History of Fludha
The picture above is a scanned copy of a post card which was posted in
Kirkcudbright with the date stamp April 12th 1907
"A Tale of Two Houses"
in Virginia and Kirkcudbright
By Margaret Torrance, MA
This short paper is dedicated to the memory of the late Howard Sproat, not only for his great contribution towards family history generally, but in particular for the valued assistance he gave to this author in assembling the material for the following article.
In 1830 Catherine McMiken, wife of James Mitchell of Barstobrick in Tongland Parish in Galloway called her tenth child Elizabeth Agnes Maitland - quite a mouthful and whereas one Christian name was general in early 19th century Scotland, two Christian names were fairly unusual and I had not come accross three before. Susan McMeiken, married to Robert Millar, tailor in Ringford, also called her first daughter, born in 1838, Elizabeth Agnes Maitland. Who was this eponymous benefactress or local landowner, and why was she so popular? Both mothers had the same maiden surname, if spelled differently. Was this a clue?
I found the original Elizabeth Agnes Maitland in the 1841 census, unmarried, living at Fludha, Tongland Rd, Kirkcudbright and for simplicity I shall refer to her as "Miss Betsy" or "Betsy" from now on. I had passed the house often, with its Gaelic-looking name carved in Gaelic-looking script. Nothing strange about that - lots of places and houses in Galloway have names relating to it's Gaelic-speaking past. However the Maitland graves in Tongland kirkyard indicate a different story. Miss Betsy is described as of Fludha but her sister, Susanna Poythress Maitland, who died at Fludha on 20th May 1840, is stated to be the daughter of David Maitland of Barcaple and Susanna Poythress of Fludha hundred, James River, Virginia.
Miss Betsy was born in Virginia in 1793, the daughter of David Maitland of Barcaple -(1759-1838) and Susannah Poythress of Flowerdew Hundred, James River, Virginia. David Maitland was one of many of the Maitland family and other Galloway merchants who traded with the eastern states of America, probably mainly in tobacco. As can be seen on the family tree on the right he was decended from John McMichen of Barcaple, one of whose daughters, Mary, married William Maitland who thus aquired the Barcaple estate.
David Maitlands wife, Susanna, was the daughter of Joshua Poythress who owned the tobacco plantation on the crook of the river, halfway between Richmond and Williamsberg. The plantation was originally owned by Sir George Yardley (died 1627) first Governor of Virginia, who named it after his wife Temperance Flowerdew, who came from Hethersett, Norfolk, England. The first house was built in 1620. The plantation changed hands and names over the next two centuries. Susannah's grandfather, Joshua Poythress acquired the land in 1725. We can only speculate on the influences over the years and the colonial accent, which produced Fleur Dieu, Flourdieu, Flor de, Fleur de and finally, in Scotland Fludha Hundred. Did anyone remember how it got it's name? Did Miss Betsy ever see it written down? The house in Virginia no longer exists but the name survives and the site has been excavated several times. It is currently called Flowerdew Hundred.
David Maitland and Susanna Poythress were married in Prince George, Virginia in 1788. When Betsy was only 5 or six years old Susanna died, probably after giving birth to her third daughter, Susanna in Petersburg. Her tombstone in the private family plot at Blandford reads:-
In rememorance(sic) of Susanna Maitland the affectionate wife of David Maitland, Merchant in Blandford, who departed this life February 1799, aged 33 years. She was the daughter of Joshua and Mary Poythress of Flower de Hundred
Another daughter, Mary Currie, had died in 1795. One can only speculate on when and why David Maitland brought his two surviving daughters back to Barcaple. His father had died in April 1792 and he inherited the estate. Perhaps he had been back to Barcaple before his father died because a daughter, Penelope Maitland, was born to Margaret Manson, domestic servant at Barcaple, circa 1790. There is no record of the baptism but on her death certificate her father is "reputed" to be David Maitland of Barcaple, although it is not clear whether it was father or son. Did David the younger get Margaret Manson pregnant and leave for Virginia? Penelope's husband, William Maxwell, grieve at Barcaple, is buried beside the other Maitlands at Tongland, and we can only assume that Penelope is also buried in or near that area and was accepted by the family during her lifetime. She died in the nearby village of Tarff Bridge in 1871. There is some confusion about her exact age.
On 16th May 1804 David Married Grace Gordon of Cambeltown, Twynholm, and in 1807 his only son, and heir, Alexander was born. None of his children married. David died in 1938 and Miss Betsy and her stepmother, Grace Gordon were listed as living at Fludha in the 1841 census. Susanna died in 1840. Their half-brother, Alexander, a merchant in the City of London, died in Ceylon in 1846 and Grace Gordon died in Surrey in 1847. Miss Betsy sold Barcaple to one of her Maitland cousins in 1848 and continued to live in her house on the bend in the river which, no doubt remembering her American roots, she had named "Fludha" after the original home of her American grandperents - a house also situated on the bend of a river. The oldest known photograph taken in the 1870's of "Miss Betsy Maitland" standing in crinoline and shawl, outside her house is reproduced at the top of the page