Local History & Archaeology Group
Facilitator – Lorraine Thomson, tel: 01671 820639

Last updated 13th September 2019

The group has been running for ten years now and has grown considerably in that time. So, bearing that in mind, it has been suggested that some of our earlier places/topics could be revisited. We'll think about that when planning our next programme.
It's unlikely that we'll ever run out of places to visit or talk about as we live in an area that is full of places of interest from the historical and archaeological point of view. If you have any suggestions, please let Lorraine know at one of the meetings. We usually meet on the third Thursday of the month.

NB please note that Lorraine Thomson is our new facilitator, taking over from Anne. Lorraine, Elaine Routledge & Lynn Wheatley are now sharing the organisation of the group.

Next meetings:

The next meeting will be on the 17th October. This is our first indoor meeting of the season, starting with a film on Travellers with an introduction by Ann Hamilton.

Please let Lorraine know if you're planning to attend.

Previous meetings
August – Churchyards in the Glenkens area and the Covenanters
group in the churchyard At Parton Graveyard group in the churchyard
group in the churchyard Balmaclellan Crimean War memorial (left)

Faed Artist at Kells (right)
group in the churchyard
group in the churchyard Adam & Eve 1700 at Kells (left)

Clerk Maxwell monument (right)
group in the churchyard
group in the churchyard Winged soul at Parton
July – Monreith House and gardens – Afternoon tea with a Baronet.
To acknowledge the commitment of a handful of group members and the three years of work involved in cataloguing the thousands of books and maps found in Monreith House, Sir Michael Maxwell invited our group to visit Monreith House and to join him in an afternoon tea party.
Thirty of our members gathered at Monreith House, an A-listed Georgian mansion designed by Alexander Stevens and built in 1791 for Sir William Maxwell, 4th Baronet. With the uncertainty of the weather in mind we decided to firstly explore outside. From the front of the house there is a striking view down to the White Loch and in the grounds around there are remnants of the designed wooded parkland. To the rear of the house is the terrace created by Sir Herbert Maxwell as a formal garden planted with many exotic species - now grassed over.
interior But a sudden sharp shower sent us scurrying back to the house itself and the group spent a pleasant hour meandering around the ground floor public rooms which, having escaped modernisation in the 20th century, give us a glimpse of the family home of a local laird in 18th/19th century Galloway and are full of interest. As you enter the hallway there is a large floral tapestry, the work of Magdalene, wife of the 3rd baronet, depicting the flowers that grew in the walled garden at Myrton Castle, faded now but the flowers still able to be identified. Then the intriguing painted Latin mottos above the doors leading from the hall. The team of cataloguers were delighted to see the library was as they had left it. I think we all would have loved to spend time browsing through the books, maybe sitting reading in the smaller writing room while admiring Sir Herbert Maxwell’s flower paintings. Sir Michael thinks he has 300 of them. During the afternoon Tom McCreath and Anne and Les Dunford kept the group interested telling of their work in Monreith House.
Then it was time for the group to sit down and enjoy a delicious afternoon tea and it was wonderful that Sir Michael could join us and have his tea along with the group. Sadly, due to his health Sir Michael was not able to converse with group members but from his interaction with his carer Tanya, he was listening and engaging, able to respond to her question and give direction. Sir Michael is the 9th Baronet who inherited the estate in 1987 and it is thanks to him that Monreith House is in its present restored, if still slightly dilapidated, condition. The 8th Baronet, Aymer Maxwell had preferred to live in London and abroad, sell almost all the estate land to finance his lifestyle and let the house deteriorate into a seriously neglected state. Sir Michael saw his inheritance as a challenge and through his sense of duty, his perseverance and hard work he has prevented further decline and preserved Monreith House.
library I’m sure that everyone had a delightful afternoon. Our collection was more than 140 which, at the request of Mr Daniel Rippon, has been donated to Alzheimer Research, UK. Mr Rippon is the caretaker, who was responsible for the ‘behind the scenes’ organisation of our trip.
Looking forward to the winter talks program, we have Jane Murray giving the group a talk on the Maxwells of Monreith, especially Sir Herbert Maxwell, the 7th Baronet, accompanied with a more detailed conversation on the work done by the ‘cataloguing group’. I hope.
June – the Wigtown Covenanters and the Friary.
On a rather cool, showery afternoon we met, as appointed, at the 19h century Martyrs' Monument on Windy Hill in Wigtown. Our speaker, Andrew Wilson, began his talk by giving us the political and religious background to the terrible events that took place during the 'killing times' in Galloway as the persecution of Covenanters came to be known. Viewing the inscriptions round the monument, we read the names of the three men who were hanged and more infamously, the two women, Margaret Wlson and Margaret McLachlan who were martyred by drowning.
We then met up near the wooden stakes representing the women's place of death. They would actually have been drowned nearer the shore in the Bladnoch river which ran below the church. As Andrew informed us, we were standing where the harbour once stood and a section of the harbour wall can still be seen. The river channel and the shoreline have altered significantly over the past 300 years.
aerial view
aerial view aerial view aerial view
May – Glenlair, the home of James Clerk Maxwell.
On a lovely, sunny afternoon eight of our group were given a warm welcome by Capt. Duncan Ferguson at Glenlair, the former home of the scientist, James Clerk Maxwell (1831- 1879). Maxwell is best known for, among other things, his theory of electro-magnetism and is considered to have had the greatest influence on C20th physics.

