Dumfries is a town and former royal burgh within the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland and is situated close to the Solway Firth, near the mouth of the River Nith. Dumfries was the county town of the former county of Dumfriesshire. Its nickname is Queen of the South.
The land West of the Nith, Galloway, only securely became part of Scotland during Alexander II's reign in 1234: Dumfries was very much on the frontier during its first 50 years and it grew rapidly as a market town and port.
A royal castle, which no longer exists, was built in the 13th century on the site of the present Castledykes Park.
Before becoming King of Scots, Robert the Bruce slew his rival the Red Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in the town on 10 February 1306. His uncertainty about the fatality of his stabbing caused one of his followers, Roger de Kirkpatrick, to utter the famous, "I mak siccar" ("I make sure") and finish the Comyn off. Robert the Bruce was excommunicated as a result, less for the murder than for its location, but nonetheless went on to become King of Scotland. Today's Greyfriars Church was built in 1868, overlooking the site of the murder on the opposite side of Castle Street, marked by a plaque on a shop wall.
The first bridge over the Nith, Devorgilla Bridge, named after Devorgilla, the mother of King John Balliol, was built here in 1432. Rebuilt more than once and shortened from the east in the 19th century, this is still used by pedestrians and is one of Scotland's oldest standing bridges.
Not all of Dumfries' bloody reputation was externally inflicted. Nine women were burned to death for witchcraft in the town in 1659, and two centuries later in 1868, Dumfries was the site of Scotland's last public hanging.
Opposite the fountain in Dumfries High Street, adjacent to the present Marks and Spencer, was the Commercial and later the County Hotel. Although the latter was demolished in the 1980s, the original facade of the building was kept. Room No. 6 of the hotel was known as Bonnie Prince Charlie's Room and appropriately carpeted in the Royal Stuart tartan. The Young Pretender had his headquarters here during a 3-day sojourn in Dumfries towards the end of 1745. £2,000 was demanded by the Prince, together with 1,000 pairs of brogues for his kilted Jacobite rebel army, which was camping in a field not one hundred yards distant. A rumour, however, that the Duke of Cumberland was approaching, made Bonnie Prince Charlie decide to leave with his army, with only £1,000 and 255 pairs of shoes having been handed over.
Today's Greyfriars Church overlooks the location of a statue of Robert Burns, sculpted in Italy in 1882. Burns spent the last years of his life in Dumfries, dying here in 1796. The statue is just one of a series of associations with Scotland's most famous poet to be found in the town. Heading south past the spectacular Mid Steeple on the High Street, once the town tolbooth and prison, you come to a tiny vennel leading to the Globe Inn, his favourite drinking place.
There is also Robert Burns' house at 24 Burns Street, South of the High Street, and his mausoleum in St Michael's Churchyard. On the West side of the River Nith is the Robert Burns Centre, housed in what was once the Dumfries Mill. Beyond it is Dumfries Museum built partly in a windmill later converted to a camera obscura. In the suburb of Summerhill the majority of streets are named with Burns connotations.
Although far from the centre of power in Scotland, Dumfries had obvious strategic significance sitting as it does on the edge of Galloway and being the centre of control for the south west of Scotland.
With the River Nith on two sides and the Lochar Moss on another, Dumfries was a town with good natural defences. Consequently it was never completely walled. A careful eye still had to be kept on the clearly defined boundaries of the burgh, a task that had to be taken each year by the Provost, Baillies, Burgesses and others within the town.
Neighbouring landowners might try to encroach on the town boundaries, or the Marches as they were known, moving them back 100 yards or so to their own benefit. It had to be made clear to anyone thinking of or trying to encroach that they dare not do so.
In return for the Royal status of the town and the favour of the King, the Provost and his council, along with other worthies of the town had to be diligent in ensuring the boundaries were strictly observed. Although steeped in history, Scotland's burghs remained the foundation of the country's system of local government for centuries. Burgh status conferred on its citizens the right to elect their own town councils, run their own affairs and raise their own local taxes or rates.
In 1974 the burghs became part of larger districts and regions. Those boundaries lost the significance they were granted by Royal statute. Ancient titles like Provost and Bailie were discarded or retained only for ceremonial purposes. Robes and chains often found their way into museums as a reminder of the past.
