.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


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

Monday, January 15, 2018

A walk through the history of Castle Douglas

Castle Douglas in 1794
From National Library of Scotland 

I was at a meeting of the Castle Douglas Development Forum tonight [15 January 2018] to discuss this year' s Castle Douglas Civic Week. Carolyn Yates suggested I could do a 'history walk' around the town.

It will be on Sunday afternoon -not sure if that is Sunday 22 or 29 July.

In 2004 I wrote a booklet of walks covering Castle Douglas and Threave Estate. I have dug out the two CD ones - which will need to be updated.

I will add some photos and illustrations later.

1. Castle Douglas- Cotton Town to Food Town
- a walk around the town
2. Carlin's Wark or Ceorl's Weorc?
- a walk around Carlingwark Loch

1. A stroll around Castle Douglas

Starting Point- the Market Hill Tourist Information Centre
1. 1 The Market Hill
From the low mound next to the Tourist Information Centre the wooded slopes of Keltonhill can be seen rising up in the distance beyond the British Legion and Swimming Pool [formerly Drill Hall] complex. Next to these is the Library, which dates to 1904. To the right can be seen the upper end of King Street, to the left the octagonal Wallets Mart building built around 1900 and the upper end of Queen Street. The yellow brick (from the Dalbeattie Brick Works) makes what is now the Seabright Nursery stand out.

Looking in the opposite direction, a line of Scots pines mark the site of Castle Douglas' railway station.

This area of Castle Douglas is very much the Victorian creation of railway and mart. Or, as local author S.R. Crockett put it

" In my own time, life centred about the Cross (the Town Clock), and so continued during all my life as a school boy [1867 to 1876]. But ever since , contrary to all the laws of gravitation, the town has been running faster and ever faster uphill, apparently to get a sniff of the cattle-marts on Monday, and to see the white smoke of the trains..."

The first recorded livestock auction took place on the Market Hill in 1819. In 1857, the town council built an enclosed Mart where the swimming pool now stands. This was then leased to Thomas Wallet, whose family were originally carters from Dalmellington in Ayrshire. The present site of Wallets Mart, closer to the Station Yard, was acquired later as the business took over rival concerns.

The railway from Dumfries reached the town in 1859 and was extended to Stranraer in 1861. A branch line to Kirkcudbright followed in 1864. Although the station was demolished after the was railway closed in 1965, the Station Yard remains a busy place. The sidings which could hold 200 cattle trucks are now occupied by industrial buildings. The old Goods Station is now a builders' merchants.

Sadly the Keltonhill Horse Fair, which was moved to the Market Hill [then an open field] about 150 years ago, has passed into history along with the Galloway breed of horses. Fortunately the Galloway breed of cattle has survived and Wallet's Mart still hosts their spring and autumn sales.
From the Tourist Information Centre, cross over King Street and turn right up hill. Then turn left into Cotton Street.

1.2 Cotton Street
Cotton Street descends steeply from the Market Hill past Buccleuch Scotch Beef's abattoir- the 'Slatterhoose Brae'. Just before the abattoir, where a house has now been built, there was a quarry. This would have been a source of building stone for the town. However, there are many brick built houses on Cotton Street. Most are based on variations of the same design, with pitched, rather than flat, roofed dormer style windows.

Nos 14 and 16 are of this style, but built using the yellow Dalbeattie bricks rather than the red bricks of Railway Terrace, further down the street. Where a supermarket and car park now are, Sir William Douglas' cotton mill probably stood. After the failure of the cotton mill, this site was later occupied by Wallace's Foundry and the neighbouring Derby's Mill. The stream which failed to provide enough water to work the cotton mill ran along the back of Cotton Street. Now underground, it still runs beneath Cotton Street, across to King Street and down to Carlingwark Loch.

On the opposite side of Cotton Street can be seen a series of schools. The largest, now a community centre, was built in 1910 by the Kelton School Board. Next to this is a school built in 1873 when the Kelton School Board was first set up. Its first headmaster was John Cowper. Cowper had previously been headmaster of the 'Free Church School'.

This school, a little further down Cotton Street is now converted into three houses [Nos 43 to 47 Cotton Street] and dates to the 'Disruption' of the Church of Scotland in 1843, when the Church split into two factions. There was strong support for the 'Free Kirk', allowing a church and school to be built in 1844. Local author S.R. Crockett attended this school after 1867. It was called 'Cowper's Schule' after its headmaster.

