Minnigaff

   MINNIGAFF, a parish, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright; containing, with the village of Creebridge, 1826 inhabitants, of whom 170 are in the village of Minnigaff, ½ a mile (N.) from Newton-Stewart. This place, of which the name, in the Gaelic language, is minutely descriptive of its dark mountainous aspect, formed part of the territories of the ancient earls of Galloway, who resided in the baronial castle of Garlies, of which there are still some remains within a mile and a half of the village of Minnigaff. During the contest for the throne between Baliol and Bruce, the latter, after his defeat by the English at Carrick, retired to this place with his followers, and encamped in the secluded wilds at the head of Loch Dee. Bruce lodged at night in the cottage of a poor widow at Craigencallie; and being discovered by his hostess, who had three sons by three different husbands, they all entered into his service, and remained zealous adherents to his cause. At their suggestion the followers of Bruce, not more than 300 in number, and greatly inferior to the English, who had encamped on the opposite side of the river Dee, collected all the wild horses and goats they could find in the neighbourhood; and from the noise thus occasioned, the English, thinking that Bruce had procured a large reinforcement, did not venture beyond the precincts of their camp. In the night Bruce attacked the English, and obtained an easy victory over his enemies, who, fancying themselves assailed by a superiority of numbers, fled with precipitation, many of them being killed in their retreat. The three sons of the widow, whose names were Mc Kie, Murdoch, and Mc Lurg, received from Bruce, after his establishment on the throne, the lands of Hassock and Cumloden in recompense for their services. On the death of the descendant of Mc Kie without male issue, a portion of the lands passed to the family of Heron, of Heron, by marriage with Margaret, his only daughter and heiress; this portion is now the property of Lady Heron Maxwell; and Cumloden, which was the portion of Murdoch, the second son, was sold by his descendant to the Stewart family in the last century, and now belongs to the Earl of Galloway.
   The parish is bounded on the east by the Dee, which divides it from the parishes of Kells and Carsphairn; and on the west by the river Cree. It is nearly twenty-four miles in length and from eight to twelve miles in breadth, comprising an area of 86,787 acres, of which 6000 are arable and in cultivation, and the remainder, with the exception of about 1600 acres of woodland and plantations, moorland pasture and waste. The surface is mountainous, including a considerable portion of the hilly range extending from St. Abb's Head, on the eastern coast. The highest of the hills is the Meyrick, which has an elevation of 2500 feet from the level of the sea; and that of Cairnsmuir, though of inferior height, rising from a more elevated base, yet appears equally lofty. The summit of the latter hill commands a most extensive and richly-varied prospect, embracing the valley of the Palnure, the wooded demesnes of the Cairnsmuir and Bargally mansions, the river Cree, the town of Newton-Stewart, parts of Wigtonshire diversified with hill and dale, the Isle of Man, the burgh of Kirkcudbright, and other interesting features, with the mountains of Cumberland in the distance. For several miles along the banks of the Cree, the ground is level, forming a fine tract of carse land, but not of any considerable breadth, in a high state of cultivation. There are numerous springs; and of several picturesque lakes the largest are, Loch Trool, environed with hills, and Loch Dee, neither of which, however, exceeds two miles in length. The streams and lakes abound with trout; salmon are found in the Cree, and sea-trout in June and July.
   The soil is various, generally of a dry gravelly kind, but in some parts a tenacious clay interspersed with moss, which, however, at a moderate expense, might be reclaimed and brought into profitable cultivation. The crops are, grain of all sorts, with potatoes and turnips, and the different grasses. The system of agriculture is advanced; the lands have in several parts been well drained; the farm-buildings within the last few years have been partly rebuilt in a more substantial and commodious manner; and most of the recent improvements in implements of husbandry have been adopted. The cattle, of which many are reared and pastured in the parish, are chiefly of the pure native Galloway breed, and great attention is paid to the bettering of the stock: there are also about 35,000 sheep, which are of the blackfaced breed with the exception of a few of the Leicestershire on the lower lands. The substrata are mainly greywacke and clay-slate; granite occurs in boulders at various places, and at Craigdhews in great masses, from which blocks have been cut for building purposes. Lead-ore is found in the south-western portion of the parish, and was formerly wrought to a considerable extent; but having lately become unproductive, the mines have been discontinued. The rateable annual value of Minnigaff is £10,976.
   The most extensive and important portion remaining of the ancient forest of the district is the Cree wood, on the estate of Garlies, the property of the Earl of Galloway, which extends for nearly three miles along the banks of the Cree; it consists chiefly of oak, intermixed with ash, hazel, and birch. Around the castle are also about 500 acres of plantations, the greater portion of modern growth. Kirouchtree, the seat of Lady Heron Maxwell, is beautifully situated in a well-planted demesne; and near the house are many trees of venerable growth. Cumloden Cottage, the summer residence of the Earl of Galloway, was built by Lieutenant-General Sir William Stewart, K. C. B., who commanded the troops embarked with Lord Nelson in the expedition to Copenhagen, and who served under the Duke of Wellington in Spain and Portugal; he died at Cumloden Cottage in 1827. Cairnsmuir and Bargally are both houses well situated. The village of Minnigaff, near the confluence of the rivers Cree and Penkill, though formerly a place of some extent and importance, has since the erection of Newton-Stewart dwindled into a hamlet. About a quarter of a mile below it, a street of good houses has recently been built near a bridge over the river, a handsome structure of granite of five arches, from which the street takes its name. The chief manufacture is that of cotton, in which sixteen persons are employed, and at Cumloden the weaving of blankets and coarse plaids occupies about twelve persons. Facility of communication is afforded by the road from Portpatrick to Dumfries, by a turnpike-road to New Galloway, and by the Ayrshire road, viâ Straiton, which last passes for many miles through the upper part of the parish. The Cree is navigable for vessels under 100 tons to Newton-Stewart; and at Palnure is a small wharf, where grain and other agricultural produce are shipped for Liverpool, and coal and lime imported for the supply of the district.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Wigton and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £245. 4. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church, erected in 1836 after a design by Mr. Burn, of Edinburgh, at a cost of £1800, is an elegant structure, in the later English style of architecture, with a square embattled tower, and contains 850 sittings; the interior is well arranged, and the east window embellished with stained glass. In the churchyard is a handsome monument to Sir William Stewart. A church has since been erected at Bargrennan, in the upper part of the parish, to which a district has been assigned; there are 207 sittings, and the duty is performed by a licentiate, who has a stipend of £50 per annum, towards which the Earl of Galloway contributes £20, and Colonel S. Blair, of Penninghame, and the Rev. Mr. Johnstone, £10 each. The parochial school is attended by about seventy children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees, about £30. There is also a school at Bargrennan, of which the master receives a salary of £23 per annum, in addition to the fees. A school in which twenty-five girls are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and instructed in needle-work, is supported by the Countess of Galloway; and there is a Sabbath school, to which is attached a library of about 400 volumes. A clothing club was instituted a few years since by Lady Galloway, who adds to the weekly deposits one-half of the amount at the end of the year; a similar institution is under the patronage of Lady Heron Maxwell. On the summit of a bank at the junction of the Cree and Penkill, is a mound which appears to have been anciently a seat for administering justice; and there are various others in the parish. Several tumuli have been opened, in which were found human bones and military weapons. On the lands of Kirouchtree, in forming the plantations, was opened a large mound, covered on the top with clay, under which were ashes, and, beneath, a vitrified substance about an inch in thickness, on removing which a circular wall was discovered, inclosing an area filled with red ashes to the depth of three feet. Below these was a flagstone six feet long and three feet wide, covering a pit, where was found a human body, which on exposure to the air crumbled into dust. About a mile from Creebridge, on the Dumfries road, is a large tumulus supposed to cover the remains of the slain in some battle of the Scots with the Romans or the Picts.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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