Trees with Names in Dumfries and Galloway

Prompted by Jack McLachlan’s (@JMcL14) tweets about trees with names, I decided to collate all the named trees in Dumfries and Galloway. I think I’ve got most of them, though there might be a few still to be collected.

There are 56 named trees in the list below. I’ve not included tree-names that have been transferred to houses, farms, hills or other features where there is no mention of the tree itself in the Ordnance Survey Name Books. I‘ve listed these separately at the bottom of the page instead. Each entry’s grid reference links to the tree’s position on the 1st Edition 6 inch Ordnance Survey map.

Of the 56 named trees, 31 are thorn trees. I imagine this is because thorn trees wouldn’t be used for timber and therefore had the chance of surviving to a greater age than other trees. It might also have something to do with the tradition, mentioned in the entry for Holy Thorn, that evil would befall whoever cut down an old thorn. Of the rest, there are 7 oaks, 3 ash, 2 plane trees, and 1 each of birch, beech, sycamore, gean (wild cherry), rowan, fir and pear, and 6 unspecified.

I had suspected that some trees would be used as boundary markers, but this doesn’t appear to be the case (though it’s worth noting that Sembletree Knowe is on the march between Wamphray and Eskdale). The most common tradition associated with these trees is death: 5 have direct references to suicide, 1 implies it; 2 have references to murder; 2 are associated with deaths in battle; there is one Hangman Tree; and one is the site of a triple execution. There are ‘supernatural’ associations with seven trees: the three Bogle Thorns, Fairy Thorn, the Ghost Tree, Witch Thorn and Witches Thorn.

A lot of these trees appear to have gone since they were recorded for the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey and some had already disappeared by the time the Name Books were being compiled. It would be worth working to preserve those that do survive. Knowing they’re still there is a good first step. I’ve not visited any yet. For now, I’ve looked at each location on satellite imagery and noted their status based on that.

Update 23/5/21: I’ve added four more trees to the original 38 in the list – two Bogle Thorns (thanks to Jack McLachlan for alerting me to the one by Woodhall Loch), Gorget Tree and Cummin’s Ash. Dr Coralie Mills (@Dendrochronicle) has noted here that the plane trees in the list might be sycamore (entry for PLANE in DSL). She also suggested here that thorn trees are graze-resistant which could also explain their survival in pastoral areas.

Update 12/6/21: I’ve added the Three Brethren oak (thanks to @TitusWrites for the tip off), Castle Beech and The Wallace Oak taking the number up to 45. I’ve also added a quote from R. M. F. Wilson’s Closeburn to the Blind Oak entry.

Update 27/11/21: I’ve added five more trees, taking the total to 50: Auld Gouk Tree, Chinney Field Oak, Ghost Tree, Pouch Tree/Umbrella Fir, and the Survivor Tree.

Update 11/4/22: I’ve added six more entries, bringing the total to 56: Big Thorn, Doctors Tree, Hangman Tree, Lady Hepburn’s Bush, Two Mile Trees and Watercraw Thorn. I’ve also added Cold-thorn Hill, Gouthorn and Stelland Tree. Worth noting too that in December ‘The Tree’ was voted Tree of the Year 2021. It’s notable that the most photographed tree in the region doesn’t have a name beyond ‘that tree’. It went on to take 6th place in European Tree of the Year 2022, where it was listed as Kippford Leaning Tree. We’ll need to wait and see if that name catches on.

Albie Thorn, Applegarth DMF NY 1102 8430

“An old thorn bush of considerable magnitude about 7 chains north west of Springfield. It is said to mark the site of the death of the “Bell of Albie” one of the combatants in the celebrated encounter of the Maxwells & Johnstones 7th December 1593.” OS1/10/3/139

Status: Gone.

Auld Gouk Tree, Kirkpatrick-Juxta DMF

This is the first of two named trees in John T. Johnstone’s “Some Notable Trees of the Upper Annandale District”, TDGNHAS (1891-92, pp. 73-77), the other being Pouch Tree. Both trees are associated with the Rev. Dr Walker who was at the same time minister of Moffat parish and Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh. An extract from Johnstone’s note:

“The oak is locally known as the Auld Gouk (Cuckoo) Tree, and stands by itself in the field on the right bank of the Annan (Kirkpatrick-Juxta Parish), and fully 100 paces N.W. from the Dumfries Road Bridge. This tree had seemingly been conspicuous from the Manse windows, and came to receive its name of Gowk Tree from the fact that Dr Walker had observed that it was on it that the cuckoo was first heard by him in the district. At that time the whole field had been covered with trees, as the tradition or fact is (I can’t vouch for its correctness) that when the proprietor was
cutting down these other trees the Doctor paid him the full value of the Gowk Tree to allow it to stand.”

Both this and Pouch Tree (also known as the Umbrella Fir) are subjects of poems by John Brown in his Moffat Musings and Maunderings: Being Rhymes on Local Subjects (1870). An extract from The Gowk Tree:

“It’s now some twenty winters sin’ the wind wi’ deadly twist
Tore off a stately branch of thine, the goodliest on the list;
Though stock aneuch to furnish out a grove of fair degree,
Ye wad scare jalouse the loss o’t in the Auld Gowk Tree.”

Status: Going strong. Scottish Tree of the Year finalist, 2014.

Big Oak of Earlston, Dalry KCB NX 6133 8395

“A large oak tree with out spreading branches Supposed to be 300 years old. It is situate near to the south east side of Earlston Castle, hence the name.” OS1/20/34/38

Dr Mark Jardine has written a blog about the Big Oak of Earlson and the Covenanters here.

Status: Surviving as new growth.

