First Home of the Griersons In Scotland
by Ralph Terry
"What was Lag Tower and what does it look like?" "I have a picture of Lag Castle when it was a great and beautiful castle." I have heard several questions and statements such as these, especially while publishing The Greer International Newsletter. These questions and statements come up from time to time, partly because of some misinformation that has been given in several publications over the years. To set the record straight, I will give you the erroneous misinformation first.
A bit of mis-information has been handed down since about 1940 when
Green More Greer of Sikeston, Missouri published a booklet of his family
genealogy and included two pictures. The first picture was identified
as "The Ancestral Home of the Greers - Lag Castle, Dumfrieshire, Scotland."
The second picture used is a picture of "Ruins of Dumstaffnage, on the
Sound of Mull." (See below.) The reproductions
in his book was not very good, but recognizable. These pictures,
and the information about them, has been perpetuated in at least three
writings that I know of: A Greer Family Record by John M. Greer,
about 1942; A Tribute to Thomas Lacy Greer by Eliza M. Wakefield,
1953; and My Greer Lineage by Mary Lee Barnes, 1992.
On our first trip to Scotland in 1992, my wife, Judia and I wanted to see the ancestral home of the Greers. We knew "Lag Castle" was in the Dunscore area of Dumfrieshire, so with a copy of the picture of "Lag Castle" from the publication of Green Moore Greer in hand, we set out to find it. We showed the picture to the local pub keeper at Dunscore and several of his patrons. They all assurred as that no castle of that magnitude was in their area. We were referred to the local historian of Dunscore, John Crockett, a wonderful man and now long-time friend, who lived across the street from the pub. John guided us a couple of miles from Dunscore to "Lag Tower," as it is truly named, which is a small ruin and has been, since it burned in the 18th century. See later in this article for pictures of Lag Tower, now and then. But now to continue with the bogus "Lag Castle."
John Crockett could not give us any information about the castle
pictured by Green More Greer, Sr. and identified by him as Lag Castle,
but we keep a sharp eye out for the rest of our journey for the castle
in the picture identified as "Lag Castle." We did finally locate
it ... turned out to be Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, home of the McCleans.
We are not sure what led Green More Greer to think this was Lag Castle
... he possibly felt Lag Tower was not impressive enough to show the homefolks
or possibly was just mixed up about the castles. Duart Castle is
across the bay from Dumstaffnage, across the sound of Mull, so possibly
he thought there should be some connection between the two. At any
rate, he published the picture as "Lag Castle," and began a cycle of misinformation
that has been difficult to end. The pictures were later used from
Green More Greer's publication by John M. Greer in his book, followed by
Eliza M. Wakefield and then Mary Lee Barnes, and possibly others.
The other picture which Green More Greer used in his publication
is Dumstaffnage, but it is not on Mull, but across the Sound of Mull, on
the main island of Scotland, north of Oban. As it looked in the 1940's,
is much the way it is today. Prince Gregor, from which the McGregor
Clan is said to have sprung, was said to have been born at an early castle
on this same spot. The present castle is said to have been built
on the foundation of the earlier one. So apparently, Green More Greer
confused the castle on Mull with Lag Tower. I cannot help but wonder
if he actually ever went to Lag Tower.
The Real Lag Tower
There have been a number of pictures of and other information about
Lag Tower published in past years. Following are the ones that I
have located while in Scotland. If you have additional information
from authentic sources, I will be glad to include it.
The two following engravings of Lag Tower were published February
6, 1790, by S. Hooper.
Lag Tower - near Dunscore, Scotland
Lag Tower, Dumfriesshire
This keep stands about three miles from Auld Garth Bridge, the road winding round green pasture hills. It is situated on a knoll in the midst of a wilderness of rank vegetation and ruins, adjacent to a farm-steading. The building (Fig. 315) of which the walls remain to a considerable height, measures 29 feet, 9 inches from north to south, by 25 feet 3 inches from east to west. The door is in the middle of the south end, and led directly by a passage through a wall 5 feet 9 inches thick into the basement floor, which
(Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Volume III, 1889, by MacGibbon and Ross, pages 396-397.)
Castellated and Domestic Structures.
136. Lag Tower - This grim, broken little dwelling is situated on a knoll adjoining the farm of Lag, in hummocky ground surrounded by hills 1 1/4 miles north-north-east of Dunscore village. The tower is oblong on plan, measuring externally 29 feet 6 inches from north to south and 25 feet 6 inches from east to west, with walls 5 feet 10 inches thick on ground floor. The entrance, which is in the south wall, opens to the right on a wheel staircase, 3 feet 3 inches wide, leading to the upper floors. The only window on the ground floor is a narow slit in the east wall, widely flauned to the interior; there is no fireplace. There are three storeys above the basement. The first and second floors have fireplaces in the north walls and windows with pointed scoinson arches. The building has not been vaulted. There is a garderobe recess on the first floor at the west end of the north wall, and a lintelled opening at ground level in the north wall communicates with a circular garderobe flue to the second floor. A courtyard wall runs diagonally from the north-west angle for a distance of 38 feet, where it returns southwards 27 feet to an arched gateway 6 feet wide. Against the walls in the courtyard are traces of out-buildings. The tower appears to belong to the 16th century.
The first authenticated Grierson of Lag is Gilbert "Grerson" in the 14th century, whose son, another Gilbert, married in 1412 one of the three heiresses of Sir Duncan of Kirkpatrick, Lord of Thorhorwald. In 1545 "John Greorsoun of the Lag" is one of the sureties for Robert, Master of Maxwell, the Warden. (Visited 23 July 1919.)
(from Inventory of Monuments in Dumfriesshire,
1928, page 55.)
Part of this article was reprinted from The
Greer International Newsletter, compiled by Judia and Ralph Terry,
(MODERN PHOTOS OF LAG TOWER TO BE ADDED)
See other informative websites about Lag Tower at:
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