In scanning the history of this stretch of the highlands along Loch Lomond we hope to inform newcomers and help the curious find their way into the historical hinterland.
This was an area troubled for centuries by feud and dispute until, out of the Industrial revolution and political turbulence, there emerged a beautiful house which enhanced it’s marvellous setting.
The house dates from before 1820 and was built with elegant lancet windows and arched doorways as Gothic and Norman references but above all with grace and balance.
Its environment, however, has its darker side with a history of clan battles, cattle lifting even brigandry. Sir Walter Scott’s novels rushed off the shelves bearing stories inspired by the history of the area.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the savagery of the past slowly gave way to an explosion of wealth, scientific and technical advances, tourism, architecture and literature – all seemed to touch Stuckgowan.
Glasgow’s wealth grew out of trade and industry. John McMurrich was a Glasgow merchant – we believe a wood merchant and along with many of his contemporaries he ‘moved’ to the country. Whether he foresaw the tourist boom that followed is uncertain. It seems likely that he continued some ‘wood merchant’ dealings from Stuckgowan.
David Napier one of the creators of steamship travel pioneered some of the important scientific and technical advances in steamship design and bought his paddle steamer ‘Marion’ to Loch Lomond in 1818. Napier and John McMurrich eventually became partners and Tarbet (essentially a McMurrich village) prospered on the tourist trade. Marion’s success and Napier’s wider foresight and business drive played no little part as seed corn for the worldwide changes as sail gave way to steam. As it happened the steamers promoted Loch Lomond as a tourist attraction. Stuckgowan itself became a place to visit.
We have started on a collection (more a miscellany) of appendices which we hope are of interest but also with links to the area.
Warning – names, be it of place or family, change over the years.
Since the early 13th century a sweep of the western side of the Loch, (including what we grandly still call The Stuckgowan Estate) has been owned by just 5 families.
1235 to 1718 – The MacFarlanes
The MacFarlanes were warriors, but occasional cattle lifters and brigands, often living outside the law and feuding with their neighbours, the Colquhouns. Outlawed by parliament and beset by debt, the MacFarlanes fell on hard times and in 1718 the Stuckgowan lands were sold. Later in the century the remainder of the Macfarlane lands became part of the Colquhoun Estate.
1718 -1799 – The Simes
John Simes, a butcher from Edinburgh, bought the Stuckgowan lands. Little is known of the family but they eventually sold to John McMurrich (possibly together with his brother Malcolm).
1799 – 1879 The McMurrichs
Little is known as to any previous dwellings but John McMurrich (1758 – 1847) came to be known as the creator of Stuckgowan house. The early 19th century saw vast changes. John, a merchant from Glasgow, was clearly the driving force responsible for the graceful property we can enjoy today. Add to that the beautiful gardens, glimpses of which remain even after years of neglect and lodges built with style and we can start to measure the extent of his achievements.
As was the practice at that time, the lands were settled in a form of trust and on his death James McMurrich became the Life Renter and Laird. Not withstanding the sale to the Colquhouns, it seems he continued to live on the Estate until his death.
1879 – 2011 – The Colquhouns
Sir James Colquhoun left instructions in his will to purchase the Stuckgowan Estate if ever it came on the market. That wish was realized in 1879. The Colquhoun lands now ranged all along the side of the loch. The Stuckgowan Estate merged into the Colquhoun lands and, bit-by-bit sales diminished the mix of properties that had been assembled by the McMurrichs.
In turn the house was a home, a small hotel and then, in 2011, the shell of the old Estate House, including the gardens, north lodge and 34 acres of wild highland hillside was sold to the current owners.
With the framework of extended stewardship by these families there is a range of stories that hover between folklore, fable and real history.
“…Here the stranger previous to proceeding on his journey may visit the romantic pleasure grounds of Stuckgoune belonging to Mr McMurrich who has afforded every facility for the lover of nature to enjoy her in her wildest moods”
“Shortly before reaching Tarbet, there is seen a pretty white mansion with woody recesses leading up to the mountains behind, and umbrageous lawns spreading gently downwards to the brink of the lake. This is Stuck Gown — pronounced …stugoon”
1853 Black Adam and Charles
“Not far south of Tarbet a splendid regency cottage, Stuckgowan, is exquisitely situated above the A82. In its architecture it is one of the finest houses in the National Park…..”
2010 Louis Stott’s Blog