Odds and Ends
What are folks saying?
Kirkcudbright, 10th February 1882. Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser
They say that this is a dull time of the year for labourers and working men, and that it would be a kindly act to try to find employment for them, but the difficulty is to provide the funds, even if they were willing to work at a reduced rate of wages. For many years there was a deposit account in the Bank of Scotland branch here entitled ‘Fund for Poor Labourers.’ It was frequently operated upon when the hand-loom cotton weavers were thrown out of work owing to a stagnation of trade in Glasgow, and the weavers were set to work on the old roads and footpaths around the burgh. This account, it is feared, is now closed. The burgh has several little jobs much required to be done if the state of their exchequer will permit. The walks around the town are admired by all strangers, and they are worthy of being kept in a good state. First of all we would respectfully call the attention of the Committee on the Streets and Roads to
the face of which, to the harbour, is in a bad ragged state, having an ugly aspect to persons coming up the river. For many years the late Bailie Burnie took much interest in the Moatbrae, as we knew at the time and afterwards, from accounts found by us among his papers. After his death it got into a bad condition, and Baillie Bee then took special charge of it. The Baillie got the retaining wall re-built, parts of which are now in much need of being repaired. Before the old church was taken down the Moatbrae was well kept, and was a pleasant promenade, commanding an extensive view, subsequently on the north east spoiled by an erection on the north of the Basil warehouse, which blocked the view. At this part of the Moatbrae it was said that the laird of Shillinghill of last century could be heard ‘sneezing’ on his premises, so strong was he in the matter of chest and lungs. Our readers may or may not credit this, but the story was current. There were then nothing betwixt the Moatbrae and the Shillinghill to obstruct sound. The healthsome game of hand-ball was in good weather played against the north gable of the church, which used to attract a great many onlookers. There was not a blade of grass growing on any part of the ground, so much was it frequented. The front of the Brae was much walked on by Dr Muter, Provost Henderson, and many of the citizens who felt an interest in the vessels on the beach. Of old, it was consecrated ground, and a churchyard ; and although it has long ceased to be a place of burial, it, from its proximity to the church, and from old associations, retained a kind of respect, and was maintained in a much better condition than at present, when there is a ‘midden’ on it, and is used as a refuge for old timber, misfit grave stones, and such like articles. It is a cloace, at least during the night, the condition in which it is allowed to be leading to this.
The walks on the embankment are in need of being cleaned, and. in some places re-gravelled. The embankment betwixt the jetty and the bridge, in several places facing the river, is hollowed out by the tide, and the holes should be carefully filled up to strengthen the embankment, and to encourage the growth of vegetation. That part of the embankment appears to person on the bridge and on the other side of the river to be in a very ugly and neglected state.
The Tunnel Through The Embankment at the Snuff Mill Creek.
There is something defective here, which is neutralising the improvement effected by Provost Williamson’s operations in the fields tenanted by Mr Sproat. The valves at the mouths of the tunnel are surely inoperative in some way, for holes have been made by pressure of the water in the drains below, through which the lower part of the field is flooded, and has become a dirty puddle, and vegetation has been killed out. Valves require to be constantly cared for , for if they are neglected, their mechanism is sure to get wrong. The walks on the embankment in summer weather are most pleasant, and everything should be done to prevent eye-sores. From time to time turf has been cut on different parts of the water edge below the embankment, and these holes, or inks, have an ugly appearance, and are dangerous for the children who bathe there, the locality being the safest in the river for the purpose. Some object to children bathing there, but surely walker (no one is compelled to be there, for it is not a public right of way) need not begrudge little more than an hour at tide time for younger children washing their bodies. The holes should be filled up. The work would not occupy a labourer more than a day, and it would vastly improve the appearance of the river side when the tide is out. The trees on the embankment should be attended to, the back-gone and sickly ones removed, by which the healthy ones would get more ‘elbow room’ and be improved. The ground before and at the side of the seats should be looked to, for it has become lower than the rest of the ground, and is often wet. Two or three additional seats would be an advantage, especially for old persons. Defacers and injurers of the seats should be dealt with with the utmost rigour of the law. The cat is a fit instrument for ‘such blackguards.’ The corruption of human nature is surely strong which induces lads to commit such acts as destroying seats and overturning the steps of styles on public walks, and the stones of the parapets of bridges.
The State, or City Barge.
If it was considered desirable to purchase the boat, she is surely worthy of being kept in a decent state. The green colour of her bottom cries aloud for the scraper and the paint brush. She floats prettily on the water, and should be an ornament to the river, but her condition is an eye-sore to the passer by. Let the ready-handed Harbour-Master be employed to tidy up the boat. A few shillings would suffice for the job, and he is the handy man to do it.
The Quarry Where Henry Greg was Executed.
A large extent of the hillside has now been broken up, and has an ugly appearance. On such parts as are not now worked, ivy, shrubs and creeping plants should be put in and grown. This would soon alter the appearance of the place, which is so much seen from the road, and is in proximity to fine villas.
Silver Craig’s Road.
