The Story of an Ancient Royal Burgh
By Rev. George Ogilvie Elder, M.A
From the top of the Court House Tower at Kirkcudbright there is opened up a delightful prospect of the Galloway Dee. The course of the river is distinctly visible as it pours its enlarged volume of waters for two miles, after its confluence with the Tarff, through a richly varied landscape, sweeps majestically round Kirkcudbright, lingers lovingly by the silvery strand of St. Mary's Isle, rests quietly in the Manxman's Lake, then widens out into the broad expanse of Kirkcudbright Bay, until a mile lower down, between the bluff headland of the Meikle Ross and the precipitous cliffs of the Torr's Point, it falls into the Solway, where the tower on the island of Little Ross shows white by day, and by night flashes forth its light for the guidance of sailors far off on the sea.
When Harry Bertram, in front of Ellangowan Castle, played a melody remembered from his childhood days, it awoke the corresponding associations of a damsel engaged in bleaching linen beside a fine spring near by, who took up the old song in the exquisite verse -
"Are these the links of Forth, she said,
Or are they the crooks of Dee,
Or the bonnie woods of Warroch Head,
That I so fain would see ?"
The town of Kirkcudbright is situated in the midst of the "Crooks of Dee," on meadow ground forming a peninsula, protected on the east by the wooded heights of the Barrhill, and on the remaining sides by the windings of the river.
Kirkcudbright, although its origin is hidden by the mists of antiquity, is believed to have been a fair town under the classic name of Benutium at the beginning of the Christian era. The Celtic tribes who overspread Britain were its earliest inhabitants, and of them various memorials still survive. There is the name of the river, which in their language signifies "the dark water" ; and the name of the town itself, which is originally derived from the strength they built and called "Caer-cuabrit," or "the fort at the bend of the river," anticipating by two thousand years the description given by Symson in his History :- "Kirkcudbright is situated in a very pleasant place in a flexure of the River Dee." Traces of their religion survive to the present time. On the hill of Raeberry, on the farm of Bombie, and at Dromore, are remains of those stone circles, once surrounded by oak groves, which enclosed the ground where the Druids performed the rites of their gloomy worship, sometimes in emergencies casting human beings into the fire to appease the anger of their Deity.
On the lands of Balmae, near Dromore Castle, was found a plate of gold in the form of a crescent, a specimen of the consecrated golden knife with which the chief Druid, amid the acclamations of the people, cut down from the oak tree the mistletoe, or golden bough, so deeply reverenced by our forefathers in their worship, and which is an object of high admiration still in merry gatherings of their youthful descendants at Christmas, the season when the berries of that slow-growing parasite are fully ripe. There are specimens found of their implements of war, as on the farm of Milton, four flint hatchets, forming such a contrast to the Maxim gun, which in the hands of British soldiers lays hordes of barbarians low, at the rate of five or six hundred every minute, like swathes of grass falling before the mower's scythe - showing the superiority of our civilised to their savage age, although it be only in the means of destruction.
There are the old British forts, with which the parish of Kirkcudbright is thickly studded, the largest being that on the farm of Dromore. Although its rampart has long been broken down, its ditch filled with earth, and its well covered with stones, its position is still as commanding as when Ptolemy, a famous geographer of the second century, called it "Caer-bantorigum" - "the fort on the shining rounded height." When the illustrious Roman general, Agricola, in the year eighty-two, marched through this parish, he fought his way against the stubborn resistance of a dozen British forts, in many a battle of the warrior with confused noise and garments rolled in blood. At Whinnieligget, Little Sypland, Castle Creavie, Bombie Mains, and Dromore, the Roman encampments are still standing over against the British, as when the two nations, the one civilised and the other savage, were locked in a deadly embrace.
These remains testify from century to century to the sturdy independence and determined valour, which have gained for the descendants of these British tribes a world-wide dominion, while the once powerful Empire of Rome has crumbled into dust, according to the prophecy addressed at that very period in burning words to Boadicea, the British Warrior Queen, by the aged Druid priest -
"Bending as he swept the chords,
Of his sweet but awful lyre.
"She with all a monarch's pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow,
Rushed to battle, fought and died,
Dying, hurled them at the foe.
Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heaven awards the vengeance due;
Empire is on us bestowed,
Shame and ruin wait on you."
During the long period of three hundred years, when the Romans occupied Dromore and made Kirkcudbright one of their forts, they made no impression on the speech of the natives. The Saxons, who, after the departure of the Romans, obtained the ascendancy in Galloway, have left an enduring memorial in the language of the modern inhabitants, which rests mainly on a basis of Saxon. There are also such names as Raeberry - the roe's hill; Sypland-wet, sappy land; Boreland - the land belonging to the boers or farm labourers; Mutehill, two miles below Kirkcudbright and the Motebrae in the town itself - mounds that were used for public meetings and courts of justice. The Motebrae has now been formed into a public recreation ground, where old and young of the modern burgh will enjoy themselves upon the height, where, upwards of a thousand years ago, their Saxon forefathers transacted the business of the town under the canopy of heaven, in full view of a beautiful landscape, on the brink of the river winding beneath their feet.
But the most memorable of all the place-names bestowed by the Saxons is the name of Kirkcudbright itself. From St. Columba's lonely Isle of Iona, in the sixth century, broke forth the light which illuminated the Celtic races of the Western coast. From St. Cuthbert's Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, on the East coast, there was shed an answering light through the glens of Scotland, from the Forth far down into Galloway, where tribes whom Rome could not subdue were led captive by the Gospel. The great West Kirk of Edinburgh, standing at the head of a beautiful valley of gardens, between the fine esplanade of Princes Street and the green mantled steeps of the Castle rock, has witnessed for twelve centuries to the zeal and devotion of St. Cuthbert, from whom it derives its name.
On one occasion St. Cuthbert, quitting the monastery of Melrose, went down to the land of the Galloway Picts, accompanied by two of his brethren. They disembarked the day after Christmas, when a tempest arose which detained them several days exposed to hunger and cold, but they were supplied with food under a cliff, in answer to the prayers of the saint during the night watches. The outcome of this visit was a Christian Church, one of the earliest in Scotland and the first at Kirkcudbright, of which the churchyard has been used from time immemorial, under the name of St. Cuthbert's, as the burying ground for the town; so that the city of the dead is quite as ancient as the city of the living, and far more populous, containing, as it does, the past generations for upwards of a thousand years. From an eminence near by called the Bellhill, we seem to hear the call to devotion across the gulf of the buried centuries; and another height, called the Angel Hill, suggests the supernatural visions of those ages of faith, like that vouchsafed to St. Cuthbert when, a shepherd boy on the banks of Gala Water, he beheld the soul of St. Aidan, the first Bishop of Lindisfarne, ascending to heaven amid a numerous retinue of attending angels.
