The Bruce Mansion

We have no record of the date when the meeting took place. That a meeting did indeed take place is beyond doubt. Shortly after Easter 1325 the Earl of Lennox and Sir David Graham of Mugdock were summoned to Perth for urgent talks with the King in private. Malcolm earl of Lennox and the Bruce were close friends. For his own personal reasons the King loathed Sir David Graham. The King did not cherish the prospect of having Graham as a near neighbour when he took up residence in the parish of Cardross. It must have come to a rude shock to Sir David when the King demanded the surrender of his lands of Cardross in exchange for the lands of Old Montrose in Angus. The Earl of Lennox was in possession of a narrow ribbon of rick meadowland running parallel with the River Leven. It was this parcel of land that the King has his eye on when his health took a turn for the worse in the dying months of 1324. it cannot be doubted that the King had and still retained a very deep affection for these lands in particular.

 

I venture to suggest that the King had enjoyed a close link with the hands of Dalchurn, Pelanyspflait and Rosriven going back to the days of his youth. In 1306 when the King was running for his life, a fugitive in his own Kingdom, Barbour recounts the story about Bruce hearing the welcome sound of the Earl of Lennox’s hunting-horn and about how the two men tearfully embraced when they were reunited. This instant recognition of the bugle blast by the King points to a close association between the Bruce family and the Earl of Lennox. It is not improbable that Bruce’s father was a fairly frequent guest at Balloch Castle, the Earls residence in the Lennox. The Earl had a hunting lodge at Pelanysflait. In the company both Earls, the young Robert the Bruce would have attained a fair degree of guile and skill in the art of hawking and hunting. A full days hunting in the Kipperoch Glen may have proved the private moment when the youthful Bruce cornered his first wild Boar and with deft delivery dispatched the beast with a fatal sword-thrust. On a day set aside for hawking on the left bank of the River at Kirkmichael in the parish of Bonhill, Robert would have shrewdly but gently kicked his canny Galloway nag into an easy gallop across and along the dangerous bog, safe in the knowledge that his famous breed of pony never ever trotted its rider in the direction of treacherous quicksand’s moving with murderous purpose beneath the marshlands.

The King purchased over two hundred acres of the Earl’s lands and Cardross and likewise, Earl Malcolm was given the lands of Leckie at Stirling in exchange. At its fullest extent the Lordship of Cardross stretched for a distance of two miles. The Lordship was split for administrative reasons into three distinct component parts. The Kings manor house (manerium) constituted the first and most important portion of the Crown Lands. The Royal deer forth formed the second portion. Mains at Dalmoak to Pelanysflait which in the Kings day marched right beside the lands of Dalchurn in the parish of Roseneath.

 

King Robert Bruce

The Royal Manor at the River Leven

You builded your Manor, with roof of thatch And graced its shutters with Flemish Glass, Then grew potted herbs within a fence And scythed and hacked the briar wood dense To plant a King’s park and seed a Queens lawn, For you and your kinsmen to hunt till dawn.

You builded your Manor with plaster walls And raised up a Chapel with choir stalls And latticed its niches with Augsburg glass, In honour of someone’s burial Mass!

You builded your Manor with highland beams To house the roar of banquet scenes In the park at Mains with fifteen fields You strode with the hounds that stayed to heel.

And when you went hawking in the Murroch Bog To the glimmer of dawn and the barking of dogs Or when hunting tusk in the glen at Dalmoak The banquet to follow was a boars-head feast.

A tamed lion you kept, as a pet no less On a long silver chain, to greet every guest As a reminder to all, that a lion with teeth, Guards the Kings Manor, as part of its brief!

There stood a King where I now stand There strode your foot upon this land: Feet that trod by the river leven side – Toes that scabbed at the shrinking tide.

There lay a head on a great carved bed There lay a face which whispered dread! There lay a head with golden crown, There lay a king in his burial gown

It lay at the end of Pillianflat lane No splendid ruin to fire the brain Nothing now but dung and ditched No sign of a Palace nor of riches: No hint that Bruce had ever graced The sodden soils of this bleak place.

Stuart Smith