HOLYWOOD, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 3 miles (N. N. W.) from Dumfries; containing 1061 inhabitants, of whom 81 are in the village. It is uncertain when the present name was first applied to this parish; but the Oak forest which once overspread the ground, and the Druidical temples situated here, leave no doubt as to its origin. This wood, or forest, extended, it is supposed, for about eight miles, reaching to Snaid, in the parish of Glencairn; and as it was well known by the early Christian missionaries to have been the retreat of the Druids, some of whose temples are in the vicinity, the memory of its primitive consecration was probably transmitted by them, under the name of Holywood. The ancient abbey of Holywood stood in the south-east corner of the present burying-ground. It was founded by Dervorgilla, or Donagilla, daughter of Allan, lord of Galloway, who died in 1269; she was the mother of John Baliol, declared king of the Scots by Edward I., in 1292. It was called Monasterium sacri nemoris, on account of its situation in the grove of oaks; and its monks were of the Præmonstratensian order: among them is said to have been Johannes de Sacro Bosco, a great mathematician, and author of the book De Sphæra. This monastery, with that of Whitorn, is supposed to have sprung from the religious institution of Souls-seat, near Stranraer, founded by Fergus, lord of Galloway, early in the twelfth century. The remains of the abbey, the roof of which was supported by a fine pointed arch across the middle of the building, were taken down in 1778, and the materials used for the erection of the present parish church. The two bells belonging to the edifice were, however, preserved; they are of excellent tone, and are now the parish bells. The patronage of Holywood formerly belonged to the earls of Nithsdale, one of whom sold it, in 1714, to Alexander Ferguson, of Isle, in Kirkmahoe, whose son, Robert, disposed of it to Robert Ferguson, of Fourmerkland, in this parish, after which it passed through several hands, and was purchased, in 1823, by the late John Crichton, Esq., of Skeoch. Cowhill, in the parish, was long the seat of the Maxwells, cadets of the noble family of Nithsdale. In the year 1560, the old castle was burnt by the English; and a tower, in lieu, was built in 1579; but, being obtained by purchase, in 1783, by G. Johnstone, Esq., a Liverpool merchant, he pulled it down in order to erect an elegant mansion on its site.
   The parish is about ten miles long, and its mean breadth is one mile and a half; it contains 8960 acres. It is situated in the most beautiful part of the vale of Nithsdale, and is bounded on the north-east by Kirkmahoe; on the east by the parish of Dumfries; on the south by Terregles, Irongray, and Kirkpatrick-Durham, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright; and on the west and north by Glencairn and Dunscore. Being in a broad valley, the surface is flat and low, with the exception of one range of hills, which, however, are neither abrupt nor of great height. The lands are watered by the Nith and Cluden, the latter of which is a famous trout-stream. The soil in the vicinity of these rivers is a rich alluvial mould, free from stones: adjacent to this the earth is light and dry, and rests upon fine sand or gravel. In some other parts there is a deep strong loam, very strong, and recumbent upon a tilly subsoil: although this in its natural state is not so fertile as the former, yet when drained, limed, and properly wrought, it becomes much more productive, except in cold and wet seasons. The hilly ground is somewhat more shallow and dry; it is covered with an ordinary kind of grass, mixed with heath and harsh weeds. The parish comprises 7500 acres under tillage, 560 in wood, 360 moss, 300 hill land, 120 meadow, and 120 roads. Both white and green crops of all kinds are produced, and the system of husbandry followed is of the most approved kind. Fine crops of turnips are raised by the liberal and judicious application of bone-dust manure, and are eaten off the ground by the sheep. The cattle are mostly the black Galloways; the cows for the dairy are of the Ayrshire breed. The hilly tracts are occupied by the native Scotch sheep; but the English breed is preferred on the lower grounds, for the superior quality of the wool. Extensive improvements have been going on for a considerable time in the different branches of husbandry, comprising subdivisions of land, good drainage, the repairing and enlarging of farm-houses, &c.: indeed, the rental of the parish has been considerably more than doubled since the year 1790. The rateable annual value of Holywood now amounts to £7437.
   The rocks in the upper part of the parish are the greywacke; in the midland district they consist of hard red freestone and limestone. Boulders, also, of large and small grained greywacke, conglomerate, and trap, with several varieties of granite and sienite, are found, from the weight of a stone to three tons. The parish has two small villages, viz., Holywood and Cluden. The facilities of communication are extremely great, about thirty miles of road being distributed in different directions throughout the parish, all of which are in excellent condition for travelling. The turnpike-road from Carlisle to Glasgow, by Dumfries, is carried near the manse; and a coach runs upon it to and fro every day. A coach, also, passes from Dumfries to Glasgow, by Ayr. At Cluden, within the parish, are some extensive mills, which are let on lease to the Company of Bakers, at Dumfries. 16,000 bushels of wheat; 12,000 of oats; of barley shelled, 1000; and of barley for flour, between 400 and 500 bushels, are produced at the mills every year. About one mile higher up the Cluden is another mill, in which barley is ground, flax prepared, and wool carded. Wool is also spun by machinery, on a small scale, at Speddoch.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Dumfries and synod of Dumfries; patron, James Otto, Esq., of Skeoch. The stipend of the minister is £204; and there is a good manse, with seven acres of arable land, valued in £10. 10. per annum. The church was built in 1773, and thoroughly repaired in 1821. It is a neat building with a square tower, and well adapted for accommodation, but inconveniently situated, being eight miles distant from a part of the population: it contains 600 sittings. There are three parochial schools, in which all the usual branches of education are taught. The master of the first school has a salary of £26; the second master has £15, and the third £10. The total income of the first master is about £60; that of the second and third, between £25 and £30 each. There is also a subscription library, established fifty years ago, the volumes in which are chiefly theological. About a quarter of a mile south-west from the church, are eleven large stones, placed in an oval form; the number was twelve till within these few years. They have been universally ascribed to the Druids; and the massy size of the stones, the largest of which weighs twelve tons, excites the astonishment of all visiters. Mr. Charles Irvine, who, in 1790, discovered the method of rendering salt water fresh, for which he was rewarded by government with a grant of £5000, was connected with the parish.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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