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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Footpath saga nearing conclusion?

Proposed Path 2003

Since 2003 I have written many short descriptions of a footpath along the first 2 ½ miles of the disused Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright railway in support of funding applications. I hope this will be the last. When first discussed with my brothers Ian and Kenneth, our idea was to create an ‘all abilities’ path which could be used by families with children in pushchairs, young people and adults with wheelchairs or mobility scooters and people with limited mobility.

Fifteen years on and that initial vision is almost within sight.

Part funding to remove the last 3 (ideally 4) remaining obstacles to access for all abilities along the path has been secured from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership. The remaining funding can potentially be secured as part of a Dumfries and Galloway Council funding application to Scottish Natural Heritage and from a local charity.

But… to achieve this I need to ask community groups representing families with children in pushchairs and people with limited mobility to write to the Council’s Countryside Development Officer in support of the proposal. The letters can then be used to support the Council’s funding bid, demonstrating that there is community support for  making the path fully accessible and that it will be used by families with children in pushchairs and people with limited mobility.

From past experience, I know that ‘community support’ is judged not by the number of individual members of the community who support a proposal but by the number of community groups and organisations who do so.

My plan is to convert the next part of this post into a PDF when then can be attached to e-mails to relevant community groups and organisations so the e-mails can be kept shorter.

For the long version of this saga see http://greengalloway.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/the-railway-footpath-very-lengthy-saga.html

Maximising  Access to the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Castle Douglas Area. 680 words

1.Background 2003-2018

1.1 In 2003, the Castle Douglas Community Initiative adopted a proposal to use a 1 ½ mile long section of disused railway to provide a traffic-free route to Threave Castle (managed by HES) and NTS Threave estate nature reserve from Castle Douglas.
Public consultation demonstrated wide spread support from 350 individual members of the community as well as community groups and organisations.

1.2 The 2003 plan was to create an ‘Access for All’ route, suitable for families with young children and people with limited mobility, including wheelchair users. Dumfries and Galloway Council Access Officer Gilbert Clark produced an estimated cost for the works of £100 000 to be spread over two years. This was an ambitious target for the Community Initiative to raise since the funding required for previous projects had not exceeded £5000. However, by 28  November 2005, funding of £34 860  had been secured.

1.3 In 2006, Scottish Water began work on a pipeline along part of the proposed route of the path. By taking advantage of the pipeline works, the funding which had been secured was used to create a basic path from Blackpark Road on the edge of Castle Douglas to an existing footpath on NTS Threave Estate. This section was opened in August 2006.

1.4 In 2012 the full route of the 2003 proposal became part of Dumfries and Galloway’s Core Path network as Core Path 155.
In 2013 a fully accessible section of path was constructed between Abercromby Road and Blackpark Road.

1.5 Following flood damage in 2015, in 2016 a section of the 2006 route was restored and upgraded between the Carlingwark Lane canal and the NTS Threave Estate path network. This included replacing a footbridge which had been swept away in the flood. The new bridge was constructed at a higher level to prevent future flood damage.

2.Obstacles to full access to be overcome -April 2018

2.1 At Blackpark Road a metal swing gate is an obstacle for pushchairs, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and bicycles. This gate must be replaced with a two-way self-closing gate. All the other gates on CP155 are of this design.

2.2 Between Blackpark Road and the Carlingwark Lane canal there is a 250m section of  the path which is unsurfaced. It is uneven and very muddy when wet. This section is an obstacle for pushchairs, mobility scooters, wheelchairs and less able walkers. It must be surfaced.

2.3  The tarred access road to Kelton Mains for Threave Castle and Estate cross CP 155 on a bridge. Steps and an unsurfaced path connect CP155 with the access road. These must be replaced with appropriate ramped access and surfaced path.

3. Funding for removing obstacles

3.1 The Castle Douglas Development Forum have secured funding from Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership for up to 40% of the cost of footpath projects in the Castle Douglas area. Removing the obstacles to full access along CP 155 is one of the projects included.

3.2 Dumfries and Galloway Council will be submitting a bid in May to Scottish Natural Heritage’s Improving Public Access fund. If sufficient support can be demonstrated, removing obstacles 2.1 and 2.2 above on CP 155 could be part of the funding bid. Restoring path surfaces and other maintenance works would also be included.

3.3 Replacing the steps at Kelton Mains bridge with a ramp and surfaced path would be funded from the Galloway Glens contribution and/or another local funding source which has recently been identified.

4. Alternative route at Blackpark Road bridge.

4.1 The 2003 proposal avoided having to ascend and descend the (filled in) Blackpark Road bridge by skirting the edge of  the Castle Douglas Golf Course Extension.

4.2 The golf course extension is on the former Castle Douglas Burgh refuse tip. The extension has not been used due to concerns over contamination.

4.3 A 140m section of new path could be constructed to avoid the filled in bridge and the contaminated area formerly used as a rubbish tip. See plan below, based on 1964 OS map.

This is the letter I will be sending to community groups and organisations.

Unfortunately,  letters/ e-mails from individuals do not carry the same weight as support from community groups and organisations, but if  you would like to see the path improved, especially if you can’t use it easily at present, please let Karen Morley know.

Dear ……

Since 2003 I have been involved in a project to create a fully accessible path from Castle Douglas to NTS Threave Estate and Threave Castle. Unfortunately, due to funding constraints, when the path was first made in 2006 it was only suitable for able bodied walkers.

In 2013 and 2016 sections of what is now Core Path 155 were upgraded to a higher standard but some short sections remain  as obstacles for people with limited mobility and families with children in pushchairs.

Castle Douglas Development Forum have been awarded part funding to overcome the obstacles from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership. Further funding is potentially available from the Improving Public Access fund. This would be secured via Dumfries and Galloway Council.

However, Karen Morley of Dumfries and Galloway Council needs to  show that there is support for the funding bid from people with limited mobility and families with young children who would use the path if it was accessible, especially from groups representing the needs of  members of the community who cannot use the path at present.

I therefore hope that you can write to

Karen Morley
Countryside Development Officer
Militia House
English Street

Or e-mail her at karen.morley@dumgal.gov.uk

in support of the  footpath funding  bid so she can include your letter of support in the Improving Public Access funding application.

Yours sincerely etc

For background and details  please see  attachment  (which will be based on this blog post)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Gaelic harp players Galloway and Gigha

Keith Sanger 'Mapping the Clarsach' 2017

This post is part of the research I am doing for the Gaelic Galloway conference in September. [Tickets still available from https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/488900 ]

I will be discussing the transition from Gaelic to Scots. Although there are  claims that there were still some Gaelic speakers in Galloway and Carrick (south Ayrshire) into the eighteenth, nineteenth or even twentieth centuries, Scots was well established in the region by the end of the sixteenth century.
See http://greengalloway.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/gaelic-women-and-reformation-in-galloway.html

However, I have found that there was a high status family of clarsach /Gaelic harp players on record as having a Galloway connection between 1471 and 1513. This was the McBratney - MacBhreatnaich family. There are still McBratneys living in Whithorn in Galloway [Thanks to Stephen Norris for this information].

I had assumed that by the early sixteenth century Gaelic would have been the language of the  more remote countryside and Scots the language of the towns (burghs) of Kirkcudbright, Wigtown and Whithorn. I now know that the Priory of Whithorn had a clarsach player circa 1500 and that he was probably a member of the MacBhreatnaich family who had played for king James IV.

On 13 May 1503 ‘Makberty the clarsacha’  was paid 5 crowns by James IV treasurer ‘to pass in the Illis’ -that is to visit the Western Isles. [Treasurer’s Accounts of Scotland vol ii, page 369. Other volumes are online but not this one so I haven’t been able to check the reference given by John Bannerman in Kinship, Church and Community, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2016, p.310]

As John Bannerman speculated -see second page below- Lachlan MacBhreatnaich’s visit to the Western Isles in 1503 is likely to have included a visit to his relatives on the isle of Gigha.

What Bannerman does not mention is that the Priory of Whithorn had lands in south Kintyre, providing another connection between Galloway and Gaelic Scotland. Graeme Baird ( discussed below) has suggested the MacBhreatnaich family may have arrived in Gigha from Galloway via the Whithorn lands. From  http://www.kintyremag.co.uk/1999/28/page6.html

Lachlan MacBhreithnaich may also known and  visited a family of Kintyre harpers, the McShannons. They lived on lands adjacent to the Whithorn lands in Kintyre and derived their name locally from the church dedicated to St Sennan at Kilmashenochan. Kilmashenochan was one of the Kintyre lands owned by Whithorn.
From http://www.ralstongenealogy.com/number28kintmag.htm

An earlier family of harpers with a Galloway/ Carrick connection were the McWhirters (originally MacChruiter, from Gaelic cruit, a harp). They can be traced from 1261 when they rented land in Irongray parish in the Stewartry to 1346 when Patrick, son of Michael ‘harper’ of Carrick was granted land in Ayrshire by David II and then to 1385 when the land was sold for 12 cows with their calves. [Keith Sanger ‘Mapping the Clarsach’, 2017
www.wirestrungharp.com/harps/harpers/mapping-the-clarsach.pdf ]

Altogether, the clarsach connected Galloway with the Gaelic world until 9 September 1513 when John Bannerman suggested that Lachlan MacBhreitnaich died along with king James IV and many others.

Although Lachlan vanishes from the historic record after 1513, other members of the MacBreitnach family or the McBratney family do not. A John McBratney was a burgess of Whithorn in 1532 and there were at least seven McBratneys in Wigtownshire in 1684. However, none of the later McBratneys are described as clarsach players. It seems likely that Lachlan MacBhreitnaich died before he could train up his successor in the skills of clarsach playing nor pass on his knowledge of Gaelic.

There would still have been Gaelic speakers in Galloway after 1513, but none had the same high status as the MacBreitnaich clarsach players nor would they have had the same cultural connections to the wider Gaelic world.

McBratney - MacBhreatnaich : Gaelic harp players in Galloway and Gigha.

From place names and personal names we know that Gaelic was the language of Galloway for several hundred years. What we don’t know is very much about the Gaelic culture and society of Galloway. A very important feature of Gaelic society and culture were the ‘learned orders’.
The learned orders provided the professional skills for the rest of their society in the fields of literature, law, music, medicine and some of the specialist crafts such as armourer. They were drawn from hereditary families who were given special status and privilege within Gaelic society. The orders placed great emphasis upon oral transmission and memorisation. ['Calvinism and the Gaidhealtachd in Scotland' in Calvinism in Europe 1540-1620 , Cambridge, 1996]

Looking for any evidence of the Gaelic learned orders in Galloway I found a musical connection in a book Kinship, Church and Community by John Bannerman (Edinburgh, 2016). In a chapter on the clarsach or Gaelic harp, Bannerman revealed a link between the MacBhreatnaich family of traditional Gaelic harpists and Galloway.

