EARLY in the fourteenth century, when Edward Bruce, advancing from the north into Galloway, reached the top of the ridge which divides the Dee from the Ken, he exclaimed, in an ecstasy of admiration of the prospect suddenly opened up to his view—” That beautiful country must be mine,” a boast he made good by reducing fourteen of its strongest castles within a year. Behind him there stretched north to Loch Doon, and from the hills of Carsphairn on the east to the cliffs around Glentrool on the west, a vast amphitheatre of mountains, amid which there lay concealed scenery as remarkable as that in the Highlands of Scotland, first disclosed by Sir Walter Scott. Dark dungeons and deep chasms, gigantic mountains covered with mist, or crowned with dazzling helmets of snow, immense lakes of polished silver which reflected from their bosom the varied magnificence with which they were encircled, roaring linns and foaming cataracts, eddying whirlpools and murmuring streams, wild hanging forests of ash and oak, lofty caverns and inaccessible retreats, green valleys and secluded glens, Edens of beauty planted in wildernesses of savage grandeur, and the loveliest grace added to the most romantic wildness of Nature. Before him, as far as cloud-capped Criffel on the southern horizon, there lay a richly diversified country of hills and valleys, lakes and fens, and boundless forests, through which rivers were seen winding their silver pathway to the distant main. For the province, so sternly guarded in its higher parts by the everlasting hills, is at its wide-reaching lower extremities softly girdled by the ever-changing sea. From Southerness, on the extreme east of Galloway, the Solway flows past an extensive seaboard, rolling by naked headlands, and far up into winding bays, lingering around many a green island, and murmuring on many a pebbly beach, moaning in deep cavities, and washing up into lonely caves, dashing its spray up the sides of precipitous cliffs, some of which are bare, and others grey with lichen, green with ivy, or bright with flowers; until at the south-western extremity of the province the waters rush wildly against the land, enveloping in foam the gigantic Mull of Galloway from base to summit of its three hundred feet, while the thunder of the waves is heard afar by mariners in the pauses of the storm. This same Solway sea at about equal intervals receives into its ample bosom the four principal rivers—the Urr, the Dee, the Fleet, and the Cree— sent down from the mountains with their tributary streams to water the glens ar)d lower lands of Galloway. Such, in brief outline, was the beautiful country which awoke the admiration of the Scottish hero as he gazed upon it from the spot still known as Cairn Edward, after his name.
As a graceful body which has no breath in it, so is a country like Galloway before it has been filled with the passionate life of humanity, the deeds of heroes, the sufferings of martyrs, the songs of minstrels, the ballads which spring out of the people’s heart, and shed around outward scenery the many-coloured brightness of the human soul. For this spiritual interest we shall look in vain to the Celtic tribes, which for seven or eight hundred years before the commencement of our era took up their abode in Galloway. We find traces of their existence, indeed, in the names they bestowed on great objects in nature, such as hills, rivers, meadows, streams, sea-cliffs, and promontories, which still bear their British titles ; in the round forts they built on the tops of hills, in the rude arms with which they fought, in the underground dwellings in which they found shelter from the storms and from their foes, in the temples where, in the recesses of oak groves, they performed the rites of their gloomy religion, and in the cairns beneath which they buried their dead. In the absence both of written history and oral tradition, the memory of the original British inhabitants has almost entirely faded from the circle of the Galloway hills. The busy tides of life with which for many generations they overspread the fields and valleys have, with the few exceptions already mentioned, all been swept back into the sea of oblivion, whose waters cover them for ever from the memory of men. , Even the Romans influenced Galloway less than many other provinces, and the most enduring memorial of their presence here is the blood-stained pathway of Agricola. which can still be traced by means of camps and implements of war left behind from where at Dumfries they crossed the Nith by the west margin of the Urr to the great fort at Drummore below Kirkcudbright, over to Castramont above Gatehouse, on to Whithorn, and as far as Rerigonium on the Irish Sea. The Anglo-Saxons next acquired ascendency in Galloway, and after them the Norsemen, but little of their influence survives, except in some names of places and forts erected along the shore. Later on, Galloway, from its nearness to Ireland, was taken possession of by tribes of Irish Scots. They were in Ireland great cultivators of bees, which were specially protected by their Brehon law, and their influence is still agreeably felt in the renown of Galloway for honey, especially the honey of Borgue, where wild thyme and other flowers grow in great abundance. Their influence also survives in the reckless valour of the men of Galloway, which has culminated in heroes like Lieutenant-General Stewart of Cumloden, in the Peninsular war, and Sir William Gordon of Earlstoun, in the Crimean war—the modern representatives of those wild Scots of Galloway who demanded as their due the distinction of leading the van in the battle, their sole defensive armour being hearts that knew no fear, and bodies whose backs never felt a wound. After the battle of the Standard in 1137, where many of the fierce Galwegians, wild as ocean gale,” fell foremost in the fight, shouting their war cry of Albanach ! Albanach! ! ” Galloway was owned by a hereditary series of five lords, the first of whom, Fergus, ruled from his water-girdled fortress of Loch Fergus, near Kirkcudbright, and the last, Alan, was one of the barons by whom the great Charter of England was wrung from the unwilling hands of King John, and who conferred the highest benefits upon Galloway, both by the improvement of the laws and the advancement of religion. Alan was succeeded by a daughter, the Lady Devorgilla, whose mother was a Royal Princess, and who herself became the mother of John Baliol, the vassal King of Scotland. She founded Baliol College, Oxford, in memory of her noble husband, and enriched her subject province with many acts of royal bounty, prominent among which was the erection of a bridge over the Nith, still standing, of nine arches, three in Nithsdale, and six in Galloway. When her husband died, she caused his heart to be embalmed in an ivory casket bound with silver, which she carried with her everywhere for twenty years, and by her dying request the heart was buried along with herself in New Abbey, which she had founded five years before. She was celebrated by an ancient Scottish poet, Andrew Wyntoun, in the old dialect as
“A ladye who dyd all her deeds devoutly,
A better ladye than she was nane
In all the Isle of Great Bertagne ;
She was ryght pleasant of beute,
Here was great takings of bounte;”
and,she has been celebrated in a beautiful poem by Stewart Ross, one of the modern bards of Galloway—
“For a queenlier heart never throbbed more true
‘Mong Galloway’s rocks and rills,
And a queenlier foot never dashed the dew
From the heath of the Galloway hills.”
