Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Castle Douglas 1943-4-the 92nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment




This is the longest and most detailed account I have found about Castle Douglas in WW2. It is taken from A history of 7th Battalion, The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) / 92nd (Loyals) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery 1940-1946 by Tom McCarthy
http://www.trueloyals.com/regimental-history-1/

It is also part of my family history. My aunt Evelyn Livingston met her future husband Ken How while he was stationed in Castle Douglas 1943/4.


CHAPTER FIVE
COUNTDOWN TO OVERLORD
March 1943 to April 1944
 ‘
‘I reckon by 1944 we were the fittest men in the whole of the British Army with the training that we’d had. We were ready. The adrenaline was high and the feeling was, “Let’s get on with it and get it over with. The war won and get back home” – that was the feeling.’

THE demonstration of the 92nd’s growing skill was timely. For now a momentous undertaking was at hand. Early in 1943, 3rd Division was ordered to start training for the invasion of Sicily, only to see the assignment switched – mainly for political reasons – to a Canadian division.

But soon after, 3rd Division was given the task that would test its skill and courage to the limit and assure its place in history. It was to be one of only two British divisions which would spearhead the D-Day assault in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy.
Being chosen to lead the liberation of Europe was a tribute to the military prowess of the ‘Iron Division’, whose proud history stretched back to the Napoleonic Wars, and which Montgomery had commanded during the fighting retreat to Dunkirk in 1940.

But it was also an awesome responsibility. Everything depended on troops getting ashore and establishing a beachhead in strength before the Germans could recover from the initial shock and hurl them back into the sea. If the Allies failed to gain a foothold in Europe, it would be catastrophic for the whole course of the war.

So in the early spring of 1943, all units of 3rd Division were ordered to concentrate in the west of Scotland to start the intensive programme of training that would make them ready for their crucial mission.

Between March 12 and 14, amid exceptionally fine weather, 92nd LAA moved north in convoy from Kent, staging at Stevenage and Doncaster, where the gunners bivouacked under the racecourse grandstand. The regiment’s destination was the small towns of Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie, north of the Solway Firth in Kircudbrightshire. Here, amid the hills, woods, rivers and lochs of the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland, the men started honing themselves and their equipment to a peak of fighting fitness.

The regiment deployed at various locations around the two towns. In Castle Douglas. Regimental headquarters was established in a large house [Craigroyston] at the eastern end of the main road, King Street. Much of the unit’s activities centred around Carlingwark Loch at the western edge of Castle Douglas, where Nissen huts were set up to house the troops. Other billets included a church and a bowling clubhouse.

The routine at Castle Douglas was constant training – PT, route marches, cross-country running, sport and, most of all, gun drill. ‘Castle Douglas seemed a peaceful haven after the mayhem of the Liverpool Blitz,’ wrote Michael Cullen. ‘It was also a pleasant surprise to find that we had a bed at last.

‘The camp consisted of a number of Nissen huts, one troop to each hut. Our gun crew were sergeant – Jack Smith. Layer for line – myself. Layer for elevation – Harry Woodall. Two ammo numbers – Bob Harris and Ginger Smith, “Smithy.” Also Cecil Willis, a wee lance bombardier who strutted about like a hen with bunions. He also, at times, let off a rather peculiar odour. I could only put this down to the fact that we had, of late, had quite a large amount of Spam and American Navy beans in our diet. I think the answer was blowing in the wind.

‘The following two months were taken up mostly with gun drill and lectures on aircraft recognition, a subject I took a great deal of interest in. It was, of course, a sitting-down job that gave the foot blisters a chance to heal!

‘The food had gone off a bit and they had developed the bad habit of putting curry powder in the stew, and even in the rice pudding – I think it had been left over from the time of the British Raj in India! This had given us a constant attack of the “trots!” This was rather inconvenient as our toilets consisted of a slit trench dug into the ground, with a rope stretched across. To vacate the bowels, one had to stoop over the trench and hang on to the rope for dear life!

‘Another item of food that seemed to be rather plentiful was a Japanese tinned salmon called Acky Bono. God knows where they had got this from, but when the tins had been opened, the smell was enough to send all the moggies in the town crazy to embark for foreign parts. In hindsight, I wondered if it was some preconceived plan the Nips had to exterminate as many Britons as possible before entering the war.’

Third Division was initially earmarked not for the invasion of Normandy, but for the attack on Sicily. The men of 92nd LAA had some inkling of the Sicily mission and one day early in 1943, the news went round the regiment that hot weather equipment had now arrived in the quartermaster’s stores in preparation for the operation.

But it was not to be. In late April, at the insistence of Canadian Military Headquarters in Britain, a Canadian division – the 1st Infantry – was instead given the Sicily invasion task, displacing the British division.

Len Harvey, a 19-year-old Londoner in F Troop, 318 Battery, recalled that he and his comrades were disappointed at this news. ‘We did feel let down because our adrenaline was high – we were hyped up and ready to go.’

But soon after, the CO of 318, Captain Robert Tennant Reid, called the men together to read them a letter that had arrived from the top brass, telling them that they would instead now be training for the invasion of North West Europe.From then on, each Bofors crew was boosted from seven men to nine men. This was when Leo McCarthy was transferred to Gun F3 of F Troop, a tight-knit team under the auspices of Sergeant Bill Fletcher.

‘Sergeant Fletcher always said he needed a regular, good No 2 layer for line and we certainly got one in Leo,’ said Len. ‘He oozed confidence and Gun F3 was now complete. Leo became a very good friend – he was 11 years older than me and was almost a father figure.’

Len also admired Sergeant Fletcher, who came from Little Hulton, near Bolton. ‘He was a good sergeant, a good leader,’ he said. ‘He was a very special man.’

In 92nd LAA, Len was a Cockney surrounded by Scousers – but he got on famously with them. Born in Limehouse, East London, he had volunteered for the Army after working as a page boy at the Langham Hotel in the West End and later as a fitter’s mate in Barking power station.

Following training as an artilleryman, he found himself in a quiet posting near Edinburgh. Wishing to see more action, he put himself forward for service overseas. Instead, he was sent to join 92nd LAA in Castle Douglas.

Now the countdown to Overlord had begun, life got ever harder for the 92nd LAA men. ‘If we thought previous training was tough, we soon learned it was mild compared to the regime we were now put under,’ said Len. ‘There were physical exercises every morning at 6am, route marches up to 20 miles, cross-country running in ten-mile stints. We were woken from sleep, put into troop-carrying lorries, dropped 15 miles away at 6.30am and told to make our own way back to camp, with breakfast being served at 8am. If we were late back, we missed breakfast.’

Because Len looked so young, Sergeant Fletcher used to send him across to farms to ask for eggs when the troop was out on manoeuvres. Len recalled that the Scots were kind and generous. ‘The people were wonderful. I think they took pity on me – I only looked about 16 or 17. It is said that Scottish people are thrifty, but on every farm I went to, the farmers gave me eggs willingly and never asked for a penny or anything in exchange, though I would have been prepared to pay them if they had asked.

‘The Women’s Institute could not do enough to help us, at times laundering and sewing and in Dalbeattie a WI lady would make sure that the men on guard duty got a hot beverage. In helping us, they must have felt they were helping their husbands and sons, because they too were in the Forces. My time in Scotland left me with a feeling of immense respect for the people and the way they welcomed us.’

By contrast, the French farmers would turn out not to be so generous after the regiment landed in Normandy the following year. On the evening of D-Day, as the troop was dug in near Benouville, Sergeant Fletcher sent Len to a nearby farm to ask for eggs. Len recalled: ‘In broken English, the farmer asked, “What have you got for the eggs? Money no good. You got soap, cigarettes, chocolates?”’ Eventually, Len swopped three bars of soap for a dozen eggs.

The 92nd’s initial invasion exercises started with combined operations at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Then at the end of March, 318 moved to Inverary, Argyllshire – 40 miles north- west of Glasgow – for a fortnight of training with 8 Infantry Brigade and naval units. By day and night on the waters of Loch Fyne, the 92nd practised beach landing, disembarking guns and supply vehicles from landing craft and deploying them to their allotted area.

Meanwhile, a series of week-long trips, made by each battery in turn, started to 9 LAA Practice Camp at Cark-in-Cartmel, near Grange over Sands on the edge of the Lake District, overlooking Morecambe Bay. First to go was 319, followed by 317 and 318.
At Cark, Michael Cullen recalled, the guns would be pointed out to sea. ‘A plane would fly across pulling a sock or a drogue, as they called it. We would then take a sighting under the directions of the commanding officer. As it was a moving target, it was quite difficult to hit. We did, of course have to aim at the drogue, and not the plane – a fact that one or two of the crews had failed to digest. As you can guess, there were one or two near-misses – at one point, the pilot had refused to take off. Who could blame him – I think he deserved the VC!’

Back in Castle Douglas, classes in aircraft recognition, a vital skill for Bofors gunners, were held three times a week. The men had to know instantaneously if a plane they spotted was a friend or an enemy. ‘By the time we actually got to Normandy and went into action, we could tell every plane that was in the sky,’ said Len Harvey.

