Category: People

Bertram de Shotts

I had heard of old Bertram a few times but his story has been told and retold so often that I fear changes may have crept in.

Anyway, Betram (or perhaps Bartram) de Shotts lived in the reign of Robert II (or James IV).

He came from Shotts or Salsburgh (but since neither village existed during the reigns of those monarchs, it’s more likely he just resided somewhere in the area).

Shotts was maybe named after him (except maybe not and he was just Bert from the Parish of Shotts except that the Parish of Shotts didn’t come into existence until).

He was a highwayman (but sometimes just an all round bad guy) on the main Edinburgh – Glasgow road (but then highwaymen didn’t really come into existence until the tollroads of the 17th century so maybe not, but to be fair the main route from Glasgow to Edinburgh did run through the area).

He was a giant (or just very tall).

He was finally killed by Laird of Muirhead, who hid alone (or with a group of men), behind a pile of peat stacked there deliberately (or in heather which was growing there unconcerned of its role in history).

Muirhead cut off Bertram’s head (occasionally cutting his hamstrings first) while the giant was drinking from a well (or a spring). Muirhead was subsequently granted the lands of Lauchope by Robert II (or James IV).

Good to have that sorted :-).


I was having a look through the National Library of Scotland’s maps, and playing with the different layers on the map viewer. This is a fabulous wee thing that allows you to find a place on a current map and then look at the same place on older maps, or vice versa. The sheet viewer will allow you to jump between different maps, from Timothy Pont in the 16th/17th century right up to the aerial photos taken in the middle of last century. The mosaic viewer doesn’t have anything like the the same stretch, but it has the nifty trick of sliding gradually between the modern map and the older one.

I use it a lot for  investigating names mentioned on maps that have since vanished, and to locate places I’ve discovered on the ground in the hope that an older map will identify it. A good example is Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland from 1654:  its a goldmine of placenames, illustrations of churches and castles and other buildings and the estates that surround them. Lots of these places are still recognisable, but plenty aren’t.

A large religious building on Blaeu's Atlas, 1654. Compare the building size with others around it.

There’s a substantial church pictured north of Legbrannock, surrounded by what looks like a large estate  – it’s actually comparable with Blaeu’s depiction of Lanark! – with the name Chappell. Only thing I can think of close by is Chapelhall near Airdrie. Are they related? My geographical knowledge north of the Clyde is a lot shakier than the south, but something that huge should have registered with me at some point. So what is it?

I checked the area between Legbrannock and Chapelhall on a few maps. The 1859 OS shows a ‘site of Chapel and Burial ground’ beside the Chapelhall Iron Works which sat in a loop of the Shotts Burn. The ironworks have vanished by 1898, but the chapel site is still marked, with quarries across the burn and a coal mine just to the south. By the 1940s, the Chapelhall Works have appeared just to the west, making fire bricks, which still appears on the familiar brown and orange of the 1956 OS, which describes the site as as Chapel (site of). It also provided the grid reference (NS784632).

Next port of call: Scotlands Places, which suggests that this was a chapel dedicated to St Lasrach, which was used as a burial place for the Lanchope family from the 18th century onwards, that it was later covered with slag heaps and lost. Its correct GR is NS 7850 6322.

It also directed me to Origines Parochiales Scotiae, where I found this:

At Chapel on the bank of a stream north-east from the old house of Lauchope, there existed in the beginning of last century, a ruined chapel, then used as a burial-place by the family of Lauchope. On the 15th August 1529, John Jack had a grant for life from the king, of three acres pertaining to the chapel of Lessart, in the parish of Bothwell,  for upholding the chapel.

Origines Parochiales Scotiae, p 54

So Chapel is obviously an old name for Chapelhall, and Lasrach sounds like an alternative name for Lessart. There’s also a Lauchope House, but that’s another quest. So who was Lessart / Lasrach? A while later, I discovered that Lasrach is actually a Gaelicised version of Lasair (genitive singular to be precise), and that Lasair was a figure from Irish mythology (whose name meant fire). There’s also a Christian saint with the same name, with her feast day on May 1st, otherwise known to pagans as Beltane! Possibly the same figure, canonised by the Celtic church?

The chapel originally lay approximately around the tip of the letter ‘A’ formed by the paths in the bottom of the frame, underneath the trees alongside the burn.

This has been a fascinating hunt through geography, history, language and mythology with some startling results, but I still still don’t have an answer to my original question: why is the chapel and burial ground of Lasair drawn so much larger than any other building? If anyone can suggest an answer, I’d love to know.

