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greengalloway

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Landscape, photography, history


Landscape, photography and history.

This post was inspired  by the Galloway Photographic Collective's exhibition at the Workshop Gallery at A D Livingston and Sons 183 King Street Castle Douglas.

The launch of the Workshop Gallery.


Back in 2002 I began researching the history of the Galloway Levellers uprising of 1724 for a BBC Radio Scotland series on the Lowland Clearances. The series was broadcast in 2003 and turned into a book called The Lowland Clearances later that year, with a chapter on the Galloway Levellers. I was fascinated by the Levellers and was able to use my research for a 50 000 word M.Phil thesis via Glasgow University Dumfries in 2009.

A problem I found when trying to understand the Galloway Levellers was that later in the eighteenth century the whole landscape of Galloway was transformed by agricultural improvements. The farm buildings were rebuilt, the fields were drained, new hedges and dykes were made and new roads, towns and villages were built. More recently, the mechanisation of farming has also altered the landscape, as has the process of afforestation.

However, a few traces of the older landscape have survived. I have visited a few of the surviving sites and tried to photograph them, but I have found it difficult to represent them in photographs. The following illustrates the possibilities and the problems I have encountered.

1. Kilnair (near Lochnivar Loch) NX 665 879

Kilnair is from the Gaelic cuil an air which means 'the corner of the ploughing'. The site therefore dates back at least to the twelfth century. There is a tck (lease) of the farm from 1669 which shows that cattle and sheep were kept, and that ewes milk cheese was made. The tack also says that a horse was kept for ploughing the arable land where oats and bere (a type of barley) were grown. At Kilnair today there is the remains of a early nineteenth century shepherd's cottage which was abandonded in the 1950s. There are also traces of the arable fields, now under grass.


Kilnair March 2008



2.Darngarroch NX 62 63

This site is on the Laurieston to Gatehouse road, just past Darngarroch bridge. Below the road there is a large area of short grass with the remains of field enclosures and rig and furrow cultivation. In the seventeenth century, Darngarroch was a farm/croft owned by the Griersons of Bargatton in Balmaghie parish. William Grierson of Bargatton was a member of the War Committee of the Covenant in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in 1640/1, when Threave castle was beseiged by the Covenanters. By 1724, the Griersons no longer owned Bargatton but William Grierson's granddaughter Grisel was married to Thomas Moire who owned Beoch farm near by. Grisel and Thomas joined the Galloway Levellers and were fined for their actions in January 1725.

As with Kilnair, it is difficult to imagine crops of oats and barley being cultivated here, but they were, until the land was given over to sheep farming in the late eighteenth century.


Remnant of medieval field system at Darngarroch May 2008


3. Stroan Hill NX 64 69

There are remains of field boundaries and rig and furrow on this hill above Loch Stroan. This has been survey by Piers Dixon of RCAHMS, who found the remains of several houses and a grain drying kiln on the site. In the sevenenth century the settlement on Stroan Hill was owned by the Charteris family of Duchrae in Balmaghie parish, until William Craik ( a Dumfries merchant) bought Duchrae estate. The Craik family still owned Duchrae estate in 1724 and the 'last stand' of the Galloway Levellers took place on a 'motte' built by John of Dunbar who was gifted Duchrae estate by James II in 1455 as a bribe for surrendering Threave castle to James. The Stroan Hill fermtoun was probably abandoned in the late eighteenth century when a new Stroan farm ( now also abandoned) was built.


Map by Piers Dixon of Stroan Hill field system


Finally one I haven't visited.

4. Dunrod on the Kirkcudbright Training Area (Dundrennan Range)
In 1160, King Fergus of Galloway was forced into exile at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. Fergus gifted Holyrood the 'vill' of Dunrod. Around the remains of Dunrod kirk and the nearby site of a medieval moated manor house there are extensive areas of broad and narrow rig and furrow. These have been surveyed, mapped and photographed by RCHAMS and are the largest area of rig and furrow surviving in Dumfries and Galloway. Some of the broad, curved rig and furrow also survives near Netherlaw Burn. The curving shape of this type of rig and furrow was created by the use of oxen drawn ploughs.

The survival around Netherlaw gives an interesting link to the Galloway Levellers. In 1688, Robert Maxwell of Orchardton Tower gave instructions that his cattle park at Netherlaw 'should not be put to the plough'. There was still a cattle park at Netherlaw in 1724, when its dykes were demolished by the Levellers, who claimed that the cattle in the enclosure had been illegally imported from Ireland. (Some of the cattle were later killed at Dundrennan Abbey by a blacksmith called McMin who had a croft nearby.) The conversion of arable land to pasture 'fossilised' the rig and furrow, thus preserving part of the landscape of medieval Galloway.

The Army established the Training Area in 1942, over 150 years since oxen drawn ploughs had been replaced by cast iron horse drawn ploughs. It is possible that this taekover preserved areas of rig and furrow there which have been lost in other areas through the intensification and mechanisation of farming since the 1940s.

Rig and furrow at Dunrod RCHAMS photograph





The landscape and history.

In response to the Highland Clearances, Gaelic poet Duncan Ban Macintyre composed Oran nam Balgairean (The Song of the Foxes) which contains the lines

The customs that were followed
They have perished now in Gaeldom

For the poet, the clearance of people from the land marked a break in the continuity of the people's history, a history that was rooted in the land. In contrast, despite their resistance to clearance through enclosure, in 1724 the Galloway Levellers only reference to the past was confined to anti-Jacobite rhetoric directed against Basil Hamilton, an enclosing landowner who had joined the local Jacobite forces in 1715. Why was there this difference in response?

By the eighteenth century, Gaelic had been the language of the Highlands for over 1000 years. In Galloway, the continuity of language, land and people had been disrupted many times over the same period. When the Romans entered Galloway around 80 AD, the local language was Brittonic (related to modern Welsh). Although the Romans soon withdrew from Galloway, it likely they established/ supported a client kingdom in Galloway to help protect their roads through Nithsdale and Annandale and the western end of Hadrian's Wall.

After the end of Roman rule in Britain, the evidence from Whithorn, the Mote of Mark and (most recently) Trusty's Hill shows that there was an important Dark Age (Early Historic) kingdom in Galloway with trading links to Gaul and the Mediterranean. As well as importing high status goods, the kingdom produced fine metalwork and glassware. This kingdom flourished between the fifth and seventh centuries. It was then taken over by Angles from Northumbria between 675 and 700 AD, an event marked by the destruction by fire of Trusty's Hill and the Mote of Mark. At Whithorn, the existing monastery was also taken over by the Northumbrians.

Northumbrian rule lasted for about 200 years. Then, during the tenth century, Vikings who had settled in Ireland and in Argyll extended their influence into Galloway. The Argyll group reached Galloway vai the Firth of Clyde and Ayrshire and were called by irish chroniclers the 'gall-ghaidheil' -the foreign Gaels. Galloway takes it name from these people who were Gaelic speakers. Then, around 1120, a descendant of the 'foreign Gaels' called Fergus emerged as king of Galloway. Galloway was then ruledd by Fergus and his descendants for the next hundred years, until the death of Alan of Galloway in 1234. The Annals of Ulster noted Alan's death, describing him as 'king of the Gall-Gael'.

The next phase of Galloway's history is also part of Scotland's history. When Fergus died in 1161, Galloway was jointly ruled by his two sons, Gill-Brigte and Uhtred. Then, in 1174, Gill-Brigte fought against Uhtred. Uhtred was captured by Gille-Brigte and ritually mutilated- Uhtred's eyes and tongue were cut out and he was castrated so he could not act as a ruler/ king. Uhtred died of his injuries soon afterwards. After Gill-Brigte died in 1185, Uhtred's son Roland invaded Galloway and became its new lord. To prevent further conflict, Gille-Brigte's son Duncan was made earl of Carrick (south Ayrshire). Carrick then passed to Duncan's son Neil and then his only daighetr Marjory – who married the father of Robert the Bruce. Similarly, Alan of Galloway's inheritance passed to his daughter Dervorgilla who married John Balliol, father of King John Balliol.

The struggle between Bruces and Balliols for the Scottish Crown lasted from the death of King Alexander III in 1286 until Edward, son of King John Balliol, gave up his claim to the Crown in 1356, leaving David II, son of Robert Bruce, as undisputed king of Scotland. But even after 1356, David II could not control Galloway which remained loyal to Edward Balliol as its 'special lord' until his death in 1365.