‘We had a class with models and charts. A little fellow would teach us and try and catch us out. He’d show you a silhouette and say, “What’s that?” or he’d show you a model and say, “What’s that?” But you got to know the aircraft from all different angles. I could tell every plane later on in the war and it was all because of the training we got there.’
As May opened, the emphasis was on endurance work, including day-long hill walking and river crossing. But there was an unexpected off-duty spree for a few of the men – a night on the town in Castle Douglas.

It came courtesy of Joe Lavender, the second gunlayer on F3. Joe, who came from Chester, was also the unit’s unofficial barber, earning sixpence or so a time for cutting the men’s hair. This money steadily accumulated and one day in early May he placed a £10 bet on a horse called Herringbone in the 1,000 Guineas – and it won.

With his windfall, Joe took his fellow gunlayer Leo McCarthy and two other friends out for the evening, and the drink flowed. The four returned to their billets extremely late and the worse for wear, making a lot of noise. Needless to say, their comrades took a dim view of being so rudely awakened by the revellers.

Throughout May and into June, there were full divisional exercises, during which tracer fire from a Bofors was used to indicate the width of an infantry advance, a technique that later came into its own on the battlefield. There was also practice on the anti-tank range at Cummertrees near Annan, wireless exercises, night deployment and digging-in practice.

40 mm towed Bofors anti-aircraft gun


For the gun crews, digging-in was vital. When a Bofors was deployed, a pit was excavated for it to give as much protection as possible from counter-battery fire and marauding aircraft. However, some of the 92nd’s more muscular members found their small infantry spades were not up to the job of digging a gun pit in anything like a reasonable time and nicknamed the spades ‘Fifth Column Shovels’. After digging trials, Captain Reid agreed and told his men they could have heavy-duty navvy shovels instead.

On June 11, it was the turn of 317 to journey north to Inverary, where it joined 185 Infantry Brigade for combined operations training. Meanwhile, the rest of the regiment was suddenly ordered south to Kent for a month of ADGB duties. Sending gunners 450 miles from Scotland to the South Coast when presumably there were already adequate anti-aircraft units in Kent seems at first glance a trifle odd. However, the surprise operation was designed by the top brass to test the 92nd’s battle-readiness and its ability to mobilise swiftly.

Travelling in convoy via Catterick, Doncaster and Stevenage, the gunners reached their new locations on June 17. Guns were deployed at Birchington, Finglesham, Lympne RAF aerodrome, Richborough, Cheriton and Hawkinge aerodrome. Another task was apparently to protect slipways that were earmarked for invasion craft from possible German bombing raids. Nine days later, 317 rejoined the regiment, deploying at Minster, Snowdown Colliery and Sandwich. On July 9, the battery’s guns opened fire on a DO 217 raider.

However, one unit of the regiment managed to combine the move to Kent with a little unofficial recreation. When the order came to go south, the 92nd’s group of driver-radio operators were 70 miles north of Castle Douglas in Stewarton, between Kilmarnock and Glasgow. They had been sent there to meet up with their Canadian counterparts, who were now earmarked for Sicily, in order to train them on their new wireless sets.

‘It was a very pleasant experience with the young Canadians – and we also learned to drink coffee instead of tea and smoke Sweet Caporal cigarettes,’ recalled Driver-Op Jim Holder-Vale, from Walthamstow in North East London, who had joined the regiment in December 1942 at the age of 18. ‘We said goodbye to them as they left in their trucks. The windshields were painted green to prevent reflection of the Mediterranean sun, with just vision slots for the driver and passenger.’

Arriving back at Castle Douglas, the driver-ops found the rest of 92nd LAA had already left for Kent. They were given food and supplies and told to follow. ‘But we decided we would make our own way there,’ said Jim. ‘We would not use the Army camps en route and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call in and see my Mum and Dad in London. So off we went and we eventually turned up in our four trucks outside my parents’ house.’

Jim picked up his girlfriend Joan, who lived nearby, and they all went back to his parents’ house. ‘We had a marvellous evening,’ he recalled. ‘Mum and Dad made us as welcome as possible with rationed grub.’

The driver-ops parked for the night in nearby Epping Forest, sleeping in their trucks, and returned to Jim’s house for breakfast before finally continuing their journey to Kent. It had been a welcome interlude of normality.

The regiment was in Kent until July 14, when it was ordered back to Scotland, arriving at Castle Douglas on July 19. By now, new Mark V self-propelled Bofors Guns had been delivered and one troop in each battery started training with them.

Self-propelled  40 Mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun

In August, further exercises were held with 185 Brigade and there were two complete divisional exercises, lasting into September. Trips to Cark for firing practice resumed and there was anti-tank training at Craignair, south of Castle Douglas. On 21st September, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Loder-Symonds assumed command of the 92nd when Lieutenant-Colonel Hollwey was posted to take over 124 LAA.

Throughout October training went on, with regimental deployment exercises, wire-cutting and night attack by patrols. In November, there was an interlude of entertainment and recreation in the form of a visit by the band of The Loyal Regiment, plus inter-regiment rugby and boxing matches.

Among the regiment’s boxing enthusiasts was Philip Parks, a Liverpudlian who had volunteered for the Army on the outbreak of war in 1939, when he was 19. On one occasion, he had three fights in Castle Douglas town hall, winning two. While in Scotland, he also won the heart of a girl who was working in the Naafi and they were married.

Another soldier who found a sweetheart in Castle Douglas was the Regimental Sergeant Major, Len Nott. One day, he saw a girl called Eileen Maloney crossing the road in the townand it was ‘love at first sight’. Eileen, from Glasgow, was stationed in Castle Douglas with the Land Army. They married in February 1944, witnessed by his best man, Robert Wright – a fellow NCO from 92nd LAA. Len and Eileen remained devoted to each other and were married for 38 years until his death in 1982.

At least three other 92nd LAA men, Lieutenant Johnny Kitchin, Sergeant Bill Fletcher and Gunner Billy Baker, also wed local girls.

Philip Parks, meanwhile, was promoted to bombardier, but things did not go smoothly. ‘His duty one particular day was to deliver military mail around Castle Douglas, which entailed meeting officers all day long and, of course, saluting them,’ his son Philip recalled.

‘Dad got a bit fed up with all this and on one occasion, seeing an officer, he pretended to be sorting his mail and did not salute, which resulted in him being on a charge, i.e. failing to salute. This led to him being reduced back to a gunner. While on this charge, he was confined to regimental headquarters, which was Craig Royston House. But at night, the sergeant in charge suggested that as Dad was a married soldier living in Castle Douglas, he could go home – but be back by 6am.’

At the end of January, the final phase of 3rd Division’s assault training started when units moved 100 miles north-west to the area around Nairn and Inverness on the Moray Firth. There, they linked up with the ships of Naval Task Force S (for Sword), which was to carry the division to the Normandy beaches.

Farms as far as eight miles inland were evacuated to make way for the thousands of soldiers pouring into the coastal area. On November 28, 318 journeyed to Brackla airfield near Nairn, a few miles from Inverness. Billetted in a Nissen hut inside one of the hangars, the gunners spent the next two months taking part in a series of full-scale invasion exercises along the Moray Firth. Often amid appalling weather, the men refined their loading and assault techniques in tank landing craft, with 92nd LAA concentrating on the stretch of water between Chanonry Point and Fort George.

‘The Highlands of Scotland were a sight we had only seen on picture postcards,’ said Michael Cullen. ‘Although winter was setting in, the beauty of this place really was something to us city lads. We arrived at Inverness and pitched camp in a wood. The weather was pretty damp and consisted of a perpetual drizzle they called Scotch mist.
‘We asked one of the locals if it ever stopped raining. “Well, laddie,” he answered, “Can you see those hills over yonder? Well, when you can see them, you can be sure it’s going to rain and when you can’t see them, it’s pissing down!” (Please excuse the descriptive language).

‘The camp was a quagmire of mud, but that didn’t stop the Major from the bullshit. We still had to Blanco our webbing! I’m pretty sure the Tory brasshats had shares in the Blanco and Brasso factories! Despite the weather, we continued loading and unloading trucks, setting up and dismantling the gun and they timed us to the clock until we had become proficient and could unhitch and jack up the gun in the space of one minute. We were like drowned rats at the end of each day!

‘Loch Ness was a huge expanse of water, but the only monsters we saw were wearing three stripes! After a month of this, it was back to base at Castle Douglas. On the way back, we witnessed a nasty accident. One of the three Hurricanes that had been practising the dive-bombing of our convoy had failed to notice the power lines that stretched across the road, and had gone through the overhead wires. There was a terrific blue flash and the plane dived into the ground. It had corkscrewed into an adjacent field.

‘The whole convoy had stopped at this point and we had all gone across to offer assistance, but sadly the pilot was beyond any help. This had brought home to us all the stupidity of all this, and how easy it was to depart this life. This accident had highlighted our resolve to get this lot over as soon as possible, and get back home in one piece, if possible. It was only a “barmstick” who wanted to die for his country – we wanted to live for ours.’

As the historic year of 1944 opened, the rest of the regiment was training apace, especially with vehicle waterproofing, which was vital to prevent engines becoming stalled in the surf of the invasion beaches. The 92nd REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) workshop smothered vulnerable parts of the motors in a greasy paste and attached breather tubes to be used for air intakes and long pipes to take the exhaust gases clear of the water. In one waterproofing trial on January 15, a convoy drove into the River Dee near New Galloway, north of Castle Douglas. Three-tonner lorries fared well, but the strong current submerged 15cwt trucks and jeeps.

Fast-flowing water was not the only hazard. Although the SP Bofors were strong and solidly-based, they could become bogged down, especially in the swampier parts of the Scottish countryside. On these occasions, their built-in winches proved very useful, pulling the gun free by fastening the winch cable to trees or to other vehicles and slowly winding it in. Even so, it could sometimes be a close-run thing.

‘One of our guns once became so deeply swamped in a bog that it took two others as well as its own winch to drag it to hard ground,’ recalled Lieutenant John (Jack) Prior of 92nd LAA. ‘The gun had sunk to its axles and we seriously wondered if we would lose it altogether. I could almost hear the court of inquiry being turned into a court martial, with yours truly committed to repaying the loss from his pay – spread over several hundred years!’

Jack had joined the Home Guard on leaving school in 1940 before going on to officer training and receiving a commission. After service with ADGB units on the hazardous Dover Command, he joined the 92nd in December 1943 and later became the regimental Intelligence Officer.

On January 17, 317 moved up to Brackla for its two months of intensive invasion exercises with Task Force S and the rest of 3rd Division. The south shores of the Moray Firth were substituted for the Normandy beaches as, amid swirling snowstorms, the gunners practised assault landings in Burghead Bay. During one of these exercises, tragedy struck. A brigadier, waiting on the dunes to observe the landings, was hit and killed by a tank which had failed to spot him as it crested the rise.

Early in March, 317 travelled further north to Tain on the Dornoch Firth, where destroyers and a cruiser demonstrated a naval artillery bombardment on the headland of Tarbat Ness. This dramatically showed the men the weight of firepower that would be supporting them during the Normandy landings and gave them some idea of the hellish noise of it all. On the 27th, the battery moved south again to concentrate at Munlochy near Inverness for further exercises, which took the men into the hills around Culloden.

On January 26, the CO of the 92nd, Lieutenant-Colonel Loder-Symonds, left to take over as artillery commander of British 1st Airborne Division. He would be in charge of artillery during Operation Market Garden at Arnhem in September 1944. Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Charles Bazeley DSO RA assumed command of the 92nd.

February started for 318, now back from Brackla, with anti-tank training at Cummertrees. The regiment practised telephone silence, communicating by radio only. On the 6th, a detachment left for a 3rd Division conference at Langholm, north of Carlisle, to be addressed by Montgomery, who was Commander-in-Chief of 21st Army Group and the land commander for Overlord. Gunner Philip Parks was among the men chosen for the Langholm detachment – but, because he was at his in-laws’ home in New Galloway, it meant he had first to pedal 12 miles by bicycle to join the trucks going there.

The rest of the month – amid snow – saw telephone silence exercises, casualty evacuation and mine practice, assault training, lectures and further waterproofing trials. A new troop of eight 20mm guns was attached to each battery.

Throughout March, there were further lectures, instructional films and organised recreational training, including forced marching competitions. RHQ personnel practised on Craignair range with Sten guns and Piat anti-tank weapons. But, as always, the main thrust of training was on deploying the guns for swift action.

‘Above all, the guns had to be at instant readiness in case of sudden enemy aircraft attack,’ recalled Jack Prior. ‘This was emphasised and practised ad nauseam, but the work paid off when we reached Normandy and I cannot recall any gun getting stuck or caught on the hop by a 350mph ME 109 or FW 190.

‘Other specialised training included taking cover on the gun, nearby, or under other shelter against shelling and mortaring, which were the main fire to be avoided. In fact of course, there was little chance of this, because the shelling was often accompanied by bombing or strafing, for which we had to be prepared and ready for action.

‘Knowledge of the gun mechanism had been gathered years before and we had been handling the guns until it had become second nature. But we had to ensure that in doing our own specified jobs we did not get in each other’s way in a very confined space, albeit in the open air.’

As winter slowly gave way to spring, the men of 92nd LAA, along with the rest of 3rd Division, were reaching a peak of fighting fitness and perfecting their Overlord tasks. Now enthusiasm began to be tinged with impatience. ‘We knew we were to be part of the invasion,’ said George Baker. ‘We just didn’t know where or when. The men were all for getting on with the job. The feeling was, “Why don’t we go and get it over with?”’
Len Harvey said: ‘I reckon by 1944 we were the fittest men in the whole of the British Army with the training that we’d had. We were ready. The adrenaline was high and the feeling was, “Let’s get on with it and get it over with. The war won and get back home” – that was the feeling.’

But as April opened, the years of waiting were finally drawing to a close. From all parts of Britain, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and gigantic quantities of tanks, guns and equipment began streaming south by road and rail to assembly areas ready for the great cross-Channel operation.
On April 5, 1944, 92nd LAA started its own journey, with RHQ and 318 in the vanguard. ‘It was supposed to be a secret, but the people knew that we were going south to take part in the invasion,’ said Len Harvey. ‘Every hamlet, village and town we passed through, they lined the pavements waving and cheering as we drove by, some throwing flowers into the vehicles. Our two gunlayers, Leo McCarthy and Joe Lavender, must have had sore backs because everyone was patting them as they went by, saying: “Go on, lads – give it to them.”

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Castle Douglas - A Guide (1967)

Castle Douglas- A Guide by J M and L M Maclure

1967






















Friday, July 08, 2016

Craignair quarry -Dalbeattie aerial ropeway


"THE AERIAL ROPEWAY- CRAIGNAIR TO DALBEATTIE"
from The Gallovidian, 1902.
When it is known that Messrs Newall turn out 25,000 tons of crushed granite annually, it will be readily recognised that the question of transit would prove a difficulty when undertaken by carting. Under such circumstances traffic was at times bound to become congested. To obviate the difficulty the managers (Mr W. N. Newall and Mr Gillespie) considered what system was most to be preferred. At first it was intended to construct a railway track, but the difficulty of bridging the River Urr had to be contended with, and ultimately the idea was abandoned as being much too costly. Mr Newall and Mr Gillespie then visited several ropeways running in the South of England, and came to the conclusion that a ropeway between Craignair and the railway was the thing required, and was forthwith erected. An idea of the saving of labour effected may be gathered from the fact that after the granite chips are thrown into the crusher, the produce is not again handled.
The crushed granite is conveyed to a special railway siding, constructed near Meikle Dalbeattie, by means of buckets drawn by a wire rope running round pulleys at each end. The buckets travel under the crusher bins (already mentioned), where six of them can be loaded at once, by simply pulling a lever. They are then pushed from under the bins and automatically leave the rail at the terminal station and are taken on by the cable. When once on the rope the buckets can only be released by lifting them bodily off, but if by chance or carelessness a load is allowed to run along to the station shunt rails unattended it would simply take on to the cable and automatically fix itself. The distance between the two stations is 870 yards, and to support the cable there are six graceful Eiffel-tower-like steel trestles from 30 feet to 50 feet high. Twenty-two buckets run on the cable, each having a carrying capacity of six cwts., and are calculated to convey 200 tons in a day. Along the extreme top of the trestles is a telephone wire connecting the two terminal stations. In the crusher buildings a six horse-power vertical engine drives the ropeway. Railway waggons are run alongside the station terminal and filled direct from the buckets, which are tilted by the man in charge. The waggons then pass over a weighing-machine specially constructed for the purpose. The ropeway is the first of the kind erected in Scotland.


Threave and Kelton -at the Crossroads

Threave and Kelton Mains – at the cross roads of history.
Kelton Mains shown by Pont in 1590 as M[eikle]Grange -from Blaeu's Atlas  1645 (N.L.S. maps)



Today the busy A 75 Euro-route passes through Threave estate carrying ferry traffic to and from the north of Ireland. Just outside the estate, the east-west route of the A 75 crosses the A 713 which runs north through the Glenkens towards Ayr. Travellers have used the routes followed by these modern roads since before the Romans built their fort at Glenlochar 2000 years ago.

The Romans built their fort to control an important territory of the Novantae people. This territory stretched up the rivers Dee and Ken from Threave into the Glenkens. The bronze 'pony cap' from Torrs loch near Castle Douglas, a bronze mirror from Balmaclellan and the Carlingwark loch cauldron show the importance of this territory in Roman and pre-Roman times. Pieces of scythe blade found in the Carlingwark cauldron along with an ard (early plough) found beneath a crannog on Milton loch show that cereal crops were cultivated here 2000 years ago.

After the Romans, the next set of invaders to occupy the Kelton/Threave crossroads were Angles from Northumbria. The Angles built a church at Kelton and dedicated it to St. Oswald the Martyr, a Northumbrian king who died fighting the still pagan Mercians in 642. Local historian Daphne Brooke argued that Kelton/ Threave was the centre for a Northumbrian shire which extended north into the Glenkens. At the core of this Northumbrian shire were a set of cereal producing estates, including Kelton and Threave.

