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

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Scottish Clearances Part Two: Galloway

Bombie Muir-the red line shows dykes levelled in 1724

The Scottish Clearances -Part Two Galloway

The basic pattern of land use which emerged in the twelfth century continued for the next 500 years. It is possible that the population of Scotland reached one million before the impact of the Black Death in the mid fourteenth century knocked it back to only half  a million and it took until the end of the seventeenth century to reach a  million again.

By 1755 the population  was about 1 250 000, with roughly 1/3 living in the Highlands and 2/3 in the Lowlands. But within 100 years, the census of 1851 showed that  the population had doubled to 2 888 742. For such rapid growth to occur, something must have changed.

The medieval pattern of land use was able to sustain a population of up to one million, but only just. If the Black Death is discounted as a one-off, the limiting factor on population growth then becomes the medieval farming system itself. It produced just enough food to feed the farm workers and a small surplus for the feudal land owners.

While these landowners may have been better fed and wealthier than the farm labourers, as they discovered after the Union of Crowns in 1603 and again after the Union of Parliaments in 1707, compared to English landowners they were little more than ragged beggars.

As is very well known, virtually every Scottish landowner became convinced that the infamous Darien project would magically make them as rich as English landowners without having to do any more than invest a bit of money in it. What is less well known is that many of the landowners in Galloway had already found a way to become wealthy by using their land in a different way.

This was because in 1666, English landowners were able to get a law passed in the English parliament banning the import of Irish cattle. Before the law was passed, about 100 000 Irish cattle were imported into England every year. Most of these went to feed London which already had a population of 500 000.

From customs records of cattle crossing from Scotland to England at Gretna, about 10 000 of these Irish cattle had originated in the Plantation of Ulster and crossed over to Portpatrick in Galloway before being driven south. Some of these cattle came from Donegal where the Murray family of Broughton in Wigtownshire owned 60 000 acres of Plantation land.

After 1666, Galloway landowners began sending their cattle to England, although from evidence of fines and seizures of cattle in Galloway and in England, at least some of the  cattle were originally Irish but had become ‘Scottish’ after a few weeks grazing in Galloway. This forced the landowners to start rearing authentically Scottish cattle in Galloway.

There was, however, a small problem.  Between 1666 and 1688, Galloway along with most of southern and western Scotland was caught up in a low-intensity civil and religious war with Charles II and then James VII and II. During this period, only landowners who were Stuart loyalists could sell cattle to England. But if they wanted to increase the supply of cattle, they would have to clear both upland farms-where the cattle were grazed in summer- and lowland farms -where they were kept over winter. But if they tried to do this, they risked provoking a major conflict.

But after 1689, it became possible for landowners loyal to the new regime of William of Orange to begin clearing their lands to make way for cattle. Leading this move  were the firmly Presbyterian and loyal Williamites the Herons of Kirroughtrie in Minnigaff parish. The Herons were able to export 1000 cattle year from their upland and lowland farms in the 1690s.

By selling their cattle in England, the Herons were able to earn hard cash- English gold guineas- with which they could buy up more farms where they could breed and fatten more cattle. From owning one small farm in the 1660s, by the Union of 1707 they owned 1/3 of all the land in Minngaff parish which, at 120 squares miles, was the largest in Galloway. However, as the Galloway Levellers pointed out in 1724, the Herons’ cattle herds had depopulated the parish and reduced the town (village) of Minnigaff to a ‘nest of beggars’.

That the Levellers had a point can be seen from a list of the inhabitants of Minngaff parish complied in 1684. This shows that while upland livestock farms in the parish supported only one or two families, arable farms along the fertile flood plain of the river Cree supported one tenant farmer and between five and ten cottar/ sub-tenant families. As the Herons bought up these farms and converted them from arable to pasture land for their cattle, most of the sub-tenant/ cottar families became  redundant. Working a traditional arable farm needed a large workforce. Managing a herd of cattle did not.

Unlike most of Scotland, where land ownership was concentrated into a few hands, land ownership in Galloway had  been fragmented into lots of small estates and even individual farms ever since the forfeiture of Douglas Lordship of Galloway to the Crown (James II) in 1455. Since then no one landowner had  managed to acquire more than a small portion of the region. This  led to a constant ‘churn’ of land ownership as the fortunes of several hundred minor lairds rose and fell.

The example of the Herons rise from small to large landowners on the back of the cattle trade was not lost on those Galloway landowners who were struggling to hang on to their estates. While their more successful peers could afford to stick with tradition, the fear of losing their lands persuaded some of the strugglers to have a go at the cattle trade and turn their arable farm into cattle pastures.

By 1724, what had begun as a trickle of evictions and clearance from the arable lands of Kirkcudbrightshire threatened to become a flood. The fear that their landlord might decide to enter the cattle trade and clear them from his lands united tenants and cottars across the county. What gave their uprising a militant edge  was a recent event.

By 1714, the ‘Killing Times’ of the 1680s were beginning to fade into the background of everyday life in Galloway. But then in late 1715, a small group of local Jacobites joined a larger group of northern English Jacobites and two thousand Highlanders in an attempt to capture Dumfries. The focus of the Hanovrai9n government was on the main Jacobite rebellion in the north of Scotland, so the defence of Dumfries was left to a locally raised volunteer militia. Some 3000 volunteers were raised and armed. This level of resistance persuaded the Jacobites to turn south where they were defeated at the Battle of Preston in November 1715.

As a side-effect, it also meant that in 1724 there were a lot of folk in Galloway with a wee bit of military training. And muskets. And a grievance.

Although other landowners were involved, the grievance focused on Sir Basil Hamilton of Baldoon and St Mary’s Isle. In Hamilton’s case it was a triple grievance.

1. In 1723 he cleared several families of his land near Kirkcudbright to create a large cattle enclosure.
2. The 400 cattle in his enclosure were illegally imported Irish cattle.
3. In 1715, he was one of the local Jacobites who tried to capture Dumfries.

On point 3, by rights he should have had his head chopped off at the Tower of London and forfeited all his lands. However, Hamilton was only 18 at the time and his mother Mary Dunbar, and his grandmother, Duchess Anne of Hamilton managed to save both his lands and his head. His fellow Jacobite William Gordon, Lord Kenmure had been executed and William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale’s wife had smuggled him out often tower of London dressed as her female servant…

On point 2, his great-great grandfather David Dunbar I of Baldoon had been fined as early as 1669 for trying to pass off Irish cattle as his own. In 1682, he was still at it when an English magistrate seized 100 of Dunbar’s cattle, having declared them Irish rather than Scottish. What made this a grievance is that by smuggling in cheap Irish cattle and then passing them off as his own, Basil Hamilton was undercutting the legitimate local cattle trade -which was a threat to the Herons of Kirroughtrie amongst others.

On point 1, when the future king James II and VII was living in Scotland in the early 1680s, his wife Mary of Modena had become exasperated by Galloway and its rebellious Whigs (Covenanters). The whole district she declared, should be cleared of its revolting inhabitants and turned into a great hunting park. Her husband was  very keen on hunting. The Galloway Levellers quoted this in their (printed) propaganda broadsheets. Having failed in 1715, they said, the Jacobites (ie Hamilton) were now taking Mary of Modena’s advice and clearing King George I’s loyal subjects from the land so that they would face no local opposition when they next rebelled.

If the Galloway Levellers uprising had been a simple peasants revolt, the regiment of dragoons which arrived in June 1724 would have made short shrift of them. In a straight fight they would have been slaughtered. If they managed to avoid a direct confrontation, it would have been easy enough to capture a few ring-leaders and hang them.

None of this happened. Instead, in October 1724, the dragoons confronted a group of several hundred Levellers, but had been told by their commander to use ’only the flats of their swords’ against them. There were no fatalities and 200 Levellers were captured, but most were allowed to escape on the march back to Kirkcudbright.