Capt. Ferguson, whose family has owned Glenlair for over fifty years, gave us an interesting introduction to Maxwell’s life and family and a history of Glenlair itself.
aerial view
aerial view The devastating fire in 1929 led to the ruinous state of much of the original. The Ferguson family have since carried out extensive restoration and have set up a charitable trust for the preservation of the buildings. In the visitor centre, housed in the remains of the wing designed by Maxwell, we admired thecolourful, geometric patterned, mosaic floor. The recent discovery of the site of the Maxwell’s laboratory above the couch houses has been exciting.
Glenlair stands in beautiful, rolling countryside above the river Lair, it is not difficult to imagine how this setting gave birth to many of scientific theories.
aerial view aerial view
AprilHome Farm, Garlieston.
March – Exploring Galloway Through Books & Maps.
February – Fred Kluit, Scottish Trade and Life in Veere, a Dutch Stack Port, 1444 – 1799.
Fred, a Dutchman himself, explained how his interest in this period came from viewing the Dutch panels in the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, where many of these panels describe the trade and social connections between Scotland and the town of Veere, near to Fred’s home area. It was also a great surprise to him to find that among the ports listed as trading with Veere were Kirkcudbright, Whithorn and Wigtown.

Fred described how there had been free trade agreements between the Low Countries and some Scottish ports since the 12th century, and how, in 1407, the Duke of Burgundy signed a contract giving all of Scotland the right to export goods to the Netherlands, duty free. Exports would mainly have been wool, grain and hides. Then, following the marriage in 1444 of Mary, daughter of James I of Scotland, to Wolfert VI of Borselen, Lord of Veere, the town of Veere became the ‘staple’ port, i.e. the key trade centre where Scottish goods would be imported and stored before being traded through Europe. As early as 1330 bales of wool were exported through Kirkcudbright; by 1477 there are records of trade through Wigtown, though by 1510 exports from Whithorn surpassed that from Wigtown. When Wigtown harbour was ruined in 1613 almost all trade moved to Stranraer until 1692 when a Wigtown company bought the ship ‘Katherine’ and trips to Veere with wool and grain began again. The duty-free contract was terminated in 1799 following the invasion of the French Revolutionary army.

The importance and commercial success of trade between the two countries led to a large community of Scottish merchants and their entourages taking up residency in Veere. It is estimated that by the mid 16th century as many as 400 of Veere’s 3,500 residents were Scots. Many of the merchants built large beautiful houses to reflect their wealth and two of these houses have been preserved and converted into the present Scot’s House Museum. The Scots were granted the privilege of having their own church, law, doctor and innkeepers, allowing them to live by their own customs. Their involvement in society and government was such that a Conservator of Scottish Privileges in the Low Countries was appointed in 1541.

Most Scots left Veere when the French invaded in 1799.

Fred feels that he has only scratched the surface of links between Wigtownshire and the Netherlands and that much more research is to be done.

His chosen charity is the Wigtown and Bladnoch Initiative to convert the old bank to a bunk house.
January – Lynn Wheatley, the history of the Isle of Whithorn.
Our first meeting in 2019 was led by one of our members, Lynn Wheatley. Lynn told us how a group of people down at the Isle of Whithorn had formed the Isle Heritage group in order to share their enthusiasm for research into the history of the Isle and its people. The group meets once a month and they are amassing an impressive amount of information which is available for folk to browse through in the church at the Isle.