Big Thorn, Kirkmichael DMF NY 060 887

This is marked on Crawford’s 1820 Plan of the barony of Ross in the Parish of Kirkmichael on the farm of Nether Garrel.

Status: Presumed gone. There is a large tree in a hedgerow nearby visible on satellite imagery. I’ve not yet pinpointed the location of the tree on Crawford’s map, so this one would be worth a visit.

Blind Oak, Keir DMF NX 8761 9039

“A large oak tree about 200 yards south of Nether Keir, supposed to have got its name in the time of Bruce. It is in the property of William Hunter Arundell. It is said that Bruce signed some charter under this tree. Sometimes called the Royal, the Stag and the Deaf, the latter because if a person near called, he could not be heard at the other side of the tree. It consists of 800 feet of useful wood and is about 65 feet high in its stem.” OS1/10/29/69

“While on the subject of large trees, it may not be out of place to mention the famous ” Blind Oak,” on the lands of Barjarg of Keir, only separated from Closeburn by the waters of the Nith. Dr. Singer says of this venerable tree that it was known by the name of “The Blind Oak of Keir” at least two centuries prior to the time of his writing (1812); that it was named in some ancient title-deeds which were written under its shade. It was measured by a carpenter in 1776, and was reported then to contain 250 feet of timber in its stem. In 1773 it was 16 feet in circumference at the bottom, in 1796 it was found to have grown to 17 feet in circumference, at the height of 16 feet it was 11 feet 11 inches round, at the height of 32 feet it was 11 feet 7 inches round, and at the height of 46 feet it was 6 feet
8 inches round. The same tree was measured in 18 10, and was found at 4½ feet from the ground to be 17 feet 2 inches round. It is evident from these measurements that this ancient oak has grown considerably since the year 1773, and that it had not ceased to grow in 1810. It still stands, and to all appearance is good for many a year yet. R. M. F. Wilson (1901) Closeburn (Dumfriesshire): Reminiscent, Historic & Traditional, Glasgow, pp. 249-250

The Third Statistical Account (Dumfrieshire, Keir, p. 213), written in 1958, notes that the tree was still standing “and now girths 19 feet.”

Status: Canmore notes in 1976 that it “fell down a few years ago.”

Bogle Thorn, Balmaclellan KCB NX 5361 9653

“An old thorn on the western side of the line of road leading from Carsephairn to Dalmellingon. There is a fabulous tradition in the locality that persons at various times have seen a spectre at this thorn (called Scotland Bogle) hence the name Bogle Thorn.” OS1/20/6/21

Status: There is a large tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

Bogle Thorn, Buittle KCB NX822 572

This tree is mentioned in the OS Name Book entries for Bogle’s Creek, which is said to be named after the thorn which once grew nearby. Neither appear on the map. Bogle’s Creek was changed to Garden Creek, following a letter from W. Maxwell (quoted below).

“A small creek in the Water of Urr, a short distance north of Palnackie. It formerly was the place where vessels loaded and unloaded, but since the quay at the Village of Palnackie was made it has come into disuse. it derives its name from a thorn which once grew near it.” OS1/20/137/53

“This name applies to a small harbou[r] place where vessels were wont to by prior to the erection of the Quay at Palnackie, it is now disused, and is said the name originated from a thorn wh[ich] once grew near it called ‘Bogles T[…]
Garden Creek to be adopted. See W. Maxwell’s letter dated Munches, Dalbeattie 6th June 1853″ OS1/20/137/14

“Munches, Dalbeattie 6 June 1853
Dear Sir
I am in receipt of your letter of the 30 ult [last month] inclosing two sheets of the Survey of the Stewartry – I have gone carefully over these sheets and submitted them to Mr McKnight of Barlochan who has made several remarks in pencil which I believe correct. They are
1 […]
2 For Bogles Creek read Garden Creek” OS1/20/137/13G

Status: Gone.

Bogle Thorn, Balmaghie NX675 670

This tree isn’t on the map. It’s mentioned in S. R. Crockett’s Raiderland (1904, pp. 199-200):

“Yet a little farther on [north from Blates Mill (NX 676 669)], its branches bent by the furious blasts from the loch, stands at an angle of the road, the famous Bogle Thorn. It seems somehow to have shrunk and grown commonplace since I used to pass it at a run, with averted eyes, in the winter gloamings on my way home from school.
Then it had for me the most tragic suggestions. A man, so they said, had hanged himself upon it at some unknown period. He was to be seen, evident against the drear dusk, a-wing from the topmost branches, blowing out in the blast like a pair of trousers hung up to dry, or Dante’s empty souls in the winds of Hades.
Recently, however, I was glad to notice that Sweetheart had not forgotten the old thrill of fear as we passed in on cycle-back, its limbs black and spidery against a waning moon.
‘In an incautious moment, once upon a time, I had informed Sweetheart that on the branches of that tree, in years long past, when I used to trudge past it on foot, there used to be seen little green men, moping and mowing. So every time we pass that way Sweetheart requires the story without variations. Not a single fairy must be added or subtracted. Now, it happens that the road goes uphill at the Bogle Thorn, and to remember a fairy tale which one had made up the year before last, and at the same time to drive a tricycle with a great girl of five thereon, is not so easy s sleping. So, most unfortunately, I omit the curl of a green monkey’s tail in my recital, which a year ago had made an impression upon a small girl’s accurate memory. And he reproachful accent as she says, ‘Oh, father, you are telling it all different,’ carries its own condemnation with it.'”

The quoted passage comes from his Sweetheart Travellers (1895, p. 222), in the chapter ‘By the Bogle-Thorn‘.

There is a photo of the Bogle Thorn in this article.

Status: I can’t match the road in the photo to Google Street View. I think the thorn went when the road was improved.

