The Church in Scotland
A Tour of Wigtownshire
Ghosts in my Past
Counties, Countries, and other...
Geography of Wigtownshire
Origins of the People
Castle of St. John
Ghost of Galdenoch
Death and the IGI
Old Parish Records [OPR]
The Rover of Loch Ryan
Farm Servant vs Ag Lab
What can a Professional Genealogist do?
What Makes a Good Researcher
The Museum, Newton Stewart
Geography of Wigtownshire
|by Jim McLay
Sea bounds the shire of Galloway, namely Wigtown, on two sides, but it also
penetrates it deeply in Loch Ryan and Luce Bay. To the west of these, the
peninsula of the Rhinns of Galloway is connected to the rest of Scotland by a
lowlying isthmus. To the east, the land rises in the Southern Uplands of
Scotland, the western slopes of which, along with the Rhinns, form the
hinterland of Stranraer. The town is a small urban centre with many shops
including supermarkets, a small hospital and entertainment centres. All
secondary school children, aged 12 to 18, also go to school in Stranraer.
Also it is a transport hub for the South-West, with major ferries to
Ireland and the only remaining rail services.
Topographically, the Rhinns is a ridge rising to 182m with cliff coasts,
as at the Mull of Galloway in the south and Corsewall Point in the north,
and with several attractive bays. The presence of the sea makes the area
mild, as seen in the successful growing of subtropical plants in Logan
Gardens. Kirkcolm, Leswalt, Portpatrick, Stoneykirk and Kirkmaiden from
north to south are the parishes on this peninsula. Inch, New Luce and Old
Luce are on the western slope of the uplands and the Luce valley. These 8
parishes formed half of Wigtownshire. Population movements among them and
with the main town of Stranraer were always easy, and researchers into
family history should be aware of this.
Eight parishes made up the other half of Wigtownshire. Between Luce Bay
and Wigtown Bay, six of these (Mochrum, Glasserton, Whithorn, Sorbie,
Kirkinner, Wigtown) occupy a peninsula called the Machers. The highest
point is 197m and the whole area is farmed. The southern headland, Burrow
Head, is cliffed and the other coasts alternate cliffs and attractive
bays, some with fine sands. Some books refer to a third division of
Wigtownshire, the Moors, which cover much of New Luce and of the remaining
two parishes of Kirkcowan and Penninghame. These two are drained by the
rivers Cree and Bladnoch. The upper Cree and Bladnoch wander over the
moors, but the tributaries from Minnigaff drain uplands, of which the
highest summit is Merrick, 843m. The Cree has formed a large floodplain
over which it meanders, the lowest bridging point being at Newton Stewart,
the service centre for the Machers and the Cree valley. The Cree Basin
forms a discrete unit and includes the parishes of Minnigaff and
Kirkmabreck in the Stewartry of Galloway, that is Kirkcudbrightshire. Just
as workers moved and move around the Machers for employment, so there are
many links over the Cree basin.
In 1976, Scotland's counties were replaced by new political entities.
Wigtownshire became Wigtown District with the addition of Minnigaff and
Kirkmabreck, with Stranraer as the centre for local administration. In
1996 further reorganisation resulted in larger units and the southwest is
now known as Dumfries and Galloway, and is administered from Dumfries.