The period of Northumbrian rule probably lasted from the late seventh century to the late ninth century. From the ninth century onwards, Galloway was taken over and settled by the Gaelic speaking descendants of Vikings. These were the Gall – Ghaidheil who gave their name to a greater Galloway which by the eleventh century stretched south from Renfrewshire and west from Annandale. Professor Thomas Owen Clancy suggests that the first Gall- Ghaidheil settlements in Scotland were around the Firth of Clyde with a separate group in Wigtownshire. Settlement in the Stewartry probably began with a trading post at Kirkcudbright and there is a cluster of Norse place names around Kirkcudbright. The thousands of Gaelic place-names in Galloway show the extent and duration of these settlements, but the survival of the Brittonic Threave and the Northumbrian Kelton suggests that these lands were taken over as 'going concerns' by their new owners.

In the early twelfth century, the arable lands of Kelton and Threave became a core part of Fergus of Galloway's kingdom. It was probably Fergus who built the wooden fort on Threave island which was burnt by Edward Bruce's soldiers in 1308. This event was part of a struggle for the Scottish throne between the Bruce and Balliol families which lasted for nearly 70 years and which provoked the Scottish Wars of Independence. John Balliol won the first round of the struggle by becoming king of Scotland in 1292, but then Robert the Bruce seized the vacant Crown in 1306. In 1329, the crown passed to Bruce's infant son David II. In 1332, John Balliol's son Edward claimed the Scottish throne with English help. In 1356 he renounced the claim since the only part of Scotland he controlled was Galloway, which he ruled as the great-great -great-great grandson of Fergus of Galloway.

Even after Edward Balliol gave up the Scottish crown, English forces held key castles like Lochmaben. To help recover these castle and control Galloway, David II made Archibald Douglas Warden of the Western Marches in 1368 and granted him the lands between the Nith and the Cree in 1369, to which Archibald added (through purchase) Wigtownshire in 1371. By building Threave castle, Archibald was stamping not just his authority but that of the Scottish crown on the 'rebellious' province of Galloway. Archibald died at Threave castle in 1400, but within fifty years, the earls of Douglas had become powerful enough to threaten the Stewart kings of Scotland. In the summer of 1455, James II besieged Threave castle but his cannons were unable to breach its defences so the castle's surrender was negotiated.

The lordship of Galloway and its lands, over one hundred farms, were now part of the Crown's estates. In the Exchequer Rolls for 1456, a lengthy account of these lands is given. These included Kelton Grange, Kelton mill, Over, Mid and Nether Kelton and Carlingwark. Kelton Grange is recorded as being 'occupied with the king's grain', as was Threave Grange on the west side of the Dee. The Exchequer Rolls also mention the movement of oxen for ploughing between the several grange lands now under the king's control. Just over 200 years later, teams of oxen were still toiling at the plough, as this tack (lease) for Keltonhill shows.


The Thomas Hutoune of Arkland who owned Keltonhill (or more likely his father, who was also a Thomas) can be connected to the siege of Threave castle in 1640. In The Minute Book of the War Committee of the Covenanters in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the years 1640 and 1641 Thomas Hutton of Arkland is recorded as representing the parish of Kelton on the Committee, a period which includes the siege of Threave castle in the summer of 1640.

The 'kipelles' mentioned in the tack are 'couples', timbers used for constructing a cruck-framed building for the new tenant and his workforce. Near Halketleathes farm in Buittle parish there is a Kipple Hill (NX 802 635), where timber for cruck-frames was grown. These buildings were very insubstantial. Like those at Kelton Grange, they were later replaced with stone farm buildings as part of the process of agricultural improvement. The same process of improvement also swept away most of the cottars' crofts. However, one of the seventeenth century tacks refers to a croft which can be identified -at Furbar and Furbar Hill on Threave estate.



The John Gae or Gaw who witnessed the tack was the tenant of Threave Mains. His son Robert was the tenant of Kelton Mains at the same time. Moving forward fifty years, it was at 'Furbar Ligget', that Captain Robert Johnston and the Reverend William Falconer of Kelton confronted a group of Galloway Levellers who had assembled on Kelton Hill in the summer of 1724. In his Rambles in Galloway, Malcolm Harper quotes an account of what happened passed on to Samuel Geddes of Keltonhill farm by his grandfather who had witnessed the event as a boy. 'Captain Johnstone was then laird, and had built a high dyke to fence his estate from the public road…anxious to preserve it he prevailed upon Mr. Falconer to accompany him in going to the levellers with the view of advising them to desist from their destructive proceedings…'

Bread and beer were provided for the Levellers and the dyke was left standing. Harper goes on to provide confirmation of the story by asserting that 'On a stone in the dyke of the right hand side of the road leading from Lochbank to Furbar House, there is a date, which is now indistinct, but about [1840] it was plainly 1725, and is now commemorative of the event'. There is a stone with a date carved on it next to Furbar House. However, the date on the stone is 1753, not 1725 nor 1724.

But was Captain Johnston really the 'laird of Kelton' in 1724? It would seem that he was. At Whitehall in December 1705, Queen Anne granted 'Captain Robert Johnston ... the twenty pound land of Thrieve [Kelton] Grange, the lands and baronies of Gelston, Kelton...ordaining the manor place of Kelton to be the principal messuage [dwelling place].'

However, before Johnston could take possession of his new estate, the feudal superior of Kelton, William Maxwell, 5th earl of Nithsdale, had to grant Jonhston 'sasine', which he did on 16 April 1706. Maxwell's feudal rights dated back to 1526, when Robert Maxwell, the 5th lord of Nithsdale was appointed hereditary keeper of Threave castle and its lands. Although Johnston had, as member of the Scottish Parliament for Dumfries, opposed the Union of 1707, when William Maxwell and William Gordon of Kenmure led a Jacobite uprising which threatened Dumfries in October 1715, one of the depute-stewards of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright appointed to raise a militia in defence of Dumfries was Robert Johnston. Since there was a strong anti-Jacobite aspect to the actions of the Galloway Levellers in 1724, Johnston's anti-Jacobite credentials may have helped save his march dyke at Furbar.

If this dyke was newly built in 1724, this implies that Johnston was engaged in improving his estate. Since the existing farm house at Kelton Mains would have been of very basic cruck-frame construction with a thatched roof, part of Johnston's improvements would have been to build a mortar and stone walled farm house with a slate roof. It therefore seems likely that it was Robert Johnston who built the original parts of Kelton Mains farm house sometime between 1706 and his death in 1735, most probably around 1720. Johnston left his estate burdened with debt and in 1744 his grandson Robert Mcdouall was forced to sell the Mains of Kelton and its parks (fields).

The first real sign of the age of the improvements which transformed the farmed landscape of Galloway can be traced in the arrow straight line of the Carlingwark canal (now the Carlingwark Lane) which runs through Threave estate. The canal was cut through the marshland which separates Carlingwark Loch from the river Dee by Sir Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw in 1765. The canal carried marl, a lime rich clay dug out from the loch, to farms along the Dee and Ken upstream as far as New Galloway 15 miles away. The collapse of the Ayr Bank in 1772 bankrupted Gordon who sold Carlingwark Loch and the surrounding land to Sir William Douglas in 1789. It was William Douglas who planned and built the new town of Castle Douglas with its grid like street pattern and its (unsuccessful) cotton mill.



Although the new town failed as an industrial centre, it thrives to this day as a market and commercial centre for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright – helped by its location at the ancient crossroads of Kelton and Threave.


Alistair Livingston 2 September 2010

Saturday, July 02, 2016

British Association for the Advancement of Science

The Origins of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
">Volume 6, Issue02, December 1972,                 pp 152-176
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=2908768

Monday, April 18, 2016

Vikings, Normans and Cumbrians




In 1998 I visited the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh where my son Callum was going to become a pupil. Before catching the train back home I popped into a bookshop and found ‘The Uses of Place-Names’ edited by Simon Taylor which had just been published. It was and is an utterly fascinating book, Since reading it I must have spent hundreds of hours poring over new and old maps, searching through historical texts, plodding across muddy fields, pushing through thickets of trees and navigating tracts of moorland in search of named places. I have also written thousands of words about what I found in these different explorations.

However, although I can find the places and their history over the past few hundred years, I do not have the deep linguistic knowledge of place name experts. I cannot tell if a particular place name is Old English or Old Norse, or if a word which looks Scots was originally Gaelic.

For example ‘Lockhart Hill’ in Balmaghie parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright looks as if it was named after someone called Lockhart who once owned it. But Sir Herbert Maxwell in ‘The Place Names of Galloway’  compares it to Barlockhart and Drumlockhart in Wigtownshire and suggest they all contain the Scottish Gaelic word ’lucairt’ which has various meanings including ’castle’. Drumlockhart overlooks Lochnaw castle in the Rhinns of Galloway and Barlockhart a medieval motte in Glenluce village.







‘Lucairt’ has its origins in the Irish ‘longphort, a name first given to Viking camps but later meaning ‘palace’ or other important building. There are no palaces or castles near Lockhart Hill, but it is near Glenlochar, another possible ’luchairt’. Here the origin may be the large Roman fort at Glenlochar- the remains of which were still substantial enough to be mistaken for a ruined abbey in the seventeenth century-  or it could refer to an actual Viking longphort in the vicinity.

In a previous post I have looked at this last possibility. A large part of the evidence supporting the Viking longphort hypothesis comes from Scandinavian place names plus two Viking graves in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, I have discovered a possible complication. There is a possibility that some Old Norse speakers from Cumberland may have been planted in Galloway in the twelfth century. These not so Old Norse speakers could then have given Scandinavian names to their new farms…

This possibility comes from connecting the following sources.

