Langholm Langholm


Langholm, also known colloquially as the "Muckle Toun", is a burgh in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, on the River Esk and the A7 road. - (Wikipedia)

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Armstrong Trust NewsView All

Hermitage Castle

A campaign group has been set up to oppose the industrialisation of the historic landscape around Hermitage Castle by a proposed wind farm. Their objective is the stopping a plan by developer Infinis to put up 20 turbines, each 125m high at Braidlie and Sundhope Farms. The wind farm would be next to the historic Hermitage Castle and the turbines would be taller than the Forth Rail Bridge which is only 104m high.

Please support the Hermitage Action Group by contacting Malcolm McGregor (this is not Fiona’s husband) at

The following article is reproduced by kind permission of Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser:

Developer Infinis expects to submit its application for the 17 turbines on land at Braidlie and Sundhope farms next month and held two exhibitions – in Newcastleton village hall and Hermitage hall – last week.

Malcolm McGregor, chairman of the Hermitage action group, viewed mock-up photos showing the turbines in the Hermitage valley and described the development as a ‘large-scale industrial wind power plant’. Malcolm, who lives at Whitropefoot Farm with his wife, Sandra, said: “There’s not really anything I’m happier about because the bottom line is it’s a large-scale industrial wind power plant.
“It’s totally destroying the countryside in our locality as well as the cultural and historical landscape setting of the castle.”

One controversy is the view from Tofts Knowe, labelled ‘insignificant’ by Infinis but important by locals because from that point the turbines will be clearly visible above the castle. Malcolm said: “We have a landscape, and it’s why the castle is unique, which has been undisturbed, apart from sheep farming, and this iconic setting will be destroyed. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.” He said another photo from Hartsgarth Fell, a very popular walk, showed how the windfarm would dominate the landscape. At Caldcleuch Head you would see all of them. The guidelines on how close turbines should be to properties recommend two kilometres but Whitrope hamlet and the McGregors’ property will be 1.6km from the nearest.

He has also complained to their MSP John Lamont that no one from Hermitage is represented on Infinis’s community liaison group, although Newcastleton community council and business forum are.
On the issue of construction, Malcolm said: “The turbine abnormal loads are planned to come via Carter Bar and through Chesters. The community there are concerned, especially because they have to contend with the Infinis Cummings Hill windfarm proposal. I pressed Ben Ridder, the project developer, about the route of all the HGV vehicles to Windy Edge, which would be transporting steel, gravel, sand and cement and there would be a considerable number of traffic movements.

“When one looks at the main road network from likely gravel quarries and other material suppliers, there are not many options for such a large number of HGVs.”

Mr Ridder said Infinis had already completed a pre-construction survey of the road network which would help them assess any damage done during construction. As for the views, he said the turbines could not be seen from the castle. He admitted many people were concerned about the visual impact but added: “The assessment of the effect on the castle and its setting places less priority on the Tofts Knowe viewpoint because it’s not of any significance.” Planning consent would be for 25 years, after which the company would remove the turbines and the foundations to a depth of one metre only.

Mr Ridder said blanket bog was a rare protected habitat but this was not an actively-forming bog because of the effects of grazing and other land-use practices, like drainage.

The council did have a reputation for turning down windfarm developments so the money invested at this stage was done at risk but if their environmental assessment had shown the site was unlikely to get permission, they would not have gone ahead.

There have been objections to windfarms from the Ministry of Defence in the past because of RAF Spadeadam and the seismological array at Eskdalemuir. Mr Ridder said the MoD was trialling mitigation measures for its radar masts, one of which was on Deadwater Hill. They had less influence over the seismological array which was a much bigger issue but the company remained confident.

Carlisle Archive Centre

A new archive centre has opened in Carlisle. Click here to go to their website and find out more information.


As you can see from the Facebook icon on the righthand side of all the page, we now have a Facebook account. If you want to make a comment about anything to do with the Trust then please use our “Wall”. If you have a Facebook account yourselves then click our “Like” button.

To assist you in finding family ancestry, our archivist has prepared a list of websites to assist with your research. This list with much more information has been updated in October 2012.

 Please click the download button to save the file to your computer..

From a talk by Travers Cosgrove at the Clan Armstrong Trust Gathering of August 1999.

Thoughts on Irish ancestors?

Whether a Scottish or an English Armstrong, common to both were the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century.

The Catholic Queen of Scots, Mary, was facing John Knox and a fiercely Presbyterian nation. Henry VIII formed the Church of England to ensure the Tudor succession which finished early in the 17th century, on the death of Queen Elizabeth I.

King James VI of Scotland and First of England then succeeded to the throne of Great Britain, with the Union of the Crowns in 1603. James made it clear he wanted no more border incursions ‘for the fun of it’. So he removed several Scots border clans and ‘planted’ them to settle in Ulster in Northern Ireland. He had inherited trouble here and thought to cure it this way.

