New Statistical Account (2)




May 1843

[Drawn up by the Rev. William McKenzie, Minister of Skirling, and author of the History of Galloway. Kirkcudbright]

Page 2 of 3

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II. – Civil History.

Historical Events. – The parish of Kirkcudbright is rich in historical events. The town is thought to have existed before the invasion of the Romans, and to have been known to them by the name of Benutium. Agricola, with his victorious army, penetrated into the parish A. D. 82. He entered it on the northeast boundary, and having taken a British strength belonging to the Selgovae on the farm of Little Sypland, he encamped near Whinnyligget, about a mile from the captured fort. After reducing another strength on the farm of Meikle Sypland, the Roman army proceeded to Bombie, where they formed an encampment. After wresting from their defenders several intervening fortlets, they again encamped near the site of the old church of Dunrod. Another short march placed them before the important fortress of Caerbantorigum, which they also seized. This fortress, which may be considered the principal border garrison of the Selgovae, stood on an eminence of about 250 feet high at Drummore The Romans retained possession of it during the reigns of the Antonines, or, as some think, for nearly 300 years. The inhabitants of the locality must have derived many advantages from the presence of these more civilized and industrious foreigners; for Agricola was particularly zealous in promoting improvement among the conquered tribes of Scotland.

Whilst Malcolm IV., son of David I., was a minor, Fergus, the Lord of Galloway, whose palace stood on an island in Lochfergus, near the town of Kirkcudbright, abjured his connection with the Scottish crown, and asserted his independence as a sovereign prince. The King took up arms to chastise him, and twice invaded his rugged territories, but without success. Malcolm marched against the Galwegian chief a third time, with additional forces and redoubled ardour, and completely prevailed. In 1160, Fergus resigned the Lordship of Galloway, and retiring into the abbey of Holyrood, next year died of grief. He bestowed upon this institution the church and village of Dunrod, with the lands and church of Galtway. Fergus was a prince of great piety and some notoriety. He married Elizabeth, illegitimate daughter of Henry I., King of England, and was much at David’s Court. He was ancestor of Bruce and Baliol, and from him the royal families of both France and England are descended.

Fergus was succeeded by his two sons, Uchtred and Gilbert, between whom, according to the Celtic law, his dominions were divided. The brothers became mutually jealous of each other, and on the 22d of September 1174, whilst Uchtred resided in his castle at Lochfergus, he was attacked by his elder brother, deprived of his tongue and eyes, and murdered in a most barbarous manner. Uchtred, like his father, was distinguished for his piety ; he bestowed the church of Kirkcudbright upon the monks of Holyrood, who enjoyed the tithes and revenues, whilst the cure was served by a vicar.

The last in the male line of the ancient princes of Galloway was Allan, who died, in all probability, in the castle of Lochfergus, or Kirkcudbright Castle, and was buried in Dundrennan Abbey, founded by Fergus, his great-grandfather.

During the competition for the crown of Scotland, Edward I., who was appointed umpire, committed the keeping of the castle of Kirkcudbright, erected by one of the Lords of Galloway, to Walter De Courry, and afterwards to Richard Seward, who, on the mandate of the English King, delivered it up to John Baliol, to whom the kingdom of Scotland was nominally awarded.

After his defeat at Falkirk, the patriot Wallace took shipping at Kirkcudbright, and sailed to France with Maclellan of Bombie, ancestor of the noble family of Kirkcudbright, and about fifty faithful adherents. Edward I., in his career of conquest, reached the town of Kirkcudbright, and took up his abode in the castle, where he remained with his queen and court for ten days, and made his usual oblations in the priory church. From the port of Kirkcudbright he sent into both England and Ireland large quantities of wheat, to be made into flour for the use of his army. The Archbishop of Canterbury, attended by his learned dignitaries, clerks, and servants, followed Edward to Kirkcudbright with a Papal bull; but before his arrival the king had departed from the town. Bakers from Carlisle, and experienced fishermen with suitable nets, attended the royal army.

