PARKER Netta PDF Print E-mail

Netta Parker - The Lost Village of Abbey Burnfoot


We lived in Burnfoot for over twenty years. I was born near Newton Stewart and my father was a blacksmith near there. He died when I was two and my mother, brother Jim, sister Eva and I moved into a house in Burnfoot.

It was a lively village with about ten families living there. There was a Hall which was used for Sunday School, Carpet Bowling, and the Rural meetings. A Minister would come down from the Manse in Dundrennan every four weeks to take the Sunday School, it was Mr Christie then.

Dundrennan is two miles away and we had to walk to school and back each day. My brother Jim cycled every day to the Academy at Kirkcudbright and Eva went to Douglas Ewart High School at Newton Stewart [Eva's son is John Davidson who lives at the top of Main Street in Auchencairn]. I could have gone to that school but I didn't want to leave my mother alone so I stayed at Dundrennan School until I was 14.

Burnfoot was one of the many harbours used for smuggling in the early nineteenth century and is mentioned in Maxwell Wood's book; Smuggling In The Solway. In 1862 a deep underground cellar was found under the foundations of an old house in Abbey Burnfoot where the smugglers hid their goods. Up on Barcheskie Hill, just north of Burnfoot, some workmen found a lot of hidden brandy. This was shared between them and taken and hidden in the fields and. farmhouses, according to the book.

In those days, before the Second World War, there was a lot of people coming in and out of Burnfoot. A man in Dundrennan kept a small hut in the village and every Sunday he would come down and open the hut up and sell ices, lemonade and biscuits. He probably chose Sundays as that is when we had most visitors. There wasn't much for the visitors to do except play football on the grassy part in front of the beach, or put up their-tents, or buy from the hut, yet every Sunday in the warm weather they would come down in their cars to look at the sea.
 
We also had the butcher and bakery and grocery vans coming in from Kirkcudbright. There was no electricity when we first moved there and we had to light candles and hurricane lamps at night. If we needed a doctor then it was off to Kirkcudbright. Our coal came from Cumberland! It would come across by boat and be unloaded onto the jetty where it was stored in the coal shed until it was sold to the villagers. We all got our milk from Barcheskie Farm up near Netherlaw house (which is also gone).
 
Mr Muir had a fishing vessel in the harbour and used to provide fish. Occasionally on Sundays he would take us children out for a sail if the weather was fine. Many people caught their own fish, they would go out on a rock that jutted out into the sea which we called Cod Rock and fish for cod, but the tide had to be right as it was covered at high tides. But no matter how high the tides were they never flooded our houses, although there was one year when the water came over the small hill between us and the sea and down to our gateway but that was as near as it got.

I remember once a lot of boats moored up in Burnfoot bay and the sailors came and made friends with us. One sailor gave me a slate and pencil and I treasured them for a long time. We had a lot of places to play in and knew the area very well. There was one cave nearby but although we looked into it we didn't enter as we were too scared. It had probably been used by the smugglers in the past.

Unfortunately, when war broke out the army had to extend their training ground at the Range and everybody and everything had to go. As soon as Burnfoot was cleared, in 1939, the army went in and took all the roofs off and knocked the houses down, so there was no going back. We were offered a house in New Galloway but we knew no-one there and turned it down. We managed to get the house next to the pub in Dundrennan. In those days there was a Post Office and two shops in Dundrennan as well as the pub.

At the beginning of the war I worked in the Munitions Factory at Dalbeattie. We worked in those buildings you can still see today. My job was to put the explosive powder into a machine. The machine would then turn it into a long tube of cordite which was packed into shells. When the shells were full they were put on a trolley and wheeled away to a lift and stored on a lower floor. When they were wanted they were brought up and boarded onto the train for Dumfries which ran right through the Munitions factory. From Dumfries they made their way down to Maidenhead in England.
 
I always feel sorry that the houses in Burnfoot had to go. They were not just little cottages but good solid two-storey houses. The people there, the Greggans, Corries, Murrays, Scotts, Symingtons, Maxwells, Menzies, and Mitchells; made a real lively community.