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Old County of Kirkcudbrightshire

(The Stewartry)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1834-45: Kirkudbright

Kirkcudbrightshire or the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, a maritime county in the western part of the southern border of Scotland, constituting the eastern portion, and rather more than three-fifths of the whole extent, of the province of Galloway. It is bounded NW and N by Ayrshire, NE and E by Dumfriesshire, S by the Solway Firth and the Irish Sea, and W by Wigtownshire. Its outline is irregular, but approaches the figure of a trapezoid. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 41¼. miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 37½ miles; and its area is 9532/3. miles, or 610, 342¾ acres, of which 7678½ are water and 27,361 foreshore. Its southern half has, as natural boundaries, the river and estuary of the Nith on the E, the sea and the Solway Firth on the S, and the river Cree and Wigtown Bay on the W; but the northern half is traced by natural boundaries only partially and at intervals,-by the Cairn for 7¾ miles above its confluence with the Nith, by a watershed of mountain summits for 11½ miles south-eastward of its NE angle, and, with trivial exceptions, 15 or 16 miles sinuously westward of that angle, by Loch Doon and its tributary Gala Lane for 8½ miles on the NW, and by the river Cree, from the NW extremity southward to the southern division of the county. Kirkcudbrightshire has no recognised or nominal subdivisions, except that the four most northerly parishes are called Glenkens; but it admits, or rather exhibits, a very marked natural subdivision into a highland district and a champaign country thickly undulated with hills. A straight line drawn from about the centre of Irongray parish to Gatehouse-of-Fleet, or to the middle of Anwoth parish, has, with some exceptions, the former of these districts on the NW, and the latter on the SE. The highland or north-western district comprehends about two-thirds of the whole area, and is, for the most part, mountainous. Blacklarg, at the point where the Stewartry meets with Dumfriesshire, has a height of 2231 feet above sea-level; and it is exceeded by Merrick (2764 feet) in the NW and by eleven other summits. The heights, all along the boundary, and for some way into the interior on the N, are part of what is often termed the Southern Highlands, or the broad alpine belt which stretches across the middle of the Scottish lowlands; they ascend, in the aggregate, to elevations little inferior to those of any other part of that great belt; and, extending down to the sea on the W, and parallel to Dumfriesshire on the E, they form, in their highest summits, a vast semicircle, whence broad and lessening spurs run off into the interior. The glens and straths among these mountains, even when reckoned down to the points where their draining streams accumulate into rivers, form an inconsiderable proportion, probably not one-tenth of the whole district. The other district, the south -eastern one, when viewed from the northern mountains, appears like a great plain, diversified only by a variety of shades, according to the colour, size, or distance of the heights upon its surface. So gentle, too, is its cumulative ascent from the sea, that the Dee, at the point of entering it, or even a long way up the strath on the highland side of the dividing line, is only 150 feet above the level of the sea. Yet about one-fourth of its whole area is either roughly hilly, or, in a secondary sense, mountainous; while much the greater proportion of the other three-fourths, though fully under cultivation, is a rolling, broken, hilly surface, and, for the most part, continues its bold undulations down to the very shore. On the SE the conspicuous Criffel rises up almost from the margin of the Nith to a height of 1867 feet above sea-level, and sends off a ridge 8 or 9 miles westward in the direction of Dalbeattie, and a second low ridge away south-westward parallel with the coast to the vicinity of Kirkcudbright. These heights are far from being inconsiderable; and, lifting their craggy cliffs and dark summits immediately above the margin of the sea, they- form scenery highly picturesque and occasionally grand. Over all parts of the county the uplands are, for the most part, broken by abrupt protuberances, steep banks, and rocky knolls, diversified into every possible variety of shape; and even in the multitudinous instances in which they admit of tillage, either on their lower slopes or over all their sides and their summits, they rarely present a smooth and uniform arable surface.

