Posted by: Jim Bell | December 31, 2011

Some Dumfriesshire MI’s

The Holywood Churchyard MI’s are listed on Rootsweb.
Well worth a check if your ancestors came from eastern Kirkcudbrightshire.

Canonbie Churchyard MI’s on Flickr

Posted by: Jim Bell | December 31, 2011

William Alexander Blain, born Blate’s Mill, Laurieston

William Alexander Blain was born c.1852 at Blate’s Hill near Laurieston in Galloway, south west Scotland and grew up in Ferguslie, then a thatched cottage, Dalry, Galloway. When he was thirteen he went to work as a shepherd for a Mr. Johnston, Barndennoch, near Carsphairn. For thirteen years he followed shepherding in the Galloway Hills. However, “Saw little prospect of saving enough to shield me from poverty in my old age.” “my object in going to the colonys was to get hold of that glorious privilege of being independent.”. In 1878 he met Mr.John McCall in Dumfries who engaged shepherds for the Falkland Islands Company and agreed £65 per annum, free passage and return after five years. He sailed from London on the “Vicar of Bray” and worked for Bellion Bros. on the West Falklands for six years. In 1884 he was invited by Thomas Greenshields to start up a sheep ranch at Monte Dinero in Patagonia. Following Mr. Greenshields death, in 1889 Blain sold his own flock of sheep and accepted a job as sub-manager to a Mr. Wales who was establishing a sheep ranch in Indian territory in northern Tierra del Fuego. (A letter among Blain’s papers is headed “Mont. E. Wales, Tierra del Fuego Sheep Farming Company). Apart from an intervening period on Navarino Island, Blain worked for Wales until 1898. He then returned to Dalry – “and here I have remained” and settled in Main Street, next to his boyhood home. Blain died in 1924 aged seventy two years. He stayed a bachelor in Patagonia – “Neither heathen squaw or Chilean maid will be Mrs. Blain.” – but later married in Scotland and had a son, W.J.Blain.

William Blain’s papers were gifted by the family to the National Archives of Scotland The most important items are: narrative notebooks written in ink describing his times in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego; a daily diary for an early period, which begins at Useful Hill, Patagonia, and gives a detailed description of shepherding on the camp and the people he met, including Scots; a substantial list of the names of Indians and of the English equivalents of Indian words for a whole number of everyday terms; and an article based on his father’s records and submitted by his son on his father’s life in the Falklands, published in the Falkland Islands Journal, 1981.

For content of his diary visit the Scots in Argentina website.


Apart from some minor changes the original text has been retained. A few translations of Spanish words have been noted and question marks indicate obscure spellings, e.g. of ships and names.

Posted by: Jim Bell | December 26, 2011

Oddfellows – M. U., No. 5279. – Funeral of a Member

An Article from the Dumfries & Galloway Standard and Advertiser – June 4th 1870

On Sabbath last, a funeral took place in connection with the Loyal Sir George Abercrombie Lodge of Oddfellows, Castle Douglas, on the occasion of the death of Brother Hugh Dick. At the hour appointed, the brethren, numbering about 40, met in their Lodge-Room, and, after the service on such occasions, marched in procession to the residence of the deceased, at Dildawn, where service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. McKay, Castle Douglas. The procession was then re-formed, the brethren walking in uniform, followed by the hearse, chief mourners, and a great number of gentlemen belonging to the district. At the churchyard nearly one thousand people had assembled to witness the interment, and on the hearse arriving at the gate the coffin was borne on the shoulders of four of the brethren of the Lodge preceded by two brothers of the deceased, who are also members of the Order, followed by his father and other chief mourners, the other members of the Lodge drawing up on each side. On the coffin being lowered into it’s resting place by the immediate friends of the deceased and the officers of the Lodge a service adapted for the occasion was read by P. G. M. G. Black. Sprigs of thyme were dropped on the coffin. After which the procession returned to the Lodge-Room.

Posted by: Jim Bell | December 21, 2011

The STEWARTRY of Kirkcudbright

STEWARTRY, the name which was given in Scotland to a district governed by a steward, an officer appointed by the king with jurisdiction over crown lands, and powers similar to those of a lord of regality. While the civil jurisdiction of a steward was equivalent to that of a sheriff, his criminal jurisdiction was much more extensive. The only remaining trace of this jurisdiction exists in the term stewartry, which in place of county is applied to the district of Kirkcudbright.

Galloway was in early times rather a tributary dependency of Scotland than an integral portion of the kingdom, and retained its old Celtic proprietary, and peculiar laws and usages, which were adverse to the introduction of a sheriffdom. It was for a long time ruled by a line of lords, who were among the most powerful feudatories of the Scottish crown. The Comyns, who in the course of time succeeded to the lordship, were overthrown and expatriated by Bruce ; and it seems to have been on their forfeiture that Eastern and Central Galloway were erected into the present stewartry. Western Galloway being already under the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Wigton. On the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in 1747, various regalities and baronies which had existed within the district were done away with, and the emancipated stewartry was placed under a steward-depute, whose functions were in every practical point of view the same as those of a sheriff-depute. Act I Vict. c.39, declares that in any existing or future statute the words sheriff, sheriff-clerk, &c. shall be held to apply to steward, steward-clerk, &c.