Bannerman’s evidence comes from two sources: the Exchequer Rolls and the Treasurer’s Accounts which cover the income and expenditure of the Scottish Crown. The entries are usually short, but by cross-referencing the two sources, John Bannerman was able connect payments made by King James IV to clarsach player Martin MacBhreatnaich, his son John and his grandson Lachlan (aka Roland)  between 1491 and 1513 to a gift of the rental income from the farms of Clutag and Knockan in Kirkinner parish, Wigtownshire. This was first made to Martin by King James III in 1471 and continued until 1513.

It is likely that the MacBhreatnaich family were also employed by the Priory of Whithorn and were related to the MacBhreatnaichs of Gigha who were traditional Gaelic clarsach players.

In Historic Whithorn [Historic Scotland, 2010, p. 34] the same Treasurer’s Accounts used by Bannerman are quoted from, revealing that King James IV made payments to the Prior of Whithorn’s lute and clarsach player in 1503 and 1506/7. These payments were made during the king’s pilgrimages to Whithorn, which he made every year.

The Prior’s clarsach player is not named, but it was probably the Lachlan/ Roland MacBhreatnaich discussed by Bannerman. If Bannerman is correct and Lachlan’s grandfather’s forename was Gille Màrtainn (devotee of St Martin)  this could provide an earlier link to the Priory at Whithorn with its ancient dedication to St Martin of Tours.

Significantly Whithorn had lands in south Kintyre. Writing about the Galbraith Poet-Harpers of Gigha for the Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society in 1995, Graeme Baird suggested that the Galbraiths (the Scots form of MacBhreatnaich) of Gigha may have arrived there via the Whithorn lands in Kintyre.

It has been suggested that the Macbhreatnaighs were originally Galbraith clansmen from the Lennox, settled on Gigha by virtue of the friendship between the Earl of Lennox and Alan MacLean (Ailein nan Sop), the infamous brigand, whose depredations caused havoc on Gigha and resulted in his securing the island for himself at the expense of the incumbent MacNeills. However, it was not until c. 1530 that Alan turned his predatory attentions towards Gigha and, as we have seen, it is more than likely that the MacBhreatnaigh family were already well established on the island prior to that date.
While it would, perhaps, be unwise to completely rule out a Lennox origin, we cannot afford to ignore the presence of a contemporary family, similarly styled and following the same profession, appanaged in the predominantly Gaelic shire of Wigtown. In 1471 Martin McBirtny, chiteriste ('harper') received a royal grant of the fermes of Clontag and Knokane for his services.  These he continued to hold until 1479. The ferme of Knokan was subsequently held by John McBretny, then Roland (Lachlan). The Priory of Whithorn in Galloway held extensive lands in South Kintyre, the intercommunication thus generated might serve to explain the appearance of members of this MacBretny family in a new locale. This explanation may not satisfactorily meet the evidence, but, nevertheless, it does seem likely that these Galwegian harpers to the crown were the parent stock of the Gigha family. 
From  http://www.kintyremag.co.uk/1999/28/page6.html

The Galbraith connection seems to come from Gilchrist Bretnach who married into the family of Alwin or Ailin earl of Lennox (Loch Lomond area). He had two sons, Gillespic Galbrait and Rodarcus Galbrait. They witnessed charters between 1190 and 1200 and Gillespic Galbrait is seen as the founder of the Galbraith family.

The People of Medieval Scotland 1093-1314 [PoMS] database includes a Gilchrist Bretnach as a witness to a Melrose Abbey charter. It is from 1193 and concerns a gift of land in Carrick (Ayrshire) to the abbey. Aed, son of Alwine, earl of Lennox is one of the other witnesses. Duncan, son of Gilbert, son of Fergus of Galloway, was the granter. http://db.poms.ac.uk/record/person/5713/#

The PoMS database includes another, earlier Bretnach. This was Gillecuthbert Bretnach. Some time between 1136 and 1185 he witnessed a charter by Ralph son of Dungal of Nithsdale granting land in Dumfries to St Peter’s Church in York.

The two Bretnach references are not very much to go on, but could indicate Galloway origins for the McBratney - MacBhreatnaich family. An early Galloway origin for the MacBhreatnaich family strengthens Graeme Baird’s suggestion that the Gigha branch came from Galloway rather than the Loch Lomond area.

Keith Sanger has extended the Gigha connection back to the 1440s  and a clarsach player called Giolla Criost Brúilingeach.

Giolla Criost Brúilingeach appears from a completely Gaelic source. Two poems by him addressed to an Irish patron are included in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. In the first poem addressed to Tomaltach Mac Diarmada of Moylurg in Connacht [died 1458], he includes a request for a Cláirseach as payment, while the second poem indicates he received one. The ‘poet’ is described by the writer of the manuscript as ‘Bard in Leymm’ and from that it has been argued that he came from a hereditary family of harpers named Mac an Bhreatnaich (or Galbraith), who were associated with Leim in the island of Gigha which lies just to the west of North Kintyre.
From Mapping the Clarsach in Scotland, 2017

The Book of the Dean of Lismore is a collection of Gaelic poems and songs complied in Perthshire between 1480 and 1551. It includes an unflattering poem about Lachlan MacBhreatnaich- but it is uncertain if this is the Wigtownshire one or a namesake from Gigha.

Although  the Wigtownshire  Lachlan/ Roland MacBhreatnaich probably died at the battle of Flodden in 1513, he was survived by other family members. The Wigtownshire Charters (Edinburgh, 1960, page 210, entry 252) show that John McBretny was a burgess of Whithorn in 1532.

In 1684 the Parish Lists of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff  (Edinburgh, 1916) show 7 McBratneys living in Glasserton, Kirkinner, Minnigaff, Mochrum, Portpatrick and Wigtown parishes.


The McBratney-MacBhreatnaich family provide a musical connection between Galloway, Gaelic Scotland and, possibly, Ireland. The overlapping of the family link with Gigha and the landholdings of Whithorn priory in south Kintyre is fascinating and leads on to further possible connections. For example another family of Kintyre harpers, the McShannons, lived on lands adjacent to the Whithorn lands in Kintyre and derived their name locally from the church dedicated to St Sennan at Kilmashenochan. Kilmashenochan was one of the Kintyre lands owned by Whithorn. [From article by Keith Sanger in The Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society magazine, number 28, 1990 http://www.ralstongenealogy.com/number28kintmag.htm ]

Another family of harpers, the McWhirters (originally MacChruiter, from Gaelic cruit, a harp) can be traced from 1261 when they rented land in Irongray parish in the Stewartry to 1346 when Patrick, son of Michael ‘harper’ of Carrick was granted land in Ayrshire by David II and then to 1385 when the land was sold for 12 cows with their calves. [Keith Sanger ‘Mapping the Clarsach’, 2017
www.wirestrungharp.com/harps/harpers/mapping-the-clarsach.pdf ]

The existence of the McWhirter-MacChruiter family of harpers in Galloway in the thirteenth century strengthens the possibility that the  McBratney-MacBhreatnaich family of harpers could have been associated with the Priory of Whithorn before 1471. Finally, if Gillecuthbert Bretnach can be claimed as an ancestor from 850 years ago, the today’s McBratney family may well be one of the oldest in Galloway.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Gaelic, Women and the Reformation in Galloway

Is there a danger that relying on historical sources written in Scots and English by men of property and status leads to the passing over in silence of Galloway’s Gaelic voices and in particular of women who were Gaelic speakers?

This is a very important point. If Gaelic had become the language of the remoter countryside, mainly spoken by women, would it have been noticed by Scots speaking men of property? If there was a bilingual aspect, a Scots/ Gaelic diglossia, the country people/ women would have spoken Scots to their social superiors but Gaelic among themselves.

How long could this situation have lasted? As I suggest below, probably until the Reformation, that is the 1560s. Even then, the difficulty of extending the reformers work into the more remote districts led to the creation of new parishes - New Luce and Carsphairn- in the 1640s.

What I have done in this post is go through a range of local sources looking at the language used and for references to women and another group often missing from the historical record, the cottars. Unfortunately, most of the accessible sources are from the seventeenth century, but I did find evidence from pre-Reformation church records for Gaelic being spoken in the Rhinns of Galloway in 1487.

Nearly two hundred years later, Andrew Symson compiled his ’Large Description of Galloway’ in 1684. It is  the most detailed description of Galloway until the Statistical Accounts of the 1790s, but makes no reference to ’Irish’ (Gaelic) being spoken or having been recently spoken in Galloway.

In the Scottish Highlands and Islands, where Gaelic was still the language of the majority, the reformers took special measures to get the word of god across. They employed Gaelic speakers and translations of religious texts to do so. The first book printed in Scottish Gaelic was a Protestant text in 1567- Foirm na n-Urrnuidheadh, see

These efforts by the reformers in Gaelic speaking Scotland are well documented. However, none of the sources used by Jane Dawson in her chapter 'Calvinism and the Gaidhealtachd in Scotland'  in ‘Calvinism in Europe 1540-1620’ (Cambridge, 1996) mention Galloway as district where the survival of Gaelic was an obstacle to the work of reformation and she  makes no reference to the region.

Dawson does discuss a significant social group she calls ‘the Gaelic learned orders’.

The Gaelic learned orders, with their carefully graded hierarchies, provided the professional skills for the rest of their society in the fields of literature, law, music, medicine and some of the specialist crafts such as armourer. They were drawn from hereditary families who were given special status and privilege within Gaelic society. The orders placed great emphasis upon oral transmission and memorisation.   

I have found research by John Bannerman which connects a Gaelic harper Martinus MacBhreatnaich who played for kings James III and IV to Kirkinner parish in Galloway. Bannerman found three generations of the family who were harpers, with the last, Roland aka Lachlann MacBhreatnaich, probably being killed at the battle of Flodden in 1513. As McBraitneys there were still 8 members of the family in Wigtownshire in 1684.

Exchequer Rolls 1471

Unfortunately it is not known if the MacBhreatnaich family were native to Galloway. The 1471 entry in the Exchequer Rolls -see above-  is the first time the family appear in a Galloway context. If they had an earlier connection with Galloway, they would have provided a link between Galloway and the Gaelic learned orders of Ireland and Gaelic Scotland. Bannerman notes that Lachlann MacBhreatnaich visited the Western Isles in 1503.