Edward Bruce having subdued Galloway, received from his royal brother, as a reward of his important services, the Lordship of Galloway, with the castle of Kirkcudbright, and all Baliol’s forfeited estates. This ruler granted to the priory of Whithorn the half of the salmon fishery of the Dee, near Kirkcudbright.

In the reign of James II. Sir John Herries of Terregles applied to Douglas of Threave Castle for compensation for some robberies committed by the dependents of that powerful chief. The application was unsuccessful; and he, aided by Maclellan of Bombie, made an inroad into the territories of the Earl, but his party was routed, and he himself taken prisoner, and executed in defiance of the king’s command. The encounter is thought to have taken place about a mile and a-half from the town of Kirkcudbright, on the old road to Dumfries, at a place still called “Herries” slaughter.”

The tutor of Bombie soon shared the same fate. Admittance having been obtained, either by force or treachery, into his castle of Raeberry, the principal residence of the family, be was seized, carried to Threave Castle, and beheaded, although Sir Patrick Gray, the King’s messenger, had arrived to demand the custody of the prisoner. Douglas was stabbed by the king’s own hand in the castle of Stirling on the 20th day of February 1452.

In about three years after this event, James visited the town of Kirkcudbright to make arrangements for laying siege to the strong castle of Threave, the last place that held out for the Douglasses. The citizens afforded him assistance, having supplied, it is believed, the iron from which Mons Meg was manufactured. Before the fall of the Douglasses, the capital of Galloway remained a burgh of regality under their oppressive sway, but it was now created a royal burgh by a charter dated at Perth the 26th of October 1455, the chief magistrate being styled alderman. The Maclellans of Bombie often held this office. After the battle of Touton, in 1461, Kirkcudbright afforded shelter to the unfortunate Henry VI. of England and his high-minded queen. The King resided here until his indomitable consort visited Edinburgh to concert measures with the Scottish Government for regaining to her husband the English crown. On the 16th of April 1462, Margaret, with a convoy of four Scottish ships, sailed from Kirkcudbright to Bretagne, in France, and in 1463, the feeble Henry returned to England in disguise. It appears he had only four attendants with him in Scotland.

In the spring of 1501, the town of Kirkcudbright had again the honour of a royal visit. James IV., in one of his numerous pilgrimages to the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn, diverged thither, and, with his usual liberality to the clergy, bestowed L. I upon the priests, and L. 5, 5s. upon the friars, to buy a Eucharist.

Thomas, Earl of Derby, a young, fiery, and warlike chief, having succeeded to the sovereignty of Mar, to extend his fame and gratify the hostile feelings of his subjects to the Scots, made a descent upon the shores of Galloway in 1507, at the head of a formidable body of furious Manxmen, and nearly destroyed the town of Kirkcudbright. For some years afterwards many of the houses remained in ruins.

James IV. again visited the burgh in 1508, and was hospitably entertained by the inhabitants. On this occasion, he granted them the castle of Kirkcudbright and its lands, which had reverted to the crown on the forfeiture of the Douglasses, on whom it had been bestowed in 1369 by David II. This grant was confirmed by a charter in the following year, dated the 26th of February; and it is said to have been made on account of certain aids afforded to his grandfather, James II., when engaged in the reduction of Threave Castle, and for services to James himself.

On the 9th of September 1513, Sir William Maclellan of Bombie, the principal proprietor of the parish, was slain with a number of his dependents in the disastrous battle of Flodden. His son fell in a feud by the hand of Gordon of Lochinvar, at the door of St Giles’ Church, in Edinburgh.

The Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, and next heir to the crown, in 1523, embarked at Brest in a fleet of eighty-seven vessels, and having escaped the English squadron, landed at Kirkcudbright on the 7th of October, where he was joyfully received.

