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The History of Sanquhar
Chapter I.—Topography

SANQUHAR is situated on the left bank of the Nith, twenty-six miles north-west of Dumfries. The Parish is eighteen miles in length, by five miles in breadth, and embraces an area of above sixty-one square miles. The Nith, which takes its rise in Ayrshire, a few miles above New Cumnock, passes into Dumfriesshire at a point eight miles north-west of Sanquhar, by an opening in the chain of hills which skirts the northern boundary of the county, and terminates in Corsancone, the hills on the west side of the valley being linked with the great Galloway range. Having traversed the parish of Kirkconnel for a distance of seven miles, the river enters the parish of Sanquhar at the point where it is joined by Crawick. This stream forms the boundary between the two parishes on the east side of the valley, while on the west they are divided by Kello, which flows into Nith two miles higher. On the right bank the ground rises gradually to a range of hills which runs parallel to the course of the river. These hills are very uniform in height, and are smooth and green to their summits. They contain two principal eminences, the Black Lorg, 2890, and Cairnkinnow, 1813 feet in height. At the back of the range, and overlooking Scaur, is the tremendous precipice of Glenwhargen, rising almost perpendicularly to the height of about 1000 feet. The Black Lorg stands at the north-west corner of the county. Forming, as it does, the water-shed of this region, the sources of several streams are to be found here, giving rise to the rhyme—

“Euehan, Scaur, Kello, and Ken
A’ rise oot o’ ae wee hill-en’.”

Kello, as has been said, forms the boundary between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel, while Euehan, taking a more southerly course, drains the west side of Sanquhar parish, and falls into Nith just opposite the town. Near the head of Euehan there is on the summit of the hill above Glenglass, Polvaird Loch, a sheet of water a little over three acres in extent, and unique both in its situation and appearance. It is situated on the top of a hill 1800 feet above sea-level. It is in shape a parallelogram, not quite rectangular, two of the opposite corners being drawn out on the line of the diagonal. Its sides are so regular as to give the impression of its having been the work of man, but it is one of the mountain-tarns, which are so common a feature of Scottish scenery. This loch has no surface feeder except the rainfall which may find its way into the little basin in which it lies. It is, however, undoubtedly fed by springs, as is evidenced by the fact that, notwithstanding its great elevation, it is never quite frozen over even in the severest winter. Nor had it any natural overflow except what trickled through some marshy ground on the north-west side into the head of Polvaird Burn, which flows down to Euehan, till some years ago a ditch was dug connecting it with the burn, whereby its depth was reduced and its area somewhat restricted. This was done by the then tenant of the farm of Barr, on which the loch lies, on account of his having suffered the loss of a sheep by drowning in its waters. Polvaird contains very few fish. Efforts have been made from time to time to stock it with trout, a number having been transferred from the neighbouring Euchan, but they do not appear to thrive ; at all events, the angler’s art is plied with scant success. There are several rude curling-stones, with primitive handles, lying on its banks; and to prevent the credulous antiquary of a future time from constructing some wonderful theory on the existence of these stones, it may be explained that they were carried up by the family of one of the shepherds on Euchan water, in order that they might have the opportunity of enjoying Scotland’s “roaring game” in the only possible place in this region.

Towards the end of last century, this country-side was robbed of much of its natural beauty by the despicable policy of the last Duke of Queensberry. He had no issue, and, it is supposed, to spite the collateral branch of the family who were to succeed him, doomed to destruction the woods on the estate. It does seem that the Duke had been animated by some such malicious, spiteful motive, for had the raising of money merely been his object, he would have confined the fell work of destruction to the enclosed woods and plantations, which were of some commercial value, whereas we find that not even the bonnie glens were spared, but that they were robbed of their adornment of natural wood. It was at this time that one of the sides of the Euchan was cleared, but, fortunately, the other had not been overtaken when the old Duke’s death occurred, and then the work was promptly put an end to. The following verses were found written on a window-shutter of a small inn on the banks of the Nith soon after this district, one of the finest in the south of Scotland, had been thus disfigured to gratify an unworthy passion. It is not unlikely that they were written, as has been supposed, by Burns, as he was given to scribbling down his effusions in such places :—

“As on the banks of wandering Nith
Ae smiling morn I strayed,
And traced its bonnie howes and haughs,
Where linties sang and lambkins played,
I sat me down upon a craig,
And drank my fill o’ fancy’s dream,
When, from the eddying pool below,
Up rose the genius of the stream.

Dark, like the frowning rock, his brow,
'And troubled, like his wintry wave,
And deep, as sighs the boding wind
Among his caves, the sighs he gave:
‘And cam’ ye here, my son,’ he cried,
‘To wander in my birken shade?
To muse some favourite Scottish theme,
Or sing some favourite Scottish maid?

There was a time, it’s nae lang syue,
Ye might hae seen me in my pride;
When a’ my weel-clad banks could see
Their woody pictures in my tide;
When hanging beech and spreading elms
Shaded my streams sae clear and cool,
And stately oaks their twisted arms
Threw broad and dark across the pool.

When, glittering through the trees, appeared
The wee white cot aboon the mill,
And peaceful rose its ingle reek
That slowly curling clamb the hill.
But now the cot is bare and cauld,
It’s branchy shelter’s lost and gane,
And scarce a stinted birch is left
To shiver in the blast its lane. ’

‘Alas,’ said I, ‘what wofu’ chance
Has tyned ye o’ your stately trees?
Has laid your rocky bosom bare?
Has stripped the cleading aff your braes?
Was it the bitter eastern blast
That scatters blight in early spring?
Or was’t the wil’ fire scorched their boughs,
Or canker-worm wi’ secret sting?’