The importance of the Gaelic connections across the North Channel is discussed in a paper by Martin MacGregor. However, although the route from Kintyre to Antrim features in MacGrgeor’s paper as part of a ’cultural connection which stretched serenely from Kerry to Cape Wrath for 500 years’, links to Galloway are absent.

Aonghas MacCoinnich ‘Where and how was Gaelic written?’ includes this map based on Ronald Black’s work which shows the areas where classical written Gaelic was used. Carrick (south Ayrshire) is shown as an area where ‘ordinary’ Gaelic survived into the sixteenth century but not Galloway.
From http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/4940/1/MacCoinnich4940.pdf

Women were not part of the Gaelic learned orders, but poems and songs were composed in Gaelic by women. Some of the poems were written down and many of the songs became part of Gaelic oral tradition, surviving to the present as a living part of Gaelic culture.  If Gaelic had survived into the eighteenth century in Galloway, the region’s romantic antiquarians would have collected such songs. See

What we have are records which provide a information on Galloway’s property owning men and a few women for the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These start to include women and non-property owning men in the seventeenth century. The records are in Latin, Scots and English but by the time the voices of Galloway’s ’common people’ are heard, they are speaking Scots.

 The ‘Wigtownshire Charters’ (Edinburgh, 1960) edited by Robert Reid contains 358 documents from between 1408 and 1560. Most were originally written in Latin, but there are several in Scots. They are a record of the affairs of men of status- as landowners or as leading figures in the pre-Reformation church. The only women in these documents are  their wives and daughters and occasionally widows who were land owners.

The Wigtown Burgh Court Book 1513-1536 has survived, but again has very few references to women in it. In 2004 Dr Joanna Kopaczyk (formerly Bugaj) of Glasgow University published an analysis of the language used in the Wigtown Burgh Court Book 1512-1536. In her book ’Middle Scots inflectional system in the south-west of Scotland’ Dr Kopaczyk noted that the Wigtown Burgh Court Book

has no passages written in Gaelic or translated into or from Gaelic. There is no mention of interpreters needed for trials or for documents, therefore one may infer that Scots was a well-established means of communication, at least at the administrative level of the burgh…Gaelic could have been used mostly in the speech of the rural population, while Scots was employed in writing and probably also in oral communication among members of the higher social classes. There could have been a degree of bilingualism at the higher levels of social stratification. [pages 79-80]

 In her conclusion, Dr Kopacyzk states

As for the morphology of the south-western dialect, it cannot be said to exhibit Gaelic influence. All the morphological markers which construct the core of  Middle Scots grammar are also present in the variety used in the Wigtown Court Book… The inflectional process of the Northern Present Tense Rule, typical of dialects of Scots and northern Middle English dialects is applied to verbs in the records as well. Therefore the status of a Middle Scots dialect for the south-western variety should not be questioned. [page 172]

In 1438, the findings of an inquest [‘Wigtownshire Charters’, 1960, page 23, no. 7] held by the prior of Whithorn into the ownership of a croft and flock of geese were written in Scots, supporting Dr Kopacyzk’s suggestion that Scots was ‘a well established means of communication’ in the Wigtownshire Machars by 1512.

The records of Kirkcudbright burgh only survive from 1575. They are also written in Scots. It is likely that as with Wigtown and Whithorn, Scots was well established there by that time. Stranraer did not become a burgh until 1595.

Moving on to the seventeenth century there are a wider range of local sources. These are;

Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1623-1674 (Edinburgh, 1939)
Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1675-1700 (Edinburgh, 1950)
Minute Book of the War-Committee of the Covenanters in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright 1640-41 (Kirkcudbright, 1855)
Register of the Synod of Galloway from October 1664 to April 1671 (Kirkcudbright, 1856)
Large Description of Galloway by Andrew Symson (Edinburgh 1824)

The Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds provide the most comprehensive record of everyday life in seventeenth century Galloway. Ordinary women are represented in the Deeds, as this example shows.

Entry 2842 Assignation by Anna Campbell, late servatrix to John Johnston, merchant in Drumfries, narrating that she is owing him a certain sum, therefore assigns to him £5 owing to her by James Morrison, tenant in Grange, as her harvest fee for the last harvest and 4 shillings, the price of ‘ane heuk’ (sickle) promised her by the said James at the said time, which sums are equivalent to her debt. At Drumfries 10 August 1697; witnesses Edward Newell shoemaker there, and William Gordon, writer there. 

Another group of people missing from the historical record are the cottars, even though about 1/3 of the population of Scotland’s rural lowlands were cottars. However, several of the farm tacks (leases) in the Kirkcudbright Deeds give us the names of the cottars on the farms. From these it can be seen that some of the cottars were women.

It was from the ranks of poor, cottar, women that Galloway’s witches were drawn. With Scots as the language of Reformed Christianity and Gaelic in decline, an old cottar women muttering to herself on Gaelic might have become associated with witchcraft. However, Gaelic does not feature in the accounts and trials of Galloway’s seventeenth century witches. An eighteenth century  witch called Lucky Grier who lived at Hannaston in Kells is alleged to have cursed in Gaelic, but this detail is not found in the earliest account of her activities (Robert Trotter, Lowran Castle, Dumfries 1822, p. 144). The Gaelic cursing episode first features in the version of the  Lucky Grier story in Alan Temperley’s  Tales of Galloway (1979).

The Minute Book of the 1640-41 War Committee it is not very useful, but it does show that even the ‘yeoman- farmers’, that is owner-occupier farmers who were the key supporters of the revolutionary Covenanters were Scots speakers. There are no Gaelic words in the glossary provided by editor and publisher John Nicholson. Could any of them, or their wives, have been Gaelic speakers as well? Possibly.

The ‘Register of the Synod of Galloway 1664-1671’ was also published by Nicholson. Andrew Symson, minister of Kirkinner parish was the secretary and the language of the Register is English not Scots. Symson along with his fellow ministers was an Episcopalian brought in to replace the Presbyterian ministers dismissed from their parishes in 1663. Many of the former ministers remained in Galloway, preaching at conventicles, carrying out baptisms and marriages and holding communion services- as the Register reveals. The Register includes lists of named Roman Catholics [Register pages 65 and 93] and one Quaker, a woman called Hutcheson who lived in Portpatrick parish [Register page 94]. A male ‘charmer‘ (enchanter) who lived in Penningham parish is also named.

Altogether, Symson spent twenty years as minister of Kirkinner parish. His work for the Synod of Galloway required him to travel within the region as well, for example visiting New Galloway in May 1668. [Register, pages 108-110 and 120] As a result, Symson’s ‘Large Description of Galloway’, which he began compiling in 1682, is a comprehensive account of the region.

Symson does make any reference to Gaelic (or Irish as he called it) being spoken in any of the parishes of Galloway, nor of Gaelic formerly being spoken in any of the parishes. However, the following four excerpts from his ‘Large Description of Galloway’ do contain references to Gaelic words, the Irish language and peculiarities of the local Scots dialect.

This first excerpt mentions ‘connach’ the name of a cattle disease which is originally from Gaelic. The Dictionary of the Scots Language gives its etymology as Old Scots connawche, murrain, c.1420; connoche, connogh, some kind of disease, a.1585 (D.O.S.T.); obsolete Gaelic conach, murrain in cattle (Maeleod and Dewar).  If connoch had been part of Scots since 1420, its local use may have come via Scots rather than directly from Gaelic.

In this parish of Bootle, about a mile from the kirk, towards the north, is a well, called the Rumbling Well, frequented by a multitude of sick people…There is also another well, about a quarter of a mile distant from the former, towards the east. This well is made use of by the countrey people, when their cattell are troubled with a disease, called by them the Connoch. This water they carry in vessells to many parts, and wash their beasts with it, and give it them to drink. It is too rememb’red, that at both the wells they leave behind them something by way of a thank-offering. At the first, they leave either money or cloathes; at the second, they leave the bands and shacles wherewith beasts are usually bound. [Large Description page 16] 

Excerpt two follows on from a lengthy section about the Reverend Patrick Makelwian, minister of Lesbury in Northumberland who claimed in 1657 to have been born at Whithorn in 1546. This excerpt is significant since it shows that Symson had to get expert advice on the Irish (Gaelic) language from ‘an ingenuous man’ to reconstruct the ‘true orthography’ of common Galloway surnames which had become garbled after Scots had replaced Gaelic in Galloway.

There is one of his relations for the present serving the Laird of Barnbarroch, in the parish of Kirkinner. The name they are call’d by in Galloway is Micklewayen, which, according to the true Irish orthographie, should be Macgillwian; for surnames that, in Galloway, begin with, or are commonly pronounced, Mal, or Makel, or Mackle, or Mickle, (all which severall ways they are oftimes both written and pronounced,) should, as I am informed by an ingenuous man that exactly understands the Irish language, be writen Mac-gill, as Mac-gill mein, M'Gill-roy, M'Gill-raith, names frequent in Galloway, and commonly pronounced Malmein, Malroy, or Mickleroy, or Mickleraith, &c. [Large Description page 49]

The third excerpt shows that a Gaelic word ‘leana’ , meaning a marshy meadow had survived in Galloway’s Scots dialect as ‘lene’. However, it was in the process of becoming ‘lane’, a Galloway dialect word for a (usually) slow flowing stream. Altogether there are about 80 water courses in Galloway called ‘lanes’.

the true osmunda regalis, or filia florida, many horse-loads whereof are growing in the Caumfoord, neer the Loch of Longcastle, in this parish of Kirkinner; this plant the countrey people call the lane-onion, or, as they pronounce it, the lene onion; the word lene, in their dialect, importing a soft, grassie meadow ground; they call this plant also by the name of stifling-grasse, and they make much use of it for the consolidating of broken bones or straines, ether in man or beast, by steeping the root thereof in water, till it become like to glue-water or size, wherewith they wash the place affected with very good success. [Large Description page 78]

The final excerpt shows how closely Symson was listening to how the ordinary- the ‘country’ - people of Galloway spoke.

