Statistical Account




Edited by Sir John Sinclair

Volume IV


Statistical Account of Holywood

(pp. 206-224, 1978 reprint)



From Materials furnished by the Rev. Dr. BRYCE JOHNSTON,

Minister of that Parish.

Origin of the Name.

HOLYWOOD is evidently derived from the holy wood, or grove of oak trees, which surrounded a large Druidical temple, still standing, within half a mile of the parish church. It is formed of twelve very large whin or moor stones, as they are called, which include a circular piece of ground of about eighty yards in diameter. The oaks have now all perished ; but there is a tradition of their existing in the last age. Many of their roots have been dug out of the ground by the present minister; and he has still one of them in his possession.

Situation, Extent, and Surface.-- The parish lies in the division of the county of Dumfries called Nithsdale, in the Presbytery and Synod of Dumfries. It is about ten English miles long, and one and an half broad, 0n an average. It is bounded by the parish of Dumfries on the east ; by Terregles, Kirkpatrick- Irongray, and Kirkpatrick-Durham, on the south; by a small part of Glencairn, and by a large track of Dunscore, on the west and north; and by Kirkmahoe on the north-east. Being situated in the middle of a broad valley, it is in general flat and low land. The hills in the parish are neither high nor rocky.

Rivers.-- The river Nith runs along the whole of the east end of the parish, intersecting it, however, in one place for above a mile in length. The river Cluden also a considerable one, runs along the south side of the parish above eight miles, and intersects it in three places, emptying itself into the Nith in the south-east corner of the parish, near the old College or Provostry of Lincluden, which stands on the Galloway side of the river, in the parish of Terregles.

Fish.-- The Cluden abounds in fine burn trouts, a few pike of a middle size, and of excellent quality, some salmon, some sea trout, and herlings.*

* Herlings are a small kind of trout, a little larger than a herring, and shaped like a salmon; its flesh is reddish, like that of the salmon or sea trout, but considerably paler. They abound in all the rivers in this part of the country, and have the name of herling in all the adjoining parishes..

The Nith produces the same kinds of fish, but with this difference, that the herlings, sea trout, and salmon, are much more plentiful in it than in the Cluden. One peculiarity deserves particular notice: Though the two rivers join at the south-east corner of the parish each has its own distinct species of salmon. The Cluden salmon arc considerably thicker and shorter in their body, and greatly shorter in their head, than those of the Nith. The burn trouts abound in the Spring and summer; the herlings and sea trout in July and August ; and the salmon from the beginning of March to the beginning of October. The salmon is in the greatest perfection in June and July. In the spring it sells for about one shilling a pound of 16 ounces, and gradually decreases in price, as the season advances, to 2-1/2 d. a pound. It is all sold in the town of Dumfries, and to the families in the adjacent country. Dumfries being so near, and many of the fishermen living in the town, the price in that market, and on the spot where it is caught in this parish, is always the same. The prices of the other kinds of fish are always a little lower than that of salmon; and they rise and fall with it. About ten years ago, the price of fish in this country was scarcely half of what it is at present. The increased price is perhaps owing. in part, to the increased consumption, and luxury of the inhabitants, but principally to the great demand for this fish, to supply the rich and populous manufacturing towns in Lancashire; for, within there last ten years, very considerable quantities of fresh salmon have been sent, by land carriage into that country, from the Solway Frith, and the mouths of all the rivers that run into it.

Soil.-- The soil of the parish is of four different kinds, viz. a considerable tract of land, about a fourth part of the parish in the east, along the river Nith, and, on the south, for about seven miles up the river Cluden, is a deep rich light loam, and free from stones: 2d, Another fourth part, contiguous to the former, is a light dry fertile soil, lying on a bed of sandy gravel, producing heavy crops of corn and grass in a showery season; but it is greatly parched up in dry seasons : 3d, Another fourth part, which joins this last, is a deep strong loam, interspersed with stones, upon a tilly bed; it is naturally wet, stiff to plough, and not so fertile as either of the two former ; but, when drained, limed, and properly wrought, more productive both of corn and grass than either of them, in all varieties of season, excepting only a cold and wet summer. 4th, The remaining part, which is hilly, is somewhat similar to the last, only not so deep and wet; it produces a kind of grass, neither very fine nor very coarse, which, in some of the highest parts of the hills, is mixed with heath, and a few other hard weeds.

Air, Climate &c.-- The air is dry, and remarkably wholesome. The singular healthiness of the inhabitants may, however, be attributed to the following causes. They do not live in towns, or even villages; they are not employed in sedentary occupations; being either country gentlemen or farmers, they live in houses detached from each other; they are engaged in active employments in the open air; they are industrious, sober and chearful. The dryness of the air is owing to the peculiar local situation of the parish. The clouds, intercepted by the hills on every side, float in fogs on the top of them, while the inhabitants enjoy a clear and dry air in the valley. At other times, when the clouds break into rain on the hills, the greatest part of it falls on the hills, or the sides of the valley, while the skirts of the showers only reach its central parts. Add to these circumstances, that the two rapid rivers carry off the superfluous water from the land, and the moisture from the air.

Seed-time and Harvest.-- The time of sowing wheat is from the middle of September to the middle of October; oats, pease, beans, hemp, and flax, from the 10th of March to the middle of April; potatoes and barley from .the middle of April to the 10th of May; and turnips from the l0th to the 24th of June. The harvest generally begins about, or before, the middle of August ; and the crop is got totally into the barns, and barn-yards, by the end of September. In cold and wet seasons, like the last, it is, however, somewhat later.

Epidemical Diseases.-- No local distempers, or sickness of any kind, are prevalent in the parish. In the months of February and March, indeed, some fevers appear among the people of low circumstances, especially in that district of the parish which lies in the narrowest part of the valley; but these seem chiefly owing to poor living, and bad accommodation, during the winter season, and perhaps to the dampness of the preceding months.

Manufactures.-- It was before mentioned, that there are neither towns nor villages in the parish, but that the inhabitants live in detached houses; manufactures, therefore, cannot well exist in this district. the dearness of fuel is another obstacle : Peats are bad, scarce, and consequently dear; and coals are either carted 24 miles land carriage, or brought from England by water. These last would be moderately cheap, were it not for the high duties laid on them, which are as fatal to the improvement of this, as they are to many other parts of Scotland; nor can this part of the country ever greatly improve, until there duties be abolished.

Population.-- On the last day of the year 1790, there were living in the parish of Holywood 736 persons, of whom there were

Under ten years of age --- 166
Between ten and twenty, --- 146
Above twenty unmarried, --- 160
Widowers or widows, --- 40
Married, --- 224

Out of the 736 persons, 11 were between 80 and 90 years old, which is an uncommon number among so few inhabitants. The return to Dr. Webster of the population of Holywood, about forty years ago, was 612 souls; the inhabitants have therefore increased 124 since that period.

Abstract of the Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, for the last ten Years.









  1781 23   7   10
  1782   18   0   20
  1783   15   3   8
  1784   15   1   11
  1785   13   4   8
  1786   16     6   14
  1787   16   6   11
  1788   14   9   8
  1789   13   6   8
  1790   19   6   10
      ----   ----   ----
      162   48   108
  Yearly average -- nearly,   16   5   11

The great number of deaths in 1782, was owing to an infectious fever in the west part of the parish, where the valley is narrowest ; and the large number in 1786, was owing to the ravages of the natural small-pox.

Division of the Inhabitants, and their Occupations.-- All the inhabitants are farmers, and cottagers employed by them, except those afterwards mentioned. About ten of the inhabitants are small proprietors of lands, which they occupy themselves. There are eight weavers, two bleachers, two shoe-makers, two millers, five blacksmiths, five masons, four taylors, and eight joiners; all of whom are employed in working for the inhabitants of the parish, and not in manufacturing, articles for sale. There are no household servants except in gentlemens families, and there are few. There are about thirty-two male, and thirty-six female labouring servants. The greatest part of the farming and dairy work is done by the farmers themselves, their wives, their sons and daughters, and cottagers, which last work either by the piece, or by the year, receiving what is called a benefit; that is, a house, yard, peats, 52 stones of meal, a quantity of potatoes, and as much money as, with these articles, would, communibus annis, amount to thirteen pounds Sterling per annum. Betide the above mentioned servants, some shearers are hired by the day from the adjacent moor countries. It is remarkable that all the inhabitants arc natives of this island, except one person only, who comes from Ireland. There are no nobility resident in the parish, and the gentry amount only to twenty-seven persons, besides their domestics. All the inhabitants are of the Established Church, except six Cameronians, nine Burgher Seceders, two of the Church of England, and three Catholics; but most of all these denominations attend the parish church occasionally, except the Catholics.

