A Journey Through Scotland, in Familiar Letters from a Gentleman Here to his Friend Abroad. First Published in London in 1723. First Letter - Kirkcudbright to Dumfries.

VERY little is known of the John Macky who published A Journey Through Scotland in 1723. He was employed by the government of the day to suppress Jacobite plots and to prevent treasonable correspondence between France and England. In this capacity, he rendered good service to his country, and gave timely warning of a projected descent upon our shores in 1696, as well as of an arming of Dunkirk in 1708. But he subsequently incurred the suspicion of the government and was thrown into prison till the accession of George I in 1714. Macky died at Rotterdam in 1723, and his valuable Memoirs of Secret Services was published, with notes by Dean Swift, in 1733. The date of his tour through Scotland is uncertain, but his book of travel remains to us as an interesting record of impressions made upon a man of singular acumen and keen powers of observation. Travellers’ Tales of Scotland by R. H. Coats (published 1913)

The original spellings have been retained with the exception that, where appropriate, the old use of the letter f for s has been 'corrected'.

In five Hours from the Isle of Man I arrived at Kircudbright, in the Stewartry of Galloway in Scotland.

KIRCUDBRIGHT is an ancient Town, with the prettiest navigable River I have seen in Britain. It runs as smooth as Medway at Chatham; and there is Depth of Water and Room enough to hold all the fleet of England, so that the Britannia may throw her Anchor into the Church-yard. It's also landlock'd from all Winds; and there is an Island which shuts its Mouth with good fresh Water Springs in it, which, if fortified, would secure the Fleet from all Attempts of an Enemy; but as this Harbour lies open only to England and Ireland, it was never worth a Government's while to make use of it. The Situation of the Town is a perfect Amphitheatre, like the Town of Trent on the Confines of Italy, and like it not surrounded with high Mountains, but a rocky stony Crust, which in this Country they call Crags; for they make a Distinction here between Mountains, Hills, and Crags. The Mountains are very high, rocky, and cover'd with Heath, or Hather: The Hills are high, not rocky, and cover'd with Grass, which makes the finest Pasture for Sheep and small black Cattle : The Crags are hard stony Rocks, not high, and thinly cover'd with Grass, through which the Rocks appear like a Scab. In the middle of this craggy Country lies this little Town, which consists of a tolerable Street, the Houses all built with Stone, but not at all after the Manner of England; even the Manners, Dress and Countenance of the People, differ very much from the English.

The common People wear all Bonnets instead of Hats and though some of the Townsmen have Hats, they wear them only on Sundays, and extraordinary Occasions. There is nothing of the Gaiety of the English, but a sedate Gravity in every Face, without the Stiffness of the Spaniards; and I take this to be owing to their Praying and frequent long Graces, which gives their Looks a religious Cast. Taciturnity and Dulness gains the Character of a discreet Man, and a Gentleman of Wit is call'd a sharp Man. I arriv'd here on Saturday Night, at a good Inn; but the Room where I lay, I believe, had not been washed in a hundred Years. Next Day I expected, as in England, a piece of good Beef or a Pudding to Dinner; but my Landlord told me, that they never dress Dinner on a Sunday, so that I must either take up with Bread and Butter, a fresh Egg, or fast till after the Evening Sermon, when they never fail of a hot Supper. Certainly no Nation on Earth observes the Sabbath with that Strictness of Devotion and Resignation to the Will of God: They all pray in their Families before they go to Church, and between Sermons they fast; after Sermon every Body retires to his own Home, and reads some Book of Devotion till Supper, (which is generally very good on Sundays;) after which they sing Psalms till they go to Bed.

This, with the adjacent Shire of Galloway, is reckon'd one of the coarsest Parts of Scotland; yet is no part of what's called the Highlands, although a high Country, and are in Clans or Tribes as there. The Macdweles, Mackys, Macqhys, Maclurgs, Maclellans and Maxwells, are the common Names here; but Gentlemen are never called by their Names here, but, as in France, by their Estates: And indeed where so many Gentlemen of the same Name and Surname live in the same County, it would make Confusion in Business if they were not distinguish'd by their Designations. As for Example; I know six Gentlemen each called John Maxwell in this Stewartry; When you ask for any, you never name him, but his Lairdship, as they call it. A Lairdship is a Tract of Land with a Mansion House upon it, where a Gentleman hath his Residence, and the Name of that House he is distinguish'd by. If you meet a Man in the Streets, and ask for Maxwell of Gribton, you ask for the Laird of Gribton; but if it is a Knight, you mention both Name and Designation: Did you see Sir George Maxwell of Orchardton?

I am the more particular in this; because as this is general through the whole Kingdom, I may not be putting you after to the Trouble of Explanations. There are Lairds here of 500 Pounds a Year, and of 15 only; a Galloway Laird of 20 or 30 Pounds a Year is a frequent thing, and all Gentlemen, as in Wales.

King Charles I. erected this ancient Borough into a Barony, for Mr. Maclellan, a Gentleman of his Bedchamber, by the Title of Lord Kircudbright; but his Estate was so exhausted in the Service of his Royal Master during the civil Wars, that at the Restoration none of the Family would take the Title, till this last Parliament of King George, in 1722, there was such a Struggle for the electing the sixteen Peers, that a poor Man, who kept an Alehouse in the Neighbourhood, and was lineal Heir to the Title, was persuaded to put in his Claim, and accordingly voted, and is now upon the Parliament Rolls as Lord Kircudbright. There is in the Town a good old Castle in tolerable good Repair, with large Gardens, which belonged to the Family, but belongs now to the Maxwells.