Rather than David II, it was Archibald 'the Grim' Douglas who took over Galloway and decalred himself its new Lord. After the 2nd earl of Douglas died at Otterburn in 1388, Archibald became the 3rd earl of Douglas, controlling a huge swathe of southern Scotland and even lands around the Moray Firth. This set up a power struggle between the Douglases and the Stewart kings of Scotland which led to the downfall of the 9th earl of Douglas in 1455. In the summer of 1455, James II himself oversaw the seige of Archibald's castle on Threave island on the river Dee. The castle only fell to James after he bribed its defenders to surrender.

The Douglas lords of Galloway were Scots speakers who introduced Scots speaking tenants to their lands. This is likely to have hastened the decline of Gaelic in Galloway.

The Douglas lands were forfeit to the Crown and then sold of piecemeal over the next hundred years. The end result was a fragmented pattern of land ownership in Galloway, with several hundred
'bonnet lairds' owning many small estates comprising fewer than ten farms. No one family ever dominated Galloway again. The other main landowner had been the Church. Glenluce Abbey owned all of new and Old Luce parishes in Wigtownshire, Dundrennan Abbey owned Rerrick parish and part of Kirkpatrick Durham, Sweetheart Abbey owned New Abbey parish and the rest of Kirkpatrick Durham. Lincluden Abbey (later a Collegiate Church) had most of Crossmichael parish.

After 1560, the Scottish Reformation led to the break-up of these Church lands. Most of the people in Galloway became Protestant, but the Maxwell family (lords and earls of Nithsdale) did not, staying loyal to the Roman Catholic church and- significantly- the Stuart kings through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. So when Charles I was opposed by Scottish protestants in 1640, both Threave castle and Caerlaverock castle were held by the Maxwells for Charles and were beseiged by the Army of the Covenant. With varying degrees of intensity, the religious and political struggle which began then continued for another 100 years, ending only with the defeat of Charles Edward Stuart's army at Culloden in 1746.

What I hope this rapid summary of Galloway's history shows is that, unlike the Gaelic speaking Highlanders who were cleared from their lands in the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth centuries, the Galloway Levellers of 1724 were separated from their ancestors' customs and traditions by a whole series of breaks and discontinuities, including several changes in language.

The shift from Gaelic to Scots, which occurred between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries was the most significant, since it involved the loss of oral traditions, of folk memories and folk histories which had provided a link between land and people. It is possible that the Reformation provided a religious substitute for this cultural loss. Cut off from their past by this language change, the Covenanters of the seventeenth century drew on the Old Testament to imagine themselves as Israelites struggling to reach the Promised Land.

At the same time, the Kirkcudbright Sherif Court Deeds 1623-1700 show that the land (farms) had become a commodity to be bought and sold. Farms were leased to tenants for up to 19 years at a time (although 5 or 7 year leases were more common) and the tenants moved from farm to farm at the end of each lease. This constant movement and change meant there was no popular sense of ancestral attachment to a particular plot of land.

The main grievance of the Galloway Levellers was economic. Sometime before 1625, the Murrays of Broughton (near Whithorn) began taking herds of cattle from lands they had acquired in Donegal as part of the Planation of Ulster through Galloway and Dumfriesshire for sale in England. Then, in 1666, the import of Irish cattle to England was banned. This led to an illicit trade in Irish cattle, which, after being briefly pastured in Galloway, were sold on to England as 'Scottish' cattle. Significantly, this illicit trade was developed by Episcopalian and Roman Catholic landowners who were loyal to Charles II. The authorities, including Robert Grierson of Lag, seemed to have turned a blind eye to the trade since they were more interested in persecuting Covenanters. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Presbyterian familes like the Herons of Kirroughtrie developed a legitimate trade in cattle raised in Galloway. This commercial cattle trade had, the Galloway Levellers later claimed, a depopulating effect on the parish of Minnigaff.

The Revolution of 1688/9 also led a shift in local political power and influence. Presbyterian William Craik replaced a Roman Catholic member of the Maxwell family as provost of Dumfries and his son-in-law Robert Johnston became provost later. Johnston represented Dumfries in the pre-Union Scottish Parliament and bought Kelton (now Threave) estate from William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale in 1706. A few Presbyterian ministers were able to return from exile in Ireland or England and some of the landowners who had lost their estates through fines and forfeitures were able to reclaim them. [Some had first to return from banishment in the American colonies.]

