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.
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.
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.