Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

Stewartry of Kirkcudbright

The following is abstracted from the "Topographical Dictionary of Scotland" by Samuel Lewis, first edition published 1846 in London, reprinted 1989 by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore.

KIRKCUDBRIGHT, Stewartry of, a county, in the south of Scotland, bounded on the north and north-east by the county of Dumfries; on the north and north-west by the county of Ayr; on the south and south-east by the Solway Firth; and on the south-west by the county and bay of Wigtown. It lies between 5443' and 5519' (N.Lat) and, 333' and 434' (W.Long.), and is forty-eight miles in length, from east to west, and thirty miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of about 882 square miles, or 564,480 acres; 8485 houses, of which 8162 are inhabited; and containing a population of 41,119, of whom 18,856 are males and 22,263 females. This district, which, from its ancient tenure, is called a stewartry, though for all purposes a county, occupies the eastern portion of the ancient province of Galloway. Prior to the Roman invasion of Britain, it was principally inhabited by the British tribe of the Novantes. The Romans, on their invasion of the island, erected several stations in the district of Galloway, and constructed various roads; but though they maintained something like a settlement in this part of the country, which they included in their province of Valentia, they were not able completely to reduce the original inhabitants under their dominion. After the departure of the Romans from Britain, the county, owing to its proximity to the Isle of Man and the Irish coast, became the resort of numerous settlers from those parts, who, intermingling with the natives, formed a distinct people, subject to the government of a chieftain that exercised a kind of subordinate sovereignty under the kings of Northumbria, or kings of Scotland, to whom they paid a nominal allegiance. Upon the death of Allan, Lord of Galloway, in the thirteenth century, the country was distracted by the continual struggles of the various competitors for its government, and fell under the power of Alexander II., King of Scotland. On the subsequent marriage of Devorgilla, one of Allan's daughters, with the ancestor of Baliol, King of Scotland, it became the patrimonial property of that family. During the contest between Baliol and Bruce for the crown, the province was the frequent scene of hostilities; and from the attachment of the inhabitants to the cause of Baliol, it suffered severely. Ultimately it became the property of the Douglas family, on whose attainder it escheated to the crown, and was divided by James II, among several proprietors.

The stewartry of Kirkcudbright was for some time included in the county of Dumfries, and was under the jurisdiction of the same sheriff; but every vestige of that connexion was lost prior to the time of Charles I., since which period it has to all intents formed a distinct and independent county, though still retaining its ancient appellation. Previously to the abolition of episcopacy, the district was part of the diocese of Galloway; it is now mostly included in the synod of Galloway, and comprises the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and parts of others, and twenty-eight parishes. For civil purposes it is under the jurisdiction of a sheriff, or stewart, by whom a stewart-substitute is appointed. ...

The whole of the district appears to have been at a very early period in a forward state of cultivation; and during the war of the Scots with Edward I. of England, it furnished the chief supplies of grain for the subsistence of the English army after the conquest of Galloway.


House of Kirkcudbright

For more information on the history of Kirkcudbright, see "Record of the House of Kirkcudbright" written by John MacClellan in 1874 and revised and enlarged in 1903, Dumfries, J. Maxwell & Son, 1906.


The Name Kirkcudbright

Christianity began in Scotland in the sixth century when an Irish monk, St. Columba (521-497), made the small western island of Iona the seat of his mission work among the pagan Picts and Scots. A generation later, Aidan, a missionary from Iona, preached among the Angles who had settled in the southeast, between what is now Edinburgh and the English border. The real conversion of the Angles, who were to become a dominant strain in the Lowlands, resulted from the efforts of St. Cuthbert* (d.687), bishop of Lindisfarne, who as a Scot knew well the people he was working with. *Cuthbert's name survives in many legends and in many places. The southwestern shire of Kirkcudbright, which provided many of the immigrants to Ulster, preserves his memory in its very name, which means "the church of Cuthbert." [Quoted from "The Scotch-Irish, A Social History" by James G. Leyburn, The University of North Carolina Press, 1962, ISBN 0-8078-4259-1.]

McClelland Home Page