Some of the countrey people, especialy those of the elder sort, do very often omit the letter h after t, as ting for thing; tree for three; tacht for thatch ; wit for with ; fait for faith; mout for mouth. So also, quite contrary to some north countrey people, (who pronounce v for w, as voe for woe ; volves for wolves,) they oftentimes pronounce w for v, as serwant for servant; wery for very : and so they call the months of February, March, and April, the ware quarter, w for v, from ver. [ver = Scots for spring see
http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/vere_n_1 ]  Hence their common proverb, speaking of the stormes in February, Winter never comes till ware comes ; and this is almost to the same purpose with the English saying, When the days beginne to lengthen, the cold beginnes to strengthen. [Large Description pages 98-99]

Symson’s failure to report the persistence of Gaelic in Galloway or its recent demise does not on its own mean that Gaelic had not survived into the seventeenth century. Bilingual diglossia may have masked the presence of Gaelic.
In the classic diglossic situation, two varieties of a language, such as standard French and Haitian creole French, exist alongside each other in a single society. Each variety has its own fixed functions—one a 'high,' prestigious variety, and one a 'low,' or colloquial, one. Using the wrong variety in the wrong situation would be socially inappropriate, almost on the level of delivering the BBC's nightly news in broad Scots.
Children learn the low variety as a native language; in diglossic cultures, it is the language of home, the family, the streets and marketplaces, friendship, and solidarity. By contrast, the high variety is spoken by few or none as a first language. It must be taught in school. The high variety is used for public speaking, formal lectures and higher education, television broadcasts, sermons, liturgies, and writing. Often the low variety has no written form. [Robert Lane Greene, You Are What You Speak. Delacorte, 2011, quoted here https://www.thoughtco.com/diglossia-language-varieties-1690392 

Diglossia is present in Galloway today. Many children learn to speak Scots at home and then learn to read, write and speak Standard Scots English at school. Outside of the classroom or similar formal situations in later life, they still speak Scots.

We can see the beginnings of this diglossia in the seventeenth century where university educated Andrew Symson writes in Standard Scots English while the language of the War Committee Minute Book and of the Kirkcudbright Deeds is the Scots spoken by the Covenanting farmers and the rest of Galloway’s people.

Going further back there is a complication. In medieval Galloway, Latin was the high status language of the Church and of legal documents. Most people would have spoken Gaelic and a few would have spoken Scots as well. Legal texts written in Scots rather than Latin appear from 1380 onwards but Latin remained the language of the church until the Reformation 180 years later.

 In Kirkcolm parish in the Rhins of Galloway, Gaelic was still the language of the population in 1487 when Robert Campbell of Corsewall complained that John Brown, vicar of Kirkcolm  “who has for divers years held the said vicarage, does not understand and cannot speak intelligibly the language (ydioma) of the place in which it is situate, to the detriment of souls…”
From  British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-papal-registers/brit-ie/vol14/pp187-193

Yet, as discussed above, at Whithorn 50 years earlier Scots was already the language of the burgh court and used for public proclamations. The co-existence of Gaelic and Scots is found in Penninghame parish in 1506-7 when what are now the farms of Meikle and Little Eldrig  were recorded as first as Meikle Elrik and Little Eldrik then as Helirikmore and Neilrigbeg.  Meikle = Gaelic mór and little = Gaelic beag. [John McQueen, ‘Place-Names of the Wigtownshire Moors and Machars’, Stranraer, 2008, page 128]

A Scots/ Gaelic bilingual diglossia would have been present in fifteenth century Galloway. As quoted above ‘Children learn the low variety [in this case Gaelic] as a native language; in diglossic cultures, it is the language of home, the family, the streets and marketplaces, friendship, and solidarity.’  Yet by the seventeenth century Galloway had become a monolingual society.

 What cultural and social changes might have influenced the shift from Gaelic to Scots as the ‘language of home, the family, the streets and marketplaces, friendship and solidarity’ ?

The end of the Douglas lordship of Galloway in 1455 had a destabilising effect. This can be seen in the many tower houses which dot the landscape. These were built after the end of Douglas rule as the lesser landowning families- the Adairs and Agnews, McDowalls, McCullochs and McLellans, Maxwells, Gordons and Kennedys fought and feuded with each other. [See Andrew McCulloch ’Galloway’, Edinburgh, 2000, pages 256-260].

However, Gaelic had survived the turmoil of the fourteenth century. See previous post

Something closer to a cultural revolution must have occurred for a language so deeply rooted in Galloway to become extinct. The Reformation is the most likely candidate. The Calvinist nature of the reformation in Scotland is significant. As developed in Geneva, where John Knox spent several years, Calvinism

meant a serious attempt to control human behaviour in all its variety. I t meant that  the church had a responsibility  not only to present true Christian doctrine but also to shape true Christian behaviour. And this responsibility, Calvinists believed, could not be left to individuals or to governments. It had to be assumed, to as  great a degree as possible, by the church… it became a remarkably intrusive institution, penetrating every aspect of Genevan life. [Robert Kingdon, in ‘Calvinism in Europe 1540-1620’, Cambridge 1996, page 22]

In Geneva, the intrusion of the church into every aspect of life involved women, including the elderly and illiterate, as well as men, having to answer questions on their religious beliefs. Although many of the women were able to recite Latin prayers which they had learned by rote, they did not understand the meaning of the prayers. The new regime insisted as a minimum that everyone should be able to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed ‘in their maternal language’.

In Lowland Scotland, Scots was the ‘maternal language’. In the Highlands and Islands it was Gaelic. As Jane Dawson’s chapter in ’Calvinism in Europe’ (pages 231-253) ’Calvinism in the Gaedhealtachd  in Scotland’, the Scottish Calvinists used Gaelic where Gaelic was the ’maternal language’. Much thought went into the creation of Gaelic Calvinism and the process is documented.

In Galloway, no similar special measures were deployed. The Calvinist Reformers appear to have experienced no linguistic difficulties in Galloway. This does not necessarily mean that Gaelic was already extinct by 1560, but it does imply that the Gaelic speakers were bilingual.

As the new religion extended its influence, it would have extended the reach of Scots. The intrusion of Calvinism into every facet of Galloway’s society meant that the occupants of even  the most remote and the poorest households would have been examined and tested on their knowledge of ‘true Christian doctrine’-in Scots.

Since even children were expected to learn the basic tenets of the Calvinist faith, the transmission of Gaelic as the first language acquired by children in the home would have been disrupted by the need to know Scots from an early age.

Summary and conclusion

In 1360, Gaelic was widely spoken across Galloway and Scots was a minority language. By 1460 Scots had become the language of the Galloway burghs- Whithorn, Wigtown and Kirkcudbright- and of the areas influenced by Dumfries and Ayr. The influence of the burghs, of the Scottish state, which Galloway was now fully part of, and the Church, as the Kirkcolm evidence shows, had led to the development of a Scots/ Gaelic diglossia. Scots was the higher status language and Gaelic the lower status one.

By 1560 Scots had become the main language used and many, probably most, Scots speakers were monolingual. In the more remote communities Gaelic may still have been the first language children learned and the language used by women working together. However, this was a very fragile situation for Gaelic. Marriages to monolingual Scots speakers and  changes of tenancy could tip the linguistic balance in these small communities.

The intrusion of a new form of religion- Calvinism- into Galloway increased the pressure on the surviving pockets of Gaelic. If there had been a significant population of monolingual Gaelic speakers in any of the Galloway parishes, Gaelic speaking ministers would have been recruited as they were in the Highlands and Islands.  The absence of any similar measures in Galloway strongly suggests that Scots was understood throughout the region.

Calvinism was a revolutionary religion which sought to shape and direct human behaviour to create a Godly people. Its teachings were therefore intruded via Scots and Bible English into the domestic sphere, into the homes of even the poorest people and the most remote farms and crofts.

Reaching the most remote districts was difficult however. In 1645, the parish of Glenluce was divided into New Luce and Old Luce. The church at Glenluce was 12 miles from the northern boundary of the medieval parish. A new church was built at New Luce 5 miles above Glenluce  to serve the upland portion of the original parish.

Another new parish, Carsphairn, was formed in the Glenkens. Here a church was built in 1627 but it was not until 1645 that the new parish was officially approved. A Supplication to the Church of Scotland in 1638 described how the 500 souls living in the district included ’a number of barbarous ignorant people’ living without the knowledge of god , with their children unbaptised and their dead unburied.’ This last point was clarified in 1645. The dead were buried, but in fields rather than in a proper churchyard.

From 'War Committee of the Covenanters'

In 1487, Kirkcolm parish was distant from the existing burghs. In 1595 a burgh -Stranraer- was erected on it doorstep. Michael Hathorn (1565-67) was the first Calvinist minister in Kirkcolm followed by Alexander Hunter (1568-1587) and John Watson (1588-1599).  Kirkcolm has an area of 20 square miles compared with the 45 square miles of new Luce and the 88 square miles of Carsphairn.

If the Reformation had the effect of displacing Gaelic where it still survived as the ‘maternal language’ of the home, it would have been able to do so more effectively and rapidly in a small lowland parish like Kirkcolm than in the large upland parishes.

My next post will therefore look at where Gaelic might have survived in the Galloway Highlands into the seventeenth century.

     There is also a puzzle. Although Gaelic did not survive the Reformation in Galloway, Roman Catholicism did.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Won the Truckell prize

Awarded this year's Truckell Prize Saturday 24 March 2018.  Article from Galloway News 29 March 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018

Gaelic, the Wars of Independence and Galloway

This could get complicated. In September there will be a one day conference on Gaelic in Galloway. I will be giving a talk on the shift from Gaelic to Scots as the language of Galloway.

The complications arise because the Gaelic of Galloway is only know to us through the evidence of place names and personal names. The only other evidence is a Gaelic song Òran Bagraidh which has some Galloway place names in it. However, it was first collected in North Uist in the nineteenth century which means we cannot be certain that it was originally composed in Galloway.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galwegian_Gaelic

Looking for an alternative approach, I have been thinking about the history of Galloway in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This was a period when Galloway was caught up in two dynastic struggles. The first began at the end of the thirteenth century when two families with strong links to south-west Scotland were in competition for the Scottish crown.

The first struggle began in 1286 when the Bruce family carried out a series of savage surgical strikes on the Balliol family’s assets in Galloway from their lands in Carrick (south Ayrshire) and Annandale (east Dumfriesshire). This struggle lasted for 70 years, ending in 1356 when Edward Balliol gave up his claim to the Scottish crown previously worn by his father John.

The second struggle followed on from the first and involved the Stewart and Douglas families. Robert Stewart married Robert Bruce’s sister and so was king David II’s uncle and -since David remained childless - his heir. James Douglas was Robert Bruce’s most loyal follower and his illegitimate son Archibald (‘the Grim’) was loyal to king David- but not to Robert Stewart. The Douglas/ Stewart struggle continued until 1455, when Stewart king James II drove James, the 9th earl of Douglas, into exile in England.

What effect did these conflicts have on Galloway? A significant effect was to slow down or even reverse the assimilation of Galloway into Scotland. One consequence of this was the survival of Gaelic in Galloway long after Scots had become the dominant language in the rest of southern Scotland.

Galloway’s first and last independent king, Fergus, had died in exile at Holyrood Abbey in 1161. Fergus’ great grandson Alan died in 1234, when the Annals of Ulster described him as ‘ri Gallghadil‘- king of the foreign, that is Viking, Gaels- the people who gave their name to Galloway. Alexander II, king of Scots promptly invaded the former kingdom and divided it between the husbands of Alan’s three daughters.

Alan’s youngest daughter was Devorgilla and her husband was John Balliol. His family had lands in the north east of England but were originally from Ballieul in Normandy. As Devorgilla’s sisters and their husbands died off, she and her husband re-assembled the lordship of Galloway. Under different circumstances it is likely that  Galloway’s distinctiveness would have slowly faded away as the heads of the region’s Gaelic speaking kindreds (clan chiefs) became feudal tenants of their Balliol lords.

Instead, the wars of Scottish independence revived Galloway’s distinctiveness. The region’s support for the Balliols placed it ultimately on the losing side of a civil war which ran in parallel with the ‘Great Patriotic War’ waged by the Bruces and their supporters against English kings Edward I, II and III. It is important to remember that despite King Robert I victory at Bannockburn in 1314, Galloway remained hostile territory for the Scots.

To control Galloway, King Robert first made his brother Edward Lord of Galloway in 1309 and then set about planting Bruce supporters in lands across there region. This included granting the barony of Buittle to James Douglas in 1324- including Buittle castle, the Balliol’s chief residence.

These new Scots speaking land owners then lost their Galloway lands when Edward Balliol was in power. Balliol had to rely on Gaelic kindreds like the McDowalls and McCullochs to support him in Galloway. This strengthened the power and influence of Galloway’s Gaelic population.

Even after Edward Balliol gave up his claim to the throne in 1356, David II had difficulty re-establishing control over Galloway. After Balliol’s death in 1365 he came up with a plan to gift Galloway to Edward III’s son John of Gaunt. The plan was rejected, but Archibald ‘the Grim’ Douglas was at the meeting.

It may have been David’s plan to get rid of Galloway which gave Archibald the idea of making himself Lord of Galloway. David granted him eastern Galloway (between the Nith and the Cree) in 1369 and then, after David’s death in 1371, bought western Galloway (Wigtownshire) from the Earl of Wigtown for £400 sterling in 1372. The new/ revived Lordship of Galloway lasted until 1455 when it was forfeited to James II by James, 9th earl of Douglas and the last Lord of Galloway.

Although the administrative language of the Douglas lordship of Galloway was Scots, it preserved the territorial integrity of Galloway. The Douglas lords preserved Galloway’s traditional laws and kept direct Scots influence at bay. This helped to preserve Galloway’s Gaelic language and culture, but as an enclave isolated within the now Scots speaking lowlands.

Were the exploits of Galloway’s Gaelic kings and lords celebrated in poetry and song? Unfortunately although Òran Bagraidh (A Song of Defiance) mentions some Galloway and Ayrshire  family names-

Muinntir na Dubach’s -Kindred of the black feet -Kennedies
Sliochd na feannaig -Tribe of the crow - Craufurds?
Cinneil sliochd a‘ mhaduidh -Tribe of the wolf or dog - MacLellans
Sluagh na gruaigi ciar - Tribe of the dusky hair - Douglases?

- it probably refers to an event which took place in 1527,  the murder of Gilbert Kennedy, earl of Cassillis by Craufurd of Kerse. [Several Craufurds were involved, but the instigator was Hugh Campbell, sheriff of Ayr].

As I have discussed previously, although several folktales from Galloway mention Robert the Bruce, they can only be traced back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. None of them are mentioned by Andrew Symson in his late seventeenth century ‘Large Description of Galloway’. Symson does mention an ancient monument believed to be the grave of King Galdus, but I have found that Galdus was the invention of historian Hector Boece in 1527.

Symson provides a very useful and detailed description of Galloway as it was in the 1680s, but it is a Galloway without any history. There are no tales of ‘good King Fergus’, no accounts of how Gille Brigte had his brother Uhtred gruesomely killed nor of Lord Alan. Even the romantic origin of Sweetheart Abbey although the foundation of Whithorn by St Ninian is mentioned. The next 1000 years of Galloway’s history are passed over in silence until the execution of Patrick McLellan by ‘the Black Douglas’ at Threave castle in 1452.  Symson also notes ‘the common report in the countrey’ that Mons Meg (by then in Edinburgh castle) was constructed on Threave island. Both these stories, or variations on them, were still circulating locally in the eighteenth century and remain part of Galloway’s folk history.

Symson’s study was not published until 1823, when the historical details lacking in Sysmon’s original text were filled in by a series of extensive footnotes.

There is one near contemporary account of an event in Galloway. Part of a long poem in Scots written circa 1400 about the legends of St Ninian describes how Fergus McDowell was saved from an English raiding party by the intervention of St Ninian in a dream. The poem mentions McDowell’s ‘menstrale, Jak Trumpoure’. In 1365, David II confirmed Dougal McDowall’s grant of ‘Littilgretby’ (now Gribdae farm) to John Trumpoure who is described as a herald.

Fergus and Dougal McDowall were brothers. They were the sons of Duncan McDowall who had been, like his father Dougal, Balliol supporters. Duncan swapped sides between the Balliols and the Bruces several times between 1332 and 1356. But by 1365 McDowalls were reconciled to the Bruces and therefore no longer allies of the English.

The McDowalls were one of the most important of Galloway’s Gaelic kindreds. The last reference to a McDowall as ’head of kin’ is from 1474. However, the ebb and flow of the civil war in Galloway in the 1340s had led to the capture of Duncan McDowall by the English. Along with his wife and sons, he was kept in the Tower of London until he agreed to re-enter the fray on the side of Edward Balliol again. To ensure he did not swap sides again, his wife and sons had to remain in England.

If Duncan McDowall and his sons had only been able to speak Gaelic there would have been communication problems with their English captors. With Edward Balliol having to rely so heavily on the support of Edward III, his leading supporters in Galloway would have needed to be bilingual in Scots and Gaelic. Patrick McCulloch, for example, followed Balliol into exile in England in 1356 and remained there until Balliol’s death in 1364.

In other words, even before Scots speaking Archibald the Grim became Lord of Galloway, while the Bruce/Balliol civil war had strengthened the importance of Galloway’s Gaelic kindreds, the heads of the kindreds would have required a good grasp of Scots and English as well as their native Gaelic.

It is unclear how long Duncan McDowall’s sons stayed in England. The significant point is that the use of Scots to recount the adventures of Fergus McDowall in the Legend of St Ninian is not anachronistic. Fergus and Dougal McDowall would have been Scots speakers, although they would still have needed Gaelic to converse with the majority of their fellow Gallovidians.

Another effect of the Wars of Independence was the strengthening of Scottish identity. Scots was also the language of patriotic epics like Barbour’s ‘Brus’ and (later) Blind Harry’s ‘Wallace’. The tale of Fergus McDowall and his victory over the English fits into this framework. This may explain the survival of the story.

If similar tales from before the 1360s existed, they would not have fitted into a patriotic Scottish narrative. They may well have recounted victories against the Bruces and the Scots. Older poems and songs would have been composed in Gaelic, and may have supported a Gallovidian identity.

To the extent that a combination of shared history, geography, language and culture marked out and distinguished ‘Galloway’ from ‘Scotland’ it would have been difficult for the people of Galloway to recognise themselves in the Scottish identity which emerged from the Wars of Independence.

For Galloway to become Scottish, much would have to be given up. Galloway’s Gaelic language provided a living link with the region’s distinctive past. It also set the region’s people apart from their neighbours in lowland Scotland. After 1455, when even the Douglas lordship of Galloway was extinguished, the assimilation of Galloway into Scotland stepped up a gear. By 1490 the last remnants of Galloway’s traditional laws were abolished by the Scottish parliament. Records of landownership become more comprehensive from the later fifteenth century onwards as Peter McKerlie’s five volume ‘History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway’ shows.

But although historical documents provide a clearer picture of Galloway after 1455, the effect of what must have been a major cultural shift - the loss of Galloway’s Gaelic language and culture- is invisible. It is not until the seventeenth century that Galloway re-emerges as a region with a distinctive culture again, that of Calvinist Presbyterianism.

This religious culture was not exclusive to Galloway but it was deep rooted. When Charles II attempted to re-impose Episcopalianism after his restoration, every parish minister in Galloway refused to accept. As a result, in 1663, every parish had a new minister imposed.  The people rejected the new ministers and flocked to hear their old ministers preach, at first in private houses and then at open air conventicles- which were promptly banned. The reformation had grow deep roots in Galloway.

According to tradition, the first stirrings of the reformation in Galloway began in the Glenkens in the 1520s. Here Alexander Gordon of Airds in Kells parish read from an English translation of the Bible to his family, servants and neighbours in the woods on his estate. Possession of such a Bible was illegal, so these readings resembled the later conventicles. This suggests there may have been later elaboration of the story.

More certainly, analysis of the first Protestant ministers in Galloway shows that 60% had made the transition from the unreformed church. The shift in religion was marked by an important change of language. Church services were no longer conducted in Latin but in Scots and ’Bible English’. In areas of Scotland where Gaelic remained the language of the people, this created problems for the reformers. In 1567 this led to the printing of a translation into Gaelic of ’The Book of Common Order’ by John Carswell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9on_Carsuel

If Gaelic was still widely spoken in Galloway in 1560, this would have hindered the progress of the reformation. However, there are no reports that John Knox or any of the other reformers had problems communicating their message in the region. This contrasts with the reformers anger at the survival of Catholicism in parts of the region. As late as 1605, Gilbert Brown, the last abbot of New Abbey, was still celebrating mass with the support of the local population.

One hundred years later, the Church of Scotland discovered that there were still over 400 Roman Catholics in the eastern parts of Galloway. The survival of the old religion was mainly due to the influence of the Maxwell earls of Nithsdale  who were powerful enough to defy the Reformed church.

The Maxwells were not a Galloway family, but had been granted  Caerlaverock in Dumfriesshire by Alexander II in 1220. In the 1330s, Eustace Maxwell was a Balliol supporter and Edward Balliol place him charge of eastern Galloway while Duncan McDowall had charge of western Galloway. With Maxwells then, there is a continuity of power and influence stretching back to the time when Gaelic was the language of Galloway and Nithsdale.

