By W.J. Pennel B.D.
To MR AND MRS JAMES BROWN
BUT FOR WHOM THIS ACCOUNT OF THEIR HOME WOULD NOT
AND COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN.
IT IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
“To the right heir what a rich inheritance is the old estate of Knockbrex!” Such was the ejaculation of Dr Alexander Whyte, Principal of the New College, Edinburgh, as he visited Knockbrex before 1894 in connection with his book, Samuel Rutherford and Some of his Correspondents. It would appear that he saw the place in early summer, when, as one turns the corner and leaves with reluctance the beautiful seascape even for a leafy wood through which the road runs, one suddenly starts at what seems to be a blue haze soon through the trees, but what proves on a nearer approach to be a field of wild hyacinths waving their blue bells in the light zephyr. One has been privileged to behold “the unspeakable azure light along the ground of the wood hyacinth,” of which Ruskin writes in The Queen of the Air. Then before one has had enough of this fairy scene, one has turned into the avenue which leads to the mansion-house of Knockbrex.
Since the date of Dr Whyte’s visit the estate has changed hands, and has undergone the most extensive alterations. Still, while Art has improved on Nature round about the house, Nature shows that she was worthy of the most careful and loving attention of man. The windows of the house command, at the back, an unrivalled view of Wigtown Bay, with Wigtownshire for a background, and, near at hand, the Isles of Fleet. An evening stroll to Carrick Bay on the property will be rewarded by a sunset behind Cairnharrow. Woods full of daffodils and wild hyacinths are just at hand. The walk to the Muncraig Heughs shows many of the picturesque Galloway hills on the way, and brings one to “Muncraig’s gurly shore,” with its cave and wild cliff scenery.
The present house stands on the site of the former houses. The estate has never been larger than it now is. In this year of grace, 1914, it consists of Carrick , Knockbrex, Barlocco and Isle, Kinganton, Corseyard, Roberton, Kirkandrews, Ingleston, Muncraig, Chapelton, Rattra. As far back as our available records extend, we find a cadet of the great Gordon family in possession of Barlocco, Kinganton, and Knockbrex, including Carrick and Corseyard which are never mentioned separately. In April, 1626, when Mr John Livingstone visited Galloway at the request of Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar, with a view to his being appointed the first minister of Anwoth – at that time only part of a parish without a separate Church – he mentions that he preached at a communion in Borgue and met, among other “worthy, experienced Christians,” Alexander Gordon of Knockbrex. Almost without exception, a Gordon has at one time been in possession of the different estates which are contained in the parish of Borgue; but the connection of the Knockbrex property with this most ancient family is the oldest of all. Thus, in 1504, the Earl of Bothwell appointed Gordon of Lochinvar bailie of Kirkandrews; and, on 31st January, 1597-8, Sir Robert Gordon of Glen (Skyreburn), son and heir of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, had a charter of the lands of Kirkandrews. How the Gordons passed into possession of Knockbrex itself it is now impossible to say. Our Scottish registers and family records could scarcely escape destruction at the hands successively of Edward I., the Reformers of religion, and Oliver Cromwell, whose interest is was to remove the ancient landmarks. M’Kerlie, in his History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway, can take us no further back than 1628; but his patient research has been rewarded by a tolerably connected list of owners from that time. Thus, on 20th October, 1628, John, son of Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar, was returned as proprietor. He was followed on 17th March, 1635, by his grandson, John, second Viscount of Kenmure. On 3rd September, 1640, Robert Gordon succeeded to the estate. He will always be remembered as one of the correspondents of Samuel Rutherford. As Livingstone himself owned, the parishioners of Anwoth did better in calling Rutherford to be their first minister, and Robert Gordon preferred to go to Anwoth to worship with Samuel Rutherford than to sit in the family pew at Borgue and worship with Gavin Maxwell, who had Episcopalian leanings. The minister of Anwoth was in turn attracted by the sterling qualities of Knockbrex. In Livingstone’s Characteristics, he is described as ” a single-hearted and painful Christian, much employed at Parliaments and public meetings after the year 1638.” When Rutherford was banished to Aberdeen, he wrote six letters to Robert Gordon between September, 1636, and June,1638. “Blunt old Knockbrex,” as he has been called, seems to have been sparing of his answers to his minister’s epistles; but in one letter he sent he warned him that “hallbinks are slippery.” What particular danger he pointed to in sitting on the benches of a great house does not appear; but his proverbial expression is an excellent commentary on the more familiar words-” Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”
Robert Gordon’s minister was not the only one to appreciate his downright and sterling qualities; for we find his name among the commissioners of the General Assembly of 1638 as burgess of New-Galloway, and he attended the Parliaments of 1639 and 1641 as commissioner of New-Galloway. The General Assembly met on 21st November, 1638, in Glasgow Cathedral. This Assembly is remembered as one of the most important ever convened. On 28th February of that year Edinburgh was filled with Scotsmen drawn from nearly every quarter of the country to sign the National Covenant in the Greyfriars’ Church and Churchyard. The subscribers, “the nobility, the gentry, the burgesses, the ministers, the commons of all sorts,” banded themselves” to adhere to and defend the true religion, and to labour by all means lawful to recover the purity and liberty of the Gospel as it was professed and established before the aforesaid innovations.” That Act the country endorsed almost to a man. The Assembly which Robert Gordon attended was the first to meet after that memorable day at Greyfriars’. The King’s Commissioner felt himself obliged to vacate his seat. But undismayed by the absence of the representative of royalty, and a proclamation at the market-cross that all who should henceforth join in the sittings would be regarded as guilty of treason, the Assembly proceeded to business. That business included the abjuring of Episcopacy in general, and the trial of the Scottish Bishops in particular. One bishop was convicted of “all the ordinary faults of a bishop,” and, besides, of being ” a pretty dancer.” Such being the temper of the General Assembly, we are not surprised to learn that the bishops were one and all deposed, not merely from their bishoprics, but from the office of the ministry, and
that eight of them were excommunicated to boot.
