Carsphairn Community Website

Hills

Local History

Carsphairn parish is rich in local history and legends. We have our very own Heritage Centre which is open seasonally.

In a field behind the village is a large boulder and legend has it that when the Parish of Carsphairn was formed in 1640 and a church was built, the Devil was so upset that he hurled a rock from the top of nearby Cairnsmore at the church, but he missed!


Just outside the village, before the bridge, on the right, is a track which leads to the Green Well of Scotland. This is the site of several legends; one is that a pot of gold was stolen form Lagwyne Castle and the thief threw it into the well, and another is that a man who had collected gold dust from the Gold Wells of Cairnsmore and converted it into coins, threw the coins into the well when officers of the crown came to see him. A gold coin has actually been found there!

There is evidence that that the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Evidence of Neolithic inhabitants has been found in several Long Chambered Cairns in the area, all built to a similar pattern and usually sited in an east/west alignment.


Holm of Daltallachan

The parish is drained by two streams, Carsphairn Burn and the River Deugh which join each other near the parish church. The land is chiefly hilly, but almost in the centre of the parish there is an extensive plain which commences near the junction of the streams and extends northward for a distance of two miles, to the Holm of Daltallachan. This was most certainly the bed of an ancient lake.

On the Holm itself there is a stone circle, and on the banks of the ancient lake, a mile to the east, is the Cairn of Lagwine; half a mile on the north are the remains of the Cairn of Daltallachan, and within a mile and a half to the southwest lies the Cairn of Avel. Around 1844, amidst the Cairns were discovered stones in the form of coffins which contained human bones. One of the largest cairns in the area is to be found on the land at Holm of Daltallachan standing on the bank above the Holm.

It has now almost entirely disappeared and sadly only a few stones survive, the rest having been gradually removed over the years for the purpose of building dry stone dykes and sheepfolds. When the lower strata were taken away in about 1850, there was found at the bottom of the Cairn a Stone with an Incised Cross. About 1850, one of the stones was taken to the adjoining farm of Garryhorn, and it now stands in the shrubbery in front of the house.


Lagwine Cairn

The Lagwine Cairn stands to the east of the remains of the old mansion house of Lagwine. This is the only house in the parish of Carsphairn with any claim to antiquity dating back to the 18th Century. The house was approached by a fine avenue of trees and it is reputed to be the birthplace of Sir Loudon Macadam, the celebrated road engineer. The Lagwine Cairn is formed of small stones surrounded by water. The Cairn is circular and can still be made out without difficulty, but a large portion of the material has been removed for building purposes. The Cairn measures 363 feet in circumference and its height is now about 20 feet.


Cairn Avel

The situation of Cairn Avel is the nearest of the three Cairns to the village of Carsphairn, and is nearly intact. Stones which had been removed laid on the north-west part of the circle, and the height of the Cairn appears not to have been altered. It is an irregular circle, 236 feet in circumference, with a height of fully 20 feet. Although made of a simple construction the effect of this piled up mass of stones rising on a lonely hillside is singularly impressive. It may be mentioned that while the Cairns of Daltallachan and Lagwine take their names from the farms on which they stand, the Cairn of Avel gives its name to the farm which is called Cairn Avel.

Large stones forming a circle can be found on Cairn Avel farm. The circle stands upon the northern end of the Holm of Daltallachan and it consists of thirteen stones, all in a horizontal position although they most probably were not set up like that originally.

They are all of the Silurian rock of the district; two of them contain pebbles and crystals of quartz. The circle measures 67 feet 6 inches in length by 54 feet in breadth. On the north the stones lie in pretty regular order, standing about 4 and 5 yards apart; on the south side two of the stones now lie close together; the two largest stones lie on the east and west sides; the stone on the east side is 6 feet in length, that on the west side is 7 feet long.

On several of the stones there are holes which may be cup markings, but were more probably formed by the dropping out of pebbles. It marks a place of tribal assembly and religious rites long before the birth of Christ. Cairns, ring-forts and mottes stress how strongly defended the pass and its surrounding district has been over the centuries.


Beaker People

The Bronze Age arrival in South West Scotland was peaceful and the people, often referred to as "Beaker People" because they used pottery utensils, were hunters, herdsmen and farmers who crossed the North Sea around 2,300 BC. They may have continued using the Neolithic burial sites as a Bronze Age dagger was found at Stroanfreggan Cairn and Brownhill Chambered Cairn is a classic Bronze Age site.

