The Poems of Thomas Thorpe

Thomas Thorpe was born on the 9th March 1829 in Milton, Dunbartonshire. His father was a block printer at the local works. When he was five, he moved with his family to Strathblane. At an early age his love of flowers and everything to do with nature was noted as one of his earliest childhood memories was being with his sisters in a wood where wild primroses were growing. Thomas Thorpe attended the local school and following in the family footsteps he later began to work in the printworks. After serving his apprenticeship as a block printer, he obtained work as a warehouseman. The Thorpe family like many others who worked in the printworks lived in the Netherton area of the parish.

Thomas Thorpe was a keen scholar and even after he went to work in the printworks, he continued to attend evening classes as well as continuing to amass as much information as he could. He was encouraged in this by his elder brother. In 1859 he married a Janet Jolly, who was born in Campsie. Three years later Thomas Thorpe and his wife and two children moved to Busby where he began to work in the printworks there. Thomas Thorpe and his wife had eight children in all but three died during childhood. From an early age Thomas Thorpe wrote poetry. In 1873 he began to have some of his poems published at first under the initial "T." As his success and confidence grew he began to publish more poems in a variety of journals under his full name of Thomas Thorpe.

In 1882 Thomas Thorpe was included in an anthology entitled "Modern Scottish Poets" edited by D.H.Edwards. In 1883 Thomas Thorpe published privately a book of his poems entitled "Poems by the Wood, Field and Fireside." On the 15th March 1892 Thomas Thorpe died in Busby at the age of 63 and was buried in Mearns Kirkyard.

Though the Parish cannot claim him as native born poet, the years he spent in Strathblane greatly influenced him. In his book, he included a section entitled "Pictures of the Strath" and several of the poems are reproduced here.

Parlane's Schule

Parlane Macfarlane was appointed headteacher of the school in 1838 and continued until 1862. Until improvements were begun in 1854, the school was described as a very airless uncomfortable place not much better than the one it had replaced.

Oh, leese me on the happy days,
Oh, leese me on them still;
The happy days, the merry days
We spent in Parlane's schule!
The memory o' thae gowden days
Comes back like rainbow gleams
And flings and arch o' colour bricht
O'er age's wintry dreams.

Oh, leese me on yon braid green hills
Oh, leese me on Blane Burn;
Oh, leese me on the auld Caw Crag
Whaur jackdaws wheel an' turn
We played the truan' aft for them
And wi' oor bannets fill
We jinked the maister and the tawse
Awa' at Parlane's schule.

I think I see the schule-hoose yet,
Sae dingy, auld an' grey,
Whaur laddie prisoners, lithe o' limb
Pined to be oot at play;
An' whan the gowden twal-oors cam'
Ran oot like mad-cap fule,
Wi' a hapstap doon the precipice
At Parlane's auld-warl' schule.

Oh, wae's me on yon auld hacked dask
Whaur we, wi' copy set,
Sat glowrin' at the floo'rs oot by
In dreamy, fond regret;
For, on the dyke fornent oor een,
Whan Spring her cups did fill,
Blue peeriewinkie stars were seen
At back o' Parlane's schule.

Oh, leese me on auld Jennie's Glen,
Wi' hazels green and cool,
Whaur, like wee puddocks, naked bare,
We paidled in the pool!
An' in the yellow harvest time we pu'd the nits at will;
Oh, deary me, thae were the days
Langsyne at Parlane's schule!

But oh, waesuck, thae days are gane
The auld schule's knockit doon:
Nae peeriewinkies' een o' blue
Decks dewy Springtime's croon.
A new-fledged race noo speel the braes
But I lo'e the memories still,
And a gowden haze floats roon the days
I spent in Parlane's schule.

The Gowk Stane

The Gowk Stane is a large boulder on the track up from Milndavie Mill to Boards farm on the top of Craigmarloch. It is the meeting place of the lands of Craigend, Craigallian and Duntreath. Near the Gowk Stane is an area known as Cockmylane, just above the water tunnel entrance, where the first licensed distillery in the Parish was built in the 1820's. Cockmylane is thought to be the corruption of the old Scottish Word Cockalane meaning "a comic play or satyre" and this may be where plays were performed in Pre-reformation days. According to Guthrie Smith, the Gowk Stane may have got this name from the "antics" performed there by the fool or jester in these days. It is also said that you cannot be considered a native of the parish unless you have slid down the Gowk Stane.