And so the border clans arrived as Presbyterians in a country where the majority of the inhabitants were Roman Catholic and the administration, Anglican. Almost four centuries later, things are still much the same and this fear of being overwhelmed persists.

So the Scots Armstrong were an early example of ‘Social Engineering!’ Their presence was resented by the locals; their educational and religious culture feared and frowned upon by the authorities; their social and family units probably broken up perhaps because they didn’t correspond with the available land and too many in one place would be too powerful. I think mostly they hated it!

Our experience of life tells us many would have pulled strings or vanished to avoid plantation altogether. The ‘grandees’ appointed to administer the plantation were superseded by hired ‘foresters’ – and they were overtaken by the civil war. No wonder it was 150 years later before a stable pattern of administration emerged, before records were kept faithfully and before a recognisable civilisation was established. By then, many had already left for the Americas and continued to do so.

In Ireland itself, Armstrong ‘Lads ‘o Pairts’ began to emerge as accomplished individuals and social leaders. As genealogists, we are very short on those first 150 years. Of course, there are municipal and family exceptions. But it was 100 years later that I was astonished to discover that my Cosgrove Presbyterian antecedents had to remarry in a Church of Ireland to succeed in their modest profession the constabulary. Of course, there were other Armstrongs in Ireland, too. They arrived, or were named, for different reasons. Ireland is quite a large, diverse country.

But all is not gloom on tracing back early Armstrongs. We are fortunate that a former Trust member, Alexander, discovered and gathered many early records. These are published in Part One of our Index – it’s kept in the museum and we have copies for sale. Then there is a Part Two, which our President, Alan Armstrong of Nether Thorniewhats, has gathered and printed that is also available. Joan McKeague and I are working on Part Three. But too many records are dull and confusing; calling them an Index is rather misleading.  There is no index other than by parish and date. Will you help me to produce one, please? Christian names and place or farm name seem to be the best remembered.

Now let me talk about Living Genealogy. Have you asked your Grandad or Grandma about the relatives that visited in their childhood? Do it now, whilst they’re still here to ask. Do you keep in touch with distant cousins? Do you ask them about their parents and relatives? Are some of them members of the Clan Armstrong Trust? What can they tell you?

How about an exciting family reunion? Someone has to suggest the idea. It has just happened to us. We seized on the intention of American cousins to celebrate the 70th birthday of their ‘Mater Familias’ by bringing all her family on a trip to Ireland. 36 of them arrived! I organised four families in Britain and Ireland to meet them in Killarney and there was even one from Australia. Between us, we were able to organise a welcome gathering. Especially memorable for the children, we were able to find local historians to show us where our family had lived and died over 300 years ago.

That was living geneaology. For our part, we had put together a family tree and illustrated it with what portraits we could. It was fun to see these pictures grow, shrink and brighten before our eyes. No matter that these were all ‘Palmers’. All the relatives had Emma Margaret Armstrong as Great Grandmother – or Great Great, or Great Great Great grandmother. Think of us as Armstrongs and I found a link with Sir Robert Slain 1647.

Genealogy can be fun as well as interesting, but we need your help to make it factual.

What it meant in the period up to 1690 by Nether Thorniewhats

Up to this period, Clanship embodied all aspects of life. From the authority of the clan, to the law of the clan. From its social ties to the arrangements of its management, Heritage wise, it contained two complimentary, but distinct concepts. First there was the prescriptive right to settle lands over which the Chiefs, Chieftains of non-baronial status and leading gentry, provided protection.

These people were recognised by the clansmen and women as having personal authority as trustees for the clan. When Crown charters and those of other powerful landowners were issued to the Chiefs, Chieftains and Lairds – and the lands more clearly defined by these charters – they gave a different emphasis to the clan Chief’s authority. Then it became one of individual heritage, granted from above. This institutionalised the authority of Chiefs and leading clan gentry as landed proprietors, being owners of the lands in their own right – rather than as trustees.

After the middle ages in Scotland, SCOTS LAW was important in shaping the structure of clanship. The law of primogeniture prevailed, whereby the heir to a chief was usually in the direct male line. Occasionally the true heir would be set aside in favour of a more politically accomplished, or warrior type relative. This happened with the Armstrongs, following the fleeing of the heir presumptive to the last Mangerton chief. Then, the line of Whithaugh, clearly descended from the Mangerton line, was acknowledged as the leader. Regrettably, of course, in the 18th century, this line died out through lack of male children.

By then, of course, the concept of clanship was itself dying out in the border country, with peace between England and Scotland. No move was made by the scattered Armstrongs to support the appointment of a Chief. In any case, the few remaining Armstrongs no longer held land, but were, in the main, tenant farmers.

