Kirkcowan – What's Going On?

I Hae Min o’ Kirkcowan

Once a year people emptied and burned the chaff in their mattresses. In Kirkcowan this was done at the New Mill Bridge. The smell of burning chaff lasted for a long time.

There was a tuck shop opposite the Post Office where everyone went for ice cream in the summer and mushy peas in the winter, or the year round favourite drink “Boston Cream.” There were inexpensive sweeties for children to buy, more expensive sweets and caramels for Adults, and fruit, even pomegranates.

At Hogmanay a barrel of blazing tar was dragged up the village street. The Oddfellows organised the celebration. Kirkcowan had outstanding champions in curling and bowling and was famous for its annual music concert.

When Pinders Circus came to the village, the children always enjoyed the raising of the Big Top as much as the show itself.

Elderly women of the village used to set off early in the morning to spend the day scraping lichen off drystane dykes into bags. The lichen was used in the woollen mills for the making of dye.

Instead of using individual candles in a big place for working, three legged iron candle stands were placed on the floor or hung from the ceiling by an iron ring at the top of the stand. The candle stand could be adjusted to different heights.

There were vast quantities of wonderful honey obtained from bees on the Marquis of Bute’s moorland estate until the Isle of Wight disease wiped out the bees.

A tall building in the middle of the main street of Kirkcowan was divided into a mens tailors shop on the top floor and a womens dressmakers shop on the ground floor. There was a stone staircase up the side entry to the top half.

In the 1914—1918 War, the mills employed the whole village making blankets for the troops.

A man walked up the village street in the morning blowing a bugle to awaken the mill workers.

A German band toured the area before 1914.  It played in Kirkcowan. Its trumpeters or buglers wore long coats and stood in a circle in the road opposite the hall to play. When the War later broke out, people decided that they had probably been sent to spy.

* In the nineteenth century, Kirkcowan was advertised as a village with tailors and dressmakers and as a centre for hand—made corsets.

There were tales that Burke and Hare had been to Kirkcowan. They were said to have thrown bodies over the cemetery wall to be collected on the street. A woman going down the street to seek a cure for a toothache from a friend got such a fright when she saw a body coming over the wall that she ran away and her toothache disappeared. A young child, it is said, lost its mother about that time. She was said to have been taken by Burke and Hare and was never mentioned again. The village people used to chant a rhyme about the body—stealers.

At the turn of the century there was an exchange of letters between supporters of the United Presbyterian Church Improvement Society and the Parish Church Debating Society printed in the Free Press. The letter writers, who roundly attacked each other using the most civilised terms, signed themselves “Pro Bono Publico”, “Guildsmen” and “Sandy McPherson of Peat Moss Farm, Kirkcowan.”

* In January of 1921, on one day, one Kirkcowan football team was playing Whithorn while another Kirkcowan football team was playing Stranraer.

One of the teams had in it a Crozier, a Milroy, and three McKies.

• William Dougan Brown, joiner, carpenter, and builder of carts, also made coffins in his workshop and did all sorts of jobs like painting, paperhanging, and signwriting as well. He was called to mend broken village pumps or cars and for 48 years erected the platform extension and tiered seating for the annual concert of the Kirkcowan Musical Society.

Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell supplied the designs from wood and copper blocks which stamped out patterns for the embroidery made in the village.