Monday, January 14, 2013

Christmas Adventures - A Clan visit to Moffat

The Scottish town of Moffat is a former coaching stop and spa town, and is the ancestral home of the clan Moffat. The name is derived from the Gaelic magh and fada which mean 'field' and 'long', so - 'from the long field'. It is located just over the border from England, and is one hour south (by car) from Glasgow.
Moffat is marked by the large 'A'
The border is marked in red.
Also note the location of Inverness, in the north

In historical times, Moffat was a market town that served four parishes and was a hub for farming communities on the hill lands north of Moffat, and for dairy and arable farmers to the south. It was of particular importance to the wool trade, and the Moffat Ram proudly attests to this heritage. There is also an interesting local geographical feature known as the Devil's Beef Tub (a 150m deep hollow) that was used by the Johnstone and Moffat clans to smuggle cattle.

In the early part of the 17th Century, a mineral well was discovered in Moffat. Soon, the town became known as a spa town with healing waters, and it reached its heyday in Victorian times, when the wealthy would travel from far away to "take the waters" in the bath houses of Moffat.

I found this delightful passage in a historic advertisement: "Vicarlands House: A Hydropathic Establishment. Board with medical attention and use of baths - 2 pound 2 shillings per week. Smoking strictly prohibited, lights out by 10:30pm, bath attendants start operations at 5:30 am, early rising will be habitually enjoined and expected."

Another establishment, the Hydropathic Hotel, was opened in April 1878. It was a luxurious spa hotel with 300 bedrooms and cost £87,000 to build. During WW1, convalescing soldiers stayed at the hotel. Unfortunately, it burnt down in a fire in 1921.
The Hydropathic Hotel
For 150 years the town thrived on its name as a spa destination, but the depression of the 1920s saw wealth dwindle, while the development of new medicines meant less reliance on the healing properties of mineral waters. Around this time agriculture was also suffering a decline, pushed out by forestry, and Moffat’s main selling-point now is as a tourist town. There are many walking routes over the Moffat Hills, and Moffat proclaims itself as a "walkers are welcome" town! (Which made us feel right at home!)

Historic Map of Moffat
Some other gems about Moffat, largely compiled from the website.

In 1837, the Statistical Account described Moffat's residents as "particularly clean and decent", with "gross acts of immorality...seldom heard of", and English that was "among the best be found in any Scottish village". When the Account was compiled, Moffat boasted 50 weavers, 6 shoemakers, 6 tailors, 2 bakers, 5 masons, 1 surgeon, and 1 watchmaker.

According to "Graham's 'Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century'", "In spring there meet round the little wells of Moffat a throng in their gayest and brightest from society in town and country, sipping their sulphur waters and discussing their pleasant gossip ... city clergy, men of letters, country gentlemen and ladies of fashion and the diseased and decrepit of the poorest rank, who had toilsomely travelled from far-off districts to taste the magic waters."

I also found this wonderful picture in a local history book that was lent to us while in the B&B in Moffat:

"The Mighty Men of Moffat, A Legend in their Time" - a local tug-o'-war team!!
I'm not sure of the date of this photograph, though.
Unfortunately it rained the entire time we were in Moffat, but we braved the cold and raced around in the rain like nutters to take these pictures:
The mascot of the Moffat RFC is The Ram
Internationally famous for its toffee!

This is the Moffat House Hotel, designed by John Adam, a famous Scottish Architect.
He also designed Fort George, which you will hear more about in another blog post.
The Moffat Hotel and its bar - Adam's Lounge Bar!
The Town Hall and the Police Station, side-by-side
We also had a wee look around the town cemetery, and stumbled across the grave of Francis Moffat. 

In the mid-sixteenth century, the Moffat clan came under attack, and was unable to appoint a successor chief. Without a chief, the clan officially ceased to exist(!), and many of its members left the UK to avoid persecution.

After many years, Major Francis Moffat returned from fighting in World War Two and began to research his family history. After 35 years of research, Moffat confirmed that his family was directly descended from the last Moffat clan chieftan.

In July 1983, Major Moffat was proclaimed "Chief of the Name and Arms of the Family of Moffat" by the Court of the Lord Lyon (the official heraldic authority of Scotland), and was able to assume the title of "The Moffat of That Ilk", or clan chief. 

In case you're wondering - he appointed his daughter as his successor, so after his death, the title has fallen to her.

Moffat - what a place!!! It was a small town, but we enjoyed our time there and were reluctant to leave. Luckily, the rest of Scotland proved equally as awesome...

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