Famous Gallovidians

Dumfries and Galloway has a proud tradition of producing some exceptional people who have contributed to history in some outstanding ways. Here are some of Dumfries and Galloway's famous sons, daughters and inhabitants.

James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk MaxwellJames Clerk Maxwell is one of the most influential scientists of all time. Albert Einstein acknowledged that the origins of the special theory of relativity lay in Clerk Maxwell's theories, saying “The work of James Clerk Maxwell changed the world forever”.

Clerk Maxwell's research into electromagnetic radiation led to the development of television, mobile phones, radio and infra-red telescopes. The largest astronomical telescope in the world, at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, is named in his honour.

In recognition of his conection with the Glenkens having lived at Glenlair near Parton in southern Scotland during part of his retirement, where he did his brilliant and valuable work on his electric magnetic theory, a memorial stands at the entrance to Parton Parish Church where his remains are buried in the family plot.

Today at Glenlair near Corsock, there is a small visitor centre available to visit by appointment only.  Email fergie@glenlair.org.uk or call 01556 650209 to arrange.

Please visit  http://www.glenlair.org.uk/ for more information.

Alexander Murray

Alexander Murray's monument, Talnotry, Dumfries and GallowayAlexander Murray FRSE FSA(Scot) (1775 – 15 April 1813) was a Scottish minister, philologist, linguist and professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at Edinburgh University (1812). Son of a shepherd Alexander was born at Dunkitterick between New Galloway and Newton Stewart. Self educated and with a passion for languages he succeeded in being accepted for Edinburgh University where he excelled as a student. The pinnacle of his success came in 1812 when he was appointed head of Oriental Languages at Edinburgh University. However, he suffered from poor health and died of consumption in 1813.

A monument to his memory was erected in 1834 above Talnotry near the cottage in which he was born, both of which are still popular attractions on the Queensway near Newton Stewart.

Samuel Rutherford Crockett

S R Crockett was born at Balmaghie in Dumfries and Galloway in 1859 and brought up on a farm in the area.

He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1879 and became a minister for Penicuik in Midlothian seven years later.

However, the success of novels like The Stickit Minister and The Lilac Sunbonnet saw him abandon the ministry for writing.

He published dozens of books, mainly novels and enjoyed success following the vogue for novels in Scots dialect set by James M Barrie.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Samuel Rutherford Crockett - published as SR Crockett - was a hugely successful novelist. His works sold hundreds of thousands of copies and regularly featured on the bestseller list. If Galloway is Scotland's best kept secret, surely SR Crockett is Galloway's best kept secret.

There is a very fine granite memorial to S R Crockett at nearby Laurieston on the south side of Loch Ken.

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle was a 19th century Scottish essayist, historian and satirical writer, known for works like Sartor Resartus and The French Revolution.

Born 1795, in Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, Thomas Carlyle studied at the University of Edinburgh and later became an essayist. In the mid-1830s, he published Sartor Resartus, and when he released The French Revolution in 1837, he became a prominent writer of his day. His later works include a biography of Frederick the Great. Carlyle died on February 5, 1881, in London, England.

His birthplace is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public from April to September.

John Paul Jones

Famous Gallovidian - John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones is famous in the United States as the 'Father of the American Navy'. He was born in poverty and through his skills became a distinguished naval officer fighting for both the USA and Russia. In Britain he is rather remembered as a pirate.

John Paul, (he added the Jones later) was born on the estate of Arbigland, Dumfries & Galloway on 6th July 1747. John Paul went to Kirkbean school but spent much time at the small port of Carsethorn on the Solway Firth. It was from Carsethorn that at the age of 13 that he boarded a vessel to go to Whitehaven across the Solway where he signed up for a seven year seaman's apprenticeship.

At the age of seventeen he went straight into the slave trade as third mate on the King George of Whitehaven. Two years later in 1766 he transferred as first mate to the brigantine Two Friends of Kingston, Jamaica. John Paul became a captain by his own merits at the age of twenty-one.

At the start of the American War of Independence, when Congress formed a 'Continental Navy' Paul Jones offered his services and he was commissioned as first lieutenant on 7th December 1775. On 10 April 1778, Jones sailed from Brest on a cruise to the Irish Sea capturing and destroying small vessels. Despite a near mutinous crew he carried out a hit and run raid on Whitehaven. A shore party of two boats landed at midnight in calm weather. There were two forts guarding the harbour and the plan was for each boat to capture one. Jones' boat did so bloodlessly and spiked the fort's cannon but when he went to the other fort he discovered that the other boat's crew had gone to the pub instead. He knocked out the other fort, set fire to some colliers and managed to get all the raiding party safely back to the ship.

Four hours later at 10am, Jones reached Kirkcudbright Bay, more familiar territory to him. His plan was to capture the Earl of Selkirk who lived on St Mary's Isle to exchange him for captured American sailors. On landing they learned, however, that the Earl was absent.

In 1781 he returned to America and Congress passed a vote of thanks to him for the way he had sustained the honour of the American fleet and in 1787 awarded him a gold medal. He spent the remaining years of the war advising on the establishment of the navy and the training of naval officers.

In 1788 he was made a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy by the Empress Catherine II, a rank higher than he had received in the United States.

On the 18th July 1792, sick in body but of sound mind, he dictated his will. Alone he walked to his chamber and had laid himself face down on the bed. He was 45 years old. His body lay in an alcohol filled coffin in an unmarked grave in a cemetary for foreign Protestants for over a century. In 1913 his body was finally laid to rest in a magnificent marble sarcophagus, modelled on the tomb of Napoleon, in the chapel crypt of Annapolis Naval Academy; a far cry from his humble beginnings in the Gardeners Cottage on Arbigland Estate, which has been renovated as a museum open to the public.

Rev Henry Duncan

Famous Gallovidians - Rev. Henry Duncan
The son of a Church of Scotland Minister, Henry Duncan was born at Lochrutton, near Dumfries, in 1774.

When he was sixteen his father sent him to Liverpool to study banking. Three years later he abandoned the commercial world to study for the Ministry at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. When he was ordained as Minister of Ruthwell Church in 1799, the Rev Henry Duncan immediately set about helping his starving parishioners.

In 1800 he persuaded the Earl of Mansfield to donate a derelict cottage in Ruthwell. From this cottage he distributed food to the parishioners and it was in this cottage in 1810 that he was to launch the Ruthwell Parish Bank and the savings bank movement which spread to 109 organisations in 92 countries.

The original Ruthwell Parish Bank is now home of the Savings Banks Museum. The eighteenth century building houses a collection of early home savings boxes, coins and bank notes from many parts of the world. There are books on the worldwide spread of savings banks. The modest but important archives include documents and letters on the history of savings banks.

Donald Watson

Donald Watson, ArtistDonald Watson specialised in painting birds in their natural environment. He had his first one man exhibition in Edinburgh in 1949, followed by London, Glasgow, Oxford, Dumfries as well as Toronto and Luxembourg. He illustrated over 30 books, including the Oxford Book of British Birds. He became a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists, and President of the Scottish Ornithologists' Club. He also was a local bird recorder for Galloway.

He was not only a painter, but also a gifted author. His first book, written and illustrated by him, was "Birds of Moor and Mountain" (1972), followed by "The Hen Harrier" (1977), "A Bird Artist in Scotland" (1988), and "One Pair of Eyes" (1994).

He and his wife settled in St. John's Town of Dalry in Barone, a former hotel on the Main Street. The house has recently been bought by a Trust set up to create a lasting legacy for Donald and his son Jeff by creating the Watson Bird Centre and establishing Dalry as Scotland's Bird Town.