This very interesting history was written by the minister of Colvend in 1894, after he had been in the parish for 50 years. It covers a period of great change.
Colvend as it was fifty years ago and as it is now (1894).
By the Rev. James Fraser, D.D.
In Colvend I include Southwick, which is still an integral part of the parish civilly. Ecclesiastically it was disjoined from Colvend in the course of the present year (1894), and erected into a church and parish, quoad sacra.
From Southwick, beginning at the estuary of Southwick Burn, and tracing the coast round by Douglas Hall, Port o' Warren, Barcloy Head, and onward to the Scaur and estuary of the Urr, the parish for a third of its circumference is bounded by the sea. On this side of the parish, therefore, the sea-side, the people had no neighbours with whom they could associate with and form connections, and with England they had little or no communication.
At a time indeed anterior to that to which my paper relates, they had very close communication with the Isle of Man, but it was of an illicit and contraband character. At that time there was a regular smuggling traffic carried on between the two places, and there were men living in the parish when I came to it fifty years ago who remembered it and possibly profited by it. Captain John Crosbie, Laird of Kipp, himself a seafaring man, had a cellar under the floor of his dining-room, approached by a secret trap-door, which the carpet covered, and which was doubtless designed for the safe custody of such commodities. I myself have seen him go down through the trap-door in question, and bring up a bottle, whether of wine or spirits I cannot remember. There is a similar cellar under the dining-room floor of the manse, approached also by a trap-door, and concealed in the same manner. On the rocky coast leading from Port o' Warren to Douglas-Hall there are several caves and deep fissures in the rocks, admirably fitted for the concealment of contraband goods, until such time as removal could be safely effected. And on the other side of Port o' Warren, in the rocks leading to what is called the Cormorants' Dookers' Bing, there are other caves and fissures, larger and deeper, which can only be approached at low water, and then only by wading. One on the Torr or Douglas-Hall shore is known as the Brandy Cave, a name significant of the use to which it was put. On the Island of Heston, which lies at the mouth of the Urr, less than a mile from the Colvend shore, there are also caves and fissures, larger, I am told, than those on the Torr or Boreland Heughs. This is the island which the author of the spirit-stirring fiction of "The Raiders" calls "Rathan."
Colvend, as everyone knows who has lived in the parish, and as the least observant sees at a glance, is intersected by rocky ridges and strewed with boulders, so much so that Mr McDiarmid of the Courier characterised the parish as the "Riddlings of Creation." The rocky ridges, with morasses intervening, separate the different straths or valleys, of which the parish is made up, the one from the other, and render intercourse between them impracticable except for pedestrians. Anyone wishing to ride or drive from one strath to the next, must needs go down to the sea level and turn the flank of the intervening barrier. But as bearing upon the insulated or semi-insulated condition of the parish as it existed fifty years ago, what I would especially draw attention to is that Colvend on its landward side is surrounded by hills, particularly the Criffel range, which for miles form a barrier separating the parish from other parishes adjacent, and rendering intercourse between them impracticable. This, concurring with the previous cause referred to — their sea surroundings — made the people live a sort of isolated life, having little communication with the outside world. At that time the saying was common — "Out of the world and into Colvend." The effect was to beget selfishness and exclusiveness — to make the native population intolerant and jealous of strangers. I heard a farmer, an incomer, whose descendants are now recognised as natives, say that when he came into the parish a stranger, some sixty years ago, he was the object of general suspicion and dislike, but that, when in the course of time another farmer, a stranger also, came to occupy a farm near him, "he was glad, for Mr So-and-So would take the people off his back."