Dumfries remains a centre of local government for a much bigger area than just the town itself. But its people, the Doonhamers still retain a pride in their town and distinctive identity. This is never more so than during the week long Guid Nychburris Festival and its highlight the Riding of the Marches which takes place on the third Saturday in June each year.
Dumfries hosts the headquarters of Dumfries and Galloway Council. The name Dumfries and Galloway is given to one of Scotland's 32 council areas comprising the former (1975-96) districts of Nithsdale, Annandale and Eskdale, the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire, the Machars and Wigtownshire. Dumfries also lends its name to the Lieutenancy Area of Dumfries, which is similar in boundaries to the former Dumfriesshire county.
Dumfries is centre to Scotland’s smallest police force. It took part in one the largest criminal investigations in modern history when neighbouring town, Lockerbie, was devastated by the events that took place on board Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988.
Like the rest of Dumfries and Galloway, of Scotland's three major geographical areas Dumfries lies in the Southern Uplands.
The river Nith runs through Dumfries in a southwards direction. There are several bridges across the river in the town. In between the Devorgilla (also knows as 'The Old Bridge') and the suspension bridges is a weir colloquially known as 'The Caul'. In wetter months of the year the Nith can still flood the surrounding streets in the town centre.
Although serving a relatively small population, Dumfries is divided into several key districts.
Dumfries High Street hosts many of the historical, social and commercial centres of the town. During the 1990s, these areas enjoyed various aesthetic recognitions from organisations including Britain in Bloom.
Towards the end of 2005, the Bell Tower of the town's Midsteeple was dismantled conceding to safety concerns of its structural integrity. This event caused much controversy within the town on the council’s capability to maintain key features. The landmark is now in the final stages of renovation, the costs of which are estimated to be around £1.6m.
Dumfries has several suburbs including Summerhill, Summerville, Troqueer, Georgetown, Larchfield, Calside, Lochside, Lincluden, Newbridge, Sandside, Heathhall, Locharbriggs, Noblehill and Marchmount. Maxwelltown to the west of the river Nith, was formerly a Burgh in its own right within The Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (also known as Kirkcudbrightshire) until its incorporation into Dumfries in 1928; Troqueer, a settlement situated to the south west of Dumfries was part of the Burgh of Maxwelltown. Summerhill, Lochside, Lincluden, Sandside are among other suburbs located on the Maxwelltown side of the river. Palmerston Park, home to the town's senior football team Queen of the South, is on Terregles Street, also on the Maxwelltown side of the river.
Dumfries is a relatively prosperous community but the town centre has been exposed to the centrifugal forces that have seen retail, business, educational, residential and other uses gravitate towards the urban fringe. In a bid to stimulate development in Dumfries town centre, both economically and in a social context, several strategies have been proposed by the controlling authorities.
In January 2006, Dumfries & Galloway Council announced plans to build a £16 million leisure facility, named DG1, at Hoods Loaning near the town centre, which opened in May 2008.
Queen of the South represent Dumfries and the surrounding area in the Scottish Football League First Division. Palmerston Park on Terregles Street is the home ground of the team. This is on the Maxwelltown side of the River Nith. They reached the Scottish Cup final in May 2008, losing to Rangers 3-2.
Dumfries is also home to a number of golf courses. Among these are:
Of those is listed only the Dumfries and Galloway Golf Club is on the Maxwelltown side of the River Nith. This course is also bisected into 2 halves of 9 holes each by the town's Castle Douglas Road. The club house and holes 1 to 7 and 17 and 18 are on the side nearest to Summerhill. Holes 8 to 16 are on the side nearest to Janefield.
Dumfries railway station lies on the Glasgow South Western Line, the train service is operated by private company FirstScotrail which provides services to Glasgow and Carlisle, and less frequent services connect Dumfries with Stranraer. The nearest station to Dumfries on the West Coast Mainline is 12 miles east along the A709 road at Lockerbie.
Maxwelltown station in the Summerhill district of the town was closed as part of the Beeching Axe in the 1960s.
Dumfries Academy was a grammar school until adopting instead a comprehensive format in the Summer of 1983.
