The Story of a Seaboard Parish
Rev. GEORGE OGILVY ELDER, M.A.
ADAM RAE, BOOKSELLER
Sir WILLIAM GORDON, Bart.
This short history of his native parish, which he has
done so much to make illustrious,
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
WHOEVER takes his stand on the summit of the Meikle Ross, which close by the shore rises three hundred feet above the level of the sea, will behold, unrolled before his sight, the Parish of Borgue, from its wide- stretching seaboard bounded by the Solway on the south, to the lower Galloway hills on the north, from the wooded steeps washed by the noble estuary of the Dee on the east, to the Isles of Fleet and the woods of Girthon in the distant west. As one gazes on the richly-diversified prospect of swelling hills and green valleys, there rises up before the mind a dim vision of the hundred generations, which, for well-nigh three thousand years, have lived and wrought, fought and suffered, loved and perished, among its sloping pasture lands, or along by its sounding shores.
The Islands of Great Britain and Ireland were first peopled by Celtic tribes from the continent of Europe. As early as the founding of the City of Rome, seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, this parish was inhabited by a people, tall, powerful, and robust, their all but naked bodies dyed blue, subsisting chiefly on game and the spontaneous productions of the soil. One of their chief delights was war, of which there was abundance, owing to their fierce quarrels. Another was the chase, hunting the wild beasts with which the district was overrun. In the absence of history and tradition, we eagerly gather up the links connecting our own life in this parish with theirs at that distant period. One of the most valuable of these is to be found in the language we employ every day. As often as we call the river which rolls past our eastern boundary the Dee ” (British, dark water), or the south-eastern extremity of our parish The Ross (headland), or the high cliffs on our shores “The Heughs”, or the river that divides the parish “Pulwhirrn”, we are employing the very names which two or three thousand years ago were, by the British inhabitants, applied to these outstanding features of our local scenery. A second link binding us to the Britons is found in the caves which afforded them shelter from the storms, and a safe retreat from their foes, since they were difficult of discovery, and when discovered, well nigh inaccessible. Such cave dwellings are found at the foot of extraordinary cliffs on Muncraig, and also at the Borness Heughs. In the Borness Cave many articles of native manufacture in bronze, iron, bone, stone, and glass, have been found, which had been used in their domestic life by the ancient Britons when this cave was their home. Another link is found in the encampments with which this parish abounds. One of these stood on a high cliff about a hundred yards from the Borness cave, and must have been a place of great strength and security. It was protected from the sea by a lofty cliff, and on the landward side by a deep double fosse, the remains of which are still distinctly visible. The foundations were traced fifty years ago, when it was discovered that the stones had been put together without lime, prior, therefore, to the introduction of Christianity, when cement first began to be used in building. The site of another ancient castle is found on the bay about half a mile west from Kirkandrews, in which no mortar had been used to cement the stones, proving that it also belongs to a very early period. In addition to these large encampments, the sites of the smaller forts, called moats, are numerous throughout the parish, as at Barmaguachan, Roberton, Conchieton, and High Borgue, this last a hundred and twenty feet in diameter, and thirty feet high from the bottom of the ditch.
Still another link of connection with the earlier settlers is found in the wild animals pursued in the chase. In the year 1830 there was discovered on the farm of Muncraig the skull with antlers, entire, belonging to an enormous species of red deer, with horns three feet long and a foot in circumference which the ancient Britons hunted in the woods of Borgue and on the exposed verges of its shores. Many place names still current in the locality are memorials of their favourite hunting grounds, as Knock-muick (the hill of the little pigs) Balmangan (the resort of the wild boars), and Knockbrex (the hill of the wolves) ; so that we of the present generation, across the gulf of buried centuries, may shake hands with our savage predecessors of a distant past who hunted boars on Balmangan and wolves on Knockbrex, with as much delight as the golden youth of our advanced civilisation stick pigs and shoot tigers among the jungles of our Indian Empire.
After the ancient Britons, the people who next exercised a powerful influence upon our local history were the Romans, who partially occupied Britain for five hundred years, in the course Of which the Gallovidians were raised to the rank of citizens of Rome. About eighty years ago the distinct tracings of a quadrangular camp, believed to be Roman, could be seen at Cairniehill. But the relics of the Romans in parish refer to the period of their departure rather than arrival. When, in the year 446—fourteen hundred and fifty years ago—the Romans abandoned the island, Galloway, along with the other provinces of Valentia, was subjected to the depredations of wild men from the North. Many of people Of this parish sought refuge in such places as the Borness Cave, where, in recent excavations, various articles of Roman manufacture have been discovered, which known to have belonged to the middle of the fifth century – the very time when the Romans departed. They had been among those possessions which the natives had carried with them in their flight from their Northern foes. These articles, now deposited in the Antiquarian Museum at Edinburgh, remain at this day a memorial of the advantages which the inhabitants of Borgue derived from their contact with the Romans, who were careful to instruct their conquered savages in the arts of reading and writing, agriculture, housebuilding, cloth-weaving, and the various methods of working wood, metal, and clay into utensils employed in ordinary life.
The next strange people who made Borgue their dwelling- place were the Anglo-Saxons. About a hundred years after the departure of the Romans from Britain, the Saxons founded the kingdom of Northumbria, Bernicia, extending from the Tyne to the Forth; while the Britons of the south-west of Scotland, including Galloway, formed themselves into the united kingdom of Strath-CIyde or Cumbria, of which the headquarters were at Dumbarton Castle. The Saxons of Northumbria poured in great numbers into the parts of Galloway nearest the sea, and furthest from the seat of government at Dumbarton. Although fierce and illiterate, the Saxons were essentially a home-loving people, to whom, like the great English nation descended from them, the ties of kindred were dear ; and we have living memorials of the comfortable settlements they made in Borgue in such names of farms as Ingleston (the town of the Angles), who were the most numerous of the united body of Anglo-Saxons. Carleton (the town of the Ceorles or better-class farmers), and Boreland (the town of the Boers or farm-servants among the About the close of the eighth century, eleven hundred years ago, when the Saxon dominion was brought to an end, another people, allied in blood and language to the Saxons, became intermingled with the inhabitants of this place. These were the Norsemen—the famous sea rovers of Scandinavia. They took possession of the whole sea-board of Scotland, from the Orkneys to the Isle of Man. At this day the names of all the islands on the west of Scotland are Norse ; while the names of rocks and reefs, lakes and headlands, attest that, while the original inhabitants were never expelled, the Northmen dwelt thickly among them as conquerors and lords. Galloway, from its commanding position between the English and Irish coasts, became the headquarters of these Vikings, while numbers of Galwegians joined the invaders as rovers Of the sea. Descending on this coast, the Norsemen gave to the ancient fortress erected on the shore west of Kirkandrews the designation of Borg, which, in the Norse language, means a castle, and it was xtended afterwards to the whole parish, just as they called the Burra Firth in Shetland the Ford of Borg, or Firth of the Tower. To the Strong encampment which at the Borness heughs frowned over a lofty precipice close by the sea, the Norsemen gave the name of Borgness (the castle on the ness or headland), which is now contracted into Borness. To a place near the Kirkandrews shore where they found a refuge, the name of Rattra was given, the same as they had given to a place east of Dunnet Head in Caithness, which signifies the dwelling of the stranger. And a neighbouring farm they called Barlocco, or Hill of the Rovers. A place higher up they called Gategill—”gata”, a path , “gil,” narrow glen with stream at bottom—the path in the narrow glen with stream at bottom. To a dell at the northern extremity of the parish they gave the name Greenslacks, from a Norse word expressive of the greenness of its verdure; and Auchenhay was, so named by them as a place of pasture.