Geology.—The greater portion of the county is made up of rocks of Silurian age, through which have been intruded several large masses of granite. Both the upper and lower divisions of the Silurian system are well represented; the former extending from the town of Kirkcudbright N to the borders of Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire, and the latter along the shores of the Solway Firth from the Meikle Ross to the mouth of the Nith. Partly by means of certain fossiliferous bands of black shales, and partly by the lithological characters of the strata, the lower series has been subdivided into several zones. Of these the most important are the bands of anthracite schists or black shales, yielding graptolites in profusion, which occur on two horizons. The lower group, which is the SW prolongation of the lack shale bands so typically developed in the Moffat district, may be traced more or less continuously from the Scar Water near Dunscore along the Glen Burn to the Trowdale Glen in the valley of the Urr. From thence it extends in a SW direction to the village of Crossmichael and onwards to the moors near Lochenbreck. To the S of this outcrop the anthracite schists occur in synclinal folds of the underlying group of brown crusted greywackes and shales, as, for example, in the Coal Heugh near Tarff and in the Barlay Burn N of Gatehouse-of-Fleet. This lower group is overlaid by massive grey and purple grits and shales, which cover a wide area, owing to foldings of the strata. They are admirably displayed on the moors between Kirkpatrick-Durham and Dalry. Along the crests of the anticlines the underlying bands of black shales are occasionally brought to the surface charged with graptolites, as, for instance, in the Dee near Hensol House, in the Urr Water N of Corsock, and in the Glenessland Burn W of Dunscore. The upper group of black shales is exposed in the Ken and in the Deugh near their point of- junction, whence they stretch W to the Kells range, where they are truncated by the granite. They reappear, however, on the SW side of the Loch Dee granite in Glen Trool and on the crest of Curleywee.

The boundary between the upper and lower Silurian rocks is marked by a line extending from Falbogue Bay in the parish of Borgue, NE by Balmangan, the Long Robin, Castlecreavie, to the junction of the granite near Auchinleck. An excellent section of the members of the upper division is exposed along the shore between Long Robin in Kirkcudbright Bay as far as White Port in the parish of Rerwick, where they are unconformably overlaid by Lower Carboniferous rocks. In this section the upper Silurian rocks may be divided into two groups. The lower group, extending from Long Robin to near the mouth of the Balmae Burn, consists of brown crusted greywackes, flags, and shales, with a characteristic zone of dark brown sandy shales, yielding graptolites and orthoceratites. These are overlaid by olive-coloured shales with limestone nodules, fine conglomerates and grey ripple-marked flags comprising the upper subdivision. They occur on the shore between Balmae Burn and Howell Bay, on the cliffs at Raeberry Castle, and at Netherlaw Point. The following fossils have been obtained from the limestone nodules and bands of conglomerate:- Tentaculites ornatus, A trypa reticularis, Rhynconella borealis, Strophomena grandis, Murchisonia obscura, Bellerophon trilobatus, Orthoceras imbricatum.

The Silurian rocks of this county have been pierced by various masses of granite, four of which are of special importance. The first of these extends from Criffel W by Dalbeattie to Bengairn; the second covers the area between Loch Ken and Cairnsmore of Fleet; the third occupies the wild and desolate region between Loch Dee and Loch Doon; and the fourth mass occurs round Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. These granitic areas have given rise to certain characteristic features in the scenery of the county. Each of them is coincident with a prominent mass of high ground, possessing very different features from those common to the Silurian areas. Along the W limit of the Bengairn mass there is an interesting passage between the granite and quartz felsite of Bentuther Hill. The granite loses its coarsely crystalline character and becomes more fine grained, while there is a gradual development of a granular ground mass, in which occur crystals of orthoclase and plagioclase felspar along with quartz. The pink porphyritic quartz-felsite spreads W across the Stockerton Moor to the Dee at Tongueland. Numerous veins and dykes of quartz-felsite radiate in all directions from the Tongueland and Bentuther porphyry as well as from the granite.

The carboniferous rocks occupy isolated areas fringing the shores of the Solway. In the parish of Rerwick they form a narrow strip along the coast between the White Port and Aird's Point E of Rascarrel Bay, a distance of 7 miles. At the former locality there is an excellent exposure of the unconformability between these rocks and the upper Silurian formation. The red breccias, with quartz pebbles, which form the local base of the carboniferous series at that point, rest on the upturned edges of the Silurian shales which have been reddened by infiltration. At Aird's Point the breccias have been thrown against the Silurian rocks by a fault which forms the boundary of the outlier W as far as Barlocco. In addition to the basal breccias, the beds exposed along the Rerwick shore consist of conglomerates, ashy grits, sandstones, and cementstones. At certain points between Barlocco Bay and Orroland they yield fossils in considerable abundance. Small outlying patches of brecciated grits belonging to the same series are met with on the shore at Glenstocking and Portowarren. The most important area, however, extends along the plain of Kirkbean from Southerness to the Drum Burn. At the base of the Cementstone series on the SE slope of Criffel there is a lenticular patch of purple diabaseporphyrite, which is well seen in the Kirkbean Glen, resting on reddish grey sandstones and marls. This fragment of interbedded volcanic rocks is on the same horizon as the volcanic series of Birrenswark and Middlebie. In both areas the ancient lavas rest on red sandstones and marls, and they pass conformably below cementstones and shales. The latter beds are well exposed in Carsethorn Bay, where they yield fossils plentifully, and to the S of Arbigland they pass below the white sandstone and grits of Thirlstane. The highest beds in the section consist of marine limestones abundantly charged with corals, which are beautifully seen in the bay at Arbigland. The natural sequence of the beds on the Kirkbean shore is much disturbed by faults, but notwithstanding these dislocations it is possible to correlate the beds with the succession in Liddesdale.

