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Renfrew Parish

The only excursion made by the Society in this parish was one of the ‘Trees of Renfrewshire’ series in the spring of 1890. Elderslie and Blythswood were visited on the occasion. The first-named estate was bestowed by the Stuarts on one of the Rosses of Hawkhead, and remained in the possession of that family till 1860, when it became the property by purchase of Spiers of Elderslie, in whose family it continues. Originally from its insular situation called Inch, the name which reflected the physical history of the locality, had to give place to that of Mr. Spiers’s other property of Elderslie, near Johnstone. The rich alluvial soil of the district—consisting of the washings of the varied rocks of Clydesdale—presents conditions highly favourable for the growth of our ordinary deciduous trees, and it is therefore not surprising that the party which visited Elderslie should have been much struck on entering the park (at a lodge on the Govan Road) at the noble prospect that it presented. Many of the trees which stud the park are of large dimensions. An ash with a fine bole by the side of the approach measured 13 feet 4½ inches in girth at the narrowest part. Of three large willows (probably Salix fragilis) in the park the one nearest the lodge measured 16 feet 6 inches, another north-west of above 18 feet, a third east of above 16 feet 1 inch; a fine birch near above 5 feet 10½ inches; a beech south-east of house 11 feet 1½ inches, another beech south of west corner of house 13 feet 2½ inches; a willow north-west of house 16 feet. In the matter of height and spread these were all well-developed trees. Prof. King, who was present, recalling that the Wallace Oak, which stood near the west end of the village of Elderslie, and which, when it was blown down in 1856, Mr. Spiers caused to be removed to his estate of Elderslie, near Renfrew, inquiries were instituted, with the result that those present had the privilege of viewing all that now remains of that historic tree. This consists of its fast-decaying trunk, which, in spite of the protection afforded to it (it is lodged in the loft of an outhouse), will soon be only a memory. In Ramsay’s Views in Renfrewshire (Edinburgh, 1839) there is an engraving of this tree as a tail-piece to the chapter of that work which is devoted to the Wallace Oak, and it is figured in Strutt’s work.

Blythswood was next visited. This estate (which has been in the possession of the Campbell family since 1654) was, until the erection of the present mansion house in 1821, called Renfield. The park is pleasantly situated, and has as its western and northern boundaries the Cart and Clyde respectively. The gardens Are kept in good order, and though our visit was early in the year, one feature rewarded us, for a fine Amelanchier tree sheeted with white blossom excited much admiration. Directly in front of the elegant mansion house, on a mound, occupying thus a commanding position, stands a noble beech, measuring in circumference of trunk 14 feet 4 inches. Several birches were measured. The first, near crossing of avenues on approach from Renfrew station, 5 feet 2 inches; another in the park 4 feet 10 inches; and a third south-west of summer house in the park 5 feet 9½ inches. The Argyle Stone, which marks the place where, in 1685, the Earl of Argyle was wounded and taken prisoner, was visited. The stone may, however, claim even older historic association with the name of St. Connal (a seventh century teacher of Christianity), to whom the church at Inchinnan was dedicated, although the parish takes its name from Inan, who was a confessor at Irvine in the ninth century. In 1620 regulations were passed by the baillies and council of Paisley for the annual horse race for the silver bell, and the starting place was the ‘gray stane called St. Connal’s Stone, . . . thence right eastward to the Causeyend of Renfrew, and so to the wall-neuk of Paisley’.