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Dunscore, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

DUNSCORE, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 9 miles (N. W.) from Dumfries; containing, with the village of Cottack, 1517 inhabitants. This place is not remarkable for any events of historical importance, but it was formerly the seat of some families of considerable antiquity, the chief of whom were the Griersons of Lag, of Chapel, and of Dalgoner, the Kirks or Kirkhoes of Bogrie and Sundaywell, and the Kirkpatricks of Elliesland and Friars' Carse. The Griersons possessed the Tower of Lag, now a ruin, for many generations, Gilbert M'Gregor or Grierson having migrated from the Highlands about the year 1408, and obtained the lands from John McWrath: in the conveyance deed Gilbert is described as armour-bearer to Archibald, Earl of Douglas. A descendant of this family joined the Maxwells of Nithsdale against the Johnstones of Annandale, and fought at the famous battle of Dryfe-Sands in 1593. There is still a lineal representative of the family remaining in the parish. Considerable estates at Dunscore were given to the monks of Melrose by Affrica, daughter of Edgar, son of Dunevald and grandson of Dunegal of Stranith, a term implying "the strath or valley of Nith": Edgar had possessed the lands under William the Lion, and been succeeded in them by his daughter, who assigned so large a portion to the monks. The benefice of Dunscore, however, belonged to the monastery of Holywood, and the cure was served by a vicar. In the parish are some lands called the Friars' Carse, formerly a monkish residence dependent on the establishment of Melrose; a small loch on the property, containing an artificial island, is said to have been the ancient fishpond, and the island the place where the monks hid their valuables when the English invaded Stranith.

The PARISH is twelve miles long, and varies in breadth from half a mile to three miles and a half, containing 12,500 acres. It is bounded on the north by the parishes of Glencairn and Keir; on the south by the parish of Holywood and the stewartry of Kirkcudbright; on the east by the river Nith, which separates it from the parish of Kirkmahoe; and on the west by the loch and water of Urr, dividing it from the stewartry. In the neighbourhood of the Nith the surface is flat, but in other parts it is greatly diversified with hills and valleys; the upper district is mountainous and rocky, and Bogrie, the most elevated hill, rises more than 1200 feet above the level of the Solway Firth. The Nith runs for two miles along the boundary; and the Cairn, a much more rapid stream, over which is a bridge eighty feet in span, divides the parish into two parts, and after receiving the Clouden, falls into the Nith a little below Irongray. In the lower district the soil is in general a light gravelly or sandy earth; the holm land on the banks of the Nith and the Cairn is alluvial, and much richer and deeper: in the upper parts the soil is mostly a kind of loam, on a tilly subsoil, and very stony. There are considerable tracts of peat-moss. Full three-fourths of the land are under cultivation; 500 acres are meadow, 250 plantation, chiefly consisting of larch and fir, and sixty natural wood, consisting of birch and oak. All kinds of grain are raised, as well as green crops; agriculture has been gradually advancing for some time past, and improvements have been effected in every department. On the estates of Allanton, Dalgoner, Friars' Carse, and Stroquhan are good and substantial mansion-houses. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in husbandry, but weaving is also carried on, to an inconsiderable extent. The Glasgow and Dumfries turnpike-road passes through the parish, from which a branch strikes off at the lodge of Friars' Carse, leading westward through Balmaclellan to New Galloway; there is also a road intersecting the parish from Dumfries to Ayr. The annual value of real property in Dunscore is £8900.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the minister is the minimum, with an addition of £12. 12. voluntarily given by the heritors since 1793: there is a good manse, with a glebe of fifty-one acres. The church, standing in the village of Cottack, in the centre of the parish, is a well-built structure, surmounted with an elegant square tower at the west end; it was erected in 1823, and contains 850 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship, and there is a meeting-house belonging to the United Presbyterian Synod. Three parochial schools are supported, in which the classics, with all the usual branches of education, are taught: about £51 per annum are portioned equally among the masters, who also receive the interest of £300 bequeathed about a century ago, by Mr. Grierson of Edinburgh. The master of the central school has, in addition, the interest of £50 bequeathed in 1807 by Mrs. Janet Dobie, and of £50 left in 1829 by Robert M'Kinnel, Esq., of McMurdoston, who also at the same time left £200 for the school in the lower district. Among the relics of antiquity are those on Springfield hill, a considerable eminence; consisting of traces of a military station, supposed to be Roman, of an oblong form, and covering two acres of ground: there appears to have been an entrance on the east side. Burns the poet resided for several years in the parish, at the farm of Elliesland.

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