General Character.-- They are a sober, regular, and industrious people, all employed in farming, except the few above mentioned. They are generous and humane, although they have not been called to the exertions of these qualities by any remarkable events, except in the years 1782 and 1783, as shall be mentioned afterwards. They enjoy, in a reasonable degree, the conveniences and comforts of society, and are in general as contented with their situation as most people. Their condition, however, might be meliorated, could the heavy multures be removed, which hinder improvements in agriculture ; or could coals be imported duty free, which checks any attempts to the establishing manufactures. With respect to the morals of the people, it maybe observed, that during the time of the present incumbent, which is 19 years, only one person has been banished for theft, and one enlisted for a soldier: This last, in a few months, solicited his friends to make application to get him out of the army, which they did with success, and he has ever since lived in the parish an industrious labouring man. In regard to other particulars, they are healthy, robust, and rather above the common stature. Several instances of longevity have been observed among them. Within there few years, three persons have died, whore ages were 90, 95, and 96.

Church.-- The value of the living, including the glebe, is about L. 120 Sterling. The last patron was Robert Beveridge of Fourmerkland, Esq; the proprietor of an estate of that name in the parish. He died lately, and by his death the patronage devolved to his sisters, the elder of whom is married to the Rev. Mr James M'Millan minister of Torthorwald.

The manse* and offices were all new built in 1773; the church in 1779 ; and the two school houses in 1782, all which buildings are now in excellent repair.

* The parsonage house, thus called all over Scotland, is evidently derived, as mansion is, from the Latin mansio, to remain or abide.

State of the Poor.-- The average number of poor who now receive alms is fifteen. The annual sum expended for their relief is about L. 32 Sterling, produced by the collections in the church on Sundays, excepting the interest of a small sum appropriated to them. These fifteen persons are all maintained in their own houses, or boarded in other families; none of them are kept in hospitals or work-houses. The greatest number of them earn about two-thirds of their maintenance. Those who are orphans under ten years old, or who are very old and infirm, and without relations to assist them, are boarded out at the rate of L. 4 Sterling per annum. Besides the relief from the parish, the poor receive frequent supplies of food and clothes from charitable and well disposed people. They are however kept from begging from door to door most effectually, by the assurance of their inevitably losing all parish relief if they persist in the practice. As the church session* is extremely attentive to give them relief, according to their necessities, to provide medical assistance for them when sick, to pay the schoolmaster for teaching their children reading, writing, and the common rules of arithmetic, their own interest induces them to comply with the desire of the session, not to beg. Beggars, however, occasionally infest the parish, but they do not belong to, nor reside in it.

* The church session is the same as the vestry in the English parishes.

Price of Grain and Provisions.-- The price of wheat, barley, and oats, are generally regulated by the Liverpool and Greenock markets, being just as much below the prices at these places, as will pay freight, and afford a very moderate profit to the corn merchants, who export the grain to one or other of of these places. For many years past, the price of grain has been in general the same as in the London market, which is always a little below that of Liverpool. Grain is in general cheaper here about Candlemas, the markets being then overstocked by the farmers anxiety to make up their half year's rent, which is payable at that term. Communibus annis, wheat is 5s. barley 2.s. 2d. and oats 1s. 10d. the Winchester bushel. The present average price of beef, veal, mutton, lamb, and pork through the year is 3-1/2 d. the pound of 16 ounces, for those of the best qualities. At particular times of the year they are all much cheaper; and though at some periods they amount to 5d. a pound, these dear times do not last long. The price of a roasting pig is 4s. ; of a goose 2s. ; of a turkey 1s. 6d. ; of a duck 10d. , of a hen 1s. ; of a chicken 3d: ; of rabbits, though there are few of them, 1 s. the pair without the skins; butter is 9d. the pound of 24 ounces; cheese varies according to its richness and age.

