Lecture by George Hunter, F.E.I.S,
10th January 1903.
Printed for Private Circulation.
Tongland . . in Ancient and Modern Times.
Most people, who think at all, must have been struck by the strange ignorance we often show of that history of ourselves which extends far beyond our secret thoughts, or our private affairs, or facts within our memory. Men and women are not like grains of sand-single, separate atoms. Rather are they like the branches of some great tree, from which they have sprung, and on which they have grown – whose life in the past has come down to them in the present – and without whose deep anchorage in the soil, giving it vigour and vitality in the past, not a bud or spray that is so fresh and healthful now could have any existence. We all know, in a general way, that we owe a great deal of what we are, in constitution and character, to what are called heredity and environment; but people are more ready to discuss the physical and moral influence of their surroundings than reflect upon their pedigree or be interested in the life their forefathers lived long ago. Many are quite contented ‘to sweep the crossings, wet or dry, and let the world go by them, or look upon ‘a primrose by the river’s brim,’ and see ‘a yellow primrose and nothing more.’ Others find ‘sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in everything;’ and these, the more they learn, feel how infinitely much more remains unknown, until, as the opportunities of this life are slipping away from them, they are constrained to confess, like the greatest of philosophers, that they have been as babes picking up a few grains of sand by the sea-shore, while the great ocean of truth and knowledge remained unexplored.
Many interesting objects around us are outside the scope of this paper, yet, in proceeding to discuss ancient times, we naturally associate the people of the past with the outstanding objects of Nature, upon which their eyes looked and beside which their lives were spent; and the thought occurs: – What tales these everlasting hills could tell that have looked down upon so many generations in our valley and parish But, first of all, what is their own story-at least the latest portion of it-dealing with their present surface and appearance? Scientific men tell us that in the almost inconceivably remote past the climate of our country was tropical, with an intense moist heat adapted for the luxuriant vegetation that was to form our coal supplies, and that, after countless ages more, when the coal measures were now deep down, the present surface was exposed to the opposite extreme of climate.
In fact, geologists say that for a long and dreary period there was over all this land a dense overtoppling ‘cap’ of snow, and that from the highest hills glaciers crept slowly seawards, grinding and rounding the uplands, and leaving behind them in this neighbourhood boulders of granite from the Bennan hill and deposits of boulder clay to mark the progress of the great ice-plough.
Through many a weary century the crashing, ceaseless turmoil of icebergs would go on in the estuary of the Dee and up the Tarff valley as it does now in the polar regions. The rushing waters and the ebbing and flowing of tides which, at one time, covered much of the present dry land, account for the immense deposits of sand and gravel in the Doams of Barcaple – which word should probably be ‘domes,’ as referring to their dome-like shape.
At last, by slow degrees, the country became again clad with verdure and fitted for living creatures. The exceedingly slow development of such an endless variety of animals and plants is not one whit less wonderful than instantaneous creation would be, and equally requires an omnipotent Creator and all-wise Providence.
It may be assumed as pretty certain that the original inhabitants of this district were a longskulled, small-boned race who lived in caves or lake dwellings, snared wild animals and fowl, and ate the wild fruits of the earth, leaving behind them very few tokens to tell of their rude life long before historic times. When the local antiquarians visited the Upper Tarff last August, strong proofs were submitted to them that the cairn and stone circle at Lairdmannoch were not Druidical remains, as had been long supposed. Much interest having been taken in the subject, leave has been obtained to make excavations, which may throw further light on these relics of a very remote period.
At this stage of my paper, had it been written some years ago, there would have been a picture drawn of the white-robed Druids cutting down the mistletoe in the oak groves of Kirkconnell and sacrificing the white bulls, with some details of their beliefs and their warfare. Our benevolent treatment of the aged and infirm would have been contrasted with their cruel practice of gathering together the old people who were no longer able to fight or work, and burning them in huge wicker cages on some hill-top, while the poor deluded crowds around believed that, as the shrieks and groans of the victims rent the air, the gods would smile upon them, well pleased with the sacrifice. Now, while there were always doubts on the subject, recent researches have satisfied such able men as Skene, the author of ‘Celtic Scotland,’ and the late Lord Bute, that there is not sufficient proof that the Druids’ religion ever took root in this part of the country. It appears that full accounts by Caesar and other classical writers of Druidism, as practised in Gaul and, probably, the Isle of Man, should not have been transferred to Scotland. Skene says that ‘in olden times there were in our country Magi and Druadh, but that, though the names have some similarity, there was no connection between the beliefs and practices of the Druadhs and Druids. The Druadh of Scotland,’ he says, ‘fostered a kind of fetishism which peopled all the objects of nature with malignant beings, to whose agency its phenomena were attributed. The priests represented themselves as being in league with these beings, and thus able to benefit those who sought their assistance, or injure these to whom they were opposed.’
Have we here the ground-work of the superstitions which existed in Scotland down through the centuries – superstitious awe of the phenomena of nature and of the priests who at various periods seemed to claim to control heaven and earth?
In early times Tongland would have been an ideal retreat for such people as the Druids, especially in the Upper Tarff district. Bounded by wild hills on the west, it had the river Dee on the east and an impassable morass along its northern boundary; for it appears that, owing to obstructions about the Bridge-of-Dee, the river was stemmed back, flooding large tracts of land, the surplus waters finding their way by Carlinwark Loch and Glenyarrick to Auchencairn Bay. Owing to this impassable morass, it is said that Agricola (in 82) and Edward I. (in 1300) were both forced to keep to the east of the Dee and hew their way with ‘axe and fire’ to Kirkcudbright. Does not this account for the absence of Roman camps or any record of Edward I. in Tongland? The Roman occupation lasted in Britain more than 400 years, but in Galloway considerably less time, owing, no doubt, to the difficulty of the country.
