XXV.

 

GOVAN VILLAGE, 1848.

 

 

THE village of Govan, or "Meikle Govan," as it used to be called, retained, notwithstanding its proximity to the town, until within a comparatively recent period, much of its old rural character. No one looking at the accompanying drawing would imagine that this quiet, old-world looking hamlet, with its quaint thatched cottages embowered in foliage and general air of peacefulness, was little more than a mile removed from the din and turmoil and everlasting stir of the great city of Glasgow. This beautiful scene, which less than forty years ago engaged the artist's pencil, is a perfect little poem in itself. Its suggestions are all idyllic. The village, as we behold it in the picture, dappled with summer cloud and sunshine, might have been Goldsmith's village in its happy days. In the churchyard, which, we know, lies around the church whose tapering spire rises above the neighbouring trees, Gray might have written his elegy. And this comely maiden, with her "twa cows sae couthy and canny," might not she well be conceived to be the veritable "Auld Joe Nicholson's bonnie Nannie" of the shepherd poet's song? The inhabitants of St. Mungo were not insensible to the charms of this peaceful retreat which lay so near their doors; and the path by the river-side which led to Meikle Govan - the path which once ran by green fields and hedgerows, but which has now disappeared and given place to docks and quays where ships from all quarters of the world lie moored, used to be one of the favourite promenades of the citizens on the Sunday afternoon. In addition to its other attractions, Govan in those days possessed a famous tavern, kept by a shrewd, pawky, and witty individual called David Dreghorn, where the douce people could rest and refresh themselves before starting on their return journey. In David's tavern one of Glasgow's numerous clubs, called "The White Wine Club," used to hold a monthly meeting; and there, as Dr Strang tells us, "the notable men who surrounded the Saturday's board could eat salmon just caught under the windows of the hostelry and freely quaff Scotland's vin du pays -aquavitae -~ fear of "death in the bottle.'"

What a contrast there is between the Govan of the past and the Govan of the present! The cottages shown in the drawing have been swept away, and the space they occupied is now covered by a great shipbuilding yard. Miles of streets now extend where, a few years ago, there were only fields of waving corn; and the quietude which of old characterized the district has given place to the clang of hammers, the roar of traffic, and the ceaseless hum of business and activity. The little town has been absorbed within the all-embracing arms of the city, and now forms practically an integral part of Glasgow itself. No parish in the Kingdom can show anything which at all approaches the rapidity with which Govan has increased in industry, wealth, and importance. Within less than forty years it has multiplied its inhabitants by twenty; and the population and valuation of the parish are now the largest in Scotland, with the exception of the Barony and City parishes of Glasgow.