Kirtlebridge
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

Kirtlebridge

In late-medieval times the lands along the Kirtle Water were battlefields not for Scots versus English but for Scots versus Scots, most notably the long-running feud between the Maxwells and the Johnstones (see The Border). Not surprisingly there are numerous fortified tower-houses in the area, all south-eastwards from the village down the Kirtle.


The leading family in these parts, the Irvines, became inveigled in the conflicts through being allies of the Johnstones. It was for them that Bonshaw Tower was built around 1545. It has what Nigel Tranter in The Fortified House in Scotland describes as an 'unpleasant' prison with no window and just a flue for ventilation.

A less hostile house was built beside it in the 1770s and in 1896 the two buildings were linked.


Another sixteenth-century Irvine built Robgill Tower.

This one too had another house put up next to it a couple of centuries later but in this case the ancient structure was incorporated into the new one.

Woodhouse Tower, also originally sixteenth-century, was substantially altered in character by a 'restoration' in 1877.

Even the nearby fifteenth-century Merkland Cross, despite its religious appearance, may have had a connection with fighting. It has been claimed that it marks the spot where a battle commander was slain. On the other hand, it may be the devotional sculpture that it looks like. It may even represent some kind of meeting-place. It is now probably too late to ascertain the truth. What is beyond doubt, however, is that it is the product of exceptionally fine craftsmanship: apart from its modern base, the whole cross is carved from a single piece of stone.


From the Robgill Irvines sprang the highly eccentric Christopher Irvine (about 1620-1693), physician and writer. As a medical practitioner, despite being a confirmed Royalist and fervent Episcopalian, he somehow managed to secure a post with the Cromwellian army under General Monck.

He believed there was an astrological component in the healing process and expounded his theories in Medicina Magnetica (1656), subtitled 'The Rare and Wonderful Art of Curing by Sympathy'. A soldier about to have his leg amputated must have found this very reassuring.

Irvine was also interested in Scottish place-names and his researches were gathered into Historiae Scoticae Nomenclatura (1682).

One of his strangest confections was a drama in verse called Bellum Grammaticale (1658) in which, according to the prologue, 'the seditious nobles Poeta and Amo have miserably devastated the fair and fertile province of Grammar, not without a lamentable carnage of Nouns and Verbs.'


The present village is mainly of the nineteenth century. Kirtle Kirk was completed in 1841 (though it was much altered in the 1890s).


In 1847 the railway viaduct was built for the new Caledonian Railway between Carlisle and Glasgow.

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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