 If the Maxwells were able to resist even such a major cultural change as the Reformation, this offers the tantalising possibility that, if they had been one of Galloway’s Gaelic kindreds, their influence might have preserved the language as well as their faith into the eighteenth century by supporting Gaelic poets as well as Jesuit priests.

To end on a further speculative note, can the advance of the Reformation in Galloway be linked to the retreat of Gaelic?

As we have seen, the Wars of Independence had the effect of separating Galloway off from the main current of Scottish identity. The creation of the Douglas lordship of Galloway preserved aspects of  this separate identity, including  Galloway’s traditional laws and the survival of several of Galloway’s Gaelic kindreds, including the McDowalls, McCullochs and McLellans.

How  strongly Gaelic survived in Galloway during the Douglas lordship is difficult to establish, but it is likely that Scots was gradually gaining ascendancy. The end of the Douglas lordship would have intensified pressure on Gaelic. Would the loss of Gaelic have been experienced by the Gallovidians as a loss of identity? How difficult would it have been for them to take on a new identity as Scots, along with a new language?

That  the entire history of Gaelic Galloway appears to have vanished from the region’s collective memory suggests it was a traumatic change.  Yet the folklore and folk history of Gaelic Galloway disappeared to be replaced by Scots folklore and Scots history, including stories of Robert the Bruce, but not Edward Balliol nor any of Galloway’s once powerful Gaelic rulers.

Perhaps Galloway’s embrace of the Reformation in the fifteenth century and the region’s commitment to the Covenanting cause in the seventeenth century have their roots in the adoption of a new, religious, identity as a substitute for what had been lost.

This possibility will be the subject of a later blog post,


Monday, January 15, 2018

A walk through the history of Castle Douglas

Castle Douglas in 1794
From National Library of Scotland 

I was at a meeting of the Castle Douglas Development Forum tonight [15 January 2018] to discuss this year' s Castle Douglas Civic Week. Carolyn Yates suggested I could do a 'history walk' around the town.

It will be on Sunday afternoon -not sure if that is Sunday 22 or 29 July.

In 2004 I wrote a booklet of walks covering Castle Douglas and Threave Estate. I have dug out the two CD ones - which will need to be updated.

I will add some photos and illustrations later.

1. Castle Douglas- Cotton Town to Food Town
- a walk around the town
2. Carlin's Wark or Ceorl's Weorc?
- a walk around Carlingwark Loch

1. A stroll around Castle Douglas

Starting Point- the Market Hill Tourist Information Centre
1. 1 The Market Hill
From the low mound next to the Tourist Information Centre the wooded slopes of Keltonhill can be seen rising up in the distance beyond the British Legion and Swimming Pool [formerly Drill Hall] complex. Next to these is the Library, which dates to 1904. To the right can be seen the upper end of King Street, to the left the octagonal Wallets Mart building built around 1900 and the upper end of Queen Street. The yellow brick (from the Dalbeattie Brick Works) makes what is now the Seabright Nursery stand out.

Looking in the opposite direction, a line of Scots pines mark the site of Castle Douglas' railway station.

This area of Castle Douglas is very much the Victorian creation of railway and mart. Or, as local author S.R. Crockett put it

" In my own time, life centred about the Cross (the Town Clock), and so continued during all my life as a school boy [1867 to 1876]. But ever since , contrary to all the laws of gravitation, the town has been running faster and ever faster uphill, apparently to get a sniff of the cattle-marts on Monday, and to see the white smoke of the trains..."

The first recorded livestock auction took place on the Market Hill in 1819. In 1857, the town council built an enclosed Mart where the swimming pool now stands. This was then leased to Thomas Wallet, whose family were originally carters from Dalmellington in Ayrshire. The present site of Wallets Mart, closer to the Station Yard, was acquired later as the business took over rival concerns.

The railway from Dumfries reached the town in 1859 and was extended to Stranraer in 1861. A branch line to Kirkcudbright followed in 1864. Although the station was demolished after the was railway closed in 1965, the Station Yard remains a busy place. The sidings which could hold 200 cattle trucks are now occupied by industrial buildings. The old Goods Station is now a builders' merchants.

Sadly the Keltonhill Horse Fair, which was moved to the Market Hill [then an open field] about 150 years ago, has passed into history along with the Galloway breed of horses. Fortunately the Galloway breed of cattle has survived and Wallet's Mart still hosts their spring and autumn sales.
From the Tourist Information Centre, cross over King Street and turn right up hill. Then turn left into Cotton Street.

1.2 Cotton Street
Cotton Street descends steeply from the Market Hill past Buccleuch Scotch Beef's abattoir- the 'Slatterhoose Brae'. Just before the abattoir, where a house has now been built, there was a quarry. This would have been a source of building stone for the town. However, there are many brick built houses on Cotton Street. Most are based on variations of the same design, with pitched, rather than flat, roofed dormer style windows.

Nos 14 and 16 are of this style, but built using the yellow Dalbeattie bricks rather than the red bricks of Railway Terrace, further down the street. Where a supermarket and car park now are, Sir William Douglas' cotton mill probably stood. After the failure of the cotton mill, this site was later occupied by Wallace's Foundry and the neighbouring Derby's Mill. The stream which failed to provide enough water to work the cotton mill ran along the back of Cotton Street. Now underground, it still runs beneath Cotton Street, across to King Street and down to Carlingwark Loch.

On the opposite side of Cotton Street can be seen a series of schools. The largest, now a community centre, was built in 1910 by the Kelton School Board. Next to this is a school built in 1873 when the Kelton School Board was first set up. Its first headmaster was John Cowper. Cowper had previously been headmaster of the 'Free Church School'.

This school, a little further down Cotton Street is now converted into three houses [Nos 43 to 47 Cotton Street] and dates to the 'Disruption' of the Church of Scotland in 1843, when the Church split into two factions. There was strong support for the 'Free Kirk', allowing a church and school to be built in 1844. Local author S.R. Crockett attended this school after 1867. It was called 'Cowper's Schule' after its headmaster.

The earlier, parish, school was built in 1818 on Academy Street (where Castle Douglas Health Centre now stands) to replace one which had fallen into disrepair.

Next to the Free Church School is a cottage, now 49 Cotton Street. For many years this was a joiner's shop. Until recently, it was the last remaining 'unimproved' example of what was once Castle Douglas' basic housing stock. It is difficult to date, but the rough stone work around its windows is typical of the late 18th/ early 19th centuries. Until granite [from Dalbeattie] and sandstone [from Locharbriggs near Dumfries] became cheaper after the railway reached the town, local greywacke stone had to be used. This stone cannot be 'worked' to produce neat straight lines.

Crockett lived with his grandparents further down Cotton Street in a cottage [now 106 Cotton Street] near St. John's Church. Ironically, since his grandparents were strictly religious Cameronians, this is now a licensed betting shop. St. John's was built in 1867.

A short detour can be made up Abercromby Road where a row of houses and another [United Presbyterian, 1870] church clearly show the contrast between weathered dark brown sandstone from Dumfriesshire and bluish native greywacke.

Looked at carefully, most buildings in Castle Douglas can be dated to 'before or after the railway'. Post- railway buildings are generally larger and more imposing and make use of granite, sandstone and brick as well as the local greywacke. Sandstone and granite were available earlier, but were more expensive and so used sparingly. Just to confuse things, many buildings have been altered and enlarged over the years.

So although Castle Douglas was founded in the late eighteenth century, many of its buildings reveal their later, Victorian, origins.
Return to Cotton Street and continue down hill towards

1. 3. Blackpark Road
At the foot of Cotton Street is the site of the town's gas works [1843]. To the left is Marle Street. This takes its name from the lime-rich clay Alexander Gordon drained Carlingwark Loch to reach. Used sparingly, marl was a valuable fertiliser. Over use was found to be damaging to the soil.

To the right is Blackpark Road. Blackpark farm took its name from the heavy, black, peaty soil of the surrounding marshland.

Although hardly the most picturesque area of Castle Douglas, it is worth walking along to the Blackpark Road railway bridge [now filled in]. Where Threave Rovers football pitch, the old rubbish dump [soon to become part of the golf course], the railway and sewage works now lie, a medieval parish boundary once ran along the course of a lost stream. A deep ditch ran across Castle Douglas golf course, under the railway, through the sewage works and then across the football pitch into Carlingwark Moss to find its way to the Dee along the route of the Carlingwark Lane. The stream mentioned in the Cotton Street section probably fed into this before it was diverted into Carlingwark Loch.

The boundary between Crossmichael and Kelton parishes appears to have followed the course of these lost streams. They marked the boundary between lands in Crossmichael parish gifted to a nunnery at Lincluden by Uchtred, son of Fergus of Galloway circa 1170 and those in Kelton parish which remained in the Lordship of Galloway until 1456.

According to a local folktale, St. Ninian appeared to a shepherd boy here. The boy had lost a sheep on Christmas Eve. In the hope of finding the sheep, he made an offering of the last of his food at St. Ringan's Well nearby. The saint then appeared in the form of an old beggar and helped the boy find the lost sheep, which had strayed into the stream's deep ditch.

This story suggests the Christianisation of an older, pagan, boundary between the 'sacred' site of Carlingwark Loch and its 'profane' surroundings. Return along Blackpark Road and continue straight on into Marle Street.

1. 3. Marle Street and Carlingwark Street
According to Crockett, Marle Street and ' Little Dublin' - the lower end of Cotton Street where several Irish families lived- were the first parts of what is now Castle Douglas to be developed. The basic 'cottage' style [as can still-just- be seen at 49 Cotton Street] of several houses in this area confirms his description of ' a little town built at the foot of a hill and ever since running a race up it.'

Carlingwark Street crosses Marle Street and lies on the route of the Old Military Road. This is the lowest part of Castle Douglas and where the roads cross, the remains of a timber and earth dam were found 200 years ago. These may actually have been the remains of a prehistoric track way across boggy ground. A similar construction was found on the far side of Carlingwark Hill. The route of Carlingwark Street / the Old Military Road ran through what are now the grounds of Carlingwark House, crossing Alexander Gordon's canal [Carlingwark Lane] by a bridge which led onto the row of houses called 'The Buchan'.

At the top of the hill was an inn. Robert Burn's stayed there in 1789. Just over one hundred years earlier, in 1685, William Auchinleck was shot by government soldiers during the 'Killing Times' outside an inn, which was also on Carlingwark Hill. There are a few old cottages here, but most of the houses are more modern. If the weather is clear, from Meadow View which runs parallel with Carlingwark Street, the Galloway Hills can be seen.

