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Govan (Scottish Gaelic: Baile a' Ghobhainn) is a district and former  burgh in the southwestern part of the City of Glasgow, Scotland. It is  situated 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west of Glasgow City Centre, on the south  bank of the River Clyde, opposite the mouth of the River Kelvin and the  district of Partick.

A monastery under the Columbanus Monastic  Rule was founded in Govan in the 6th century by King Constantine of  Strathclydel. During the Middle Ages, Govan was the site of a ferry  which linked the area with Partick for seasonal cattle drovers.  drovers.

In the 18th and 19th centuries weaving and coal mining were important and in the early 19th century shipbuilding emerged as Govan's principal industry. In 1864, Govan gained burgh status, and was Scotland's fifth largest burgh. It was incorporated into the city of Glasgow in 1912. Govan’s motto is: Nothing Without Labor.


Harmony Row in Govan from the South East 1848

Govan Ferry 1831 By: John Knox (1778 - 1845)

Recent studies of the archaeology of old Govan have revealed the  presence of a Christian church. Two associated Christian burials are  radiocarbon dated to the 5th or 6th centuries making Govan the earliest  known Christian site in the region. At this time Govan is believed to  have formed part of a kingdom ruled from Dumbarton Rock, known as Alt Clut, the rock on the Clyde.


During the Viking Age, perhaps following  the sack of Dumbarton Rock in 878, Govan is believed to have been one of the major centres of the Kingdom of Strathclyde.
According to John of  Fordun, Constantine, a 7th century King of Strathclyde, founded a monastery at Govan, where he died and was buried. In 1855, an elaborately carved sandstone sarcophagus was found during digging in the churchyard. It now resides inside the church and is thought to have contained the relics of Constantine.
Govan's earliest recorded name may be found in the Historia Regnum Anglorum attributed to Symeon of Durham. This is a 12th-century Latin source, but one believed to be based on much earlier materials; it records a place near Dumbarton Rock named Ouania.

Click picture for more on Dumbarton Rock

Based on this, Govan's Cumbric language name has been reconstructed as (G)uovan. Govan is Bàile Ghobhainn (smith's town) in Scottish Gaelic. Bishop Leslie in his Scotia Descriptio of 1578 says it got its name from the excellence of its ale (God-win), whereas Chalmers in his Caledonia says it is derived from Scottish Gaelic, Gamhan (a ditch).


A part of Blaeu's 1654 map of Scotland Click on picture to see full size map

In 1136, when Glasgow Cathedral was formally consecrated, King David I (1124–53) gave to the See the lands of Partick and also of the church at Govan (on opposite sides of the River Clyde), which became a prebend of Glasgow. The Govan Old Parish Church was rebuilt in 1762, 1826, and again 1884-1888. Within it and its roughly circular churchyard is one of the finest collections of Early Christian stones in the United Kingdom, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries.


There is an oddity whereby part of eighteenth-century parish of Govan (which was in Lanarkshire) is counted as being within Renfrewshire. There existed a hospital in the area, and as quasi-religious foundations were not taxed, it had never been assigned to a sheriffdom. Thus, when Renfrewshire was created out of a sheriffdom of Lanarkshire in the early fifteenth century, the lands associated with the hospital (Polmadie) were not technically in the newly created shire, as they were not part of the sheriffdom.

They were, however, very much a part of the physical landscape that became Renfrewshire. A similar uncertainty existed regarding the nearby lands of Pollokshields and Westends. People lived with the inconsistency in the records. When the railroad was to be built in the late nineteenth century, however, the confusion over proper descriptions in the land titles made necessary legal transactions difficult and had to be reconciled. The county added to the description of these lands, the phrase: "but now by annexation in the County of Renfrew
Old Govan Road By the early part of the 19th century, Govan was rapidly losing its rural appearance
David I (Medieval Gaelic: Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim; Modern Gaelic: Daibhidh I mac [Mhaoil] Chaluim), 1084 – 24 May 1153 was a 12th-century ruler who was Prince of the Cumbrians (1113–1124), Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon and later King of the Scots (1124–1153). The youngest son of Malcolm III of Scotland (Medieval Gaelic:Máel Coluim III) and Margaret of Wessex, David spent his early years in Scotland, but was forced on the death of his parents, in 1093, into exile by his uncle and new King, Donald III of Scotland. Perhaps after 1100, he became a dependent at the court of King Henry I of England. There he was influenced by the Norman and Anglo-French culture of the court.

When David's brother Alexander I of Scotland died in 1124, David chose, with the backing of Henry I, to take the Kingdom of Scotland (Alba) for himself. He was forced to engage in warfare against his rival and nephew, Malcolm, Alexander I's Son. Subduing the latter seems to have taken David ten years, a struggle that involved the destruction of Óengus, Mormaer of Moray. David's victory allowed expansion of control over more distant regions theoretically part of his Kingdom. After the death of his former patron Henry I, David supported the claims of Henry's daughter and his own niece, the former Empress-consort, Matilda, to the throne of England. In the process, he came into conflict with King Stephen and was able to expand his power in northern England, despite his defeat at the Battle of the Standard in 1138.

The term "Davidian Revolution" is used by many scholars to summarise the changes which took place in the Kingdom of Scotland during his reign. These included his foundation of burghs, implementation of the ideals of Gregorian Reform, foundation of monasteries, Normanisation of the Scottish government, and the introduction of feudalism through immigrant French and Anglo-French knights.