Price of Labour.-- The wages of men labourers are 1s. a day from the 1st of March to the 1st of November, and 10d. the rest of the year, except that in time of harvest they are 13d. ; and of mowing, 18d. The wages of women are, for working at peats, 8d..; at turnip weeding, hay making, and other farm work in summer, 7d. ; shearing in harvest 13d. Both men and women, furnish their own provisions out of their wages. The day wages of a carpenter and a mason are 1s. 8d. ; of a bricklayer and slater 2s. ;* of a taylor, 1s. without, or 6d. with meat.

*The wages of these four artists were 2d. less before the year 1788; at that time, an uncommon spirit for building appearing in the country, increased the demand for labour of that kind. This spirit proceeded from the general taste for good houses, which marks this period, and from many monied men, who, having purchased estates in this part of the country, are building elegant mansion-houses for themselves, and good farm-houses for their tenants.

Work, however, is generally done by the piece. The average of farm servants, when they eat in the house, is L. for men, and L. 3 for women; but the farm servants are generally paid by what is called a benefit, before described ; and if the man's wife and children are employed by the farmer, their work is separately paid for. The wages of domestic servants are nearly the same with those of farm servants.

Expences of a Labourer's Family.-- The expences of a common labourer, when married, and with four or five children, is about L. 16 a year. The wages which he receives, together with the industry of his wife, enable him to live tolerably comfortable, and to give his children an education proper for their nation, provided he and his wife are sober, industrious, and frugal: Those of them who are embarrassed in their circumstances, owe their poverty either to their own, or their wife's had conduct. That the labourers can maintain their families at this small expence, is owing to the farmers, from whom they have cottages, allowing them as much land for one year's rent free, to plant potatoes in, as they can manure sufficiently with ashes, or such dung as they can provide for themselves ; and these potatoes constitute at least one half of their year's food.

Division and Rent of Lands.-- A great part of the parish is inclosed, but a considerable part still lies open. The farmers seem sufficiently convinced of the advantages of inclosing, and. would willingly allow their landlords interest for such rums of money as would be necessary for making inclosures.

The farms are in general from L.40 to L. 150 a year; but there are some few from L.40, down to as small as L.8. About the year 1771 a spirit of improvement applied in the parish, when the farms became larger than they had formerly been ; but for some years part they have continued nearly of the same size. The best arable land is let from L. 1: 1: 0 to L. 1: 10 : 0 ; and the inferior, from 20s. to 7s. an acre. The hill pasture is not let by the acre, but by the lump. The whole rent of the parish amounts to something more than L. 3000 Sterling per annum, including houses, and the small fisheries in the Nith and Cluden. The heritors are thirty-one in number, of whom ten of the small ones and three of the largest reside in the parish. There is no map of the parith, the number of acres in it have not consequently been precisely ascertained; they are estimated at about 7500. Of there about 60 are employed for raising wheat, 250 for barley, 20 for pease and beans, 10 for rye, 1310 for oats, 100 for potatoes, 30 for turnip and cabbage, 20 for flax and hemp, 500 for sown grass, the rest is pasturage, except about 150 acres for roads and plantations. None of the ground is common; and every proprietor knows the exact marches of his estate; but a considerable quantity of the hilly part must: always lie in a state of pasturage, not being arable on account of the steepness of the hills. Several hundred acres, however, of the lower parts of there unbroken grounds, are capable of cultivation, and, if properly improved, would pay well for the labour bestowed on them. The greatest part of the parish is thirled * to the mill

*When the laird, i.e. lord of the manor, builds a mill, he obliges his tenants to have all their corn ground at that mill only. The farms are then said to be thirled, or under thirlage to the mill. But sometimes, as is the case here, the tenants of one estate are thirled to the mill of another, which, when the dues are high, is a great bar to improvement.

of Cluden, and pays a very high multure *, which greatly tends to retard the cultivation and improvement of the district.