The male line of the ancient lords became extinct only after blossoming into a flower of consummate beauty in the person of Devorgilla. It is not that she was descended from Scotland’s royal house, and became the mother of kings by right divine; it is not even her wisdom, nor her beauty, nor her piety, nor her beneficence; still less her great possessions ; but it is her unwearied affection which has exalted this lady into one of the brightest glories of her native province, and secured for her an enduring place in the hearts of men. When placed alongside of Devorgilla’s delightful history, whole centuries of fierce fighting in Galloway appear to be ” folly, noise, and sin,” upon which we would gladly let the curtain of oblivion fall—
“Shut them in with their triumphs and their glories and the rest,
Love is best.”
The next great human interest connected with Galloway was created through another lady, likewise descended from the ancient lords. Uchtred, the eldest son of Fergus, was cruelly murdered at Loch Fergus by his brother Gilbert, who took possession of the province. Gilbert’s son, Duncan, afterwards surrendered it to his cousin Roland, the rightful heir; and, by way of compensation, was endowed by the king with the earldom of Carrick, forming, along with Kyle and Cunningham, one of the three divisions of Ayrshire. Duncan’s grand-daughter Marjory, Countess of Carrick, in her own right, accidentally met Sir Robert Bruce, son of the Lord of Annandale, riding through her dominions, and, being much struck with his noble figure, had the handsome knight quietly surrounded by her followers, and conveyed, an alarmed but not unwilling, captive to her castle of Turnberry, where, after a fortnight’s acquaintance, the enamoured lady married him, not fearing the wrath of the king, whose ward she was, and who immediately seized her castle and estates. The fruit of this romantic marriage was a family of twelve—valiant sons and noble daughters—the eldest of whom was Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, the world-renowned champion of Scotland’s independence. It was his connection with the province through his mother which led Bruce during his earlier struggles to seek shelter among its hills, and thus connected Galloway with the great movement for national freedom. To a great extent, especially in the southern parts, Galloway was on the opposite side, on account of the English alliances formed by the five lords, and because Baliol was their own hereditary ruler. Edward, indeed, looked upon Galloway as his own possession, through which, in the year 1300, he made a royal progress, staying in succession at the Castle of Kirkcudbright, Gerton Castle (still known as Palace Yard, in a field on the farm of Enrick), and at Twynholm. At Girthon Edward fined a miller for dishonest practices in his mill, the race of which is still visible on Rainton. He also fined the village of Gerton for using deficient weights and measures— an illustration of the advantage Scotland might have derived from the superior civilisation of England if the yoke of an usurper had not agreed so badly with the proud independent stomach of that haughty northern land. But from Robert Bruce’s maternal descent from one of the five ancient Lords, Galloway became the cradle of Scottish liberty. At Glen Trool, amid secluded scenes of the wildest natural beauty, under the shadow of mountains at whose summit the storm breaks, and down whose rugged sides the torrents roar, Robert Bruce,’ with a courage and endurance almost superhuman, tended the mighty nursling Liberty until it became capable of overthrowing the tyrant’s usurped dominion, and of subsequently expanding into that gigantic power which controls the destinies of the English-speaking race round the globe, and is fitly represented by the colossal statue at the head of the harbour of New-York, which, standing with a blazing torch in the right hand and sun-rays circling round the brow, welcomes all comers across the Atlantic to the land where the sun of freedom, which first dawned on the hills of Galloway, shines on the vast territories of the Western World.
The next most memorable episode in Galloway history centres likewise round a lady, a native of the Province, although her birthplace, like that of other illustrious people, has been matter of dispute. This lady rejoiced in the homely old Scottish name of Meg. In one respect she resembled her namesake, the border maiden, whose mouth was of such portentous width that a captive youth having been allowed a week to consider in the quiet of a dungeon whether he would have muckle-mou’d Meg for a wife or be hanged, deliberately chose the gallows. Galloway Meg’s mouth was nearly two feet in diameter; her frame was strong as iron bars; her weight was six tons and a half; when she spoke it was in a voice of thunder, and her word was destruction to any person or thing against which it was specially addressed, insomuch that she is described by the Governor of Edinburgh Castle in a paper handing her over to General Monk as ‘s the great iron murderer called Muckle Meg.” The occasion of her services being brought into requisition in Galloway was this. After the death of the son of Edward Bruce at the battle of Halidon Hill, the Lordship of Galloway reverted to the Crown. It was conferred by David Il. in the year 1369 upon Archibald Douglas, surnamed the Grim, younger brother of the gallant chief of Otterbourne, a descendant of the ancient lords, and of Devorgilla through his mother, a daughter of the Red Comyn, slain by Bruce at Dumfries. Archibald inherited the Knight of Otterbourne’s titles and estates, and was the first of seven Earls of Douglas, who for eighty-six years ruled over Galloway. Their greatness was founded on the transcendent services of the good Lord James with his seventy battles, mostly victories for the liberty of Scotland, and whether it were for gallantry in the tournament or bravery in the battle, the name of Douglas was always mentioned among the foremost in the ranks of chivalry. But their rule was disastrous to Galloway, which was brought, by repeated famines, to the verge of destruction. So great was their power that every attempt at their overthrow failed or recoiled upon its perpetrator. William Douglas, the fourth Lord, a lad of sixteen, was beguiled, along with his brother, to a royal banquet in Edinburgh Castle, when at the close of the feast the head of a black bull, the awful signal of death, was placed on the table, and the noble youths were murdered, a crime denounced for long in the rhymes of a horrified people—
“Edinburgh Castle, toun and tour,
God grant ye sink for sin,
And that even for the black dinnour
Earl Douglas gat therein.”
