Baldernock Parish local history

Baldernock Parish is remarkable as a quiet, rural, unspoiled area of land, located entirely within a 10-mile radius of Glasgow City Centre. The few lucky people who live there can genuinely claim to dwell in the countryside, and yet they are able to reach the city in the briefest of time, by the shortest of journeys. This was the ideal of the nineteenth century settlers of Lenzie and Bearsden, until those places became so saturated with housing that their rural aspect was forever lost. The same might have happened to Baldernock, for when Bardowie Station was opened in 1905 an extensive housing development was planned, of about 500 commuter dwellings. In the event, only half a dozen or so were built at that time, with a few more in later years, and the local railway was closed to passengers in 1951. The busy traffic in commuters’ cars from Torrance, along the Balmore/Bardowie/Allander road, serves as a reminder of what might have been. All other roads in the parish retain their quiet, rural aspect.

In his Rambles Round Glasgow, published in 1854, Hugh Macdonald wrote enthusiastically about Bardowie Parish. Bardowie Loch he described as ‘Bardowie the Beautiful’ and asked ‘if a glance of it would not more than repay thee for a summer day’s journey’. Bardowie Castle was ‘an edifice of moderate size, somewhat timeworn, yet withal wearing an appearance of quiet cosiness and comfort’. Bardowie Mill was ‘an old and diminutive meal mill’ inactive for want of water at the time of his visit. The former Kirkhouse Inn, beside Baldernock Church, was a ‘comfortable public-house where refreshment of excellent quality for man and beast may be obtained’. Balmore was ‘an excellent specimen of an old-fashioned Scottish clachan’. Nearby he encountered some antiquaries pondering the origin of a square block among the stepping-stones across the River Kelvin. Their idea that it might be Roman was derided by a passing milkmaid who identified it as ‘Redbog’s auld cheese-press’.

Macdonald’s Baldernock can still be recognised and appreciated today. The meal mill at Bardowie has long since been converted to a sawmill, but still retains its waterwheel. The Kirkhouse Inn beside the parish church is now a private dwelling. The stepping stones across the Kelvin at Balmore have been superseded by a footbridge. However, the three giant boulders on Craigmaddie Muir, known as the Auld Wives’ Lifts (shown in picture), can still be visited (with appropriate permissions), as can most of the other parish features mentioned by Macdonald. At Baldernock Church the little stone building at the gate should be noted. This was built for local people to maintain a night watch against the depredations of ‘resurrection men’ (body snatchers) keen to sell practice material to the Glasgow medical schools. The Kirk itself has enjoyed some considerable fame as the setting for Graham Moffat’s famous play Bunty Pulls the Strings, first performed at the Haymarket Theatre, London, in 1911.