The response of King Charles I. to the General Assembly was to lead an army into Scotland. Under the leadership of General Leslie, the Covenanters made effective counter preparations. By the spring of 1639 a War Committee commenced to levy an army over broad Scotland. From the pages of the minute book, kept by the War Committee of the Covenanters in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the years 1640-1, we learn that Robert Gordon of Knockbrex took a leading part in the proceedings. He was appointed one of two commissioners by the Committee on 24th August, 1640, “for ressaiving of silver works and borrowit monie.” A week later he delivered to the Commissioners “sex silver spoones, Scots worke, weghtan vi unce xii dropes.” On 3rd September William Gordon of Roberton gave “sex silver spoones, and uther work, weght, ix unce, ane drope.’ , Knockbrex was sworn a member of Committee on 3rd December, 1640, and was, on 1st January, 1641, appointed an auditor of the accounts. From such minutes we learn that; Knockbrex was no “cold Covenanter.” 17th December, 1640, “the quhilk day the Committee foirsaid finds and declares ane cold covenanter to be such ane person quha does not his dewtie in everie thing committed to his charge, thankfullie and willinglie, without compulsion, for the furtherance of the publict.”
It has been said that the best way to preserve peace is to be prepared for war, Certainly King Charles yielded to the Covenanters’ armed persuasion, and at Westminster, in 1641, confirmed the Acts of the Assembly of 1638. Tho precise date of Robert Gordon’s death is not known; but in 1657 John Gordon in Garloeh (Garroeh, Dalry) was retoured heir in the lands of Knockbrex as grand-nephew.
The restoration of King Charles II., whatever it meant for Merrie England, brought with it the restoration of Episcopacy for Scotland. On New Year’s Day, 1661, Middleton’s “Drunken” Parliament was called to meet. The Act Recissory revoked all Parliaments that sat between 1640 and 1648. The Covenants were declared to be no longer binding; the General Assembly of 1638 was pronounced treasonable; and the government of the Church was avowed to be a prerogative of the Crown. The next step was to restore Prelacy on the authority of the King alone.
In the list of fines imposed by the Earl of Middleton in the Parliament of 1662, “that the fines therein imposed may be given for the relief of the King’s good subjects who had suffered in the late troubles,” we notice the names of William Gordon of Roberton, 360 pounds Scots, and James Thomson of Ingleston, 1000 pounds Scots. (A pound Scots = 1s 8d sterling.) Knockbrex’s turn for suffering soon came. On 13th November, 1666, a scuffle took place at Dalry, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, between some parishioners and a few troopers who were collecting fines for the Privy Council. The success of the civilians led to a general rising of Covenanters in the South-West of Scotland. They marched to Lanark, where they renewed the Covenant. At Douglas they were joined by John and Robert Gordon, the sons of Alexander Gordon of Knockbrex, with some few men from Galloway. Both took the Covenant at Lanark, and Robert was made cornet (sub-lieutenant) of a troop of horse. A march upon Edinburgh was quite ineffective. Sympathisers in the Lothians kept aloof, and the Covenanters found the capital fortified against them. On 28th November the King’s troops attacked them at Rullion Green, killed about fifty and took about a hundred prisoners, the rest escaping for the time being in the gathering darkness. William Gordon of Roberton was among the slain: the two sons of Knockbrex were among the prisoners. By order of Council of 4th December, the King’s advocate pursued a process of forfeiture against eleven prisoners, among whom were the two Gordons and indicted them before two criminal judges. The judgment given was that their lands, heritages, goods, and gear be forfeited to his Majesty’s use; that they be hanged on 7th December; that their heads be cut off and affixed at Kirkcudbright; that their right arms be cut off and affixed on the public ports of Lanark, where they had taken the Covenant, and their bodies be burned in Edinburgh. On the day of their death, the condemned men subscribed in the prison a joint testimony, which is given in Naphtali (or “The Wrestlings of the Church of Scotland for the Kingdom of Christ to 1667.” Published in 1693). When the two brothers ware turned off the ladder, it is said they clasped each other in their arms, and thus endured the pangs of death.
Calderwood, in his History of the Kirk of Scotland, says: – “I have it from persons yet alive of their acquaintance that they were youths of shining piety, and good learning and parts.”
When Alpine vales threw forth a suppliant cry,
The majesty of England interposed,
And the sword stopped; the bleeding wounds were closed;
And faith preserved her ancient purity.
How little boots that precedent of good,
Scorned or forgotten, thou canst testify,
For England’s shame, O, sister realm! from wood,
The headless martyrs of the Covenant,
Mountain and moor, and crowded street, where lie
Slain by compatriot-Protestants that draw
From councils senseless as intolerant
Their warrant. Bodies fall by wild sword-law;
But who would force the soul, tilts with a straw
Against a champion cased in adamant.
The sentence of forfeiture, pronounced on 4th December, 1666, was not rescinded till 4th July, 1690. For all those years, it is matter of history that the harassings and losses of the family were frequent and severe. Wodrow, in his History of the sufferings of the Church of Scotland, tells how “besides the payment of their Parliamentary fine and their common losses, with others in Galloway, by Sir James Turner, in a little time after Pentland, their whole crop for that year was seized, and the household furniture disposed of and destroyed. Six soldiers remained quartered upon the house from the 6th of March to the 9th of July, which comes to a good sum, besides, near four hundred pounds of cess, and other impositions, were uplifted from them and their tenants. They had their share in all the after-harassings of the country; particulars would swell this account. In the year 1684, Captain Strachan, with his troop, came and destroyed, and took away the whole household-plenishing. Next year Glenlyon, with near two hundred Highlanders, came and stayed at Knockbreck from Thursday to Monday, and consumed and took with them all the meal and malt they found, and killed vast numbers of sheep; and at their departure broke the glass-windows, and carried off all the horses about the house, to bear away the spoil. And, last of all, cruel Lagg came with a company of men, and carried off all within the house, to the very trenchers and spoons, and with much difficulty was prevailed upon not to burn the house. Any of the remaining sheep they could not eat, Lagg carried with him, to the number of about fifty, besides many black cattle.”