First source -Richard Oram’ The Lordship of Galloway’ (2000) from pages 67 and  194.

Probably in the late 1140s, Uhtred [son of Fergus of Galloway] was married to Gunnilda, daughter of Waltheof of Allerdale…Through this marriage, Uhtred became lord a small estate at Torpenhow in west Cumberland…Gunnilda of Allerdale brought Uhtred  in contact with a changing world across the Solway…In return it was this new Cumberland and Westmorland  society that provided Uhtred and his son Roland  with the body of colonists they introduced into their territories.

These ‘colonists’ would have been the builders of most of the 31 mottes in the central Stewartry discussed by Christopher Tabraham in ‘Norman Settlement in Galloway’ ( In ‘Studies in Scottish Antiquity’ edited by David Breeze, 1984)

The second source is David Parsons article ‘ On the Origins of ‘Hiberno-Norse Inversion Compounds’’ in the Journal of Scottish Names Studies Vol 5 (2011)

Amongst the earliest witnesses to the vernacular language [of northwest England] there a small number of 12th century inscriptions which suggest that Old Norse was alive at that date.  Although it is not impossible that the language here was a recent reintroduction from the Irish Sea area, it also seems possible that Norse might have remained  the locally dominant vernacular in parts of the region between the 10th and 12th centuries… [page 126]

Parsons then suggests [page 139] that if some of the Gall-Ghaidheil (Gaelic speaking Vikings who gave their name to Galloway) had pushed further southwards across the Solway they may have (re)learned Norse in the English north-west…

It is therefore possible that when Fergus of Galloway’s son Uhtred married his Cumbrian wife, this was consolidating a connection between Galloway and Cumberland that already existed. As a consequence, the motte-building colonists Uhtred and Roland (possibly even Fergus himself) introduced to Galloway may have been distant kin of Galloway’s Gall-Ghaideil rather than ‘Normans’.

This may seem very unlikely, but there is evidence which links some of Christopher Tabraham’s  ‘Norman’ mottes with  Scandinavian place names.



Gribdae farm, map reference NX 73 50, was first recorded in 1365 as ‘Gretby’ and the -by (byr) means it is included in all the various lists of Scandinavian place names in Galloway. The record of the place name in 1365 comes from ‘The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland Volume I, 1306-1425’ entry 206 on pages 63-4. The text is in Latin so I can only give the jist of it, but it says that Dugal McDowall grants Littlilgretby in his lands of Kyrassalda to John Trumpour (trumpeter?), Herald of Carrick.

Kyrssalda is now Kirkarswell in Rerrick parish. The mention of Kyrssalda in the 1365 text is the first record of the name. Both Maxwell (1930) and Daphne Brooke  (‘Northumbrian Settlements in Galloway and Carrick’, PSAS 1991) give the place name as ‘Kirk Oswald’- a chapel dedicated to the Northumbrian king and martyr St Oswald. However Andrew Symson writing in 1682 called Kirkcarswell, Kirkcastel.



However, as Brooke notes (page 305) the lands of Kirkcarswell  were the only part of Rerrick parish which did not belong to Dundrennan Abbey, founded by Fergus of Galloway in 1142.

Tabraham (‘Norman Settlements‘, 1986, page 112) includes Kirkcarswell motte - map ref NX 754 487 -  as a ‘definite’ motte plus bailey. Tabraham also notes that Kirkcarswell was not part of the Dundrennan lands and implies that  this means there was already in 1142 an estate with the Kirkcarswell motte as its ’caput’ or centre.


East Kirkcarswell motte


Unfortunately, Tabraham does not develop this possibility any further. Oram (2000, pages 224-5) mentions Kirkcarswell as an example of a ‘classic’ motte but goes on to date building of the Galloway mottes to 1160 and later, as the work of Uhtred and Roland/Lochlann. Tabraham also mentions a possible motte site at Bombie  map ref NX 715 505.  Bombie was Bundeby in 1296 so another Scandinavian place name. Tabraham describes the site at Bombie as probably a ‘ringwork’.



At Boreland of Anowth, map ref NX 548 550, there is a Cumbrian connection to what Tabraham describes as ’this fine motte-and-bailey’. Circa 1170 the church at Anwoth ‘was in the possession of David fitz Terri lord of Over Denton in Cumberland’, who is assumed to have been the builder of Boreland motte. However. Jack Scott [‘The Partition of a Kingdom: Strathclyde 1092-1153’, Transactions of the  Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1997, page 25] argues that the Anwoth motte may have been built 50 or so years earlier, before Fergus of Galloway came to power. [Oram, page 56 disagrees]

Boreland of Anwoth motte and bailey


If the Kirkcarswell (Gribdae), Bombie and Anwoth earthworks were built in the very early twelfth century by ‘Normanised’ Cumbrians who settled Norse speaking tenants on their lands, this could be the origin of some of the Scandinavian place / farm names.

Alternatively, later plantation of lands gifted by Fergus. Uhtred and/ or Roland/Lochlann to Cumbrians who also had still Norse speaking followers could have had a similar effect.

Or the Scandinavian place/ farm names could have been  created by Vikings….






Monday, April 11, 2016

A Viking longphort in Galloway?

The Dee-Ken inland naviagation



When the Vikings arrived in Ireland, they set up temporary encampments which the Irish called ‘longphorts’. One of these was long-lived and evolved into the city of Dublin, but most were not so enduring. Although western Galloway became part of a Dublin Viking kingdom, no longphorts have been found in Galloway, unless Herbert Maxwell, ‘Place Names of Galloway’ is correct and Long Fort farm near Auchenmalg Bay in Old Luce parish was a longphort. It is close to Sinniness which Maxwell derives from Old Norse sunan nes -southern headland.

Glenlochar = Gleann + luchairt? 

Excitingly, as part of his ongoing research into the Gaelic place names of Galloway and Carrick, Michael Ansell may have found one.  He suggests that the Gaelic place name Glenlochar in eastern Galloway might not be 'gleann luachair'- the rushy glen but  'gleann' + 'luchairt'. Luchairt is a Scottish Gaelic word derived from 'longphort', a Viking encampment. If Michael is correct, then Glenlochar represents ‘glen of the Viking encampment’.

A Viking longphort at Glenlochar means that the Vikings were accessing  25 miles of inland navigation on the Dee/ Ken river system - potentially from Kirkcudbright, where a Viking grave has been found, to the Boatpool of Dalry.

The location at Glenlochar is immediately interesting. In 1947, an aerial photograph revealed that that the site of what had previously been regarded as the site of an ‘abbey’ at Glenlochar was actually a Roman fort on the east bank of the Galloway river Dee. Altogether it is now known that there were two, possibly three, Roman forts at Glenlochar and at least five marching camps.

A mile downstream from Glenlochar is Threave castle, constructed in the late fourteenth century on an island site previously occupied by the Lords of Galloway in the twelfth century.  Between Threave and Glenlochar is the site of a tower house used as a summer residence by the Gordons of Kenmure castle. Andrew Symson [‘ A Large Description of Galloway’, written 1682] noted that ‘the Vicecount of Kenmuir may easily transport himself and his furniture by boat’ from his castle to this residence, a distance of 12 miles. In the later eighteenth century, barges were worked from Threave island to the Boatpool of Dalry, a distance of 15 miles.

Glenlochar Roman forts, Old Greenlaw and Threave Castle 


Navigation downstream from Glenochar was blocked  by a ridge of rock  at Tongland near Kirkcudbright. However, since it is known that Vikings could portage their boats around such obstacles, the rocks at Tongland would not have been a major difficulty for them. That there were Vikings in Kirkcudbright is known from the presence of a Viking era grave found in 1888 in the town. There is also a cluster of Scandinavian settlement place names around Kirkcudbright. Another probable Viking burial was found in a cairn on Blackerne farm in the eighteenth century. Blackerne is 3 miles east of Glenlochar.

A Viking grave was found in 1756 on Blackerne farm.
Cockleathes, Halketleathes and Leathes contain the Scandinavian place name element 'hltha', barn. In 1557, Ernespie farm was recorded as 'Quesby'. -by is another Scandinavian place name element.

The most important element in the understanding of Galloway’s history is the land itself.  Soil quality and land utilisation maps show a large central area of poor quality rough grazing land. This stretches from the eastern shore of Loch Ryan in the west to Upper Nithsdale in the east. The Wigtownshire Rhinns are an area of good quality land. From Ballantrae along the Ayrshire coast lies another area of better quality land widening out until it joins with the better quality land of Upper Nithsdale in the Cumnock area. The area of better quality land then extends down towards Dumfries. Running north-west to south-east between Dumfries and Gatehouse of Fleet is broad strip of better quality land which also occupies the eastern half of the Wigtownshire Machars. North of Castle Douglas, an area of better quality land extends up the Dee/Ken valley to Dalry, but to the south underlying granite between Screel/ Bengairn and Criffel creates another area of rough grazing, apart from a small area of good quality land in Kirkbean and New Abbey parishes.

