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Area’s leading men praised

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By Fiona Reid
Nostalgia

“EMINENT Men of Dumfriesshire” was the topic of a lecture given by the Rev James Dodds in Lockerbie and Moffat in the 1860s.

And his talk was also made into a book thereafter, in the hope it would encourage local young men to follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors.

Rev Dodds said: “It has frequently been remarked that Scotland, in proportion to its size and population, has produced a very large number of distinguished men.

“In literature, in science and in the mechanical arts, Scotland has long held a very high place in comparison with other nations.

“If we take the counties of Scotland, we find that each has its celebrities of no merely local, but of imperial fame. Take this county of Dumfries and you will find that it can point to an array of distinguished sons which can scarcely be surpassed by any other county whatever.

“Dumfriesshire, in point of extent, population, agriculture and trade may well be entitled a good, average Scottish county: but unless I am a little blinded by the partiality of a native, I am right in asserting that as to education, popular intelligence and men of distinction, it is decidedly above the average.

“In no county I have know have the blessings of education been more widely extended, or more truly appreciated, or a greater number of young men been trained up for the learned professions. Year by year every parish sends forth more than one youth to the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow or St Andrew’s.

“The number of lawyers, medical men and ministers that are produced by Dumfriesshire is quite remarkable and a matter of notoriety.”

He notes that Napoleon Bonaparte himself noticed the number of doctors in the British Army and Navy who were Annandale natives.

Dodds’ list of high fliers includes Admirable Crichton, who died aged 22 but “left a name that must always hold a place in the annals of human genius and learning’; John Welsh, Reformation minister; James Renwick, ‘the last Presbyterian martyr’; Sir Archibald Johnstone, of Warriston, a judge; banker William Paterson; mathematician Dr James Dinwiddie; poet William Mickle; engineer Thomas Telford; and literary man Dr Thomas Blacklock.

There was also doctor and Burns scholar James Currie; explorer Hugh Clapperton; mathematician and preacher Edward Irving; writer Thomas Carlyle; poets Allan Cunningham and John Mayne; naturalist and explorer Sir John Richardson; and Latin professor Dr Thomas Gillespie.

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