During the minority of Mary Queen of Scots, the English having gained possession of Dumfries, summoned the town of Kirkcudbright to submit. to the authority of Edward VI. This demand being refused, a detachment of the invaders on horseback proceeded to the town, under the command of Sir Thomas Carleton, to compel obedience or burn it. They reached their place of destination, a little before sunrise; but the inhabitants had got notice of their approach, and, according to Sir Thomas’s account, “barred their gates and kept their dikes; for the town,” he adds, “is diked on both sides, with a gate to the waterward, and a gate at the overend to the fellward.” The English alighted from their horses, and vigorously assailed the place; but they could make no impression upon it. One man was killed within the walls by an arrow, and immediately some of the women began to be alarmed for the safety of their husbands. The tutor of Bombie, at the head of a party of his friends, now made his appearance, and fiercely attacked the besiegers; but, after three of his men were killed and a number of them wounded or made prisoners, he thought it advisable to retire. Though only one of the English fell in the conflict, they did not venture to attack the town a second time, but retired to Dumfries.

After the destruction of the ill-fated Mary’s army at Langside, she fled into Galloway, accompanied by Lord Herries and his followers. Having travelled along the west side of the Ken, she crossed the Dee by a wooden bridge, thought to have been erected by the Romans, near Tongland church, and entered the parish of Kirkcudbright. Whilst her attendants were engaged in breaking down the bridge to prevent pursuit, she remained in a neighbouring cottage. The ruins which long existed in the farm of Culdoch were called ” Dun’s Wa’s.” The fugitive Queen remained three days in the district before proceeding to England.

To avenge the death of Mary and his own wrongs, Philip, King of Spain, &c. fitted out a stupendous fleet and collected a vast army for the invasion of Britain. The place fixed for the landing of the Spanish troops was the harbour of Kirkcudbright. Lord Maxwell hurried home from Spain to arm his followers, and landed at the same place. The fate of the Spanish Armada is well known: it was defeated by the English fleet before it reached the destined port, and the elements completed its destruction.

James VI. appears to have been in Kirkcudbright when in pursuit of Lord Maxwell ; for the burgh is in possession of a small silver gun, which, according to tradition, was presented to the incorporated trades during his visit, that they might occasionally shoot for it, and by this means improve in the use of fire-arms, – then rapidly superseding the bow and arrow as implements of war. The year 1587 and the letters T. M. C., supposed to be the initials of Thomas Maclellan of Bombie, are engraven on the barrel of this miniature fusee. The trinket, seven inches in length, has been shot for, only three times in the memory of the oldest person now living, 1st, in 1781 2d, on the 22d of April 1830 ; and, 3d, on the 28th of June 1838, the day of the Queen’s coronation. The capacious wassail bowl belonging to the burgh was filled and refilled on the joyful occasion.

When Charles I. visited Scotland to conciliate the favour of his northern subjects, he bestowed upon Sir Robert Maclellan of Bornbie the title of Lord Kirkcudbright, and granted a new charter to the burgh dated the 20th of July 1633, which created the present corporation, consisting of a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and thirteen councillors. In the Battle of Philiphaugh, John, third Lord Kirkcudbright commanded a regiment which he had raised at his own expense, chiefly among his tenants. It behaved with great bravery, and was awarded 15,000 merks out of Lord Herries’s forfeited estates.

In 1663, a serious riot took place in the parish at the introduction of a curate. Commissioners were appointed to repair to the burgh, and make the most searching inquiry into the particulars of this contempt of authority. After examining a number of witnesses, they ordered Lord Kirkcudbright, John Carson, late provost, John Ewart, who had been chosen provost, but had refused to accept of the office, and several women, to be carried prisoners to Edinburgh. Some of the rioters were imprisoned and afterwards fined; arid several of them were exposed at the market-cross of Kirkcudbright, with papers upon their faces stating the nature of their crime.

