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The History of Sanquhar
By James Brown (1891)

The Royal and Ancient Burgh of Sanquhar
100th Riding of the Marches 1910 - 2010. Friday 13 to Tuesday 24 August.


The feeling has frequently been expressed of late years that a history of Sanquhar would prove of no ordinary interest, considering the ancient origin of the town, its standing as one of the old Scottish burghs, its intimate connection through its old Castle and the doughty Crichtons, who ruled there with the most stirring period of our national history, and, at a later period, with the struggles of the Covenanters, and likewise, the antiquarian and topographical features of the district of which it is the centre.

It is true that a small history of the place was published in 1865 by the late Rev. Dr Simpson, but it was defective in various respects, particularly in that no attempt was made to treat of municipal affairs, or of social manners and customs. I waited, however, in the hope that the duty would be undertaken by some one more experienced in literary work, but there being no appearance of that, and as much valuable information to be derived from oral sources was in danger of being lost, I felt constrained to assume the task.

The first difficulty that presented itself was the plan of the book, having to deal as I had with a great mass of heterogeneous materials. No one plan was free from objections, and the present was adopted as involving the least confusion. Another difficulty was the extraordinary fatality that seems to have attached to the ancient records of the town and parish. The Minutes of the Town Council for the first 120 years have all disappeared, and those of the Kirk-Session and other public bodies are likewise defective; in this way, much information that would have been invaluable in the compilation of such a history, has been altogether lost. I have further to regret that I was denied access to certain ancient charters of the Crichtons, recently discovered at Drumlanrig Castle, but now in the hands of a literary gentleman in Edinburgh, which would probably have thrown some light on the history of that family, and been the means of verifying much that may have been published on doubtful authority.

It is, however, my duty to acknowledge, which I now gratefully do, the obligations under which I rest for valuable assistance rendered in the performance of my task—to the family of the late Dr Simpson, for the liberty of making extracts from the history of Sanquhar published by him; to the representatives of the late Dr Watson, Wanlockhead, and Mr Edmond, schoolmaster, there, for the description of the Wanlockhead Mines ; to Mr Thomas M‘Naught, S.S.C., Edinburgh, for searches made in the State Records in Edinburgh; to Mr Galloway, Inspector of Schools, for the list of derivations of place-names; to Dr Anstruther Davidson, for the Chapter contributed by him on the Flora and Fauna of the district, written during his residence in Sanquhar, thereby supplying an element of interest not often found in a local history ; to Mr J. R. Wilson, Royal Bank, for information on antiquarian matters, and for access to his valuable collection; and to friends who have proved exceedingly helpful in other departments.

In face, therefore, of the serious drawbacks mentioned, but with the compensation of these valuable aids, I launch the book in the hope that, notwithstanding its many inherent imperfections, it may be received as a not unworthy history of a town and district, interesting from many points of view.

August, 1891.


Chapter I.—Topography
Chapter II.— Antiquarian
Chapter III.—Early History
Chapter IV.—The Crichtons
Chapter V.—The Elliock Family
Chapter VI. —The Covenanters
Chapter VII.—Municipal
Chapter VIII.—Social History
Chapter IX.—Curling
Chapter X.—Industries
Chapter XI.—Ecclesiastical
Chapter XII.—Parochial Economy
Chapter XIII.—Wanlockhead.
The Flora and Fauna of the District
Appendices (pdf)

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