Abbey Parish of Paisley I

Many localities in this extensive parish have been visited by the Society, some of them, the Gleniffer Braes and Crookston, on various occasions. Near eastern boundary of the parish stands one of the best known the remarkable trees of the county, the Darnley great maple, or ‘Queen Mary’s Tree’. Occupying solitarily a good position on the high road to Barrhead, adjacent to the site of Darnley Toll, and sharing with many natural objects in the west a mythical traditional connection with Mary Stuart, this tree attracts much attention. At a height of 4 feet 10 inches the trunk measured on 8th March, 1892, 10 feet 5 inches, but it is now showing signs of decay. A fairly spreading tree, it seems to be remarkable for the area its branches cover, but this appearance it owes to the fact of its being relatively a short tree for the species. This tree was one of the items in the programme of the second excursion illustrative of the trees of Renfrewshire. On the same occasion Househill was visited. In this little policy are some fine trees and one remarkable hornbeam. Hooker mentions in his British Flora 10 feet as indicating the girth of trunk attained by this species (Carpinus Betulus), and the example in question at 2½ feet from the ground measures 9 feet (10th July, 1888), and this is the least girth that its trunk presents, as it is very much broader at the base, and again at 5 feet measures 15 feet 4 inches. At the last height the trunk branches freely in all directions, and the tree has a fine round head. The diameter of spread of branches north to south proved to be 63½ feet. Other trees here which have attained to some considerable size are saughs, great and common maples, and a horse-chestnut.

Near Crookston Castle stood the famous Crookston Yew, about which the curious will find many interesting particulars in Ramsay’s Views in Renfrewshire. In 1710 Craufurd writes:— ‘Hard by the castle is to be seen that noble monument, the ew-tree, called “The Tree of Crockstoun”, of so large a trunk and well spread in its branches that “tis seen at several miles” distance from the ground where it stands’. It fell into decay in the end of last century, and the remains were removed finally in 1817 by Sir John Maxwell, of Pollok. The measurement of its trunk in 1782 was, in girth, 10 feet at 7 feet from the ground, which is not a great size for the yew; and indeed there is at least one fine example of this species in the county (at Craigends) more than twice this size which is vigorous in every part. The latter has not, however, had the problematical advantages of having sheltered Darnley and his young spouse ‘during the brief period of sunshine which they enjoyed’. nor of occupying a commanding position, but has been ingloriously vegetating in its quiet corner on the banks of the Gryfe. Two scions of the Crookston Yew exist, at Nether Pollok and at the entrance to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens respectively.

Image under: Detail of John Ainslie’s Map of the County of Renfrew [surveyed, 1796, published, 1800] showing the Crookston Yew. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.