A brief history of Orroland and Dundrennan
The history of Orroland is bound to that of the Abbey at Dundrennan until it was cast off as a separate small estate in 1530.
The land of Orroland, together with most of the modern parish of Rerrick was given over to the Cistercian order for them to found a daughter house of Rievaulx at Dundrennan in 1142. At that time Galloway was a sort of semi kingdom, ruled by Fergus. He was able to play off King David I and King Henry I of England, for most of his long tenure. He married an illegitimate daughter of Henry I. King David I was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV who managed to subdue Galloway in 1159. Fergus’s son Uchtred was taken hostage and Fergus himself became a monk at Holyrood, where he died a year later.
The Cistercian order was noted for improving agricultural practices. Those at Dundrennan Abbey were no exception, and by the end of the 13th century they were responsible for farming a large area either directly or through a system of leasing to tenants. They drained and improved lowland pasture for cropping and sent their livestock to the higher ground during the summer, bringing them down for the winter. The crops being eaten and the ground being fertilised with the dung for the following crop.
They became large producers of wool and skins which were exported as far as Florence and Venice. Sheep were their main interest, with a flock approaching 4000 ewes. They also reared cattle. Having such a large enterprise enabled them to become agents for other smaller farmers so they became merchants able to trade wool and skins for wheat and other commodities.
Disease was a constant worry and it is interesting to learn of the disease scrapie reputedly being imported in rams from Spain in the 1290’s. This took hold and was responsible for reducing the wool crop to 1/6 of normal yields. To counter its spread, King John Balliol ordered his sheriffs to place an embargo on all stock movements, to hold an inquest into the cause of each outbreak and to slaughter all infected animals. Scrapie is still with us today and despite modern drugs the rules are still more or less the same!
During the 15th century the Abbey came under increasing financial pressure and there is one account that Orroland was spun off in 1437. Both the King and the Church used a newly devised arrangement to raise money called Feu ferme. This involved commuting tenancies for a capital sum followed by an annual feu to replace the existing rent. This gave the tenant security and the ability to raise working capital against his land, while the grantor had money in his pocket as well as a future income. The government was delighted as they did not have to levy taxes to finance the King’s expenditure. It is most likely, however, that Orroland did not leave the Abbey until exactly 100 years later.
By 1530 the church had lost a lot of its power. James IV had been killed at Flodden in 1513, leaving a long and troublesome minority for James V. Henry VIII was busy reducing the grip of Rome in England and James was forced to follow his advice to raise money from the church. He obtained permission from Rome to raise taxes on the Church in order to fund his obligation to quell the lawlessness that had come about during his minority.
James V died in 1542, a week after Mary Queen of Scots was born which of course left another long minority and more troublesome times. Mary was unable to gain control of the country and finally decided to throw herself at the mercy of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, after being defeated at the battle of Langside. She spent her final night in Scotland at Dundrennan Abbey in May 1568 before crossing the Solway Firth and landing at Workington in Cumberland, England. She was then taken into proctective custody at Carlisle Castle. At that time the Abbey was in a sorry state of repair but still inhabited. It was finally suppressed by Act of Parliament in 1606. The remaining lands were granted to one John Murray, afterwards created Earl of Annandale.
Orroland had of course been a separate estate for 80 years by then. It comprised all the land from here to the Abbey and had been granted to one called Cutlar. Cutlar was the name of an Abbot shortly before that time, so this man may have been his son. There was an Adam Cutlar as vicar of Rerrick parish in 1544.
What the property looked like at that time we don’t know. The present farmhouse at Orroland was almost certainly a tower house, one storey taller but possibly only one quarter of the ground area. A very early mediaeval farm building was demolished in 1970 by the previous owner. The farms are all about 200 acres each and all appear to be of late 18th or early 19th Century origin. There was a long period of agricultural prosperity between about 1750 and 1850 when most of the houses and walls would have been built, often using the Abbey as a quarry to obtain the materials.
In 1769 a daughter of the Cutlars married Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, outside Moniaive. His grandmother was the renowned ‘Bonnie Annie Laurie’. Alexander’s son extended the house to its present shape. He was M.P. for Kirkcudbrightshire until his death in 1838. He became Judge - Advocate General and was a Privy Councillor. His son, also Robert, was also M.P. These two men used the house as a base for their work, together with their main estate of Craigdarroch.
On the death of the second Robert, the house appears to have been rented to a tenant who farmed both the ‘home’ farm and Holehouse Farm. Robert’s heir was a minor at the time of his father’s death, so this may have resolved the problem of an empty house. This man ( another Robert ) died about 1900 leaving three daughters.
Presumably when he grew up and wanted to come to Orroland with his family, the old house being rented, they decided to build a holiday Lodge to stay in. This fine house was built in 1897. The East end originally had a flat roof as is shown in photographs of 1910. There was a fine square beach house, little of which is left, a walled garden down by the shore as well as a croquet lawn. There are also extensive remains of what has been a substantial breakwater and dock.
The eldest daughter, Ella, married Smith Cunninghame of Caprington Castle near Kilmarnock and inherited Orroland Estate. The whole Estate was eventually sold in 11 lots in 1921.
Some of the farms are still owned by the descendants of the original purchasers, some have changed hands or amalgamated.
Orroland Farm and the Lodge have both changed hands several times. The Farm was eventually sold to descendents of the tenants at the time of the original sale. The last representative died a few years ago aged 101. Since their retirement there have been two others before ourselves, who bought it in 1971.
Orroland Lodge was originally sold to a neighbouring landowner, together with the farm. Both were sold on after only five years or so to another neighbouring landowner, who in 1925 rented the Lodge as a holiday house to Mr Adam Brown, solicitor of Kirkcudbright. His son A.C Brown married in 1929 and he and his wife Margery lived in it all their married life. They bought the freehold in 1947, as did the Mackies, tenants of the farm.
We bought the Lodge from Mrs Brown’s daughter in 1996.