This report will give a brief summary of some of the information the group have recorded.

The group have conducted interviews with people whose families go back a long way and are planning to record more with the help of equipment provided by AlisonBurgess from the Ewart Library archive in Dumfries. They are focussing on the history of farms, school and houses.
aerial view
map On the Thomson map of 1829, (left) the Isle is shown as a very tiny settlement. Records show a steady growth between the years 1829 and 1851 when it was quite a substantial settlement which included joiners, a miller, carpenter, nine grocers, five pubs, a blacksmith, three cobblers and by 1852 there were also two teachers.
As we could see from an early OS map (right) the settlement had spread considerably along Tonderghie Road and the road to Whithorn. Evidently the street names have changed from time to time, some causing a considerable amount of detective work to deduce the origins and some remain a mystery.

Research has meant consulting many sources including census records, gravestones and Privy Council records – the latter showing that there was a considerable amount of piracy going on down at the Isle (despite there being a high percentage of coastguards and excise men recorded as living there).
The majority of the houses were built from 1800 onwards apart from the castle which dates back to 1673 and the mill which was built at a similar time. The church was built in 1844 (the same year as the causeway)and by 1851 there were five properties by the harbour. The 1851 census recorded a number of paupers, all of whom were ex sailors.

Later records consulted showed that in WWI eighteen men from the Isle lost their lives, most of these losses being at sea when serving in the merchant navy.

Lynn had brought along files, notebooks and folders indicating the many hours that have already been spent by the group. Perhaps her talk will have inspired other members to consider doing some research into their own neighbourhood. There is obviously a lot of interest and satisfaction to be gained by sharing this task with others.

November – Jane Murray, Early Pilgrimage to Whithorn.
The talk was illustrated with numerous photographs, starting appropriately with the Whithorn Angel sculpture designed by Jack Sloan. Appropriate because an angel was a meaningful symbol for all pilgrims as it marked a place that would offer welcoming shelter.

It is thought that Ninian brought Christianity to Galloway in the C5th and the earliest records of Christian pilgrims date back to the fourth and fifth centuries.

Ninian, or rather St Ninian, was known as a healing saint and early pilgrims came to Whithorn to be healed. Among those were a number of royals including David II who came after being shot by an arrow, Queen Margaret who prayed for a safe delivery of her child (who later became James IV) and Robert the Bruce came for healing a number of times.

It was the Northumbrians (after the Northumbrian conquest of Galloway) who established the notion of Ninian’s sainthood and that led to the start of the pilgrimages.
The Pend The importance and prosperity of Whithorn in those days owes much to the wealth brought to the town because it attracted pilgrims from all walks of life. The coat of arms above the pend (left) in Whithorn includes that of James IV. His visits are among the best documented. At this time his numerous pilgrimages – two every year to both Tainin the north-east and Whithorn – were more to keep an eye on his kingdom than anything else. He seemingly chose a different route each time he came – sometimes by sea, sometimes over land.

Pilgrimages were also made in the hope of forgiveness for sins committed. James IV had been present at the murder of his father and he is known to have worn a metal chain next to his skin as penance.

Early development of Whithorn as a religious centre of some importance, (before St Columba on Iona in A.D.565) was documented by Bede who would have received information from the bishops at the time.

Jane described some of the results of excavations done in the nineteenth century and much more recently in the 1990s. One significant find in the nineteenth century was the Latinus stone dating back to the mid C5th – just after the Romans had left. The carving on this stone slab included the words (translated from Latin) ‘We praise thee Lord’ strong evidence of Christianity. It also had the inscribed names of Latinus aged 35 and his four year old daughter. (right)
The Latinus Stone
The Peter Stone In the 1990s, the excavations revealed a terrace in the Glebe field with a timber church above and evidence of a burial chapel at the east end.

One of the early Christian crosses was found on the road from the Isle of Whithorn. This is known as the Peter stone and probably marked the boundary of the abbey lands. This clearly shows the Chi-Rho. (right)
October – Mike Morley, Wigtown Warriors
Our first indoor meeting for the autumn/winter season was held on 18th October. Mike Morley’s talk was entitled Wigtown Warriors although, as he pointed out, none of the people in the photographs looked at all like ‘warriors’.
Margaret Wright had compiled a lengthy document about those from Gatehouse and District who has served in World War l. Mike found this very useful when embarking on his research which has documented the involvement of 250 people with Wigtown associations.
He began his talk by listing a number of useful sources when considering research of this type. Apart from the lists of names on the war memorial, these include records such as the census, rolls of honour, gravestones, military records, medal records and also records from Australia and Canada. Local newspaper archives are valuable (and indexed!). There are also the online resources of Ancestry and Scotland’s People.
speaker We heard first about James Whiteside of what was then known as Harbour Street, who had lived in the house where Mike now lives – giving him a very personal link to his research. James was employed by the Co-op and was the last cobbler to be left in Wigtown. Despite this he was conscripted and had to go to war.
Mike had also found information about the Todd family who lived at Dunure, (Barbados Villa), on Station Road Wigtown. The eldest son William studied medicine and joined the army medical corps. He rose to the rank of acting major In 1916 he was wounded in France, later returning to work in Leeds City Sanatorium where he contracted TB from a patient and died aged only 46.
Another of the Todd sons, Hugh, studied law. He enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders and served in France in 1915. He survived the war, became Procurator Fiscal and is remembered for the part he played in bringing piped water to Wigtown in the 1930s.
Norman Todd was also a law student. At the start of the war he was working in India. He served as a private and emigrated to Australia after the war and the family subsequently lost touch.
Arthur Todd studied engineering and served both in Egypt and France. He was awarded a medal in 1916 for throwing away a grenade which had dropped between five of his men. He suffered from shell shock after the war and ended up in a hospital in Brisbane where he met his future wife. The family are still there.
George Todd didn’t survive the war. He had enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders and was killed by an exploding shell.
Mike then went on to discuss the Davis family. John Davis, whose father was Irish, was originally from Burton-on-Trent but his mother was from Wigtown. When his father died, his mother returned to Wigtown. John became a gardener but he joined the Royal Army Service Corps.
Mary Davis, his wife, had a job in Wigtown as a sorting clerk but in 1913 passed exams to qualify as a telegraphist. She enlisted in the Queen’s Army Auxiliary Corps and went to work in France. She was awarded the Silver War Badge issued in the United Kingdom and the British Empire to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service in World War I.She was discharged after being declared physically unfit and died of TB.
The Walker family resided in Croft anRigh, across the road from James Whiteside. Alexander Walker had four children with his first wife Ellen McClelland. After she died he married her sister. One of the children, Mary Broadfoot Walker, became a doctor and made the remarkable discovery of a drug that proved to be very effective in treating myasthenia gravis. Her grave can be found in the high cemetery in Wigtown.
The Walker’s youngest son William enlisted with the Royal Scots became a captain in the RAF and was awarded the Flying Cross. He was recorded as missing in action and never found.
Ernest McClelland, a cousin of the Walkers, another Cameron Highlander died in November 1916 after being wounded on the Western Front. His death, and a story linked to that is recorded in Jack Hunter’s book Galloway Byways.
Our collection for Mike’s chosen charity was for HALO – Hazardous Area Life Support Organisation.
August – Garlieston with Tom McCreath
Our outing to Garlieston in August was led by Tom McCreath. We were again blessed with another sunny day as around thirty of us strolled round the village looking at the buildings and hearing about the days when Garlieston had a station, saw mill, and a thriving ship building business.
Now, many of the houses are holiday cottages and busy caravan sites now occupy the site of the station and saw mill.
We congregated in the village hall which now houses an impressive exhibition giving the story of the Mulberry harbour. This was only set up a week beforehand, so we were among the first to see it. In the supper room of the village hall, Tom had set out a wide ranging collection of maps and books pertaining to the history of Garlieston so we had a brief look at these then Tom gave us a short introductory talk before leading us on his guided walk.
Stopping at various points along the way, noting the changes in occupation and style of the houses – a rather impressive house with pillars either side of the door was home of a butcher with his shop through a door to the right. We walked along past the bowling green to the far end of North Crescent, where one of the older buildings used to house the barracks. barracks
mill wheel Looking across the road to the site of the old corn mill, the mill wheel is still very much in evidence. Tom talked about the oats that would be taken there – the principal crop grown here for both animal and human consumption.
As we looked across the bay to Eggerness, Tom pointed out the area where there is evidence of prehistoric occupation with the well preserved examples of rock art. Some of us were privileged to have a close look at these when the group visited Robert Vance’s farm in 2011.
He also pointed out the site of the old ropewalk where two new dwellings have been built.
From there we walked up Culderry Lane to Culderry Row, where a number of the single storey, one time weavers’ cottages have been extended upwards, similar to those in Sorbie. The Cowgate has been considerably widened, giving rear access to some of the properties along the front. Cowgate
The old Congregational chapel has been a private house since around the 1970s. Garlieston no longer has a police house as this rather impressive sandstone building is now also a private residence.
old photograph of the harbour Walking back down past the caravan sites to the harbour, we looked at an old photograph which one of the group had brought along. This showed how busy the harbour was in fairly recent times with many working boats coming and going. What a difference fifty years makes!
We ended the afternoon back at the village hall for a very welcome cup of tea and the chance to spend more time looking at Tom’s collection of maps and books. Perfect timing – the rain started just as we left! tea time
July – Isle of Whithorn with Lynn Wheatley
It’s a good number of years since we had a talk down at the Isle from John Scoular and Jack Niblock and many of our members have joined the group since then.
So, it was with this in mind, that the July outing was led by one of our members Lynn Wheatley who lives down at the Isle and has been researching its history.
