Auchencairn History Society PDF Print E-mail

Image
2007 ACTIVITIES

September visits to The Old Bakery, Auchencairn,
Ruthwell Cross, The Brow Well and Caerlaverock Castle
.

Our first visit was something we all like to do - have a nosey around someone else's house. The house in question was what used to be the bakery in Bakery Street, Auchencairn. New owners Keith and Margaret Kerrison thought we may like to view it before they start redecoration which may conceal some of the features for a few years. Their kind offer was quickly snapped up, as were the lovely refreshments. Such a feature to have two industrial ovens in your front room. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Image
Image

The cellar located behind and half a depth below the ovens was equally interesting. Its vaulted ceiling clearly shows the tie bars that re-inforce this capacious brick built unit.
Image
Keith is seeking to solve the mystery of the purpose of two parallel metal rails that run from the cellar through a short access space and would have emerged at a now bricked up door beside the left hand oven. They were obviously used for conveying something - but what? - in what direction? Does anyone out there know? e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it please.
Image

NEXT DAY we were off on our travels again - this time being very adventurous and leaving the Stewartry for the wilds of Dumfrieshire.

First stop was at the lovely little village of Ruthwell to view the renovated Ruthwell Cross that was saved and placed into the parish church for safety. They even had to locate it in a pit in the floor to be able to fit it in. It's well worth a visit.

Speaking of wells - afterwards we moved about a half mile and visited the Brow Well (wasn't that a good link?- please yourselves)  said to have been visited by Rabbie Burns during failing health in hope that its waters restored his powers.
Image
Image

Further along the Solway Coast (Nith Estuary) we arrived at the imposing Caerlaverock Castle, home of the Maxwells. It's maintained by Historic Scotland and well worth the few pounds to get in. You actually get two castles for the price of one as the original was flattened after they decided that it had been built too close to the sea and its foundations are still visible within its moat.

The relatively new building had quite a few alterations and additions over the years and even saw seige by the English army. Their's even a huge trebuchet (catapult) standing close by that gives a wonderful feeling about what warfare was like and backed up an informative video screening about the seige.
Image
Image
Image

Image
Nancy Aitken takes up a fighting position.

It wasn't just an austere castle in its hey day as it was made quite comfortable by building into it the impressive Nithsdale Lodgings.

Image
Dennis,Heather,Madeline and Marian through the oblong windows.


Note the Maxwell heraldryabove the windows and doors.

After a lengthy visit and nothing missed we retired as always to the nearest tea room (good one on site) and relected on the day that was well planned as always by Dennis Binns.
Image
Dennis in full flow.


We may have gone on a foray to foreign parts but the Maxwells are the same bunch that were one of the most powerful families in Galloway too, holding such places as Threave Castle, Drumcoltran Tower and our own Orchardton Tower - a great family! (the editor - being a Maxwell can write what he likes). Their place in Galloway history features in our music 'Bonnie Gallowa' in the line "Maxwells, Gordons all are thine".  Davie Gordon couldn't help getting into a picture along with the Maxwell crest - good man!
Image
Maxwells, Gordons all are thine.


Another great day - come out with us next time.

Tuesday - 17th July 2007 - Field trip to Dundrennan and visit Saint Glasson's Well, The Old Kirk and Dundrennan Abbey.

St Glasson's Well was a bit of a disappointment in that the site was grown over with grass and weeds. However some dogged searching among the mess by John Fortune eventually revealed the well head stones.

Wandering around the Old Kirk Yard and Dundrennan Abbey was most enjoyable as we tried interpret to what the various wrecks and relects  related. Dennis Binns had as always produced information packs  based on his earlier research on the subjects.

Wednesday 23rd May 2007 - field trip to The Corn Mill, New Abbey and Sweetheart Abbey.

Eight of our society went on this outing (one was taking the photograph) and started the day off at Historic Scotlands fully restored and working water driven mill at New Abbey, a short distance along the Solway coast.
Image
They were well received by staff and after watching a 12 minute introductory film were given a guided tour of the facility.

