Kirkmahoe


Kirkmahoe
   KIRKMAHOE, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 3½ miles (N.) from Dumfries; containing, with the villages of Dalswinton, Duncow, and Kirkton, 1568 inhabitants. The appellation of this parish is of doubtful origin; but it is supposed to have been derived from the position of its ancient church in a valley, or near the course of the river Nith. The place is of considerable antiquity. In the fourteenth century, according to ancient records, the monks of Arbroath obtained from David II. a grant of "the church of Kirkmaho, in the diocese of Glasgow," the patronage of which, however, appears to have been retained by the Stewarts, who had succeeded the Cumins in the barony of Dalswinton. In 1429, the rectory was constituted one of the prebends of the bishopric of Glasgow, with the consent of Marion Stewart, the heiress of Dalswinton, of Sir John Forrester, her second husband, and of William Stewart, her son and heir; and the Stewart family long continued to be patrons of this prebend. At the Reformation, the rectory of Kirkmahoe was held by John Stewart, second son of the patron, Sir Alexander Stewart, of Garlies. In the seventeenth century, the patronage passed, with the barony of Dalswinton, from the Stewarts, earls of Galloway, to the Earl of Queensberry, in whose family it remained until, in the year 1810, it came to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry.
   The lands were portioned in ancient times into the four large estates of Dalswinton, Duncow or Duncol, Milnhead or Millhead, and Carnsalloch, with which the historical memorials of the parish are mostly interwoven. The estate of Dalswinton, or "the Dale of Swinton," was first possessed by the Cumins: in 1250, Sir John Cumin held this manor as well as that of Duncol, and gave the monks the liberty of a free passage through the lands of the two manors to their granges in the west. On the accession of Bruce, Dalswinton was granted to Walter Stewart, third son of Sir John Stewart, of Jedworth; and it remained in the family till 1680, when, with some exceptions, the barony was disposed of to the Earl of Queensberry. The estate afterwards came to the Maxwells, by whom, at the latter end of the last century, it was sold to the late Patrick Miller, Esq. It contains 4100 acres, and comprehends about one-third part of the parish. The barony of Duncow was forfeited by the Cumins, like that of Dalswinton, on the accession of Bruce, and given to Robert Boyd. In 1550, Robert, Lord Maxwell, was returned as owner of it in right of his father, of the same name and title; and it continued in the family until sixty years ago, when it was sold to various persons. It was in this village that James V. spent the night before he paid the angry visit, recorded by historians, to Sir John Charteris, of Amisfield: the site of the cottage where the king slept, near the Chapel hill, was pointed out by a large stone which remained there till about forty years ago. The estate of Millhead was possessed in 1700 by Bertha, wife of Robert Brown, of Bishopton, and heiress of Homer Maxwell, of Kilbean, from which family it passed, about 1810, to Frederick Maxwell, Esq.: it contains 1061 acres. Carnsalloch, in 1550, belonged to Robert, Lord Maxwell, whose family held it till 1750, when it was sold to P. Johnston, Esq.
   The parish is seven and a half miles long, and its extreme breadth is five and a half miles. It contains about 11,840 Scotch acres, and is bounded on the north by Closeburn parish; on the north-east and east by Kirkmichael and by Tinwald; on the south and south-east by Dumfries; on the west by Holywood; and on the north-west by Dunscore. The northern and eastern parts are hilly, the land ascending gradually till it terminates in heights some of which are between 600 and 800 feet above the level of the sea: the hills of Wardlaw and Auchengeith rise to 770 feet, and have a declivity southward. The loftier grounds are covered with heath and coarse grass, supplying pasture fit only for sheep. In the vicinity of Tinwald, also, are some undulations interspersed with low-lying tracts of morass, and which, when not kept in tillage, are soon overspread with furze and broom. Though this is entirely an inland parish, the hills, especially the Watchman's hill, command a fine view of the sea; and in a clear day, the Solway Frith is seen in the distance. The river Nith runs along the western boundary of the parish, and intersects it at one corner. There are also several small streams or burns, which abound in trout, and are in many parts distinguished by romantic scenery: the Duncow burn forms three waterfalls, one of which, in rainy seasons, has a striking and imposing appearance.
   The soil on the high grounds consists in numerous places of deep moss, beneath which is a gravelly earth, resting upon a red till or slaty rock. On the sloping grounds it is gravelly, with a considerable mixture of sand, and small round stones; and on the low or holm land the soil is alluvial, mixed with clay. In every direction is a profusion of pebbles, of different sizes, rounded and polished by continued attrition, and many of them variegated with beautiful lines and colours. This is altogether an agricultural parish, and the capabilities of the soil are, for the most part, developed. About 8500 acres have been under the plough, but of these a great portion is now pasture; 600 are wood, and the rest of the parish uncultivated. Grain of all kinds is grown, with the usual green crops. The sheep are Cheviots, crossed with the Leicester; numerous lambs are raised on the hilly grounds, and, with ewes fattened for sale, are sent to the Liverpool market. A considerable stock of calves, also, is disposed of to the Dumfries salesmen, when about six weeks old. The husbandry in the district is of the most approved kind: the land is subject to good surface drainage, and is secured, where necessary, by strong embankments. The farm-houses, likewise, are comfortable dwellings, and suited to the character and circumstances of the highly-respectable tenants who occupy them. Much has been done in the reclaiming of land; and plantations, with neat and elegant villas, are now seen in many places. It was in this parish that an inestimable addition was first made, in 1786–7, to the agricultural products of Britain, by the late Patrick Miller, Esq., of Dalswinton, who, in that year, introduced the Swedish turnip into Scotland. From a couple of ounces of seed, a great part of the now extensive culture of this valuable esculent may be said to have sprung; for, as soon as Mr. Miller had obtained, from the original plants on his own estate, a sufficiency of seed for his neighbours, and his friends in the Lothians and elsewhere, it was sown by them with avidity; and in a short time, extensive breadths of land were laid out in its successful cultivation. Large importations of the seed, it is true, were subsequently made by the British seed-merchants, to supply the increasing demand for it; yet prodigious quantities of the turnip are now raised in both countries, and in Ireland, from the proceeds of the stock sown at Dalswinton. The rocks in the parish consist chiefly of sandstone, frequently impregnated with red iron-ore: white marl has been found in the southern parts; and red soft sand, mixed with gravel and stones, is in some places abundant. The rateable annual value of Kirkmahoe is £9357.
   The principal mansions are Dalswinton and Carnsalloch, both modern. The different estates are ornamented with very fine specimens of stately timber, consisting of ash, elm, chesnut, and rows of beech: in one of the parks is a tree of immense size, under whose extended branches there is a space in which, it is said, 1000 armed men might stand without inconvenience. There are five villages, of which Duncow, the largest, has a manufactory for coarse woollen-cloths, wrought by water and steam: the village of Dalswinton is of recent origin. The public road from Dumfries to Closeburn runs for nearly six miles through the parish, and, as well as the bridges, is kept in good repair. The ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Dumfries and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The stipend of the minister is £238, with a manse, built in 1799, and a glebe of eight acres of good land, valued at £14 per annum. The church, erected in 1822, is a handsome structure, rendered pleasing and picturesque by the foliage in the churchyard and its vicinity. There was a meeting-house at Quarrelwood, belonging to the Cameronian Presbyterians; but it has been abandoned. Three schools are maintained, each of which is partially supported by a parochial allowance. The master of the school at the village of Duncow receives a salary of £25. 13. 3.; the salary of the master at Dalswinton village is £17; and £8 are given for the support of the third school, situated at Lakehead, a remote corner of the parish. At each of the schools, all the usual branches of education are taught; and instruction is occasionally afforded in the classics and mathematics. The total amount of fees received by the three masters is £80 a year. About £500 have been bequeathed to the poor, and the sum of £5 per annum left by Mrs. Allan, of Newlands, for the gratuitous instruction of fatherless children at the parish schools. In digging for the foundation of the church, some inconsiderable relics were met with. It may be stated, in relation to this parish, that the application of steam-power to the navigation of vessels was first successfully illustrated at Dalswinton, in 1788, by Mr. Miller, of whom mention has been already made. It is also deserving of record, that the introduction, in 1790, of the modern threshing-machine into this district, was effected under the auspices of Mr. Miller, who first used it on his own farm of Sandbed, in the presence of the agricultural classes, whom he had invited to witness its operation, with a view to manifest its efficiency and encourage its adoption. Bishop Corrie, of Madras, was a native of the parish, as was also the late Allan Cunningham.
   See Dalswinton.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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