A Tour Thro' the Whole of Great Britain etc., by Daniel Defoe. Volume 3, published in 1778.

Galloway, as I hinted before, begins even from the Middle of the Bridge of Dumfries; the first Town on the Coast, of any Note, is Kirkubright, or, as vulgarly call'd, Kirkubry. It must be acknowledg'd this very Place is a Surprize to a Stranger, and especially one whose Business is Observation, as mine was.

Here is a pleasant Situation, and yet nothing pleasant to be seen. Here is a Harbour without Ships, a Port without Trade, a Fishery without Nets, a People without Business; and, that which is worse than all, they do not seem to desire Business, much less do they understand it. I believe they are very good Christians at Kirkubry, for they are in the very Letter of it, they obey the Text, and are contented with such Things as they have. They have all the Materials for Trade, but no Genius to it, all the Opportunities for Trade, but no Inclination to it. In a Word, they have no Notion of being rich and populous, and thriving by Commerce. They have a fine River, navigable for the greatest Ships to the Town-Key; a Haven, deep as a Well, safe as a Mill-pond ; 'tis a meer wet Dock, for the little Island of Ross lyes in the very Entrance, and keeps off the West and North West Winds, and breaks the Surge of the Sea; so that when it is rough without, 'tis always smooth within. But, alas ! there is not a Vessel, that deserves the Name of a Ship, belongs to it; and, though here is an extraordinary Salmon Fishing, the Salmon come and offer themselves, and go again, and cannot obtain the Privilege of being made useful to Mankind ; for they take very few of them. They have also white Fish, but cure none;  and and Herrings, but pickle none. In a Word, it is to me the Wonder of all the Towns of North-Britain; especially, being so near England, that it has all the Invitations to Trade that Nature can give them, but they take no Notice of it. A Man might say of them, that they have the Indies at their Door, and will not Dip into the Wealth of them; a Gold Mine at their Door, and will not Dig it.

It is true, the Reason is in part Evident, namely, Poverty; no Money to build Vessels, hire Seamen, buy Nets and Materials for Fishing, to cure the Fish when it is catch'd, or to carry it to Market when it is cur'd; and this discourages the Mind, checks Industry, and prevents all Manner of Application. People tell us, that Slothfulness begets Poverty, and it is true; but I must add too, that Poverty makes Slothfulness, and I doubt not, were two or three brisk Merchants to settle at Kirkubry, who had Stocks to furnish out Ships and Boats for these Things, they would soon find the People as industrious, and as laborious as in other Places; or, if they did not find them so, they would soon make them so, when they felt the Benefit of it, tasted the Sweet of it, had Boats to Fish, and Merchants to Buy it when brought in; when they found the Money coming, they would soon work. But to bid Men trade without Money, labour without Wages, catch Fish to have them stink, when they had done, is all one as to bid them work without Hands, or walk without Feet, 'tis the Poverty of the People makes them indolent.

Again, as the People have no Hands (that is, no Stock) to work, so the Gentry have no Genius to Trade; 'tis a Mechanism which they scorn; tho' their Estates are not able to feed them, they will not turn their Hands to Business or Improvement; they had rather see their Sons made Foot Soldiers, (than which, as Officers treat them now) there is not a more abject Thing on Earth, than see them apply to Trade, nay, to Merchandize, or to the Sea, because those Things are not (forsooth) fit for Gentlemen.

In a Word, the common People all over this Country, not only are poor, but look poor; they appear dejected and discourag'd, as if they had given over all Hopes of ever being otherwise than what they are. They are, indeed, a sober, grave, religious People, and that more, ordinarily speaking, than in any other Part of Scotland, far from what it is in England, Conversation is generally sober, and grave ; I allure you, they have no Assemblies here, or Balls; and far from what it is in England, you hear no Oaths, or prophane Words in the Streets; and, if a mean Boy, such as we call Shoe-Blackers, or Black-Guard Boys, mould be heard to swear, the next Gentleman in the Street, if any happen'd to be near him, would cane him, and correct him; whereas, in England, nothing is more frequent, or less regarded now, than the most horrid Oaths and Blasphemies in the open Streets, and, that by the little Children that hardly know what an Oath means.

But this we cannot cure, and, I doubt never shall; and in Scotland, but, especially in this Part of Scotland you have none of it to cure.

It is the Honour of Scotland, that they are the strictest Observers of the Lord's-Day of any Nation in the World; and, if any part of Scotland are more strict Observers of it than the Rest, it is in this Part, and all the Country from Dumfries, and the Parts adjacent to Glasgow, and the Clyde, inclusive of both, the Towns of Dumfries and Glasgow; and tho' this Country of Galloway may be the poorest and empty of Commerce, it is, perhaps, the most religious Part of all Scotland. Some People, I know, will not think that an Equivalent for their Poverty; as to that, let every Body think for themselves; 'tis my Business only to relate the Fact, and represent Things as they are.

It must be acknowledg'd, and there my Opinion concurs, they might be as religious and as serious as they are; and the more so, the better, and yet, they might at the same Time, be industrious, and apply themselves to Trade, and to reap the Advantages that Nature offers them; might build Ships, catch and cure Fish, and carry them to all the Markets in Europe, as the Glasgow Merchants shew them the Example. But the Hindrance is in the Nature of the Thing, the Poverty of the Commons, and the Indolence of the Gentry forbid it; and so Kirkubry, and all the Shores of Galloway must remain unnavigated; the fine Harbours be unfrequented, the Fish be secure and safe from Nets, till Time, and better Opportunities alter the Case, or a People better able, and more inclin'd to Business, comes among them, and leads them into it.

But I must speak no more in generals, I left Kirkubright with a Sort of Concern; it is so noble a Prospect, of what Business, and Commerce might, and I am persuaded, some Time or other will do for it; the River, that enters the Sea here, and makes the fine Harbour I mentioned, is call'd the Dee., or the Dea, and is of a considerable long Course, coming out of Mountains, in the remotest North-Angle of this Shire, towards Carrick; and, as it is full of Turnings and Meanders, more than any River in Scotland, is said to run near 200 Miles in its Course, as a River, tho' not above Seventy Miles in a Line; it is sometimes on Occasion of Land Waters, a very great River, and remains so longer than is usual in other Rivers.

The Country of Galloway lies due West from Dumfries., and, as, that they call the Upper Galloway, runs out farther than the rest, into the Irish Seas; all that Bay or Sea, on the South Side of it may be reckoned Part of Solway-Firth, as all on the North Side is called the Firth of Clyde, though near 100 Miles from the River itself, as all that Sea in England, between South Wales, and the North Coasts of Devon and Cornwall, is called the Severn Sea, even to the Lands End of England, though above 100 Miles from the Severn.