When the Romans left, the Saxons or Angles, from the north of England, made incursions into Galloway. Their settlements were called Anglestowns, Englishtowns, Inglestons. The slaves they employed to till the ground were called boors, hence Borlands and the word boorish. And the lands held by the Ceorls, or Middlemen, were called Carletons.
From 500 to 800 the great proportion of settlers hailed from Ireland. They were the Scots, and spoke a dialect of the language still spoken in the Highlands of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and the West of France. For the next 400 years the Celtic language prevailed, and if Angle-Saxon and Norse words were introduced they would co-exist as English and Gaelic still do in the Highlands. The written records of a very long period have been, to a great extent, destroyed; but I would like to invite your attention to the interesting meanings of some of the names given to places by these Scoto-Irish settlers. First of all, however, Tungland itself is derived from a Norwegian or Danish word tunga, a strip of land. The Norsemen or Vikings (creekmen), from the west of Norway, made terrible descents in their well-manned boats, with the huge black raven on a red flag, and, running up the river mouths, plundered and murdered with great cruelty. For a time they managed to make settlements on the coast, and the Norse names are chiefly on the sea-shore, like Fleet, Borgue, and Tungland – the tongue of land between the Tarff and the Dee. I have always been annoyed by the spelling Tongland. It should be either Tung or Tongue.
Dee means the black water.
Tarff comes from a Gaelic word meaning a bull – probably because in the days when our ancestors believed that woods, waters, &c., had their special deities, they fancied the local river-god to be like a bull-an idea, perhaps, suggested by the wild cattle that would frequent its banks, and fostered by the roaring sound at various points. The late Mr George Hamilton, in a lecture on Kirkcudbright, referred to the lake in Tarff Vale and the bursting of the waters going off at Tarff Bridge like the roaring of a bull. The Tarff lake is interesting, and has been already referred to. Its latest stage would be a marsh, extending to Barnolles and old Glentarff, and Ringford would be on the gravelly ridge between the two horns. Its name was most suitable, ‘the ridge of land at the ford.’ Ring or Rhin, meaning a ridge, occurs in many names in Galloway. Barnolas means ‘a light on a hill-side,’ and it is explained that lights were placed to guide people past a marsh. A main road, in old times, passed behind Barnolas, across the ridge to the ford of the Tarff at Stickbridge, near which was the hamlet of Stepend and continued past Fellnaw, which means ‘the pool at the ford,’ the ford this time being across Valleyfield Burn. Up the said burn or Spoot Glen is Auchentalloch, ‘the field of the forge’ or ‘the field of the knolls,’ according to which of two very similar Gaelic words is taken as the root.
Culcaigrie, on the borders of Tongland parish was said by the late Sheriff Nicolson to mean the ‘place at the back of the whispering sound,’ i.e., the sound of the ‘spoot’ of Auchentalloch. Others say it means the ‘strangers’ corner. Suppose ourselves back at Ringford to stand a little on the ridge. Culquha means the place ‘at the back of the quagmire.’ Fellend has been taken as the Teutonic end of the Fell. But there is a Gaelic derivation indicating the ‘end of the pool.’ We see how many names are connected with the Tarff lake or marsh. Down in the meadows is ‘Granny’s pool,’ where the Ringford boys have bathed for generations. It has nothing to do with anybody’s granny, being simply ‘pol grannaih,’ the gravelly pool. The forms grannagh, grannig, granny occur in Ireland. This pool is fast becoming less gravelly, and unless something be done to the Tarff fords, the meadows will again become a marsh and a source of fever, as they were alleged to be 70 years ago. Looking westward, we have Dhularg, the ‘black hill-side’ – appropriate still, but more so in the days of old when the black rocks were scraped bare by the great ice-sheet which must have come down the gorge at Glentarff with a terrible pressure, grinding away the face of ‘Knockaltie Roy,’ the red hill on the north (the top of the hill having reddish clay). Turning eastward, we can understand how the progress of the ice would be retarded by Meiklewood hill and the boulders and clay deposited on Drumbow where even on the steep slope the ‘wet till’ still troubles the farmer, and the name would be ‘Knockandarick’ (cuoc-an-dearg), the ‘red ridge.’ At Tarff Station the hill has a tower-like appearance, and there is an old name, Torandharaick, the ‘hill of the oaks.’ The modern names indicate the old forest : – Woodhead, Meiklewood, Littlewood, Underwood. A ford of the Tarff opposite the station is marked in old maps as Tornorrick. Drumbow is just the Cowhill.
There are many more similar links with the past – all interesting, though the derivations are often doubtful.
Before discussing Tungland Abbey, the briefest possible reference should be made to earlier events. The Romans who came and went during the first centuries of the Christian era were Pagans, with perhaps a few Christians. In 360 St. Ninian was born at Whithorn of noble parentage; was by-and-by ordained at Rome as a British bishop; returned to Whithorn and built there the first Christian church of stone and lime. From that remote corner bands of Christian teachers spread over the country. St. Ninian’s name and fame are perpetuated by the number of churches dedicated to him over Scotland, and for many centuries pilgrimages to his shrine were made by multitudes, who added a stone to certain resting-places, forming Cairneyhills (Mackenzie’s Galloway). 150 years after the death of Ninian, Columba came from Ireland to Iona. We pass over many interesting stories connected with him, because we are only continuing the chain of religious influences which affected Tongland, for it, too, appears to have specially benefited by the splendid enthusiasts who issued from Iona, as their predecessors had done from Whithorn. Some say that the Irish received their notions of Christianity, not from Rome, but through traders with the east end of the Mediterranean and from Palestine itself. The chapel of Balnacross – ‘dwelling of the cross,’ now Barncrosh – belonged to these missionaries from Iona, and was granted by Uchtred, Lord of Galloway, to the monks of Holywood along with the church at Kirkcormac, opposite Argrennan. This church of St. Michael’s at Barncrosh was supposed to be connected with an abbey at Glenlochar, the stones of which, some have believed, we’re floated down the Dee to build Threave Castle. This is one way of accounting for the total disappearance of a building of which there is no record – not even a name left behind. Another church of the same period was that at Kirkconnell, dedicated to an Irish Saint, Connell. Lairdmannoch, now part of Kirkconnell, appears in Pont’s map, dated 1601, as Lairmannoch, and may mean the monk’s hill, from Learg, a hill, and mannach, a monk.