Twelve years later James Il. stabbed another William Douglas to the heart in an apartment of Stirling Castle, ever since known as the Douglas room. This Earl William was succeeded by his younger brother James, the seventh and last Earl, more powerful than any of his predecessors, who stood two years later opposite the king with an army of forty thousand on the south side of the river Carron, on the point, as it seemed, of winning the crown of Scotland, when by the morning light this powerful host had melted like snow in the glance of the Almighty, the principal agency employed in its annihilation being the vacillation of the mighty Earl himself. But Threave Castle, with walls seventy feet high and eight feet thick, still stood on its green island in the Water of Dee, the ancient stronghold of the Douglases in Galloway. Threave was the palace from which the Douglases issued their oppressive decrees, the place of their pride where they maintained a thousand armed men, the scene of their brutalities, from the gallows knob of which a tassel was always dangling in the shape of a murdered man. Threave was now the last refuge of the falling house. Within the Castle was the Countess of Douglas, a lady distinguished alike by her wealth, her beauty, and the strange vicissitudes of her eventful life, and who is famous in history as the Fair Maid of Galloway. A sister of the young Earl murdered in Edinburgh Castle, she was married, when twelve years old, to her cousin Earl William, afterwards murdered in Stirling Castle. At the age of twenty-one the lovely heiress was again espoused by William’s brother, James, the last Earl, and now in the day of her lord’s downfall she awaited her fate in the Castle of Threave. Against this Castle Mons Meg, manufactured at Carlingwark by brawny Kim and his seven sons, was planted on Knockcannon hill. At the first opening of her muckle mou’ Meg sent a ball of Bennan granite, the weight of a Carsphairn cow, through the Castle wall. At the second opening of her mouth, when the Countess in the banqueting room was in the act of raising the wine cup to her lips, Meg shot away her right hand, that hand which had been given in wedlock to two brothers, while the lawful wife of one of them was still alive. A massive gold ring, early in this century, with the inscription, ” Margaret de Douglas ” was found on the floor of Threave Castle, doubtless the identical ring worn by the Countess when her hand was blown away. After this Meg was treated with the highest honour ; and when taken from Edinburgh Castle to the siege of Norham, the royal treasurer spared no expense in providing a strong cradle and gorgeous clothes for the enormous infant, with minstrels to play before her down the gate, as on the march of a mighty Conqueror. When in 1682 she suffered damage in firing a royal salute for James V ll., the poet Ferguson lamented the accident—
“Oh, Willawins ! Mons Meg for you,
‘Twas firing cracked thy muckle mou’
And when, amid the grief of a kingdom, she was removed to London, the same bard bewailed her loss—
“Right seenil am I gi’en to bannin’,
But on my word she was a cannon,
Cou’d hit a man had he been stannin’
On shore of Fife ;
Sax lang Scots miles ayont Clackmannan,
An’ tak’ his life.
On March 9th, 1829, Meg was escorted by a vast concourse of rejoicing people, headed by Sir Walter Scott, to her former exalted position in the Castle of Edinburgh, overlooking one of the grandest prospects in the kingdom, where Meg now enjoys a glorious repose after all her services—her greatest achievement being that in which as the instrument of God’s retributive justice, she destroyed the stronghold of iniquity in her native province, and carried away the offending right hand of the Fair Maid of Galloway.
The ruin of Threave Castle remains silent and solitary; a monument of the old order of oppression, which Meg did so much to displace by the new order of Liberty—Liberty which, under the protection of a settled government, has found its congenial dwelling among the rugged mountains and along the resounding shores of Galloway—that same Galloway which six centuries ago captivated Edward Bruce, and still commands the loyalty of her sons throughout the world—
“Ye sea-girt hills of Galloway,
How boldly forth ye stand,
As if defying every foe
To gain your ancient strand.
There’s liberty in every breath
That stirs your forest tree ;
There’s liberty in every wave
That greets you from the sea.
And not another spot shall claim
A dearer name from me—
My only true, my native home,
Fair Galloway is thee I”
The foremost place in the religious history of our country has, from an early period, been occupied by Galloway. On a lonely spot, by its wind-swept shores, the first Christian church, not only in Scotland, but in Britain, was erected at Whithorn in the year 385 by Ninian, a youth of five-and-twenty, just returned from Rome to his native place, where he laboured in the spread of the Gospel for the next forty-eight years, till he died at the age of seventy-three. After his death, St. Medan, whose cave at the foot of high cliffs, on the shore of Kirkmaiden, still remains, founded a church in Galloway, called Chil-ne-case, and Whithorn was the great monastery from which the light of Gospel truth and secular learning was diffused amid the surrounding darkness. The ancient lords of Galloway, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries founded several great religious houses, of an elaborate order of architecture, in situations of great fertility and beauty, sheltered from the storms, on the banks of streams well stocked with fish. and all commanding easy access to the sea. At Whithorn, about the middle of the twelfth century, Fergus built an abbey in a meadow, beside a wimpling burn, which for centuries was the annual resort of vast multitudes, including kings and queens and persons of the most exalted station, drawn thither by the celebrity of St. Ninian, who, “by the sweetness of his virtues, exhaled celestial fragrance in the garden of the church.” A little to the north-west of Whithorn, about the end of the twelfth century, Roland, Lord of Galloway, founded an abbey, the ruins of which, covering an acre of ground, bear witness to its ancient size and splendour as it stood in its pleasant valley on the left bank of the river Luce. In the twelfth century, Fergus, Lord of Galloway, founded an abbey on the banks of the Dee at Tongland, celebrated for the savage beauty of its torrent and the plenty of its salmon. This convent, from a neighbouring height, commanded a prospect, beautiful as a dream, of Kirkcudbright with its towers embosomed in the midst of meadow, grove, and circling stream, while far below the estuary of the Dee winds its majestic way between richly wooded shores, by green islands, to the distant gleaming sea.