The original name of the town, Caer Cuabrit - the fort at the bend-was changed into one of similar sound but different meaning, Kirkcudbright - the Kirk of Cuthbert-in honour of Cuthbert, the illustrious Saxon saint, to whom the first Christian church there owed its foundation.
The Norsemen, known as Sea-kings, began in the eighth century to be the terror of the Celtic tribes inhabiting Scotland - forming settlements and occupying fertile districts on the seaboard of Galloway. Several names in Kirkcudbright seem to be referable to them, as the Gata, meaning a thoroughfare. - "The King's hie-gait," Stockerton, the isolated dwelling Balgreddan, the green and verdant farm; Howwell, the well at the foot of the hill; Bomby, the settlement of the husbandman; The Mark, march or boundary. Although the Irish, or Erse tongue, and the British are both derived from the Celtic, yet a difference existed between the two. The great body of the names of places in Kirkcudbright resemble the names in Ireland and belong to the Erse dialect of the Celtic tongue. Such are the names of hills-Barr, which is any height in general; Knock, a lonely precipitous height, "Knockshinnie," the hill of the foxes; "Knockskellie," the hill of the rocks. Drum signifies a sow-backed height, as in Dromore, the great ridge, and Drumbeg, the little ridge, "Torr," the rounded height. Mulloch, bare hill, Doach is a weir or cruive, as the Meikle and Priory Doach near Tongland Abbey. Culdoach signifies the back of the weir or cruive. Puldroil, a place below Tongland Bridge, signifies the pool of the Bridge. Auchenflower means the field of the sick man, from Achadh (Aha) Erse for a croft of land gained out of wild ground not before manured, and lour (lobbair) a leper. Balmae means the house or land of the plain. Balig, the homestead of the hollow. Whinneyligget, Erse word for furze, and ligget, a gate so hung that it may be shut of itself - the furzy swing gate. Dunrod, the fort of the road, Castle Creavie, the castle of the tree. Brockloch, a place for badgers, a badgery. All these forms of Celtic names would seem to have been due to the large influx of Irish immigrants who took possession of the district, and became notorious under the designation of the "Wild Scots of Galloway."
When we come down to the twelfth century, the darkness that rested on Kirkcudbright begins to melt away in the clear light of history. In a large level field, once a lake, on the farm of Loch Fergus, there is a green and wooded knoll where the young lambs love to play, known as Palace Isle. On this knoll, in his water-girdled fortress, lived, in power and splendour, for twenty-three years, Fergus, the first of five Hereditary Lords who ruled Galloway for a whole century. He was the source of many noble families, the ancestor of Baliol and Bruce, the father of kings that were to be of Scotland, England, and France. On that knoll his son Uchtred foully murdered his brother Gilbert, and there he lived for years in all that outward prosperity sometimes given to wicked men, but was long remembered with detestation by the horrified inhabitants, whose conscience revolted against his crimes. On that knoll lived and died Alan, the last of the male line of Lords, the father of the illustrious Devorgilla, one of the Barons who forced King John to sign the great Charter of England; so that Kirkcudbright, which in the first century stoutly resisted the foreign foe in the Roman invasion, is, through the Palace Isle, connected with the great bulwark of Magna Charta, raised in the thirteenth century by patriotic hands against oppression of their subjects on the part of our native monarchs.
All these Galloway Lords were munificent benefactors of the Church. On the site occupied by the old Castle of Kirkcudbright was a Franciscan Monastery, founded in the reign of Alexander II., of which all the written records have perished. John Carpenter, one of the Friars distinguished for his mechanical genius, so fortified the Castle of Dumbarton as to earn from the King a yearly pension of twenty pounds. In the place now occupied by the Catholic Chapel was the Church of St. Andrew, with a churchyard, a vicarage, and lands. Outside of the town was the old Church of Cuthbert, conspicuous, among the wooden Churches of the period, as being built of stone. At one of the festivals in honour of the founder held in 1164, bull-baiting was engaged in by the younger monks, when the tortured animal, breaking loose from his tormentors, as if guided in his insensate fury by some invisible hand, gored alone amongst the crowd a young cleric who, with flippant scepticism had ridiculed the presence in the sacred enclosure of St. Cuthbert, "even although," added the audacious scoffer, "his Church was made of stone."
There was a Church at the village of Dunrod, forming, along with Dunrod in Borgue, on the other side of the Dee, one parish. At Galtway, two miles from Kirkcudbright, there was a Church and Priory, of which no trace remains, the buildings having long been used as a quarry for the neighbourhood.
On the Isle of Trahyl was a magnificent monastery dedicated to the Virgin, and called St. Mary's, after her name. The Lords of Galloway bestowed all these Churches, with their lands, upon the Abbey of Holyrood, so that the monasteries of the South-west, like those of the East of Scotland, came under the domination of the Pope of Rome - a policy which, in the course of four hundred years, rendered inevitable the great upheaval of the Reformation, as the only possible deliverance from a corrupt and intolerable oppression.
One of the earlier Galloway Lords built a castle overlooking the entrance to the river, of which all that remains are the grassy mounds and deep fosse of Castle Dykes. On this peaceful spot figured many illustrious characters, and many stirring events were enacted connected with critical periods in the history both of England and Scotland. William of Kirkcudbright, whose name appears on the Ragman's Roll as a vassal of King Edward, ruled from this castle, with all the rigour of an oppressive Norman baron, during that distracted period which followed the death of the Maid of Norway, when the Scottish crown was left without a direct heir. Here, after the defeat of Falkirk in 1298, the patriotic Wallace, more sorely smitten by the jealousy of his country's friends than the opposition of her enemies, found a shelter until, with fifty chosen companions, amid the tears of the populace, he sailed away from the port of Kirkcudbright to France, where his victories over the rovers of the sea became famous in the songs of that nation, as his victories over his oppressors on land were celebrated throughout successive generations in the minstrelsy of Scotland.