Where the street ends, turn left down the rough track towards Carlingwark Loch. This is called Crone Lane and in the field on the right once stood the Three Thorns of Carlingwark, allegedly the scene of 'Druidical rites' including human sacrifice. However since the last of the thorn trees could still be seen in early 19th century, and since Druids worshipped in groves of oak trees 2000 years ago, this seems unlikely.

Cross over the main road to enter Lochside Park

1. 4. Lochside Park
Lochside Park stretches around the north end of Carlingwark Loch. It was formerly the town common. Looking at the loch today, it is difficult to imagine how it would have appeared in the 1770s and 80s when it was the centre for Alexander Gordon's marl works. The loch must have been almost completely drained in order to expose the marl beds and allow his workmen to dig the marl out. Certainly, according to contemporary accounts, when the Carlingwark Canal was cut through Carlingwark Hill in 1765, the level of the loch dropped by between 8 and 10 feet, far enough to reveal a crannog ( a wooden round house built over water) at the south end. This crannog is once more under water.

Until recently, there were two Christian places of worship over looking the park and the loch. One of these, formerly St. Andrew's church [1869], is now the Lochside Theatre.

A short stroll through Lochside Park, turning left up past the caravan site leads to St. Ninian's Episcopal church [ 1856 to 1861] on St. Andrew Street. The church began as a mission for railway navvies. More recently it has benefited from its association with the Gordons of Threave, resulting in the addition [2001] of an award winning new church hall.

Turn left along St. Andrew Street. Of interest here is Lochvale, with its entrance up a short flight of steps.. There is a date at the top right hand gable - which could be 1810, 1813 or 1815. Joseph Train [ 1779- 1852] lived here from 1826. Train worked, like Robert Burns, as an Exciseman. He was a friend of Sir Walter Scott's and passed on both local folklore and 'antiquities' [ for example the Torrs Pony Cap] to Scott. Scott's novels Guy Mannering, Redgauntlet, the Heart of Midlothian, The Antiquary and Old Mortality all feature stories and characters based on Galloway sources supplied by Train. Unfortunately this association with Scott distracted Train from an earlier plan to write a history of Galloway.

Across from Lochvale is The Brae, originally built in 1803, but with Victorian additions. St. Andrew's Street continues towards the Town Clock, but at Queen Street, turn right.

1.5. Queen Street
The Kings Arms Hotel on the corner of Queen Street and St. Andrew Street may originally have been a farm house, predating Castle Douglas. Later, like the Douglas Arms, Crown and Imperial hotels, it became a coaching inn. In what is now its car park, there was a brewery owned by the Hewetson family. The tradition of local beer making has now been revived by the Sulwath Brewery in King Street. ( Further down Queen Street there was a tannery, but there are no plans to revive this industry).

There were other 'industrial' buildings on Queen Street, including a bakery and a blacksmiths. In a lane leading through to King Street granite setts can be found. These can be compared with the cobble stones in A.D. Livingston and Sons yard [see King Street section]. The cobbles and setts are  reminders of the past importance of horse power - they give a better grip for horses hooves than smoother road surfaces do. In the summer, horse and carriage trips can be taken around the town from the Market Hill.

Queen Street is now a residential street. Several of the houses date back to the early days of Castle Douglas. Between 64 and 66 Queen Street is the date 1822 . Half way up Queen Street is St. Ringan's church, St. Ringan being an alternative version of St. Ninian - as is St. Trinian. The oldest part of St. Ringan's dates back to 1801. By 1870 it had become the Cameronian (Reformed Presbyterian) kirk and S.R. Crockett's grandparents travelled the 7 miles from Laurieston to attend it. The Cameronians used sandstone to refront the church and added its tower.

Richard Cameron was a leading figure amongst the later Covenanters who refused to accept religious changes imposed by Charles II. Indeed, on the 22nd June 1680, Cameron, his brother and about twenty others rode into Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire and declared war on the king... Although a 'spiritual' rather than a physical declaration of war, this provocative act could not be ignored. Seven troops of horse were sent to quell this 'republican' rebellion and on July 22nd both Richard Cameron and his brother were killed in a fight with government troops at Airds [or Ayrs] Moss in Ayrshire.

Believing that they were faced with a civil war in the south west, Charles II and his brother James [briefly to be king James VII and II] tried to crush the revolt. Ultimately they failed and the Cameronians fought for king William in 1688 against the supporters of James VII/ II. The first Jacobites led by 'Bonnie Dundee', who as 'bluidy Claverhouse' had tried to destroy the Cameronians in the Killing Times. Even as late as 1724, the Galloway Levellers drew on the local Cameronian heritage in their uprising against those they described as 'Jacobite' landowners.

Gradually, however, the politically dangerous 'radical republican' aspects of the Cameronians faded away. In time they became the rather conservative religious sect to which Crockett's grandparents belonged, as earlier had Sir Alexander Gordon who was Sheriff of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the 1780s - hardly a position to be given to a dangerous revolutionary!

It is very difficult to associate today's 'kirk on the hill' as St. Ringan's was known, with the ferocious religious and political conflicts of the 17th century. And yet it, like so many places locally, bears witness to the deep currents of a dark and disturbing past which still run beneath the tranquil surface of the present.

Quiet Queen Street can be followed back up to Market Street. Turn left here for King Street.

1. 6. King Street
To fully appreciate King Street, it is best seen at the beginning of Castle Douglas Food Town week [usually the end of May] when the street is closed to traffic and thronged by thousands of people. Without the clutter of cars and delivery lorries, its broad, half mile long expanse is revealed.

With its hundred or so shops and businesses, King Street is the dynamic, commercial and economic, centre of the town. In turn, the street draws shoppers not only from across Dumfries and Galloway [to the chagrin of the much larger town of Dumfries] but also from across the south of Scotland and the north of England. A city like Edinburgh can match the range and diversity of Castle Douglas' shops, but not their concentration along (and beside) one main street.

However, why not, as well as peering into every shop window and craft workshop, 'lift the eyes unto the rooftops' and discover a treasure of architectural delight? For example, the many sandstone faced buildings on King Street rejoice in a riot of sculptural details. Lion heads, thistles, roses, stars and scallop shells can all be found. This last feature, the scallop shell, is actually a recent contribution to the fascinating architectural detail of King Street. Most date mainly from the 1890s and can be compared and contrasted with the more formal style of the Town Hall [1862] on St. Andrew Street. The Royal Bank [1864] illustrates the very different impression created by the use of granite.

To get a 'behind the scenes' glimpse of King Street, visit the garden behind Designs Gallery and Cafe . A conservatory has recently been built onto the cafe, creating a very pleasant spot to pause for refreshment before visiting A.D. Livingston and Sons next door. The buildings here, now a furniture restorers and makers workshop, began as a warehouse with stables. The original cobble stones can still be seen in the yard. These are just water rounded stones- quite different in appearance from the granite setts mentioned in the Queen Street section. The patchwork of differing styles of stonework and brickwork which can be seen here is fascinating.

To try to document the actual shops and businesses would be an interesting but exhausting project. Although a few, Livingstons the Tailors [1896] for example, can be traced back through time, continuing change is the rule. At the rate of two or three per year businesses close and new ones take their places, whilst some existing businesses have the confusing habit of moving from one location to another.

For shoppers, this constantly shifting pattern simply offers more interesting opportunities for 'retail therapy'. For older residents and returning exiles it offers the opportunity to spend hours arguing where exactly Mc Guffog's or Blackadder's shop once was...

Whilst visitors frequently comment on how much they appreciate the unique diversity of the Castle Douglas' shops, local residents can take them for granted. At the time of writing (April 2004), the Letters page of the Galloway News has been dominated by the threat -or opportunity- posed by a proposal to build a new supermarket in the town.

On a final point: King Street does not end at the Town Clock [the third on the same site, the two earlier ones were both destroyed by fire]. A good spot to relax after this tour of Castle Douglas is one of the town's more recent attractions- the Sulwath Brewery, which has a limited ( 10am to 4pm) pub licence. The Brewery occupies the site of a former bakery, on the left below the Town Clock.

2. Carlin's Wark or Ceorl's Weorc?

2. 1 Starting point- Lochside Theatre, Lochside Park, Castle Douglas
The Lochside Theatre was originally St. Andrew's Church [1869]
Lochside Park stretches around the north end of Carlingwark Loch. It was formerly the town  common. The earliest possible name for Carlingwark Loch, recorded by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago, was Loctreve - from loc tref meaning settlement on or by water. Around the year 1100 it was probably called Lochellton ( Loch Kelton ) By 1456, it had become Carlynwerk. This could be from the Scots word carlin, a witch, giving 'witches work', as in Carlin's Cairn which is on the Rhinns of Kells. Dr Carole Hough of Glasgow University advises this is the most likely.

Alternatively, according to Herbert Maxwell's "Place Names of Galloway" , Carlingwark comes from the Old English ceorla weorc. Ceorls were 'free peasants', who held land directly from the king rather than a lord. This meaning would link a farming settlement on Carlingwark Hill with Northumbrian (Anglo-Saxon) settlement and so date back to the late 7th century.

If Carlin's work is the origin of the loch's name, then long after pagan Celts placed offerings like the Carlingwark Cauldron in the loch, it was still regarded with superstitious awe. The Carlingwark Cauldron was literally fished up from the loch in 1868 near the crannog site [see below]. Made of bronze, it was found to contain a mixture of around 100 native and Roman artefacts. There were pieces of Roman chain mail and spearheads, as well as files, saws and scythe blade fragments. The Cauldron was probably placed in the loch around 100 AD as an offering to ensure prosperity through good crops of grain. This grain would have been sold to the Roman soldiers at Glenlochar fort. The Carlingwark Cauldron can now been seen at the Chambers Street Museum in Edinburgh, along with the Torrs Pony Cap which is discussed later.

Crossing Lochside Park from the Lochside Theatre towards the loch, turn right to follow the footpaths which lead around the edge of the loch towards Whitepark Road beyond the Lochside Campsite. Before the loch was partially drained in 1765, most of this area would have been under water.
The loch was drained back then to give better access to the beds of marl which underlie it. Marl is a light, white, lime rich clay. From around 1730, marl was used as a fertiliser by improving landowners in Galloway. It was used to boost cereal crop production. These crops, mainly oats and barley, were then exported by sea to feed people in fast growing cities like Liverpool and Glasgow.

Looking at the loch today, it is difficult to imagine how it would have appeared 200 years ago when marl was being extracted. Around the edge of the loch, perhaps even where the park is now, workmen would have been digging the marl out and loading it on to carts. Further out, in places where there was still water, a fleet of bag and spoon dredgers would have been at work.

This technique was invented by the Dutch to dredge their canals. The spoon was an iron plate and ring, to which was attached a leather bag. This spoon was pushed into the marl by a wooden pole. Then a hand winch was used to pull spoon and bag through the marl and up into the boat. The marl was tipped out and the process repeated. It must have been a very wet and muddy job.

Following the path which runs around the edge of the loch, the modern buildings of the Carlingwark Outdoor Education Centre can be seen. From this centre rock-climbing, cycling, orienteering , canoeing and sailing expeditions are organised for local school children. For most local children these expeditions offer their only chance to experience such activities. Given the increasing importance of outdoor activity based tourism locally, skills learnt by school children through the Outdoor Education Centre may well help them find jobs in the future.

The small stone building at the edge of the loch near the Outdoor Education Centre belongs to Kelton Curling Club. In the days before indoor ice rinks, curling stones were stored here. As soon as the loch froze in winter, the depth of the ice was tested until it was deemed thick enough to support a curling rink. In very cold winters, the Queenshill Cup was held on the loch. Curlers from every parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright would congregate on the loch to compete for this cup. Sadly, today's winters are not cold enough to allow curling and so the dramatic sight and sound of a score of curling rinks on the loch has not been witnessed for many years.

2.2 Lover's Walk - Whitepark Road to the Cuckoo Bridge Path
Continue to follow the edge of the loch through the Park to the exit at Whitepark Road. Here the deepest section of the loch is overlooked by a farm on Whitepark Hill. There has been a farm here for at least 550 years. Called Quhitpark it was owned by the Lords of Galloway. According to Maxwell, the place name 'white' was given to lands with light soils which were kept as permanent pasture, i.e. never ploughed. There is a Blackpark farm on the other side of Castle Douglas. It is on the edge of peaty marshland, with heavier, darker, soils which were ploughed. Dr. Hough suggest these farm names are Old Scots rather than the Old English of the Northumbrians. She also suggests that the 'white' of Whitepark could mean it was a medieval dairy farm. If so, it would have produced cheese and butter for Threave Castle.

On the right, just before a small wood, go through a wooden swing gate.
The next section of path runs along a road built around 1810. Called Lover's Walk, it follows the shore of Carlingwark Loch before cutting across marshlands towards Gelston. By 1830, this last section had begun to sink into the marshes and was abandoned, to be replaced by the present road.

The Carlingwark Loch section gives excellent views across the loch and is ideal for bird-watching as well as being popular with anglers. Just before the path begins to turn inland away from the loch, the two tiny islands which mark the crannog site can be see. Countryside Ranger Keith Kirk has traced the outline of the crannog - it was kidney shaped. Unfortately, although the Carlingwark Cauldron was found nearby, timber from the crannog has never been carbon dated. The crannog was linked by a causeway to the much larger and heavily wooded Fir Island, which itself was also reached by a prehistoric causeway. Fir Island is now a wildlife refuge as is the whole fenced -off area here.

Beyond Carlingwark Loch, the path follows the edge of the higher ground with fields on the left and a mixture of rough ground, wood and marshland on the right before joining another footpath.

2.3 Cuckoo Bridge to Midkelton Path
Where Lover's Walk crosses a deep ditch on a new bridge, turn right to continue the Carlingwark Loch circular walk. [For a shorter walk, turn left and follow the path up to Cuckoo Bridge and then left again along the 'new' road which leads back to Whitepark Road]

The deep ditch here marks the course of the boundary between Kelton and Buittle (Old English botl ) parishes. Above Cuckoo Bridge, the boundary takes a meandering course, following streams along the edge of Torrs Moss towards the medieval Ernespie (Gaelic- earann espoic) motte on the Dalbeattie Road near Leathes farm and then past two standing stones. According to very old maps, Carlingwark Loch once seeped out along the course of this stream and then through Torrs Moss and down to the river Urr near the Motte of Urr.

In the very dry summer of 1826, a workman was digging in Torrs Moss when he found a beautiful bronze pony cap, along with part of two drinking horns. Local antiquarian Joseph Train presented these to Sir Walter Scott. It was probably Train who had the ends of the drinking horn attached to the pony cap. The Torrs Pony Cap is now in the Chambers Street Museum in Edinburgh. [Along with the Galloway Viking Hoard….2017 update]

The Torrs Pony Cap is dated to around 250 BC and was probably made in the south east of England. It suggests the warlike and heroic society of Celtic myth and legend. A time when the warriors of y Tref [Threave] would have gone out on cattle raids against their neighbours, celebrating the fruits of victory or drowning the sorrow of defeat by drinking ale and mead.

The path now continues over a marshy area on a wooden board walk which bridges the Gelston Burn. ( Gelston is an Old English place name.)

Despite all the efforts made to drain it, this area remains as a reminder of the prehistoric wetlands which once surrounded Carlingwark Loch. In winter the browns and yellows of reeds, rushes and trees contrast with the green grass of higher ground. Before roads and bridges were built, the marshland which stretched from the Dee down to here would have been very difficult to cross. Beyond the board- walk section, where the path begins to rise up towards Midkelton, the field on the left once a small loch. On the right can be seen the wall of Kelton kirkyard built on higher ground overlooking Carlingwark Loch and the marshes.

2..4 Midkelton to Castle Douglas
Where the off-road section of the path end, turn right toward Midkelton. Although this is a quiet road, remember to walk on the right and keep alert for traffic.

Midkelton was called Keltoungrang (Kelton Grange) in 1456. In the Middle Ages, grange lands were the best lands on an estate, geared up to producing a surplus of grain for sale and to directly supply food for the landowner's table. In this case, the lords of Galloway. Perhaps because it was a more important farm, or because a church was built here, Midkelton 'ferm-toun' developed into a small hamlet. No trace remains of the first Kelton church. The earliest records (circa 1200) state that the church here was dedicated to St. Oswald the Martyr. St Oswald was a king of Northumbria who died in 648 AD fighting an alliance between the pagan Saxons of Mercia and the Welsh. He was declared a saint about 30 years later. By this time Galloway had become part of the Northumbrian kingdom of Bernicia.

Local historian Daphne Brooke suggested that a Celtic/ Iron Age tribal territory centred on Threave became a Northumbrian 'shire' stretching up to the Shirmers ( Old English scir-(ge)-maer - shire boundary) Burn beyond Parton on Loch Ken, east to the Urr at Buittle (Old English botel ) and west to Skyreburn ( Old English scir- burna -shire stream or bright stream) beyond Gatehouse of Fleet.

The Northumbrian church may have been built overlooking Carlingwark Loch to 'Christianise' a still powerful pagan site. In which case, the kirkyard at Midkelton would be 1300 years old. It can be reached by turning right onto a track leading past a row of cottages. There are many fascinating gravestones here, most made of sandstone and each with a story to tell. On the remains of a wall near the centre is a Latin memorial to William Falconer, minister of Kelton at the time of the Galloway Levellers [ see next part of this walk]. There are also memorials to the Gordons of Threave and to Thomas Wallet, founder of Wallet's Mart in Castle Douglas.

Returning to the road, turn right and follow it up the hill past today's Kelton Kirk. At the entrance a notice board gives details of its history. A little further on to the left is the Douglas Mausoleum. This architecturally unique, Egyptian style structure, commemorates Sir William Douglas, the founder of Castle Douglas.

Beyond this, the road begin to drop down towards the entrance to the National Trust for Scotland's Threave House and Gardens. [See Walk 4]. Once past this entrance, turn right at Furbar cottage. This section is part of the Old Military Road, built in 1763/4.

According to local tradition, it was at Furbarliggat that a confrontation between the Galloway Levellers and the Laird of Threave occurred in 1724. The Levellers revolt against the enclosure of open farm land began at Kelton Hill Fair in June 1723. For a year they roamed the countryside, levelling every dyke they found. Then in 1724 they returned to Kelton Hill. Only one dyke was left to be levelled, the one around the parkland of Threave (more likely Kelton) Estate.

At Furbar, the Levellers were met by the landowner, Captain Johnstone, and the minister, the Reverend William Falconer. The minister explained that this dyke was only built to mark the edge of the road and that no tenants had been or would be evicted. The laird had a barrel of beer which he offered to the Levellers in exchange for leaving his dyke standing. The offer was accepted, the beer drunk and the dyke still stands to this day... The Levellers are supposed to have carved the date on stones in the dyke near here. There are three stones with dates on them, but none with 1724. [ For more on the Galloway Levellers see "The Lowland Clearances": Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell: Tuckwell Press : 2003: Chapter Three ]

Beyond Furbar cottage, just before the pavement on the road leading back into Castle Douglas is reached, traces of an old ditch can be seen in the field to the left. Somewhere in this area the remains of a prehistoric dam were found 200 years ago. This either prevented floodwater from the Dee entering the loch, or kept the level of the loch artificially high. On the right, at the edge of Carlingwark Loch, is the 'Gallows Slot'. This is where bodies of hanged criminals were allegedly thrown. A pit containing bodies may have been found here around 1800.

Entering Castle Douglas, a row of cottages called The Buchan can be seen on the left. They are aligned on the course of the Old Military Road which followed the high ground over Carlingwark Hill. In one of the cottages, now a bed and breakfast, a huge fireplace can still be seen. According to local tradition, this was where a blacksmith called Brawny Kim lived. When James II was besieging Threave Castle in 1455, Kim built him a huge gun - Mons Meg. Mons Meg can still be seen at Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, James II records show that Mons Meg was actually built at Mons in Flanders, not the Buchan. Past the Buchan is a bridge over a stream flowing out of the loch. This stream flows through a deep cutting in Carlingwark Hill towards the Carlingwark Canal. The cutting through Carlingwark Hill was made to drain the loch as part of the marl works mentioned earlier. When it was first made, the level of the loch dropped by around eight feet.

Continuing back into Castle Douglas, in the field on the left past the entrance to Carlingwark House once stood the Three Thorns of Carlingwark. Eighteenth century antiquarians claimed the thorns were the scene of 'Druidical rites' including human sacrifice. However since the last of the thorn trees could still be seen in the early 19th century, and since Druids worshipped in groves of oak trees 2000 years ago, this seems unlikely. The Three Thorns were, however, a well know meeting place in the 17th century. There was an inn nearby. This existed in 1685. Just over 100 years later, Robert Burns stayed at a Carlingwark Inn. The inn at Carlingwark was an overnight stopping place for travellers to and from Ireland.