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History of Moffat


Dr. Jobnstones Will was dated from London, 30th September, 1639 ; and the following is the passage endowing the Moffat Grammar School:—"I give and bequeath unto the Right Honourable Lord Johnstone, One Thousand Poundes sterling, to bee ymployed in purchasing of landes, for the mayntenance of a Grammar Schole in Moffett, in Annandale, and doe appoint out of the same vnto the Mr. ycarely, five hundred Mares, usual money of the Realme of Scotland, unto the Vsher, and Hypodidusculos, twon hundred mares of like money yenrely, an vnto an able man to teach the scholiors of the said schole Arithmetic and Writingo one hundred and ˝ftye marks of like money of Scotland, yearlie, and the surplusage of the rent I doe appoint, to be distribted amongest the poore of the parishe of Moffett aforesaid, and towardes the reparacon of the said achole, and my mynde is that the said Mr. Vsher, and Arithmaticians, bee chosen good and sufficient men by the Provost, Balifl'es, and Ministers of Edinburgh, and also altered by them upon the inforniacon of the said Lord Johnestoun, his heyers, and the minister of Moffett, for the tyme being of their insuffielencie and neglect of the instrucion of the youth there, and others to be elected in the place of them that bane been caries and negligent. And my will and mynde is that fiftye pounds starlingo be prescntiie laido unto the said Lord Johnestoun, towardes the building of the said schole at Moftett, and the foresaid principall some six monthes after my decease. That the building may be perfected out of the vse of the said sum before the purchasing of the landos for the yeerlie maintenance of the said schoic."


The following is the line of descent of the Johnstone family, as represented in a recent lawsuit between John Henry Goodinge Johnstone, pursuer; and John James Hope Johnstone, and Earl of ilopetoun's Trustees, defenders, before the Supreme Courts, for the title formerly possessed by the representatives of the family, and which became dormant in 1792, by the death of George, third Marquis of Annandale, as shown in chapter v., for report of which see "Dunlop and Bell's eases."

The case was productive of no good, as neither of the claimants had their hopes or expectations realised, which makes us the more regret with Sir Walter Scott, who says:—" Every Scotch-man must regret that the name of Johnstone should have disappeared from the peerage; and hope that some of the many claimants for the minor honours of the house of Annandale, may make Out a case to the satisfaction of the House of Lords. The great estates of the family are still nearly entire, and in worthy hands; they have passed to a younger branch of the noble house of Hopetoun, one of the claimants of the elder title."— Vide Note K. to Scott's "Fair Maid of Perth."


The following formerly appeared in 1858 In a work, "Moffat: Its Walks and Wells," and has been procured through the kindness of Messrs. Blackie & Sons, Publishers:—

The Well, par excellence, is at the distance of about a mile and a half from the village, and has been generally described as to situation, &c., in the descriptive sketch of the district. We would add our testimony to the efficiency of the menus by which the water is carefully collected at the well for the use of the visitors, and the orderly and cleanly manner in which it is distributed (by Mrs. Clark) to those who are In the habit of partaking of it. The walk to the mineral-water supply is particularly pleasant and picturesque, and from the altitude of the site of the well, it being about 640 feet above the sea level, the air, even in the middle of summer, Is never experienced as sultry, at the hour at which visitors are accustomed to wend their way upwards to the Spa, but is always, in dry weather, of an agreeable and bracing character.

There are two sources of the water at the well, rising from the rock from which the water issues, and situated at a few feet from each other. These are known to the keeper of the well as the upper and lower springs. The lower one alone is used for drinking purposes. The upper, and to the taste, and specific gravity, the stronger of the two, is allowed to pass by means of pipes towards the reservoir, which supplies the mineral baths In the village. The waste-water of the lower well is allowed to flow in by the same channel, and adds itself to the contents of the reservoir. From the well-understood action of sulphureous waters on metals, it would be advisable that the metal pipes, at present in use for conveying the water for bath purposes, should be replaced either by pipes made of glass, or, what would be more economical, and quite as efficient in preserving the purity and strength of the water, gtua-percha. The tank of the bath committee, which, we believe, is constructed of cast-iron, ought to be lined with an inner sheet case of the same material. By such improvements, the sulphur constituents of the water would sufFer no decomposition on transference, but would pass on, and be accumulated in the state in which they exist in the well-water.