Another and a less objectionable peculiarity common to communities circumstanced like the people of Colvend, who live isolated and removed to a distance from the bustle and turmoil of the outside world, is that they retain long a simplicity of character and a naivety of ex
Colvend differs from the majority of parishes, which, as a rule, are divided, and belong to a few individuals. In many cases a single individual owns the whole. In Colvend it is different. At the beginning of the time with which my paper is concerned, the parish was divided into eighteen or nineteen properties, owned by as many proprietors or heritors. One of these properties, the Barony of Barcloy, was held in trust by the Kirk Session of Caerlaverock, for the poor of Caerlaverock, and for the higher education of the children of Caerlaverock. This gave rise to the witticism, "The poor of Caerlaverock are the lairds of Couen." Of the eighteen or nineteen properties into which the parish is divided, two of the larger — Fairgirth and Auchenskeoch have changed hands, and to the former Meikle-cloak has been added, to the latter Glensone and Ryes. Glenstocken, the property of Mr Carrick Moore, near relative of Sir John Moore, the hero of Corunna, was purchased by the late Mark Sprot Stewart of Southwick, and is now owned by his son, Sir Mark J. Stewart, Bart. Kipp was acquired by purchase from the Crosbie family, by Mr Chalmers, the present proprietor. Auchenhill and Orchardknowes are owned by Lord Young, and Clonyard by Mr McCall. In other respects properties in the parish, considered relatively to the number of owners, and to the size of the properties, continue unchanged. The number of landed proprietors is still nearly the same.
The estates and properties vary much in size and value. In one or two instances the rental touches or did touch, a few years ago, £2000. In others it ranges between £200 and £800, and in some instances it comes down to £50, £30, and even less. To me this gradation in ownership has always seemed pleasing, and in many respects desirable, and in this respect I have often considered Colvend unique. I know no other parish similarly circumstanced as to ownership. Inseparably, indeed, connected with the ownership of the land are the tenantry or tenant farmers of a parish The tenant farmers of Colvend, like the proprietors, rent and occupy farms of varying size, and of rents varying according to the size and value of their holdings. Some of the farms in the parish are wholly agricultural, but many have attached to them portions of moorland or hill pasture, and in one or two instances the hill and moorland pasture constitutes the more valuable portion of the farm. The rents vary from £100 to £200 and £300, and in one instance runs up to £600, but this includes two farms, one of which is known as what is called a led farm. The others graduate down to £50 or £40. These latter are tenanted in many cases by those who in their early life were farm servants, or day labourers, who have been industrious and saving, and were able to begin farming in a small way, and on their own account. From these latter not unfrequently spring the men who rent the largest and best cultivated farms in the district. This also is a feature characteristic of Colvend, and which I should gladly see extended to other parishes and districts.
There is a marked difference between the gradation in farms which obtains in Colvend and other parts of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and that which exists in the Lothians, in the lowland parts of Perthshire and Forfarshire, where the proprietors are few in number and the farms large.
Fifty years ago the farms were tenanted by men whose fathers, and whose fathers' fathers had, with infinite labour and no little expense, reclaimed the land, stubbing out the briars and thorns with which the country was at that time covered, trenching the ground which had never known touch of either spade or plough, raising the stones and blasting the boulders with which the country was strewed, building the dykes or stone fences by which the fields were enclosed, by men who continued and improved upon the work which their fathers had begun. Fifty years ago, and for ten or twenty years later, the work of reclamation in the parish was still in progress, but with lessened and ever lessening enterprise. I myself was one of the last, and, considering the size of my small holding, the Glebe and the Manse Farm, not one of the least improvers of the land. The Manse Farm I rented. I took out of the ground which I reclaimed I daresay 10,000 cart loads of stones, and of boulders I blasted several hundreds. There was a common saying in the parish at that time — "The land should build the dykes," the meaning of which was that the improvements should repay the outlay; and, so long as they did so, reclamation of the land continued; but when, by a rise in rents and the increased cost of labour, the conditions were reversed, the reclamation of land ceased. Such is the state of matters at the present time. If any further reclamation of land takes place it must be by the owners, or, if by tenants, it must be by tenants under exceptionally favourable conditions.
