<%@ LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Bentpath
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

Bentpath

This is Thomas Telford country. There is scarcely any aspect of the village and surrounding area that does not have some connection with the great engineer.

The farm of Glendinning, some five miles to the north up the Meggat Water valley, is where Telford was born in August 1757. He was still a baby when his father died and his mother had to re-locate with her only child further down the glen to a cottage at Crooks. A cairn was erected at Glendinning in 2007 to mark the 250th anniversary of Telford's birth.

Next to Glendinning, shortly after the Telfords moved to Crooks, a whole new community called Jamestown was established for the mining of antimony, a metallic element useful as an ingredient in alloys. As a boy in the same valley Telford would have been well aware of and fascinated by the industrial activity. At its busiest the Westerhall Mining Company accommodated some forty miners and their families in the new village. But the mining operation did not last beyond the end of the eighteenth century and now all traces of the abandoned settlement have gone.


A legacy of the miners continues to this day in Bentpath, however: Westerkirk Library. The present building dates from 1860 but the library collection is much older. In 1793, inspired by an initial gift of 23 books, the miners decided to start a savings plan for adding to their reading resource. 'We, the miners in this place,' they resolved, 'finding the Books sent us by the Company and others will tend greatly to our Improvement, have thought proper to Advance Five Shillings each man for purchasing more Books.' In his will Thomas Telford left one thousand pounds to the library.


Outside the library is the Telford Monument, a big Galloway granite structure incorporating seats and a bronze portrait. It was erected in 1928.


The single most important memorial stone in Westerkirk cemetery beside the parish kirk is a simple one with the name Telford on it. It is by not for Thomas (as of course he himself was buried at Westminster Abbey in London). When he was still a young stonemason living in the area he personally carved the inscription, a movingly simple tribute to the father he never knew: 'In Memory of John Telford who after living thirty three Years as an unblameable shepherd died at Glendinning 12 Nov. 1757'. Then Thomas is mentioned: not the engineer but his namesake elder brother who had died in infancy.


In the same burial ground, ostentatious beside the plainness of the Telford stone, is the Robert Adam-designed mausoleum of the Johnstones of Westerhall. Here too is a Telford connection. Members of the family were decisive early patrons of Telford during the years of his transition from mason to architect/engineer. In 1783, a year after Telford moved to London, the laird Sir James Johnstone commissioned him to design alterations to Westerhall (which is south-east of Bentpath). Sir James's brother William Pulteney (he had changed his name when his wife inherited the Pulteney fortune) gave Telford so much work in England that he was known for a while as 'young Pulteney'. Earlier Telford had had another reason to be grateful for the Westerhall connection. In 1782, when Telford decided to try his luck in London, the problem of how he would travel south was solved when Sir James Johnstone asked him to deliver a horse to a family member there!


Further to the south-east, Burnfoot is where farmer George Malcolm sired the Four Knights of Eskdale. These were not unearned hereditary titles but honours conferred on merit. Of the couple's five sons, four were knighted for various political and military achievements: Sir Charles, Sir James, Sir John and Sir Pulteney. The youngest, Gilbert, only managed to get Reverend in front of his name but he did not do so badly: he became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Sir John's monument overlooks Langholm, while Sir Pulteney's statue is in the Muckle Toon itself (see Fame and Fortune).

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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