A few Levellers did stand trial, but in a civil not a criminal case. The case was brought in January 1725 by Basil Hamilton who pursued a small group (25 out of the  1000 who had taken part) for damages to his cattle park dykes. He did win, but is unlikely to have received much in the way of damages from the Levellers, since only two owned any property and one was a 14 year old boy.

If you have enjoyed reading this, please sign the Lowland Clearances petition

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Scottish Clearances- Part One

Graphic by Beth Livingston

It was the greyest of grey days in grey Galloway.  It was January 2003. I was standing in the dreich drizzle on the Old Military Road on Kelton Hill just outside Castle Douglas, trying to describe what the landscape would have looked like on the same spot in 1724 for Andrew Cassell and Peter Aitchison.

There would have been none of the trees, none of the houses, none of the neat rectangular fields, not even the road, which wasn’t built until 1764. There would have been a newly built  dry-stane dyke though, since in the summer of 1724, the laird of Kelton and the minister of Kelton managed to save it from being demolished by the Galloway Levellers.

Andrew and Peter were interviewing me for a BBC Scotland radio series they were making on the Lowland Clearances. Most of what I said that cold, damp day didn‘t make the final cut, but the saving of the dyke was included as a dramatisation, along with my answer to Andrew’s question ‘But was what happened in Galloway back then clearance?’. Yes, I said, yes it was. The people, the families, who were evicted from their homes to make way for cattle farms were cleared from the land. As a ballad written at the time put it

The lords and lairds they drive us out
From mailings (crofts) where we dwell
The poor man says ‘Where shall we go?’
The rich says ‘Go to Hell!’

However, although the people of Galloway rose up in armed resistance against the first of the Lowland Clearances, when the main wave of clearance took place between 1760 and 1830, there was no repeat performance. The Lowland Clearances were a silent revolution, evoking none of the passion and outrage which still mark the Highland Clearances. What happened in the Highlands has never been forgotten. What happened in the Lowlands has never been remembered.

This difference between what is remembered and what is forgotten is now deeply embedded in Scotland’s historical consciousness. Along with the Gaelic language and the Jacobite rebellions, ‘the  Clearances’ are taken as marks of a historical as well as geographical division between Lowland and Highland Scotland.
Yet Gaelic was once spoken across virtually all of Scotland and support for the Jacobites was found where ever the Episcopalian church of Scotland resisted its Presbyterian twin.

If there is a difference between Highland and Lowland experience of what was called at the time ‘improvement’ it can be found in the soil.

On the brink of war in 1939, the reality the U-boats could starve  the UK into submission hit home. The Ordnance Survey quickly produced maps showing ‘land-quality’, ranging from Grade 1 -high quality land capable of growing a wide range of crops to Grade III -low quality land only fit for low intensity livestock grazing. The poorest quality land was shaded yellow on the maps.

For Scotland, the map is dominated by a huge block of yellow across the Highlands  and western islands, with another smaller block extending across the Southern Uplands. The better quality land, shown brown and green, extends from around the Moray Firth and  down the east coast where it expands inland to meet up with a broad band across the central Lowlands.

In the Borders, there is a eastern block  extending in land from Berwick and another centred on Carlisle, but extending along the north Solway coast into Galloway where the yellow of the Southrn Uplands separates the fertile lands of Wigtownshire from those of Ayrshire.

The ebb and flow of Scotland’s history can be traced across the colours on the map. North of the Forth, the fertile lands to the east where  the Kingdom of the Picts grew and flourished. The estimated population of Pictland is between 80 000 to100 000.To the west the Gaels of Dalriada possessed only a little good quality land. The estimated population of Dalriada is 10 000. When the two kingdoms joined to become Alba, expanding into the Lothians at the expense of the Northumbrian Kingdom was the next step. By the early twelfth century, David I of Scotland was able to make Carlisle his capital for a few years.

David is usually associated with the introduction of feudalism to Scotland, for example granting Annandale to a ‘Robert Bruce’ in 1124. But the deal with feudalism was that in exchange for grants of land, the new lords had to provide the king with an armed and mounted knight plus foot soldiers. This was an expensive- suits of armour did not come cheap.

So along with feudal grants of land- usually good quality land- came an agricultural revolution- the heavy plough. Made of wood but with an iron tipped cutting edge, these ploughs took a team of 6 or more oxen to pull. With these new ploughs, it was possible to grow more oats and barley. The trick was to build up the ploughed soil into long, wide raised beds called rigs, separated by drainage channels called furrows.

To manage the ploughs and their oxen took a whole team of workers who lived in new fermtouns, some of which still survive as modern day farms. Although it took more workers to manage the new ploughs than the old ‘Celtic’ foot ploughs and light ploughs, the new system provided enough oats to feed them and their families and a surplus for their feudal lord. The male farm workers also doubled up as the lord’s foot soldiers as required.

The new system worked fairly well in the more fertile areas, but not so well in upland and highland areas where there were only small patches of potential arable land. In these areas, cattle, sheep, horses (pony sized) and goats were grazed  extensively on the poorer soils while the patches of better land were worked intensively to grow oats and barley. As a result, the upland and highland areas had a lower overall population  density. In Galloway, the most mountainous area of about 100 square miles had farms around its edges, but none in its granite and raised bog heartland. It was probably only ever visited by deer-hunting expeditions.

The basic pattern of land use which emerged in the twelfth century continued for the next 500 years. It is possible that the population of Scotland reached one million before the impact of the Black Death in the mid fourteenth century knocked it back to only half  a million and it took until the end of the seventeenth century to reach a  million again.

If you have enjoyed reading this, please sign our petition to persuade Birllin books to re-print 'The Lowland Clearances'

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mining local history.

Coal mine near Dalmellington 1937

For nearly 20 years now I have been mining the history of Galloway for hidden gems which can illuminate the past and reflect the present. Of all the treasures discovered, two short seventeenth century documents are the most dazzling.

The full texts are pasted below, but to understand their importance requires a we bit of interpretation and explanation.

My starting part was a question- was the uprising of the Galloway Levellers in 1724 a response to the Union of 1707 as local historian John Roberston had suggested in his book ‘The Story of Galloway’ in 1963?

I soon found out that the answer was ‘No’, since the export of cattle from Galloway to England had begun 40 years before 1707, after the English parliament banned the import of Irish cattle in 1666. Before 1666, up to 10 000 Irish cattle from the north of Ireland had travelled through Galloway to English markets. Most probably came from the 60 000 acres of Donegal owned by the Murray family of Broughton on in Wigtownshire. The Murrays had acquired the land in Donegal after the Plantation of Ulster in 1606. Another Galloway family, the Maxwells of Orchardton also had lands in Ulster, inherited by marriage from the McLellans of Kirkcudbright. (Confusingly, the Maxwells of Orchardton were Roman Catholics, while the McLellans were strongly Presbyterian Protestants.)

I then wondered how important cattle had been in the local economy before 1666. This involved going through the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1623-1700. The deds were found in several sacks in the loft of Kirkcudbright Court House in 1933, transcribed and then published in 1939 and 1950. There are over 6000 entries in the Deeds, of which about 500 mention the crops and livestock kept on farms during the period. Most only mention arable crops grown on farms in lowland parishes, but a very few refer to upland farms and mention sheep and cattle.

The two tacks (leases of farms) I found most fascinating were for Drumbuie near New Galloway in Kells parish.  These make it clear that cattle were being grazed on the Rhins of Kells during the summer, on Staverron Hill on the west side of Miekle Millyea, which 2457 feet high. Drumbuie is on the east side of the hill.

Here are the two tacks, from 1678 and 1686 respectively. Staverron is variously spelled in the tacks.

