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Biggar and the House of Fleming
An Account of the Biggar District, Archaeological, Historical and Biographical by William Hunter (1862)

Biggar Is Better


‘London, says the Clydesdale peasant, is a big town, but there is one in Scotland that is Biggar. This is all, however, that can be said in aggrandisement of Biggar! Such is the statement of Mr Robert Chambers, a very high1 authority at the present day in all matters relating to Scottish history and antiquities. In topographical works, Biggar is either ignored altogether, or, if alluded to, is discussed within the compass of a few lines. It may, therefore, appear presumptuous to write and publish a volume of considerable size in illustration of a locality, evidently regarded by the literary world as altogether uninteresting and obscure. In justification of the step that has been taken, it may be stated, that an idea was entertained by several persons, and among others, by the author of this work, that a few particulars regarding Biggar and Biggar men could be collected, which, although of no moment and consideration in the eyes of men of learning and research, might yet possess some degree of interest to the inhabitants of the district. It has accordingly been, for their instruction and gratification that the volume has been drawn up. If it fails to satisfy them, or to draw forth the history of Biggar from the obscurity in which it is involved, the fault must lie with the author, and not in the want of materials for the purpose. These in the end became so abundant, that it was found necessary to abridge some portions of them, and to leave others out altogether, in order that the work might be kept within a moderate space. The attempt of the author to avoid one evil, has caused him to fall into another, as he now finds that the rigorous curtailment, to which he has subjected the contents of the volume, has given serious offence to some parties, because information has been excluded which, in their opinion, was of great importance, and which they are confident would have enhanced the value of the book, and the fame of Biggar.

The book, such as it is, owes its origin to a Lecture, which the author was invited to deliver before the Athenaeum of Biggar in June 1859. He chose for the subject of discussion on that occasion, Historical Incidents connected with Biggar and its neighbourhood. Some time afterwards a suggestion was made to the author by Mr William Ovens, merchant, Biggar,—a leading member of the learned Institution referred to, and a most able and intelligent correspondent,—that the information contained in the Lecture might be extended and published, either in a separate form, or in the columns of a periodical. After much hesitation and delay, arising from the want of time and facilities for executing such a work, it was at length resolved to collect such additional particulars regarding Biggar as could be readily got, and to publish the whole in a small volume.

In drawing up the work, the author has not thought it necessary to quote his authorities, when the information was to be found in the shelves of every public library; but in cases where the facts were not so readily accessible, he has very frequently given not merely the name of the author, but also his very words. He is well aware, from the predilections now prevalent, that these will be repulsive to some readers, and he anticipates that a considerable amount of censure will be bestowed upon him for their use. He can only say, that it would have been very easy to set them forth in a modem dress, and that his sole reason for retaining them in their original state is a very decided, though it may be an undue partiality, in favour of the peculiar orthography, the quaint expressions, and sage remarks of our old Scottish writers. The charm of these quotations would, at least to him, be lost, were they altered in the least degree from the way in which they were originally written.

The author has made a free use of various articles regarding Biggar, which at different periods he has written, and given forth in periodicals, etc. In a work drawn up principally from notes taken at various times, and from many different sources, and for the most part without any view to publication, it is far from unlikely, notwithstanding a careful revision, that some errors may have escaped notice. Since the work went through the press, the attention of the author has been directed to an Itinerary compiled by the Rev. Charles Henry Hartshorne, M.A., and published a few months ago in the First Part of the i Collectanea Archaeologica9 of the British Archaeological Association. This Itinerary clears up a point which the author, from want of proper information, has incorrectly stated at page 253, viz., the length of time that Edward H. remained at Biggar. According to this Itinerary, the King marched by Werk, Roxburgh, St Boswells, Selkirk, and Traquair to Biggar, at which town he arrived on the 29th of September, where he remained till the 3d of October, and then went back to Roxburgh. He returned to Biggar on the 5th, and remained there till the 10th, when he went to Lanark, Linlithgow, and Renfrew, and came back to Biggar on the 18th. He finally left it on the 21st, and proceeded to i Caremor’ and Linlithgow, having been at Biggar altogether ten or eleven days.

The author would embrace this opportunity to tender his most grateful acknowledgments to those gentlemen who have given him assistance, either in supplying him with information or enabling him to obtain access to depositories of books and manuscripts not readily accessible to the general public. He would specially refer to Adam Sim, Esq. of Coulter. This gentleman not only allowed him ready access to his valuable library, but supplied him with important facts, pointed out sources of information, and afforded him the benefit of his extensive knowledge and critical acumen as the work went through the press. Above all, he handsomely offered, so soon as the work was projected, to furnish at his own expense the engravings by which it was to be embellished and illustrated. He has more than redeemed his original promise. A greater number of engravings has been given, and a higher style of art adopted, than was at first proposed. The consequence of this is, that the book is not only rendered much more attractive, but it is offered to subscribers at about one-half of its actual cost.

The author would merely mention the names of several other gentlemen, who have more or less lent a helping hand to the production of the book: viz., James W. Baillie, Esq., W.S., yr. of Coulterallers; the late Captain John Dickson, yr. of Hartree; David Laing, Esq.; James Drummond, Esq., U.S.A.; George Wilson, Esq. (of Messrs G. and G. Dunlop’s, Edinburgh); Rev. John Christison, A.M., Biggar; Rev. Dr David Smith, Biggar; Rev. James Dunlop, A.M., Biggar; Rev. Henry Scott Riddell, Teviothead; Rev. Dr John B. Johnston,

Glasgow; Rev. David Crawford, Edinburgh; Dr Robert Pairman, Biggar; Mr Allan Whitfield, Biggar; Mr William Ovens, Biggar; Rev. William Whitfield, Biggar; Mr David Lockhart, Biggar; Mr James Watt, Biggar; Mr John Archibald, Biggar; Mr George Wilson, Edinburgh, etc., etc.

In conclusion, the author offers the volume as a small tribute of respect to his native district, and as an humble contribution to a work long projected and much desired—a complete History of the Upper Ward of Clydesdale.

Portobello, 12th May 1862.

Biggar in photos--old and new


Chapter I
Prehistoric Remains nr the Biggar District
Chapter II
Invasion of the Upper Ward of Clydesdale by the Romans and supposed traces of the Invaders at Biggar
Chapter III
The Town of Biggar
Chapter IV
Biggar Burn
Chapter V.
Sunnyside and Candy
Chapter VI
The Castle of Boghall
Chapter VII
Biggar Churchyard
Chapter VIII
Biggar Kirk
Chapter IX.
Biggar Kirk—Continued
Chapter X.
The Presbytery of Biggar
Chapter XI
The Covenanters of the Biggar District
Chapter XII
The North and Sooth United Presbyterian Churches
Chapter XIII
Biggar Schools and Libraries
Chapter XIV.
Physicians connected with Biggar
Chapter XV.
Biggar a Burgh of Barony
Chapter XVI
The Commerce and Trade of Biggar
Chapter XVII
The Benefit Societies of Biggar
Chapter XVIII
The Witches of the Biggar District
Chapter XIX
The Vagrants of the Biggar District
Chapter XX
Crime in the Biggar District
Chapter XXI.
The Battle of Biggar
Chapter XXII
Military Movements and Royal Progresses at Biggar
Chapter XXIII
Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family
Chapter XXIV
Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family—Continued
Chapter XXV
Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family—Continued
Chapter XXVI
Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family—Continued
Chapter XXVII
Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family—Continued
Chapter XXVIII
Early Conterminous Proprietors

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