In the very name by which this parish is known, Borg (with the letters “ue” added in recent years for the sake of appearance since it makes no difference in the pronunciation), we have an abiding memorial of the hardy Norsemen, whose house of old was on the stormy sea, and who were worthy to be the progenitors of the great sea-ruling nation of Britain.
” The Hardy Norseman’s house of yore
Was on the foaming wave,
And there he gathered bright renown—
The bravest of the brave.
We still may sing their deeds of fame
In thrilling harmony,
For they did win a gallant name,
And ruled the stormy sea.”
Of Britain one of her own poets has sung—
“Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep ;
Her march is o’er the mountain wave,
Her home is on the deep.'”
In the exploits of a Blake or a Nelson, Britain only emulates the deeds of those warriors bold from the Norseland old, from whom we are descended, and, like them, Britain exults in her lordship of the waves as the best security of her freedom, so that from each attempt of foreign aggressors to bend her down, she only rises more majestic as the country of the free.
“When Britain first, at heaven’s command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of her land,
And guardian angels sang the strain—
Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves,
Britons never shall be slaves.”
The last invasion of our shores to be noticed is that of the Irish Scots from the neighbouring country of Ireland, supposed to be descendants of the early British population, who had fled when the Romans took possession of this district. They were a people of such ferocity that they earned for the inhabitants the formidable designation of the “Wild Scots of Galloway,” and yet their memory, as far as Borgue is concerned, is the sweetest ever left in this or any other parish. After they settled in Galloway they cultivated bees as diligently, and protected them by their laws as vigilantly as they had done in Ireland, for the sake of “mead,” their favourite beverage made from honey, since they had not learned to manufacture intoxicating drink out of grain, nor, with all their fierceness, had they ever. quaffed the heart’s blood of John Barleycorn. By their means Galloway in general and the parish of Borgue in particular became celebrated for honey.
It is stated in the History of Galloway in connection with this invasion by the Irish Scots, that the superiority of Borgue honey is acknowledged through almost the whole of Britain. Mr. James Hannay, well known thirty years ago as editor of the Edinburgh Courant, and himself connected with Galloway, in a preface to Poe’s poems, says of one of them that it is as sweet as the honey of Hybla or of Borgue. Hybla is described in the classic dictionaries as a mountain in Sicily where thyme and odoriferous flowers of all sorts grow in abundance, and therefore it was famous for its honey. Borgue may be truly described as a parish where wild thyme and flowers of all sorts grow in abundance, protected, more- over, by the crops all the summer long, and therefore Borgue is famous for its honey. It was the colony of Irish Scots from Ulster who, one thousand years ago, laid deep the foundation of that fame which has extended so wide and lasted so long that it still finds its best expression in the enthusiastic exclamation displayed so far back as the beginning of this century upon a sign-board in London—”Borgue Honey for ever”. But long before the arrival of these settlers Borgue owed to Ireland a benefit of unspeakable value in the knowledge of the Christian religion. About the middle of the sixth century came from Ireland to Scotland Saint Columba, who excelled all other Saints of the early church in his own missionary zeal, and in his power of kindling the same flame in the breasts of his disciples. Like one of those lighthouses, which from its rocky height flashes forth its radiance in the night across the stormy Hebrides, the church of Columba, from its lonely Isle of Iona, sent forth the light of Christian truth in that dark and troubled period of our country’s history. After Columba’s death his followers flashed on the light from point to point along the western coast of Scotland till it reached Borgue.
There is a part of our shore where the Borgue Burn (the ancient Pulwhirrn) falls at a little creek into the sea, and from which you look across the waters of Wigton Bay to Whithorn, —the White House of stone and lime which St. Ninian erected when he first introduced Christianity into Britain. At this picturesque spot, called Kirkandrews, the monks of Iona made for themselves a habitation. Of the ignorant whom they instructed, the sorrowful whom they comforted, and the poor whom they enriched with heavenly treasure, there has been no record kept on earth. But tangible memorials of their presence abide with us to the present time. There are the remains of their old church still to be seen in the burying ground. There is the name Kirkandrews, after an old Irish Saint who flourished in the ninth century, whose annual festival was held in August. There are the famous cliffs of Muncraig, spelt in a map three hundred years old Monkcraig,” from the swarms of monks in the neighbourhood. There is the name of Chapelton where they provided additional services for their parish. There are the glebe lands which surround the church-yard, and testify to the skill of those old churchmen in selecting good soil. There is the familiar name of Meggerland, still given to a field and houses close by, meaning in Gaelic the ploughed field, the one ploughed field, therefore, of the district, testifying to the diligence of the monks in the most ancient and useful of all arts—that of the cultivation of the ground.
There is the peculiar fineness of the soil of the Kirkandrews churchyard, where the dead so softly rest, which is owing to monks of Kirkandrews, two of whom, as a penance for a great sin, thoroughly sifted and cleansed the earth till not a stone and scarcely a pebble is found in digging it. There are the fairs which even yet survive in the district: yearly church festivals called feriæ (Latin for festivals) were instituted at Kirkandrews by the monks. At these church gatherings persons attended first for the sale of refreshments, afterwards for the sale of useful articles of various kinds, till in course of time a general market was established. To the Latin name for a church festival was also given, the same as the word fair.” The annual fair thus instituted at Kirkandrews was attended in large numbers from all quarters, and, although it lasted only a few hours, great wickedness was practised at this fair. Not only have the monks of Kirkandrews furnished us with an illustration of the origin of fairs—church festivals—of the way in which the name came to be given to them, feriæ, fairs, church festivals; but unfortunately they have also furnished an example of the evil reputation which in a modified degree still lingers round all that remains of those ancient and at one time exceedingly popular gatherings, which reached their culmination in Kelton Hill Fair, the largest and most hilarious gathering of Gallovidians that was ever held.