*Multure is a certain stipulated quantity of meat, given as payment to the miller for grinding the corn: And all corn grown on farms thir!ed to the mill is obliged to pay multure, whether the corn be ground at that mill or elsewhere.

Mode of Cultivation.-- There are 70 ploughs in the parish. Those used in the first division, fee p. 20. And the greatest part of the second, viz.the light soil, are the small English plough; in part of the second, and adjoining part of the third, they use the Scots plough, with the English mould-board, or ploughs composed partly on the model of the old Scots, and partly on that of the English; and in the remaining part of the third, the Scots plough only is used. Each of these ploughs seems well adapted for the nature of the soil in the district where they are used. The English plough is certainly the best, but it can only work properly in land that is free from stones. The Scots plough, when properly made, is doubtless the fittest for strong land; and, lastly, the plough composed of the two, is the most proper for land that is composed of the two kinds above mentioned; and these are the nature of the different foils in which the, several kinds of ploughs are used. The ploughs are commonly drawn by two strong horses) and one man both holds the plough and drives the horses, with a pair of long reins. When stiff land is to be broken up from grass, three or sometimes four horses are yoked into a plough of the same construction but of a stronger make.

Produce.-- The vegetable produce of this parish has already been specified, under the article, Division of Land. With respect to animal productions, it is principally distinguished for a breed of b1ack cattle, for which the county of Drumfries in general, and the neighbouring counties of the the stewartry and the county of Galloway are also famous. They are very profitable for fattening, and many thousands of them are annually sold and sent into England. They are handsome, of a middle size, and weigh well for their height. When fat for the butcher, the four quarters weigh at an average 36 stones of 16 pounds; but several of them amount to 60 or 70 stones. The number of black cattle in the whole parish amounts to about 1200. The sheep, which are kept in the hilly part of the parish, are the common Scots sheep, white on the body, but black, on the face and legs; they are very hardy and their wool is strong and shaggy, but coarse. In the low cultivated districts there are two kinds of English sheep, the one long bodied and long legged, introduced into this country by Culley, they are commonly known by the name of Muggs; the other is also long bodied, but broad backed and short legged, introduced by Bakewell. They are both all white, body, face, and legs: Both of them have much finer wool, and a larger quantity of it, than the Scots sheep. Bakewell's kind have the finest short wool. From an experiment lately tried, a cross between the two breeds seems to answer well ; viz. the ram of the Culley, the ewe of the Bakewell breed. In this cultivated district and mild climate, the English are preferred to the Scots sheep, on account of the greater quantity, and finer quality, of the wool; their being less hurtful to the hedges; and their greater weight when fold to the butcher. The whole number of sheep in the parish, amounts at present only to about 1000.

The produce of the district is, on the whole, much greater than sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants. About two thirds of the whole is carried to markets out of the parish, viz. a considerable quantity of butter, milk, veal, mutton, beef, wheat, oat-meal, and barley, to Dumfries; a large quantity of wheat and barley to Whiteyaven and Liverpool, of oats to Greenock ; and a great number of young black cattle and sheep to the towns in the neighbourhood.

There are hares, and some foxes, all the fowls which are natives of the south part of Scotland. The migratory birds are the swallow, and the cuckow. During the whole year the sea gulls, commonly called, in this parish, sea maws, occasionally come from the Solway Frith to this part of the country; their arrival seldom fails of being followed by a high wind, and heavy rain, from the South-west, within twenty-four hours; and they return to the Frith again as soon as the storm begins to abate.

Roads and Bridges.-- The roads were originally made by the statute labour, but in that way they were neither half made, nor half kept in repair. Several years ago, an act of parliament was obtained for this county, converting the statute labour into money, to be paid by the occupiers of the land, at a rate not exceeding 12 s. in the 100 merks of Scotch valuation, and a certain sum to be paid by the possessors of houses in towns and villages. In some districts of the county, where making the roads is expensive, the occupiers of land have been assessed to the ultimum; but in this, and some others, the assessment has never been more than 6 s. for each 100 merks. The conversion money is very well laid out in this parish. The roads are put, and kept, in as good repair as the sum collected can possibly do; but, as the roads are extensive, and, as there is a thoroughfair through the parish, from a large and populous surrounding country, to the markets of Dumfries, this sum is too small to keep the roads in sufficient repair; and it would probably be cheaper, in the end, to lay on the full assessment of 12 s. for a few years, till all the roads are completely finished, and then to reduce the assessment to 4 s. which would be sufficient for keeping them in repair. Lest the present tenants should be aggrieved by paying 12 s. while their successors, who would enjoy the benefit of good roads, pay only 4 s. the landlords should pay the additional 6 s. and receive it afterwards from the subsequent tenants at 2 s. a year, till the landlords be reimbursed. A great turnpike road is now making between Carlisle and Glasgow, which runs through the parish. It will be completely finished in this county before, or about the beginning of May next. The tolls upon it are moderate, and will be fully sufficiently for making and repairing it. This road, like all other turnpikes under proper management; must be highly advantageous to the country. The bridges in the parish are good. The only large one in it was originally built, and is stil1 kept in repair, by the county of Dumfries and stewartry of Galloway, as it is built over the Cluden, which is the march between the two counties. The smaller ones, being all within the parish, were built and are kept in repair by the parish.

Antiquities.-- There are no other remains of antiquity than the Druidical temple already mentioned, and two old houses built in the tower fashion. There is one large heap of small stones, part of which was opened several years ago and some human bones said to have been found in it. The Abbey of Holywood stood in the site of a part of the present church-yard. About half of the head of the cross of this abbey was standing in the year 1779, when it served for the parish church. These remains, however, were then pulled down and the materials used, in part, for building the present new church. The vestiges of the old abbey are sufficiently evident in the church-yard; and the adjoining farm retains the name of Abbey. The present church has two fine toned bells, taken out of the old building; one of which, by an inscription and date on it, appears to have been consecrated by the Abbot John Wrich, in the year 1154. From undoubted records, this abbey belonged to the monks of the order or Premontre, which was instituted in the diocese of Loon in France, in the year 1120, and was so called, because, as the monks say, the place was "divina revelatione praemonstratum."

Etymology of Names of Places.-- The names or places in this parish seem to be derived partly from the Gaelic, and partly from the English, and some from the Danish. The names derived from the English are either expressive of the particular situation of the places, or of the proprietors to whom they originally belonged. Thus Broomrig, situated on a ridge that produces much broom; Gooliehill situated on a rising ground producing much gool *; Moss side, situated on the side of a moss;

* Gool, Dr Johnston says, is a weed with a yellow flower which grows among the corn, on light lands in wet season about. Lammas. It is the wild marygold.

Stepford, situated at a ford in the Cluden where foot passangers cross the water on stepping stones, that have been placed there time immemorial; Morinton, the town of Morine ; Stewarton, the town of Stewart, &c.;. Holm, derived from the Danish, in which language holm signifies an island. From the Gaelic are most probably derived Speddock, Barfreggan, Glengaber, Glengaur, McWhannick., &c. Killness seems to be compounded of two languages, cella, the Latin for a chapel or cell, and ness, or naes, the Danish for a promontory, or head land, (it may also be derived from the Latin nasus); Killness signifying the chapel or cell on the promontory : The place so called is the field where the Druidical temple above mentioned stands, and it is prominent into the river Cluden.

Eminent Men Natives of the Parish.-- Holywood has produced no men of eminence, in learning or science, except Mr Charles lrvine, surgeon. He was a younger son of the late William Irvine of Gribton, Esq;. and the person who, several years ago, discovered the method of rendering salt water fresh, for which he was rewarded by government with a grant of five thousand pounds.