Carlingwark Thorn, Kelton KCB NX 761 617

“A large whitethorn bush very old apparently and very remarkable. Formerly there were three old bushes at the place which was called the Three Thorns of Carlingwark. Two of these are long time decayed or cut down & the above one remains still in a vigorous & healthy state. The following note if of the object is in the Stat. Acct. Kirkcudbrightshire. “He therefore” (King James II.) “marched into Galloway the head of a numerous army and took up a position at the Three Thorns of the Carlingwark near the place where the town of Castle Douglas now stands.” And again it is said, “One of these thorns still remains, a knotty, gnarled, fluted, hoary, and interesting relic of antiquity which it is desirable that some means were employed to preserve from the decay that has long since preyed up the other two.”” OS1/20/111/20B

This entry is duplicated here: OS1/20/113/36

The entry in the NSA is here: Kelton, County of Kirkcudbright, NSA, Vol. IV, 1845 p 157

Status: There is a large tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

Carse Thorn, Kirkbean KCB NX 992 599

“A small thorn tree situated at the north west end of the village of Carsethorn. From it the villa[ge] [is] said to have taken the name.” OS1/20/122/30

Status: I can’t see this on the 6 inch or 25 inch OS map. The grid reference is for the village.

Castle Beech, Closeburn DMF

“My next associate of the tree species, was the “Castle Beech.” Oh, what a tree it was, and still (I humbly hope) is!—for the hand of man is not yet formed in the womb which will dare to cut it down; and it stands mighty in its individual girth, awful in its spread, and sheltered in its position. This tree is the chronicler of my school days at Wallacehall: on the smooth and ample bark of that tree are imprinted or obliterated recollections of a fearful nature. […] But the old beech, my kind friend Mr. Watt of the Castle informs me, is still standing, though almost by miracle, for his branches are so long and numerous that he groaned, and creaked, and swung most dreadfully under the tempest’s shock. But it would not do; even the prince of the aerial powers was foiled at last, and was compelled to desist for his unhallowed attempt. The Castle Beech has weathered the storm; and there are hearts in every land which will rejoice in the information which I now convey.” Thomas Gillespie ‘Trees and Burns’ in J. M. Wilson Wilson’s Tales of the Borders, and of Scotland. Historical, Traditionary, and Imaginative, pp. 174-175. Easier read at electricscotland.com.

“But if the old Ash at Auldwa’s is gone, the Castle Beech is still intact. Though long years have passed since it was found necessary to clasp with strong irons its giant limbs, to arrest their progress in rending the parent trunk, and these irons, in part at least, are now embedded in the new growth, it still flourishes as of yore.” [p. 246]

“Dr. Ramage, in the work to which we have have frequently alluded, at page 249 says of this tree in 1876 – “There is a beech which is one of the finest in Dumfriesshire: length of trunk being 12 feet, thereafter branching into four stems. At 18 inches above the ground it is 17 feet 8 inches in circumference; and at 12 feet above ground it is 15 feet in circumference. The circumference of each of the two principled stems in 8½ feet.” He goes on to quote the measurement of the tree in 1810 was “Fifteen feet round at one foot from the ground; 10½ feet high, it was 11 feet 9 inches round; the length of the trunk 18 feet; and the top of the tree 91 feet high.” [p. 247] R. M. F. Wilson (1901) Closeburn (Dumfriesshire): Reminiscent, Historic & Traditional, Glasgow, pp. 246-248 There is a photo of the tree opposite p. 246.

Status: ?

Chapellea Thorn, Wamphray DMF NY 1392 9910

“A large thorn bush on Chapel Lea from which it takes its name near the site of old Chapel, hence the name.” OS1/10/50/68

Status: I can’t see any large tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

Chapman Thorn, Tongueland KCB NX 6848 6095

“A thorn which points out the spot where a packman was murdered & subsequently inter[r]e[d]. It is on the farm of Barstobrick.” OS1/20/109/18

Status: There is a tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

The Chinney Field Oak, Troqueer KCB NX 94689 71051

The only reference for this name is on the information board at Mabie Forest car park which says the tree could be 300 years old. That board notes that The Chinney Field gets “its name from old china clay workings”. I’ve written here that field gets its name instead from the farm of Dalcheny.

Status: Going strong.

Cowies Thorn, Langholm DMF NY 3468 8550

“This name applies to a small Thorn Tree on “Common Brae,” which got this name from the cows rubbing themselves against it.” OS1/10/35/50

“On the Common Brae is a thorn popularly known as Cowies Thorn. It is very conspicuous, being the uppermost thorn on the side of the hill, of which there is a good many scattered about. There is no knowing why it is called Cowies Thorn.” OS1/10/35/51

Cowie is a surname. This seems a more likely derivation of the name than cows rubbing themselves on the tree.

Status: I can’t see any trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Cummin’s Ash, Kirkmahoe DMF

This tree isn’t on the map. It appears to have been in poor condition in 1863. It is thought to have been located at the foot of Byre’s Hill near Dalswinton House. Comyns Castle (site of) and Comyns Pool are both nearby. The tree is recorded in volume XXIII of The Transaction and Journal of Proceedings of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural Hisotry and Antiquarian Society in Note on an Ancient Ash Tree near Dalswinton House, Known as “Cummin’s Ash” (1910-1911 pp. 214-216) by H. S. Gladstone.

Status: Gone.