On the W side of the Nith at Dumfries a small portion of the Permian basin is included in this county. In this portion of the basin the beds consist of coarse breccias which are well exposed in the railway cutting at Goldielea. In the wood to the N of Mabie, casts of carboniferous fossils have been found in the pebbles embedded in the breccia. It is probable that the Permian rocks formerly extended along the shores of the Solway towards the mouth of the Dee. The fossiliferous sandstones and cementstones at Rascarrel and Orroland on the Rerwick coast are stained red by infiltration of iron oxide, which was, in all likelihood, obtained from the Permian beds, which have since been removed by denudation.

Various examples of basalt dykes are to be found in the county, as, for instance, in the Silurian rocks at Kirkandrews, Borgue, and in the granite to the S of Lochanhead.

Nowhere in the South of Scotland are the traces of glaciation to be witnessed on a grander scale than in the high grounds of Galloway. The ice-markings plainly show that during the period of extreme glaciation the ice must have radiated from the elevated ground round the Kells and Merrick ranges. The striæ trend S in the valley of the Cree, SE towards the mouth of the Dee, and ESE across the undulating hilly ground towards the vale of the Nith. Over the low grounds the boulder clay is usually distributed in the form of ` drums, ' which form a characteristic feature in the scenery in the valleys of the Cree, the Dee, and the Urr. But, in addition to this, there is abundant evidence of the existence of local glaciers, which must have deposited moraines of considerable dimensions. Nearly all the valleys draining the E slope of the Kells range contain moraine mounds. A splendid series is traceable along the valley of the Deugh, in the parish of Carsphairn, and another equally well marked series occurs in the vale of Minnoch, between the Suie and Bargrennan.

Veins of lead ore occur in the Silurian rocks at Blackcraig, Newton-Stewart, and at Woodhead Carsphairn. A vein of hematite is met with on the NW slope of the Coran of Portmark, and another has been worked at Auchinleck to the NW of Auchencairn. Veins of barytes are visible also on the farm of Barlocco.

In the neighbourhood of Dumfries, throughout most of Terregles and part of Troqueer and Irongray, where, apart from artificial division, the territory forms a portion of the beautiful strath of Nithsdale, stretches a smooth level tract, carpeted with a mixture of sand and loam, and possessing facilities of cultivation beyond any other part of the county. Along the banks of the Nith, from Maxwelltown downward, and for some distance lying between the former tract and the river, extends a belt of merse land, at first narrow and interspersed with ` flows, ' but broader in Newabbey and Kirkbean, and comprehending about 6000 acres either of carse or of a rich loam, partly on a gravelly bottom, and partly on a bottom of limestone. From Terregles, south-westward to the Dee, extends a broad tract, comprising Lochrutton, Kirkgunzeon, and Urr, and part of KirkpatrickDurham, Crossmichael, Kelton, Buittle, and Rerwick, which, while hilly, has comparatively an unbroken surface, carpeted with a strong soil, though often upon a retentive subsoil, and peculiarly adapted for tillage. The broken portions of this tract, and the general area of the other parts of the comparatively champaign district, are much less waste than a stranger to their peculiarities, who should glance at their appearance, would imagine. The knolls conceal, by the perspective of their summits, considerable flat intervals amongst them; and while themselves seeming, from the brushwood which crowns them, to be unfit for cultivation, are usually covered with a very kindly soil, of sufficient depth for the plough. Of an extremely broken field, not more than one-half of which would seem to a stranger available for tillage, the proportion really and easily arable often amounts to four-fifths. Except in loamy sand and the merse tracts near Dumfries, the soil of nearly all the ploughed ground of the Stewartry, comprehending not only the great south-eastern division, but the fine strath of the Ken and the narrower vale of the Cree, is dry loam of a hazel colour, an d therefore locally called hazelly loam, but often degenerating, more or less, into gravel. The bed of schist on which it lies is frequently so near the surface as to form a path to the plough, and probably where the rock is soft, adds by its attrition to the depth of the soil. In the highland division rich meadows, luxuriant pastures, and arable lands of considerable aggregate extent, occur along the banks of the rivers, on the sloping sides of the hills, in vales among the mountains, and along the margins of little streams. A large part of the Glenkens, too, exhibits highland scenery in such green garb as characteristically distinguishes Tweeddale. But with these exceptions, the far-stretching highland district is in general carpeted with heath and ` flows, ' a weary and almost desolate waste, a thin stratum of mossy soil yielding, amidst the prevailing heath, such poor grass that the sheep which feed upon it, and are strongly attached to it, would die of hunger, were there not intervening patches of luxuriant verdure. With large bases, lofty summits, and small intervals of valley, the mountains exhibit aspects of bleakness diversified by picturesqueness and romance; and, sometimes sending down shelving precipices from near their tops, they are inaccessible to the most venturous quadruped, and offer their beetling cliffs for an eyrie to-the eagle; while far below, among the fragments of fallen rocks, the fox finds a lair whence he cannot be unkennelled by the huntsman's dogs.