‘Nae eastern blast,’ the sprite replied;
It blaws nae here sae fierce and fell;
And on my dry and halesome banks
Nae canker-worms get leave to dwell.
Man! cruel Man!’ the genius sighed,
As through the cliffs he sank him down,
The worm that gnawed my bonnie trees—
That reptile wears a Ducal Crown.’”

In spite, however, of the extent to which Euchan was thus disrobed of much of its beauty, it is a bonnie glen. A good road runs along almost its entire length, and no pleasanter walk on a summer day could be desired. It is necessary to offer a word of caution to visitors by informing them that this glen is infested with adders. These snakes are frequently to be seen basking themselves on the sunny brae which forms the left bank of the stream. They measure about 18 inches and even more in length. The careless walker might readily step on one of them, for in parts the ground is covered with deep heather, but this would be a case of “caught napping,” for the adder at the sound of human footstep glides rapidly out of sight. He will not stand his ground, far less offer attack, unless he be come upon unexpectedly and find his retreat cut off. But the danger is more imaginary than real, for there is no record of any accident through adder-bite there. There is excellent trout fishing in the tributaries of the Nith, and particularly in Euchan. During last year, up to the month of June, one angler alone caught over one hundred dozen of fair size, all the smaller being returned to the water. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the hills in the upper part of Euchan glen, unless it be what is known as the Banyan Crag, a little above the Bank dyke. This Crag presents a bold, precipitous front several hundred feet in height. While the water of Crawick and Mennock is remarkably clear and limpid, Euchan, particularly when it is in flood, pours down a volume of water embrowned with peat, which forms dark, mysterious pools, and shews a fine rich colour where it tosses impetuously over its rocky bed. For two miles above its outlet the course of this stream is most picturesque. Ceasing at the farm-house of Old Barr to flow, as it has done from its source, in the open, it enters between walls of rock, through which it has, in the course of ages, worn a deep channel, washing the whinstone perfectly smooth, and into the most fantastic shapes. One cascade after another, with dark, deep narrow pools between, forms a most striking and charming picture. When in flood the Euchan here roars and thunders like a miniature Niagara, and a peep of the “Deil’s Dungeon”—for so this part is named—can only be obtained from one point or another of the overhanging crag ; but on a summer day, when the volume of water is small in comparison, a splendid view of the “ Dungeon ” can be obtained by descending to the bed of the stream by a steep narrow path at the point where that dark gruesome gullet ceases. Here the stream parts into two, leaving a spacious level rock in the centre quite dry. This rock can be easily enough reached from either side by-creeping along the bank till where the parted stream is at the narrowest, and a short step lands one safely. It is well worth the trouble of the descent. The rocks rise up in huge masses on either side, and are crowned with trees, which swing their arms over the overhanging ledge. Looking up, one sees the water sweep round a bend, which forms the limit of the view, turning the whole into a sort of chamber. It tumbles over a large rock, which still obstructs its progress, and then sweeps down as if it would carry one away, but presently, being no longer fretted by any barrier, it finds ample room for itself in a dark pool, and then parting, it glides swiftly and silently past in two black narrow channels. But for the difficulty of access this would form an admirable place for a pic-nic.

A little distance below the “Deil’s Dungeon” the stream again passes through a long channel of rock not more than three or four feet wide, which bears the name of “The Lover’s Loup.” The name is probably associated with a long-forgotten tradition; as it is, the leap across, though not a great one, tries the nerve of him who performs it, for the water, dark as Erebus and of profound depth, fascinates the eye, and is apt to render the head giddy. Immediately under “The Lover’s Loup ” we come to what are known as the “Drappin’ Linns,” where the freestone first makes its appearance. These Linns are on the east side of the stream, where the soft rock towers up to a height of forty feet or so, and overhangs the river bed in a picturesque manner; the name which it has received being derived from the water which continually drips from the roof of this cave-like recess. The footpath up the bank of the stream runs over the top of the linns on a narrow ledge, and the trepidation, caused as one passes along this dangerous path at the sight of the overhanging precipice, would be increased were it known, as it is not to every one, that the whole mass has such an apparently slender hold. The course of the water now reveals the change that has taken place in the rock strata. It runs over beds of freestone, and traces of the coal measures become discernible. The rock on the edge of the field is very soft in texture, yielding readily to the influence of the waters, by which it is worked into the most curious forms, as, for example, at the “Drappin’ Linns” above mentioned, and the “Pamphy Linns,” a short distance across the moor. The Falls of Euchan, a little farther down, present a face of freestone, fifteen or twenty feet thick; while a short distance down stream, the rock is found very hard and compact. The colour being a very light grey, it has been quarried on an extensive scale for building purposes. From it the material for the new bridge over the Nith, built in 1855, was obtained. Just opposite Euchan Falls, on the west side, tradition says there was once a waulk-mill. There are certainly traces of what appears to have been a mill-race, whereby the water had been diverted for some industrial purpose. Near the same place, and on the same bank, are the remains of a cottage or cottages, probably in connection with the mill. In the glen of Euehan there are the ruins of quite a number of houses, but this is an example only of what is to be seen in all directions, and affords proof of the extent to which depopulation has been carried on in our country districts. Between the Falls and the quarry stands an object of antiquarian interest. In the angle formed by the junction of the Barr Burn with Euchan is a ridge, pretty steep on the Barr Burn side, and perfectly inaccessible from the Euchan, the rocks rising there like a wall. A position like this, with exceptional means of defence of a natural kind, could not escape the eye of the dwellers of that early time, and so we find that it was once a stronghold bearing the name of Kemp’s Castle. A more detailed description of this spot will be found in the chapter on the antiquities of the district.

On the Barr Burn are the “Pamphy Linns”—curious and interesting, but not so imposing as the name by which they have been dignified would lead one to expect. They are, however, well worth a visit. There being no road up the burn, the visitor must proceed by the Barr and Barr Moor house. Passing round behind the latter one must strike straight across the field towards the wood in front, where a gate in the dyke gives him entrance to the wood, through which the burn here pursues its course. The Linns are formed by the action, on the soft freestone, of the two small burns, which at the foot join to form the Barr Burn, by which it has been carved into the most grotesque forms. The rock lies near the surface, and the burn having washed away its slight covering of soil has worn a channel narrow and ever deepening. Curiously enough, the lower stratum of rock is much softer than the portion overlying it. Thus it is, that so soon as the water had worn its way through the upper stratum, the lower was scooped out on all sides when the burn was in flood, leaving the harder upper rock overhanging these subterranean chambers in the most wonderful manner. The rock had originally stretched across the course of both burns, and each had cut its way through, leaving the centre part towering up intact between them. When the wood was enclosed about forty years ago, there was perpetrated what some will regard as a piece of vandalism, for, with no regard to the romantic beauty of this secluded spot, the rocks were torn down and carted away for the construction of the dyke. It was a wanton act, too, for the same rock lies all round in the fields quite near to the surface, and it stripped the “Pamphy Linns” of much of their former glory. We have been thus particular in giving the approach to these linns because, like many of the natural beauties to be met with in moorland districts, they might, being all under the level of the ground, be passed unobserved by any one not acquainted with their locality. The same natural operation is to be seen on a larger scale at Crichope Linns, near Thornhill, where the rock, being of the same description, like results have been produced by the water’s influence.

Not a hundred yards from the foot of the road which leads to Euchan quarry, and which thereafter continues up the side of the stream as a footpath, there issues from the face of the rocky bank a spring known as Euchan Well, or Baird’s Well—Baird, who resided in the little cottage at the opening of the road, being a “character” in his way. That the spring has a deep source is evident from the fact that the quantity of water issuing from it is not affected by the rainfall, nor is its temperature by the season, the latter quality giving rise to the popular notion, which applies to many deep springs, that it is coldest in summer and wannest in winter—that being so only in imagination, and caused by the contrast which its equable temperature presents to the prevailing temperature of other objects. Some years ago attention was drawn to the character of this well, which is of the chalybeate class. The analysis will be found at the end of this chapter. Numbers of people professed to having found its water to be valuable in its tonic and other properties. It was opened out, a pipe inserted, by which the water is now discharged, a drinking cup attached to the rock, and a gravelled footpath constructed alongside the road leading past it. Dreams were cherished of the possible revival of the prosperity of Sanquhar, which was in a sadly reduced state, owing, first, to the closing of the carpet works at Crawick Mill, and next, to the decay of the handloom weaving, which was driven to the wall by the introduction of machinery. It was hoped that, with this medicinal spring and all the attractions of pure air and charming scenery, Sanquhar might become a popular health resort, but that hope has not been realised as yet to any great extent.

There are few districts in Scotland which can be compared with that of Upper Nithsdale, of which Sanquhar is the centre, for all that goes to make a desirable summer resort. The description which is here given of its topographical features will give the reader an idea, however imperfect, of its wealth of natural beauty—a beauty which embraces every element of mountain and plain, hill and dale, forest glade and dark ravine, lonely moor and cultivated holm-lands, roaring cataract and placid pool, breezy upland and bosky glen—the whole invested with an historical interest of no common order. What besides increases the attractions of the district to the visitor is the almost absolute and unrestrained freedom to be enjoyed. Notices of “Trespassers will be prosecuted,” “Keep to the road,” and others of a like nature, by which a selfish and exclusive landlordism would seek to deprive the general public of enjoyments which are the heritage of humanity, are nowhere to be seen. In this respect the Duke of Buccleuch, and, following his example, the other landed proprietors of the district, have allowed to all the liberty to roam wheresoever they list. In this and other respects the family of Buccleuch have, constantly in their-relations with the public, set an example of unselfishness and kindly feeling, which were it more widely imitated would go far to soften the antagonism that has oftentimes been created between class and class by those petty and irritating restrictions upon the exercise of privileges which are the source of the purest delight to the people, and which neither invade the natural rights nor injure the interests of the possessors of the soil in any conceivable way.