We began by meeting at the white signal tower or ‘the cairn’ as it is known locally. A good place to start as this was the site of an Iron Age fortified settlement - a typical promontory site chosen for its good defensive position. There are a number of similar sites along the coast near here. Some have been excavated but not this one. However,a team of university archaeologists did come to do a geophysics survey which some of us were privileged to witness at the time.
From the cairn, we could see where, in the days before the causeway was built, the Isle really was an isle. Lynn had an excellent aerial photograph which illustrated this well.
From the cairn we walked down across the rig and furrow looking very parched after the summer’s heatwave conditions.
the group at the Isle of Whithorn
parish church
parish church
After noting the seat commemorating the tragedy of the Solway Harvester in 2000 and stopping briefly at the relatively recent witness cairn on the site of the old lifeboat station, our next stop was St Ninian’s chapel. This site being a perfect place for pilgrims to rest before walking to Whithorn which was an established religious community from the fifth century. There is a school of thought that favours the Isle as Ninian’s base rather than Whithorn; bearing in mind that so many religious communities such as Iona and Lindisfarne were chosen for their island site.
From the chapel we walked round to the harbour where Lynn told of the days when it wasn’t just for pleasure boats and fishing boats, but was very busy with steam packets travelling regularly to and from Liverpool and in even earlier times was the place chosen by hopeful Spaniards thinking they might use it as a gateway to invade England.
The church at the Isle was built on reclaimed land. This was in the days when landowners could choose who the minister would be for a church built on their land, (this was often one of their sons). The local inhabitants would have none of that. The church was built on land not owned by the laird, so the locals were able to choose the cleric for themselves.
We then progressed to see round the back of the houses opposite the church where the old school used to be. This is now converted to a house. We were also able to see how at high tide in stormy weather, those houses are very vulnerable as they have sea both to the front and the rear and even rising up underneath.
tower house After a break for refreshments at St Ninian’s Hall, we crossed the road to see where the old smithy had been and then paused to look at what is believed to be one of the last tower houses to be built in Scotland in the C17th. Both the castle and especially the old Bysbie mill are set back from the road and not obvious to those arriving at the Isle by car or bus. They are easily overlooked. The ruins of mill are to be found round the back of what used to be the Queen’s Arms on the old road to Whithorn – the road that many pilgrims would have walked.
Bysbie mill
Our historical walk around the Isle ended here. Along the way we had tried to picture what the place was like when there were many shops, more pubs, a thriving mill and a busy working harbour with ship building going on too. There is a group working on the development of a heritage exhibition based in the church and in January we look forward to Lynn sharing some of the group’s research and learning more about the history of this fascinating place.
Jane Murray led our June outing. Jane is our archaeology and early history expert, so we were able to enjoy more meaningful visits to Barhobble, Chapel Finian and Barsalloch Fort.
Jane had taken part in the excavations at Barhobble 1984–94. We started by looking at the ancient stone that had been incorporated into a barn wall at Airylick farm. This is what led to the speculation that there was an ancient religious site to be found nearby.
There was evidence of use from about 700 to 1825. Initially it was possibly used as a monastic site. It seems to have been used in the C11th & C12th as a burial ground for either a Celto-Norse landowner’s family or a religious community. There is considerable evidence for a late twelfth century church on the site.
Barhobble Later in about 1200 to 1300 the church was reduced in size, two bays refurbished as a chapel and the third section was likely to have been living quarters for the priest. Barhobble
From Barhobble we moved on to Chapel Finian. This chapel’s position on the coast is likely to have been a place for pilgrims from Ireland to linger as they paused en route for Whithorn. This chapel was excavated in 1950. It is thought that the chapel was named after St Finian of Moville who studied at Whithorn and in Rome. There will be more about both of these places at one of our autumn meetings when we do our ‘Looking Back’ session as we spend time looking at more photographs taken on our summer visits and think about planning for next year. It will also enable those who couldn’t join the various outings to catch up on where we’ve been. Barhobble
Barhobble Our final place to visit was Barsalloch Fort. This, like Chapel Finian, is a place so often driven past and yet only a few stop to have a closer look. There’s quite a steep flight of steps to get to this site, but it was well worth the effort. This is the oldest site we visited, thought to be a fortified farming settlement dating back to the Iron Age. There were possibly four round-houses built on this strategic position. It has yet to be excavated, so we can only speculate. An ideal site, with superb visibility all round, there is a D-shaped enclosure consisting of two tall ramparts with a ditch 10 metres wide and 3 metres deep, between them.
From the top it’s possible to see another site of similar age, on the Fell of Barhullion (which we visited some years ago). As someone remarked afterwards ‘all that, right under our noses’ and how often do we stop to find out more? Many thanks to Jane for encouraging us to visit these places. Barhobble
May This was to be one of Elbeth Kerr’s annual ‘historic graveyard visits’ to St Michael's churchs but unfortunately had to be postponed due to illness. Elbeth hopes to arrange another date.
April – Visit to New Abbey:New Abbey Corn Mill
The weather couldn’t have been better for us as we started our visit to New Abbey with a short walk from the car park down to the Corn Mill. At the start of the visit, we were taken across the road to the mill pond where our guide opened the sluice to start the water flowing down to the mill. Water is then drawn onto the launder and wheel next to the mill.
We stopped briefly by the launder which was restored in the 1970s. The water wheel too is largely restored. It is unusual in that it has nine rather than the usual eight or ten ‘arms’ and it is of the pitchback type where the wheel turns towards the flow of water – this is thought to be more efficient. New Abbey Corn Mill
The ground floor of the mill houses the machinery which converts the energy from the waterwheel into power to drive the machinery – three pairs of millstones on the floor above, a hoist for taking the sacks up through the floors, the grading sieve, boulting machine (for separating the husks) and oat bruiser.
The mill kiln was fuelled by coal and waste husks. A fan was used to blow these through from the boulting machine.
The loft was mainly used for storing sacks of grain but it also contains the hoppers and chutes for feeding the grain into the millstones on the floor below.
We split up into two groups due to the limited space inside the mill, giving us the opportunity to watch a video made in the 1980s which gave a brief history of the mill and the work of the millers.

