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History of Moffat
Chapter I


Introduction.— Sketch of the Parish-Its R4vers, Name, Population, and Extent. —The Town—Its present Population—Its Establish-meat by the Saxon—Its Trade—Supposed former Site of the Town.

SUMMER is hailed with enthusiasm by all; and with eagerness scarcely to be wondered at, the merchant snatches himself from his ponderous ledger, and the student from his books, to gain that ease and relaxation which •their busy lives necessitate. While some flock to the Continent to behold with critical eye its beauties much extolled, or while some seek to enjoy the pleasures of the coast, others prefer the seclusive beauties of an inland town. Of all such Scottish inland retreats Moffat has gained pre-eminence—a pre-eminence which for upwards of two centuries has been fully acknowledged: and in the present work we purpose showing the meagre position which at one time it occupied, and the many difficulties it encountered, and the many straggles it endured, ere it reached the slightly important .state in which we presently behold it; and through all of which it has retained till now that quietude with which it has ever been associated, and which has ever rendered it more attractive.

The parish, rich in resources for the archaeologist, as we shall endeavour to show in the following pages, though situated chiefly in Dumfriesshire, extends into Lanarkshire (that part consisting, however, in the land pertaining to a few farms), and is in length fifteen miles, while it is set down as being at its greatest breadth between eight and a half and nine miles. The river Annan, which gives the name to the district through which it flows—Annandale, in the upper part of which the parish of Moffat is situated, rises in the extreme north, where the counties of Dumfries, Lanark, and Peebles touch each other. Forming the boundary between the parishes of Moffat and Kirkpatrick-juxta, it passes the town of Moffat receiving below it several small streams (which increase considerably the volume of water), such as the Frenchiand Burn; and a stream from Snawfell, the Moffat, and Evan waters at one point on opposite sides unite with the Annan. The place where those three streams or rivers join each other is appropriately termed the "Three Water loots," and we might with safety here apply the words of Moore—

"There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet,
As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet."

In addition to those streams the "Silver Annan" takes into its bosom others almost as important—the Warnphray, the Kinnel, and the Dryfe, the former of which may be said to be the most important tributary of the three, and which joins it soon after it leaves the "Three Water Foote," coming from the north-easterly direction. The Kinnel joins it a little below Applegarth Kirk, coming from the north-east, while the Dryfe joins it farther on, coming from the north-west. Receiving these and other augmentations it meanders slowly southward, and ultimately empties itself in the Solway Firth. From the Hartfell group of mountains the rivers Tweed and Clyde also issue forth, which fact is preserved in the quaint and familiar rhyme,

"Annan, Tweed, and Clyde,
Rise a' oct o' ae hill side,"

though the origin of the last of the three streams mentioned is by M'Donald questioned. The courses of the three chief streams, named respectively the Annan, Moffat, and Evan are at first truly insignificant.. All of them issue from the mountainous district, and are for a considerable distance little less than mountain rills,

"Solitary things forlorn,
Sob, sobbing evermore."

The Evan cannot be said to make any marked increase, it retains throughout its somewhat insignificant aspect. The Moffat, perhaps the noblest of the streams mentioned, from its glorious associations, gradually opens into a belt of meadow or arable land, while the

"Annan fed at triple source,
Brattles along its infant course."

and ere leaving the parish, before reaching the town, expands into a valley or basin known as the rich and luxuriant Strath or Howe of Annandale, which commences in the hollow of Erickatane, above Moffat and has a length of twenty-five miles and a breadth of from fifteen to eighteen miles.

It is a matter of some difficulty to arrive at a definite conclusion regarding the derivation and signification of the word Moffat. Chalmers holds that it derived its Gaelic name from the Irish Mai-fad signifying the "long plain," while another writer demanding attention holds tenaciously to the belief that it came from the word Oua-vat, in the Gaelic language signifying "a long .deep mountain hollow," having in truth a greater resemblance to the form which it has at present. This definition is corroborated in a recent work of considerable power and utility, by a friend of the author's, Mr. H. A. Long, who states that—"Bottom differs little from Foote: living at foot of hills, closely corresponding to Lothian, and Moffat." With so much conflicting evidence before us, we prefer accepting the signification advanced by the learned and venerable Chalmers.

The entire area of the parish of Moffat is 40,061 acres, of which number 3,800 are in tillage, 450 under wood, while upwards of 34,000 are accounted for as being in a waste condition, or pasture land. The rent of the lands in the parish is almost 8000, 5750 being derived from sheep, while from corn and cattle 2250 are gained—at least such were the estimated values prior to 1854. The population of the Dumfriesshire part of the parish was 2,278 in 1851, in 1831 the population of the entire parish was 2,221, while in 1851 a considerable increase is by the reports indicated, there being 2,304. Dr Singer pictures the industry and economy of the natives in the following. He says—"That part of the rent which is paid from sheep is very handsome, but the tenants are provided with suitable accommodation; and by means of skill and capital, with lands of a sound quality, and flocks of an established character, they are enabled to pay large rents, to employ many servants and artizans, and thus to divide, with their landowners, and with the coimnunity, the benefits of their firming industry.

