Taken from Malcolm McLachlan Harper's "Rambles in Galloway", published in 1876, this is an excellent introduction to Kirkmabreck Parish.



The morning we started for this ramble was rather dull and lowering. Volumes of mist rested on the mountain tops, and the valleys had a visionary and weird-like aspect. A haze was on the sea, curtailing the view in that direction, and from the heavy clouds flying about, fears of a wet day were entertained. We had not proceeded far, however, till

“Lightly and brightly breaks away
The morning from its mantle gray,
And the noon will look on a sultry day."

A short walk beyond Karkdale brings us to the old castle of Carsluith, situated near the shore, and surrounded by some old and stunted trees. This old tower is interesting to us as having been the birth-place of Gilbert Brown, the last abbot of New Abbey, who obtained celebrity from his controversy on the subject of Popery with the famous covenanting minister, John Welsh of Ayr, son-in-law to Knox the Reformer.

Proceeding onwards the traveller will observe, by the wayside, a cluster of very neat and trim cottages, with beautiful fuchsias growing up to their roofs, forming a cool and agreeable shade for the yellow-haired bairns that are there at play. When we look upon these snug little cottages, nestling among the trees by the roadside, or high up on the moor, with often only one solitary favourite cherished ash tree standing at the house end, revered by the cottar on account of the reminiscences of early days which it recalls, the thought involuntarily arises that these are the abodes of contentment and happiness. Sydney Smith truly remarked that "the haunts of happiness are varied and rather unaccountable, but I have more often seen her among little children, home firesides, and country houses, than anywhere else;" and Alexander Smith, in his Summer in Skye, says with equal truth and evident knowledge - “Happiness may be extracted from the objects surrounding us. The theory on which our loud tumultuary modem life is based - that we can go to pleasure, - that if we frequent her haunts we are sure to find her, is a heresy and a falsehood. She obeys not the call of the selfish or the greedy. Depend upon it she is as frequently found on homely roads and amongst rustic villages and farms, as among the glaciers of the Chamouni or the rainbows of Niagara."

Sauntering along, and admiring as we go, the beautiful views which this road presents, of the Bay of Wigtown and the opposite shore, with the town of Wigtown, its steeple and martyrs’ monument glistening in the sun, we reach the granite quarries of Kirkmabreck.

Very extensive operations have been carried on in these quarries, which are situated near the road, for a long series of years. They are leased by the Liverpool Dock Trustees, and all the stones being used for dock purposes only, they are transported by vessels employed by the Dock Company.

We learned that on one occasion, when the quay at this place was transferred from one proprietor's hands to that of another, there were nineteen vessels constantly occupied for six months in the removal to the banks of the Mersey of the material that had accumulated at the abandoned wharf.

Near the Kirkmabreck quarries is the Manse, in a situation commanding marine and inland views of great extent and beauty. In this manse was born Dr. Thomas Brown, at one time Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. His father and grandfather had also been ministers of the parish. When Dr. Brown was quite an infant his father died, and his mother removed with her family to Edinburgh, so that he could have had few recollections of the place; but in after years he took an interest in his native parish, and his heart often fondly turned to the burying-ground of his fathers. When his mother died he visited the Manse, and the beauties of its situation, and "the favourite spot where his father had been wont to retire from the world and indulge in solitary meditation," were pointed out to him by the then incumbent. These scenes and haunts he viewed with enthusiasm and delight, and used to say that "he might rejoice in having been born in the most beautiful parish of Scotland." Dr. Brown was the author of several poetical pieces possessing great merit, in some of which he alludes to the beauties that "cradled his infancy." For example:-

“My earliest breath
Rose heavenward in a wilderness of sweets;
So fair as might have cradled the young heart
Of one whom she, whose temple is the world,
Was nursing for her Altar. My first gaze,
Beyond the mansion of my simple home,
Was on the breadth of ocean, and the hills
That circled me."

Dr. Brown died in April 1820 at Edinburgh; and, according to his own directions, he was buried in the old churchyard of Kirkmabreck, where his father and mother also lie. A handsome granite obelisk has been erected to his memory.

