Castles of Kirkcudbrightshire

Kirkcudbright History Society’s second meeting of the autumn took place on Wednesday 11th October, when guest speaker Dr. Janet Brennan gave a thorough and inspiring talk on The Castles of Kirkcudbrightshire. Dr. Brennan is well placed to speak with authority on the subject, being the former  Chair of the Scottish Castles Association, a board member of Historic Environment Scotland, and the author of Scotland’s Castles: rescued, rebuilt and reoccupied. She and her husband are also well known locally for their commendable work, together with that of their architect, in the recent restoration of Barholm Castle from a state of ivy-clad ruin, to an impressive home.

The large and attentive audience was captivated by Janet’s enthusiasm for her subject and by the clear straightforward manner in which she presented it. Many people were surprised by the number and diversity of the castles described, but only a few were able to identify them all, despite Janet’s fine illustrations. Those illustrations consisted not only of photographs, but also of drawings and paintings, both historic and contemporary. Perhaps an upsurge in visitor numbers can now be anticipated in response to Janet’s descriptions of their nature and location.

The remarkable even distribution of castles throughout the Stewartry was illustrated, and they were then divided into the following categories: castles that are inhabited, castles whose owners are endeavouring to maintain them, castles that are in the care of responsible organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, castles that are ruinous, castles of which only earthworks survive, and castles that are at some risk of falling into serious dilapidation or collapse. Detailed descriptions of selected buildings were given, and the audience was particularly interested to see the ‘before and after’ pictures of Barholm Castle.

Janet dismissed, in the nicest possible way, an audience question about ghosts and the paranormal, choosing to concentrate on the practical aspects of patient research, restoration, masonry, lime mortar, and the need to employ tradesmen and women with the appropriate skills and experience. Dedicated castle restorers are not easily put off by bogles!

Janet in front of Barholm Castle

A vote of thanks was proposed by David R Collin, who congratulated Janet on her extensive research and her communication skills in conveying the fruits of it, so ably to her audience. David particularly thanked Janet for her mention of Barscobe tower and its recent history, which had reminded him of a long forgotten incident there: David’s mother had been invited to give a piano recital at Barscobe tower, by its owner Sir Hugh Wontner, who was then the Lord Mayor of London. When asked if there was any particular music he would like to hear, Sir Hugh replied that anything by Sir Arthur Sullivan might be appropriate, and so it was that David’s mother found herself giving a recital to Sir Hugh and his house guest, Bridget D’Oyly Carte!



Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP)

The opening event of the History Society’s 2017/08 programme was an interesting, and beautifully delivered, talk by Joana Valdez-Tullett from Historic Environment Scotland.

The audience arriving for the September meeting

Originally from Portugal, Joana studied for a PhD at Southampton University before joining Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP), which is hosted by Historic Environment Scotland and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with specialist inputs from the University of Edinburgh and Glasgow School of Art.


Rock art is arguably one of the most fascinating and enigmatic aspects of our past and Joana started with a wide ranging examination of prehistoric paintings and carvings extant across the world before concentrating on Scotland where there is limited awareness and understanding of rock art. The ScRAP project is a five-year programme which aims to correct this deficiency by working with local communities to record, research, and raise awareness of Scotland’s prehistoric rock carvings. Since its discovery in the 19th century, Scotland’s rock art has captured the imagination and led to many theories about when and why it was made, and who created it. These are challenging topics to which there are still very few answers.

Recent discovery by the Ross-shire Rock Art Project


Joana explained that the aim of the project is to make a detailed and consistent record of around 2000 known carvings using a text-based recording form, conventional photography and 3-D photography as well as adding details of any previously ‘undiscovered’ rock art. The recording methods will build on previous experience in similar projects, and on the expertise of specialist staff. The information will be used for research during the project, and will be publicly accessible for future study, education and public awareness.

As Joana highlighted, community involvement lies at the heart of ScRAP, and the project is now recruiting people with an interest in rock art or archaeology who might like to help. Everyone and anyone with an interest in rock art or the historic landscape can be involved. There are many different ways in which to participate, such as archival research, fieldwork to locate and record known sites or look for new sites, photography and 3D photography (photogrammetry), analysis of the records, stone carving workshops to make replica rock art, discussions on what rock art means to different people, and get-togethers to share results and ideas.

