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The Wigtownshire Pages



TOUR OF THE RHINS OF GALLOWAY
Diana Henry
On 5th July, 2002 Meg Greenwood arrived in Stranraer by train from Glasgow a little late, so after checking in at the Fernlea Guest House in Lewis St. she could only spend an hour or so at the Stranraer Library, looking up the Free Press Index. Her hosts at Fernlea were a young, enthusiastic couple running a clean friendly establishment.

I had advised Meg of library hours, so we decided she would spend Saturday at the library and Registrar’s Office, and I would see her on the Sunday as all offices were then closed.

The day we had planned for so long finally dawned. It was fine, not a drop of rain fell that day. I arrived at 10.0 o'clock and we greeted each other as "old friends" although we had only "met" on the Wigtownshire List.

First, we had to move her luggage a few hundred yards to "A Bonny House" a B & B in Academy Street as Fernlea could not accommodate her for the extra night, which she had decided she would need in order to do everything she had planned.

I took her a short tour of Stranraer, pointing out various places and names that had been discussed on the SCT-Wigtownshire list. Leswalt High Road, High Kirk, Sheuchan Cemetery, Leswalt Road, The "Clay Hole" or Agnew Crescent to give it its proper name. She had been impressed the evening before with the High Speed ferry "H.S.S” which crosses to Larne, near Belfast in Northern Ireland, docking at the Harbour.

I wanted to show her one of the Old Kirkyards, so as an example I chose the one in Thistle Street, which is a narrow, one-way street, but easy for parking. The door is opened each day, but closed at night.

As time was precious we headed out of Stranraer on Stoneykirk Road next, passing "Clashmahews," Whiteleys, the "Corner House" turn off to Portpatrick, Kildrochat and Garthland. We paused at Caldons Hill to take some photographs. I hope hers came out better than mine, which unfortunately were not good enough to send to Leigh-Ann, but I am hoping to try again soon.

On then to Stoneykirk, how "famous" this little village has become over the past year. On entering the village you pass the new cemetery but we didn’t stop as Meg had no relatives there. The Old Kirk, which is now closed, stands empty surrounded on three sides by its ancient graves. It is surprisingly large for the size of the village. (The Stoneykirk and Kirkmadrine Memorial Inscription Booklet is published by D&G F.H.S. and the graveyard map it contains was drawn by Michael McDowall). We were grateful to all the volunteers who worked on this book and to Michael for his accurate map. Thanks to this we eventually found the grave that Meg was searching for. It had fallen over and so was difficult to spot, but fortunately, the right way up. Meg was delighted to have found her ancestors, and took a number of photographs.

Stoneykirk church (National grid ref. NX 089 533) was closed approx. 12 years ago because at that time the sum required to repair the roof was considered too great to be raised. This of course was very unpopular with the local people at that time. The beautiful organ, I believe, is still in situ as it was too difficult to remove. The congregation now attend the two remaining churches in the Parish of Stoneykirk; the new church in Sandhead, built in 1962, (the land was gifted by Miss Helen Stuart Weir, a London sculptress, and the church built with her support, provided it contained a bell) or Ardwell church, built 1902 by masons from Drummore who walked daily from there and home at night, a distance of approximately 6 miles.

Leaving Stoneykirk we called at Glen Cottage, the home of Meg's forebears. This cottage belongs to Ardwell Estate, and, as its name suggests, is situated in the Glen, where the Killaser Burn reaches the sea in sight of Ardwell village. The present residents were known to me, as Morris is the Webmaster for Ardwell Church Website. They very warmly welcomed Meg, and insisted she saw round the cottage. Of course many changes have been made in recent years, but I think she was able to get a reasonable idea of what it would have looked like in earlier times. More photos were taken, I hope they were successful.

Our journey continued on then to Drummore and Kirkmaiden Old Kirkyard. This sits on a hilltop approximately a mile from the village. We spent two busy hours searching for graves and Meg made several interesting "finds". It is a very beautiful and peaceful place, if a little chilly! where one can enjoy the views across Luce Bay to the Machars and the Galloway Hills. We ate a small picnic lunch, which I had brought, sitting beside the Kirk. It was only as we were leaving that we realised that the church was open, unusual in these times. We entered of course, and as Meg signed the visitor’s book and read some of the literature left there for visitors, some questions were raised about various aspects of the church. The church was built in 1638 and is called the Kirk Covenant. The McDouall family originally entered by their own door and sat, with their servants, behind a curtain, but eventually the gallery was added in 1690 on the North side and this is where they then sat, opposite the pulpit which is placed unusually at the centre of the south wall, rather than at the end of the church. The floor of the gallery slopes as in a theatre, allowing those at the back to see. The gallery was extended in 1885. In 1889 an harmonium, ("a kist o'whistles") was installed and an organist appointed to play for the hymns, before which a "precentor" had raised the tune. Many had resisted this new innovation.* Time did not permit to visit the Mull. There is a saying that 7 Kingdoms can be seen from there: "The Kingdoms of Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man, the Kingdom of Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven". (I am not so sure about seeing Wales!)

On leaving Kirkmaiden I chose to drive Meg to the village of Port Logan, on the west coast, the setting for the T.V. drama "2,000 Acres of Sky". There was no time to visit the famous "Fish Pond" which was used last century as a store pool for the fish used by the Laird of Logan House at his table. (A history of the South Rhins can be viewed on www.mull-of-galloway.co.uk )

On then past Logan Gardens, Logan Toll and back to Ardwell. I wanted Meg to see Ardwell Church and its restoration for the Centenary. We continued through Clachanmore to Kirkmadrine Churchyard, where the early Christian stones have been saved for posterity. The earliest burial in this kirkyard (apart from the Bishop’s)is 1723, for farmers from South CairnweIl farm which is adjacent to the Kirkyard. (The story of Kirkmadrine can be found on www.Ardwell-church.org.uk)

A quick run to Portpatrick, passing the Floats, Auchentibbert and Cairngarroch farms, names discussed on the List. As time was pressing, a short tour of Portpatrick was followed by a speedy journey back to Stranraer via Leswalt.

The saying goes that if you take home some currency of the country you have visited then you will return to it. I hope Meg still has a few Scottish pounds in her purse! Next day I received a rather anxious ‘phone call from Meg’s husband, I was able to reassure him that Meg was fine and on her way home to Oklahoma.
Diana Henry, 2002

* Thanks to Kirkmaiden Parish Church for this Information..