Published in 1896 in the Transactions and journal of the proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, this is an excellent look at the parish and its history.

Troqueer in the Olden Time.

By J. G. Hamilton-Starke, M.A., F.S.A.

The annals of the parish of Troqueer are to be gathered chiefly from the memoirs of the Rev. Mr Blackader, who was ordained its minister in 1653; from the Kirk-session records, which begin in 1698; and from the "Old and New Statistical Accounts" written in 1791 by the Rev. Mr Ewart, and in 1844 by the Rev. Mr Thorburn, two of its parish ministers.

But these accounts are more or less fragmentary, and the fullest history of the parish appeared in the columns of the Dumfries and Galloway Courier during the months of July, August, and September, 1878, in which the old authorities were revised, the minutes of the Kirk-session carefully deciphered, and for the first time most of them published, together with full information up to that year upon almost every subject of public interest within the parish.

As these articles bore no name of the writer of them, I may now mention that they were written by me, so that no charge of plagiarism can be made if I weave a few of their details into this paper.

But I shall avoid details as much as possible, and give a general account more suited to the time and taste of our monthly meetings. In one important respect this paper is an original communication, inasmuch as I can now prove what was for long a mere theory of mine — viz., that in the olden time there was a village or kirktown called Troquire along the road leading to the Parish Church, and quite distinct from the Bridgend of Dumfries, now the populous burgh of Maxwelltown.

The first thing which strikes one is the peculiarity of the name of the parish, the spelling of which as at present dates only from a little before the beginning of this century. In a charter of the fourteenth century it is spelt Trogwayre, and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it is variously spelled, according to the ear of the writer Trequair, Trequier, and Troquire.

It has been suggested that the word may be derived from old French words trois choeurs, and mean the third of three choirs, of which Lincluden and Newabbey were the others. But the French language had scarcely any influence in this district, and if it had any, the words supposed would be unintelligible French applied to a church building. On this point Mr Cosmo Innes says — "From the names of places and persons in charters of the twelfth century in Galloway it appears the people were of Celtic or Gaelic race and language, which remained until the fifteenth or sixteenth century. It had its own laws of the Bretts and Scots, which King Edward in vain tried to abolish. The Normans had no secure footing, nor the court French of Queen Mary's time."

The learned Mr Chalmers in his "Caledonia " derives it from two old British words — tre, a small town or village, and gwyr (similar to the way I find it spelt in fourteenth century), the bend or turn of a river.

There is but one other town in Scotland of a similar sound and spelling, Traquair in Peeblesshire — a village situated beside a winding river called the Quair.

Here the river has been always called the Nith or Nid, but it certainly winds round this eastern boundary of the parish from near the church to Mavisgrove, a characteristic which caught the eye of Burns when one day thinking of Miss Phillis M'Murdo he composed the beautiful verses which begin, " Adown winding Nith I did wander."

I long thought over the matter, seeking for some other physical feature in the landscape which might better explain the latter syllable, until it occurred to me that it might be that other no less ancient British word caer, meaning a fort, and, if so, mean the fortified village or town. I had not far to look for some corroboration of this opinion, for here, close to the Parish Church, is that high circular mound called the Moat, which, whatever may have been the later uses to which it was put, has been recognised by antiquarians - including the learned author of "Caledonia " - as originally a British fort. It stands opposite the lofty, grim rock of Castledykes - once a castle of the Comyn family - both guarding against a hostile invasion from England the town of Dumfries and this side of the river. We have Caerlaverock, Cargen, Carruchan, Corbelly, all derived from caer a fort ; and so also, I believe, was this village Tre-Caer, now called Troqueer.

But you may accept either interpretation, as both follow the clue given by Chalmers that it is derived from old British words. The more important question is - Was there a village or town here in the olden time? To which I am able to give an unquestionable reply in the affirmative, and thus corroborate Mr Chalmers's opinion as to the derivation of the first syllable.

