The Glenkens in the New Statistical Account - Miscellaneous

The Glenkens in the New Statistical Account (NSA)

NSA (1845) Statistical Account of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh – under the supervision of a committee of the society for the benefit of the sons and daughters of the clergy.


Balmaclellan (1844)Rev Gavin Cullen & Rev George Murray (pp 98 – 107)

Balmaghie (Laurieston) (1844) Rev Alex. Gibson (pp 178 – 189)

Carsphairn (1839) Rev David Welsh (pp 273 – 281)

Crossmichael (1844) Rev John Whitson (pp 190 – 200)

Dalry (1844) Rev George Paterson (pp 369 – 373)

Kells (New Galloway)(1839 & 1844) Rev James Maitland (pp 108 – 117)

Parton & Corsock (1844) Rev W.G. Crosbie(pp 282 – 286)


This is some of the rest of what was written in the local parish NSA reports.

Balmaclellan: The Ken frequently overflows, particularly at the end of July and beginning of August, it was known as the Lammas speat (spate).

Wildlife and Plants: Kingfishers were seen occasional, also small grebe; heron were fairly common but eagles were rare. Hawks came in from elsewhere and 1 pair ravens live in the parish. Rooks were abundant. At the approach of winter flocks of “lintwhites” - linnet - (linetwige – [OE] perhaps flax twitcher or puller), starling and mistle thrush used to be rare but were now common, as were crossbills. Otters were common (seems keen to get rid of them), foxes rare, badgers unknown. Chairs and mats used to be made from rushes from Loch Ken.

Cranberry, Bullance (wild plum) grew locally, but bracken was not abundant; it was used sometimes as bedding for cattle. Pale butterwort, lesser wintergreen, water lobelia, white water-lily, water crowfoot, woody nightshade/bittersweet, greater bladderwort, enchanter’s nightshade, guelder rose, purple loosestrife, lesser water plantain, Spignel (Meu or Bald-money), quaking grass, monk’s rhubarb or alpine dock are all found in the area, and roses, geraniums and saxifrage abound.

Some workers from Baryown (probably Barewing) were out digging peat on Ironmacannie Moss ‘a few years ago’, when they found at the bottom of the moss, what appeared to be instruments of an ancient game, consisting of an oaken ball, 18” circumference, and 7 wooden pins, each 13” long, conical with circular tops. (These are now known as the Balmaclellan Skittles and the game can be experienced at annual Alternative Games)

Two bridges had been swept away, within the memory of man, by the rapid inundation of the Ken. A new bridge was finally built in 1822 which was sufficiently strong to withstand the floods.

There were four licensed retailers of ardent spirits in the parish, but the sales were very limited. The inns were poor and little frequented.

Peat was the common fuel, being both cheap and abundant. Coal was mainly procured from Ayrshire, or very rarely from the Solway ports.

The roads both to Castle Douglas and Dumfries were excellent, both being frequented by local farmers. The nearest post office was New Galloway (as it will be soon today!).

Balmaghie: Freshwater Mussels (Unio tumidus) were found in various locations in the Dee. Trout were abundant in Lochinbreck and trout, sea trout and salmon might be fished for in the Dee. During the season the tacksmen of the fishery at Tongland are so efficient that very few made it up except at high flood or on a Sunday.

Fuel was peat mainly; coal could be imported from Cumberland but was expensive with the charge for overland carriage, so at slack times people get coal from Dalmellington as it was cheap at pit head and a trifling expense on the road.

The people were generally comfortably clothed and housed and appeared contented. There were five small inns and two ale-houses in the parish. All these with one exception were conducted with much propriety, and, he believed, without ill consequences to the morals of the people.

Carsphairn: Some gold was found in the past in some of the small streams in the parish.

Lead and iron were to be found at Woodhead (written 1839). By 1844 the population at Woodhead had nearly doubled since 1839. (Col Cathcart McAdam, a local land owner had set up a lead mine – see Woodhead). There was a large wheel (30ft diameter) (water) used for driving crushing apparatus, a smelting furnaces and large houses to separate silver from lead, as well as a large village.

Wildlife: Eagles were seen frequent, but ptarmigan had vanished, other grouse were plentiful, as well as curlew and peewit during the breeding season. Wild duck were numerous all season and larks abounded, giving animation to the most remote and retired parts of the parish. Trees were scarce, though some landowners were now planting small clumps.

Carsphairn became separate parish 1627 or 1640 (according to the OSA about Dalry) out of parts of the parishes of Dalryand Kells.

There was no coal, though it could be got from Dalmellington, but peat was most commonly used.

Crossmichael: In 1275 the church was given to the abbey of Sweetheart (est. 1273) (New Abbey) by Devorguilla, wife of John Balliol, until 1587 when it was annexed by the crown.