Chamber’s Encyclopaedia, 1838.

Posted by: Jim Bell | December 17, 2011

Our New Website

The main website for the historical articles, gazetteer etc has been move away from the kirkyards website to  The Monumental Inscriptions index remains on the Kirkyards site –

Posted by: Jim Bell | April 4, 2011

Clavehouse’s Dragoons

The following was written by the editor of The Lowland Scots Regiments : their origin, character and services previous to the great war of 1914, Sir Herbert Maxwell.

In my youth I heard a story which was current in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright; whether truth or fiction, it illustrates the vitality of the Covenanters’ tradition in that district. It was told of a hill shepherd who, according to custom, was reading the Scripture aloud to his wife before going to bed. The chapter chosen happened to be Revelation xii. When he came to the third verse:

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great reid dragoon.”

“Ye maun be wrang there, lad,” interrupted the wife; “there never was a dragoon in heaven; it wad be nae place for him.”

“It maun be sae, wife,” replied her husband, “it maun be sae; for it’s in the written Word, ye ken.”

“Atweel,” rejoined the other, “if it’s in the Word it maun be sae; but here’s ae thing I ken it wisna yen o’ Claverse’s dragoons.”

The gudeman resumed his reading, and went on till he came to the ninth verse:

“And the great dragoon was cast oot.”

“I tell’t ye that, lad,” broke in the wife shrilly, “I tell’t ye that! He widna bide in Heaven lang; it was nae place for him!”

The Lowland Scots Regiments : their origin, character and services previous to the great war of 1914,  by Sir Herbert Maxwell.


Posted by: Jim Bell | March 23, 2011

Samuel Rutherford, minister at Anwoth

The following extract on the life of Rutherford is taken from the introduction to a collection of his letters published in 1850.

THE writer of these letters was born about 1600, in the south of Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh, where he received the degree of Master of Arts in 1621, and where soon after he was appointed Professor of Humanity. Leaving this office in 1625, he was settled in the ministry the same year at Anwoth, in Kirkcudbrightshire. Men said of him here, “he is always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechizing, always writing and studying.” The fame of his labors was spread far and wide. “There is a tradition that Archbishop Usher, passing through Galway (Galloway), turned aside on a Saturday to enjoy the congenial society of Rutherford. He came, however, in disguise, and being welcomed as a guest, took his place with the rest of the family when they were catechized, as was usual that evening. The stranger was asked, How many commandments are there? His reply was, eleven. The pastor corrected him; but the stranger maintained his position, quoting our Lord’s words, ‘a new commandment give I unto you, that you love one another.’ They retired to rest, all interested in the stranger. Sabbath morning dawned, Rutherford arose and repaired for meditation to a walk that bordered on a thicket but was startled by hearing the voice of prayer,—prayer too, from the heart and in behalf of the souls of the people that day to assemble. It was no other than the holy Archbishop Usher; and soon they came to an explanation, for Rutherford had begun to suspect he had ‘entertained angels unawares.’ With great mutual love they conversed together, and, at the request of Rutherford, the Archbishop went up to the pulpit, conducted the usual service of the Presbyterian pastor, and preached on the New Commandment.”

Rutherford was a man of learning. In 1636, he published an elaborate treatise on Grace, against the Arminians, in Latin. Its title was “Exercitationes de Gratia.” It was received with great favor at Amsterdam, and the author was invited to occupy the chair of Professor of Divinity at Utrecht. In the same year, he was called before the High Commission Court, because of non-conformity to the acts of Episcopacy, and because of his works against the Arminians. He was deprived of his ministerial office and banished to Aberdeen. This town was at that time the strong-hold of Episcopacy and Arminianism, and in it the state of religion was very low. The clergy and doctors took the opportunity of Rutherford’s arrival to commence a series of attacks on the doctrines he held. But in disputation he foiled them and when many began to feel drawn to his earnest dealing in private exhortations, there was a proposal made to remove him from the town. He was confined in Aberdeen about two years, and nearly two-thirds of the letters in this collection were written during this period. In 1638, affairs took a new turn in Scotland, and he was released. Although desirous to return to his parish at Anwoth, he was constrained by the united opinion of his brethren to remove to the Professor’s Chair in St. Andrews—which he did in 1639, having made a stipulation that he might be permitted to preach every Sabbath in his new sphere. The University under his care greatly flourished, so that it was said, “it became a Lebanon out of which were taken cedars for building the house of God throughout the land.” In 1643, he was sent as one of the Commissioners from Scotland to the Westminster Assembly of Divines, where he continued for four years. On his return he resumed his labors at St. Andrews with all his former zeal. In 1660, his work, entitled, “Lex Rex,” was taken notice of by government—it was burnt, first at Edinburgh by the hands of the hangman, and then some days after by the hands of the infamous Sharpe, under the windows of the author’s college at St . Andrews. He was deposed from all his offices and summoned to answer at next parliament on a charge of high treason. But it was too late—he was on his death-bed; he returned for answer, that he behooved to answer his first summons, and that ere their day arrived, he should be where few kings and great folks come. He died, March 20, 1661.