Having given a slight sketch of the parish, so that by these preliminary observations the matter contained in the body of the work may more easily be understood, let us now turn our attention to the principal attraction —the town. On a rising ground near to where the valleys of the Moffat and the An.nan unite, below the woody plantation of the Gallowhill which lends its charms to diversify and beautify the scene, stands the Burgh of Moffat. Though somewhat irregularly built, showing that no plan has ever been provided to guide the feuars in the formation of their town, it is a picture of loveliness enhanced much by its hilly environs, and by the rural calm which prevails in and around it.

"No rushing winds disturb the tufted bowers:
No wakeful sounds the moonlight valley knows;
Save where the brook its liquid murmur pours,
And lulls the waving scene to more profound repose."

The population of the Burgh varies, and at last census numbered 1560.

We shall not now dwell longer on the present aspect of the Burgh, or detail the prominent features of its prosperity, but dipping deep into the past, investigate its origin; and coining towards the present, we hope we shall be enabled to present our readers with a complete and satisfactory picture of Moffat as it was and is. As yet it has not been ascertained when Moffat was founded. In ecclesiastical matters we find it mentioned as far back as the eleventh century, while a century later we find it in civil matters taken notice of, and in no indifferent manner either, as the way in which it is styled, denotes the existence of a small population, which apparently carried on industriously various trades. Looking at the ancient division of Lands, customs, forming of local courts, and other things of the same nature, we feel convinced that to the Saxon we must attribute the foundation of the town. We have no special evidence to guide us to such a conclusion, save the fact, that the external objects and customs of the place are similar to many others on the Border of Saxon establishment, and go far to establish the supposition. The idea of Moffat owing its foundation to the Saxon does not, as is frequently supposed, become a barrier to the fact, that to the Gaelic language the derivation of its name is attributed. At the very earliest period the Gaelic word "Moffat" was, as has been shown, descriptive of the peculiar locality; but on the introduction of the Scoto-Saxon, the Gaelic was abolished, "just as the Gaelic had previously subdued the original tongue." It was between the eleventh and twelfth centuries that the Scoto-Saxon asserted its supremacy: and it is about this period we are first enabled to track Moffat on the historic page with anything like accuracy. There must certainly have been at an earlier period some slight population gathered around its ancient Kirk, existing, as we formerly hinted, farther back.

In the fourteenth century, Robert Bruce speaks in a charter of beerhouses and bakehouses, "denoting," as one writer remarks, "an amalgamation of corn-farming, trading, and manufactures;" and which in our opinion indirectly hints at the existence of Moffat at a more remote period, as, in the natural course of events, after the foundation of the town, it would be some time ere it could institute such pursuits. This too, appears more probable when we consider that Moffat, in comparison with other towns founded in more modern times, stands even now in size insignificant And irrespective of this, in ancient times it appears to have had another site—namely, at Auldtoun, the name itself indicating something to that effect. It is generally supposed Auldtoun preceded Moffat, and if such an hypothesis can be satisfactorily established, we must naturally ascribe the existence of Moffat to a date earlier than has yet been mentioned. While occupying its present site, it is in general matters spoken of as far back as the twelfth century: and if Auldtoun preceded it, we may cite the eleventh century as the period of its existence—the old Kirk of necessity being situated there. Nothing has come under our observation specially to corroborate the prevalent belief, save its frequent occurrence in the .Retours. For example—"Maii 7, 1672, Alexander Murray, haeres domini Robert Murray do Priestfield, militia patris—in annuo redditu 459m: de 5 niercatis terrarum de Aultoune, antiqui extentus infra parochiam de Moffot et sennescallatum A.nnandiae." This probably has reference to the farm of Auldtoun still existing, but while admitting that Moffat at one time occupied this site, we plead ignorance as to the date, and refrain from surmising at it; and express the belief that no documentary evidence will over be adduced to corroborate the fact, or prove itself worthy of being admitted into an authentic history. Thus we are compelled to write the history of Moffat from the beginning of the twelfth century. As will be observed, we have seen that to all appearance Moffat owes to the Saxon its establishment. We have investigated the period at which it is first mentioned, and analysed the probabilities of its having occupied another site: and having gone so far, let us, in the succeeding chapter, take a more general glance at Moffat in its embryo state prior to its being chartered.


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