Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

History of Moffat
Chapter IV

Warfare existing during 1448.—Settlement of the family of French in the district.—Their position as landed proprietors.-Property received from the Knights Templx.—FreuchIand Tower. The Whitefords.—Discovery of Moffat Well by Miss Whiteford.- Effects of the discovery.—Dr Robert Johnstone.—His numerous bequests.—Fonncintion of the Grammar School with the money left by him for the purpose.—The supposed unlawful disposition of the money.—Manuscripts bearing on the subject.

AT this period, 1448, the people of Scotland were so engrossed in the warfare existing that they were rendered incapable of attending to domestic or agricultural duties. The people of Annandale and Moffatdale were no exception to the general rule, for the adoption of the motto, "Might is right," was evident and acknowledged by ill. We can easily account for the great numbers which followed the principal lairds in the district, especially the Lochwood Johnstones, during the Civil Wars, and other skirmishes of less importance by this. The motto or war-cry of Moffat's meagre population, "Aye ready, aye ready," must frequently have resounded through their mountain shelters, or while fighting under the flaunting banner of the Johnstones, to whom, in time of warfare, they ever proved serviceable. It is but natural to expect that such a state of affairs materially affected the domestic interests of the party.

A little later than 1448, a family settled in the vicinity of Moffat, the representatives of which are seen at a subsequent period in the position of proprietors of extensive lands in and of the town, as vassals holding them from the superior. They are first seen in an important .light in the year 1500, when they erected for themselves a stronghold or peel-house, the ruins of which still occupy a prominent site in the landscape, and from then, till a very modem date the Freuches of Frenchiand are recognized as important denizens of Moffat. In relation to this possession of land within the town, mention is first made in a relour dated January 10, 1635, in the following terms:Willielinus Frenche, haeres Margaratae Jolmestoun, spouse Davidis Drenche in Frenchland, matris—in I mercata terra in villa et territorio de Moffat ;—E. 13s. 4d.—domo in villa do Moffat, infra 10 libratis terrarum do Moffet parochiam, ejusdem et seneseallatum Veils Annandiae.—E. 3s. 4d." And again, reference is made to the foregoing in the following passage.—"This inquest was made in the Burgh of Lochmaben, those good and faithful men underwritten.......who declare upon oath that the deceased Margaret Johnostoun, the wife of David Frenche in Frenchland, and the mother of William Frenche, the bearer of those presents, died last vest, and seised as of fee . in all and whole one merkiand lying in the town and territory of Moffat, with the houses, buildings gardens, parts, pendicles, and all its pertinents whatsoever; also in the house possessed by Alexander Mitchell, blacksmith, lying in the said town of Moffat, in the middle street of Moffat, with its pertinents all lying within the ten pound land of Moffat.......the said merkiand is now worth yearly £13 4s; and the foresaid house with the pertinents is also worth yearly £13 48; and the said merkiand and house with the pertinents are held immediately of John Johnstoun of Carrystoun, and his heirs, and successors, and assignees, in free blench, ferme for the yearly payment of one penny of Over of the usual money of the Kingdom of Scotland, upon the ground of the said lands, at the feast of Pentecost .....Margaret Johncstoun died 1627." As will be seen from the first of these quotations, the Frenches had property in Moffat prior to 1635, such at least is indirectly hinted at in the passage referred to, the right of possession being David Frenche's, by his marriage with Margaret Johnestoun, which, by her death in 1627, became her son's, William Frenche, which fact is mentioned in the retour of date January 10, 1635, as quoted. The fact of their building a peel-house in 1500 does not indicate possession of land. We find the power in their district greatly and gradually augmented, after the date here mentioned. Sometime in the sixteenth century they received from the knights Templars, the property of Jiolehouse, Chapel, Craikscraigs, and Gardenliohn, which previously belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and formed the "estate or barony of Cuthberts—rig and constituted a Chapelry." Part of this property was lately joined to the parish of Kirkpatrick-Juxta, and three centuries ago was acquired by the Annandale family from one of the Griersons of Lagg, "whose family," says Mr Charles Stewart, "have long held good repute and position among the old Chiefs and Baronets of Dumfriesshire, with the exception of 'Bluidy Lagg of persecuting memory'." It may be deemed necessary to speak briefly of Frenchland Tower, the private patrimony of the Frenches. Till 1746 or 1750, that family was in possession of it, when it passed by purchase into the hands of Lord F.Hock, who for about forty years held it, when Dr Rogerson, who was at one time first physician to the Empress Catherine of Russia, became possessor of it, and subsequently joined it to the Dwncrieff estate. And now

"Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest,"

within earshot of the stilly whispers of the "Silver Annan," as it meanders slowly southward; and had this ruin but a voice it would utter forth the liquid melody of song fraught with fragments of sorrow and of joy, a combination of the piteous and sublime of other days. And he who penetrates this dreary ruin, intent upon "spurning the yoke of unprofitable care," will find food enough for the most reflective of reflective minds, and lessons aptly suited for developement in life; for here in truth the words of "Delta" will be found most applicable—

"Spectral silence pointeth to decay."