Additional – 15th April 2012

A couple of 18th century comments suggest the chapel was actually part of a larger organisation, but whether a monastery, abbey or other foundation isn’t known.

Chapel, northeast from Lauchope, was formerly a religious house, of what order is not known

Old Statistical Account, p326

Chappell, which was formerly a religious house, of what order I know not; but is now converted into a burial place for Lachop’s family

Hamilton of Wishaw, Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, compiled about M.DCC.X, p136


Only thing is, that the only other illustrations of roughly the same size across the whole of southern Scotland are either towns or major castles. The mystery continues.

Marion Gilchrist

There’s an exhibition in Bothwell Library to commemorate Marion Gilchrist, born in Bothwellpark, the first female medical graduate of Glasgow University, prominent campaigner for the vote and active member of the British Medical Association. She donated land to the village of Bothwell which now contains a garden in her name, and there’s also a window in Bothwell Parish Church in her honour.

The exhibition should run over the summer.

It bugs me when authors don’t credit their research. Take this for example:

St Iten’s Well, at Cambusnethan, in Lanarkshire, at one time was held in good repute as a cure for asthma and skin diseases.

Thomas Frost, in William Andrews, Bygone church life in Scotland (1899)

Interesting, but compare it with this:

Many churches bear St. Aidan’s name. Among them are those of Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire and Menmuir in Angus. At the latter place is the saint’s holy well, which was renowned for the cure of asthma and other complaints.

Dom Michael Barrett: A calendar of Scottish saints (1919)

Are there two separate wells getting mixed up? Neither author explains who held the well in such repute, nor did they bother to name their sources. There’s probably been a misunderstanding that the original might clear up.

Frost reckons ‘Iten’ is a derivation of Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine and apparent discoverer of the True Cross back in the 4th century, but to be honest, that seems a bit unlikely. There are plenty of Celtic saints around, there’s no reason for a link with Byzantium, and the derivation just doesn’t match.  So far as the name goes, Aidan certainly seems a more likely source for ‘Iten’ than Helena.

I can’t find any other mention of St Iten’s Well anywhere, so where was it?

24th June 2011

I’ve since found this:

Aidan has not been forgotten in the matter of wells. There are four to him, viz, at Menmuir and at Fearn, in Forfarshire; in Balmerino, in Fife; and at Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire. This last, called St Iten’s Well, was noted for the cure of asthma and skin-disease.

James M Mackinlay: Folklore of Scottish lochs and springs (1893)

So, Round 3 to Cambusnethan. This is certainly the earliest mention I’ve found of St Iten’s Well so far, but the source of the story remains unknown. Could be the later writers are simply plagiarising earlier books (a bit like an undergraduate essay 🙂 )

More digging led to “The golden days of the early English church”, which says,

Bishop Forbes in the Kalendars of Scottish Saints says of his memorials in Scotland : ” The churches of Cambusnethan and of Menmuir were dedicated to the saint. Near to the latter church is St. Iten’s Well, celebrated for the cure of asthma and cutaneous diseases.”

Henry H Howorth: The golden days of the early English church (1917)

Round 4 to Angus?

However, our star pupil is Bishop Forbes mentioned above. The entry in Kalendars actually says,

The churches of Cambusnethan (Commissary Records, Glasgow) and of Menmuir were dedicated to this saint. Near to the latter church used to be S. Iten’s well, celebrated for the cure of asthma and cutaneous diseases.—(Jervise’s Land of the Lindsays, p. 241, Edin. 1853.)

Alexander Penrose Forbes: Kalendars of Scottish saints (1872)

Full marks to Forbes for decent attribution of sources. Sorry, Lanarkshire. At least you got a mention.

Hunter House Museum, originally uploaded by JenthePen

The Hunter Brothers were renowned doctors of the 18th century, born at Long Calderwood Farm in East Kilbride, which is now an interactive museum dedicated to their life and works.

William was famous for his work on obstetrics and anatomy. John was more famous as a surgeon. Both were collectors. William’s collection became the basis of the Hunterian Museum and Gallery at Glasgow University; John’s was bequeathed to the Royal College of Surgeons, England.

Hunter Brothers Memorial, originally uploaded by JenthePen

The Hunters are also remembered in East Kilbride with this memorial (sculpted by B Schotz, RSA, erected 1937, the Hunter Health Centre (constantly under threat of demolition) and the former Hunter Primary and Secondary Schools (the latter now totally demolished).

Of course, now that the economy is being systematically destroyed, the council want to close the whole Museums Service.  It’s not exactly huge, and it’s a typically short sighted suggestion from the council.