Here, in the summer of 1300, King Edward I. for a period of ten days took up his abode with his queen and court - banqueting his knights with loaves made from wheat grown in Galloway and ground in English mills, washed down with wine from the eighty hogsheads sent to him by the Mayor of Drogheda, in which they drank success to Edward's campaign in Scotland. Here the Earl of Galloway vainly endeavoured to negotiate a peace, and the "Hammer of Scotland " broke out into a storm of tyrannic rage at the Earl of Buchan and John Comyn of Badenoch remonstrating against his unjust aggression. Hither also the Archbishop of Canterbury, after encountering difficulties in the dangerous sands of the Solway unheard of for a prelate, arrived with all his dignitaries, clerks, and servants, bearing the bull of Pope Boniface VIII., requiring Edward to relinquish his claim on Scotland, which the King received later on at Caerlaverock with a profane outburst of astonishment and ungovernable fury.
In the delightful situation of Castle Dykes, the heroic Edward Bruce, after a swift succession of brilliant exploits, enjoyed the Lordship of that province, at the first sight of which, from the top of Cairn Edward, he exclaimed, in an ecstasy of admiration, "That beautiful country must be mine."
After the year 1369, the gateway of this fortress for nearly a century resounded to the soldier step and armed clang of the Douglases, whose scarred features glared through the narrow windows during the period this oppressive house ruled over Kirkcudbright as a Burgh of Regality, and the grim Earls, surrounded by their armed retainers, administered justice to the inhabitants according to their pleasure. Here, in 1455,
James II. was provided with iron for the manufacture of Mons Meg, the great gun with which Threave Castle was overthrown; and on the 26th October, that same year, Kirkcudbright was created a Royal Burgh and for ever freed from the Douglas's detested sway.
Six years later, after the great Lancastrian defeat at Towton, the chambers of the grey old fortress were illuminated by the presence of Margaret, the still youthful queen of Henry VI., whom stern necessity had transformed from the most charming woman of her age into a tigress fighting for her young, and she has been pilloried for all time in the plays of Shakespeare as "the she wolf of France." Her mind, deeply imbued with the poetical sentiments of her Provencal training, Margaret of Anjou, from the battlements of Kirkcudbright Castle, might have beheld with rapture the prospect spread out all round-as Margaret of Branksome in the Lay of the Last Minstrel blessed the evening hour -
"In the high turret sitting lone,
And waked at times the lute's soft tone."
But leaving her royal husband and son in the safe retreat of Castlemains, Margaret hurried away to fight the world for them till the Red Rose of Lancaster should bloom triumphant over the White Rose of York. In 1464, after the defeat of Hexham, and a romantic encounter with a robber chief, whom she inspired with such devotion, that he vowed he would rather die a thousand deaths than injure or betray her, Margaret found a hiding-place in Kirkcudbright, but was dragged out of her bed at night to a boat from which at dawn in the Solway, De Breze, her old admirer and faithful squire, rescued her, only that long years after, deprived of husband, son, and crown, she might die a miserable death, in which one of the most beautiful objects in the world was changed into a terror to all beholders.
In 1508, James IV. for the second time visited Castlemains, and granted its buildings and adjoining lands to the town for services rendered to himself and his grandfather, James II. During this visit the Castle resounded with revelry by night, and by day the High Street of Kirkcudbright was glorified with the procession of gay courtiers and prancing steeds in the Royal train of a monarch conspicuous, even among Stewart kings, for his gallantry -
"While all along the crowded way,
Was jubilee and loud huzza.
And ever James was bending low
To his white jennet's saddle bow,
Doffing his cap to burgher dame,
Who smiled and blushed for pride and shame,
And well the simperer might be vain-
He chose the fairest of the train."
After this Kirkcudbright entered on a time of prosperity. It was possessed of a capacious harbour, landlocked from all the winds by the surrounding hills and the Isle of Ross. Its merchants exported wool, hides, fish, and Dee pearls; while they imported wine, cloth, and armour, In 1526 it was described by Hector Boethius as "ane rich toune and full of merchandise." The stately burgesses, in sword, bonnet, buckles and hose, walked along its streets in the proud consciousness of their exclusive right of trading within the liberties, and all the privileges of an ancient Royal Burgh.
In those quaint houses standing with their gables to the street, and closes radiating from each side of it, people lived under the sway of the same passions which govern the modern dwellers, although their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun. To some of the houses still remaining the county gentry repaired in the season, and gave entertainments, bright with the beauty and chivalry of the Stewartry. They shared in the recreations of the town, they enlivened by the presence of their families its streets, and they elevated the tone of its citizens above that of many opulent trading towns, by the circle of elegant society, which, through the superior refinement of their person and manners, they provided.
Kirkcudbright, being a fortified town, sustained two memorable sieges, one for which Thomas of Derby was extolled in the songs of the Manxman as the Earl with the golden crupper, who rode through the town, a thriving burgh before him, a desolate ruin behind him. This exploit was amply avenged by one of the Ardwell family, who made descents on the Isle of Man so formidable and so frequent, that the Manxmen ate the "sodden" before they supped the broth, and prayed daily to be delivered from the Devil and Cutlar M'Culloch. Another siege was in 1548, when the furious onslaught of the English army, under Sir Thomas Carleton, was so effectively repelled that the enemy ventured no second attack.
It was at Kirkcudbright that the patriotic Duke of Albany landed, with a numerous fleet and a large army, in a last effort to save his country. Kirkcudbright was the destined landing place of a second invasion by the King of Spain, after the destruction of the memorable " Armada." At Kirkcudbright Lord Maxwell arrived from Spain, and collected a body of followers so numerous that James VI. marched with an army to Dumfries and Kirkcudbright to quell an insurrection intended to depose the King, and bring back the country under the dominion of the Pope.
During the previous years a mighty change in the religious feelings of Scotland had resulted in the overthrow of Popery, and the establishment of the Reformation as the religion of the nation. This vast revolution was deeply felt in the capital of the Stewartry, on whose inhabitants it conferred many blessings, inspiring those citizens who had so often bravely stood for civil freedom with that love of religious liberty, to which more than to the favour of kings, or the support of nobles, Kirkcudbright owes the honourable position she occupies in history among the ancient Royal Burghs of Scotland.
There were three buildings which were important centres of life in Kirkcudbright during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One was the Court-house and Jail, in which were placed their "knock " (clock) and bells, considered in those days "ane special ornament belanging to every burgh," and of which the inhabitants were very proud. It was made of malleable iron, and had a quaint dial, with one hand showing the hours but not the minutes, which were not of so much importance in those easy-going days. For its better accommodation its present spire was built in 1642, with stones taken from the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey. The old clock, with the exception of six months, when it lay in Ringford Smithy waiting repairs, continued to revolve for three hundred and twenty-one years, till, in 1896, it was removed to the Museum, where it now rests, its strong iron pinions completely worn through with its long period of service.