We next come to Cassencarie, the residence of James Caird, C.B., so well known in political circles. It is finely situated in a level holm studded with trees, and backed by a lofty wooded hill. The land in this neighbourhood appears good, and the soil near the Cree is in some places alluvial, but not of much depth, and better suited for pasturing cattle than raising heavy crops of grain. There are several fields along this shore covered with shells to a considerable depth, these having been at one time extensively used as a manure in reclaiming and enriching waste and unprofitable land. After a walk of six miles from Ravenshall we arrive at Creetown, and as the day is still young we proceed at once to a ramble about the town and neighbourhood.

Creetown, formerly known as the Ferry Town of Cree, is a small town and burgh of barony, of no great antiquity. It is in a very picturesque situation at the mouth of the Cree, and owes its origin - as the name by which it was once known implies - to the establishment of a ferry here for the conveyance of passengers across the Cree to Wigtownshire.

The chief support of the inhabitants is derived from the granite quarries in the neighbourhood. The Parish church, erected in 1834, is a commodious building, and the United Presbyterian church is a remarkably neat edifice. The mansion-house of Barholm is contiguous to the village, and is a great ornament to it. This was the residence of the late Captain Grant, of the East India Company's naval service. He had an adventurous career, and retired from the service full of honours, and, marrying Miss McCulloch, the heiress of Barholm, he there spent the evening of his days.

About a mile and a half from the town is the ancient churchyard of Kirkmabreck, situated in a secluded valley, beside a purling stream, at the foot of Larg Hill, and not far from the extensive and dreary moor of Glenquicken. In this romantic and sequestered spot Dr. Brown, as before stated, is buried, and it contains many old and very curious tombstones. The ivy-clad remains of the old church of the parish stand in the centre of the churchyard. The Rev. John Muir, writer of the Statistical Account of this parish, says that "previous to the Reformation this church belonged to the monks of Dundrennan, but was afterwards vested in the king by an Act of general annexation in 1587. In 1621, the church, with all its tithes and revenues, was, by Act of Parliament, disjoined from the Abbey of Dundrennan, and granted to Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar and his heirs. The parish of Kirkmabreck, and the adjacent parish of Kirkdale, were afterwards annexed to the parish of Anwoth; but this union was dissolved in 1636, when a new and more convenient arrangement was made, whereby a small part of Kirkdale was annexed to Anwoth, and the greater part was united to Kirkmabreck. These changes were finally ratified by Parliament in 1641, and the boundaries of the parish have continued the same ever since, though Symson, in his Description of Galloway, says 'Skairbourn was the march with Anwoth in 1684.' In 1645 an Act of Parliament was passed for transplanting the church of Kirkmabreck, and a new church was built for the united parish of Kirkmabreck and Kirkdale." The patronage of the old parish of Kirkmabreck belonged in 1684 to the laird of Rusco.

Near to Glenquicken Moor is a Roman encampment, in good preservation, surrounded by a fosse, and in our ramble we see numerous circles of large standing-stones scattered over the fields. These are believed by some to be the remains of Druidical temples; by others the places where, in ancient times, courts of justice were held. But the most probable supposition is that they are memorials of battlefields, intended to mark the spot where the most illustrious of the slain lie buried. It is said that in 1809, when a large cairn of stones was being removed from a field in the moor of Glenquicken, the workmen came upon a stone coffin of a rude construction, and that, on removing the lid, they found the skeleton of a man of unusual size, but some of the bones were in such a decomposed state that they crumbled to dust on being exposed to the air, the splinter of a stone axe still sticking in the half-severed arm-bone giving conclusive evidence of a stone period, and strengthening the belief which some have entertained of a battle having been fought in the neighbourhood.

After a somewhat lengthened and devious ramble among the moors and hills we again reach the public highway, on our way to the railway station. The traveller may from here proceed to Newton-Stewart, but in the meantime we return to Castle-Douglas.