Dumfries, affectionately known as "The Queen of the South", is the administrative centre for Dumfries and Galloway Region in the south west of Scotland and is the largest centre of population in the south of Scotland. Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia for 1995 gives the following information:

Dumfries, Scotland, city on River Nith, 65 mi (105 km) s.w. of Edinburgh; hosiery, rubber goods, chemicals, milk products; burial place of Robert Burns, pop. 28,149.

That can be expanded...........

It is thought most likely that it was between 700 and 800 A.D. that a village first developed on the site that was to become Dumfries. However, the first known written record is dated approximately 1160 in a grant by Radulf son of Dunegal of as much land "at Donfres" as two oxen could plough in a day to the Hospice of St Peter at York. The first mention of Dumfries as a royal burgh can be found in various documents dated between 1174 and 1186.

[Border Reivers]Sir William Wallace (of "Braveheart" fame), came to Dumfries in September 1297, shortly after his defeat of the English at Stirling Bridge on 11th September, as he continued to harry the retreating English forces. The vengeful English captured Dumfries Castle in 1298 and were to hold it for for seven years until the 10th of February 1306 when Robert the Bruce, after killing Comyn of Dalswinton - "Red Comyn" (the other claimant to the Scottish Throne) at the High Altar of the church of the Grey Friars, took it and raised his standard as King of Scots. The Castle was to change hands numerous times until its final surrender to Bruce in 1313 when it was systematically demolished. Dumfries, being burnt in 1345 and again in 1384, was to suffer regularly from English incursions throughout the period of Border warfare between Scotland and England.

Despite being some five to six miles up the River Nith from the sea, Dumfries seems to have developed as a port for sea trade quite early with records of customs duties being collected in 1330 and 1331.The most famous Dumfries customs officer was Robert Burns himself, who served from 1791 to 1796.It is interesting to note that originally customs duty was charged on goods being exported not imported; the first dues charged for imports were levied on goods from England only!
Statue of Burns, Bigger Picture 45KB The Dock, Dumfries, 1893, Bigger Picture 29KB

There is a record in Middleburg, Holland, of Dumfries merchants arranging a large deal over wool in 1492: this is indicative of the trade from Dumfries in wool and woollen goods which developed into a thriving knitwear industry, continuing to this day although, sadly, at a level only a fraction of that prior to World War 2. Dumfries as a port, declining with the coming of the railways and the use of larger and larger ships which could not navigate restricted waterways such as the Nith, finally ceased operating in the first half of the 20th century.

Dumfries was the the first Scottish town, other than those with universities, to have a newspaper, "The Dumfries Mercury," the earliest surviving copies of which are from April and May 1721. Bonnie Prince Charlie passed through Dumfries during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 with part of his army in his retreat from Derby which was to end in final defeat at Culloden in 1746. While in the town he demanded a contribution of £2,000 sterling and 1,000 pairs of shoes for his army - he got the money but only 255 pairs of shoes. The Theatre Royal in Dumfries is Scotland's oldest working theatre opening for the first time on the evening of Saturday, 29th of September, 1792.

[Burns' House, Mill Street] To return to Robert Burns, Scotland's National Poet, he came to live in Dumfries towards the end of 1791 after giving up the tenancy of Ellisland Farm which was situated some six miles outside the town.[Burns' Mausoleum] His first abode in the town comprised three small rooms on the second floor of a building on the north side of what is now Bank Street. Then he moved to a self-contained house in Mill Street where he died in July, 1796, at the age of 37 years. During his sojourn in Dumfries whilst being employed as an Excise Officer he wrote fully one hundred songs. His body is interred in a mausoleum in St Michael's Churchyard, Dumfries. His widow, Jean, lived on in the house in Mill Street (now known as Burns Street) till her death 38 years later in 1834

During the 1800s there was a substantial emigrant trade through the port of Dumfries: it is claimed that in 1851 more than ten thousand people sailed for North America, more than seven thousand to Australia and more than four thousand to New Zealand; South-West Scotland played a large part in the settling of Otago province. As late as 1872 the entire village of "Busy Bit", near Dunscore, emigrated to Sydney, New South Wales, villagers, schoolmaster, a nearby blacksmith, Clydesdale horses and all.

The first mention of a Grammar School in Dumfries is in 1330 when it is recorded that the Rector paid the town's taxes to Edward III at Berwick. There is a further record of a School of Dumfries in 1481 and again in 1521-1522. A description of the schoolhouse is given in the record of Rentals in1548. In the 1600s the records give us a detailed picture of the development of the Grammar School throughout that century. In an account of the moving of the schoolhouse in 1741 it is noted that it had stood in the same place for "nigh 200 years".

[Dumfries Academy in 1890's]By the time of Robert Burns a number of other schools besides the grammar school were in existence and at about this time the Town Council decided to amalgamate them all under one roof. Accordingly on April 27th ,1802, the foundation stone of Dumfries Academy was laid. The original building had extensive additions made to it in1871. Today the town currently has four secondary schools and a Technical College. In 1829-1833 there was a proposal to found a University in the town but it came to nothing due to shortage of money and opposition from the existing universities. In December 1996 there was revealed the prospect that the first students at a University College, a satellite of Glasgow University, would be enrolled in the autumn of 1998. At the end of 1999 and as we enter the new millennium this prospect has developed into The Crichton University Campus. This is a unique development in Britain if not the world in that it hosts two Universities and a College - an extension of Paisley University, Crichton College of the University of Glasgow, and a section of Bell College, Hamilton. The three establishments although operating independently combine to share certain facilities such as Library and Students Union.

Prior to 1900 the only real industry in Dumfries was the knitwear industry but this was to change, first with the advent of the Drummond Car in 1909 and then the arrival of the Arrol Johnston Motor Company in 1912.
The Carnation Milk Factory was built in 1934-35, prospering and developing into a complex of three factories until Carnation was purchased by Nestle in 1985, the decline then set in with first the closure of the Can Factory, then the Condensery, and finally the CoffeeMate Factory scheduled to shut down in the year 2000.
I.C.I. built a chemical explosives factory just outside the town in 1938-39. Following the 1939-45 war it developed into a plastics factory which today produces the world famous Melinex plastic film although no longer owned by I.C.I..
In 1945 the North British Rubber Company (now Gates Rubber Company) took over the former Arrol Johnston motor works: the factory is now home of the Hunter range of rubber footwear and Treadaire carpet underlay amongst other products.

Geographers from the Quality of Life group at the University of Strathclyde, led by Dr Robert Rogerson, ranked 189 small cities, towns and regional centres in a league table based on 20 criteria, including access to health care, crime levels, the cost of living, pollution, shopping facilities, jobs and housing. Dumfries took first place as the best place to live in Britain.

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