Taken from Malcolm McLachlan Harper's "Rambles in Galloway", published in 1876, this is an excellent introduction to the Parishes of Dalry and Kells.


The village of Dalry (the Dale of the King) appears to be a thriving place. It lies on the east bank of the river Ken, having a fine prospect of the beautiful valley. The houses, though rather irregular and scattered, produce a pleasing effect in the landscape. Within the last few years a number of new houses have been erected in the village and its vicinity, and on the Lochinvar Hotel such additions and improvements have been effected as to make it a very comfortable abode. This place was at one time called St. John's Clachan of Dalry, its church being formerly dedicated to St John. What, according to tradition, is supposed to have been a stone chair or seat of the Apostle (!) is still preserved in the village, and shown to strangers as a curiosity. The parish church is situated near the clachan, on a grassy mound close to the margin of the river, amongst fine old trees; the burying-ground is also within the church enclosure, and in it there are some old and very interesting tombstones; one erected to the memory of three martyrs shot by Claverhouse, bears this inscription:—

"Memento Mori.
"Here lyeth Robert Stewart (son to Major Stewart of Ardoch) and John Grierson, who were murdered by Graham of Claverhouse, Anno 1684, for their adherence to Scotland's , Reformation and Covenants, National and Solemn League.

“Behold! Behold! a stone's here forced to cry,
Come see two martyrs, under me that ly.
At "Water of Dee, they ta'en were by the hands
Of cruel Claverhouse, and's bloody bands;
No sooner had he done this horrid thing,
But's forced to cry ‘Stewart's soul in Heaven doth sing!'
Yet, strange! his rage pursued even such when dead,
And in the tombs of their ancestors laid -
Causing their corpse be raised out of the same,
Discharging in churchyard to bury them:
All this they did; - 'cause they would not perjure
Our Covenants and Reformation pure: —
Because, like faithful martyrs, for to die
They rather chose, than treacherously comply
With cursed prelacie, the nation's bane, —
And with indulgence our church's stain, —
Perjured intelligencers were so rife, —
Shew'd their cursed loyalty — to take their life.”

Another very curious stone bears the figures of two children in relief, holding reaping-hooks. Lying near the church door is a stone font, in connection with which the following legend is told: — In old times a gentleman's only son was found drowned in this font. His nativity had been cast, and death by drowning on his seventh birthday was declared. When that day arrived he went to chapel with his mother, and before the service began he was found drowned in the holy water. There are also a number of gravestones with coats of arms on them to the memory of Stewarts, Fergussons, Barbours, Sloans, Hunters, Ramsays, Newalls, Douglases, etc., and in the south end of the Kenmure tomb is the large iron frame of a window, well worthy of inspection, the bars being curiously interlaced, and as fresh and uncorroded by rust as when first placed there. Over the window is a stone rudely carved, with the arms of Gordon and Creichton impaled, and the date, though much defaced, is believed to be 1546. Near the church is an old encampment in good preservation, in the neighbourhood of which coins and urns have at various times been discovered.

A short way from Dalry, on the main road to Castle-Douglas, the traveller will observe a large stone standing in a level field or holm, called the Holm of Dalarran, near the river Ken. This is said to mark the site of a battle fought, as is popularly believed, between the Scots and Danes, though some learned in such lore assert that the engagement was between Eochabin, King of the Scots, and the Cruithnigh from Ireland, who had invaded Galloway. He triumphed over them in the battle of Ken (Dalarran) between 605 and 621, when he died near Dalarran. At a place called the Cairnford, there was a cairn which was opened during the time Lady Ashburton resided at Glenlee Park. There was found in it a stone coffin or kistvaen, in which were some fragments of bones and black mould.

We now leave Dalry for New Galloway, and proceeding by the road leading past Waterside, visit Glenlee and Ballingear.

Glenlee House is situated in. a level park, studded with very fine old oak trees; the avenues and walks about the place being trimly kept. This house was at one time the seat of Sir William Miller, Lord President of the Court of Session, who took the title of Lord Glenlee. His son, Thomas, became also a Lord of Session under the same title. The grounds, naturally beautiful, have been by art so improved as to make this one of the finest spots in the Glenkens. At no great distance is a very romantic glen, with two beautiful waterfalls on the Park burn.

A short way farther on is Ballingear, the road to which residence is rather up-hill, but commands a series of delightful views. At a distance the house has an imposing appearance, but when approached it looks small, and has no great architectural pretensions. It is, however, finely situated on the face of a hill completely wooded from base to summit, many of the trees apparently of a good old age overgrown with ivy. In the adjacent grounds is a large collection of native ferns, and some rare specimens of foreign flowers and plants.

Retracing our steps towards New Galloway, we next reach Kells Church and Churchyard. In this churchyard is a stone erected to the memory of Adam McWhan, who was shot during the persecution on the hill of Knockdavie, in the vicinity of New Galloway, it bears the following inscription: —

"Memento Mori.
"Here lies Adam McWhan, who, being sick of a fever, was taken out of his bed and carried to Newtown of New Galloway; and the next day most cruelly and unjustly shot to death by the command of Lieutenant-General James Douglas, brother to the Duke of Queensberry, for his adherence to Scotland's Reformation Covenants, National and Solemn League, 1685."

The banks and braes of the Ken, like those of "Bonnie Doon," have been the theme of the poet, and here, as we stand by the grave of one of its sweetest singers, the Rev. William Gillespie, his beautiful sonnet on "Loch Ken" may be fitly introduced: —

“Hail! beauteous Lake, bright on whose slumbering flood
Shines the fair image of the heavens imprest;
The inverted forms of rock, and hill, and wood,
Dancing to every wind that heaves thy breast.
O'er thee dark Lowran frowns begirt with mist,
Where thundering torrents dash from height to height;
The whispering reeds soft by thy waves are kist.
That mark thy circling verge with sparkling light.—
Oft, when a boy, around each tiny cove,
I in the rocking skiff was wont to sweep,
To marvel as thy banks appeared to move,
And mock my shadow rising from the deep;
And all thine echoes wake with songs of love,
With bosom pure as thine when all thy billows sleep."

Mr. Gillespie was born at Kells manse on 18th February 1776. At New Galloway school he received the rudiments of his education, and made rapid progress. His leisure hours were employed in painting and poetry, and in musing and wandering among the attractive scenes which surrounded the manse. He very early showed such aptitude in the art of drawing that a sketch of Kenmure Castle, made by him when about fourteen years of age, was engraved and sold in the print shops.

He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1792, and was a member of the Academy of Physics, instituted by Brougham, Birkbeck, and other young men of genius. On his father's death in 1806 he was appointed his successor, and at the manse, with the exception of holiday excursions to the Lakes of Cumberland, London, and a journey to Paris, he almost constantly resided, performing with assiduity and acceptance the duties of his office. He died on the 15th of October 1825, in the fiftieth year of his age, and was succeeded by the Rev. James Maitland, D.D., who was moderator of the General Assembly in 1860, and died on the 21st day of September 1872.

Mr. Gillespie's "Progress of Refinement," an Allegorical Poem, and other Poems written in the Spenserian stanza, were published in 1805. In 1815 he published an octavo volume entitled Consolation, and other poems, the object of which, as stated in the preface, is "to illustrate the influence of religion in supporting the mind amid the trials of life; in sickness, in misfortune, in exile, in sorrow, in old age, and at death."

These pieces are written in blank verse, and in many places exhibit great poetic power and fervour. Mr. Gillespie belongs to the refined school of poetry, but his ballads and lyrics evince much fine feeling and pathos.

The burying-ground of the Gillespies is beside the eastern wall of the churchyard. Slabs, on which are poetical tributes to the poet's father and mother, and in memory of himself, are enclosed by a railing.