Fifty years ago farms were tenanted by men whose fore-fathers had been tenants of the same farm for several generations. One family I knew who could trace back their connection with the farm on which they were born for 200 years. They are now all dead, but the descendants of one of the sons are farmers in Ireland. A farmer still living in the parish (1894), 85 years of age, but some eighteen years retired from farming, tells me that he, his father, and grandfather, and, he believes, his great-grandfather, were tenants of the same farm, the farm of Burnside, from time immemorial, or for a period of 300 years. The farm, if it can be so called, was doubtless at first but a bit of barren and unprofitable moorland; and my informant, who did more than all his forefathers put together to reclaim the land, and to bring it into its present well cultivated, well fenced, and well housed condition, tells me that about 100 years ago the rent was £20, but, to keep himself correct, he added that to the original little croft, for it was nothing better, there were added two small portions of swampy and but partially reclaimed land. Eighteen years ago, when he retired from the farm, he was offered a renewal of his lease by his landlord — a different landlord from that of his middle age, at a rise of £60, or £10 more than he was paying.
Fifty years ago no landlord wished to remove from his estate a family that wished to remain, or, at the expiry of a lease, so raised the rent on an old tenant that he could not retake it. It was a thing unknown at that time to have a farm advertised to be let. Now it is a thing almost as unknown to find a farm let without being advertised. Between the years 1850 and 1860 the change began. A steady and ever increasing rise of rents set in. Then, whenever a lease was out, and the farm advertised to be let, if the outgoing tenant was not to be an offerer, applicants were numerous — more numerous of course where the farms were small; and rents were offered, rents were given, which to the older tenants seemed ruinous. For a time — for a period of fifteen or twenty years, rents at a high figure were maintained, and farmers seemed to thrive and prosper. At that time properties were sold and properties were bought at prices which cannot now be realised, and farms everywhere, in all parts of the country, changed hands. Colvend did not escape the revolution. Colvend, indeed, which seemed to lie outside the influence of change and civilization, felt it more. Of the old tenants, whose fathers made the farms, and whose forefathers for generations occupied the farms, hardly a descendant now remains in the parish, and only two occupy farms, but not the farms which their fathers tilled.
Fifty years ago dykes in Colvend (the fences are all dry-stone dykes) — could be built, the very best, 4½ feet high for 1s 6d a rood. A rood is 18 feet. I have built some hundreds of them. Now the same height of dyke could not be built under 4s 6d. The dykes in Colvend are not built of such trifling stones as are to be seen in some neighbouring parishes, but of great granite stones or blasted boulders, some of them half a ton weight Such a dyke may be seen on the farm of Nether Clifton on the road up to the Southwick Churchyard. I remember passing the field which the dyke in question now encloses, but which was then but partially reclaimed, covered with great boulders everywhere sticking up their heads. An old farmer, Mr Gibson of Auchenlosh, himself a great improver in his day, directing my attention to the state of the field, said, with an ex
The next point which, in speaking of the changes which have taken place in Colvend, calls for special remark, is the number of cottages which, at the beginning of the period were in the parish standing occupied, compared with what there are now. At the time when I came to the parish, the parish was dotted over with cottages. Every little oasis among the hills, every sheltered neuk by rock, or stream, or shore, had its cottage, with garden adjoining. Many of the cottages were solitary, removed to a distance from any neighbour. Some were pitched around or near the dwelling-house of the farm on which they were built, and some few were grouped together in twos and threes. Many of the occupants held their cottages from the farmer on whose land they stood, and to him they paid rent or rendered service. A few cottages were of the nature of crofters' dwellings, and had attached to them an acre or two of arable or pasture land. These they held direct from the landlord. But the cottages, whether of the nature of crofts or simple dwellings with gardens attached, and in some cases a cow's grass added, have all, with scarce an exception, disappeared. I can myself recall fifty at least which have so disappeared, in most of which I have baptized, married, and conducted such religious services as the occasion required, and of these hardly a vestige remains to mark the spot where they stood. In some few places where the stones of the building have not been cleared away, or the enclosures of the garden have been left standing, the sites may be recognised; otherwise the place is a blank.