Daffin Tree, Balmaclellan KCB NX 6561 7703

“A large ash tree with outspreading branches, situate on an eminence and on the farm of Killochy. It is visible at a distance for many miles in every direction, and derived its name from the inhabitants at one time assembling under its shade for amusement.”  OS1/20/55/70

“A solitary ash tree of peculiar shape has long flourished at Killochy. It is seen from every point of the compass at a distance of many miles, and is known by the name of the “Daffin-tree.” Probably it was so called from the natives in former days assembling there for amusement, and, like the inhabitants in Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, “leading out their sports beneath the spreading tree.”” Balmaclellan, County of Kirkcudbright, NSA, Vol. IV, 1845 p. 102

It’s worth noting that John Mactaggart, in his 1824 Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, defines DAFFIN as: “Toying with women under night.”

Status: I can’t see any large trees at this spot, but there might be some new growth here.

Doctor’s Tree, Kirkmichael DMF NY 045 916

This is recorded as Doctors Well and Tree on Crawford’s 1820 Plan of the barony of Ross in the Parish of Kirkmichael. On the 1854 Queensberry estate plan of Burrance, only Doctors Well is marked. By the 1st edition OS [Dumfriesshire, Sheet XXXIII (surveyed 1857, published 1861)] all trace of the doctor is gone, with the well’s name changed to Connel’s Well.

Status: Presumed gone. There are a few trees near the site visible on satellite imagery.

Eagle’s Thorn, Minnigaff KCB NX 5412 7743

“A large Thorn on Craignell Island. It is resorted to by Eagles in the Win[ter] Season, hence its name.” OS1/20/51/24

Status: Deep beneath Clatteringshaws Loch.

Fair Helen’s Thorn, Kirkpatrick Fleming DMF NY 251 752

“A thorn bush on the side of Kirtle where it is supposed that Fair Helen fell when shot by one Bell of Blackethouse, when she was walking with her lover on Kirkconel Lea but Sir John Maxwell thinks that she fell near the Cross before described.” OS1/10/33/38

Helen of Kirkconnel at Wikipedia

Status: The area around this spot is wooded. The tree might still be there.

Fairy Thorn, Penninghame WIG NX 4074 6418

2A whitethorn bush on the farm of Barbuchany and near the Craigoncloy Well, from the roots of which the water of the well first issues.” OS1/35/32/24

Status: I can only make out a clump of whin at this spot. The thorn could still be there.

Ferry Thorn, Kirkmabreck WIG NX 4722 5841

“A large thorn tree growing near the shore a short distance above high water mark.” OS1/35/52/82

This spot is just outside of Creetown, which used to be known as The Ferry. I’m not sure if the name refers to the settlement or the a ferry crossing the Cree.

Status: There is a tree close to this spot on satellite imagery.

Forge Tree, Buittle KCB NX 7923 6489

A large old plane tree upon the farm of Hopehead and on the old Military road leading from Castle Douglas to D”umfries and about 2 ½ miles from the former place. Its girth is 10 F 2 I at 3 feet from the ground and its branches extend 33 feet on each side of the trunk. It is sometimes called “Hopehead big tree” “according to tradition it was a full grown tree in the reign of King William III and it might have derived its name from His Majesty having passed that road with his army on his way to Ireland and his cavalry having erected a forge there for the purpose of showing their horses.”” OS1/20/111/57

The passage quoted at the end of the above entry is taken from the New Statistical Account. The full entry is below:

“At Hopehead, on the line of the old military road from Castle Douglas to Dumfries, there is a common plane tree, known by the name of the Forge-tree, equalled by few if any, in this neighbourhood. It girths 10½ feet at three feet and a-half from the ground. Its branches extended horizontally, and form an exact circle of 76 feet in diameter, the extremities of which are not more than five feet from the ground. The top is of a conical shape, and, when covered with foliage, affords an agreeable shade, and presents a magnificent appearance. There are no records from which its precise age can be ascertained; but, according to tradition, it was a full grown-tree in the reign of King William III.; and it may have derived its names from His Majesty having passed that road with his army on his way to Ireland, and his cavalry having erected a forge there for the purpose of shoeing their horses. The trunk contains 100 feet, and the branches upwards of 200 feet of measurable timber. There is a considerable cavity above the first row of branches, the depth of which has not been ascertained, owing to its being filled with stones. This is the only mark which its exhibits of decay.” Buittle, Country of Kirkcudbright, NSA, Vol. IV, 1845 pp. 202-203

Status: There are large trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Gallows Thorn, Whithorn WIG NX 4487 4218

“A thorn bush on the farm of Gallows Outon situated on an eminence adjacent to the farm house, it received this name on account of a female having hanged herself on it, also the farm is said to have received its name for this circumstance.” OS1/35/79/18

“A thorn bush on an eminence on the farm of Gallows Outon, it received this name on account of a female hanged herself on it and also the farm is said to have derived its name from this circumstance.” OS1/35/79/36

Status: There are tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

Gallows Tree, Minnigaff KCB NX 4099 6698

“A large old sycamore tree on the farm of Kirkland on a branch of which Mr Rae says that a man hanged himself many years ago, hence the name.” OS1/20/97/12

Status: Satellite imagery show that there are no trees in this field now.

Gallows Tree, Whithorn WIG NX 453 399

“This name was given to a tree in a small plantation about 5 chains N. of Court Hill. It is blown down some time ago. This tree is not now on the ground.” OS1/35/84/49

“A name given to a tree in a small plantation about 5 chains north of Court Hill. It is said to have been very deformed in its growth and the limbs twisted in a very curious manner. The tree is not now standing having been blown down by the wind a few years back and removed from the place.” OS1/35/84/145

The entries for this tree have been scored out in the Name Books but the tree still appears on the OS 1st edition six inch map.

Status: Gone.

The Ghost Tree, Rerrick KCB

This tree is associated with the Ringcroft of Stocking hauntings (covered in this blog by Dr Mark Jardine). The only records of the name I can find are associated with Sara Bain’s 2015 book The Ghost Tree, loosely based on the goings on at Ringcroft. However, the name appears to be locally known. Bain says:

“When I interviewed a few of the locals over ten years ago, I was told of the legend of the Ghost Trees, all that is currently left of the original plantation. There were apparently three of them in living memory but only one now stands. Folk lore has it that, when the last of the Ghost Trees die, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return.”