Many years ago I was told of, and in some instances saw, the foundations of old houses revealed when new buildings were being erected along the Troqueer road; and in 1878 I was agreeably surprised to discover in the Kirk-session records the name of a "village or toun of Troquire" in the direction towards the Parish Church. Subsequently I found it mentioned in title deeds of the 17th and 18th centuries, and quite recently in a charter of the 14th century. This explains why the Bridgend was always called "of Dumfries" - to mark it out as an adjunct of that town, though not subject to its legal jurisdiction. Into the Bridgend fled all outlaws from justice and those banished from the town of Dumfries.

These Kirk-session records tell how, 200 years ago, the church officer, or "bedle," as he is sometimes called, had to ring a handbell through the whole parish to announce burials, but if he only required to ring it in Bridgend and Troquire he received only a part of the fee for ringing it landwards.

13th Nov., 1698. — That the officer have 14 pence for the grave-making and ringing the bell at burials throughout the whole parish, except at the Bridgend and Troquire, which shall pay but
10 pence.

This hand-bell was rung through Troquire and Bridgend "each Sabbath morning when there is sermon as usual."

Then in 1716 it is called Troquier toun.

26th August, 1716. — The Session, understanding that William Edgar in Troquier toun did last Lord's day after sermon, at the church door and toun of Troquier, warn shearers in Brigend and toun of Troquier to repair to the Mains of Terregles to begin shearing on Monday and following days; and considering that this was no work of necessity, but a breach of the Lord's day, they appoint the officer to summon the said William Edgar to compear before them the next day of Session.

Then in 1754 here is an extract from a title deed for a small bit of land on the Troqueer road, which reveals a busy village or kirk town of which no vestige now remains, and the very description of it is in the names of places that are completely changed : — "Three roods of land called Clerk's Croft in parish of Troquire, near to the church of the said parish at the south end of the toun or village called Troquire, bounded betwixt the King's High Street going from the Brigend of Dumfries to the said kirk of Troquier, and on the south by lands called the Short Butts."

Here, then, along what is now called the Troqueer road was the old village of Troqueer, with its Short Butts near to the Moat hill for the practice of archery under old Scotch statutes, which required them to be set up in every parish near to the Parish Kirk. In the 18th century it would be as a mere pastime — to recall old times, "short butts" for the young, and "long butts'' for grown-up persons — and at a later period probably to practice musketry for more serious purposes than mere pastime.

Then there was the village green, still called the Pleasance. There was a place called the Bilbow, with a park, houses, barns and barnyards, where the villa of Ashbank now stands. It was a rural village or kirk town, with its population ploughing sowing, reaping, and also gathering the produce of their orchards and gardens. One may still have a faint glimpse of what it was by standing in summer within the Troqueer road entrance to Rotchell Park, and seeing the remains of old orchards and gardens in blossom fringing the rich agricultural lands which in gentle hill and valley trend towards Newabbey.

Lastly, it was not a village of mushroom growth, but a very ancient one, dating at least from the 14th century. Here is the translation of an extract from a charter granted by King David 2nd, dated a.d. 1365 : —

To Roger Wodyfeld all those tenements in the burgh of Dumfries, and 20 pounds worth of land (viginti libratum terrae), with one house in the town of Trogwayre, which Janet, daughter of Walter Moffat, and Richard Duchti, her husband, had mortgaged to the said Roger. (Rob., Index, p. 77).

Cosmo Innes says : — " The very ancient denominations of land from its value, librata, nummata denariata terrae, point at a valuation for some public purpose."

Having thus proved the existence of a very ancient village or small town of Troqueer, we corroborate the learned Chalmers in his derivation of the first syllable of its name. We also see the significance in ancient deeds of the Brigand being always called "of Dumfries ;" and in the populous nature of both places we find an explanation for the parish church having from time immemorial been situated at this north-east part of the parish.

