1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dumfriesshire

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DUMFRIESSHIRE, a border county of Scotland, bounded S. by the Solway Firth, S.E. by Cumberland, E. by Roxburghshire, N. by the shires of Lanark, Peebles and Selkirk, and W. by Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire. Its area is 686,302 acres or 1072 sq. m. The coast line measures 21 m. The county slopes very gradually from the mountainous districts in the north down to the sea, lofty hills alternating in parts with stretches of tableland or rich fertile holms. At various points within a few miles of the Solway are tracts of moss land, like Craigs Moss, Lochar Moss and Longbridge Moor in the west, and Nutberry Moss in the east, all once under water, but now largely reclaimed. The principal mountains occur near the northern boundaries, the highest being White Coomb (2695 ft.), Hart Fell (2651), Saddle Yoke (2412), Swatte Fell (2389), Lowther Hills (2377), Queensberry (2285), which gives his secondary title to the duke of Buccleuch and the title of marquess to a branch of the house of Douglas, and Ettrick Pen (2269). The three longest rivers are the Nith, the Annan and the Esk, the basins of which form the great dales by which the county is cleft from north to south—Nithsdale, Annandale and Eskdale. From the point where it enters Dumfriesshire, 16 m. from its source near Enoch Hill in Ayrshire, the course of the Nith is mainly south-easterly till it enters the Solway, a few miles below Dumfries. Its total length is 65 m., and its chief affluents are, on the right, the Kello, Euchan, Scar, Cluden and Cargen, and, on the left, the Crawick, Carron and Campie. The Annan rises near the Devil’s Beef Tub, a remarkable chasm in the far north, and after flowing about 40 m., mainly in a southerly course, it enters the Solway at Barnkirk headland. It receives, on the right, the Kinnel (reinforced by the Ae), and, on the left, the Moffat, the Dryfe and the Milk. From the confluence of the White Esk (rising near Ettrick Pen) and the Black Esk (rising near Jock’s Shoulder, 1754 ft.) the Esk flows in a gradually south-easterly direction till it crosses the Border, whence it sweeps to the S.W. through the extreme north-western territory of Cumberland and falls into the Solway. Of its total course of 42 m., 12 belong to the White Esk, 20 are of the Esk proper on Scottish soil and 10 are of the stream in its English course. On the right the Wauchope is the chief affluent, and on the left it receives the Megget, Ewes, Tarras and Line—the last being an English tributary. Other rivers are the Lochar (18 m.), the Kirtle (17) and the Sark (12), all flowing into the Solway. For one mile of its course the Esk, and for 7 m. of its course the Sark, form the boundaries between Dumfriesshire and Cumberland. Loch Skene in the north (1750 ft. above the sea), the group of lochs around Lochmaben, and Loch Urr in the west, only part of which belongs to Dumfriesshire, are the principal lakes. There are few glens so named in the shire, but the passes of Dalveen, Enterkin and Menock, leading up from Nithsdale to the Lowther and other hills, yield to few glens in Scotland in the wild grandeur of their scenery. For part of the way Enterkin Pass runs between mountains rising sheer from the burn to a height of nearly 2000 ft. Loch Skene finds an outlet in Tail Burn, the water of which at a short distance from the lake leaps from a height of 200 ft. in a fine waterfall, known as the Grey Mare’s Tail. A much smaller but picturesque fall of the same name, also known as Crichope Linn, occurs on the Crichope near Thornhill. Mineral waters are found at Moffat, Hartfell Spa, some three miles farther north, Closeburn and Brow on the Solway.

