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History of the Burgh of Dumfries

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WHEN this work was commenced by the author he did not intend it to be more extent than seven hundred and fifty pages; but, as he proceeded with his task, materials for it accumulated on his hands. Even since the early chapters were sent to press, he has been under the necessity of introducing new matter that has swelled the volume to its present size; and he fears that faults of omission, as well as of commission, may still be laid to his charge.

Numerous Dumfriesshire "notices" have been introduced, but only when they were required to make the general narrative intelligible, or to illustrate in some way the annals of its principal town: in no sense, therefore, does the work profess to be a County history. Two volumes as portly as the present one, however well composed, could scarcely do justice to such a prolific theme.

The thanks of the author are due to Mr. David Laing, of the Signet Library, and the Curators of the Advocates’ Library, for the obliging manner in which they facilitated his researches. All the local custodiers of documents which the author required to consult were not less considerate: and to them his grateful acknowledgments are also tendered. The numerous stores of information that are under the care of Mr. Martin, the town clerk of Dumfri es, were laid freely open; Mr. Simpson, clerk to the Commissioners of Supply, gave ready access to the County records; and those of the Custom-house were also placed within the author’s reach by Mr. Millar, the collector.

Many valuable manuscripts written by the late Mr. W. F. H. Arundell of Barjarg, were in the most handsome manner lent by that gentleman’s son, Mr. W. F. Hunter Arundell, to the author, with liberty to use them, and were found to be of great service as regards the genealogy of County families. He has also had the advantage of receiving valuable materials and advice from Mr. Robert Carruthers of Inverness; and he begs also to acknowledge the services rendered in various ways to the work by the Rev. James Dodds of Dunbar, the Rev. Wm. Bennet of Moffat, Mr. James Starke of Troqueer Holm, Mr. James H, M’Gowan, town chamberlain, Dumfries, Mr. Robert K. Walker, town clerk, Maxwelltown, and Mr. Joseph Irving of Dumbarton, author of an excellent "History of Dumbartonshire." The long, deadly feud that raged between the Maxwells of Nithsdale and the Johnstones of Annandale, and which sometimes deeply involved the Burgh of Dumfries, has never hitherto been fully narrated; and if the author has succeeded in clearing up some mysterious passages of the quarrel, his success is due in some measure to information received by him from Mr. Charles Stewart of Hillside, and the late Mr. Francis Maxwell of Breoch. Regarding the common lands of the Burgh, no one in Dumfries, we believe, knows so much as Mr. Robert Paterson, V. S.; and the author feels that, without his aid, which was cordially given, he could not have presented so much reliable information upon the subject as he has done in these pages.

For a photograph of the Lady Devorgilla’s seal, as appended to her deed endowing Balliol College, Oxford, the author owes his thanks to the Master of that College, Dr. Robert Scott. Correctly copied on stone, the effigy and arms of this illustrious woman constitute, it is hoped, an acceptable vignette for a work relating to the Burgh of which she was a munificent patroness. The view of Dumfries in 1777 is taken from an etching presented to the author by Mr. David Laing.

To the preparation of this History the precarious leisure matched from five years of a somewhat busy life has been devoted. The author, in surveying the result, sees much that might have been improved; but he trustfully commends it, with all its defects, to the generous consideration of his fellow-townsmen, and Dumfries readers everywhere, on whose verdict its failure or success must mainly depend.

October, 1867.


  • Chapter I
    Sketch of Dumfriesshire – Origin of the Burgh of Dumfries – Early Inhabitants of the District

  • Chapter II
    Primitive Appearance of the Burgh – Settlement in it and the Neighbourhood of Celtic, Saxon, and Norman Families

  • Chapter III
    Condition of the Burgh before it was Chartered – Ecclesiastical Establishment of the Burgh and County

  • Chapter IV
    Epoch of Devorgilla – Erection of a Bridge and Monastery for The Grey Friars

  • Chapter V
    The Succession War – Dumfries placed under English Rulers

  • Chapter VI
    Career of Wallace in the County

  • Chapter VII
    Siege of Carlaverock Castle by Edward I.

  • Chapter VIII
    Incidents of the War affecting the Burgh and District

  • Chapter IX
    Slaughter of Comyn by Bruce and Kirkpatrict

  • Chapter X
    Execution of Sexton – Erection of Sir Christopher’s Chapel – Victory of Bannockburn – Edward Baliol, aided by the English, Invades the District

  • Chapter XI
    Incidents of the War in Nithsdale and Galloway – Murder of Sir Roger Kirkpatrick in Carlaverock Castle

  • Chapter XII
    Material and Social Condition of Dumfriesshire and its Chief Town during the Middle Ages

  • Chapter XIII
    King Robert’s Charter to the Burgh, 1395 – Rise of the Trade Incorporations

  • Chapter XIV
    The Douglasses, and their connection with Dumfries – The Burgh repeatedly Plundered and Burnt by English Invaders

  • Chapter XV
    Battle of Sark – Rebellion and Fall of the Douglas Family

  • Chapter XVI
    James IV. At Dumfries – The County devastated by Lord Dacre

  • Chapter XVII
    “The Gudeman of Ballengeich” – Johnnie Armstrong – Defeat of the Scots at Solway Moss and the Capture of Lord Maxwell

  • Chapter XVIII
    Machinations of Henry VIII. Against the Independence of Scotland – He gets the Prisoners captured at Solway Moss To favour his Designs – Lord Maxwell’s Bill permitting the Bible to be Read in the Vulgar Tongue

  • Chapter XIX
    War Experiences on the Western Border – The Burgh again Partially Consumed by Fire