In the year 1142, Fergus I. built, in a sequestered valley, beside a sparkling stream, under the protection of sheltering hills, the Abbey of Dundrennan, of which the very ruins tell of its past glories and the architectural grace of the building which resounded for centuries with God’s praise; where the mighty magician, Michael Scott, spent a portion of his life ; and where Queen Mary halted for a hurried consultation with her friends on the morning of the day when, at Abbey Burnfoot, two miles lower down, she left Scotland for ever. Within a mile of the river Nith, where it flows into the Solway sea, under the shadow of lordly Criffel, in a beautiful situation by the murmuring POW, the great religious house of New Abbey, enclosing twenty acres of ground, was, in 1284, founded and liberally endowed by Devorgilla, who now rests, with her husband’s heart laid on her breast, near what was the high altar of one of the most magnificent monastic ruins in the British Isles—known to all generations as Sweetheart Abbey, in remembrance of this noble lady’s undying devotion. In 1174, Uchtred, Lord of Galloway, in a sweet seclusion on the banks of the Cluden, founded the fine Abbey of Lincluden, the ruins of which have been so beautifully sung by Burns—
“Yonder Clouden’s silent towers,
Where, at moonshine midnight hours
O’er the dewy bending flowers,
Fairies dance sae cheerie.”
These six Abbeys were a line of beacon lights which, during the great revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the ancient Lords erected from one end to the other of the coast of Galloway.
When in the lapse of years these lights grew dim, and a change to a new order became inevitable, the history of religion continued to be associated with many of Galloway’s fairest scenes and noblest houses. On the slope of a wooded hill overlooking a country rich in beauty, with the Ken and the Dee uniting at its base, stood the mansion-house of Airds, occupied by the wealthy family of the Gordons. Being disciples of Wykcliffe, they had obtained a copy of the New Testament, and had secret meetings for reading it in the woods round their secluded dwelling. In the Parliament of 1543, Lord Maxwell, a Galloway noble, carried a motion against the opposition of all the Bishops allowing the people to read the Bible in their own tongue. In this way, Galloway became the cradle of the Reformation, and the light of Bible truth which was destined to overspread the land, first beamed forth on those quiet gatherings in the woods of Airds.
In 1592 an act was passed establishing the Presbyterian Church, but in the reigns both of James and his son Charles, an attempt was made to force an alien form of government and service by royal authority upon a church that never owned any head visible, or invisible, but the Lord Jesus Christ, always constituting and dissolving its Assemblies in His name. This attempt was made ridiculous in 1637, when Jenny Geddes threw her stool at the Dean of Edinburgh, beginning to read out of the new service book at St. Giles, exclaiming—” Villain, daurst thou say mass at my lug ?” But it also encountered the strenuous opposition of the people of Scotland, especially in Galloway, who in great multitudes, many of them with their own blood, while tears ran down their cheeks, signed a bond to be faithful to one another unto death, in defence of the liberties secured to their Church by an Act of their own Parliament. The most conspicuous Scotsman in that struggle was Samuel Rutherford, who began his public career at the age of twenty-five as Professor of Humanity in the University of Edinburgh, and finished it at the age of sixty as Principal of the University of St. Andrews. He was distinguished as a preacher, whose hearers hung upon his lips, whether they were a rustic gathering in Galloway, or the House of Lords at Westminster ; as a pastor who laboured with incredible industry for his flock and all the people of the district, making them the constant object of his cares and tears, his anxieties and prayers, and preparing many of them for the martyr’s crown. He was eminent as a Professor, making ” the University of St. Andrews a Lebanon, out of which were taken cedars for building the Lord’s house through the whole land as a scholar versed both in classical and Rabbinical lore, as a controversialist conspicuous in the debates of the famous Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as a statesman laying down in his great book Lex Rex, Law, King, Law first, King second, the great principles of government now acknowledged as fundamental in our own Constitution. He was famous as an author, whose letters, on account of their fervour, their tenderness, deep insight into the human heart, varied religious experience and rich poetic fancy, are among the most admired of Christian classics. And, last of all, Rutherford was distinguished for his sufferings, being an object of bitter persecution during his life, and after his book Lex Rex had been burned by the hangman, and himself deprived of all his living, he was on his deathbed summoned by the new Parliament of 1661, with the profligate Middleton as Royal Commissioner, to answer for high treason, deeply regretting that he could not suffer for the truth he had maintained owing to the orders of a higher Sovereign—
“They’ve summoned me before them,
But there I may not come ;
My Lord says, Come up hither,’
My Lord says, Welcome home ;
My kingly King at His white throne
My presence doth command,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.”
Where the smiling vale of Fleet runs down to the sea, near that most beautiful of shore roads from Gatehouse by Ravenshall to Newton-Stewart, there is a little green valley surrounded by hills containing the ivy-clad ruins of Anwoth Church, a parish which Rutherford loved so dearly that in banishment he envied the little birds nestling near its altars, and years after, when he lay dying in a distant University town, his dreams of heavenly bliss were all entwined with Anwoth.
“Fair Anwoth by the Solway,
To me thou still art dear,
Even from the verge of heaven
I’ll drop for thee a tear.