Entry 1052 TACK (15 July 1686) by Adam Newal of Barskeoch, heritable proprietor of the lands under-written, to William and Andrew McClamrochs, lawful Sons to John McClamroch of Craginbay, of the 4 merkland of Drumbuy, with the pertinents, presently possessed by William Calwel and Andrew Irland, for 9 years from Whitsunday 1679, (with the option to both parties of ending this Tack after 5 years) for the payment of £120, the usual teind, prebendar and feu duties, public burdens, work and casualties for the first year, and after Whitsunday 1680 they are to pay 200 merks yearly with the foresaid duties, 2 stone of good butter or 10 merks, 1 dozen poultry fowls and 2 "fasterinevine henns;" and " to pay and lay in the work and service" of 40 loads of peats, providing sacks for carrying them, and 2 barrows with bearers to peat casting, 4 "naigs" one day yearly to harrowing, 2 men and 2 horses one day to the hay-stack making, and 4 shearers yearly, paying £3 in satisfaction of other work and service of men and horses paid by the present possessors ; the said Adam is to give timber, great and small, for the upkeep of the houses which the said William and Andrew are to keep wind and water tight; should any of the said Adam’s cattle pasturing in Staiverran the summer half year come home through the said "rowme," the tenants promise not to molest them but either to put them back to the "heft" or allow them to pass peaceably homeward ; they are to pay all public burdens, maintenance taxations and levies of foot or horse and will be allowed the half of all discharges for such which they produce. At Clauchen of Dalry 2 December 1678 witnesses Robert Greirsone of Mylmark, John McNaght in Overtoune, James Chalmer of Wattersyd, and William Hunter in Midtowne of Clauchen.

Entry 1420 TACK (2 December 1689) by Adam Newall of Barskeoch, heritable proprietor of the lands under-written, to James McCutchine, lawful son to the deceased Alexander McCutchine in Drumbuy, of the half of the 4 merkland of Drumbuy and the piece called the Lumpe between the burns, with the pertinents, presently possessed by the said James, for five years from Whitsunday 1686, for the yearly payment of 160 merks, 1 stone of good salt butter in the summer time or 5 merks as the price thereof, 6 poultry fowls, and a fasteneven hen, with the work of 25 loads of peats, providing good sacks to carry them, with a man and a horse, a man and a spade and 2 bearers a day to the casting of them, a man and a horse to hay-stacking, "with a man and sheirs to the cliping off Straveran," and a man and a horse to fetch a load of lime or free stone; the said Adam promises to give timber, great and small, for upholding the houses and the said James is to keep them wind and water tight and leave them in good condition, and he is to leave " ryll trees and soil trees and staiks and doors and the lyk" which Andrew McClemeroch, present tenant, leaves in the houses ; should any of the said Adam’s cattle pasturing in Strauveran the summer and harvest half year come to the Braidside or through his ground, the said James promises to put them back to the "heff" again; he is to pay all public burdens and be allowed for the same in his rent. At the Watersid 26 May 1686 ; witnesses Thomas Macaw in Garroch, Robert Macaw, his son, John Paisla, schoolmaster in Barskeoch. and John Makill there.

Points of Interest

1. Drumbuie and Barskeoch are  first recorded in 1456 among a list of lands (farms) which had belonged to the Black Douglas lords of Galloway since 1369, but now belonged to king James II of Scotland. This was because William Douglas, the 9th earl of Douglas had rebelled against the Crown. In the summer of 1455, James II had laid siege to Threave castle in Galloway. Threave had been built for Archibald the Grim in 1369. Archibald was the first Douglas lord of Galloway and became the 3rd earl of Douglas in 1388.

Archibald the Grim became lord of Galloway after the death of Edward Balliol in 1365. Edward Balliol was the son of King John Balliol, Robert the Bruce’s rival for the Scottish throne. After Robert died in 1329, Edward Balliol tried to seize the Scottish Crown in 1332, when Robert’s son David was still an infant.

Edward’s attempt ultimately failed and he gave up his claim to the throne in 1356.  While Edward Balliol had little support in most of Scotland, he did have strong support in Galloway. This was not because of his title as king, but because he was the great-grandson of Alan of Galloway (died 1234). Alan’s great grandfather was Fergus of Galloway (died 1161) who had ruled Galloway as an independent kingdom.

In November 1352, at Buittle castle (built for his grandfather) Edward Balliol granted the barony of Kells in the Glenken to his valet, William de Aldeburgh.

If, and it is a speculative if, the lands held by the Douglas lords of Galloway and documented in 1456 were those lands previously held directly by Edward Balliol, then Drumbuie and its neighbouring farms may have begun life under Galloway’s Gaelic speaking lords or even king.

2.Summer pastures
Drumbuie is a Gaelic farm name- Druim buidhe, the yellow ridge. Between Drumbuie and the Rhinns of Kells is Clenrie, which was recorded as ‘Clunaree’ in 1456. This is another Gaelic farm name, ‘Claon airigh’ which means the sloping pasture, or more accurately, the sloping summer pasture, since airigh means the sheiling or summer pasture- the upland pasture were livestock were grazed in the summer. From the present cottage of Clenrie, the Rig of Clenrie slopes up to the Clints of Clenrie and the summit of Miekle Millyea.

So it is probable that the tradition of pasturing cattle during the summer on the Rhinns of Kells was 500 years old  by the time Adam Newall’s cattle were summer- pastured on Staverron Hill in the 1670s and 80s.

Further evidence of this traditional form of farming is found immediately to the south-west of Drumbuie and Clenrie where the farms of Craigenbay and ‘Garwere’ were also listed in 1456. ‘Garwere’ is now Garrary -which is either ‘garbh airigh’ - rough summer pasture land or ‘gar airigh’ -near summer pasture land.

There is an Airie farm near New Galloway and between this farm and Craignebay/ Garrary is Airie Bennan Hill. There is another Airie farm to the south, on the Balmaghie side of Loch Stroan.

Taken altogether, it seems likely that about 1000 years ago, gaelic speaking farmers were using the better quality land along the Ken and Dee as winter pasture for cattle they pastured in the summer on the ‘airigh’ lands on the hills above.

3.Sheep farming

Describing the Galloway hills in his book ‘Merrick and the Neighbouring Hills’ (Ayr, 1929), James McBain explained that within the 250 square mile region -

The whole of this domain is given over to the breeding and rearing of sheep, and in all there are about 40 farms within its borders, and to each farm is attached a shepherd’s cottage. Beyond the shepherds’ potato patches there is no cultivation; all is as nature has made it, a labyrinth of steep hills, peat moss, bogs, lochs and streams. [p. 14]

But as seventeenth and early eighteenth century tacks show, the upland farms of Galloway kept cattle as well as sheep and every farm had an area of arable ground where oats and barley (bere) were grown.

As discussed in my previous post, we can date the shift from mixed  upland farming to sheep farming to the late eighteenth century. As I explained, the Newall family of Barskeoch, who had owned Drumbuie and the neighbouring farms from the mid -seventeenth century, tried to improve their lands using lime around 1770 and also doubled the rent on their farms.

In 1741, Samuel McConnell and his son were tenants of the Newall farms of Hannaston and Drumbuie. By 1760, Samuel’s grandson James McConnel was the tenant of Hannaston. In 1779 he renewed the tenancy, but the rent had doubled so in 1782 he gave up Hannaston. In 1787, William Forbes of Callendar bought Barnskeoch and its farms from the Newall family.

Meanwhile the tenancy of Drumbuie had been taken by Thomas Cannan, born in 1736. We don’t know when he became tenant of Drumbuie, but from the records of William Forbes of Callendar, we know that he gave up the tenancy in December 1796. Possibly, like James McConnell he was struggling to pay the rent.

Was Drumbuie a sheep farm by 1796? We don’t know. However, a McConnell family history written in 1861 says that the old thatched farm house of Hannaston was demolished and a new farm house  built ‘about 40 years ago’, so around 1820. In 1818, the Forbes papers show that a new house was built at Garrary. The first Ordnance Survey map of Galloway was surveyed in the 1840s and shows two Drumbuies- an old one ‘in ruins’ and a new one about a mile away.

This evidence suggests that it was roughly between 1790 and 1820 that the last vestiges of the medieval pattern of upland farming gave way to sheep farming. William Forbes senior died in 1815, when his son William Forbes junior was only 9. His mother, two uncles and a cousin acted as Trustees of the Forbes estates until 1831. It is possible that the decision to focus on sheep farming was taken by the Trustees as a way to maximise William junior’s income.

4. Cotton and iron.
In 1760, while he was still tenant of Hannaston, James McConnell married Thomas Cannan’s sister Mary. Thomas Cannan may already have been the tenant of Drumbuie by then. Meanwhile Thomas and Mary’s brother William Cannan left the Glenkens in the 1760s and- as recounted in my previous blog, became a textile machine maker at Chowbent near Bolton in Lancashire. Thomas, Mary and William were all born at Sheil farm between New Galloway and Dalry.

Here he was joined in 1781 by his nephew James McConnell, Adam and gorge Murray from New Galloway and in 1784, John Kennedy from Knocknalling. And, as also previously recounted this group of young men completed their apprenticeships just as Manchester’s cotton industry was about to explode with the power of steam.

While James McConnell married Margret Houldsworth (her brothers Tom and Henry were also cotton manufactures) George Murray married William Cannan’s daughter Mary. George and Mary had two sons, Benjamin and James. Benjamin became the owner of Parton estate in Galloway. Meanwhile James Murray married Henry Houldsworth’s daughter Anne in Glasgow in 1830.

In 1850 James became an investor in the Dalmellington Iron Company which his father-in-law had established in 1846. James became the ‘driving force’ behind the company and increased his shareholdings to become the largest investor of the company and its director.

James Murray’s  drive almost brought the iron industry to the Glenkens. In the 1850s, the Dalmellington Iron Company made some trial diggings on the Loch Doon side of Coran of Portmark and Black Craig, which overlook the lead mines of Garryhorn to the east. Here they found some rich veins of ironstone and dug out several hundred tons. To transport the ironstone to their furnaces would have required a building seven or eight miles of mountain railway. James Murray decided that the cost would be too great, so the railway was never built and most of the iron still lies deep beneath the Rhinns of Kells.

Since there is still coal around Dalmellington, some time in the distant future the iron and the coal might again be combined to forge a second industrial revolution.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Levellers and Clearances in the Glenkens

1. Highland Clearances and Galloway Levellers
On 15 October 2002 the Herald newspaper  published an article by Neal Ascherson. Ascherson’s article was in response to an announcement that Michael Fry was to write a book on the Highland Clearances. Since Fry had already been accused of being a ‘Clearance denier’ having stated that he did not believe that the Highland Clearances had happened except occasionally and on a very small scale, Ascherson was expecting a ’major stushie’ to erupt.

I responded with a ‘Letter to the Editor’ which was published a couple of days later. In the letter I mentioned the Galloway Levellers resistance to the construction of cattle parks in 1724and hoped that Michael Fry would extend his history of the Highland Clearances to include the continuing de-population of rural Scotland.

Herald 15 October 2002

I was then contacted by a researcher for Lesley Riddoch’s  BBC Radio Scotland show to ask if I would like to take part in a discussion of Fry’s new book by telephone. This I was very happy to do, but on the day a previous item over-ran so my contribution was dropped. However, I was told that the producer of Lesley’s show was working on a new radio series about the Lowland Clearances. This was Peter Aitchison. I contacted Peter and sent him some background material on the Galloway Levellers.

As a result, in early 2003, Peter and Andrew Cassell came down to Castle Douglas and recorded and interview with me at the back of Threave Gardens where the local laird  had managed to save a dyke from being levelled. In the book ‘The Lowland Clearances which followed the radio series, Peter and Andrew dedicated a whole chapter to the Galloway Levellers.

I continued researching the Levellers and after meeting with Professor Ted Cowan, an eminent Scottish historian and Director of Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus, I was able to turn the research into a 50 000 word thesis for which I was awarded the title ’Master of Philosophy’ in 2009.

2. The Galloway Levellers  and the Glenkens
Geographical note: Galloway is in the  deep south-west of Scotland, facing the north of Ireland on the west and Cumbria/ the far north-west of England to the south. The Glenkens is the northern most district of Galloway and takes in part of the Southern Uplands of Scotland.

Although most of the Galloway Levellers actions took place in the south and central Stewartry, there was one outbreak of levelling in the Glenkens when dykes at Airds of Kells were levelled on 2 June 1724.

Although the Gordons of Earlston owned the farms of High, Upper, Middle and Nether Airds, in September 1718, Alexander Gordon and his son Thomas leased the farms to Patrick Murdoch of Cumloden in Minnigaff for 25 years for £785-12-4  Scots. Murdoch then enclosed the lands as a cattle park with dykes, which were levelled in 1724.

What is interesting is that both Patrick Murdoch and the Gordons were attempting to rebuild their family fortunes after the disruption of the Covenanting period in the late seventeenth century.  Patrick Murdoch’s grandfather had been involved in the battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679 and as a result his lands of Cumloden were forfeited to Colonel James Douglas.

Airds of Kells, Boat of Rhone and Duchrae: Roy's map, 1755

Although the Murdoch  family regained their lands after 1689, by the time Patrick inherited in 1697 they were burdened with debt. Murdoch’s neighbours in Minnigaff were the Heron family of Kirroughtrie. The Heron family had been involved in the cattle trade since 1682 when Patrick Heron I had taken up a lease of David Dunbar’s cattle parks at Baldoon in Wigtownshire. By 1689, Patrick Dunbar I was sending 1000 cattle per year to England. The Heron’s used their income from the cattle trade to buy or rent farms in Minnigaff which they used to raise more cattle for export.

Patrick Murdoch would therefore have seen the cattle trade as a way to restore his family’s fortunes. However, the venture was not successful and Patrick Murdoch’s son Thomas was forced to sell Cumloden and its lands to the earl of Galloway in 1737.

The Gordons of  Earlston faced similar problems. William Gordon and his son Alexander had also fought on the Covenanter side at the battle of Bothwell bridge in 1679 where William was killed. Alexander escaped but was tried in his absence, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. His estates were also forfeit. He was captured in 1683, tortured and then imprisoned until June 1689. In 1708 Alexander assigned his lands, worth £300 sterling/ year and his debts, £1687 sterling, to his son Thomas. Although Thomas married an heiress, he was unable to clear the debts he had inherited and was declared bankrupt in 1737.

To understand the uprising of  Galloway Levellers then, it is necessary to bear in mind that the traumatic events of the seventeenth century were still within living memory in 1724 and that the impact of fines and forfeitures imposed  then continued to have an economic impact on the region.

In the even more recent past, the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 had revived memories of the Killing Times and created another set of land owners struggling with fines and forfeitures. In the Glenkens, William Gordon of Kenmure was executed in 1716 for his role as leader of the local Jacobite forces. Basil Hamilton who had lands around Kirkcudbright had also joined the Jacobites in 1715. However, thanks to his grandmother Anne, duchess  of Hamilton and his youth- he was only 18 at the time- his life was spared.

So although the first outbreak of levelling occurred in March 1724, against dykes around a cattle park at Netherlaw which had been built before 1688, the largest Leveller action took place in May against a cattle enclosure built for Basil Hamilton in 1723. Over 1000 Levellers took part and 2 miles of dyke were demolished between the 12 and 16 May.

As a former Jacobite, his fellow land-owners had little sympathy for Hamilton personally. However, perhaps anticipating the course of events,  Hamilton was able to persuade Thomas Gordon of Earlston to ride with him to Edinburgh on 2 May to ask John Dalrymple, the 2nd earl of Stair for assistance. Stair was commander of a regiment of dragoons and was also a Wigtownshire landowner with an interest in the cattle trade. That Thomas Gordon and Basil Hamilton were able to work together against the Levellers is interesting since in October 1715 Gordon had led a group of 300 volunteers from Kirkcudbright to Dumfries to help defend the town against Hamilton and his fellow Jacobites.

By 29 May, the whole of Stair’s regiment - two troops of horse and four troops of  foot-soldiers had arrived in Kirkcudbright. On 31 May, the Levellers asked their supporters to assemble at the Boat of Rhone on 2 June. In response, Stair’s regiment set off from Kirkcudbright at 3 am, arriving at the Boat of Rhone  by 8 am. However no Levellers appeared. The troops then set off back to Kirkcudbright but as soon as they had gone, the Levellers, who must have been lurking nearby, emerged to level the dykes at Airds of  Kells. They then moved on to Kilquhanity and McCartney (now Milton Park) in Kirkpatrick Durham to level more of Murdoch’s dykes. Murdoch had bought these farm in 1723 and as landowner rather than tenant, had then evicted 16 families to create another cattle park.

On 20 June, Patrick Murdoch pursued a claim for damages against some of those involved in Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court. One of the Levellers is named as John Charters who was a tenant or cottar in Drumglass farm in Balmaghie. In January 1725, Basil Hamilton took 23 named Levellers to court and was awarded damages against them for the destruction of his dykes in may 1724.

The presence of  Stair’s regiment in the Stewartry made levelling more difficult, but the fear of further outbreaks combined with an expression for the evicted tenants plight from king George 1 himself -probably influenced  by the Levellers anti-Jacobite rhetoric persuaded the duke of Roxburghe as Secretary of State for Scotland to call for a public enquiry into the Levellers grievances. This was held in August by John McDowall, Stewart-Depute of Kirkcudbright. Basil Hamilton then complained that McDowall  was too sympathetic to the Levellers…

Although there is no record to confirm it, Hamilton can hardly have been pleased when major James Gardiner took control of Stair’s regiment in July 1724. Gardiner’s military career began when he was 14 in 1702, fighting under the duke of Malborough against the French in Holland. In 1715 he was aide-de-camp to the 2nd earl of Stair who was then involved in anti-Jacobite diplomacy at the French court. Later that year, Gardiner took part in the battle of Preston where northern English and southern Scottish Jacobites -including Basil Hamilton - were defeated. In 1719, Gardiner had a religious experience which transformed him into a committed Christian soldier. During 1724 he seems to have spent more time conversing with local ministers than pursuing the Levellers.

As a deeply religious soldier, Gardiner would have found a soul mate in lieutenant-colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness. Maxwell’s father had been the Covenant supporting minister of Minnigaff parish from the 1630s until his death shortly before his son’s birth in 1663. William’s mother was  Elizabeth Murdoch of Cumloden. In June 1685, Maxwell made a rather public expression of his politics by embracing Archibald Campbell, earl of Argyll shortly before his execution for treason against James VII and II in Edinburgh. Maxwell then became a medical student but was arrested and imprisoned for attending a conventicle in 1687. After his release from prison in early 1688 he wisely decided to continue his studies at Leyden in Holland.

However, instead of becoming a doctor, Maxwell joined William of Orange’s army and  sailed with William’s invasion fleet to England in November 1688. He fought for William at the battles of Killiecrankie and the Boyne and then in Europe. While still on active service in 1697, he married Nicolas Stewart, a niece of the earl of Galloway and heiress to Cardoness estate. In 1702, while still a commissioned officer he was elected to represent the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the Scottish parliament. In 1706 he was decommissioned for voting against several of the Articles of Union.

Then, in 1715, he was called back to the army and given command of the militia in the south of Scotland. In October 1715 he was made Governor of Glasgow to help defend the city against the Jacobites. From his diaries  which have been published, it is clear that Maxwell was a deeply religious man. Unfortunately the diaries only cover the period 1685-1697. However it is known that he negotiated with the Levellers in 1724.

It is therefore likely that  bloodless conclusion to the Levellers uprising in the Stewartry was negotiated with the Levellers by Maxwell and major Gardiner. In late October a group of over 200 Levellers assembled at Duchrae in Balmaghie close to the Boat of Rhone and Airds of Kells. Unlike the similar assembly in June, this time  the Levellers waited for Gardiner and his troops to arrive. Gardiner had ordered his troops to use minimal force against the Levellers and the Levellers put up minimal resistance. Two hundred Levellers were captured but nearly all were allowed to escape before they reached Kirkcudbright.

As an aside, it can be noted that major Gardiner, by then a colonel, died fighting the Jacobites at Prestonpans in 1745 and is mentioned in Walter Scott’s novel ‘Waverley’.

In January 1725, when Basil Hamilton had his day in court against the Levellers, William Maxwell was the presiding magistrate. Although damages were awarded against the Levellers, since most were poor cottars it is unlikely that Basil Hamilton received much in the way of compensation from them.

One of the Levellers brought to court by Basil Hamilton was John Martin. In 1724 he was only 14 but John went on to become a clock maker, living to the ripe old age of 91. He is buried in Kirkcudbright and sometime before his death in 1801, John Nicholson, a Kirkcudbright printer and publisher, interviewed him. Nicholson’s interview, along with a wealth of other details about the events of 1724 is contained in a hand written book in the Hornel Library at Broughton House in Kirkcudbright.

Nicholson ‘s book also contains the original account of a story which made its way into Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell’s radio series and book on the Lowland Clearance. Nicholson got the story from Samuel Geddes of Keltonhill farm who had heard it from his grandfather. According to Geddes, in the summer of 1724, probably around the time of the Kelton Hill fair in June, a group of Levellers threatened to demolish dykes on Robert Johnston’s Kelton (now Threave) estate. Johnston, along with William Falconer, minister of Kelton managed to persuade the Levellers- with the aid of a wagon load of bread and beer -not to demolish the dykes. As recounted by Malcolm Harper in his ‘Rambles in Galloway’, while waiting for the bread and beer to arrive, one of the Levellers carved the date ‘1724’ a stone in the wall of the dyke and that this stone was still visible 140 years later.

Unfortunately, although there are at least two stones with dates carved on them in the vicinity, the dates are not 1724.

On the other hand, William Falconer was the minister of Kelton in 1724 and Robert Johnston was laird of Kelton. Falconer is commemorated by a :Latin inscription carved into a stone on the wall of the remains of the old kirk in Kelton graveyard. Johnston is commemorated in an even more imposing Latin inscription on his grave in St Michael’s kirk in Dumfries.

Robert Johnston's gravestone, St Michael's, Dumfries

Johnston was buried in Dumfries because  had had been a provost of the burgh and represented the burgh in the Scottish parliament of 1702-7. Roughly translated, the Latin inscription on Johnston’s grave claims that he defended Scotland’s liberty by strongly opposing the Union, although, as with William Maxwell, the records of the Scottish parliament show that Johnston voted against some but not all of the Articles of Union. Again, like William Maxwell, when the local Jacobites threatened Dumfries in 1715, Johnston helped to raise a volunteer militia to defend the town.

Another opponent of the 1707 Union  was John Hepburn, minister of Urr. In November 1706, Hepburn and a group of his armed supporters burnt the Articles of Union at the Mercat Cross in Dumfries. In 1715, Hepburn and around 300 of his armed followers marched to Dumfries to offer their support against the Jacobites. Hepburn was a veteran of the seventeenth century struggle against the Stuarts. Although he died in 1723, contemporary accounts suggest that the hardcore of armed Levellers in 1724 were Hebronites, as Hepburn’s followers were called. The Hebronites were probably responsible for several acts of ‘unauthorised levelling’  directed against Roman Catholic landowners including the Jacobite Maxwells of Munches near Dalbeattie  and Robert Neilson of Barncailzie near Crocketford.

On the other hand, a good Presbyterian, Scottish patriot and anti-Jacobite like  Robert Johnston of Kelton would have been viewed positively by the Hebronite levellers. It would therefore not have been very difficult for him to save his march dyke. It may also be significant that Johnston’s brother in law, William Craik II, was the laird of Duchrae. William Craik I has been provost of Dumfries in the 1670s but was removed from office for his Covenanting sympathies. In December 1688, when news reached Dumfries that James VII and II had fled London rather face William of Orange’s army, William Craik  I was re-elected provost and in January Dumfries was the first town in Britain to accept William of Orange as their new king.

To conclude, although the Galloway Levellers uprising of 1724 was primarily a reaction against the clearance of tenant farmers and cottars to make way for cattle parks, a whole range of other factors were involved. In particular, although short-lived, the local Jacobite rebellion in 1715 revived bitter memories of not just of the Killing Times, but also the fifty years of struggle which began with the  National Covenant in 1638 and only ended with Glorious Revolution of 1688. It could even be argued that it was only with the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746 that the fear of a second Stuart restoration was ended.

3.The Upland and Lowland Clearances
In one of their printed tracts justifying their actions, the Galloway Levellers  made it clear that they were not opposed to enclosures. This is rather confusing, since their uprising is often seen as being part of a wider movement of futile resistance to the process of enclosure which drove ‘peasants’ from the and into the first factories of the capitalist industrial revolution.

For example, Tom Johnston in his ‘History of the Working Classes in Scotland’ published in 1920, claimed that the 'the ruthless clearances and ejectments of the peasantry which began in Galloway soon became a general feature in Lowland agricultural economies.’ As a result ‘From the Lowland hamlets came to the industrial towns a steady stream of destitutes owning no capital but their muscles, destined to the miserable half-starved drudgery from which an unregulated capitalism wrung fabulous profits'.

In the Glenkens however, the situation was, to put it mildly, more complicated.

To go back to 1724, the Levellers advice to land-owners was that

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

However, even twenty years later, when William Roy extended his Military Survey of  Scotland from the Highlands to the Lowlands, there are very few signs of enclosure in Galloway. On Roy’s map, enclosures are shown as thin red lines, usually rectangular or square,  concentrated around the houses of larger landowners owners and  larger settlements. More widely distributed are patches of cross-hatching which represent the rig and furrow of areas where oats and barley (bere) were cultivated.

One of these patches of arable land is shown on Roy’s map beside Kilnair above Lochinvar loch in Dalry parish. Although Roy does not show this as being enclosed, the surviving area  (now grassland) of arable land at Kilnair is surrounded and divided by the remains of rough dykes. These seem to have been built from stones turned up by ploughing which were then used to construct an irregular enclosure.

Kilnair above Lochinvar today

That there was arable land at Kilnair is confirmed by a tack or lease from 25 May 1669 which details the livestock permitted to be kept -16 cattle with calves, 16 score of sheep and two horses ‘for labouring on the arable ground’. The cows and the sheep were to be milked to make cheese as part of the rent. Kilnair is a Gaelic farm name which Herbert Maxwell suggested could either mean ‘the corner of the battle‘ or, more likely, ‘the corner of the ploughing’, which fits its location as area of better quality land still standing out from the rough grazing land around it.

Tack (lease ) of Kilnair from 1669

In his Victorian study ‘The Lands and their Owners in Galloway’ Peter McKerlie includes Kilnair within the estate of Lochinvar or Gordonstoun. The Gordons acquired the estate in the early fifteenth century during the Douglas lordship of Galloway (1369-1455). Control passed to the Maxwell family during the sixteenth century but passed back to the Gordons in the seventeenth century. However sometime before his death in 1784, Richard Oswald of Auchincruive in Ayrshire had possession. The Oswald family still owned the 10 000 acre estate in 1871.

Unfortunately, although David Hancock in ‘Citizens of the World’ (Cambridge, 1995) discusses Richard Oswald’s role as an improving landowner in Kirkbean parish, where he bought Cavens estate in 1759, he makes no mention of Oswald’s lands in Dalry parish. Hancock does provide a link to the Galloway Levellers however, via John Maxwell who was Oswald’s factor. As child, Maxwell had seen the Levellers in action at Munches near Dalbeattie. Hancock noted that in his dealings with Oswald’s tenants, Maxwell adopted a cautious policy which avoided wholesale clearance.

Oswald’s neighbour in Kirkbean was William Craik III of Arbigland. Craik had in inherited Arbigland in 1739 and set about improving it. The fertile soil no doubt facilitated the process and Craik, through his friendship with Henry Home, Lord Kames became well known as an improver.

In contrast, the soil of the Craik family’s other estate, Duchrae in Balmaghie, was of poorer quality and was still in need of improvement when it was bought by William Cuninghame, a wealthy Glasgow tobacco merchant, in 1786. In his book ‘Raiderland’ published in 1904, S R Crockett included extracts from Cunninghame’s diary which provide a fascinating glimpse of the Stewartry in the age of improvement.

In the seventeenth century, there were 15 farms on Duchrae estate, but by 1786 these had been combined into three large and one small farm. As Crockett noted, what the Leveller movement had feared had come to pass with the smallholdings swept away and the cottars and crofters either  forced to emigrate or reduced to the status of hired labourers on larger farms.

One of the local landowners Cuninghame mentions in his diary is Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw. In 1765, Gordon had had  a short canal cut through marshland on his estate to the river Dee. This canal to allowed barges to carry marl from Carlingwark loch up the Ken/Dee river system. In the absence of local source of limestone, marl was used as a substitute fertiliser. Writing for the Statistical Account of Scotland in the early 1790s, John Gillespie, minister of Kells parish praised Gordon for his exertions and notes that some of the barges can carry up to 400 cubic feet of marl, carrying timber from the parish on their return trips.

One sign of the improvement of the parish was the construction of new houses. However Gillespie cautioned that were  no proof of an increase in population since ‘farmers are encouraged by landlords to combine several farms into one so that more houses in the parish have gone to ruin than have been built or rebuilt’. Gillespie calculated that one tenant in the parish now rented 5 farms which previously had supported 14 families but now supported only ten.

In 1765, the English ban on the import of Irish cattle which had been imposed in 1666 was lifted. By 1790, over 17 000 Irish cattle were passing through Portpatrick harbour annually. By 1800 this had risen to over 20 000. Since Galloway’s cattle trade had developed in response to the English ban on the import of Irish cattle and in the absence of major competition from the Highlands and the north of Scotland, by the beginning of the nineteenth century rearing cattle for the English market was declining in importance.

The cattle trade was still important, but as William Cuninghame’s 1786 diary reveals, cattle had become a commodity which the tenantry speculated on, with cattle at times remaining ‘for no more than two weeks upon the Estate’ before being sold on again. Cuninghame also noted that his tenants kept very few sheep.

In the mainly upland parish of Minnigaff, the Heron family had made their fortune through rearing cattle for export to England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. However, by the 1790, when the Old Statistical Account for Minnigaff was written, the 30 000 sheep kept on the hills had become as important as the black cattle. By 1842, The New Statistical Account gives a figure of 33 500 sheep, with only 2000 black cattle kept. In Carsphairn parish, the Old Statistical Account gives a figure of 30 000 sheep and 1200 black cattle, with similar numbers given in the New Statistical Account. The Old Statistical Account for Dalry gives 13 000 and 1650 cattle. The New Statistical Account does not give any figures for livestock. For Kells, the Old Account gives 17 400 sheep and 1550 black cattle. The New Account gives 17 040 sheep and 1300 cattle. For Balmaclellan the Old Account gives 8200 sheep and 1340 black cattle, but the New Account does not provide any figures.

Altogether, by the 1790s, the upland parishes of the Glenkens plus Minngaff carried over 98 000 sheep but only 6000 black cattle. From the 1790s through until the 1960s, sheep farming was the main land use of the uplands. Since the 1960s, trees have replaced sheep in the Galloway hills.

In their book ‘The Lowland Clearances’, Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell draw attention to the way that the same process of agricultural rationalisation in the Lowlands is called ‘improvement’ but in the Highlands  ‘clearance’. The underlying difference was one of geology. Across the Lowlands there were extensive areas of traditional arable farming which could be ‘improved’ to increase crop yields. In the Highlands, most of the land was rough grazing land which could not be improved in the same way. Instead, landowners wanting to increase the economic return on their lands turned their estates over to sheep farming.

Across Galloway and the south of Scotland, the Southern Uplands proved a similar obstacle to the extension of arable improvement. As a result, with the indigenous cattle trade now facing increased competition from Ireland, improving landowners adopted sheep farming as the best way to increase the value of their upland estates.

In the Glenkens, William Forbes of Callendar bought up traditional farms in Kells and Dalry parish to create sheep farms. Born in Aberdeen in 1743, in the 1770s Forbes began amassing a huge fortune by supplying and fitting Royal Navy and East India Company ships with copper plates which protected them from damage by marine worms. His main landholding was the Callendar estate near Falkirk which he bought in 1783. It was probably through his first wife, Margaret McAdam of Craigengillan near Dalmellington, that Forbes became interested in buying lands in Galloway as well.  In Dalry parish he acquired Earlston estate from the Gordon family and in Kells he bought Barskeoch estate in 1787.

4. The Glenkens and the Industrial Revolution
In 1456, Barskeoch and its farms, including Drumbuie, was among the lands forfeited to the Crown by William Douglas, 9th earl of Douglas and the last Douglas lord of Galloway. After passing to the Gordons, by 1660, the Newall family had possession of Barskeoch and its lands, remaining in possession until 1787. In the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds there are two tacks for Drumbuie from the 1670s which give an insight into farming practice of the time since they both require the tenants of Drumbuie to return any cattle pasturing on the west side of Miekle Millyea ‘in the summer half of the year’ to the heft. In other words, before sheep farming came to dominate the hills, cattle were grazed on the Rhinns of Kells.

By 1741, when Samuel McConnell and his son John were the Newalls’ tenants in Drumbuie and nearby Hannaston, this requirement had been dropped. Samuel and John’s tack was for 19 years, paying £33 sterling rent annually. In 1760, John’s James took over the tenancy for another 19 years, paying £26 sterling annually. However, when the next renewal came in 1779, the annual rent had risen to £52. James struggled with this increase and gave up his tenancy in 1782.

Tack of Hannaston, 1741

In early 1781, James McConnell’s 19 year old son also called James decided to leave Hannaston and the Stewartry to take up an apprenticeship with his uncle, William Canaan (or Cannon) now Lancashire but originally from Knocknairling in Kells. William Canaan, after serving his apprenticeship as a carpenter had left the Stewartry in the 1760s, first for Whitehaven, then Liverpool before finally settling in Chowbent near Bolton where he began making textile manufacturing equipment.

Between 1780 and 1786, Adam and George Murray, sons of a New Galloway shopkeeper and John Kennedy from Knocknalling in Kells also moved  south to take up apprenticeships with Canaan. After serving their time with Canaan, they moved on to Manchester where their skills as machine makers were in demand.

None of these young men fit Tom Johnstone’s description of destitute peasants driven by clearance and enclosure from the land into industrial cities. On the other hand, if they had stayed in a Glenkens about to be transformed by incoming landowners like William Forbes and Richard Oswald into a vast sheep walk, they could never have achieved the wealth and status they were to gain in Manchester.

Writing in 1844, based on his experience of Manchester in 1842/3, Friedrich Engels claimed that

The history of the proletariat in England begins with the second half of the last century, with the invention of the steam-engine and of machinery for working cotton. These inventions gave rise, as is well known, to an industrial revolution, a revolution which altered the whole civil society; one, the historical importance of which is only now beginning to be recognised. England is the classic soil of this transformation, which was all the mightier, the more silently it proceeded; and England is, therefore, the classic land of its chief product also, the proletariat. Only in England can the proletariat be studied in all its relations and from all sides.

In the early 1790s, when James McConnell and John Kennedy along with Adam and George Murray first arrived in Manchester, the problem of how to apply steam power to the spinning of cotton had not yet been solved. Steam power was used, but indirectly to pump water back into reservoirs which fed water-powered cotton mills. Of the four from the Glenkens, it was John Kennedy who had the best mechanical skills and so made the vital breakthrough, directly connecting a steam engine to the spinning machines.

By 1815, the two firms of McConnell and Kennedy and A and G Murray were the largest in Manchester, each employing over 1000 workers on their adjacent factory sites at Ancoats. With the average Manchester cotton spinning factory employing only 250 workers, the Glenkens cotton spinners works powered by steam and lit by gas were the archetype of the industrial revolution’s ‘dark Satanic mills’.

While John Kennedy went on to promote a transport revolution as one of the judges at the 1829 Rainhill locomotive trials won by his friend George Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’, his business partner James McConnell’s brother in law Henry Houldsworth took their revolution to Scotland.

In 1799, Henry  Houldsworth became manager of a cotton spinning factory in Glasgow. In 1801, using machinery supplied by McConnell and Kennedy he established his own steam powered cotton factory in the city. As McConnell and Kennedy’s cotton spinning enterprise prospered, they gave up their machine making business. This led Houldsworth set up his own foundry and machine works at Anderston in Glasgow in 1823.

Henry Houdsworth’s brother Thomas  had stayed in Manchester and built up his own successful cotton spinning business. By the 1830s, Henry realised that the Scottish cotton industry was losing out to competition from Manchester and Lancashire. Henry was also aware, through his Anderston foundry, that the iron industry in Scotland was booming. As a result and with his brother Thomas’ backing, he set up the Coltness Iron Works in Lanarkshire in 1836. This venture proved to be highly profitable..

Looking to repeat the success of the Coltness works, in 1846, Henry Houldsworth decided that the combination of ironstone and coal around Dalmellington in Ayrshire made it a suitable location for a new iron works.

Unfortunately, although an ambitious plan to build a railway from Ayr up to Damellington and the down through the Glenkens to the coast at Balcary Bay existed in 1846, the line was never built. It was not until 1856 that a less ambitious railway was constructed from Ayr to Dalmellington. Until the railway was completed, all the pig iron from the Dalmellington works had to be transported by road down to Ayr. The additional cost of road transport along toll-roads threatened the new iron company with bankruptcy.

Luckily, Henry’s son in law James Murray stepped in with a loan of £50 000 which kept the iron company solvent until the railway was completed. James Murray went on to become the Dalmellington company’s largest investor and a Director.

Dalmellington Iron Company works, 1858

James Murray was able to make his investment in the Dalmellington company as heir to his father George Murray’s share of the prosperous Manchester cotton spinning firm of A and G Murray…

James Murray’s brother Benjamin used his share of A and G Murray to buy Parton estate where he lived after leaving Manchester. The row of attractive ‘Arts and Crafts’ style houses in Parton and the village hall were built by Benjamin Murray.

John Kennedy’s Manchester residence was the imposing Ardwick Hall, but after his brother David died in 1836, he also became owner of the family farm which he improved  with erection of Knocknalling House. In 1906, John Kennedy’s granddaughter Violet, who had inherited Knocknalling,  married Archibald St Clair, later lord Sinclair. The Sinclair family still own Knocknalling.

In 1827, John Kennedy wrote a short account of his early life for his children. In this he explains that although a Kennedy family had owned Knocknalling for about 300 years, his branch of the family were only distantly related to them. Instead, his great-grandfather had moved to New Galloway in the 1650s where he became a shop-keeper. John Kennedy’s grandfather was also a shop-keeper and Baillie in New Galloway. Kennedy’s describes his grandfather as a careful man who managed to save enough from his business to buy Knocknalling in 1740. After his marriage in 1763, Kennedy’s father took over the running of Knocknalling. John Kennedy was born at Knocknalling in July 1769. John had an elder brother David, three younger brothers and two sisters. His father died young, leaving his mother to bring up the family. Since David would inherit the farm, John knew from an early age he would have to find some other way to make his living, perhaps as a travelling carpenter. He says

I used to long to see something beyond the still valley and blue mountains of the place of my birth…These natural objects used to produce in me sometimes the deepest melancholy; and a singular lonely feeling would be excited by the external silence all around us…

Significantly, John also describes ‘seeing the wooden plough arrested in the furrow from the inclemency of the weather…exposed to the splashing showers. And then after all this toil and turmoil, to see such poor, scanty, miserable crops.’

