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, November 14, 2006

A 712 : the Road to Union ?

The A 712 - the Road to Union?
Dalrymples of Stair - Scottish Whigs or Irish Tories?

This could be (Talking Heads song from 1977ish) taking me on ‘The Road to Nowhere’. However, I will set off and see where it takes me.

The A 712.

The A 712 runs for about 30 km/ 20 miles from Minnigaff (Newton Stewart) to Crocketford, both on the A75 Gretna/ Stranraer ( for ferries to Northern Ireland) ‘Euro-route’.

From Minnigaff to New Galloway the road follows roughly course of the Old Edinburgh Road, a pre-Reformation pilgrimage route from Edinburgh to Whithorn. This section passes through the Galloway Forest Park and skirts the ‘highland’ zone of the Southern Uplands which contains 11 peaks over 2500 feet high. From my Galloway Levellers research I have established that by 1660 (e.g. tacks for Drumbuie and Roundfell) this was an area which specialised in the summer pasturing of cattle. By 1690 the Herons of Kirroughtrie had cattle on six identifiable farms here. Each of these farms can be associated with a particular ’hill’, examples being Drigmorn and Drigmorn Hill (545 m/ 1700 ft )and Lamachan and Lamachan Hill (685 m / 2230 feet). In some cases only the name of the hill has survived. For more details see final section of

Beyond what is now the Clatteringshaws Loch/ Reservoir [built 1930s as part of Galloway Hydro-electric power Scheme] the pilgrimage route would have headed straight for St. John’s Town of Dalry [ Knights Hospitallars held land here] and then onwards via A 702 to Moniaive [ Note: according to Ian Whyte in Agriculture and Society in Seveteenth Century Scotland: 1979, Moniaive is mentioned in an Act of the Scottish Parliament from 1661 concerning the ‘delimitation of drove roads‘] , Durisdeer and a Roman road into Clydesdale. Post-reformation, the Old Edinburgh Road was diverted via New Galloway. New Galloway was founded as a Royal Burgh by Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar in 1612.

In 1697, a group of mainly Wigtownshire landowners (but including Viscount Alexander Gordon of Kenmure/ New Galloway) petitioned the Scottish Privy Council to have a drove road legally marked out and fenced off between New Galloway and Dumfries. [For details see passage below from online Chamber’s Annals of Scotland highlighted below - all local mentions of this drove road seem to be derived from Chambers].

One of the local sources which quotes Chambers’ is Agnew in his History of the Hereditary Sheriffs of Wigtownshire. [ 1868 edition, page 435]. Agnew immediately moves on to list the Galloway members of the Scottish parliament of 22 May 1700. Of these, James Stewart / Earl of Galloway, Viscount ( Earl) Stair and Sir Andrew Agnew were amongst the landowners who petitioned for the New Galloway/ Dumfries drove road. Of the others, William MacDowall of Garthland, Patrick Dunbar of Machermore and McGuffoc of Rusco can be identified (especially McGuffoc/ McGuffog) as landowners involved in the cattle trade. Finally , amongst the four Commissioners for the Boroughs, Agnew gives Sir Hew Dalrymple as Commissioner for New Galloway. This is quite interesting.

Cattle barons and the Union of 1707.

According to Christopher Whatley’s new book ‘The Scots and the Union’ [Edinburgh University Press : 2006] John Dalrymple, 1st earl of Stair played a decisive role in ‘driving the articles of Union through parliament in 1706-7’.Sir Hew (or Hugh) Dalrymple was John’s brother. Although he represented North Berwick in the Union parliament , his earlier link with New Galloway does give him a ‘cattle trade’ connection, since New Galloway was the ‘fiefdom’ of Viscount Alexander Gordon of Kenmure as successor to the Gordons of Lochinvar. [Note: Sir John Clerk of Penicuik was another key driver towards Union. In the Union parliament, he represented Whithorn, a borough controlled by his brother-in-law and cattle trader, James Stewart, 5th Earl of Galloway].

At which point I will pause. I am not writing an academic thesis, I am merely speculating wildly on the basis of the existence of a road which follows a cattle drove route.

The real problem is that where there should be detailed / formal/ academically recognised and respected local studies of , for example, the Galloway Cattle Trade and the Union of 1707, there is nothing.

The information exists, but no-one knows about it.

Good grief, here is John Dalrymple, first earl of Stair, a major figure in Scottish history (Massacre of Glencoe, Union of 1707), son of James (author The Institutions of the Law of Scotland: 1681 . See,_1st_Viscount_Stair
for biog.) worrying about a drove road betwixt New Galloway and Dumfries. Why? How important was the cattle trade to the fortunes of the Dalrymple of Stair dynasty? Whyte [1979: 126 ] states that the earl of Stair (John?) took over cattle parks in Wigtownshire constructed by the Cassillis family between 1640/ 1650 at Drummuchloch (near Stranraer)and that by 1700 these were ‘one of the largest cattle parks in the south-west’.

Did the cattle trade (and the threat posed by the English ‘Aliens Act’ which would have banned the it ) help) drive the Union forward? I suspect Yes, but where is my evidence? Does it lie in the ‘Stair muniments’ held in the Scottish Record Office/ National Archive of Scotland ? Possibly…

William Clerk in Strahanna and Irish drovers.

