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Notes on the Bridge of Nith

By: Mr J Carlyle Aitken (Abridged)

From: Transactions and Journal of Proceedings, Issues 3-5  By Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society

The date of the Old Bridge of Dumfries is usually given as 1275, and that it has been assumed by some old ecclesiastics that Christian, sister of Devorgilla, was associated with her in the work, but as she died in 1246, and as the Bridge was probably built in her lifetime, it is possible that the structure was earlier than the date usually given. In the course o£ the ages prior to this artistic structure, the stone bridge of the 13th century, there evidently must have been some practical link of communication connecting the town and religious communities with their Troqueer lands on the opposite shore of the Nith, and the inhabitants of Galloway generally speaking. We think it probable that some I’udely constructed bridge of wood may have preceded this stone structure. This supposition is rendered the more probable, seeing that in 1609 a petition to the Privy Council anent “the brig of Drumfries, which the saidis Lordis knawis is a verrie large brig of mony bowis,” the petitioners further allege and explain as to the then threatened hindrance ” of the ordinar passage over the wattir of Nith, sein na boat dar ga upon that wattar but in calme and fair wedder in respect it has so swift and violent a course.” From the earliest ages we find the Dumfriesians have cherished an amiable predilection in favour of this their “Auld Brig” of Dum- fries and of Nith, a predilection the depth of which, in the reign of King James the Sixth, manifests itself in the fervidly amiable language and prayer of their petition anent its threatened ruin, as we may by and bye see in detail. The ancient King’s town of Dumfries, as the great seat of the courts of law, of oldest time held within the Castle of Dumfries, with its monastery, mills, commerce, and shipping, must in a very real sense have been the natural central capital town of the shire, as well as of a much wider superficial area of a land in which towns were as few as far between in the undeveloped ages of the history of Dumfries and Galloway. As the shipping of the port of Dumfries on the Nith is in some sort allied with the history of the Bridge of Nith, we here add what may to some extent be considered as one of the foundation vouchers of its descriptive limits and history, as they were understood to have been in the first year of the reign of Henrie and Marie, King and Queen of Scots. We the more willingly do so seeing that the preparatory narrative of the cause itself contains some interesting summary of the constitutional history of the ancient Burghs Royal of Dumfries and Kirkcud- bright, which although otherwise not unknown here receives positive and ofiicial confirmation. We need hardly say that so far as the Burgh of Kirkcudbright is concerned no older surname oan tliere well have been there than that of the Maclelland of Bombie, which is associated with the narrative of their Burghal Charter, dated Perth, 26th October, 1455, wherein the reigning Provost or Alderman of ” Kirkcudbrith ” is named “Willm Macleland de Bomby.”

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