The worship of this Scoto-lrish Church set up in Borgue had departed far from the Scriptural simplicity of its commencement under Columba, but one thing can be said in its favour, it never owned subjection to the Pope of Rome. The Church in England had long submitted to that yoke of Rome from which it cost such a struggle afterwards to be free. Queen Margaret, of pious memory, wife of Malcolm Ill., introduced the Church of Rome from England into the East of Scotland, and Margaret’s son, David, with the help of Norman nobles, performed the same bad service to the South- West of Scotland. The lands in this parish held by the monks of Iona were taken from them and given to East coast monasteries under the domination of the Pope. From that time Borgue became a truly priest-ridden parish.
There were Romish priests in power at Kirkandrews and Chapelton, which had been given to the Abbey of Holyrood. There were priests at Borgue Kirk, the lands of which had been given to Dryburgh Abbey by their Norman possessor, Hugh de Morville, in a charter dated 1150, which is the first mention of the name Borg in any writing. There were priests at Dunrod, granted, with its Church, by Fergus, the first Lord of Galloway, to the Abbey of Holyrood, 1169. At Dunrod all persons settling enjoyed the special protection of the rulers of Galloway, by order of the King, and at Dunrod the monks of Holyrood had power to hold courts by royal charter. There were priests at Senwick, whose Church, so nobly situated on a steep bank by the mouth of the Dee, was served by a vicar from the monastery of Tongland, on which it had been bestowed by the King. It seemed the very winds and waves avenged the wrongs of the priests, for once after the Church had been robbed of its plate by pirates, the vessel was wrecked by a storm on a rock opposite the Church, still called, after the nationality of those sacreligious plunderers, the Frenchman’s rock.
The Church owned a large part of the best land in Borgue, granted charters giving men titles independently of the Crown. Churchmen were the chief cultivators of the land, practised with distinguished success the mechanical arts. Churchmen took possession of the earth and its fulness. Churchmen held the keys of the invisible world, and brave as well as weak women trembled at their word. In addition to the Church of Rome, the celebrated order of Templars was introduced by David into Scotland. The Templars had a dwelling at Jerusalem near the Temple, which they were bound to defend against infidels, never turning back from less than four adversaries. They wore a white robe with a red cross on the shoulder, displaying the colours on their standard and their shields. Notwithstanding their rule enjoining humility and poverty, they became the proudest and wealthiest order in Christendom. Among other places in Scotland, they held a possession in Borgue, still commemorated under the name of the Templand Croft, a field on the farm of Ingleston. In this way Borgue became closely connected not only with the great Church at Rome, but with the noblest chivalry of Europe, much of which was absorbed by the illustrious order of Red cross Knights, welcomed by the lords of the proudest castles on their return victorious from the Holy Land.
“Thou’rt welcome here, dear Red Cross Knight,
Come, lay thy armour by,
And for the good tidings thou dost bring,
We’ll feast us merrily ;
For all in my castle shall rejoice
That we’ve won the victory,
And the mass shall be sung, and the bells shall be rung,
And the feast eat merrily.”
After the lapse of so many centuries, with their manifold changes, the social condition of Borgue remained very miserable. Religion, which, in its native purity, exalts a people, had its just influence deeply injured by ignorance and superstition. Education, which, when imparted to all without distinction, is such a powerful engine for the elevation of a community, was entirely confined to the priests, the only people who could read and write. Agriculture, which is the foundation of material prosperity, was so backward that their ploughs, clumsily yoked with ten or twelve ill-matched oxen, only scratched the surface of the soil, and were scarcely an improvement on those used a thousand years earlier by the Romans, while their harrows consisted of bundles of thorns dragged at the tails of the oxen.
The industrial arts, which both benefit and embellish life, were so little cultivated that in respect of their dwellings, their clothes, and their domestic implements, the inhabitants of Borgue at the close of the fifteenth century were only a few degrees better than the original British settlers ; and as to their manners, they were worthy of your ancestors, that rare and war-like race of glorious untame companions, skilled in thrashing and plundering their foes, fearing neither hunger nor death, celebrated by a poet of your own, a native of Borgue, in vigorous verses, which, if rather rough, are all the more suitable to their subject.
“For tho’ their pantries werena pang’d,
Nor their kytes weel lined wi’ belly timmer,
What haet cared they for fortune’s gifts ?
They banned her for a worthless limmer.
Tame were the ither Scots to them,
The Southern loons they lo’ed to claw ;
Sae patriots ever will revere
The wilds Scots o’ Gallowa’.”
At the close of the first period of our history, embracing fifteen Christian centuries, it is on a discouraging scene of darknees that the curtain falls; but when raised again at the of the sixteenth century, it will disclose the parish of Borgue beginning to be slowly illuminated light breaking over the mountains of a new and nobler day.
It was from the hills of Galloway the light first broke, which, spreading over the land, awoke a living soul in the inhabitants of Scotland, and inaugurated a new era in the nation’s history. Borgue was one of the first places to feel
the reviving beams. In 1567, seven years after the Reformation, settled readers were appointed to read the Scriptures for the enlightenment of the people. William Strugteoune at Borgue, Donald M’Lellan at Senwick, and John M’Lellan at Kirkandrews, each at a salary of twenty marks, out of a royal grant drawn from the funds of the old Roman Catholic Church, accepted by the Assembly 25th December, 1566. The fruit of this Scripture light was made manifest in the preparation of the inhabitants of Borgue to fight in the great struggle begun forty years after by the Stuart kings, backed by the power of England, attempting to overthrow Presbyterianism, and restore Prelacy. In the year 1626, the famous John Livingstone preached at a Communion in Borgue, attended by people from Kirkcudbright, when he made the acquaintance of several worthy and experienced Christians in Borgue.
In 1637, when Rutherford was banished to Aberdeen, among those to whom he turned in trouble were Alexander Gordon of Knockbrex, and John, his brother, and John Fullerton of Carletoun, in Borgue, the author of a book entitled The Turne Dove, in which the most exalted religious sentiments are eloquently proclaimed. When, a few years later, the General Assembly was split up into two parties the Resolutioners and Protesters, among the list of Protesters refusing all compromise with Prelacy is the name Of Adam Kae, minister of Borgue. In 1662, when the drunken Parliament of Charles Il. selected certain gentlemen to be heavily fined for their adherence to Presbyterianism, among those thus honoured were no fewer than eight landed proprietors in Borgue :—John Carson of Senwick ,£1200; Robert M’LeIlan of Balmangan, £240; John Fullerton of Carletoun, £1000; James Thomson of Ingleston, £1000; William Gordon of Roberton, £360; John Aitken of Auchenhay, £360; Captain Robert Gordon of Barharrow, £240; Gordon of Gategill, £300. These were all men of the strictest morals and most exemplary piety, against whom no charge could be laid except that they were Presbyterians.
