Dumfriesshire

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Dumfriesshire or the County of Dumfries (Siorrachd Dhùn Phris in Gaelic) is a registration county of Scotland. The lieutenancy area of Dumfries has similar boundaries.

Until 1975 it was a county. Its county town was Dumfries. It bordered Kirkcudbrightshire to the west, Ayrshire to the north-west, Lanarkshire, Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire to the north, and Roxburghshire to the east. To the south was the coast of the Solway Firth, and across the English border Cumberland.

Dumfries had three traditional subdivisions - Annandale, Eskdale and Nithsdale.

Today it forms part of the Dumfries and Galloway council area.

The climate is mild, with a mean yearly temperature of 48 °F (January, 38.5 °F; July, 59.5 °F), and the average annual rainfall is 53 in. Towards the middle of the 18th century farmers began to raise stock for the south, and a hundred years later 20,000 head of heavy cattle were sent annually to the English markets. The Galloways, which were the breed in vogue at first, have been to a large extent replaced by shorthorns and Ayrshire dairy cattle. Sheep breeding, of later origin, has attained to remarkable dimensions, the walks in the higher hilly country being given over to Cheviots, and the richer pasture of the low-lying farms being reserved for half-bred lambs, a cross of Cheviots and Leicesters or other long-woolled rams. Pig-feeding, once important, has declined before the imports of bacon from foreign countries. Horse breeding is pursued on a considerable scale. Grain crops, of which oats are the principal, show a downward tendency. Arable farms range from 100 acres to 300 acres (0.4 to 1.2 km²), and pastoral from 300 to 3000 acres (1.2 to 12 km²).

In general the manufactures are only of local importance and mostly confined to Dumfries and a few of the larger towns. Langholm is famous for its tweeds; breweries and distilleries are found at Annan, Sanquhar and elsewhere; some shipping is carried on at Annan and Dumfries; and the salmon fisheries of the Nith and Annan and the Solway Firth are of value.

Archaeological remains from the neolithic and Bronze Age include stone circles (as in Dunscore and Eskdalemuir), tumuli and cairns (Closeburn), and sculptured stones (Dornock). A number of bank barrows and cursus have recently been discovered.

The British tribe which inhabited this part of Scotland was called by the Romans Selgovae. They have left many signs of their presence, such as hill forts and camps (Dryfesdale). The country around Moffat especially is rich in remains.

There are traces of the Roman roads which ran by Dalveen Pass into Clydesdale and up the Annan to Tweeddale, and at Birrens is one of the best preserved examples of a Roman camp. Roman altars, urns and coins are found in many places.

After the withdrawal of Roman power from Britain, the situation in Dumfries is not clear. The Selgovae were pressured by the power of Strathclyde, by Scots from Ireland, and the Angles from Northumberland. There is little writing preserved from this time, and that which did is ecclesiastical in nature. Archaeology, although rich on the ground, has rarely been investigated, and place names, used as an indication of influence, are still argued over by academics.

In the parish church of Ruthwell (pron. Rivvel: the rood, or cross, well) is preserved an ancient Anglo-Saxon cross which tells in Runic characters the story of the Crucifixion. The Saxon conquest of Dumfriesshire does not seem to have been thorough in the West, the people of Nithsdale and elsewhere maintaining some Celtic institutions up to the time of David I, although this is not certain.

As a Border county Dumfriesshire was the scene of stirring deeds at various epochs, especially in the days of Robert Bruce. Edward I besieged Caerlaverock Castle, and the factions of Bruce (who was lord of Annandale), John Comyn and John Baliol were at constant feud. The Border clans, as haughty and hot-headed as the Gaels farther north, were always at strife. There is record of a bloody fight in Dryfesdale in 1593, when the Johnstones slew 700 Maxwells, and, overtaking the fugitives at Lockerbie, there massacred most of the remnant. These factions embroiled the dalesmen until the 18th century. The highlands of the shire afforded retreat to the persecuted Covenanters, who, at Sanquhar, published in 1680 their declaration against the king, anticipating the principles of the glorious Revolution by several years. Prince Charles Edward’s ambition left the shire comparatively untouched, for the Jacobite sentiment made little appeal to the people.

Dumfriesshire is inseparably connected with the name of Robert Burns, who farmed at Ellisland on the Nith for three years, and spent the last five years of his life at Dumfries. Thomas Carlyle was born at Ecclefechan, in a house still standing, and was buried beside his parents in the kirkyard of the old Secession church (now the United Free). His farm of Craigenputtock was left to Edinburgh University in order to found the John Welsh bursaries in classics and mathematics.

Folk history suggests that at Holywood, near Dumfries, there stand the relic of the grove of sacred oaks from which the place derived its name, and a stone circle known locally as the Twelve Apostles.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/

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