Hill forts and circular farm houses identify Iron Age inhabitation with Stroanfreggan identified so far as the only inland hill fort in Kirkcudbrightshire as all the rest have been sited no more than six miles from the coast. *To date, there is no evidence of Roman settlement in the area.

Dumfries and galloway has 286 hillforts, dating from the Iron Age.

Once thought to be defensive structures, new discoveries indicate that they were communal meeting places for surrounding farmsteads.

The Atlas of Hillforts shows there was a hillfort near Carminnows, on the banks of the Deugh.

From their website:

"Summary: In 1978 only a fragment of the defences of this promontory work was still visible at the edge of the Kendoon Reservoir, comprising some 50m of the NW side.

When first noted and sketch-planned by Frederick Coles, it was relatively undisturbed, comprising three ramparts with external ditches, which formed an angular belt some 24m deep blocking access to the promontory from the N. Bounded elsewhere by a steep drop down to the Water of Deugh, the interior measured about 54m from NW to SE by 45m transversely (0.24ha).

Coles suggested that there was an entrance on the NE, denoted by a vagueness in the depiction on his plan but contradicted by the way he carries the outermost rampart across the gap; RCAHMS also follow this line, though the site had evidently suffered considerably more damage by this time, and this feature was unrecognisable by the time of Gordon Childe's excavations in 1935.

Childe dug at least five trenches, mainly concentrating on the defences, but also attempting to identify structures in the interior. Unfortunately he does not provide an overall plan to support his confusing account.

Nevertheless, the innermost rampart, which where best preserved stood to a height of 2m above the adjacent ditch, was shown to have measured up to 2.4m in thickness and its faces still stood 0.9m in height. He seems to have struggled to identify the cuts of the ditches between any of the ramparts, though one of the outer ditches measured 1.8m in breadth by 0.6m in depth.

In one section he found that the middle rampart was retained by a kerb of stones set on edge in the subsoil, a curious description, but one perhaps indicating the packing of timbers in a foundation trench. He failed to identify any traces of structures within the interior, but seems to have encountered a hearth in the hollow between two of the ramparts.

References: Childe, V G (1936b) '(1) Carminnow Fort; (2) Supplementary excavations at the vitrified fort of Finavon, Angus; and (3) some Bronze Age vessels from Angus', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 70, Page(s): 341-56 Coles, F R 1892 'The Motes, Forts, and Doons of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire. (Part II)' Proc Soc Antiq Scot 26, 117-70 RCAHMS (1914) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Fifth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in Galloway, II, county of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Edinburgh"


The 1500s

Polmaddy was a ferm-toun or farming vilage, with records dating back to 1505. The Forestry Commission now own the land and have preserved the remains for visitors.

From their website:

"In a clearing at Castlemaddy Woods, you can explore the remains of Polmaddy, a traditional Galloway ferm-toun, (farming village). Changes in farming during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the abandonment of many such small farm villages in this area.

By the 19th century, the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (published in 1853) records Polmaddy as in ruins.

The earliest known records date Polmaddy to the 16th century. In 1505, William McClelland, Laird of Bomby, owned it. King James IV gave Polmaddy to James Hepburn in 1511. By 1541, however, it had returned to the McClelland family; recorded in the will of Thomas McClelland, William's grandson.

In the 1700s, landlords began to make changes to the way they used the land. They were looking to modernise and so introduced new agricultural machinery and farming practices. Called improvements, these changes aimed to increase productivity and make more profit.

The General Inclosure Act of 1801 allowed landlords to join the land of the small tenant farmers to make larger cattle or sheep farms. This was another element of the improvements. It meant often evicting the small scale tenant farmers, such as those living at Polmaddy.

The situation leading to Polmaddy's abandonment in the early 1800s is unknown. It is more than likely, however, that it was a victim of the improvements.


In 1971, the Forestry Commission (FC) bought the land where Polmaddy stood. A local, (Mr Ansell), informed the FC of the presence of the ferm-toun. The Commission decided to protect the well-preserved remains and make it accessible to the public.

A survey of the site and a small scale excavation informed the plans to protect it. The fieldwork identified a variety of structures including several houses and byres. A byre would have held animals or crops.

Unusually, four houses are grouped together, two semi-detached houses on either side of a small street. There were six corn-drying kilns on the site. These would have dried the crops brought in from the fields, farmed in the surrounding area. The corn would then have gone to the mill.