By an Act of Council passed when all the members, with one exception, were drunk, all ministers refusing to acknowledge the Bishops were banished, and among the non- conforming ministers was Adam Kae, of Borgue, who was arrested by a party of soldiers. For adhering to their old faithful minister a sum of over £2000 Scots was exacted from twenty families in Borgue.
Young men in the flower of their strength were not spared. After Rullion Green, two youthful brothers, the sons of Mr. Gordon of Knoxbrex, admired for their abilities and beloved for their virtues, were executed at Edinburgh, their heads sent to Kirkcudbright and their hands to Lanark to be nailed up where they were lifted in swearing to the Covenant. They magnified the cause of the Covenant by their noble behaviour on the scaffold, and when thrown off the ladder, clasped each other in their arms so that
“He who died in Holy Land
Could reach them out a shining band,
And take them as a single soul,”
united in the embrace of love triumphant over death. Devout and honourable women suffered for their testimony. Mary Gordon of Roberton had her husband killed and her brother wounded to death at Rullion Green. She was spoiled of her goods, her house pillaged, and her cattle seized, and she herself was cast, with her little son, into prison; her servants were transported ; her tenants were greviously oppressed, one of them named Sproat was plundered, and afterwards fined £20, for merely speaking to his son who had been at Bothwell Bridge. The lady of John Carson of Balmangan was sentenced, like the Wigton martyrs, to be drowned within the sea mark at Kirkcudbright, but the death of the King stopped the proceedings. Some of the most honoured heads of families in Borgue were subjected to sufferings which would amply furnish forth the pages of the most exciting romance. Robert Lennox of Plunton was deprived of house and land, wandered an outcast in England for three years, removed to Ireland, where, by trading, he amassed a fortune, was deprived of it by the influence of the Bishop, returned home and was thrown into prison, where, by cruel treatment, he was brought to the point of death; and for many years, till the Revolution, depended almost entirely on charity. Robert M’LeIIan of Barmaguachan was outlawed, and all men required to treat him as an enemy ; was banished to America; and made a fortune in Virginia. Returning home after the Revolution, his ship was taken by the French, and himself subjected for years to cruel sufferings, returning home finally twenty-five years after his persecution commenced.
In that great struggle for religious liberty the people of Borgue, from the highest to the lowest, jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. Robert M’Whae was shot in Borgue, and buried in the churchyard of Kirkandrews. A poor tailor, going to his work in Borgue, because pieces of lead were found in his pockets, which were to be used, not in bloodshed but in the peaceful work of making ladies’ dresses, was, by a party of Lagg’s men, shot through the heart. Andrew Sword, weaver, in the parish of Borgue, was, after Bothwell Bridge, cruelly confined, with four hundred others, in Greyfriars’ Churchyard at Edinburgh in an enclosure on the cold ground exposed to wind and rain. along with four others, to be hanged at Magus Moor, where Archbishop Sharpe was killed, although he declared he had never seen a Bishop, much less murdered one. accompanied by John Clyde, a ploughman from the same district. Together they sang the 34th Psalm, 19th verse—
“The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be ;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.”
Andrew Sword died blessing God for preserving him from signing the ensnaring bond. John Clyde saying:- “God has not promised to keep us from trouble, but to be with us in it, and what needs more. Little would I have thought a twelve-month since that the Lord would have taken a poor ploughman lad and honoured me so highly as to keep me to this very hour to lay down my life for Him.” Weep not for me, brother, but weep for yourselves and the poor land.” It was, indeed, a glorious day for “puir auld Scotland” when such fire from heaven was breathed into the hearts of Scottish weavers and Scottish ploughmen, descended from the wild Scots of Galloway, and drawn from the secluded parish of Borgue. During all this persecution the condition of the population was extremely miserable, because they had no security for their crops, their cattle, or their houses, and death itself was more to be desired than life. Yet at the close of the seventeenth century, and during centuries before, Borgue presented a much livelier outward appearance than it does at the present time. To begin with, the inhabitants were far more numerous, a fact attested even now by the many clumps of old trees and other traces of former dwelling-houses which bear witness of the families by which they were once inhabited. The ruins of the various churches testify to the population dwelling near them in by-gone days to worship within their walls.
A little above Roberton, within half-a-mile of the Kirk of Kirkandrews, was an old town called Rattra, wherein, long before the time of the Covenanters, was kept a weekly market, and after Rattra was a ruin, a little village remained, called after the name of the old town. In the hollow and by the braesides of the present farm of Brighouse stood the town of Kissickton. Near this, at an eminence behind the Ross farm, adjoining the Muil Hill, was a famous well, reported as medicinal for all sorts of diseases, to which people from every quarter might be seen flocking all the summer long. In the parish of Senwick there was a large and famous harbour called the Bay of Balmangan—now known by the name of Ross—the best and most commodious in all the West of Scotland, where ships of all sizes might be seen riding at anchor safely sheltered from the storm. The parish of Borgue abounded with plenty of corn, and to Borgue many other parishes in the Stewartry resorted for their supplies, as of old other countries came into Egypt to buy corn. Men might often be seen on their horses with halters of hair, and their fore feet only shod, carrying away quantities of meal and malt from the many little farmers. Each of these had only one portion of land which he tilled around his cottage, so that there were numerous small holdings where at present there is only one large farm. Even so late as the beginning of the present century the farm of Culraven included six holdings – Culraven proper, Cleggswood Broadfield, Creoch, Cooper Croft, and Brattle Isles. All these little places carried on a
brisk trade in corn; while round the wide shore of the parish there were ‘ many sorts of white fish taken, especially one kind, very fine and firm and big like haddocks, known among the natives as greyheads, and which were in great request. The inhabitants manufactured more cloth than they required for their own use, and took it to the fairs, which were numerous. One was held yearly within the bounds of the present parish in the churchyard of Kirkandrews, which lasted only for three or four hours, but to which the people flocked in great numbers; not only for the buying and selling of cloth, alas I for they drank and debauched, and commonly great wickedness was committed there at that fair. As far as the possession of patches of ground was concerned, the parishioners of those days were much nearer than their descendants of the present time to the prosperity enjoyed by the people during the reign of King Solomon, and so much sighed after by social reformers. At that period the
Israelites, each man in possession of a competency, dwelt safely under his own vine and his own fig tree, from one end of the land to the other, eating and drinking and making merry—as the Borgue bodies at that period did over their chief drink, which was not tea, as it sold in those days at thirty shillings a pound, nor whisky, for it was unknown, but fermented whey, kept in barrels, or a kind of ale manufactured from heather, their bibulous pleasures being frequently varied by chewing or smoking tobacco. Their houses, their clothes, their victuals, and their cookery, were of a very coarse description. Education was at a very low ebb. Few could read even the Bible, which they chiefly knew from the precentor reading the Scriptures before the minister appeared, while the congregation sat and listened, the young women with their coarse plaids and linen mutches, the farmers in their mottled coats of black and white wool and blue Kilmarnock bonnets, only taken off during devotion and the pronouncing of the benediction; their wives dressed in ill-made drugget gowns, displaying toys of coarse linen.
