During the 1860s The Scotsman published a regular item entitled News-Notes from Moffat. The following is a summary of the events which were reported for the year 1861.


During 1860 there were fifty deaths in our parish, seventeen of which were children under five years of age. ▪ During the second week of the month several days were spent in universal and enthusiastic enjoyment of curling and Craigielands Loch was alive with the heroes of the heather broom and whinstone. The rinks played for coals and meal for the poor. ▪ Lord Rollo is wintering at Dumcrieff House, pending the erection of a new mansion at Duncrub, Perthshire. ▪ On the 11th the annual Ploughman’s Ball was held at Wamphray. ▪ Heavy frosts have made our streets slippery and two persons have fractured their arms. ▪ During the continued severity of the weather the farmers and merchants and others have raised £20 to help the needy. ▪ The formation of dairies is becoming of late quite a new feature in Annandale farming.


There was a great ploughing match on the farm of Milton where thirty-six ploughs were watched by hundreds of spectators. ▪ Lectures were given at the Mechanics Institute on the topics of Influence, On the Races of Man and On Books and Their Authors. ▪ Members of the Upper Annandale Curling Club entertained Mr. William Colvin of Craigielands at dinner and presented him with a gold-mounted whip and a pair of spurs in recognition of his kindness in granting the use of Craigielands Loch.


The tolls in this district were let and the Moffat tolls at Langshawbush and Townhead were let at £60 each compared with £54 last year. In general these tolls have been rising from their great fall on the occasion of the opening of the Caledonian Railway in 1848. ▪ Arrangements have now been completed for the taking of the Census in our parish and our registrar is Mr. Robert Gibson, teacher at Morrison’s School. ▪ The British Linen Company’s bank branch is housed in a small domicile in Well Street but they have acquired a new site, which will be built soon, in the High Street opposite Moffat House. The Union Bank has one of the most elegant buildings in the town and the Bank of Scotland has snug and well-fitted premises at the foot of Well Street. ▪ There are ten fatuous or insane persons in the four parishes of Upper Annandale. ▪ The Moffat Hiring Fair was held on Good Friday, the 29th and by early morning the roads to Moffat were dotted with those on foot, cart, pony-back, and in gig or carriage. The morning trains brought loads to the omnibuses and by 10.30 the usual stance at the Mercat Cross was thronged with folks in search of their penny fee and masters and mistresses were on the lookout for guid servants. Young ploughmen were hired at from £9 to £10 and women servants, indoor, from £2 10s to £3 10s. In the hope of avoiding drunkenness the Baths Hall was laid out with a trestle table for the sale of coffee and tea.


The weather is mild and flockmasters are delighted at the suitableness of the season for the lambing. Doubles are almost the rule and triplets are common. ▪ The whole of Moffat High Street is to be overhauled and re-Macadamised and the footpath to the Well is to be thoroughly put in repair. ▪ Over the Annan, at “Jock’s Thorn”, a stone bridge is to be built, at an estimated cost of £350, to join the parishes of Johnstone and Wamphray. ▪ A detachment of the 13th Light Dragoons passed through the town and was billeted at Moffat. They created a good deal of stir and staring among inlanders like us.


So genial is the air that some beds of strawberries are already in blossom. ▪ Pigs have, in our district, reached an immense price. A six weeks‟ old one costs from 20s to 24s, and are hardly to be got at that sum or ransom. ▪ A new and elegant castellated mansion has almost attained completion at Auchencas. The former castle, built in 1848-49, was accidentally burned down in April 1859. ▪ At the annual meeting of the Bath Company on the 4th it was resolved to increase the number of papers etc. taken into the Bath Reading room and to reduce the rates of subscription. ▪ The senior pupils from Moffat Academy were taken by their rector, Mr. Samuel Neil, for their usual annual May-day trip to Wamphray Glen. ▪ The 13th Light Dragoons were billeted upon us again being thrice within a month.


