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History of Moffat
Chapter XII

Summary of Events from 1848 to 1871.—Building—Hydropathio Establisbment.—New Cemetery.—Literature, Amusements, and Public Buildings. —Climate.—Vital Statistics of the Parish—Tabular view of the same.-Sanitary observances.—Moffat created a Burgh in 1864 under the General Police and Improve mont Act.—Conclusion.

THE change which has taken place in the external aspects of the town, even within recent years, must be matter of no small surprise to those who, for some years, have kept themselves aloof from the familiar scenes of their childhood. The town, attractive as it is, has not retained much which indicates the rudeness of mediaeval ages, though we fancy there are a few things still existing which could claim their origin from that period, and altogether it bears the plain architectural peculiarities of modern times. The suburbs indicate, however, a more pretentious style, and the sometimes extensive gardens, with their well-assorted plots of flowers which scent the air with a kindly perfume, show plainly the care which is taken to render the environments of the town an object of particular admiration. Free from the restraints and conventionalities of city life, the inhabitants are ever seen pursuing their daily avocations with earnestness and quietude—a state of affairs which, harmonizing with the seclusiveness of the scene, stirs up the suggestive lines of Coleridge—

"O! 'tis a quiet spirit-healing nook!
Which all, methinks, would love, but chiefly he,
The humble man, who in his youthful years
Knew just so much of folly as had made
His early manhood more securely wise!"

It may appear necessary that a retrospective glance should be cast o'er the path which, in this work, we have pursued. And while noticing its gradual development, from the time when its church and church lands were part of the private patrimony of Bruce, and by him subsequently annexed to the Bishopric of Glasgow; from the time when its inhabitants were skilled in war, as the turbulent state of the country necessitated, and when their industry and perseverance were evinced in the manufacture of beverages to satiate their appetites; or when the town was slightly exalted by its errection into a Barony and Regality Burgh, and subsequently released from the partially tyrannical control of a feudal Superior, we cannot but be satisfied with the peaceful picture which it now presents. Former customs and institutions have been rejected and abolished, former principles have by the inhabitants been renounced, and in conformity with the times they zealously attend to their domestic and agricultural duties. Under the paternal superintendence and care of a prudent and far-seeing proprietor, the lands of Moffat, with many in Annandale, have been efficiently taken care of and cultivated; and the inhabitants of the surrounding district are to him much indebted for proper systems upon which to work farms, with the same efficiency as formerly, and with greater economical observance. The town, too, has not been neglected, and here and there traces of his benevolence and interest in its prosperity are visible, while the Moffatians readily acknowledge the benefits received from his liberal hand.

Though we are capable of enjoying the contemplation of Moffat in its ameliorated state, we cannot be expected to derive full satisfaction from the prospect, because we are practically unconscious of the change which has transpired in its social, religious, and domestic aspects, in common with other towns of small dimensions, struggling for existence at the same remote period, not having in those primitive times gone abroad to enjoy the freshness of its beauty, the sweetness of its solitude, or having conversed with the associates of "Tam Hulliday of Corehead," the compatriots of William Wallace in his fight for national independence, or the zealous adherents of the Scottish Covenant, who dwelt within the precincts of the town, or in some favoured spot of the surrounding country. To such, the change would by no means appear an improvement. These octogenarians would doubtless account with wondrous veracity the doings of their childhood, when the Bruce was a more familiar sight than even some of our modem idols, who, from the purity of their imaginings, the depths of their scientific discoveries, or the number and variety of their philanthropic executions, are daily worshipped; or the graver duties which in their declining years employed them, when the caprices of youth had vanished, and when, desirous of keeping themselves aloof from the wickedness which everywhere abounds, they repaired to conventicles in secluded glens, where the serenity of the scene caused them to raise their thoughts above Nature and her beauties, and concentrate them upon Nature's God. What an ample illustration of these words-

"Oderunt peccare born virtutis amore."

How interesting it would be to hear them narrate in thoir unostentatious manner their own daring deeds during the many quarrels in which their country was implicated. To receive a vivid and glowing description of the eventful battle of Dryfesands, with its attendant fatalities—the temporary overturn of the ancient house of Nithsdale and the ignominious death of its noble representative—would prove not the least worthy of our attention. Or how they, flushed with enthusiasm, when they beheld the saving and welcome rays which emanated from the fitful beacon planted on the Gallowhill, which indicated the approach of the usurper, and caused them to doff their daily habit for that which practically signified their allegiance to their king and country. Or how, when the discovery of Moffat Well was universally made known, they indirectly resented the daily encroachments () made upon them by strangers attracted to the locality to share its hidden health-restoring influences. Or how they were impressed with the idea of their own importance when the town was elevated to the position of a Burgh of Regality, partakers in the privileges of the same, and under the direct control of the Baron and his bailies.4 To see it now with its public buildings, its large churches, its baths, its commodious hotels, its banking establishments, and educational institutions; its gas and other conveniences peculiar to modem times, would be matter of surprise and pain, not contented pleasure; and in the extremity of their grief they would doubtless exclaim-.--

"Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

The improvements effected within recent years have been numerous, and may here be briefly enumerated. For many years the impulse gained by the opening of the Caledonian Railway in 1848 steadily increased, and the enthusiasm which they manifested in their building projects has been productive of its own good, as the unique and substantial appearance of the town is the object of admiration of its numerous visitors, and the pride of its natives. Hartfell Crescent has an airy and elevated situation facing the south, while its architecture is tasteful and elegant, and the internal conveniences have by the proprietor been particularly considered. A Company was recently formed for the creation of a Hydropathic Establishment, which will add materially to the attraction of a visit; and several acres of ground have been purchased at a heavy sum for the erection of a suitable Institution, and schemes organised for the practical development of the plan. It may also be observed that the Parochial Board, with the Rev. Dr. M'Vicarat its head as Chairman, has secured in perpetual fen, from Mr. Hope Johnstone, a lovely and sequestered spot on the banks of the Aman, for the purpose of forming a Cemetery, its chief attraction being its remoteness from the town. This will be a great boon to the inhabitants, as the present burying-ground is already inconveniently filled "with'd pediments and tombstones gray." And although they must henceforth bury their dead in a more remote but still more lovely spot, they can ever with a saddened pleasure point to the southern extremity of the town, and in the pathetic words of Gray exclaim:-

"Beneath those rugged elms, the yew-trees' shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."

Moffat also possesses a Horticultural Society, whose indefatigable exertions to have an annual exhibition are signally rewarded, and the elite of the town during the visiting season favour them with their presence. But this is but one of the many treats which the Moffatians hold out to strangers as an inducement to sojourn for a time in the locality. Concerts are held at stated intervals within the commodious hail in the Bath buildings, which are well patronised and meet with the universal approbation of the visitors, and the committee of management merit praise for the efforts which they make to secure the services of talented arti3tes during the season. Assemblies, lectures, and evening meetings of various types have been instituted, all of which are calculated to while the time pleasantly away, as they offer the privileges of new associations, drawing the visitors closer to each other, and makes the less homely tendency of our Scottish watering places much reduced. And, while endeavouring to originate schemes for the amusement of all, the inhabitants have not forgotten the moral and intellectual power which, in common with all great or small communities, they possess. Since 1622, when the first known English newspaper was published in the form of News of the Present Week, the cry for serial literature has increased to such an extent that no small provincial town is now destitute of its "Weekly," with its "Public Voice," through the medium of which existing evils are assailed, and its leading articles, pregnant with unvarnished sarcasms, by which parliamentary enactments and public measures may receive the approval or disapprobation of the editor and his coadjutors, all of which have a decided tendency to impress their local readers with the idea of the immensity of their achievements and give an air of importance even to the most humble. Moffat has long since experienced the benefits arising from local newspapers, and various series of the Ho/at Times have been called into existence and suppressed. The present issue, which may be said to be a better speculation than any of its predecessors, was originated in May, 1861, and is conducted under the superintendence of its proprietor, Mr. Muir. Ample means for the amusement and instruction of the inhabitants is provided in the Public Library, consisting of upwards of 4000 volumes, chiefly the benefactions of eminent natives, and also under his care and management.

We deem it necessary to consider the suitability of the climate for invalids. It has all along been objected that Moffat is anything but desirable winter quarters, an impression which, though erroneous, has gained ground, and hence the comparative brevity of the visiting season. Its mountainous surroundings and elevated situation are apt to impress strangers with the idea of the severity of its winters, but from personal experience we can testify to the contrary; and recommend it for the winter residence of all who are desirous of escaping biting east winds or fogs, for which cities are famous, as the prevailing winds of Moffat are southerly and westerly, and it is almost free from the annoyance of fogs. Another advantage is the peculiar construction of the streets, or the material with which they are formed. After a heavy shower of rain, the streets are in such a state as to admit of the most scrupulous invalid taking a walk without deriving the slightest harm. Though we claim for Moffat during the winter months the title "mild," we must confess to a few exceptional cases illustrative of unusual cold. On Tuesday evening, 30th September, 1817, the thermometer at Moffat was as low as 27, and on the following morning at 23, exactly nine degrees below freezing point. But there are exceptions to all rules, and this is one. Dr. M'Vicar, speaking of the temperature, says, "The niininum of this winter [1870-71], indicated by a trustworthy, self-registering thermometer hung on the wall of this house [the Manse], at the height of the eye, protected from the sky and passing influences, by being among the loaves of a cotoncaster nailed to the wall, is nothing lower than 17 Fahr."