Kirkcudbrightshire sends out a few very trivial headwaters of the Ayrshire rivers, and receives some equally unimportant contributions in return; but, with these exceptions, it is a continuation of the great basin of Dumfriesshire, and, as far as the joint evidence of the disposal of its waters and the configuration of its great mountain-chain could decide, it was naturally adjudged to the place which it long legally held as a component part of that beautiful county. What Eskdale is to Dumfriesshire on the E, Kirkcudbrightshire, in the sweep of its mountain-chain to near the coast beyond the Dee, is on the W; and all the vast intervening territory is a semicircular area, with an arc of highland ridges sweeping round it from one end till nearly the other of the N side of its chord, and pouring down all its waters to the S. The Stewartry, unlike Dumfriesshire, has no expanded plain for concentrating its streams before giving them to the sea, and, in consequence, discharges much of the drainings of its surface in inconsiderable volumes of water. Apart from the Nith, the Cairn, and the Cree, which belong only to its boundaries, its chief streams are the Urr, the Ken, the Dee, and the Fleet. Lakes are very numerous; and some of them are remarkable for either the rare species or the abundance of their fish; but, excepting Doon on the boundary, and Ken and Kinder in the interior, they are individually inconsiderable both in size and in interest. Perennial springs everywhere well up in great abundance, and afford an ample supply of excellent water. Of chalybeate springs, which also are numerous, the most celebrated is that of Lochenbrack, in the parish of Balmaghie.

The Solway Firth, becoming identified on the W with the Irish Sea, sweeps round, from the head of the estuary of the Nith to the head of Wigtown Bay, in an ample semicircular coast-line of 50 miles, exclusive of sinuosities. The coast, on the E, is flat; but elsewhere it is, in general, bold and rocky, here pierced with caves, and there lined with cliffs. Along the whole of it, a permanent recession of the sea has taken place, not very apparent or productive of any great advantage, indeed, in the high and rocky regions, but very evident and resulting in a bequest of the rich territory of the Merse, in the flat tract along the Nith. Besides the estuary on the E, and the gulf or large bay on the W, the Solway forms, at points where it receives streams, very considerable natural harbours, running up into the country in the form of bays or small estuaries. The principal are Rough Firth, at the mouth of the Urr; Auchencairn Bay, at the mouth of rivulets a little westward; Kirkcudbright Bay, at the mouth of the Dee; and Fleet Bay, at the mouth of the Water of Fleet. Though all the waters which wash the coast are rich in fish, they rarely tempt the inhabitants of the coast to spread the net or cast the line, and have not prompted the erection of a single fishing village, or the formation of any community of professed fishermen. Sea-shells and Shelly sand, which are thrown up in great profusion, have greatly contributed to fertilise the adjacent grounds; and they are accompanied, for lands to which it is more suitable, by large supplies of sea-weed.