The mill was water-powered. The water was carried down from the nearby Polmaddy burn to the mill pond. This was done via a wide, stone lined channel, called a lade. The sluice gate controlled the supply of water stored at the mill pond. Opening the gate allowed water to run to the mill, turning the waterwheel, which then turned a large grinding stone that ground the grain.


Investigate the remains of Polmaddy ferm-toun and you will discover one building slightly larger than the others. This is the old mill, connected through local legend to the outlaw king Robert the Bruce. In 1307, during the Scottish Wars of Independence against the English, Robert hid in the hills of Galloway. Legend says that he took refuge at the miller's house in Polmaddy before his victory against the English at Glentrool. Later, when he was king of Scotland, he rewarded the miller by giving him the ownership of the mill.

The earliest historic reference to a mill at Polmaddy is over three hundred years later. It is marked on Pont's map published in 1654. Esther Mackormack of Barlae had the rights to the mill in 1697.

Tenant farmers were thirled, meaning legally bound, to have their grain ground into meal at the local mill. They had to pay a portion of the grain for the privilege. This was often not popular. One of the types of crops the farmers grew was bere barley, frequently used to make ale. Unusually for a small 'ferm toun', Polmaddy had its own inn, called Netherward. Located on the main road from Kirkcudbright to Ayr, it was a place for weary travellers to get some refreshment."


The 1600s

The history of the village can be traced back to at least 1635, when Charles I granted a charter to Robert Grierson of Lag, making the Kirktoun of Carsphairn into a Burgh.

In 1671 the charter was renewed by Charles II and Carsphairn was entitled to elect bailies, build a tolbooth, erect a cross, create burgesses, have a weekly market, and have two annual fairs. It is possible that the current day Show is a relic of the charter.

The local area around Carsphairn and other nearby villages have contributed much to the history of Scotland and no more so than amongst the Covenanters during the period of the Restoration (1660) and the Revolution of 1688/9.

The natural layout of the countryside provided an ideal refuge for the Covenanters who were hounded by the Government dragoons. At this time, there were dragoons billeted in the Glenkens who were totally unsympathetic towards the locals.

When Charles 1 came to the throne in 1625, he was determined to carry on the work of his father, James. Charles proposed bringing the Scottish Church into line with that of England, an extremely controversial move which provoked outrage north of the border.

He planned to introduce the 'Book of Common Prayer' into the Scottish Church service but this took some time to plan and it was not until 23rd July 1637 that the new liturgy, which many Scots believed to be more Catholic than Protestant, was ordered to be read in the Church of St. Giles in Edinburgh.

On 28th February 1638 the 'National Covenant' was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland, backed by the nobility and gentry which was in opposition to the new book of prayer.

In 1643 Charles was ousted from the throne by the English parliamentarians during a bloody Civil War and Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector. One of his first tasks was to execute the King who was promptly beheaded. The English Parliamentarians agreed that Presbyterianism be adopted as the national religion throughout England and Scotland as they were anxious to have the Scots allied against the still dangerous forces of the Crown.

The Covenanters therefore sided with Cromwell and a period of stability ensued. The treaty between the two was called the "Solemn League and Covenant" which was essentially a marriage of convenience.

Scotland was now under English rule and the Church of Scotland enjoyed a time of spiritual prosperity. Cromwell was supreme lord of a united Britain which was now a conquered country living under an army of occupation.� However it was to be short-lived as Cromwell died in 1658 and in May 1660 Charles' son, Charles II was fully restored to the�throne.

He soon passed an act which enforced the people to recognise him as the supreme authority in both Civil and Ecclesiastical matters. The Church of Scotland rejected this and was thrown into persecution for 28 long years until 1688.

In 1661 the National Covenant was rejected by Charles II. The following year the Covenant was torn up and Charles' own Bishops and curates were appointed to govern the Churches and 400 non-conforming ministers were ejected from their parishes.

At first the authorities tolerated them preaching in houses, barns or the open-air (conventicles), but it was soon realised that the people's resolve was such that they would not attend the government-appointed Episcopal minister's services.

The first attempt at limiting attendance at these conventicles was made in 1663 and by 1670 attendance became treasonable and preaching at them, a capital offence. By 1666 the persecution by soldiers who were given lists of the names of the non-attendees by the curates, was so bad that the country became increasingly restless.

