No stranger entering Hightae for the first time would expect to see in such a small place a Town Hall,
let alone a Towns Hall. The right to this status that belongs to the village and to three other even
smaller ones nearby goes back to the fourteenth century. Robert the Bruce was so grateful to his
'Kindly Tenants' for service to his castle at Lochmaben that, after being crowned Robert I, he granted
them special terms for tenure of their land. They by-passed any feudal intermediary and received their
land entitlement direct from the monarch. Bruce also hoped thereby to ensure their continuing loyalty towards
a castle that the English were all too keen to occupy. Thus Hightae, Smallholm, Heck and Greenhill came to be
known as the Royal Four Towns.
The present Royal Four Towns Hall was opened in 1910. It took three years to raise the necessary finance;
half of the cost was contributed by the Carnegie Trust on condition the new hall included a library and reading-room.
The effigy of King Robert above the entrance has been described by an expert observer as 'engagingly inept'.
To the south-west, the mansion of Rammerscales was built in the 1760s for James Mouncey, the locally born doctor
who became rich by working for the Russian czarina Catherine the Great.
It was later owned, through inheritance, by Glasgow-born William Bell Macdonald (1807-62), who was also
a medical man but made his name as a linguist specialising in the ancient Coptic language of Egypt.
His Sketch of a Coptic Grammar Adapted for Self-Tuition was published in 1856 but was probably not a
best-seller in Hightae. Macdonald's interest in language was wide-ranging. It has been said that
'he could translate an old Scottish song into German, Latin, Greek or Hebrew'.