About the 11th century the Anglo-Norman kings and the Anglo-Roman clergy began to get a firmer grip of Galloway, which, in the time of Fergus, Lord of Galloway, had been three times invaded by the Scottish king. This Fergus, who lived at Loch Fergus, near Kirkcudbright, was a prince of some notoriety. He was married to a daughter of Henry I. of England, and was much at King David’s Court at Edinburgh – his name being often found on deeds as a witness. He founded the abbeys of Tungland, Whithorn, and Dundrennan, and the Priory of St. Mary’s Isle, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. His daughter, Olave, was married to the King of Man, which led to much trouble in Tungland and district. The Brehon (or Irish) law prevented a female from succeeding to the local estates, but the monks and King Alexander II. opposed Fergus’ son-in-law, whom the people wanted as their chief, and supported a lady. The popular wrath was roused against the foreign monks. Tongland Monastery was attacked, and the Prior and Sacrist killed within the consecrated walls of the church.
The Prior was high in office, next the Abbot; and the Sacrist copied music for the choir, and had charge of the books. For this outrage the Tunglanders and their allies had to appear before the King with halters round their necks and receive their sentences.
Let us try to restore Tungland Abbey and picture the busy scenes there 600, 700, 800 years ago. First of all, it is sometimes spoken of as Tongland Abbey and sometimes as Tungland Monastery. Now an Abbey is an independent monastery ruled by an abbot, who often had supreme power over a wide district beyond its walls. A Priory was a monastery subject to an abbey. Cells were much the same, paying heavy dues to some abbey. Lord Fergus built the Abbey of Tungland between the years 1134 and 1140. His eldest son, Caducan, was first abbot. The abbot had a separate residence within the monastery, lived apart from the monks, and had separate estates to maintain his dignity and meet his heavy expense’s of entertaining distinguished visitors. The abbot of Tungland had a country-house at Enrick, near Gatehouse.
Under the abbot was the prior, who had also considerable revenues for providing parchments and materials for writing. The manciple provided wine and mead, and kept up the stock of earthenware, lamps, and oil. The precentor found the ink and colours for illuminating their writings, materials for book-binding, and keeping the organ in repair. The chamberlain provided clothing for the monks and articles for the guestchamber. From Mr M’Kerlie’s ‘Lands and their Owners,’ it appears that the whole of Tongland parish belonged to the abbey. The tenants paid their rents in kind-poultry, eggs, salmon, eels, &c. These passed to the accounts of the kitchener. Every monk bearing office was bound to present his accounts for audit, regularly, inscribed in rolls.
According to the rules of their order, the monks had to perform their devotions together 7 times every 24 hours. The nocturnal was the first service at 2 in the morning. Then back to bed till matins, at 6-no talk permitted in the interval. Then at 9, 12, 3, with different names for each diet, with vespers at 6, and finally, after 7, the compline. (The monks went to bed at 8 and had 6 hours’ sleep before the nocturnal at 2.) Seven services a day! and every day! They got no rest throughout the week! not even on Mondays! And does not modern flesh and blood shiver at the bare idea of turning out to church for prayers at 2 o’clock on a cold winter morning! But then they were spare men, who kept the flesh in great subjection; and they were not indulged in feather beds and pillows of down. This was their sleeping arrangement. There was a long dormitory, and from the broad passage, strewn with nice cool rushes, each monk entered his little cubicle by a very low door, and slept the sleep of the just on a simple pallet, with not too much covering, and a pillow carefully restricted to 18 inches in length.
Here let me try to give you some idea of the buildings. Nearly all monasteries were built on the same plan, and Tongland Abbey is understood to have been similar to Dundrennan, but somewhat smaller. In every abbey the church was the essential part, and on this portion of the pile no money was grudged. Sculpture and painting, jewels, gold and silver, were there in profusion, and with these, in many abbeys, splendid priestly robes corresponded; but in Tongland the robes wore all white. The church was in the form of a cross, the head being towards the river. The head, or choir, was occupied by the monks, who would stand about where the south door of the present church is, with their backs to the river, looking along the nave or long limb of the cross towards Meikleyett, the cross limbs being the transepts. The archway of the old ruin was a portion of the north transept. The servants, work people, and outside parishioners were not admitted to the choir; indeed even to the church they were admitted very much on suffrance. The church of a monastery was for the use of the monks, and was very much their private place of worship. Almost as essential to the idea of a monastery as the church was the great quadrangle enclosed on all sides by the high walls of the various buildings. At Tongland the cloister would be on the south side of the abbey church, so as to get as much as possible of the sun’s rays, and be sheltered from the north and east winds. Round the quadrangle ran an arcade or covered walk. In the earlier days this walk would be open to the fresh air, but in later centuries these arcades were glazed and made comfortable lounges for the priesthood, now grown more luxurious. On the south side of the cloister would be the refectory or great dining hall. On the east side (next the river) would be the chapter-house and dormitories. The chapter-house was the council chamber where business meetings were held. The dormitory was approached by a flight of steps, for it was invariably constructed over vaulted chambers. The Tungland suite of bedrooms would follow the line of the fence from the church to the manse garden gate, and the slope there would suit the entrances to said vaults. One of these dim chambers would be set apart for the reception of monks who were being subjected to bleeding to keep down the flesh! At the end of the dormitory passage- opposite the flight of steps-were the lavatories or washing places, open to the air above, and communicating with a large drain below, through which a stream of water ran constantly, so that there were no plumbers needed, and there were never any choked drains. The stream from Meikleyett, probably larger in those days, would flow below these buildings and on to the Dee. In the dormitory and latrines lights were kept burning during the night, because the services had to be kept up. On the outside of the west wall of the cloister would be buildings connected with the kitchener and his stores, and also the guest-chamber for distinguished visitors.