On the 13th November 1666, four Covenanters arrived in Dalry seeking food and shelter. The dragoons attacked an old man for non-attendance at Church and threatened to strip him and set him on a red-hot gridiron. A skirmish broke out between the dragoons and Covenanters which ended up with one of the dragoons being shot and killed and others were injured.

This was the start of the Pentland Rising and the ill-equipped Covenanters thinking they had nothing to lose, marched towards Dumfries during which time, many sympathisers joined their ranks. They expected reinforcements to join them, but they never arrived and the expedition ended in disaster at Rullion Green near Edinburgh.

The exhausted Covenanters were ultimately defeated when an army of 3,000 led by General Tam Dalyell routed the inadequate band of 900 protestors. 100 were killed on the battlefield and 120 taken prisoner and marched to Edinburgh and charged with treason and rebellion. It is estimated that a further 300 Covenanters escaped, but died or were slain on their way home.

The captured Covenanters were crowded into part of the High Kirk in Edinburgh known as 'Haddock's Hole'. They were brought before the Justiciary Court and on December 7th 1666 they were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. As many as ten at a time were despatched on one scaffold, dismembered and the pieces exhibited in the Covenanter's own locality as a warning.�After this defeat, 20 people in Carsphairn and 27 in Dalry were declared rebels.

On 13th August 1670 the government declared that conventicles, or meetings in the fields were illegal and it was a capital offence to attend these. The authorities were concerned that these were becoming a hot-bed of revolutionary ideas. The vast outdoor assemblies were being thrilled by the preacher's words of fiery defiance and doom-laden prophecy.

However the Presbyterians defied them and held secret religious meetings in the hills, usually with a circle of lookouts, often armed, posted around the site to watch for approaching dragoons. There were many bloody skirmishes amongst the bare lowland landscape. This was a time of legends, of the soldier's fun in throwing women in pits full of snakes, of men hanged on their own door lintels.

All conventicles were to be broken up and any land owner who refused to help could be fined; instead of turning master against man however, it forged links of shared suffering. Secret conventicles were attended by up to thousands of people at only a few hours notice, with mass marriages being carried out with a rock as an altar and baptisms performed in small streams.

Followers of the Covenant were willing to risk the fines and sentences in order to hear the preachers. Often the conventicle was infiltrated by a few non-adherents who slipped off early to inform the authorities. The Covenanters had to be highly vigilant as the threat of armed intervention was ever present. The participants were most likely to be captured or executed, usually on their way to and from conventicles.

The fact that they were away from home and probably had a Bible in their possession was enough for the authorities to justify fining or executing them, often killing them where they stood.

Robert Stewart, son of Major Robert Stewart of Ardoch and John Grierson were in the party of Covenanters that was overtaken by Graham of Claverhouse and his dragoons at Auchencloy on 18 December 1684. Two days previously they had forced an entry into Kirkcudbright Tolbooth and released the Covenanters held there, during which a guard was killed.

One week earlier they had taken part in the murder of the curate of Carsphairn. Claverhouse pursued the men to the Black Water of Dee where a skirmish took place. 'Black' James MacMichael and Robert Ferguson were killed alongside them. The bodies of Stewart and Grierson were taken to Dalry for burial, but their corpses were later exhumed and reburied on the northernmost corner of the kirkyard, a place usually kept for thieves or other malcontents.


Details of Covenanter Memorials in Carsphairn Parish can be found here.


The 1700s

The ruin of Lagwyne Mansion is just outside the village. This was the childhood home of John Loudon McAdam (September 21, 1756 - November 26, 1836).

He was born in Ayr, Scotland but moved to Carsphairn shortly thereafter. McAdam was the youngest of ten children and second son of the Baron of Waterhead. The family name had traditionally been McGregor, but was changed to McAdam (claiming descent from the Biblical Adam) for political reasons in James I's reign. Unfortunately Lagwyne Mansion caught fire when McAdam was 6 years old and he was nearly killed.

McAdam was a Scottish engineer and road builder, inventing a new process, "macadamisation" or tarmac for building roads with a smooth hard surface that would be more durable and less muddy than soil-based tracks. He moved to New York in 1770 and, as a merchant and prize agent during the American Revolution, made his fortune working at his uncle's counting house. He returned to Scotland in 1783 and purchased an estate at Sauchrie, Ayrshire.

The macadam method spread very quickly across the world. The first macadam road in North America, the National Road, was completed in the 1830s and most of the main roads in Europe were macadamized by the end of the nineteenth century.