The people of that period were strongly tainted with superstition, firmly believing in malevolent spirits, ghosts, witches, and fairies. In the year 1695, an evil spirit troubled the family of Andrew Mackie in Ringcroft of Stocking, near Auchencairn. The minister of this parish was sent for to lay the ghost, and while he was praying in the house the spirit poured in great stones, one of which, more than a quarter weight, fell on the minister’s back, yet did him no hurt, and with another stone bigger than a man’s fist hit him in the breast, yet it moved not the valiant minister of Borgue.
There was a renowned witch belonging to this parish— Bess o’ Borgue—who in a neck-to-neck race with three other swift witches on broomsticks to see who would arrive first in Satan’s arms, lost the prize only by a handsbreath.
“Now Bessy seems to take the lead,
Now Maggy’s first by half a head ;
The very twinkling of an eye
Behind, and Bessy will get by,”
And Borgue remain triumphant.
William Nicholson’s mother, a native of Borgue, where her family had long been settled, and a woman of great intelligence, often told that in her day there lived a man belonging to Borgue parish whose mother and grandmother had been examined before the Kirk-session regarding his having been carried away by the fairies. The freits in which they believed were endless. The latest historian of Galloway asserts that even still when a family removes to another house they often throw in first at the open door a cat to take upon its own head the evil that might happen to a new comer. Dairymaids before beginning to churn still throw a pinch of salt into the pail to propitiate ill-natured spirits. They hang in the byres or twist in the tails of animals going to market a spray of “wull grown rowan “—mountain ash grown wild on the moor. During the last twenty years on a low country farm, within four miles of a railway station, a calf has been buried alive as a sacrifice to the evil spirit to save the stock from blackleg, by a farmer paying £300 a year of rent, and an elder of the church, from which office he ought surely to have been deposed for the crime of cruelty to animals. However it may be in Wigtownshire, from which this distinguished author hails, not a trace remains of such gross superstition in the enlightened parish of Borgue.
The memorials all round our coast of churches, where hundreds of years ago the kneeling hamlets worshipped God, the ruined sites of cottages round which the sacred associations of humble Scottish homes fondly linger, the more imposing remains of the statelier mansions of the higher classes who nobly suffered for the cause of truth, all testify to an abounding life in this parish long since passed away, but the results of which abide with us to the present hour.
In following the history of Borgue, nothing is more remarkable than the frequency and rapidity of the changes which took place in the ownership of land ; although Scripture says their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names. Of all the landowners already mentioned as occupying the chief estates in the seventeenth century, not one of them has a representative living now in Borgue, with the exception of Fullerton of Carleton, who in 1662 was fined £1000 by the Parliament of King Charles Il. for his adherence to the Presbyterian Church. John Fullerton was succeeded in the estate by his daughter, Margaret, who married William, second son of John Gordon of Airds, parish of Kells. In this way it came about that the old family of the Fullertons is represented by the present proprietor of the estate of Carleton, Sir William Gordon of Earlstoun, the sole survivor of all those ancient Borgue households.
The old castle of Plunton, which, two hundred years ago, was the best and strongest house in Borgue, possessed at that time by Richard Murray of Broughton, and, long before his day, by the family of Lennox, great sufferers for the Covenant ; the walls of Borgue Place still standing beside the modern Borgue House, within which in 1790 the last of the Blairs Of Borgue was born ; the old tower of Balmangan, close by the present house, and once the residence of proprietors distinguished in the Persecution—all these ruins remind us of departed joys, departed never to return, and direct us onward to the everlasting habitations where we shall find our abiding home: in the words of a Danish hymn, translated by Rev. John Jeffrey, himself a descendant of one of those vanished households—the Browns of Barharrow
“Hand in hand in pilgrim fashion,
Earthly pomp and pride and passion
Leaving far behind, we hasten
Through the grief our souls that chasten,
Homewards ‘mid the light excelling,
Till we reach our Father’s dwelling.”
Borgue forms a part of that famous region extending from Upper Clydesdale and Nithsdale to the Solway, which is peculiarly the land of the Covenant, where, for their resistance to tyranny, the inhabitants were hunted down in a way that even now thrills the blood with horror. The greatest glory of Borgue is the suffering endured by its inhabitants, from the highest to the humblest, for the Covenant. By this endurance Borgue powerfully helped to form that intrepid character, and to secure that distinct independence which have made Scotland, poor and small as it is, the joy of all lands, however rich and splendid they may be.
“They tell o’ lands wi’ brighter skies,
Where freedom’s voice ne’er rang ;
Gi’e me the land where Ossian lies,
And Coila’s minstrel sang.
For I’ve nae skill o’ lands, my lads,
That ken nae to be free,
Then Scotland’s right and Scotland’s might,
And Scotland’s hills for me.
I’ll drink a cup to Scotland yet,
Wi’ a’ the honours three.”
There was an old man of the name of Sproat, who lived at Millha’, in the parish of Borgue, a great railer against modern manners, and a praiser of the days of his youth. He remembered the low condition of things already described about the close of the seventeenth century, and deeply lamented the improvements which had taken place in the eighteenth century, after peace was established, and the kingdoms were united. There was a signal advance in agriculture by the enclosing of farms, the introduction of rotation of crops, by manuring and draining of fields, and by the use of superior implements of husbandry, and over all these improvements Auld Millha’ raised a mighty lamentation:-
” Hech-how-hum, granes Auld Millha’ by the cheek o’ the
” caumer door : on the bink o’ auld moss aik, and what’s gaen
” to come o’ the parish o’ Borgue ava: my guid auld native
” parish, the Browns and the Sproats are a’ weedin’ awa’ :
” they ha’e been a’ takin’ gie thrang o’ late to the lane kirk-
” yard down on the shore. A new set o’ folk is coming about
” me a’thegither now, wha talk about plowin’ and midden-
” makin’: gin they be allowed to come in amang us as they
” hae been, we’ll be harried out o’ house an’ ha’ in a crack,
” for they say they can afford sic rents for the lairds, and can
” manage a grund sae and sae. I dinna like them ava: I wuss
” they wad gae ‘wa’ the road they cam’—awa’ by the Dunscore
” or Mochrum—and fash us douce bodies nae mair wi’ their
” glaiberin nonsense.
” I ha’e seen the days when there were nae cart wheels in a’
” the parish : nor harrows wi’ airn teeth, but carrs and harrows
” wi’ teeth o’ whin roots; and yet we did full weel for a’—had
” ay rowth to eat and drink, and smiok amang the best o’
” things. Them wi’ their thrashing-machines, airn pleuchs,
” and turnip barrows, mere falderaloes, ripin’ up a’ the bits o’
” green hoams, and forcing wheat to grow whar Providence
” never intended it, and a’ for the lairds, the tenant bodies are
” never a bawbee the richer o’t: awa’ wi’ yer nice agriculture,
” yer game laws and yer wines. Borgue disna lang for a
” sight o’ them ; houtsno. Burnies, too, maun a’ rin anither
” gate noo frae what Natur’ intended : lochs, too, are a’ drained
” —wild ducks has nae walle’es now to guddle in; ane can
” hardly get a bit dub for a channel stane rink.”
The improvements in dress, food, furniture, and education were likewise bewailed :—
” Willawins, and it’s come to this o’t—lasses gaen spangin’
” and flaiperin’ about wi’ white muslin frocks on, wha in my
” younger days wad ha’e been glad o’ a piece hame-made
” stuff or drogget, and nae bonnet ava: whereas they ha’e
” bonnets now, co’ered wi’ gum-floors ; and Oh, it was bonnie
” to see the yellow-haired lasses coming happin’ ower the
” kirk stile on a summer Sunday, wi’ that lauch o’ love they
” gaed in every look. Than they were sae healthy and rosey
” in thae days by what they’re now. There never was a lass
” but ane, I think, in my kennin’, wha dee’d o’ a wastin’, and
” she was ane o’ the name o’ Tibbie Mitchell, a bairn o’ ane
” Girzy Mitchell, wha wonned in the Tannimaws. There was
” nae tea amang them in thae days, nane o’ that vile spoutroch
” sae meikle sloated ower now-a-days; na, na, we had nae
” jabblin’ thing like scaud ava to sipple wi, but milk porritch,
” sowens, and sic like glorious belly timmer—famous swatroch,
” man—noble stiveron,
” Awa’ wi’ yer readin’ priest, yer Latin dominies, yer rooms
” spread wi’ carpets, yer fallow fiel’s, and yer fenders ; and let
” me hear a chiel skelpin’ a sermon aff-loof, anither learnin’
” the bairns the rule o’ three and plain arithmetic: the bare,
” sleek yird I ha’e mony a time shook my shanks on—fiel’s to
” plough just as my father ploughed, and nae fenders to hinder
” the aizles frae spangin’ out, but lads and lasses bare-fitted
” and bare-legged, wedged thick round the bonnie ingle.
” Never turn, gentle Borgue, or thou’lt gang a’ to the
” bumwhush; stick by the creed o’ thy forefathers, never
” laugh at the gude auld law.
” Dear me, but it makes my heart sair to see things chynged
” and chynging sae far frae their ancient wont. There’s nae
” courtin’ gaen on now amang the burnbraes, the glens, and
” aneath the soughin’ hawthorns. Na, na, the primrose, the
” bluidifinger, and the yellow-nebbed blackbird, let them sing
” now as they will, they are never heard. How’ t tow’t. The
” young lasses get nae men now sic as they are either as they
” gat lang syne, Feint a lassie, gin she had leukit onything
” like marryin’ ava, but wad ha’e got somebody or she wan to
” twenty ; but now they gae by thratty, and mony a ane bids
” farewell to matrimony, and curses the men a’thegither, on
” the borders o’ forty. Sad wark, man. Hoch anee.”
The decay of superstition was duly lamented :-
“Hech-how, there’s nae fun ava amang the fowk ; they’re
” a’ grown as serious as our auld minister wont to be at a
” Sacrament; nae meetings at ither’s ingles to sing sangs and
” tell divertin’ tales; nae boggles noo to be seen about dark
” nooks and the ghaistcraft ; nae witchwives about the cleuchs,
” nor warlocks about the Shellin’ Hill o’ Kirkaners. Howt no.
” What’s the folk guid for? Satan has crossed their e’e wi’
” his club, or else Peggy Little, the gill-wife, has broke some
” charm wi’ her rowan tree beetle or kirnstaff.
” Fairies and brownies hae fled Borgue a’thegither now.
The folk are a’ drownin’ themselves in track pots and tea
” broe, fikin’ wi’ cups and saucers, and peutrin about nothing.
” There’s no’ a chiel worth a doit amang them, but some ane
” or twa there be nane worth a tinkler’s tippence. Folk are
” no now ava as they war lang syne.” So unlike Auld
Millha’ on the hairst rig, for example— “O, I could ha’e
” opened out an awsome brisket; O, I could ha’e sweeped it
” down, spread mysel’ laigh on the rig, and gaen up the land
” screevin’, my theebanes like mill timmers and my fingers
” like dragtaes.
” O! for the days when I was young. I kenna what the
” about twenty are guid for noo, ava; they want the
” heart someway a’thegither. They canna tak’ a dram o’
” liquor now without ha’ein as mony mimins and preeins to
” gang through, as if they were a’ born gentry. Lang syne
” I hae kent Tam MaMinn and me coupin’ ower a dizzen
” bumpers o’ strong Holland gin (rare smuggled stuff) down
” at the Brighouse Bay, in the wee while o’ a forenicht, and
” never gie’n a kink either ower’t or after’t. It’s a pity to see
” them; the warld’s fast Banes nooare as frush
” as the branches o’ an auld dazed plain tree. The folk ha’e
” nae in-timmers as they were wont to ha’e ava. O! for the
” days again when 1 brew’d and sell’d yill at the saugh ligget.
” Thae war days, but they’re gane now, and Borgue will ne’er
” see the like o’ them.”
But the old man’s lamentations were vain. He must be carried “heels foremost out o’ the auld biggin’, and laid a guid Scotch ell aneath the moois o’ the auld kirkyaird” beside his children, and ” his share of duties decently performed, rest beneath the soil his feet had often trod,” as so many generations since have done, and we ourselves in turn must do, while the world, heedless of our lamentations, will move steadily forward.