There have been many instances of longevity in the town and parish, which can be accounted for by the healthful recreations and pursuits of the inhabitants, and the efforts which have been made for sanitary reform. The populations have, in a former part of this work, been noticed—that of the parish 2232, of which number 1600 inhabit the town—and the following statistics are given with the view of illustrating the remarkable vitality in Moffat and upper Annandale. In 1870, the deaths of parishioners out of that population were 34, eight being upwards of seventy years of ago, which is much less than the mortality in even lees populated towns or rural districts in Scotland, as it is only 152 per 1000; while in 1869, the general mortality rate of small towns was 222 per 1000. And what proves beyond dispute the benefits accruing from the drinking of the mineral waters, and the invigorating air for which Moffat is famous; is, that out of 5000 strangers who resided in the town during the visiting season, as estimated, four deaths only occurred. And this is particularly striking when we consider that many who constituted the 5000 were afflicted with some direful malady. The following tabular view of the vital statistics of the parish, prepared by Mr. Gibson, M.C., Edinburgh University, the Local Registrar, and procured through the kindness of Dr. M'Vicar, may more fully illustrate the preceding remarks:-

The reader, by perusal of the foregoing statistics, will readily perceive that Moffat has an exceedingly insignificant mortality rate, and with a continuance of the care which is taken to free the town from bad or imperfect sewerage ;* and other sanitary observances, it may in time coming merit the appellation which it has in time past received. There is no known local distemper, and it has even providentially escaped the violent epidemics which have frequently ravaged the country. In the memorable year 1832, when Asiatic Cholera visited it; and when the inhabitants of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries (21 miles distant) were suffering from the Pestilence which ruthlessly slew hundreds of them, so much so that the words of Armstrong can best illustrate the direfulness of the malady,

In heaps they left, and oft one bed, they say, The sickening, dying, and the dead contained,"

Moffat was spared. And the wonder is increased when we consider that daily communication was made to and from the "town of the plague," in the form of parties being conveyed to a purer atmosphere, and yet Moffat remained uncontaminated. Although this may justly be attributed to a special provision of Providence, still we cannot shut our eyes to the palpable fact that the cleanliness of the people, and the care taken by their rulers, rendered the possibility of a similar attack less likely. The cleanliness of the town and inhabitants of Moffat is nowhere surpassed. But Dumfries was, at the time of which we speak, unfortunately differently situated. The condition of the lower classes had long been sadly deplored, and called for immediate action; the state of their homes was of such a filthy character that a like visitation had been sincerely dreaded; sanitary reform amidst much disease had been Unheeded till the reaper Death, with his "sickle keen," had in towns not far distant been vigorously plying his vocation. Then, and not till then, schemes were organised for the practical development of sanitary plans, which had hitherto remained unheeded, and so when the plague entered the town their feeble efforts could not allay the virulence of the disease. Moffat, however, had long recognised the strict necessity for instant and constant action for the relief of the destitute, and the systematic cleansing of the town. A sufficient supply of pure water was always possessed, and the houses were in such a state as would in all probability ward off the attacks of such an unmerciful foe.

The most fortunate move Moffat ever made was the adoption of the General Police and Improvement Act, which formerly the inhabitants had made strenuous efforts to acquire, as this may be regarded the parent of all subsequent improvements and the cause of the numerous changes made in the external arrangements of the town, for when efforts were made to obtain a new Cemetery, somewhere about 1856, the Burgh's boundaries had first to be specified, and power procured ere they could more at all. And after the lapse of eight years their darling object was realized, for in 1864 the town was created a Burgh under this Act, making all the improvements since effected a matter of comparative ease, seeing the power of acting freely had been acquired.

It is with considerable reluctance we tear ourselves from the self-imposed task which has for the past two years employed us. Conscious, however, of the size which it at present assumes, we cannot confidently enter into a more detailed account of the present position and growing importance of the town. Though self-imposed, the task latterly became burdensome when the time was limited for its completion, and this in some measure accounts for the abrupt conclusion which we are bound to make of a somewhat lengthy story. Strangers necessarily ignorant of Moffat's beauty may consider the statements herein made exaggerated, and attribute them to the over-heated imagination of the writer, but to them we Particularly recommend a visit, so that experience may prove the falsity of such a supposition. The number of visitors is yearly increasing, and well may we say with Cowper, in support of our former assertion

"Scenes must be beautiful which daily viewed
Please daily; and whose novelties survive
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years
Praise justly due to such as I describe."

We affectionately bid our readers farewell, wishing fir Moffat a continuance of that prosperity and public favour which hitherto it has received: trusting, too, that the object of the author's heart has been realised —to bring it prominently before the public, and in every respect make his results worthy of the subject handled.

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