WORLD War One and its lasting impact on Dumfries and Galloway’s landscapes was the subject of a talk by Andy Nicholson, Dumfries and Galloway Council archivist, to the Eskdale & Liddesdale Archaeological Society.
Andy’s superb photos and lively commentary began in Langholm with a short introduction to the most striking objects from 1914-18, the war memorials; moving, enduring works by artists and craftsmen.
Andy outlined how different communities chose their own style of monument. Langholm and Lockerbie have winged victory, while Ewes has a simple cross, Canonbie a beautiful statue and Cummertrees a unique church lych gate.
He revealed the massive munitions site between Longtown, Gretna and Eastriggs where many Langholm women worked.
The photos and explanation made sense of the ruins, relics and traces which remain.
They showed how the site began, developed and operated and how many buildings are still used today.
The audience was fascinated to get an insight into the life of a council archaeologist, clearly no easy desk-job. Officialdom was not always in tune with heritage.
Andy’s job entailed huge amounts of research into archives, photos, documents and information from residents.
This often led to solid detective work and site exploration, sometimes of the muddy wellies and shovel variety.
Comparing aerial photos with OS maps, Andy showed how the maps we all believed to be superbly accurate, sometimes did not tell the full story.
Sites closed by the Ministry of Defence could now be legally explored by an archaeologist using satellite images.
He is working on recording locations of drill halls from the war. Langholm’s volunteers’ drill hall was converted from a church in Drove Road, reverting to a place of worship after the war but with a change of denomination. The hall is now an artist’s studio.
Margaret Pool gave the vote of thanks.
After his talk, Andy discussed sites in and around Langholm with members and guests who gave him valuable information, particularly on big houses used as military hospitals.
The society’s next meeting is on April 17.