By the 16th century, extensive coal mine workings had been developed around Craigton and Drumoyne. As the village grew, new trades and crafts, such as weaving, pottery and agriculture, were established. The first coal mines are said to have been opened in Craigton and neighbouring Drumoyne in the 16th century, and ironstone was being mined there by the early 19th century. The Glasgow merchant John Ritchie (d 1755) bought the Craigton estate in 1746. It passed on his death to his son James (1722-1799), a leading tobacco merchant and a founding partner of the Thistle Bank in 1761. James' son Henry (d 1843), also a partner in Thistle Bank, sold the estate in 1830 to Henry Dunlop (1799-1867) of James Dunlop & Sons, cotton spinners and manufacturers. Dunlop was Lord Provost of Glasgow 1837-1840 and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in 1841, 1850 and 1862. He sold Craigton to Graham Hutchison, merchant in Glasgow, several years before his death.


Craigton House 1870


Old Govan Road By the early part of the 19th century, Govan was rapidly losing its rural appearance


By the early part of the 19th century, Govan was rapidly losing its rural appearance and assuming the character of a town with the development of new industries and factories, including Reid's Dye Works and Pollok's Silk Mill. Town officials arranged for the deepening of the Clyde in 1759, the reclamation of the channels between the islands (The Whyte Inch, The Black Inch, and The King's Inch), and the construction of quays and docks. This facilitated the development of shipbuilding as a major industry. By the 1860s, the village needed a higher order of administration and it was made a burgh in 1864, under the General Police (Scotland) Act 1862. At the time, it was the fifth largest burgh in Scotland.
With Morris Pollok as its first Provost, the Burgh and its Commissioners ensured that during the next 48 years Govan became a well-equipped, modern town. During the late 19th century, the population of Govan increased more than tenfold: from 9,000 in 1864 to 95,000 by 1907. In 1901 Govan was the 7th largest town in Scotland.In 1912, Glasgow annexed Govan.

A prominent feature of the Govan landscape was the Doomster or Moot Hill, which stood near the river, north of the present Govan Cross. It was removed in the early 19th century and Reid's Dyeworks was erected on the site. The origins of the Doomster Hill are a mystery. One hypothesis is that it was a prehistoric burial mound. In 1996, a team from Channel 4's Time Team programme carried out an archeological excavation at the site. They suggested that the hill may have been a 12th-century Norman motte.


Doomster Hill is one of the missing field monuments of Govan. The site is believed to have been an assembly place in close proximity to the church. It's existance is known from an engraved landscape by Robert Paul in 1757, the earliest picture of Govan and in 1795, Dr. John Pollock, the parish minister of Govan, recorded it as follows:  There is an artificial mound of a conical shape. Its perpendicular height is 17 feet. At the base, it is 150 feet in diameter, and at the top 102 feet. It .was probably one of the law hills upon which courts of justice used to be held in ancient times...the oldest people in the neighbourhood remember its being known by the name of Doomsterhill.

Glasgow’s Coat of Arms

The Tree That Never Grew

The tree in the coat of arms is a now sturdy oak tree, but it started out  as a branch of a hazel tree. The legend says that St Mungo was in charge of a holy fire in St Serf's Monastery and fell asleep. Some boys who  were envious of his favoured position with St Serf put out the fire. But St Mungo broke off some frozen branches from a hazel tree and, by  praying over them, caused them to burst into flames.

The Bird That Never Flew

This commemorates a wild robin which was tamed by St Serf and which was  accidentally killed. St Mungo was blamed for the death but he is said to have taken the dead bird, prayed over it and it was restored to life.

The Fish That Never Swam

The coat of arms always shows the fish with a ring held in its mouth. This  is because a King of Strathclyde had given his wife a ring as a present. But the Queen gave it to a knight who promptly lost it. Some versions  of the story say that the King took the ring while the knight was asleep and threw it in the river. The King then demanded to see the ring -  threatening death to the Queen if she could not do so. The knight  confessed to St Mungo who sent a monk to catch a fish in the river  Clyde. When this was brought back (presumably catching salmon in the  Clyde in those days was a lot easier then!) St Mungo cut open the fish  and found the ring. When the Bishop of Glasgow was designing his own  seal around 1271, he used the illustration of a salmon with a ring in  its mouth and this has come down to us in today's coat of arms.

The Bell That Never Rang

In 1450, John Stewart, the first  Lord Provost of Glasgow, left an endowment so that a "St Mungo's Bell"  could be made and tolled throughout the city so that the citizens would  pray for his soul. The bell was still ringing out in 1578, as there is  an entry in the City Treasurer's accounts two shillings (10p) "for one  tong to St Mungowis Bell." A new bell was purchased by the magistrates  in 1641 and that bell is on display in the People's Palace museum near  Glasgow Green.

In 1631, another bell was made, this time for the Tron Church (the steeple is pictured on the right), on which was  inscribed the words "Lord, let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of the  word." Whether Glasgow flourished with spiritual assistance or the hard  work of its people (or both), there is no doubt that Glasgow, now the  largest city in Scotland, (twice the size of the capital, Edinburgh )  has certainly prospered.

The Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, Kinloch Mesolithic site, Rhum, Maes Howe, Skara Brae, The Tomb of the Eagles. This Neolithic chambered tomb is situated on a clifftop at Isbister, South Ronaldsay, in the Orkneys. The grave dates to c 3000 BC and contains the remains of perhaps 300 people buried over a period of 800 years. Beside the human remains, the talons and bones of around 14 white-tailed sea eagles were found. The bird remains date to c 2450-2000 BC. Once common on Orkney, white-tailed sea eagles became extinct in Britain in 1918, but in recent years a few of these magnificent birds have been reintroduced; they feed on fish, water birds and carrion.

Scotland's History
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MyGOVAN 2016