An inscription on a tombstone to the memory of John Murray is sufficiently curious to be worthy of reproduction. On the one side is the inscription, "To the memory of John Murray, who died at Kenmure, Jany. 3, 1777. Erected by J. Gordon." A gun, fishing-rod, dog, and partridge are carved in relief below. On the other side is the quaint epitaph written by the Rev. Alexander McGowan of Dalry, his lines being preferred by Captain John Gordon, who offered a guinea for the best on the subject: —

“Ah! John, what changes since I saw thee last —
Thy fishing and thy shooting days are past;
Bagpipes and hautboys thou canst sound no more,
Thy nods, grimaces, winks, and pranks, are o’er;
Thy harmless, queerish, incoherent talk,
Thy wild vivacity and trudging walk
Will soon be quite forgot; thy joys on earth,
Thy snuff and glass, riddles, and noisy mirth
Are vanished all — yet blessed I hope thou art,
For in thy station thou hast played thy part.”

The John Murray, whose epitaph is given above, was famed as being the fortunate catcher of the largest pike on record. He caught it in Loch Ken; its weight was seventy-two pounds, and it measured about seven feet in length. John Murray was gamekeeper to Lord Kenmure. On catching the pike (the head of which rested on his shoulder, and the tail trailed on the ground), he carried it to his master, and, throwing it on the floor at his feet, said,
“Ye may catch the next yoursel." The skeleton of the head is still preserved at Kenmure along with one which weighed twenty-seven pounds, and which is quite small in comparison.

There are several other stones with armorial bearings to the memory of the Ewarts, Gordons, Kennedys, etc. Inside the church is a memorial stone, inlaid with beautiful Florentine Mosaic, to the memory of the late Mrs. Kennedy of Knocknalling.

From the churchyard an enjoyable walk down the hill, of about half-a-mile, brings us to the royal burgh of New Galloway.


New Galloway is situated on the right bank of the Ken, at the intersection of the road from Kirkcudbright to Ayrshire, with that from Newton Stewart to Dumfries. There are some very desirable residences in the burgh and vicinity, and the unrivalled beauty of the surrounding scenery, the attractions of the numerous walks by the river side, hill, and glen, its situation in a district abounding with good trouting lochs and streams, and its general amenity, point it out as being very favourably adapted as a summer resort for tourists, anglers, and those in search of health.

Although the burgh at present is not more populous than it was upwards of eighty years ago, its appearance, and the material and social condition of the inhabitants have much improved. Contrasting very favourably with the account given by Heron, a native of the burgh, in his journey through Scotland in 1793, "The inhabitants," he says, "are mechanics, labourers in husbandry, a few ale-house keepers, and two or three shopkeepers. The houses are low, ill-built, thatched with straw, and very imperfectly repaired within. A sashed window was lately a curiosity not to be seen here." The burgh was then, however, of considerable utility to the adjoining country. It had a weekly market, to which meal was brought from the low country, and to which the farmers, but more especially the cottagers from the remoter muirs, repaired to supply themselves. It had also a farmers' club, instituted by Mr. Gordon of Kenmure, which proved useful in affording the farmers in these outlandish parts a means of interchanging thoughts and opinions on general topics, and of suggesting experiments, and introducing improvements in agriculture.

With the institution of the club, markets for cattle were also established, the attention of the farmers in this upland district being then, as now, chiefly directed to the rearing and feeding of stock.

We are now in the immediate vicinity of the ancient Castle of Kenmure. It is finely situated on a lofty mound at the head of Loch Ken. The mound has every appearance of having been an artificial structure of very ancient date, and a moat or stronghold of the aboriginal inhabitants, but it is in reality rock, which is quite visible on the south side. The hill was smoothed and covered with turf (it is said) by the beheaded Lord. The castle is approached by a splendid avenue of lime trees, and is surrounded by a thriving plantation.

When, or by whom, the original edifice was built is unknown. It is said by Grose to have been one of the seats of the ancient Lords of Galloway, and the favourite residence of John Baliol, who was born there.

The older parts of the building exhibit the architecture of the 13th, but the greater part of it seems to be of the 17th century. The interior is very interesting, full of winding stairs and mysterious passages. Among the family heirlooms are several old pictures and Jacobite relics.

In the castle is a portrait of the beheaded Lord, which was painted for his wife (by Sir Godfrey Kneller) in the Tower of London, after he was condemned to death. He is in armour which most probably he never wore in reality, but it looks picturesque, which was most likely the reason Kneller chose it. There is an old picture of Queen Mary, of which the history is not known. It is like one known as "The Ked Mary" — probably from the colour of her dress. She must have been very young when it was done. There is also a portrait of her son, James VI., an original, painted by Zucchero. There are portraits of two Lady Herberts, daughters of the Earl of Powis. One is very beautiful — Lady Mary — whose first husband was Sir Robert Maxwell of Orchardton. Her second husband was Lord Montague. The other, Lady Lucy Herbert, was abbess of the convent of Augustin nuns at Bruges. She was rather a famous person among Roman Catholics, and a book of prayers composed by her was published in London not long since. Leaving out a few expressions and invocations to the Virgin Mary, they are really beautiful. Her picture is curious. She is dressed in the nun's robes, one hand on a skull, the other holds a book of prayers, a cross stands on a table beside her, and (a curious mixture of pride and mortification) she has her coat of arms painted on the corner of the table-cover. These ladies were sisters of the famous Countess of Nithsdale who managed her husband's escape from the Tower. There is a picture of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, who was afterwards Viscount Kenmure. It is called the portrait of "Young Lochinvar," but as it is painted by Sir Peter Lely it could hardly have been the lord of the ballad, but he is handsome, and the painting itself is a very good one, and has been always much admired by judges. There is another curious old picture. It is of James VI.'s cook, Margaret Patton, who is said to have lived to the age of 130. She might be that, or any age, to judge from the wrinkled withered appearance she has in the picture. In one of Chambers's books there is a sketch of the same person sitting spinning. There are also two little old-fashioned prints, framed in black painted wood, of the first Pretender, or the Chevalier St. George, and his wife, which were given to. Lord Kenmure in Rome by Prince Charlie himself.

In the Border feuds and wars with England, and in the times of prelatic persecution, this castle and its owners passed through many trying vicissitudes. It was burnt in the reign of Mary; and during the administration of Cromwell the estates of Robert, fourth Viscount Kenmure, having been, from his attachment to the Stewarts, forfeited, and a price set on his head, the viscount, according to a tradition, on hearing of the approach of Cromwell’s troops, fled to a place of hiding, and chose as his retreat the wild and sequestered glen of Lowran, a short distance from the castle. Here, seated on a boulder of granite, shaped like a high-backed chair, he witnessed the harrowing sight of his romantic castle in flames. On the departure of the troopers he returned to the roofless dwelling, outlived the “vengeful usurper," and died at Old Greenlaw, near Threave Castle, in 1666. The seat, however, - remained in the glen till it was again used by a succeeding viscount, who sided with the Covenanters against the raids of Graham of Claverhouse, and is still to be seen beside the Lowran Burn.

Several coins were found in 1825 by workmen while engaged dressing granite on the hill of Lowran, These coins were one of Louis XIII. of France, five of Queen Elizabeth, and three of James VI.

The Gordons have always borne an honourable name in their country's history. Their first possessions in Scotland were in Berwickshire, and their name was taken from their lands in the parish of Gordon, and not, as the popular tradition goes, from their goring down a wild boar in the parish of Dalry. It is probable enough, however, that some encounter with a wild boar may have occurred near the ancient battle memorial called Whitecairn, near Lochinvar Loch, three boars' heads being carried on the Gordon shield. The family were subdivided into two branches; one receiving from the crown a grant of lands in the north, from which sprang the Dukes of Gordon. The other acquired the lands of Lochinvar in Galloway, and were the ancestors of the Gordons of Kenmure, and of the other distinguished families of the name in the south-west of Scotland. The family of Gordon of Lochinvar, in process of time acquired by grant, by purchase, or by marriage, the greater part of the lands in Kirkcudbrightshire. They removed from Lochinvar, their first seat in these parts, to Kenmure. They were at all times distinguished by the confidence of their sovereigns, and by attachment to their persons and fortunes. After the battle of Langside, Sir John Gordon of Kenmure, who was a faithful adherent of the unfortunate Queen Mary, accompanied her to Dundrennan before she embarked for England. His son and successor was one of the most distinguished Scotsmen in the Court of James the VI. In May 1633, Charles the I. bestowed the title of Viscount, on. Sir John Gordon, his contemporary. This nobleman, as has already been shown, though always remaining attached to the House of Stewart, was a true friend to the people, and staunch supporter of the Presbyterian form of religion. While on the Continent he formed a connection with the famous John Welsh of Irongray. One beneficial result of that intercourse was his bringing to Anwoth, the parish in which Rusco Castle, then one of his family residences, was situated, the eminent divine Samuel Rutherford, from whose ministrations the Viscount derived so much benefit, as is testified in the "Last and Heavenly Speeches and Glorious Departure of John, Viscount Kenmure, by Samuel Rutherford.” Lady Kenmure, sister to the celebrated Marquis of Argyle, who was beheaded in 1661, for his adherence to Presbyterian principles, is intimately known, through her epistolary correspondence with Samuel Rutherford, as being a lady "distinguished not more for goodness than for charity and munificence, its usual concomitants."