Image
Questions were gratefully received and answered with a clear knowledgeand love of the subject.
Although the mill wasn't actually working at the time it was simple (with some expert guidance) to follow the process from water collection and control through to the grinding of the oats and production of the final article - oatmeal.
ImageImage

After a chat with staff and a nosey around the usal gift shop four of the party had to leave but the remainder headed off to the nearby Sweetheart Abbey (via a lovely coffee shop).

The ruined Abbey is a magical place with it's manicured lawns and efficient management concealing the love and heartache hidden in it's past.
The story of the founding of Sweetheart Abbey is held to be a testament to the enduring power of love. On 10 April 1273 Lady Devorgilla signed a charter establishing a new Cistercian Abbey in memory of her husband, John Balliol, who had died four years earlier. 
Her love for her departed husband extended to carrying his embalmed heart around with her in an ivory box with enamelled silver trimmings. After her death in 1290 she was buried in the sanctuary of the abbey church she had founded, and on her instructions the casket containing her husband's heart was buried beside her. Her image (somewhat depleted - in the head department) remains on a carved memorial within the Abbey and is a touching memorial.

The Abbey contains many graves of members of notable Galloway families including Maxwell, Gordon and Douglas. These three families as perhaps the most influencial are commemorated by insignia over a remaining gate. By chance (perhaps?) the remaining AHS members were all, by birth or marriage of those clans.
Image

Image
Nancy Aitken nee Douglas


True to form all four stalwarts retired again to the nearby coffee house for lunch and a good blether about the day(and the world) before returning through the National Scenic Area from Colvend to Auchencairn.

Further details of these attractions can be obtained on the Historic Scotland website.


Wednesday 21st March 2007 saw our first field trip of the year to visit Orchardton Tower and Drumcoltran Tower.

Image
Davie Gordon and Brian Maxwell (Madeline Maxwell took the photo)

Twelve people made the trip to Orchardton and Drumcoltran Towers and found out about these two distictly different structures that had the same basic function of providing a dwellinghouse that would withstand attack.

Image
Image

Orchardton Tower about 2 miles to the North of Auchencairn is the only 'circular tower' in Scotland. There are similar structures in Ireland and they may have provided the inspiration for the design. It was built by John Cairns in the mid 1400s. It passed through various family members until about 1615 wen taken over by Sir Robert Maxwell, 1st Baronet of Orchardton. More details can be found in Hugh Patons History of Auchencairn on this website.

Image
Deciding whose first to go up to the top


Image
The winners - Brian, Jeanette and Nancy

The tour then moved on through Dalbeattie towards Dumfries and to Drumcoltran Tower just outside the village of Kirkgunzeon.

Image
It is now integral to a much more moderb farm complex but is easily accessed from a well signposted side road. Drumcoltran was built in the 1550s by the Maxwell family, possibly to control the road between Dumfries and Dalbeattie as it affords a good view across the valley. It is a square tower on three levels and with a watchtower.

Image
Internally the tower is of a fairly straightforward design. The ground floor comprises a vaulted room originally used for storage and a kitchen, together with a spectacular fireplace.

Climbing the spiral stair brings you to the first floor. The wooden floors of the second floor and garret eventually rotted away and were removed in the early 1900s. You are left with an imposing space rising all the way to the restored roof.

 

As originally built the first floor was a single room, used as the hall. When the ground floor was converted into a kitchen the fireplace on the first floor was reduced in size, and a second fireplace was later added when the first floor was divided into three rooms in the 1800s. A stone spiral staircase leads to the other floors.

The remains of fireplaces that can be seen on the higher levels of the wall indicate that the second floor was divided into two rooms. One was reached  from the spiral staircase, while the other had a door to a short passage within the wall, leading out onto the spiral stair.

Image

Sitting at the top of a set of the spiral stairs is the parapet walk. It is about 40 feet above its base, but is an easy climb and descent.  The parapet walk extends around three sides of the roof and gives an excellent view of the landscape.

The tours being complete some gravitated to a tea room in Dalbeattie for a warming lunchtime snack and some good conversation.