More Memories of Borgue

The following is a letter from Ken Wilkinson who has been visiting Borgue for more than 70 years.

Following our recent visit to Borgue and your interest in its history, I’ll try to set down some of my memories of holidays we spent there in the years shortly after the war.

From 1947 till 1952 I would travel each June, with my parents and another family and an assortment of bikes, from industrial Nelson in Lancashire, by train — changing at Skipton (and sometimes at Carlisle), Dumfries and Castle Douglas – to Kirkcudbright. A big adventure for a 9 year old after the wartime restrictions! Then we rode to Borgue where my dad had organised a week (or two) staying with the Misses Clarke (Annie & Esther) in their cottage — the first on the right. This he had discovered because they were ‘appointed’ by the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club); they had the round CTC plaque fixed above the cottage door — no traces of it left now.

In those days of serious post-war food rationing Borgue was a revelation. The hard- working sisters kept hens, they had a cow, they had bee hives and they grew food! A land of milk and honey! We would eat three good meals each day and all, as far as I can recollect, for three pound ten shillings a week per person. For me the new things at that time were the various types of scones (including treacle scones) and pancakes, the honey directly from the comb and the home-made junket.

There were downsides, which sometimes added to the adventure. No running water made life interesting. There was a big water pump in the yard (l remember having a rather public ‘shower’ under it one time, and only once). Each morning a jug of hot water was brought to the room for washing in a bowl. At the bottom of the garden was the toilet hut with a smelly cess-pit behind it.

The village is still very recognisable with the most obvious changes on the right up the hill. The garage has gone, of course, and the football ground higher up the hill (just a field, really, and not very flat). From the road Annie & Esther’s cottage looks much the same as it did then, but has probably grown at the back. The roads then were very quiet — only the occasional bus, a 26 seater Bedford, from Kirkcudbright (the stop was outside the cottage), and few cars. The open space at the road junction was great for us kids to practice our cycling skills.

Brighouse Bay was a major attraction and we always had it to ourselves, apart from a few Belties. It was so quiet that you had to be careful not to stand on the nests of Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers perfectly camouflaged amongst the pebbles, though the adult birds tried to distract you if you were too near. As young lads we seemed to spend much of our holiday fruitlessly building dams of sand across the stream only to have them collapse when the pool became too big.

Then down to Carrick where we could also scramble up the rocks. One time my father organised running races on the beach there — he was winning until he pulled a leg muscle. When he explained to the doctor down in Kirkcudbright what had happened he was told, without much sympathy, ‘you should be your age!’ He would have been in his late forties then.

Often in the evenings we would walk from the village either up the hill or along the Gatehouse road. In those days there were lots of flowers in the grass verges which are probably absent now — I particularly remember lots of both Spotted and Butterfly Orchids as well as Viper’s Bugloss etc. It would good to come back in June, rather than September, sometime and make a better comparison.

As an aside to my reminiscences, during lockdown we have developed an interest in moths and brought a light trap with us to Borgue which was pretty effective and caught 27 one evening in the garden (or rather the car park by the front door) — a good haul for so late in the year — mostly Lunar Underwings’ which we’d not encountered before, and 10 other species. Catching them is relatively easy; identifying them later is another story! June would be even more fruitful…

Best wishes

Ken Wilkinson

Grey Squirrel Alert!

Grey Squirrel

There have been quite a few reports of grey squirrels in and around Borgue recently and these are posing a threat to the native red squirrel population. If you see any grey squirrels, please report them as detailed below:

The Borgue area is split into two at the Coo Palace, see the map at, https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/network-directory/kirkcudbright-public/so

If anyone sees a grey squirrel, could they please report it immediately to:

Kirkcudbright area: Rob Asbridge 01557 331323

Or Gatehouse area: Peter Garson 01557 814584

There is also a website for logging sightings too, https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings/?ssrs_sighting_add=1#BreadcrumbsAtTop

Galloway News article on the PLACE Field Names Project

A unique map of old place and field names around Borgue is nearing completion. But the Borgue Field Name Project is still missing a few pieces of the jigsaw. Hundreds of descriptions have been logged so far by a team of local volunteers. Now they are keen to fill in the gaps before age-old descriptions are lost forever. The project, part of the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere’s PLACE initiative, depends on tapping into local knowledge. And according to Borgue Community Council chairman John Shields, the public response has been excellent. He said: “A big part of this project is to ensure this stuff survives and is catalogued. Otherwise, it will all be lost as this generation disappears. It has simply been a matter of knocking on farmers’ doors. And not just farmers but ex-farmworkers as well. Adam Gray who has sadly passed away was a keen historian. A lot of information came from the Gray estate.”

Borgue and its parish lands boast a rich Gaelic, Scots and Viking heritage dating back centuries. The village name itself derives from the Old Norse ‘borg’ signifying a stronghold. It only had the ‘ue’ added in recent years for the sake of appearance.

Mr Shields said: “There’s a lot of secondary information in many of the names. For example, they can tell us how the land was used and about the people involved in working it. Many names are of Celtic, Gaelic or Norse origin while some are named after local farmers of old.”

Among the local names researched is Hac Noose, a big field next to the shore-side road between Brighouse Bay and Rockvale. Its meaning could derive from the Old English for a hook-shaped headland. Another theory contends that it is based on the Old Norse ‘hack’ – a fish-trap. Mr Shields said: “We have not got a final solution to that one yet.”

Imaging of Borgue from the sea and map-making have formed part of the project. The Lottery-funded scheme is being supported by Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and the Southern Uplands Partnership. Biosphere communities in the Wigtownshire Moors and the Stinchar Valley are also taking part.

Castle Haven in 3D

FLYING START

Aerial filming has been used to create a virtual impression of an iron age galleried dun on the Borgue coast. Castle Haven was excavated by enthusiastic archaeologist, James Brown, who used the remains as a template to partly reconstructed the structure in the early 1900s. Identified by the Borgue community as an ancient monument that would benefit from some maintenance volunteers cleared undergrowth from the central area of the structure to reveal the extent of the castle for all to see.

Film maker, Calum Ansell, used drone footage to recreate the stone structure often likened to brochs found in the north of Scotland. No one knows for sure what Castle Haven would have looked like but using the most up to date technology this Virtual Reeconstruction provides an immersive experience of how it may have been to live on the Borgue coast 2,000 years ago.

Click here to see the 3D reconstruction and virtual reality presentation

Flower Tubs

Operation Tub is up and running now and the flower tubs are appearing all around the Borgue area. Here’s the one at the Knockbrex “roundabout” which is a thank you to all the essential workers, from farmers to posties, who’ve kept us all going over the last few months.

Operation Tub

Here’s a message from Jo Mercer about a plan to brighten up Borgue this summer. More details can be found on the ‘Operation Tub‘ page.

“No one will be surprised to hear that the Flower Show has been cancelled this year. However, an alternative activity has been suggested – ‘Operation Tub’. The idea is to plant up a tub (or tubs) and fill Borgue with flowers and plants. The tubs have kindly been sourced and half filled with well rotted compost and are available NOW from Sarah McCarthy in Borgue village.”

Castle Haven clean-up

The Gatehouse Volunteers and Borgue community members have been clearing a lot of vegetation from the walls of the Iron Age fort at Castle Haven, near Kirkandrews. There was an initial session in January that removed most of the brambles, gorse and ivy from the inside walls. There will be a follow-up session on 19th February to clear the outer walls.