During the first few months of 1923 a series of 16 articles written by Samuel Murdoch Crosbie, under the pen-name "Scouronian", appeared in the pages of the 'Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser and Galloway News.' Entitled "The Story of The Scaur; And the Water of Urr Shipping. " it gives a fairly detailed look at the shipping of the north Solway in the days of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Accompanying images have been added for the webpage.

The Story of The Scaur; And the Water of Urr Shipping.
by Scouronian, 1923.

Part 1.

Galloway’s great romancer, the late S.R. Crockett, has the following paragraph in one of his most delightful books, “Raiderland”:-

“To every Scot his own house, his own gate end, his own ingle nook is always the best, the most interesting, the only thing domestic worth singing and talking about.”

This meets my case so far as my native village is concerned. I have visited many villages in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but never have I come across one that could satisfy my longings in every respect, as does the Scaur with its more modern name of Kippford. True it is a place of moods and tenses. When the Estuary of the Urr is in full tide, on whose banks the village stands, and the golden sun is shining on its waters the visitor may think it a perfect paradise. When the tide is out and the banks are laid bare, and the rain is pelting on them, even the most prejudiced amongst us feels that the outlook is somewhat dismal. But when you know the Scaur you cannot help admiring it. It is one of the cleanest and most picturesque of villages, and has such a look of prosperity about it, that situated as it is on the slope of the Muckle Hill with one tier of houses above another, one can only call it a miniature Torquay. Then the social life is so homely and distinctive, villagers and visitors vieing with each other in friendly intercourse, that the Scaur stands on a pedestal of it own compared with other seaside resorts. This is the reason, doubtless, why such large numbers of visitors return year after year, that the season, which only lasted two months of the year a little while ago, now extends from Easter right on to the end of October.

Sailing ship lying on the beach at Kippford
(The Stewartry Museum Collection)

Within living memory the Scaur has changed from an out of the world little hamlet of some eighteen cottages – most of them thatched – to a thriving busy village of more than double than number of dwellings, many of them well built and quite up-to-date. In those earlier days the Scaur was cut off from the outside world by the tide for a portion of each day as the only road into it was along the beach which was covered twice every twenty-four hours. There was no post-office, there were three public houses, there was no shop worthy of the name, and speaking generally the village was considered to be quite a century behind the times.

The making of the new road, thanks to the enterprise of two of the villagers, Messrs Donaldson and Clachrie, and the rebuilding of most of the old cottages, began to change all that. New houses were erected from time to time, the post-office was instituted, there is a shop where you are well served with most commodities, there are fine hotels, one public and two private, and there is excellent communication with Dalbeattie, the nearest town a little over four miles away. Motor cars and conveyances of every kind are to be seen in the village almost daily, and the vans of the Dalbeattie shopkeepers vie with each other in friendly rivalry in bringing the necessary supplies for the floating as well as the permanent population.

There are now two halls, the old one belonging to the Anchor Hotel capable of holding nearly 200 people, and the new erection of the British Legion that can accommodate at least 300. There are two tennis courts connected with the latter organisation, and there is also the ground requisite for a bowling green, which, if laid out would prove a boon to the neighbourhood. Despite the fact that the cost of building material still keeps high, the erection of new houses by private enterprise has already begun. Two fine dwellings of the bungalow type are approaching completion, and the plans of several others are being drawn up. The extension of the village may compel the County Council to introduce a system of water and sanitation that would bring the Scaur into line with all modern villages.

Until late years the story of the Scaur was bound up with its shipping industry, and therefore with the shipping of the Water of Urr. Sad to say, that industry and that shipping have almost entirely disappeared. True, there has been during the past year a slight recrudescence of the latter. Several schooners, and quite a number of steamers have passed up and down the river lately bringing cargoes from the Continent as well as from English ports, and the prospects for the future are certainly encouraging. But the trade can never be the same again. Never shall we see half-a-dozen schooners on the beach under repair, or awaiting their turn to go on the slip. The steamers go up the river one day and down the next, no waiting at the pawls near the Scaur for a fair wind as in the days of the old sloops and schooner.

A much respected, but all too infrequent contributor to the “K.A.”- who signs himself “Old Schoolboy,” has suggested that I should write the story of some of the old vessels and their skippers – names very familiar to every reader of this paper in days gone by – and I am attempting the task though with some trepidation. I tried many times to persuade the late Mr. Alex. Wilson, ship-owner and merchant, of Dalbeattie, to undertake the duty, but he always fought shy, and now silent in the tomb he lies who knew more about the sailors and the shipping of the river than any other living man.

Part 2.

Some time ago the R.C. Rymer propounded a query in his weekly column as follows, and one would like to provide the answer:-

“The ‘Thamas Green,’ the ‘John James,’
The famous ‘Good Intent,’
Ha’e vanished frae the Water,
And we wonder where they went.

The ‘Jessie Maxwell’ is nae mair,
The auld ‘Witch o’ the Wave,’
Wi’ the guid auld ‘Importer,’
May have found a watery grave.”

Certainly it would be a pity were the story left untold, and so with the help of others who may supplement the information given in these columns, I have been able to recall old memories, and leave on record a tribute to those who carried on our coasting trade before it was killed by other means of transport.

And a feeling of pride rises in one’s mind at the very mention of the Water of Urr fleet. It made its influence felt on the commerce of the wide, wide world, for the young sailors whose training was begun on its staunchly built, well formed vessels oft-times went far afield and became famous on the ocean-going clippers of former days – the old Wind-jammers as on the steam “grey-hounds” of later times. The Water-of-Urr sailors have been renowned for their fearlessness as well as for their skill as navigators. Their praises have been sung and their exploits narrated wherever our language is spoken. The thrilling story of Captain Wilson of the “Emilie St. Pierre” will never be forgotten; it remains one of the epics of the sea. And this is only one of the many that might, and doubtless will, be told.

When reading the story of Christopher Columbus in our younger days we wondered at, and could not but admire, his temerity in daring to cross the Atlantic Ocean - sailing away into the then unknown West in that small vessel the “Pinta.” Yet it was no uncommon thing for our Water-of-Urr sailors to cross that same Western Ocean in vessels like the good old “North Star” that lay so long on the Merse near the Scaur – the admiration of artists, and the wonderment of visitors, and whose cindered remains now lie a shapeless mass. In those days this fine schooner of 150 tons – once a lightship in the River Mersey – had her state cabin for master and mates, and her forecastle for the ten seamen though very little larger than the coasting schooners of the present day, most of which are worked by crews less than half than number.

Shipowners then could well afford to provide larger crews as freights were much higher than they have been since the development of steam power. What experiences these sailors must have had, tempest tossed in the wild Atlantic in a mere cockle shell! And how they suffered from scurvy through living so long on salt junk especially when detained down the channel by the prevalence of east winds for weeks at a time! How they must have relished the scones and oatcakes of their homes after living so long on hard tack as their biscuits were called. The very mention of salt junk must have been nauseating to the poor sailors of these days. No wonder they were suspicious of it and had a special grace for it called the “Deep Water Sailors’ Grace.” The following copy of it was kindly supplied to me by Captain James Cumming:

Old horse, old horse, what brings you here?
You’ve carted stones for many a year.
At last knocked down with sore abuse,
You’re salted down for sailors’ use.
Sailors they do me despise,
They cut me up and damn my eyes,
Tear off the meat and leave my bones,
Then heave the rest to Davy Jones.

Little wonder that with such small slow-sailing craft long voyages were the rule rather than the exception. Little wonder that scurvy was such a common complaint in those days. Little wonder that so many of these little vessels sailed away and were never heard of more. Whenever I hear of such sad losses, and there have been very many such as will be shown later on, the words of the poet Malcolm, learned in Barnbarroch School, come into my mind:

“Oh! Were her tale of sorrow known
‘Twere something to the broken heart,
The pangs of doubt would then be gone
And fancy’s endless dream depart!
It may not be; there is no ray
By which her doom we may explore,
We only know – she sailed away
And ne’er was seen or heard of more.”

The responsibility of the skippers of these sailing vessels must have been pretty heavy. They had not only to navigate, but to manage everything connected with the vessel and its cargo, and they had to render a faithful account to the owners when they reached the home port. I have before me the account book or log of the sloop “Druid,” sailed by Captain Donaldson in the years 1825 to 1834. It is chiefly a record of the disbursements and freights during these years but it makes most interesting reading. On the disbursement side we see that the ship carpenters were paid 3/- a day, that a gallon of whisky at 6/- was provided for the sea stock every few weeks, that coal was sold for 1/- a bushel, that wool was 5d a stone, cheese 5d a pound, tea 6/- a pound, sugar 6d a pound, and that lime was bought at 10½d a bushel and sold at 1/4. One cannot but admire the care and exactitude with which the accounts were kept, even to the halfpenny when hundreds of pounds were in question.

In writing about the Water of Urr shipping the fact must not be overlooked that at one time and another there have been shipbuilding yards in different parts of the river. The Scaur has always been the chief centre of this industry. Palnackie, formerly known as Garden, took second place for some years, thanks to the enterprise of the late Mr. Samuel Wilson of Orchardton, whose fame as a mariner and shipowner will be referred to in due course. It will be new to many, however, that vessels were also built at Dalbeattie port, at Shannon Creek, and at Rockcliffe.

The shipbuilding at the Scaur may be divided into two periods – the earlier and the later. In the early days of last century, the keels of vessels were laid on the beach at the end of the houses where Mrs. Cumming now carries on the one and only shop in the village, but the vessels were mostly of the smaller size. Mr. James Brown was one of the first to begin shipbuilding at the Scaur and he was closely followed by Messrs. Henry, James and John Cumming, who carried it on most successfully for several generations.

How two of the brothers Cumming left the Scaur when boys and walked along the Colvend coast, gradually making their way round into Cumberland until they reached Whitehaven, where they served their apprenticeship as carpenters and shipbuilders, and how they returned to the Scaur to carry out their trade is one of those stories that thrill young hearts, and tend to show how almost insuperable difficulties may be overcome, and were overcome in the days of our fathers and grandfathers. Surely an object lesson and an example of patience and perseverance to the rising generation, too many of whom are being petted and spoiled, much to the detriment of stamina and character. 

Part 3

In later times, that is about the year 1860, there was a revival of the shipbuilding industry that had been in abeyance for some years chiefly through the boom in the repairing part of the business. It was no unusual thing to see three or four vessels awaiting their turn on the Scaur beach for repairs, and the carpenters could not therefore be spared for new work. However, in the year abovementioned, Mr. James Cumming laid the keep of a vessel in a new shipbuilding yard about the centre of the village – the site of my father and mother’s garden until we left the Scaur for Liverpool in 1859 – and set the men to work on her when opportunity offered. Slowly and surely the solid walls of a stately ship rose before our eyes, and after some seven years of patience and perseverance, she was launched into her natural element under the inspiring and inspiriting name of the “Try Again.” This fine vessel after sailing the seven seas from 1867 to 1906 was lost with all hands through a collision in the Bristol Channel.

A second venture followed in the building and launching of the “Balcary Lass,” another splendid specimen of the shipbuilder’s art. Some time afterwards she left Labrador for the British Isles, and was never heard of more, one of those mysterious disappearances that must have broken the heart of many a sailor’s wife.

When a boy I was at the launching of the first vessel at Palnackie, and I think I see her being christened the “Almorness” as she began to move down the slippery ways that enabled her to leap into the arms of the sea in the presence of a great crowd of spectators. She foundered in a squall off the Goodwin Sands and all hands were lost.

One vessel built at Dalbeattie Port, though christened the “Jane Elizabeth,” was known by the nickname “God’s Curse,” because of this ejaculation being made by the skipper when the lady who was naming her failed to break the whisky bottle against her bow. More will be said about the “Jane Elizabeth” further on.

There must have been two attempts to found shipbuilding yards at the Shannon Creek. I have been informed that a vessel called the “Queen of Naples” was built here to the order of Mr. Crosbie of Kipp, but that was before my time. In later years Mr. Thompson made preparations to revive the industry. The walls of the saw-pit may yet be seen near the Ashiebank Quarry Pier. For some reason or other nothing further was done and the idea was ultimately abandoned.

From time immemorial the Scaur carpenters were treated to an allowance of whisky twice a day. Their hours were long; they worked from 6 o’clock in the morning till 6 in the evening for about 3/- a day with half-an-hour for breakfast and an hour for dinner. And they did work! There was no ca’ canny about them! It was a pleasure to watch them caulking the sides of a vessel. I think I hear, even yet, the music of their rhythmical blows on the caulking irons as the oak beam was being driven into the seams between the planks. But every morning at 11, and every afternoon at 3, the sounds would cease and the men would march away to the “Anchor” or one of the other public houses for their dram. And just as regularly preparation was made for the reception of these hard sons of toil by the proprietor of the Inn who covered every chair-bottom with newspaper to save them from the tar on the clothes of the workmen. The whisky was 2d a glass in those days - not the 1s 4d as in post-war times! But even then, this custom added considerably to the repair account of every vessel overhauled.

Even my younger readers will remember the slipway on the Scaur beach. Prior to its introduction, the vessels in need of serious repairs were moored broadside as far up the beach as possible at high tide and raised as far as possible by means of screws, a very slow and cumbrous method. The launch from this position required great preparation. On one occasion, and one only, did a mishap take place. Everything was ready, the logs well greased, one at the bow and another at the stern. The order was given to knock away the last wedges so that the vessel – it was the “Suffolk Hero” – might glide into the water. One of the carpenters bungled his part of the work, failing to knock away the wedges at his end. The other end of the vessel thus began to move and the consequence was that she fell on the beach, the launch proving a failure. Luckily the schooner was not much damaged but she had to be raised on the blocks once more by means of the screws, and her cradle renewed, before being sent into her watery home.

Sailing vessel crossing the road on the slipway
(The Stewartry Museum Collection)

The use of the slipway simplified matters. The vessel was floated onto a cradle that was hauled up the rails laid on the beach by means of a chain attached to a capstan in the building yard, then firmly secured by blocks, and shores, that is, long stout beams laid against the side of the vessel. The launches from this position were great events and brought together a large concourse of spectators on every occasion. I was near the bow of that great warship, the "Audacious,” when she was launched from Cammel-Laird’s yard at Birkenhead but it did not thrill me as I was thrilled at the Scaur as I stood watching Mr. Cumming knock out the pin that released the cradle and sent the vessel on her journey into the water. It may be remembered that the “Audacious” was sunk by the Germans early in the war on the north coast of Ireland. The matter was kept a secret until the American press gave the show away. Even then there were contradictions that mystified the public.

The slipway was sold or otherwise disposed of about ten years ago. Prior to that time the old saw-pit had been filled up, but nearly the whole of the front of the village was part of the beach with here large heaps of small boulders that had been brought as ballast by various vessels from time to time. The removal of the slipway enabled the Improvement Committee of the village to continue the road as far as the shop, use the boulders to build a sea wall, and level up the front so as to form two greens on which have been provided garden seats for visitors. The expense connected with all this was defrayed by funds raised by concerts and a few voluntary contributions from visitors.

Part 4

Since the decay of the shipbuilding industry at the Scaur, endeavours have been made to attract visitors. The provision of seats in the village, and round the hillside paths have helped in this direction. Through the kindly interest of Mr. L. M. Dinwiddie, one of the governors of the Hutton Trust, these paths have been greatly improved, rough places have been made plain, brackens are cut annually, stiles and gates have been renewed, and the road to Rough Firth kept in reasonable repair. This latter road was made by the residents themselves at a very slight cost, most of the work being done by volunteers. Only those who remember the communication between the Scaur and Rough Firth before this road was made can have any idea what a boon it has been. It is a pleasure to walk down to the bathing place nowadays, instead of a difficult matter as formerly.

For those who prefer walking to golfing or tennis or boating, the attractions of the Scaur and neighbourhood are very varied and altogether delightful. The Jubilee Path that leads round the Muckle Hill is bad to beat and is a constant delight to visitors. It leads you to Knockyknowe, one of the favourite resorts for youths and maidens gay to loll in the sun and gaze of Silver Solway and the coast of Cumberland. It also leads you to Rockcliffe and the Solway Cliffs at Castle Point, where is one of the finest sandy bays of the coast, near which is the famous mill-stone quarry, and not far from which are Gitcher’s Isle and the “Elbe” memorial.

Perhaps the most favourite walk, and certainly the most frequently enthused about, is the walk round the Velvet Path behind the Mark Hill. Another walk that equals if not excels the last named, but is not so accessible, is that to Almorness Cottage, better known as Cockle Ha’en. To do this one properly, and with greater comfort, the visitor must cross to the Glen Brow steps by boat an hour before high water, returning a couple of hours later on the ebbing tide. The view from the old fort on the knowe behind the cottage enables one to get a glimpse of both valleys, Orchardton Tower, the Urr Estuary, and the Solway Firth, a magnificent panorama.

An excellent view of the four lochs of Co’en; Duff’s, Clonyard, White and Barean, locally known as Ironnash Loch, can be obtained from the top of Doon Hill, which can be reached by skirting the Kipp Wood opposite Orchard Knowes loaning, or by going round the road and up past Auchenhill Farm. On a clear day Silloth and the Isle of Man may also be seen from the summit, whilst the Urr valley stands out in all its loveliness from North Glen to Dalbeattie. There is no obstruction to the view now that the wood has been cut down.

A few hours on Rough Isle or Heston, the Rathan of The Raiders, are worth much from a health point of view. Both of these islands are favourite picnicking points.

Many visitors want to know if there is any fishing near the Scaur. Permission is needed to fish in Duff’s Loch, the only one where trout is to be found. In the other lochs pike and perch may be fished. Sea fishing by line is seldom attempted, simply because it is hardly ever attended with success unless the lines are laid on the banks and visited between the tides. Visitors occasionally enjoy a day’s trawling with the Annan fishermen.

The industries of the Scaur only require a very few words. There are two or three trawlers or fishing boats belonging to the village but during the last year or two very little has been done. The cost of transport by rail is still too high to make it a paying job. A considerable quantity of mussels is dispatched almost daily to the English markets. This indeed is the only live industry at the present time. A few years ago the gathering of cockles on the Rough Firth banks gave occupation to a few people, but since the channel altered its course, that trade has entirely ceased. It may interest the younger generation to know that a few years ago the channel went close round Glen Isle point, across to Starvation Point, and kept quite near to the rocks along Gibb’s Hole, as far as Horse Isles Bay, known locally as Whitesand Bay. Now it takes a straight course towards the middle of Gibb’s Hole.

For many years a regatta was held annually at the Scaur. It was instituted when there were very few boats in the place except those belonging to the vessels that happened to be in the river at the time. As years rolled on, boats of all classes were built and entered in the competitions for the various silver cups and valuable money prizes that had been provided by visitors and friends. It became one of the principle events of the kind in the South of Scotland and attracted hundreds of spectators year after year. It was discontinued during the Great War and has not been revived.

Two years ago, however, a number of enthusiastic yachtsmen banded themselves together and formed the Solway Sailing Club. They looked about them and secured a new design of dinghy, 14 feet in length, and broad of beam with centre board. Six of these have already been built by Messrs Sayers, Kirkcudbright, and during the last summer races were run fortnightly. Increasing interest has been taken in these club competitions, and most likely the enthusiasm engendered may lead to the revival of the annual regatta in the near future.

A word or two about the facilities for bathing may not be out of place. The most popular, and therefore the most frequented bathing place, is at Rough Firth. There are two bays and both are well patronised. When the tide is out at the Scaur many of the visitors walk to Castle Point where there is a beautiful sandy bay, Glen Isle Bay and Whiteport are also favourite resorts of bathers but boats are required for conyeyance to these two places.

One of the greatest improvements ever effected in the Scaur was the laying down of the jetty. It is useful the whole year through, but in the season it is the constant centre of attraction inasmuch as it enables all and sundry to embark or disembark with comfort at all times of the tide when boating or yachting. Fishing smacks too come to the jetty with their harvest of the sea, and on their arrival there is a rush of buyers from the village, making quite a busy scene.

The granite pier is sometimes used by the fishing boats, but as the woodwork is fast decaying great care has to be taken in walking along that part of it. The attempt to resuscitate the granite quarries seems to have been unsuccessful so far.

Part 5.

And now let me try to answer the query of our friend R.C Rymer. The “Thomas Green,” a wee schooner of some 30 tons, was sunk at Heston after plying between Cumberland and the Water of Urr for many years, and often sailed by her owner, Captain Wilson.

The “John and James” was a fine schooner of 115 tons, and under the command of Captain John Tait was long successfully engaged in trading to all parts of the coast. She was wrecked on the pier at Whitehaven whilst running for shelter from a severe gale that caught her on her voyage from Liverpool to the Water of Urr. Luckily all hands were saved, and her skipper, though now advanced in years and fast approaching the four score, still seems as brisk as ever. Along with Mr. William Clachrie he provides for the wants of the visitors at the Scaur, amongst whom he is very popular, by taking them into the Solway or up the river in their fine motor boat, the “Doreen,” formerly belonging to Mr. W. Theodore Carr, of Carlisle.

In the “John and James” Captain Tait was often as far north as Shetland, picking up fish for Leith and Greenock. At other times he would bring kelp from Shetland to Glasgow, returning north with cargoes of salt. Formerly the kelp industry proved a gold mine round the island of Lewis, and Lord Leverhulme has been trying to develop the industry afresh. After the wreck of the “John and James,” Captain Tait sailed the “North Barrule” for nine years, but retired from the sea on the death of his wife fourteen years ago.

The “Good Intent” was sold into Silloth, where she was converted into a dredger with such good purpose that when the dock was cleared of mud, the dock gates were burst open. Captain George Wilson was her skipper for some time.

The “Witch o’ the Wave” was sold into Ireland where at Portaferry as her headquarters she is still going as strong as ever with the help of a motor engine.

The “Importer” was wrecked in Brighouse Bay, where she was discharging a load of coals. A gale springing up drove her from her anchorage, but the crew managed to reach the shore. Her namesake, the “New Importer,” was lost with all hands on a voyage from Liverpool to the Water of Urr in 1891. The bodies of the crew were cast up several months afterwards on different parts of the coast. The loss of this vessel with so many valuable lives inspired the writer of these lines to agitate more strongly for the establishment of a lighthouse on the island of Heston. Thanks chiefly to Major Maxwell of Kirkennan, who took the matter up, a lighthouse was erected the following year.

The “Jessie Maxwell” lay long on the Scaur beach – a sheer hulk – all that was left of her after taking fire at sea laden with lime. Gradually she was broken up and used for firewood, but I still have in my possession her sternboard with her name painted thereon. I think I see her creeping up the river on the incoming tide in her dilapidated condition. Captain Bryson was her skipper for many years.

Having cleared the decks so far, let us now bring under notice the representatives of that long line of skippers who have adorned the pages of history connected with the winding Urr. And first I must mention Captain Thomas Candlish, that splendid specimen of the ancient mariner type, who left the sea some years ago to live at Rockcliffe, where he still takes a lively interest in the yachts there, though well over 90 years of age. Hale and hearty he has ever been, and always the same, bright-eyed, alert and intelligent as when I first knew him some 65 years ago. In those days he was captain of the schooner “Lucy End,” of which he was part owner at first and then owner. We boys were always pleased to see the Captain’s vessel on the Scaur beach, for then we were sure to get a cabin biscuit, and the use of the boat to row about the river. There were no pleasure boats at that time on the Scaur. Even after reaching manhood’s years I have sat in his cabin in a Liverpool dock munching a biscuit and listening to his wonderful stories of smuggling connected with Palnackie, many of which I have re-told in the columns of the “K.A.” as the years rolled on. An ancestor of Captain Candlish was, I understand, the prototype of Lucky M’Candlish, one of the characters in Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering.”

The gallant Captain was born in Palnackie, and began the sea as a boy in the sloop “Henrietta,” his father being the skipper. At the age of 18 he was appointed skipper of the sloop “Jessie,” built at the Scaur, and was said to be a “forbye fortunate young fellow” in getting command of a vessel at that early age. After selling the “Lucy End” mentioned above he bought the “Eagle,” one of the Montrose and London clippers, and sailed her two or three year. Then he sold her and bought the “Rover,” a large schooner, and her he swapped for another vessel and a sum of money. Afterwards he sailed the “Mantura” for many years, and in her made numerous voyages to the west of Ireland and the north of Scotland.

To his credit be it said, Captain Candlish never lost a vessel – a remarkable record in such a long life, especially when one considers the dangers connected with the navigation of the Solway and other parts of our rock-bound coasts, It may be noted that the schooner “Margaret and Mary,” belonging to the Captain, was lying inside Rough Isle laden with coals when a gale sprung up, caused her to drag her anchors, and threw her on the rocks at Rockcliffe, where she became a total wreck. Captain Candlish, however, was not on board at the time.

This fine old mariner had two sons, both of whom began their seafaring lives in vessels belonging to the Water of Urr. The elder, Captain John, became skipper of the “Mantura” when his father took command of the “Gelert,” but the greater part of his time at sea was spent in command of coasting steamers. Retiring a few years ago, he took up his residence in Dalbeattie, but he is an almost daily visitor to Rockcliffe, where, like his father, he takes a lively interest in the yachts, as well as everything connected with the local shipping. The younger son, Captain Charles, also went into the steam-coasting trade until the war broke out, when he offered his services to his King and country though much over the age, and was sent to France to take the command of barges carrying ammunition. There his health broke down, and the gastric trouble contracted was the cause of his death at sea a year or two later.

Captain John Candlish, a brother of Captain Thomas Candlish, died at Rockcliffe several years ago after many years’ life at sea as skipper of Water of Urr vessels engaged in the coasting trade. He was master of the “Thomas Graham” at one time – a vessel that was lost at sea on the night of the storm that caused the Tay Bridge disaster.

Part 6.

Another hale and hearty skipper fast approaching the veteran age is Captain Robert Edgar, one of our most respected villagers. He retired from the sea a year or two ago, but is aye ready to pilot a boat up the river, or do a hand’s turn for a friend. At the age of 14, Captain Edgar joined the “Wee Brig” under Capt. M’Lellan. After sailing with Capt. Samuel Ewart in the “Euphemia” and Captain Dixon Black in the “Eulalie,” names well known locally, he joined the “Sheitan” under Captain Samuel Murdoch, of Dalbeattie, of whom more anon. Then he was mate and skipper of the “Gallovidian,” for some time trading to Bristol, Ireland, and Fort William, after which he commanded the “Mochrum Lass” for 10 years, the “Maggie Kelso” for 15 years and the “Margaret Ann” for about 12 years, until the last-named was sold into Ireland during the war. His last command was the “General Havelock,” trading between Dumfries and Cumberland.

During the half century of his sea life Captain Edgar never lost a vessel, and thus, like Captain Thomas Candlish, he has proved himself a careful and skilful navigator. Two years before he retired, a big steamer just rubbed the end of the bowsprit of the “Margaret Ann.” So near a shave was it that the crew got into the boat thinking the end had come. The Captain, however, remained on board. May this fine old mariner long live to pilot vessels up and down the Water of Urr.! Six of the Captain’s sons became sailors, two being lost at sea, three are officers, and one an apprentice in the Mercantile Marine.

The "Margaret Ann"

The schooner “Ben Gullion” was a well-known trader connected with the Water of Urr and for many years she was commanded by Captain James Ewart, who hailed from Palnackie. For reasons of health Captain Ewart gave up the sea, and during the past few years he has been a successful farmer at Boreland of Colvend, and a highly respected elder of Colvend Church. It is interesting to note that the “Ben Gullion” has lately resumed her connection with the Water of Urr after a long absence in other parts of the coast.

Another well-known Colvend family has still representatives of the seafaring class in our midst. I refer to the sons of Captain Charles Bie, who owned the fine schooner “William Thompson,” and sailed her for many years. One of them, Captain John Bie, succeeded his father as skipper of the “William Thompson,” and then sailed the “Annie Heron” and the “Annie B. Smith” for some time, carrying coals chiefly to various places around the coast. He is now living in retirement in Rockcliffe, where he is as popular, with young people especially, as ever he was in his sea-going days. Captain William Bie, another son, is still ploughing the seas in the Mercantile Marine. The “Annie Heron,” a pretty model of a schooner, was sold into Wales much to the regret of many people in the Water of Urr. The “William Thompson” was broken up in Wexford.

One of our youngest skipper, who is keeping up the reputation of the Water of Urr sailors by his skill, energy and courtesy is Captain David Duke, whose home is at the Scaur. He began his sea-faring career in the “William Thompson” under Captain John Bie, mentioned in the proceeding paragraph. After a short service before the mast in the “Ben Gullion,” he was appointed mate of the “Resolution,” another local vessel then commanded by the late Captain John Murdoch. At the early age of 25 he was made skipper of the “Lady Helen,” and afterwards of the “Warsash,” on which vessel he traded for seven years between Liverpool and Dalbeattie. Then he took command of the “Dolphin,” since sold into the Orkneys, after the death of Captain William Sharp, who was killed by a falling block as the vessel was entering the river Mersey. In later times Captain Duke had charge of the “Annie B. Smith” until she was sold during the war, the “Ulverston” and the “Enigma.” Just now he commands, and partly owns, the “Adolf,” an iron schooner bought from the Germans, and is likely to do a good general trade round the coast when her motor engine is installed. The “Warsash” was burnt at the water’s edge in the Kingston Dock, Glasgow, when a warehouse took fire.

The “Enigma” deserves a paragraph all to herself. This old schooner is said to have been used as a slave ship at one time, and as a pirate ship at another. Whatever she has been, she was certainly a well-built, stout old craft, as I saw her on the Scaur beach a few months ago. She left Whitehaven at the beginning of December, and two or three days afterwards her wreckage was cast up on the Cumberland coast. It is surmised that she foundered in a gale that sprang up soon after she sailed, all hands being lost with her. Captain Pearson, of Kirkcudbright, was her skipper, having succeeded Captain Duke when she was sold out of the Water of Urr. Another tragedy of the sea!

For several generations the best-known schooner connected with the Water of Urr was, perhaps, the “Gallovidian,” belonging to the late Captain John Cumming, and sailed by him for a number of years until he was required at home to carry on the shipbuilding business when his brother, Mr. James Cumming, passed away, respected an revered by all. Many clever sailors from Galloway received their early training on the “Gallovidian.” When near the end of her long career, she lay on the Scaur beach until she was sold into Maryport, where she was accidentally burnt.

Two sons of Captain John Cumming became sailors. One of them, Captain Henry Cumming, was lost a sea during the war. He received his earlier training on the “Gallovidian,” but afterwards joined the Mercantile Marine. The other, Captain James Cumming, began his seafaring life in the “Gallovidian,” but like so many of our young sailors, left the coasting trade for deep-water navigation. After sailing the seven seas in windjammers and steamers, he left the sea in 1914, and since that time has made himself useful in many ways at the Scaur, especially in connection with his yacht and with those of the Solway Sailing Club, which he looks after with great assiduity. Occasionally he does a little fishing on his own account.

Part 7.