The law of entail eventually also prevented and restricted the division of lands amongst female heirs, with the subsequent loss and alienation of clan territories and the virtual collapse of the concept of clanship. Disputes between two or more clans were settled sometimes by actual formal fights between teams drawn from each clan. More often, it was by arranged marriages between the individual families. When it was agreed that a case was to go to arbitration, the Chiefs served as the legal agents and placed the case for the offended and offending parties before a panel of leading gentry of each of the two clans.

The president of the panel would be a neighbouring chief or landlord. From the decision arrived at by the panel, there was no appeal. Usually compensation was awarded taking into account such matters as the age, status, and family responsibilities of the victim, together with the nature of the offence. Once this had been paid, the offending party was indemnified against any further action. Social bonding within the clan and between clans was formed, apart from legal bonds, by marriage, alliance and kinship.

On marriage, money, livestock and land transfers were involved – both bride and groom contributing to each other and to respective families. The Chiefs, chieftains and leading lairds were bound to underwrite these ‘tochers’ and ‘dowries’. With the coming of the reformation, Handfasting’s, or informal marriages, lasting for one year and a day, became illegal. Handfasting’s were the least reliable form of relationships, or ties, between clans or within a clan.

Social Ties Fostering cemented great ties and there are numerous such happenings recorded in Armstrong history, particularly between the Armstrongs and the Grahams. Laird’s children were eagerly fostered out when that laird was in trouble either by his being hanged or put to the horn. There was also a commercial aspect to this – usually a payment by transfer of livestock, which was handed back when the foster children reached the age of man or womanhood. Another form of social tie was that of the bond of manrent.

This ensured protection against predatory clans or individuals and there are many instances of this in Armstrong history. The person to whom the bond of manrent was given was responsible for taking the part of the grantee and vice versa, whenever he was attacked, be he in the right or wrong. In the event of the grantee being killed in the process, the grantor was required to pay death duties for him. This procedure was banned in 1617, but continued illegally especially after the political divisions of the civil wars of the 17th century. Systems

The clan also had its own system of management. Those clansmen living on the estates of the Chief or Laird, paid rents and calp through a tacksman. This could be in labour, money, or kind. A tacksman was a form of land agent or manager. He would be responsible for up to sixteen families. Strip farming was still in being and the tacksman would allocate annually the rotation of strips of land for cultivation. He would also supervise the common grazing lands, the breeding and numbers of cattle and sheep, the ploughing and manuring and the removal of stock to summer grazing.

These men also had the role of mobilising the men for war, or hunting expeditions for the Chiefs and Lairds, particularly when the crown desired a supply of venison. The Chiefs and Lairds were not without their responsibilities to the clansmen. They were required to govern wisely and were assisted in this by many officers, managers and a host of officials. If the Chief or Laird was not of a warlike disposition, he was required to appoint a military leader. In his administration of the law, he relied on a person more well versed for advice. The Charters by which these men held their land, laid down their powers of hanging, imprisonment, trial and the holding of their own courts of justice.

They were also responsible for caring for the less well off, the sick and the wounded, the widow and the orphan. In all, if the clan had a good chief, a good leader, strong but compassionate and just, all was well and the system worked as a good family should work. But regrettably, there would always be the greedy, the bully, the liar, the lecher, as there are in all walks of life. And he would not be mourned when his time of passing came. Nevertheless he had the power over all clansmen – and we know what total power can come to – corruption.



Armstrong Places of Interest

  • Langholm-Castle

    Langholm Castle

    The Armstrongs were the most feared family on the Scottish border. At one time they could field 3 thousand riders – and are said to have done more damage to... Read more »
  • Carlenrig


    Carlenrig is one of the most wild and poignant sites on the Border Reiver Trail. It was here that a notorious Armstrong fell foul of a teenage King – and...... Read more »

Places to StayView All


01387 380 357

High St, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, DG13 0JH

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Offering Scottish Tourist Board 3 star accommodation, the Eskdale Hotel, Langholm sits with pride of place in the centre of town.  The hotel accommodation provides visitors luxuries normally only found in larger hotels, whilst ensuring personal attention, quality and care associated with a hotel of this size.

A short drive from the M6 and M74, The Eskdale Hotel and Langholm offer the perfect place to relax and unwind. For those seeking something more, there’s a series of waymarked hill walking routes and walks around the town.

Mountain biking is also available nearby at 7 Stanes, whilst the famous river Esk offers great fishing opportunities for salmon & sea trout. Road cycling, golf and shooting is also available locally and for those seeking culture, the Clan Armstrong Museum offers an incisive glimpse into the lives of the Border Reivers. The Buccleuch Centre and theatre in the town provides a range of entertainment, music & exhibitions.

The Eskdale Hotel offers the opportunity to enjoy and experience all of these and much more.

For retail therapy the nearby Gretna Outlet Village offers famous brands at discount prices.  But take time to explore the town of Langholm, explore the varied local shops, galleries and visit the regular Farmers’ Market or Antiques Fair.

The Eskdale Hotel really the perfect place to stop, stay and relax when visiting the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway or the North Lakes of the English Lake District.