In the rebellion of 1715, William, the sixth Viscount, took such an active part that he lost his life and forfeited the title in the cause. He was very conspicuous as a loyalist in the great civil war; he commanded a party of horse, and it was looked upon as not the worst point of his military character, or rather discipline, that he constantly carried a large cask of brandy at the head of the corps for the use of his men; which cask, says an old historian, was well known to the whole army by the merry appellation of Kenmure's drum. Chambers’s Picture of Scotland, vol. i. p. 266.

The following letter from Prince Charles Edward to the Hon. John Gordon, seventh Viscount, who attended his father to the scaffold on Tower Hill, refers to the event, and shows the high estimation in which the family of Kenmure was held by the House of Stewart. It is copied from the original at Salton Hall: — “Holyrood House, October 7, 1745. The continued loyalty of your family, with your father's unhappy suffering in 1715, and the repeated assurances I have received from all hands of your zeal and attachment to my family, leaves me no room to doubt that you will take the first opportunity to appear in the cause of your king and country. Being determined to make no longer stay in these parts than to give time to some friends who are now on their way from the Highlands to join me, I judge it proper you may repair to the army with what men you can get together without delay, when you may be assured of meeting with particular marks of my favour and friendship."

In 1824 the dignities and title were restored by Act of Parliament in the person of Viscount William's grandson; who was succeeded by his nephew, Adam Gordon, a brave naval officer; and at his death, as eighth Viscount, in 1847, the title became extinct. The Hon. Mrs. Bellamy Gordon (sister and heiress of the late Viscount) still survives. She resides at the Castle.

New Galloway Railway Station is about six miles distant from the town. The road passes Kenmure Castle gate, runs near the margin of Loch Ken, and winds round the lofty Bennan hill, which, when clothed with wood, was one of the greatest ornaments of the romantic shores of Loch Ken. Many years ago an affecting incident took place on this lonely road, near to Lowran Hill, which forms the subject of a ballad by the Rev. William Gillespie. In a note to the ballad it is said "that a poor highland soldier, on his return to his native hills, fatigued, as it was supposed, by the length of the march, and the heat of the weather, sat down under the shade of a birch tree on this solitary road, and was found dead."

"From the climes of the sun, all war-worn and weary,
The highlander sped to his youthful abode;
Fair visions of home cheered the desert so dreary,
Tho' fierce was the noonbeam and steep was the road.

“Till spent with the march that still lengthened before him,
He stopped by the way in a sylvan retreat;
The light shady boughs of the birch tree waved o'er him,
The stream of the mountain fell soft at his feet.

“He sank to repose where the red heaths are blended,
One dream of his childhood his fancy passed o'er;
But his battles are fought, and his march it is ended,
The sound of the bagpipe shall wake him no more.

"No arm in the day of the conflict could wound him,
Though war launched her thunder in fury to kill,
Now the angel of death in the desert has found him,
And stretched him in peace by the stream of the hill.

“Pale autumn spreads o'er him the leaves of the forest,
The fays of the wild chant the dirge of his rest;
And thou little brook, still the sleeper deplores,
And moistenest the heath-bell that weeps on his breast."

From a point of this road one of the finest views of Kenmure Castle and the vale is to be obtained; but we now retrace our steps to New Galloway, and take the road for Balmaclellan, leading past Kenmure Bridge, where there is an excellent inn.