Of the retired sea captains belonging to the Water of Urr the well-known and distinguished names Captain Cassidy, Captains John, James and Henry Rae, Captain Dornan and Captain Black rise before my mind, but these were all deep-water sailors, and hardly come into the category of Water-of-Urr skippers through not being trained in vessels sailing from the river.

I goes without saying that the full story of the Water of Urr skippers and their vessels, whose names have been household words to every reader of the “K.A.” during the last 65 years, would fill several volumes. My purpose is to put on record a brief allusion to those who have lived and moved and had their being within my memory, which goes back that length of time. When a boy of nine I began to take an interest in things. And I may be forgiven if I say that I have known everyone whose names have appeared or will appear in this story – many of them being lifelong friends.

In my boyhood’s days at the Scaur Captain Samuel Wilson and his brother, Captain George Wilson, were well-known skippers and ship-owners. The former was born in 1807 at Carsethorn, and served his apprenticeship on the brig “Elizabeth,” trading chiefly to the west of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. The first Water of Urr vessel he commanded was the “Jean” belonging to Mr M’Knight of Barlochan, a vessel of 50 tons burthen. With this small craft he traded with the east coast of Scotland, thus showing the inherent pluck and grit of his nature. He soon became owner of the “Glasgow,” a schooner of about 100 tons. Captain Wilson must have done excellent work in this vessel, as with her he realised a competency. At this period freights were very good. It was no uncommon event to deliver coasting cargoes at 15s to 20s a ton, or quite as much as what vessels latterly delivered tonnage in Australia.

In the great gale of the 7th January 1839, the “Glasgow” was one of six vessels that left Sligo, and only she and another reached their destination. In 1840 Captain Wilson married Miss Lammie of Orchard Knowes and settled in Palnackie where, in addition to his business as ship-owner and ship-builder, he added that of timber and coal merchant.

Captain Wilson had several narrow escapes from meeting a watery grave, the most striking being his escape from the wreck of his schooner, the “Elbe,” on 7th December 1867. He was coming across from Maryport in her as a passenger, and the vessel was anchored in Balcary Bay until there was water over the bar. With the incoming tide there rose a heavy gale from the southwest, and she struck the ground heavily in floating. The cables snapped, sails were set, and the crew hoped to get her into the Water of Urr for safety. To their dismay they found that the rudder had gone in the bumping, and the vessel was unsteerable. Her boat also had broken adrift. Thus she was at the mercy of the waves, and all endeavour to guide her into the estuary of the river failing, she drifted towards Glenstocking cliffs. As she approached them, Captain Wilson gave the order “Every man for himself,” and when she struck several of the crew clambered on the rocks. The next wave again brought the vessel near the cliff, and two more jumped ashore safely. One remained on board, and those on the rocks noted his blanched face as the vessel was carried away from the cliffs. Luckily, however, another huge wave brought her back, and enabled the last of the seven to reach solid ground and safety. Then the “Elbe” sheared about and sailed away into the Solway, sinking like a stone about a mile from the shore before the eyes of the crew and some onlookers who had been drawn to the spot. A wonderful and providential deliverance indeed! A cairn of stones, erected by Captain Wilson and friends, stands near the place where the crew landed.

In his 94th year Captain Wilson underwent an operation in the Edinburgh Hospital, having his left hand amputated, the result of it being crushed some years previously. He lived some time after that, hale and hearty to the last, passing away at Orchardton within a couple of years of his 100th birthday, a true Water of Urr mariner.

His brother, Captain George Wilson, also lived to a good old age, having made his home in Dalbeattie, where he founded the well-known firm of coal and ship-merchants carried on in latter years by his son Mr. Alex. Wilson, who lately “crossed the bar,” deeply lamented by old and young. I have memories of Captain George Wilson coming down to the Scaur in his gig whenever any of his vessels happened to be on the beach. His seagoing days were over then, but he was ever the fine old son of the sea. The “Good Intent” was one of his favourite schooners – a very significant name.

In the nature of things some men figure more prominently in the public eye than others, and that without any desire on their part to do so. Such a one was Captain John M’Lellan, who begun his seagoing career as a boy on his father’s vessel, the “Elizabeth,” popularly known as the “Wee Brig,” already mentioned in this story, and who became one of the best-known captains of the Mercantile Marine. He was born at Barnbarroch in 1843, but was schooled at Palnackie, where his parents went to live in his early boyhood. After serving his apprenticeship on the “Wee Brig,” he joined the “Rover” under Captain Thomas Candlish, who still speaks in glowing terms of “one of the smartest seamen he ever come across.” But the coasting trade was not for Captain John M’Lellan. After a year in the “Rover” he went to Liverpool to enter the foreign trade. It is worthy of note that a brother of his took his place on the “Rover” and lost his life when the vessel was wrecked on the very next voyage. How true the old Scripture saying “One shall be taken and the other left.” A brother of Captain Edgar was also lost on the vessel.

At the age of 23, Captain John M’Lellan was made commander of the “Vanguard,” a large sailing ship, and he soon became one of the shining lights of the Mercantile Marine. For 20 years he voyaged the whole world over, never losing a vessel, and giving examples of pluck and resourcefulness, an instance of which may be given. On one occasion, when his ship caught fire, he carried a barrel of gunpowder out of the burning cabin and threw it overboard – a feat that doubtless saved the vessel from utter destruction, as well as the lives of all onboard.

In November 1886 Captain M’Lellan was invited to join the Liverpool Salvage Association, and thenceforward was opened up for him even a more brilliant chapter of his interesting and romantic career. By this Association he was sent to all quarters of the globe to survey wrecks and salvage them when at all possible. His most noteworthy successes in this connection were the salving of the “Knight Commander” and the “Seuvic,” for both of which he was honoured and rewarded by grateful underwriters. After his retirement Captain M’Lellan occasionally visited the Water of Urr. He died in 1914, and was laid to rest in Buittle Churchyard.

Part 8.

In the middle of the field adjoining Barcloy Mill, Colvend, and lying to the eastward of its loaning stood for many generations a small thatched cottage. It was demolished a few years ago, and only a flat patch of ground now marks the spot. In this homely, humble dwelling, a highly respected, hard-working, successful shoemaker – Mr Samuel Murdoch – lived with his wife for over half a century, and reared a family of seven sons and three daughters, one of whom was the mother of the writer of this story. Two of the sons followed the trade of their father, the other five all took to the sea, and so come into the story of the Water of Urr sailors.

The eldest son, Captain Ebenezer Murdoch, had a great reputation as a skipper in Water of Urr vessels. He also had a large family, two of whom, Captain Joseph Murdoch and Captain Thomas Murdoch, were well known and skilful commanders of ocean going ships.

The second son, Captain Andrew Murdoch, was skipper of the “Robert and Helen” until she was wrecked on the Mull of Kintyre in a dense fog. The crew escaped with their lives by climbing the precipitous cliffs of that rockbound coast. He then took command of a fine new vessel christened the “Brothers,” because he and two of his brothers purchased her. On a voyage up the west coast of Scotland he died very suddenly when at the wheel falling into the arms of his son John who was mate of the vessel. He was buried in Tobermory Churchyard. This son, John, succeeded his father as skipper of the “Brothers” and afterwards sailed first the “Isabelle” and then the “Resolution.” He was said to be one of the finest sailors that ever trod the decks. Three sons of Captain John Murdoch joined the sea. Of these Captain James Murdoch is skipper of the “Raymond,” and well maintains the reputation of our Water of Urr sailors.

Mr Samuel Murdoch’s third sailor son was Captain James Murdoch, who was skipper of the large sloop “Freedom” for many years, and carried on a successful trade around the coast. He received his earlier training under Captain George Wilson in the “Betsy.” On one rather stormy voyage when nearing the Cumberland coast, Captain James Murdoch was washed overboard, but a succeeding wave luckily washed him back on deck – one of those providential deliverances we have read about on very rare occasions. He died at the Scaur well over the four score, and his remains lie in Co’en Kirkyard. The “Freedom” was lost in Belfast Lough only a few years ago.

Captain James Murdoch had three sons, all of whom became commanders of ocean going ships after being trained in vessels belonging to the Water of Urr engaged in the coasting trade. The eldest, Captain Samuel Murdoch, father of Lieutenant William Murdoch of the ill-fated “Titanic,” served his apprenticeship with his father in the "Freedom,” but afterwards became commander of large ships like the well-known clipper “Knight Companion,” trading chiefly between Liverpool and San Francisco, in both of which ports his memory is still revered. He was perhaps one of the best known, most successful, and most highly respected master mariners hailing from the Water of Urr. After retiring from the sea, he lived in Dalbeattie, but frequently visited his native village the Scaur. The loss of his son William in the “Titanic” was a great blow to him – one from which he never recovered. He passed away not long afterwards and was buried in Dalbeattie Cemetery. Of Captain James Murdoch’s two other sons, Captain John died at sea, and Captain William perished in the “Mary,” along with Captain William Wilson when that vessel was wrecked near Rascarrel on her voyage from Cumberland to the Water of Urr.

Captain Thorburn, a son-in-law of Captain James Murdoch, lost his life in the “Dundonald” when that splendid four-master was wrecked on the Auckland Islands. The full story of that remarkable shipwreck – how Captain Thorburn and his son James, along with half the crew, were drowned soon after the vessel struck; how the survivors were discovered on one of the islands several months afterwards by the Government relief ship; how they subsisted during all that time – may be found in a book inspired by one of the mates of the vessel. But the story of the mental suffering endured by the near and dear ones of the Captain and his crew, the agony of hopes long deferred, and then blasted in some cases, will never be know.

A watery grave claimed the two remaining sons of my grandfather, Captain Alexander Murdoch being drowned in a Hull dock whilst boarding his ship, and Captain Charles Murdoch, the youngest of the seven being lost with all on board in the Atlantic on a voyage from Cuba in the West Indies to Great Britain. His vessel was never heard of and was supposed to have foundered in a heavy gale that was reported at the time. The sea has certainly demanded a heavy toll from the Murdoch family.

A distant relative of the family was Captain David Murdoch of the Scaur, who sailed the “Importer” for a number of years, trading chiefly between Liverpool and the Water of Urr. He was a general favourite, and his death at a comparatively early age was much regretted. The anxieties connected with sea life in the coasting trade undermined a constitution not too robust. And no wonder! When one thinks of the dangers to be guarded in these small vessels in running from one port to another, danger of collision, danger of sudden storms, irregular meals, it is astonishing that so many live to a good old age.

One of the smartest and trimmest schooners that ever sailed out of the Water of Urr to trade between Dalbeattie and Liverpool was the “Mary Agnes,” built at Barnstaple in 1882 and belonging to the Messrs Newall, Craignair Quarries. Many years did she carry on the good work under the command of Captain Thomas Hume, another of those faithful, clever mariners whose memory will long be cherished. The “Mary Agnes” was lost off the Mersey Bar with all hands, but prior to that Captain Hume had left her and she had been sold into the west of England.

The "Elizabeth” or “Wee Brig” has been mentioned several times in the course of this narrative. It may be interesting to note that this vessel was originally a French Corvette before being bought into the Water of Urr, and that she ended her days as a coal hulk at Sligo. Many fine sailors received their early training on this bonnie vessel.

I have also previously referred to the “Jane Elizabeth.” He skipper for some years was Captain Charles Clachrie, father of Mr. Robert Clachrie who died last year at the Scaur and who was one of the crew rescued from the “Elbe” when she was lost off Glenstocking. In that same gale the “Jane Elizabeth” was making for the Water of Urr and to save her from being dashed on the rocks, Captain Clachrie ran her on the sandy shore at Rockcliffe and scuttled her – the crew walking ashore when the tide receded. He has seen the peril of the “Elbe” and did not learn of his son’s safety until some time afterwards. When the gale moderated the “Jane Elizabeth” was repaired and resumed her voyage. These incidents were the talk of the countryside for many a long day. The “Jane Elizabeth" went ashore on the north coast of Ireland and became a total wreck.

Part 9

At this point it may be interesting to note that half a century ago there were at least three or four distinct types on vessels trading in the Water of Urr. There was the wherry, a small vessel engaged chiefly in bringing over coals from Cumberland. Then there was a sloop, a one-masted vessel of various tonnage. The larger traded all round the coast and carried a crew of three or four, including the skipper, whilst the smaller ones kept nearer home with a crew consisting of a skipper and someone to help him. The schooners are well known to the present generation as they still survive to remind us of the glories of the past as regards coasting craft. The brigs have entirely disappeared from the Water of Urr. They had two masts, and had yards, or square sails, on each mast. The three-masted ships and barques were only seen in Gibb’s Hole when discharging a load of timber from Quebec or some other foreign port. And oh! What a delight it was to hear the chanty singing of the sailors as they ran round the capstan, and to watch the great splash of water when the log was ejected from the “port-hole” in the bow. Although the vessels were lying a mile off, “Ranza, boys, Ranza,” as the sound was borne on the summer breeze, up to our little village. And then the joy of seeing the rafts of logs when they were drifted or towed up to the Scaur beach – but those are bygone days.

As my readers may have noticed, the number of families connected with the sea generation after generation was very large. The Bie’s, Candlishes, Cummings, Edgars and Murdochs have already been mentioned. Amongst the others, the Hallidays come into this category. Before my day Captain James Halliday lived at the Scaur, and commanded several vessels, including the “Jessie,” the “Thomas Nelson Black,” and the “Henrietta.” Our old friend, Captain Thomas Candlish of Selma, Rockcliffe, when a boy sailed under Captain Halliday who, in his earlier days, had some exciting experiences. On one occasion whilst serving his apprenticeship on a vessel commanded by a Scaur skipper, the Press Gang – that nightmare of early Victorian days – came on board in the Bristol Channel and took him off. Owing to the sturdy protestations of the skipper, however, he was liberated and thus escaped what might have been a long service on a man-o-war ship.

One of his sons, Captain William Halliday, began his career as an apprentice serving part of his time on a brig called the “Pilot” of Annan, belonging to Messrs Nicholson of that port, and commanded by Captain Thomas Murdoch of the Scaur, and the remainder of his time in the “Henry Brougham” under Captain M’Creadie who lived in Dalbeattie. On completing his apprenticeship he sailed on a vessel named the “Breeze” under the command of Captain William Murdoch, another Scaur skipper. On a voyage to Buenos Ayres Captain Murdoch died of Cholera shortly after crossing the equator and was buried at sea. Captain Halliday took command of the vessel though only 23 years of age, took her to her destination, and then brought her back to Falmouth. After this he was in command of several well-known barques before he ultimately went into steam. The Captain Murdochs referred to in this paragraph were relations of my grandfather, but belonged to another branch of the family and lived at the Scaur. Captain David Murdoch of the “Importer” belonged to this off-shoot of the clan.

The other son, Captain John Halliday, served his apprenticeship on a vessel called the “Mark” named after the hill behind the Scaur where she was built, and commanded by Captain J. Cumming of the Scaur. Afterwards he was chiefly engaged in the foreign trade. When he was chief mate of a barque called the “Tamuero” there were three John Hallidays on board. The Captain, the second mate and himself, all three hailing from Galloway but not related. They used nick-names to distinguish one from the other!

In my boyhood’s days there was no railway in the Stewartry, and Palnackie being the nearest port to Castle Douglas, was naturally the centre of a considerable shipping trade. That prettily situated village has turned out quite a number of distinguished sailors, some of whom have already been mentioned in this story. There were others who in their early days came all the way from Palnackie to Barnbarroch school and with whom we had a stern tussle on the school green, but they passed from my ken through my removal to Liverpool, and I must leave it to others to do justice to them. I have already referred to Captain James Ewart, a Palnackie skipper. His father, Captain Samuel Ewart, sailed the “Billow” for Messrs Black and M’Minn, carrying coals between Cumberland and Auchencairn. Afterwards he bought the “Euphemia” and sailed her for a number of years until he retired from the sea.

There are two Captain Blacks with whom I am acquainted. Captain George Black, who is now on the American side of the Atlantic, served his apprenticeship in the employ of Messrs Rae, Liverpool, and was not at any time in one of the Water of Urr vessels. The other, Captain Thomas Black, began his career in the “Snowdon Lass” with his father Captain John Black. In 1875 he sailed under Captain James Bell in the barquentine “Blue and White,” chiefly in the Newfoundland and Mediterranean trade. He was second mate of the “Fleetwing” and the “Atlas” engaged in the Australian and Indian trade. After being chief mate of the barquentine “Volador” he went into steam, joining the State Line, sailing between Glasgow and New York. He was captain of coasting steamers for 22 years, during which time he took the racing yacht “Caress” from Gourock to Boston Bay, along with Captain John Barr, well known as the skipper of the “Thistle” in the race for the America Cup. He was also for several years commander of two well known vessels, the “Solway Firth” and the “Pentland Firth.” Although now practically retired from the sea-faring life, Captain Black has not altogether given up his connection with Neptune’s domain, as he regularly takes part in the contests of the Solway Yacht Club with his trim little yacht, “Waterwitch.” Long may he continue to do so!

Time and again I have noticed with astonishment and admiration how readily these skippers transferred their command from one vessel to another when called upon to do so. At a moment’s notice they would literally take up their bed and walk on board with their belongings, give the order to hoist the sail, raise the anchor, and off they went on their voyage. In connection with Captain Black the “Snowdon Lass” is once more mentioned. At one time she was commanded by Captain John M’Knight, the father of my old school fellow at Barnbarroch school – Mr David McKnight – with whom I still delight to fight over again our old school battles. Captain M’Knight was also skipper of the “Good Intent” and the “Thammas Green,” names never to be forgotten in our river story.

Part 10.

Captain James Clachrie, a relative of the last named skipper, began his sea life in one of the Water of Urr vessels, the “Heart of Oak,” but afterwards went into the foreign trade. When he retired to his home at Rough Firth he took a very active interest in the Kippford regattas and, along with his brother Mr. William Clachrie, built boat after boat until he succeeded in carrying off the coveted prize – a silver cup – from his rival competitors, who sailed English built boats.

Captain John Campbell was another of our well-known Scaur skippers. For some time he sailed the “Mark,” one of the vessels built in the early days of the Scaur shipbuilding. This vessel was lost in the Solway Firth with all hands.

Of the vessels already mentioned the fate of the following may be noted:- The “Mochrum Lass” was sold into Dundee, and was taken to that port by way of the Forth and Clyde Canal by three Water of Urr sailors – Messrs A. Clark, J. Walker and R. Edgar.

The “Maggie Kelso” was sold into Ireland, and is still engaged in the coasting trade.

The “Liberty” long sailed by Captain Joe Clark, who afterwards became the ferryman at the Scaur, was allowed to rot her bones on Allonby beach.

The remains of the “Kitty” are yet to be found on the banks of the river near Palnackie.

Captain Edward Howell, at one time the ferryman, sailed his little vessel, the “Swift,” with his wife as mate, until she was wrecked in Rascarrel Bay. Old Ned, as he was called, was accidentally drowned one dark night when mooring his boat at the Scaur.

Captain John Sloan, of Dalbeattie, sailed the "John and Sarah” for some time. His son Captain Nathan Sloan, was skipper of the “Heart of Oak” and other local vessels, but afterwards went to take command of coasting steamers.

The “Heart of Oak” was last commanded by Captain James Clachrie, another Co’en man, now residing at Creetown. The old vessel was laid up in Wigtown, and fell to pieces near the harbour.

Then we must mention Captain Robert Clachrie and Captain John Aitken, both of whom became commanders of large ships engaged in the foreign trade, and were held in high repute as successful mariners. Captain Aitken’s end was rather tragical. His vessel, having sprung a leak, was foundering in the Atlantic, and the crew took to the boats, but the Captain refused to leave his ship and went down with her.

Many pages might be written of quaint sayings and stirring incidents connected with these old-time skippers, but one or two must suffice in this brief story. To illustrate the former, I may quote a portion of the prayer of old Captain C.R. who asked his maker to save him and his vessel from shipwreck, adding “I am not like one of those hypocritical bodies that trouble you all the time, and if you will only spare our lives this time it will be a lang time before I trouble you again.” Can you wonder that his prayer was answered?

Another old worthy told of the cleverness of his son in the following significant words – “Oor Jamie made an ash bucket oot o’ his head, and he has got enough wood left to make anither.”

A painting of one of the old Water of Urr sloops belonging to the late Mr. Alex. Wilson, and hanging for the last few years in his office, disclosed a quaint custom of the skippers of the days gone by. We have seen pictures of cricketers playing in tall silk hats, or “chimney pots” as they were nicknamed, but it will be news to many that the skippers of coasting vessels also indulged in this luxury. The picture disclosed the fact however. What kind of head-wear they used in a gale of wind is not known, unless it was a kind of night-cap such as I remember having once seen in my boyish days on the head of an old skipper.