From the King’s Treasurer’s books of James IV.’s reign, it appears that he visited the district more frequently than any other sovereign, coming generally once a year, and sometimes twice, to St. Ninian’s shrine, Whithorn, where he wept over his sins, paid the priests, pilgrims, and poor well, and formed resolutions of amendment, which were wonderfully soon dissipated by the alluring temptations of the world. His usual course was by way of Upper Clydesdale across Nithsdale to Dalry, thence through lower Galloway to Wigtown and Whithorn, generally returning by Ayrshire to Stirling. In 1501 he honoured Kirkcudbright with a visit, and in 1507, in order to procure the recovery of his Queen, he made his usual pilgrimage on foot. The Queen got better, and St. Ninian and the king got the credit. He was attended by four Italian minstrels, who were so completely exhausted by walking to Whithorn that James was obliged to hire horses to carry them back to Tongland.
After certain escapades on this occasion, it was as well that the Queen should accompany him next year, and this visit was conducted on a most magnificent scale – 17 horses to carry the King’s ‘chapel geir.’ This same James was on very intimate terms with one of the abbots, of whom more hereafter. But there is one interesting royal personage whom it seems necessary to strike off the list of visitors. Tongland people have long delighted to associate Queenshill* and Mary’s Brig,*
*Queen Margaret sometimes accompanied James IV. on his pilgrimages to Whithorn, by way of lower Galloway. Nothing would he more likely than that, after crossing the moors of Balmaghie and Kirkconnell, they should rest in the shelter of Barstobrick or Fellend, and thus some little hill might he associated with this Queen, who was a greater favourite with the people than her unhappy granddaughter.
*’Mary’s Brig,’ near Tongland, was believed to date back to the memorable invasion of Edward I. in 1300. About 1805 an enormous oak beam was found deeply embedded in the river Dee by the salmon fishers near the Castledykes. It was believed to have belonged to Mary’s brig. Many articles were made from it, snuff boxes, a chair in the Kirkcudbright Church, and a press in the paper-mill at Tongland.
with the beautiful, if ill-starred, Queen Mary, and will regret that the traditionary local and modern account of her last journey in Scotland cannot be sustained. According to it, she rode from Langside, on May 13, 1568, to Queenshill without once drawing bridle. After eating a crust of bread and drinking a little water from a neighbouring spring, she crossed the Dee about a mile above Tongland village, and remained in a cottage on Culdoach, long known as Dun’s Wa’s, till her attendants broke down the bridge to retard pursuit. Then she was conducted by Lord Herries to his mansion at Corra, in Kirkgunzeon, where she slept on the night of the 13th. intending to proceed to Carlisle from Terregles, where she passed the night of the 14th. Leaving Terregles, however, on the 15th, she proceeded to Hazlefield, and remained there during the night, and then on the 16th, after visiting Dundrennan Abbey, sailed from Portmary to a place in Cumberland, which received from her the name of Maryport. This tradition was first published by Mr Hutton in a ‘History of Dundrennan Abbey’ in 1839; was adopted by M’Kenzie in 1841, by Miss Strickland in 1856, and M’Kerlie in 1870. But it so happens that Maryport received that name in honour of a public benefactor 200 years after Mary’s time, being previously known as Ellensport. Portmary was named after the Queen; but only about 100 years age, being previously known as Nether Riddick. Similarly it was only in 1800, when Mr Campbell bought the estate, that Nether Barstobrick was changed to Queenshill. Then further, the traditions on the Ayrshire border refer to the journey down the valley of the Nith and not of the Ken. The historian Froude had access to State papers and other documents, and he certainly supports the Nith route. He says that when she saw the battle had gone against her, she turned towards the south, attended by young Maxwell, a son of Lord Herries, and five others. By cross paths, by woods and moors, she went as if death were behind her. Many a wild gallop she had had already for her life, but this was the most desperate of all. From the account of Lord Herries, it appears that she rode all night, halted first at Sanquhar, and then went to Terregles, where she spent the night of the 14th. On the 15th she proceeded to Dundrennan, where, contrary to the earnest advice and entreaty of her friends, she resolved to throw herself on the generosity of Elizabeth, Queen of England. And on the morning of Sunday, 16th May, she embarked in an open fishing boat, and landed in the evening at Workington. (Froude III. 232).
The ordinary life of a monastery began at 6 am., when the skilla was rung, and the monks attended morning mass, then breakfasted, and dispersed to their posts – the kitchener to his cooking, the precentor to drill the choir boys, tune the organ, look after the music, and perhaps arrange a procession; the cellarer to inspect the brewhouses and bakeries. Some would visit the fisheries, and others the farms.
You can picture the white-robed figures moving about the well-kept orchard, which lay along the space occupied by the manse and manse garden, and continuing their stroll along the monk’s walk by the Dee.
The monks of Tongland were farmer monks. There were two classes-clerical and lay-perhaps 20 clerical and 200 laymen. They received the same treatment, only that the laymen got no wine. The food of all was of the simplest kind-consisting of bread, fish, and vegetables. Eggs, milk, butter, and cheese were dainties on particular occasions. Flesh-meat was allowed to the sick and to guests only.
Kingsley writes : -‘ To abbeys came men crossed in love, or in ambitious aims – men who were tired of the world, tired of hard times and wild times, and who could find no place else, where they could think of God and of their own souls, and who worked in the fields and in the drains by the side of the meanest born, happy to think that before God there was no respect of persons-that they were in the way of finding a more divine life and a more blessed death than could be found in court or camp or battlefield. As they taught men in the abbey and round about it how to be good farmers gardeners, builders, and artisans, they received nothing for their labour or their instruction, however valuable. To the grateful whom they helped in harvest or nursed in sickness, they could only say “Nothing” – we did it for Christ’s sake. They had taken vows before God and man to possess no personal property, to live a pure and unselfish life.’