  • Chapter XX
    The “Common Good” of the Burgh – Its Leading Families at The Era of the Reformation

  • Chapter XXI
    Dawn of the Reformation in the District – The First Protestant Sermon preached in the Burgh – The Roman Catholic Establishment of the Burgh and County

  • Chapter XXII
    The Burgh visited by John Knox and by Mary, Queen of Scots – Sir John Maxwell’s devotedness to the Queen

  • Chapter XXIII
    Disastrous Warfare on the Western Border – Outbreak of a Deadly Feud between the Maxwells and Johnstones

  • Chapter XXIV
    Lord Maxwell originates a Rebel Movement in the County – Course of the Quarrel between him and the Chief of the Johnstones

  • Chapter XXV
    Battle of Dryfe-Sands, and Slaughter of Lord Maxwell

  • Chapter XXVI
    John, the next Lord Maxwell, in order to Avenge his Father’s Death, basely Shoots Sir James Johnstone – Maxwell is Tried for the Murder, Condemned and Executed

  • Chapter XXVII
    James VI. Presents a Silver Gun to the Incorporated Trades – The Competition for the Trophy – Ancient Sports and Pastimes

  • Chapter XXVIII
    Rivarlry between the Trades and Merchants – The Town Council as Mirrored in their Minutes

  • Chapter XXIX
    The Scots Resist the Attempts made by Charles I. to Prelatize Their Church – The Covenanting War Committee at Cullenoch and Dumfries

  • Chapter XXX
    The Earl of Nithsdale takes part with the Royalists – Carlaverock and Thrieve Surrender to the Covenanters

  • Chapter XXXI
    Proceedings of the Church Courts of Dumfries against Offenders

  • Chapter XXXII
    Trials for Witchcraft – Nine Reputed Witches Executed

  • Chapter XXXIII
    The Burgh Suffers from Famine and Pestilence – The Bridge Nearly Destroyed by Flood

  • Chapter XXXIV
    Charles II. Overthrows the Presbyterian Church – The Parish Minister of Dumfries superseded by an Episcopalian Curate - A Reign of Terror inaugurated

  • Chapter XXXV
    Outbreak of the Persecuted Covenanters at Dalry – They Capture The Government Chief at Dumfries – Defeat of the Insurgents

  • Chapter XXXVI
    Incidents of the Persecution as carried on by Claverhouse, Grierson of Lag, and others – Boon Companionship of the Burgh Magistrates with the Prosecutors – Richard Cameron

  • Chapter XXXVII
    James Renwick – More Incidents of the Persecution – The Burgh placed under a Roman Catholic Provost – Municipal Freedom Restored, and Presbyterianism Re-established

  • Chapter XXXVIII
    Trade and Commerce of the Burgh – Right of Pasture – Town Council Legislation Illustrated – Doings of the Trades – Paterson and the Darien Scheme

  • Chapter XXXIX
    Erection of the Mid-Steeple – Anti-Union Riot in the Burgh – Contraband Traffic in the Solway

  • Chapter XL
    The Rebellion of 1715, as affecting the Burgh and District

  • Chapter XLI
    The Earl of Nithsdale Condemned to Death for the part taken by him in the Rebellion – He Escapes from the Tower through the agency of his Countess

  • Chapter XLII
    The Schools of the Burgh – Bailie Paterson’s Bequests – More About the Smugglers – Gipsy Life in the District

  • Chapter XLIII
    An Ale Duty Imposed, and Riotous Resistance made to it – Erection of the New Church – Financial Difficulties – Sale of Barkerland – A Steeple placed on St. Michael’s Church

  • Chapter XLIV
    The Rebellion of 1745 – Prince Charles takes Possession of Dumfries

  • Chapter XLV
    Improvements on the River – The Dock Trees Planted – Moorhead’s Hospital Erected

  • Chapter XLVI
    Extraordinary Contest for the Provostship – The “Pyets” and The “Crows”

  • Chapter XLVII
    Bread Riots in the Burgh – Erection of an Infirmary – Ruinous Results to many Burgesses of the Failure of the Ayr Bank

  • Chapter XLVIII
    Patrick Miller of Dalswinton and his Inventions – Renewed Dearth and Disturbances – Tithe of Breadstuffs by the Burgh Executioner – The New Bridge Built

  • Chapter XLIX
    Burns in Dumfries

  • Chapter L
    Notice of the Poet’s chief Productions whilst residing in the Burgh – His Death and Funeral

  • Chapter LI
    Erection of the Academy – The Armstrong Bursaries – Curious Proceedings of the Craftsmen in Maintaining their Privileges – A new Navigation Act obtained, and the Nith Embanked

  • Chapter LII
    Pecuniary Difficulties – The Burgh’s Property, Income, and Charges – Sale of Kingholm and Milldamhead – the Mortified Money of the Burgh

  • Chapter LIII
    Terrific Meal Mob – The Murderer Hare in Dumfries

  • Chapter LIV
    The Reform Agitation, and Exciting Election Contests

  • Chapter LV
    Dreadful Visitation of Cholera in 1832

  • Chapter LVI
    The Burgh under the Operation of the Municipal Reform Act

  • Chapter LVII
    The Religious Denominations of the Burgh

  • Chapter LVIII
    Its Commerce, Manufactures, and Trade

  • Chapter LVIX
    The Literature of the Burgh; and Brief Notices of its Distinguished Men

  • Chapter LX
    Summary of Events from 1833 till 1867 – Progress and Present Conditions of the Burgh

  • Appendix

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