The story of Captain Wilson and the “Emilie St. Pierre,” mentioned earlier on, is well known to the older ones amongst us, but it is worth telling again and again, for the sake of the younger generation. It was the time of the war Civil War in America, when the Northern States, called the Federals, were fighting to prevent the southern states, called the Confederates, from breaking away and becoming independent. The latter were the cotton growing States, and the supply of cotton to the Lancashire factories had been almost entirely stopped by the Federal warships blockading the Confederate ports. Captain Wilson, like many other British skippers managed to run the blockade – that is, break through the line of war vessels – and got away with his vessel, the “Emilie St. Pierre,” laden with a cargo of cotton. She was intercepted afterwards, however, by a Federal cruiser, all her crew taken prisoners except the cook, the steward, and Captain Wilson, who was left to help to navigate the vessel.

A lieutenant and seventeen men were sent on board with instructions to take the ship to New York. She never reached that port. Watching his opportunity, he determined to retake his vessel, and took the cook and steward into his confidence. First of all he secured the lieutenant in his cabin and gagged him. Then he ordered the seventeen men into the hold on some pretence or other, and whilst they were there he put on the hatches, thus imprisoning them. This done, he altered the vessel’s course and made for Liverpool, which port he reached after several days’ anxiety and privation on the part of himself and the two men who had so well supported him in his daring exploit. For salving his ship, and such a valuable cargo of cotton, Captain Wilson was rewarded and feted, both in Liverpool and Galloway, whilst the cook and steward also received presents of money. Captain Wilson was a native of Colvend, and therefore the Water of Urr can claim him as one of its brilliant sons.

Part 11.

As old age creeps on one seems inclined more to dwell upon the past and talk about it much to the boredom of young people. One even dares to speak about the “good old times” occasionally, although that well worn expression is very threadbare and less frequently used now-a-days, for the simple reason that we have made such advances in every branch of our lives, that the “good times” are to be found in the present day. Perhaps my young readers will bear with me whilst I draw upon the past and present at the Scaur for some illustrations of this point.

When the village consisted of thatched cottages for the most part, it sometimes happened that a roof was blown off, and the family had to find fresh quarters until it was repaired. When a small boy I remember being carried in a blanket to a neighbour’s house during a storm after such an accident. The children of the present day will not have their slumbers disturbed in this way.

Our home lessons were learned in the dim light of an ill-smelling glass-less naptha lamp, whose malodorous fumes haunt me even yet when I think about it, or by the light of a tallow candle that had been made by the mother of the house. In modern times the children have the benefit of paraffin lamps whose light in many ways is preferable to the gas or even the electricity of city homes.

On the moonless winter evenings when the stars were hid, we had to carry a lantern when going from one part of the village to another a short time ago, now there are three fine carbide lamps that illuminate the whole place.

As regards weather, that of the “good old times” would doubtless be preferred by the youth of the present generation, for in those days we could depend upon frost and snow for several weeks nearly every winter, when curling, skating, and sliding would be in full swing. The exercise occasioned by such sport was simply a more healthy kind than any that can be indulged in during the murky, mild winters of recent years.

Less than forty years ago an occasional high tide in winter would flood several of the houses in the village. Never shall I forget the sight that met my eyes as I passed along the village on my way to school one morning. Right up against the front of Magnet Cottage was a vessel, the “Margaret and Mary,” with her yard arm on the roof of the house. An exceedingly stormy high tide had torn her from her moorings and washed her into that position. A very remarkable thing about it was the revelation that the only one of the crew onboard knew nothing about it until daylight when the tide had receded. He had slept through it all. Since the new road was made and the sea wall built such an incident could not possibly take place, nor can any of the houses be flooded as in bygone days.

For some years the milk for the household had been brought to the door by one or other of the local farmers. In the “good old times,” we boys had to go direct from school to one of the farms and carry the big can of skimmed milk sometimes across the hills to our home. This was a task not always to our liking but it was lightened when several of us went on the same errand. And was there not milk for our porridge at the end of our journey as well as next morning for our breakfast? We youngsters were allowed very little tea and not much loaf bread. Homemade soda scones and oatmeal cakes were the better alternatives. These with a flask of milk consisted of our daily noon meal at school, whilst porridge and milk for our morning and evening meals completed our bill of fare. And who will say that hardy, sturdy frames were not built up on such plain food? It is not all to the good that “the halesome parritch, chief o’ Scotia’s food” has disappeared from so many homes in later times.

How well off we are with our modern means of transport! By the motor-bus or the bicycle we can be whisked from the Scaur to Dalbeattie in a few minutes, whereas in the “good old times” we had only the “cuddy” or the “cuddy cairt” to convey us, unless we took to “shank’s pony,” our usual means of locomotion. But what a useful “cuddy” it was, and what a smart clever body its owner was! The latter even ran to the toon for the doctor in her stocking feet in a case of urgency, and the writer of this story has reason to thank his stars on two occasions when this good-hearted soul undertook such an errand of mercy. Nor did she hesitate to cross the river and walk to Castle Douglas, a distance of six or seven miles Sabbath after Sabbath in order to worship her Maker in the church of her choice – the Cameronian Kirk in town. What think ye of that ye young people who consider it too great a distance to walk the two miles to Co’en Kirk? The memory of the Scaur mother is hallowed to some of us even yet. Since her day we have had for several decades a faithful general carrier in Mr. Robert Thomson, who took up the work of the late Mr. Robert McQueen. Year in, year out, in horse waggonettes or motor buses, he has conveyed us and our packages and looked after our interests generally in that respect. It is no easy job to please the public in such a business but his imperturbable nature and independent character have carried him through the troubles and trials of busman’s life with great success. As years roll on, and bodily girth increases, he finds himself less nimble than of yore, so whilst taking a general supervision still, he leaves the brunt of the work to his two faithful sons, James taking charge of motor buses, and John of the motor car. They are all ably assisted by Mrs Thomson who is everybody’s body, and who amidst all her other multifarious duties has acted as treasurer to the Village Improvement Committee for many years much to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.

During the last few years, a motor has been installed in connection with the Pines Golf Hotel and Mr. Douglas M’Kinlay attends to this part of the business. The next development in the matter of transport can only be the introduction of the aeroplane or air-ship! Unfortunately there is not a level field near the Scaur on which such machines could land with perfect safety, and so the village will be handicapped in this particular.

No story of the Scaur would be complete without a reference to the work carried on in connection with the Post Office. Only those in close contact with the place can form any idea of the amount of correspondence carried on by letters, wires and telephone, or the number of parcels received and sent away during the whole year but more especially during the summer months. The burden of the work falls necessarily on Miss Cumming, the postmistress, who has most capably filled that honourable and very responsible position for quite a number of years. Miss Cumming is a daughter of the Scaur, her father being a member of that firm of shipbuilders mentioned earlier in this story, who had so much to do with the making of the place. The other permanent officials are Miss Gibson, who has been an efficient and popular “postie” for some years, and her brother George, than whom there could not possibly be a more reliable or more speedy telegraph messenger.

Our closing words in this story must refer to the other public institution – the one and only shop which the Scaur possesses. For many years the business was carried on by the late Mr. James Donaldson, who was the first post-master of the village, and to whom along with Mr. William Clachrie, belongs the credit of getting the road made into the village. Then the late Miss Margaret M’Kinnel took up the business and provided for the wants of the populace until her health gave way, after which Miss Barbara M’Knight became the provider, and for some years her shop was one of the amenities of the place as well as a source of admiration to visitors, especially those hailing from across the Border. On her retirement a few years ago Mrs. James Cumming took over the business which has developed to a wonderful extent, and the shop more than ever is worthy of the title conferred on it of “universal provider.” Long may the good lady who looks after its destinies continue to greet her customers with the same cheeriness that has made her shop the popular resort it has become!

Part 12.

Half a century ago there was a Liverpool preacher whose nick-name was “Sixty-Minutes,” from the fact that his sermons were invariably spun out to that length of time much to the impatience of his younger hearers. After he had announced his “fourth and lastly,” there generally came the “In conclusion,” and sometimes “one word more” before he had finished. Something of the kind is taking place in this story. Last week’s instalment ended by saying that it was the closing words of the story.” Through the kindness of several friends who have supplied me with further information and who, like Oliver Twist, have asked for more, I must trespass on the patience of my readers by offering some additional instalments.

The reaches of the winding Urr are a puzzle to the crews of stranger vessels, and a continued source of anxiety even to those who are thoroughly acquainted with them. One old skipper naively remarked after a recent accident, “The devil himself would not know the channel in the ‘Deil’s Reach’ at the height of a spring tide.” Many interesting incidents might be quoted, but only one or two must suffice.

At the North Glen end of the reach is a big rock, known as the “Importer’s Stane.” It derives its name from the fact that the old schooner “Importer” was stranded on it in the distant past, and only salved as a result of much trouble and expense. The top portion of the stone was blasted away some time afterwards and the danger lessened, but even now it is a stumbling block and a rock of offence. The schooner “Adolf,” mentioned in a previous article, spent a day or two on it last year, and sustained considerable damage to her stern as well as having had a portion of her cargo jettisoned. It may here be incidentally mentioned that this vessel has cast off her German name since her motor was installed, and will henceforth be known as the “Solway Lass” – a much more suitable cognomen for a vessel now belonging to the Water of Urr.

Within the last decade a valuable vessel was wrecked at the Black Stane, where a small portion of her remains may still be seen. She was a fine Welsh schooner, the “Cordelia,” outward bound laden with granite setts. There was a strong fresh current in the river, and the pilot strongly advised a postponement of the voyage, but the skipper persisted, with the result that when the vessel reached that particular bend of the river about midday a strong current drove her on the stone. The crew remained onboard expecting to get her off on the following tide. When the midnight tide came however, the vessel did not rise with it. She had broken her back, and the crew had to scramble ashore, where they camped until daybreak. A portion of her cargo was salved , and now lies on the Scaur beach, where it is gradually deteriorating. After the vessel had been dismantled she was blown up, as she interfered with the navigation of the river.

One more incident may be given, and for it I am indebted to a relation now resident in Liverpool. Twenty two years ago the schooner “Jane,” laden with 30 tons of granite, was lying at the pier of the Ashiebank Quarries, near Orchard Knowes. A gale of unusual force sprang up from the sou’west, driving the tide abnormally high. The waves were tremendous, and caused the “Jane” to break away from her moorings. She drifted away up towards Major Threshie’s house, and grounded on one of his fields. Next day the gale had subsided, and although the tides were high, the vessel was over one hundred yards above high water mark. The men thereupon set to, unloaded the cargo, dug a channel deep enough and wide enough to allow the schooner to be towed back into the river, and then reloaded her with the 30 tons.

