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Collecting the Past - Wigtownshire archaeologists and antiquarians

During the Victorian period many of Wigtownshire’s leading figures were also keen archaeologists. John Dalrymple, the 10th Earl of Stair (1819-1903), and Sir Herbert Maxwell of Monreith (1845-1937) were both involved in recording and protecting local archaeological sites and they built up extensive collections of local finds. The Reverend George Wilson of Glenluce (1823-1899) was another enthusiast who published a number of pioneering articles on the county’s prehistory. These men helped to put Wigtownshire on the archaeological map.

The new exhibition at Stranraer Museum looks at the work of these men and highlights a number of local antiquarian collections. On display are prehistoric artefacts from the Stair Collection, a diverse selection of objects found by estate workers and tenants during the late 19th century. Also on show is a fascinating range of stone and flint tools collected between 1890 and 1914 by William and Robert Selby who were doctors in Port William. They were given many of these items by their patients. And from the early 20th century is material amassed by the Reverend Anderson of Castle Kennedy whose collection includes local finds as well as objects from Canada, Egypt and Babylon. Anderson’s collection was given to Wigtownshire County Council in 1939 where it became the nucleus for the old County Museum, now Stranraer Museum.

One of the most prolific sites for early collectors was Luce Sands. The sand dune system here was constantly shifting and exposing previously buried archaeological sites. Thousands of flint tools have been discovered on Luce Sands over the years and the area attracted collectors from across Scotland. As part of this exhibition visitors can see a superb selection of flint arrowheads and other stone tools from Luce Sands made in the 1930s by the Edinburgh surgeon Dr W A Munro – still displayed in Munro’s original cigarette tins! And from the same area is a large collection of prehistoric material collected in the 1950s and 60s by the late Bert McHaffie of Drummore.

The exhibition runs until 30 January. Admission is free.