From the mention of the wooden plough ‘arrested in the furrow’ above as well as a reference to black oats, it is clear that Knocknalling was a farm which had not been improved. The earliest reference to Knocknalling (as Knockallen) is from 1481 when it belonged to James Campbell of Corswell in Wigtownshire who had inherited it from his father Alexander. So 300 years before John Kennedy’s time, the ‘old Scots’ or wooden plough would have been familiar to James Campbell and the arable land would have been growing black oats.

If John Kennedy’s father had been wealthy enough to improve Knocknalling, would this have made John more enthusiastic for farming as a career? Possibly not. He mentions the Newalls of Barskeoch and the Griersons of Garroch as neighbouring farmers. In the Old Statistical Account for Kells, ‘Mr Newall of Barskeoch’ is described as the first landowner in the parish to improve his lands with lime and that 20 years later the effect was still remarkable.

However, as we know from Kennedy’s future business partner James McConnell, the improvement of Barskeoch and its farms went along with a doubling of the rent which forced McConnell’s father to give up Hannaston in 1782  and persuaded James McConnell to leave for Lancashire in 1781. By 1787, despite the remarkable effect of his improvements on land his family had owned for 130 years, William Newall decided to sell Barskeoch and its farms to William Forbes.

5. Conclusion- history as irony.
Looking back over the history of the Glenkens and the Stewartry in the era of the Lowland Clearances, it is difficult not to do so without recognising an almost tragic irony in so much of  what happened.

While the Galloway Levellers tried to distinguish between the depopulating enclosures which they opposed and the improving enclosures which they supported, the rational approach to agricultural improvement promoted by the Scottish Enlightenment made no similar distinction. Across Galloway, scarcely a trace remains of the medieval farmed landscape that had been familiar to the Levellers.

In 1670, James McKnaught was recorded as a cottar living in the Meadow Isle croft on Airieland farm near Gelston. In 1725, John McKnaught in Meadow Isle on Airieland  was one of the Levellers pursued for damages by Basil Hamilton. Meadow Isle croft is still shown on Roy‘s Military Survey of 1755. According to the Wright family of Airieland, Meadow Isle was last occupied by a group of dykers around 1800. The dykers last act was to demolish Meadow Isle and use its stones to complete the dyke around the field which before they left. The field is still called Meadow Isle.

Slightly later, around 1820 according to McConnell family history, the thatched farmhouse of Hannastoun where James McConnell had been born was demolished and replaced by the present farm higher up the hill. Nearby the original Drumbuie was abandoned about the same time and replaced by present day Drumbuie. The site of old Drumbuie, dating back to at least 1456, is shown on the first Ordnance Survey map of Kells which was survey in the 1840s. Modern satellite maps show that traces of old Drumbuie, its fields and patches of rig and furrow still survive.

The modernisation of Galloway and Dumfriesshire which gathered pace through the eighteenth century saw the construction of 81 planned towns and villages. One of the most successful of these new towns was Gatehouse   of Fleet, planned by James Murray complete with water-powered cotton mills designed to provide employment for agricultural workers displaced by his improvement of Girthon parish. In 1724, the dykes of his father at Cally had been levelled and James did not want a repeat performance. But within 30 years of their construction, Gatehouse’s  cotton mills had been superseded by an industrial revolution pioneered by a small group of economic migrants from the Glenkens.

There is an important point here. The physical landscape of the Stewartry even today still reflects the philosophical landscape of the Scottish Enlightenment. It is an actualisation of the Age of Reason as envisaged by Adam Smith, Henry Home and their contemporaries. It is also an example of what Tony Wrigley has described as ‘an advanced organic economy’.

Over the past 40 years in numerous articles and books, Wrigley has argued that the industrial revolution marked a step-change from economies based on sustainable and renewable energy sources- human and animal labour, wind and water power, wood for construction and fuel- to mineral economies which rely on coal, natural gas and oil as energy sources.

As an example, while Manchester had developed as a textile trading centre through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, its phenomenal growth in the first half of the nineteenth century was only made possible by the use of coal as an energy source in its cotton factories. A development facilitated by John Kennedy, James McConnell, Adam and George Murray.

In Galloway, if not Dumfriesshire, there is no coal. Before losing most of his money when the Douglas and Heron / Ayr Bank failed in 1772, Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw had proposed a canal which would have connected  Loch Ken to Loch Doon and the Dalmellington coal fields. In 1803, when a canal to link the Glenkens with the sea at Kirkcudbright was proposed, Gordon revived the idea. The Ayrshire and Galloway railway of 1845 would also have given the Glenkens and the Stewartry access to the Dalmellington coal field.

If either the canal or the railway had been built, the Glenkens and the Stewartry might have made the transition to Wrigley’s mineral economy.

On the other hand, although the Glenkens today struggles with the problem of rural depopulation and lack of employment opportunities, the Doon Valley provides a salutary reminder of the cost of industrialisation. From 1848 to 1921, the Dalmellington Iron Company’s furnaces provided employment for thousands of  workers. Even after iron production ended, the deep coal mines built to fuel the iron furnaces survived until  1978. These were then replaced by open cast coal mines, although they provided only a fraction of the employment the iron works and deep coal mines had supported.

So while a nineteenth industrial revolution might have boosted the population and economy of the Glenkens and the Stewartry, the long term impact would have been an intractable legacy of environmental degradation, social deprivation and economic desperation.

6. And finally… a new town for the Glenkens? 
An unintended consequence of the shift from the type of advanced organic and sustainable  economy represented by the Glenkens to the type of mineral and unsustainable economy represented by the Doon Valley is the advent of global climate change. Climate change is driven by global warming which is the result of burning billions of tons of coal and oil which has released carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere.

In 2010, the UK Government Office For Science produced a report ‘Land use Futures: Making the Most of Land in the 21st Century’. This report included a series of scenarios for the future which took the impact of climate change into account. Tucked away on page 284 of the 325 page long report is the following scenario for the year 2030.

London and the South East of England is under significant water stress. A new 1800 acre reservoir built to the west of the city has improved the short term situation, but continuing population growth means that this may be a short lived solution. Accordingly, the government is considering plans to disperse citizens to three new towns in Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland and Powys – now engines of innovation and growth at the centre of the UK’s land based industries.

Back in 1851, the population Dumfries and Galloway reached  a peak of  just over 150 000. In 1851, this was 5.5 % of Scotland’s population. Today, Dumfries and Galloway has only 2.8 %  of Scotland’s population. If the region still had 5.5 % of Scotland’s population, instead of having only        24 000 inhabitants, there would be around 70 000 people living here.

Since one of the most damaging effects of climate change is going to be the loss of productive farmland, it would be foolish to build a new town on high or medium quality farm land. It would be more sensible to look for locations on poorer quality land.  An area like the Glenkens, on the boundary between better and poorer quality farm land would therefore be a possible option if a new town is to be located in Dumfries and Galloway.

If, thanks to rural de-population, about 50 000 people are missing from the Stewartry, why not think big and go for a new town of about that size, located in the Glenkens?  Or even two new towns, one in the Doon Valley and one in the Glenkens, linked by railway to Ayr and Dumfries?

While some of  today‘s inhabitants of the Glenkens might not agree, I am sure Alexander Gordon, John Kennedy and their compatriots would have approved  of such a bold plan…