The most remarkable of these dilapidated enclosures still left standing, though greatly broken down and all but levelled with the ground, is a group of broken-down dykes or garden enclosures seen not far from Southwick old church. It is easily noticeable from the parish road which passes the churchyard on the opposite side of the valley, and anyone noticing it at once says, there doubtless at one time stood a village under the protecting shadow of the church. The village existed at a period anterior to the time at which my paper begins, but not so long anterior as a person looking at the relics may think. Mr Craik, tenant of Nether Clifton, and whose father tenanted it before him — Mr Craik who lived to 90 years of age, and died only a few years ago — told me that he remembered one of the houses still standing and occupied.
The cottages of that period were of a rude and simple construction — built of drystone wall, without lime; they were thatched with turf and straw if it could be got; if not, with brackens, heather, or reeds from the numerous lochs. The turf consisted of thin flakes, or scraws as they were called, cut or flayed from the moorland surface by a flauchter spade, the spade used in stripping off the top of the moss in peat casting. Sir Walter Scott, who has rescued from oblivion so many of our Scotch words, mentions the flauchter spade in "The Antiquary." Many of the cottages were of a peculiar and highly primitive construction. A pair of young fir or ash trees of suitable lengths and thickness were placed, their butt ends resting on the ground and their tops inclined the one to the other, but not so as to meet and form a triangle, inclined so as to be say four or six feet apart. At this distance they were bound together by a thick band or strap of wood. This erected formed the gable of the building, and was kept in its upright position by either stone or turf building around it, or by a combination of stone and turf. A second pair of young or sapling trees, treated in the same way, were placed at a distance six feet from the first, and built round in the same manner. A third and a fourth pair were similarly treated, the fourth pair forming the opposite gable. The spaces between these upright pairs were covered with thin branches of trees, popularly called rice, which formed the roof. These thin branches properly laid were covered with scraws, overlapping each other like slates, and all covered with straw, heather, brackens, or reeds, effectually excluding the rain. There were half-a dozen such cottages in the parish when I came to it, and one still remains, the old farmhouse of Lower Port Ling. This the proprietor, Mr Oswald of Auchencruive and Cavens, guards from being improved off the farm. The name of this most peculiar kind of structure was in Colvend known as "The cod's head."
Closely connected with the disappearance of so many cottages is the great decrease in the population of the parish, which, according to the census returns, was in 1841, 1495; 1851, 1398; 1861, 1366; 1871, 1315; 1881, 1281; 1891, 1126. How is this decrease to be accounted for! The decrease is due to various causes, but chiefly, I think, to the altered conditions of farming. The farmer can no longer allow the cottar facilities for grazing a cow or rearing a pig. From Colvend many have gone to the neighbouring town of Dalbeattie, drawn thither by the advanced wages to be earned in the granite quarries and polishing mills; and some have gone to more distant towns, some to foreign lands.
I have said that in the last fifty years a great number of cottages, and what were practically crofter dwellings, have disappeared, and that only a few, a dozen at most, have been built to replace them. But, within the last twenty years, a great many houses of a superior class have sprung up in all parts of the parish, Rockcliffe, the Scaur, Barnhourie, Douglas Hall, Laggan, and Portling, and building is still proceeding. Since Mr Oswald, a few years ago, decided to grant feus on his estate in Colvend, building has taken a fresh start. Already villas have been built on the most beautiful spots and salient points of his property, from Douglas Hall bay to Portling and Port o' Warren, and others are in contemplation. Some of the houses built cost thousands, many of them cost hundreds. The larger and more expensive houses were built with the intention of being permanently occupied by the proprietors, but the greater number were built with the view of being let to the visitors who, in increasing numbers, come annually to spend part of the summer and autumn months among the hills and by the shores of the parish. For long Colvend was unknown, or known only to the few who took advantage of such scanty accommodation as could lie found in the cottages and smaller farm houses. Then the saying, "Out of the world and into Colvend," had a meaning. Now it would be an anachronism. There is no more popular resort in the South of Scotland; no place where one would feel himself less out of the world, or more outside civilization. Visitors come annually from all parts of the kingdom to spend their holiday in Colvend — from Edinburgh and Glasgow, from Oxford and Cambridge, from London and places beyond. And, returning, carry with them such pleasant memories as induce others, friends, and acquaintances to follow in their steps.