In the old Jail many a prisoner was buried as in a living grave. One, accused of murder, was lodged in a pit so dark that he craved the Magistrates to grant him sufficient of the light of day to instruct him to eternal life; and they allowed a hole to be cut out of the middle of the door, three inches square, with an iron grate to be put upon it. under the superintendence of three leading members of the Town Council. As told in Guy Mannering, it was into a wretched apartment of this prison that Harry Bertram was thrown, where the sounds of jarring bolts and creaking hinges, mingled occasionally with the dull monotony of the retiring ocean or the hoarse dash of the full tide below the base of the building.
In front of the Tolbooth stood the old "Mercat Cross," to which, at the weekly markets of the Royal Burgh, country people brought, in carts of wicker-work, on the backs of horses, or the shoulders of pedlars, their goods, exposing them for sale in stands or in tents.
At first these weekly markets, or occasional fairs, were held on Sundays, but were changed to week days through the unwearied efforts of the Reformed preachers. There also the public officers collected the toll due by those who sold at fairs, from which the prison was called the Tolbooth. At the cross also hung the jougs - the padlocked iron collar which grasped the necks of culprits, both men and women, while, wearing labels with the name of their crime, they were exhibited at the markets in broad day light, more terrible sometimes to a delinquent than the darkness inside the prison. Within the Court-house sat at stated times the Town Council, with their eyes fixed on the good of the Burgh, not without an occasional side glance at their own profit, They were an all-powerful body of magistrates, having many officials under them-a clerk, treasurer, dean, kirk-master, town piper, town drummer, water bailie, and town herd.
In our day the Earl of Derby was recently Lord Mayor of Liverpool. The Duke of Devonshire is Mayor of Easthourne, and at that period the most opulent and powerful gentlemen of the district were proud to preside Over the Councillors of Kirkcudbright. They had power to Ordain laws, fix punishments, and carry them into execution. They rushed in where the British Imperial Parliament in our time would fear to tread. They assumed the control of religion and morals. They enforced, by heavy fines, attendance twice at church on the Sabbath day, and at two diets of examine on the week days. All who were guilty of swearing, railing, profane speeches, or flyting on the streets, were sentenced to a penalty of forty pence.
The Magistrates took charge also of the education of the Burgh. In the absence of those endowed schools and colleges proposed by the Reformers, they appointed James Dodds, the first Protestant minister, schoolmaster, at a salary of twenty merks, secured to him by the rent of the Ferry Boat. As the work grew in importance they engaged, at an increased salary, a man who was required to give his whole time to teaching, and keep a qualified assistant under him, called a doctour. They could not face the free education proposed by the Reformers, and in appointing James Dickson to be teacher, they enacted that "the toun bairns should pay their fees in advance, quarterly, at Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, and Ail-hallowmas, and gif they pay nocht within ten days after the terme, the said James to expel them furth of the schule."
The necessity for education was great. Sir Andrew Agnew relates in the Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway that Elizabeth Agnew, the heiress of Wigg, could not sign her own marriage contract, but hopes she made up for this deficiency by her excellence in embroidery and the manufacture of jams. In the latter part of the sixteenth century there was a burgess at Kirkcudbright, called Herbert Gladstone, who could not sign his own name, but he made up for this defect by being a Bailie, a Member of Parliament, a Commissioner to the Convention of Royal Burghs, and a builder of such repute, that to him was let the contract in 1590 for re-building the Meikle Yett or Heigh Port of the Burgh, which was required to be of such height that " himself and his grey horse riding therein could but reik in hand to the pien stane thereof." About this time another Herbert Gladstone was appointed schoolmaster, more suitable than his eminent but uneducated namesake, to be, as they are both understood to have been, among the ancestors of the celebrated statesman of our own time, one of whose sons rejoices in the name of Herbert Gladstone.
The Town Council regulated trade, from the most important business transaction to the letting of a room or the purchase of a hen. They levied customs within the burgh, and on all cattle and merchandise entering the Stewartry from Wigtownshire over the river Cree. They fixed the price of provisions, candles, loaves, beef, and ale, at that time the universal drink. They anticipated by three hundred years the ten o'clock movement, and sharply fined two men for "drinking in Bettie Gillis' house after ten hour at evin'." They adopted vigorous measures to preserve the health and peace of the Burgh. They stopped the custom of burying within the Friars' Church, in spite of the fierce opposition of the people. They prevented all intercourse between the town and infected districts during the plague of 1599. They appointed companies of watchmen against attacks from without, and in case of any tumult within the gates, every person was required at the clink of the common bell to come to the street boundit with weapons, no doubt often-times making confusion worse confounded.
The next important building to be noticed was the Castle of the M'Lellans, the walls of which are still standing. In 1569 Sir Thomas M'Lellan of Bomby obtained leave to build a mansion in what was the gardens of the Friars' Church. For centuries the M'Lellans had been distinguished in the history of the province. One of their ancestors was among the fifty chosen companions who, after the battle of Falkirk, sailed with the patriot Wallace from Kirkcudbright to France. It was on the occasion of the treacherous murder, for his resistance to oppression, of Sir Patrick M'Lellan at Threave Castle, that his uncle, Sir Patrick Gray, who was at dinner in the hall with an order from the king for his nephew's release, defied the Earl of Douglas in his own stronghold, and effected his escape from a bloody death in the manner celebrated by Sir Walter Scott -.
"Sir Patrick turned - well was his need -
And dashed the rowels in his steed,
Like arrow through the archway sprung
The ponderous grate behind him rung;
To pass there was such scanty room
The bars descending grazed his plume.
The steed along the drawbridgr flies
Just as it trembled on the rise-
Nor lighter does the swallow skim
Along the smooth lake's level brim;
And when Sir Patrick reached the lend
He halts and turns with clenched hand,
And shout of loud defiance pours,
And shook his gauntlet at the towers.
Horse ! horse !" the Douglas cried, 'and chase.'"
And he was chased sixty miles till near Edinburgh, and had it not been that his led horse was so tried and good he had been taken. Sir Patrick's son, William, having found the captain of a band of Moorish pirates asleep through the influence of whisky cunningly introduced into his well, drove a dagger through the ruffian's head and presented it to James II., with the request that the king would "think on" the promised reward; and so the forfeited lands of Bombie were restored to William M'Lellan, with permission to take for his crest a head with a dagger in it, and for his motto the two words "Think on."
In 1513 another William M'Lellan, who was knighted by James IV., fell, along with the flower of the baronage of Calloway, in the same sorrowful battle by which "the flowers o the forest were a' wede away."