There’s a video by Galloway Retold featuring the tree here: The Ghost Librarian’s Ghastly Tales of Galloway -The True Account of the Rerrick Apparition

Status: Going strong.

Gorget Tree, Applegarth DMF NY 1047 8430

“An ash in Applegarth churchyard, the age of which is unknown, though traditions says it is between two and three hundred years old; it measures 14 feet in girth at a yard from the ground; it is galled the Gorget Tree, from the circumstance of its having, it is said, been used as a pillory in the days of yore. The iron staples which held the collar or gorget were visible not many years ago.” Applegarth and Sibbaldbie, County of Dumfries, NSA, Vol. IV, 1845 p. 175. This account was written in March, 1834.

“A very large Ash Tree 34 links in circumference at the base on the north side of the entrance gate to the church. Some time since, a large limb of this tree was blown down, taking with it a considerable splinter off the trunk – deeply imbedded in which was found the iron gorgets; or collars by which indiscreet parishioners were secured while doing penance – The irons are in possession of Sir William Jardine Bt. [Baronet].” OS1/10/3/131

DSL entry for GORGETS: A kind of pillory: “an iron collar opened by a hinge. It was placed on the neck of the penitent and fastened by the sexton”.

Status: Looks like it’s gone.

Gouk Thorn, Balmaclellan KCB NX 652 759

“A large thorn on the farm of […]. It is a favourite resort for the Cuckoo, hence the name.” OS1/20/57/38

Status: There is a large tree on satellite imagery near this spot. However, the precise location of the tree is not made clear on the 1st ed 6 inch OS map.

Hangman Tree, Durisdeer DMF NX 948 996

This tree appears in a plantation just north-west of the Laundry at Drumlanrig Castle on the 1848 Queensberry estate plan of Drumlanrig. It doesn’t feature on the OS. Notably, the same map records Gallow Flat south-east of the castle (NX 855 988). This name doesn’t make it to the OS either.

Status: Could still be there. A case of not being able to see the tree for the woods.

Holy Thorn, New Abbey KCB NX 9710 6564

“A large thorn situated on the road side leading from New Abbey to Carsethorn. The origin of its name not known in the locality.
Old large white thorns generally thro’ the south of Scotland are venerated much by some of the older inhabitants who have a superstitious belief that something evil will befall the person or persons who may cut down or destroy such thorns.” OS1/20/96/43

Status: Satellite imagery shows no trees at this spot. What evil has befallen the person or persons responsible is not recorded.

Jock’s Thorn, Johnstone DMF NY 108 947

“A large thorn bush hawthorn tree near to Johnstone Free Church, on the Wamphray roadside. An old established name handed down traditionally from time immemorial. No evidence can be had, as to the origin of the name.” OS1/10/28/81

To the west of the tree is Jocksthorn Cottage and to the east Jocksthorn Bridge.

Status: It’s not clear where the precise location of this tree is on 1st ed 6 inch OS map. There appears to be a tree in the hedge nearby on satellite imagery.

Judgment Thorn, Morton DMF NX 8950 9937

“A thorn tree probably the last representative of a group of thorns which had marked the spot where some execution or murder had occurred. Within sight and at a short distance to the north-west there is a small conical hill encircled by a natural amphitheatre which might formerly have been used for judicial purposes.
[Note in Authority/Situation columns] Mr. Nevison, of the Burn, recollects the ancient thorn tree being standing, and says, this is growing from the old root.” OS1/10/40/48

Status: There are no trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Lady Hepburn’s Bush, Sanquhar DMF NS 823 070

This tree is marked on the south side of the railway in a field called Lady Hepburn’s Park on the 1856 Queensberry estate plan of Dalpeddar. It doesn’t make it onto the OS. Scots BUSH means much the same as it does in English, as does BUSS which is frequently anglicised as bush. Scots BUSH has the additional meaning of ‘a clump of trees’ which may be relevant here. Nonetheless, Lady Hepburn’s Bush is drawn as a single tree on the map.

Status: Gone.

Lady Oak, Minnigaff KCB NX 4577 6527

“A large and conspicuous oak tree situate on the farm of Bardrochwood. The girth of its trunk is nearly 3 fathoms and it is in a healthy and flourishing condition at present. Its remarkable size makes it well known in this locality by the given name.” OS1/20/98/43

Status: There aren’t any trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Marquis’s Tree, Annan DMF NY 1755 6479

“This is a pear tree in the old Castle Garden which was attached to Newbie Castle. The tree is said to have been planted by one of the Marquises of Annandale, and is still pointed out to Visitors as the Marquis’s tree.” OS1/10/1/136

Status: I can’t make out any tree at this spot on satellite imagery.

Maxwell’s Thorn, Dryfesdal DMF NY 1204 8368

“A promising young thorn sprung from the original tree known by this name. The old thorn was planteded[?] here in 1823, but has disappeared. It stood originally a little above the adjacent ford. The Dryfe water passing over its site.” OS1/10/10/37

“One of the two thorns, called “Maxwels Thorns”, they were swept away by a flood, but were recovered and re-planted; the one here mentioned is standing at a Considerable distance from its original site. The old thorn called Maxwell’s Thorn commemorates the Spot where Lord Maxwell was killed at the battle of Dryfesands about the year 1600. It (the greatest of the Feudal Conflicts of Scotland in modern times – was between the Maxwells of Nithsdale and Johnstones of Annanvale aided by the families neighbouring each. The Maxwells were defeated with the loss of 500 of whom many perished in the River Annan and some were burnt in St Magdalene’s Church Lochmaben to which they had fled. The thorn stood a tall tree till about 1823, when it was uprooted by the river, but the root and part of the stem were again planted and still grow within a few yards of its original place.” OS1/10/10/69

Status: There are large trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Meg’s Tree, Kirkpatrick Fleming DMF NY 254 754

“A large planetree of considerable magnitude. A long story about this. The name approved by Sir John Maxwell.” OS1/10/33/36

This is one of my favourite Name Book entries. You can tell the surveyor’s had a long day.

Status: This tree is in a plantation on the first edition 6 inch OS map. There area is still wooded on satellite imagery.

Melyhodd Thorn, Penninghame WIG NX 3965 6440

“A large whitethorn bush on the road from Newton Stewart to Glenluce. Takes its name from some houses which formerly stood here.” OS1/35/32/24

A large whitethorn bush, or tree, on the right of the road from N. [Newton] Stewart to Glenluce. Takes the name from old Houses formerly standing thereabout.” OS1/35/32/43

Status: There is a tree near this spot on satellite imagery.

Moll’s Thorn, Saint Mungo DMF NY 1492 7954

“A tall white thorn bush the trunk of considerable magnitude, a notified object in the district it stands conspicuously on the south side of Moll’s Camp and supposed to be 400 years old.” OS1/10/45/21

The entry has been scored out in the Name Book.

Status: The tree isn’t marked on the 1st ed six inch OS map. There is what appears to be a tree at the south end of the earthwork on satellite imagery.

Pagan’s Thorn, Tynron DMF NX 777 944

“A thorn bush near Strathmilligan and Hells Caldron cultivated & trained into the shape of an armchair by a man named Pagan from whom it takes its name.” OS1/10/49/92

Status: It’s not clear where the precise location of this tree is on 1st ed 6 inch OS map. There are trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Patiesthorn, Parton KCB NX 713 733

“A farm house and out-houses in good repair with a farm of land attached. Occupied by Ebenezer […] the property of Captain Saunderson of Glenlocha[y] Lodge. It is said that a hawthorn once grew near [the] house and that a man ca[lled] Peter had strangled him[self] on it, hence the name Pat[ies] thorn.” OS1/20/58/44

Trotter notes in Galloway Gossip (1877 p. 147) that, in Wigtownshire at least, “Patrick and Peter are considered synonymous; Patrick being used as the Sunday name, and for signing documents and such like; while Peter is the everyday name for common use, but they are often used indiscriminately. Pate is the diminutive for both, and never Pat or Paddy, which are still considered the particular property of Irishmen.”

Status: Gone.

Piper’s Tree, Kirkconnel DMF NS 7066 1336

“A birch tree on the Farm of Glenmuckloch, it was reported that gold was about this place, but none was found although it was searched for.” OS1/10/30/138

The tree isn’t marked on the 1st ed 6 inch, but is on the 25 inch (1892-1914).

Status: There are large trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Pouch Tree / Umbrella Fir, Moffat DMF

This is the first tree mentioned in John T. Johnstone’s “Some Notable Trees of the Upper Annandale District”, TDGNHAS (1891-92, pp. 73-77). Johnstone’s gives this account of the name Pouch Tree:

“The Scots fir is known locally as the “Pouch Tree,” from the fact that the Rev. Dr is said to have carried it from Edinburgh to Moffat in his pocket, on one of his many journeys necessary for the due fulfilment of his dual duties, and planted it in the Glebe, where it has grown and flourished for nearly 130 years.”

The story is told in verse in John Brown’s Moffat Musings and Maunderings: Being Rhymes on Local Subjects (1870). The introduction to poem The Pouch Tree notes that, “From its breadth of shade, this tree is also called the “Umbrella Fir.””

Status: Gone; decaying in 1891/1892.

Renwick’s Tree, Glencairn DMF

This tree doesn’t appear in the OS Name Books. Corrie’s Glencairn (Dumfriesshire): Annals of an Inland Parish (1910, p. 65) records that:

“James Renwick was born in a cottage on the lands of Neise, near Moniaive, on the 15th day of February, 1662. No trace of the cottage itself remains, but an aged gean tree is said to occupy what was once a corner of the garden plot, and almost within living memory some of the gooseberry bushes still occupied the ground. The cottage was, no doubt, one of several which, tradition tells us, stood near the old line of roadway on the side of the Schlenders Hill.”

The entry above is quoted at Dr Mark Jardine’s blog about the tree. It notes that a replacement tree was planted at some point after 1910. There is a link to it’s location at the blog.

Status: Replaced.

Shield Thorn, Kells KCB NX 6213 7956

“A thorn bush on the road leading from New Galloway [to] Carsphairn & on the farm [of] Shield, hence the name.” OS1/20/36/42

“A thorn tree by the side of the road on the farm of Shield KEL.  OS Name Book gives no record of why this tree or bush should be considered significant, but at its road-side location it may have served as a guide for travellers, or a meeting place for locals.” Galloway Glens database

Status: The precise location isn’t clear on the 1st ed six inch OS map. There are large trees around this spot on satellite imagery.

Souching Thorn, Lochmaben DMF NY 105 823

“Was a remarkable thorn which once stood on the right bank of the Annan, due [East?] of Halleaths. It was swept away by a flo[od] & is supposed to have stood where the centre of the river now is. The celebrated Alexander Peden is said to [have] prophesied concerning its destruction. Many now-living remember seeing it. The name is [no]w applied to the centre of the Annan at the pla[ce] described.” OS1/10/36/116

The entry in the Name Book has been scored through and the tree doesn’t appear on the 1st ed six inch OS map. The OS grid reference above is for ‘The Creels’.