Geology.—The greater portion of the county of Dumfries belongs to the Silurian tableland of the south of Scotland which contains representatives of all the divisions of that system from the Arenig to the Ludlow rocks. By far the largest area is occupied by strata of Tarannon and Llandovery age which cover a belt of country from 20 to 25 m. across from Drumlanrig Castle in the north to Torthorwald in the south. Consisting of massive grits, sometimes conglomeratic, greywackes, flags and shales, these beds are repeated by innumerable folds frequently inverted, striking N.E. and S.W. and usually dipping towards the N.W. In the midst of this belt there are lenticular bands of older strata of Arenig, Llandeilo, Caradoc and Llandovery age composed of fine sediments such as cherts, black and grey shales, white clays and flags, which come to the surface along anticlinal folds and yield abundant graptolites characteristic of these divisions. These black shale bands are typically developed in Moffatdale, indeed the three typical sections chosen by Professor Lapworth to illustrate his three great groups—(1) the Glenkill shales (Upper Llandeilo), (2) the Hartfell shales (Caradoc), (3) Birkhill shales (Lower Llandovery)—occur respectively in the Glenkill Burn north of Kirkmichael, on Hartfell and in Dobbs Linn near St Mary’s Loch in the basin of the river Annan. In the extreme N.W. of the county between Drumlanrig Castle and Dalveen Pass in the S. and the Spango and Kello Waters on the N., there is a broad development of Arenig, Llandeilo and Caradoc strata, represented by Radiolarian cherts, black shales, grits, conglomerates, greywackes and shales which rise from underneath the central Tarannon belt and are repeated by innumerable folds. In the cores of the arches of Arenig cherts there are diabase lavas, tuffs and agglomerates which are typically represented on Bail Hill E. of Kirkconnel. Along the southern margin of the Tarannon belt, the Wenlock and Ludlow rocks follow in normal order, the boundary between the two being defined by a line extending from the head of the Ewes Water in Eskdale, S.W. by Lockerbie to Mouswald. These consist of greywackes, flags and shales with bands of dark graptolite shales, the finer sediments being often well cleaved. They are likewise repeated by inverted folds, the axial planes being usually inclined to the S.E. The Silurian tableland in the N.W. of the county is pierced by intrusive igneous rocks in the form of dikes and bosses, which are regarded as of Lower Old Red Sandstone age. Of these, the granite mass of Spango Water, N.E. of Kirkconnel, is an excellent example. Along the N.W. margin of the county, on the N. side of the fault bounding the Silurian tableland, the Lower Old Red Sandstone occurs, where it consists of sandstones and conglomerates associated with contemporaneous volcanic rocks. The Upper Old Red Sandstone forms a narrow strip on the south side of the Silurian tableland, resting unconformably on the Silurian rocks and passing upwards into the Carboniferous formation. It stretches from the county boundary E. of the Ewes Water, S.W. by Langholm to Birrenswark. Along this line these Upper Red sandstones and shales are overlaid by a thin zone of volcanic rocks which point to contemporaneous volcanic action in this region at the beginning of the Carboniferous period. Some of the vents from which these igneous materials may have been discharged are found along the watershed between Liddesdale and Teviotdale in Roxburghshire. The strata of Carboniferous age are found in three areas: (1) between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel, (2) at Closeburn near Thornhill, (3) in the district between Liddesdale and Ruthwell. In the first two instances (Sanquhar and Thornhill) the Carboniferous sediments lie in hollows worn out of the old Silurian tableland. In the Sanquhar basin the strata belong to the Coal Measures, and include several valuable coal-seams which are probably the southern prolongations of the members of this division in Ayrshire. At the S.E. limit of the Sanquhar Coalfield there are patches of the Carboniferous Limestone series, but towards the N. these are overlapped by the Coal Measures which thus rest directly on the Silurian platform. At Closeburn and Barjarg there are beds of marine limestone, associated with sandstones and shales which probably represent marine bands in the Carboniferous Limestone series. The most important development of Carboniferous strata occurs between Liddesdale and Ruthwell. In the valleys of the Liddel and the Esk the following zones are represented which are given in ascending order: (1) The Whita Sandstone, (2) the Cementstone group, (3) the Fell Sandstones, (4) the Glencartholm volcanic group, (5) Marine limestone group with Coal seams, (6) Millstone Grit, (7) Rowanburn coal group, (8) Byreburn coal group, (9) Red Sandstones of Canonbie yielding plants characteristic of the Upper Coal Measures. The coal-seams of the Rowanburn field have been chiefly wrought, and in view of their exhaustion bores have been sunk to prove the coals

beneath the red sandstone of upper Carboniferous age. From a palaeontological point of view the Glencartholm volcanic zone is of special interest, as the calcareous shale associated with the tuffs has yielded a large number of new species of fishes, decapod crustaceans, phyllopods and scorpions. The Triassic rocks rest unconformably on all older formations within the county. In the tract along the Solway Firth they repose on the folded and eroded edges of the Carboniferous strata, and when traced westwards to the Dumfries basin they rest directly on the Silurian platform. They occur in five areas, (1) between Annan and the mouth of the Esk, (2) the Dumfries basin, (3) the Thornhill basin, (4) at Lochmaben and Corncockle Moor, (5) at Moffat. The strata consist of breccias, false-bedded sandstones and marls, the sandstones being extensively quarried for building purposes. In the sandstones of Corncockle Moor reptilian footprints have been obtained. In the Thornhill basin there is a thin zone of volcanic rocks at the base of this series which are evidently on the horizon of the lavas beneath the Mauchline sandstones in Ayrshire. In the Sanquhar basin there are small outliers of lavas probably of this age and several vents filled with agglomerate from which these igneous materials in the Thornhill basin may have been derived. There are several striking examples of basalt dikes of Tertiary age, one having been traced from the Lead Hills south-east by Moffat, across Eskdalemuir to the English border.

Climate and Industries.—The climate is mild, with a mean yearly temperature of 48° F. (January, 38.5°; July, 59.5°), and the average annual rainfall is 53 ins. Towards the middle of the 18th century farmers began to raise stock for the south, and a hundred years later 20,000 head of heavy cattle were sent annually to the English markets. The Galloways, which were the breed in vogue at first, have been to a large extent replaced by shorthorns and Ayrshire dairy cattle. Sheep breeding, of later origin, has attained to remarkable dimensions, the walks in the higher hilly country being given over to Cheviots, and the richer pasture of the low-lying farms being reserved for half-bred lambs, a cross of Cheviots and Leicesters or other long-woolled rams. Pig-feeding, once important, has declined before the imports of bacon from foreign countries. Horse-breeding is pursued on a considerable scale. Grain crops, of which oats are the principal, show a downward tendency. Arable farms range from 100 acres to 300 acres, and pastoral from 300 to 3000 acres.

