This rather pawky biography is taken from John Mactaggart's Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia published in 1824.


What a number of original characters has this Galloway, at one time and another bred; it is a perfect nest for them, not two of the country folks being found any way similar to other; nature so sports herself in the formation of them, that she moulds no pair alike. In towns she casts thousands with one "caum," but in a wild rural country, she uses a new caum at every cast, and what rude grotesque creatures she whiles will produce: one of these, to an eminent degree, was Barniewater.

He was of the name of Livingston, but was always named Barniewater, from a moor-farm, in the parish of Girthon, which he many a day was the tenant of. It was there where he made a considerable sum of money, and first presented his originality to the world. With this cash he purchased a little estate of the name of Grobdale, not far from the famous fountain of Lochenbrack, and there he died, a few years ago, a very old man. His hair hung down his back as white as a "lintstraik," and his eyes looked out from beneath his hat, in that sly shrewd manner which bespeaks no common intellect. — He was naturally very fond of money, so that some went the length to say, "his greed made him lift mair than his ain whiles." I am inclined to doubt this — for it is always the case when a person gets rich in a place where no others can, that he is branded with the epithet of being dishonest; now, it is true that Barniewater scraped a good deal of cash out of one of the most barren sterile places that can well be fancied — where only rocks, moss-hags, dints, garries, gall, and heather were to be seen — in a place where no animal of farm-stock kind could live; even the goat had much ado to exist on it in the heart of summer; yet for all, what will industry and care not overcome. When he went to a market or fair, for instance, he eluded those roads whereon were fixed toll-bars — he paid for no whisky — he was at no expence — he was always plotting the best method of evading it; so saved much in this little way, which many others did not .

In coming to Kirkcudbright, he was always pestered with the Tongueland toll-bar, in his way; but he left his horse before he came through it, and walked on foot to the town and back, though a walk of four miles, to save , two-pence — and this he did to the last of his days; old age could not alter his rigid economy. To behold him, mounted on his old shelty, was truely a laughable scene, the animal being always so lean — a perfect "rickle-o’- banes" and the saddle a goat-skin, by way of "suggan," with stirrups worn to mere skeletons in their way.

Before he got a wife, he rummaged the whole country in order to find one: wherever he heard of a woman being in the matrimonial market, there was he, and there did he treat with themselves or their parents about striking a bargain, as if they had been brute animals. Love was never felt nor spoke about — he would have said, "that he had the farm of Barniewater — his name was Livingston — ablins, they had heard o’ him — he had a gude deal o' sillar, sax or aught score o' gates, and about as mony black-faced sheep, and of course he expected that the wife wad bring him something equivalent."

Thus went he on for a long time, and all the girls of Galloway became acquainted with him, yet he found few willing to treat with him about a match: at length, he brought one so near the point of closing, that he would allow her five minutes to make up her mind whether she should have him for a husband or not. The short space of five minutes soon fled, and she agreed to wed Barniewater; she brought him something like an equivalency too, and a “ sonsy" daughter, as a "luckpenny" in a short time after—.

This daughter, being bred in a wild moorland region, where few of her kind she ever met with, except her strange parents, the lassie became extremely wild, ran like a hare, and hid, if she had seen any human being approach the house .

Her father was prevailed on by some person to send her to a boarding-school awhile, to get some education; he took her to Dumfries, for that purpose, and had much ado in leaving her behind him: she clung by his coat-tails, and "scraich’d" out as if she had been a creature from the shores of Nootka Sound, or some such out-of-the-way place, and at night she set up a horrible howling. Next morning, betimes, she took to her "scrapers," as the Irish phrase it, and skelped home in a crack, on the "light side of her foot," to Barniewater .

She was troubled no more with a boarding-school, or indeed any other kind of school but that of nature, and has turned out to be one of the cleverest females, both in mind and body, as is in the country: she could ride the wildest young horse that ever " lap" bare-backed, with nothing on its head but a "cowd hair halter;" this she would do not "saddle to side," as women ride, but ”leg on every," as the men do: and for working amongst sheep, there was not a herd so good in her neighbourhood; she would have brought the goats off Cairnsmoor too in grand stile, running up and down precipices as quick as them. But whether she "gather'd wide," as many thought her father did, it becomes not me to say. I have taken her father's part, that he was not in reality such a person as was suspected, and I shall stand by it, though report is flat against me, that the mark he knew his flocks by, was the mark of "rounstowing," that is, cutting off the ears altogether — that he flung his marches open to his neighbours' sheep, and when they came upon his land, he "rounstow'd" their ears, which was doing away with all other marks, and .so getting them to become his property .This character made him be disliked by his neighbours, and there were often serious broils between him and them. One of these affairs, with a farmer of the name of Clark, came before a court of justice, and can be found told at great length, in the Dumfries newspapers of that time : the law went against Barniewater, and he and his wife were put in gaol some time about it .

And my opinion is, that he was badly used in that concern. The affray took place on a Sunday afternoon, to be sure, which was not a right thing: but this Clark met him and his wife, taking a walk on that day, and insulted them with tales of  "rounstowing," which, no one could say was actually true, which stuff roused Barnie's wrath, and he and the wife gave the insolent fellow a laughable drubbing .

Barniewater was a creature of patience, perseverance, and good nature; he never keep'd company with those whom he termed "debush’d curses" but sober plodding souls, like himself, were his favourites. He had a custom, as all moor-farmers have, of throwing the bones they pick, over one of their shoulders to their dogs in waiting: he was taking his dinner somewhere, and behind him on the wall hang a looking-glass; he threw a bone smack over his shoulder, which sent the mirror to pieces. To pay the damages, pleased him ill, but he had to cash out, much against the inclination.

Such was a very rare being — was one writing a novel, he could be done some justice to; whereas, in short sketches of this kind, it is difficult to lay him so before strangers, that they may behold him as he was. To know a person well, one must hear him often speak — know how his pulse beats on various occasions — and so get glimpses, as it were, of the interior of the bosom — with some knowledge of what goes on in the pericranium.

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