In early times the Stewartry appears to have been covered with woods, and at a comparatively recent period it had several extensive forests; but it retains only scanty portions of its natural woodlands, and these chiefly along the banks of the rivers. Agricultural improvement was commenced in the 12th century, principally by the settlement among the rude inhabitants of colonies of monks, and was carried to a greater extent both in tillage and pasturage than could well have been looked for in the rough circumstances of the period. From various and trustworthy intimation, the country appears to have been much more fruitful in grain and other agricultural produce in 1300 than at the beginning of the 18th century. But disastrous wars and desolating feuds swept in rapid succession over cultivated fields, and soon reduced them almost to a wilderness. So ruthlessly was agriculture thrown prostrate that, towards the close of the 17th century, small tenants and cottagers, who had neither skill, inclination, nor means to improve the soil, were allowed to wring from it, in the paltry produce of rye and bere and oats, any latent energies of ` heart ' which it still possessed; and, on the miserable condition of paying the public burdens, were permitted to sit rent-free on farms which now let for at least £200 a year. Modern improvement commenced early in the 18th century, and was not a little remarkable both in the character and in the early history of its first measure. Sir Thomas Gordon of Earlston having erected upon his property a stone fence 4 miles in extent, several other proprietors sparingly, but firmly, followed his example. But fences seemed to the semi-savage squatters, to whom utter maladministration had given almost entire possession of the soil, not less an innovation upon their rights, than a signal of war; and, in April and May 1724, they provoked an insurrection, and were all thrown down by the ` levellers. ' The insurgents having been dispersed by six troops of dragoons, the work of enclosing was resumed with greater vigour than at first, and speedily resulted in diffusing a skilful care for the right management of the soil. The discovery, or at least the manurial application, of shell-marl, in 1740, formed an important era, and occasioned the conversion into tillage of large tracts which had been employed exclusively in pasture. The suppression, in 1765, of the contraband trade with the Isle of Man pointed the way to the exportation of agricultural produce, and occasioned it rapidly to become a considerable trade. The institution, in 1776, of the Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture in Galloway and Dumfriesshire was a still more important event. William Craik, Esq. of Arbigland, the chairman of the society, introduced new rotations of crops, new methods of cultivation, new machinery, and new modes of treating cattle, and is justly considered as the father of all the grand agricultural improvements of the Stewartry. At the commencement of the present century, Colonel M 'Dowal of Logan made great achievements in the reclaiming of mosses. In 1809 the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright Agricultural Society arose to urge forward a rivarlry with Dumfriesshire and other adjacent counties; and while it was not yet a twelvemonth old it numbered 130 members, all landholders and practical farmers, with the lord-lieutenant and the member of parliament at their head. The high price of grain during the French war at the commencement of the present century, the opening up of the English markets by steam navigation (1835), and the introduction of railways (18 60 -64), have each in their turn proved a powerful stimulus.

Both before the close of last century and during the course of the present, plantations, especially on the grounds of Lord Daer and the Earl of Selkirk, have risen up to shelter and beautify the country; but even with the aid of about 3500 acres of copsewood, remaining from the ancient forests, they are far from being sufficient in extent or dispersion to shield the country from imputations of nakedness of aspect, or prevent it from appearing to a stranger wild and bleak. Rather less than one twenty-third of the whole of Scotland is under woods; in Kirkcudbrightshire the proportion is less than one thirty-fifth, viz., 17, 346 acres. The fences, in far the greater proportion of instances, are the dry stone walls, distinctively known as Galloway dykes; but in the vicinity of Dumfries and a few other-localities they consist of various sorts of hedges, all ornamental in the featuring they give the landscape. Agricultural implements are simply the approved ones known in other well-cultivated counties. Systems of cropping are necessarily various, not only throughout the Stewartry, but very often in the same parish. Out of 1696 farmholdings, there are 775 of 50 acres and under, 254 of from 50 to 100, 451 of from 100 to 300, 120 of from 300 to 500, 25 of from 500 to 1000, and 1 of more than 1000 acres. In the whole of Scotland the percentage of cultivated area is 24.2; in Kirkcudbrightshire it is 26.8-a figure exceeded by Fife (74.8) and nineteen other Scotch counties. The following table gives the acreage of the chief crops and the number of live-stock in the Stewartry in different years:—

  1854. 1887. 1874. 1878. 1882.
Wheat,. . . . 1,895 726 728 259 162
Barley or bere,. 1,886 497 419 365 639
Oats, . . . . 32,147 31,028 30.615 31,370 31,991
Sown Grasses, . .. 40,138 46.676 56,809 56,241
Potatoes, . . . 3,349 2,479 2,344 2.172 2.638
Turnips & Swedes, 13,502 14,992 14,293 14,902 14,516
Cattle, . . . . 36.901 34,231 41,362 38,639 39.636
Sheep, . . . . 243,543 361,428 404,689 371.507 371,541
Horses, . . . 5,829 .. 5,182 5,426 5,390
Swine, . . . . 9,351 8,661 7,071 6,502 7,246