New Englander and Yale Review


Posted by: Jim Bell | March 23, 2011

Farm Worker Accommodation in the 1860’s

Whilst looking through early census return the lists of house occupiers seems neat, tidy and comfortable. The following item, from 1862, introduces a very different view of the harsh living conditions of many Stewartry people.

AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS’ COTTAGES.— Slowly but surely, says the Scottish Farmer, the small, ricketty, damp, ill-lighted, and badly-ventilated dwellings of the agricultural labourers are disappearing, and in their stead are rising dwellings more in keeping with the increase of wealth and intelligence which a quarter of a century of agricultural prosperity have brought. Some districts have advanced much further in the good work than others. In the best there are, perhaps, not more than one half of the houses of farm-servants of that one-room type which a previous generation of farmers regarded as quite good enough for their men, and the men themselves did not object to on the score of want of comfort in any shape. In other districts, however, it is still rare to see a neat new cottage for ploughmen.

The upper portion of Kirkcudbrightshire might be mentioned as one where as yet little has been done in the way of cottage accommodation. There we still find cottages built of dry stone, the walls differing from a dyke in no other way than in having some lime thrown in a slap-dash way in the interstices on the outside. Drainage there is none, notwithstanding which, the houses are often built in a hollow some feet beneath the road which runs in front of them, and, as the floors are composed of nothing but natural soil, they are in a very sloppy state in winter. A foot-square window is in many instances the only source of light, if we except the door, which, to prevent suffocation by smoke, is usually left open. Numerous houses have no grates, the peats being built up on the floor, beneath where a hole in the roof does — or rather we should say, is intended to, but does not — do duty as a chimney. As might be expected, the furniture of such houses is usually in keeping with the character of the accommodation they afford. A box-bed, and one composed of slabs from the saw mill; a chest or two for clothes, three or four stools, a couple of home-made chairs, and a clock of the description there known as a “wag-at-the-wa’,” are often all the plenishing. The inmates are not to blame, for any better would be sadly out of place, and glued articles would be destroyed in a week in such hovels. In these wretched dwellings there can be little or no real home comfort.

The occupants, too, are not an ignorant class at all. There is no county in Scotland where education is so highly appreciated, the children beneath those miserable roofs receiving a good school instruction, Latin and French being often added to English in the case of boys. We doubt, however, whether the people are so fully alive to the miseries of their accommodation as their class in some other counties would be. We say this, because we find respectable tradesmen with a bit of land, a couple of cows and an account at the bank, living in houses with little more pretension to comfort. This is no valid excuse, however, for proprietors in Kirkcudbrightshire neglecting that which landlords in other counties are beginning to do. When we make a thorough inspection of the condition of the farm-servants in Kirkcudbrightshire — as we hope to be able to do during the summer or autumn—we trust we shall be able to report more favourably upon the county generally than concerning the small portion to which we paid a hasty visit the other day, and where we noticed no change within the last fifteen years, except, indeed, that some old houses had been knocked down and no new ones erected in their stead.

External Link

Building news and architectural review 1862 – Google Books

Posted by: Jim Bell | March 18, 2011

Kirkcudbright born Numismatist

Robert Andrew Glendinning Carson, museum curator and numismatist: born Kirkcudbright 7 April 1918; Assistant Keeper, Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum 1947-65, Deputy Keeper 1965-78, Keeper 1978-83; FBA 1980; married 1949 Fransisca De Vries (one son, one daughter); died Sydney, New South Wales 24 March 2006. Robert Carson was the leading British expert of his generation on Roman coins. He joined the staff of the British Museum as Assistant Keeper of Roman Coins in the Department of Coins and Medals in 1947, a few months after his life-long colleague Kenneth Jenkins, an expert in Greek coins. [more]


Posted by: Jim Bell | March 18, 2011

Robert Littlejohn of Castle Douglas.

LITTLEJOHN, Robert, of 8, Cavendish Square, London, W., and of the Constitutional, Caledonian, and Gresham Clubs, is the son of the late Robert Littlejolin, Castle Douglas, N.B., and was born in 1855. He began his business career in the service of the Bank of Scotland, and went to S.A. in 1883 to take up a banking appointment there. He was Gen. Manager of the African Banking Corporation in S.A. from 1891 to the end of 1900, when he joined the Board of Directors of that bank in London. He is also a director of other co’s. connected with S.A. His recreations are golf, shooting, etc.

The Anglo-African who’s who and biographical sketch-book

Note: Robert Littlejohn senior lived in Castle Douglas where he had an Aerated Water business (1881 census).

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