Linn Park’s history is seemingly well known. A small number of oft-repeated ‘facts’ have appeared in many booklets, leaflets and guides. The focal point is Mary Queen of Scots, looking away from the park towards a distant battle. But does our view of the park need to be dominated by an oft-repeated story of a tragic Queen?
For most folk, the river, paths and parkland are the main attractions, not the residence of notable people in the park’s mansions or castle. We bemoan the decline of park management over the past generation, and it is easy to blame the Council, not least for the demolition of Cathcart Castle in 1980. Yet the park is always changing. All Councils work on a limited budget and they need feedback from users of the park.
The park changes through the seasons, but the river is much more volatile. In a few hours it can change from a picturesque stream to the raging torrent which has damaged hundreds of homes in Cathcart and Battlefield downstream. Over the centuries, the river has also been a barrier, a source of power, and an access point for the exploitation of local minerals.
To understand the park, we want to know more about these. We also want to know how the landscape developed. We are told that the parkland was laid out by the ‘Sugar’ Campbells and, most recently, that the park has been twinned with the Caribbean. Who were the Campbells, and what is the Caribbean connection? Over the past century changes to the park have reflected the policies of Glasgow Corporation. Glasgow is a city built on international connections and these links extend into its parkland, but have rarely been part of the picture. We are told that famous people lived in the Castle and mansion houses, but what about the locals who lived and worked the land? The archaeology of the park is covered in a single paragraph, but given the rich history, surely there is much more? How much can we tell about the development of the park by looking at its landscape? How old is the rig and furrow visible in fields and stretching into the woodland?
In recent years, a great deal of effort has focussed on specific aspects of Linn park, particularly its biodiversity, but has this been balanced by interest in other aspects, particularly the park’s history and archaeology? What continues to appear exemplifies the danger of a small amount of knowledge leading to confusion. Much of it has been shallow or simply wrong. The park’s heritage has yet to be integrated into plans for access and change, leading to ignorance and loss. One example is the current removal of rhodedendrons, which is beneficial, but can also cause great damage to the park’s abundant archaeology.
To understand the development of Linn Park over the past three hundred years we need to go beyond the brief popular history and return to primary sources. This story is based on the author’s exploration, research and guided walks in the park area over the years, which have confirmed a curiosity by users of the park which is not satisfied by old stories of the rich and famous.
The park did not grow in isolation and today is at the core of a much larger green space, including Linn Park Golf Course, the grounds of Linn and Cathcart cemeteries, and the great wilderness of Netherton Braes.
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