The earlier, parish, school was built in 1818 on Academy Street (where Castle Douglas Health Centre now stands) to replace one which had fallen into disrepair.

Next to the Free Church School is a cottage, now 49 Cotton Street. For many years this was a joiner's shop. Until recently, it was the last remaining 'unimproved' example of what was once Castle Douglas' basic housing stock. It is difficult to date, but the rough stone work around its windows is typical of the late 18th/ early 19th centuries. Until granite [from Dalbeattie] and sandstone [from Locharbriggs near Dumfries] became cheaper after the railway reached the town, local greywacke stone had to be used. This stone cannot be 'worked' to produce neat straight lines.

Crockett lived with his grandparents further down Cotton Street in a cottage [now 104 Cotton Street] near St. John's Church. Ironically, since his grandparents were strictly religious Cameronians, this is now a licensed betting shop. St. John's was built in 1867.

A short detour can be made up Abercromby Road where a row of houses and another [United Presbyterian, 1870] church clearly show the contrast between weathered dark brown sandstone from Dumfriesshire and bluish native greywacke.

Looked at carefully, most buildings in Castle Douglas can be dated to 'before or after the railway'. Post- railway buildings are generally larger and more imposing and make use of granite, sandstone and brick as well as the local greywacke. Sandstone and granite were available earlier, but were more expensive and so used sparingly. Just to confuse things, many buildings have been altered and enlarged over the years.

So although Castle Douglas was founded in the late eighteenth century, many of its buildings reveal their later, Victorian, origins.
Return to Cotton Street and continue down hill towards

1. 3. Blackpark Road
At the foot of Cotton Street is the site of the town's gas works [1843]. To the left is Marle Street. This takes its name from the lime-rich clay Alexander Gordon drained Carlingwark Loch to reach. Used sparingly, marl was a valuable fertiliser. Over use was found to be damaging to the soil.

To the right is Blackpark Road. Blackpark farm took its name from the heavy, black, peaty soil of the surrounding marshland.

Although hardly the most picturesque area of Castle Douglas, it is worth walking along to the Blackpark Road railway bridge [now filled in]. Where Threave Rovers football pitch, the old rubbish dump [soon to become part of the golf course], the railway and sewage works now lie, a medieval parish boundary once ran along the course of a lost stream. A deep ditch ran across Castle Douglas golf course, under the railway, through the sewage works and then across the football pitch into Carlingwark Moss to find its way to the Dee along the route of the Carlingwark Lane. The stream mentioned in the Cotton Street section probably fed into this before it was diverted into Carlingwark Loch.

The boundary between Crossmichael and Kelton parishes appears to have followed the course of these lost streams. They marked the boundary between lands in Crossmichael parish gifted to a nunnery at Lincluden by Uchtred, son of Fergus of Galloway circa 1170 and those in Kelton parish which remained in the Lordship of Galloway until 1456.

According to a local folktale, St. Ninian appeared to a shepherd boy here. The boy had lost a sheep on Christmas Eve. In the hope of finding the sheep, he made an offering of the last of his food at St. Ringan's Well nearby. The saint then appeared in the form of an old beggar and helped the boy find the lost sheep, which had strayed into the stream's deep ditch.

This story suggests the Christianisation of an older, pagan, boundary between the 'sacred' site of Carlingwark Loch and its 'profane' surroundings. Return along Blackpark Road and continue straight on into Marle Street.

1. 3. Marle Street and Carlingwark Street
According to Crockett, Marle Street and ' Little Dublin' - the lower end of Cotton Street where several Irish families lived- were the first parts of what is now Castle Douglas to be developed. The basic 'cottage' style [as can still-just- be seen at 49 Cotton Street] of several houses in this area confirms his description of ' a little town built at the foot of a hill and ever since running a race up it.'

Carlingwark Street crosses Marle Street and lies on the route of the Old Military Road. This is the lowest part of Castle Douglas and where the roads cross, the remains of a timber and earth dam were found 200 years ago. These may actually have been the remains of a prehistoric track way across boggy ground. A similar construction was found on the far side of Carlingwark Hill. The route of Carlingwark Street / the Old Military Road ran through what are now the grounds of Carlingwark House, crossing Alexander Gordon's canal [Carlingwark Lane] by a bridge which led onto the row of houses called 'The Buchan'.

