Waterbeck
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

Waterbeck

The Vikings were here!
We call tell that from BECK, a Norse term for a burn. The village's name therefore means 'water water'!


Throughout the nineteenth century the village grew in parallel with the bacon and cheese company founded by Robert Carlyle (died 1842). The writer Thomas Carlyle (see below), who was a distant relative, wrote to his mother about being 'home in time for a ham tea, in which the Waterbeck "father of hams", an excellent fellow not so weighty now as he has been, did excellent service!'

The Robert Carlyle business diversified successfully into dealing in wool and seeds. The substantial villa called Templehill was built for the family in the middle of the century. The business went into decline after the founder's two great-grandsons were killed in the First World War, though there was still a Carlyle in Templehill until 1979.


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the folk of Waterbeck were renowned for their religious fervour. They were part of the breakaway from the Church of Scotland mainstream during the bewilderingly complex disputes over state sponsorship. In 1790 a sizeable section of the congregation joined the secessionist Relief Church and in 1794 their first minister was appointed. In 1847 they became amalgamated into the larger United Presbyterian Church, for which the present kirk was completed in 1869, the numerals of the year neatly coinciding with the final cost of 1869.


Waterbeck was able to attract eminent ministers.
Rev David S Goodburn (splendid name in the circumstances!), who was in post when the new kirk was built, left money to New College in Edinburgh (now the university's department of divinity) for the creation of the Waterbeck Bursaries.
Rev Adam Cleghorn Welch (1864-1943) ministered here in his early career before being appointed as Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at New College in 1913. As well as being a leading scholar in his field, Welch was a man of influence in kirk affairs nationally and he was prominent in the great reunification of the Church of Scotland that took place in 1929. His personal experiences appear to have brought to his pastoral work an extra sense of compassion: 'The loss of his three brothers in early manhood, and later of his only son in childhood, gave his ministry the unusual sensitiveness to the sorrows of men and women that characterised it to the end.' [Dictionary of National Biography]


To the north-east of Waterbeck at Lauriesclose a mission church was built in 1905 for worshippers who had previously had to travel to Middlebie. Half a century later, according to an official report, it was still proving to be useful: 'Occasional services there for the most distant parishioners help to mitigate the hardship of their remoteness from the parish church.' The building, designed in the 'Arts and Crafts' style, is now a dwelling-house.


A short distance to the north-west of Lauriesclose is the ancient cemetery of Crowdieknowe which features in a poem of that name by Langholm-born Hugh MacDiarmid.
MacDiarmid's maternal grandfather Andrew Graham worked at nearby Kirtleton Farm. He died at the age of 96 after falling and breaking his neck and was buried in the cemetery along with many more of MacDiarmid's ancestors, including Carrutherses from his grandmother's side of the family.
MacDiarmid described Crowdieknowe as 'a wonderful name for a graveyard'. The poem is part of his great outpouring of Scots lyrics in the 1920s:

Oh to be at Crowdieknowe
When the last trumpet blaws,
An' see the deid come loupin' owre
The auld grey wa's.

Muckle men wi' tousled beards
I grat at as a bairn
'll scramble frae the croodit clay
Wi' feck o' swearin'.

An glower at God an aa his gang
0 angels i the lift
-Thae trashy bleezin French-like folk
Wha gar'd them shift.

Fain the women folk'll seek
To mak them haud their row
-Fegs, God's no blate gin he stir up
The men o Crowdieknowe !

Thomas Carlyle got to know Waterbeck well after his parents moved to the farm of Scotsbrig near Middlebie in 1826. It was often on the route of the long walks that stimulated such high thoughts.
In 1849 he wrote to his wife Jane:

Yesterday I took a ride on Jamie's shelty, by Waterbeck and the Kirtlebridge region; the lanes all silent, fields full of stooks, and Burnswark [the Roman fortification] and the everlasting Hills all looking quite clear upon me. Jog-jog, so went the little lazy shelty at its own slow will; and Death seemed to me almost all one with Life, and Eternity much the same as Time.

In the same year he described another solemn perambulation:

...last night, by Cushat Hill, and damp shady woods, which brought me home by Waterbeck; - a strange impressive kind of course for me, with the autumn wind soughing over the back wildernesses, and 'ghosts' sitting on the tail of every cloud for me!

When the Carlyles set up home in Chelsea in 1834 Thomas approved of the local shops because 'we have discovered a Scotch Baker equal to the Waterbeck one'.

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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