Margaret McPhee

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A Dark and Brooding Gentleman


Behind the Scenes

Glasgow in Georgian times
Glasgow in Georgian times was a thriving city. With the River Clyde and its harbour, Glasgow was inevitably a city of merchants and trade. Important industries of the time were the importation of sugar and its distillation to produce ‘Glasgow brandy’, curing herrings, and textile manufacture - including fine muslins and linens. But the single key industry that came to underpin Glasgow’s fortunes was tobacco. The merchants behind the importation and subsequent re-exportation, or ‘tobacco lords’ as they became known, built great warehouses and lavish mansion houses, founded banks and sowed the seeds of modern Glasgow, and indeed their influence can still be seen in the city today.

The Trongate within the city was the favourite haunt of rich merchants who would visit the Tontine Coffee House at midday and take their ‘meridian’ which was either whisky or claret, while they read the newspapers newly arrived by coach from London and Edinburgh.

The Tolbooth Gaol

A Dark and Brooding Gentleman Phoebe's father is imprisoned within the Tolbooth Gaol. I chose the Tolbooth in which to hold Sir Henry because in 1810, the time of the story, the building of Glasgow's new prison was still ongoing. There was another Glasgow prison at the time, called the Bridewell, but it was located a little further away in the city, and I really wanted to use the Tolbooth because its tower is still such an iconic structure within Glasgow today. The rest of the gaol and council building have long since disappeared, but the tower was saved and sits on an island in the middle of two roads in Glasgow’s Trongate.

The Old Tolbooth Gaol, Glasgow

The foundation stone for the Tolbooth was laid on the 15 of May 1626 and the building work was completed by the autumn of the following year. In its day it was considered one of the finest buildings in Scotland. However, by the time of Phoebe and Hunter’s story it was struggling to meet the needs of an expanding population and lacked many ‘modern’ amenities that had come to be considered essential. In February 1807 the magistrates and council decreed that a new gaol was to be built upon the Green, and the new prison, court house and council offices were completed in 1814.

The Tolbooth Steeple standing at Glasgow Cross

‘Garnish money’
In a survey of all prisons conducted in 1809 I discovered the gaoler of the Tolbooth, James Gardner, received a salary of 60 pounds a year, which he could supplement by selling porter, ale and beer as well as supplying the prisoners with bread. Each prisoner in the upper story paid five shillings ‘garnish money’ while each of those on the lower floor paid two shillings. This money was added to a general fund to buy coal, candles and other ‘consumables’. In the same book I found all the details that I needed for Sir Henry Allardyce’s cell – complete with its small grated window, stone floor, and lack of a fireplace. He was on the third floor with the other Debtors. There were six cells on this level, each cell measuring only nine feet square.

I based Blackloch Moor largely on Eaglesham moor located south of Glasgow on the coaching road that led from Glasgow towards Kilmarnock, and merged it with a little bit of Rannoch moor, further north, near Glencoe,
just for good measure.
In recent years Whitelees Windfarm has been built upon Eaglesham and Fenwick moors.

With 140 large turbines Whitelees can generate enough electricity is the largest operational windfarm in Europe.

It has a visitor centre with an exhibition hall and tearoom, and trails for walking, running, cycling and horse riding (just as Hunter did) across the moors.

Dark and brooding

The moor is very atmospheric and its moods change with the weather as you can see in my photographs. It was very easy to imagine Blackloch Hall and its loch, with the devastatingly handsome Hunter looking broodingly out over his moor.

The Changing Seasons on Eaglesham Moor with Windfarm

Looking down towards the Firth of Clyde and the Island of Arran faint on the horizon

Above: A view of Rannoch Moor, which inspired, in part, Blackloch Moor in the story.

Far right-hand-side top photo:
A view along the Trongate towards Argyle Street.

Far right-hand-side bottom photo: The New Bridge, which Phoebe crosses, is in the foreground of the photograph. The railway bridge is immediately behind.

Near right-hand-side diagram: A map of Glasgow in 1810 showing key features from A Dark and Brooding Gentleman.

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