Dumfries is a historic town near the southern coast of Scotland, located on the River Nith, near the Solway Firth. Its population in 2001 was 31,146, and it is the administrative capital of Dumfries and Galloway. This writeup will look first at the history of Dumfries and its notable individuals, before turning to the modern town and the surrounding region.

History and Dumfries

In February, 1306, Dumfries was to be the scene of Robert the Bruce's murder of his rival, John Comyn of Badenoch. Comyn had supported John Balliol's claim to the Scottish throne, and his death left the way clear for Bruce, then earl of Carrick, to be proclaimed king in March of 1306. Bruce's brother-in-law, Christopher Seton, was executed by the English at Dumfries later that year.

In 1644, during the English Civil War, James Graham, earl of Montrose, was at the head of King Charles' forces in Scotland, but the royalist army was forced to retreat at Dumfries. Soldiers were on the street of the town again in 1771, when troops were sent from Edinburgh to put down bread riots in Dumfries.

Dumfries was again in the news in 1796, when Scotland's greatest poet, Robert Burns, died there. He died of rheumatic fever after falling asleep outside while drunk.

Other notable individuals from the town include James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and actor John Laurie, who played Private Frazer in Dad's Army.

Modern Dumfries

Dumfries Museum is based in an 18th century windmill which also houses a Camera Obscura Observatory. Devorgilla's Bridge over the Nith was originally built in 1430 and rebuilt in 1620 and again in the early 19th century. The Old Bridge House is Dumfries' oldest house, built in 1660, and now also a museum.

Fans of Robert Burns are well catered-for here, with the Robert Burns Centre, Robert Burns House Museum, and Robert Burns Mausoleum.

Industry in Dumfries centres mainly around knitwear and plastics.

Dumfries and Galloway

Several notable towns are located in the Dumfries and Galloway region, including Stranraer, Lockerbie and Gretna. Stranraer is well-known as a ferry port for boats to Belfast, and is home to the Castle of St John. Lockerbie was the scene of the tragic Pan-Am bombing in 1988. Gretna was well-known in earlier times for lovers eloping from England to Scotland to take advantage of Scottish marriage laws allowing marriage without parental consent. They would be married over the blacksmith's anvil in the town. Even today, differences in the age of consent mean that in Scotland, 16-year-olds can marry without parental consent, while in England, only 18-year-olds can.

Dumfries and Galloway was the setting for the filming of John Buchan's novel The Thirty-Nine Steps. The Wicker Man was also filmed in the area. The Glen Trool National Park is located in the region, as is the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross.

Chronicle of Britain, Chronicle Communications Ltd, 1992
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Helicon Publishing Ltd, 1996

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