Thirteen years after, his son, Thomas, perished more miserably at the door of Sir Giles' Church in Edinburgh, in a savage encounter with his deadly enemy, Gordon of Lochinvar, when both gentlemen insisted on keeping the crown of the causeway. A dozen years later the son and heir of the murdered M'Lellan fell in love with Helen, the daughter of the Laird of Lochinvar, his father's murderer. Her family were favourable - the lady herself, like another Juliet, consented. The relatives on both sides, and most of the principals engaged in the fatal fray, were present at the wedding feast, and thus
"Was staunched the death feud's enmity,
When pride was quelled and love was free."
And Burd Helen was brought home a bonny bride to Raeberry, to be the light of the castle her own father with murderous hands had made desolate.
It was her husband, Sir Thomas, who made a new home in Kirkcudbright, and finished the castle in 1582. Its size testified to the greatness of the M'Lellans, who possessed large estates near Kirkcudbright, and had fourteen knights of their clan proprietors in different parts of Galloway. Its plan, being that of a comfortable dwelling rather than a place of defense, showed the advanced state of the district in public tranquility at the period of which James VI. boasted that "he would make the rash bush keep the cow." The stones of which it was built, being those of the old castle controlled by the Douglases, testified to the emancipation of the people from feudal bondage, and their enjoyment of those free institutions under which they have attained so much prosperity. The site on which the castle was erected showed the completeness of the social change effected by the Reformation, since a Scotch laird now dwelt amid the orchards, where, during bygone centuries, the monks had luxuriated. And finally, the situation of this baronial mansion inside the town was a witness to the influence which the M'Lellans had possessed in the past, and which they were destined to wield for years to come within the burgh of which they were many times the Provosts.
King James VI., when in Kirkcudbright in pursuit of Lord Maxwell, presented to the incorporated trades a silver gun, still in possession of the town, with the year 1587 engraved upon it, and the capital letters "T. M. C.," the initials of Thomas M'Lellan, at that time Provost of the Burgh.
His son, Sir Robert M'Lellan, the next owner of the castle, was raised to the peerage by Charles I. in 1633, under the title of Lord Kirkcudbright, while a new Charter was given to the town creating the present corporation-a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and thirteen councillors.
The third building to be mentioned is the old church. It was originally the chapel of Greyfriars' Monastery, and was used for a hundred and seventy years after the Reformation as the place of Protestant worship till 1730, when it was replaced by the building still standing on the Mote Brae, and in which the old aisle is all that remains of the monastery. Round that old church a great battle raged during the seventeenth century, The ministers, the magistrates, the community, the landed gentry, all stood on the side of Presbyterianism and religious freedom, in opposition to the Bishops and the subjection of the Church to the Stuart Kings of England.
The celebrated John Welsh, for eight years, at the close of the sixteenth century, and the beginning of the seventeenth, preached to crowded congregations, under the thatched roof of the old church, sermons of such deep spirituality and overpowering tenderness that strong men could scarce forbear weeping. To the house beside an old hawthorn, still to be seen, between High Street and the Academy, facing the river, the minister brought home his bride, Elizabeth Knox, daughter of the Reformer. This heroic woman poured her own spirit into her husband's ears, both stimulating and sustaining him in his sufferings for Christ.
When, after prolonged exile, his health gave way, Mrs Welsh pleaded before James VI., in London, for her husband's return to Scotland, as the one remedy prescribed by the physicians, the King exclaimed, " Knox and Welsh-the devil never made such a match as that." "It's right like, sir, for we never spiered his advice." She again urged her request that he would give her husband his native air. " Give him his native air l give him the devil l" replied the King. " Give that to your hungry courtiers," said she, offended at his profaneness. He told her at last her husband might return if she could persuade him to submit to the Bishops. Mrs Welsh, lifting up her apron and holding it towards the King, replied, " Please, your Majesty, I'd rather kep his head there."
A young man named Robert Glendinning, just returned from his travels, walking on the streets of Kirkcudbright decorated with gold and silver lace, was told by Mrs Welsh to betake himself to study, for he was to be the next minister of Kirkcudbright, which he became when Welsh was translated to Ayr. After a long ministry, Mr Glendinning, because he would neither himself submit to the Bishops nor receive one of the Bishop's creatures as his assistant and successor, was condemned to imprisonment when he was almost fourscore years old.
After him, from 1638 to 1650, came John M'Lellan, well-known as the author of a valuable description of Galloway. He was one of several able and influential ministers settled in Scotland, to which they were driven back by a storm after setting sail, on account of the persecution, for New England across the Atlantic's roar. He never knew what it was to be afraid in the cause of God, and expired in a swan-like song of triumph over mortality swallowed up of life.
Last, there was Thomas Wylie, at one time minister of Borgue, but afterwards of Kirkcudbright. On the Monday after a Communion - so crowded that it extended over two Sundays - he fled from a party of soldiers sent from the Privy Council to seize him, and was banished north of the Tay, whither he had to remove with his family in the frost and snow of December, subsequently enduring many hardships - being destitute, afflicted, tormented.
The Magistrates were not far behind the ministers in the battle. Provost Fullerton, with the whole Council, were thrown into Wigtown Jail because they would not incarcerate Robert Glendinning, their revered pastor; and the minister's own son, being one of the Bailies, was cast into Kirkcudbright Jail for refusing to imprison his venerable father. Provost Fullerton's wife, Marion M'Naught, whose acquaintance Livingstone made at a Communion in Borgue, is mentioned by him among the soldier saints of Christ's chivalry in the Galloway of those glorious days-a lady exalted alike in earthly lineage and Christian character, immortalised by Rutherford as the correspondent to whom so many of his letters were addressed, and eulogised in a Latin epitaph on her tombstone in the churchyard of Kirkcudbright, as far excelling her sex in courage, her race in piety, and her rank in virtue.
As for the part taken in the great struggle by the community of Kirkcudbright, it will be sufficient to state that under the infamous commission court appointed 16th July, 1664, of which all the Bishops were members, eighteen families were fined £5280 for not attending the ministrations of the curates. At one of the Courts, such as were often held at Kirkcudbright by Thomas Lidderdale of St. Mary's Isle, James Martin was fined £1000 for the absence of his wife from the curate's services, and, being unable to pay, was thrown into prison, where, from close confinement and bad usage, he died. About thirty women of Kirkcudbright who riotously opposed the forced settlement of a curate by placing themselves in front of the church with a plentiful supply of stones, were sentenced, some of them to be carried prisoners to Edinburgh, others to be imprisoned at Kirkcudbright, and five of the most active to make a degrading exhibition of themselves, two several market days, at the town cross, on pain of being whipped through the town and banished forth of the same and the liberties thereof.
