Penpont
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

Penpont

The old clachan of Penpont was re-developed in the early nineteenth century to accommodate families displaced by agricultural improvement in the surrounding area. The kirk has a particularly bonnie setting; it was built in the 1860s.


There are at least three theories about the origin of the village name: Latin 'arched bridge'; Gaelic or Brittonic Celtic 'sharp hill'; Brittonic Celtic 'bridge end'. Take your pick.


To the south-west the estate of Capenoch was acquired through marriage by the Kirkpatricks of Closeburn. They built a new mansion, completed in 1795. In 1846 it was sold to James Grierson of Dalgonar, who commissioned the Scottish Baronial specialist David Bryce to re-model the house. Within a few years it passed into the ownership of Thomas Gladstone, a Liverpool businessman, who re-employed Bryce on further embellishments. Capenoch remains in the hands of the Gladstone family.


The African explorer Joseph Thomson was born in 1858 at a house in Marrburn Road which his stonemason father had built himself. In 1868 the family moved to Gatelawbridge near Thornhill, where the father had leased a stone quarry.

To the south-east of Penpont, Keir Mill is where in the 1830s the blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan invented the bicycle.


Laight Farm up the glen of Scaur Water is where in the early 1800s the writer James Hogg, the 'Ettrick Shepherd', tried unsuccessfully to make a go of being a sheep farmer. His efforts ended in bankruptcy. Playing the violin took precedence, as the Tynron schoolmaster James Shaw observed:

The Ettrick Shepherd made a bad job of his farm. The messenger of woe arrived six times in one day while James was fiddling to himself in the farm-house. 'Maister, there's another sheep got deed.' 'Skin't' was the laconic reply; and then a neater set of the bow, and a fiercer attempt to master some coy sweetness.

One stormy day in April 1842 Thomas Carlyle went for a walk up Scaur Water and round by Tynron Doon and what grand thoughts it inspired! He wrote to his wife Jane:

It was a day of tempestuous wind, but the Sun occasionally shone, the country was grim-bright, the hills of an almost spiritual clearness, and broad swift storms of hail came dashing down from them on this hand and that. It was a kind of preternatural walk, full of sadness, full of purity. The Scaur Water, the clearest I ever saw except one, came brawling down; the voice of it, like a lamentation among the winds, answering me, as the voice of a brother wanderer and lamenter, - a wanderer like me thro' a certain portion of Eternity and Infinite Space: poor brook, yet it was nothing but drops of water, my thought alone gave it an individuality; it was I that was the 'wanderer', - far older, and stranger, and greater than the Scaur, or any river or mountain or Earth-planet or thing!

Let that be a warning to anyone setting out on a 'preternatural' walk.


The 'land art' sculptor Andy Goldsworthy has lived and worked in Penpont since 1986. His millennium cairn sits prominently on a hillock at the eastern edge of the village.

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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