Extracted from "The book of Robert Burns; genealogical and historical memoirs of the poet, his associates and those celebrated in his writings," published in 1890, this item contains much of local interest..

John Maxwell of Terraughty, Parish of Troqueer. 

There is a tradition that the first of the Maxwell name was a Norwegian in the suite of Edgar Atheling and his sister, on their arrival in the Frith of Forth two years after the Norman Conquest. This is probably mythical; but the name is clearly of Saxon origin. A territory on the Tweed, near Kelso, is known as Maccus Well, and the owner of this portion of land was in all probability founder of the family. Eugene or Hugh Maccuswel, of Carlaverock, was present at the siege of Alnwick in 1093, as a follower of Malcolm Canmore. Sir John de Maccuswel was sheriff of Roxburgh and Teviotdale in 1207, and in 1215 was sent as ambassador to King John; he was also chamberlain of Scotland. His representatives attained large possessions, also civil dignities and military honours.

Sir Herbert Maxwell of Carlaverock was knighted at the coronation of James I. in 1424, and was some years afterwards created a Lord of Parliament. His descendant, Sir John Maxwell, second son of Robert, fifth Lord Maxwell, married in 1549 Agnes, Lady Herris, and, in right of his wife, was allowed the title and dignity of fourth Lord Herries. Attached to the cause of Queen Mary, he contended on her behalf at Langside, and subsequently assisted in her escape. He afterwards pleaded the cause of the imprisoned Queen before the English Commissioners at York. His grandson, John, sixth Lord Herries, who died in 1631, married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John, seventh Lord Maxwell, and of the union were born eight sons. James Maxwell, the second son, styled of Breconside, married Margaret, daughter of Vaus of Barnbarroch, relict of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, who bore him two sons. Of these, John, the elder, inherited the lands of Breconside and Terraughty. The son of this gentleman, who had the same Christian name, became involved in financial difficulties, to the entire impoverishment of his family. His younger son, John, was born at Buittle on the 7th of February 1720, old style. Apprenticed to a joiner at Dumfries, he, on attaining a sufficient knowledge of his craft, entered upon business in the place as an upholsterer and builder. Applying to his vocation the energies of a powerful understanding, he rapidly accumulated substance, and, when only in his thirty-fourth year, he was enabled to repurchase the family estate of Terraughty, which had been alienated. He subsequently purchased the lands of Portrack, in the parish of Holywood, and, by his second marriage, became proprietor of Munches. When Burns settled in Dumfriesshire, he was a recognised leader in county affairs, and was also highly esteemed for his personal virtues. At what time the Poet formed his acquaintance has not been ascertained, but it is evident that he had become personally familiar with his worth when, in 1791, on his seventy-first birthday, he addressed to him the following epistle: —

Health to the Maxwell's veteran Chief!
Health, aye unsour'd by care or grief:
Inspired I turn'd Fate's sibyl leaf
This natal morn;
I see thy life is stuff o' prief,
Scarce quite half-worn.

This day thou metes threescore eleven,
And I can tell that bounteous Heaven
(The second-sight, ye ken, is given
To ilka poet)
On thee a tack o' seven times seven
Will yet bestow it.

If envious buckies view wi' sorrow
Thy lengthen'd days on this blest morrow,
May Desolation's lang-teeth'd harrow.
Nine miles an hour,
Rake them, like Sodom and Gomorrah,
In brunstane stoure.

But for thy friends, and they are mony,
Baith honest men and lassies bonnie.
May couthie Fortune, kind and cannie.
In social glee,
Wi' mornings blithe, and e'enings funny.
Bless them and thee.

Farewell, auld birkie! Lord be near ye,
And then the deil he daurna steer ye:
Your friends aye love, your faes aye fear ye;
For me, shame fa' me,
If neist my heart I dinna wear ye,
While Burns they ca' me.

The Poet's vaticination as to his friend's longevity was in a measure realized, for his life was extended till he reached the patriarchal age of ninety-four. On the 8th February 1811, while in his ninety-first year, he addressed a letter to Mr. W. M. Herries of Spottes, detailing his early recollections as to the agricultural condition of his neighbourhood. From that letter, which is included in the New Statistical Account of the parish of Buittle, we present a copious excerpt. Referring to the years 1735 or 1740, he proceeds: —