Fifty years ago there were no public conveyances in the parish. No railway had yet come near, not even to Dumfries. There were two daily coaches which run between Edinburgh and Dumfries, and two between Glasgow and Dumfries, and there were two which ran between Dumfries and Kirkcudbright, passing through Dalbeattie and Castle-Douglas. No one then could perform the journey from either Edinburgh or Glasgow to Colvend in one day. Then, all journeys from Colvend to any of the neighbouring towns, Castle-Douglas or Dumfries, had to be done on foot. In those days men, and even women, thought it a small matter to walk to Dumfries, transact their business, and return home, doing their thirty, and in some cases their forty, miles with little or no rest. Now the railway has reached to Dalbeattie, and between Dalbeattie and Colvend 'buses run close. All the summer months, from the end of May until the beginning of October there run three 'buses daily, and two run between Dalbeattie and Douglas Hall.
Many curious stories are told of the effect which the first sight of a railway train in motion produced on the spectator. A story was told me not long ago of the effect which the sight produced on one of my parishioners, a simple woman who had hardly ever been beyond the place of her birth. A kind lady friend in Dumfries had invited her to come and spend a few days at her house in town, and had given her instructions how to come by train from Dalbeattie. The time for her arrival came, but no traveller turned up. Three or four hours, however, after the expected time she did arrive, and on being asked how she had missed the train she said, "The train just geed by like." In her inexperience she doubtless expected that the train, like an ordinary conveyance, would stop and pick her up on the road.
Fifty years ago our postal facilities and privileges were in their infancy; so far as Colvend was concerned they were non-existent. There was, indeed, a sub-office on the Southwick side at Caulkerbush. On the Colvend side, the more populous side of the parish, there was none. On neither side was there a runner to distribute letters. On the Southwick side, if any letters arrived, they were kept until called for, or they were sent by some casual hand who happened to be going to where the letter was addressed. In Colvend the case was still worse; our letters came no nearer than to Dalbeattie, five or six miles off, and, not only so, the Post Office in Dalbeattie was a small closet in or off the bar of the public-house, where the letters lay huddled together with other articles. No arrangement whatever existed for dispersing them to their destination. I have known letters detained for upwards of a week. One case in particular occurs to me. A young man, who was undergoing a sentence of penal servitude in Pentonville Penitentiary, for whom I was instrumental in obtaining remission of part of the sentence, had a passage purchased for him to Canada. The letter containing his ticket to Canada, paid for by his friends, was detained in the Dalbeattie Post Office for more than a week; and as a result the passage was forfeited. After representation to the Shipping Company of the circumstances they generously allowed the young man to avail himself of a vessel for the succeeding voyage.
Now (1894) there is not only the original sub-office at Caulkerbush on the Southwick side, there is one at Lochend, one at Rockcliffe, which is a money-order office, and one at Kippford, which is also a money-order office, all on the Colvend side of the parish; and to expedite the delivery of letters, newspapers, and parcels, there are two runners in Southwick and three in Colvend.
For ten or fifteen years the Post Office authorities turned a deaf ear to all our applications for a sub-office at Lochend, with a runner between Colvend and Dalbeattie. In those days it was no uncommon occurrence to have letters tampered with and opened either from curiosity or with some worse motive. At that time letters were fastened with wafers, or when of greater importance they were sealed with wax. The day of envelopes was not yet. A letter fastened by a wafer could be opened without detection; it was otherwise with a letter sealed with wax.
The main industry of the parish, that on which its prosperity depends and has always depended, is farming, agricultural and pastoral. But there is another industry, ship-building and ship-repairing, to omit or overlook which would be to do my subject scant justice.
