The Botanist of Galloway                                         

Andrew Heron of Bargaly d.1740                                Mary Grahame c1665 – 1705                             Paternal ancestors of Valdis Muriel Skidmore

Galloway, Scotland

Andrew Heron was the third son of Andrew Heron of Kirroughtree (1617-95) and Jean Dunbar of Machermore (1623-96). Exactly when and where he was born is unknown. Mary Grahame was his first wife and they married in c1683. She was the daughter of William Grahame (b 1645) of Floriston, a place 2 miles south of Gretna Green.

For their first three years together Andrew and Mary lived at his parents’ property, Kirroughtree House and then became tenants at the family property called The Mains (home farm) of Larg, about half a mile from Kirroughtree. On May 15th 1691 after 7 years there, they moved to their own property “Bargaly” that Andrew had inherited from his father. This was to avoid the interferences of relatives that had begun to squabble over the Larg property. Altogether Andrew and Mary had about five children: Andrew, William, Jane or Jean, and Patrick (1690) born at Kirroughtree, and Margaret probably born at Bargaly.

Kirroughtree House (built 1719), Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, now a hotel.           Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

Bargaly Paradise

Andrew had a talent for botany and in about 1691 commenced a large scale planting of the Bargaly Valley, later known as Bargaly Paradise. In Julian Rogers’ book* it is described:

“The valley of Bargaly is a wild glen traversed from end to end by a little river called the Palnure Burn, which takes its rise in the high marshy grounds of New Galloway and ultimately falls into the river Cree near Wigtown Bay. It winds along a rocky bed between precipitous hills rising, both on the east and west, to a height of some 600 feet. The river bank is fringed with trees throughout its course and here and there, in the loops of the stream, are flat patches of green meadow land which become narrower and less frequent as the site of Bargaly House is approached. At this point the hills draw together and increase in steepness, the stream flowing in a narrow ravine between the frowning heights of Craig’s Head and Doon Hill which screen the valley completely from east to west.”

The Palnure Burn with Bargaly seen through the trees, looking up to Craig’s Head and Doon Hill in 2007.                                                                      Photo: Euan McGillivray

In 1693 the orchard dyke entry and gate were built and in 1694 fruit trees were planted. Also that year Bargaly House, designed by Mr. Hawkins, was completed on a site 30 feet or so above the stream:

“In front is a stretch of open ground some 6 acres in extent surrounded by a carriage drive which, at its lower point, falls somewhat steeply towards an old Roman bridge over the river. Behind the house to the north is situated the ‘great dyke’ as it was called, built in 1693, to shelter the garden and orchard.”

The house was very simple in design (two wings were added after Andrew died) and built from local materials. The stone came from a quarry on the east side of the garden. On the hillsides and around the house Andrew planted oaks, beeches, hornbeams, flowering ashes, limes and variegated hollies (some hollies 26 feet high). Some of these trees grew to enormous sizes. When measured a century after being planted, one hornbeam measured 10 feet in circumference and an oak tree measured 12 feet in circumference and 60 feet high. A description of the plantation can be found in Loudon’s “Arboretum et Fruticetum Brittanicum”.

“Bargaly” c1902.                                                                                                           Source: “The History of Our Family - The Rogers of West Meon” Julian Rogers 1902

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Bargaly in 2007. Photo: Euan McGillivray

Where Andrew’s expertise came from we do not know. He may have consulted Evelyn’s “Sylva” an influential publication widely used in England at the time. He was certainly well respected as a botanist and was referred to in at least two contemporary books: “The Practical Husbandman” by Robert Maxwell (1757), and “Treatise on Husbandry and Gardening” Vol.2 p169 by Bradley (1726).

Some of the ancient trees planted by Andrtew Heron, still to be seen at Bargaly             Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

Money trouble

Where money was not spent on building a lavish house, it was certainly poured into the plantations and garden. But Andrew’s passion for gardening was not matched by the same interest in managing his accounts. Not long after Mary’s death, Andrew found himself in financial trouble and was forced to seek the assistance of his nephew Patrick of Kirroughtree who had inherited the Kirroughtree property from his father, Andrew’s brother. Patrick of Kirroughtree has been described as “a hard and unfeeling man” who schemed to take Bargaly from his weak uncle and reunite it with Kirroughtree. Seeing his uncle in a vulnerable position, Patrick loaned Andrew more and more money until it became obvious Andrew could not pay it back. It was then that Patrick and Andrew came to a dubious “agreement”, and without professional consultation drew up a document that made Bargaly security for the loans. The debt and the collateral could be passed from father to son.

Andrew was unable to obtain any help from his eldest sons Andrew or William so the debt was passed to the next son Captain Patrick Heron living in the south of England. It was considered he at least had the means to pay as he had married Ann Vining, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, John Vining, and he was situated far enough away from his manipulative cousin to be able to manage a fair repayment arrangement.

Patrick v Patrick

In 1728, after receiving professional advice, Captain Patrick made an unexpected trip to Scotland where he had the terms of the initial documents altered without the consent of his cousin, Andrew’s nephew Patrick of Kirroughtree. The documents were then taken back to England. Nephew Patrick was furious when he found out the alteration meant that Bargaly was now not automatically the security for the debt. So he decided to vigorously pursue the debt adding interest upon interest and wrote to Captain Patrick in London with specific demands for settlement. He offered to give his cousin a direct conveyance of the estate if he would drop his objections and pay the debt.

Captain Patrick refused to pay which brought great stress and embarrassment upon his father Andrew, who wrote to his son several times between 1728 and 1730 imploring him to accept Patrick of Kirroughtree’s deal. Captain Patrick would not reply. No more was heard of Captain Patrick Heron until 1733 when he embarked for America leaving his father exposed to the scheming of Patrick of Kirroughtree who subsequently claimed Bargaly in lieu of the debt. Captain Patrick never involved himself again with Bargaly and had no doubt revealed himself to be most unreliable and dishonourable. Patrick of Kirroughtree would eventually lose Bargaly to Captain Patrick’s sons who in their turn would squabble over rightful ownership of the property.

Andrew and Mary’s children

Andrew’s sons were a disappointment to him. The eldest son Andrew was described as musically talented but “inattentive and full of pleasure”. He ended up dying of an opium overdose in Ireland, the result of a practical joke. The second son William made his money from the slave trade as a wholesale African merchant. At the age of 25 he came home to Bargaly ill and died of tuberculosis.

Andrew Heron had tried to keep his son Patrick on the straight and narrow by buying him commissions in the army, but as was shown by the sorry loans scandal, and other events of his life, Patrick turned out to be disloyal and as irresponsible as his brothers.

Burial at Bargaly

Andrew’s first wife Mary died in June 1705. Two years later on April 1st 1707, Andrew married widow and first cousin Margaret McKie of Larg. They had three children: Jean, Nicholas and Elizabeth. Margaret died on 22nd February 1735, after which Andrew married Elizabeth Dunbar, another first cousin. She is buried with him.

Andrew died in 1740. Well before his death, Andrew had a tomb built for himself and his wife near the house in the garden at Bargaly. On one side of the tomb are the initials A.H. and on the other side E.D.

The tomb of Andrew Heron and Elizabeth Dunbar at Bargaly, side view.                     Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

* "A History of Our Family (Rogers of Westmeon) 1451-1902” Julian Rogers 1902.

Click here to continue to Patrick Heron and Ann Vining’s story