Local History & Archaeology Group
We're all hoping for dry, bright days this summer as we embark on our series of visits out and about around the locality. As members will know, we're not put off by rain and go ahead with the visits regardless, but it does make a difference.
There are so many places of historical and archaeological interest in this region and over the years we're gradually getting better acquainted with more and more.
This year we're heading north out of the county again on Elbeth's tour of historical graveyards in May and also venturing into the foreign parts of the Stewartry in July!
The months fly by and we'll soon be planning for next year - bring suggestions for talks and visits to our meeting in November please.
We usually meet on the third Thursday of the month.
Next meeting: On 19th May we will be meeting Don Cowell outside the Information Centre in Kirkcudbright at 11.00am. He will then lead a walk around the town giving some of the history and pointing out various places of historic and architectural interest. After the lunch break (either picnic or in local café), Don will then do a kirkyard tour for those who weren't able to join him last time. There will be time then for the others to spend time in MacLellan’s Castle, Broughton House, The Tolbooth or the museum etc.
Contact Anne if you are able to give a lift or would like to have one and she'll arrange appropriate car sharing.
June - Dailly and environs - Old Dailly churchyard, Old Dalquarran castle & Dalquarran castle led by Elbeth Kerr (full day) This will be held on 23rd June not the usual third Thursday as Elbeth isn't able to lead it on 16th. More details nearer the time, but please put this change of date in your diary.
July -Threave Castle, Orchardton Tower and Haugh of Urr Motte (full day)
August - A Covenanters Trail - Glen Trool, Knowe etc. more tbc.(full day)
September - Amisfield Tower (near Tinwald) if we can get a conducted tour and possibly other places in that area north of Dumfries. (full day). If this isn't possible we'll make a long overdue visit to the Heritage Museum in Creetown
October - History of a Machars farm
November - back to planning for 2017!!
We were amazingly lucky with the weather for our April meeting. It was like a (good) summer's day when we met Linda Moorhouse at Knockman Wood for her guided tour of the recently excavated archaeological sites there.
We were able to see for ourselves the various remains that Pete Robinson had talked about in February. Possibly the most impressive were the corn kiln and the threshing barn. We contemplated what life would be like for a large family living in a house like Clauchrie.
There was evidence of early stock enclosures - probably for sheep, but families often kept a cow for milking.
In addition to the archaeology, Linda pointed out the difference in the woodland where the deer had been excluded - many young saplings had thrived in these parts.
This was a good start to our outdoor meetings. Hopefully we'll be as lucky in future months
William McMurray (1882-1966) resident of Gatehouse, was the postman, registrar of births, marriages and deaths but it was his activities as a keen photographer which David Steel focussed on in his talk to the group in March.
A large collection of glass plates, over seven hundred, were found in 2012 after the death of his daughter Dolly.
These have given a fascinating, if at times frustrating, glimpse into the history of Gatehouse and the immediate areas roundabout. Unlike photographic prints, nothing can be written on the back of a glass plate to identify the subject matter. This being the case, it has meant a good deal of detective work to identify places and people in some of the photos.
Recognising certain architectural features of a house helped with some identification or even knowing who bred a particular breed of dog in the photo! A borzoi dog gave a clue as to one of the ladies being Lady Ardwell.
Many of the supposed interior shots were actually taken outside using a backdrop of painted canvas. Not many photos were taken of workmen but there were some of a copper mine and the cotton mill which later became a bobbin mill.
Looking closely at a photo of one group of men, it was decided that one of them must be one of the Frullani family who, like Rachmaninov, were apparently known for having huge hands. This Italian family established ice-cream businesses locally.
We learnt from the one photo that the Murray Arms had a very productive vegetable garden in 1910; from another, at the start of WW1 residents of Ann Street witnessed the gathering of the Ayrshire Yeomanry - and impressive sight. Photographs of various 'big hooses' with their staff, ladies on horseback, people in their wedding finery were among the other subjects photographed by William McMurray.
Photos of motorbikes and cars showing number plates such as SW87 or SW137 meant that by referring to records held it was possible to identify not only when the vehicles were made but also who owned them at the time.
Like tracking down family tree records, it is surprising just what information can be gleaned about an area and its inhabitants from early photographs given patience, persistence and a lot of detective work.
This was the last of our indoor meetings for the season. We now look forward to some outdoor visits from April to September.
Peter Robinson's talk in February whetted our appetites well and truly ready for our visit in April to the Knockman Wood site. He was relating the findings of the Cree Valley Woodland Heritage Project which ran from 2012 to 2015. We will be visiting the archaeological site for our meeting on 21st April with Pete's colleague Linda.
The excavations that have taken place over the last three years have revealed a very interesting glimpse into the valley's post-medieval settlement. Over time, more and more of the buildings at Clauchrie farmstead and Boreland were uncovered.
Examples of a cruck-framed building, kiln barns, a longhouse, byre, corn kiln were shown and we heard how carbon dating of charred grain from the corn drying kiln had given an age range of 1751-1809 and charcoal was dated from an earlier period 1707-1765.
A large threshing barn had a central flagstone area in a cobbled floor; opposing doors allowing the wind to separate the loosened husks from the grain. Black oats and bere barley were the main cereal crops. Potatoes and kale were grown in lazy beds.
Pete's talk was illustrated not only by photographs of the excavating but also with a very impressive model constructed by people from the ARC in Newton Stewart.
Leaflets, a booklet and a DVD were available for members to find out even more about this interesting aspect of our areas history.
Geology shapes geography, geography shapes history. This statement also shaped Robert McQuistan's talk on Creetown at our January meeting, as he explained how the site of a place influences its development.
His wide ranging talk covered the location of Creetown - the Ferry Toon O Cree; its development as a planned village; developing work opportunties through farming, fishing, cotton & woollen mills, the tannery and the granite quarry before moving on to consider buildings and aspects of religion. This brief report can't do his talk justice.
An afternoon could be given over to any one of these aspects if we were to study them in detail, but this was an excellent overview of a place so often ignored as we bypass it on the A75. Hopefully we'll revisit some of these topics in more detail.
There was an excellent turn out for the talk in spite of the inclement weather. Having learnt more about Creetown's history, we look forward to a visit to the heritage museum there at some point later in the year.
Some images from our 2015 talks and outings:
Left: September - James Taylor’s collection at Barraer
July - Elbeth Kerr's ‘Graveyard outing’
Left: Barrhill, the Covenanters' memorial
Right: Kennedy Mausoleum, Ballantrae
June - Anne & Les Dunford led the trip to Ellisland Farm, home for Robert Burns between 1788 and 1791.
Left: Ellisland Farm &
Below: Twelve Apostles - the largest stone circle in mainland Scotland
Left: The Priory of Lincluden.
Then, Tony Brotherton took over for the Dumfries end of the day trip.
Right: Burns’ House
Left: May - Cairnerzean Fell.
Right:Jane Murray led the walk to explore pre-historic settlements on the Wigtownshire moors
Left: April & Jayne Baldwin’s talk on Elsie Mackay of Glenapp
Right: The press coverage of the story at the time
Left: March - the Johnston School in Kirkcudbright,one of the locations referred to in Don Cowell’s talk about William Johnston
Right: February - James Taylor & Tom McCreath shared farming memories