Some sixty or seventy years ago ship-building on a limited scale was carried on at the Scaur (now known as Kippford), which, as many of you know, is situated on the estuary of the water of Urr, within a mile and a half of its mouth. And about the period with which my paper begins it attained considerable dimensions under Mr Henry Cumming. To him the Scaur owed more than to any single individual. At an early age Mr Cumming betook himself to Whitehaven, and in the firm of Mr Brocklebank he learned and mastered the principles and practical work of ship-building. From Whitehaven he went to America, where he designed and built many vessels, one of them a ship of 700 or 800 tons, equal in dimensions to any ship then afloat. From America he returned to his native parish, and in company with his brother John commenced ship-building at the Scaur, and turned out brigs and schooners of dimensions varying from 30 to 90 and 100 tons. On his death his nephew James continued the business for a short time. The last vessel turned out was the Balcary Lass in 1884. She was 240 tons burden. She made two prosperous voyages, but was lost in the third in a terrible gale off the coast of Newfoundland. From that time ship-building at the Scaur ceased, iron taking the place of wood in the construction of vessels of all classes and sizes. Now all that is done at the Scaur is the repairing of such wooden vessels as lay up to be refitted.
Among the minor industries which were still carried on in the parish fifty years ago was handloom weaving. At the time when I came to the parish there were no fewer than six looms kept in constant employment. The thrifty farmers' wives of that period never thought of buying blankets, either Scotch or English for themselves, or for their daughters when they were about to be married, and were expected to bring something with them for the plenishing of their husbands' houses. Neither did the farmers, their wives, or their daughters, in going about their ordinary avocations, wear anything but cloth and drugget, the produce of their own wool, and the outcome of their own industry. Fashion had not yet looked in upon Colvend and turned the heads of the young, and in a less degree of the old. Weaving then was in full swing, and webs could hardly be turned out quick enough to meet the demand. To prevent disappointment the loom had to be bespoken weeks before the web was required. Now the occupation of the handloom weaver is gone, the click of the shuttle and the thud of the beam are no longer heard in Colvend, and with the cessation of handloom weaving there has ceased contemporaneously the occupation and art of spinning, the one art and occupation being dependent on the other. Fifty years ago there were several spinning wheels in the parish, the big wheel for spinning wool, the small for flax or hemp. The big wheel was kept in motion by the spinner advancing and receding, but always on foot; the small wheel by the spinner sitting and keeping the wheel in motion by one foot on a pedal, the hands being employed meanwhile in pulling down the tow from the distaff and guiding the thread. The big wheel I have frequently seen in operation in the parish, but not the less. Yet, doubtless, the little wheel must have been in operation in the parish within the specified period, for both yarn of wool, and thread of flax were required in weaving some of the kinds of cloth made by the handloom, such as drugget, a coarse kind of cloth consisting of wool or worsted and hemp woven together, and linsey-woolsey, a finer cloth, made up, as the name implies, of flax and wool combined. But, whether the distaff and spindle were in use in the parish within the last fifty years or not, they doubtless were in other parts of Scotland. I myself have seen the little wheel in common use in a parish farther removed than Colvend from the advancing civilization, and also the distaff and spindle, a method of spinning more primitive than either big or little wheel. But neither big nor little wheel is now known in Colvend.
At one time a shoemaker and tailor were to be found in every hamlet or little group of houses. At this moment there is not a shoemaker in the parish, and only one tailor, and he is only partially employed. Formerly there were four tailors in the parish who took in work to be done in their own houses at slated rates, or perambulated the country making and mending in the cottages and farm houses, getting their food and a small payment, 1s 6d or 2s for the day's work. Now there is but one tailor, and he only partially employed.
There are two trades in the parish, however, which, mid all the changes which have taken place and are still taking place, hold their ground unchanged and undiminished — the trades of joiner and blacksmith. There were four or five joiners' shops in the parish, and four smithies, fifty years ago; each with its head and one or two apprentices, and there is the same number still, and nearly in the same localities; the smithies are in the identical localities, these being the localities best adapted for the farmers in the different straths. For joiners and blacksmiths in rural and agricultural parishes there will always be found occupation, and there will at all times be need.