It is evident that considerable changes have occurred in the course of the River Nith and some of its tributary streams. Gradual changes are common enough in most river courses, and are usually caused by the detrition of the banks from the action of the waters. Within recent times Nith has made serious inroads, for example, on its right bank just below the Bridge, and opposite the Washing Green, the river now running much farther south, and in a deeper channel, than it did within the memory of the present generation ; but we refer to what must have been a sudden and complete change of course, the result, probably, of a more than ordinarily heavy flood. Judging from the configuration and the constitution of the soil, which is very gravelly, Crawick, when it had reached the open valley, instead of pursuing a straight westerly course till it was received into the bosom of the larger stream, must at one time have swept round in a more southerly direction, skirting the base of the plateau which is here formed, and on which the Manse stands, and have joined Nith about the farmhouse of Blackaddie, if not farther down. Then, with regard to Nith itself, we conclude on similar grounds that its course opposite Sanquhar has undergone a material alteration. On the left bank, from where the Old Bridge crossed the river at the foot of the Washing Green to the King’s Scaur, a distance of a mile, the ground rises quite precipitously to a height of 100 feet. This line of cliffs is known as the Brae-heads, and there can be little doubt that at one time Nith flowed close to their base all the way. The line takes a somewhat sharp bend at a certain point, and here it is that the river, swollen to an unusual height, had burst its southern bank, and pursued its headlong career through the alluvial plain. It was speedily checked, however, in its wayward course, for the cliff at the Mains Pool stood in its way. There it was compelled to turn again towards the east, and after a graceful curve and sweep round the Mains Holm, it regained its ancient course at the Kings Scaur. It is on the edge of the cliffs above mentioned that the Castle of Sanquhar stands. The ancient strongholds which are scattered all over the country are generally found built on positions of natural .strength, presenting as great difficulty of attack as possible. The position of Sanquhar Castle on this, the south-west side was thus well protected, and with the river running at the base of the cliff it would be practically unassailable. Proceeding southwards, the valley contracts, the hills rising abruptly on both sides from the river, which now loses its general character of a broad, smooth-flowing stream, and is confined within a narrow rocky channel, its course for several miles being marked by a succession of rushing rapids and long, deep, dark pools. Its banks are here in many parts densely wooded, and without doubt this is the most picturesque part of the whole of Nithsdale. Indeed, the road from Sanquhar to Thornhill, which runs close to the river the greater part of the way, is one of the most charming walks or drives in the whole South of Scotland. A grand and most commanding view of this part of the valley can be obtained from the railway, which is cut out of the hill-side high above the bed of the river, and travellers whose attention may be drawn to it at the proper moment are enthusiastic in their praise of the charming combination of woodland and stream. In leafy June the trees overhanging its banks—oak, birch, and hazel, with many a bush and shrub between—spread a mantle of green so thick as almost to entirely screen the river from view, as it tosses and foams down its rocky channel or glides slowly along smooth deep reaches; but in October the scene has a fresh charm, for the trees put on their autumn tints, and the eye is delighted with the glory of the woods with all their endless variety of brown and red. Nowhere is this aspect of nature to be witnessed in greater perfection than on the finely-wooded estate of Eliock, which, in addition to its plantations of larch and spruce, possesses a fair stock of natural woods. The first notable specimens are a pair of Scotch firs growing at the road-side close to the Lodge, which measure nine feet round the base. These are typical specimens of the Scotch fir, being straight and clean for fifty feet from the ground, and surmounted by a shaggy head of dark green branches. Close to them stands a fine example of spruce, of the same girth, and 100 feet in height. A still better grown specimen, of the same height, but measuring twelve feet, stands majestically in front of Eliock House, while another, even more stoutly built, tapes 172 inches round the butt. A splendid ash adorns the avenue, whose wide-spreading branches cover a circle seventy feet in diameter, while a beech is not far distant under whose umbrageous shade a very large party might find shelter from a noon-day sun, the area embraced being 240 feet in circumference. The outlook from the house, of noble trees of this description, has a singular grace lent to it by the magnificent specimens of weeping birch which are scattered over the policies. Individual trees of this variety are to be seen nine feet in girth and 80 feet in height. They are built in elegant and symmetrical fashion, and form a beautiful feature of the landscape. These birches with their spreading branches, from which hang pendant long lacelike tendrils, are an engaging sight at any season, but when covered with hoar-frost glistening in the sunlight of a winter morning like a thousand diamond points they form a brilliant spectacle. Perhaps the most notable of all in the whole woods, however, is a magnificent row of silver firs, seventeen in number, which stand in line on the top of a slightly raised bank not far from the house, and flanking the main park. They are, without exception, grand examples of their kind, averaging 100 feet in height, and, standing shoulder to shoulder, show an unbroken mass of foliage from one end to the other. The one which stands at the eastern flank of the line slightly over-tops its neighbours, and measures eighteen feet at the ground. What a pity, one feels, that they had not been planted along the avenue, where a double row would have given to the approach to the house a dignity and character which it lacks. Standing where they .do, however, they look stately and imposing when viewed from a little distance. A little way up the hill brings us into a part of the wood where oaks grow unusually straight and clean. One shoots up like an arrow for twenty feet from the ground, and is fourteen feet in girth. Strange to say, a large proportion of the finer trees on this estate are planted in out-of-the-way situations, but a lover of forestry will find himself delighted with a ramble through the woods.

On the left bank of the river farther down lies dark Auchensell, the terror of all travellers by road in the olden time, with which is associated many a story of highway robbery and of uncanny sights to be there seen in the dark winter nights. These traditions and superstitions (for the most part they were nothing more) have given way before the advance of education and enlightenment ; still his is a stout heart which does not beat faster as he finds himself plunged in its gloomy depths. On the slope of the hill near Auchensell stands the ancient Church of Kirkbride, belonging to the pre-Reformation period. Kirkbride was long a separate parish. It lay mainly on the east side of the Nith, between the parishes of Sanquhar and Durisdeer, but there were also included within its bounds the lands of Craigdar-roch, Twenty-shilling, Hawcleughside, Rowantreefiat, and Little Mark, all on the estate of Elioek, on the opposite side of the water. The old Church is beautifully situated on the western side of the glen of Enterkin, opposite the farmhouse of Cosh ogle. From the shoulder of the ridge immediately below the Church, just where the Nith takes a sharp bend in its course, the most extensive view possible of the valley is to be obtained. This is the only point, unless one climbs to a great height, whence Corsancone, at the head of the valley, on the borders of Ayrshire, and Criffel overlooking the Solway at the mouth of the river, a stretch of fort}’ miles can be taken in by the eye. Crossing to the opposite side of the Nith, and looking to the north-east from the crest of Drumlanrig Ridge, another grand and most striking view of the ..district is to be had. So abruptly does the Ridge rise from the water’s edge, and so narrow is the valley, that one feels as if he might toss a stone across to the other side of the glen. The lower reaches of the ground are spread out beneath the feet ; the comfortable farm-houses and cottages with which the country-side is dotted can be easily picked out, and every little ravine and bosky dell lies plainly revealed to the eye. Immediately opposite, the old Kirkbride Kirk stands, as has been said, pleasantly situated on the green hill-side, its hoary ruins carrying us back in memory to the Reformation period and the times of the Covenant. The yawning mouth of Enterkin Pass is dark and gloomy, and draws the eye upwards to where the mighty Lowthers lift their broad shoulders to the sky. Eastward, the Durisdeer hills—on the one side of the Carron soft and green, and on the other black and frowning—show us in the back-ground the opening of the famous Dalveen Pass and the Wall path, while to the south the valley of the Nith is spread out in panoramic beauty, forming a picture that the eye delights to rest upon. Nowhere in the southern highlands can a scene be viewed of such an extensive range, and embracing such contrasts of rugged mountain and gloomy pass, rolling upland and fruitful field, trickling rivulet and burn, fringed with birch and hazel, moss and fern, and broad-bosomed river sweeping through rich woodland and meadow.