At the top of the hill was an inn. Robert Burn's stayed there in 1789. Just over one hundred years earlier, in 1685, William Auchinleck was shot by government soldiers during the 'Killing Times' outside an inn, which was also on Carlingwark Hill. There are a few old cottages here, but most of the houses are more modern. If the weather is clear, from Meadow View which runs parallel with Carlingwark Street, the Galloway Hills can be seen.

Where the street ends, turn left down the rough track towards Carlingwark Loch. This is called Crone Lane and in the field on the right once stood the Three Thorns of Carlingwark, allegedly the scene of 'Druidical rites' including human sacrifice. However since the last of the thorn trees could still be seen in early 19th century, and since Druids worshipped in groves of oak trees 2000 years ago, this seems unlikely.

Cross over the main road to enter Lochside Park

1. 4. Lochside Park
Lochside Park stretches around the north end of Carlingwark Loch. It was formerly the town common. Looking at the loch today, it is difficult to imagine how it would have appeared in the 1770s and 80s when it was the centre for Alexander Gordon's marl works. The loch must have been almost completely drained in order to expose the marl beds and allow his workmen to dig the marl out. Certainly, according to contemporary accounts, when the Carlingwark Canal was cut through Carlingwark Hill in 1765, the level of the loch dropped by between 8 and 10 feet, far enough to reveal a crannog ( a wooden round house built over water) at the south end. This crannog is once more under water.

Until recently, there were two Christian places of worship over looking the park and the loch. One of these, formerly St. Andrew's church [1869], is now the Lochside Theatre.

A short stroll through Lochside Park, turning left up past the caravan site leads to St. Ninian's Episcopal church [ 1856 to 1861] on St. Andrew Street. The church began as a mission for railway navvies. More recently it has benefited from its association with the Gordons of Threave, resulting in the addition [2001] of an award winning new church hall.

Turn left along St. Andrew Street. Of interest here is Lochvale, with its entrance up a short flight of steps.. There is a date at the top right hand gable - which could be 1810, 1813 or 1815. Joseph Train [ 1779- 1852] lived here from 1826. Train worked, like Robert Burns, as an Exciseman. He was a friend of Sir Walter Scott's and passed on both local folklore and 'antiquities' [ for example the Torrs Pony Cap] to Scott. Scott's novels Guy Mannering, Redgauntlet, the Heart of Midlothian, The Antiquary and Old Mortality all feature stories and characters based on Galloway sources supplied by Train. Unfortunately this association with Scott distracted Train from an earlier plan to write a history of Galloway.

Across from Lochvale is The Brae, originally built in 1803, but with Victorian additions. St. Andrew's Street continues towards the Town Clock, but at Queen Street, turn right.

1.5. Queen Street
The Kings Arms Hotel on the corner of Queen Street and St. Andrew Street may originally have been a farm house, predating Castle Douglas. Later, like the Douglas Arms, Crown and Imperial hotels, it became a coaching inn. In what is now its car park, there was a brewery owned by the Hewetson family. The tradition of local beer making has now been revived by the Sulwath Brewery in King Street. ( Further down Queen Street there was a tannery, but there are no plans to revive this industry).

There were other 'industrial' buildings on Queen Street, including a bakery and a blacksmiths. In a lane leading through to King Street granite setts can be found. These can be compared with the cobble stones in A.D. Livingston and Sons yard [see King Street section]. The cobbles and setts are  reminders of the past importance of horse power - they give a better grip for horses hooves than smoother road surfaces do. In the summer, horse and carriage trips can be taken around the town from the Market Hill.

Queen Street is now a residential street. Several of the houses date back to the early days of Castle Douglas. Between 64 and 66 Queen Street is the date 1822 . Half way up Queen Street is St. Ringan's church, St. Ringan being an alternative version of St. Ninian - as is St. Trinian. The oldest part of St. Ringan's dates back to 1801. By 1870 it had become the Cameronian (Reformed Presbyterian) kirk and S.R. Crockett's grandparents travelled the 7 miles from Laurieston to attend it. The Cameronians used sandstone to refront the church and added its tower.

Richard Cameron was a leading figure amongst the later Covenanters who refused to accept religious changes imposed by Charles II. Indeed, on the 22nd June 1680, Cameron, his brother and about twenty others rode into Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire and declared war on the king... Although a 'spiritual' rather than a physical declaration of war, this provocative act could not be ignored. Seven troops of horse were sent to quell this 'republican' rebellion and on July 22nd both Richard Cameron and his brother were killed in a fight with government troops at Airds [or Ayrs] Moss in Ayrshire.

