The item below formed part of a long report contained in the Galloway News 24th March 1922. It describes the unveiling ceremony of two new coats-of-arms in the Parish Church and their meaning and origins.

Kirkcudbright Parish Church.

Unveiling of Town Council and Incorporated Trades Coats-of-Arms.

The Patron Saint of the Burgh.

On Sunday forenoon, and in presence of a large congregation, the panel containing the burgh coat-of-arms, presented by ex-Provost Wallace, and the coat-of-arms, subscribed for by the members of the six Incorporated Trades, were unveiled and dedicated in the Parish Church.  The former is affixed in front of the Magistrates Gallery, and the latter in front of the Trades Gallery. Both panels were designed by the late Dr. Chalmers, the eminent ecclesiastical architect, whose sudden death happened  a few says previously. The Rev. William Barclay occupied the pulpit.

The Town Council bears the well known device of the ship, with St. Cuthbert seated in the stern carrying the head of the martyred King Oswald of Northumbria. The ship, with its mast and cordage, is of silver, the figure of the Saint and the head of the King being of a darker colour. The device, on a blue field, shows in bold relief, while the “ribbon” encircling it is of gold, and bears the burgh motto. The Trades coat-of-arms is a golden lion on a blue field surmounted by a cherub blowing a trumpet, while the “ribbon” bears the newly adopted motto of the Incorporation – “Integritas et fides” – in gold. The device is adopted from the terms of a minute of date 25th April 1744, engrossed in the oldest minute book of the Incorporation, beginning in 1707. The old shield, which was first erected in the Parish Church on the Moat Brae, is still preserved in the Trades Gallery of the present church.

Not the least interesting part of the notable ceremony was the sermon delivered by Rev. Mr Barclay who spoke of the life of the Saint and of his traditional connection with the town which bears his name, and also of the origin of the Incorporated Trades coat-of-arms. The members of the Town Council present were Provost MacAlister, Bailie Robb, Bailie Barr (Deacon of the Shoemakers Incorporation) Treasurer Henry, Councillors Miss Montgomery, G. McKill, Millburn, Williamson, Carter, Johnston, with Mr John Gibson, Town Clerk, and general boxmaster of the Incorporated Trades. Mr William Clark, Deacon-Convener and Deacon of the Clothiers Incorporation, presided in the Trades Gallery, the other deacons present being Mr J Robison, Deacon of the Weavers Incorporation and general clerk, and Mr S Hastings, jun., Deacon of the Tailors Incorporation.

The Unveiling

The Rev. Mr Barclay called upon Provost MacAlister and Deacon-Convener Clark to unveil the panels, which had been draped with Union Jacks.  While the unveiling ceremony was being performed, the congregation remained standing. Rev. Mr Barclay dedicated the panels in the following words :- “In remembrance and for perpetuation of worthy elements in the history of the Royal Burgh and its citizens, these panels are dedicated in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and may God Almighty use them for His own gracious purposes through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

St. Cuthbert and Kirkcudbright.

Rev. Mr Barclay's address – I should take as my subject what might be of very great value to us as a community – certain historical memories that cling about the life and traditions of this town.  We are met to witness to the importance in our communal life of these historical memories – memories that stretch back to a far distant source. The story of the past of this Royal Burgh, in many of its aspects, is fit and worthy to live on, for it cannot be reflected and meditated upon without there being produced that upward spirit to aspiration that every honourable man or woman who has tried to do their part have experienced at times. Is it not fitting that we have placed prominently in this house these memorials of certain factors in the history of the burgh and its people that no thinking man or woman will appraise lightly. I make bold to say that if these memorials serve the purpose for which they are intended, a few moments reflection on the part of anyone who comes and looks upon them with understanding, will cause them to realise that we are justified in making such remembrances of “the good old days.”

Will you, first of all, turn to the Town Council panel? The features of it are, I think, perfectly familiar to you all – the ship with St. Cuthbert in the stern, and the head of King Oswald in his arms. Why the ship, why the Saint, and why the strange burden? That is a question I would like to answer, because I think if we do not look intelligently upon these memorials they may be meaningless and valueless. Cuthbert, or Cudberct, as he was called in his day, was a shepherd lad attending his flocks on the hills above Melrose, somewhere about the year 650, when a religious experience of a very definite kind led him to decide to enter the Monastery of Melrose, where, in due course, he rose to be Prior.

The zeal he manifested in this great office took him far away, following the example of such as Ninian and Columba, ever trying to win Scotland for Christ, and it is told that in the course of his wanderings he came down here into Galloway, and probably spent some time amid the scenes through which we pass day to day. The result is that, as Principal Story of Glasgow University said, we have the name Kirkcudbright, the Kirk of Cuthbert or Cudberct. This might explain the ship in the burgh arms. It might also explain the presence of the Saint in the ship, but you will tell me that it does not explain that strange burden which the Saint is bearing in his arms. In order to find this explanation we must go to the death of St. Cuthbert, of which, by the way, tomorrow, 20th March, is the anniversary, to see what happened thereafter. Cuthbert was transferred from Melrose Monastery to the Monastery of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland. There he obtained great fame for sanctity, and ever since the Holy Isle has been a centre for pilgrimage. I think most of us have seen the picture of the Princes and the churchmen of Northumbria presenting themselves to Prior Cuthbert on his rocky island and humbly asking of him that he might accept the Bishopric of Hexham. He did accept that post, but very unwillingly, with the result that, when opportunity offered, he betook himself again the Lindisfarne, where he built a little chapel in which he subjected himself to fastings and scourging thereby thinking to perfect his spirit in the service of the Master. After his death, his body, which tradition says was miraculously preserved without decay, was kept with many other sacred relics at Lindisfarne. Now, these had among them one very sacred relic – the head of the Christian King Oswald, who, in a period of exile, before he was appointed King of Northumbria, had been converted to Christianity by the missionaries of Columba, working out from Iona. In return for the privilege he had received when he came into his own, he sent to Iona asking that someone might undertake the sacred task of converting his people to Christ. As a matter of fact, he accomplished this through Aidan, whose successor St. Cuthbert was. When Aidan accomplished his great task, it added such fuel to the zeal of his pupil, that the deeds of faith of King Oswald came to fill a large portion of the ancient chronicles of the time, Unfortunately, King Oswald fell in battle with Penda, the heathen King of Mercia. His head, which, as an indignity, had been mounted on a pole, and exposed after battle, was ultimately rescued and conveyed to the island of Lindisfarne, taking its place there among the sacred relics of the monastery.