South-west Scotland land quality map


Unfortunately, the route of a hypothesised Roman road between Lower Nithsdale and Glenlochar has not been established. It probably followed the same ridge of higher ground taken by the mid-eighteenth century Old Military Road, but crossed the Urr in the vicinity of Old Bridge of Urr rather then the Haugh of Urr to reach Glenlochar. West of Glenlochar, a direct line to gatehouse of Fleet where there was a Roman fortlet is blocked by an area of higher ground rising from 400 feet up to 1200 feet at Bengray so a Roman route would probably have skirted this area.

On the course of the road were crannog sites at Lochrutton and Milton loch. The Glenlochar site would also have given the Romans control of the Dee/Ken valley. High status objects- the Balmaclellan mirror (found eight miles north of Glenlochar), Wheatcroft rein-ring (found 1 miles south of Glenlochar) the Torrs pony cap and Carlingwark cauldron (both found two miles south)- suggest the Dee/Ken valley was an important area and that the area around present day Castle Douglas was a centre of religious/political power.


However, by the sixth century, the Mote of Mark and Trysty’s Hill had become high status sites with Ardwall Island (visible from Trusty’s Hill) an important Christian religious site. But although Ardwall continued as a religious site until the eleventh century, both the Mote of Mark and Trusty’s Hill were destroyed in the later seventh century most likely by Northumbrian invaders.

The 'T' is Trusty's Hill and 'W' Whithorn.


While Whithorn became an important Northumbrian religious centre in Wigtownshire, no centre of Northumbrian power of similar high status replaced the Mote of Mark and Trusty’s Hill in the Stewartry.

In ‘The Northumbrian Settlements of Galloway and Carrick’ (PSAS, 1991), Daphne Brooke argued that there was a Northumbria ‘shire’ in the central Stewartry. This extended from the river Fleet in the west to the river Urr in the east and inland to Burned Island on Loch Ken, 6 miles north of Glenlochar. The Castle Douglas area (Kelton parish) would have been at the centre of this shire. The various estates and landholdings of this shire, having passed from native British to Northumbrian ownership then survived to become the ‘building blocks’ of the medieval Lordship of Galloway. Brooke used a list of lands forfeited to the Scottish Crown by the last Douglas lord of Galloway in 1455 to identify some of these key building blocks.

Unfortunately, Brooke misidentified Burned Island on Loch Ken as the ‘Arsbutil’ in the list of forfeited lands. However, also called Erysbutil and Irisbutil, Erthbutil and Arthbutil in the ‘Exchequer Rolls’ between 1456 and 1477, in 1566 the ’Exchequer Rolls’ list Yrisbutil  as ‘alias Orchardton’.  Orchardton is in Buittle parish and John Cairns built a distinctive round tower house there after being granted  the lands of ‘Arsbutil’ by James II in 1456.

Without Arsbutil in the Glenkens, Brooke’s argument for a Northumbrian shire in the Stewartry is weakened. It is also possible to question some of her other Northumbrian evidence, as I have done previously. [‘Gaelic in Galloway Part Two-Contraction’ TDGNHAS 2012 pp 65-6]

If the Northumbrians did not take any great interest in the Stewartry, there would have been little to stimulate its agricultural economy. Without the need to support high status settlements, subsistence farming would have sufficed to meet the needs of its inhabitants.  With no centres of wealth and population to match Whithorn, there would have been little in the district to attract Viking raiders. This would also have meant that there would have been little in the way of opposition to Viking settlers.

Brooke (1991) listed 28 Scandinavian settlement place names in the Stewartry of Kirkcubdright. Of these, eight are existing or former (Galtway) parish names. The rest, a form Hestan Island, are farm names. One of these, Sypland near Kirkcudbright, was first recorded in 1210. It is now divided into Little Sypland and Meikle Sypeland- which are two miles apart. The original farm was therefore very large. Almorness, a three mile long peninsula, was first recorded as one farm in 1376. It was still one farm in 1456 but had been divided into six farms by the eighteenth century.

Brooke Scandinavian Place Names 1991


Mapping the full extent of Viking settlement is difficult. As examples, Brooke includes Southwick in her list of Northumbrian place names and her list of Scandinavian places names. Herbert Maxwell (‘Place Names of Galloway’) identifies Senwick  on the Dee estuary as  Scandinavian but Brooke as Northumbrian. Maxwell gives the river Fleet as either Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon (Northumbrian) while Brooke includes it in her Northumbrian list.

It may be significant that Brooke was carrying out the research that produced ‘Northumbrian Settlements in Galloway and Carrick’ while the 1984-1991 ‘Whithorn Dig’ was producing evidence for the importance of Northumbrian Whithorn. The place name evidence for the western Machars shows Scandinavian settlements -Eggerness, Sorbie, Bysbie, Arbrack, Kidsdale, Physgill, Appleby and Ravenstone- in an arc around the Northumbrian settlements of Whithorn, Oughton, Broughton and Pouton.

This evidence has led to the suggestion that Northumbrian power in the Machars was strong enough to employ Viking settlers as a protective shield around  Whithorn. [e.g. Brooke ‘Wild Men and Holy Place, 1994, p.65]


But in the Stewartry, there was no equivalent to Whithorn. If there was, however, an inland/upriver Viking longphort at Glenlochar- close to earlier (late Iron Age/ Roman) and later ( medieval lordship of Galloway) centres of power, then the balance of probability between Northumbrian or Scandinavian settlement place names shifts towards Scandinavian origins.

In the 1930s, the Dee/Ken river system (and also the river Doon in Ayrshire) was altered by the Galloway Hyrdro-electric Scheme. On the lower Dee a barrage was constructed at Glenlochar and a dam at Tongland. It is therefore necessary to rely on pre 1930s Ordnance Survey maps to survey the lower Dee. These older maps show that even before the barrage was constructed at Glenlochar, the Dee was much wider above Glenlochar than it was below. Between Tongland and Old Bridge of Dee, the river was much narrower, in places less than 100 feet wide.

The pre 1930s maps also show four fords between Old Bridge of Dee and Tongland as well as three ‘forts’ and two ‘moats’ close to the river. There is a definite motte at Kirkcormack and also a chapel site. Kirkcormack was a pre-Reformation parish, now part of Kelton parish. Although the motte at Kirkcormack is post-Viking, the farms of Milnthird and Netherthird which were in Kirkcormack parish are included in Brooke’s list of Scandinavian settlements.

Assuming that the Vikings used the river Dee to reach the Glenlochar longphort, the need for portage at Tongland and to navigate five miles of narrow and sometimes shallow river from Tongland to Old Bridge of Dee would have been a strategic weakness. This suggests that either the lands along the lower Dee were already settled by Vikings or that they were soon after the Glenlochar longphort was established.

That what became the parishes of Tongland and Balmaghie on the west bank of the lower Dee and Kirkcormack and Kelton on the east bank formed a connected unit of territory is suggested by evidence from the twelfth century.

The ‘Saints in Scottish Place Names ‘ database  http://saintsplaces.gla.ac.uk/place.php?id=1107  (and other sources) links Kirkcormack to other parish and chapel sites on the lower Dee.

Between 1172 and 1174 King William grants to Holyrood Abbey the churches or chapels in Galloway (in Galweia) in which Iona Abbey has proprietary right (que ad ius abbatie de Hij Columchille pertinent), with all teinds and other benefits (beneficiis), viz the church of Kirchecormach [medieval parish, now in Kelton], and ‘ecclesiam Sancti Andree [= Balmaghie] and that of Balencros [Barncrosh, in Tongland] and that of Cheletun [Kelton]. RRS ii no. 141.

Significantly, although he suggests that the four churches were gifted to Iona Abbey by Fergus in the earlier twelfth century, Richard Oram [‘The Lordship of Galloway’, 2000, p. 10 ] notes that

Dedications to Columban saints, such as Colman and Buittle, Urr and Colomonell in Carrick, Aid mac Bricc at Kirkmabreck, Bride at Blaiket, Cormac at Kirkcormack and Cummene at Kirkcolm, display a striking correlation to the main zones of Scandinavian settlement…particularly to the zone around Kirkcudbright.

Two miles south-east of Kirkcormack there is Kirkbride farm.There is another Kirkbride in Anwoth parish and Kirklebride in Kirkpatrick Durham parish. Near Dalbettie, what is now the Little Kirgunzeon Lane was called the Pollchilbride- St Bride’s chapel stream- in the twelfth century. However, unlike Cormac and Aid mac Bricc, none of the chapels dedicated to Bride became parishes. On the other hand, they may indicated other areas of Viking settlement.

There is also an Arkland in Anwoth parish which is included in Brooke’s list of Scandinavian places names. In Kirkpatrick Durham there is another Arkland which is adjacent to Kirklebride. In the former Kirkcormack parish there is a third Arkland, now divided into Over, High and Low Arkland. In her 2003 PhD thesis E A Grant [ Scandinavian Place-Names in Northern Britain as Evidence for Language Contact and Interaction ]  following Maxwell, suggested that Areeming in Kirkpatrick Durham, which is adjacent to Kirklebride and Arkland is similar to the Wigtownshire Airiehemming. Grant suggested both contain the Old Norse personal name Hemingr + Gaelic airigh.

This raises the possibility that Aireland (originally in Gelston parish, now Kelton) and which shared grazing in common with Arkland (Kirkcormack) in the seventeenth century may also have a connection to same period of settlement as the block of Scandinavian named farms to the south and west.