Fifty years ago and later there were many small shops scattered up and down the parish. Every little group of cottages had its shop. Villages of twenty or thirty families had two, rival shops, where, besides the ordinary articles of grocery, tea and sugar, butter and eggs, soap and candles, bread, meal, and flour, were to be had, cotton and woollen goods, ropes and twine, brushes, hammers, nails, and almost every article of household economy. They were, in the strictest sense of the term, stores, and stores very cosmopolitan in their contents. They contained every article which, on an emergency, a person might require, not even omitting medicines in common use. To a rural population, distant from a town, and with no direct means of communication, these shops were a great convenience, and, to the shopkeepers themselves, no small source of gain. But their day is done; their number is on the decline, and the few that remain have little or no variety to attract customers. What is the reason/
Travelling grocers, travelling drapers, travelling butchers and bakers, travelling vans, containing every conceivable article of household or outdoor requirements traverse the parish from week's end to week's end.
Fifty years ago two carriers plied semi-weekly between Dalbeattie and Dumfries, and semi-weekly on intermediate days between Dalbeattie and Colvend. They brought the supplies of bread and groceries to the different shops scattered up and down the parish, and parcels to the different houses situated along their route. There were no bread carts, no butchers' carts, no grocers' carts in these days; and, without the carriers, I know not how the people could have procured for themselves the necessaries of life. They were an excellent and most useful class of men, but their day is past, at least so far as Colvend is concerned. Carriers still travel between Dalbeattie and Dumfries, but no one comes to Colvend.
Though not properly speaking a trade, peat-casting was an industry of no little importance in former times, and even in times so recent as fifty or forty years ago. Peats at that time were a chief article of fuel in Colvend. Almost every family in the parish cut, or got cut and dried for themselves, ten or twenty carts of peats annually, a darg or half a darg, as the case might be. Farmers in many instances had a bit of peat moss in their own farms, and by their lease they had the privilege of cutting as much as they themselves or their cotmen needed, but they were restrained from selling off the ground. Those families in the parish who had not farms, or who did not live on farms which had peat mosses, paid for the privilege of cutting peats on Cloak Moss — 10s for a darg of 20 carts; 5s for half a darg. The time chosen for the cutting was about Whitsunday. The day was a long one, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at or about 6 p.m. Within these hours the party cutting were allowed to turn out as many cartfuls as they were able. Six hands working at the top of their speed could turn out twenty cartfuls three hands could turn out the half.
At the time referred to coals were only obtainable from England. Small sloops brought them over from Cumberland, and discharged them either at the Scaur or from vessel's side in Sandyhills Bay. But the supply was limited, and the times were uncertain. Now, by train, coals from Ayrshire are brought in any quantity to the neighbouring stations of Dalbeattie and Southwick; and peats, except in small quantities for kindling, are unused even by the poorest. They are or would be dearer even than coals.
Fifty years ago there were only two churches in te parish, and two religious denominations — the Parish Church on the Colvend side, attended by members and adherents of the E.C., and the Meeting House at Mainsriddel, owned by the seceders from the National Church some 80 or 90 years before, but attended largely by adherents of the E.C. living in Southwick, their own Church being too distant for them to attend regularly. This Church is now, or was until very lately, owned by the descendants of the original seceders, or their representatives who mostly belong to the U.P. body.
Colvend and Southwick were for long separate parishes, with separate ministers, each having its own church. But towards the beginning of last century they were united under one minister, the stipend being inadequate for the support of two. This union of the parishes and suppression of one was to the inhabitants of Southwick a real evil, for they all belonged to the one church, the National Church. It removed them to an insuperable distance from the ordinances in which they delighted to join, and was one main cause of the erection of the Meeting House at Mainsriddel. But it was not the only cause. There was at that time current in the parish a fama affecting the character of the minister of Colvend, and there were rumours prejudicial to the minister of the adjoining parish of Kirkbean, which led the thoughtful and goodly people of both congregations to withdraw from the ministrations of their respective ministers, and to erect what has for well-nigh a hundred years been known as the Meeting House. The knowledge of these things was fresh in the memory of some when I came to the parish. A story told me by one who knew the woman well would have been worthy of a place in Dean Ramsay's Reminiscences. Margaret Thomson was one of those resolute godly women who left her minister and walked every Sabbath from Kirkland in Colvend to Mainsriddel in Southwick, a distance of nearly seven miles. Meeting her one Sunday returning from service at the Meeting House the minister accosted her, "Well, Margaret, where have you been?" "I have been at the Meeting House." "What makes you go so far if you can get the Gospel preached nearer home?" "If you get a tune played what does it signify what instrument it is played on?” "Ah," says Margaret, "but I aye liket it blawn through a clean whustle." The minister didn't tackle Margaret again. She only died a year or two before I came to the parish.