After the defeat of the insurgent Covenanters at Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills, Major M’Culloch of Barholm, John Gordon of Knockbrex, and Robert Gordon, his brother, were sentenced to be executed at Edinburgh, and their heads sent to Kirkcudbright, to be exposed on the principal gate of the town. This sentence was put into execution. In 1684, two Covenanters, William Hunter and Robert Smith, who had been apprehended at Auchencloy, on the Dee, were brought to the town, where a jury being called, and the empty forms of a trial gone through, they were sentenced to be first hanged and then beheaded: this sentence was literally carried into effect. They were buried in Kirkcudbright churchyard, and a stone still points out the place of interment. John Hallam, another Covenanter, was also tried and executed in Kirkcudbright: his remains rest in the same churchyard.

In 1685, Sir Robert Grierson of Lag surprised John Bell of Whiteside and some others on the hill of Kirkconnel, in the parish of Tongland, and barbarously ordered them to be instantly put to death: he would not allow their bodies to be buried. Mr Hell was the only son of the heiress of Whiteside, who, after the death of his father, had married Viscount Kenmure. This nobleman met Lag in company with Graham of Claverhouse on the street of Kirkcudbright. Kenmure accused Lag of cruelty, when he retorted in highly offensive language, which so provoked the Viscount, that he drew his sword and would have run it through the body of the persecutor, had not Claverhouse interfered and saved his life. The encounter happened near the door of an inn at the north end of the town.

William’s fleet, on its passage to Ireland, continued for some time wind-bound in the Bay of Kirkcudbright. He erected a battery on the eastern shore, some traces of which still remain.

In 1698, a woman named Elspeth M’Ewen was brought to trial for witchcraft, condemned and burned to death near the town.

On the 12th November 1706, the magistrates, councillors, and other inhabitants of the burgh petitioned Parliament against the Union. A riot afterwards took place.

Previous to the Rebellion of 1715, Kirkcudbright seems to have been fixed upon as the place where the Pretender was to land. So enthusiastic did the inhabitants become in the royal cause, that they sent a company of foot under the command of their late provost, to assist in the defence of Dumfries against the rebels, who intended vigorously to attack it.

On the 1st of June 1750, Thomas Miller of Glenlee, Esq., advocate, first Steward-Depute of the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, passed sentence of death upon Henry Greig, accused of theft, house-breaking, and robbery. The execution took place in the vicinity of the ancient Gallow-hill, on an eminence at the side of the public road. This was the last melancholy exhibition of a capital punishment that the burgh of Kirkcudbright has been called upon to witness.

In the spring of 1778, the celebrated Paul Jones paid a visit to St Mary’s Isle for the purpose of carrying off its noble owner, the Earl of Selkirk. Soon after he had effected a landing, he was informed by some labourers that his Lordship was in England. He then ordered his men to return to their boat ; but, observing on their countenances symptoms of dissatisfaction, he allowed the party, commanded by two lieutenants, to proceed to the mansion-house, and demand the Earl’s silver-plate. The various articles were delivered to them by the Countess of Selkirk, and the party setting off without delay, reached their ship. The plate was bought at a considerable price by Paul Jones himself in France, and returned to her Ladyship in perfect safety.

Maps, &c. – The land-owners have maps, plans, or surveys of their properties, which tend to illustrate the antiquities of the parish.

Eminent Characters. – Exclusive of the eminent characters already taken notice of, we may mention a few men who have done honour to Kirkcudbright by their talents and labours.

In the reign. of David II., John Carpenter, a Franciscan or Grey-friar belonging to the convent established at Kirkcudbright, was employed to fortify Dumbarton Castle. For this service he received from the King an annual pension of L.20 Sterling. He is said to have been an excellent engineer, and “dextrous at contriving all instruments of war.” John Barton, brother of the well known Andrew Barton, and son of the renowned sea captain of that name, who was slain by the Portuguese in the reign of James III., died and was buried in Kirkcudbright church-yard.

John Welsh, son-in-law of John Knox, was minister of the parish. He was banished from Britain for his opposition to Episcopal encroachment, By powerful intercession, the King at length allowed him to reside in London, where he died in 1622.

John Maclellan, who wrote, in 1665, a description of Galloway in Latin for Blaeu’s Atlas, which gained him some celebrity, was minister of Kirkcudbright,

Dr Thomas Blacklock, who had been blind almost from infancy, was ordained to the pastoral charge of the parish of Kirkcudbright in 1762. He was both an elegant writer and an amiable man. His settlement being strenuously opposed, he at length felt himself compelled to resign his living and retire to Edinburgh.

Basil William Lord Daer was the eldest surviving son of Dunbar, Earl of Selkirk. About the year 1786, his father’s advanced age prevented him from engaging personally in the improvement of his estates ; and, by a generous and merited act of confidence, he devolved the management of his property on his talented son. Lord Daer turned his attention to the study of rural economy in its various branches, and displayed much ability in the formation, and diligence in the execution, of his admirable plans. His exertions, however, were not confined to the improvement of his father’s estates; they extended to the promotion of every measure of public utility. By his liberality, judgment, influence, and example, he induced the proprietors of the district to form proper roads, to erect suitable bridges, to lay out ornamental plantations, to build better farm-houses, and construct convenient offices. This celebrated nobleman died on the 5th of November 1794, at the early age of thirty-two years. Of Lord Daer, the History of Galloway thus speaks : – ” We cannot name this amiable and youthful nobleman without remarking, that his genuine distinction did not arise from the accidents of rank, influence, and fortune. He belonged to the aristocracy of nature-to the peerage of intellect; for, if his useful and valuable life had been spared, the magnitude and buoyancy of his talents would have raised him to eminence, and the south of Scotland to unexampled prosperity. We do not remember this truly great and good man, who, during his short and philanthropic career, gained the esteem, commanded the admiration, and riveted to himself the hearts of all by whom he was surrounded; but well we remember, that in our boyhood, his name was never mentioned in the town of Kirkcudbright, without emotions of the liveliest enthusiasm and veneration. He set an example that has been widely followed, and the district in which he resided will long reap the fruits of his disinterested labours.”

Thomas, Earl of Selkirk, was distinguished as a scholar, an author, and a politician. In the management of his estates, he followed the judicious plans devised by his brother. He died at Pau, in France, on the 8th of April 1820, having scarcely completed the forty-ninth year of his age.

James Wedderburn, Esq., Solicitor-General of Scotland, died in 1822, at St Mary’s Isle, and was interred in Galtway churchyard.

Ministers of Kirkcudbright since the Revolution, with the years when their names first appeared in the synod book : – John Spalding, 1689. Andrew Cameron, 1695. George Gartshore, 1723. [ The distinguished physician, Dr Maxwell Gartshore of London, was his son.] Thomas Blacklock, 1762. William Crombie, 1765. Robert Muter, 1770. George Hamilton, 1820. John M’Millan, 1837.

Chief Land-owners. – The Earl of Selkirk is the principal landholder in the parish.

Parochial Registers. – A parochial register is regularly kept by the kirk-session. The oldest record commences in 1692.

Antiquities, British Forts, &c. – In the parish of Kirkcudbright, there are many vestiges of British forts; indeed, the whole eastern banks of the Dee, the line of demarcation between two hostile tribes, the Selgovae and Novantes, seem to have been studded with ancient fortifications. The most important in size and strength was Caerbantorigum, on the farm of Drummore. The hill on the top of which it stood commands a most extensive view both of land and water. The fort was surrounded by two ramparts, composed of earth and stone, and a double fosse, which remain almost entire, the ramparts being still covered with heather. In the middle of the enclosure is a pit partially filled with stones. To what uses it may have been devoted, it is now impossible to conjecture. It has the appearance of a well. In a piece of marshy ground at some little distance below the fort, is a large well, the sides built of stone, which some think supplied the garrison with water. At short distances from the eminence are still observable traces of the hostile Roman camps. About a mile and a half from Drummore hill, there are the remains of another British fort, likewise of a circular form, on the farm of Milton. There are two hill fortlets near the old church of Galtway; and a bill on the farm of Meikle Sypland exhibits the site of a pretty entire fort of about forty paces in diameter. This eminence overlooks a vast extent of country, and no enemy could have approached the fortress without being seen at a considerable distance. Between this and Galtway, traces of a Roman camp are still visible on Bombie Mains; and the remains of two British posts appear at no great distance. The farm of Little Sypland contains a large British fort: between the strongholds on the two Syplands, is the site of a Roman camp near Whinnyligget.