Sketch map of possible Viking settlements by density of place names.


Although some Irish longphort had inland locations beside rivers, most were coastal. [See Clare Downham https://www.academia.edu/1514025/Viking_Camps_in_Ninth-century_Ireland_Sources_Locations_and_Interactions ]

The most obvious locations for longphorts in the Stewartry would have been around the tidal limits of the Cree, Fleet, Dee, Urr or Nith estuaries. Since a Viking grave was found at Kirkcudbright on the Dee, Kirkcudbright would seem the more obvious location for a longphort rather than  Glenlochar 12 miles inland.

One possibility for choosing an inland location was security. In 902, the Vikings were driven out of Dublin by the Irish. If there already was Viking settlement around Kirkcudbright, one of the leaders of the Dublin Viking community may have chosen Glenlochar as a safe haven to rebuild and regroup before attempting to retake Dublin- which was achieved in 917 by Sitric Cáech (Sigtryggr) and Ragnall ua Ímair (Røgnvaldr).

Since Ragnall/ Røgnvaldr may have ruled over an area of southern Scotland and/or the Isle of Man, the Glenlochar longphort may have been his location between 902 and 917. But what was he doing there during those years?

Possibly he was exploiting a local resource- timber. Seventeenth century records show that there were still woodlands at Cumston near Kirkcudbright, near New Galloway and above Dalry where Alexander Gordon of Earlston sold his woodlands for 23 000 merks (£640 sterling) in 1691. In the tenth century, the Dee/Ken river system would have been well wooded. A longphort at Glenlochar would have given its occupier access to this timber which could then have been used to build a handy fleet of Viking longships in preparation for a return to Dublin. (As an aside, in 1204, Alan of Galloway offered to provide King John of England with a fleet of 100 ships when John was at war with Phillip II of France. Also see Stockarton discussed below)

Alternatively, if the Glenlochar longphort was established earlier, it may have been used to control trade and communication routes through the Stewartry. Discovered in 1912 and dated to 875, a Viking era metalwork hoard from Talnotry, 17 miles north west of Glenlochar, implies that what was to become a medieval pilgrimage route between Edinburgh and Whithorn was already in existence.  This east-west route crossed a north-south route into Ayrshire at the head of Loch Ken. A group of tenth century cross-slabs near Carsphairn lie on this route, possibly as markers.

The Roman east-west route crossed the Dee at Glenlochar and another east-west route crossed marshlands which stretch from the Dee to Gelston on a ridge of high ground beside Carlingwark loch two miles to the south.

However, since the only high status location any of these routes gave access to at the time was Whithorn, control over them would have provided slim pickings for the Glenlochar Vikings.

On the other hand, the Talnotry hoard could be an indication that travel between the Firth of Clyde and the Solway Firth by land through the Southern Uplands was believed to be safer than by sea through the North Channel. A longphort at the head of Loch Ken, possibly near the site of Kenmure Castle would have facilitated control of both east-west and north-south routes.


Even if the north-south overland route was only of minor importance for the Vikings compared to the sea-lanes, it may have been one of the routes along which Gaelic spread into Galloway. The most obvious route for the spread of Gaelic into Galloway is the short hop across the North Channel but at the beginning of the tenth century the Wigtownshire coast was still being described as the ‘Saxon shore’ in Irish annals. [Both Alex Woolf ‘Pictland to Alba’ 2007 and Thomas Clancy ‘The Gall-Ghàidheil and Galloway‘, JSNS 2008 note this.]

Greater Galloway

It is possible that there was already a Viking presence at Whithorn by then since the last Northumbrian coins found at Whithorn date to around 880. But by the time Echmarcach mac Ragnaill, a former king of Viking Dublin died while on pilgrimage to Rome in 1064, the Saxon shore had acquired a new name. The territory Echmarcach mac Ragnaill ruled over at the time of his death was called ‘na Renna’- the Rhinns..

Rhinns is a Gaelic word, not a Scandinavia one, however. The most likely  explanation for this is that while leading Vikings in Ireland continued to speak Old Norse, they would also have spoken Gaelic and most of their  followers would have been Gaelic speakers. As a result the main group of Irish Vikings who settled in and took control of Wigtownshire during the tenth century would have been Gaelic speakers. The Viking/ Gaelic Kingdom of the Rhinns included the Whithorn and the Wigtownshire Machars, but it does not seem to have included the Stewartry or extended north through the Moors into Carrick and south Ayrshire.

Yet by the time Fergus emerges in the 1120s as  ruler of a kingdom which included the Stewartry west of the Urr, Wigtownshire and Carrick, the whole territory had become Gaelic speaking. Significantly, Fergus’ kingdom was called Galloway, not the Rhinns.

Galloway takes its name from the Gall-Ghàidheil, but confusingly the Gall-Ghàidheil are first mentioned in mid ninth century Irish records. The  Gall-Ghàidheil then disappear between 857 and 1034 when the death of Suibne mac Cinaeda, king of the Gall-Ghàidheil is recorded. What the record does not reveal is where Suibne ruled, but presumably not in the same territory as Echmarcach mac Ragnaill.

Thomas Clancy [2008] has suggested that Bute was in the territory of the Gall-Ghàidheil at the beginning of the tenth century. Two hundred years later, Scottish records use ‘Galloway’ to describe a territory which stretched from Renfrewshire down through Ayrshire and  into western Dumfriesshire. This was a much larger area than the territory Fergus controlled. Through the twelfth century this greater Galloway was gradually absorbed into the kingdom of Scotland.

In 1160, Scots King Malcolm IV,  conquered Fergus’ kingdom but as the Lords of Galloway, Fergus’ descendants continued to hold sawy over the region.. When he died in 1234, Fergus’ great-grandson Alan was described as ‘king of the Gall-Ghàidheil’ in the Annals of Ulster. When Alan’s great grandson Edward Balliol made a bid for the Scottish Crown in 1332, his strongest support came from Galloway where he was described as the region’s ‘special lord’.

After Edward Balliol’s death in 1365, Archibald ‘the Grim’ Douglas re-established the Lordship of Galloway. The Douglas Lordship of Galloway survived  until 1455, when all the Douglas lands were  forfeited to the Scottish Crown.  In 1456, the Abbot of Dundrennan Abbey produced  a list of all these lands. The survival in this list of lands with 750 year old Northumbrian names led Daphne Brooke to propose that these lands, including Arsbutil (discussed above), had been the building blocks of Fergus of Galloway’s kingdom.



To return to the Gall-Ghàidheil. If the early tenth century territory of the Gall-Ghàidheil lay around Bute  and was then extended south along the Clyde coast, the existence of a Dublin controlled Kingdom of the Rhinns would have been an obstacle to this expansion. But if the Kingdom of the Rhinns did not extend into Carrick to the north or the Stewartry and Nithsdale to east, these areas would have been available for settlement in the later tenth or early eleventh centuries.

However, if there had still been a strong Viking presence along the Dee/ Ken river system, as there still was in Wigtownshire, this would have been an obstacle to the Gall-Ghàidheil. Alternatively, if the main phase of activity associated with the Glenlochar longphort  was in the early tenth century, by the later tenth century and early eleventh century, the Vikings settlers remaining in the lower Dee valley may have formed a defensive alliance with the incoming Gall-Ghàidheil to prevent their territory becoming absorbed into the Kingdom of the Rhinns.

This possibility would fit with Richard Oram’s suggestion that the original nucleus of Fergus of Galloway’s kingdom was centred on Kirkcudbright and the lower Dee valley. Although there is no historical evidence to link Fergus with Loch Fergus above Kirkcudbright, the Palace Isle and Stable Isle on the now drained loch may have been his original caput. Christopher Tabraham described the site as of ‘undoubtedly major importance’ in his study ‘Norman Settlement in Galloway’ (1984). Loch Fergus is one mile from the Scandinavian Bombie and Meikle Sypland and only half a mile from the Viking grave site in Kirkcudbright.

Scandinavian place names orange, Gaelic blue, Scots red


Summary and Conclusion

Although not discussed above, the discovery of a major Viking Hoard in Galloway in 2014 must lead to a re-assessment of the importance of Galloway during the Viking era. But if there was a stronger Viking presence in Galloway than previously suspected, the ripples from the Galloway Viking Hoard will affect our understanding of the preceding Northumbrian period and the later origins of Fergus of Galloway’s kingdom.

If we take Michael Ansell’s Glenlochar/ Glenluchairt ‘longphort’ suggestion as pointing to a significant inland Viking settlement in the Stewartry, then the presence of  Scandinavian parish, farm and place names between the Fleet and the Urr, with a concentration in Rerrick, Kirkcudbright and Kelton parishes (which include the medieval parishes of Galtway, Kirkcormack and Gelston) becomes significant. What is difficult to see in this area is something similar to the pattern found in Wigtownshire, where an arc of Scandinavian farm and place names encircles a core of Northumbrian farm names around Whithorn.

If, as Daphne Brooke proposed,  Kelton was at the centre of  a Northumbrian shire, a centre of secular Northumbrian power similar to the religious centre of Northumbrian power at Whithorn, a similar pattern of place name evidence might be expected.

