Welcome to Lesmahaglow

Daily Record (Glasgow)/February 21, 1999

BEMUSED residents of a sleepy Scots village woke yesterday to find that a religious sect has been painting their houses turquoise.

Lesmahagow has witnessed the spectacle of Hare Krishna monks up ladders, paintbrushes in hand, transforming several sandstone cottages.

Now locals fear a turquoise invasion as more devotees come to settle in the village.

When the sect lived near their temple on the outskirts of Lesmahagow, the villagers were happy to tolerate their unusual neighbours with their sandals and short hair.

But in recent weeks, the Krishnan community has been buying properties in the village - and locals fear more cottages will be snapped up and painted in garish colours.

Arthur Provan lives just two doors from a house that underwent a turquoise transformation yesterday. He said: "This is ridiculous and is bringing the place down.

"I have been spending my money on making my house just how I want it for my retirement and they have been sending people round to try and buy it from me.

"I think they're painting the houses to try and get everybody out. They want us out of the village altogether."

Mr. Provan has complained to the police about the harassment he says he faces from Krishnans who come round looking for the temple at night.

The Krishnan devotees first moved into Lesmahagow 13 years ago and established a small community with only half-a-dozen monks. Now they have bought at least five houses and are building a large complex on the edge of the village.

The Krishnans call their temple Karuna Bhauan or "place of the merciful Lord", and seem to be establishing a firm foothold in the area.

Behind the temple they are building an ornamental garden with an ornate elephant head as its centrepiece. There is also a row of industrial-size greenhouses where the monks grow a sacred plant they use in some of their ceremonies.

Helen Russell lives opposite one of the newly-painted houses and says the Krishnans have now gone too far.

She told the Record: "People do not expect to have the house next door painted turquoise.

"The stone houses are built from round here is a lovely colour, so there is no need for it.

"They say it is the colour of the sky - but it isn't normally that colour above Lesmahagow."

Tom Affleck is the local who lives closest to the Krishnan temple. He says the monks have been good neighbours ... until now.

Mr. Affleck said: "When they first came here there was a bit of a protest but they have never bothered us. "They sometimes go out and ring wee bells and shout but we have never been that bothered by that. "But now they have started buying up the houses in the village. They have about five or six of them and that does seem a bit strange

"Somebody said to me there was a group going to be coming up from the Midlands.

"I would hate to see the whole place turn this green colour. What is worrying folk is that they may come in and buy up 20 houses and paint them all green."

Councillor Robert McMillan has received several complaints from locals about the newly-painted houses. He said he understood the residents' fears and would would look into the planning implications.

A spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire Council said the planning department was investigating whether the Krishnans had broken any planning regulations by painting the houses.

They will also be investigating claims that the religious group do not have planning permission for the temple and that it is registered simply as a residence.

A monk at the temple, who said his name was Graham, claimed the houses that are being painted have been bought by individuals who can do what they want with them.

He said there was no plan to take over the village and the Krishnans just wanted to live in peace.

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