Wanderings of the Relics.

May I now quote the exact words from a recent article by Dr King Hewison, the parish minister at Rothesay, who, I thing, gives a very fair indication why we have the head of King Oswald appearing on our coat-of-arms :- “When, in 875, the Danes ravaged Northumbria, the holy men of Lindisfarne collected their treasures – the body of St. Cuthbert, the head of the martyred Oswald, and other objects of veneration – and fled. The sea fell back and gave them passage. They plunged into the forests and morasses on Northern England, zigzagging their devious way as far as Yorkshire, through Durham, Lancashire, Westmorland, Cumberland, till they reached the mouth of the Derwent, never resting, like St. Brendan and the Wandering Jew. The bones of Joseph not the Ark had never such a trek.”

The story then takes this devoted band by sea to Galloway and Pictland, where “the body rested at many a kirk of Cuthbert.” And Dr Hewison adds that the burgh arms of Kirkcudbright, depicting the Saint in his ship, and carrying the head of Oswald, illustrates this romance. Thus, if these ancient records have within them at their core the real truth, I think we may clearly say that not only did the Saint in his lifetime sail up our river, but that, almost two hundred years after his death, his bones, with those other sacred relics, were brought here and found a haven of refuge for a time within the bounds of our town. Hence the device on our burgh arms.

Arms of the Incorporated Trades.

Turn now to the Incorporated Trades panel. For its explanation I must refer you to an old minute of the Incorporation, a copy of which, kindly supplied to me by Mr Robison, the general clerk, runs under date 25th April 1744 :- “The Deacon convener, remnant deacons, The Boxmasters and Masters of Trade of the Six Incorporations of Crafts in Kirkcudbright this Day met in a General Meeting have agreed with William McGhie, Painter in this Place, To paint the fore breast of the Trades Loft in the Kirk and to put the Genl. Arms  of a Yellow Lyon in a blew field on the Middle pannell and to pint the Board at the head of the fore seat where the Convener Sitts and pint yron a Cherub blowing a Trumpet after the said headpiece is augmented with two pillars and an arch above, which the meeting Impowers the Convener to gett  done.” That was in 1744, and clearly, I think proves that on the middle panel of the gallery in the old church on the Moat Brae – as indeed the old pictures of the interior show - there were hung the arms of this ancient Incorporation. As a matter of fact these very arms are to be found behind the Convener’s seat in the Trades Gallery of this church, and can be seen at any time. I may be allowed to lay stress upon this, that the present members of the Trades, thinking it altogether appropriate that they should have a definite motto, up to which they can live, have, after careful consideration, chosen this as their motto – “Integritas et fides,” which you will find round the ribbon of thepanel. Literally translated it means “Honesty and faith” and is the equivalent in Latin for our word “Trustworthiness.”

This takes us beyond a mere description of these panels to the question of their purpose. Will they not aid us in the House of Quiet towards reflection, meditation and aspiration? How appropriate, for example, in these unsettled times through which we are passing, when industrial crisis present themselves, one upon the heels of another, with appalling frequency, that the representatives of the crafts of our burgh should place this beautiful piece of workmanship in a prominent place in God’s House, that all whom it may concern may mediate and aspire to “trustworthiness.” Trustworthiness in what? In their relationships as man to master, master to man, merchant to the public – each to all and all to each! Furthermore, these craftsmen of that early date, who took the Lion Rampant for their device, made a strikingly suitable choice. I do not know whether they were conscious of it, butI find in heraldry the Lion Rampant has always been chosen to mean “magnanimity.” Is that not very appropriate? What does the dictionary say is the meaning of that word? It says it means “Greatness of soul, and that quality of mind which raises a person above all that is mean or unjust.” Men of the Trades, it is a fine device your predecessors chose, and it is a pre-eminently beautiful motto which you have chosen, pointing back to a splendid tradition. May it be an inspiration to you day and daily, and may your example be an encouragement to every life you touch!

The Council arms – if I may advert to them before closing to them – explain themselves. Do they not plainly say that our forbears in this burgh treasured very highly the outstanding characteristics of a great Saint and a great King – two historical characters who they believed ought to have a worth place as an inspiration to those coming after them. They counted it an honour that even for a short time their harbour town should have offered a haven to their mortal remains. A true Saint and a Christian King, devoted servants of the Master! They hoped that in other times, when eyes were lifted to these figures, there would be something of profit in remembering the days of old. Not all the past is sacred. Some men and their works – the sooner forgotten the better! But it is ours to chose the best gifts from the storehouse of the days that are dead and let them lay upon us their blessing still...