In the farm of Carse was a British fort, of about fifty paces in diameter, placed there, in all probability, to protect a ford nearly opposite in the Dee, and to overlook a portion of the river.

Castles. – On an island in Lochfergus, now drained, stood the strong mansion of the ancient Lords of Galloway. There were two fortified islands in the lake, the larger, about 90 paces in diameter, was called Palace Isle, and the smaller, Stable Isle.

The Lords of Galloway, as formerly noticed, had another castle in the immediate vicinity of the burgh, named Kirkcudbright Castle. In old deeds, the lands are called Castle-Mains; but now the place bears the name of Castledykes. The castle was surrounded by a deep ditch, or fosse, into which the tide at high water probably flowed. Traces of the building are still apparent, though it has been long since demolished.

The Maclellans had a castle at Bombie, from which they took their title; but it is now a heap of ruins. They had another and stronger castle at Raeberry, also in the parish of Kirkcudbright. It stood upon a rock which overhung a terrific precipice above the Solway Frith, and was disjoined from the main land by a deep fosse, with a strong wall. Across it, was a huge drawbridge, said to have been made of hard freestone. The wall and drawbridge are supposed to have been destroyed about ninety years ago, and the interior buildings about two hundred years prior to that time. At present, nothing remains but the site and fosse.

Antiquities – Burgh. – The town of Kirkcudbright was anciently encompassed by a wall and fosse. None of the wall is now visible, though the fosse, or ditch, is still open in several places. The space within the wall was almost a square, each side being about 350 yards long. The town had one gate at the river, and another on the side next the Barhill, called the Meikle Yett. [The three globular stones which stood above it are placed on the gate of the churchyard. ]

The tide seems to have flowed into the fosse, and consequently at high water to have completely surrounded the town. Houses stood with their gables to the street, and closes radiated from each side of it. At the cross are the old jail and steeple : the steeple contains the bells which are used on ordinary occasions, and a clock of no modern workmanship.

Churches. – Within the modern parish of Kirkcudbright, were at one the eight places of worship, with their respective churchyards. The town contained two churches, namely, that belonging to the convent of the Greyfriars, near the site of the present castle, and St Andrew’s Church, which stood on the ground occupied by the new jail. The General Assembly which sat in Edinburgh during the summer of 1564, petitioned Queen Mary to grant the Friars’ Church of Kirkcudbright to the magistrates, to be used as a parish church. The Queen was pleased to comply with this request, and the building then contained for the first time a Protestant congregation. The convent itself, having suffered from the fury of the populace, was bestowed upon Sir Thomas Maclellan of Bombie, to afford him a site for a new residence. This castle was erected in 1582: it is now in ruins, but the walls remain almost entire. The building retained its roof until 1752. In the year 1570, Sir Thomas Maclellan sold the Friar’s Church and the church of St Andrews, with their churchyards, to the magistrates, council, and community of Kirkcudbright, for the sum “of twa hundredth merks, usual money, and ane hundredth bolls of lym.” The late church of Kirkcudbright, built in 1730, stood upon the spot previously occupied by the Friars’ Church. Below the portion of it called the Old Aisle, still remaining, is the tomb in which the mortal remains of the Maclellans were deposited.