The value of that page from Wodrow is that it not merely helps us to realise how impoverished the estate of Knockbrex must have been for generations after. It also affords us a fairly clear picture of the old house as we peer at it through the many years. We get a glimpse of a dwelling of two storeys with the usual corbel-stepped gable roof, and narrow, sashless, small-paned windows. Close to the house are grazing the famous black cattle of Galloway brood; while many scores of sheep roam over the hillside from which Knockbrex, the grey or brindled hill, derives its name. The mention of meal and malt and trenchers brings to mind the plain living and high thinking which Wordsworth mourned as lost. Those trenchers, most often plates of wood, must, in this case, have been of pewter to excite the cupidity of Lagg. On them was set the breakfast of “skink,” or water-gruel, supplemented by collops or mutton, and washed down with a draught of home-brewed ale from the one tankard which did service for the company. The bread consisted of oat-cakes or barley bannocks. Dinner rang the changes on “broath” of “groats” or “knookit bear,” or kail, accompanied by mutton or beef or “kain hens.” But in this house was met “pure religion breathing household laws,” and the place was redeemed from uncouthness by the beauty of holiness.
Alexander Gordon still had the principal sasine of Knockbrex, we find, on 30th July, 1673; but by 1682 Robert Gordon has succeeded. By the marriage of his daughter Jean to Archibald Blair, second son of Hugh Blair-M’Guffock of Rusco, a new name appears on our list of owners on 6th March, 1696. Then, on 10th January, 1741, John Halliday of Castlemaine had sasine of Knockbrex, Barlow (Barlocco), Kinganton and Ingliston. If he had acquired the property by purchase, there is, of course, no question of his ownership. But money was seldom plentiful with Scots lairds, and to raise money the usual way was to mortgage their lands. So the historian must not take it for granted that the names recorded in the registers are the names of the actual resident proprietors. In this case our suspicion is confirmed by a quotation from M’Kerlie that William Gordon of Knockbrex had retour of Chapelton on 26th February, 1735. That, however, is the last mention of a Gordon of Knockbrex.
The eighteenth century will always be remembered for the smugglers. And the Solway was the best-known sphere of their operations. The general interest in the carrying trade is perhaps based more on Sir Walter Scott’s novels, Guy Mannering and Redgauntlet, than on the actual facts. But there is evidence that the fair traders habitually used to land their goods on the shore near Knockbrex. It was Charles Lamb who wrote:- “I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief. He robs nothing but the revenue–an abstraction I never greatly cared about.” But even Adam Smith described him as a “a person who, though no doubt highly blamable for violating the laws of ‘his country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice; and would have been in every respect an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so.” It is probable, however, that most people who connived at the Free Trade were not influenced so much by moral philosophy as by politics, and, most of all, by domestic economy. If they felt any prickings of conscience to begin with at breaking the law of the land, they supplied absolution to themselves by reflecting that they were assisting men who were to be regarded as benefactors by supplying a better quality of goods at a cheaper rate than those which paid duty.
Dr J. Maxwell Wood in his book, Smuggling in the Solway, tells of a smuggling firm as far back as 1670. But the general public began to look on smuggling as a lucrative investment in 1725, when the Government began to enforce an impost, which had hitherto been evaded, of sixpence on every bushel of malt. The Scottish people were incensed at this interference with their home-brewed ale. There were fierce riots in Glasgow, and the Edinburgh brewers went on strike. The general discontent was fanned by those politicians who saw in it an opportunity to repeal the hated Act of Union of 1707. This was the heyday of the fair traders. Luggers brought cargoes of wine, brandy, and tea from Holland, France and Spain, and changed the drinking habits of the people of Scotland in a few months. The second great wave in the history of smuggling came in 1792, when the Government had to resort to very high taxation in order to carry on the war with America and France. Now the laird and farmers on the Knockbrex estate were in the very zone of temptation. On a day clear to the south can be seen the Isle of Man. During the eighteenth century it claimed exemption from duty on certain importations. It thus became the chief centre of the free-traders. Stores of tea, brandy, rum, gin, tobacco, lace, silk and salt were conveyed there. At a spring tide in the night time a small flotilla of open boats each carrying some two dozen small casks would arrive off the Borgue shore and disperse for Ross Bay, Brighouse Bay, Kirkandrews Bay, Ardwall Isle, Carrick Bay, Castle Hayne and the like.
Land sold well and was well let by the Solway. Even the harvest might be left unreaped, if there was any expectation of a good haul of contraband goods. A white sheet or shirt put out to dry by day, or the burning of rubbish by night, had been the reassuring sign. Next day never a horse was to be seen. Justices of tho Peace, farmers, shopkeepers and fishermen had attended the favourable tide with horses carrying slings of rope which were fitted to carry a keg on each side, pannier-fashion. If necessary, a lugger could lie off Ardwall Isle and store her cargo in its caves. There is a tradition that there is a passage from the island to the Smugglers’ Bay. But at low water, in any kind of weather, pack horses could cross the sand from shore to island. Once the beasts were laden, no time was lost in gaining the main routes from the shore to New-Galloway for Edinburgh. Meantime it is no stretch of imagination to picture the laird of Knockbrex in “good spirits,” and his lady fashionably adorned in lace and silken attire.
After William Gordon, the next proprietor research can discover is Adam Thomson of Muncraig, who owned Ingleston, Muncraig, Chappelton, Meggarland, Kinganton, Barlocco and Isle, Knockbrex and Little Templand Croft in 1799. In 1819 he was succeeded by Adam Thomson-Mure, son of David Thomson of Ingleston, who was buried at Kirkandrews in 1822. The estate was then purchased by Dunbar James, the sixth Earl of Selkirk, who left it at his death in 1885 to his daughter, Lady Isabella, wife of the Hon. Charles Hope. She was succeeded by her son, Captain John Hope, R.N., of St. Mary’s Isle.
For many a year Knockbrex had ceased to be occupied by a proprietor, and had become the residence of shooting tenants and strangers. These included Mrs L. B. Walford, the novelist. But that has happily been altered since 1894, when Knockbrex, Barlocco, Kinganton, and Corseyard were purchased by James Brown of Longfield, Manchester.
Another striking picture of the life at Knockbrex in ancient times has been supplied by one who used to stay there about 1830. Railway travelling was then in its infancy. And so a country house must depend on its own resources. The meat consumed was that which the fields nourished. The salt tub was the butcher’s shop. The spoons were made by the Marshalls or other local tinkers out of the horns of the cattle that replenished the salt tub. Usually one of those horn spoons had a whistle cut at the end for the baby of the family. A travelling tailor or sempstress stayed at the house till the gentlemen and ladies had their homespuns cut in the latest local fashion. The water was drawn by a windlass from a well near the present stables. A man was kept to milk the cow and dig the garden. But the most remarkable thing about the Knockbrex of 1830 was the accommodation provided for horses. Stables were then standing with stalls for seventy horses. One may hazard the guess that such buildings were not built for the owner’s own Galloway ponies, but were fullest when the word had been passed round the district that the smugglers might be expected any night. They were the stables nearest to Laurie’s Isle, or Knockbrex Isle as it used once to be called, and no time must be lost between the landing of the cargo and the short cut for the country.
It would be signally unjust to tell the story of Knockbrex without referring to the immense improvements made by the present proprietor. The house has been rebuilt in the most comfortable style. Beautiful water and rock-gardens have been created. With the space and means and judgment to indulge his passion for the Queen of Flowers, Mr Brown has made Knockbrex famous for its roses. The stables have been handsomely built and equipped. The garage is most stately and complete. The bathing house and ground satisfy every desire. And a model dairy has been constructed at Corseyard.
During the digging operations of recent years a remarkable find has been made which has given rise to much speculation. At the foot of an old ash tree near the stables a skull, without any other bone, was disinterred in 1905. This skull was submitted to an expert, Mr William Ombler Meek, for his examination, and he pronounced it to be of European type, and to have belonged to a young male, under twenty-five years of age, from the undecayed and complete set of teeth. Having been buried in a peaty soil, it might have been preserved for a long time back. The fact that no skeleton was to be found gives rise to the probability that this skull belonged to one of the two young Gordons who were hanged in 1666, and was stolen from one of the principal gates of Kirkcudbright by some friend of old Knockbrex. It is most fitting that it should have fallen into the hands of one who is descended from John Brown of Priesthill, the Covenanter, and whose ancestors lie buried in Old Cumnock Graveyard along with Peden, the Prophet.
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CARRICK, BARLOCCO, KINGANTON, AND CORSEYARD.
The history of Carrick (Gaelic for the rocky place), of Barlocco (the Norseman’s hill), of Kinganton (the back of beyond), and of Corseyard (the cross-shaped gardens), is, in historical times, merged in that of Knockbrex. But Barlocco Isle recently gained notoriety on account of a shipwreck. During a great and disatrous storm on 27th February, 1903, the three-masted steamer Truda, of four hundred tons, was sighted on the rocks at the west side of the island. She was owned by Messrs W. C. O. Smith & Co., Glasgow, and had tried to make for shelter in Kirkcudbright Bay. Owing to the direction of the wind, the Kirkcudbright lifeboat was unable to go to her assistance. The lifeboat at Whithorn was launched, but could not be brought to owing to the heavy sea. By this time the steamer was fast on the rocks, and a fishing boat, manned by six men, left the shore in the lea of the island, and effected the rescue of five of the crew of nine. The bodies of the four drowned men were buried in Kirkandrews graveyard.
A story about Kinganton is worth telling, “Kinganton” had been having some friends in to pass the evening. The evening had passed, and the whisky decanter likewise. But before the party broke up, the neighbours suggested, “Only one more bottle.” This “Kinganton”, however, refused. The guests then threatened to set the thatch on fire, and as the bottle was still not forthcoming, they carried their threat into execution. “Kinganton” was now brought to treat for terms, and promised them the bottle if they would help him to put out the blaze. Whereupon all proceeded to take off their coats and beat out the fire and drink health and prosperity to their jolly host.
On the shore opposite Corseyard is Dead Man’s Bay, whence, doubtless, the popular tradition has arisen that the name is derived from Corpse-yard. One or two generations ago some casks of brandy were cast up at the bay, probably from some wreck. It is said that every jug in the parish was requisitioned that day. There was not a jug left for the milk except it was the jug of the hardest
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The name of Roberton is the same as that of two parishes, one near Hawick, and one near Lamington, and beyond stating that the suffix “ton” is Norse, and that the “Robert” might be the name of a knight, we cannot gain any clue as to its early history. There is little doubt, however, that the Norsemen were in possession of the adjoining shore. Between Roberton and Knockbrex are still to be seen the ruins of a stone fort, called Castle Hayne. In the New Statistical Account of Scotland, a former minister of the parish of Borgue, the Rev. S. Smith, thus mentions it:- “Next to the moats, the works of art in Borgue which bear the stamp of greatest antiquity are the ruins of what appears to have been a castle of considerable strength, on the side of a small bay, half a mile westwards of Kirkandrews.” … “No mortar has been used to cement the stones, the interstices having been filled with earth and rubbish.” And M’Kerlie quotes the tradition:- “To this castle it is believed that the Norse word borg, meaning a castle or fortification, was given by the Norsemen, and afterwards applied to the church and then to the whole parish.” The stones of the building used to be taken away for dykes and road metal; but in 1905, by the orders of Mr Brown, the foundations were cleared of debris, and a well judged attempt was made to build the walls sufficiently high to indicate the original shape of the fort. A white mark now shows the height of each wall as it was found. It is most particularly described by Mr James Barbour in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, reprinted on January 14th, 1907. He enumerates the relics discovered in the process of excavation, which are now preserved at Knockbrex, and pronounces them few in number, and of a character generaUy corresponding with the products of ancient sites. Other points of conformity to the brochs of the North of Scotland and the Orkney Islands are the walls being dry-built, of a usual thickness, containing central cavities, and being devoid of external openings other than the doorways. But this stone fort, he thinks, is not parallel with any of the Scottish forts put on record in these respects that the cavities are long and narrow, and the stairs are external to the walls, thus contrasting with the short cavities on the ground floor and the internal stairs of brochs, The chief difference, however, is in respect to the height. The average height of a broch was fifty feet. But the plan of this borg or broch does not lend itself to the idea of such height. It is not symmetrical, but oval on the east and straight on the west.
Still Mr Barbour is of opinion that the types are too closely allied to admit of entirely independent origin. “There was a settlement of Celts from Ireland in Galloway, and the fort shows a remarkable resemblance to some of the cashels of that ancient race, whose traces are yet preserved in place and personal names of the district.”
One has some hesitation in allowing Mr Barbour the last word on the subject. For no reason stated, he has identified the date of the broch or D-shaped fort with that of an exceedingly strong rampart which extends from the north-east side of the fort in a southeasterly direction for about 350 feet, and then turns in a south-westerly direction for about 230 feet till it meets the shore-line. Thus the fort and the promontory on which it stands were protected by walls on the landward side, and could only be attacked by a hostile force in command of the sea. The tradition is that the fort was called Borg; but at Borness [Borg-ness] there are the remains on a high cliff of a fortified camp without any dry-stone building. So it is quite probable that the Celtic building was stormed by the hardy Norsemen in one of their raids. They built the containing rampart for defence and repaired the castle and built what out-buildings they required. It was their care to secure egress to the sea, where their occupation lay, as also their final retreat.
It was a curious life which was led by those earliest known inhabitants of Roberton. In peace the people lived in wattled huts, kept flocks and herds, grew corn and ground it with hand-mills, spun and wove, and worked in iron and bronze. In war they crowded into the castle along with their flocks, and remained there until the enemy wearied and passed on. They were human. They lived and loved and suffered. The Norsemen take their place in our story, and “they left only a record of their life for us to guess at, as a garment dropped in flight may tell those who find it that some one has passed that way before them.”
When next the veil of obscurity lifts from Roberton we have passed to the 17th century. Originally it was part of the lands of Pluntaine, but its earliest known owners were certain members of the ubiquitous family of Gordon. To William Gordon of Roberton Samuel Rutherford sent a letter from Aberdeen in 1636. “Hold off the Bible,” said Baxter, “and such a book as Mr Rutherford’s Letters the world never saw.” This William Gordon delivered six silver spoons and other work to the War Committee on September 3rd, 1640. In reprisal, he was fined 360 pounds Scots by Act of Parliament in 1662 “for the relief of the King’s good subjects who had suffered in the late troubles.” Consequently, we are not surprised to meet the entry on June 12th, 1663, of John Gordon of Knockbrex as possessor of Roberton. The entry refers undoubtedly to a mortgage over Roberton. For his son, William, was out in the Pentland rising along with his brother-in-law, John Gordon of Largmore, and was killed at the battle of Rullion Green in 1666, “to the great loss of the country where he lived and his own family, his aged father having no more sons.” The loss, indeed, his father did not long survive, for on September 8th, 1668, Mary Gordon was retoured heiress.
It was in her time that Roberton was the scene of the most terrible atrocities. The sex and widowhood of the mistress did not spare her many hardships, if they did not all the more expose her. One bitter enemy she had in Mr Patrick Swintoune, the curate, whose office it was to hand a list to the dragoons of those who absented themselves from church. Wodrow gives a graphic description of the attentions she received to bring her over to the same religion as the Merry Monarch. “After Bothwell Bridge she was very hardly dealt with by frequent quarterings of soldiers, imposings of fines for her nonconformity. At one time the soldiers took two good horses from her; at another time a party of dragoons carried off almost all in the house. They emptied the feather beds, and packed up the rest of the household stuff in them, and carried it off. She had almost nothing valuable left her. In a short time they came again, and carried her and her only son, John Gordon, a boy, to prison, and two of her servants who were both banished to America. She and her son, for mere nonconformity, continued some time there, to their considerable loss in person and purse. In 1685 a company of Highlanders quartered some days in Roberton, destroying everything. Her tenants were sadly oppressed for the sake of this good family. One of them, John Sprot, was plundered, and fined in twenty pounds for speaking to his own son, who had been at Bothwell. Horses and cows were taken from others of them; but particulars would be endless.” By September 19th, 1687, John Gordon had succeeded his mother.
When William Gordon of Roberton was fined 360 pounds by Parliament in 1662, we find below his name in the list of fines “William Corsan there 240 pounds.” The sum seems a large one for a tenant, as we may suppose Corsan to have been, to have to pay, This, combined with the heavy exactions on the estate in Mrs Mary Gordon’s time, leads us to estimate its value as considerable for the small acreage it consisted of. An old valuation roll throws some light on the subject by mentioning Roberton Mill Farm. Now almost all the land was ” thirlled” or “astricted” to particular mills on estates by old feudal rights, Every particle of grain must be taken to these mills except the seed corn; and for his due the miller exacted every eleventh peck, and in some places, such as Dumfriesshire and Ross-shire, every eighth peck, whether the grain was ground by him or not, while the miller’s servant took as “knaveship” a forpit (a fourth of a peck) out of every boll. Some of the old astricted mills were placed on streams which dried up in summer, and if the farmer, not being able to wait till the rain came to move the wheel, sent his grain to another mill which was working, he paid two multures – one to the mill which wound his corn, and another to the “thirlled ” mill which could not grind it. If the poor man ventured to sell his oats unground he was prosecuted for depriving the miller of his due. The farmers were further bound to drive materials for repairing the mill, to thatch it, to carry mill-stones for it and to clean the mill-lade. The late Rev. Dr Henry Grey Graham, from whose book, The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, those facts have been taken, drew attention to the fact that the miller is a prosperous character in old Scots songs, such as: “O merry is the Maid that married the Miller.” Perhaps, for lack of other evidence, we would set William Corsan down as the Roberton miller of the period.
