Bankend
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

Bankend

The BANK that has its END here is a long ridge south from Dumfries that separates the River Nith from the Lochar Moss. Until a road was engineered across the boggy moss the main road from England came along the Solway coast and turned north at Bankend. So this now quiet village was once a busy stopping-place with inns, which is why it is frequently referred to in old documents as the 'town of Bankend'.

Caerlaverock Castle, with its unusual triangular shape, is one of the bonniest medieval buildings in Scotland. It also rejoices in one of the bonniest names, usually taken to mean 'castle of the laverock [sky-lark]'.

It is in a sense the 'new' castle. Old Caerlaverock was sited a short distance to the south-west. Building there began in the 1220s but it was soon abandoned, probably because of dodgy foundations. Construction of its replacement started in the 1270s.

In the long wars between Scotland and England Caerlaverock was always among the first castles that each side wanted to secure for itself. It was damaged so often in the fighting that it went through numerous phases of re-building. But its striking appearance has not fundamentally changed since it was described by Walter of Exeter, chronicler of Edward I of England's conquest of Caerlaverock in 1300 (see Some Historical Background):

Its figure was like that of a shield, for it had only three sides, with a tower on each angle; one of them a jumellated or double one, so high, so long, and so spacious that under it was the gate, with a drawbridge well-made and strong, with a sufficiency of other defences. It had also good walls, and ditches filled to the brim with water: and I believe there never was seen a castle more beautifully situated - for at once can be seen the Irish Sea towards the west, a charming country towards the north, encompassed by an arm of the sea, so that no creature born could approach it on two sides without putting himself in danger of the sea. Nor was it an easy matter towards the south, it being, as by the sea on the other side, surrounded by the river, woods, marshes, and trenches; wherefore it was necessary for the host [Edward's army] to approach it towards the east, where the hill slopes.

There is a surprise, however, within the castle courtyard, an embellishment installed three centuries after Walter of Exeter's visit: a kind of palace-within-a-castle, two ranges of opulent accommodation built in the classical style of the Renaissance. These are usually referred to as the Nithsdale Apartments after Robert Maxwell, 1st Earl of Nithsdale.

Through marrying a cousin of a royal favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, Nithsdale had access to the court of Charles I and had possibly been anticipating a royal visit when he commissioned the new domestic quarters in the 1620s. Instead he got a less welcome visit. As the chief supporter in the south-west of Charles's Episcopalian policies, Nithsdale and his castle were prime targets for the Covenanters' army and they duly arrived in 1640 for what turned out to be a 13-week siege (see Some Historical Background). The damage done on this occasion was even greater than that inflicted on it in the fourteenth century by 'Hammer of the Scots' Edward, and Caerlaverock was never inhabited again.

Long before the building of Caerlaverock Wardlaw hill, slightly to the north, was in fortified use. It was an Iron Age settlement and later adapted by the Romans, who almost certainly used the Caerlaverock coast as a harbour. Although there are no remaining traces, it is thought that there was a Roman road from here north to Dalswinton.


Like Closeburn, Bankend was the beneficiary of an educational endowment. Though the present fabric dates from 1892, the former Hutton Hall Academy was an early-eighteenth-century foundation created from the bequest of local-boy-made-good Dr John Hutton (died 1712).

A herd-boy to begin with, he got a good education through his employer's patronage and graduated as a physician at Padua in Italy. In the Netherlands he came to the attention of William of Orange and was the prince's personal physician during the 'Glorious Revolution' invasion of 1688. He remained a royal favourite, accompanying the new king on his Irish campaign, including the Battle of the Boyne. He was later promoted to physician-general for all the armed forces.

When Queen Anne succeeded in 1702, Hutton continued to flourish. He never forgot his humble relatives back in Bankend and provided for them financially. He died and was buried in London, though for the last two years of his life he had been MP for Dumfries Burghs.


Caerlaverock parish kirk was built in the 1780s. The kirkyard is the burial place of Robert Paterson, the itinerant Covenanter memorialist made famous by Walter Scott's Old Mortality. In 1801 he was found nearby 'in the agonies of dissolution' [William McDowall].

Though it was well documented that Paterson trained as a stonemason near Templand and worked for a while at Closeburn, Scott never got to know the whereabouts of his grave. He had wanted to put up a memorial stone but this was finally accomplished only in 1870 by Scott's publisher.


The laverocks of the castle can now take refuge in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. Established in 1957 for the protection of birds, it is now best known for the huge flocks of Barnacle Geese that come for the winter from the Arctic.

The reserve began on land owned by the Duke of Norfolk. One day a party of be-tweeded men, looking as if they might be wildfowling poachers, were warned to be on their guard because 'yon bloody auld Duke o' Norfolk's aboot.' One of the men replied 'that's all right, I am the bloody old Duke of Norfolk.'

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust set up a centre here in 1970, based at Eastpark Farm. The agriculture continues but only in a way that suits the geese. Wildfowling is still allowed, though strictly controlled by permits.

The oft-repeated story that some German visitors thought they were coming to a naturist reserve is probably made up!


Bankend benefits from an imposing feature elsewhere: the view across the mouth of the Nith to
Criffel (1868 ft) in Kirkcudbrightshire. The hill's changing appearance helps with the weather forecast, according to a local rhyme:

When Criffel wears his hat
Ye may be sure of wat,
But if instead he wears his tie
Ye may expect it to be dry.

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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