Situated 10 miles west of Stranraer, Dunragit is a pretty insignificant village. Except, of course, if you study the origin of the name. Merin Rheged refers to The Solway Firth.
The story is in the name, Dunragit,
Dun Rheged, Fort of Rheged, home
of King Urien, Shepherd of the Solway,
scourge of Bernicia, who was laid low
at Lindisfarne, victim of treachery.
Now, who cares where the fort was?
Or fears the kiss of Merin Rheged,
with it’s threat of Northumbrian sails,
bringing Angles and fire.
We have buried King Urien
in the earth of our dark age.
Rheged has passed into myth,
leaving only the name, and the ghosts
of heroes, who whisper of times
when death was a way of life,
was a place to be reckoned with!
In the Post Roman era and Early Medieval Ages, Rheged was one of the Kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd (Old North) which straddled, what is now, North West England and South West Scotland. It is intimately associated with the legendary King Urien and his family. Its inhabitants spoke Cumbric, a Brittonic dialect, closely related to Old Welsh.
It is recorded in several poetic and bardic sources, although its exact borders are not described in any of them. King Urien was fortunate to have Taliesin, one of the greatest of bards to sing in Welsh, to record his deeds and thus preserve his fame for eternity.
As a native of Galloway, in South West Scotland, with an interest in ancient history, Rheged holds a particular fascination for me. Through the years, I have written a few poems based on the old Kingdom and tried to populate it with ordinary people as well as Warlords, Kings and Poets. This is an on-going project and this seems the perfect time and place to start gathering everything together!
Till I am old and failing,In the grim doom of death,I shall have no delight,If my lips praise not Urien
A wee bit of daftness that, hopefully, may bring a smile in uncertain times. Three historical characters with a connection to Dumfries (Scotland, obviously!) I’m sure you’ll recognise who they are.
Three Rants frae Dumfries
“Ye did whit!, jist stabbed him Richt there in the Kirk! Ye big eejit, whit were ye thinkin! Ye ken whit yon English are like.
He’s no richt deed!, ach gae me yer dirk,
A’ll mac siccar, an waash yer hauns.
Honest tae Goad Rab, whit next!
Ye’ll be waantin tae be King o Scoatland!”
“Weel then, fancy yersel as a wordsmith?
Then min o this, yer a plooman!
An folks roond here kent yer faither!
So ye cannae fool us aa son.
Anither thing, yer aways foo an unca happy
An hae a trail o wumin in the family way!
Cut it oot!, or mark ma wurds Rabbie,
Years hence, naebody wull mind yer name!”
“A fortune, a fortune aa spent on ye!
Sendin ye tae Dumfries fir education.
An whits this aa see afore me?
A daft wee book o waens fiction!
An ageless hero wha fancies a fairy!
A pirate wi a hook, feert o a tick-tock,
An island foo o loast boyes!, Goad Almichty!!
Tell me this Jimmy, wull ye never grow up!
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, the small coastal village of Carsethorn, on the Solway Firth, was a busy port with regular sailings to Liverpool, The Isle of Man and Ireland. Some 21,000 emigrants left here for a better life in the New World. The remains of the pier they left from is a stark reminder of the cruelty of the Scottish Lowland Clearances, seldom mentioned but just as traumatic as the better known Highland Clearances.
At Carsethorn beach…
The tide is on the ebb,
Slowly, old pier posts,
Emerge like black fingers.
They grasp nothing,
All is quiet here now.
Time has tamed this shore,
Tides have cleansed its story.
But, they’re still here,
The thousands that left,
Deep down you sense them.
You see faces in the stones,
In the breaking of waves,
You hear a murmur of voices,
And the breeze is a finger tip,
Tap-tapping your shoulder.
The Loneliest Place
Is there anywhere
more lonely than here?
buried in years,
gravestones wiped clean.
This place is lost
in our maps,
a rusted gate.
no paths to follow,
no trampled tracks.
From deep in here,
the world falls away,
leaving only this space.
Framed by the window
in a fragment of wall,
a young tree
brushes the clouds.
At Hermitage Castle
is like the sea,
these rolling hills
this river valley,
the calm between,
that narrow road,
the wake of passing.
riding at anchor,
faces the flow.
A north wind
batters its walls,
above the battlements,
clouds are breaking.