The landward portion of the parish contained five churches. St Cuthbert’s parish church stood about a quarter of a mile to the east of the town, surrounded by a church-yard, which is still used as a burying-ground by nearly all the inhabitants of the parish. It is well suited for the purpose, being a place of great beauty and solemnity. It was lately enlarged by a contract entered into between the magistrates and presbytery. A portion of the glebe, containing 1724 square yards, was given in exchange for 3247 square yards of the town’s land: the addition to become the property of the burgh. This church appears to have been about 60 feet long and 30 broad. Its site is still visible, though the walls have been long ago removed. It probably ceased to be used as a place of worship after the magistrates of Kirkcudbright had obtained possession of the Friars’ church.

Galtway [From the British galt, a steep ascent.] church stood on high ground, about two miles from the burgh. Traces of the walls are apparent. The church seems to have been but small, about 30 feet in length by 15 in breadth. The church-yard is still used by a few families. It is completely surrounded by a thriving plantation, and has a very sequestered appearance the ancient wall, much dilapidated, exhibits its former boundaries. The enclosure is but small, namely, 67 paces long and 45 broad. The oldest monument is Thomas Ledderdale’s of St Mary’s Isle, who died on the 10th of February 1687. In the neighbourhood are some traces of a village which the plough has not entirely effaced.

The church and lands of Galtway were appropriated to the prior and canons of St Mary’s Isle, a dependent cell of Holyrood, and continued to belong to that establishment until the Reformation. The priory stood in the parish of Galtway.

Dunrod { This word is said to be derived from Dun, a hill, and rudd, red. ] Church was situated at the distance of nearly three and a-half miles from the town of Kirkcudbright. The church seems to have been about 30 feet long and 15 broad. It also belonged to Holyrood. [The Abbot of Holyrood granted to the collegiate church of Biggar the right of patronage of the perpetual vicarage of the parish church of Dunrod, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, on the 5th May 1555. – ( New Statistical Account of Biggar.) ] The church-yard is of a circular form and continues to be used.

The population here was once considerable, though now few houses remain in the neighbourhood. In the end of the seventeenth century, the heritors of Dunrod and Galtway opposed the minister’s application for an augmentation of stipend, because the parishes were a mere waste.

At what time the three parishes were united, is not exactly known; but it is thought that both Galtway and Dunrod were annexed to Kirkcudbright in 1663.

The priory of St Mary’s Isle with its church, stood upon a piece of ground which must have been completely insulated at every influx of the tide. It is now a beautiful peninsula,, and contains the seat of the Earl of Selkirk. This change has been affected partly by the retreat of the sea along the whole coast, but particularly at St Mary’s Isle, and by embankments formed on each side of the isthmus between the island and the mainland.

The ancient name of the island was Trahil or Trayll, [It was designated prioratus Sanctae Manse de Trayll. ], but after the foundation of the priory dedicated to St Mary, it received the popular appellation of St Mary’s Isle. There are now no vestiges of the priory to be seen: All the buildings were removed above a century and a-half ago, and the whole site of the priory is occupied by his Lordship’s mansion and pleasure grounds. The edifice was surrounded by high walls, and the outer gate, called the Great-Cross, stood at the distance of half a-mile from the priory, and about as far from the town. The inner gate led immediately to the cells inhabited by the monks, and was distinguished by the name of the Little-Cross. The gates were long ago demolished, but crosses must have been conspicuous at both entrances. The prior of St Mary’s Isle, like other priors, had a right to a seat in Parliament. Robert Strivelin was the last prior, and after his death, Robert Richardson, who also held the offices of Lord Treasurer and Master of the Moat, was presented to the priory on the 30th March 1538; he sat as commendator in the Parliament of 1560. In 1572, Mr Robert Richardson, usufructuary, and William Rutherford, commendator, granted to James Ledderdale, and Thomas, his son, the lands which belonged to the priory of St Mary’s Isle. This grant was confirmed by a charter from the king, dated the 4th November 1573. [The property granted consisted of St Mary’s Isle, Grange, Torrs and Little Galtway, reserving eight acre, of land contiguous to the church of Galtway, for the use of the minister. Ledderdale also obtained a lease of nineteen years’ duration of the spiritual property of the priory. In 1570, the following individuals officiated in three of the churches, Kirkcudbright, James Dodds, minister; allowance, L.24; Dun- rod, William Maclellan, reader, 20 merks; St Mary’s Isle, Thomas Anderson, exhorter, L.20.]

