King James in Dumbarton and the Vale
On the 23rd of July 1617 King James the Sixth of Scots and First of the United Kingdom passed through Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven.
In fact, James was no stranger to these parts. In his younger day, prior to the Union of the Crowns, it was his custom to travel westward, from Edinburgh or Stirling, in the month of August. From Dumbarton he would pass on to the island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond, there to indulge his passion for hunting deer.
“From our court at Inchmurrin, where scarcely for hunting either do we sleep or eat.”
(The Master of Gray writing to the Earl of Leicester: 25th August 1585)
What was special about the 1617 visit? It was the one and only time King James visited Scotland as monarch of the United Kingdom. From the Dumbarton Burgh Records we learn that during the visit 13 quarts of wine and a gallon of ale were consumed, presumably by thirsty courtiers and town gentry (James, himself, was a noted imbiber).
We know also that on the day the king’s kinsman, the Duke of Lennox, sent word to his keeper of Inchmurrin with instructions to have ready ample provender for the royal party. Yet again, hunting the deer was the main item on the king’s agenda. The royal cavalcade will have travelled by the eastern bank of the River Leven, passing through the village of Bonhill, with its little kirk, heading on by what we now think of as the Jamestown Road, through the small clachan of Damhead and the salmon fishing community at Dalvait, to Balloch Castle, and then by ferry to Inchmurrin.
Known as the Wisest Fool in Christendom, James was certainly eccentric, but very shrewd and probably the best educated monarch of his day. This extraordinary man founded the United Kingdom, initiated the British Empire and (by no means least) gave the world the King James Authorised translation of the Bible, This version is said to be the most printed book in history.
Did King James have any special connection with this part of the world? Most certainly. He was a descendant of the Earls of Lennox, his grandfather having been born on Dumbarton Rock.