Moniaive
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

Moniaive

You may as well give up on trying to establish definitively the meaning of its Gaelic-sourced name. Some say it is 'hill of the stream', others that it is 'sacred moss'. In the early nineteenth century it was spelt Minnyhive. Its pronunciation is 'munny-ive' or, if you are posh, 'monny-ive'.


It was founded as a burgh of barony in 1638 and in the 1700s it spread into Dunreggan on the east side of the Dalwhat Water. But its industries never took off and to the Victorians and Edwardians it was best known as a holiday and retirement resort. The nineteenth-century Tynron schoolmaster James Shaw loved the place so much that he would come the few miles west for his holidays:

Happy shirts of Moniaive, watered on your bleaching-greens by beads from no polluted Lethe! Fortunate cats, converted into no mince-pies by London speculators! Lucky damsels, not yet sophisticated, whose crinolines are not too wide, and who are not yet converted into coquettes by too many snobs, swells, idlers, and loungers from our great cities! May the years of your lovely solitude be multiplied, and your green hills screen you from invasion, from railway accidents, and from factory smoke!

An earlier visitor, the circuit judge Henry, Lord Cockburn was less complimentary. In 1839 he wrote in his journal: 'It's a wretched, half-dead village, which should either be regenerated into a clean, thriving country town, or be altogether superseded by a great mansion.'


It is a pity that Cockburn was too early to enjoy the architectural eccentricity of the 1860s Tower House at the corner of Ayr Street and North Street.

The highly visible clock tower leads one to assume that the building's original purpose was municipal but in fact it was residential from the start.

There remains to this day a bohemian hangover from its late-nineteenth-century popularity with artists. 'Glasgow Boy' James Paterson was the most notable of those who decided to settle. Along the Ayr Road he had an old cottage re-worked into the Arts and Crafts panache of Kilneiss House, paid for by his parents as a wedding present. He also kept a painting-hut along the Craigdarroch Water. Kilneiss has in more recent years been home to the lead singer of a rock band.


Once upon a time the folk of Moniaive were better connected by public transport than they are now. After a campaign lasting many decades they finally got the benefit of a train service - but not for long. The Cairn Valley Light Railway, running between Dumfries and Moniaive, opened in 1905 but the passenger service was never resumed after a wartime suspension in 1943 (see Part 2 - Some Historical Background).

When the route was still in the planning stage a local Free Kirk minister, horrified by the prospect of Moniaive's tranquillity being shattered, had to be reassured that it 'was to be a very quiet harmless affair and that it would be as like the stage coaches as possible; the trains would not run over fast and they would stop anywhere if you held up your stick or umbrella within sight of the driver'.


Two great houses on either side of Moniaive have direct connections with that popular song of enduring universality 'Annie Laurie', based on the real-life story of local girl Anna Laurie (1682-1764). Seventeenth-century Maxwelton, to the east, is where she was brought up ('Maxwelton braes are bonnie'); eighteenth-century, William Adam-designed Craigdarroch, to the west, was her marital home.

Maxweltown House Craigdarroch House

Anna was the daughter of Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton House. She is said to have been locally wooed by William Douglas of Fingland and it is thought that he was the author of the original lyrics, in which the suitor vows he would 'lay doun my head and dee' for the woman who had 'gie'd me her promise true'. Actually, the outcome in real life was somewhat prosaic: they both married other people, William pairing up with the daughter of an Edinburgh merchant and Anna with local landowner Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch.

The version of the words which we sing today is by a minor poet called Alicia Anne Spottiswoode, better known (after her husband, a brother of the Duke of Buccleuch) as Lady John Scott (1810-1900). She found the piece in an anthology of Scots verse and set about 'improving' it. While keeping the first verse, she changed the second and added a third. What she did with the second stanza demonstrates what is called 'bowdlerisation', the literary term applied to the genteel editing-out of the saucy bits. In place of 'She's jimp about the middle/Her waist you may well span', Lady Scott put 'Her face it is the fairest/That ever sun shone on'; and we get 'dark blue is her e'e' instead of 'she has a rolling eye'. What had been amusingly boisterous ends up as bland. In other words, she ruined it.

We might have expected better of a woman who was, by all accounts, a robust and unaffected character: she was once quoted as saying 'I would rather live in a pigsty in Scotland than in a palace in England.'


One of Anna Laurie's descendents, another Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, was a friend and drinking crony of the poet Robert Burns. On one particularly bibulous occasion at Friars' Carse in 1789, Fergusson won the evening's claret-swigging competition. He was said to have consumed 'upwards of five bottles'. Burns wrote about it in 'The Whistle':

The dinner being over, the claret they ply,
And ev'ry new cork is a new spring of joy;
In the bands of old friendship and kindred so set,
And the bands grew the tighter the more they were met.

A somewhat grimmer local personality was preacher James Renwick, a leader in the provisional wing of the Covenanting movement. He was among the final batch of 'martyrs' to be hanged in 1688.
A memorial for him was erected in 1828 on a hillock at the west end of the village (see Some Historical Background).

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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