On the translation in 1727 of Peter Rae, its last minister, and a famous man of his time, to Kirkcounel, Kirkbride was merged by the Lords Commissioners of Teinds in the neighbouring parishes of Sanquhar and Durisdeer. The Water of Mennock having been the boundary between Kirkbride and Sanquhar, it was at this time that Dalpeddar, Glenim, and a small portion of Cosh ogle were added to the latter parish. The Auld Kirk of St. Bride had long been regarded by the country folks as a particularly holy spot : the disjunction of the parish, therefore, caused a considerable feeling of resentment, and burials were continued in the Kirkyard long after religious service in the Church had ceased—indeed, burials still occur, at rare intervals, of people who have long- been connected with the district, and whose ancestors lie in this “bonnie Kirkyard.” The ruins of the Kirk continued to be held in great veneration, and according to the superstitious notions of the age no good could come to anyone who interfered with the sacred fabric. As an example of this, it was firmly believed that the untimely death of the redoubtable Abraham Crichton, Provost of Sanquhar, who fell from his horse at Dalpeddar and broke his neck, was to be attributed to the fact that he had impiously threatened to destroy the ancient edifice, declaring “I’ll sutie ding doon the Whigs’ sanctuary.” For some time after his burial in Sanquhar Churchyard his troubled spirit moved abroad, and was a terror to the young girls, at whom it grinned over the Kirkyard dyke as they passed to the milking of their cows. At last these cantrips could be no longer endured, and, after a chain had been fixed over his grave to keep him down, but without effect, more spiritual means were adopted, and the services of an eminently godly man, the Rev. Mr Hunter of Penpont, were invoked. This worthy minister had “personal dealings” with the ghost. Whether the restless spirit found peace by a full confession of sins committed while in the body, or whether it was rebuked with authority and power by this man of God, and commanded to forsake for ever the realms of the living, and confine itself to its own native shades, can never be known. No mortal ear listened to the solemn interview, but the palpitating hearts of the maidens were composed, and Abraham’s ghost ceased from troubling. For the last twenty years or so, from time to time, an open-air sermon has been preached at Kirkbride on the first Sabbath of July, in commemoration of the Covenanters’ struggle, and with the object of raising funds for the repair of the Churchyard wall, which was fast becoming dilapidated. An occasional sermon was preached prior to that period, for Dr (then Mr) Simpson, of Sanquhar, the historian of the Covenanters, did preach at the Auld Kirk about sixty years ago. The choice of a suitable text caused the preacher much concern, and during a walk with Dr Purdie, with whom, being still unmarried, he then lodged, he said that he had searched diligently, but could not fix upon one that satisfied him. "Aye, man, Robert,’' answered the Doctor, “there’s surely no mickle in yer heid. What do you think of this for your text, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain" “Oh, man,” replied the minister, “that’s the very thing, Doctor;” and upon these suggestive words he, when the day came, preached what was then described as a grand sermon, and which was held in remembrance in the countryside for many a day.

The Pass of Enterkin, which here runs into the Nith valley, with its wildness and solitude, was visited by Dr John Brown, of Edinburgh, the author of “Rab and His Friends,” who wrote the following description of it. It will be well, however, to explain that Dr Brown descended the glen— contrary to the usual practice, which is to ascend—lest any visitor should, after reading the description, experience the same perplexity that befel a traveller, who ascended, in identifying its features as therein given. He was about to conclude that the paper more correctly represented the fertile imagination of the writer than the actual facts, when the thought flashed upon him that he might be traversing the scene in the opposite direction to that followed by the learned doctor. Having reached the top, he retraced his steps, and then all was plain and intelligible :—

“We are now nearing the famous Enterkin Pass; a few steps and you are on its edge, looking down giddy and amazed into its sudden and immense depths. We have seen many of our most remarkable glens and mountain gorges—Gleneroe and Glencoe—Glen Nevis, the noblest of them all—the Sma’ Glen, Wordsworth’s Glen Almain (Glenalmond), where Ossian sleeps, the lower part of Glen Lyon, and many others of all kinds of sublimity and beauty—but we know nothing more noticeable, more unlike any other place, more impressive than this short, deep, narrow, and sudden glen. There is only room for its own stream at its bottom, and the sides rise in one smooth and all but perpendicular ascent to the height, on the left, of 1895, Thirstane Hill, and on the right of 1875, the exquisitely moulded Stey Gail or Steep Gable—so steep that it is no easy matter keeping your feet, and if you slip you might just as well go over a bona-fide mural precipice. This sense of personal fear has a fairly idealistic effect upon the mind, makes it impressionable and soft, and greatly promotes the after enjoyment of the visit. The aforesaid Stey Gail makes one dizzy to look at it—such an expanse of sheer descent. If a sheep dies when on its side, it never lies still, but tumbles down into the burn ; and when we were told that Grierson of Lag once rode at full gallop along its slope after a fox, one feels it necessary to believe that either he or his horse were of Satanic lineage. No canny man or horse could do this and live.

