Published in the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser on 6th June 1913, this article examines the people of the parish through it's monumental inscriptions.

The Churchyards of the Stewartry.

XX. Dalry.

The church of Dalry stands on a mound in a striking situation near a bend in the river Ken. A fertile plain lies to the westward, beyond which is a grand outline of mountains. The adjoining village slopes upward for a considerable distance on the side of a hill which gives shelter from the east. The name of the parish has given rise to much discussion, the principal language of our place-names not being now a theme for the living voice. In this connection it may be of interest to note that and Irish philologist, on being asked the meaning of the word – given to him in the broad local pronunciation – and being told that the usually given explanation was “The King’s dale or field,” said that the pronunciation was against this, and at once put the striking question – “Are there any forts near?” The reply to this admitted the near position of “The Moat,” on which the learned man said that the word might mean “Two forts” – the word “rath” signifying “fort” in Gaelic, and “dá” two. According to tradition, the parish will take precedence of all other British Christian sites if the visit of the Apostle John can be successfully proved. His stone chair is shown. And the group of dwellings was long termed St. John’s Clachan. Be this as it may, the place well deserves its reputation as a health resort ; for, on a native being asked if he could kindly point out any records of centenarians, offered in exchange to show some living examples!

The church is cruciform in plan, with a square tower, and has a good appearance. A curious stone is built into one gable, on which are depicted a plumb-rule, compass and square, a level, and the date 1771. There are also remains of an older religious building, long used as a burying place by the Gordons of Lochinvar and Kenmure. A stone in the wall has arms of Crichton and Gordon, with a date of 1546. An old stone, hollowed on the top, and said to be an ancient font, stands between the gateway and the church. The burial-ground surrounds the church, the narrowest portions near the summit, and the greater part on a lower level between the church and the river. Amongst the memorials much of interest may be seen, and the visitor cannot fail to be struck by the numerous instances in which very great ages are recorded.

Ministers of the Parish.

The oldest record is on a thrugh in the south-west angle of the churchyard, the inscription being much rubbed and worn in some places, and not easily read – “Rev. Dom Gul Boyd. Ecclesiam hane periclitantem pene dejectam Zelo viribus sustinuit Eandem vere victricem atque stabilitam Pietate probitate ornavit Doctrinae Diligentia nutrivit Huic opera quinquaginta per annos apud Dalry Pastor Summa Solertia Incubuit Laus vivum Lactus mortuum sequebantur. Anno 1741 a Christ nato. Aetatis  suae 83 obiit.”

The Rev. William Boyd studied at Glasgow, joined the Cameronians, and went to Holland. He there enjoyed the friendship of William, Prince of Orange; accompanied that prince to this country; and on his accession to the throne of Great Britain, proclaimed him at Glasgow Cross. Mr Boyd was ordained in 1690, and married Jean Maxwell, relict of the Rev. John Sinclair, minister of Irongray. They had three sons – Robert; Andrew, who became minister of Twynholm; and Edward, minister of Wigtown. Through Andrew’s line Mr Boyd’s descendents may now be found amid the historic houses of the Glenkens as follows:- Andrew’s daughter Jean married the Rev. Dr John Scott, who also was minister at Twynholm; and their only daughter, Margaret, became the wife of the Rev. John Garlies Maitland of Fairgirth, minister of Minnigaff.

Mr Boyd was followed by the Rev. Alexander Dick, who had charge of the parish from 1740 to 1783. A large thrugh stands to his memory and to that of Janet Martin, his wife, whereon the names are clearly visible. The rest of the inscription has been sadly obscured by growth of moss and lichen, the stone being evidently soft or particularly susceptible of decay by such means, and a complete record has not been obtained.

Mr Dick was followed by the Rev. Alexander Macgowan, who was incumbent from 1783 until 1826. An upright headstone bears the following :- “Sacred to the memory of the Revd. Alexander Macgowan, 43 years  Minister of this Parish, who departed this life 12th October 1826, aged 81. Mary Newall, widow of the Rev. A Macgowan, died at Kirkcudbright, 21st June 1867, in her 97th year.”

Mr Macgowan was a singular man, of much erudition. He preached the funeral sermons of the Revs. John Gillespie and William Gillespie, ministers of Kells; and these were published. He is also credited with the authorship of the epitaph at Kells on Murray, the huntsman. His labours in blasting, digging, and manuring the Dalry glebe, and changing it from a rocky wilderness to a fruitful field by severe personal labour, gave his a character of a magician in the district. Added to this, several literary appeared among the family of seventeen children which followed his union with a daughter of James Newall of Stranfasket. He also wrote a “Statistical Account of Dalry” in 1788.

The next ministerial record appears thus on a thrugh :- “Sacred to the memory of the Revd. William Anderson, late minister of this Parish, who died there on the 20th Decr., MDCCCXXXV., in the 49th year of his Age and the 9th of his ministry. ‘Be ye ready also, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh’ – Matt. Xxiv., 14.”

Following Mr Anderson came the Rev. George Paterson, who is recorded on the die of a small monument – Erected in memory of the Revd. George Paterson, who was ordained minister of this Parish 26th October, 1836, and died 14th May, 1845, in the 36th year of his age and 9th of his ministry. ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flowers of the grass. The grass witherith and the flower thereof fadeth away. But the Word of the Lord endureth forever.’”

A granite monument near the church is erected in the memory of the Rev. Samuel Blair, and is inscribed as follows :- “In memory of the Revd. Samuel Blair, for 34 years Minister of this Parish. Born 19th April, 1817, Died 14th September 1879. ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.’” On another face of die beneath the obelisk follows :- “In memory of Isabella Bonnar Berwick, widow of the Rev. Samuel Blair, died at Edinburgh 26th Nov., 1901, aged 77.


