The Isle of Whithorn Agricultural History

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Baling Hay near the Isle of Whithorn
The Isle of Whithorn

The Isle of Whithorn

The Farms

There are four farms immediately surrounding the village, Cutreoch, Boyach, Stannock and Isle Farm. From the farm names, it would appear that the settlements date from early times. Isle Farm was obviously named after the village; Cutreoch may well come from a mix of Britonic/ Gaelic and mean “cold cottage”.

Boyach (originally Buyoch ) - yellow field (possibly because of the yellow whins [gorse] which grow around the farm). Stannock possibly meant stone house but interestingly was previously known as Stennock Corbett and part of Stennock Balconnell. (One wonders if the ruins at the back of the farm were originally a separate holding).

The ownership of farms is interesting too. We all knew that the church, through the large presence in Whithorn, was a force in the area, but it is surprising to discover that most of the farms in the Machars belonged to the church in the 16th century. Boyach and Cutreoch, along with Morrach and Tonderghie belonged to Dundrennan Abbey, while Stannock; Prestrie; Arbrack; Sheddock and Cutcloy belonged to Whithorn Priory. They were then sold to successive large, wealthy landowners such as the Stewarts, Houstons, Vaus and Stairs.

In 1878, it appears Isle Farm, along with Bysbie and the Mill, were on the Physgill estate of the Earl of Galloway. Stannock and Falhar (see later) had been bought by the Earl of Stair from the Earl of Galloway in 1874. Cutreoch was on the Castlewigg estate and Boyach on the Tonderghie estate. From Slaters directory of 1893, the farmers were noted as Cutreoch - John G Martin; Boyach - Alexander Donnan (along with High Ersock); Stannock - Ivie McIlwraith; Falhar - Jane Douglas; Isle Farm - William B Waugh, and also Isle Farm - Agnes & Alex. Fraser. One can only assume that one farmed Isle Farm as we now know it, and the other at Isle Croft (the sheds on the side of the Garlieston road just outside the village which is now a part of Isle Farm.). Falhar too has disappeared. It was sold by Stannock in 1946 to Lindsay of Low Mains. After the house was burnt down in 1950’s it was bought by the Vances of Portyerrock and amalgamated into that farm.

Cutreoch was farmed by Bill Brown (who also owned Morrach), then a Miss Clark and, for a short time, Jim Young, before being sold to Robin Simpson, the present occupant. Mrs Palmer was in Boyach and Sidney Cummings followed, before being taken over by Eben Brown (of Drummorral) in 1943, the present farmer being his grandson, David. Stannock is still in the hands of the McIlwraith family, but Isle Farm is currently farmed by Tom Forsyth who bought it from Hugh Watson around 1970, having been previously owned by Bobby Cummings.

Mention should be made too of the land within the village. This mainly belonged to the miller of Bysbie Mill, James Alexander (grandfather of John Scoular), who lived in what is now the post office. His farm buildings were on the site of the new house (aptly named Millers Byre); his boat shed and slipway at Donegal - the Millers Port, and his pigsties opposite his house were next to the burn allowing him to feed live eels to his pigs - a treat they seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

It is often noted by strangers the quantity and quality of “dry-stane dykes” - walls built of stones which surround much of our farm land. This area has always had a number of excellent craftsmen in this art. They say a good dyker never puts a stone down once he has lifted it, he always finds it a home! Fortunately it is a trade that is still attracting young men and so we hope our dykes will provide both security and shelter for our stock for generations to come!


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