Frae: R. De Bruce Trotter, Galloway Gossip (1901), pp. 255-257

A GREAT Gallawa author yince remarkit, yt the authentic traditions o’ the country wus ey reliable – whun true. That may be sae, but they’r no affen true. Deed! tae my wey o’ thinkin, they’r joost havers; some bigger leer nor or’nar joost maks them up an tells them, an some fules believes them an tells them again, an maybe improves them a wee, an than they get inta books.

There wus yin they use’t tae hae aboot the Gatehoose o’ Fleet, tellin hoo the Maxwells gat the Cairdoness, yt A’m jaloosin’s a bigger lee nor ony o’ them, sae A’ll no ax ye tae believe’t, for A dinna believe’t myself. But here it iss-

The McCullochs had been the lairds o’t fae aboot the time o’ the Flood, an a while afore’t, maybe, an the last o’ them wus oot on horseback huntin yae day, an whun he wus ridin through a slap a boy cam forrit drivin some nowt, an it wus a verra wunny day, an the yett wus blawn open, an cam again the beast, an it rear’t, an fell back ower on the tap o’ the boy, an kill’t him.

The cry gat up yt McCulloch kill’t him on purpose, an the McCullochs wus in bad odour wi the Government at the time, an he had tae rin the country an gang tae France, an bide there for seven year.

At last he gat homesick an cam back, but that alter’t he thocht naebuddy wud ken him, an forbye he thocht baith him an the killin o’ the boy wud ‘a been forgotten; an saw he gaed aboot a’ ower, an even gaed tae the kirk on the Sundays.

There wus several needy an greedy folk aboot the king at the time, as there maistly is, a’ wantin tae get a grab at the McCulloch’s property; an sae there wus great rewards offer’t tae whaever wud grup him an deliver him up; an whun rewards o’ siller wudna get folk tae betray him, the haill lans o’ Cairdoness wus offer’t tae whaever wud gie him up.

Noo there wus a man they ca’t Maxwell yt leeve’t in Anwoth, an he wus verra puir, an verra greedy, an verra selfish, an he had been a favourite o’ McCulloch’s, an he made him oot; an the Cairdoness estates tempit him, an he gaed an tell’t.

Next Sunday whun McCulloch wus at the kirk, this Maxwell gether’t up a wheen o’ his freens, an surroondit the kirk door, waitin for the kirk skailin, an the minute he cam oot, fowr o’ them gruppit him on baith sides, an twa ahint his back, an ither twa at his front, an or ever he could pit his han till his sword, they had him doon an tie’t his hans an feet, an deliver’t him up tae the authorities.

Weel, he wus try’t, an though he prove’t his innocence, them in pooer wantit him oot o’ the wey, an sae he wus condemned, an hang’t for’t.

Some says they hang’t him in front o’ the kirk door, an ithers says yt he wus taen tae the slap whaur the boy wus kill’t, an hang’t there.

Hooever, Maxwell, got the estates for’t, an that wus the first thing tae set them on their feet, for they never wur naething till than.

Folk said they wur a wheen tyrannical aul’ devils, an yt naebuddy likit them, an they said yt the poet Burns made a rhyme aboot them yt wusna roosin them much.

They wur kin o’ connections o’ mine, but A’ll no say they wur ocht the better o’ that.

That’s the tradition as A heard it, but the doctor said it wus a’ lees frae beginning tae en, an he kent a’ aboot maist Gallawa families.




There are twa mentions o David Maxwell o Cairdoness in Burns’ poems. The first is in The Second Heron Ballad, The Election – A New Song; the second is the posthumously published Epigram on Maxwell of Cardoness or On a Galloway Laird not Quite so Wise as Solomon. As Trotter says, he doesnae roos him much.

Frae The Election

An’ there’ll be Cardoness, ESQUIRE,
Sae mighty in Cardoness’ eyes;
A wight that will weather damnation,
The Devil the prey will despise. (The Canongate Burns, p. 502, ll. 20-24)

Epigram on Maxwell of Cardoness

Bless Jesus Christ, O Cardoness,
With grateful lifted eyes;
Who taught that not the soul alone,
But body too shall rise.

For had he said, the soul alone
From death I will deliver:
Alas, alas, O Cardoness!
Then hadst thou lain for ever! (The Canongate Burns, p. 784)

Partial Glossar

Definitions frae DSL (links are tae the relevant entries).

  • Havers ‘Nonsense, foolish talk, gossip, chatter.’ [HAIVER]
  • Jaloose ‘To suspect, be suspicious of, to have doubts or suspicions about, guess, surmise.’ [JALOUSE]
  • Slap ‘A gap or opening in a wall, fence, hedge or the like, whether intentionally or accidentally caused, a breach.’ [SLAP]
  • Forrit ‘Forward(s)’. [FORRIT]
  • Nowt ‘Cattle collectively, specif. cattle for fattening, oxen, steers and heifers.’ [NOWT]
  • Yett ‘A gate.’ [YETT]
  • Beast ‘A horse.’ [BEAST]
  • Bide ‘To stay.’ [BIDE]
  • Forbye ‘Besides, in addition, as well, what is more.’ [FORBY]
  • Grup ‘To seize, catch, lay hold of.’ [GRIP]
  • Wheen ‘A few, a small number, several.’ [WHEEN]
  • Skail ‘Of an assembly of persons in a school, church, factory, meeting, etc.: to break up, disperse, go their several ways.’ [SKAIL]
  • Ahint ‘Behind.’ [AHINT]
  • Or ‘Before.’ [OR]
  • Roos ‘to praise, to extol, esp. to bestow exaggerated praise, to flatter.’ [RUISE]
  • Ocht ‘Anything.’ [OCHT]