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They Were at Moffat
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They Were Here :
A wide range of people were born in Moffat, lived there or nearby, visited the town or were buried there. Here is a small selection of the most famous.
William Wallace had a sister married to the lord of Corehead Tower (now Corehead Farm) at the head of Moffat Dale near the Beeftub. He is supposed to have ridden from there in 1297 to fame and eventual execution.
The Bruce family held lands in and around Lochmaben and Moffat, including Auldton Motte. The Robert le Bruce who lived there in 1177 was possibly an ancestor of the victor of Bannockburn, King Robert 'The Bruce' in 1314.
Archibald Johnstone born near Moffat, was the Scottish lawyer who drafted the Articles of the Covenant, by which Presbyterians separated themselves from the Episcopalian belief in a Church lead by Bishops and the King. This was seen as being treasonous, so was suppressed as a rebellion, although (initially at least) no disloyalty was intended. Johnstone was executed for his daring to draft the document.
John Graham, Lord Claverhouse was a rather grimmer figure; in the Covenanting times, he was billeted in 1685 at the ancient Black Bull inn in Moffat whilst suppressing local Coventicles and making many an execution or jailing those Presbyterians who did not wish to follow the Episcopalian desires of the King. The death of one Covenanter - John Hunter - at the top of the Beef Tub is marked by a memorial in Moffat churchyard.
James Boswell came during 1768 in quieter and happier days, taking the Moffat waters for his health and reporting the strange appearance of a Presbyterian who enjoined him and like bathers to pray for their sins.
John Loudon MacAdam (1756-1836) was the famous roadmaker whose realisation of the value of hard broken stone chips made modern roadmaking possible. The addition of tar or asphalt bound the chips together into tarmacadam, or 'tarmac'. Born in Ayr, he died in Moffat and is buried there.
Thomas Telford (1757-1834) was born not far from Moffat and engineered a series of roads, bridges and harbours throughout the United Kingdom. His roads through North Wales to Holyhead, and his work on the route from Carlisle to the ports for Ireland, produced structures still visible today.
Robert Burns The greatest of Scotland's poets, was fond of coming to Moffat. The daughter of a local farmer was the 'Chloris' of his poems. The Black Bull Inn used to have a window pane on which Burns had inscribed a short poem, but the window is now in St. Petersburg in Russia.
James Hogg (1770-1835) the 'Ettrick Shepherd' was the other great poet of the Borders, a man of humble birth who taught himself the love of the written word, then in it recorded the events of the land he lived in. He met with others in the 'Tibbie Shiels Inn', kept by a widow. Hogg and his fellows made the inn as much of a place of culture as did Burns his local in Dumfries.
Charles Lapworth was one of several Scottish fathers of modern geology. He identified the graptolites in the Moffat Series of shales and mudstones as fossils of an extinct species of marine organism, adding to the knowledge which lead to Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
D.E. Stephenson was a relastive of the great Robert Louis Stephenson. Although her books are out of print in Britain, she has a considerable following in the United States, from where visitors come to see the town and hills she loved.
In the Twentieth Century it is Air Chief Marshal Lord Hugh Dowding (1882-1970) who was the most famous son of Moffat. He was the 'Architect of Deliverance' whose preparation and operations gave the Royal Air Force victory in the Battle of Britain.
At the same time as Dowding was conducting the Battle of Britain, a young evacuee from London was living in Moffat. Robin Jenkins later became an author, his book 'The Changelings' being set in Moffat and telling of his experiences.
Mora Dickson is a more recent daughter of Moffat. Her claim to fame has been in setting up International Voluntary Service Overseas, the organisation that has made use of volunteers' time and skills in sustainable projects in the developing nations of the world.
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All text and images © 1999 Richard Edkins of Dalbeattie Internet.
Moffat Town Website started 9th June 1999.
Last updated 23rd June 1999.