Closeburn
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

Closeburn

The name has nothing to do with a burn. By 1200 it was Kylosbern: the kyl came from Gaelic cill, 'church', which was dedicated either to the Irish saint Osbran or to the English saint Osbern.


The site of the present parish kirk had been ecclesiastical from medieval times and now it has side by side the Old Kirk and the New Kirk. The Old was a re-building in 1741 of its predecessor and was simply left as a shell when the New was put up in 1878.



For many centuries the Kirkpatricks were the powerful people around here. They produced the Sir Roger de Kirkpatrick who was Robert the Bruce's accomplice when John 'The Red' Comyn, the other main claimant to the Scottish crown, was murdered at Greyfriars in Dumfries in 1306. The story traditionally told is that Bruce, having stabbed his rival, confided to his henchman that he was not sure that Comyn was dead. Kirkpatrick returned to the scene to 'mak siccar' (make sure), a remark that subsequently furnished the Kirkpatricks with their clan motto (see Some Historical Background).

The Kirkpatricks built Closeburn Castle in the early fifteenth century. It was substantially altered in the eighteenth century and is still lived in. It used to be beside a loch but that was drained in 1859 as part of agricultural improvements.

A later Kirkpatrick - the 'improver' Sir James - started in the 1770s the limeworks for which the area was renowned until the end of the nineteenth century. There were kilns at Croalchapel and at Park to the south of the village. As well as its use in mortar, the lime functioned as a fertiliser.


To the north of Closeburn at Gatelawbridge, the stonemason Robert Paterson, the 'Old Mortality' made famous by Sir Walter Scott's novel of that name, leased, around 1743, the now disused sandstone quarry there, his first solo venture after completing his apprenticeship at Corncockle quarry near Templand. He was married to Elizabeth, a servant employed by Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, who helped her husband to acquire the lease from the Duke of Queensberry. Poor Elizabeth: it was not long before Robert abandoned business, wife and children to devote himself for the rest of his life to carving Covenanter memorials. He was buried at Bankend.


Thanks to a bequest from a successful native, Closeburn had a particularly outstanding provision of education for 250 years. Wallace Hall Academy was created in 1723 and named after its benefactor John Wallace, who had made his money as a merchant in Glasgow. Wallace Hall developed into a six-year secondary school, while Morton Academy in the much larger Thornhill was only four-year. In the 1930s it introduced a rural bias to the secondary-level curriculum and by the 1950s it could be said that 'despite difficulties a nd a certain amount of obscurantism from both the teaching profession and the Scottish Education Department, it has admirably fulfilled its purpose and provides the ideal educational background for those who in after life will make their livelihood in the country or in professions ancillary to country life' [The Third Statistical Account].

The original Wallace Hall Academy at Closeburn

The two academies of Closeburn and Thornhill amalgamated in 1972. Thornhill provided the site but the Wallace Hall name from Closeburn was the one adopted for the new combined school.


FURTHER READING

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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