Oh, if one soul from Anwoth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens
In Immanuel’s land.”
There are associated with Rutherford many picturesque dwellings in Galloway, whose names have been embalmed in his letters. Cardoness Castle, lifting its green head high above the wood-crowned summit of a neighbouring hill ; across the bay, Cally House with its wide-spreading meadows and groves; further round, on the Borgue coast, Knockbrex situated among woods on a pleasant shore, and within continual hearing of the waves; a little to the north, on a rising ground in a sweet part of the vale of Fleet, the square old tower of Rusco; and higher up, under the shelter of the Kells mountains, Kenmure Castle, seated on its lofty green mound at the head of the broad expanse of Loch Ken, the dwelling of two of the noblest of Rutherford’s friends, to whom many of his letters were addressed, John, Viscount Kenmure, and Lady Kenmure, sister to the martyred Marquis of Argyle, a lady distinguished alike for her piety and munificence. But more than any other place in Galloway, the tranquil valley of Anwoth, brooded over by a perpetual stillness, is hallowed by the memory of this illustrious champion of the second Reformation, and breathes the peace of the Gospel which he proclaimed for So long a period within its borders.
Two years after the death of Rutherford, an Act of Parliament was passed requiring the Presbyterian ministers to acknowledge the spiritual authority of the Bishops, and rather than submit, three hundred and fifty of them resigned their livings, and became wanderers on the face of the earth, while their places were filled by raw lads from the north of Scotland, so unqualified for their sacred offce that a gentleman in those regions cursed the scruples of the Presbyterian clergy, creating so many vacancies, the supply of which had caused a scarcity among boys for the herding of cattle. The people were more devoted to their suffering pastors than ever. They waited on their ministrations, first in private houses, next in gardens, and last in fields, until the persecution became so hot that they were finally driven to lonely wildernesses, where, under the nickname of “mountain men” or “hill folk,” they worshipped the God of their fathers.
Those upon whose heads the garland of suffering was first placed ” were the Gordons of Earlston, in the Glenkens, descended, like the Gordons of Kenmure, from the ancient house of Lochinvar, renowned in song, and now represented by Sir William Gordon, Baronet, of Earlston in Borgue. No place in Galloway was more identified with the five-and-twenty years’ struggle for religious liberty than the deep woods and green glades of Earlston above Dalry, the House of which is still standing, and beside it the old oak tree where the family hid from their persecutors, while close by the waters of the Ken rush madly on over great precipices into the roaring whirlpool among the dark rocks far below—fit emblem of the wild turmoil of life during that troubled period in the old Tower, past which the river for so many centuries has thundered along.
As the people would hear the Gospel only from the lips of their beloved ministers, so from their hands alone would they receive the symbols of salvation in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. At one part of its course the Garpel pours its stream over a cataract into a large circular cavity hollowed out of precipitous rocks, on which grow trees of richest foliage and flowers of rarest beauty, all faithfully reflected in the crystal waters of the eddying pool. Here the Rev. Thomas Verner, the ejected minister of Balmaclellan, baptised no fewer than thirty-six children at one time, while sentinels kept watch on the wooded heights close by—making use of this magnificent font of Nature’s own workmanship, henceforth consecrated for all time under the name of the Holy Linn, as the spot where the ordinance of baptism had in circumstances so memorable been administered.
When the Supper of our Lord was first appointed, although Himself a houseless wanderer, He caused to be provided a large upper room, furnished, where he should eat the Passover with His disciples. In the summer of 1678, in a small valley of the hill of Skeoch, in Irongray, four rows of large flat whinstones were arranged in parallel lines, at which three thousand, in relays of a hundred and twenty, received the sacred emblems of redemption, while at one end was a circular pile of stones four feet high, for a Communion table, beside which the officiating minister stood, and at the further end a smooth, green brae served as a gallery for the listening congregation, the whole forming a temple
” Whose walls were the cerulean sky,
Its floor the earth so green and fair,
The dome was vast immensity,
All nature worshipped there.”
On the neighbouring heights sentinels, commanding wide prospects of all the surrounding country, kept watch for the dragoons, of whose approach a cry of alarm was raised before dismissal. As the first Supper was held under the shadow of the cross on which the Master was soon to be slain, so this Communion was celebrated by worshippers ready to seal their testimony with their blood, and who loved not their lives unto the death. The Communion Stones of Irongray remain to this hour, each occupying the exact position in which it was placed more than two hundred years ago—thrilling memorials of the sufferings to which the Covenanters were subjected, the exalted fervour of the sentiments by which they were inspired, and the simple grandeur of the faith by which they were sustained.
The years 1684 and 1685 are known as the ” killing time,” when the soldiers, under the authority of the Privy Council, shot down, like partridges, the Cameronians throughout Galloway, without even the formality of any legal proceedings. In the secluded Glen of Trool, loveliest of all nature’s sanctuaries, a few of the persecuted, braving the cold of winter, had assembled to worship God in the quiet of a Sabbath morning, when they were suddenly surprised by the dragoons of Colonel Douglas, and six of their number shot one escaping by plunging into the lake and keeping his head above water covered by a heather bush; so that the romantic Glen of Trool is doubly hallowed as that where Bruce nobly fought for civil liberty, and these men nobly died for religious freedom. This was in 1685, and in 1688 William of Orange’s army of deliverance took up on Torbay beach the verses of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, which had been drowned by the beating of drums on the dying lips of Donald Cargill, the last of the martyrs—
“The right hand of the mighty Lord
Exalted is on high ;
The right hand of the mighty Lord
Doth ever valiantly.”
This triumphant song was followed in due time by the Revolution settlement—the firm basis on which our country’s freedom rests. This glorious consummation, more than to any other part of Scotland, was due to the exertions and the sufferings of the people of Galloway.