There are numerous places in Borgue remarkable for their association with famous men, local celebrities, striking incidents, or for their great natural beauty and grandeur. There is Tannimaus at the head of the parish, where was born in 1783, William Nicholson, the Bard of Galloway, and author of the immortal Brownie o’ Blednoch,” which, according to a high authority, is distinguished by shrewdness and tenderness, imagination and fancy, humour and wit, and has won for this eminent native of Borgue an enduring place in the temple of fame. There is Kildarroch, on the banks of the Pulwhirrn, where he died in 1849, and Kirkandrews, where the same stream falls into the Solway, and in whose old churchyard the poet, after all his wanderings through the length and breadth of Galloway, has found an appropriate resting place,
” In his sepulchre there by the sea,
In his tomb by the sounding sea.”
There is the farm of Lennox Plunton, beside which John Mactaggart. author of that marvellous work, the Gallovidian Encyclopædia,” was born, as he says himself—” The Friday before the Kelton Hill Fair of 1791 was the night on which I, gomerall Johnnie, first opened my mouth in this wicked world.” Gomerall Johnnie opened his mouth to better purpose later on in his Cyclopædia,” where he explains every character, maxim, and custom, of his native province, where he says that Borgue is one of the most singular and celebrated parishes in the South of Scotland, and the best to to be found in any country—
” O ! famous parish for the Browns and Sproats,
The like o’t’s no on this side John o’ Groat’s ;
Borgue lads delight to marry lassies bonnie,
Yet scorn to gang frae hame to seek for ony
Borgue is a pure, a spotless lawland clan,
Chained heart and hand thegither man and man.
Nae grubbing strangers here dare cock their nose,
For ‘mang our clints and hags and rashy bogs,
Chiels do appear would claw a fallow’s lugs ;
A glorious squad they are baith ane and a’,
They’re no half-matched in a’ wild Gallowa’.
While bonnie lasses in the Boreland thrive,
And nowt in Senwick parks can southward drive,
While peats are got in Plunton’s glaury moss,
While craws at Barmaguachan yearly big,
And lasses at the kirk look unco trig,
Borgue shall be famous throughout auld Scotland,
Her woo’ and hinnie never left on hand.”
He sings songs displaying a rough strength of feeling and language, to which Will Nicholson, with all his imagination, was a stranger, as in the awful. picture of desolation and despair in the ballad of Mary Lee, destroyed by a heartless lover—
” O, sourer than the green bullister
Is a kiss o’ Robin-a-Ree,
And the milk on the tades back I wad prefer
To the poison on his lips that be.
O, ance I lived happy by yon bonny burn,
The warl was in love wi’ me,
But now I maun sit neath the cauld drift and mourn,
And curse black Robin.a.Ree.
Then whudder awa thou bitter biting blast,
And sough through the scruntie tree,
And smoor me up in the snaw fu’ fast,
And ne’er let the sun me see.
O, never melt awai thou wride o’ snaw,
That’s Sae kind in graving me,
And hide me frae the scorn and the guffaw
O’ villains like Robin-a-Ree.”
There is the Glebe o’ Senwick, beside which in a little hut lived James M’Minn, the Borgue Philosopher, honoured by his fellows with the name of ” Deacon.” He was a great artisan, acquainted with astronomy, versed in botany, endowed with a weird fancy and an exuberant imagination, speaking like one at home in a visionary world where he had dived with water kelpies and danced with fairies. Some of his quaint sayings have been preserved: as at diets o’ examine when questioned by the minister on some knotty point, the Deacon would shake his head and say, he cudna cleverly tell that,” thus compelling his reverence to tell it himself ; when asked his opinion of the minister’s sermons, I kenna (quoth the Deacon), ” he preaches loud, ay he’s loud.” When the minister died he was consulted as to a suitable inscription for a monument,—” Wi’ I kenna what ye wad say aboot him, but that he’s there.” When some sutors in the Gatehouse began to harangue the multitude on religion, the Deacon said, Preachin’ wad sune be gaun wi’ watter.’
Then there is Earlston House. Instead of the old mansion of Cairillton, which stood about the centre of the village at a place called the Close,” Sir John Gordon built a new house in 1816, and called it Earlstoun, after the home of his ancestors above Dalry. There now resides Sir William Gordon, the lineal descendant of one of the noblest families mentioned in Scottish history, and himself illustrious in the annals of military heroism. He was one of those who rode back again—
” Back from the jaws of death,
Back from the mouth of hell,”
in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade,” at which
” All the world wondered.”
There is Borgue Churchyard, in which is a stone erected to the memory of John Wilson, of the 17th Lancers, who did not ride back again, but to whom everlasting honour is also due as one of the ” noble Six Hundred.”
Unrivalled for its beauty and tranquil retirement is the path winding close by the shore on a rocky steep, through Senwick wood, beneath many a shady grove, past many a grassy glade, with delightful glimpses at openings in the trees of wood and river, mountain and sea, down to Senwick’s lane kirkyard,” the resting place of M’ Taggart the poet, where the pensive wanderer might linger out the day, meditating in the land of deep forgetfulness. There is the soft outline of the Muil Hill, with the high and wave-washed cliffs of Ross and Borness on either side, from which you can behold the innumerable laughter” of the waves leaping in the summer sun, or from which you can hear, in winter’s storm, the ” jumm ” of the ocean—the hollow moaning sound it makes when, highly agitated, it flings along with its troubled waters billowfuls of boulders against the rocky wall, or when it rushes in with an awful rumbling noise to churn its surges in the ” Rummelkirns “—the gullets scooped out by the hand of nature on these wild shores. It was on the Borness Heughs, that, in the darkness of the night, amid a blinding snow- drift, about twenty years ago, a small vessel was dashed to pieces, and the seven occupants perished with none to help or hear.
There are the still more celebrated Muncraig Heughs where pasper was wont to be gathered ; people hanging by a rope from the top, to all appearance in the air, described by Shakespeare as seen on the cliffs of Dover—
” Half-way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade,
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.”
At these cliffs many have been killed when harrying gulls’ nests, or running down the slopes, and of their danger young people have often been warned by their elders.
In the Kirkcudbright Museum there is a specimen of the Peregrine Falcon from the Muncraig Heughs, where they build their nests in inaccessible spots, only to be harried by ropes. These falcons, now reckoned vermin, were once the pride of monarchs, when in the chase on a breezy day –
” Some noble falcon lanner
Would flap his broad wings like a banner,
And turn in the wind, and dance like flame.”
A young man working on Muncraig farm in the spring-time, dreamed he had harried a falcon’s nest over night, and deposited his prize in a certain spot. On going to look he found the birds in a corn chest covered over by a bushel measure. The scratches on his hands and feet clearly proved, that, in the darkness of the midnight, when his senses were sealed in forgetfulness, he had safely performed a feat impossible in the light of day when his mind was all awake.
There is Plunton Castle, the scene, according to tradition, of fearful tragedies, as that of the faithless lady who waited in her lone bower the coming of her paramour, and was suddenly clasped in the arms of her lawful lord. A splash in the water, a shriek in the midnight air from the drowning lady ; another splash from the dead body of her lover falling from the turret announced that the guilty pair were together at the bottom of the lake, and the Baron’s injured honour avenged.
It was here in the days of the Covenant the voice of psalms was often heard from the Presbyterian household of the Lennoxes. It was here, also, that about the same period Richard Murray of Broughton, ancestor of the well-known Alexander Murray, Member of Parliament for the Stewartry, came a-wooing Miss Anna Lennox, who, unlike the rest of her family, was a Prelatist, and having captured his lily of the Castle Lake, Richard carried off with her the good strong house of Plunton and an estate of 2000 merks yearly—the prelatical sister, Anna, helping her husband to rob her Presbyterian brother, Robert, who was an exile in Ireland for the Covenant. Here, also, was the scene of the tale of Plunton Castle by Captain Dennistoun, which Sir Walter wove into immortal verse in his drama of the doom of Devorgoil, so that, like every other locality over which the Wizard of the North waved his magic wand, Plunton Castle, on its beautiful eminence, surrounded by old gnarled thorns and flowery meads, has become enchanted ground.
Then there is Knockcaan, with its commanding prospect of the lower Galloway hills, and round by the Solway sea, where the old Borgue curlers a hundred years ago played the roaring game,
” And the pith o’ meikle banes,
Sent whinnerin’ up the rink the channel stanes,”
from early dawn till darkness descended on the bay, and hid the distant Wigton coast.
Last to be mentioned here is Corse Martin, above Borgue village, where, should the cattle at any time run short of pasture, they may regale themselves with a view, according to Mr Gilbert Sproat, late of Brighouse, only to be matched by the view from the top of Blackford Hill, near Edinburgh, as described by Sir Walter Scott in the fourth canto of “Marmion”:
” But northward far with purer blaze
On Ochil mountains fell the rays,
And as each heathy top they kissed,
It gleamed a purple amethyst.
Yonder the shores Of Fife you saw,
Here Preston Bay and Berwick Law,
And broad between them rolled
The gallant Firth, the eye might note
Whose islands on its bosom float
Like emeralds chased in gold.”
Thus far the parallel holds well enough, but whereas the view from Corse Martin includes only the trim little village of Borgue, the view from Blackford Hill includes the city of Edinburgh, with its grand old High Street descending from the Castle Rock at the top, to Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the ridge a mile lower down :—
” Such dusky grandeur clothed the height
Where the huge castle holds its state,
And all the steep slope down,
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town.”
But this can be said for Borgue, that there are a dozen eminences from which, though all within the same parish, you can enjoy prospects equally grand, presenting each of them, new groupings of the varied elements of the finest scenery, like the ever-shifting combinations of colour seen in a kaleidoscope.
There be three things for which Borgue has long been celebrated, yea, four for which it is exceeding famous. The first is its honey, which in its perfection is one of the loveliest and most luscious of all the productions of great creating Nature, and which, under the fierce light of modern criticism beating upon its throne, sustains well its ancient reputation. Next there are the fat cattle which browse on the nutritious grass grown on Borgue’s flowery leas and fine old pasture fields. In our day, when cattle-feeding has been to such a large extent displaced by the system of dairy-farming, Borgue holds the field as the parish for champion cheese, the blue ribbon of the great Kilmarnock Show being at present worn by Mr John Cruickshank, Ingleston, Borgue.
The fourth famous Borgue article is education. Its Academy, richly endowed by two of Borgue’s worthy and wealthy sons, has been renowned since the beginning of the century, under three distinguished rectors, — Mr. Poole, Mr M’Master, and Mr Dunlop, the last-named of whom held during the bygone year (1896) the premier position among teachers, as President of the Educational Institute of Scotland ; while of the Borgue boys educated within its walls two are now distinguished Members of Parliament, Mr Samuel Smith, the member for Flintshire, and Mr J. H. Dalziel, the member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, both exercising a powerful influence on the legislation of Britain’s world-wide Empire.
With regard to the part played by Borgue in the progress of our country during the last hundred years, it will be sufficient to mention, first, Agriculture. Great has been the improvement in this foundation industry hroughout Scotland. In no province of Scotland has it been greater than in Galloway, and in no parish of Galloway has it been more conspicuous than in Borgue, since the Rev. Samuel Smith, one of Borgue’s eminent ministers, wrote “A General Survey of the Agriculture of Galloway.”
And second, the social condition of the people. For this it will be sufficient to cite the impartial testimony of two distinguished travellers, one at the end of the previous century, and the other at the close of the present century. Heron, in his ” Journey through Galloway in the year 1793,” says that the people of Borgue, inhabiting a sort of promontory, and divided from neighbours by the sea upon two sides, were long regarded by the other people of the district as a peculiar insulated sort of tribe. The families of the farmers had been settled there for many generations ; they were all mutually related by inter-marriages. They looked upon their neighbours with aversion and contempt. A person of singular appearance or manners was commonly said by the people of the adjacent country to be a Borgue body. If a stranger went by accident to settle among them, he and his family were for a generation or two regarded with dislike and suspicion, and harassed with that joy over his losses and misadventures, and that ridicule of everything in which his manners and’ economy differed from theirs—which barbarous tribes, secluded from the intercourse of civilised life, have been observed to exhibit towards strangers.
Harper in his “Rambles in Galloway,” re-published in the year 1896, says that there is now not a more desirable spot in Galloway in which to settle down than the parish of Borgue, and more social, intelligent, and enterprising people in any locality of Scotland; to which may be added the testimony of a modern Galloway poet—
” On Borgue’s wide shore warm bearts galore,
The wanderer will find.”
As Borgue has shared so largely in the great industrial and social improvement which has been effected during the century about to close, so, we doubt not, during the century about to open it will share in a still mightier advancement towards a more enlightened era of peace and prosperity, not for our own nation only, but for all the nations of the world.
” Not in vain the distance beacons, forward, forward, let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
Men, my brothers, men, the workers, ever reaping something new,
That which they have done, but earnest of the things that they shall do.
For I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
Till the war drums throb no longer, and the battle flags are furled
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.”