Froude says : -‘ Their business on earth was to labour and to pray-labour for other men’s bodies and pray for other men’s souls. While other men were sunk in slumbers or engaged in midnight revels, or met in mortal combat, they were praying, within the holy abbey or in the lonely cell, for the souls of their sleeping or misguided brother man. And further, ‘the united prayer of the monks was believed to be all powerful-that it could quell a storm and avert disease. The monks believed that, and believed that they were warriors fighting against the powers of darkness, and waging a more honourable warfare than – their less sensitive brethren who fought with sword and spear.’
All this is a very fine ideal, and may have been largely true in the early day of monastic houses; and wealthy princes and nobles may have given freely of their wealth from sheer admiration of the good lives of the monks. Some one has very properly remarked that, like the sun, we should always look on the bright side of everything-a most desirable thing to do, seeing that by looking at and thinking of what is bright and good one is likely to become better; whereas by looking at or thinking of what is evil an undesirable result is apt to follow. We know what great authority gives this advice : -‘ Whatsoever things are pure and lovable, think on these things.’
Unfortunately there is too much ground for the traditionary belief that there was, especially towards the last, a very dark side in the history of monasteries. Even at the outset there was a great deal that was very human. The men of blood and violence who built and endowed had an eye to the future world for themselves, and to the present life for some of their family. For example, Lord Fergus got his eldest son installed in the high position of first abbot of the fine new abbey of Tungland. Two hundred years later (1327) contributions were chiefly being given for prayers and masses. The monks had become indolent, luxurious, selfish, unblushingly immoral, and dishonest. Long before the Reformation, men saw the end was coming, and grasping nobles were ready to divide the spoils when the priesthood were driven forth; and, when they seized lands lying near their own estates, they sometimes declared they were only resuming what their ancestors had parted with, not for fair money value, but under the delusion that they would thus escape or shorten the pains of purgatory, and gain a certain entrance into the glories of heaven.
The fiery eloquence of John Knox, the various contending parties, the conflicting interests of layman and clergyman, of Priest, Presbyterian. and Bishop, and what Tunglanders did and suffered at that trying period after the Reformation, must be passed over on the present occasion.
Most people now regret that zeal for destruction did not end with the images and superstitious relics, but included the splendid buildings, and, what is even more deplorable, the valuable records contained in the abbeys, where these had not already been carried off by the monks. It is said that the influence of the Maxwells in Kirkcudbrightshire saved the buildings in this county at the time. But after the dislike to them as memorials of Popery had passed away the work of demolition continued. In 1684 the pious and witch-burning Town Council of Kirkcudbright paid a man a small coin and a pint of ale per day for throwing down stones from Dundrennan Abbey, and in Tongland the materials of the once fair abbey were used in building the manse, the corn-mill, a former paper-mill, the old bridge, and some of the houses about the Clachan.
Sympson, of Kirkinner,, mentions the high tower and greater part of the building as existing in 1688, and John Nicholson, of Kirkcudbright, knew an old woman who used to tell that in her young days part of the tower was standing with jougs for the necks of evil-doers attached to the abbey walls. Also, the Earl of Selkirk, writing to Major-General Hutton in 1790, remembered a large tower at Tongland Abbey (200 feet high) which fell when he was quite a young man.
Heron, in his ‘Journey Through Scotland,’ published 1793, mentions the ruins of the Old Castle at Kirkconnell-perhaps the ruins of the old church there-but is silent as to the ruins of the abbey. So is Captain Grosse in his ‘Antiquities,’ the reason being that no portion of the arch, which has since received much attention, was then visible. The upper part was overgrown with ivy, the middle part walled up, and the lower part concealed beneath rubbish.
Fraser, in his ‘Kirk and Manse,’ 1851, says of Tongland Abbey that it must have been an extensive and beautiful building, and he gives a wood-cut, which shows a considerable portion of wall above the arch. This arch was excavated and restored in the autumn of 1851. It is the door of the north transept, is in the round Gothic style, elaborately carved, and of elegant proportions. The beading between the groinings consists of a series of points exactly similar to what is seen in the nave and north transept of Dundrennan Abbey, which was also built by Lord Fergus a few years later.
In 1830 Chambers, in his ‘Pictures of Scotland,’ says of Tongland Abbey :-‘Only a few fragments remain like the ruins of a stable. They seem to have been indebted for their preservation to the circumstance that the highest part supports the kirk bell.’ He is wrong in supposing that the belfry was part of the abbey. It was simply the gable of a very mean and ignoble building which served as the Parish Church till 1813, when part of the roof fell in, nearly killing some of the worshippers. Sixty years ago the parish hearse was kept there. The bell bears date 1633,
with letters embossed on its side. It was presented to the church by Lord Kenmure, the Gordons of Kenmure having got a very substantial footing in this parish after the Reformation. As heritors’ clerk I paid £7 for removing the bell to the tower of the church in 1875, but only became aware a few weeks ago that the old tongue of the bell had been taken away by the blacksmith. It has now found a safe resting-place in the Kirkcudbright Museum.
After 1851 a thick coating of ivy again overspread the walls. Its removal two years ago was regarded by some as an act of vandalism, but by antiquarians as a beneficial deed, as it allowed the walls to be repaired, showed up the hidden architectural beauties of the archway, and permitted the carved shields to be inspected. and photographed. Dr Norman M’Kie contributed an interesting article to ‘The Gallovidian” last summer on these carved stones. The language of heraldry about dragons, wyverns, acorns on a bend, and covered cups is not suitable for a popular lecture, but the net results may be stated — viz., that some of the stones in the ruin and in the wall of the mill belonged to the Muirheads of Lachop, Lanarkshire, who held from the Earls of Douglas the lands of Dildawn and Billies, and from the different ages of the stones it is likely the Muirheads were buried in the abbey for generations.
