Meeting Report: Three talks by members

1 March 2013
Members' Night
Anne Fairn and Eileen Toolis; Liam Murray

Anne Fairn and Eileen Toolis — Survey of Gardens and Designed Landscapes around Dumfries: Castledykes and Terregles

Two members of the Garden History Society of Scotland spoke to Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society on Members' Night at the beginning of March. They are part of a team of 15 volunteer contributors to surveys being carried out since 2009 in our region, where 20 such surveys have been conducted and are incorporated in the book, An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, while 160 more are taking place throughout Scotland. The aim is to enhance awareness and knowledge of designed landscapes.

The elements of the study comprise investigation of the location, ownership, size, history, maps, illustrations, architects, designers, designs and planting.

Eileen Toolis, former president and now a fellow of the society, chose Terregles House and garden estate as her subject. The name Terregles is derived from Welsh and means 'church land'. Owned by the Herries family, it then passed to the Maxwells by marriage. Mary Queen of Scots stayed there after the battle of Langside in 1568 before embarking on her fateful journey into England. Burns wrote the poem Nithsdale's Welcome Hame to the return of the Jacobite-supporting Maxwells from exile. The last and most handsome of the houses on site over the centuries was built in 1789 and demolished in 1964. The gatehouse and stable block are still there.

In the late Victorian period Terregles estate boasted beautifully-landscaped gardens. Documentation of the period reveals an ice house, gasometer, brick works, potting sheds, walled garden, glasshouses, vinery, fernery, extensive orchard, two full size tennis greens, a fountain, a sundial and statues of the four seasons. A loyalty photograph of 1909 shows a staff of fifteen, of which six were gardeners, standing on the steps of the italianate garden with the statues of three of the four seasons clearly visible as a backdrop.

Eileen quoted the report of DGNHAS members' visit to Terregles Gardens on 7th June 1890.

The Terregles gardens and ornamental grounds are notable for their extent and their magnificence. Stately trees, beech hedges of giant stature and perfect symmetry, terraces and banks of velvety turf, cunningly contrived grottos, lake and stream, and statuary present at every turn new features that invite the visitor to linger in admiration; at this season the grounds are gorgeous with the bright and artfully blended tints of the rhododendron and azalea, while on their outskirts a long bank of the yellow broom reflects a golden glow.


Henry Cockburn, Law Lord, visited the site and found much to admire, although he was critical of the fact that a professional rock maker from London had been employed in Scotland where nature was the supreme rock maker!

Minor elements remain but the former carefully-tended scene now serves mainly as pasture.

Anne Fairn, retired teacher and local historian, chose the villa garden of Castledykes as her subject. She had researched the scene previously for the South West Decorative and Fine Art Society (SWSDFAS) and produced a booklet in 2010, copies of which are still available from Dumfries Museum or Ewart Library for £3.30.

The attractive present-day site with a unique and magnificent layout for a municipal garden has an interesting history spanning the centuries. Two Norman castles, associated with Edward I of England and his campaigns to subjugate Scotland have occupied the site. After slaying the Red Comyn in 1306 Bruce captured Castledykes Castle from Edward's control and held it for three weeks. Anne recommended reading Edward's Wardrobe Accounts for the 28th year of his reign: inequality of remuneration of the sexes is evidenced by the fact that men were paid ten pence per day and women were paid one penny. While Bruce held the castle the accounts show the loss of 9 casks of wine, 2 casks of honey, 221 quarters of salt and 182 horse shoes! Bruce retook the castle in 1313, which was laid waste by 1335 — perhaps at the hands of Bruce. Murals, now requiring refurbishment, depict scenes from this period.

The Burgh of Dumfries acquired the site, a source of quarrying material, in the Middle Ages until 1800 when the sandstone became depleted. The Midsteeple in 1707 was constructed from Castledykes stone.

Early in the 19th century the site passed into private ownership. Ebenezer Scott, formerly of Kelton , who made his fortune in cotton in the USA, acquired it in the 1820s. Walter Newall designed an italianate villa for him, which incorporated — most unusually for the times — water closets on each floor and running water even in the servants' quarters. His young American wife, Elizabeth, a keen botanist and plantswoman, used her influence to achieve lavish expenditure of £20,000 on the garden scene, incorporating a vinery and hothouses. They grew mushrooms, peaches, grapes, figs and pomegranates. The Burgh was paid 100 guineas for moss from Kingholm Merse to provide a good base for her plants. The much-publicised garden attracted key visitors, such as J.C. Loudon, botanist and garden designer, who criticised the laying of turf on the steep banks round the quarry, as being impractical for cutting. John McDermott in 1832 described the scene incorporating "shady walks, pellucid springs and garden rills." Elizabeth, once widowed, took her precious house plant collection back to the USA.

In 1931 the Burgh bought back the site. Thereafter the house was let to various people, including James Carmont, a banker, who had 60 years association with Crichton Royal Institution administration. Castledykes House was demolished in 1952.

