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Kirkmaiden is located in Dumfries and Galloway
Location within Dumfries and Galloway
Population 685 (2001)
OS grid reference NX1236
Civil parish
  • Kirkmaiden
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Stranraer
Postcode district DG9
Dialling code 01776
Police Scotland
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
54°41′35″N 4°54′40″W / 54.693°N 4.911°W / 54.693; -4.911Coordinates: 54°41′35″N 4°54′40″W / 54.693°N 4.911°W / 54.693; -4.911

Kirkmaiden is a parish in the Rinns of Galloway, the most southerly in Scotland; the present Church of Scotland parish has the same name as and is approximately coterminous with the original pre-Reformation parish.

It is named after the mediaeval St Medan, whose identity, name, sex and origin are all disputed.[1] The name "Kirkmaiden" itself is thought to be a corruption of a purer Gaelic "Kilmaiden" by either Scandinavians or Angles with a knowledge of Gaelic.[2]

It is also the area and name of a community council, which meets generally in Drummore and occasionally in Port Logan.


There are two main settlements in Kirkmaiden: Drummore and Port Logan. The small hamlet of Kirkmaiden itself, which contains the present-day church, is about a mile west of Drummore.

Ecclesiastical history

The parish church was originally some five miles south of Drummore, at a site on the Kirkburn, not far from the Mull of Galloway; the name of the nearest cove, Portankill, suggests that originally many worshippers attended Mass by boat.[1] The church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary; and in a cave on the eastern shore of the parish at some time a hermit lived.[3] On 15 July 1393 Pope Clement VII authorised Finlay, Abbot of Soulseat, to annex Kirkmaiden parish church in ‘le Rynnis’ to augment the income of the abbey.[4]

In 1638 the parishioners, citing the inconvenience of the journey to church, secured the building of a new church known as Kirk Covenant on Core Hill, about a mile west of Drummore. The patron was the Earl of Stair.

Following the Disruption of 1843, a new church was again built, for worshippers in the Free Church of Scotland, and this time in the village itself, in the street now known as Stair Street. Early in the 20th century the two congregations were reunited. Now worship is habitually at the church within Drummore, with one service each month in the summer being held at Kirk Covenant.

Iron Age and early middle ages

A substantial earthwork, measuring 400 m long, cuts off an area of about 57 ha at the eastern end of the Mull of Galloway. In most places it comprises three ditches with medial banks, the inner bank being the larger, measuring between 3.1 m and 4 m in thickness with an external height of up to 2.2 m. It is believed the ramparts make this the largest Iron Age stronghold in Britain.[5] It is situated 330 m south-southeast of the earthwork at the Tarbet.

About 330 m north-northwest of the above earthwork, and situated at the narrow isthmus between the bays of East and West Tarbet, an earthwork cuts across the neck of the Mull of Galloway south of the enclosed fields of the Mull farm. The bank is 2.3 m wide and 0.5 m high with possible facing stones exposed.

Late middle ages

The Gordons of Clanyard Castle were powerful men in the area, and their daughters married into Kirkmaiden families.[6] Alexander Gordon of Castle Clanyard received a bell cast in AD1534 for Kirkmaiden Church.[7] A very interesting Castle Clanyard Reconstruction in Sketchup is on YouTube.

Killumpha Tower[8] is another tower house in the parish.

Early modern period

The population of the parish was 1,051 in 1755, 1,380 in the 1790s and 1,613 in 1801.[9] In 1790 the Statistical Account reported abundance of fish including oysters and lobsters, corn and cattle; plentiful potatoes and other vegetables; quantities of thriving barley and oats; and flax. Trees, however, did not thrive. The farmers improved their land with lime, which was brought from Whitehaven or Ireland.[3] At that time a number of endowments for the poor of the parish are mentioned, including £100 from Andrew McMurray a merchant in London, £100 from Andrew McDowal (Lord Bankton, one of the judges of the Court of Session: the McDowal family were lairds of Logan), and £400 from William Adair of Flixton,[10] all three of whom had been born in the parish. The nearest market was in Stranraer, and there were three schools and three licensed ale-houses.[11]


See Archaeological and Historical Collections relating to Ayrshire and Galloway. vol. V. pp. 62–63 by Rev. George Wilson wherein he describes forts : (a) 2 across the narrow isthmus from east to west Tarbert. (b) One north-west of West Tarbert, not on O.S. map. (c) Dunora or Dunorrich. (d) Three forts with only traces of ditch. (e) Dunman, a large fort. (f) Crummag Head, a circular stone fort. (g) One between Clanyard and Logan Bay. (h) Dunichinie, large circular fort north of Mull of Logan. (i) Moat Hill at Drummore.[12]

(e) Dunman Fort an Early Iron Age Fort on the western shore of the Rhins. The defences along the inner crests of the natural gullies on the north-east and south-east consisted of a wall originally 8'-12' thick. The internal measurement is about 110m north-west by 100m south-east, but no structures were visible in the interior. There are entrances on the north to north-east and south, with a possible third on the north where a natural terrace provides access to the interior immediately beyond the end of the wall.