The other armorial bearing belongs to an ancient family of Shaw. One John Shaw, and Dr Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow, went to Copenhagen to bring about a marriage between James III. and Margaret, daughter of Christian III., King of Denmark.
With regard to the abbots, only a few can be mentioned. Caducan, son of Lord Fergus, was the first abbot. He wrote several books, one being ‘The Mirrors of Christians.’ He died shortly after the battle of Largs, in the time of Alexander III., the tamer of the Ravens, and was buried before the high altar in the choir of Tungland Abbey, near the south door of the present church. James Herries, another abbot, also wrote several books, and enclosed the whole buildings with a high wall. In 1296 Alexander and all his monks swore allegiance to Edward I. of England at Berwick. John Damaine, an Italian, was appointed by James IV. in 1504. He was a learned chemist and doctor, but both a knave and a fool. He got much money from the King by quackery and gambling, and often appears in the royal accounts as Maister John, the French Leech, or as Damian, abbot of Tungland. He had a pair of wings made, and undertook to fly from Stirling Castle to France and be there before the King’s messengers, who were just starting. They made him put his boast to the proof, but on springing from the castle wall he fell down and broke his leg. He blamed the maker of the wings, who, instead of eagle’s wings, had used the feathers of some barn-door fowls, which, naturally, preferred the ground. Dunbar, the national poet of the time, wrote a satirical poem on the ‘Frenzied Friar of Tungland’. In 1516 the monastery of Tungland was conferred on David Arnot, Bishop of Galloway; and, at the Reformation, William Melville was made commendator. A commendator was a layman who had charge of the abbey and its revenues when there was no abbot. The vacancy was seldom filled up during the lifetime of the Commendator! This Melville, from being a Lord of Session, was known as Lord Tungland, and he had, from the revenues of the abbey, a pension of £616, 18s 4d till his death in 1613, when the abbey and its revenues went to the Bishop of Galloway. Tungland was now in the hands of the Episcopalians, of whom Melville was a great upholder, being in this, and in everything else, a great supporter of King James VI. This king was negotiating with the King of Denmark about marrying his eldest daughter, but having heard glowing accounts of the French Princess of Navarre, Lord Tungland was despatched to France to see her, and report to his royal master. Meanwhile the King of Denmark heard of this trip of Lord Tungland, and gave James’ intended to the Duke of Brunswick. The French princess preferred a French count, so the Scottish king had to look elsewhere for a bride. In. 1538 the Earl of Cassilis had the teinds of Tongland Abbey on condition of upholding the choir in thatch and glass, and ornaments to the high altar, except silk and silver work.
In leaving the monks and the monastery, it must be mentioned that an impression of the seal of the abbey may be seen in the chapterhouse at Westminster. It is of an oval shape, and bears a hand holding a pastoral staff among some branches of trees, with these words round the margin — ‘Sigillum Abbatis de Tangland’ – the seal of the abbot of Tungland.
Passing over the turbulent time in Tungland between the Reformation and the Revolution, the following are the parish ministers after the latter great event —Robert Brydon, 1691; Alexander Maitland, 1711; Alexander Brown, 1748; William Robb, 1769; Alexander Robb, 1797; Thomas Brown, 1807; William Dow, 1826 to 1837.
Alexander Maitland was the son of the minister of Beith, in Ayrshire, who, by marrying Miss M’Meiken of Barcaple, became the laird of Barcaple. His son became minister of Tungland, married the daughter of Treasurer Smith (Kirkcudbright), and became the ancestor of the Maitlands of Barcaple, Competone, and Dundrennan.
Alexander Robb was the assistant and successor of his brother, William. William Robb died in 1797, and Alexander in 1806. There is in existence a most interesting account of the parish bearing the name of William, but understood to have been written by Alexander.
Mr Dugald Williamson, in a short sketch of Alexander Robb, refers to his travels on the Continent, his skill as a mechanic, and his ambitions as an author, although he was not a scholarly man. And then adds: — ‘He seems to have been always willing to escape from the serious and instructive to the grotesque and comical without much regard to his company or the occasion’ — a kind of would-be wit; not the most admirable of clerical characters!
The account of Tongland written in 1793 deals with the fisheries, the surface, soil, climate, and agriculture of the parish; also the manners and habits of the people. The mode of fishing on the Dee is described just as it is carried on still. It is mentioned that in 1725 the Tungland fishings, with a piece of land, were let for £8 sterling, and the tenant could not pay the rent. In 1734 the following receipt is interesting: — ‘Received by me, Mary, Viscountess of Kenmure, from William Gordon, Campbelton, £25 stg. as the rent of Tungland fishings for the year from Martinmas, 1733, as witness my hand at Clachan of Tungland, 23rd October, 1734.— Mary Kenmure.’ The present rent is £605. The stones with armorial bearings recently discovered at Kirkconnell corroborate their possessions in that quarter also.
‘John Dalyell of Barncrosh gets great credit for being the first to discover and use marl. By this manure he raised, upon the poorest land, the most luxuriant crops of different kinds of grain to the astonishment of all the country round; also the finest crops of artificial and natural grasses of different kinds. His example and success roused the gentlemen and farmers to pursue his mode, and raised an uncommon spirit of improvement in this place.. The farmers having exhausted the marl, improve the land now with lime imported from England into the harbour at Tongland at is the Carlisle bushel. [It is said that they exhausted the land as well as the marl — being ignorant, apparently, that lime, like alcohol, was a stimulant rather than nourishment.] They also make use of sea shells brought into Tongland harbour at is 6d a ton.’ The writer gives an interesting chapter on the ‘Character and Manners of the Inhabitants.’ ‘They are, in general, a decent and respectable people in their different ranks of life; sensible and rational in their religious principles. No sectaries. They are all warm friends of the Revolution Government and of the family of Hanover. There is not an old woman in the parish but would bedaub Tom Paine with dirt if he presumed to set his foot within the verge of it. They hear that the King and Royal Family go constantly to church on the Sabbath day, and hate Tom Paine for abusing so good a Prince. Numbers of them are terrified that the French Revolution Government should be introduced among them, for everyone chooses to keep what he has lawfully got, and not make an equal division of it among his neighbours. They are industrious and careful about their secular affairs in their different lines of life, and do not interfere with matters of State; decent in their dress, and good economists in their mode of living. None of them have been hanged or banished in modern times! In general they are sober and temperate, notwithstanding that whisky is both cheap and plenty in late years, there being only a few votaries of that pernicious beverage. They have made great progress in civilisation and good manners, and have made remarkable improvement of late in their houses, dress, and manner of living, as will appear from the following sketch of the state of this parish about 60 or 70 years ago: —At that period (say, 1730) there was not a hat to be seen in the whole congregation on a Sunday. They wore Kilmarnock bonnets or caps of different colours. In church they kept on their bonnets and caps during the lecture and sermon, and took them off only during the prayer, the singing of psalms, and the pronouncing of the blessing.’
