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Cathcart Parish I

On four occasions excursions have been made to localities in this parish. As to the first visit (15th June, 1887) there is, unfortunately, no record in the minutes of what proved a most agreeable excursion. The beautiful and romantic Linn was the rendezvous. Passing the old castle of Cathcart, with a few tufts of wallflower nodding from its walls, the small company representing the Society proceeded by a charming country lane to the Cart. Before leaving the lane, however, attention was called to the rather unusual circumstance that part of the hedgerow here is formed of the hornbeam. This use of the hornbeam, though comparatively unfamiliar to us, is no new thing, as Evelyn was loud in his praise of it as forming the ‘noblest and stateliest hedge for long walks in gardens or parks of any tree whatsoever whose leaves are deciduous’. The banks of the White Cart at the Linn are very steep, and clad to their tops with a variety of deciduous trees chiefly. The beauty and repose of the place formed a most striking contrast to the dreariness and din of the city so lately left behind, and as if to complete the transformation, there, revealed to the astonished gaze of those present, was the ‘hidden splendour of the stream’, the kingfisher darting on rapid wing. Among plants gathered, perhaps worthy of mention were the evening campion (Lychnis vespertina) and the giant bell-flower (Campanula latifolia).

An evening visit was paid to the Queen’s Park in July, 1887, for the purpose of viewing at a favourable season the rich collection shrubs and trees there. The result of the perambulation was an added interest in a direction often neglected by botanists. None but those who have taken the trouble to inquire can appreciate the extent of the interest that attaches to such a collection as that in the Queen’s Park. The educational possibilities of this park seem to be scarcely dreamed of by our municipal rulers. A handbook containing some information as to the native country, economic uses, and morphology of the trees and shrubs would surely be a great public convenience. To give here a list of interesting trees in the park, or even of a selection of such, would demand greater space than the scope of this publication justifies.

On the afternoon of the 6th of April, 1889, a series of excursions was initiated to illustrate the notable trees of the County of Renfrew, and the attendance and interest on this, the first of the series, have been maintained in the subsequent excursions. Cathcart was the rendezvous, and the party, numbering about thirty, had the advantage of being accompanied by the late Mr. A.M. Scott, F.S.A. Scot., who has done yeoman service in the elucidation of the history and antiquities of the parish. The kirkyard was first visited, and here Mr. Scott—with the party congregated round the Covenanters’ Memorial Stone, which had recently been raised from its former prone position—discussed the circumstances attending the death of the martyrs, the ancient foundation of the Kirk of Cathcart, and cognate matters. Attention was then directed to the four large ash trees in the old portion of the kirkyard. Macdonald, in his Rambles, makes a passing reference to these trees, but they are not mentioned in either of the statistical accounts of the parish. The present venerable minister of the parish, the Rev. Dr. James Smith, who wrote the last statistical account, informs the writer ‘that there is no notice of them in the ancient records either of the heritors or kirk session, nor any tradition on the subject’. He further states that ‘but for the damage done to them by every severe storm for many years past, they seem to me much as they were when I first knew them sixty-eight years ago’. Since the time of the Society’s visit the tree nearest the road skirting the north side of the kirkyard has been completely shorn of its fair proportions, having suffered chiefly from the gale on the evening of 13th October, 1891.