The breeding and rearing of cattle has long been a favourite object of the farmers. Few counties can boast of pastures whose grass has such a beautiful closeness of pile, and which, after a scourging course of crops, so rapidly return to their natural verdure and fertility. The breed of Galloway cattle-peculiar to the district, though now extensively known by importations from it-are almost universally polled, and rather under than over the medium size, -smaller than the horned breed of Lancashire or the midland counties, and considerably larger than any of the Highland breeds. Their prevailing colour is black or dark-brindled. The breed has, in some parts of the county, been materially injured by intermixture with the Irish, the Ayrshire, and some English breeds. But the offshoots of foreign crossings or admixtures are recognisable among the native stock, even after fifty or sixty years have elapsed to efface their peculiarities; and they are now held in little estimation, and sought to be substituted by the purest and choicest propagation of the native variety. Few of the cattle are fed for home consumption. (See an article by the Rev. J. Gillespie on ` The Galloway Breed of Cattle ' in Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc., 1878.) In the moor and mountainous districts sheep-husbandry has long been sedulously plied, but in other districts it meets very trivial attention. Long-woolled Lincolnshire sheep-here called mugs-were tried and failed. The Leicestershire merinos, the Herefords, and the Shetlands were also introduced, but secured little favour. The Southdown, the Cheviot, the Morf, and the Mendip breeds have had more success, and, jointly with varieties previously in the district, tenant the sheep-walks in singular motleyness of character. Smearing or salving is practised. Great attention here, as in Dumfriesshire, is paid to the produce of pork-chiefly for the Dumfries market, and, through it, for supplying the demands of England. Bees are much attended to in Twynholm, Borgue, Tongueland, and Kirkcudbright, and there produce honey equal, if not superior, to any in the world. Few districts in Scotland, except the Highlands, are more abundant than Kirkcudbrightshire, both in number and variety of game.

The manufactures of the Stewartry are very inconsiderable; and are noticed under Castle-Douglas, Dalbeattie, and Maxwelltown. Commerce is almost wholly confined to the exportation of grain, wool, sheep, and black cattle, and the importation of coals, lime, wood, groceries, and soft goods. The harbours of the district, as compared to what they were a century ago, exhibit marvellously little of the progress which elsewhere generally characterises Scotland. Those situated to the W of Kirkandrew Burn are creeks of the port of Wigtown; those situated to the E of that burn are creeks of the port of Dumfries. a great military road, part of a line from Carlisle to Portpatrick, was formed in 1764; many excellent roads, with minute ramifications, were formed subsequent to that year, especially after the years 1780 and 1797; and the roads now, considering the upland contour of the greater part of the county, are not inferior, either in their own construction or in their aggregate accommodation, to those of almost any other part of Scotland. The railways, forming part of the Glasgow and South-Western system, are the Dumfries and Portpatrick line, by way of Kirkgunzeon, Dalbeattie, Castle-Douglas, Parton, Drummore, and Creetown, and the Kirkcudbright railway, from a junction with that line at Castle-Douglas to Kirkcudbright town.

The following are the towns and villages of Kirkcudbrightshire, with their population for 1881:-royal and parliamentary burghs, Kirkcudbright (2571) and New Galloway (422); police burghs, Castle-Douglas (2565), Dalbeattie (3865), Gatehouse (1286), Maxwelltown (4576), and part of Newton-Stewart (425); villages, Auchencairn (441), Creetown (979), Dalry (603), and Kirkpatrick-Durham (484). The principal seats are Arbigland, Ardwall, Argrennan, Balmaghie, Bargaly, Barholm, Barnbarroch, Barncailzie, Barwhinnock, Cairnsmore, Cally, Cardoness, Cargen, Carlinwark, Carruchan, Cassencarrie, Cavens, Compstone, Corsock, Cumloden, Danevale, Drumpark, Earlston, Fludha, Gelston Castle, Glenhowel, Glenlair, Glenlaggan, Glenlee, Goldielea, Hensol, Kenmure Castle, Kirkclaugh, Kirkconnell, Kirkdale, Kirroughtree, Knockgray, Knocknalling, Lincluden, Mabie, Machermore Castle, Mollance, Munches, Rusko, St Mary's Isle, Shambellie, Southwick, Spottes, Terregles, Threave, etc.; and, according to Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 571,950 acres, with a gross estimated rental of £360, 960, were divided among 2386 proprietors, one holding 55,981 acres (rental £7333), five together 171,184 (£63, 962), six 80, 910 (£30, 273), six 36, 624 (£14, 493), thirty-four 102, 600 (£59,381), forty 53, 450 (£41, 008), fifty-two 35, 928 (£31, 903), etc.

