Auldgirth
The Dumfriesshire Companion
Haig Gordon

THEMES & PERSONALITIES

Introduction

Some Historical Background

The Border

From Westerkirk to Westminster Abbey -
Thomas Telford


Robert Burns - Doonhamer

The Sage of Ecclefechan - Thomas Carlyle

Hugh MacDiarmid and the Muckle Toon

Other Literary Figures

The Artists

Fame and Fortune

Other Pairs of Eyes

Auldgirth

Auldgirth is where the main north-south highway through Nithsdale switches from one side of the river to the other.

The Romans laid a road through Auldgirth but did not have to cross the Nith. Their route came along the east side of the river via Dalswinton.

Today the traffic whooshes across the new bridge, built of concrete in the late 1970s. Travellers in less of a rush can walk across and admire the handsome old bridge, a sandstone construction of the early 1780s on which the stonemason father of the writer Thomas Carlyle is said to have worked.


The present Auldgirth Inn, with its eye-catchingly quaint 'Gothick' windows, was built a few years later.


To the south-east of Auldgirth are two places closely connected with the poet Robert Burns.
Ellisland, by the Nith, is the farm Burns tenanted when he first moved from Ayrshire to Dumfriesshire. He took on the lease in 1788 but a decent house had to be built before his wife and family could join him there the following year. For Burns the farm was a failure and in 1791 he moved to Dumfries. Ellisland is now a Burns 'shrine' open to the public but visitors should bear in mind that the farmhouse Burns built was demolished in 1812 and replaced by the present one (see Robert Burns, Doonhamer).

Ellisland Farm

Friars' Carse, north of Ellisland, was where Burns spent many a convivial evening with its owner Robert Riddell. The house was built in the 1770s but given a Baronial-style makeover a century later and since 1938 has been a hotel. The name refers to there having been a medieval monastic settlement here.

Riddell gave Burns a key to the grounds and the use of a twee architectural folly called the Hermitage which had recently been built in woodland tranquillity. Burns could escape here for composing time and one of the fruits was 'Written in Friars Carse Hermitage':


The Friars Carse Hermitage

Thou whom chance may hither lead,
Be thou clad in russet weed,
Be thou deckt in silken stole,
Grave these counsels on thy soul.

Life is but a day at most,
Sprung from night, - in darkness lost;
Hope not sunshine ev'ry hour,
Fear not clouds will always lour.

The Blackwood estate on the west side of the Nith above the Auldgirth bridges was the birthplace in 1784 of the stonemason turned literary jack-of-all-trades Allan Cunningham. His father John, an estate factor at Blackwood, became acquainted with Burns after moving to the nearby Dalswinton estate owned by the poet's landlord Patrick Miller.


Allan's three surviving brothers were all remarkable in their own ways.
Thomas became chief clerk to the engineer John Rennie but also, like Allan, wrote poetry and songs.
Peter became a naval surgeon and wrote books about his experiences.
James, a builder, shared in Allan's youthful literary hero-worshipping. In 1803 the two of them went in search of the 'Ettrick Shepherd', poet James Hogg. The Borders man was down on his luck and was trying to scrape a living at Mitchellslacks farm on Queensberry Hill east of Thornhill. Hearing he was there, the Cunningham brothers trekked for many miles to find him and pay their respects.

PLACES

Ae
Amisfield
Annan
Auldgirth
Bankend
Beattock
Bentpath
Brydekirk
Canonbie
Carronbridge
Carrurtherstown
Chapelknowe
Clarencefield
Closeburn
Collin
Cummertrees
Dalswinton
Dalton
Dornock
Dumfries
Duncow
Dunscore
Durisdeer
Eaglesfield
Eastriggs
Ecclefechan
Eskdalemuir
Glencaple
Gretna
Hightae
Holywood
Johnstonebridge
Kettleholm
Kirkconnel
Kirkpatrick Fleming
Kirkton
Kirtlebridge
Langholm
Lochmaben
Lockerbie
Middlebie
Moffat
Moniaive
Mouswald
Newton Wamphray
Parkgate
Penpont
Powfoot
Ruthwell
Sanquhar
Templand
Thornhill
Tinwald
Torthorwald
Tynron
Wanlockhead
Waterbeck

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