Walling is visible on the north, east and south sides and some on the east, consisting of an inner wall face and heather-covered rubble about 3.0m wide. The wall which follows the crest of a scarp over 7m high around the north, east and south sides of the summit. The wall peters out on the north and south to south-west, and there are no visible defences on the west where the ground falls away steeply to the sea 150m below.

There are four approaches to the fort, but only one, in the north-east is faced as an entrance. A shallow hollow descends the scarp at the north to north-east entrance, which is blocked with three large boulders. At the south entrance a natural terrace drops obliquely down the scarp into a hollow 2.5m broad with a bank up to 3m thick and 0.6m high on its outer lip.

(f) Crammag Head on the western shore of the Rhins was circular dun or broch with outworks about 19.5m in diameter over all, but its wall has been reduced to little more than the basal course of the outer face around the west. The granite facing-stones measure up to 1m in length by 0.65m in breadth and 0.65m in height, and a maximum of three courses is visible on the north-west.

The interior on the west, which is now occupied by Crammag Head Light, has been raised up to 1.8m above the outer face with material from a ditch immediately east of the dun.

The ditch is broken by a causeway 2.5m wide which is faced with granite boulders along its south-side. To the north of the causeway the ditch measures 9m in breadth and varies from 1.3m in depth externally to 2m internally, but to the south it is only 6.5m in breadth and 1.1m in depth. The ditch is only visible at the southern end of the rampart and measures up to 5.5m in breadth by 0.3m in depth. The entrance through the outer defence was probably at its southern end where the rampart and ditch stop 3m and 5m short of the edge of the promontory respectively.

About 20m east of the ditch there is an outer rampart with external ditch. At its north end the rampart has been reduced to little more than a scatter of stones but towards the south it is up to 4.4m thick and 0.5m high. "Vitrified" stone was recovered from the outer rampart.

It had an entrance passage on the east where the wall was at least 4.5m to 6m thick.

Core Hill Fort Iron-Dark age Fort is situated on the summit of Core Hill, immediately south of Kirkmaiden churchyard. It measures 28.3m by 21m within the inner rampart, which varies from a low bank 3.4m thick and 0.5m high, to a scarp up to 2.3m high externally. A stone axe was found in the interior.

High Drummore Motte and Bailey in the mid-eastern side of the Rhins. The mound is 10 ft high, but is 23 ft high to the east and protected on the west by a rampart and ditch. The top is about 40 ft in diameter, and has a hollow about 18 ft across and 3 to 4 ft deep, with an entrance from the east. A rampart goes down the slope towards the east with an interspace of 60 ft. On the south there was an entrance about 8 ft wide at the base of the mound and on the south of the base the rampart is about 24 ft thick at base and 6 ft high externally. Between it and the edge of the glen lies a terrace 20 ft wide near the mound, decreasing to the east where it is 6 ft wide. The bailey lies on the east and measures 28m by 20m within a bank up to 7.2m thick and 2.5m high on the south which enclosed the motte.

5th - 6th century grave covered by a stone slab bearing a badly weathered Latin inscription. The original description of the stone (which is now lost) records that the name Ventidius was legible together with another, which translated as "sub-deacon". It is thought that this could be the 5th stone from Kirkmadrine. The grave being of a much later date. A standing stone is situated 460m NNW of Low Curghie.

Cairngaan, on the southern tip of the Rhins, possibly Bronze-Age.[13]

Kirkmaiden in the Machars

A ruined church south of Port William in the Machars, near Monreith in the parish of Glasserton, is called "Kirkmaiden-in-Fernis". In the graveyard here is the grave of Captain François Thurot.

Natural History Group

A 'Kirkmaiden Natural History Group' is based in Drummore; it holds monthly indoor meetings and conducts field outings throughout the year. It has a website with photographs of its work.[14]

Further reading

  • History of the Lands and Their Owners In Galloway. P.H. M'Kerlie. New Edition. Volume 1. 1906.[15]
  • Richard D Oram (2000), The Lordship of Galloway, John Donald.
  • John MacQueen (2002), Place-Names in the Rhinns of Galloway and Luce Valley, Stranraer and District Local History Trust.
  • W F H Nicolaisen (1976), Scottish Place-Names, Batsford, London.
  • Listed buildings in Kirkmaiden

The Gallery


  1. ^ a b MacQueen (2002) pp 50 & 51.
  2. ^ Nicolaisen 1976 pp 109-110
  3. ^ a b Statistical Account of Scotland , vol 5, page 430; republished 1983
  4. ^ See "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), accessed 26 January 2008
  5. ^ Neighbour, T. "Resistivity imaging of the linear earthworks at the Mull of Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway". Archaeological Prospection. 8: 157–162. doi:10.1002/arp.163.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Kirkmaiden Church bell, AD1534 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Statistical Account of Scotland , vol 5, page xxviii; republished 1983
  10. ^ There is a Flixton in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Suffolk, but none in Scotland; it is not clear where Adair was settled
  11. ^ Statistical Account of Scotland, vol 5, page 432; republished 1983
  12. ^ Archaeological and Historical Collections relating to Ayrshire and Galloway. vol.V. pp.62-73
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
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