CONCERNING WHAT I PROPOSE TO
MYSELF AND WHAT NOT
IT is my desire, not so much to
write a new book about Galloway, as to focus and concentrate what I have
already written for the use of Galloway-lovers and Galloway-travellers. I
am not making a guide-book, but rather a garrulous literary companion to
the guide-books which already exist, and to those which may be written in
the future. Secondly, I write not of All Galloway, but only of the part
best known to me-that which has, in some degree, come to be called " The
Raiders' Country "-about which traditions new and old have materialised
themselves with something of the concreteness and exactitude of history.
In short, I have no purpose before me, save that of saying what I wish to
say in my own way, acknowledging no law save my own fancy, and desiring
only to give a true, if incomplete, picture of the Ancient Free Province
of Galloway, specially of that more mountainous and easterly portion of it
known as the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
For a hitherto unfrequented province
Galloway is well equipped with books dealing with its history and
topography. And these, too, are not stately and costly tomes like the
great English County histories, but compact and easily obtainable volumes
which may accompany the traveller on his journeyings, or remind him in his
easy-chair after his return of the wild land of bog-myrtle and peat where
he has been sojourning.
Of the former sort - those which
every traveller ought to carry about with him - there are, first of all,
Mr. Malcolm Harper's admirable " Rambles in Galloway," a book full of
knowledge and sympathy, savouring alike of the brown moors and of
Galloway's oat-cakes and mutton-hams. The author has quite recently
brought it up to date, and made it more indispensable than ever to all who
wish to understand the history and antiquities of the province.
To Mr. Harper's book ought to be
added the excellent and very practical "Guide to the Stewartry" by the
late Mr. J. H. Maxwell of Castle-Douglas, the father of a family of
journalists, whose writings have been more widely read than those signed
by many more famous names.
To these I hope that the smaller
edition of " Raiderland " may be added, as a record of the more poetical
and imaginative interests of Galloway, as these appear to the present
Of books which may occupy a place in
the library of the lover of our mountainous southland, there are many. A
full list of them may be found at the end of Sir Herbert Maxwell's
excellent " History of Dumfriesshire and Galloway." Of these, my own
private shelf contains the following : to wit, two chronicles -
Mackenzie's old-fashioned but most readable " History of Galloway "-and
(what is indispensable for the critical student), Sir Herbert Maxwell's
aforesaid History, in which he applies modern methods to many a good old
hoary fiction concocted by the romancers of the times of eld, and leaves
his pages plain and truth-telling as mine (fair warning!) are
romance-laden and imaginative.
However, I object entirely to the
tacking our free and ancient province to the tail of Dumfriesshire. And
though Sir Herbert, like a patriotic Gallovidian, generally allows the
tail to wag the dog throughout his terse and knowledgeable chapters, still
he owes it to his native heather that he should write the History of
Galloway more at large, leaving all the Johnstones and Jardines of
Annandale and the Border to settle their own moss-trooping affairs.
To the histories ought to be added
quaint John Mactaggart's "Galloway Encyclopaedia" and Dr. Trotter's two
excellent books of "Galloway Gossip." Nothing more racy, more
characteristic of the older Galloway now passing away, has ever been put
on paper than Dr. Trotter's reminiscences of an old Scottish housewife,
with her prejudices, her opinions and opinionatedness, her scraps of old
rhymes and proverbial catchwords. We cannot have too much of such
folk-lore put into concise and racy dialect.
To these must be added Professor H.
M. B. Reid's " A Cameronian Apostle," a very remarkable and honourable
achievement in sympathetic biography, full of digested knowledge, reaching
past the outer husk of MacMillan's life to the inner kernel of the man. It
is, in my opinion, by far the best Galloway biography ever written,
setting a good man's life in the very atmosphere of his time and thinking.
If the shelf be not too full by this
time, then the late Sir Andrew Agnew's interesting " Hereditary Sheriffs
of Galloway " ought to be added, together with an excellently edited and
comprehensive selection from "The Bards of Galloway," published by Mr.
Harper in 1889.
So much by way of supplement to
these random personal chronicles and impressions of mine included in "Raiderland."
For the rest, my book has nothing to do with modern improvements or
facilities of travel. Railway timetables and livery stables will supply
these. The seeing eye and a good map will point out the castles and
mansions of the great. I have not yielded to the advice of friends and
booksellers to place a large map in "Raiderland" - first, because maps
unfolding out of volumes designed to be read in the open air are
temper-ruffling things, all too apt to give employment to the recording
angel as they flutter in the breeze. Then in the second place
Bartholomew's excellent hand maps can be bought at every book-stall and
stationer's counter throughout the province. My business is with the
Galloway of brown bent and red heather, of green knowe and grey gnarled
thorn, of long low-built farm-town and wild gipsy raid, of Levellers and
love-making, of sea-mew and whaup. And in particular and especial, it
concerns the Galloway of a certain dreamy long-legged callant who, with a
staff in his hand and a whang of soda-scone in his pocket,
left few of its farms unvisited and few of its fastnesses unexplored in
his unhaltered boyhood of twenty-five years ago.
If anything be found by the visitor
of the twentieth century to have changed, let him take for granted that it
was as stated in the sixties and seventies of the previous era. But of
this I am not greatly afraid. Galloway will long keep its own flavour,
wild and keen as that of heather honey. It is a far cry to Loch Enoch and
the Spear of the Merrick. The depths of the Murder Hole will not give up
their secret yet a while-whether that secret be the bones of wayfaring men
or only of stray black-faced sheep. Nevertheless the western wind will
bring even to those who travel in railway haste, wafts of peat-reek and
muir-burn from the Clints of Drummore and the Dungeon of Buchan.
Of Mr. Pennell's drawings I need say
little. In their several places and relations they will speak for
themselves. I have long desired that Galloway should be interpreted by Mr.
Pennell's pencil and brush. And I resolved that till my friend could
undertake the work, I should not publish this book. Now, however, events
have conspired to produce this desirable consummation, and the result is
before men's eyes in this volume. It may be interesting to say that I did
nothing to guide Mr. Pennell in his choice of subject. I supplied him with
a route-plan merely. But it was in all cases his own artist's eye which
chose the subject and his own incommunicable touch which interpreted it.
As Mr. Pennell had never been in Galloway before, and came to it after a
world-wide experience of the beautiful in all lands, I believe that the
result will be found singularly fresh and unconventional.
S. R. CROCKETT.
AUCHENCAIRN, GALLOWAY, 1904