Dumfries - Noteable people & twin towns
The following is copied from Wikipedia so please excuse any inaccuracies
"Dumfries was the hometown of Robert Burns from 1791 until his death in 1796. The poet is now buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in the Burns Mausoleum.
A number of well-known people were educated at Dumfries Academy, among them James Matthew Barrie, author of Peter Pan, John Laurie, actor (Private Fraser in Dad's Army), and Jane Haining, missionary. Sir Frank Williams of F1 motor racing fame was educated at St Joseph's College, Dumfries. Dumfries is also the hometown of former F1 racer Allan McNish. BBC Broadcaster Kirsty Wark was born in the town. Dumfries was the "hometown" of Burns while he lived there, but Burns was born in Ayrshire and spent many years there before moving to Dumfriesshire. Also Ray Wilson, lead singer of Stiltskin and later Genesis was born in Dumfries. Electronic producer Calvin Harris also hails from Dumfries. John McFarlane, CEO of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) originates from the town. The architect George Corson who worked mainly in Leeds, England, was born in Dumfries and articled to Walter Newall in the town.
Malcolm H. Wright, father of Sophie B. Wright – New Orleans' educator and pioneer for women and children's rights – was born here."
Dumfries is twin towned with:-
Haaf netting - fishing the old-fashioned way
The solway firth is one of very few locations where an ancient form of salmon fishing is still practiced. Haaf netting, imported, along with the name, from the nordic countries, involves stringing a net across the river at full or low tide, and clubbing any unsuspecting salmon that get caught in the nets when the tide turns. Tradition dictates that the unfortunate, but tasty victims of this form of fishing, are then strung up by means of a cord, threaded through their gills using a wooden needle, and hung from the waist of the fisherman until it's time to go home.
Dumfriesshire Haaf netters are a solemn bunch, who jealously guard their fishing privileges, and are licensed by the government: only 150 licenses are granted every year. Indeed as recently as January 2003 Haaf netting was being debated by the Scottish Parliament:
The Convener: Section 31(4)(c) deals with haaf nets. I am assured that people on the Solway have been fishing with haaf nets since Adam was a boy or Peter was casting his nets. It is not, therefore, controversial, even though fishing with haaf nets is allowed only on the Solway.
Murdo Fraser: It is quite controversial. In fact, there have been disputes about what haaf-netting is over centuries. Haaf nets are permitted only on the Solway and nowhere else. The fishermen of the Solway jealously guard their right to fish with haaf nets. However, because it is exclusive to the Solway, there has been much litigation over the years as to what haaf-netting is. Therefore, the right to define haaf-netting is a very sensitive issue.
The Convener: Recommendation 9 at paragraph 67 of the Scottish Law Commission report is that this method of fishing should be recognised as lawful, but that the Scottish Ministers should have a power to regulate the construction and use of haaf nets.
John Paul Jones - 'Father of the American Navy'
John Paul Jones Birthplace Museum
The traditional Scottish cottage in which John Paul Jones was born in 1747. The cottage is furnished in the style of the 1700s when John Paul Jones was born.
A multi projector radio headset audio visual programme is presented in the
reconstructed cabin of his ship ‘Bonhomme Richard’ in which he
defeated HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire in 1779.
The inviting museum shop also boasts an interpretive exhibition on
the life of ‘The Father of the American Navy' with video presentations.
There is an attractive rural picnic area offering marvellous views of the Solway and the Lake District.
For an excellent short biography on Jones' highly eventful life from humble beginings see
Well, we all have to come from somewhere!
"My somewhere is Dumfries, Queen of the South"
Dumfries is a small town that nestles near the estuary of the river Nith in the South West of Scotland. It's hardly a major tourist destination, but it is not without a charm of its own. It was certainly a wonderful environment in which to grow up as I did, just after the era of this old postcard, if a little sheltered. The up side of this is of course that, once I got out, at the age of 17, everything was a wonder!
When I left Dumfries to go and study in Stirling, it seemed that anyone who knew the town either stopped there to go to the toilet on the way to Northern Ireland, or their grannie died there (so good for weak bladders if you don't have grandchildren).
A few years ago, the UK Sunday Times carried a report of a national study into the quality of life in various towns and cities across the UK. Dumfries was placed as the number 1 best place to live, based on criteria like quality of education, employment, low crime statistics etc... still didn't make it the centre of the cultural universe in the 1970's!!
My Dumfries is the place of childhood memories, of the small achievements that make small-town people proud of their heritage, of the modest contributions to art, history and society that are easily overlooked, and of the quirky, lesser-visited corners that make it such a great place to take friends!
Please join me in a voyage of discovery of some of the little known treasures of my home town.
"Dumfries' most famous son - Rabbie Burns"
Well actually, he was adopted, from Alloway in Ayrshire, a place which has made much more of his heritage than Dumfries has managed... but we have his body, and to prove it, here's a picture of his mosauleum which can be found in the grounds of St Michael's Kirk.
An exciseman by trade, Robert Burns was posted to Dumfries, reluctantly as it would appear, and all accounts tell us that he led a colourful life, taking great pleasure in shocking the great and the good of the time. Dumfries offers the visitor, a stroll through his houses and his haunts, as well as a well researched collection of artifacts wonderfully presented in The Burns Centre on the banks of the river Nith.
The majority of the English-speaking world unwittingly commemorates Scotland's national bard (poet) on an annual basis... it was he who penned the international ode to New Year, Auld Lang Syne! (see below) Indeed as poetry goes, Burns work has much to commend it.
He was a philosopher
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion:
From To a Louse
An unashamed romantic (if not the most faithful husband on earth)
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it ware ten thousand mile.
An unwitting rable-rouser
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
... and sometimes a witting and witty one!
O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, an' swearers swear,
An' singin there, an' dancin here,
Wi' great and sma';
For I am keepit by Thy fear
Free frae them a'.
from Holy Willie's Prayer (a hilarious tribute to religious hypocrisy)
"There's no place like home"
This is the house in which I grew up... OK not a location for a traveller. But if you visit Dumfries by car from the south, or head south after your stay, it is entirely possible you will drive past it on the A75. It is an old stone house.
When I was a child we received a visit from a very old American lady. She told us that she had passed the new year of 1899 / 1900 in our house. She evoked incredible images of the past, notably the sounds of crinoline dresses swishing around.
It was originally a row of little cottages. Sometime in the late 19th century these cottages were joined by a corridor, and a small extension was added out the back. Because the house is built on a hill, this extentsion is reached by a wide staircase, although the whole house is on ground level.
My parents still live here, and the family still has a tendency to gather there for Chrismas.
Some of my favourite pictures are in a special travelogue.