It is not pleasant to represent the wretched state of individuals as times then wont in Scotland. The tenants in general lived very meanly on kail, groats, milk, graddon ground in querns turned by the hand, and the grain dried in a pot, together with a crook ewe now and then about Martinmas. They were clothed very plainly, and their habitations were most uncomfortable. Their general wear was of cloth, made of waulked plaiding, black and white wool mixed, very coarse, and the cloth rarely dyed. Their hese wore made of white plaiding cloth sewed together, with single-soled shoes, and a black or blue bonnet — none having hats but the lairds, who thought themselves very well dressed for going to church on Sunday with a black kelt-coat of their wife's making. It is not proper for me here to narrate the distress and poverty that were felt in the country during these times, which continued till about the year 1735. In 1725 potatoes were first introduced into this stewartry by William Hyland from Ireland, who carried them on horses’ backs to Edinburgh, where he sold them by pounds and ounces. During these times when potatoes were not generally raised in the country, there was, for the most part, a great scarcity of food, bordering on famine; for in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright and county of Dumfries there was not as much victual produced as was necessary for supplying the inhabitants, and the chief part of what was required for that purpose was brought from the sand-beds of Esk in tumbling cars, on the Wednesdays, to Dumfries; and when the waters were high, by reason of spates, and there being no bridges, so that these cars could not come with the meal, I have seen the tradesmen's wives in the streets of Dumfries crying because there was none to be got. At that period there was only one baker in Dumfries, and he made bawbee baps of coarse flour, chiefly bran, which he occasionally carried in creels to the fairs of Urr and Kirkpatrick. The produce of the country in general was grey corn, and you might have travelled from Dumfries to Kirkcudbright, which is twenty-seven miles, without seeing any other grain, except in a gentleman's croft, which, in general, produced bear or big for one-third part, another third in white oats, and the remaining third in grey oats. At that period there was no wheat raised in the country; what was used was brought from Teviot, and it was believed that the soil would not produce wheat. In the year 1735 there was no mill in the country for grinding that sort of grain, and the first flour-mill that was constructed in these bounds was built by old Heron at Clouden, in the parish of Irongray, some years after that date. In these times cattle were also very low. I remember of being present at the Bridge-end of Dumfries in 1736, when Anthony M'Kie of Netherlaw sold five score of five-year-old Galloway cattle, in good condition, to an Englishman at £2, 12s. 6d. each; and old Robert Halliday, who was tenant of a great part of the Preston estate, told me that he reckoned he could graze his cattle on his farms for 2s. 6d. a head — that is to say, that his rent corresponded to that sum. At this period few of the proprietors gave themselves any concern anent the articles of husbandry — their chief one being about black cattle. William Craik, Esq., of Arbigland's father died in 1735, and his son was a man of uncommon accomplishments, who, in his younger days, employed his time in grazing of cattle, and studying the shapes of the best kinds — his father having given him the farm of Maxwelltown to live upon. The estate of Abigland was then in its natural state, very much covered with whins and broom, and yielding little rent, being only about 3000 merks a year (Eighteen merks make £1 sterling, or £12 Scots.) That young gentleman was among the first that undertook to improve the soil; and the practice of husbandry, which he pursued, together with the care and trouble which he took in ameliorating his farm, was very great. Some of it he brought to such perfection, by clearing off all weeds and stones, and pulverized it so completely, that I, on walking over the surface, sank as if I had trodden on new-fallen snow.

The estate of Arbigland was bought by his grandfather in 1722, from the Earl of Southesk, for 22,000 merks.

In 1735 there were only two carts for hire in the town of Dumfries, and one belonging to a private gentleman.

About the year 1737 and 1738 there was almost no lime used for building in Dumfries except a little shell-lime, made of cockleshells, burned at Colvend, and brought to Dumfries in bags, a distance of twenty miles; and in 1740, when Provost Bell built his house, the under storey was built with clay, and the upper storeys with lime, brought from Whitehaven in dry-ware casks. There was then no lime used for improving the land. In 1749 I had day-labourers at 6d. per day, and the best masons at 1s. This was at the building of Mollance House — the walls of which cost £49 sterling.

Mr. Maxwell died on the 25th January 1814. He was twice married. By his first wife, Agnes, daughter of Mr. William Hannay of Dumfries, he had three sons and six daughters. He married, secondly, in 1770, Agnes Maxwell, daughter of the laird of Munches. The marriage was at first privately contracted, probably to avoid some opposition on the part of the lady's relatives. But Mr. Maxwell, who was unwilling to innovate on the usual practice of the Church, submitted himself to reproof, and had his marriage solemnized in the ordinary form. The minute of the kirk-session of Buittle in relation to the affair is not without interest: —

Buittle Manse, February 24, 1770. — Post Preces, sederunt — Minister and Elders met in hunc effectum. John Maxwell of Terrachty and Mistris Agnes Maxwell of Munches called and compeared, and being asked, acknowledged themselves married; but not producing legal vouchers of their marriage, they submitted to censure, and solemnly promising all fidelity to one another as husband and wife, they were formally married by the Moderator; after which they paid their fine to the Session, and all other dues genteelly, and were absolved.

In 1793, Mrs. Agnes Maxwell succeeded her brother, George Maxwell, in the lands of Munches and Dinwoodie, which she afterwards conveyed to her husband. She died childless in 1809, at the age of ninety. In 1813 Mr. Maxwell executed an entail of his several estates in favour of his children. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander Herries Maxwell, who practiced as a physician in the metropolis. On his monument in St. Michael's Churchyard, Dumfries, the following inscription details his history: —

Sacred to the memory of Alexander Herries Maxwell of Munches, Esquire, who died on the 28th of June 1815, in the 71st year of his age. Benevolent, frank, social, and warm-hearted, he was a steady and sincere friend, and always ready to advance the interests of those who had any claim to his good offices. After a residence of thirty-six years in London, he relinquished the medical profession, in which he had been indefatigable, and retiring to the vicinity of his native town, he devoted the remainder of his days to the exercise of his accustomed hospitality, the pursuit of agriculture, and the promotion of every plan for the improvement of the country. Thus was his life extensively useful and his death most deeply lamented.

Mr. Alexander Herries Maxwell of Terraughty and Munches married, first, Charlotte, daughter of James Douglas, M.D., son of William Douglas of Kelhead, by whom he had an only child, Charlotte, who died young. He married, secondly, Marion, eldest daughter of William Gordon of Greenlaw, relict of William Kirkpatrick of Raeberry. She died childless, on the 14th April 1839, at the advanced age of ninety-four.

In the lands of Munches, Dinwoodie, and Terraughty, Alexander Herries Maxwell was succeeded by his niece, Clementina Maxwell. She married in 1813 her relative, John Herries Maxwell of Barncleugh. On her death, in 1858, she was succeeded by her son, Wellwood Herries Maxwell of Munches.

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