This old road, which is neither a parish road nor a street, but yet a valued appendage to the burgh, was of old, and until the time of his death, cared for by Mr Wm. Johnston, endower of the Free School. Mr Johnston took a pleasure from time to time in getting the sides of it cleaned, and the road repaired. He was very often asked to ‘bid’ for funerals, and when making arrangements he ruled, if at all suitable, for the funerals going by his favourite old road. There was not a hearse in Kirkcudbright until comparatively recent times. The introduction of the hearse stopped the transit of the dead by the old road, it being hilly, and unsuitable for a wheeled carriage, as well as inferring a circumbendibus, which circumstance was overweighed in Mr Johnston’s mind by the road being old, and the only road to the churchyard – indeed a Via Sacra. Mr Johnston died before the handspokes and the mortcloth were disestablished, and thus escaped the sorrow of seeing funeral processions taking a different and a lower route. After Mr Johnston’s death, the late Mr W.H. McLellan, of Marks, Town Clerk, succeeded Mr Johnston as caretaker of the road, partly from the same feeling as Mr Johnston’s, and partly as interested in the road, he having a large park on the line of it, which meant him having to travel it, and when going to and from his property of Marks he often preferred the old road, on which, on one occasion, he had a very bad fall from the horse on which he rode coming down with him from the badness of the road. The road has a rocky bottom, and no material having been laid on it for many years, the stones are cropping up, or protruding, and the walking on it is very uncomfortable. The road is a favourite walk, for it commands an extensive and fine view, and the situation is considerably above the level of the town, and some say that they breathe more freely there than in the town. The appearance of the road has been much improved by the old tumble-down dyke having been replaced by a stone and lime wall. The protruding stones should be removed, new material broken small, or gravel should be laid on, and the sides of the road should be cleaned. A wooden seat was, a year ago, placed at the summit, where the walkers can ‘rest and be thankful’ while taking in a fine piece of varied landscape.
Townend Road to Millburn.
This road is in a bad state – little better than the Silver Craigs road – only it is level, but with the bottom being stoney, stones are cropping up from the worn and bare surface. It is unpleasant to walk on, and there is much walking on it, this being increased since the communication from Church Place was opened up, and the Townend School was enlarged and improved. Upon two occasions the road was narrowed. The narrow parts would be helped by the sides of the road being thoroughly cleansed, and the debris removed. The protruding stones should be removed, and metal broken small, or gravel should be laid on the road.
Road From Bottom of St. Mary’s Wynd to Bell’s Barns.
The pavement of the Wynd is wretched, but we shall not at present deal with it. The old road thence to the Bell’s Barns is in the same condition as the Silver Craigs road and the Townend road, and should be dealt with in the same manner. There is always a quantity of rubbish from the gardens deposited on the side of the road, giving it an unseemly appearance. The practice should be stopped.
Footpath Through The Crofts.
This is yearly spoiled for want of head-riggs, and by the plough being carried to the footpath, and burying the gravel with earth and rubbish. Head-riggs should be made to prevent the spoiling of the walk. In wet weather it is ankle deep.
Walks on the Castledyke Park
These are being fast covered with grass, and require cleaning. In wet or damp weather walking is uncomfortable on the walks.
Ivy on the Steeple and Old Jail
Provost Cavan some twenty years ago gave a ‘reprieve’ to the old jail, then moribund owing to the roof being in ruin ; its fate was quivering in the balance. We suggested that the ivy which was covering part of the back of the old jail, and creeping up the steeple, should be removed. The Provost and Bailie Bee got the ivy removed. It has had a wonderful recuperative power, for it has recovered its ground, and is as vigorous as it then was ; and if its growth is not stopped it will soon get into the interior of the ‘old one-handed clock,’ and stay time. The ivy is neither useful nor ornamental and should be removed immediately.
The matters above enumerated should be attended to ; they are all clamant, and would not cost much money – less money than at another season of the year. Many of them would not be in their present condition if the burgh had a working master of works. George McConchie, sexton and lamp-lighter, has recently been put upon a weekly wage. The churchyard and lamps, especially in the summer, will not be full employment for him. Five shillings should be added to his wages, and he should devote his spare time to the general work of the burgh. He is a good gardener, an excellent labourer at general jobs, can handle a spade, a shovel, or pick with any man. He is entitled to the wage of a skilled worker or ‘handy man,’ and as such would not be overpaid with 25s. The town would save money by so employing him upon the principal of ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’ Every man and every corporation possessing property of the value of that of the town of Kirkcudbright requires the services of such an employee as we have respectfully suggested. He would be a permanent overseer and worker, whereas the Bailies are periodically going out of office, and succeeded by new men. The apprenticeship of the Bailie is not completed when they leave office.
Note: George McConchie, (whose portrait may now be seen, with the halberd, in Mr Stewart’s photographic saloon, Kirkcudbright) has for many years held, in addition to his other offices, that of Halberdier, along with another, to walk before the Magistrates and Council at the annual ‘kirking’ of the Provost, and that of the Convener of the Trades, the burgh officer, whose duty it is, not having been, since the days of the model man, Wm. Niven, considered the right man to don the Burgh livery. The procession formerly took place every Sabbath day, but in these reforming times it has tapered away to only twice a year. George, or ‘Geordie’ by which name he is best known, looks well in the red coat. Thirty years ago he saved the life of a Bailie at the dock late at night, when looking to the proper lighting of the lamps. He happened to be at hand, and rescued the Bailie. George joined the Rifles when they were first established, and might have been a sergeant if his official duties would have permitted. He has three good marks, was at the late Grand Review, and was selected as one of two to keep the ground at musters. We lately saw the great actor, Mr Irving, in Glasgow. George, when in his Sunday clothes, bears a strong resemblance to Mr Irving. His actions, pose, and figure struck us as being very like.