After lunch, we had a brief look around Sweetheart Abbey. Sweetheart Abbey Scaffolding is up around the abbey while much needed conservation work is carried out, so access will be limited for some time yet.This C13th Cistercian Abbey was established by Lady Devorgilla of Galloway after the death of her husband Lord John Balliol. Sweetheart is a daughter house of Dundrennan Abbey which we visited as a group two years ago. In spite of the scaffolding we were still able to admire much of the fine stone tracery.
The weather changed as we headed for John Paul Jones Cottage Museum. There was a mist coming in from the sea as we headed down the lanes. John Paul Jones Cottage Museum
This museum in Arbigland is tucked away from the main roads and can easily be overlooked. The cottage is furnished in the style of the 1700s when John Paul Jones was born, but one video is shown in a room which is designed to replicate the cabin of his ship Bonhomme Richard in which he defeated HMS Serapisoff Flamborough head in 1779. Another video and various interpretation boards gave us more information about this interesting character who is probably more well known in America than in his homeland.

March: For our last talk of the season, we welcomed back one of our members, Don Cowell, to talk about his latest research into Convict Transportation from D&G to Australia 1787-1868.
The Tower prison in Kirkcudbright is still standing although the addition of the court house to the front makes it less obvious.Tower prison, Kirkcudbright
Don began by outlining the various means of punishment in the late C18th. Execution was not very common; imprisonment only came in during the C19th. Corporal punishment, public humiliation and barring offenders from holding public office were other methods used in addition to transportation.
Transportation was to America initially. It was after the American Civil War that Australia became the chosen destination with New South Wales being the first from 1788-1850. After then, prisoners were shipped to various places where they were assigned work mainly as labourers or servants. Although some died on the long voyage, there were surgeons and nurses on board the ships and the prisoners were generally fit for work on arrival.
We heard that converted merchant ships were used to ship the prisoners and some nine hundred voyages were made in eighty years. There were women’s ships and men’s ships; fewer sailings (under ten per year) were made from 1787 – 1817 due to the Napoleonic wars. Subsequently as many as twenty or even thirty voyages were made in a year.
English courts were harder, but Scottish courts only tended to transport those who had been convicted of multiple crimes. Many Scots transported in 1820's and 1830's ended up in Tasmania. They were largely transported for theft of various kinds; 65% being crimes against property. Forgery was also a common crime in D&G, also assault and arson.
After the convicts had worked their allocated sentence which may be seven, ten or twenty one years depending on the crime committed, they were free to leave. Some chose to stay on in Australia while others returned to Scotland.
Don giving his lectureDon recounted tales of a number of individuals transported from this area includingnThomas Watling, a forger. He was charged with forging guinea notes in 1788 and sentenced to fourteen years. Letters to his maiden aunt who had brought him up revealed much of his story. He managed to escape from the ship at Cape Town, was caught by the Dutch and transported to Australia where his artistic talents were recognised. Evidence of this talent can be seen in his landscape and natural history paintings now archived at the British Museum. Sadly however, on his return to Scotland he returned to forgery.
Elizabeth McConchie was arrested for theft aged fifteen in Kirkcudbright. She was given a seven year sentence and sailed to Tasmania on the women’s ship, Frances Charlotte. She was from a respectable family but died aged twenty one after committing further offences and being imprisoned again.
Don told the stories of two of his Manx relatives – siblings, Jayne Quayle nee Cowell, a dairymaid and Mary Cowell, needle-worker. Jayne and her husband were charged in 1822 with stealing seven yards of lace and some ribbon. They were sentenced to seven years and their son William was born while she was in prison only to live a short time on the ship and died in 1824. Jayne married another ex-convict, John Ford, in 1825 and went on to have eleven children with him before dying in 1855.
Mary Cowell was assigned to work for a lady in Sydney and after a short marriage to a forger, was married again to James Oatley, clock and watchmaker from Staffordshire. His skill as a clock maker led to his release and he ultimately became very wealthy and respected to the point of having an area of Sydney named after him. Mary would have inherited considerable property and land from him but in 1841 she left Oatley to marry a German free settler William Hull.
Transportation meant that many people were given the chance to turn their lives round. Some made a great success of the opportunity, others sadly reverted to crime but whatever the outcome,their stories are fascinating. We look forward to hearing more of Don’s research into a range of topics.