The summer omnibus from Moffat to St. Mary’s Lake will begin to run in the second week of the month. ▪ The long continued drought is browning the hills and injuring pasture. Wool, it is supposed, in this district will rise in value in consequence of the turmoil in America. ▪ The number of health-seekers among us may now be reckoned in the hundred and they are found in numbers quaffing the deliciously cool waters at the Well. ▪ The Bath’s bowling green has been thronged by keen and enthusiastic players, anxious to get their hands in for the season. ▪ Two lads found an adder on the banks of Evan Water and, with a considerable amount of pluck, they succeeded in killing it and on taking it come they found that it was twenty-one inches in length. Adders are very rarely seen in our parish.


The fall in the price of wool does not please the sheep farmers. The click of sheep shears forms the chief music of the hills and the sheep-washing goes on with briskness and success. ▪ Our market-place has been thoroughly supplied with good and early vegetables and on one stall a miner from Leadhills exposed for sale mineral curiosities and geological specimens. ▪ In the parish of Wamphray a workman named McVitie in the saw-mill near Gillesbie, committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor in the absence of his wife. ▪ A great number of houses are let for occupancy during July, principally to Edinburgh people.


The greater part of the hill-clips has now been brought in and our local buyers, Mr. Dickson of Dye Mill and Mr. Johnstone of Oakriggside, have been preferred as usual as purchasers. ▪ The game on the Annandale estate was in excellent condition and the Earl of Leven and Melville and his sons brought in good bags. A great number of professional gentlemen, lawyers, and clergymen with their families are here just now but the rain has made outdoor amusement little less than impossible.


On the 13th the fair for the sale of rams took place on Friday at Moffat. The chief demand was for Cheviots but the coarse weather detracted from the appearance of the stock. Demand exceeded supply and by noon every ram of any merit was disposed of. ▪ Mr. Peter Johnstone of Harthope has gifted to the town of Moffat a temperance refreshment-house which is named the Harthope Temperance Refreshment House. ▪ The Moffat Academy Club held its annual meeting and dinner in the Annandale Arms. ▪ The most satisfactory evidence of the improvement of Moffat parish is furnished by the valuation roll of Dumfriesshire which stood at £13,286 10s 10d in 1855 and is now £16,072 18s 3½d. ▪ In Academy Road a large, roomy and elegant double house is in process of construction for Mr. Thomas Welsh of Erickstane. ▪ The parish church has been undergoing repair and when finished it will be elegant and comfortable.


The members of the Moffat section of the Upper Annandale Curling Club have been in quest of a local pond and they have fixed on a corner of a field on Chapel Farm located just over the Annan Bridge. ▪ We have had a great deal of heavy night rains although the days have been fine and the most laggard fields in the four parishes are now in stook. ▪ The October Hiring Fair at Moffat was less frequented than usual and few new hands were taken on. The day passed quietly, little drunkenness was observable, and our local prison-house received no inmate.


Mr. Robert Little was unanimously appointed parochial schoolmaster for the parish of Kirkpatrick-Juxta, the salary of which office has been fixed at £40. A sum of £25 has been granted to a side school at Dumgree. ▪ The Earl of Leven and Melville and his family, who have had their summer quarters at Moffat House, left Moffat en route for his Lordship’s mansion at Roehampton in Surrey. ▪ Lady Jane Margaret Douglas, fifth daughter of the fifth Marquis of Queensberry, has taken up her winter residence in Moffat.


The Moffat Mechanics‟ Institute, Library and Reading-Room are all to be given up after an existence of eleven years. ▪ The heritors of the parish of Moffat resolved on abolishing the Christmas and New Year holidays at Moffat Academy. ▪ The Right Hon. Lord Rollo left Dumcrieff House for London for the purpose of attending the funeral of H.R.H. Prince Albert. ▪ A great trade has been done in this district in geese, turkeys and the lesser fowls for the markets of the north of England, and bacon curing has been occupying great attention. ▪ On the 30th the sum of £20 was distributed in coal to the poor of the parish. The Ladies‟ Benevolent Society will distribute to forty-two deserving poor persons the sum of 2s. each.

Moffat Miscellany No.3 – A Moffat Bedside Book pp.149-152

Text Copyright © Jim Storrar