Alfie Truckell conducted two site excavations in 1953.

Allen Paterson, a well-known horticulturist, who has retired to Dumfriesshire, did a tree survey in 2004 to establish the age of the trees on site.

These two interesting and well-illustrated talks made the audience realise what magnificent local scenes have passed into history.

Liam Murray — Life and Work in Tanzania in the 1960s

A third talk was given by Liam Murray, former treasurer of the Society. It was also enhanced by a series of interesting slides.

After graduating from Glasgow University he worked as a farm manager before joining the Colonial Service in 1955 as an Agricultural Officer. The second spell of his two-year training in Tropical Agriculture was spent in Trinidad where he met and married Heather, a charming young Air Hostess with British West Indian Airways.

In 1957 the couple went to Tanganyika which had been a German colony, but which had been mandated to Britain after the First World War. In 1955 a large number of graduates were recruited but in 1957, after the Suez crisis, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made his famous speech declaring that "the winds of change are sweeping through Africa" and it was apparent that Independence was going to come soon and that Liam's job in the Colonial Service was not going to be a job for life.

His first posting was to Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Although the local tribe were advanced and industrious, the Governor, Sir Edward Twining, who visited Moshi in 1958 was not keen on independence being granted. However, he was replaced by Sir Richard Turnbull who had been Governor of Kenya and who believed that Independence should be granted.

The plains below Kilimanjaro were very arid but they did have a major river, the Weru Weru, running through them and the Government decided to use the water to set up an irrigation scheme, which Liam managed as his first job. In order to find the best crops for the scheme, trial plots of maize, paw paw, cassava, bananas and cotton were set up with cotton being found the most successful. It was grown, harvested and then taken to markets which were run by Indians who sent the crop to both Britain and India.

After a year the Murrays were transferred to Mbulu, located above the Rift Valley. The local tribe, the Iraqw built their houses into the side of the hills. These very enclosed buildings had no windows, a factor which gave rise to a high incidence of tuberculosis amongst the local people. They were a friendly tribe and they made a great deal of fuss of Liam's children on those occasions which were attended by both the local people and the European families. The Iraqw were traditionally cattle people and efforts were being made by the Agricultural Department to have them become involved in cash crops, particularly pyrethrum which grew well in the area and was seen as the great hope for replacing DDT. Whilst he was there Liam was involved in supervising national and local elections some of the stations for which in the remote areas were held under a tree and on the back of his pick-up truck.

The following tour he was posted back to Moshi as the District Agricultural Officer, arriving this time, not by ship and car, but instead by plane touching down on Moshi's spectacular airport on the plain below Kilimanjaro. Here they lived in a large old colonial house with an extensive garden and spectacular views of Kilimanjaro from the dining-room window and a nanny for the children. Ten nights every month had to be spent out on safari staying in tents or rest houses, which were maintained by the government. On occasions Heather would accompany him to enjoy what was, in the upper slopes of the mountains, scenery and streams which were very like those to be found in Scotland.

The main crop was coffee, which at the time each local farmer processed on his own farm and thereafter sold through the District Cooperative Society, but because of inconsistency in the processing it never obtained the top prices that the European crops secured. However, after Liam and the government marketing officers met up with local chiefs a Central Processing Factory was set up, which resulted in the high quality Tanganyikan Arabica Coffee which is now sold in the UK. The climate also suited wheat and large acreages were grown by the European farmers on the western plains of the mountain.

On his third tour he was sent to Bukoba on Lake Victoria as Regional Agricultural Officer. The plane landed on sodden ground, a feature of the wet season when the lake regularly flooded. There was a golf course on the ground alongside the lake on which there were not "greens" but "browns" of sand which were smoothed over after the players had putted out by a lad dragging a sack around the "brown". If the course had been flooded they played in Wellington boots. The roads were basic with dirt and ridges in the dry season and puddles in the wet. The Lake Steamer arrived three times a week from Kenya delivering supplies.

Independence came in 1961 and the colonial officers — other than the Administration Officers who were all given early retirement — were presented with the option of transferring to another colony or transferring to the Tanganyikan Civil Service for which a cash compensation was given. Liam took this option and with the cash was able to take a glorious family holiday in Malindi on the East Coast of Kenya.

Meanwhile there was unrest building up in Tanganyika and in 1964 the army mutinied. Julius Nyerere, the President, managed to escape and Britain responded to his appeal for help by sending in a Battalion of Commandos who quickly quelled the mutiny as they did also with a copy cat mutiny in Kenya.

Bukoba was on the border with the Congo where a vicious revolution had taken place and Liam and Heather decided to return to Britain with their three young children. The Colonial Office had set up a Resettlement Bureau and a job was found for Liam with Scottish Agricultural Industries who sent him on his first posting to their office in Dumfries to work as a Farm Management Adviser.