In 1999 Scotland's first multi-institutional university campus was established in Dumfries. Located within the 85-acre Crichton estate. In order of campus presence it is host to the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) (formerly known as University of Paisley & Bell College), Dumfries & Galloway College, and, the University of Glasgow. Still in its infancy, the campus offers a range of degree courses in initial teacher education, business, computing, environmental studies, tourism, heritage, social work, health, social studies, nursing, liberal arts and humanities. Despite the short-lived threat of closure to the University of Glasgow part of the campus in 2006, a campaign by students, academics and local supporters ensured that the University of Glasgow remained very much open for business in Dumfries. The University of Glasgow is committed to its future in Dumfries and has just announced the launch of a new undergraduate programme in primary teaching. WEVZ BABY WEVZ. Team Enviro X!
People from Dumfries are nicknamed Doonhamers. This is because when in towns in Scotland further North (i.e. most places due to the position of Dumfries on the southern edge of Scotland) they would refer to Dumfries as 'Doon hame'; 'Doon hame' being Scots for 'Down home'.
The Doonhamers is also the nickname of Queen of the South representing Dumfries and the surrounding area in the Scottish Football League.
The crest of Dumfries contains the words, "A Lore Burne". In the history of Dumfries close to the town was the marsh through which ran the Loreburn whose name became the rallying cry of the town in times of attack - A Lore Burne (meaning 'to the muddy stream').
Located on top of a small hill, Dumfries Museum is centred around the 18th century windmill which stands above the town. Included are fossil footprints left by prehistoric reptiles, the Wildlife of the Solway marshes, tools and weapons of the earliest peoples of the region, stone carvings of Scotland's first Christians and everyday things of the Victorian farm, workshop and home. On the top floor of the museum is the Camera Obscura. This historic instrument gives panoramic views over the town; on clear days the range is many miles.
Based in the control tower of RAF Tinwald Downs the museum has an extensive indoor display of memorabilia which strives to preserve aviation heritage, much of which has come via various recovery activities. During the second world war, aerial navigation was taught at Dumfries also at Wigtown and nearby Annan was a fighter training unit. R.A.F Dumfries doubled as an important maintenance unit and aircraft storage unit. The museum is run by the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Group and is the only private aviation museum in Scotland. It has considerably increased in size in recent years making room for a new shop display area, picnic area etc. The control tower has been re-roofed, the pathways given metalled surfaces and much other work has been done.
The restored control tower of the former World War II airfield is now a listed building. The museum is run by volunteers and houses a large and ever expanding aircraft collection, aero engines and a display of artefacts and personal histories relating to aviation, past and present. Both civil aviation and military aviation are represented. There is also a small collection of memorabilia honouring airborne forces, a new display representing aviation in Scotland and a mock-up of a World War II living room are now complete.
The Theatre Royal, Dumfries was built in 1792 and is the oldest working theatre in Scotland.
The theatre is owned by the Guild of Players who bought it in 1959, thereby saving it from demolition, and is run on a voluntary basis by the members of the Guild of Players. It is funded entirely by Guild membership subscriptions, and by box office receipts. It does not currently receive any grant aid towards running costs.
In recent years the theatre has been re-roofed and the outside refurbished. It is the venue for the Guild of Players' own productions and for performances from visiting companies. These include: Scottish Opera, TAG, the Borderline and .
The Guild of Players was founded as an amateur dramatic company in 1913. It has put on a season of plays for all but six of the 94 years since then. There were no productions between 1915 and 1919, and none in 1944. Nowadays the Guild puts on a season of five plays (each running for a week) and a pantomime (running for a fortnight) every year. Every job, from directing the plays to serving the coffee in the intervals, is undertaken voluntarily by the Guild members. There are no paid staff in the Theatre.
The plays are open to the public but taking out membership of the Guild brings entitlement to priority ticket booking at half price.
There are two cinemas in Dumfries. The Odeon shows typically mainstream films. The Robert Burns Centre shows mainstream productions and also independent films.
A collection of over 400 Scottish paintings, Gracefield Arts Centre hosts a changing programme of exhibitions featuring regional, national and international artists and craft-makers. Facilities include darkroom, pottery, studios, bar/cafe, craft shop, and car parking. Studios and ground floor galleries accessible to wheelchair users.
The Burns Howff Club was formed in the Globe Inn, Dumfries, South West Scotland in 1889, and meets on 25 January each year to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns in 1759 with a Burns Supper. The Club takes its name from a reference by Robert Burns to the Globe Inn being his favourite "Howff", an old Scottish term for a meeting place.
The Howff Club has an extensive library of Burns works and the works of other Scottish poets and literary figures. Members are always pleased to welcome visitors to the Globe Inn and Dumfries, and to host Burns Suppers at The Globe Inn or other venues.
The club runs Robert Burns walking tours Dumfries.
There are a number of festivals which take place throughout the year, mostly based on traditional values.
Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris in Middle Scots) is the main festival of the year, a ceremony which is largely based on the theme of a positive community spirit.
The ceremony on Guid Nychburris Day, follows a route and sequence of events laid down in the mists of time. Formal proceedings start at 7.30am with the gathering of up to 250 horses waiting for the courier to arrive and announce that the Pursuivant is on his way, and at 8.00am leave the Midsteeple and ride out to meet the Pursuivant. They then proceed to Ride the Marches and Stob and Nog (mark the boundary with posts and flags) before returning to the Midsteeple at 12.15pm to meet the Provost and then the Charter is proclaimed to the towns people of Dumfries. This is then followed by the crowning of the Queen of the South.
The quarry is situated off the A701 just north of Dumfries at Locharbriggs close to the nearby aggregates quarry. This dimension stone quarry is a large quarry. Quarry working at Lochabriggs dates from the 18th century, and the quarry has been worked continuously since 1890.
There are good reserves of stone that can be extracted at several locations. On average the stone is available at depths of 1m on bed although some larger blocks are obtainable. The average length of a block is 1.5m but 2.6m blocks can be obtained.
Locharbriggs is from the New Red Sandstone of the Permian age. It is a medium-grained stone ranging in colour from dull red to pink.
A number of well-known people were educated at Dumfries Academy, among them Henry Duncan, founder of the world's first commercial savings bank, Sir James Anderson, who captained the SS Great Eastern on the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable-laying voyages in 1865 and 1866, James Matthew Barrie, author of Peter Pan, missionary Jane Haining, international diplomat Alexander Knox Helm, John Laurie, actor (Private Fraser in Dad's Army), artist Robin Philipson, singer John Hanson, Alexander S Graham, cartoonist best known for the Fred Bassett series and Jock Wishart, who in 1998 set a new world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powered vessel. Sir Frank Williams of F1 motor racing fame was educated at St Joseph's College, Dumfries.
Dumfries is also the hometown of former F1 racer Allan McNish. Scotland international rugby union player Nick De Luca was born in Dumfries as was professional golfer Andrew Coltart and curling world champions David Murdoch and Craig Wilson.
Ray Wilson, lead singer of Stiltskin and later Genesis was born in Dumfries as was fellow musician Geoffrey Kelly. Record producer Calvin Harris also hails from Dumfries. While Bill Drummond is from Newton Stewart he is one of the Queen of the South fans included here. Anthony Moffat is involved in the world of music, cinema and publishing. Nigel Sinclair is a Hollywood film producer. World War I poet William Hamilton was another born in Dumfries.
John McFarlane, CEO of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) originates from the town, as does FPR Bill Nelson who also worked for AMP and Wespac. The architect George Corson who worked mainly in Leeds, England, was born in Dumfries and articled to Walter Newall in the town. Politicians William Dickson and David Mundell are others born in Dumfries.
John Richardson, naturalist, explorer and naval surgeon was born in Dumfries as was John Craig, mathematician, and polymath James Crichton. Malcolm H. Wright was also born in Dumfries, father of Sophie B. Wright – New Orleans' educator and pioneer for women and children's rights.
Dumfries has produced a steady stream of professional footballers. The best known footballers of their eras to come from Dumfries are probably Dave Halliday, Bobby Ancell, Billy Houliston and Willie McNaught. Halliday, Dickson and Houliston were Queen of the South players during their careers. Dominic Matteo was born in Dumfries but moved to England while still a young boy. Barry Nicholson lost 4 - 3 to Queens playing for Aberdeen in the 2008 Scottish Cup semi-finals despite scoring against the team he supported as a boy. Ancell, Houliston, McNaught and Nicholson have represented Scotland. Matteo gained 6 full caps for Scotland after having represented England at under-21 level. Halliday was overlooked by Scotland in favour of Hughie Gallacher who played for Queens but was not from Dumfries.