There is a Monument of Freestone with a Statue as big as the Life, in the Abbey Church of Dundrannon, near this Town, with this Inscription in great Roman Capitals;


There is fine Salmon-fishing in this River, and no Place can be finer situate for a White-fish Fishing on the Bank of Solway and the North Coast of Ireland; but the Inhabitants neglect both, there being never a Ship, and Scarcely any Boat belonging to the whole Town. But the Union having encouraged both English and Scots to improve the Fishing on the Coasts and in the Rivers of Scotland, it's to be hoped that this well situated Town for that Trade may in time come to flourish,

From Kircudbright in 24 Miles, on the best Road I ever knew, being spacious and hard under Foot, through this Stewartry of Galloway I arriv'd at Dumfries. There is neither Hedge nor Ditch by the Road's side, as in England; but wherever you see a Body of Trees, there is certainly a Laird's House; most of them old Towers of Stone, built strong, to prevent a Surprize from Inroads, which were frequent between the two Nations before the Kings of Scotland came to the Crown of England. And three Miles off Dumfries I saw Terragle, the paternal Seat of the unhappy Maxwell Earl of Nithsdale, who was taken Prisoner at Preston, and made his escape out of the Tower. It consists of a large oval Court, in which are very stately Apartments and large Gardens, suitable to the Grandeur of so noble a Family. Also within a Mile I visited New-Abbey, founded by the famous Dernagilla, whose Picture we saw in Baliol-College in Oxford, for the Burying-place of her Husband John Baliol King of Scotland, whose Heart is intomb'd here; and she called the Monastry Dulse Cor; on which Winton, an old Scots Poet, made the following Inscription;

When Baliol, that was her Lord
Spousit, as you heard Record,
His Saul send to his Creator,
Or he was laid in Sepulture,
She gart apyne his Body tyte,
And gart take his Heart out quite;
With Spicery right well Savourand,
And of kind wele Floworand,
That ilk Heart, as Men said,
She balmyt, and gart be laid
In a Coffore of Ebore,
That she gart be made therefore
Enamylit and perfectly Dight,
Locket and bunden with Silver bright ,
She soundit into Galloway
Of Cestertians Order an Abby ;
Dulce Cor she gart thame all,
That is sweet Heart that Abby call,
But now the Men of Galloway
Call hat Steid New-Abby.

This Dernagilla was Daughter to David Earl of Huntington, Brother to King William the Lion, and married to John Baliol of Bernard-Castle in Yorkshire; and by her Right her Son disputed the Crown with Robert Bruce Earl of Huntington.

I passed the River Nith from Galloway to Dumfries over a fair Stone Bridge of thirteen large Arches, the finest I saw in Britain next to London and Rochester. There is a Street that leads from the Bridge by an easy Ascent to the Castle, which is on the East of the Town, and hath a commanding Prospect of the Town and adjacent Country. This Castle belong'd also to the Earl of Nithsdale; and from it the High Street runs by an easy Descent to the Church at half a Mile's Distance. This high Street is spacious, with good Stone Buildings on each side; those on the North Side having their hanging Gardens to the River side.

The Exchange and Town-house are about the middle of the Street towards the South; and besides this great Street, Lockmaben-street hath very good Houses. This is a very thriving Town, and hath a good Face of Trade, yet their Shipping don't come up within two Miles of the Town.

This Town hath been famous for being firmly zealous to the Protestant Interest ever since the Reformation; and that Firmness contributed very much to the Lords Nithsdale, Carnwath and Kenmure's throwing away themselves at Preston in England: If they could have been Masters of Dumfries, they had play'd a securer Game.

The Country round this Town is very pleasant, and strewed with Gentlemen's Seats, all finely planted with Trees, the great Ornament of Seats here. Carlavrock Castle, all of Freestone, and a fine Piece of Architecture, on the Banks of Solway, in full View of England, and the Capital of the Earls of Nithsdale, hath been a noble Seat by its Vestiges, which are not so decay'd, but they give a full Idea of what it was in its Glory.

This Family is very ancient, and for many Ages considerable: For it stands recorded, that King Robert Bruce, Contemporary with the English King Edward the First, gave to Sir Eustace Maxwell of Carlavrock twenty two Pounds Sterling, for having of his own Accord demolish'd to the Ground his Castle of Carlavrock, that it might not be made a Garrison by the English, whence they might have annoy'd the Country. We find also a Robert Lord Maxwell sent to France in King James the Fifth's Days, and married by Proxy, for the King, Mary of Lorrain, Daughter to the Duke of Guise; He was Lord of the BedChamber, Colonel of the King's Guards, and Warden of the Marches. And if we may believe Sir Ralph Sadler, Ambassador from Henry the Eighth, this Lord Maxwell was the chief Person Henry the Eighth depended upon, for bringing of Scotland under the Subjection of England after James the Fifth's Death. It is remarkable, that this very Lord Maxwell, to convince King Henry of the Power he had in the Kingdom, brought in a Bill, and carried it in Parliament, for printing and publishing the Bible in the English Tongue, notwithstanding the Opposition of the Queen Dowager and Clergy; and yet the Family was then, and hath ever since been Roman Catholicks.

In King Charles the First's Reign we find Robert Earl of Nithsdale a great Negotiator in foreign Courts; and the Earl, who made his Escape from the Tower, was allied to all the great Families of the two Kingdoms.

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