Although this ancient village has disappeared, the locality has in modern times acquired fresh interest in its association with our national poet. Burns, who often traversed the Troqueer road to visit Mr Syme at Ryedale; Dr Maxwell at Troqueer Holm; or Mr Lewars, his superior officer in the Excise, who lived and, in 1826, died in that quaint small house called Ryedale Cottage.

It was on Mr Lewars's sister Jessy that Burns composed the beautiful song, "Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast?” concerning which Dr Chambers, in his biography of the poet, thus writes : —
"Many years after, when Burns had become a star in memory's galaxy, and Jessy Lewars was spending her quiet years of widowhood in a little parlour in Maxwelltown, the verses attracted the regard of Felix Mendelssohn, who married them to an air of exquisite pathos."

Two other houses Burns visited in the parish were Mavisgrove and Goldielea.

The minutes of the Kirk-session are extant with a few blank years — from 1698, and give a view of ecclesiastical affairs long fallen into desuetude. It used to exercise a very strict supervision over the congregation. The jurisdiction of these tribunals and of the local magistrate, and, indeed, in some matters of the Court of Session, were by Statute, 1593, co-ordinate, but the former had full powers in questions of the faith and of morals in the first instance.

We may in a general way classify the accusations, or "delations" as they were called, before the Kirk-session and Presbyteries by virtue of some Scotch Act of Parliament, as including all offences against religion or decency or the well-being of the community in general. These were enormous powers, some of them necessary in those days to preserve law and order, especially in landward parts where there was no local magistrate; but others of them were a meddlesome interference with the liberty of the subject, such as charges of cutting wood or kail, driving cattle, carrying water, or walking on the Dock Park of Dumfries during the hours of divine service!

In cases where members of the congregation were suspected of being Papists they were summoned, interrogated, and if a prima facie case were made out, it was reported to the Presbytery for further inquiry.

Here are a few of these charges, but for others I refer you to the Courier of 1878: —

Irregular Church Attendance.— June 11, 1699, — The Session considering that many persons in this parish attend only one diet of divine service, and go away home immediately after forenoon sermon, to the great disregard of the Gospel and offence of good persons, the Session orders that Church persons thus guilty shall be immediately cited to the Session and their pretences and excuses heard, which if found trivial and invalid shall be prosecuted as Sabbath-breakers and punished accordingly, and appoints intimation of this to be made on Sabbath first.

Cutting Wood on Sunday. — This day William Hannah makes report that on Monday last the Laird of Lag delivered to him 3 pounds 14 shillings for the use of the poor, being a part of a fine imposed on a man, Thomas Howat, for Sabbath breaking, being cutting wood the last Lord's day in this parish.

Walking on Fast Day. — March 31, 1701.— The quilk day John M'Kie being cited, called, and compearing, was interrogate if it was he that was walking in time of Dumfries sermon on the Dock in sight of this congregation with Nethertown and Dirleton; answered in the affirmative. Being interrogate if he went to Dumfries church that day, answered in the negative. And being questioned where he went, answered to Robert MacBrair's, and drank but one choppin of ale. Being interrogate if he sent his son that Fast Day with two horses to plough in Terregles, acknowledged he did, adding because there was no Fast kept there, it being a vacant congregation. Upon which he was removed; and the Session, considering his affair, finds him guilty of great contempt in not observing a day set apart for solemn fasting and humiliation. Wherefore the Session appoints the said M'Kie to be rebuked before the congregation on Sabbath next, and he being called in this was intimate to him; and, further, it is left upon the minister to acquaint the minister of Dumfries of Nethertown and Dirleton's offensive deportment.

7th June, 1716. — The thanksgiving day for extinguishing the rebellion.

