Durisdeer
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

Durisdeer

Durisdeer sits aloof from the main road heading through the Dalveen Pass, which was laid around 1800. But two millennia earlier the village site was on a Roman road to Clydesdale. It went north-eastwards along the Kirk Burn, where evidence of a fort can still be traced.


The great treasure of Durisdeer ('entrance of the forest', place-name scholars tentatively suggest) is its parish kirk, whose superiority to the average village place of worship is explained by the fact that it came under the patronage of the Douglases, dukes of Queensberry at Drumlanrig Castle near Carronbridge. It was here that they established their family burial vault and there were no half-measures in ensuring that posterity would pay attention.

The Queensberry Aisle was added to the north of the original medieval kirk towards the end of the seventeenth century. The entrance to the Douglas vault is covered by a sumptuous baldacchino [canopy] modelled on Bernini's over the high altar of St Peter's in Rome. The designer was James Smith (died 1731) who had a long history of collaborating with the Queensberries. He worked on the building of Drumlanrig. The 1st Duke had been instrumental in Smith being appointed in 1683 as surveyor and overseer of the royal works in Scotland. The Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh is Smith's.


The memorial to the 1st Duke, who died in 1695, was lavish enough. But when the 2nd Duke died in 1711 they surpassed themselves by commissioning a baroque marble extravaganza. It was made by John van Nost, a Flemish sculptor who was at that time a favourite of the British royal family.



In 1716 the old kirk was demolished and the building of the present one was begun. The architect was probably James Smith again. The west end of the kirk includes private quarters where the ducal family both before and after the services could escape the indignity of having to mix with the lower classes.


The kirkyard has a memorial to the Covenanting 'martyr' Daniel McMichael, whose zealous Presbyterian cause was so disliked by the 1st Duke of Queensberry. Part of the inscription reads: 'AS DANIEL CAST WAS IN LYONS DEN/ FOR PRAYING UNTO GOD AND NOT TO MEN/ SO LYONS THUS CRUELY DEVOURED ME/ FOR BEAIRING WITNES TO TRUTHS TESTIMONY'.


Reactions of visitors to Durisdeer have varied. In 1721 Sir John Clerk of Penicuik recorded his impression of 'so fine a little church in so bad a village'. A century later the circuit judge Lord Cockburn had warmer feelings. 'Seen from a distance,' he wrote in his 1841 journal, '[it] has always struck me with its remoteness and solitude. I first saw it when I was walking from Closeburn...to Edinburgh, in my nineteenth or twentieth year, and have never lost the impression made upon me, early in the morning, by the loneliness of that still, smokeless, and silent village. It is like a town one would expect to meet with in the wilds of Arabia.'


To the north-west, due north of Enterkinfoot, are the sixteenth-century remains of Kirkbride church, whose minister in the early 1700s, Rev Peter Rae, annoyed his parishioners by spending too much time on other activities such as running a printing press. Rae later ministered at Kirkconnel.

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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