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History of Moffat
Chapter X

Opening of the Caledonian Railway—Various benefits derived front it—Building operations commenced.

WHEN the Caledonian Railway was opened, between 1847-48, Moffat began to breathe with greater ease and freedom, as the surroundings were extended, consequently rendering the town less confined. What we shewed in a note in the preceding chapter as Moffat prior to 1848 was entirely remodelled and enlarged. Building operations were commenced with alacrity, and ere long it assumed a more cheerful aspect. Had this movement never been completed, Moffat would, in all probability, not only have retained that wonted peacefulness and repose which has ever rendered it peculiarly attractive, but also its meagre importance and comparatively insignificant appearance, even with its promising looks and slight trade, as formerly shewn. It roused the inhabitants to consciousness, and compelled them to form plans to meet the demands which, in all likelihood, would be made upon them by strangers attracted thither by the conveniences opened up in the district. What objections they had so long put forth in relation to the imperfect means of conveying parties from the metropolis of the east and west, had at length been fully met, and consequently, by this sudden and unexpected movement, they were thrown upon their own re-, sources, and werecompelled in turn to meet the objections advanced by strangers regarding the palpable defect in house accommodation; against which, at a somewhat earlier period, as shewn, an indignant chronicler made an emphatic declaration. Plans, in every respect worthy of the town and its inhabitants, were originated for accommodating visitors, and the change was destined to work a charm for Moffat. Its antique beauty was much impaired by unscrupulous modern workmen; and its former general aspect was alone to be soon at advantage in the "mind's eye," for

"Memory's touch each faded pile renews,
Again they bloom in renovated hues."

A beauty was, however, substituted peculiar to modern times, while the surrounding objects which formerly rendered it so attractive remained entire. It might now with impunity be characterised a retreat for the fashionable, for although at one time it sheltered the literati of the eighteenth century, sufficient evidence has, we fancy, been adduced to show that it (lid not then merit the title of a "famous resort of the gay." Though Macpherson, while residing in Moffat House,* engaged in writing or translating the Ossianic poems, might have been soon with Boswell, Home, David Hume, and other contemporaries, strutting down the principal street of the town, or while promenading in the pretty Bowling Green, engrossed in discussing a subject which was the means of commencing a prolonged and keen controversy—the traditionary poetry of the Highlands; such must not be considered proof of its gaiety, for they were attracted thither by the surrounding novelties of nature, and to gain that ease and relaxation which their busy literary lives necessitated. It is not unlikely that this movement, which had a decided tendency to meliorate the condition of the town and its inhabitants, may have been by some of the more antiquated members of the community considered more an encroachment than an improvement.. These ideas did not long have an influence over them, as they soon saw that the movement itself had indications of success and ultimate good. Their doubts and animadversions were dispelled, and naturally disregarded; the movement went on, was completed, the hopes entertained by its promoters were satisfactorily realized, the objector became the most interested in the concern when convinced of the probability of personal gain; and well may we say with a recent writer, "since that date [1848] its progress [the town's] has been steady and continued." It alike materially affected the external arrangements of the town and the domestic interests of its inhabitants. It opened up proper means of communication to and from towns of greater importance, and rendered the conveyance of goods a matter of comparative ease, thereby ensuring ,the future success of their then infantine mercantile projects. The good derived fronf the movement was externally perceptible on the completion of the scheme. It did not 'wade through long processes of improvement ere it reached the state of perfection at which it aimed. Strangers only desired suitable house accommodation, for Moffat already held within itself suitable conveniences for the invalid and tourist, and the surrounding country, famous for its fertility, yearly produced dainties sufficient to satisfy the epicurean tastes of denizens of more gay and important towns. Whatever fame or popularity Moffat had previously acquired it was by the event in question much augmented. Its beauties, its privileges, its hidden health-restoring influences, were held by strangers of every grade in greater demand. Moffat, prior to 1848, was not devoid of conveniences, even for a mixed class, but parties had few inducements to avail themselves of the opportunities afforded them in relation to summer residence, the means of conveyance being of an order so imperfect and unsuitable. Hence those who frequented Moffat before the Caledonian Railway was Opened were parties for the most part suffering from distempers, which their medical advisors considered capable of being cured by the Spa water, and the salubrious and invigorating air.

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