Then, in 1715, all of these changes were threatened by a Jacobite uprising. While the main action took place in the north of Scotland, a small group of Jacobites led by viscount Gordon of Kenmure and the earl of Nithsdale attempted to seize Dumfries in October 1715 with the aid of Jacobites from the north of England and a 1000 strong army of Highlanders. The regular army and local militia had been sent north, so the defence of Dumfries relied on local volunteers organised by, amongst others, Robert Johnston of Kelton. The minister of Urr parish, John Hepburn was a militant Presbyterian and organised an armed group of 300 (called the Hebronites) who also marched to the defence of Dumfries. However, the civil authorities did not allow them to enter the town. Heburn's group were not needed since up to 3000 volunteers from Nithsdale and the Stewartry had rallied to the defence of King George I and the Revolution of 1688. This was enough to deter the Jacobites who turned south instead and were defeated in the battle of Preston in November 1715.

Amongst the local Jacobites captured at Preston in 1715 was the 18 year old Sir Basil Hamilton. Although condemned to death, his grandmother, duchess Anne of Hamilton and his mother, Mary Dunbar of Baldoon, managed to save him. They also managed to prevent Sir Basil's estates (amounting to 70 farms in Galloway) from being forfeit to the Crown. However, Sir Basil's father, Lord Basil Hamilton, had been a keen promoter of the failed Darien Project and the estates were burdened with debt.

In 1723, Sir Basil Hamilton was busily engaged in trying to restore the family fortune. His grandfather and great grandfather (both called David Dunbar) had built a large cattle park at Baldoon near Wigtown and engaged in the illicit import of Irish cattle. Basil attempted to follow this model, evicting several familes from his lands near Kirkcudbright to create a cattle park which was then stocked with Irish cattle which he hoped to export to England.

What had begun as a small scale protest against the import of Irish cattle at Netherlaw in March 1724 involving only a few Levellers became a large scale (attracting an estimated 1000 people) protest when Sir Basil's dykes were thrown down in May 1724. Sir Basil's Jacobite background touched a raw nerve, evoking the recent memories of 1715 and older memories of the Covenanters' struggles in the previous century. This led on to the levelling of dykes belonging to the Maxwells of Munches near Dalbeattie (who had been Jacobites in 1715 and where there was a Roman Catholic chapel) and the dykes of Robert Neilson at Barncalzie near Kirkpatrick Durham, who was another Roman Catholic landowner. Although John Hepburn of Urr had died in 1723, the anti-Catholic element of these actions can be traced to his militant followers who still retained the muskets they had been issued with in 1715.

For the moderate Presbyterian landowners in 1724, their biggest fear is likely to have been that the Levellers actions might start to extend beyond Galloway via the Cameronians or Society People. This group had their origins in 1680 when Richard Cameron and his followers declared holy war on Charles II and his brother James. In 1724, the leader of the Cameronians was John McMillan, minister of Balmaghie parish. Although expelled from the Church of Scotland in 1703, McMillan still occupied the manse and church at Balmaghie, however most of the Cameronians lived in Upper Nithsdale, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. Perhaps fortunately, McMillan and the Cameronians believed that Hepburn and the Hebronites had forsaken ' the poor, wasted, misrepresented, Remnant of the Suffering, Anti-Popish, Anti-Prelatick, Anti-Erastian, Anti-Sectarian, True Presbyterian Church of Christ in Scotland ' (as the Cameronians described themselves) by volunteering to support an un-Covenanted king – George I.

On the other hand, if Sir Basil Hamilton had prevailed and the troops sent to supress the Galloway Levellers had been ordered to 'shoot to kill', this may well have re-started the cycle of violent actions and reactions which could have reawoken the still bitter memories of the Killing Times of the 1680s. To prevent events spiralling out of control (and much to Sir Basl hamilton's annoyance), negotions took place with the Levellers. At Kelton, Robert Johnston was able to pesuade a group of Levellers not to demolish his dykes. At the Steps of Tarff, Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness, who had begun his military career in King William's army in 1688, also negotiated with a group of armed Levellers, managing to defuse a potentially violent situation.

The troops brought in to control the situation were under the command of John Dalrymple, the second earl of Stair. In 1714/5, Dalrymple was a diplomat in France and managed to limit French support for the Jacobites in 1715. In June 1724, Major Gardiner was appointed field-commander in Galloway. Gardiner had fought against the Jacobites at the battle of Preston in 1715. He was also a deeply religious Presbyterian Christian, as was Maxwell of Cardoness, whose father had been minister of Minnigaff parish, signing the National Covenant in 1638 and who was forced out of the parish after the restoration of Charles II.

It is therefore likely that the Galloway Levellers last stand at Duchrae in October 1724 was a face saving exercise, arranged by Maxwell and Gardiner to bring the conflict to a peaceful end. The troops were ordered to use minimal force and although 200 Levellers were captured, all but a handful were allowed to escape on the journey back to Kirkcudbright. Sir Basil Hamilton did pursue a group of Levellers, including Grisel Grierson (mentioned above) for damages (Colonel Maxwell of Cardoness was the Presiding Magistrate), but there are no records of criminal prosecutions brought against any of the Levellers.

Although the events of 1724 were long remembered in Galloway, unlike the Highland Clearances, they left no legacy of bitterness and resentment. Significantly, when the rationalisation of the farmed landscape began in the 1760s, landowners like James Murray of Broughton and Cally (whose father's cattle parks had been levelled in 1724) took great efforts to provide alternative employment for their surplus tenants and cottars. Gatehouse of Fleet and many other of Galloway's planned towns and villages are the result of such policies. John Maxwell, who had witnessed the Levellers in action as a child in 1724, was factor to improving landowner Richard Oswald in Kirkbean and Colvend 40 years later. Rather than force through evictions, Maxwell negotiated with Oswald's tenants to bring about gradual rather than rapid 'improvement'.

Perhaps significantly, in one of their carefully composed (in good English, not the Scots they spoke) pamphlets, the Galloway Levellers argued for rather than against enclosures.

The Gentlemen should enclose their grounds in such parcels that each may be sufficient for a good tenant and that the Heritors lay as much rent on each of these enclosures as will give him double the interest of the money laid out on the enclosures. If he cannot get this enclosure set to a tenant whom he may judge sufficient, he may then lawfully keep that ground in his own hand till he finds a sufficient tenant , taking care that the tenant’s house be kept up and that it may be let with the first opportunity and that a lease of twenty-one years be offered. This will considerably augment the yearly rent of the lands and the tenant will hereby be capable and encouraged to improve the breed of sheep and black cattle and the ground, which without enclosures is impossible.

Again, this reveals a dramatic contrast between Galloway and the Highlands. Such words are hardly those of a group of people attempting to preserve their ancient way of life against economic change and modernity. Rather, they show that even by 1724, even before the agricultural revolution of the later eighteenth century, the medieval/ feudal farming economy of Galloway was fading fast. The farmed landscape and the day to day practice of farming may still have been that of the past, but the seeds of the future were already present.

This creates a strange situation when attempting to connect the history of Galloway's people with the history of Galloway's landscape. As a rural and agricultural region rather than an urban and industrial region, one might expect a high degree of continuity between present and past, with a slow unfolding of change. Instead, the past is marked by frequent breaks and discontinuities. Over the past 2000 years, settlement patterns, rulers, languages and types of farming have all changed numerous times.

Of these changes, the most significant have involved the loss of a language. When a language dies out, the living culture associated with the language is also lost. For the Brittonic language spoken in Galloway when the Romans arrived, only fragments of archaeology and a scatter of place names has survived. The Old English speaking Northumbrians who took over as the ruling elite left a clear imprint at Whithorn, but little else. The Gaelic speakers of Galloway have left an enduring imprint on the place names of the region and, through Scottish and English sources, we know the names and histories of Galloway's kings and lords.However, of the everyday lives and histories of the ordinary folk of Gaelic speaking Galloway there is only silence.

Some fragments of everyday life survive amongst the records of the Douglas lordship of Galloway, such as a list of the farms and the names of their tenants for the parish of Buittle circa 1374, but it is only after the collapse of Douglas power in 1455 that the history of Galloway starts to become a history of its people. First in Latin, then in Scots, first a trickle and then a flood of documents survive to allow historians to understand the everyday lives of Galloway's people. For the Stewartry in particular, the 6000 entries in the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1623-1700 provide a rich and fascinating insight into the day to day lives of its inhabitants.

To the extent that 'history' means the written record of past events, the history of Galloway's people (rather than their rulers) only begins in the seventeenth century, when the spread of literacy which followed the Reformation had become more widely established. By then, Scots had replaced Gaelic as the everyday language of Galloway. From around the same time, beginning with Timothy Pont's maps of Galloway (surveyed circa 1590), successive changes in the landscape can also be traced. The maps can be cross-referenced with documentary sources so that even lost (I.e not shown on modern maps) and abandoned sites can be located, visited and photographed.









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