How fondly memory loves to trace
Our happy youthful days;
The green hills of some dear old place
Dim now in misty haze;
Yon crags, so rugged, stern, and hoar,
The foamy streamlet, Blane,
The pinewoods, fragrant evermore,
Around the old Gowk Stane:

Return, sweet visions, to my mind,
Cast o'er me your dear spell,
Waft me to scenes long left behind,
Long bidden sad farewell:
To moors of Mugdock blooming red,
To bonnie murmuring Blane,
To Haw glen, rich with wild flowers spread,
To lichen'd old Gowk Stane:

I see Duntreath with ivy trail'd,
I hear the lambkin bleat,
I see Dungoick - warrior mail'd,
White hawthorn round his feet;
Dungoin still frowns like watch-tower high,
Unchanged flows amber Blane,
Blue heaven still bends-sweet canopy??????
Above the old Gowk Stane ???????

Ah me, it seems but yesterday
I climbed yon ferny braes,
And listened to the blackbird's lay,
Or gathered nuts and slaes;
Or wandered with my hearts young queen
Adown by prattling Blane,
Or trysted the love tryst at e'en
Beside the old Gowk Stane:

Perchance some one may think of me
When I am fast asleep,
Or may for loving memory
Some frail, small token keep.
Away - I care not, let some soul
Take up my brochen strain,
And sing on, while the ages roll,
Of lichened grey Gowk Stane.

Ballagan

Ballagan House (From Guthrie Smith)
Ballagan House

Ballagan, which means a sheltered or lown place, is noted for the Spout of Ballagan and the geological phenomena known as the Ballagan Beds. In bygone days, there was a castle at Ballagan possibly built in the 16th century by one Walter Stirling. In Guthrie Smith's day there was no trace of the castle except for an old yew tree. There was also a mill - the Kirkland Mill which is marked on Blaeu's map of 1654 - but again, no traces remain.

Gurgling through green Ballagan Glen,
'Mong hazels tangled wild,
Wild eddying through each darksome den,
Nature's own undefiled;
The angler seeks thy shady pool
To throw his subtle snare;
In thy soft bower in the evening cool
The lover woos his fair.

The poet in thy silence dreams
O'er flowers of thousand dyes,
While silvery sounds of falling streams
Blend with white lambkins' cries
And there stern science too doth go
To view the wondrous plan;
How God through centuries dim and low
Built up this earth for man.

Unprofaned by the rabble crew,
Long may’st thou dream in peace
Untrod save by the thoughtful few,
Let flowers and ferns increase,
Queens of the glens, Ballagan green,
Beauty is still thy dower,
Hide sweetly 'neath thy leafy screen,
'Mid sungleams or soft shower.

The Blane Burn.

Tumbling over rocky fells,
Richly brown from moorlands ells;
Spots of snowy, feathery foam
Dancing on thy wavelets come;
While thy amber tinted stream
Sparkles in the sunny gleam.
Bonnie Blane, I love thee better
Chafing in thy rocky fetter,
Twisting ‘mong the rocks so jaggy,
Foaming ‘mong the boulders craggy
Pouring o’er Ballagan Fall,
Where the mountain ash grows tall,
And fronds of graceful maidenhair,
Wave like streamers in the air.

I love thee better in sweet anger
That I love thy ease and languor,
By Duntreath so slowly wandering,
And by moss, so old, meandering;
Where Buchanan saw thee flowing,
As, on Roman lore bestowing
All his heart, he wandered musing,
Old heroic deeds perusing;
While wine water gurgled up
Unheeded in thy emerald cup.
Bonnie Blane, unchanged forever!
Blessing on thee, modest river!
Still thou flowing on, meandering
Though no seer is by thee wandering
Through rich herbage, flower bedropt,
Through rich meadow, lamb becropt,
Sometimes in deep pools thou liest,
Where the sun gleam never pryest,
Sleeping in a coloured bed
Strewn with pebbles white and red.

Bonnie Blane, sweet tiny river!
Blessing be upon thee ever,
As in sleeping or in waking
Onward thy sweet way thou’rt taking,
While the scented breezes quiver
With light breath thy tideless river!
Thus, in ever varying mood,
Foaming bright or sullen flood,
Thou holdest on thy lonely way,
Stopping neither night nor day,

Till, at last, all tired and weary,
Through the sauchs and tangles dream,
In the Meeting Linn so deep
At last thou liest down to sleep,
Thy name forgot, in soft repose
Clear Endrick Waters thee enclose,
And in Loch Lomond’s quiet breast
Thy joys and griefs are lulled to rest

©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2003