On July 22nd, 1741, Alexander Murray of Broughton and Cally had sasine of the three merk land of Roberton, who was succeeded by James, his son, on July 15th, 1754. An old valuation roll, of date 1799, gives Alexander Murray of Cally as owner of Roberton Mill Farm. It was acquired by Mr Brown by purchase in 1904.
In more recent times Roberton has acquired importance as the birthplace of the Hon. Samuel Smith. He was grandson of the Rev. Samuel Smith, minister of the parish of Borgue from 1792-1816, and author of the standard book, General View of the Agriculture of Galloway, as well as contributor to the Statistical Account of Scotland. A son of his lived on the farm of Roberton, where, on January 11th, 1836, the future member of Parliament was born. After attending Borgue Academy and Kirkcudbright Academy, it was the privilege of Samuel Smith to be sent to Edinburgh University for two winters and one summer.
However, in his eighteenth year, he was apprenticed to a cotton broker in Liverpool. When his apprenticeship was out, and before he started on his own account, he had the enterprise to visit the cotton fields of America, and, later, those of India. His fortune was soon made. Better still, his character was established as one of the most reliable and astute men of business. No native of Borgue has ever seen so much of the globe. Mr Smith was able to speak of visits to Ceylon, Switzerland, Palestine, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Canada, as well as to America and India, and, what is somewhat remarkable in a traveller, he had an intimate acquaintance with the beauties and social conditions of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.
In 1882, on the strength of a policy of social reform, Samuel Smith was elected sole M.P. for Liverpool. When his seat was divided into nine constituencies, he was unseated; but he sat in the same Parliament, being returned for Flintshire at a by-election in 1886. He continued to be the member for Flintshire up to the dissolution of 1905, when he did not seek re-election. On the birthday of King Edward in November, 1906, the name of Samuel Smith appeared among the Privy Councillors. In his position as an Independent member, he drew the attention of Parliament to the opium and drink traffic in India, to Roman Catholic arrogance, to ritualism in the Church of England, to the Armenian Atrocities, the Kanaka slave trade, the impurity of the street life of London and the censorship of theatrical plays. Some of the pamphlets issued in connection with his public work obtained a wide circulation, Among them mention might be made of the Credibility of the Christian Religion, The Silver Question, The Resurrection Glory, The Claims of Rome. In 1902, during a severe breakdown in health, which he feared would bring his public work to an end, he published a volume of six hundred and thirty pages entitled My Life Work. Two years later he compiled A Confession of Faith in the very words of Holy Scripture, which he offered as an eirenekon for the re-union of Christendom.
But it was as a religious philanthropist that Mr Smith best served his generation. It was reported by a member of his family, after his death on 29th December, 1906, that his annual subscription list embraced upwards of a thousand objects. Of greater value even was the personal service which he rendered to the submerged of the population of Liverpool. His ample fortune was mainly bequeathed to continue his religious and humanitarian work; so that that work might survive, even if its originator must relinquish it. It is the cause, not we.
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Like Roberton, Rattra conveys to the people of the 20th century reminiscences of the invasion of the Norsemen about ten centuries ago. In the Norse language it means the abode of the strangers or wanderers. It is interesting to learn that a crag near Dunnet Head, in the very north of Scotland, is called the Brough of Rattar. This ancient sailor’s’ home was situated at what is sometimes called the Roberton mote. In A Large Description of Galloway, first ‘formed’ in 1684, and ‘extended’ in 1692, Mr Andrew Symson writes:- “At that date, a little above Roberton, within half-a-mile of the kirk of Kirkanders, is to be seen the ruins of an old town call’d Rattra, wherein, as the present inhabitants themselves say, was of old kept a weekly market; but the town is long since demolished, and near the ruins thereof is now a little village, which yet retains the name of the old town.”
In an old valuation roll mention is made of a mill at Rattra. As usual, Gordons are in possession as far back as any available records go. On October 20th, 1627, John, son of Robert Gordon of Lochinvar, had retour. Then, after an interval, Maria, daughter of William Gordon of Roberton, possessed Rotrair along with Roberton and Kinganton by deed of date September 8th, 1668. The next entry of interest is that of December 27th, 1728, when John M’Culloch of Barholm had sasine of Rattraw. In 1779 it was owned by David Anderson of St, Germain’s, East Lothian. After 1828 it passed to William Ireland of Barbey, Balmaclellan, who was a banker in Castle-Douglas. He was succeeded by his niece, Catherine Ireland, who, in turn, was succeeded by her husband, Robert M’Cartney Gordon, Commissary Clerk to the Stewartry. In 1896 it was bought from the Rev. William Ireland Gordon by Mr James Brown.
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Kirkandrews takes its name from a church which was built by the monks of Iona, and which was probably first opened for worship on August 22nd. At all events, it was called after an Irish saint of the 9th century, called Andrew, whose festival was kept on that day. After the Norsemen had destroyed the monastery of Iona, sometime between 1172-80, William the Lion transferred the churches and lands in Galloway belonging to the monks of Iona to the monks of Holyrood, who belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.
The next mention of Kirkandrews occurs during the reign of Robert the Bruce. That sovereign was sometimes accused of being too lavish with his rewards and gifts and immunities; and Kirkandrews might be cited as a case in point. It then belonged to a knight called John de Wake; but King Robert granted it to John Soulis. His property being forfeited, the King next granted the Barony of Kirkanders to Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway, and after him to Nigel M’Horrard, and then to Richard Edgar. In 1334 it was declared to belong to the Baliols. In 1455 it became vested in the Crown. In 1503-4 James IV. granted it to Whithorn in exchange for Kirkinner Kirk. Next, the Earl of Bothwell appointed Gordon of Lochinvar bailie of Kirkandrews. At the Reformation of religion in 1560 it was annexed by the Crown; but by January 31st, 1597-8, Sir Robert Gordon of Glen had a charter of the lands, In 1606 the patronage belonged to the Bishop of Galloway; in 1689 to the Crown.
