The History of Auchenreoch

There is some intriguing history in the area recounted in this document that was handed to us by the previous owners of Upper Woodburn when we moved here.

Read of tales of Robert the Bruce’s pact with John Comyn, duels, a tragic poisoning before a forced marriage, castles and houses built and ruined, wham sticks, illicit whisky, the Riot Fair, and a warhorse’s last resting place.

The magic of the internet has transcribed the whole document here from the scan …. I have added headings to break up the text, and re-ordered a couple of paragraphs to date order.

Notes taken from a paper regarding the above written by Mr. Peter Kincaid of Mid-Muckcroft Cottage, Lennoxtown. 1932. 

The name, Auchinreoch, is Gaelic and means a level meadow or field of the plain. Originally a Tower or Castle stood on the site where stands today the ruins of a Mansion house.

Auchinreoch’s first owners

The first owners of Auchinreoch who can be traced are the Kincaids and who, in 1280, obtained a Charter from the Third Earl of Lennox of the neighbouring estate of Kincaid. 

In the early years of the 13th Century, Auchinreoch was owned by John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Baron of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld, which Baronies included the Lands of Lenzie and Auchinreoch. Comyn resided at Kirkintilloch Castle and his brother, through marriage, became the Earl of Menteith. Their father was known as the Black Comyn and his wife was Marjory, sister of King John Balliol. John Comyn was known as the Red Comyn and the two brothers were the betrayers of Wallace.

A Pact for the crown of Scotland

John Comyn and Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, were rivals for the Crown of Scotland and they came to an agreement at Auchinreoch, Comyn’s house, each offering to make over his estates to the other in exchange for his rival’s support in his claim to the Crown and it was ultimately agreed that Bruce should have the Crown and Comyn Bruce’s land. Comyn, however, disclosed the Pact to the English King (Edward I) and, as history records, was murdered at Dumfries as a result. Bruce forfeited Comyn’s lands and gave them to Malcolm Fleming, Baron of Biggar, and made Fleming Baron of Cumbernaud, Lenzie and Kirkintilloch. 

Malcolm Fleming’s grandson, Sir Robert Fleming conferred on Kirkintilloch a chaplaincy and endowed the same with ten merklands of the lands of Auchinreoch and other endowments. (A merkland was ground of the annual value of one merk, a merk being an old Scottish silver coin valued at 13 pence and one third of a penny sterling). 

The Flemings were made Earls of Wigton by James The First in 1606 and Mary Fleming of that ilk was one of Queen Mary’s Four Maries (See Walter Scott’s “The Abbot”). 

A King’s Guardian

When James the First was murdered in 1437 his son was only 6 years of age and Sir Alexander Livingston, Laird of Kilsyth and Auchinreoch, was put in charge of the young King. Livingston was most unpopular and the country was in rebellion against him. 

The King’s Troops appeared at Auchinreoch and took five Livingstons prisoners, Alexander and Robert being hanged and beheaded at Edinburgh and their estates forfeited. 

Duels and Murders

On the haugh below Auchinreoch in 1565 one, James Kincaid, was murdered by the Stirlings, several duels were fought and several murders are said to have taken place, with the result that the house was said to be haunted and the local people would not pass the place even by the roadway at night. 

Galbraith of Killearn and Balmore got Auchinreoch but the Kincaids were again owners in 1594. 

The old Castle of Auchinreoch is believed to have been destroyed between 1715 and 1720. 

In 1730 the McDowals of Castle Semple and Garthland were proprietors and built the Mansionhouse (now in ruins) on the site of the old Castle. 

The estate again passed back before long to the Galbraiths who parted with it to one, Buchanan, an ancestor of the Duke of Montrose. A descendant of this Buchanan married the heiress of the Galbraiths and became Laird of Auchinreoch and enlarged the house and built Woodburn House, where he lived and died in 1823.

A son of James Gray, Boghead Farm, Lenzie, in 1795 came to Kierhill and his descendants are still in the neighbourhood. 

A forced marriage and a tragic death 

In the early years of the 19th century there was an undoubted tragedy in Auchinreoch House, which is said to have been the cause of its being vacated by Laird Buchanan. That Laird’s daughter was being forced into marriage and on her wedding day she was found poisoned in her wedding gown in the house, as the bridegroom arrived for the wedding and, for years after, her white robed figure was seen in the gloaming and at nights, haunting the place. The Laird cut down all the trees in front and around the house but still the spectre was seen and the Laird vacated the house. 

