On the second Monday of May 2021, my guid friend Rab Wilson, poet and lad o’pairts, took me to the old abandoned farmhoose of Cormilligan a small sheep farm in the North East of Dumfriesshire. 1000 feet above sea level, on a clear day the whole extent of the Stewartry of Kirkcudkright can be seen from Cormilligan.
Cormilligan, the hame of shepherds and their faimilies for several hunners o’ years was occupied until the late 1940s. Wan faimily spanned the Cormilligan centuries – that of the McCaws in baith the female and male lines.
Almaist twenty years ago noo, Rab wrote a wunnerfu’ poem aboot Cormilligan. This wis aifter he had discovered name after name after name, written or scrawled all over the inside gable end wall of the house written by the living descendants of William McCaw.
William McCaw was no jist a shepherd and at Cormilligan had a library like ye wudnae believe. He and his wife had 13 children at Cormilligan with ten surviving. They were a’ taught at the local school, a 3 mile walk doon the hill by James Shaw, “A Country Schoolmaster”, botanist, scientist, poet and author.
In the summer of 1880 William Mccaw was telt to leave Cormilligan. The reason given wis that he was too auld. The true reason was that his writings on humanity and science did not go doon weel wi’ the so-caad educated class!
On Thursday the 10th of June, 1880 Willie Mcaw his wife and large faimly sailed from Glasgow for New Zealand, where they later settled at a fairm called Glenore.
Eight grandsons of the McCaws died during the First World War. At this time, a branch of the family that had not left Scotland, the Armstrongs, secured tenancy of Cormilligan where they raised the last family of the hoose before shutting the door for the final time.
Miss Armstrong was wan of the last of Cormilligan. A bonny lass she was as bricht as ye cud be and gained three degrees with honours in fairming. Her career was described as brilliant.
This film is for Miss Armstrong and for a’ poets near or far awa.