Scots SOUGHING is ‘rushing; resounding; whistling; sighing’. [Souching in DSL]

Status: Gone.

The Survivor Tree, Moffat DMF

This is the most recent name on the list. It was once the only tree of note in the Carrifran valley, which has been reforested by the Borders Forest Trust.

Status: Going strong: Scottish Tree of the Year 2020; European Tree of the Year finalist 2021.

Three Brethren, Closeburn DMF

This famous triple-triple trunked oak was destroyed by the 1839 Night of the Big Wind. I’ve included extracts from all the references to the tree I could find. R. M. F Wilson’s account of the tree in his Closeburn, implies that there was another tree of this name at Blackwood: “We are well aware that there were other trees to which the same title has been given at various periods, notably some at Blackwood, which the late Rev. Wm. Haining extols in fervid lines, but they are but of yesterday compared with those to which we refer.” [p.249] This appears to be Haining’s Miscellaneous Pieces (published by John McKinnell in 1843) which has a lithograph of the Three Brethren as its frontispiece. [I’ve not tracked it down yet, but there’s a description of it here.]

“The house of Blackwood stands on a bend of the stream; behind is a lofty hill studded with fine clumps of natural wood, the relics of the old Caledonian forest; before it the Nith winds along a rich extent of holmland; while towards the north, in the middle of the high road from Glasgow, grows that magnificent oak called the “Three Brethren.” Three straight, tall shafts spring up at an equal distance from each other, and it is believed that they unite in the ground blew: they are of similar girth: the branches of each are perfectly alike; and the peasantry say there is not a bough nor a leaf on one but the same will be found on the other. The three, at a distance, seem one vast tree, of a conical shape.” Allan Cunningham (1834) The Work of Robert Burns with His Life, vol. II, p.350

“In the same paper [Dumfries Courier], for February 5., the giant old ash tree of Dalswinton is said to have been blown down; and the three brethren of Closeburn, an oak with three equidistant trunks, very much alike in appearance, and precisely similar in girt, also gave way. The timber of this tree measured 561 cubic feet; it is estimated to have been upwards of 500 years old. After this tree was blown down, a mountain ash was observed growing out of it, a proof that its trunk must have been in a stat of decay.” ‘Effects of the Hurricane of January 7 (Domestic Notices: – Scotland)’, in The Gardner’s Magazine, vol. 15, 1839, p. 197

“The three brethren were three trees, or rather divisions of one tree – as like each other as one pea is to another – which once stood in the middle of the high road from Glasgow to Dumfries, upon the banks of the Nith. People had it that their similarity was so great that it reached the details of their branches, and even leaves, and that they were in every – even in the minutest – respect copies of fac-similes of each other. Nobody living – and far less any one dead – can tell their age.” [p. 87]

“Destruction came in the shape of a nor’wester, and they are now in the act of being converted into snuff-boxes, writing-desks, and dressing-cases, for their old and attached acquaintances and friends; every one seems more anxious than another to obtain a relic of the immortal triumvirate – and they are more likely to be remembered with pleasurable feelings than even were the Triumvirates of ancient Rome. But now that they have bowed their heads, and given of their roots, it is proper that some effort should be made to perpetuate their memory ;and who so fit as an old Closeburn man to execute this bold but praiseworthy task?” [p. 88]

But the “Three Brethren,” the friends and companions of my more mature years, are now no more. They have fallen with those Cedars of Lebanon, the mighty monarchs of Arbigland—they have perished, and in their fate have nearly involved that of their intelligent and benovelent proprietor. But my heart reverts to Collestoun, and to the banks of the blue and silver Nith, and to the “Three Brethren.” The pages of the intelligent Times (county newspaper), are wet with the tears of lamentation. But the Times knows not—it could not and it cannot know—the one-half that honest Allan Cunningham and I know about these remarkable trees. Their traditional history is this: […] Thomas Gillespie ‘Trees and Burns’ in J. M. Wilson Wilson’s Tales of the Borders, and of Scotland. Historical, Traditionary, and Imaginative, pp. 174-175. Easier read at electricscotland.com.

“In a word, the whole party, after a most determined resistance, were taken prisoners by a military party obtained from Dumfries; and it being proved against Duncan and Donald Faa that they had stolen some cattle from Dalswinton Mains, and sold them on the sands of Dumfries – as also against Donnert Davie, that he had shot the serjeant who commanded on the occasion – the whole three brothers were tried, condemned and sentenced to be executed, in terrorem, near the spot where their depredations had been committed. As there were three persons to execute, and the famous tree already referred to had three branches, they appeared to the sheriff to be destined for each other; and accordingly all the three were hung at the same time on the same tree, which has ever since retained the appellation of “The Three Brethren.”” [p. 97] Professor Thomas Gillespie (1857) ‘The Three Brethren’, in J. M. Wilson Wilson’s Tales of the Borders, and of Scotland. Historical, Traditionary, and Imaginative, vol. 5 London, pp. 87-97

“The Three Brethren that stood near Holmhead, in the centre of what was then the only line of communication between north and south, are long since cut down. This was in reality only one tree, but it branched out into three, and the particular title of ‘three brethren’ was given to it on account of there having been three brothers named Duncan, Donald, and donnert Davie, of the gipsy family of Faa, hanged thereon for cattle stealing and robbery of a pack man. The site of this tree was the favourite meeting place for Glasgow and Manchester merchants, who under its shadow held market, bought, sold or exchanged their several articles of merchandise.”
[…]
“There was an old rhyme that existed, so far as we know only in the memories of the people of that country side, which had reference to this tree or trees, an to the scene that had been enacted there. One verse only – the opening one – we can now recall.


