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This Boon of Pure Water: Writing Workshops with JoAnne McKay

July 25, 2021 @ 2:00 pm 4:00 pm

Dumfries Fountain Project
This Boon of Pure Water: Two Creative Writing Workshops with JoAnne McKay

Join writer JoAnne McKay for two creative writing workshops exploring the celebrations and controversies of providing clean water to the town of Dumfries. What role did the devastating cholera epidemics of 1832 and 1848 play? You’ll develop your own writing to share as part of the Dumfries Fountain Project, which is seeking to restore the landmark High Street fountain to its former working glory. Relaxed, informative and fun, the workshops will take place on two Sunday afternoons in July.

1. The Cholera – Sunday 18th July, 2-4pm

As in 1832, the cholera seems to be more malignant in Dumfries than in any other part of Scotland. Perhaps the peculiar sanitary state of the town may account for this. The river Nith runs through it on one side, and on the other, but at a greater distance, is the large swamp of Lochar Moss; whilst, worse than either, there is no water brought into the town except by carts.

Bells Weekly Messenger, 16th December 1848

Join writer JoAnne McKay on a walking tour of Dumfries exploring the history of the devastating cholera “visitations” in 1832 and 1848, which increased calls for clean, piped water to the town.  Gather impressions and inspiration for your own writing during this relaxed, circular walk which will begin and end at the High Street fountain. Wear stout shoes, dress for the weather and bring something to take notes with.

2. A Magnificent Jet – Sunday 25th July, 2-4pm

The Provost then turned the screw of the pipe which supplies the fountain with water, and forthwith a magnificent jet was thrown up into the air, which continued playing all day afterwards.

Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser, October 22nd 1851

Using contemporary reports, this indoor writing workshop with writer JoAnne McKay will help you develop new writing on the origin story of the Dumfries Fountain: the politics and processes of bringing piped water to the town – and then keeping the clean water flowing.

100 High Street
Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway DG1 2BJ United Kingdom
01387 252435
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Nithraid: Cargo and International Links

Did you know? Each boat that takes part in the Nithraid is given a small cargo to bring upriver, and the race is only completed with the safe delivery of these cargoes to the finishing point on the central pontoon! The cargo’s have been inspired by Dumfries’ historical role as a trading point and port receiving goods from around the world at one point for distribution around the region. The trading route was dependant on the river’s tides to allow boats upriver to points at Carsethorn, the Kingholm Quay and Dock Park.

Image Credit: Andy Jardine

The Nithraid Cargoes are:

Tropical goods from the Carribean: Rum, sugar, cocoa/chocolate, coffee

Southern USA: Cotton, Tobacco.

Northern USA & Canada: Timber, Fur.

Baltic: Timber

France: Wine, Brandy.

Mediterranean: Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Sherry, olives, Fish

England: Manufactured Goods, Slate, Coal

Wales: Slate

Indian ocean: Cinamon, (Sri Lanka), Peppar (India), other spices,

China: Tea, silk.

Scotland: Salt.

These goods would have come by a number of routes. Anything from the colonies before the end of the 18th century was subject to the Navigation acts and had to pass through a British port (English before the act of union) which meant that for instance spices etc. would have come via Liverpool or London, and coastal shipping from there on. But Tobacco and other goods of the triangular trade may have come direct because Whitehaven was a regional centre where they had quays called, the Sugar Tongue Quay, The Fish Quay and the Lime Tongue Quay.

And then there was the Free Trade, smuggling, which was a major factor of this region for a while at the end of the 18th Century. Dumfries as a port would not officially have been involved but with a shortage of customs men and huge profits to be shared, unofficially it’s reasonable to assume that many thousands of tons of tobacco, for instance, arrived at Carsethorn and disappeared.

Musings Project Updates

A hunt for the history of 100 High Street

Following on from our call out last month for a documentary filmmaker, John Wallace has been commissioned to make a short film documenting The Stove and 100 High Street, as we continue to gather pace towards the grand opening this year.

John’s proposal to explore the relationship of the building to the town as it is transformed into an arts space for Dumfries has led him in search of old images of what has previously been 92 – 102 High Street, Dumfries and needs your help!

The property at 96-102 High Street has been home to a game dealer, a fireman, several milliners, David Coltart drapers, Reid’s Shoes, millworkers and an umbrella maker. More recently it housed First and Seconds Ladieswear before becoming Happit.

But hours of trawling old photo collections and online research have revealed only a few scant glimpses, the best in a 1956 film of Guid Nychburris day.

A still from and old Lyceum picturehouse feature on Guid Nychburris 1956. Watch it online here

“The front of the building kinks away from the rest of the High Street by about 15 degrees,” explains filmmaker John Wallace. “So, in all your classic postcard views of the Midsteeple from the English Street end it can’t be seen at all, while in views from the Midsteeple it’s hidden by Burtons or the coffee house that was there before”.

Can you help? If you have any photos of the High Street which feature The Stove building, please do get in touch with John (details below.)

MrsMcCarthy copy
Image thanks to Peter Quinn on the Old Dumfries facebook page

John is also keen to speak to people who have had a past connection to the building, were you a taxi driver when there was a rank outside the Stove? Have you worked or do you know anyone who worked in Reids, Coltarts, Happit or the First and Seconds? Did you live upstairs? If you have any stories or connections, please get in touch with John, either by phone 07720 710 934 or by email at [email protected]

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