Over hill and dale, stream and meadow, waste moorland and mountain solitude, rocky rampart and lonely shore, with all that endless variety of scenery for which Galloway is so distinguished, the exploits of its heroes and the sufferings of its martyrs have shed an imperishable glory, which has endeared the district to all its children—in whose hearts the history of Galloway kindles through successive generations the twin flames of patriotic enthusiasm and religious devotion—
“The hero’s palm, the martyr’s crown,
The patriot’s deathless name
From age to age shall hand thee down
First in the ranks of fame.
Our fathers loved thy rugged strand,
They sleep beneath the sod ;
And mine shall be my father’s land,
And mine my father’s God.”
In addition to the hero and the martyr, the songs of the minstrel are essential to the exaltation of a land. From the Solway to the hills of Carsphairn, from the Nith, on the eastern boundary, to the Irish Channel on the west, Galloway is illuminated with the light that never was on sea or shore, the inspiration and the poet’s dream.” When Captain Alexander Montgomery lived, near the close of the sixteenth century, at Cumstone Castle, the vision of the neighbouring flooded river so possessed his soul that as soon shall the Dee cease to plunge wildly down between its precipitous wooded banks, as the world shall cease to hear the roaring sough of the Doachs of Tongland in the poet’s resounding verse—
“But as I Iuikit mine alane
I saw a river rin
Out owre a steepy rock o’ stane,
Syne lichtit in a linn—
Wi’ tumbling and rumbling
Amang the rocks around,
Into a pit profound.
Through routing of the river rang,
The rocks aye sounding like a sang
Where descant did abound—
Wi” treble, tenor, counter, mein,
While echo blew a bass between
In diapason sound.
The wooded hill of Airds, near the junction of the Dee and the Ken, overlooking a lovely landscape, where the younger of Mr M’Ghie’s two daughters, betrothed to Alexander Miller, a young surgeon, ” laid her down to sleep, wi’ thochts o’ Sandie far at sea,” has been made enchanted ground, through the simple but sublime associations so delicately depicted in Mary’s Dream.” Such are the advanced hour of the night when—
“The moon had climbed the highest steep,
That rises o’er the source of Dee.”
the silver light shed from the hill’s eastern summit on all things in the vale below—the timid question of the startled sleeper hearing her name whispered in a loving voice—the touching tale of the sinking ship when love was triumphant over death, the gradual disappearance of her drowned lover in the dawning light : and the melting tenderness of the farewell from the borders of eternity, when—
“Soft the passing spirit said,
Sweet Mary, weep no more for me!”
Over the waters of Loch Ryan may still be heard in fancy’s ear fair Annie’s pathetic cry to her lover confined in an enchanted castle on the summit of one of those insulated rocks lying along the western coast of Galloway—
“O, open the door Lord Gregory,
O, open and let me in ;
For the wind blaws through my yellow hair,
And the rain drops o’er my chin.”
Viscount Kenmure is for ever beheld riding away from the door of his castle, on that expedition which ended with a death of calm intrepidity on the scaffold at Tower Hill, in that old Jacobite ballad, which is at once the memorial of a brave man, and an inspiration of heroes for all time—
“Kenmure’s on an’ awa, Willie !
Kenmure’s on an’ awa !
An’ Kenmure’s lord’s the bravest lord
That ever Galloway saw.
Here’s Kenmure’s health in wine Willie,
Here’s Kenmure’s health in wine ;
There ne’r was a coward o’ Kenmure’s bluid,
Nor yet o’ Gordon’s line.
The moor road over which Burns rode in a thunderstorm from Kenmure Castle, while the magnificent panorama of hill and valley, shore and sea around Gatehouse opened up before him, is all aflame with the fire of the war song then composed, in which Bruce is represented charging the English army at Bannockburn with the same desperate valour he had often displayed at the head of a handful of followers in the wilds of Galloway—
“Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Liberty’s in every blow,
Let us do or die.”
The noble beech tree in the grounds of Ardwell mansion-house, so finely situated among woods in the bay of Fleet, remains a hundred years after it was condemned to be cut down, and will flourish for ever green in song, a monument of the poet’s genius, who supplied it with such a powerful and prevailing prayer, grounded on the merry sports of children, and the rapturous •vows of lovers enacted for generations beneath its shade—
“Oh ! by the sighs of gentle sound
First breathed upon this sacred ground
By all that love hath whispered here,
Or beauty heard with ravished ear;
As love’s own altar honour me.
Spare, woodman, spare the beechen tree.”
The “farm-touns ” in Wigtownshire on the banks of Blednoch and crystal Cree shine in the light of that wonderful poem, ” The Brownie of Blednoch,” with it successive displays of marvellous power.
The awe inspiring entrance of the Brownie—
“He tirled nae lang, but he glided ben
Wi’ a dreary, dreary hum.”
His account of his former strange unearthly dwelling—
” I lived in a land where we saw nae sky,
I dwalt in a spot where a burn runs nae by.”
His promise of faithful service, from the most laborious jobs about a farm to the putting asleep of babies—
“I’ll shiel a’ your sheep in the mornin’ sune,
I’ll berry your crap by the light of the mune,
And baa the bairns wi’ an unkenned tune,
If ye’ll keep puir Aiken Drum.”
Then there is the mystery which amid all his labours shrouded the Brownie, and the suspicious trembling which seized upon him whenever they placed in his sight the sacred communion cup, once belonging to M’Millan, the sainted minister of Balmaghie, and which was used as an infallible test of orthodoxy—
“But he Slade aye awa or the sun was up,
He ne’er could look straucht in M ‘Millan’s cup.
They watched—but nane saw him his brose ever sup,
Nor a spune sought Aiken Drum.”
There is the marvellous mixture of shrewdness and humour in the poet’s well counterfeited scorn of the objections raised to the whole story by an unbelieving generation—
“Awa ! ye wrangling, sceptic tribe,
Wi’ yer pros and your cons wad ye decide
‘Gainst the sponsible voice o’ a haill country side
On the facts ’bout Aiken Drum.”
Last of all, there is the triumphant exposure of the inconsistent behaviour of all doubters, whether these be found in the ranks of frivolous youth or serious age—
“E’en now light loons that jibe and jeer
At spiritual guests and a’ sic gear,
At the Glashnoch Mill ha’e swat wi’ fear,
An’ looked roun’ for Aiken Drum ;
And guidly folks ha’e gotten a fricht
When the moon was hid and the stars gae nae licht,
At the roarin’ linn in the howe o’ the nicht,
Wi’ sughs like Aiken Drum.”
At a place called Fingland, on the high eastern parts of Dairy, lived William Douglas, who wooed and won a daughter of Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelltown, in Glencairn; but the faithless beauty forsook her Galloway lover for one, Alexander Ferguson of Craigdarroch, M.P. for Dumfriesshire. That foolish proceeding of hers is long since a thing of the past, and Annie Laurie is immortally the bride of the man whom love of her turned into a poet, and who has enshrined her conquering charms in verses imperishable as his own chivalrous devotion—
“Maxwellton braes are bonnie,
Where early fa’s the dew ;
Where me and Annie Laurie
Made up the promise true.
Made up the promise true,
And ne’er forget will l,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’ll lay me down and die.
“She’s backit like the peacock,
She’s breestit like the swan,
She’s jimp about the middle,
Her waist ye weel micht span.
Her waist ye weel micht span,
And she has a rolling eye,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’ll lay me down and die.”
At the banquet in Holyrood given by James the Fourth, as told in ” Marmion,” when Lady Heron of Ford sang to her harp, the infatuated monarch hung over her enamoured, intoxicated with the passion which cost him, a few days later, the battle of Flodden. The theme of the beautiful syren’s song was the exploit of a young laird of Lochinvar, in Dalry, who, after riding from west to east, across the whole wide border, with a fine mixture of cool courage and prompt dexterity, carried off an English bride from under the very eyes of her friends, met to celebrate her marriage to an English bridegroom, so that the flower of chivalry, with its twin beauties of fidelity and valour, blooms with perennial freshness in the song upon a gallant knight belonging to the ancient and illustrious house of the Gordons of Galloway, whose living representative is their lineal descendant, Sir William Gordon, the hero of the immortal charge of the Six Hundred.
“O, young Lochinvar is come out of the West,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best ;
And save his good broadsword, he weapon had none—
He rode all unarmed and he rode all alone ;
So faithful in love and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
He stay’d not for brake and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none ;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate
The bride had consented, the gallant came late ;
For a laggard in love and a dastard in war
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
So boldly he entered the Netherby hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all ;
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word)—
O, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar
I long woo’d your daughter, my suit you denied ;
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide ;
And now I am come with this lost love of mine
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’
The bride kissed the goblet, the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup ;
She look’d down to blush, and she look’d up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand ere her mother could bar—
Now, tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar.
So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume ;
And the bride-maidens whispered—’ ‘T ‘were better by far
To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’
One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear
When they reach’d the hall door, and the charger stood near ;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung I
She is won! we are gone over bank, bush, and scaur ;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar.
There was mounting ‘mong Graemes of the Netherby clan,
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves. they rode and they ran ;
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?”
Galloway abounds with romances in real lite, many of which have been embalmed in the enchanting pages of Sir Walter Scott. About a mile from Wigtown, in a rich tract of soil called the Garden of Galloway, stands the castle of Baldoon, surrounded by fine trees, where Miss Janet Dalrymple, daughter of Lord President Stair, having been married against her will to David Dunbar, younger, in a fit of madness nearly murdered the bridegroom on her wedding night, and died herself a fortnight after. Her sad fate lamented at the time by Andrew Symson, Episcopal minister of Kirkinner, in bad verses, is now bewailed by all the world as that of Lucy Ashton in the beautiful story of the “Bride of Lammermoor.”
Helen Walker was born and was buried in the parish of Irongray, in Galloway, where an inscription on her tombstone, written by Sir Walter Scott, tells how she practised in real life all the virtues, and performed all the heroic actions ascribed in the Heart of Midlothian ” to Jeanie Deans, that most delightful of all heroines of romance.
Robert Paterson, ” Old Mortality,” spent forty years in repairing, without fee or reward, the martyrs’ stones throughout Galloway, and was found expiring on the highway, the old white pony, the companion of all his wanderings, standing by the side of his dying master. This humble individual furnished a title to one of the most powerful of the Waverley Novels. His daughter-in-law, the widow of a son Who emigrated to America, became Marchioness of Wellesley, and his grand-daughter was the wife of Prince Jerome Buonaparte.
The son of Sir Robert Maxwell, of Orchardton, was sent when very young to the College of Douay in France, where he was kept in ignorance of his position by an uncle, who took possession of the estate. At the age of sixteen he ran away, and having joined a French regiment, he was sent to Scotland to assist Prince Charlie in the Jacobite rebellion. Wounded at Culloden, he lurked in the wilds of Lochaber a whole summer, suffering the greatest hardships, made his way to Galloway through incredible difficulties, with the view of escaping to France by sea, was thrown into prison, and sentenced to be shot as a rebel on the very borders of his native home, was recognised by an old domestic, who identified him by means of a mark upon his body, and restored to his estate, which he enjoyed for forty years, the ornament and delight of the country side but now held in everlasting remembrance as Harry Berlram of ” Guy Mannering,” who was carried off by the smugglers at the age of five, and restored long after to his estate, when the prophecy that lingered in his mind from childhood was fulfilled—
” The dark shall be light,
And the wrong made right,
When Bertram’s right and Bertram’s might
Shall meet on Ellangowan’s height.”