The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 29 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, a sheriff-substitute, 2 assistant sheriff-substitutes, and 84 magistrates. Sheriff and commissary courts are held at Kirkcudbright on every Thursday and Friday during session. Sheriff small debt courts are held at Kirkcudbright on every alternate Friday during session-at Castle-Douglas on a Wednesday in January, March, June, and September-at Maxwelltown on a Tuesday in the same months-at New Galloway on a Tuesday in March and May, and on a Thursday in September-and at Creetown on a Saturday in March, May, and September. Quarter sessions are held at Kirkcudbright on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and on the last Tuesday of October; and justice of peace small debt courts are held at Kirkcudbright on the second Tuesday, at New Galloway on the second Monday, at Castle-Douglas on the first Monday, at Maxwelltown on the first Thursday, and at Gatehouse on the first Saturday; of every month-at Creebridge on the first Saturday of every alternate month. The police force, in 1882, exclusive of that in Maxwelltown, comprised 20 men; and the salary of the chief-constable was £250. The persons tried at the instance of the police, in 1881, exclusive of those in Maxwelltown, were 284; those in that number convicted, 281; and those committed for trial, 33. The committals for crime, in the annual average of 1836-40, were 36; of 1841-45, 24; of 1846-50, 23; of 1851-55, 29; of 1856-60, 35; of 1861-65, 17; of 1865-69, 11; of 1870-74, 23; of 1872-76, 23; of 1877-81, 22. The county returns a member to parliament (always a Liberal since 1837), and its parliamentary constituency numbered 2278 in 1883. The annual value of real property was £213, 308 in 1815, £193, 801 in 1843, £346, 503 in 1876, and £362, 675 (plus £29, 475 for railways) in 1883. Pop. (1801) 29, 211, (1811) 33, 684, (1821) 38, 903, (1831) 40, 590, (1841) 41,119, (1851) 43, l21, (l861) 42, 495, (1871) 41, 859, (1881) 42,127, of whom 22, 320 were females. Houses (1881) 8412 inhabited, 488 vacant, 42 building.

The registration county, taking in part of Penninghame parish from Wigtownshire, comprehends 28 entire parishes, and had, in 1881, a population of 42,290. The number of registered poor in the year ending 14 May 1881 was 1069; of dependants on these, 518; of casual poor, 398; of dependants on these, 290. The receipts for the poor, in that year, were £12,483, 3s. 8¾d.; and the expenditure was £12, 024, 0s. 8d. The number of pauper lunatics was 107, the cost of their maintenance being £1823, 7s. 2d. The percentage of illegitimate births was 17.4 in l873, 14.2 in 1877, 15.9 in 1880, and 12.0 in 1881.

The civil county comprises 28 quoad civilia parishes, and is divided ecclesiastically into 33 quoad sacra parishes and part of another. The part of it E of the river Urr was anciently comprehended in the deanery of Nith and diocese of Glasgow, and is now included in the presbytery and synod of Dumfries; and the part W of the river Urr formed anciently the deanery of Desnes in the diocese of Galloway, and now forms the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and part of the presbytery of Wigtown in the synod of Galloway. The places of worship within the county are 33 of the Church of Scotland, 19 of the Free Church, 7 of the United Presbyterian Church, 1 of the Evangelical Union, 3 of Episcopalians, and 5 of Roman Catholics. In the year ending 30 Sept. 1882 the county had 72 schools (64 of them public), which, with accommodation for 8991 children, had 6852 on the registers, and 5352 in average attendance. The certificated, assistant, and pupil teachers numbered respectively 97, 4, and 40.