McAdam died in Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland and there is a memorial to him in the Carsphairn church. One of McAdam's descendants was the World War Two general, Sir Richard McCreery. His mother was Emilia McAdam, a direct descendant of the engineer.


James McAdam of Waterhead

James McAdam of Waterhead (c.1716-1770), father of John Loudon McAdam, built Lagwine (also 'Lagwyne') 'castle' at Carsphairn.

Waterhead was a mean dwelling.�It was also very remote, lying about 3� miles north of Carsphairn beside the Water of Deugh.� McAdam's new house of Lagwine, just over half a mile from Carsphairn Church and on the rutted unmade road from Dalmellington, appeared first in the WTR in Martinmas 1754 to Whitsunday 1755.

It was recorded as having 13 windows and being 'not finished'.�In subsequent periods it was 'not inhabited'.�McAdam was not liable for tax there until Whitsunday to Martinmas 1757.

From May 1755 until Whitsunday 1757, when he occupied Lagwine, McAdam could have been residing at Waterhead, and not troubling the tax records.

McAdam continued paying house tax on Lagwine until Whitsunday 1763, following which it disappeared from the records, having been destroyed by fire in December 1762. Neither a single paper nor piece of furniture could be saved from the flames. It must have been an horrific fire as with great difficulty the children's lives were preserved by their leaping naked out of windows two storeys high.� While still in the cradle, John Loudon McAdam's parents left him at their house of Lagwyne, parish of Carsphairn, while they visited Edinburgh. In charge of his elder sisters and the little boy was a nurse.� During a winter night, flames grew so fast that the family had to seek refuge (some of them in their night-dresses), on the bleak hill side which was covered with snow.� While they stood helplessly gazing at their house enveloped in smoke and flames, they suddenly realised with horror that the little one in the cradle had been forgotten.�The nurse's carelessness had been the cause of the fire and in her despair she rushed back into the house and at considerable risk to herself, saved the boy from the flames.� The homeless wanderers, carrying Loudon in their arms, had to tramp over half a mile of dreary terrain made more desolate by snow and darkness.�After a weary trudge and much suffering they reached the manse in Carsphairn, where they were offered hospitality by the minister. McAdam did not rebuild Lagwine, and his whereabouts for over a year until Whitsunday 1764 are not recorded.�

The body of Sir Loudon is interred at Moffat, but the family tomb is in the churchyard of Carsphairn.


Window Tax

A window could be discounted for tax only if it were 'stopped up', which required it to be filled with stone or brick, or plaster or lath, or with the same materials as on the outside of the house.�Just a year after entering his new 'castle' at Carsphairn, McAdam had taken steps to reduce its size or to stop up 5 of its windows.�It might have been speculated that the elimination of windows at Lagwine, thus reducing the tax liability, was an economy measure.�His reputation however, and the grand houses he occupied in Ochiltree and Straiton, suggest that there may have been another cause.

Window tax was first levied in Scotland under an Act of 1746 for taxation of 'Houses, Windows or Lights'. The annual charge on a house with 10 to 14 windows was 6d (2�p) for every window; with 15 to 10 windows it was 9d (about 4p); and with more than 20 windows it was 1s (5p).�Thus for 14 windows the tax due was 14�x�6d or 7s (35p); for 15 windows it was 15�x�9d or 11s�3d (60p).� Where there were fewer than 10 windows a house tax of 2s (10p) was payable, but houses in Scotland were exempt.� In 1757 this exemption was restricted to houses with no more than 5 windows or lights, and house tax was reduced to 1s (5p); houses with 6, 7, 8, or 9 windows were liable to house tax of 1s (5p).�However in 1761 window tax was extended to houses with 7, 8, or 9 windows: up to 5 windows no tax was payable. with 6 windows house tax of 1s (5p) was payable; and with 7 or more windows, window tax.� An act of 1778 exempted houses worth less than £5 a year, or £10 in the case of farmhouses.�The charging periods appear in some cases as Whitsunday (15th May) to Martinmas (11th November) and Martinmas to Whitsunday, in others as May to November and November to May.� At other times a period of a year is recorded, Whitsunday to Whitsunday or May to May.


Carsphairn Parish Churchyard is the burial place Gilbert McAdam of Waterhead who was shot by Kings troops near Kirkmichael in 1682.