Our February talk was given by Donna Brewster, who has spent many years researching the story of the Covenanters in Wigtownshire.
Donna started her talk by asking how far back we could go with our memories and pointed out that people's vivid memories of remarkable events can go back more than a century with tales handed down from parents, grandparents etc. And we know ourselves how vivid something that happened fifty or sixty years ago can be recalled as though it was yesterday.
Although some may question testimonies given by people twenty five years after an event, so long as they were not just hearsay, they can be judged reliable. So, stories told by Covenanting families, powerful as they were, became local history.
Donna referred to the much of the original source material used by her, for example, Parish lists - the 1684 Parish list gave details of people living in and around Wigtown at the time.
In October 1684 the Privy Council was trying to find rebels; they sat for three days and got every minister in the parish to give an account of everyone over the age of thirteen. Transcriptions of records such as this can be found in the reference library in Stranraer - it's possible to see the names of men, wives, children and servants for each household.
Kirk Session records, such as those of Kirkinner, are full of stories. We also had our attention drawn to various books including The History of Galloway by William McKenzie published in 1841 and the works of another C19th author, Gordon Fraser.
John Ruskin had family in Whithorn - the Tweddles, who lived in what is now the Old Bank Bookshop. There are references to Covenanters in his diaries.
Donna related how Archbishop James Sharp was behind much of the persecution of the Covenanter rebels. He had been a Presbyterian but betrayed his fellow Covenanters. Sharp survived an attempt on his life in 1668 but was eventually killed by a group of Covenanters in 1679. Earlier that year, Sharp had introduced a piece of legislation which heralded what was called the Killing Time. That permitted, without so much as a trial, the 'on the spot' killing of anybody who had anything to do with a Conventicle.
Another source of information Donna had found to be useful when doing research was the Hearth tax rolls. These list the people who were liable for tax on hearths (including kilns) in Scotland in the 1690s. They provide clues about the size of each building, place, estate or parish in the late 17th century.
Donna's research led to the publication in 1989 of Second Daughter, telling the tale of Marie Dunbar, second daughter of David Dunbar of Baldoon., but her interest and research into this intriguing period of Wigtown's history has continued ever since.
There was time after her talk to examine some of the books and papers referred to as useful source material.
We were left with the feeling that we could continue discussing this subject again and again …

