A Short History of Creetown :
Click on image for larger picture of the Ferry Thorn
- The Ferry Thorn : The ancient hawthorn near the Moneypool Burn is said to be older than the village itself, a trysting-place for travellers waiting to be ferried over the River Cree, or to be guided across the treacherous ford to Wigtown at low tide. The Thorn is now reputed to bring good luck to lovers, possibly because of its longevity. Of old, 'Ferrytown of Cree' was no more than a clachan or hamlet of a few fishing boats at the foot of Kirkmabreck Parish.
- Pilgrimages and the Hospice : Pilgrims to St. Ninian's shrine at Whithorn may have formed a significant part of the ferry traffic before the Reformation. The Cistercian Monastery of Dundrennan Abbey (1165-1587) owned a Hospice or Spittal ' aet Crithe' in 1305. Remains of its windows and. foundations may have been found at Claens - Mid-Spittal in the mid-1800s. Go to Cistercian Hospice at Spital Farm, Creetown for more information and a possible project for 'Time Team'.
- Ferries and Smugglers : There does not appear to have been a wharf at Creetown, the boats beaching on the sands beside the bank of the tidal Moneypool Burn or being moored to stakes at high tide. Only a handful of ports on the Solway Firth held water at all states of the tide. Local coastal ships tended to be flat-bottomed to allow easy beaching. These conditions appealed to the smugglers of the Isle of Man, some of whose 'Hollands Trade' in gin and tobacco may have been landed at Ferrytown or nearby secluded coves during the 1700s and early 1800s.
- The Roads Through Creetown : In ancient times there may have been a Roman road across from Gatehouse, but the earliest known roads east to Gatehouse were tracks on the Pilgrim Way to Whithorn and the Shrine of Saint Ninian. Only with the need to move troops was the Military Road built in 1763/1764, from Anwoth across the hills and down to Creetown. A better coastal turnpike road was engineered in 1790, improved in the 1800s, rebuilt and re-aligned in the 1920s, then again re-aligned and rebuilt in its current form in the 1980s.
- The Lead and Copper Mines : the discovery of lead ore in 1763 marked the start of intense industrial activity; the mines of Blackcraig, Machermore, Pibble and Cairnsmore, were second only to those at Wanlockhead and Leadhills, within Scotland. The mines were shut by 1890, with a brief resurgence in 1914-1918, as lead and copper were needed as war materials. Go to Creetown Lead Mines for more information.
- John McCulloch and the Burgh of Creetown : The McCullochs of Barholm owned the land around Ferrytown of Cree and appear to have taken advantage of the improvements brought by industry. John McCulloch successfully applied for re-naming as the Burgh of Barony of Creetown in 1792. Sadly, the town lost its Burgh charter under the Police (Scotland) Act of 1892.
- The Creetown Mills : Creetown entered its industrial phase from 1760 to 1954. The town had a grain mill (1766-1950), a lead shot mill (1770-1900s), a tannery (1781-1845) and a cotton mill (1790-1800) which became a carpet mill up to the 1900s.
- The Creetown Quarries : Granite from Creetown is of a fine quality and has been quarried without explosives for almost two hundred years. A separate section of the website deals with this in some detail. Go to Kirkmabreck Quarry for more information.
- Coaches and the Mail : Once the Military Road was built, there were determined attempts to run a stage-coach, post-chaise and finally a mail-coach service. Inns and post-houses in the Blackcraig and Creetown area stabled horses and provided accommodation, Creetown itself having a Post Office. The service ran from 1788 till 1866, after which the railways carried the mails.
- The Portpatrick Railway Company : Begun in 1858 and completed in 1861, this section of the old 'Paddy' ran until the rails were lifted in 1968. Creetown had its own station, the line bypassing Gatehouse but reaching the coast near Creetown.
- Emigration : The Enclosures Acts and economic variation caused many Scots to leave for a new life elsewhere in Britain or overseas. Creetown was not immune to this; between 1874 and 1914, there are records of 17 families leaving for America, 4 to New Zealand, 1 to Ireland, 9 to Liverpool and 20 to elsewhere in England. This late migration was preceded by others; John Cutland found the earliest record to be of William Manson who left for New York in 1744.
- The Creetown Aviator and Other Stories : James Connell - nicknamed 'Beardie' - tried to build wings of sheepskin and hooping, launching himself off a bridge in the vain hope of gliding across the Cree. Sadly, he went no further than breaking an ankle in the Balloch Burn, but the Beardie Bridge is named in his honour. He is just the most unusual of the personalities who enlivened Creetown life.
More Information :
Visit or call the Exhibition Centre at Creetown for further information, a good audiovisual display and booklets on the town.
Source : John Cutland : The Story of Ferrytown of Cree and Kirkmabreck Parish : Printed by The Forward Press, Castle Douglas,
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Last updated 13th January 2003.