On reaching the well, many circumstances strongly indicate the sulphureous nature of the water. The water itself has the characteristic odour of such waters, while the metal stop-cock attached to the pipe which communicates with the rock, and delivers the supply, is coated with a black shining sulphuret, formed by the suiphuretted hydrogen disengaged from the water acting upon the metal. The blackening of the watch-cases, and any silver coins which have been for some time in the possession of the well-keeper, bears testimony to the presence of this gas in considerable abundance in the neighbourhood of the well, as it is evolved from the water when drawn. The small openings in the rock, from which the water of the upper well issues, are alone visible ; those of the lower well being built over with a fixed pipe communicator and stop-cock, to draw off the water at pleasure. The upper and exposed apertures are incrusted with a yellowish-white substance. This, when dried and ignited, yields a blue flame, gives off a suffocating odour of burning sulphur, and leaves a reddish-coloured residue. The composition of this deposited matter was found, on analysis, to be sulphur and peroxide of iron (red oxide). In the exposed part of the channel, through which the water flows from the upper apertures towards the pipes which supply the public baths, opalescent filaments of sulphur exist in abundance, and also a considerable quantity of a black deposit. This black substance, on examination, proved to be the pure protosulphuret of iron. When heated with hydrochloric acid, it gave off suiphuretted hydrogen gas in abundance. The acid solution obtained in this experiment contained iron wholly in the state of protoxide. This was ascertained by Its yielding an abundant blue precipitate, with red prussiato of potash, but none with the yellow prussiato of potash. The protosuiphuret of iron is formed by the combination of the sulphur (of the sulphur compounds In the water), with iron which issues in a soluble form from several small fissures In the exposed rock; the protosulphuret of iron so formed, being preserved from the action of the oxygen of the air by the well water which flows over it. The whitish deposit formerly alluded to, is, as originally formed, the same substance viz., protosulphuret of iron, but by being freely exposed in this form to the air, it suffers decomposition; Its iron becoming per-oxidized, and its sulphur set free. In the Iron-conveyance pipes formerly referred to, this formation of protosuiphuret of iron also takes place, and constitutes the black matter which is found accumulating in all parts of the piping. As this suiphuret is completely insoluble in water, it is of no medicinal use in the bath, and being produced at the expense of much of the all-important sulphur constituent, its present production is the ground of the recommendation formerly given for the replacement of the Iron by gutta-percha pipes.

As to the smell and taste of the water, various opinions exist. Dr. Garnett described it as having a "strong smell resembling bilge-water, or the scourings of a foul gun," and "like the sulphurcous water of Harrowgate, though not quite so strong.* The odour is Certainly not the most agreeable, but this description of it is rather exaggerated. The rinsings of a gun-barrel do approximate to the odour, but the best analogue, we think, is a aug/al4, putrescent egg. The taste is that of a mixed saline and suiphurcous character, so that the water is rather unpleasant to most palates on first partaking of it. The coldness of the water, however, and the evolution of minute globules of gaseous matter from it, as well as from the drinking being fashionable, and consequently a great number of active examples set before the eyes of the recipient, also the hearty appreciation of its excellencies expressed by, and the certain hope of expected benefit so forcibly depicted in, the cheerful countenances of the crowd around him, soon reconcile the novice to its, on first acquaintance, somewhat repulsive odour and taste. From our experience of the water, after a week's trial, both taste and odour, as far as unpalatableness was concerned, had era that time almost disappeared. It is worthy of remark, that persons once accustomed to such a water, prefer it, even for constant use, to all other varieties: pure waters becoming even unpleasant to them. The odour of the Moffat sulphureous, as of similar waters, is very persistent. It is detectable soon after partaking, in the expired air on breathing. It passes off in perspiration, and attaches itself perceptibly to the stockings and clothes of the water-drinkers, and this, apparently, more or less, according to the quantity of water the individual partakes of.