As for the county gentlemen, John, Lord Kirkcudbright (originally John M'Lellan of Borgue), John Carson of Senwick (late Provost of Kirkcudbright), and John Ewart, who had been chosen Provost of the Burgh, were all carried prisoners to Edinburgh. This Lord Kirkcudbright possessed at one time large estates in Galloway - Bombie with its castle, Loch Fergus, Black and Little Stockerton, Meikle and Little Sypland, Gribdae, and many other lands - but having at his own expense raised a regiment which by its bravery won the battle of Philiphaugh on 13th September, 1645 (a victory which caused great joy throughout Galloway), his finances were much reduced, and his ruin was completed by the fines imposed on him for not interfering between the women and the soldiers engaged in the settlement of the curate in the Church of Kirkcudbright. The fifth Lord was in circumstances so reduced that it is said he kept a small inn opposite the present court-house for a livelihood - hob-nobbing with the country folk who came to market, while Lord John, his son, greased the boots, and Lady Betty, his daughter, made the beds.
William M'Lellan of Borness, being heir to the title through his ancestor Gilbert of Barmaguachan, second son of Sir Thomas M'Lellan of Bombie, kept a glove shop in Edinburgh, and stood many years in the lobby of the Assembly Rooms selling gloves to the guests, who required, according to the fashion of the time, a new pair for every dance - the only time he was absent from his post being when in full dress he danced at a ball given after an election in which, himself a Peer, he voted for a Scottish representative in the House of Lords. The Rev. John M'Lellan of Kelton, when about to follow up his claims to the title, died in 1840; and the pretensions of others in line, which are being continually advanced, fail for want of evidence.
The once opulent and powerful M'Lellans of Bombie lie under the aisle of the old church on the Mote Brae, in a vault which, when opened sixty years ago, was found to contain several oak coffins, with their cloth coverings and silken trimmings almost entire, poor relics of departed splendour, which at the slightest touch crumbled into dust. The castle of the M'Lellans close by, once the abode of mirth and hospitality, now the habitation of owls and bats, testifies in its stately ruins to the transitoriness of earthly greatness, and the unchangeable degree by which the social economy of one period is displaced by a system altogether different in the next.
"The old order changeth, giving place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
These ivy-mantled walls, over-topping the modern buildings, along with the tower of the court-house and jail, crown with the majesty of antique grandeur the landscape in the midst of which, beautiful for situation, Kirkcudbright sits enthroned as a queen in the ancient province of Galloway.
"0, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us,
It wad fra mony an evil free us
And foolish notion-
What airs in gait and dress wad lea'e us,
And e'en devotion."
Kirkcudbright enjoys the advantage of seeing itself as it was seen at different stages of its history by three distinguished observers. The first was the heroic Charlotte de la Trémoille, Countess of Derby, who spent a week at Kirkcudbright waiting for a fair wind to waft her across to the Isle of Man. Writing under date August, 1650 - the year when Charles II. was crowned at Scone, and John M'Lellan died (one of the best ministers Kirkcudbright ever possessed) - the Countess says: - "I have been here for fifteen days suffering every imaginable inconvenience, being reduced to eat oaten bread, and some of us to lodge in the house of the chief person of the place, though I never saw anything so dirty. But this is nothing to the religion. The sermons which I have heard in this place are horrible, having nothing of devotion in them, nor explaining any point of religion, but being full of sedition- warning people by their names, and treating of everything with such ignorance, and without the least respect or reverence, that I am so scandalised I do not think I could live with a quiet conscience among these atheists." (Full Text)
The second distinguished observer is Daniel Defoe. Writing seventy years later than the Countess, in the year 1723, he says :- "Kirkcudbright is an ancient town, with the prettiest navigable river I have seen in Britain. It runs as smooth as the Medway at Chatham, and there is depth of water and room enough to hold all the fleet of England, so that the ' Britannia' may throw her anchor into the churchyard. The situation of the town is a perfect amphitheatre, like the town of Trent on the confines of Italy; not like it surrounded by high mountains, but what in this country they call craigs - stony heights thinly covered with grass, through which the rocks appear like a scab. The common people in Kirkcudbright wear all bonnets instead of hats, and though some of the townsmen possess hats, they wear them only on Sundays and extraordinary occasions. There is nothing of the gaiety of the English, but a sedate gravity in every face, without the stiffness of the Spaniards ; and I take this to be owing to their praying and frequent long graces, which gives their looks a religious cast. Taciturnity and dullness gains the character of a discreet man, and a gentleman of wit is called a sharp man. I arrived here on Saturday night at a good inn, but the room where I lay, I believe, had not been washed in a hundred years. Next day I expected, as in England, a piece of good beef or a pudding to dinner, but my landlord told me that they never dress dinner on a Sunday, so that I must either take up with bread and butter, a fresh egg, or fast till after the evening sermon, when they never fail of a hot supper. Certainly no nation on earth observes the Sabbath with that strictness of devotion and resignation to the will of God; they all pray in their families before they go to church, and between sermons they fast; after sermon everybody retires to his own home and reads some book of devotion till supper-which is generally very good on Sundays - after which they sing Psalms till they go to bed." (Full Text)
The third distinguished observer, seventy years later still, is no less a person than Robert Burns. Near the end of last century, writing an election ballad, he figures the Dumfries Burghs as five carlines met to decide whether they will have Sir James Johnstone, a Border knight, or Captain Miller, a young soldier, as their Member. In this conclave Kirkcudbright is pictured as an intemperate old woman, red of face and loud of tongue, whose stalwart form is familiar in all the public-houses of the province -
"And Whisky Jean that took her gill
In Galloway sae wide."
When her turn comes she expresses her mind in the maudlin fashion to be expected from the whisky punch she consumes while she talks -
"Then Whisky Jean spak' owre her drink-
Ye weel ken, kimmers a',
The aul' guidman o' Lon'on Court
His back's been at the wa'
And monie a friend that kissed his cup
Is now a fremit wight,
But it's ne'er be said o' Whisky Jean-
I'll send the Border knight."
Kirkcudbright is the possessor, since 1720, of a famous walnut punch bowl, hooped with brass, and capable of holding ten gallons. Strange to say this mighty vessel was conspicuous by its absence from the great Burns' Centenary feast, held in Kirkcudbright forty years ago - the only explanation given being that the coopers were all so busy making hoops, in those days of crinoline, for the ladies' dresses they had no time to repair the hoops of the punch bowl, geasened through long disuse. The last occasion on which it was filled was in 1891, at the golden wedding of Hon. Charles Hope and Lady Isabella Hope of St. Mary's Isle.
