lambhill Cemetery) in May’s Gallivanting post, a visit which inspired us to go back to explore further.

Western Necropolis

Established in 1882, the Western Necropolis was one of several non-denominational cemeteries established to cope with the huge demand for burial space created by the rapid expansion of Victorian Glasgow. Garden cemeteries were designed to be recreational spaces where contemplation of death was made less painful by careful layout and design. The Western was the last of the four Necropoli to be created, and the only one to have a crematorium on the grounds: built in 1895 it was the first crematorium in Scotland and only the third in Great Britain. Opposite the cenotaph and crematorium is the monument shown above, It commemorates the South African War of 1899-1902, the Second Boer War.

Further into the necropolis we found a grave for which we were specifically looking. Sir William Alexander Smith, who founded the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow in 1883, is buried here with his wife and other family members. His headstone is shown below in a gallery which also includes images of the building in North Woodside Road where the BB began, and of its commemorative plaque.

Other graves to catch my eye included (left to right below) Isobel MacKinnon Gardner who died at the young age of 32 in 1908, an array of Celtic crosses, and the three-part Walker memorial. The last one prompted some further research into “David Walker of Belmont, Kelvinside Gardens, and Principal of Belgravia College, Glasgow” who died in 1906.

I had never heard of Belgravia College, but it turns out to be a school for young ladies situated on Newton Terrace, Sauchiehall Street. To appreciate fully the floridity of its description it’s worth following the link to this 1891 business directory entry, but here’s a flavour:

The College, which was established in the year 1868, has had a career of great usefulness and academical prosperity. Having been instituted for the special purpose of providing young ladies with a very complete course of instruction, in all branches of a liberal English education, upon the most moderate of terms, it has with a remarkable elasticity of constitution adjusted itself to the varying needs of the age, and to-day, by reason of its admirable appointments, excellent management, and efficient teaching staff, occupies a position of scholastic repute of no mean order.

Lucky young ladies!

The Western Necropolis forms part of a larger cemetery network with the adjoining Lambhill Cemetery and St Kentigern’s. Having visited the former last time, this time we crossed into the latter via the poignant Infant Memorial Garden, as shown above.

St Kentigern’s

St. Kentigern’s Roman Catholic Cemetery was established, like the Western Necropolis, in 1882 and is named after the founder of Glasgow (also known as St Mungo). Many memorials feature beautiful, if sentimental, sculptures.

Two memorials of note are shown below. The worst pit disaster in the area was at Cadder, in August 1913, when 22 miners were killed. Most lived locally and all of Lambhill turned out for the funeral cortege. This collective memorial for the eleven Catholic miners was erected in St Kentigern’s, while the others had individual stones in Lambhill Cemetery.

Benny Lynch (1913-1976) was the undefeated flyweight champion of the world and the first Scotsman to win a world boxing title. His black marble headstone was erected by fans, features an image of him boxing, and has the inscription “Always a fighter”

Jewish cemetery

Finally, we arrived back at the entrance to the Western Necropolis via the Jewish section which serves Garnethill Synagogue in the city centre (also shown).

Next time: Cathcart Cemetery

Graveyards of Glasgow: the Necropolis

Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland’s first garden cemetery, opened in 1833 on the hilly site of the former Fir Park, a location which gives a pleasing tiered view. At the bottom of the hill is Glasgow Cathedral, and the top is dominated by the 12 ft statue of John Knox on its 58 ft column. Knox, the most prominent figure of the Scottish Reformation, is not buried here: the statue predates the Necropolis by several years.

I have featured Glasgow Necropolis several times before – it’s a favourite place to wander, and is one of the Glasgow Women’s Library Heritage Walks that I help to lead in more normal years. However, there’s always something new to discover and my files are full of unused photographs of favourite graves. It won’t surprise you to know that many of them tell a women’s heritage story, and most of them are in GWL’s walk – here are a few which aren’t (but which might be in the future).

Margaret Montgomerie

This beautiful Gothic monument, modelled on Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster, was commissioned by Matthew Montgomerie in 1842 for his wife Margaret. Originally, it was adorned by Mossman sculptures of Hope and Resignation which have since disappeared. Poor Margaret (like many women alive in his time, including Mary Queen of Scots) cannot escape the scrutiny of John Knox who looks down on her from above.

Frances Phillips and Miss Cates

Miss Cates became the second wife of solicitor and travel writer William Rae Wilson, to whom she erected this mausoleum in 1849. It’s built in Moorish-style with inverted torches carved on the outside, symbolic of death and resurrection. Miss Cates is also buried here, but I can find no further information about her, other than that she was “an English lady of good family”. The inscription merely records her as William’s affectionate wife. The tomb’s third occupant is William’s first wife, Frances Phillips. I wonder who he chose to spend the afterlife with?

Eliza Jane Aikman

Eliza Jane Aikman (1852-1929) was Glasgow’s first female Parish Councillor and founded the Glasgow Infant Health Visitors Association, the basis for child welfare practice. “One who went about doing good and having served her day and generation by the will of God fell on sleep”.

Helen Marshall Rough

Helen Rough, who died in 1932, was the founder of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Cooperation of Trained Nurses. We specifically went looking for her grave during lockdown after my friend and fellow tour guide, Beverly McFarlane, did some research on her which gave me a personal interest. Helen is buried here with her sister, Jane, and brother-in-law, James Bell, English Master at the High School of Glasgow. In the census of 1871 Helen is recorded in James’s household, an address which I recognised instantly as the home of my mother-in-law over a century later (she died in 1993), although by then the house was divided into flats and she occupied what would have been the drawing room floor in Helen’s time. I was delighted by this coincidence.

More information

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of some of the lesser known women in Glasgow Necropolis.

There are several places to go for more information. GWL and the City Council have downloadable guides and maps (and another guide, Louise Bell, has done a Twitter version of GWL’s). The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis is a splendid organisation which offers guided tours and raises money to restore neglected tombs.

GWL Glasgow Necropolis Women’s Heritage Walk

Glasgow City Council Necropolis Heritage Trail

Friends of Glasgow Necropolis

Next time: the Western Necropolis.