A tour of Dumfries and my review of Secret Dumfries by Mary Smith and Keith Kirk

In my Thursday Doors post last week, I said that my family had travelled to Dumfries to meet blogger and author, Mary Smith. Mary took us on a short tour of this fascinating town.

Dumfries Museum

A few interesting artifacts from the Dumfries Museum:

The story of the Siller Gun

James VI of Scotland and I of England presented the Seven Trades with a trophy – the Siller Gun – to be awarded in its annual shooting competition.  At a time when tradesmen had to be prepared to defend the town, the King’s intention was to encourage their shooting skill.

It is believed that the gun originally took the form of a miniature cannon mounted on a wheeled carriage.  It was remodelled to resemble a flintlock musket by David Gray after it was broken in 1808.  The individual responsible for the damage was fined £3. 6s. 8d. (£3.34p) for his act, and banished from associating with his trade for twenty-one years.

You can learn more about the Siller Gun and other Dumfries artifacts in Secret Dumfries written by Mary Smith and with pictures by Keith Kirk.

Seven Trades punch bowl

Robert Burns

A selection of pictures from Robert Burns’ house in Dumfries

St Michael’s Church

St Michael’s is the oldest church in Dumfries. The churchyard contains the elaborate Burns’ Mausoleum, and many other noteworthy memorials, including a Covenanters memorial and a mass grave to those who died in a cholera epidemic.

You can read more about St Michael’s Church here: https://stmichaels-and-south-parish-church.co.uk/history-of-the-church/

My review of Secret Dumfries by Mary Smith and Keith Kirk

Secret Dumfries is a non-fiction book depicting the fascinating history of Dumfries, a small town situated on the River Nith in Scotland. Dumfries is also known as the “Queen of the South”, a name bestowed on the town by local poet David Dunbar.

The book is divided into ten chapters each dealing with different aspects of the town, its inhabitants and its history.

Chapter 1: History provides a lot of background to the development and establishment of the town. One particularly interesting historical event was the stabbing of “The Red” Comyn by Robert the Bruce which changed the course of Scottish history.

Chapter 2 deals with Crime and Punishment and one of the titbits of information disclosed in this chapter is that in sixteenth-century Dumfries, anyone caught stealing his neighbour’s peat was branded on the cheek with the towns clock key, heated in a fire made of the stolen peats. 

Chapter 3: Health, shares facts and information about the history of disease and illness in the town including outbreaks of the plague, famine and cholera.

Chapter 4 entitled Industrial Dumfries tells the stories about the development of industry in Dumfries. One of the industries discussed is the quarrying for sandstone at Locharbriggs Quarry. This sandstone is a lovely pink to red colour and is clearly detectable as the building material for most of the historical buildings in the town.

Chapter 5 deals with Wartime Dumfries and tells of the backgrounds of famous Doonhammers during times of warfare, including Joseph Brown who fought in the Crimea War and the Indian Mutiny.

Chapter 6: Outdoor Art Gallery describes the lovely outdoor artworks found throughout the town including a collection of unusual finials on the railings along the Whitesands beside the Nith. There are thirty-eight of these finials which were created by Natalie Vardey and designed to link to past and present trades in Dumfries.

Chapter 7: Remarable Doonhammers includes details on a number of interesting residents of the town, the most renown being Robert Burns and his wife, Jean Armour. Interestingly enough, the book discloses that Robert Burns body was dug up twice before it was finally laid to rest in its current mausoleum.

Chapter 8 advises visitors to remember to look up and provides information on all the artworks and historical artifacts above eye level including some facts about the fire marks on selected buildings.

Chapter 9: Recreation provides the history of, inter alia, the Dumfries football team, the name of which is Queen of the South. It also tells of the history of the Dumfries cinemas and even the circus.

Chapter 10: Curiosities, Mysteries and a Sad Story ends with a poignant tale about Tinker, or Derek Styles, a promising young man who was psychologically ruined by the horrors he witnessed during the battle for Goose green in May 1982. 

Secret Dumfries is a well written and interesting non-fiction book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Scottish history.

Mary Smith’s Amazon author page

62 thoughts on “A tour of Dumfries and my review of Secret Dumfries by Mary Smith and Keith Kirk

  1. Hi Mary, this was a wonderful day. I wish we had been able to stay longer. Our estimation of travelling time in Scotland and the UK was a bit off. WE don’t have the traffic here that you do so travelling is much easier and quicker. I remembered about your other book, the A to Z of Dumfries. I need to read that one too.


  2. HI Olga, Dumfries was definitely a highlight for me. I really loved meeting up with Mary. I hope with travel opening up again, I’ll be able to meet up with a few more bloggers. So nice to meet our virtual friends in person.


  3. Thank you for the virtual tour Robbie..my parents regularly visited Scotland they loved it… my only visit has been to Edinburgh on works conference which meant unfortunately not much sightseeing was done 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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