Local History & Archaeology Group
23rd February 2017
The programme for 2017 is gradually being established although some dates have yet to be confirmed The group came up with plenty of ideas at the November meeting and more have been suggested since then.
I can't imagine 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.
The group has been running for over eight 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.
We usually meet on the third Thursday of the month.
16th March Nic Coombey - Names lost and found on the Galloway coast
20th April The first of our outdoor meetings - Kirkcudbright - Maclellan's Castle and then on to Threave House
18th May Our annual graveyards visit - outing to Dailly led by Elbeth Kerr including Dailly churchyard, Brunston Castle, Dalquarran Castle and Bargany Gardens
15th June We hope to visit the Iron Age house reconstruction in Whithorn
20th July Gatehouse - led by David Steel. A walk illustrating the planned development of the town.
17th August - Pibble Mine - a guided walk with John Pickin
Nic Coombey's talk in March on Names Lost and Found on the Galloway Coast was an excellent way to end our season of talks. Nic is currently working for the Solway Firth Partnership and this was just one aspect of his work.
This talk focussed on place names; the origins and the stories behind the local versions of the names.Names of rocks and caves as well as places of habitation were referred to. Many reflected the connection with local fishermen or stories passed down through the years through oral tradition.
Those passed on through oral tradition often didn't get recorded on maps, but for those on maps, the work of C19th surveyors had proved to be a valuable source of information.
We started by looking at the coastline near Portpatrick where names related to the natural history - Barnaugh - a rock named but not recorded on maps Barnaugh being Gaelic for limpet. Further along the coast we have Parton Isles - crab rocks.
Maidenhead Bay we discovered was so named because cowrie shells are apparently also known as maidenheads.
Wee Cave, which is a big one seems an anomaly until the link is made between the Gaelic word for yellow and yellow lichen found on the rocks. More obvious origins are those related to people - Laird's Loup for instance and we see the influence of Walter Scott's novels in Dirk Hatteraick's Cave - named after the Dutch smuggler in Scott's novel Guy Mannering.
Dropping Cave was so named because of the waterfall over the mouth of the cave - the water supposedly known for kill or cure.
Places were often named after the farm inland from the coast or after the landowner. Portpatrick was originally known as Port Montgomery after the landowner who was responsible for having the John Rennie lighthouses built here and in Donaghadee, Ireland.
Moving nearer to home, The names along the Machars coast near Monreith were interesting - Chincough Well more commonly referred to as St Medena's Well, referred to the restorative powers of the water for the common childhood complaint of chincough or whooping cough.
In Monreith Bay we have Butcher's Cave so named because of the 'blood-stained' rocks inside.Benbuie or yellow hill refers to the yellow lichens.
Garrerie's Cave is where the laird hid in times of persecution. Callie's Port, surveyor's records showed reference to a smuggler, but callie means landing place.
Again, on the first edition map, the cave known as Sheep Cave is known locally as Johnny Logie's Cave. Johnny Logie lived there from the 1920s for around forty years.
A well known cave of course is St Ninian's Cave, but lesser known is the rock on the other side of the bay named Deer Rock - so named because it had deer painted on it for target practice. Bloody Neuk is so named because, like Butcher's Cave , it appears to have blood-stained rocks.
Ducker Craig is so named after the dookers or cormorants who also lend their local names of elders or scarts to places.
Further along the coast, Tonderghie Mine is also known as Mary's Mine but who was Mary? The Rock of Providence refers to the shipwreck of the 1750s. Taylor's Gat or Taylor's Gulley and Slockanglass are names of places referred to by anglers as is Blockenhole - blocken being a small cod.
Where the coast is merely a wide expanse of sand such as at Mersehead, there are fewer features and hence fewer names to record, unlike the very rocky areas. There are however maps recording the positions of stake nets and these are all named resulting in a number of interesting names such as Battlehill, Crabtree, Nicholas,Swinehope, Snobneuk - some obviously named after people, but others ...?
Nic recommended a couple of online resources:
National Library of Scotland - www.nls.uk
Scotland's Places - www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/ a website referring to the 1st edition maps and The Dumfries Archival Mapping Project or DAMP which has recorded many of the estate maps.
We look forward to seeing publications planned by the Solway Firth Partnership and possibly taking part in workshops and walks that Nic will be involved in during the next few years.
The Development of the Planned Settlement of Gatehouse was the subject of David Steel's talk in February. By referring to contemporary paintings, old photographs and copies of various documents in addition to photos of Gatehouse now, David's was able to illustrate clearly how Gatehouse has developed over the years.
In the 1760s, the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, James Murray of Cally, decided to create a planned settlement where the houses would bring in rent. He later decided to lease land - the feu for the frontage of each house built being three pence per foot to be paid annually. If this was not paid the property was returned to the owner. There were very strict regulations about how the houses were to be built - all in line with slate roofs.
Finding out who lived in the houses in the early days meant going through the deeds, going to the Scottish record office in Edinburgh. When doing the research, David started with the 1960s and 70s and worked back to the 1760s.
All the names of those who built the houses were recorded in a book kept by the Murray family. There, the signatures and occupations were recorded for example in 1769 the feu for 27 High Street was recorded as being in the name of Charles Selkirk, schoolmaster.
Photos showed how businesses changed hands and use over the years. For example, photos of Palmer & Jardine the tailors were in business in the 1900s in a property later recognised as a fishmonger's. Boots the chemist however was originally an apothecary.
In Catherine Street, the houses are smaller, not quite so imposing as those on High Street and the feu paid for those was only two pence per foot.
A number of useful research documents were found among bankruptcy papers in the Hornell archive at Broughton House. Other useful source materials were old paintings and letters; the latter providing interesting material resulting from an individual researching family history. It was found that one of Gatehouse's emigrants to America was the scientist Joseph Henry whose statue is outside the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Henry did scientific research on electromagnets and discovered the phenomenon of self-induction. He also discovered mutual inductance independently of Michael Faraday. The SI (metric) unit of inductance, the henry, is named in his honour.
Emigration (during the C18th and C19th ) was the subject of a painting by Thomas Faed. This was a time when many people from the south of Scotland were leaving in the hope of finding a better life.
Many of the bigger houses in Gatehouse were built by people returning from Jamaica or the Americas. There was more than one house that 'sugar built'. The Angel Hotel was built with money from America.
After the Ayr bank crash, Murray encouraged people to move to Gatehouse - this time offering a feu for a shilling. New industry was also encouraged. Birtwhistle, a Yorkshireman, had built the cotton mill and Birtwhistle Street contained houses built for his workers. However, after mechanisation was introduced many of the handloom weavers became paupers. Gatehouse developed as a retail centre; the River Fleet was canalised so bigger boats had access to the town.
Much more information on this topic can be found in David Steel's book The Gatehouse Adventure. We look forward to walking round Gatehouse with him in July and learning more about the development of the town.
Our 2017 meetings got off to an excellent start with a talk from John Pickin on The Old Metal Mines of Wigtownshire and the Cree Valley.
We had the biggest turn out ever for this meeting with forty people eager to learn more about the industrial past. Local lead and copper mines we mostly knew about , but it was a complete surprise to most that attempts had been made to mine arsenic and coal in the area.
John gave us a comprehensive talk on mining from Bronze Age to the C20th. There is little conclusive evidence of mining in pre-historic times, but copper ingots have been found on the Tonderghie estate and other finds were made at Carghiedown as recently as 2003 when the promontory fort was being excavated. So, there is some evidence of early smelting before the C18th.
Mines were recorded on the maps of 1776 and Ainslie's map of 1767. A vein of lead was being mined at Blackcraig, owned by Mr Heron - this vein extended into the land at Machermore owned by Mr Dunbar and this led to a number of legal wranglings.
The Dunbars brought in workers from England and the lead from there was shipped straight to Chester from Palnure harbour.
There were also mines at Silver Rigg, Cairnsmore (here the three shafts were each 110 metres deep but no sign of them remain now.
The Talnotry arsenic mine was operating in 1897, owned by Palnure United exploration Company , but their venture was unsuccessful - not enough arsenic was found to make it a viable proposition.
The Pibble mine was owned by the Creeetown Copper and Lead company. Here workers were brought in from Cornwall and the remains of the engine house still stand - clearly built along the same lines as those in Cornwall.
In April, we look forward to taking walks in the Cree Valley with John Pickin to see for ourselves the remains of Silver Rigg and other mines.
Some images from our 2016 talks and outings:
Left: February - Peter Robinson's talk about Cree Valley Woodland Heritage Project
Left: March - David Steel's talk about photographer William McMurray (1882-1966)
Left: April - Visit to Knockman Wood medieval settlement with Linda Moorhouse
Right: Old croft house
Left: Corn kiln
May - Don Cowell led the group on a historic trail around Kirkcudbright
Left: Motte Brae
Right: One of the pends we were able to visit.
July - Anne & Les Dunford led a tour of historic buildings in the western part of the Stewartry
Left: Carsluith Castle
Right: Cally Palace
Right: Cardoness Castle
Left: By the old Swing Bridge, Cardoness
August - Anne & Les Dunford led a tour of historic buildings in the central part of the Stewartry
Left: Dundrennan Abbey
Right: Orchardton Tower
Left: The ferry to Threave Castle
Right: Inside the castle
October - Jimmy Walker gave a talk about the History of Big Balcraig Farm
December - Robert McQuistan gave a talk about the Origins of Placenames