A Paddock, a fine garden and an Orchard

When Buchanan went to Woodburn House he sold Auchinreoch Mansion to a James Innes, or MacInnes, who acquired the whole of Auchinreoch on Buchanan’s death. Innes is believed to have been a Master Bottleblower, having works in this country and abroad and to have amassed a considerable fortune. He was a keen sportsman and had the ground around the house levelled and the old moat which surrounded part of the old Castle filled up. A Paddock and Course for training horses were laid out and a fine garden and orchard, there being still one apple tree left. Beside this apple tree there is a large and deep well, now covered over, no trace of it to be seen. 

A Warhorse’s grave, and a Pony called Bobbie

On the death of Mr. Innes, his daughter, Lady Gordon, became the proprietrix. Her Husband, The Honourable Huntly Gordon, was a noted soldier and saw much service in the Soudan, Egypt, South Africa and the Great War. He died a few years ago. His charger, Rupert, which carried him throughout the War in the Soudan and which in its old age was pensioned and tended at Auchinreoch till it died, is buried along with Lady Gordon’s pet pony, Bobbie, on a mound in front of the Mansionhouse and an inscribed stone marks the spot. On the death of James Innes, the Mansion was left to go to ruin. 

Smeaton the Forrester and David Kerr, Gamekeeper, were the last tenants. About 30 years ago it became uninhabitable and was deserted. The estate comprised at one period six farms, Upper and Lower Auchinreoch, Dyke, Drunearn, Kierhill and Burnfoot, also the Mansion Houses of Auchinreoch and Woodburn, the whole estate comprising about 990 acres. The stream which flows beside the avenue to Woodburn House is known as the wood burn and divides the Parishes of Campsie and Kilsyth. 

William Laird of the Dyke Farm (where he was born) took over Drumearn and Kierhill and his brother, John, who was also born at Dyke, bought Auchinreoch Mains, to which is attached the Home Farm of Lower Auchinreoch. 

Wham sticks and the Riot Fair

In Wham Glen the farm lads in years past used to make wham sticks. These sticks were peeled and dried and sold to Cattle Dealers at the Riot Fair held in what is now known as Riot Field on the hill facing the pits, one of the houses there being still known as Riot Fair. Here great horses and cattle sales used to take place. 

Illicit Whisky Stills

On this haugh, which was familiarly called “The Cadger’s Haugh” for generations tinkers and other itinerants pitched their tents and fought and murdered one another and Ilicit distilling of whisky also went on. About 50 years ago when James Rankine was tenant of Auchinreoch Mains he unearthed, when ploughing the fields, and illicit still and smuggler’s keg. The old still lay for years on a shelf in the Blacksmith’s shop at Milton and at Rankine’s death the little barrel or keg was secured by Walter Brommlle, Egg Merchant, Bishopbriggs, and is still believed to be in his possession.

The last tenant of Kierhill was James Stark, Cattle Dealer, who only tenanted it for a few years. The lands of Kierhill and Drumearn were added to the extensive Dyke Farm by a Mr. Harris, who was tenant of Woodburn House, and who was a gentleman farmer and superintended the cultivation of these farms till his death, when John Laird took over the farm as tenant, residing at Dyke. 

Note from the transcriber of the text: With reference to the name “Auchinreoch”, while I have diffidence in questioning Mr. Kincaid’s statement that the name means “a level meadow or field of the plain”, I would suggest that the name might originally have been” Auchinfreoch”which would mean “the field of the heather”, in view of the fact that there was an extensive level moss immediately in front of the old Mansion House, which is covered in heather. 

This type-written document was in an envelope addressed to Miss Lydia Barge, Armadale, Rhu, Dumbartonshire and given to Sheila Goldie when she moved to Woodburn in 1953.

additional notes added May 2022 from Janette of Auchenreoch Mains who heard an alternative interpretation of the place name from John Laird

“We had a visit from John Laird shortly after we moved here 38 years ago.He was born here at Auchenreoch Mains in the room we now have as a kitchen. He is the son of John Laird, mentioned in the document, born at Dyke farm. Lairds Place in Kilsyth is named for his family. He was able to tell us how the farm here functioned and of watching as the first motor vehicle passed along Antermony Road! He gave us an early photo of the farm.

He understood the Gaelic meaning of Auchenreoch was the haugh or place of the King …..Achadh Ri.  “

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