Joseph Train (1779-1852) said ‘there was nowhere else in the Stewartry that had so many vestiges of remote antiquity as in the parish of Crossmichael’. These included 10 tumuli some of which contained human bones, ancient and later fortifications (see Glenlochar); and the foundations of a large convent – now lost. Roman urns and warlike instruments were discovered from digging and ploughing. Two miles away there were found, 13 large sepulchral cairns, some with coffin stones with human bones and by Loch Roan an ancient hill fort, 6 motes were in the parish, some of which were very large and entire.

There were two villages in the parish, Crossmichael and Clarebrand, which had about 40 inhabitants. There was a parochial library in the parish. There were also four houses in the parish where spirits were retailed.

Peat was the common fuel; it had to be carted three or four miles, and occasionally wood and coal were used.

Dalry: Old oaks were growing along the river, as well as other varieties in belts and ornamental clumps. The river and local burns were all abundant with trout and popular for fishing. Salmon might be caught in the Ken after a spate.

Wildlife: Most of common small birds, red grouse, black grouse, partridge, snipe, pheasants, and hare were all seen in considerable numbers.

At the farm of Altyre (Altry), near the top of a hill there was what appeared to be a trench, capable of holding 100 people either to hide or as lookout known, which was known as the Whig’s Hole (NS671000). Nearby at Benbreck and Manquhill were the remains of what were said to be the residence of an ancient branch of the noble family of Galloway. (The Stewart family owned the land at one time)

There was a post office and coaches passed daily between Ayr and Kirkcudbright. There were 6 licensed premises in the village.

There were two parochial schools in the parish as well as the free grammar school which was for the poor to be educated to go to university.

Kells: Records of rainfall in the parish were as follows (measured in inches): 1832 – 56 ⅜”; 1833 – 59 ⅛”; 1834 – 54 ¾”; 1835 – 59 ¾”; 1836 – 72 ¾”; 1837 – 52 ¼”; 1838 – 58”.

Plants and Wildlife: the following, what he termed, unusual plants, were noted: Uva ursi – bearberry; Pinguicula lusitanica - Pale butterwort; Meum athamanticum -Spignel; Geum rivale - Water Avens; Nymphaea alba – white water lily; Anagallis tenella – bog pimpernel; Cardamine amara - Large Bitter-cress; Solanum dulcamara – Bittersweet; Orobus sylvatica (?) poss. Vicia orobus - Wood Bitter-vetch; Ornithopus perpusillus – Bird’s-foot; Melampyrum pratense – Common cow wheat; Botrychium lunaria – Moonwort; Pteris crispa (?) poss. Cryptogramma crispa - Parsley fern; Polypodium dryopteris, now Gymnocarpium dryopteris – Oak fern; Asplenium ruta-muraria – Wall rue.

Eagles were often seen, Ptarmigan were extinct. Grouse had considerable decreased due to poaching but also due to increase of Black game which, he states were abundant. Hare and partridge should have been plentiful, if properly preserved, but were comparatively scarce. Snipe and woodcock were plentiful, deer extinct, bittern disappeared. Fox and otters were numerous, but badgers had lately become extinct. Trout were plentiful in the lochs and burns, and salmon, especially towards autumn were, he said, abundant in both the Dee and Ken.

Epidemic diseases were rare and the inhabitants were described as sober, moral, religious and of a sound and health constitution. The Glenkens Society, founded in 1830, for the general improvement of the people, gave prizes for the neatness and cleanliness of cottages and gardens. He goes on to say that the comforts of the people had undoubtedly much increased since the last Statistical Account until and that until about 15 or 20 yrs ago salted provisions were used from Martinmas (11 Nov) to July. The houses had greatly improved and roads which in 1792 were mere mountain track had been opened up in every direction.

The church was built in 1822, Glenlee house had been enlarged, and Knocknalling and Garroch been built within last few years.

Garden vegetables grew well, for example, peas, potatoes, etc., were usually ready by the 2nd week of June or earlier in good spring; gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums and cherry also did well, but pear and apple, not so well.

Parton & Corsock: The minister comments about a remarkable sized oak tree on Boreland with a girth 8 feet and height of 300 feet. He also mentioned some weeping birches in Parton wood.

There were the remains of old castle on the Corsock estate, but only tower remained; it belonged to Robert Nelson who had suffered in the cause of the covenant.

The old church was built in 1592; a new one was erected in 1834 when parishioners wanted to move it to the interior of the parish. A compromise was reached and a chapel was built on the banks of the Urr with a preacher supplied regular services. The glebe was16 acres and the manse was built in 1777 and had, had two additions since. He said it was now commodious and in good repair. There were a number of people not only in Parton, but Balmaclellan and Kirkpatrick Durham who were over 4 miles from a church, so if a new parish, quod sacra, was disjoined it would embrace these other parts as well. (Corsock became a parish in 1863).

The principal fuel was peat which could be found in great abundance in the parish.