‘Few or none of the common people could read, and the precentor read the Scriptures to them in church before the minister made hi~ appearance. Then men wore kelt coats, made of a mixture of black and white wool as it came off the sheeps’ back, in its natural state. Neither men nor women, in a general way, wore any shirts, and when they did they were of coarse woollen. They wore no shoes in summer nor in winter but in the time of severe frost and snow. Their children got no shoes till they were able to go to the kirk. The women wore coarse plaiding or drugget gowns made of the coarsest wool, and spun in the coarsest manner. The tenants’ wives wore toys of coarse linen upon their heads when they went to church, fairs, or markets. The young girls wore linen mutches with a few plaits in them above their foreheads when they went abroad to church or market. Their houses were the most miserable hovels, built of stone and turf, without mortar, and stopped with fog or straw to keep the wind from blowing in upon them. They had a window on each side of the house, which they opened or shut, as the wind blew, to give them light. These windows they stopped with straw or fern. In such houses, when they kindled a fire, they lived in a constant cloud of smoke enough to suffocate them had they not been habituated to it from infancy. Many of them had no standing beds, but slept on heath or straw, covered with coarse blankets, upon the floor. Their furniture consisted of stools, pots, wooden cogs, and bickers. At their meals they ate and supped together out of one dish their brose, pottage, oat meal flummery, and boiled greens, with a little salt. Each person in the family had a short-hafted spoon, called a munn, with which they supped, and carried it in their pocket or hung it by their side. They had no knives or forks. At Martinmas they killed an old ewe or two as their winter provision, and used the sheep that died of braxy. At this time their farms had no march fences. A single farm was let in runrig among a number of tenants, and the dividing of the produce of the farm, according to each tenant’s share, became a usual source of quarrels and fighting. Their mode of agriculture was uncommonly stupid in every stage of the operations. They yoked 6 oxen and 2 horses in one plough, or they yoked 4 horses abreadth in a plough without oxen, and had always one man to hold the plough and another to drive the cattle. They used a heavy, clumsy Scots plough that murdered the weak and half-starved animals to drag it after them. Their harrows were heavy and clumsy, with the teeth made of wood instead of iron. In the spring season their horses and oxen fell down in the draught through perfect poverty and weakness. They ploughed great quantities of the land, and had poor returns for their labour, because they took four or five crops without manure, so that in dry seasons they could not gather the corn on account of its shortness. They built turf folds in summer in the fields, into which they put the cattle during the heat of the day, and also at night, with one or two persons to watch them every night in summer and autumn till the crops were got in. In the spring the cattle were so weak that when they lay down they had often to be lifted up, and it was a constant custom at that time for neighbours to gather together to lift horses a.nd cows and drag them out of mosses and quagmires.’
‘At that time there were no carts in the parish. They led home their corn and hay in trusses on the backs of their horses, and their peats in creels and sacks. They led out their manure in the same way. They rode to church or market on pillows placed on the horses’ backs. The horses’ halters were made of hair, and they had no shoes on their hind feet. When the good man of the house made family worship, they lighted a ruffy to enable him to read the psalm and the portion of Scripture before he prayed. They had no candles. The lower classes held many traditional superstitious sentiments, and firmly believed in ghosts, elves, fairies, and witches, which generally appeared to them at night. They used many charms to protect themselves and their cattle from the evil eye of witches. They frequently saw the devil, who made wicked attacks upon them when they were engaged in their religious exercises. They believed in benevolent spirits called brownies, who did some of their work at nights – such as spinning or churning.’
Having given the foregoing as an authentic account of the parish about 1730, Mr Robb proceeds with his notes as to 1790. He complains that ‘the stipend is the smallest in this “corner.”’ Only £143, with 100 merks for communion elements, remained from the lands of the parish, which had once wholly belonged to the church. Of course this was afterwards augmented. He remarks — ‘There are only 9 persons on the poor roll out of a population of 520, supported by the church collections and mort-cloth money.’ (After Mr Robb’s time the population increased very considerably.) This minister, in 1792, is in special trouble about dear coals. They were £1, 12s per ton. He says; — ‘Could Government know the real distress for fuel which many poor and shivering wretches suffer in this “corner,” their humanity would instantly excite them to remove a law that is truly oppressive.’ Another minister mentions that great discontent prevailed because if a man rode to church even on a work-horse he was taxed. The late Mr John Gillone, whose memory carried him far back, used to say that the bit of ground now known as ‘The New Burial Ground’ was in olden times a common ‘pound’ for the horses on Sundays. Afterwards, it was assumed to be a portion of the glebe, and as such was paid for by the Parochial Board in 1870.