Miscellaneous Observations.-- The harvests of 1782, and 1783, were very late, especially that of 1792. Before the corn was all cut in this part of the country, there were intense frosts and heavy snows. On the 2d of November 1782, in particular, a very heavy fall of snow covered the corn so deep, and lay so long, that they could not be cut for several days after. Though the harvest was uncommonly late in this parish in these two years, and though the latest of the corn in it was hurt by the frost, yet the harvest here was earlier than in any other part of Scotland; and the greatest part of the corn was ripened before the frosts came on. Under all these untoward circumstances, the crops of these years were, however, uncommonly good, as is the case, not only this year, but also in all late years, owing to the peculiar dryness and earliness of the soil and climate of this parish. The general scarcity of meal in Scotland during these two years, and the great demand for feed corn from those counties where the frosts had destroyed the crops, greatly increased, as is well remembered, the price of meal and oats all over Scotland. At that time the farmers of the parish had large quantities of both, especially of feed corn, to sell; and they cleared by it in those two years, more than they ever did in any other two years. The price or oat-meal was then 2 s. 6d. the stone of 17-1/2 pounds; higher than was ever known before or since, In this parish the heritors and farmers, by a voluntary contribution, collected into two store-houses, one at each extremity of the parish, all the meal they could, and distributed it among the poor labourers and artificers, at 2 s. a stone until it fell in the markets to that price; and by thus losing 6d. a stone in the meal which they sold, they were the happy means of preserving their poor parishioners from the general calamity of the country.

Parish of Holywood.

Answers to the five additiunal queries transmitted by Sir John Sinclair, Bart. In his letter of 25th of Jan. 1791, by Dr Bryce Johnston; so far as they are applicable to the parish of Holywood in Dumfriesshire. There are two schools in the parish. The one is situated near the church, in the most populous part of the parish; and the other about four miles to the west of the church, for the accommodation of the distant parts of the parish. Both the school-houses were built, and fitted up with tables and seats, a few years ago by the heritors, and are still in a state of good repair. The principal master teaches in the school near the church, and has a free dwelling-house adjoining to the school-house. In this school, are taught the English, Latin, and Greek languages, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and the principles of religion. The average number of scholars through the year is 50. The salary is L.8 : 16 : 8 sterling; the school wages are moderate, and amount to about L.9 : 15 sterling per year; the schoolmaster is precentor and session-clerk; for which he receives annually about L.1 : 8 : 4 : so that his whole emolument is a free house, and about L.20 sterling in money. – I the second school are taught the English language, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping and the principles of religion. The salary appropriated to this school is L. 2 : 6 : 8 sterling per year; the school wages amount to about L. 6 : 13 : 4 : so that the annual emolument of this schoolmaster is L. 9. For his greater encouragement, the parents of the children who attend his school commonly give him bed and board free.

The schoolmasters are very attentive to their duty; and the two schools are regularly examined, twice every year, by the minister.

Considering the importance and labour of the office of a schoolmaster, and the greatly increased and increasing expense of living, the parochial school salaries in Scotland are exceedingly low. For the good of the country, the encouragement of learning, and the decent support of so useful a body of men as the parochial schoolmasters, they ought to be considerably augmented. As an heritor, I shall chearfully concur with the landed interest of Scotland in promoting a purpose so necessary and so beneficial.

2d. There are only three houses in the parish which sell ale and Scottish spirits. They have, as yet, had no bad effects upon the morals of this people, who are sober and industrious. But, if a proper check shall not be too soon given, to the great number of whisky shops, and to the cheapness of whisky, in the country at large, the morals and the health of the lower classes of the people will be greatly injured by them.

3d. Within the last ten years, five sets of farm houses, including dwelling-house and offices, have been built; some others have been rebuilt, and none have fallen into a state of ruin. Since the middle of last March, a village was begun by Dr. Bryce Johnston: six houses are finished, and inhabited a considerable time ago; three more will be finished before Martinmas; and he intends next year to build as many as he has done this. He sets them to persons of different trades, for the accommodation of thet country, and the encouragement of honest and industrious tradesmen. He finds tenants as quickly as he can build the houses; and the tenants find abundance of employment.

The village is built at a small distance from the seite of the Druidical temple, on the side of the great turnpike road which leads from Dumfries to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr. It is called Druidville: and he intends, this Winter, to plant a grove of oaks around it, in memory of the holy grove of the Druids, from which the parish has its name.

4th. Cottagers, or rather persons who are employed by the year as benefiters, as they are called here, have been much employed in this part of the country, and by few to a greater extent than by myself. They are of much more advantage to the farmers, to themselves, and to the country at large, than servants hired into, and who eat in the farmers' houses: because much more work is done by them at a cheaper rate, they much seldomer flit or change from their masters, population is encouraged; and their wives and children are useful to the farmer, and to themselves, by working at turnips, hay and harvest -- and are thus habituated to sobriety and industry.

5th. There are no jail, jugs, nor any place of confinement or punishment in the parish. No persons belonging to this parish were imprisoned in any jail in the year 1790, nor are any causes known why any should have been imprisoned.


I am clearly of opinion, with you, that the Cheviot breed of sheep is much calculated for the parish of Holywood. But, as I am trying an experiment of a cross breed between Culley's and Bakewell's sheep, as I formerly mentioned to you, and which is succeeding very well, I wish to bring this experiment to full perfection before I try any other breed; least, by any other mixture, my experiment should be defeated. My breed have a large and fine fleece of short wool, and the sheep is very heavy. The four quarters of the ram, when fat, will weigh 112 lb of 16 oz. in the pound. I clipped from him, this year, at one clipping, 7 lb and 12 oz. of wool, of 24 oz. in the pound. The wool being worth 20s. the Scottish stone, his fleece was worth 9s. 4d.


The Rev. Dr. Burgess, minister of Kirkmichael, transmitted the subsequent observations on this parish.

On reading Dr. Johnston's very intelligent account of Holywood, the following remarks and additions occurred:

1st. It does not seem probably, that the name, either of the monastery or the parish, could be derived from any grove of oak trees that might have surrounded the Druidical temple, which the Doctor describes: Because, in the first place, the order of Druids, according to the best accounts, had ceased in Scotland 7 or 8 centuries before the monastery was founded; and of consequence, any groves of their planting would have perished, and any holiness ascribed to them forgotten, for several ages prior to its foundation. 2do. When the order of Druids existed, and for many years after it became extinct, the Gaelic was the general language, not only of Scotland, but of the whole island; and it is hardly credible, that either the founder of the monastery, or the monks that were to serve in it, would have given a name to it, in the Saxon language, translated from the ancient language of the country, which had thenceased to be spoken for some ages. 3tio. The Druidical temple, in question, stands half a mile and rather more to the S.W. of the old monastery, and has not now the least vestige of the grove of the oak trees that might have surrounded it, nor is there any tradition about them; whereas the oaks the Doctor mentions grew on the opposite side of the monastery, viz. on the N.W. N. and N.E. and occupied a space of half a mile in length, and almost a quarter of a mile in breadth, along the soffee that served as a fence to the precincts on that side. Lastly, The seal of the monastery, impressions of which are still to be seen, appended to some old charters, had the following inscription: viz. Sigillum Monasterii de Sacro Nemore, which seems to indicate, that the Nemus or grove, form which the name of the monastery, and afterwards the parish, took its rise, had been planted by the monks at the time of its foundation, or when it was a-building. And, as it was evidently intended, and perhaps formally consecrated, to shelter the sacred fabric and its ministers, from the sharpest and most stormy winds, it might very naturally be named the Holy Wood.

2d. To the article, eminent men, natives of the parish, should, in my humble opinion, be added:

"But the famous Joannes de Sacro Bosco, author of the treatise De Sphaera, written in barbarous Latin, several centuries ago, would seem, from his local name, to have been either a native of the parish, or perhaps abbot of the monastery." It is not improbable, that he was the John Wrich, or according to the old mode of spelling, Wricht, i.e. Wright, whose name, as the Doctor observes, is on one of the bells. Whatever may be in this, Joannes de Sacro Bosco's book, De Sphaera, was put into better language by Franco Burgersdicious, in the year 1626, and appointed to be taught in the schools of the seven provinces, by order of the States of that country.

After these words, in the Doctor's last paragraph, higher than was ever known before or since, should most certainly be added, "excepting the year 1740, when it rose in the Dumfries market to 3s. 4d the stone, and continued at that price for 6 weeks running." Another exception probably was "the 3 dear years" (as they are still called,) in the reign of King William, when oat-meal cost 3l. Scots, or 5s. sterling, the Dumfries peck streaked, which, as meal was then sold by measure, and of course ground very fine, would be above 4s. sterling the stone.


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