Strahanna is a farm which lies upstream of High Bridge of Ken on the Water of Ken and on a very minor road which leads up past the Holm of Dalquhairn to the abandoned steading of Lorg. A track leads through a pass between Lorg Hill and Altry Hill into Dumfriesshire at Pulskeoch. From Pulskeoch the Southern Upland Way heads towards Sanquhar whilst a very very minor road winds its way to join the A 702 between Moniaive and Thornhill.

Strahanna is pretty remote now and can hardly have been much less remote in 1698. Which makes me wonder why William Clerk of Strahanna was troubled in that year by an Irish drover, one Arthur Ferguson of Pillshaskie , parish of Derry who Clerk claimed was responsible for the riot and abuse committed by him “ rydding down and destroying some cornes belonging to me untill samen was turned red and useless when samen ground was noeways a rodd nor adjacent therto but most wilfully so abused by himself and others his accomplices to my great loss and damnadge probable by his own oath and famous witness. “ [Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1623- 1700: Vol. II: Entry 3346 recorded 13 June 1699: page 764].

What was Arthur Ferguson doing so far from the ‘rodd’ (road)? Was he, perhaps, taking a herd of still illegal Irish cattle by this circuitous route to Edinburgh? Or was the plan to take them down Nithsdale and present them as ‘Highland’ cattle at Dumfries or Alisonbank (Gretna) customs posts?

It does make me wonder how many of the ‘Galloway’ cattle passing along (or off ) drove roads like the A 712 were really Irish?

In which case how many of the Galloway whigs (like the Dalrymples of Stair) were really Irish tories? [Historic pun, go figure]

Now here is entry from Chamber's Domestic Annals of Scotland

Oct 15
It is a rather whimsical association of ideas, that Sir David Dunbar, the hero of the sad story of the Bride of Baldoon —the bridegroom in the case—was an active improver of the wretched rural economy of his day. Some years before his unfortunate death in 1682, he had formed the noted park of Baldoon, for the rearing of a superior breed of cattle, with a view to the demands of the market in England. It was, as far as I can lean, the first effort of the kind made in Scotland, and the example was not without imitation in various parts of the southwestern province of Scotland.
Andro Sympson, in his gossiping .Deseription of Galloway, written before the Revolution, speaks of the park of Baldoon as a rich pastoral domain, of two and a half miles in length and one and a half in breadth, to the south of the river Blednoch. It ‘can,’ he says, ‘keep in it, winter and summer, about a thousand bestial, part whereof he [Sir David Dunbar] buys from the country, and grazeth there all winter, other part whereof is his own breed; for he hath nearly two hundred milch kine, which for the most part have calves yearly. He buys also in the summer-time from the country many bestial, oxen for the most part, which be keeps till August or September; so that yearly he either sells at home to drovers, or sends to St Faith’s, and other fairs in England, about eighteen or twenty score of bestial. Those of his own breed at four year old are very large; yea, so large, that, in August or September 1682, nine-and-fifty of that sort, which would have yielded betwixt five and six pound sterling the piece, were seized upon in England for Irish cattle; and because the person to whom they were intrusted had not witnesses there ready at the precise hour to swear that they were seen calved in Scotland, they were, by sentence of Sir J. L. and some others, who knew well enough that they were bred in Scotland, knocked on the head and killed.’
The estate of Baldoon having, by the marriage of the heiress, Mary Dunbar, come into the possession of Lord Basil Hamilton, a younger son of the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, we now find that young nobleman petitioning the Privy Council for permission to import from Ireland ‘six score young cows of the largest breed for making up his lordship’s stock in the park of Baldoon,’ he giving security that he would import no more, and employ these for no other end.

The example of the Baldoon park was followed by the Laird of Lochnaw and other great proprietors, and the growing importance of the cattle-rearing trade of Galloway is soon after marked by a demand for a road whereby the stock might be driven to the English market. In June 1697, the matter came before the Privy Council. it was represented that, while there was a customary way between the burgh of New Galloway and Dumfries, there was no defined or made road. It was the line of passage taken by immense herds of cattle which were continually passing from the green pastures of the Galloway hills into England—a branch of economy held to be the main support of the inhabitants of the district, and the grand source of its rents. Droves of cattle are, however, apt to be troublesome to the owners and tenants of the grounds through or near which they pass; and such was the ease here. ‘Several debates have happened of late in the passage of droves from New Galloway to Dumfries, the country people endeavouring by violence to stop the droves, and impose illegal exactions of money upon the cattle, to the great damage of the trade; whereby also riots and blood-sheds have been occasioned, which had gone greater length, if those who were employed to carry up the cattle had not managed with great moderation and prudence.’
On a petition from the great landlords of the district, James Earl of Galloway, Lord Basil Hamilton, Alexander Viscount of Kenmure, John Viscount of Stair, Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Sir Charles Hay of Park, &c., a commission was appointed by the Privy Council ‘to make and mark a highway for droves frae New Galloway to Dumfries,’ holding ‘the high and accustomed travelling way betwixt the said two burghs.'

Amongst Sir David Dunbar’s imitators, it appears that we have to class Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, in Ayrshire, so noted for his sufferings under the late reign. The parks of Cessnock had formerly been fnrnished with ‘ane brood of great cattle’ and a superior breed of horses, both from Ireland; but, on the unjust forfeiture of the estate, the stock had been taken away and destroyed, so that it was ‘entirely decayed out of that country.’ Sir George, to whom the estate had been restored at the Revolution, obtained, in March 1697, permission from the Privy Council ‘to import from Ireland sixty cows and bulls, thretty-six horses and mares, and six score of sheep, for plenishing of his park.’ Soon after, the Council recalled the permission for the sheep.


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