Believing that they were faced with a civil war in the south west, Charles II and his brother James [briefly to be king James VII and II] tried to crush the revolt. Ultimately they failed and the Cameronians fought for king William in 1688 against the supporters of James VII/ II. The first Jacobites led by 'Bonnie Dundee', who as 'bluidy Claverhouse' had tried to destroy the Cameronians in the Killing Times. Even as late as 1724, the Galloway Levellers drew on the local Cameronian heritage in their uprising against those they described as 'Jacobite' landowners.

Gradually, however, the politically dangerous 'radical republican' aspects of the Cameronians faded away. In time they became the rather conservative religious sect to which Crockett's grandparents belonged, as earlier had Sir Alexander Gordon who was Sheriff of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the 1780s - hardly a position to be given to a dangerous revolutionary!

It is very difficult to associate today's 'kirk on the hill' as St. Ringan's was known, with the ferocious religious and political conflicts of the 17th century. And yet it, like so many places locally, bears witness to the deep currents of a dark and disturbing past which still run beneath the tranquil surface of the present.

Quiet Queen Street can be followed back up to Market Street. Turn left here for King Street.

1. 6. King Street
To fully appreciate King Street, it is best seen at the beginning of Castle Douglas Food Town week [usually the end of May] when the street is closed to traffic and thronged by thousands of people. Without the clutter of cars and delivery lorries, its broad, half mile long expanse is revealed.

With its hundred or so shops and businesses, King Street is the dynamic, commercial and economic, centre of the town. In turn, the street draws shoppers not only from across Dumfries and Galloway [to the chagrin of the much larger town of Dumfries] but also from across the south of Scotland and the north of England. A city like Edinburgh can match the range and diversity of Castle Douglas' shops, but not their concentration along (and beside) one main street.

However, why not, as well as peering into every shop window and craft workshop, 'lift the eyes unto the rooftops' and discover a treasure of architectural delight? For example, the many sandstone faced buildings on King Street rejoice in a riot of sculptural details. Lion heads, thistles, roses, stars and scallop shells can all be found. This last feature, the scallop shell, is actually a recent contribution to the fascinating architectural detail of King Street. Most date mainly from the 1890s and can be compared and contrasted with the more formal style of the Town Hall [1862] on St. Andrew Street. The Royal Bank [1864] illustrates the very different impression created by the use of granite.

To get a 'behind the scenes' glimpse of King Street, visit the garden behind Designs Gallery and Cafe . A conservatory has recently been built onto the cafe, creating a very pleasant spot to pause for refreshment before visiting A.D. Livingston and Sons next door. The buildings here, now a furniture restorers and makers workshop, began as a warehouse with stables. The original cobble stones can still be seen in the yard. These are just water rounded stones- quite different in appearance from the granite setts mentioned in the Queen Street section. The patchwork of differing styles of stonework and brickwork which can be seen here is fascinating.

To try to document the actual shops and businesses would be an interesting but exhausting project. Although a few, Livingstons the Tailors [1896] for example, can be traced back through time, continuing change is the rule. At the rate of two or three per year businesses close and new ones take their places, whilst some existing businesses have the confusing habit of moving from one location to another.

For shoppers, this constantly shifting pattern simply offers more interesting opportunities for 'retail therapy'. For older residents and returning exiles it offers the opportunity to spend hours arguing where exactly Mc Guffog's or Blackadder's shop once was...

Whilst visitors frequently comment on how much they appreciate the unique diversity of the Castle Douglas' shops, local residents can take them for granted. At the time of writing (April 2004), the Letters page of the Galloway News has been dominated by the threat -or opportunity- posed by a proposal to build a new supermarket in the town.

On a final point: King Street does not end at the Town Clock [the third on the same site, the two earlier ones were both destroyed by fire]. A good spot to relax after this tour of Castle Douglas is one of the town's more recent attractions- the Sulwath Brewery, which has a limited ( 10am to 4pm) pub licence. The Brewery occupies the site of a former bakery, on the left below the Town Clock.

2. Carlin's Wark or Ceorl's Weorc?

2. 1 Starting point- Lochside Theatre, Lochside Park, Castle Douglas
The Lochside Theatre was originally St. Andrew's Church [1869]
Lochside Park stretches around the north end of Carlingwark Loch. It was formerly the town  common. The earliest possible name for Carlingwark Loch, recorded by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago, was Loctreve - from loc tref meaning settlement on or by water. Around the year 1100 it was probably called Lochellton ( Loch Kelton ) By 1456, it had become Carlynwerk. This could be from the Scots word carlin, a witch, giving 'witches work', as in Carlin's Cairn which is on the Rhinns of Kells. Dr Carole Hough of Glasgow University advises this is the most likely.

Alternatively, according to Herbert Maxwell's "Place Names of Galloway" , Carlingwark comes from the Old English ceorla weorc. Ceorls were 'free peasants', who held land directly from the king rather than a lord. This meaning would link a farming settlement on Carlingwark Hill with Northumbrian (Anglo-Saxon) settlement and so date back to the late 7th century.

If Carlin's work is the origin of the loch's name, then long after pagan Celts placed offerings like the Carlingwark Cauldron in the loch, it was still regarded with superstitious awe. The Carlingwark Cauldron was literally fished up from the loch in 1868 near the crannog site [see below]. Made of bronze, it was found to contain a mixture of around 100 native and Roman artefacts. There were pieces of Roman chain mail and spearheads, as well as files, saws and scythe blade fragments. The Cauldron was probably placed in the loch around 100 AD as an offering to ensure prosperity through good crops of grain. This grain would have been sold to the Roman soldiers at Glenlochar fort. The Carlingwark Cauldron can now been seen at the Chambers Street Museum in Edinburgh, along with the Torrs Pony Cap which is discussed later.

Crossing Lochside Park from the Lochside Theatre towards the loch, turn right to follow the footpaths which lead around the edge of the loch towards Whitepark Road beyond the Lochside Campsite. Before the loch was partially drained in 1765, most of this area would have been under water.
The loch was drained back then to give better access to the beds of marl which underlie it. Marl is a light, white, lime rich clay. From around 1730, marl was used as a fertiliser by improving landowners in Galloway. It was used to boost cereal crop production. These crops, mainly oats and barley, were then exported by sea to feed people in fast growing cities like Liverpool and Glasgow.

Looking at the loch today, it is difficult to imagine how it would have appeared 200 years ago when marl was being extracted. Around the edge of the loch, perhaps even where the park is now, workmen would have been digging the marl out and loading it on to carts. Further out, in places where there was still water, a fleet of bag and spoon dredgers would have been at work.

This technique was invented by the Dutch to dredge their canals. The spoon was an iron plate and ring, to which was attached a leather bag. This spoon was pushed into the marl by a wooden pole. Then a hand winch was used to pull spoon and bag through the marl and up into the boat. The marl was tipped out and the process repeated. It must have been a very wet and muddy job.

Following the path which runs around the edge of the loch, the modern buildings of the Carlingwark Outdoor Education Centre can be seen. From this centre rock-climbing, cycling, orienteering , canoeing and sailing expeditions are organised for local school children. For most local children these expeditions offer their only chance to experience such activities. Given the increasing importance of outdoor activity based tourism locally, skills learnt by school children through the Outdoor Education Centre may well help them find jobs in the future.

The small stone building at the edge of the loch near the Outdoor Education Centre belongs to Kelton Curling Club. In the days before indoor ice rinks, curling stones were stored here. As soon as the loch froze in winter, the depth of the ice was tested until it was deemed thick enough to support a curling rink. In very cold winters, the Queenshill Cup was held on the loch. Curlers from every parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright would congregate on the loch to compete for this cup. Sadly, today's winters are not cold enough to allow curling and so the dramatic sight and sound of a score of curling rinks on the loch has not been witnessed for many years.

2.2 Lover's Walk - Whitepark Road to the Cuckoo Bridge Path
Continue to follow the edge of the loch through the Park to the exit at Whitepark Road. Here the deepest section of the loch is overlooked by a farm on Whitepark Hill. There has been a farm here for at least 550 years. Called Quhitpark it was owned by the Lords of Galloway. According to Maxwell, the place name 'white' was given to lands with light soils which were kept as permanent pasture, i.e. never ploughed. There is a Blackpark farm on the other side of Castle Douglas. It is on the edge of peaty marshland, with heavier, darker, soils which were ploughed. Dr. Hough suggest these farm names are Old Scots rather than the Old English of the Northumbrians. She also suggests that the 'white' of Whitepark could mean it was a medieval dairy farm. If so, it would have produced cheese and butter for Threave Castle.