In its ruinous condition its beauty is but partially impaired, for there is a mouldering beauty in a mouldering state. The Ancient casts a ray upon the more artistic handiwork creations of modern times. And we question much if the stranger, struck by the ruins of its antique beauty, will find terms more suitable with which to express his admiration and appreciation than those of Byron.—

"Hail to thy pile I more bonoufd in thy fall
Than modern mansions in their pillar'd state;
Proudly majestic frowns thy vaulted ball,
Scowling defiance on the blasts of fate."

In the beginning of the seventeenth century Moffat owned amongst its inhabitants a man of considerable ability, and a lady of pure intellect and keen perception, whose talent and curiosity rendered her serviceable to the Moffatians, by whom she will ever be considered their chief benefactor. We deem it almost unnecessary to intimate that in the preceding remarks we allude to Walter Whitefurde and his accomplished daughter. Having been so intimately associated with the town, and connected with the surrounding district in the matter of property, we shall give a brief biographic sketch of those individuals.

Dr Whitefürde is said to have been a matriculated student of the University of Glasgow, as far back as 1598, but this we fancy is rather far back, as M'Ure assigns 1601 as the date of his entry. He was a son of Adam Whitefurde, of Milntoun, and was destined to become an able and enthusiastic ecclesiastical student., and for his undeniable zeal and ability, honours worthy of such were liberally conferred upon him. He completed his philosophic studies, took his degrees, and in 1604 was created a Regent or Professor of the University. Having afterwards passed through his divinity studies, he was by Archbishop Spottiswoode ordained, appointed as shown in Appendix to the pastorate of Moffat, in 1610, promoted in 1628 by the gift of the King, without question, to the sub-deanery of Glasgow, as proof exists of his having signed certain deeds at that period in company with the Archbishop, Dean, and Chapter of the See. Whitefurde remained in Moffat till 1630, after which he was, through Sir William Alexander, of Menstrie, subsequently Earl of Stirling, presented to the episcopal Sec of Brechin; was consecrated on the 7th December, 1634, where M'Ure, in his "History of Glasgow," says "he exercised his functions till the beginning of the troubles in the year 1639." After he was presented to the sub-deanery in 1628 (in 1630), on the completion of a law suit, he procured decree, being by this preferred to a party vainly presented by Sir James Cleland, who presumptuously claimed the patronage. Though a confirmation of his right had been obtained, he had subsequently to compound with the Prior of Blantyre, who it appears had "an old tack of the teinds of the sub-deanery." The authorities of the University had apparently the right of patronage, as they presented to the office then, vacant "by the decease of umquhill Mr Walter Whitefunle, or umquhill Mr Gavin Hamilton, or either of them, or by the decease, deprivation, demission, desertion, removal, resignation, or translation of any other person, &c." "From these words," says Dr Fleming, "it would appear that there had been a struggle for the office of sub-dean, and that some of those that held it had been deprived, or had deserted." Some writers have made a lamentable mistake as to the death of Bishop Whitefurde. That event is stated to have taken place in 1664, but it is an indisputable fact,—a fact emanating from the most careful and authentic historical writers—that he died in 1643 in England, whither he had fled on the deprivation of his functions by the Assembly of Glasgow. The connection of the Bishop with the subject of the present work, lies not exclusively in ecclesiastical matters, as during his residence in the town till 1630, and subsequently, he possessed much land in the district, which descended to James Johnstone of Corohead (then representative of a lesser branch of the Lochwood John-stones, and who previously occupied the position of Chamberlain to the Bishop), by his marriage with Rachel the Bishop's daughter.

In the year 1633 Moffat was destined, by the ingenuity of Miss Whitefurde, to be ever afterwards recognised as a place for the invalid, an hospital constructed by the hand of Nature for the sick-stricken man, which Home has pictured in the following lines, illustrative of its then inauspicious surroundings, and the change which has taken place since he penned them, as the surroundings of Moffat's sulphurous spring are in every respect worthy of the locality—

"No grace did nature here bestow,
But wise was nature's aim;
She bade the healing waters flow,
And straight the graces came."