The 1800s

The Church, built in 1815, contains one of the few central communion tables in Scotland.


In the Churchyard is the burial enclosure of the Macadam's of Waterhead and the headstone of the Covenanting martyr Rodger Dunn (d.1689).

The present school was built in 1823 and records show that Latin, Greek, French and Arithmetic were taught there in 1848.

Lead was mined at Woodhead by the proprietor, Col M Cathcart, between 1840 and 1873. A large 'model' village, whose population became about 300, was built with a school and schoolhouse.

The mine was started in 1839 and by 1850 there were 50 houses and a population of over 300. There was a library, a school and a church.

The school was built around 1843 and in 1851 there were 49 children on the roll and 2 teachers. Children as young as 11 or 12 were employed as leadwashers. The church was built in 1844 but closed in 1867. Mining stopped in 1873 and the village began to empty, the last house being vacated in 1954.

The most modern smelting and crushing equipment was installed. Lead has been mined since prehistory but the main period of production was during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Most of the mines were leased by local landowners to mining companies with the money and technical knowledge to work them successfully. A fall in the world price of lead in the 1870s forced many local mines to close.

Lead ore is found in vertical veins, often with other minerals like quartz. It was worked by digging shafts and levels - horizontal tunnels - onto the vein and extracting the lead in a series of chambers known as stopes. Water was a constant problem. Sometimes a mine could be drained by driving a tunnel or adit from a nearby valley. At other mines a pumping engine had to be installed and many of the local mines were able to use waterwheels and other types of water-powered engines to drain the workings.

Once the lead ore had been taken to the surface it was crushed and washed to separate the lead from the waste. It was then smelted into ingots or pigs of pure metallic lead. At Woodhead the lead was smelted on site.

The lead mine at Woodhead was one of several mines to open across the region from the late 18th to the mid 19th Centuries. The lead mines of Dumfries and Galloway were the source of almost all Scottish lead production.

When the mine was closed, the shafts were fenced off and used as rubbish tips. The depopulated houses are now ruinous. The Scheduled remains include: a lead smelter; lade systems; dressing floors; shafts; and a deserted mining village incorporating miners' cottages, garden plots, school library and administration building. Earlier settlement remains in the form of buildings and property boundaries are also present.

A survey confirmed that Woodhead Mine has undergone significant alteration at its core, with the removal of a great deal of mine spoil for track building. The structural elements are in a poor state of preservation, the worst being the smelter chimneys and the remains of the school. Other features, such as shafts and adits, were found to be in a generally good condition.


More information about Woodhead Mine can be found here.

"The name of the parish, which is frequently written Carsefern, is probably derived from carse and fern, as the plain on which the church is situated, was, at the time of the first erection of the church, no doubt covered with fern...

The parish is situated on the sloping side of that mountainous ridge which separates Kirkcudbright from Ayr, and has a southern exposure.

On the north (Ayrshire) it is bounded by the parishes of Dalmellington and New Cumnock; on the east, by the parish of, St John Dalry; on the south, by Kells; and on the west and southwest, by the parishes of Straiton and Minnigaff.

The figure of the parish is nearly circular. It extends from north-west to south-east about ten miles, and from north-east to south-west about 9 miles, and contains about 88 square miles....

Surface draining has been carried on for several years to a considerable extent, and has in many cases considerably improved the sheep walks, but the general appearance of the country is but little changed. It would be unjust, however, to say that no improvement has been made in agriculture. Several farmers have laid a considerable quanity of lime upon those parts of their farms most suitable for ploughing, and have, in return, frequently had excellent crops...

The flocks may be considered to have been improved in quality rather than increased in number, since the time when Mr. Smith wrote the former account of the parish. He states the number of sheep to be at that time about 30,000, which may be nearly the average number at present...


Miscellaneous Observations - ...Since the preceding pages were written in 1839, Carspairn has undergone a wonderful change, chiefly on account of the mining operations carried on within the parish. Since the operations commenced, the population has nearly doubled.

In that part of the parish in which lead was discovered, and in the bosom of a remote mountain, where the silence of nature was seldom broken, unless by the barking of the shepherd's dog, or the call of the shepherd, there is now a scene of industry and activity, which requires to be witnessed in order to be understood; and which cannot be contemplated without astonishment..."

"CARSPHAIRN, a parish, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 12 miles (N. W. by N.) from New Galloway ; containing 790 inhabitants, of whom 103 are in the village. This place, which was separated from the parishes of Kells and Dairy in 1627, is supposed to have derived its name from the erection of the church and village on a small level plain, at that time overgrown with fern.

The parish is bounded on the east by the river Ken, and on the north and west by Loch Doon and the county of Ayr ; it is nearly circular in form, about ten miles in length, and nearly nine in breadth, comprising about 56,000 acres. The surface, with the exception of a small tract of arable land around the village, is mountainous and hilly.

The highest of the mountains is Cairnsmuir, which has an elevation of 2696 feet above the sea, commanding an unbounded view in every direction, except the south-west, where it is obstructed by the mountain of Carlines Cairn, nearly equal in height. The lower hills are covered with heath ; but those of greater elevation are well clothed with verdure to their summits, affording excellent pasturage for sheep and black cattle.

The river Deugh, which descends from the northern heights, with great rapidity, takes a south-easterly course, and flows into the Ken ; and the parish is also intersected by numerous mountain streams, some of which abound with trout. The scenery is, for the most part, wild, with scarcely any ancient wood, and but very small patches of modern plantations.

The lands are principally occupied as sheep-walks, which have been improved by surface draining, and the parish is almost entirely pastoral ; about 30,000 sheep, of the black-faced breed, are regularly pastured, and a very considerable number of cattle, of the Highland breed, are kept during the winter, and, in summer, sent to the English markets.

The rateable annual value of the parish is £5414. The substrata are chiefly greywacke and granite ; iron and lead ore are found, and it is said that the former was wrought for many years, till the woods producing charcoal were exhausted.

A rich vein of lead-ore has been discovered, on the lands of the Honourable Col. Cathcart, who has spared no expense in bringing it into successful operation, for which purpose he has employed a large number of miners, chiefly from Wanlockhead and Leadhills. Buildings have been erected for crushing, washing, and smelting the ore, on the most approved plans, and for separating the silver from the lead, under the superintendence of skilful overseers. Cottages for the workmen have been built on the spot, and a schoolmaster's house, and spacious schoolroom for the instruction of their children ; and the proprietor gives a liberal salary to the master and mistress.

The village is small; a post-office, a branch of that of Ayr, has been established, and facility of communication is afforded by the turnpike-road from Dumfries to Ayr.

The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £182. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £27 per annum ; patrons, the Crown and the Forbes family. The church, which is nearly in the centre of the parish, is a plain structure, erected within the last twenty years, and containing sufficient sittings.

The parochial school is well conducted ; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, also the interest of £500, bequeathed by the late Mr. Mc Adam, and the fees average about £15. The poor have the proceeds of various bequests amounting to £800, of which £500 were left by Mr. Mc Adam.

The chief remains of antiquity are cairns, in some of which, on their removal, stones, in the form of coffins, were found, containing human bones ; there are also remains of a Druidical circle. The late Dr. Jackson, professor of natural philosophy in the university of St. Andrew's, was a native of the place. "


The 1900s

The war memorial was erected in 1923 in memory of the men of Carsphairn Parish who gave their lives in the 1st World War.

A further inscription was added in memory of those lost in the 2nd World War.

The Carsphairn pages of the Scottish Military Research Group has comprehensive details of those listed on the memorial.

Carsphairn Parish is home to several key elements of the Galloway Hydroelectric Power Scheme, which runs from Loch Doon in the north down the sea at Kirkcudbright.

Building work started in the 1930s, creating a huge man-made loch at Clatteringshaws and re-routing some of the water from Loch Doon which previously flowed north to the sea at Alloway, Ayrshire.

As well as power station at Drumjohn and Kendoon North dam, the hydroelectric scheme collects water from rivers over a huge area in the north-east of the parish.

There is lots of information available on-line eg.

So far as is known the Carsphairn Church Woman's Guild began as a work party, some time after 1925, with tea served in the manse by the minister's mother. When the minister married, his wife formed a guild. Fees were 2/6 per year.

The hills around Carsphairn have sadly been the site of several air crashes, including Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, Benniner and near Brockloch.

These are well documented on-line on sites such as :

Remains of these crashes may still be seen on the hills. It is an offence to tamper with militray remains and all remains should be respected and left as found.

The remains of a Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post is still visible near the village. These posts were used to monitor nuclear activity between 1955 and 1991.

The post in Carsphairn was classed a Master Post and opened in 1962.

For more information on the remains, including photos, see Subterranea Britannica.