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Gaelic: Lios MoChuda
Scots: Lismahagie or Lesmahagae
Lesmahagow Church - geograph.org.uk - 689245.jpg
Lesmahagow Old Parish Church
Grid reference: NS8139
Location: 55°38’17"N, 3°53’13"W
Population: 3,685
Post town: Lanark
Postcode: ML11
Dialling code: 01555
Local Government
Council: South Lanarkshire
East Kilbride, Strathaven
and Lesmahagow

Lesmahagow is a small town and parish in Lanarkshire situated seven miles south-west of the county town, Lanark. It is also known as Abbey Green or the Gow. Whereas the town at its heart may be small, the parish extends to some 41,500 acres from the Clyde right up to the Ayrshire border.

The name means "Enclosure (meaning a walled area, like a monastery or fort) of St Machutus". The saint was born in Wales and may originally have been known as "Mahagw" prior to emigrating to Brittany where he became known by the Latinised form of the name and also as "St Malo". It is also possible that the first syllable may mean "garden" rather than "monastery", although Mac an Tailleir (2003) believes the former was altered from the latter in Gaelic.[1][2]

The town has two Church of Scotland congregations, namely Lesmahagow Old Parish Church and Abbeygreen Church. There is also an Evangelical Hall on the main street and the Roman Catholic residents are served by Our Lady and St John's in the neighbouring village of Blackwood three miles away.

Lesmahagow Priory, founded by Benedictine monks in 1144, no longer stands but its foundations were excavated in 1978 and can be seen next to the Old Parish Church off Church Square.

The Highland Games are held annually with Pipe Bands competing in Grades 1 through 4. There are also events for Highland dancing, weight over the bar, tossing the caber and archery.

The Scottish branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness operates from Lesmahagow.

Twin towns

Clydesdale International Twinning Association (CITA) was set up in 1975 to promote the benefits of twinning to all sections of the local community. Lesmahagow falls under the Clydesdale community and consequently became linked to Hemmingen in Lower Saxony, Germany, and Yvetot, in Normandy, France.

Notable residents

  • Alexander Muir, composer of Canadian patriotic song "The Maple Leaf Forever", was born in Lesmahagow in 1830 before emigrating to Canada as a child.[3]
  • Jim Holton, renowned Scottish football centre-half, was born in Lesmahagow in 1951. He died in October, 1993, aged 42, after suffering a heart attack at the wheel of his car.[4]
  • Sir Alexander Kirkland "Alec" Cairncross KCMG FBA FRSE, born in Lesmahagow in 1911. Leading British economist. Professor of Applied Economics at Glasgow University, Economic Adviser to HM Government, Head of Government Economic Service, Master of St Peter's College, Oxford, Chancellor of Glasgow University.
  • John Cairncross born in Lesmahagow in 1913 and brother of Alexander Cairncross. Civil servant, intelligence officer and spy in World War II. In 1951 admitted spying for the Soviet Union. The "fifth man" in the ‘’Cambridge Five’’ (along with Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt). His autobiography, The Enigma Spy, was published in 1997.
  • Rev. Thomas Burns, founder of the Thomas Burns Blind School in Edinburgh, born here.


  1. "Chapter 1 - Derivation of Name.." lesmahagow.com. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  2. Iain Mac an Tailleir. "Placenames" (PDF). Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/vli/language/gaelic/pdfs/placenamesK-O.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  3. Alexander Muir at The Canadian Encyclopedia
  4. Jim Holton at Scottish Football Association website