Symson tells us that in his time, that is, up to the year 1692 at least, “in the kirkyard of Kirkanders, upon the ninth day of August, there is a fair kept, called St. Lawrence Fair, where all sorts of merchant wares are to be sold; but the fair lasts only three or four hours, and then the people who flock hither in great companies drink and debauch, and commonly great lewdness is committed here at this fair.”
Fortunately the good name of Kirkandrews has, in later times, been redeemed by the courage and constancy and general godliness of two of its inhabitants. One of them was Andrew Sword, who bulks somewhat largely in the Covenanting period. He was a weaver of some substance, who formed one of the seven men who represented Borgue at the battle of Bothwell Brig on June 21st, 1679. Taken prisoner during the rout of the Covenanters, he was one of the unfortunates who were penned within the walls of Greyfriars’ Churchyard and exposed to the utmost rigour of the weather till November 18th. It is true that he was offered his liberty if he would acknowledge the rising of the Covenanters to have been rebellion, and the death of Archbishop Sharp to have been murder, and would bind himself not to take up arms against the King or his authority. But he refused liberty under such conditions. Ultimately he and four others were carried to Magus Moor, where the Archbishop had been killed, and hanged in chains, his lands, goods, and gear falling to His Majesty’s use. His dying testimony is one of the best of those printed in Naphtali, and is quite worthy to be reproduced for itself as well as an indication of the uncompromising character of the weaver of Kirkandrews:- “Although I be a man of small learning, yet I cannot be altogether silent.” “I desire what is wanting in my written testimony I may supply by my sufferings and death.” “I bless God’s name that ever I was a man to carry arms upon that account. I here declare that I rew it not, although I be condemned to die for it. I bless the Lord who had counted me worthy to die for so good and so honourable a cause, who am but a poor feckless (spiritless), worthless, sinful creature. They fare best who venture furthest for Christ. Therefore I pray you in His name scarre not at (be not frightened at) His Cross; for when to your eye and sense it seems to be most bitter, yea even then He can make it most sweet, I can tell this by experience; now for ever and ever blessed be His name for it, Now will ye wrestle honestly under His yoke, and He will not only bear the heavy end of it, but He will help you unto your end of it. And indeed when I was first shut up in close prison, I was somewhat dejected and cast down upon several accounts, but blessed be His name, my last time was better and more sweet to me than my first time. Although I was sentenced to die, I hope I am not condemned in the court of heaven for that which men have condemned me on earth.”
Then, so little had he taken to heart the divided counsels among the Covenanters, which undoubtedly lost them the battle of Bothwell Brig, that, in the concluding part of his dying testimony, he vents his spleen upon the “Indulged” “who, by their apostacy and compliance, have declared that they love their life and gear better than Christ and His cause, either of the which they were and are bound to maintain and own even to the resisting unto blood, striving against sin.”
At the place of execution he sang the 34th psalm, which, by tho way, consists of fifteen stanzas. It contains the well-known lines –
The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.
He then said- “The Bishop of St. Andrews’ death I am free of, having lived four or five score of miles from this, and never was in this place before. Neither did I ever see a Bishop in the face that I knew to be a Bishop. I would not exchange my lot for a thousand worlds. Farewell all created comforts.” Then he prayed. It only remains to state that in October, 1738, a tombstone was erected over the five bodies who had been buried in a field near the moor.
A second notable inhabitant of Kirkandrews was Robert M’Whae. During the Killing Times he was shot in his garden by the order of Captain Douglas in 1685, A tombstone to his memory in the adjoining graveyard was lovingly kept in good order by ” Old Mortality.” A facsimile of the original stone was erected in 1865.
Of recent years the outstanding event in the history of Kirkandrews was the opening of a beautiful hall on August 4th, 1908. It has been built and furnished in baronial style, and Mr Brown has placed it at the service of the people of the parish for any meeting of a religious or social or political character. Part of Kirkandrews he had purchased out of St. Mary’s Isle estate in 1898, and the remainder, which belonged to the Roberton estate, in 1904.
Before passing from Kirkandrews, one is arrested by the name of a small piece of land, Meggarland, which, from its name, must have been ploughed as far back as the occupation of Galloway by the Irish Celts. Certainly the soil adjoining Kirkandrews is excellent, for part of the glebe is there. Indeed, a very old tradition must be mentioned that the earth in the graveyard was riddled of every stone by two old women as a penance for some great sin. They could not be expected, perhaps, to go very deep, or, according to another tradition, more popular than scientific, the stones have grown since then, At all events, the stones turned up by modern gravediggers are numerous enough to cast doubt on the efficiency or, perhaps, occurrence of the Kirkandrews riddling.
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If one might hazard a guess, one would maintain that the chapel and its enclosure, from which Chapelton farm takes its name, were vowed to the service of God by a Maclellan in return for some particular providence. Certainly our earliest record of Chapelton is a charter granted to Thomas Maclellan of Bomby on February 5th, 1492-3. On March 17th, 1635, John, Viscount Kenmure, had retour; but that was probably by wadset; for on June 13th, 1648, John, heir of Lord Kirkcudbright, was in possession, and on September 11th, 1663, another Maclellan, Patrick, eldest son of William Maclellan of Callina, had sasine of Chappelltoun. On October 31st, 1694, Hugh Blair-M’Guffock of Rusco had sasine; but on September 3rd, 1702, Robert Maclellan, an Edinburgh Writer to the Signet, had the title deeds. The remaining names do not ,convey much to the historian – John Russell of Braidshaw, W.S., in 1732; William Gordon of Knockbrex in 1735; John Ross Mackye of Hawhead, and Jane Ross, his wife, in 1768; although David Thomson had added Chapelton to Ingliston and Muncraig on April 27th, 1750. From him it passed to Adam Thomson of Muncraig in 1799, and then followed the fortunes of Knockbrex, being purchased, along with Chapelton Row and Swinedrum, by Mr Brown in 1898.