In the brave old smuggling days there was a Dutch skipper, named Yawkins, who was landing his cargo of contraband goods at the Manxman’s Lake, near Kirkcudbright, when two revenue cutters, the Pigmy ” and ” Dwarf,” were seen entering the bay from different sides. The dauntless freetrader bore down between the luggers, tossed his hat on the deck of one and his wig on that of the other, hoisted a cask to his maintop to show his occupation, and bore away, under an extraordinary pressure of canvas, uninjured. This adventurer enjoys a world-wide celebrity under the name of Dirk Hatteraick, whose cave, near Ravenshall, underneath steep cliffs, covered with wild flowers, was the scene of his betrayal by Meg Merrilees, when the gipsy dropped a firebrand on the burning flax, which rose in a vivid pyramid of the most brilliant light up to the very top of the vault, while Meg uttered the fateful words, ” The hour’s come, and the man.” Both Fenimore Cooper, the American novelist, and Allan Cunningham have chosen as the hero of romances Paul Jones, celebrated for his reckless daring on that cruise Of the “Ranger” when he made a descent on St. Mary’s Isle, and the Volunteers from Kirkcudbright wasted much powder and many bullets on the jutting point of a rock, which they took for the longboat of the “Ranger.” This famous Gallovidian, born of humble parents in the parish of Kirkbean, was the first to hoist, with his own hand, the Stars and Stripes, a standard so often bravely defended since then on many seas, and he is held in deathless honour by the American nation as the father of their Navy.
Besides these, Galloway is filled with romances in real life, whose lustre is none the less brilliant that it owes nothing to the art of the novelist. There is Alexander Murray, who was born among the barren wilds of Minnigaff, in a shepherd’s hut, far from any other dwelling, at the foot of a high mountain (Kitterick), which prevented them for six weeks in winter from seeing the sun. He learned the alphabet from letters made on a wool-card by means of a half-burned sprig of heather (a “birn “); and with no more than a few months at New-Galloway of a school education, rose to be Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of Edinburgh, and left behind him, at the age of thirty-seven, a name illustrious in the foremost ranks of learning. There is John Loudon M’Adam, himself born at Ayr, and buried at Moffat, but whose ancestors for ages were the M’Adams of Waterhead, in Carsphairn, occupying a house romantically situated on the river Deugh, beside the famous Lagwine Well, formerly called The Green Well of Scotland “—a well of immense depth and thirty feet in circumference, in the middle of a solid rock, whose waters were resorted to by multitudes for the cure of their diseases. His mother was a niece of the heoric Grizel Cochrane, who saved her father’s life by twice intercepting the mails and seizing his death warrants. This John M’Adam revolutionised the important art of making roads, by covering their surface with stones broken into small pieces, and his name is held in constant remembrance by a new word, macadamize,” of daily use in the speech of mankind. There are the Faed brothers, born in a cottage at Barlay Mill, near Gatehouse, who, by the force of their genius have acquired a world-wide fame as the interpreters upon canvass of that lowly Scottish life which has been the source of the highest inspiration both to painters and to poets.
Of the more singular episodes in the history of Galloway, there was the remarkable socialistic movement of the Levellers, who, when fields first began to be enclosed, and many families were in consequence ejected from their dwellings, perambulated Galloway in companies of fifty, each man furnished with a strong “kent,” eight feet long, which he fixed into the dyke at a certain distance from the foundation and from his neighbour, and when the captain bawled out Ow’r wi’t, boys,” over it tumbled, with a shout that might have been heard for miles.
Still hiore remarkable was the fanatical movement of the “Buchanites,” who established themselves in Kirkpatrick-Durham, and there founded the village of Crocketford. Their leader, Luckie Buchan, persuaded them that they would all be taken up to heaven on a certain day, when they took their station on platforms, with the hair of their heads cut short all but a tuft on the top for the angels to catch by when drawing them up, but a gust of wind capsized Mrs Buchan, platform and all, upon the cold ground, instead of wafting them to the regions of bliss.
It would take long to tell of the many younger men who have sustained the reputation of Galloway in the delightful domain of art, or of the modern bards who have made the hills and valleys of their native province resound with song. One of the lays of George G. B. Sproat, wedded to the music of George Faed Hornsby, has been sung amid tumults of applause at many a festive meeting—
“Land o’ birk and rowan tree,
Land o’ fell and forest free,
Land that’s aye sae dear to me,
Malcolm M’Lachlan Harper, poet, painter, and descriptive writer, has, by his Rambles in Galloway,” laid all lovers of the district under an everlasting debt of gratitude.
There is not room to speak of the vast improvement in agriculture and all the comforts of life, which, together with the free and hospitable manners of the people, have made Galloway the most delightful of dwellings anywhere to be found. But from all that has been said we cannot wonder that love of country has been more strongly felt here than in almost any other part of Scotland; that the many new inhabitants settled in the district speak of it with rapture ; and that all the world is at present engaged with the glories of Galloway in the pages of the author of the “Raiders,” one of Galloway’s most distinguished sons. We, who have been occupying our minds with the ancient province, its natural beauty, its noble history, its thrilling songs, and the many golden links connecting it with our country’s literature, will understand the enthusiastic reception so long accorded by gatherings of Gallovidians throughout the land to the toasts—
“GALLOWAY FOR EVER,”
“THE HEALTH 0′ A’ THE WIVES, WEANS, AND LASSIES
0′ GALLOWAY, FRAE THE BRIG EN’ 0′ DUMFRIES
TO THE BRAES 0′ GLENAPP.”
printed by J. H. Maxwell, Castle-Douglas.