The temperature of the Moffat suiphureous water seems to be quite independent of that of the external atmosphere; and this during all seasons of the year. Dr. Garnett states that in the year 1797 he made two observations at difFerent times on this. In one instance the temperature of the Spa was 50 deg. Fah., while the external air was 54 deg. Fah., and the adjoining brook 48 deg. Fah. On another occasion, when the temperature of the air was 60 deg. Fah, that of the Spa was 49 deg. Fah. Dr. Thomson has not recorded the temperature at the period when his analyses were instituted. Mr. James Clark and the writer made the following observations. The method of determining the temperature was simply to place the bulb and lower end of a thermometer in a tumbler, and to cause the water, as it issued from the pipe communicating with the spring, to run continuously into the vessel, and on the immersed portion of the thermometer for several minutes, the indication being read off without withdrawing the thermometer from the water

From those results, and those of Dr. Garnett, the prevailing temperature of 49 J dog. Fah. may be reasonably considered as having been constant for at least a period of more than half a century. This constancy of the temperature furnishes a strong presumption of there existing very great similarity in the situation and Circumstances under which the water becomes impregnated, and has bestowed upon It its characteristic properties. The moderate coldness of the water renders it, as may be conceived, pleasant, at all events refreshing, during the summer months.

The quantity of free gas evolved from the water is at no time great. The water Is never decidedly sparkling. It does assume a certain degree of cloudiness from the uniform diffusion through it of very minute gaseous globules. These globules exist more abundantly, and of greater size, on certain occasions than on others. In short, their comparative abundance may be said to prognosticate the state of the weather. Mr. Clark, keeper of the well, uses the water as a weather-glass, and places great confidence in the indications yielded by it. It Is reported in the locality that when the atmosphere is highly electrical, as Immediately preceding thunder-storms, these globules are more than usually almndant.. They are also more abundant, and appear more rapidly, the higher the temperature of the air to which the water Is exposed just when taken from the well. A fall of the barometer, indicating a diminution of atmospheric pressure, and usually a precursor of rain, Is always accompanied by a greatly increased evolution of gas globules. The altitude of the situation of the well (040 feet above the ,ea-level) adds to this sensitiveness of the water to changes in atmospheric pressure. There is a prevalent error in the district as to this aerated condition of the water. When the gas globules are larger and more abundant the water is popularly said to be MqMy charged with its gaseous principle constituent, the sulphuretted hydrogen. The opposite of this is the proper rendering of the phenomenon. The increased abundance of these globules is indicative of the rapid escaping, and consequent loss of the much desired gas. For the same reasons, the carbonic acid gas in a glass of champagne, or of soda-water, is much greater in quantity before the condition of effervescence is established in such liquors by agitation, or by being placed tinder the receiver of an air-pump, than during the period when the effervescence or escaping of the gas is going on, or after it. The well-water should, therefore, be drank as rapidly as possible after being put into the hands of the visitor, and not walked about with, and thereby shaken and exposed to the air. The promenade should follow the drinking of each tumbler of water, it is injudicious to attempt to enjoy both simultaneously.

The statements made as to the temperature and pressure of the air affecting the retention of the gas, with other obvious reasons of a dietetic kind, point Out the morning as the best period of the day for obtaining the water richest in its gaseous sulphur constituent, and that the water is most valuable for medicinal or therapeutic purposes when the barometer is high. No dry morning should therefore pass without the invalid remembering to be at the Spa. On the other hand, on wet mornings, when the well cannot be conveniently visited, these facts may afford some consolation to the health-seeker, the water being then less charged in reality, although apparently more so.

Under all circumstances, the mineral water must be drunk at the well, in order that the maximum value and effect of its medicinal character may be obtained. This is over and above the obvious physical advantages derived from the bracing morning walk We were told when residing in the village, on reliable authority, that some visitors, we regret to say of the fair sex, indulged in the highly objectionable practice of partaking of the water in bed. The water was conveyed to such soporific drinkers by a messenger sent, to the well for it, From our own experience, wo frequently saw water being carried from the well in the direction of the village, no doubt for the use of persons either unable, and so excusable, or unwilling, and so inexcusable, to do themselves the benefit of the prescribed, and, we might say, in most instances, Indispensable morning walk. We were further informed, that those persons who unwisely partook of the water in the horizontal position consistently also continued their town practice of partaking of breakfast in the same situation and circumstances, judiciously, however, allowing an interval of about two hours to elapse between the water-drinking and the breakfasting, and afterwards rose when the sun was nearly in the meridian. We do sincerely hope and believe that such cases are in the most marked manner exceptional, since so exalted an instance of, we had almost said stupidity, and so gross a violation of even a common-sense view of the necessary condition of healthful existence cannot, for the sake of the Individuals themselves, and for the reputation of the habits of the village, be sufficiently discountenanced and condemned. These remarks have no reference to those who are enfeebled from ill health, and cannot undertake the walk, perhaps not even the well-omnibus drive, but apply to, we trust, the very few, who, while quite able to do so, still from indolence remain at home, and drink their potations there. Much of our urban usage must be left in the city it we would recruit health in rural Motrat, or reap advantage from its mineral-waters.

The specific gravity of the sulphureous water of the well, as indicated by the use of a superior hydrometer, was fully 1.001. By the use of a 500-grain sp. gr. bottle, the specific gravity of the water was found to be .00124, and in another trial with a 1000-grain sp. gr. bottle, 1.00122. The mean specific gravity of the two last and most delicate experiments, would therefore indicate 10023 as the specific gravity of this cater. Due observance was made of temperature and atmospheric pressure in these experiments. The specific gravity of the water of the upper well, which is totally employed for bath purposes, was slightly above that stated.

The qualitative chemical analysis of the water was conducted at the well, by means of suitable apparatus and re-agents.

The ingredients found present in the sulphureous water were sulphur, lu the form of sulpliuretted hydrogen gas, and also as a sulphuret (most probably of sodium), also, chlorine, lime, magnesia; and, subsequently, there were found in the quantitative analysis, soda, traces of earthy carbonates, organic matter, and silicic acid. The substances judged absent, or not present in detectable quantity, were sulphuric acid, potash, iron in any of its states of combination, carbonic acid gas, and nitrogen or any other permanent gas. Excepting the traces of lime and magnesia existing as carbonates, and the soda present in the water in the form of silicate of soda, the lime, magnesia, and soda were found to exist as calcium, magnesium, and sodium, in combination with chlorine, and a small proportion of; most probably, the sodium with sulphur.

It may be remarked that, while testing the well water, most of the tests were applied to the water of the adjoining burn, and also to that of the spring situated on the edge of the footpath, between the stream and esplanade, and leading to the verandah at the well. The burn-water indicated, in the ucconcentrated form, only traces of chlorine. Chemically, it is a very soft and pure water, but is coloured considerably from dissolved organic matters derived from moss. The water from the spring indicated traces of chlorine, slight traces sf sulphuric acid, and very slight traces of lime. It is a very excellent and safe drinking water; and, as a spring-water, it is unusually soft.. Neither the burn nor spring-water contained the slightest trace of sulphureous impregnation.

By a series of experiments the respective quantities of the soluble salts, earthy carbonates, and of siliceous and organic matters, composing 50 grains of the solid residue on the evaporation of the sulphureous water, were determined; and the results, when calculated to represent their proportionate amounts in the quantity of residue from the imperial gallon, were as follow:-

The combined sUicic acid exists in the original water as silicate of soda. The 206 grains of silicic acid unite with 140 grains of soda, and are thus equivalent to 346 grains of silicate of soda.

The 226 grains of earthy carbonates were found to be:-

The amount of chloride of sodium (common salt) thus indicated was 6072 grains per imperial gallon.

The most important determination in the Inquiry was the quantity of sulphuretted hydrogen gas present In the Moffat sulphureous water. The best known processes were instituted to determine this, and the results of five different experiments obtained. The mean of all the experiments was 678 grain of sulphur, equal to 720 grain by weight, and 182 cubic inches by volume of sulphuretted hydrogen gas.

A portion of the well-water, after being heated to ebullition, was found still to contain sulphur in solution, indicative of the presence of soluble saline sulpirurets in the original water. This showed that the sulphur does not all exist as sulphuretted hydrogen in this water, as has been generally supposed, rind represented in previous analyses. It also accounted for the slightly alkaline reaction of the aqueous solution of the residual matter left on the evaporation of the original water. The total snlphur in the original water was found to be, per gallon, 742 grain, from which, if we take l.622 grain for combined sulphur, we shall have left, as sulphur existing in the form of suiphuretted h)drogen gas, .120 grain, which is equivalent to -128 grain by weight, and 353 cubic inch by volume of this gas. From this it will appear, that about one-sixth only of Me sulphur in the well-water exists as a gaseous compound, the other flre-si.rths existirg an alkaline su-Iphuret. The former is alone expelled or decomposed by heat. The latter remains in solution oven after the water has been in a state of ebullition.

From the foregoing results, one imperial gallon of the Moffat sulphureous water contains, in the form of salts soluble in water, after the evaporation of the original water to dryness, the following ingredients, in the proportions slated; the portion of the residue found thus soluble, being, as before recorded, 8227 grains:--

The bases of the saline compounds, formed by the combination of the above constituents, must exist as chlorides, since no other radical or acid is present to unite with them; excepting the sodium existing as the partner in the soluble alkaline sulphur salt, and the soda, which is most probably the base, united with the silieie acid, existing as silicate. The states of combination in which the ingredients exist in the original water are thus represented on calculation:-

cous water will, no doubt, simplify the problem as to its therapeutic properties in the view of the medical man. its composition in this respect is very similar to the waters of the same class at Aix-la-Chapelle and Harrowgate. The proportion of sulphur present, equivalent to 2,168 cubic inches of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, indicates that the Mofrat water is not one of the strongest of su1phureous waters. The Harrowgate water in England (the old well) contains a much higher quantity of this gas in proportion to the other constituents. Enghicn, in France, is more like MolFat in this particular. The state of dilution in which the sulphur compounds exist in the Moffat water, should place its internal use completely under the safe control of the invalid.

The peculiarity, now for the first time recorded, that five-sixths of the sulphur in the MotFat water exists in the form of an alkaline sulphuret, and remains in solution after boiling, is most advantageous and important. The first advantage resulting from this, is in the external use of the water. The alkaline sulphuret is analogous in its action on obstinate cutaneous or skin diseases, as lepra and scabies, to the sulphuretted hydrogen gas; but it is not, like that compound, dissipated or decomposed on the application of heat to the water. Warm baths of the Mofl'at water may, therefore, be indulged in, without more than a very partial loss of its sulphureous impregnation. This anticipation was confirmed by experiment. The temperature at which the water is so employed is generally 98 deg. Fab. There are occasionally exceptional cases, but these are few in number. On submitting a measured quantity of the water to this temperature for a space of time equal to the Customary bathing period, and then estimating, by a process previously detailed, the sulphur remaining in solution, less than one-sixth of this constituent had disappeared, showing, that besides the whole of the combined sulphur, that even traces of the gas remained. In heating the water for bath purposes, contact with metal should be avoided, and wooden bathing vessels should be used. Another most important advantage arising from the presence of the fixed alkaline snlphnret, bears on the transmission of water to invalids residing at a distance from the well. It is sent to such In Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle, &c. The former has as yet been the principal emporium for It. Were the sulphur in the water existing solely as sulphuretted hydrogen, this gas would soon be dissipated, and the water, as regards this Ingredient, rendered valueless. The agitation consequent on transference would aid this. The fixed state of the combined sulphur, however, prevents its escape, so that although part or all of the gaseous sulphuret should be lost, the water cannot he said to have lost more than one-sixth of its leading therapeutic ingredient. The full medicinal adrastage, of course, only obtained by those who veil The well; but the fact now stated is interesting and consolatory to those, however distant, who cannot, from circumtunccs, have this privilege. The retention of even portions of the gaseous suiphuret is insured for short distances especially with railway communication, by careful scaling of the jars in which the water Is transmitted.

It is not advisable that the water should be drank after being kept for any great length of time. The changes In a jar of the water during three months were carefully observed by the author In his laboratory. The vessel was not tightly corked. The water became slightly opalescent, and of a peculiarly offensive odour. After two months this disagreeable odour passed oft; and a decided vinegar odour was exhaled, with effervescence on agitation, like that from a very sour fermented liquor; the water at same time being highly acid to test-papers. In three months this had disappeared; the water was odourless, and on the application of the usual tests, not a trace of sulphur in any form, either as sulphuric acid, hyposulphurous acid, sulphuretted hydrogen, or as an alkaline sulphuret, was detectable. These remarks point out to the bath committee in the village, as well as to others collecting similar water for bathing purposes, the necessity of not permitting such waters to remain exposed to the air for months in tanks, although this may be found very convenient for accumulation.

Many opinions have been entertained as to the origin of the sulphureous impregnation of the MofFat well-water. Dr. Garnett considered it as most probably derived from a bog in the vicinity. This supposed source has now disappeared, and yet the impregnation continues. Portions of rock from the strata immediately adjoining the well, on being examined chemically, were found to contain sulphur in considerable quantity, in the form of iron pyrites or bisulphurot of iron. The rock from which the spring has its issue was found not to be free from this ingredient. This sulphur compound is present in such quantity in some masses of the slaty rock, as exposed in the bed of the stream above the site of the well, as to render the crystals of it distinctly visible to the unassisted eye, and even layers of it, from one-eighth to one-half of an inch in thickness, traverse these rocks. This sulphuret may indeed be said to be a prevailing constituent of most of the minerals of the district, and appears to be the prime source of the sulphureous impregnation it the mineral water. The situation of the well, lying as it does at the foot of an extensive series of hills, characterized here and there by the presence of the metallic sulphuret named, seems to place this beyond doubt. The constituents of some mineral waters, as chloride of sodium, carbonate of lime, &c., may be referred to lixivation and solution merely, the rain-water dissolving such already formed constituents during its percolation through the mineral matter which contains them. Other ingredients, however, are the result of chemical decomposition, as well as subsequent solution. Sulphurettod hydrogen gas and alkaline sulphurets belong to this latter variety. They are produced by the action of water on some metallic sulphuret, and most usually that very sulphuret which is so abundant in the vicinity of the Moirat well. The presence of organic matter favours, if it is not indispensable to this formation. The oxygen of the water combines with the metal of the metallic sulphuret, while its hydrogen unites with the sulphur, forming sulphuretted hydrogen. The conditions for this chemical action all exist in the case of the well water. The source of the alkaline sulphuret in the water Is most probably different. This constituent is most likely referable to the action of the organic matter, which is present in considerable proportion in the water, and is of vegetable origin, excepting a few animalcules, on alkaline sulphates. The oxygen of the sulphate, say sulphate of soda, is removed by the carbon of the decomposing organic matter, and sulphuret of sodium results. It may be stated, in objection to this view, that the Moffat water contains no such sulphates. This is certainly true of the water as it now issues at the spring. Dr. Thomson records the presence of such constituents in great quantity at the period when his analysis was conducted.

In June, 1834,I visited the Sulphureous Well, and conducted a further experiment, so as to indicate any change since last season in the sulphureous impregnation of the water. The arsenical solution was used. In this result, 323 cubic inches of the water were employed. There existed 165 grains of the tersulphuret of arsenic. This amount, on calculation, coincides in an exceedingly near, and to me gratifying manner, with the results of the similar experiment conducted in August last, which yielded 146 grains of the arsenical sulphuret, from 300 cubic inches of the sulphureous water. This recent experiment would indicate constancy in the amount of the sulphureous impregnation in this water from August last till now, and in this view the result possesses great interest.

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