Stories of Scottish Emigrants

From Galloway, to the wider world

With over 200 miles of coastline and famous for bygone tales of smugglers, Galloway is the most southerly point in Scotland. Today, the area is synonymous with bustling towns such as Wigtown, Scotlands Book Town; Kirkcudbright, Artists Town; and Castle Douglas, Food Town; as well as breathtaking scenery ranging from pristine, deserted beaches to the rolling hills, glens and lochs of the imposing Galloway Forest Park. Today, this little picturesque corner of Scotland is a must visit destination, but its history is just as impressive. The first ship to carry Scots left the port of Kirkcudbright in Galloway bound for Nova Scotia in 1622 and since then communities have been forged from the West Indies to New Zealand, Canada to Ireland and the United States to England.

In 2009 the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright produced the Galloway Homecoming exhibition. The exhibition told the stories of Galloways emigrants and explored connections from Galloway and the New York Public Library to the most advanced cotton mills in Manchester, England during the Industrial Revolution. Galloway's émigré families not only paved the way to new lands but made contributions both at home and away, many of which still have a global and enduring effect today. Heres just a few of those fascinating stories collected for the exhibition.

Galloway Family History - The Cochran and Carnochan Families

James Cochran and his family left Kirkcudbright for the United States in the early 1800s and forged a successful career trading clothes and textiles. For over a century the family maintained their links with Kirkcudbright and donated generously to the building of the Kirkcudbright Parish Church in 1838, St. Mary's Free Church in 1872 and the Cochran Hall in 1931, all buildings are still widely used by the community today. The Carnochan family left Galloway for the United States at around the same time as the Cochrans. Settling in Savannah, Georgia, John Carnochan became a successful merchant. His son, James Murray Carnochan, returned to Scotland due to ill health and studied medicine, first at Edinburgh University, and later in New York, he rose to be one of the most esteemed surgeons in the United States. Regarded as a key figure in setting up Ellis Island immigration reception centre in New York, John took up the residential post of Health Officer of Ellis Island in 1870.

Galloway Family History - The Lenox Family

Robert, David and William Lenox, sons of wealthy Kirkcudbright merchant, James Lenox, arrived in Philadelphia at the onset of the American War of Independence. All three brothers served in the war, David and William went to New York to join the British cause and David stayed in Philadelphia eventually becoming a Major in the American Army. He later became President of the Philadelphia Bank. Following the war, Robert had a successful career as a shipping agent, he steadily rose in society and bought land around New York city. Proving to be a spectacular purchase, the land rapidly increased in price securing him great wealth. Robert's son James worked alongside his father as a merchant trading as Robert Lenox and Son and inherited his fathers vast fortune in 1839. James, a bibliophile, retired from work to collect rare books and pursue philanthropic ventures. He amassed an impressive collection which included the first Gutenberg Bible in the United States. The Lenox Library was made accessible to the public in 1870, in 1895 it was joined with the Astor Library and the Tilden Trust to become what is now the New York Public Library.

Galloway Family History - The Douglas Family

William and James Douglas hailed from Wigtownshire but had carved out successful careers as merchants in Glasgow and London. Along with their two brothers, George and Samuel, they emigrated to New York in the 1770s where they prospered as merchants and ran their own fleet of ships. Their cousin, Samuel Douglas, had also made good as a merchant in Savannah, Georgia and later as a plantation owner in Jamaica. At the time of his death in 1799 Samuel Douglas had amassed a great fortune. He left a large sum of money for the sole purpose of establishing a school in the town of Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, which is the present day Douglas Ewart High School. Three of the brothers returned home as incredibly wealthy men and bought landed estates in Galloway and further afield. William purchased the Gelston Estate which proved to have an enduring legacy. With plans to establish a cotton spinning centre in the region he re-named the village of Carlingwalk, which was part of his estate, Castle Douglas. The grid of the main streets that he set out still remains today. The industry was sustainable for a time but inevitably could not compete with the larger scale cotton industries in nearby New Lanark and the north west of England. However, the town prospered for two other reasons; as a commercial centre for the area due to its location, and for the high quality local cattle that were reared in the area and exported to England. The reputation for quality food lives on today with the towns position as Food Town of Galloway.

Galloway Family History - The Murray Family

Although many Scots travelled overseas, the main destination for émigrés at the time was England. Many found the Industrial Revolution in the north west of England to be a time of great opportunity, 'The Galloway Drapers', travelling textile salesmen in the late 1700s were prime examples. Adam and George Murray from New Galloway, joiners by trade, began work in the area as machine makers, converting wooden machines to metal. They eventually became manufacturers themselves. Murrays' Mill at Ancoats, Manchester was established in 1798, spinning fine yarns to be sent back to Scotland for hand loom weavers. At one point the mill employed over 1,300 workers and has been described as one of the 'cradles of the Industrial Revolution'. Much later George's son Benjamin Rigby Murray returned to Galloway and bought Parton House in the village of Parton. He rebuilt the house and went on to rebuild the village for the estate workers. The handsome village which includes a terrace of Arts and Crafts houses looks much the same today as it did when it was created.

Visit Dumfries and Galloway

Castle Douglas: Food Town

Kirkcudbright: Artists' Town

Wigtown: Scotland's National Book Town

Last updated 20 Jun 2014