A considerable number of people are recorded as having greatly exceed the length of life’s usual span, and several of these seem to occur in family groups. One notable instance  is as follows:- “Here lies the remains of John McCulloch, who died 24th Apr., 1777, aged 99 years. Erected by James Newall of Stranfasket in memory of him. Mr Newall’s name follows in 1811, aged 77; and Agnes McCulloch, his spouse, in 1825, aged 86. Their daughter, Mary, wife of the Rev. A. Macgowan, has already been noticed as dying in her 97th year.

There are also records of Alexander Kennedy as dying in 1897 at the age of 96; and Mary Gordon, at 98. Two others may be quoted in full. After previous reference on the family monument of Mr William Foulds, his own death is thus recorded:- “The above William Foulds died at Dalry Village 20th December, 1871, aged 101 years and 11 months.

A close parallel of more recent date is found on the family monument of Mr WilliamReid (now of Carsphairn), as follows:- “Also, Elizabeth McKill, his mother, who died at Dalry 28th July, 1904, I her 102 year.”

Quaint Memorials.

Here, as elsewhere, a beginning may be made with the martyrs. The following appears on a fine large thrugh, cut in the square characters of the period, the statement of names and dates running round the border, with a poetic epitaph in the centre :- “Here lyeth Robert Stewart, son to Major Robert Stewart of Ardoch, and John Grierson, who were murthered by Graham of Claverhouse, Anno 1686, for their adherence to Scotland’s Reformation and Covenants National and Solemn League.

Behold, Behold, a Stone here’s force to cry,
‘Come, see two Martyrs under me that ly!’
At Water of Dee that slain were by the hand
Of Crual Claverhouse and bloodie band.
No sooner had he done this horrid thing
But forc’d cry Stewart’s soul in Heaven doth sing.
Yet strange his rage pursu’d even such when dead
And in the tombs of their ancestors laid,
Causing their Corps be raised out of same,
Discharging in church-yard to bury them.
All this they did ‘cause they would not perjure
Our Covenants and Reformation pure.
Because, like faithful Martyrs,forto dy
They rather Chus’d than treacherouslie comply
With cursed Prelacy, the Nation’s bane,
And with indulgencie our churches stain.
Perjured intelligencers were so rife
Shew’d their cursed loyalty to take a life.”

Several of the old thrughs are embellished with coats of arms, often somewhat defaced. Two adjacent ones contain the names of Buchanan and Lennox and the Stewarts of Ardoch, the inscription on the latter being almost obliterated. The other bears on the dexter side of the shield three stars of five points, beneath which is a heart with point upwards; and, on the sinister side, a lion rampant. Another has a shield with a cross, star and rose, with lion rampant below, and carries the motto – “VI ET ARTE.” The names are Ferguson, Pattie, and McMillan. Yet another is quaintly inscribed – “PER SOCUETOR PERISH,” and has a shield with three mullets and a chevron.

Eminent Parishioners

Of eminence as a literary man and antiquary, Anthony Macmillan (1759 to 1821) may be noted as a native of the parish, though his burial place may be Carsphairn. He was accidentally drowned in the Ken.

Still better known was his friend, John Gordon Barbour, author of Light and Shadows of Scottish Character and Scenery, and much else. His tombstone is thus inscribed:- “In memory of John Gordon Barbour, tenant in Bogue, born 10th January, 1775; died 12th February, 1845. Also Jean Wilson, his wife, who died at Todstone 12th July 1869, aged 82 years.”

The Rev. David Landsborough as a native of the Clachan, and a descendent of that old McClambroch family of Kells, whose motto was “Fear God and Fight.” He became minister in the Parish of Stevenston, in Ayrshire, in 1811. He published some poetical works, and was an accomplished naturalist, his works on “British Sea Weeds” being of great value and beauty. He joined the Free Church at the Disruption and took a first charge of the congregations in his vicinity, and died at Stevenston in 1854 at the age of 75 years.

Another literary personage was Anna Macgowan, daughter of the parish minister, who died in Kirkcudbright in 1865, aged about 65 years. She wrote through various local channels, and also published some volumes of poems and a tale called “Young Arnold.”

Dr Robert Trotter was born in New-Galloway in 1798, and after a busy life in various parts of the world, retired to Dalry, and died there in 1875. His abilities in the literary treatment of local tradition, family histories, and heraldic genealogies are well known, and his collection of antiquities from branches of various types was of great interest. His descendents showed much literary ability, and several of them have left works which will always be highly valued by students of Gallovidian topics.

Another notable resident was Professor Sellar. A fine cross to his memory stands near the northern limit of the churchyard, which is inscribed thus :- “In memory of William Young Sellar, LL.D., for 27 years Professor of Humanity in the University of Edinburgh. Born 22 Feb., 1825 in Sutherland. Died 12 Oct., 1890, at Kenbank.” And on one side of the cross – “Until the day break and the shadows free away.” On the other – “INCORRUPTA . FIDES . NOVAQUE . VERITAS.” Dr Sellar was a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford; and was a Professor of Greek at St. Andrews before going to Edinburgh. In addition to successful labours as a teacher, he wrote The Roman Poets of the Republic, The Roman Poets of the Augustan Age, and Horace and the Elegiac Poets – containing fine appreciation and intepretationsof Latin poetry.

A fine modern monument, with the genuine antique feeling, has been erected in memory of J. Gordon Carter (“Theodore Mayne”), whose prose and verse are justly admired. His recent removal makes a blank more local than in the literary world.


Of the 262 names, McMillan occurs 17 times; Wilson, 15; McMichael, 14; whilst Barbour and Douglas are equal with 12each; Smith has 11; Ferguson, Hunter and McNaught are equal at 10 each; and Gordon and Johnston follow with 9. Variants have been included, and a general list follows: