Eskdalemuir

   ESKDALEMUIR, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 13 miles (N. W.) from Langholm; containing 646 inhabitants. This parish, as its name partly imports, consists of the lands lying at the head of Eskdale, which were originally possessed by the clan of Beattieson, but which passed into other hands under the following circumstances. Cardinal Beaton and Robert Lord Maxwell, according to tradition, were sent by James V. as ambassadors to France, in the year 1537, to conclude a marriage between that sovereign and Mary of Guise, when Lord Maxwell, by commission, as proxy for the king, married the princess, and, having, with the cardinal, conducted her to Scotland, received as a reward from the crown the lands comprehended under the name of the Five Kirks of Eskdale. Lord Maxwell at once offered the occupiers a title to their several possessions on certain specified conditions; but, indignant at the royal grant, they objected, and matters ran into such severe altercation, that he was obliged to flee to save his life, and shortly afterwards he sold the estate to Scott of Branxholm, ancestor of the ducal family of Buccleuch, leaving him to obtain possession as well as he could. Upon this, Scott, who was warden of the middle marches between Scotland and England, having raised numerous friends, proceeded to Eskdalemuir, and expelled all the clan of Beattieson, except Roland Beattie, of Watcarrick, who had saved Lord Maxwell's life by lending him a horse on which to escape from the malcontents, and to whom that nobleman had confirmed a tenant-right in his property. Having thus cleared the domain, Scott gave feu rights of the greater part of it to his relations and dependents.
   Eskdalemuir was originally a part of the parish of Westerkirk, but was erected in 1703 into a separate parish; it is the largest in the county, being about twelve miles long, from north to south, and eight miles broad, and contains 42,250 acres. The surface is strongly marked in the northern portion by part of a chain of mountains extending from the sources of the Clyde and Annan on the west to the source of the Tyne, in Northumberland, in the east: the highest hills are Lochfell and Eskdale pen. The White and Black Esk, so named from the sandy and mossy soils over which they run, take their rise in this parish, and, uniting at its southern extremity, form that beautiful river which, after receiving many tributary streams, loses itself in the Solway at Longtown, in Cumberland. There are three celebrated cascades called Goat-linn, Wellsburn Spout, and the Garvald Linns. The soil is deep in many parts, but is not fertile, on account of the elevated site of the district; the hills towards the south are green, but the more retired parts are moss, covered with coarse grass and different kinds of water-plants. The number of acres cultivated, or occasionally in tillage, is 482, the rest remaining constantly in pasture: there is very little wood to be seen in any direction. This is chiefly a grazing parish: the sheep, with a very few exceptions, are all Cheviots, and the cattle are of the Galloway breed, with some Ayrshire and Dutch; both are usually taken to the Langholm and Lockerbie markets. Many improvements have been effected by the embankment of the rivers, by mole-catching to a surprising extent, and by surface-draining, there being now nearly 400,000 roods of drains in the parish. The ring fences around the inclosed lands are commonly of stone, the subdivisions of thorn, and the march dykes between farms always of stone. The strata consist of greywacke and other transition rocks: the common fuel is peat, of which there is an abundant supply. The parish roads extend about twenty miles in length; and there are several bridges over the rivers, of which one, erected across the Black Esk, is on the line of road to Lockerbie, Lochmaben, Dumfries, and Moffat. The rateable annual value of Eskdalemuir is £6766.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Laugholm and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. The stipend is £221, with a good manse, and a glebe of considerable extent, valued at £20 per annum. The church stands nearly in the centre of the parish, on the bank of the White Esk; it was built in 1826, and is a commodious and elegant structure, containing sittings for 393 persons. The Reformed Presbyterians have a place of worship. There is a parochial school, in which Latin, Greek, and French are taught, with the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £34, with about £10 fees, and a house and garden. A library has been lately instituted, and is in a prosperous state. The chief relic of antiquity is the camp designated Castle-O'er, or Overbie, which is situated on the farm of Yetbyre, and though of an oval form, is generally considered as of Roman origin, and to have communicated with the camps of Middlebie and Netherbie: there is scarcely a hill within sight of it on which there is not some vestige of an outer encampment. Another camp, however, has more recently been discovered on the farm of Raeburnfoot, and has led to the opinion that the former is a Saxon work, and the latter the true Roman camp of Overbie; it exhibits all the lineaments, as far as they are visible, of a most complete military station, with the prætorium and every other mark of a Roman work. Were the lines on the west side of the entrances extended as far as those on the eastern side, so as to make it a square, it would cover seven acres. There are two Druidical circles on the farm of Coatt, measuring in circumference ninety feet and 340 feet, respectively. The parish and adjoining district confer the title of Baron Scott and Eskdale on the Duke of Buccleuch.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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