Local History & Archaeology Group
We have established a pattern of talks from October to April with visits and walks of historial & archaeological interest during the rest of the year.We also get invited to take part in archaeological activities organised by others. There is so much of interest in this area that the problem isn't what to investigate, but how to choose.
This year, we have a number of visits and talks planned, but some dates have yet to be confirmed.
In January we had our plannng meeting and drew up a 'wish list' of things we hope to do this coming year. By the February meeting the programme was beginning to take shape.
Richard Scott and Douglas Sparks got us off to a good start with their History on Our Doorstep talks. They are both members of the group and had clearly spent a lot of time researching the areas where they live.
A number of very interesting artefacts have been discovered near Richard's house at Kirkchrist and he hopes one day to find some interesting pieces himself. Some old maps and photos showed, amongst other things, the construction of the roof and the walls of the house and an intriguing ancient boundary. These, plus the names of previous inhabitants, all gave us an insight into the Kirkchrist of times past.
Douglas then introduced us to the history of his place at Barmeal or Barmeill and, with the use of a number of maps and estate records, we also learnt much about the surrounding farms. This whole area, once part of the Maxwell estate has a fascinating history which goes back to the age of cup & ring markings on rocks. More recently, one estate map showed clearly the race course and stand of monkey puzzle trees near Monreith House.
Hopefully these two members will have inspired others to look into the history of their immediate area - a very 'local' history project, and a fascinating one.
Our visit on 28th February to The Old Place of Monreith took place during a rare spring-like and sunny week - perfect for seeing the old tower house, built around 1600, at its best.
Dru, The Landmark Trust's housekeeper, gave us a warm welcome and an introductory talk before we were left to explore the house. The log books and the history of the renovations made interesting reading. We were very fortunate to get the opportunity to have a leisurely exploration of the house which once belonged to the Maxwell family, and look forward to seeing The Castle of Park - another Landmark Trust property near Glenluce at a later date.
On 21st March (fortunately before we got snowed in and lost power!) Stewart McGregor gave the group an insight into the history of the granite quarries at Creetown. The incline, built for transporting the granite to the quay, is still visible from the A75, but it's so easy to drive past these days without being aware of what lies within a few yards of the road.
Health and safety issues weren't considered as men worked without hard hats or ear defenders, blasting tons of granite from the rich seams that lay between the greywacke. It took two horses to pull a cart load of granite blocks along to the station.
Stewart's talk was an excellent opportunity to discover a part of Galloway's industrial past first hand. It was mooted that we should perhaps embark on an oral history project which might lead to a publication. Let me know if you're interested.
The talk Developments in Agriculture given on 18th April by Roger Limbrey & Tom McCreath proved to be very popular.
Their talk was from the viewpoint of one who was 'basically an agriculturist who morphed into an agricultural engineer, working mostly in the 3rd world.' (Roger) and one who has spent the majority of his life farming in the Machars (Tom). This proved to be an excellent combination as between them they covered a tremendous amount of information, all gleaned from first hand experience.
We had an overview of the impact that weather, diseases, scientific progress, politics and improvements in technology have had on farming, plus memories of farming from the 1930's to the present day from Tom. He used photographs of the various types of haystacks (some far more tidy and efficient than others!), crops, ploughs and tractors etc. to illustrate his talk.
Roger gave a comprehensive review of the development of tools and machinery from the very basic hoe to the modern day combine harvesters. His diagrams showing the workings of the various ploughs and machines gave a clear picture of how these worked. Photos of the basic tools still used in some parts of Africa contrasted with the giant high-tech machinery we have got used to seeing here.
After the talk today, we should have a better understanding when we see the collection of farm implements and machinery at Barraer.
On 25th April, twenty folk made their way up to James Taylor's farm at Barraer. We knew that he had a collection of farm machinery and implements dating back to the days when farmers depended on man and four legged horse power. What we hadn't realised was how wide-ranging and impressive that collection is.
His introductory talk took us from the 1750s to modern times. We then saw many of the ploughs, tractors, threshing machines & combines etc. that Tom & Roger had referred to in their talk the previous week. It brought back many memories for some and was enlightening for those who were seeing such machines close up for the first time.
So much to see and on a day when the sun shone too!
The visit to The Old Place of Mochrum on 16th May took place on one of those rare sunny days. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to visit this unique old house which is not open to the public.
The current owner, David Bertie was very welcoming and gave us a brief introduction to the building and some family history.
The two tower houses were restored during the late C19th and early C20th by the third and fourth Marquesses of Bute. The two houses were joined by one wall of otherwise demolished outbuildings. With new ranges built on foundations of other outbuildings, a new rectangular courtyard was created.
Two architects, Richard Park and R W Schultz, transformed the ruins into the fascinating building we were able to enjoy and admire. As we gathered in the very attractive courtyard, we were able to view the exterior of the Old Tower and the Red Tower and see how well the later editions blended in with the original structures.
Both the exterior and interior had examples of excellent craftsmanship regarding wood carving, iron-work and stone-work in the Arts & Crafts style.
After very welcome refreshments, we were then able to explore the gardens and enjoy the rarity of a warm day. Truly a day to look back on and remember with thanks to David Bertie and his friendly 'home team.'
June 27th (NB the fourth, not the third Thursday) Jane Murray will lead a guided tour of Rispain Camp, Druchtag Motte and Drumtrodden Stones. Meet at Rispain car park (on the Glasserton Road from Whithorn) at 2.00pm. Please let Anne know if you're able to join us.
18th July Day trip to take in Churches & Churchyards in the Gatehouse/Borgue/Anwoth area plus the Coo Palace, with Elbeth & Don leading various sections. Further details to follow.
19th September Rosslyn Chapel & the National Museum in Edinburgh We've booked a coach, so we will all meet at the Riverside car park in Newton Stewart at 8.00am and arrive at Rosslyn Chapel between 11.00am & 11.30am. After an hour looking round there, the coach will take us into Edinburgh. We'll leave Edinburgh at 5.00pm and arrive back in Newton Stewart some time before 9.00pm. Book asap - £10 deposit needed. If we can fill the coach it won't cost more than that. Local History & Archaeology and Art Appreciation groups' members get first chance to book, then it's open to all our U3A members on a first-come first-served basis.