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Friars' Carse Hotel


(Friars Carse)

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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Friars Carse, an estate, with a mansion, in Dunscore parish, Dumfriesshire, on the right bank of the Nith, 2 miles SSE of Auldgirth station, and 6½ NNW of Dumfries. It was the seat in pre-Reformation times, of a cell of Melrose Abbey ; and in the avenue leading to the mansion are a number of antique sculptured stones, believed to have belonged thereto. Passing at the Reformation to the Kirkpatricks, then the proprietors of Ellisland, it went in 1634 to the Maxwells of Tinwald, afterwards to the Riddels of Glenriddel, and later to Dr Crichton, who bequeathed it to found the Crichton Institution at Dumfries. Built, about 1774, on a piece of rising ground, round which the Nith makes a graceful curve, it often was visited by Robert Burns during his three years' tenancy of Ellisland. Here he foregathered with 'fine, fat, fodgel ' Grose, a brother antiquary of Captain Riddel's ; and here he acted as arbiter in the great Bacchanalian tourney of the Whistle. 'As the authentic prose history,' says Burns, 'of the Whistle is curious, I shall here give it. In the train of Anne of Denmark there came over a Danish gentleman of gigantic stature and great prowess, and a matchless champion of Bacchus. He had a little ebony whistle, which at the commencement of the orgies he laid on the table, and whoever was the last able to blow it was entitled to carry it off as a trophy of victory. After many overthrows on the part of the Scots, the Dane was encountered by Sir Robert Lawrie of Maxwelton, who, after three days' and three nights' hard contest, left the Scandinavian under the table,

' " And blew on the whistle his requiem shrill."

Sir Walter, son to Sir Robert, afterwards lost the Whistle to Walter Riddel of Glenriddel; and on Friday, 16 Oct. 1790, at Friars Carse, the Whistle was once more contended for by Sir Robert of Maxwelton, Robert Riddel of GlenriddeI, and Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, which last gentleman carried off the hard-won honours of the field.' Allan Cunningham adds that 'the Bard himself, who drank bottle and bottle about, seemed quite disposed to take up the conqueror when the day dawned.' Another of his poems was written in Friars Carse Hermitage, which, now a ruin, was then 'a snug little stone building, measuring 10½ feet by 8, and supplied with a window and fireplace. Captain Riddel gave him a key, so that he could go in and out as he pleased.' An autograph copy of the Whistle is in the Thornhill Museum; and the pane of glass from the Hermitage on which Burns wrote the opening lines of the ode is in the possession of Arch. Fullarton, Esq. - Ord. Sur., sh. 9, 1863. See chap. i. of William M'Dowall's Burns in Dumfriesshire (Edinb. 1870).

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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