Miss Whitefurde had already had some acquaintance with the then incomparable English Spas, and thus from knowledge then acquired on the subject, as previously hinted, her curiosity led her to the investigation of some strange phenomena, resulting in the discovery of the far-famed sulphurous spring in the vicinity of Moffat. it is probable that its discovery did not, as we might suppose, become the object of consternation or curiosity to the inhabitants; and certain it is that the now admitted curative powers of the water did not make Moffat gain that share of patronage which it presently receives. The expense of travelling, the imperfect house accommodation, and the lack of those things of which we all stand in need, were the barriers which at this time stood prominently in the way, to enable parties to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them, or in any way render Moffat a place of fashionable resort. It is at a later date it is thus represented. It would, however, be foolish to deny the comparative good derived from the discovery of the well, even at the only period. The visitors were not numerous, but they gave a greater impulse to trade, gave the people an idea of their own importance, rendered building necessary to meet the demands of strangers; and thus we see laid the foundation of a fabric afterwards prosperous, by Miss Whitefurde, whose talents appear to have been wasted upon the Moffatians, as no tangible evidence of gratitude and respect has as yet been shown by them towards her, though the memories of parties of less importance have been perpetuated in monuments of greater value than the discoveries they made. Whatever good was derived from the discovery of the well was not seen till a later date, when ample accommodation was provided for the invalid and the stranger.

There are parties who "though dead yet speak," whose benevolence has erected monuments, upon which letters are inscribed which can never be effaced, and whose memory is revered in the grateful hearts of a sometimes large community. And such, indeed, is the truth in relation to the particular case, which is alike our privilege and duty to lay before our readers. Robert Johnstone, LL.D., brother-in-law to George Heriot, was born in Edinburgh in 1567. Although a man of considerable literary power, his worth was not fully known, nor his name associated with anything particularly good and noble, till his death, which event took place in London, where he had spent the greater part of his life, in 1639. To Glasgow, Dumfries, Montrose, Dundee, and other towns, including Moffat, he bequeathed large sums of money for the erection of charitable or educational institutions, making suitable arrangements for the execution of his favourite desires, and sufficient money to enable the institutions to be efficiently worked. In his settlement, dated from Blackfriars, London, September 30th, 1639, he leaves £1000 for the erection of a Grammar School, with suitable salaries for the various teachers.* This money was to be laid out in purchasing laud, which was to maintain the seminary, while Lord Johnstone was appointed executor, and the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Edinburgh the Patrons of the School, But there are, alas I men who, when imposed with a responsible duty, forget the injunctions given them, and neglect the fulfilment of their solemn offices. And such was the treatment this act of benevolence met with, we consider, at the hands of the executor. The wishes of the testator were but partially respected, the full designs of the will never being carried into effect. A bursary was also instituted by Dr Johnstone, which is stilt existing; but it is doubtful whether the purchasing of lands took place, to enable the school to be carried on wider the superintendence of an efficient staff of teachers. In fact, we may say it was not done, as subsequent events fully exemplify—namely, the incorporation of the Grammar School with the Parish School, wider the name of the Academy, which took place in 1834, causing it only to draw the annual rent of the money left for it. In a manuscript letter, purporting to be written to the Dumfries Times of 1839, now before us, we find a peculiar passage with reference to the old Grammar School of Moffat, and the incorporation of the same with the Parish School already alluded to. The writer says, "But, for example, many years ago a benevolent gentleman mortified a large sum to establish a seminary in the parish of Moffat, consisting of three teachers, and salaries specified for each, wider the trust of the heir of the Annandale Estates; and a particular sum also is specified in the donors will for erecting buildings for the seminary, with instructions, if the sum for the buildings was not sufficient they should be finished out of the sum for purchasing ground. Ground was never purchased, as far as known, nor the salaries all wholly paid nor accounted for; but a building for the school was erected, and the parishioners occupied it as their right for more than forty years; yet the kind Superior has, within the last three or four years, taken possession of the building, without the leave of any asked or given. Is this agreeable to the law of land, though the buildings were raised on the property of the Superior? Is forty years' possession now of no avail, though there is no feu of the situation? Must the parishioners in this way lose their building? The kind Superior has also joined this Seminary to the Parish School, and all under the charge of the Parish Schoolmaster, contrary to the petition of 150 sub-j scribers, both Heritors, Feuars, and Householders. This is a point upon which we feel inclined to say little. From the foregoing passages, combined with the testimonies of old inhabitants, we conclude that something mysterious has caused the benevolence of Dr Johnstone to be partially swallowed up. We cannot exactly say to what extent this goes; but we feel convinced, and we presume our readers will do likewise, that the injunctions of Johnstone were, in a measure, neglected—the full objects of the institution hidden; and it is not to be wondered at, that general dissatisfaction prevails in the district, on account of the peculiar disposition of the money left for the erection of a Grammar School.

Return to Book Index page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus