Seal of the Princess Margaret, Duchess of Touraine,
Countess of Douglas. Daughter of Robert III of Scotland.
It was considered an act of piety to maintain the bridges and roads on the pilgrimage routes to Whithorn. In 1441, Margaret, Countess of Douglas, made supplication to the Pope for her to be granted an indulgence for offerings made in support of rebuilding the bridge over the River Bladnoch.
The single track, packhorse bridge over the river stood for over 400 years. In 1875 the contractor, John Granger sought permission to demolish it and use the stone in the construction of the viaduct to carry the Wigtownshire railway over the Bladnoch, south of the village and distillery of the same name. The viaduct was the only major engineering structure on the railway line, it proved a costly construction, and comprised two spans of 69ft [21m], the iron lattice girders being set on a central pier. The Wigtownshire line closed completely to passengers on 29 September 1950. Goods services continued from Newton Stewart to Whithorn until the line finally closed on 5 October 1964.
The present roadbridge which carries the A714 over the Bladnoch dates from the early 19th century. Standing slightly downriver from the site of the lost medieval bridge, it is of two-spans in dressed-stone construction with fine elliptical arches and triangular cutwaters.
The photograph of the old Bladnoch Bridge is taken from Scottish Pilgrimagwe in the Land of Lost Content by Ratcliffe Barnett, published by John Grant, Edinburgh, 1942. His book Reminiscences of Old Scots Folk, published by T. N. Foulis in 1913 contains ten colour plates of paintings by Robert Gemmell Hutchison, R.S.A. Hutchison is commemorated in the widows of St Ninian’s Church in Whithorn.
Reverend T. Ratcliff Barnett was the man who brought the poets Winfred Owen and Sassoon together at Craiglockheart. Owen was at first conventionally patriotic but he was soon reporting home on the ‘most execrable sights on earth’. Wounded on the Somme he was invalided to Craiglockheart Hospital, where he met Siegfried Sassoon. Ratcliffe Barnett, a Presbyterian minister in the Free Church of Scotland, was serving as chaplain at Craiglockheart, the Edinburgh First World War Hospital.
First Published August 2009