The Girnin dug

Do you know the story of the Girnin Dug? Photo courtesy of Lanark Library.

By The Gleaner

Lanark’s Castlegate these days - as in the past - is a busy place, perhaps not as busy as its neighbour the High Street but with a shopkeeper's delight; a high footfall up and down the street. How many pass through this street, especially the end nearest the High street, I do not know but it will no doubt run into a very high number over the span of a month.

I suspect that a few of those passing by may already know of the subject heading of this article and a few may spot it and wonder, but the vast majority no doubt pass by in blissful ignorance of one of Lanark’s curious tales commemorated in the stone form of a small dog sitting high on a house gable.

The statue which sits on the gable of what is now known as No.15 Castlegate is known as Deacon MacDonald’s Dog or more commonly to locals as “The Girnin Dug”.

During the early 1800s John MacDonald, Deacon of the Dyers Trade from 1803 until 1822, applied to the Town Council for permission to build a new house in a gap site next to Vere House. Despite the strong objection by the owner of Vere House Miss Mary Inglis the Council approved of the construction. The Inglis family had lived at Vere House since the early 1700s and had lived in Lanark for at least a hundred years before that date.

Vere House was in 1620 on the site of an earlier house by Lord Willoughby and was later the property of the ancient and powerful family of the Veres of Stonebyres. It was built at the time when all the great families of the district had their town houses in the Castlegate, in Lanark.

The construction at No.15 was carried out and the Deacon was frequently to be seen on site supervising the work always accompanied by his pet dog of which he was extremely fond.

After the building was completed Deacon MacDonald returned from a short visit to find his pet dead. He later discovered that it had been poisoned. He lost no time in blaming his next door neighbour Miss Inglis for the crime. The Deacon however said nothing but instructed one of the local stone masons to make up a likeness of his pet and when it was finished he had it fixed to the gable of his house to stare in perpetual reproach at the gable window of Vere House where Miss Inglis was often to be seen taking her morning tea and watching the world go by.

Observers today might note that the dog seems to growl at mid-air but this can be explained by the later re-construction of No.15 which brought the building forward by approximately six feet and in line with those uphill from it.

Therefore the alignment with the gable window of Vere House was altered. Subsequently Vere House was demolished and the modern retail unit (now home to Lidl) constructed in its place.

Deacon MacDonald died in 1836 and Miss Inglis in 1847 – only the dog remains and he is about 200 years old.