Even below high water mark on the banks of the river, it was no unusual thing for a vessel to be dug out in order to prevent her being neaped and kept aground for a week or a fortnight. And when the sailors know their vessels at certain times cannot get sufficient depth to take them up the river to the Dub o’ Hass – as Dalbeattie Port is called – one can see how their responsibilities are increased, and how difficult it is to understand the navigation of the river.

It would seem that the abnormally high tides above referred to come on very rare occasions, some say every twenty or thirty years. One such visited the district in January last, when Mr. Robert Thomson’s boat, “Susan,” was carried a considerable distance into the fields of the North Glen farm, and of course had to be launched from there. A peculiarity of these tides is that they ebb and flow two or three times in the one tide.

Opposite the Black Stane where the “Cordelia” came to her end lies another wreck, or rather the remains of a small vessel that was left there by its owners and became a wreck. She was called the “Rambler,” and was at one time a fine yacht belonging to the late Mr. Mackie of Balcary. Thereafter she was fitted up as a trawler, but only made one trip, it is said. Visitors fresh to the place like to get what information they can regarding these old hulks.

In the course of this story I have called up from the vasty deep memories of a goodly number of vessels and their skippers. I have tried to show what a hard life these hardy old sons of the seas had to live in order to earn a living for themselves and their families, with what courage they faced their responsibilities, and how worthy they were of our respect and admiration. Many of them found their last resting place in the bosom of the deep.

Part 13.

When the Scaur was the great ship-repairing centre of the South of Scotland, many vessels came from neighbouring ports to take advantage of the fine slip belonging to the Messrs Cumming. By means of the slip extensive repairs could be carried on without interference by the tide. Many of these vessels occasionally traded between the Water of Urr and Liverpool and thus became known to us all. The Kirkcudbright Fleet was perhaps the most numerous, and the vessels of that port best remembered were the schooners “Venus,” “Daisy,” “Countess of Selkirk,” “Janet Hunter,” “Jane,” “Alma,” the ketch “Marten,” and the sloops “Upton” and “Lady Maxwell.”

I have happy memories of the “Venus” when she was on the slip for a thorough overhaul some 35 years ago. It was during the summer holiday, and Captain Stitt, who was at that time the skipper and owner of the vessel, had some of his family with him. Then began a friendship that has never been broken. The “Venus” was a trim, well built schooner of 135 tons built at Preston, with fine lines, and was always a welcome visitor to the Water. In the words of “Old Schoolboy” who very kindly supplied me with some particulars of the Kirkcudbright vessels, the “Venus” finished her career ingloriously as a coal barge. The sticks (masts) were taken out of her, and she used to be towed across the Solway between Carsethorn and Cumberland. Captain Stitt skippered in turn the “Daisy,” “Countess of Selkirk,” “Janet Hunter,” “Venus,” “Utopia,” and “Marten,” until he eventually retired to a less strenuous shore life. He did many fine sailing feats in his time. He had a happy knack of knowing how to set about salving stranded vessels.

The "Utopia"

“The thing I remember most about him, however, is in connection with the wreck of the “Madras” some forty years ago. This barque of about 900 tons with a cargo of pitch pine logs whilst sheltering in the Manxman’s Lake was driven on the bar and became a total wreck. For some reason or other the lifeboat could not answer the distress signals forthwith, so Captain Stitt and Mr. Matthew Parkhill, pilot and fisherman, set off in an ordinary fishing boat and rescued the entire crew. For weeks after that, the salving of that cargo provided remunerative work for the fishermen of Kirkcudbright. The logs were gathered together and towed in rafts up to the harbour. Later on they were shipped away in old fashioned timber brigs with the big square ports in the bow through which the timber used to be loaded into the holds much to the wonder of the small boys of whom I was one.”

When the “Utopia” was running up the Dee on one voyage from Dalbeattie to the Mersey windbound she struck a mudbank, filled and sank into the sand. He got her discharged and she floated again. She was afterwards sold to the Liverpool Lighterage Company to be used as a lighter.

Many of my readers, like myself, will remember a one-armed sailor named Davy Gordon, who sailed for many years as cook with Captain Stitt. He did wonders with his one arm. When peeling the potatoes he put the potato between his knees and peeled away. He did all his own washing and kept himself very clean. He became a pensioner of Captain Stitt and got a little room to live in free of charge. On one occasion he fell downstairs and told his mother it was caused by weakness. The same weakness caused his death when he full downstairs a second time.

Messrs J. & T. Williamson, Kirkcudbright, whose firm has been mentioned as owners of several coasting vessels did a lot of trade round the coast to Rascarrel Burn, Abbey Burn, Mullock Bay, Johnny M’Dowall’s Bay, Brighouse Bay, Kirkandrew’s Bay, Ross and Rabbit Bay. “There was some excitement at times in this bay,” a well-known skipper tells me. He says “Many times I have had to take my belongings out of the vessel and wait on the beach till next tide for fear of her falling mouth down on the rocks she would be lying on.”

The “Countess of Selkirk” built at Garlieston was another fine model of a schooner owned by Messrs J. & T. Williamson. She came into the Water of Urr occasionally and was a regular trader between the Scotch and English sides. “After many adventures,” again quoting my friend “Old Schoolboy,” “she came to an end on the rocks of Ross Bay on the estuary of the Dee. Captain Thomas Connolly was her skipper for some time, and it is supposed he was lost at sea during the War. He was a daring sailor and like others of his class, did some ‘deeds of derring do.’ On one occasion he had loaded a cargo of lime on the English side and had been weather bound for some time. A shift of wind came and his crew was ashore, and could not be found, so he started off to sail her across single-handed. Half way over he was caught in half a gale. He, however, made the Ross Roads safely, but when just inside a heavy sea struck him, and the tiller broke like a pipe-stem in his hands. The “Countess” was driven on to the rocks, and the cargo, of course, went on fire. Of the fine stout little schooner only the charred ribs remained.”

The “Janet Hunter” grounded in the Manxman’s Lake, and sprang a leak. Being laden with lime she also was burned to the water’s edge. The “Upton” was a smack owned and sailed by Captain James Hughan as a coal trader between Cumberland and Kirkcudbright. She was lost on Abbey Head. Then Captain Hughan bought the “Daisy,” a fine little schooner of 65 tons built in Whitehaven. She ended her days in Laxey Harbour, Isle of Man. The schooner “Alma” traded chiefly between Cumberland and Kirkcudbright and was owned by Captain David Conning who sold her to Captain John Nelson of Gatehouse. She left Maryport with coals for Gatehouse but a strong easterly wind drove her into Garlieston Bay at low water and she grounded, which was the last of her. The “Alma” had a great history and was said to have run the blockade during the American Civil War before being sold into Kirkcudbright.

The “Lady Maxwell” was owned by Captain John Macmillan and sailed by his son of the same name. She traded between Cumberland and Kirkcudbright. She sailed from Maryport to Kirkcudbright with coals but was never heard of – another of these mysterious tales of the sea. The “Albion,” a general trader, was sailed by Captain William Macmillan and lost at the mouth of the Fleet. Then Captain Macmillan bought the ketch “Gateforth” in which he went for a cargo of slates to Beaumaris, whence he sailed for the Solway, but neither vessel nor crew was ever heard of again. The “Jane and Margaret,” a smack, was owned by Miss Stitt, the present Mrs. Treché, and commanded by Captain Peter O’Neill. She ended her days as a lighter in the Nith. Then Mrs. Treché bought the “Importer” for the coal trade. When lying at Kirkandrew’s Bay laden with coals a heavy gale from the Sou’-West sprang up and blew her right up into a potato garden where she ended her days.

The ketch “Windward” was owned by Mr. Roger Walker. She was commanded by Captain M’Dowall, who died in her cabin.

Then we had frequent visits from the Dumfries Fleet, two of which I remember well, the “Ocean Gem” and the “General Havelock.” The “Ocean Gem” was a bonnie wee schooner and for many years was under the command of Captain Richardson, of Dumfries. It would be interesting to know how many voyages this fine little vessel made between the Nith and the Mersey. During the half-century I lived in Liverpool the landing stage, one of the wonders of the world, was my favourite resort, and as the Scottish schooners were generally loading or discharging in the adjoining docks, I seldom failed to pay them a visit. Amongst them all the “Ocean Gem” seemed to be the most frequent visitor, and the most regular in her trips to the Mersey. Once when returning from North Wales in that fine pleasure steamer “La Marguerite,” we passed within hailing distance of the little “Ocean Gem” with Captain Richardson at the helm, calmly and peacefully making her way to Liverpool under full sail in a light breeze. It did one good to see a “kenn’d face” in the middle of the Irish Sea. That is the clannish spirit that seems peculiar to the Scot when away from his native land, and that makes for the success of the London and other Galloway Associations. Captain Richardson retired from the sea a few years ago.

The “General Havelock” took a new lease of life two or three years ago when a motor engine was installed in her, and she trades very regularly between the Nith and the English coast. Her skipper is Captain Alec Stitt of Barbarroch, son of the Captain Stitt above referred to, and one of the smartest seamen that ever trod the deck.

Part 14.

No story of the Kirkcudbright vessels would be complete without a reference to that fine old steam-packet – the “Countess of Galloway,” that traded between the Mersey and the South of Scotland for several generations. Every now and then her name comes up either in the Liverpool Press or the K.A. and very pleasant have been these reminiscences of her wonderful career. I think I see her yet, lying at the quay in Kirkcudbright or in the Trafalgar Basin in Liverpool where the dock wall had to be indented so as to allow room for her fine figurehead and sloping bow, and that she might lie alongside the shed allotted to her. She may be said to have been one of the last of the old paddle steamers.

My first memory of her was on one fine afternoon in May, 1859, when as a boy I was on my way to Liverpool. We left the County Town about 6 o’clock on a flowing tide and steamed down the narrow winding channel of the Dee. At times it seemed as if she would run on the rocks but the pilot knew his business and after he had safely navigated her to the estuary of the river, we dropped him and soon rounded the Ross to enter the Irish Sea. The water was calm and the passengers soon settled down to enjoy themselves, some indulging in good old Scottish reels. It must have been about 2.a.m. when the revolving Rock-Light was pointed out to me. In an hour or two we were sailing up the Mersey past what seemed to me to be a great forest of the early dawn, but which were really the masts of hundreds of sailing ships that in those days filled the Liverpool docks. The passengers were landed on the river quay, the tide not having flowed long enough for the dock gates to be opened so that the “Countess” could get to her berth.

On several occasions in after years I travelled to and fro in the “Countess” preferring the trip by sea to the long seat in a railway train. The fare was also much cheaper – a paltry 7s 6d being the cost of the return ticket in the steerage. Only once was the weather unfavourable, and as the other passengers were hors de combat with sea-sickness, I took advantage of the cook’s warm galley whilst that official was down below, and wiled away the night singing to myself some Scottish songs. – one of which I thought quite apropos:-

“Oh, why I left my hame”
Why did I cross the deep?
Oh, why left I the land
Where my fore-fathers sleep?
I sigh for Scotia’s shore
And gaze across the sea
But I canna get a blink
O’ my ain countrie.”

A lovely bright mid-summer morning followed the night of rain and wind, and when dawn came we were off Garlieston, where we landed some passengers on a boat that came for them. Then we steamed slowly along the coast passing Ravenshall and Dick Hatteraick’s Cave whilst we watched the morning mists being dispelled by the rising sun. Soon we passed the Ross and entered the bonnie river to sail up which on such a morning has always been one of the pleasantest memories of the past. The old “Countess” has a great history and a grand reputation. Her commanders whom I remember were Captain Broadfoot and Captain Milligan. I think Captain M’Queen was also her commander for some time. These men were all fine old types of coasting skippers. They took the “Countess” on her advertised trips when others dared not risk the voyage. On one stormy passage the crew of the “Countess” were able to save the lives of a ship’s crew that were in great danger.

The “Tusker” was another steamer that often called at Kirkcudbright and indeed took the sailings of the “Countess of Galloway” when the latter vessel was undergoing repairs.

There was a Gatehouse schooner, the “Resolution,” that came to the Scaur in recent years in an apparently hopeless condition. She seemed to be parting in twain at the bow, and the wonder was that she kept afloat on her passage round from Gatehouse in that condition. After some weeks of patient persevering labour she was patched up, but even then a local captain said she would founder in the least gale of wind. This was what actually happened. After a few voyages she sank like a stone not far from the Ross Island at the mouth of the Dee. Luckily the crew escaped with their lives in the vessel’s boat including the Welsh skipper who had bought her for £100 as she lay at Gatehouse and actually refused £800 for her after she had been repaired at the Scaur.

It is very possible there have been errors and omissions noticed in the course of this story. If so I shall be glad to be told of them. I am informed that the schooner “Dolphin” was sold into the South of England to carry coals between Southampton and France. The friend who gave me the information that she was sold into the Orkneys as stated in an earlier part of this story must, himself, have been misinformed. Such little mistakes will occur.

When I wrote about the ship-building industry at the Scaur, it may be that I should have mentioned the name of some of these fine workmen whose services were in great demand not only along the whole South of Scotland but in the ship-building yards of the Ayrshire coast, and on the banks of the Mersey. Outstanding amongst these carpenters was the late Mr. John Wilson, who was connected with the ship-building firm of Messrs Cumming, and who on the occasion of launches had a responsible position allotted to him. I think I see him yet making a final survey of everything connected with the ship, and looking that every cog had been lifted by the men told off to do this job, ere the final blow should be given by which the vessel was released. Mr Wilson in his early days sailed many voyages in the “Marco Polo” and brought home with him a wide experience of men and things. In the garden of his house at the Scaur were two sun-dials made by him and put into position – a lasting memorial of his more than ordinary ability and versatility. To have known such a man, and to have been able to look upon him as a friend until he ‘crossed the bar’ was a privilege I greatly esteemed for over half a century.

Visitors to the Scaur, especially those from England, are deeply interested when they get into conversation with the two or three living representatives of the former industry of the place. They are astonished to find that these village carpenters have sailed the world over in their earlier days after they had completed their apprenticeship at the Scaur. In those days, every large sailing ship carried a carpenter as one of the crew and in this way these young men gained experience. To listen to some of their adventures is a very pleasant way of spending an hour. And to hear the villagers speak of their wonderful ability in being able to tackle all kinds of odd-jobs about the place outside the repair of boats or vessels is to enlighten one’s mind very considerably. I am afraid to ruminate on the future of the Scaur when these worthy men will be gathered unto their fathers. There are none rising to take their place.

Part 15. (Story of a picnic on Heston – not transcribed.)

Part 16.

In the course of this story I hinted that there might possibly be errors and omissions, and I respectfully asked that if any such were noticed I would be glad to have my attention called to them The greater part of what I have written was derived from my own personal experience, but in the nature of things I had to get information from different quarters from those most intimately concerned in regard to certain detail, especially those connected with the Kirkcudbright vessels.

It seems that two names were omitted from the crew of the boat that went to the wreck of the “Madras” as described in Article 13. A reader very courteously puts the matter right in the following sentence:- “The party who left the beach in a fishing boat to the rescue of the crew of the “Madras” were Matthew Parkhill, Thomas Beattie, and Adam Leckie. Captain Stitt joined them on the way. Adam Leckie is the only member of the party surviving and has seen the error.”

Through the kindly interest of two or three friends I am now able to supply information hitherto omitted from the story regarding a few Water of Urr skippers. And first I am pleased to be able to give the following interesting particulars about three sons of the late Captain John Murdoch of Dalbeattie incidentally mentioned in the eighth article. The eldest son, Captain John Murdoch served his apprenticeship in the firm of Messrs J. & J. Rae, Liverpool, and was for some time first officer of the four-masted ship, the “Rowena,” trading between London and India. He afterwards took charge of the barque “Craignair,” which at that time belonged to Messrs Rae. Later this vessel was sold to a New York firm, viz., the Standard Oil Co. The firm refitted the vessel throughout in order that Captain Murdoch might take his wife with him. The latter was a Palnackie young lady, Jane Caird, who went out to New York to be married. The marriage was a very happy one, husband and wife sailing together until Mrs. Murdoch was able to take the bearings of the vessel as accurately as her husband. But fate had decreed that these two young lives were to be nipped in the bud. About 22 years ago the vessel set out from New Caledonia with a cargo of chrome ore for Philadelphia and New York but she never reached her destination. It is presumed she went down with all hands – Captain Murdoch and his wife and seventeen of a crew. His father was always under the impression that the cargo had shifted.

A younger brother, Captain James Murdoch, sailed for many years as master of the schooner “Isabella,” trading between Dalbeattie and Liverpool. This vessel was afterwards sold to an Irish firm and under the new ownership was lost on her first voyage. Captain James then had charge of the brigantine “Mayfield,” of which vessel he and his father were part owners. She was engaged in the continental trade. Captain James was a very industrious skipper and contrived to get out of port when others deemed it advisable to stay at home. He was in fact a born sailor. Following his usual “go-ahead” policy he bought a three-masted schooner, the “Red Rose,” and sailed with her for several years in the same trade. We next find him in command of another vessel, the barquentine “Raymond,” which he had also bought for the continental trade. In the meantime the “Red Rose,” under the command of another master, was run down and sunk in the Straits of Dover, the crew fortunately being saved. Captain James sailed the “Raymond” between this country and the continent during the whole of the blockade. On one occasion the vessel was attacked by a German submarine which fired four shots into her. Captain Murdoch and the crew were ordered to take to the boats, but feeling rather reluctant to do so they purposely delayed the operation. “Take to the boats you English swine,” came the chorus from the submarine. The Captain relied. “We’re not English, we’re Scotch.” “That’s a d--- sight worse” came the answer as another shot was fired into the “Raymond.” Luckily at that moment a French destroyer hove into sight and the submarine quickly submerged. Two or three shots were fired but the destroyer failed to find its mark. Considerable damage was done to the “Raymond” but fortunately none of the crew was injured. The “Raymond” was escorted into Brest by the destroyer and had all the necessary repairs effected. Captain Murdoch was afterwards complimented by the Admiralty for his action, and was compensated for the damage done to the vessel.

Captain Alex Murdoch, the youngest son, sailed with his father for some time in the schooner “Resolution.” He afterwards joined the barque “Chipperkyle” belonging to Messrs J. & J. Rae, Liverpool, trading between the latter city and Australia. On the first voyage after he left her she was lost with all hands. He was appointed second officer on the barque “Bengairn,” also belonging to Messrs Rae, and with her took the first cargo of nitrate to be delivered at Yarraville, Melbourne. Leaving her, he afterwards joined the minesweeping branch of H.M. service and was placed in charge of various vessels of this type materially assisting to clear the mines from the North Sea. Strange to say, the “Bengairn” also met a tragic fate, being torpedoed by the Germans on her homeward voyage from San Francisco with a cargo of grain.

Captain Robert Bie, belonging to a well-known Co’en family, began his seagoing career on board his father’s vessel, the “William Thomson,” but afterwards joined the Blue Funnel steamers, and was in command of the “Alienous” at the time of his death. It was a remarkable coincidence that he was born at Rockcliffe, Colvend, and was buried at Rockcliffe, America.

I am grateful to be able to pay a tribute to a brave Dalbeattie sailor, Captain Samuel Markham. During the late war, after getting his certificate as master, he was chief officer on the “Bellarado” when that steamer was attacked off Malta by an Austrian submarine. The officers and crew gallantly defended themselves and the vessel sinking the submarine with their last shot, but at a heavy cost as both the chief officer and the captain were killed on the bridge. Captain Markham was buried in the naval cemetery at Malta with naval honours.

A much respected and well-known Colvend resident during the last few decades was Captain Major who passed away at Rockcliffe last year. During the earlier days of the Scaur regatta he acted as commodore with much acceptance. One incident of his life has come to my knowledge and is worthy of record. On one voyage his Chinese passengers mutinied, and Captain Major was the only one left to navigate the ship. Instead of steering the course set by the mutineers, with the aid of a magnet he steered the vessel in the direction of a British man-of-war, under whose guns the mutineers found themselves one fine morning much to their surprise and undoing.

The many friends of Captain Robert Edgar, Kippford, will be pleased to hear that one of his sons, Captain Thomas Edgar, has been promoted to the command of the steamship “Tintorado,” belonging to the Lamport and Holt Line, and sailed last week for Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Santos in Brazils. He is the youngest captain in the employ, being only 31 years of age.

And now a closing reference to an old school companion at Barbarroch school when we were boys together. I refer to Captain Matthew M’Lellan. After sailing the seven seas he retired to spent the evening of his life in his native village of Barbarroch. At one time he was commander of the well known sailing ship “Annie Fletcher,” but afterwards went into steam, and for a number of years sailed from the Clyde. To meet these friends of our youthful days after a lapse of over sixty years, and to recall happy memories of the old school that stands at the corner of the Colvend and Kippford roads is a pleasure and a privilege that are granted only to a very few.