Druid Temple. – Dr Muter, minister of Kirkcudbright, mentions in the Old Statistical Account, that there was formerly a Druid temple in the parish, near the Roman camp in Bombie. It was destroyed; he says, a short time before he wrote by an “ignorant Goth,” who carried off and split the stones for building a small bridge over the Buckland-burn.

Moats. – Moats or motes were fortified eminences, used for courts of justice. There seem to have been two places of this kind in the parish, namely, one in the town, still bearing the name of the Moatbrae, and another in the country, called the Moothill. Some of the ancient hill forts seem to have been subsequently used as places for dispensing justice.

Relics. – A few years ago, some flint hatchets, lying several feet below the surface of the ground were found in the farm of Milton; the skeleton of a man lay near them.

A kind of stone coffin was lately discovered near Galtway old church: it contained some black mould, and small fragments of bones, which at one time must have formed a portion of the body of one of the primitive inhabitants.

Not long since, a cup of Roman metal was found in the trench at Castledykes, near the town; it is in the possession of Mr Train, Castledouglas.

About the beginning of last century, as some men were engaged in making ditches, they turned up a plate of pure gold near Drummore Castle, for which they obtained L.20.

Quantities of silver coin have been found, within the last twenty years, on the farm of Lochfergus. The pieces were of the reign of Edward I. Small coins called “Charles’ placks” have been often found in and near the town of Kirkcudbright.

Modern Buildings. – There are two churches in the parish, namely, the parish church and the United Secession church. The first, a large and elegant building, capable of containing a congregation of upwards of 1500, was completed in 1838, at an expense of about L 7000. The burgh possesses one portion of it, the landward heritors another, and the incorporated trades a third. The funds of the burgh were saved to a considerable amount by private donations; and the trades received the sum of L.150, which was left them by Miss Gordon of Threavemains, to enable them to erect a gallery in the new church, for the accommodation of themselves and their families. To the burgh belong 608 sittings, 200 of which are let at 2s. 6d. each, L.25; 278 at 2s. each, L.27, 16s.; 130 at 1s. 6d. each, L.9, 15s.; total rent, L.62, 11s. There are 24 free sittings belonging to the burgh. No rent is exacted for seats belonging to the landward heritors. The church has a spire of considerable height attached to it, containing an excellent clock, and a very fine bell, both presents from the late James Lennox, Esq. of Dalskairth: the site of the building was given by Lord Selkirk.

The chapel belonging to the United Secession church is a neat and comfortable edifice. It was completed in 1822, and cost about L.950.

The foundation stones of the jail and academy were laid with masonic honours on the 8th day of May 1815. The Jail, which is of a castellated form, rises in some parts of the structure to the height of 75 feet; several of the apartments are large, but not well suited to the present system of prison discipline. Some alterations are contemplated in the interior arrangement of the cells. The prison was erected at the joint expense of the county and burgh, and cost between L.4000 and L.5000. The court-room, a spacious and elegant hall, is contiguous to the prison. The buildings, from a distance, have an imposing appearance.

The Academy consists of three large class rooms and a library. Its site, with about an acre of ground adjoining, was presented to the magistrates by the late Lord Selkirk. ‘It has a kind of piazza, or portico, in front for the use of the scholars in bad weather. The academy originally cost L1129, but the expense of its erection was partly defrayed by subscriptions from the friends of the institution.

Mansion-Houses. – The mansion-houses in the parish are St Mary’s Isle, Balmae, Janefield, St Cuthbert’s Cottage, and Fludha.

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