After the storm of the first Jacobite rebellion had subsided, the landed proprietors set about improving their estates, and, in order that the labour of tending cattle might be lessened and the size of their farms increased, they made great exertions to erect march and sub-division dykes. But this led to many families being forced from their homes and the homes of their forefathers. Some who had the means emigrated to America and elsewhere, while those who remained fell into terrible destitution, and were driven to despair. The great annual meeting place of Galloway people at this time was Keltonhill Fair, and there, in July, 1723, the plan was formed of levelling the fences in the following winter. Parish meetings were held both in the Stewartry and Wigtownshire, and the parishes of Twynholm, Tongland, Kelton, and Crossmichael were the first to take the field. They assembled near Castle-Douglas, and as they proceeded through Kelton, Buittle, Rerrick, and Kirkcudbright, their numbers increased to about 500 men. The Castle-Douglas ‘Weekly Visitor’ describes the mode of proceeding. In bands of 50, each man was furnished with a strong pole from 6 to 8 feet long, which he fixed into the dyke at the proper distance from the foundation and from his neighbour. When all was ready, the captain shouted ‘Owre wi’t, boys;’ and owre accordingly it tumbled, with a shout that might have been heard at the distance of several miles. Some troops of dragoons arrived from Dumfries, Ayr and Edinburgh to assist in putting an end to the disorder. Several skirmishes took place, and a man —M’Crabbin of Dunlop — got his ear cut off by a dragoon named Andrew Gemmel, who afterwards became a noted blue-gown beggar, and was celebrated by Sir Walter Scott, in ‘The Antiquary,’ as Edie Ochiltree. When the Levellers took up a position on the braes of Culquha, the military, under Major M’Neil, along with many county gentlemen, were at Barcaple. The landed proprietors found much fault with the leniency of the commanding officer; but had their advice been taken much bloodshed would have followed, for in the ranks of the insurgents were many disbanded soldiers, including the noted gipsy chief, Willie Marshall (who was buried in Kirkcudbright Churchyard at the age of 120 years). In the end a flag of truce was despatched across the Tarff, and, owing to fair promises, large numbers dispersed. The last remnants were defeated at Duchrae, from which place the soldiers started for Kirkcudbright with 200 prisoners; but many of them were allowed to escape on the way thither. Of the ringleaders some were fined or imprisoned, while others were banished to the plantations. The General Assembly issued a strongly-worded warning, entreating the people, as they had regard to the eternal salvation of their souls and the safety of their bodies, to desist from such tumultuous proceedings and obey their Protestant sovereign, George I. The feelings of the people, however, were generally in favour of the Levellers. The Jacobites made use of the discontent to foment further rebellion, and the progress of improvement was retarded over a wide district. After the first enclosures of land, the principal farms on the east side of the Tarff Valley were:— Meiklewood, £105; Littlewood, £50; Drumbow, £25; Cowcrossan, £25; Underwood, £30; Lintriggs, £46; and on the upper Tarff — Kirkconnell, £80; Lairdmannoch, £137; Bush o Beild, £15; Blackmark, £15; and Rannochmore; £22. Of seven of these homesteads not a stone now remains, and in the beginning of last century, when the smaller holdings were absorbed, local feeling again ran high, and the new tenants were lampooned.
Potatoes were first introduced into this district from Ireland in the year 1725, and for a time were sold in pounds. Bakers must have been scarce at this period, for it is recorded, as a mark of great enterprise, that one who resided in Dumfries baked halfpenny baps of coarse flour and carried them to the fairs of Urr and Kirkpatrick Durham, finding a ready sale for them there. So late as 1735 there were no flour mills in this part of the country.
How little could the flourishing abbots and the intelligent, busy monks in the 12th century have imagined that, in the 18th century, not only would their beautiful abbey be in ruins and themselves and their works forgotten, but that their favoured parish of Tongland would in so many respects have moved backwards and downwards! How had it all happened? Wars with England, civil strife in Scotland, ecclesiastical struggles and religious persecutions, carried on for centuries, had left their sore mark on our country, and especially on this corner, killing off the best men, rendering property insecure, and making progress impossible. The 18th century presents a sad spectacle of Scotland lagging behind other countries in civilisation, and this district further behind than many. A study of the 19th century reveals marvellous progress in this locality, and furnishes some striking literary characters connected with Tongland. Much interesting material remains in the annals of our parish, particularly the Reformation and Covenanting period and the last century. Perhaps this present essay may induce some one to take up the subject and give us the result.
Any one who studies this parish of ours will be well repaid in many respects. He may not become a famous antiquarian, but, as he visits the hill-fort or moorland cairn, his curiosity and intelligence will be greatly stimulated. He may not he a practical artist. but he will be dull indeed if his soul be not stirred within him, as, from the hills of Kirkconnell, High Barcaple, or Meiklewood (with a reasonable freedom which the tenants have never restricted), he surveys Nature’s picture-gallery of rich valleys and winding streams, and of ever-varying shades of wooded slopes, with their background of hills, which, though dark and stern in some aspects, are seen to be wondrously responsive to the changing moods of sunshine, cloudy sky, and revolving seasons. He may not be a skilled botanist, but he can hardly fail to be charmed by the specially rich varieties of wild flowers, which are —
‘flung unrestrained and free
O’er hill and dale and mountain sod,
That man, where’er he walks may see
At every step, the stamp of God.’
He will prize every opportunity of withdrawing from his cares and duties to retired spots,
‘Where the sundew blooms unseen by men,
‘Mid the wild moor or silent glen,
By the lone fountain’s secret bed,
Where human footsteps rarely tread.’
A man does not walk abroad, certainly, in order to moralise. But, all the same, he is bound to feel the subtle influence of the ‘aisles of the dim woods’ (if he may venture there) and the grand solitude of the hill tops, with the overarching blue dome of heaven, and will begin to understand why the lonely hills and the deep recesses of groves were chosen by our ancestors for the celebration of their solemn rites. He may even consider that, as regards the suggesting of feelings of awe and reverence, the spire of masonry pointing heavenwards, and the ‘dim religious light’ of church or abbey are poor substitutes for the glorious temple of Nature — a temple which must always be open as the heavens and free as the air to every worshipper.