Early in the eighteenth century a branch of the Hamiltons settled in the Stewartry, and succeeded to the position, with respect to Kirkcudbright, so long occupied by the M'Lellans, of whose old castle they are now the possessors. In 1646 Lord William Douglas was raised to the peerage of Scotland by the title of Baron Daer and Shortcleuch and Earl of Selkirk, but afterwards was created Duke of Hamilton. His fifth son, Lord Basil Hamilton, married Mary Dunbar, granddaughter and heiress of Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon the elder, her own father, Sir David Dunbar the younger, the husband of the "Bride of Lammermoor," having been killed, as related in the novel, by a fall from his horse between Leith and Holyrood. Lady Mary Hamilton succeeded to all her grandfather's property, both in the shire and in the Stewartry; and, when the grandson of Lidderdale, the persecutor, died on the Spanish voyage, she purchased St. Mary's Isle.
Her son, Basil Hamilton, went out with Kenmure in the "fifteen," fought bravely at Preston, was taken prisoner, his estates forfeited, and himself condemned to be executed. By powerful interest his life was spared, the attainder reversed, and the property long afterwards restored. He was for several times Provost of Kirkcudbright.
Basil's son, Dunbar Hamilton, grandson of Lady Mary, succeeded to all the estates and the titles, taking up his residence at St. Mary's Isle in 1744 as Dunbar Hamilton Douglas, fourth Earl of Selkirk, a position he enjoyed for fifty-five years, till his death in 1799. Thus the arms of Hamilton and Dunbar were united with those of Douglas on the Selkirk shield; and the family which rose by the Daer, a tributary of the Clyde, and sojourned beside the Blednoch, settled near Kirkcudbright towers, upon the bonny banks o Dee, which not altogether, as in former days, but almost encircles the wooded Isle of St. Mary.
About the year 1786, the Earl of Selkirk entrusted the management of his estates to his eldest son and heir, the celebrated Basil William, Lord Daer, a youth of twenty-two, just returned from Paris, where he had cultivated the society and imbibed the sentiments of the future leaders of the great French Revolution. The Earl's confidence was fully justified by the consummate business ability and practical wisdom which the youth displayed; and, at the time of the father's death, more than thirty farms in the parish of Kirkcudbright shared in the improvements introduced by Lord Daer. These were Torrs, Baigreddan, Meikie and Little Sypland, Half Mark, Black and Little Stockerton, Brockloch, Red Brae, Whinny Ligget, Culdoach, Carse, Canee, Meikie and Little Kirkland, Auchenflower, Grange and Mill, Mutehill, Meikie and Little Galtway, Knockour, Galtway, Miltown of Dunrod and Mill thereof, Kirkland, Stackcroft, Glenancroft, St. Mary's Isle, Jordieland, Bombie and Mill, Glenlay, Dromore, Loch Fergus, Cotton, and part of Kirkhouse (to which were afterwards added Howwell and Balmae, Banks, High Banks, and part of Overlaw).
Lord Daer surveyed the estate and marked out a portion of ground to be enclosed and planted annually, with plants raised on the spot from a nursery of twenty acres, beginning at St. Mary's Isle and gradually extending to the remoter parts of the property. This policy was carried out by his younger brother, Thomas, father of the late Earl, until the naked crags around Kirkcudbright were transformed into a richly-wooded country, and the bleak estuary of Dee into the scene of enchantment we now behold. In a literal sense it is true of Lord Daer, that the wilderness and the solitary place were glad for him-the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose.
When his father sold Baldoon to the Earl of Galloway for a sum calculated on a rental of £5000, Lord Daer leased the estate for ten years at £7000 - not only paying the rent, but improving the estate so much, chiefly by the best wheat-growing land reclaimed from the sea, that an additional sum, according to arrangement, of £125,000 was paid by Lord Galloway to Thomas, the fifth Earl, father of the late Lord Selkirk, who gave £25,000 to each of his four sisters, retaining only one share for himself. Lord Daer died before the final adjustment at the age of thirty, in some place abroad whither he was compelled to retire on account of his opposition to the authorities. He was long remembered in the town of Kirkcudbright with feelings of the most enthusiastic admiration, and even now the memory of the noble but defiant Daer enhances more than wealth or an Earl's coronet the grandeur of his race; while the inhabitants of the district reap the harvest sown by this genuine benefactor of his kind. Born to high rank and great estates, he belonged to the aristocracy of nature, and held the patent of his nobility direct from Almighty God. He has been fitly immortalised by his friend Robert Burns in the "Lines on meeting with Basil Lord Daer," at the table of Dugald Stewart, in which he is extolled as one of the most modest, sensible, social, and brotherly of men -
"I sidling sheltered in a nook,
And at his Lordship stealt a look
Like some pretentous omen;
Except good sense and social glee
An', what surprised me, modesty,
I marked nought uncommon.
I watched the symptoms o' the great-
The gentle pride, the lordly state,
The arrogant assuming;
The fient a pride, nae pride had he,
Nor sauce nor state that I could see
Mair than an honest ploughman.
Then from his lordship I shall learn
Henceforth to meet with unconcern
One rank as weel's anither
Nae honest, worthy man need care
To meet with noble, youthful Daer,
For he hut meets a brither."
The ancient burgh is almost unrivalled for the number of delightful walks in its neighbourhood - one of the most splendid being the path that runs through the scenery on the Kirkcudbright side of the Dee. At the Doachs of Tongland the stream, scattered over the extensive bed of rocks or plunging madly down steep calaracts into roaring whirlpools, fills the air unceasingly with the far-heard sound of falling waters. There are the airy steeps over which you go amid the copsewood clothing the precipitous banks, between which the river eddies into dark pools, or leaps a savage torrent over the rocks below, until, in the ample space contained between the graceful arch of Telford's Bridge and the wooded slopes of Compstone, there takes place that "meeting of the waters," when the Dee and the Tarff celebrate their union in majestic windings of their streams. Lower down there is a favourite walk by a poplar fringed embankment; beyond the town is the walk by the Castle Dykes, where, when the setting summer sun suffuses all things with a golden light, the blackbirds pour their melodies from the sprays of hawthorn sweetly scenting with their blossoms the evening gale; and last of all there is a lovely path, by flowery meadows and shady groves, beside the Manxman's Lake, through which the river rapidly makes its way to the sea. On the shore there are the rocky cliffs of the Torrs Point, clothed with wild flowers, and the cave which disputes with Ravenshall the honour of being that of Dirk Hatteraick, while from the heights of Mullock and Raeberry Castle are commanding views of the Solway Firth and the sea.