An alternative hypothesis is that after  the destruction of the Mote of Mark and Trusty’s Hill sites, the Northumbrians did not establish any equivalent centres of secular power  in the Stewartry but did take over existing chapel sites and/or created some of their own. However, none of the Northumbrian religious sites in the Stewartry were on the scale of Whithorn in Wigtownshire or Hoddom in Dumfriesshire.

Without the economic stimulus of a major religious or secular site in the Stewartry, the districts economy would have been based on small scale subsistence farming on patches of better quality land concentrated on drier land in the river valleys and interspersed by woodlands and wetlands.

In this scenario, it would have been Norse speaking Vikings and then the Gaelic speaking Gall-Ghàidheil rather than the Northumbrians who created the large farms and estates which - at least in the Stewartry- later formed the building blocks of what was to become Fergus’ kingdom and survived to be recorded by the Abbot of Dundrennan in 1456.

Quite how the Galloway Viking Hoard will fit into this picture remains to be seen. Much will depend on its dating and the duration of the settlement it is associated with.

Appendix One - Extended list of possible Scandinavian place names in Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Based on Brooke [1991] plus additions marked *

 Almorness- peninsula. Was one medieval farm, now several farms in Buittle parish.
Anwoth-parish.
Arbigland- farm in Kirkbean parish. Very high quality farmland.
*Areeming- farm in  Kirkpatrick Durham parish, airigh +Hemingr
*Airieland- farm in Gelston now Kelton parish.
Arkland -farm in Anwoth parish.
*Arkland- farm in Kirkcormack now Kelton parish.
*Arkland- farm in Kirkpatrick Durham parish.
Bagbie- farm in Kirkmabreck parish.
*Balmaghie (Iona pre-1172)- Balmaghie parish.
Bareness- farm in Colvend and Southwick parish. May not be Scandinavian but from Gaelic easa -waterfall since adjacent to Southwick mill and not a headland.
*Barncrosh (Iona pre-1172 )- farm in Tongland parish.
*Blackerene (probable Viking burial)- farm in Crossmichael parish. Adjacent to Leathes in Buittle parish.
Bombie- farm in Kirkcudbright parish.
Borgue- parish, now includes medieval Kirkandrews and Senwick parishes.
Borness- farm in Borgue parish.
Cockleaths- former farm, now just a house in Buittle parish.
*Ernespie- farm in Crossmichael parish. Recorded in 1557 as ‘Quesby’. Ernespie is adjacent to Blackerne (Viking burial) and *Leathes (Lathys, 1330) in Buittle parish.
Fairgirth- farm in Colvend and Southwick parish.
*Finniness- farm in Balmaghie parish. No waterfall nearby, so less likely to be Gaelic easa. Land extends into broad section of river Dee so possible Scandinavian ‘nes‘.
Fleet- river. Boundary between Anwoth and Girthon parishes.
Gaitgill- farm in Borgue parish.
Galtway- farm in medieval Galtway parish, now part of Kirkcudbright parish.
Galtway- medieval parish, now part of Kirkcudbright parish.
Gelston- medieval parish, now part of Kelton parish.
Girstingwood- farm in Rerrick parish.
*Glenlochar- may be Gaelic Gleann Luchairt- longphort. Place name location on both side of river Dee in Balmaghie and Crossmichael parishes. On Crossmichael side, also site of Roman forts and marching camps.
Gribdae- farm in Kirkcudbright parish.
*Grobdale- two farms, one in Girthon parish, other in Balmaghie parish. Grobdale Lane (watercourse) is parish boundary.
Halketleathes- farm in Buitle parish.
Hestan Island- Rerrick parish. Maxwell suggests from Scandinavian  hestum ey- horse island. Accessible at low tide from White Horse (White Port) Bay on which is adjacent to Horse Isles and Horse Isle Bay which are all on Almorness peninsula.
Kelton (Iona pre-1172)- parish, now includes Kirkcormack and Gelston.
*Kirkcormack (Iona pre-1172) - medieval parish, now part of Kelton parish.
Kirkcudbright (Viking burial)- parish, now includes medieval Galtway and Dunrod parishes.
*Kirkbride- farm in Anwoth parish.
*Kirkbride- farm in Kirkcudbright parish.
*Kirklebride- farm in Kirkpatrick Durham parish, adjacent to Areeming and Arkland farms.
Kirkdale- medieval parish, now part of Kirkmabreck parish.
Kirkmabreck- parish, now includes Kirkdale parish.
*Leathes- farm in Buittle parish. Recorded as ‘Lathys’ in 1330, with Cockleathes and Halketleathes as later sub-divisions. Adjacent to Blakerne (Viking burial). From ‘hlatha’ (Maxwell, 1930)
Mabie- farm in Troqueer parish, now Mabie Forest.
Milnthird- farm in Kirkcormack, now Kelton parish.
*Netherlaw- farm in Rerrick parish, recorded as ‘Nethrelathe’ in 1306. (‘hlatha’)
Netherthird- farm in Kirkcormack now Kelton parish.
*Newlaw- farm in Rerrick parish, recorded as ‘Newelathe’ in 1306. (‘hlatha’
*Overlaw- farm in Rerrick parish, recorded as ‘Ourelathe’ in 1306.
Rerrick- parish. (‘hlatha’
Southwick- medieval parish, now part of Colvend and Southwick parish.
Southerness- now a village in Kirkbean parish.
Sypland- now Meikle and Little Sypland in Kirkcudbrigth parish. The two farms are two miles apart.
Tongland- parish.

Appendix Two-  Stewartry parishes with area in square miles, arable potential (based on New Statistical Account), number of Gaelic farm names, medieval mottes (from Tabraham, 1986) and possible Scandinavian place names.

The need to be aware of parishes with medieval (Norman style) mottes is important since Middle English/Early Scots speakers settled around the mottes in the twelfth century may have introduced place names which have Old English or Scandinavian roots, thus creating confusion. On the other hand the mottes-representing grants of land by the medieval Lords of Galloway to non-Gaelic speakers - also correlate with areas of land suitable for arable farming so would have been attractive to pre-Norman Northumbrians and Vikings as well. Parishes which have medieval mottes but no Scandinavian places names are highlighted #. These are Balmaclellan, Dalry, New Abbey, Parton, Troqueer, Twynholm and Urr.


Mottes from Tabraham 1986 plus nearby Gaelic farms and Scandinavian place names


 Anwoth- 16 square miles 50 % arable, 19 Gaelic farm names + medieval motte, possible Viking place name
#Balmaclellan- 37 square  miles, 19% arable, 38 Gaelic farm names + medieval motte
Balmaghie-34 square miles, 29% arable, 29 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, but has Threave castle, possible Viking place name
Borgue-20 square miles, 65% arable, 22 Gaelic farm names + 3 medieval mottes, possible Viking place names
Buittle- 19 square miles, 32% arable, 22 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte but has Buittle castle, possible Viking place name
Carsphairn- 88 square miles, 2% arable, 33 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, 10th century cross slabs, possibly Viking route
Colvend and Southwick- 37 square miles, arable ?, 32 Gaelic farm names + medieval motte, possible Viking place name
Crossmichael- 15 square miles, 80% arable, 27 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte. Parish belonged to Lincluden Abbey/church, fortified site at Old Greenlaw, possible Viking grave.
#Dalry- 52 square miles, 19% arable, 35 Gaelic farm names + 2 medieval mottes
Girthon- 24 square miles, 25% arable, 27 Gaelic farm names, + medieval motte, possible Viking place name
Irongray -23 square miles, 52% arable, 17 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte.
Kells- 74 square miles, 3% arable, 43 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, unless under Kenmure Castle.
Kelton- 18 square miles, 28% arable, 10 Gaelic farm names + 2 medieval mottes (Gelston and Kirkcormack), possible Viking place names
Kirkbean-17 square miles, 44% arable, 5 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, possible Viking place name
Kirkcudbright- 23 square miles, 23% arable, 12 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, but fortified site at loch Fergus and had later castle (Castledykes), possible Viking place names plus grave
Kirkgunzeon- 12 square miles, 42% arable, 17 Gaelic farms, no medieval motte.
Kirkmabreck-36 square miles, 22% arable, 25 Gaelic farm names + medieval motte, possible Viking place name
Kirkpatrick Durham- 31 square miles, 42% arable, 26 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, possible Viking place name
Lochrutton- 10 square miles, 80% arable, 10 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte but crannog site occupied in 12th century
Minnigaff- 137 square miles, 7% arable, 83 medieval farm names, no medieval motte, possible Viking route (Talnotry Hoard)
#New Abbey- 17 square miles, 35% arable, 16 Gaelic farm names + medieval motte, Abbey
#Parton- 27 square miles, 4 % arable, 23 Gaelic farm names + two medieval mottes
Rerrick- 32 square miles, 63% arable, 28 Gaelic farms + medieval motte, Abbey, possible Viking place names
Terregles- 8 square miles, 88% arable, 4 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte
Tongland- 10 square miles, 20% arable, 11 Gaelic farm names, no medieval motte, Abbey, possible Viking place name
#Troqueer- 9 square miles, 89% arable, 13 Gaelic farms names  + medieval motte, Abbey
#Twynholm- 17 square miles, 65% arable, 10 Gaelic farm names + 2 medieval mottes
#Urr- 47 square miles, 83% arable, 14 Gaelic farm names + one massive motte, Motte of Urr