“After our first surprise, we were greatly struck with the likeness of the place to a picture of it by Mr Harvey, exhibited in our Academy in 1846, and now in Mr Campbell of Blythswood’s collection. This was one of this great painter’s first landscapes, and gives the spirit, the idea of the place with wonderful truth and beauty—its solemnity and loneliness, its still power, its gentle gloom, its depth and height, its unity, its sacred peace.

‘It is not quiet, is not ease,
But something deeper far than these;
The separation that is here
Is of the grave; and of austere
Yet happy feeling of the dead.’

We have heard that the artist, who sat alone for hours sketching, got so eerie, so overpowered with the loneliness and silence that he relieved himself from time to time by loud shouts, and was glad to hear his own voice or anything. It must be a wonderful place to be alone in on a midsummer’s midnight, or at its not less bcwitching noon.

‘In such a glen as this, on such a day,
A poet might in solitude recline;
And, while the hours unheeded stole away,
Gather rich fancies in the art divine :
Great thoughts that float through Nature’s silent air,
And fill the soul with hope, and love, and prayer.’ ”

This Enterkin Pass is cut deep into the great range of mountains which, encircling the northern border of the County of Dumfries, culminate overhead in the Lowthers, a great and imposing mass. From the summit of the Lowthers, at a height of 2400 feet, a view is to be obtained unsurpassed in its range and its diversity of feature. It comprehends the greater part of the southern counties of Scotland. The valleys of the Nith and the Annan lie under the fe£t, spread out in all their expanse of cultivated beauty ; the head waters of the Tweed and Clyde are seen starting as little trickling rills on their journey to the sea ; the dark brow of Skiddaw is visible as he stands head and shoulders above the mighty group by which he is surrounded, and which do him reverence ; while to the west the hills of Galloway stretch away like a billowy sea as far as the eye can reach. . The extensive panorama also includes the Firth of Clyde and Goatfell, and the mighty Ben Lomond. The view, whether for extent or magnificence, undoubtedly rivals that to be obtained from any of the loftiest eminences in the whole kingdom.

In the superstitious times, reaching down to a comparatively recent period, the right of Christian burial was denied to suicides, and the corpse was dragged with every circumstance of ignominy and disgrace to some lonely spot, as if the poor creature were an outcast from both heaven and earth. For this purpose the summit of the Lowthers, which, being on the boundaries of two counties, and also of the lands of three lairds, was regarded as a sort of “ No man’s land,” was a place chosen for the burial of suicides. The scene is depicted with graphic power by Dr John Brown in his interesting paper on “Enterkin ” thus:—

“The bodies were brought from great distances all round, and, in accordance with the dark superstitions of the time, the unblest corpse was treated with curious indignity—no dressing with grave-clothes, no striekhvj of the pitiful limbs—the body was thrust with the clothes it was found in into a rude box, not even shaped like a coffin, and hurried away on some old shattered cart or sledge with ropes for harness. One can imagine the miserable procession as it. slunk, often during night, through the villages, and past the farmsteads, every one turning from it as abhorred. Then, arrived at this high and desolate region, the horse was taken out, and the weary burden dragged with pain up to its resting place, carried headforemost as in despite; then a shallow hole dug, and the long uncouth box pushed in —the cart and harness left to rot as accursed. The white human bones may sometimes be seen among the thick, short grass; and one that was there more than fifty years ago remembers, with a shudder still, coming—when crossing that hill-top—upon a small outstretched hand, as of one crying from the ground ; this one little hand, with its thin fingers held up to heaven, as if in agony of supplication or despair. What a sight seen against the spotless sky, or crossing the disc of the waning moon!”

And what a commentary upon that harsh, stern time. A very striking example of how, actuated by a supposed religious feeling, men will be guilty of acts which we now hold to be an outrage upon natural feeling and a denial of all Christian charity; for there is little doubt that a false religious sentiment underlay the harsh and contemptuous treatment to which the corpse of the poor unfortunate who> bereft of reason, took his life into his own hands, was subjected. Trained in a hard Calvinistic creed, the men of that age regarded the taking of one’s own life as an interference with God’s decree, and, therefore, as one of the most impious acts before high heaven of which a human being could be guilty. But they must not be judged too quickly when we consider how short is the time since an enlightened medical science, with a better understanding of the philosophy of the human mind, first taught us that these poor creatures were proper objects, not of hatred and scorn, but of loving and tender consideration, and to turn our lunatic asylums from what they had hitherto been, penal settlements, whose miserable inmates were subjected to cruelties of a fearful kind, into institutions where they should be regarded with Christian pity and sympathy, and no effort spared to irradiate their dark and disordered intellects with light and cheerfulness.

From the summit of the Braeheads, to which reference has been made, the ground stretches back for the distance of half a mile, and on this plateau the town of Sanquhar stands. Immediately behind the town, the ground takes a sudden rise till it reaches a height of between 700 and 800 feet, .whence it stretches right away to the base of the mountain range which runs along the northern boundary of the county.

The tributaries of the Nith on the east side are Crawick* and Mennock. Mr Glennie, in his “Arthuriana,” which treats of matters connected with the half-mythical, half-real character, King Arthur, thinks that there are traces of his presence in this district. In the “Book of Taliessin” mention is made of Caer Rywe, probably referring to Crawick, a name formed from Caer Rawick. Crawick, as has already been said, forms the boundary between the parishes of Sanquhar and Kirkconnel. It rises among the hills, eight miles or thereby to the north-east. At first a tiny rivulet, it runs only a short distance till it assumes the dimensions of /a considerable stream, by the accession at the same point of two tributaries—Spango, from the west, and Wanlock from the east. The rocks in the district watered by Crawick and Mennock are blue whinstone, and as scarcely any of the surrounding lands are cultivated, but are chiefly pastoral hills, the water of both is particularly clear, and where broken and fretted by obstructing rock is lashed into foam of snowy whiteness. While Crawick itself, in its upper part, presents no features of any particular interest, the fall in its course being very gentle and gradual, the glen deserves more than a passing notice, both for its physical features and on historical grounds. In descending the glen, the eye is first arrested by the bold face of Craignorth, a precipitous hill rising from the bed of the stream to a great height. There is a story connected with this hill, which, like many another from that period, makes considerable demands upon one’s credulity. It is alleged that, on one occasion, when a Covenanter was being hotly pursued by Olaverhouse, “the bloody Clavers,” as he was accustomed to be called by the “persecuted flock,” and could find no place of retreat where he could secrete himself, turned his footsteps towards Craignorth, and sought to put a stop to the pursuit by picking his way around the hill face. Claverhouse, who was pressing him hard, never hesitated for a moment, so the story goes, but rode his horse round the perilous slope. A dare-devil ride certainly, and requiring more than human courage, but it is incredible ; only it is just the sort of performance which is likely to be attributed by the Covenanting party to one whom they regarded as in league with the Evil One.

The Crawick glen is deep and narrow, as are all the glens of this district, there being space at the bottom for nothing but the road and the stream. The hills on either side are of considerable height, and at various points present to the eye combinations at once striking and picturesque. A comprehensive view of the beauties of the glen is to be obtained from the eastern side of Knockenhair, which is itself one of the most remarkable features of the locality. It is a conicalshaped hill, the sloping edge of both sides being of great regularity and terminating in a sharp peak; which is surmounted by a cairn. It stands alone, too, being quite detached from any of the hills by which it is surrounded, its appearance giving the suggestion of volcanic origin. The top of Knockenhair has always been a favourite site for a bonfire on the occasion of public rejoicings. The last instance of the kind was on the coming of age of Lord Eskdaill, son and heir of the then Earl of Dalkeith and present Duke of Buccleuch, who lost his life not long after by the accidental discharge of his gun while out deer-stalking in the Lochiel country. This hill is so situated in the valley that from its summit a view can be obtained of the entire course of the Nith through Dumfriesshire, and also, on a favourable day, of the Cumberland hills on the far side of the Solway, with the waters of the Firth gleaming in the sunshine between.

On the opposite side of the glen from Knockenhair stands Carco Hill, one of the loftiest eminences, and of almost equal height with the Bale Hill, a little farther west. Along the base of Carco Hill runs the Orchard Burn, where is to be seen an unique specimen of boulder. It is of enormous size, many tons in weight, and is a rare specimen of the boulders or rolling-stones, which are supposed by geologists to have been transported on the ice during the glacial period, and deposited in out-of-the-way places. To use a popular Sanquhar phrase, this is an “ in-comer,” not belonging originally to the locality, but, if its size and situation be taken into account, it is likely to remain where it is, undisturbed. From the foot of the Orchard Burn the interest and beauty of the glen increase, as the stream flows onward and enters Nithsdale proper. It falls more rapidly as it nears the termination of its course, the channel becomes exceedingly strait and rocky, and the banks are adorned with a profusion of natural wood. The natural beauties of this section have been enhanced, too, by the hand of man. Here the Duke of Buccleuch has rendered a valuable service to the public by filling up with plantations the portions which were bare, thus giving a completeness to the picture. Further, he has constructed footpaths along both banks of the stream; and bridges at the top and bottom give the freest access to visitors to view a scene, romantic and beautiful. For there ‘is no restriction to these charming walks, known as the "Holm walks,” so called from being in proximity to the Holm house, which, with its grounds, was originally a separate estate from the surrounding lands of His Grace, and was purchased by the Duke from its owner, a Mr Macnab. The lands on the southern bank, mentioned as having been planted, were held in lease by Mr Macnab from the Burgh of Sanquhar, and this lease was acquired at the same time by the Duke.

These Holm walks are justly esteemed the most charming retreat in a district singularly well-favoured in this respect. They wind up and down and in and out on the ledge of the rocky channel, and advantage has been taken of crowning knoll and shady nook to plant seats, where visitors can rest, and, sheltered at once from the scorching sun and from every wind that blows, have eye and ear refreshed with a display of nature’s choicest works. In this quiet hiding place, it is said, Lord Douglas lay after his rapid march, with the view of surprising and capturing the Castle of Sanquhar,  ehich was then in the hands of the English.  Here he left his gallant band of followers till a little reconnoitring work was done, and a plan of attack was resolved upon. A fuller treatment of this incident is reserved for its proper place.

Descending, the stream makes a sweep round to the left behind the Holm house, which is pleasantly situated at the head of a pretty little stretch of holm land, whence probably it derives its name. The house is shut in from view on all sides by the rising ground, except in the front, where the outlook is through a narrow vista away to the sources of Kello and Euchan, on the other side of the valley of the Nith. Crawick then glides smoothly past the Lawers Braes, and passing on the left the village of Crawick, with its woollen factory, corn-mill, and forge, for which it supplies the motive power, it heads straight for Nith, into which it falls a little farther down.

Mennock, the other tributary of Nith, on the left bank, runs almost parallel with Crawick, three miles farther south. It has a course of about six miles, rising near to Wanlockhead, a mining village on the very borders of the parish and the county. The narrow glen through which it finds its way to Nithsdale presents features of a distinctly different type to those of Crawick. While the other glens in the district are soft and pleasing to the eye, the hills being covered with a rich verdure from base to summit, the mountains, for so they must be called, which tower up on either side the narrow gorge of Mennock are dark, stern, and rugged, and the scenery is truly of an impressive grandeur.

About two miles south of Sanquhar, a country road, leaving the Nithsdale main highway, ascends the Mennock, and crossing the watershed of the two counties of Dumfries and Lanark, proceeds by way of Leadhills, whence falling towards the upper valley of the Clyde, it joins the great road between Carlisle and Edinburgh and Glasgow at Abington. For some distance the road pursues a general level, winding round the base of bill after hill, which slope down to the very bed of the stream, and offer at many points an apparently insuperable barrier to all further progress. At one place the attention is arrested by a view probably unequalled in its unique peculiarity. Four hills, two on each side of the glen, slope down alternately one behind the other, the outlines of the pair on each side being almost exactly parallel. When the foot of Glenclauch Brae is reached, the toilsome ascent begins, and after the Lang-muir-side—a long level track high above the bed of the stream—has been traversed, the rise is rapid and continuous, and, just before Wanlockhead is reached, the road passes through the “Hass,” which frequently in winter is blocked up with snow. In truth, so high and wild is this Mennock road that in winter it is no uncommon occurrence for vehicular traffic to be entirely suspended, leaving the telegraph as the only mode of communication with the outer world available to the inhabitants of Wanlockhead. In the summer season, however, its alpine scenery makes it one of the finest drives in the district, presenting, as it does, features of wild grandeur and peculiar configuration of hill not surpassed even in the western highlands. Some years ago it was visited by one who had travelled much, and his attention was arrested by the wonderful resemblance of this road to that leading up to Jerusalem. The same impression has been made since on the minds of others who had made the toilsome ascent from Joppa to the Holy City. Wanlockhead comes into sight quite suddenly and unexpectedly. For miles no human dwelling has been visible, nor sound heard save the murmur of the stream, the bleating of the sheep, and the whirr of the grouse or blackcock as, on strong wing, he sweeps across the glen and drops out of sight among the deep heather which covers the mountain sides. The existence of a village in such an out-of-the-world region is due entirely to the mineral wealth of the surrounding hills, which, though black and barren on the surface, and sustaining only a few sheep, contain within their bowels rich deposits of lead.

From behind the Black Hill, which overlooks Wanlockhead, another glen, “Glendyne,” runs down to the upland which lies along the north-east side of the valley of the Nith. This glen also well deserves a visit: indeed, it has often been said that had Dr Brown, instead of descending Enterkin, taken Glendyne, he would have been no less impressed with the solemn grandeur of the scene. The only road is a narrow footpath worn along the face of the hill side. So steep is the descent that the utmost care is necessary to prevent serious mishap. If a stone from the path be loosened by the foot it rolls swiftly down, and then, with a succession of mighty bounds, dashes itself into the burn which winds along the bottom like a silver thread. As the traveller descends, the face of the hills on the two sides continues to be quite precipitous, the wonder being that even the sheep can maintain their foothold ; but suddenly the opening is reached, and with a fine sweep the beautiful glen loses itself in the broad expanse of brown moorland. This moorland is a high table-land stretching along the north-east of the town of Sanquhar, four miles in length and two miles in breadth, and as it is traversed by road and path in various directions, the invigorating breezes which play over its surface draw thither those who are in quest of health. It is pierced by the pretty little glen of Lochburn, a tributary of Mennock, the clear water of which, diverted at a point three miles from the town provide, after it has been filtered, an excellent domestic supply. The portion of the moorland which overlooks Sanquhar is the property of the Corporation, and is reached by a steep ascent called Matthew’s Folly, where numerous seats have been provided for the convenience of visitors. These seats, and others placed here and there by the waysides, were erected out of the balance of the fund which was raised for the celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1887. From the top of Matthew’s Folly a splendid view of the valley for a length of over twenty miles is obtained, and being so close at hand it is much frequented with this object. The Moor farm, belonging to the town, is let on lease. At one time it brought a rent of £190, but like all other land it has fallen of recent years in value, and now the rent is only £112. That, however, forms an important—in fact, the only important—part of the town’s revenue since the abolition of “Customs” in 1889. Any further reference to this and other allied topics is reserved for the chapter dealing with the municipal history of the place.

The chief eminences in the neighbourhood are—Dalpeddar, 1291; Brownhill, 1544; Lowther, 2377; Auchenlone, 2068; Craignorth, 1386; Auchinsow, 1378; Black Lorg, 2231 feet.


A sample of the water of this well was sent several years ago to Professor Penney, of the Andersonian University, Glasgow, who reported on it as follows:—“This water is specially characterised by the notable quantity of iron which it contains. All the substances included in the analyses exist in the water in a state of perfect solution; the water is clear, bright, and nearly colourless, shewing that the ferruginous ingredient is perfectly dissolved. It has a styptic and astringent taste, and affords abundance of evidence of the presence of iron on the application of appropriate tests. The iron exists in the water in the form of the compound called the carbonate of iron, which consists of carbonic acid in combination with the protoxide of the metal. The tonic astringent, and other medical qualities of chalybeate waters, are too well recognised and appreciated by medical men to require notice in a chemical report. These waters are by no means uncommon. In regard to therapeutic strength, or medicinal power, as estimated from the amount of iron it contains, the Sanquhar chalybeate is about one-half the strength of Harrogate, Tunbridge, and Hartfell Spa waters, which, with the exception of Cheltenham water, are the strongest of those above mentioned. This, therefore, is not a strong chalybeate, but from the perfect solution in which the iron exists, and from the purity of the water, it is, in my opinion, well worth the attention of medical men.” Professor Christison thus expresses his view :—“The water is calculated to be serviceable in all diseases for which simple chalybeate springs are at present resorted to with success.” The following is Professor Penney’s analysis in detail:—

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