There was no minister in the Meeting House when I came to the parish in 1844, but there was one appointed the year after, who soon left. After a vacancy of a year or two the Rev. Mr Fullarton was chosen, who remained minister of the congregation up to the time of his death some five years ago. His adherents were not numerous; but there were many members and adherents of the E.C. who lived on the Southwick side of the parish. They, with their families, as a rule, attended Mr Fullarton, and formed no inconsiderable part of his congregation. They did not, indeed, leave the Established Church, but regularly as the times came round communicated in the Parish Church. Mr Fullarton lived to a great age, to nearly ninety, and died respected and beloved by all who knew him.
When it became apparent that the ministry of the Rev. Thos. Fullarton, owing to his great age and failing strength, was drawing to a close, Mr Stewart (now Sir Mark J. Stewart) resolved to put into execution a purpose which he had long entertained, but which, out of regard to the feelings of his friend Mr Fullarton, he had put off for years, viz., the erection of a church for the accommodation of the members and adherents of the Church of Scotland residing in Southwick.
Fifty years ago there were two Parochial Schools in the parish — The Colvend School and the Southwick School — and there was a side school at Barnbarroch supported by subscription.
The Parish Schools were maintained by the heritors, assessed proportionally to their rental, and the school-masters remunerated in terms of an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of George III. But the remuneration was miserably small. There were, as we have said, two schools in the parish, I mean parish or parochial schools, the salaries of which, together, could not by law exceed £52 or £26 each, and this was the payment which each schoolmaster received. This, added to the school fees, which, as a matter of right, belonged to the teachers, raised the emoluments of the one to £48, of the other to £55. They had each, of course, their house and garden free.
Fifty years ago, and for about 15 or 20 years after that date there was no legal assessment levied for the support of the poor, and there were as many poor in the parish then as now. There were, indeed, more and poorer. I have in my possession the minute book of the Kirk-Session, beginning at the time antecedent to the period with which my paper is concerned, but coming down to it, and continuing for several, indeed for many, years within the period. From this book, and from the book of church collections it appears that the chief source of support at the time was the church collections, supplemented by such voluntary contributions as the heritors chose to give. The church collections were made up mainly of the weekly contributions gathered in by that old-fashioned, importunate, and silent beggar, the church ladle. The sum obtained in this way fifty years ago amounted to £18 or £20. Prior to this time, but never since, fines were imposed on parties coming before the Session for discipline; these were added to the collections. The fees for proclamation of banns before marriage were also added. The sum raised by church collections and the voluntary subscriptions of the heritors rarely exceeded £40, which was distributed by the Kirk-Session annually in sums varying from 5s to 10s, but rarely reaching £1; and this was all the poor had to depend on. But, so long as the assessment continued voluntary, much kindness was shown by the farmers and wealthier classes to the poor. By degrees the assessment increased, until in 1845 it amounted to £83, which, added to the church collections, brought it up to £104. Some years after this, owing to the refusal of one or two individuals to pay their voluntary proportions, recourse was had to the adoption of the Act sanctioning the imposition of a legal assessment divided equally between proprietors and tenants. What that means we all know; but how great the difference between cost and management of the old system and the modern few understand. The number of poor in the parish is diminished by a half, but the expense is increased three or fourfold. It stands now in 1894 at £300. Doubtless, the poor are better cared for, and the management is more efficient. But the Kirk-Session, or the heritors and Kirk-Session jointly, did the work kindly, impartially, and with no expense to the parish.
- Transactions and journal of the proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1894-5.