Apostasy. — The Session taking into consideration the libel against Janet Hood, in Cargen, do find that by her own confession she hath absented herself from the worship of God upon the Lord's Day in her parish church or any other church for the space of one year and a half, and that her heart did not give her (as she speaks) to come to the worship of God for that space of time. And also that she was inclined and her heart did give her to the Popish or Roman Catholick religion, yea that she owned the Roman Catholick religion for her religion. Whereby it is apparent unto them that the said Janet is guilty of apostasy from the true Christian Reformed religion into the erroneous, idolatrous, and superstitious religion of the Romish Church. And this being a scandal of an atrocious nature, implying idolatry, heresie, errour, and schism, the Session understands that it is not proper for them to proceed any further in this process according to the form Assemb., 1707, number 11, chap. 6. Therefore they do refer the process unto the Reverend Presbytery of Dumfries that they may determine thereon as they shall find cause.

There was in every parish church of Scotland a conspicuous seat or post, called the stool or pillar of repentance, where delinquents had to appear generally for three successive Sabbaths before the congregation to have their sin proclaimed, and to be rebuked by the minister. The following extracts show that there was one for long in Troqueer Church: —

August 13, 1699. — Jean Waugh was this day rebuked before the congregation for profanation of the Sabbath by spinning.

Dec. 31, 1699. — This day appeared on the pillar Agnes Robeson for the third time, and offered to pay her penalty of four pound Scots, but in regard the money being not correct, being all found not weight, the Session orders her to pay it against next Lord's day.

Slander. — 26th August, 1716. — The Session find John M'Minn guilty of slandering and reproaching Margaret Sloan; and therefore, they do appoint the said John to stand in the publik place in the Church of Troqueir upon the 9th day of September next, being the Lord's day, and in the forenoon, to be rebuked by the minister.

Unchastity.— 2nd June, 1717. — Mary Conkie appeared this day before the congregation in the publick place, and was rebuked after the forenoon sermon, the evil of her sin was laid before her, and she was exhorted to repentance.

The Parish Church seems to have stood on its present site from time immemorial, and the tombstones over seven of its ministers since the Reformation, extending from 1690 to 1846, or a period of 156 years, are to be seen in the churchyard. I have been often asked if I can explain why the church is situated so far from the centre of the parish, but it was necessary to have it here to serve the populous villages of Brigend, Troquire, and Nethertown. Before the Reformation there would be chapels more inland for the landward population on large estates, and the large churches of Newabbey and of Lincluden at either end of the parish would attract those nearer to these edifices.

The learned Mr Chalmers says in regard to the Rev. Mr Ewart's account of his parish and church in "The Old Statistical Account" — "This minister, who knew nothing of the history of the parish, supposes that the church was a chapel of ease. But it appears to have been an independent church from its foundation, and a separate parish so far back as it can be traced."

In olden times the parish church belonged to the Abbot and Monks of Tongland, who enjoyed the rectorial tithes and revenue, while the cure was served by a vicar, who reported it at the period of the Reformation as worth £20 Scots yearly, exclusive of gifts and fines.

In 1588 it was granted for life to the commendator of Tongland, and on his death in 1613 it was transferred by Royal grant to the Bishop of Galloway. When Episcopacy was finally abolished it reverted back to the Crown.

You are aware that after the riots in Edinburgh caused by the reading of Laud's liturgy the General Assembly declared Episcopacy to be abolished, and in 1638 a National Covenant was signed with great enthusiasm throughout every parish in Scotland. So unanimous was this feeling in the parish of Troqueer in favour of the covenant that in 1640 the captain of its War Committee sent in the following report: — " Lancelot Grier of Dalskarthe, captain of the parochin of Troqueer, declares no cold or un-Covenanters within his bounds, except the Maxwells of Kirkconnell and the Herrieses of Mabie." This was an ancestor of the family called Grierson of Lag.

In 1653, when the Rev. Mr Blackader was ordained minister of the parish, he found that the teinds were claimed by the Earl of Nithsdale, as appears from the following letter of the Countess to Sir George Maxwell of Pollock, published in "Memoirs of the Pollock family" : —

Sir, — Since I cannot have the happiness to see you in this countrie, I must importune you by letters as one in whose wisdom and affection to myself and my son I remain most confident. My husband had a tack of the tenths of the Church of Troquere in Galloway from the College of Glasgow, whereof they be as yet some years' standing; and now, as I am informed, Mr John Blackader, present minister of the said church, is putting in to have the said tenth in his own hand. Therefore, I earnestly entreat, as you wish the good of my son, you will stop his proceedings herein, since my son is now for many years by-past in possession and willing to continue in pay for the said tenths as his predecessors hath been, and if anything else shall be requisite he shall submit to you therein. Thus, not doubting of your goodwill, I rest as ever,
Your faithful friend to serve you,
This 16 of February, 1654.

This letter, dated the year after Mr Blackader's unanimous induction, was the beginning of many troubles, as detailed in his published memoirs.

Soon after the Restoration, in 1660, a Royal edict ordered all parish ministers who had been ordained since 1649 to remove out of the bounds of their Presbytery; so, putting his children into "cadgers' creels" on either side of a horse, he went to Glencairn, where he held open-air conventicles among the hills.

The following is a vivid account of his last visit to Troqueer, probably the most memorable event that has occurred in the history of the parish: —

On several occasions he preached in Galloway, and in January, 1681, he visited Troqueer at the request of his old parishioners. He preached at Dalscairth to a vast assemblage, and the Laird of Dalscairth accompanied him to Lochmaben, and back again by Rockhall to Dalscairth, where he again preached on a green near the house. On his way back to Edinburgh he preached at Sundywell, in Dunscore. It was a time of deep snow, but the people set a chair for him, and pulling bunches of heather, sat on the moorside. Dalscairth accompanied him, and they were obliged to take the road at God's venture, the hills being loaded with snow. They shunned the pass of Enterkin, and went by Leadhills as safest. But the people seemed to waylay him, and flocked about him to baptise their children. After this he returned no more to the South.

In this same year he was apprehended in Edinburgh, and sentenced by the Privy Council to be imprisoned on the Bass Rock, where, after four years' cruel confinement, he died in 1685. His body was brought ashore and buried in the churchyard of North Berwick, where a handsome tombstone and long inscription mark his grave.

In the olden time the Griersons of Lag possessed large estates "betwixt the waters," i.e., the rivers Nith and Urr. In this parish they owned all the land south of the present Troqueer
road, including Ryedale and the Moat; to Nethertown and Dalscairth; and had a residence called Lag Hall, on or near to the site of the mansion-house of Mavisgrove, a little below which at the riverside is still in use for vessels a small quay called the Port of Laghall. In these days the house upon Troqueer Holm was called the Hall House.

Sir Robert Grierson, the "Redgauntlet" of Scott, who obtained unenviable notoriety for his persecution of the Covenanters, was made a baronet by King Charles II. in 1685, and died in 1733.

In these times land in the parish was described as within the regality of Lincluden, but regalities were abolished in 1746.

I heard the late Mr Pagan of Curriestanes, who was born in 1803, say that he had seen flogging at the cart's-tail through the streets of Dumfries, and a pillory in use in the Brigend.

But an older man was the late Mr Welsh, born in 1794, who told me he had seen the funeral of my wife's grandfather. General Goldie of Goldielea, in 1804, at Troqueer Churchyard. It had been impressed on his memory, he added, owing to the great attendance at it of all classes, and a grand gilt coffin.

In the early part of this century there were rumours of a French invasion, and a company of Volunteers was raised in the parish, colours to which were presented by Mrs Maxwell of Kirkconnell, and are still preserved there.

In 1859, on the occasion of similar fears, there were formed Ride corps throughout the Stewartry, among them the 5th or Maxwelltown corps, which I joined as ensign, and accompanied to Edinburgh in 1860 to a great review of over 20,000 Volunteers from all parts of Scotland by the Queen and Prince Consort. The arrangements were made by Colonel (afterwards General) Sir Montagu M'Murdo, of the family of Mavisgrove, and, with splendid weather and countless spectators in the Queen's Park, were a great success.

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