In general the manufactures are only of local importance and mostly confined to Dumfries and a few of the larger towns. Langholm is famous for its tweeds; breweries and distilleries are found at Annan, Sanquhar and elsewhere; some shipping is carried on at Annan and Dumfries; and the salmon fisheries of the Nith and Annan and the Solway Firth are of value.

Communications.—The Glasgow & South-Western railway from Glasgow to Carlisle runs through Nithsdale, practically following the course of the river, and lower Annandale to the Border. The Caledonian railway runs through Annandale, throwing off at Beattock a small branch to Moffat, at Lockerbie a cross-country line to Dumfries, and at Kirtlebridge a line that ultimately crosses the Solway to Bowness. From Dumfries westwards there is communication with Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright, Newton Stewart, Stranraer and Portpatrick. The North British railway sends a short line to Langholm from Riddings Junction in Cumberland, giving access to Carlisle and, by the Waverley route, to Edinburgh. There is also coach service between various points, as from Dumfries to New Abbey and Dalbeattie, and from Langholm to Eskdalemuir.

Population and Government.—The population in 1891 was 74,245, and in 1901, 72,571, when there were 176 persons who spoke Gaelic and English. The chief towns are Annan (pop. in 1901, 4309), Dumfries (14,444), Langholm (3142), Lockerbie (2358) and Moffat (2153). The county returns one member to parliament. Dumfries, the county town, Annan, Lochmaben and Sanquhar are royal burghs; Dumfries forms a sheriffdom with the shires of Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Dumfries, who sits also at Annan, Langholm and Lockerbie. The shire is under school-board jurisdiction, and some of the public schools earn grants for higher education. The county council and most of the borough councils give the bulk of the “residue” grant to the county committee on secondary education, which is thus enabled, besides assisting building schemes, to subsidize high schools, to provide bursaries and apparatus, and to carry on science and technical classes, embracing agriculture, dairying (at Kilmarnock Dairy school) and practical chemistry. There are academies at Dumfries, Annan, Moffat and other centres.

History.—The British tribe which inhabited this part of Scotland was called by the Romans Selgovae. They have left many signs of their presence, such as hill forts in the north, stone circles (as in Dunscore and Eskdalemuir), camps (Dryfesdale), tumuli and cairns (Closeburn), and sculptured stones (Dornock). The country around Moffat especially is rich in remains. At Holywood, near Dumfries, there stand the relic of the grove of sacred oaks from which the place derived its name, and a stone circle known locally as the Twelve Apostles. In the parish church of Ruthwell (pron. Rivvel: the “rood, or cross, well”) is preserved an ancient cross which tells in Runic characters the story of the Crucifixion. There are traces of the Roman roads which ran by Dalveen Pass into Clydesdale and up the Annan to Tweeddale, and at Birrens is one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman camp. Roman altars, urns and coins are found in many places. Upon the withdrawal of the Romans, the Selgovae were conquered by Scots from Ireland, who, however, fused with the natives. The Saxon conquest of Dumfriesshire does not seem to have been thorough, the people of Nithsdale and elsewhere maintaining their Celtic institutions up to the time of David I.

As a Border county Dumfriesshire was the scene of stirring deeds at various epochs, especially in the days of Robert Bruce. Edward I. besieged Carlaverock Castle, and the factions of Bruce (who was lord of Annandale), John Comyn and John Baliol were at constant feud. The Border clans, as haughty and hot-headed as the Gaels farther north, were always at strife. There is record of a bloody fight in Dryfesdale in 1593, when the Johnstones slew 700 Maxwells, and, overtaking the fugitives at Lockerbie, there massacred most of the remnant. These factions embroiled the dalesmen until the 18th century. The highlands of the shire afforded retreat to the persecuted Covenanters, who, at Sanquhar, published in 1680 their declaration against the king, anticipating the principles of the “glorious Revolution” by several years. Prince Charles Edward’s ambition left the shire comparatively untouched, for the Jacobite sentiment made little appeal to the people.

Dumfriesshire is inseparably connected with the name of Robert Burns, who farmed at Ellisland on the Nith for three years, and spent the last five years of his life at Dumfries. Thomas Carlyle was born at Ecclefechan, in a house still standing, and was buried beside his parents in the kirkyard of the old Secession church (now the United Free). His farm of Craigenputtock was left to Edinburgh University in order to found the John Welsh bursaries in classics and mathematics.

See W. M‘Dowall, History of the Burgh of Dumfries (Edinburgh, 1887); Sir Herbert Maxwell, Dumfries and Galloway (Edinburgh and London, 1897); J. Macdonald and J. Barbour, Birrens and its Antiquities (Dumfries, 1897); Sir William Fraser, The Book of Carlaverock (Edinburgh, 1873); The Douglas Book (Edinburgh, 1885); The Annandale Book (Edinburgh, 1894); G. Neilson, Annandale under the Bruces (Annan, 1887); C. T. Ramage, Drumlanrig Castle and the Douglases (Dumfries, 1876).