On the right, just before a small wood, go through a wooden swing gate.
The next section of path runs along a road built around 1810. Called Lover's Walk, it follows the shore of Carlingwark Loch before cutting across marshlands towards Gelston. By 1830, this last section had begun to sink into the marshes and was abandoned, to be replaced by the present road.

The Carlingwark Loch section gives excellent views across the loch and is ideal for bird-watching as well as being popular with anglers. Just before the path begins to turn inland away from the loch, the two tiny islands which mark the crannog site can be see. Countryside Ranger Keith Kirk has traced the outline of the crannog - it was kidney shaped. Unfortately, although the Carlingwark Cauldron was found nearby, timber from the crannog has never been carbon dated. The crannog was linked by a causeway to the much larger and heavily wooded Fir Island, which itself was also reached by a prehistoric causeway. Fir Island is now a wildlife refuge as is the whole fenced -off area here.

Beyond Carlingwark Loch, the path follows the edge of the higher ground with fields on the left and a mixture of rough ground, wood and marshland on the right before joining another footpath.

2.3 Cuckoo Bridge to Midkelton Path
Where Lover's Walk crosses a deep ditch on a new bridge, turn right to continue the Carlingwark Loch circular walk. [For a shorter walk, turn left and follow the path up to Cuckoo Bridge and then left again along the 'new' road which leads back to Whitepark Road]

The deep ditch here marks the course of the boundary between Kelton and Buittle (Old English botl ) parishes. Above Cuckoo Bridge, the boundary takes a meandering course, following streams along the edge of Torrs Moss towards the medieval Ernespie (Gaelic- earann espoic) motte on the Dalbeattie Road near Leathes farm and then past two standing stones. According to very old maps, Carlingwark Loch once seeped out along the course of this stream and then through Torrs Moss and down to the river Urr near the Motte of Urr.

In the very dry summer of 1826, a workman was digging in Torrs Moss when he found a beautiful bronze pony cap, along with part of two drinking horns. Local antiquarian Joseph Train presented these to Sir Walter Scott. It was probably Train who had the ends of the drinking horn attached to the pony cap. The Torrs Pony Cap is now in the Chambers Street Museum in Edinburgh. [Along with the Galloway Viking Hoard….2017 update]

The Torrs Pony Cap is dated to around 250 BC and was probably made in the south east of England. It suggests the warlike and heroic society of Celtic myth and legend. A time when the warriors of y Tref [Threave] would have gone out on cattle raids against their neighbours, celebrating the fruits of victory or drowning the sorrow of defeat by drinking ale and mead.

The path now continues over a marshy area on a wooden board walk which bridges the Gelston Burn. ( Gelston is an Old English place name.)

Despite all the efforts made to drain it, this area remains as a reminder of the prehistoric wetlands which once surrounded Carlingwark Loch. In winter the browns and yellows of reeds, rushes and trees contrast with the green grass of higher ground. Before roads and bridges were built, the marshland which stretched from the Dee down to here would have been very difficult to cross. Beyond the board- walk section, where the path begins to rise up towards Midkelton, the field on the left once a small loch. On the right can be seen the wall of Kelton kirkyard built on higher ground overlooking Carlingwark Loch and the marshes.

2..4 Midkelton to Castle Douglas
Where the off-road section of the path end, turn right toward Midkelton. Although this is a quiet road, remember to walk on the right and keep alert for traffic.

Midkelton was called Keltoungrang (Kelton Grange) in 1456. In the Middle Ages, grange lands were the best lands on an estate, geared up to producing a surplus of grain for sale and to directly supply food for the landowner's table. In this case, the lords of Galloway. Perhaps because it was a more important farm, or because a church was built here, Midkelton 'ferm-toun' developed into a small hamlet. No trace remains of the first Kelton church. The earliest records (circa 1200) state that the church here was dedicated to St. Oswald the Martyr. St Oswald was a king of Northumbria who died in 648 AD fighting an alliance between the pagan Saxons of Mercia and the Welsh. He was declared a saint about 30 years later. By this time Galloway had become part of the Northumbrian kingdom of Bernicia.

Local historian Daphne Brooke suggested that a Celtic/ Iron Age tribal territory centred on Threave became a Northumbrian 'shire' stretching up to the Shirmers ( Old English scir-(ge)-maer - shire boundary) Burn beyond Parton on Loch Ken, east to the Urr at Buittle (Old English botel ) and west to Skyreburn ( Old English scir- burna -shire stream or bright stream) beyond Gatehouse of Fleet.

The Northumbrian church may have been built overlooking Carlingwark Loch to 'Christianise' a still powerful pagan site. In which case, the kirkyard at Midkelton would be 1300 years old. It can be reached by turning right onto a track leading past a row of cottages. There are many fascinating gravestones here, most made of sandstone and each with a story to tell. On the remains of a wall near the centre is a Latin memorial to William Falconer, minister of Kelton at the time of the Galloway Levellers [ see next part of this walk]. There are also memorials to the Gordons of Threave and to Thomas Wallet, founder of Wallet's Mart in Castle Douglas.

Returning to the road, turn right and follow it up the hill past today's Kelton Kirk. At the entrance a notice board gives details of its history. A little further on to the left is the Douglas Mausoleum. This architecturally unique, Egyptian style structure, commemorates Sir William Douglas, the founder of Castle Douglas.

Beyond this, the road begin to drop down towards the entrance to the National Trust for Scotland's Threave House and Gardens. [See Walk 4]. Once past this entrance, turn right at Furbar cottage. This section is part of the Old Military Road, built in 1763/4.

According to local tradition, it was at Furbarliggat that a confrontation between the Galloway Levellers and the Laird of Threave occurred in 1724. The Levellers revolt against the enclosure of open farm land began at Kelton Hill Fair in June 1723. For a year they roamed the countryside, levelling every dyke they found. Then in 1724 they returned to Kelton Hill. Only one dyke was left to be levelled, the one around the parkland of Threave (more likely Kelton) Estate.

At Furbar, the Levellers were met by the landowner, Captain Johnstone, and the minister, the Reverend William Falconer. The minister explained that this dyke was only built to mark the edge of the road and that no tenants had been or would be evicted. The laird had a barrel of beer which he offered to the Levellers in exchange for leaving his dyke standing. The offer was accepted, the beer drunk and the dyke still stands to this day... The Levellers are supposed to have carved the date on stones in the dyke near here. There are three stones with dates on them, but none with 1724. [ For more on the Galloway Levellers see "The Lowland Clearances": Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell: Tuckwell Press : 2003: Chapter Three ]

Beyond Furbar cottage, just before the pavement on the road leading back into Castle Douglas is reached, traces of an old ditch can be seen in the field to the left. Somewhere in this area the remains of a prehistoric dam were found 200 years ago. This either prevented floodwater from the Dee entering the loch, or kept the level of the loch artificially high. On the right, at the edge of Carlingwark Loch, is the 'Gallows Slot'. This is where bodies of hanged criminals were allegedly thrown. A pit containing bodies may have been found here around 1800.

Entering Castle Douglas, a row of cottages called The Buchan can be seen on the left. They are aligned on the course of the Old Military Road which followed the high ground over Carlingwark Hill. In one of the cottages, now a bed and breakfast, a huge fireplace can still be seen. According to local tradition, this was where a blacksmith called Brawny Kim lived. When James II was besieging Threave Castle in 1455, Kim built him a huge gun - Mons Meg. Mons Meg can still be seen at Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, James II records show that Mons Meg was actually built at Mons in Flanders, not the Buchan. Past the Buchan is a bridge over a stream flowing out of the loch. This stream flows through a deep cutting in Carlingwark Hill towards the Carlingwark Canal. The cutting through Carlingwark Hill was made to drain the loch as part of the marl works mentioned earlier. When it was first made, the level of the loch dropped by around eight feet.

Continuing back into Castle Douglas, in the field on the left past the entrance to Carlingwark House once stood the Three Thorns of Carlingwark. Eighteenth century antiquarians claimed the thorns were the scene of 'Druidical rites' including human sacrifice. However since the last of the thorn trees could still be seen in the early 19th century, and since Druids worshipped in groves of oak trees 2000 years ago, this seems unlikely. The Three Thorns were, however, a well know meeting place in the 17th century. There was an inn nearby. This existed in 1685. Just over 100 years later, Robert Burns stayed at a Carlingwark Inn. The inn at Carlingwark was an overnight stopping place for travellers to and from Ireland.


Post a Comment

<< Home