January 2018 – We couldn't have had a better way to start the year. Since retiring, Tom McCreath has spent decades studying the history of the Machars. His talk on the Estates of the Machars highlighted just how many magnificent old houses have fallen into ruin over the years. Born in Broughton parish, having farmed and still living close to Galloway House, Tom is a well known authority on the history of the area.
While some title deeds are straightforward and the history of the properties are easy to follow, some are far more complex. Tom recommended PH McKerlie's Lands and Their Owners in Galloway for those interested in following up the subject. Tom's own book Lands and Ownership in The Machars has a wealth of information in it too - well worth consulting.
In addition to the more well known houses such as Galloway House, Tom was able to show photographs and give information about the ownership and some family history of many of the houses 'off the beaten track' such as Merton Hall, Dowies (below), Tonderghie, Castlewigg, Barnbarroch and Physgill.Dowies This area has an unexpectedly high number of estates, unlike other parts of Scotland and there is a wealth of stories connected to them. Many of the families suffered losses in the two World Wars. After WW1 many demoralised landowners, having lost sons and heirs, were selling off farms to their tenants. Whereas prior to that land had been almost entirely owned by the estates and managed by tenants there was a complete reversal so around 90% was in the hands of the owner occupiers and only the remaining 10% was run by the estates.
CastlewiggA number of the large estate houses suffered from fires and were never fully restored. Castlewigg (right) being one example.
The stories surrounding all of the estates were many and varied. How fortunes were lost through profligate sons and families falling out. All this is reinforcing how fortunate we are to live in an area that has a wealth of fascinating history to delve into. Not only that, we are very fortunate that we have people like Tom who can help us to learn more.

Some images from our 2017 talks and outings:

Pibble Lead Mine November: reviewing photos of the August visit to Pibble Lead Mine
Right - the engine house
the engine house
MacLellan's Castle September: MacLellan's Castle MacLellan's Castle
Broughton House September: Broughton House
Right - the studio of Edward Atkinson Hornel
<Edward Atkinson Hornel's studio
Pibble Mine August: Pibble Mine near Creetown. Pibble Mine
Gatehouse of Fleet July: Gatehouse of Fleet
Right - Alexander Birtwhistle's house
Below - The Episcopal Church and the group with their guide, David Steel
Alexander Birtwhistle's house
Episcopal Church group with their guide, David Steel Episcopal Church
Threave House June: Threave House Threave House
thistle hinges Left - thistle hinges
Right - painting by one of the local Faed brothers hanging in the billiard room
Below - Black Loch excavation
painting by one of the Faed brothers
Black Loch Black Loch Black Loch
Dailly May – outing to Dailly Dailly
Dalquharran Castle Left - Dalquharran Castle
Right - Bargany Gardens
Bargany Gardens
Iron Age Roundhouse April: Visit to the Iron Age Roundhouse in Whithorn Iron Age Roundhouse