Prehistoric and Early Times
The early inhabitants of the Borgue area did not leave many traces of their lives here. There are Cup & Ring Marks inscribed on rock outcrops at Kirkandrews, High Chapelton, Plunton and Clauchendolly.
The British Rock Art Collection web site has some good photographs and descriptions of cup & ring and other similar artifacts.
The ‘Bone Cave‘ in the sea cliffs near Borness was excavated between 1872 and 1878. It was found to contain numerous animal bone fragments along with human remains and artifacts, probably dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries.
There are several Iron Age forts and mottes (motes) in Borgue. The best preserved is at Castle Haven, on the coast near Kirkandrews. Boreland Mote is a well preserved earthwork near High Borgue farm. Borness Batteries is a promontory fort with banks and ditches on the coast near Brighouse Bay. There is a homestead on the coast near Muncraig and a fort at Barn Heugh near Kirkandrews although not much of their structures remain to be seen now.
Borgue has three church sites that date back to the 12th century. The present Borgue Church was built in 1814 on the site of previous churches that can be traced back to before 1170. Kirkandrews Church originally belonged to Iona and was established in the 1100s. The Kirkandrews parish was united with Borgue parish in 1670 and the church was abandoned. Fragments of the original church are now incorporated into family grave sites in the churchyard. Senwick Church was established before the 1300s but is now ruined. It was united with Borgue parish along with Kirkandrews in 1670.
Excavations in the 1960s found evidence of a medieval burial ground and chapel on Ardwall Island.
16th to 19th Centuries
16th Century: Plunton Castle, Balmangan Tower, Original Knockbrex??
17th Century: Borgue Old House
18th Century: Barmagachan, Cairniehill Farmhouse, Horsemill & Barn, Low Carlton Farmhouse & Mill, Margrie House
19th Century: Borgue Church (1814) Borgue Hotel, Earlston House (1816-1954) & Stables, Chapelton Row, Conchieton, Little Ross Lighthouse & Cottage, Senwick House
Smuggling (from the Story of Knockbrex)
The eighteenth century will always be remembered for the smugglers. There is evidence that the fair traders (smugglers) habitually used to land their goods on the shore near Knockbrex. It was Charles Lamb who wrote:- “I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief. He robs nothing but the revenue–an abstraction I never greatly cared about.” But even Adam Smith described him as a “a person who, though no doubt highly blamable for violating the laws of this country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice; and would have been in every respect an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so.” It is probable, however, that most people who connived at the Free Trade were not influenced so much by moral philosophy as by politics, and, most of all, by domestic economy. If they felt any prickings of conscience to begin with at breaking the law of the land, they supplied absolution to themselves by reflecting that they were assisting men who were to be regarded as benefactors by supplying a better quality of goods at a cheaper rate than those which paid duty.
Dr J. Maxwell Wood in his book, ‘Smuggling in the Solway’, tells of a smuggling firm as far back as 1670. But the general public began to look on smuggling as a lucrative investment in 1725, when the Government began to enforce an impost, which had hitherto been evaded, of sixpence on every bushel of malt. The Scottish people were incensed at this interference with their home-brewed ale. There were fierce riots in Glasgow, and the Edinburgh brewers went on strike. The general discontent was fanned by those politicians who saw in it an opportunity to repeal the hated Act of Union of 1707. This was the heyday of the fair traders. Luggers brought cargoes of wine, brandy, and tea from Holland, France and Spain, and changed the drinking habits of the people of Scotland in a few months.
The second great wave in the history of smuggling came in 1792, when the Government had to resort to very high taxation in order to carry on the war with America and France. Now the laird and farmers on the Knockbrex estate were in the very zone of temptation. On a day clear to the south can be seen the Isle of Man. During the eighteenth century it claimed exemption from duty on certain importations. It thus became the chief centre of the free-traders. Stores of tea, brandy, rum, gin, tobacco, lace, silk and salt were conveyed there. At a spring tide in the night time a small flotilla of open boats each carrying some two dozen small casks would arrive off the Borgue shore and disperse for Ross Bay, Brighouse Bay, Kirkandrews Bay, Ardwall Isle, Carrick Bay, Castle Hayne and the like.
Covenanters in Borgue
Kirkandrews was a stronghold of the Solemn League and Covenant in the 17th century and several parishioners were executed for opposing the appointment of bishops. In 1666, John and Robert Gordon, the sons of Alexander Gordon of Knockbrex and William Gordon from Roberton took part in a Covenanters’ march on Edinburgh, leading to a confrontation with the King’s troops at Rullion Green. William Gordon was killed in the fight. The Gordon brothers were captured and later executed. There are more details in the Story of Knockbrex.
Robert McWhae, of Kirkandrews, was ‘barbarously shot to death by Captane Douglash’ in his garden in 1685. He is commemorated by a gravestone in Kirkandrews churchyard.
Victorian to Modern Times
The lighthouse on Little Ross island was built in 1843 by Alan Stevenson of the famous lighthouse-building family.
The main impact in Borgue in late Victorian times was the arrival of James Brown to the Knockbrex Estate. From 1895 until his death in 1920, James Brown undertook a program of renovation and building many properties in Borgue.
The Borgue War Memorial is an imposing granite cross with Celtic decorations that stands in front of the Borgue Hotel. Follow the link below for more information
Other History Links
Several ships have been wrecked off the Borgue coast over the years. The most prominent is the wreck of the schooner ‘The Monreith‘ in Goat Well Bay, a few hundred metres off the Dhoon beach. She was built in Port William in 1880. She was on a voyage from Newcastle, County Down to Silloth on 12th November 1900, carrying 110 tons of granite kerb stones when she put into Kirkcudbright Bay and struck the bar. Her crew all got safely ashore in the ship’s boat. Today her ribs can still be seen when the tide is low but watch out for quicksand and rapidly rising tides if you are venturing out to take a look at the wreck. There is a memorial plaque near the car park at the Dhoon beach.
The 19th century brigantine Philippa was stranded on Milton Sands, off Senwick on 18th December 1855 and subsequently broke up under the action of waves and tides. Wreckage is visible along the rocky shoreline below Senwick Woods.
The three-masted, 400 ton steamer ‘Truda’ was driven onto the rocks on the west side of Barlocco Island at the west side of the island in a violent storm on 27th February 1903. Five of the nine-man crew were rescued but the other four were drowned and buried in Kirkcudbright.