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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Honourable Improvers

An account of Galloway Levellers from 1735

Monday, October 15, 2012

Road and rail to Portpatrick

Alternative road and rail routes to Portpatrick

In the 1660s a post route from Carlisle to Portpatrick (for Ireland) was established. In the 1760s this was improved to become the Old Military Road, sections of which are still in use. In 1797, Turnpike Trusts were established and what was to become the A 75 was built, taking an easier more coach and cart friendly route.

The Union with Ireland in 1801 prompted attempts to improve the harbour at Portpatrick Both Thomas Telford and John Rennie were involved in this ultimately unsuccessful venture.Part of Telford and Rennie's work involved suggestions for improving the Carlisle-Portpatrick route. One of their proposals was to cut the direct distance to Portpatrick by 8 miles. This involved a new route between Auchenreoch Loch and Creetown. This 'proppsed road' was shown on John Ainslie's 1820 map of southern Scotland. The first section ( shown xxxx on map above) was not used, but the section between the Boat of Rhone at the southern end of Loch Ken and Creetown via Loch Stroan and Loch Skerrow  was used fifty years later when a railway from Castle Douglas to Portpatrick was planned.

However several local landowners objected to this part of the route and proposed an alternative - AAAA on the map.

This route was reviewed by a civil engineer who suggested it was a viable alternative.

However even this alternative  missed out the county town of Kirkcudbright, which was eventually served by a branch line from Castle Douglas opened in 1864. A possible route via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse then along the coast to Creetown is therefore shown - oooo on the map

Since Portpatrick harbour never succeeded in becoming the main port for cross- North Channel ferry traffic - Stranraer and Cairnryan replaced it - the routing of the railway via the proposed Telford/ Rennie road in order to shorten the distance was a major mistake. The engineering required (major viaducts and cuttings) added to the cost of the railway, while the steep gradients involved made working the line more difficult. In addition, by-passing the locally significant population centres of Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse reduced the profitability of the line. As competition from road traffic grew in the twentieth century, this became a major weakness of the rail route. 

The route via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse would have been a more viable alternative and may have continued to be useful even into the 1960s - thus saving it from closure.