Down by Holmhead three brethren stand,
With boughs and branches high,
On them the little birds do sit
And sing melodiously.”


R. M. F. Wilson (1901) Closeburn (Dumfriesshire): Reminiscent, Historic & Traditional, Glasgow, pp. 248-249

“Portion of Oak Wood from the Three Brithren which stood by the side of the Dumfries road in the Blackwood estate Closeburn which were overturned by the great storm of 7 Jun 1839. I had this peace of wood from Mr Thomas Maxwell.” Extract from Dr Grierson’s Catalogue, provided by @TitusWrites. You can read about Dr Grierson’s Museum, Thornhill here.

Status: Destroyed by hurricane.

Two Mile Trees, Sanquhar DMF NS 868 102

These trees, apparently marked by two black dots either side of an unnamed burn flowing into Mennock Water, appear on the1856 Queenberry estate plan of Glenim. Not far to the north (presumably 1.5 miles), the same map shows Half Mile Knowe and just down from Two Mile Trees is Lucky Stone. None of these names make it to the OS.

Status: Apparently gone.

Wagging Thorn, Mochrum WIG NX 3262 4682

“An old thorn nearly decayed on the farm of Barr. Situate close the sou[th] side of the road from Mochrum Kirk [to] the Lane of Eldrig. (Rowland Savage says that) it has been handed down by tra[dition] that a man had terminated his life by strangling himself on it.”  OS1/35/72/20

Status: Small trees/bushes line the road at this spot on satellite imagery.

The Wallace Oak, Closeburn

“Dr. Ramage also records similar particulars of a much older tree still, which he thinks was probably contemporary with Ivan Kirkpatrick in 1232, and which was known in our early days as ‘The Wallace Oak.’ He says of it, ” The length of the stem is 31 feet: at its base 17 feet 8 inches in circumference; 4 feet above ground, 15 feet 2 inches; and at 15 feet above ground 11 feet.” Dr. Singer also gives the measurements of this tree in September, 18 10, as follows – “17 feet round at one foot above the ground, and 10 feet 8 inches at 1 8 feet from the surface. The length of the trunk is 40 feet.” There is no great disparity in
these separate measurements, unless in the height, and that may be, partly at least, accounted for by the fact that this remnant of the ‘ Old Caledonian Forest ‘ has
probably been decaying for well-nigh as many years as the beech [see Castle Beech, above] is in age altogether.
The last named tree seems to have escaped Gillespie’s recollection; but need we wonder, writing as he did at considerable distance, and after a lapse of about 50 years. It stands majestic even in its decay.” R. M. F. Wilson (1901) Closeburn (Dumfriesshire): Reminiscent, Historic & Traditional, Glasgow, p. 248

Status: Decaying in 1901.

Wallace’s Thorn, Tinwald DMF NY 0043 8457

“A large thorn still on a flourishing condition in Amisfield Muir. It is popularly known as Wallace’s Thorn and there is a vague tradition that Sir W Wallace fought a severe action near this tree and from which this tree is thought to derive its name. John Douglas of Buckfield informs me that Mr Dalzell [xxxx xxxx].” OS1/10/46/37

Status: There are no trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Watercraw Thorn, Durisdeer DMF NS 905 050.

This tree is marked on east bank of the Kirk Burn on Stitt’s 1830 Plan of Townhead of Durisdeer. WATERCRAW is Scots ‘dipper, Cinclus aquaticus‘.

Status: Not clear on satellite imagery. Worth a visit.

Witch Thorn, Torthorwald DMF NY 0294 7812

“A small sloethorn bush on the public road between Roucan and Torthorwald. This was formerly a large bush.” OS1/10/47/51

Status: Trees line the road at this spot on satellite imagery.

Witches Thorn, Twynholm KCB NX 6493 4896

“A large old white thorn on the farm of Low Nunton. It is traditionally […] as having been the haunt of witches hence the name.” OS1/20/150/71

Status: There are no trees at this spot on satellite imagery.

Transferred tree-names

  • Chapman Thorn, Holywood DMF OS1/10/25/29 OS1/10/25/63
  • Cold-thorn Hill, Durisdeer DMF [RHP38145/09]. This could be Scots CAUL[D] ‘a weir’. There is a mill some distance to the west of this field, but it appears too far to be the source of the name. If not CAUL[D], this leaves us with ‘cold’, whatever a ‘cold-thorn’ might be.
  • Gallowstree Rock, Dalton DMF OS1/10/8/45
  • Goukthorn, Durisdeer DMF OS1/10/14/224
  • Goukthorn, Penpont DMF OS1/10/42/144
  • Goukthorn, Balmaclellan KCB OS1/20/57/38
  • Goukthorn Hill, Balmaclellan KCB OS1/20/55/67
  • Gouthorn [field], Tongland KCB. This is perhaps a reanalysis of *Gowk Thorn. There is a full discussion of the name here (enter Gouthorn in the search bar).
  • Semble Tree Knowe & Sembletree Burn, Wamphray DMF OS1/10/27/44 OS1/10/50/145
  • Royal Oak, Dumfries DMF OS1/10/26/29
  • Stellan[d] Tree [field], Keir DMF [RHP37693], [RHP37517], [RHP37718]. I’m unsure what this refers to. TREE in Scots can mean ‘pole, post, prop’ as well as a number of other things which complicates matters. If Tree here means tree in the familiar English sense, we need only worry about Stellan[d]. Again, there are a number of options. A meaning related to STELL ‘to place in position; brace; stop’ may be at the root of the name.
  • Wicket-thorn & Little Wicket-thorn, Kirkpatrick Fleming DMF OS1/10/33/82

One thought on “Trees with Names in Dumfries and Galloway

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s