Posted by: Jim Bell | March 13, 2011

The “Old Bridge” of Dumfries.

Many a “Galloway man” and woman hath crossed the Nith on the “auld brig o’ Dumfries,” who perhaps don’t know that this (now) “Auld Brig” was built by a “Galloway woman!”

This old bridge, consisting of nine arches, measures 400 feet in length, 13 feet and a half in breadth, and is, in height, from the top of the parapet to the water, 26 feet.

Till the present spacious new bridge was built, this “old bridge” bore aboon the broo all the communication betwixt Dumfriesshire and Galloway.

This very “old bridge” was built by Devorgilla, third daughter to Allan, Lord of Galloway. She died A.D. 1269. She was wife to John Baliol of Castle Bernard. She was also mother to John Baliol, at one time king of Scotland. Besides building this bridge over the Nith, she built the beautiful abbey of “Sweetheart.”

She left a daughter of her own name, whose daughter was mother of John Cummin. John Cummin, for his treachery, was assassinated by Robert de Bruce, in the Greyfriars’ Church at Dumfries. The daughter of Cummin was married to Archibald, the fifth Earl of Douglas. Archibald, by his marriage, when the Baliols and Cummins were extinct, was lineal heir to Allan, Lord of Galloway. Thus did the Douglasses become lords of Galloway.

When the Lady Devorgilla built this bridge at Dumfries, she imposed certain tolls and customs to be levied on all cattle, fish, corn, and merchandise passing there. To Archibald, Earl of Douglas, and Lord of Galloway, the bridge, tolls, and customs, by descent devolved. They are supposed to have continued in his family till 1425, when they were granted by Margaret, a daughter of the Douglasses, to the Friar’s Minor of Dumfries. Indeed the street which passed, and yet passes, from the eastern end of this bridge, is still named Friars’ Vennel.

Margaret was very beautiful. According to the custom of the time, she was designated the “Fair Maid of Galloway.”

Thus the Nith and its beautiful neighbourhood presents many “lights and shadows” of the family of Galloway. Lincluden College – Sweetheart Abbey – the old Bridge of Dumfries – all bring reminiscences of the “days that are gone.”

Nor is it hurtful or hapless to recal such recollections. The “Old Bridge” yet stands. Lincluden yet bears marks of its former greatness. And the fine ruins of Sweetheart Abbey, (at no distant vicinity), may long remain a monument of domestic affection!

Lights and shadows of Scottish character and scenery



  1. Really enjoying these stories and passing them on to friends…truly amazing they all relate to Dumfries and Galloway…well done!!

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