“Swinedrum” does not seem to commend itself as an address to tenants of the houses, although they are so named in the title deeds. The place takes its name from the neighbouring ridge or round hill which the ancient Irish called drum or back. As nearly every farm had its drum field, this particular one, from its peculiar shape, was called Swinedrum, just as a certain shape of hay rick is called a “soo” or sow. But perhaps Drumlanrig would be a name acceptable to all.
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MUNCRAIG and INGLISTON.
The two farms of Muncraig and Ingliston have had so much in common since the 17th century that their history cannot be disjoined without loss of interest by reason of repetition. The name of Ingliston is a common one in Galloway. It was undoubtedly applied by the Norsemen to a particular enclosure, ton, which is retained in the Scotch “farm-toon.” But owing to its prevalence in Galloway, one is inclined to doubt that it had any connection with the Angles, and to prefer M’Kerlie’s derivation of meadowland, engi.
Muncraig also cannot be improved on as a place-name if it is derived from muin-craig. Gaelic for back of the crag. But in an old map of Timothy Pont it is caned Monkcraig – of course, from the settlement of monks from Iona. But Barnheugh, the Ingliston hill, is nearer Kirkandrews. As a matter of fact, some of the proprietors, whether from archeological leanings or unsound orthography, have called it Nuncraig.
We are on safer ground when we enumerate three forts on the heughs or cliffs. The Rev. Samuel Smith in the New Statistical Account calls those forts Danish, in distinction to the British doons or Saxon motes. At Barnheugh there is an oblong one, 126 feet north and south by 78 east and west, with three trenches on the south side. There is the Doo Cave fort, a semi-circular variety, built on the brink of a cliff. And there is another, now scarcely traceable, between the farm of Muncraig and the Meikle Pinnacle.
Included in Ingliston farm is a field called the Templand Croft. Incidentally one may mention that another field near Knockbrex House bore the same name. The name carries us back to the templar knights. That order of knights was instituted in 1118. Baldwin II., King of Jerusalem, granted a site for a building near the temple to certain religious warriors. They took a vow to defend the city and temple of Jerusalem, to protect strangers and to entertain pilgrims to the Holy Land. Sir Walter Scott has familiarised the readers of The Talisman with the templars. They wore a white robe with a red cross on the back, both standard and shield displaying the same sacred device. David I. introduced the order into Scotland and the templars soon came to possess land in almost every parish; for the enterprise of Churchmen, which now finds vent in foreign missions, took the channel of defending the sepulchre of our Lord from pollution in the 12th and 13th centuries. The order “decayed through pride” and was suppressed in 1312.
As far back as 1662 there were Thomsons of Inglistoun or Muncraig, or both. In that year James Thomson was fined £1000 Scots for his adherence to the Presbyterian Church. The money was apparently raised by mortgaging his land, first to James, Bishop of Galloway; then to James Gordon of CarIetoun. On July 22nd, 1670, his son Robert succeeded him. On July 13th, 1686, Elizabeth, daughter of William Thomson, had sasine, On July 20th, 1678, Robert Maclellan had sasine in life-rent, and Mary, his daughter, in fee. In 1682 James Thomson possessed Over and Nether Muncraig. Passing over John Halliday and Alexander Murray of Broughton, we come, in 1746, to David Thomson of Ingliston, whose tombstone states that he died at Knockbrex in 1796. In 1799 Adam Thomson of Muncraig owned Ingliston, Muncraig, Chappelltoun, Meggarland, Kinganton, Barlocco and Isle, Knockbrex, and Little Templeland croft. Then in 1819 Adam Thomson-Mure, son of. the David Thomson above, came into the inheritance. He, was buried at Kirkandrews in 1822. Through the extravagance of the Thomsons, the property was mortgaged to John Feron in 1813, and was sold to the sixth Earl of Selkirk, who bequeathed it on April 11th, 1885, to his daughter, Lady Isabella, wife of the Hon, Charles Hope. Captain John Hope, R.N., succeeded his mother in 1893, but sold Muncraig and Ingliston, with the other land already mentioned, to Mr Brown in 1898.
In The History of Galloway, published in 1841, the Rev. William Mackenzie records a notable treasure-trove:- “In 1830 the skull of a deer, with the horns intact, was found at Muncraig. It is worthy of remark that an expert pronounced it the largest he had seen either in Scotland or England.”
A weird tale is told of a wreck on the Muncraig heughs. The place pointed out as the scene of the wreck is for its jagged rocks as inhospitable for a ship as one could well imagine. But the hearts of the people of Muncraig at that time were as hard and inhospitable as their shore. It seems that the ship carried a cargo of fruit, and as the waves washed over her deck, the fruit, and particularly oranges, were washed ashore. And so eager were the Muncraig people to secure the lion’s share of this strange and toothsome harvest of the sea that the sailors were left in the shrouds to live or die; while no one could be spared to send to the village to fetch assistance.
An event which caused a stir in mathematical as well as card-playing circles took place in Ingliston farmhouse. On the evening of January 11th, 1906, while playing the game of bridge, a gentleman left the declaration to his partner, who called “Hearts,” and at once laid down the whole suit of thirteen hearts. There is no evidence that such a hand was ever before fairly dealt after shuffling, and there is small probability that the like will ever happen again.
“To the right heir what a rich inheritance is the old estate of Knockbrex!” In a sense all land, even the newest allotment in Canada, is old. It is beyond the memory of man. But when one calls the estate of Knockbrex old, one means that one can push back one’s account of it by regular stages to the unmortared walls of Castle Hayne. And as masonry was first used for building about the 7th century of the Christian era, one is justly entitled to call this estate an old one in the usual historical sense of the word. If no house on the estate can claim a ghost, which some may think a defect in the cold air of daylight, “the right heir” can call up at will the ghosts of the men of old who, in their day and generation, have, in turn, peopled this seaboard estate, and can reflect, with some pride, that the story of Knockbrex is well worth the telling.
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