The Book of Kirkpatrick - Durham, Kirkcudbrightshire
by William A. Stark, F.S.A.
Minister of the Parish
Published - CastleDouglas: Adam Rae, 1903

Chapter IX. - State of Affairs about 1750

There is a long period during which little or no light can be thrown upon the condition of the people. In the absence of books or records, no historical information is obtainable. Agriculture would seem to have been conducted in very primitive ways. Until after the Rebellion of 1715 the land was unconfined by fence or wall; tenants on all properties had common rights of pasture; drainage was unknown. But a new system began to arise. Mr. Maxwell of Munches, [1] writing in 1811, describes the first beginnings of the improvements, which, unfortunately, were accompanied with disorder.

"That same year [1722] many of the proprietors enclosed their grounds to stock them with blank cattle, and by that means turned out a large number of tenants at the term of Whitsunday, 1723, whereby numbers of them became destitute, and in consequence rose in a mob, when with pitchforks, gavellocks. and spades, they levelled the park dykes of Barncalzie and Munches at Dalbeattie, which I saw with my own eyes. The mob passed by Dalbeattie and Buittle, and did the same on the estate of Dunrod and [of] laird Murdoch, then proprietor of Kilquhanady, who turned out 16 familes at that time. The proprietors rose with their servants and dependants to quell the mob ... and sent for two troops of dragoons from Edinburgh, and after their appearing the mob dispersed. After that warrants were granted for apprehending many of the tenants and persons concerned in the said mob; several of them were tried; those of them who had any funds were fined; some were banished to the plantations, while others were imprisioned, and it brought great distress upon this part of the country."

Some suffered, as was inevitable, but much progress was made in the way of clearing and draining arable land, fencing, building houses, and settling farmers. Many persons (among whom was Robert Maxwell, [2] son of the proprietor of Arkland) gave much thought to the science of agriculture, and many improvements were effected.

In 1725 potatoes were first introduced into the Stewartry. During the eighteenth century attention was directed to the state of the roads, which were few and badly kept. The only direct road from Edinburgh in 1725 [3] is thus indicated:

"The way from Edinburgh to Kirkcudbright comes by Penpont, Glencairn, then Girriston (about two miles and a half north of Mule), and then to the Mule, through the gate betwixt Mule and Margloly in Irongray; thence south through Kilpatrick Mure, called the Galagate; thence to the Church; thence to Bridge of Urr, to Carlingwark, &c.

The main road through the parish, alluded to in the preceding extract, was supplemented by one coming from west to east, which passed by Arkland, through Corsegate, by the east side of Blackloch, over Barmoffaty Hill, and past East Barmoffaty. It then struck across through the field and glebe, and so to the Church, and on to Bridge of Urr.

Probably in the early part of the eighteenth century the Old Bridge of Urr was widened. Standing below it, one can see that it was originally only half its present width, in fact not wider then to give room for foot-passengers or a horse. On the older part, which looks down the river, there are two inserted stones bearing coats of arms. Mr Skirving of Croys, who has carefully investigated the subject, gives as his opinion that one of these are the Royal Arms of Scotland, the lion and crown, with the initials of King James VI., and on the other the arms of M'Naught of Kilquhanity, while below is the (partly conjectural) date of 1580. It is possible that this older part of the bridge was built by John M'Naught of Kilquhanity, and that he was compelled to do so by royal command because the murder of William Sinclair. [4]

There is a tradition that the later portion of this bridge was built of stones which were brought from the ruins of Buittle Castle, further down the river. The tradition is supported by the fact - unfortunately obscured by building operations in 1894 - that in the foundation of this part of the bridge there are stones which showed that they had been taken from dungeon windows, for the holes were quite apparent where the iron bars had been.

In addition to the main road described already, which ran through the parish from north to south, another road crossed from west to east. This was a part of the road from New-Galloway to Dumfries, It passed "by Trowhen, Knockdrocket, [5] then a little north of Lochenkit till they come to Galagate, and then follow it southward till within about half a mile of Easter Marwhirn, and so on to Larg and then to Dumfries." [6]

This road had been made about 1698, and fenced in consequence of frequent affrays between drovers and farmers, whose crops were injured by the traveling cattle. [7]

It is interesting to know that in the early half of the eighteenth century there was a weekly market at the Bridge of Urr, and also an annual fair on the same day as the Rood fair in Dumfries. On St. Patrick's day every year "Patrick's Mass Fair" was held at the Church. [6]

The progress of improvement in the general condition of the people was no doubt very gradual. It was assisted in various ways; not least by steps which were taken towards the building of a school. As late as 1748 there was no school house. The day school was held in the church. However, as a new church was being built, the heritors decided that some other place must be found for the school.

In 1755, according to the calculation of Rev. Dr Webster, Edinburgh, the chief statistical authority of his day, the whole population of the parish was 699.

(pages 40-43)
[1] New Statistical Account: Parish of Buittle, VIII., 512; and Sir H. Maxwell's Dumfries and Galloway, page 303.
[2] An interesting notice of Robert Maxwell occuring in the Edinburgh Scotsman of 26 December, 1895.
[3] Macfarlane MS.
[4] See page 19.
[5] Near Crogo Tower.
[6] Macfarlane MS.
[7] Sir H. Maxwell: Dumfries and Galloway, p. 302.

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