During the Roman period in Britain, Kirkcudbrightshire was occupied, along with other extensive territories, by two British tribes,-the Selgovæ, E of the Dee; and the Novantæ, W of that stream. British strengths line the whole frontier of the two tribes along both sides of the Dee, and occur in considerable numbers both eastward and westward in the interior, interspersed with the sites of Roman garrisons, placed to overawe a people who could not be easily subdued. Caves, subterraneous excavations, and other remarkable hiding-places, resorted to by the inhabitants in barbarous times, perforate the cliffs on the rocky coast, and occur in various inland localities. The most notable is one in the parish of Borgue. Stone circles occur, in sections or entire, in the parishes of Kirkbean, Colvend, Kirkgunzeon, Lochrutton, Parton, Kelton, Rerwick, Kirkmabreck, and Minnigaff. A remarkable rockingstone exists in Kells. Cairns and tumuli abound, and, in numerous instances, have yielded up some curious antiquities. Picts' kilns and murder-holes-the former of which abound in Minnigaff and Kirkmabreck-seem to be peculiar to Galloway; and if so, are comparatively modern works rather than strictly ancient. A Roman road, branching off through Glencairn from the great road up Nithsdale, passed through the lands of Altry in Dalry, to the farm of Holm in Carsphairn, proceeded thence across the ridge of Polwhat to the NW extremity of the parish, and there entered Ayrshire to penetrate by Dalmellington to the Firth of Clyde. Vestiges of the part of this road which traversed Kirkcudbrightshire still exist. A very ancient work, probably erected by the Romanized Britons, and intended for defence of the inhabitants on its S side, has been described under the Deil's Dyke. The principal ecclesiastical antiquities are the abbeys of Dundrennan, Tongueland, and Newabbey, the priory of St Mary's Isle, and the convent (afterwards the college) of Lincluden.

The civil history of Kirkcudbrightshire has been rapidly sketched in the article Galloway. The Pictish people of the district, who for so many years retained their own laws and practised their own usages, would not permit the introduction among them of a sheriffdom. Till 1296 what is now the Stewartry was considered as a part of Dumfriesshire. Throughout the 13th century, a violent struggle was maintained between the power of ancient usages, and that of the municipal law of recent introduction. The influence of the Comyns, during the minority of Alexander III., introduced a justiciary-a beneficial change which was continued after Baliol's dethronement. The Comyn's forfeiture placed the lordship of Galloway in the possession of the illustrious Bruce, and-Western Galloway being already under the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Wigtown-seems to have occasioned the erection of Eastern and Central Galloway into the present Stewartry. In 1369, Archibald Douglas (the Grim) wrenched, for himself and his heirs, from the weakness of David II., the lordship of Galloway, and with it the Stewartry to which it gave appointment and power. But in 1455, when, on the forfeiture of the Douglases, the lordship of Galloway reverted to the Crown, the steward of Kirkcudbright became again the steward of the King. Though, for a long time, the territory continued to be nominally viewed as, in some respects, comprehended in Dumfriesshire, the steward was quite as independent as the sheriff, and, within his own territory, regularly executed, in discharge of his office, the writs of the King, and the ordinances of parliament. Before the commencement of the civil wars under Charles I., all trace of jurisdictional connection in any form whatever with Dumfriesshire had disappeared. But, from 1488 till the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in 1747, the Stewartry was enthralled by the imposition of a baronial or feudal character upon its supreme office. After the fall of James III. in the former year, Patrick, Earl of Bothwell, obtained a grant of the powers of Steward till the infant James IV. should attain the age of 21 years. In 1502, Sir John Dunbar of Mochrum got, for himself and his heirs, a grant for 9 years of the offices of steward of Kirkcudbright and keeper of Threave Castle, with their revenues, their lands, and their fisheries. Early in the reign of James V., Robert Lord Maxwell obtained a similar grant for 19 years; and in 1526 he received the offices and their pertinents as a regular hereditary possession. At the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, Henrietta, the Countess-dowager of Hopetoun, and the legal representative of the Maxwells, was allowed £5000 in compensation for the stewardship. Various other jurisdictions perplexed and chequered the district. The Stewarts of Garlies, who became Earls of Galloway, had a separate jurisdiction over all their estates in Minnigaff and Kirkmabreck, and in 1747 received for it £154, 9s. 10d.; whilst the Lords Herries ruled separately over ` the regality of Terregles,' for which they were allowed £123, 4s. 1d. The provosts of Lincluden, the abbot of Dundrennan, the abbot of Tongueland, the abbot of Newabbey, and the Bishop of Galloway also had territories independent of the Steward. The regality of Almoreness, and some eight or nine baronies, were likewise separate jurisdictions. When all the feudalities were overthrown, the emancipated Stewartry was placed under a stewart-depute, whose functions were the same as those of the sheriff-depute. The first stewart-depute, at a salary of £150 a-year, was Thomas Miller, advocate, who, rising to the top of his profession, became president of the Court of Session, and left a baronetcy with a fair name to his family.—Ord. Sur., shs. 4, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15, 1857-64.

See an article on 'The Agriculture of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright,' by Thomas MacLelland, in Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc. (1875); M. E. Maxwell's Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (3d ed. 1878); and works cited under Galloway and Dundrennan.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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