Participants can do as much or as little as they want, depending on their interests.

Training session

The project team will provide expert training, guidance and support, so no previous experience is necessary. For an insight into what is involved the North of Scotland Archaeology Society, which is already involved in the project, has produced a very useful blog to be found at:…/scotlands-rock-art-project-scrap-progress-so-far/

Although their website is still being developed, for more information, the project team can be contacted at

The Scottish Local History Forum – Clish- Clash, Issue 23

The latest copy has now been received and can be opened at this link. Then click on PDF version .

This issue contains information from a variety of Scottish Societies including walks, exhibitions and talks.

The Annual Conference is being held in Perth on Friday 27th October.

The Wee Fair in Kirkcudbright Harbour Square. Over the years many fun fairs have been held here.

The theme this year will be “Fairs, Fêtes and Festivals”.

Book on line or find more on the link below.

Kirkcudbright and Passchendaele

The following men gave their lives fighting at Passchendaele in 1917.

The information is taken from Ian Devlin’s book “We will remember them”, with his kind permission. **

Private S J Miller

Royal Scots

Sydney John Miller, from Union Street, Kirkcudbright, joined the Royal Scots in August 1914. He served on the Western Front, taking part in most of the major battles of the war, including the Battles of Loos and the Somme, where he was wounded. Sydney was killed on 20th September 1917.

Private Henry Hogg

Royal Scots Fusiliers

Private Henry Hogg

“Harry” Hogg was from Upper Senwick, Borgue. Although he is mentioned as being in the Fusiliers, he enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders in June 1915.

After seeing action in many areas of the Western front, Harry was severely wounded in August 1917. A letter to his parents, said he was in a South African Hospital in Abbeville. Henry never recovered from his wounds and died in Abbeville on 16th October 1917.

Private Charles McMillan

Private Charles McMillan

Kings Own Scottish Borderers

Charles, from High Street, Kirkcudbright, a farm worker, was a Volunteer in the local Territorial Regiment.

Aged 17, he was mobilised on the outbreak of war on 4th August 1914 and sent to Gallipoli where he was wounded and invalided home in 1915. In April 1917, a fully recovered Charles was transferred to the Black Watch and sent to the Western Front where he fell on the first day of the Passchendaele offensive on 31st July, aged 20.

Private Henry McEwen

Border Regiment

Henry, from Townend, Kirkcudbright was the son of a forester on St Mary’s Isle Estate. In 1908, on leaving school at the age of 14, having a musical talent, he enrolled as a bandsman in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. In 1910, he enlisted in the Regular Army.

Private Henry McEwan

On the outbreak of war he was mobilised on 4th August 1914 and sent to the Continent as part of the British Expeditionary Army as a stretcher bearer . In March 1915, he was invalided to Chelsea Hospital, having suffered a bullet wound in his leg at Neuve Chapelle. He returned to the front in May 1915.

During the course of the battle at Passchendaele on 5th October, he was seen to fall wounded and was reported as missing. In August 1918, he was officially pronounced dead.


** “We will remember them” by Ian Devlin is available from The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright.

Graeme Cavers new book will be published in October. Information about it, including purchasing details, can be found below.

A Lake Dwelling in its Landscape presents the full results of excavations at an important, short-lived crannog site of the 5th century at Cults Loch, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland and explores both the relationship between the crannog and its social and physical landscape and the wider role and function of crannogs.

Until one month after its publication, the book is available from Oxbow Books at the special price of £22.50. The book can be pre-ordered at, by emailing, or over the phone on +44 (0)1226 734350.”

Flier to pre-order A Lake Dwelling in its Landscape

Scottish Local History Forum- Clish- Clash, Issue 23

The latest copy has been issued and can be found at the following link

This issue contains information from various Scottish Societies including talks, walks, exhibitions and websites. For example, the following link is to images from Aberdeen Central Library which celebrates its 150th centenary in July this year.

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