Further inland, on the slopes above the town, is the path through Paradise, under an archway of high embowering trees, conducting to enchanting views of the island of Little Ross and Kirkcudbright Bay. There are The Nine Stiles, from which are obtained successive glimpses of scenery, each different from all the rest, as you go through the wooded summit of the Barrhill, of which the nature-loving native of the burgh might exclaim like the Shepherd in "Comus" -
"I know each lane and every alley green,
Dingle or bushy dell of this wild wood,
And every bosky bourn from side to side-
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood."
There is the golf course, on which invigorating exercise, pure air, and beautiful scenes, endlessly diversified, are all united in one sparkling stream of pleasure. From the top of the Kirkland Brae there is a glorious prospect round and round- to the Cumberland hills on the east, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn on the far north, Cairnsmore of Fleet in the distant west, as far south as the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea.
On Lochfergus is Glenlay, so named from its subdued atmosphere-the Grey Glen, or glen of the shimmering light, where artists discover their choicest bits of scenery, and all may hold communion with nature, in one of her most secret sanctuaries. There is the Canee dam, surrounded by trees and overhung by willows, that "show their hoar leaves in the glassy pool," like that on whose pendant boughs Ophelia clambering to hang her garland of flowers and singing the while snatches of old tunes, "fell in the weeping brook" -
"Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."
Close by, among rich pastures and buried deep in woods, is the quaint homestead of Canee, where we may enjoy farm scenery, like that which delighted the two poet friends on a summer evening amid the luxurious garden land of the South of England -
"When brushing ankle deep in flowers,
They heard behind the woodbine veil
The milk that bubbled in the pail,
And buzzings of the honeyed hours."
Last, we return to the town itself, the streets of which, like those of the new town of Edinburgh, are laid out in parallelograms, interspersed with trees and gardens, so that, like Edinburgh, Kirkcudbright does not -
"Leave the summer waiting at her gates,
But takes it to her heart."
Kirkcudbright abounds with localities of deep historical interest. The place of the principal gate, situated in High Street, to which the heads of the Gordon brothers of Knockbrex were affixed, who were pleasant and lovely in their lives, and in their death were not divided-dying at Edinburgh in each other's arms.
There is the site, at the foot of High Street, of Provost Fullerton's house, where Marion M'Naught and Samuel Rutherford were joined on a fast day by Robert Blair who was guided by his horse with the bridle on its neck to the two friends he most desired to see, when passing through Galloway to Ireland. There is the scene of the encounter in which Viscount Kenmure was on the point of running his sword through Lagg for his insolent brutality, but was prevented by Claverhouse from doing a deed which would have rendered needless the relays of pails of water from the Nith, kept, according to Dumfries tradition, at the boiling point by the burning feet of the Baronet dying many years after in Turnpike House; and a deed which would have saved the lives of Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick's two beautiful Spanish barbs, which dropped dead through dragging the old persecutor's body to Dunscore churchyard.
There are the graves of the martyrs carried prisoners to Kirkcudbright, in St. Cuthbert's churchyard, connecting the capital for all time with the sufferings endured in the wilds Of Galloway -
"Where wives and little children
Were faithful unto death,
And graves of martyred heroes
Lie on the desert heath."
There is the farm of Culdoach, where Queen Mary, who still rules by her beauty and misfortunes over the hearts of men, rested on her last fateful ride from Langside to Dundrennan.
There is Silver Craig's Park, where, in the seventeenth century, Elspeth M'Ewan was burned for witchcraft, and the tree near by which bore the ghastly fruit of criminals hanged by the neck till they were dead. There is King William's battery, where, on his way to the Boyne, his fleet was wind-bound in Kirkcudbright Bay.
There is the mansion on St. Mary's Isle, where Paul Jones paid his famous visit to the Countess of Selkirk, intending to give the Earl a free passage across the Atlantic, but got only some silver plate, which he returned seven years after with many apologies to the lady. In this mansion Burns first uttered his famous Selkirk grace -
"Some ha'e meat that canna' eat,
And some would eat that want it,
But we ha'e meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit."
In the grounds is a sycamore under which often sat in meditation Dugald Stewart, the learned son of a learned sire, both of whom Burns beheld in vision -
"With deep-struck, reverential awe
The learned sire and son I saw-
To nature's God and nature's law
They gave their lore,
This all its source and end to draw
That to adore."
It was near Kirkcudbright that Mr Johnstone, a well-known citizen, journeying on horseback, early one fine spring morning, to Dundrennan Village, discovered "Wull Nicholson, the Galloway poet, in a quarry hole, seated on his pack, which had served for his pillow during the night, with the morning sun glinting full in his face, playing and singing like an angel, while half-a-dozen ragged fillies were careering round the field, cutting all sorts of capers and snorting forth their applause, the minstrel himself declaring that 'he had mair pleasure in piping to thae daft cowtes than if the best leddies in the lan' had been figuring awa' tae his puir music.'"
Connected with modern days are the bridge, built through the exertions of Provost Cavan; the library, containing many valuable books; and the museum, containing many objects illustrative of the historical associations with which Kirkcudbright abounds. But for these old associations, the Dee would have been as the Amazon -
"Which, for all the years it has rolled,
Can tell hut how fair is the morning red,
How sweet the evening gold."
This river Dee is a figure of the history of the ancient burgh so beautifully situated on its banks. The origin of the Dee, among the mist-covered mountains of Galloway, represents the early history of the burgh, hidden in the mists of antiquity. The various scenes through which the river flows represent the many changes which have occurred in the history of the town. The tributaries by which the volume of the river is enlarged symbolise the historical events which have enriched so largely the history of the town. The eminence of the Dee among southern streams is the emblem of the supreme influence of Kirkcudbright in the Stewartry. The progress of the Dee, from the highest steep which rises over its source to the windings which fill twice a day with the salt sea water, and hold Kirkcudbright for ever in their embrace, typifies the advancement of the ancient burgh since it was a British fort to its present position as one of the most picturesque towns in the kingdom. The river runs at last into the sea, from which it is derived, even as all past generations in the burgh have been swallowed up in the boundless deep of being from which they were drawn, and whither we ourselves also in due time will "turn again home " -
"For here, though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither-
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.