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Balmaclellan, Kirkcudbrightshire

Historical Description

BALMACLELLAN, a parish, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, ½ a mile (N. E.) from New Galloway; containing 1134 inhabitants, of whom 113 are in the village. This place takes its name from its ancient proprietors, a branch of the family of Maclellan of Bombie, lords of Kirkcudbright, who flourished here for many generations. The parish is bounded on the west by the river Ken, and on the east by the river Urr. It is of an irregularly oblong figure, comprising about 23,737 acres, of which 4000 are arable, 300 wood and plantation, and the remainder, with the exception of some extensive tracts of moorland and moss, meadow and pasture. The surface is varied with hills, some of which rise to a considerable height, and is interspersed with small valleys of different degrees of fertility, and great variety of aspect. The lower grounds are watered by the Craig and Crogo rivulets, issuing from a range of hills in opposite directions, and dividing the parish from that of Parton on the south: on the north lie the parishes of Dairy and Glencairn, the Garple burn dividing Balmaclellan from the former, and the Castlefern burn from the latter. Along the banks of the Ken, a range of mounts called Drums extends for two or three miles into the interior of the parish, beyond which the country assumes a more wild and rugged aspect, consisting of large tracts of moor and peat moss, interspersed with a few detached portions of cultivated land. In the upper parts of the parish are numerous lakes, of which Loch Breck, Loch Barscobe, Loch Skae, and Loch Lowes are the principal; but the most extensive and beautiful lake is Loch Ken, on the western border of the parish, into which runs the river Ken, a stream that frequently overflows its banks. The several streams and lakes abound with trout, and more especially Loch Breck, in which are yellow trout equal in quality to those of Lochinvar; pike are also found in most of them, and in Loch Ken one was taken that weighed 72lb. The Garple burn forms in its course numerous picturesque cascades, of which the most interesting and most romantic is that called the Holy Linn. The scenery is in many parts diversified, and, particularly around the village, is beautifully picturesque.

The soil is extremely various: the lands under cultivation have been much improved, and considerable tracts towards the east, hitherto unprofitable, are gradually becoming of value; but there is still much moor and moss, scarcely susceptible of improvement. The chief crops are grain of all kinds, with potatoes and turnips. The cattle are generally of the Galloway breed, except a few cows of the Ayrshire kind on one of the dairy-farms; and the sheep are of the black-faced breed, except on one farm, which is stocked with a cross between the black and the white faced, and a few of the Cheviot. A very considerable number of pigs are reared, and sent to the Dumfries market. The farm-buildings on some of the lands are substantial and commodious, but on others of a very inferior order. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5115. The substratum is almost wholly whinstone, of which the rocks chiefly consist, and of which great quantities are raised, affording excellent materials for the roads; slate is found, and till lately there were two quarries of it in operation. The plantations, which are mostly oak, ash, and fir, are distributed throughout the lands, in detached portions of ten or twelve acres each. Holm is a handsome residence in the parish; and there are also the houses of Craig and Craigmuie. The chief village stands on the turnpike-road leading from Edinburgh to Wigtown; the small village of Crogo is a retired hamlet in the south of the parish, containing about sixty inhabitants, and takes its name from the rivulet on which it is situated. In 1822 a substantial bridge of granite, of five arches, was built over the river Ken, by the floods of which stream two several bridges had been previously swept away; the central arch has a span of 100 feet.

For ecclesiastical purposes Balmaclellan is within the bounds of the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and synod of Galloway: the minister's stipend is £222, with a manse and glebe valued at £60 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church is a plain structure, built in 1772, and enlarged and repaired in 1833, and contains 370 sittings; the churchyard is spacious, and commands a fine view extending over the whole vale of the Ken. There are two parochial schools, the masters of which have each a salary of £17. 2. 2., with fees averaging about £8 per annum. A free school is supported by an endowment of £70 per annum, arising from land purchased with a bequest of £500 by Edward Murdoch, Esq., in 1788; the school-house was built about fifteen years ago, with a dwelling-house for the master, who has a salary of £17. 2. 2., but, in consideration of the endowment, receives no fees from the pupils. Barscobe Castle, anciently a seat of the Maclellans, is little more than a heap of ruins. On Dalarran Holm is an erect stone of great size, without inscription, supposed to mark out the spot where some Danish chief fell in battle. A large ball of oak, and a set of bowling-pins, all of which, except two, were standing erect, were discovered some years since in the parish, by persons cutting peat, at a depth of about twelve feet below the surface.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis