Wayfarer- The extraordinary car plant near Kirkcudbright

In last week’s article I looked into Scotland’s history in the motor car industry and drew attention to Argyll Motor cars and the very fancy factory in Alexandria.

The Scots have always been technically minded as evidenced by the many inventions they have given to the world, so I delved deeper into the history of the Scottish motor industry and came across the tale of an extraordinary car plant in Tongland which made Galloway Cars.

For those who perhaps say ‘ Where is Tongland ?’ it is a small area on the River Dee just north of Kirkcudbright which is known today for its art deco power station opened in 1936 as part of the hydroelectric scheme. However to get back to the Galloway Car plant which existed between 1921-22 at a factory previously used for making aero engines for the First World War. Presumably these were made in the main by women as the men were away fighting, so it therefore may not at first seem unusual that the car plant was staffed predominantly by women with as their manager Dorothy Pullanger the first and the only female manager of a car plant in Britain. Naturally the cars were extremely popular with the ladies, but why it only lasted two years I do not know. However I am assured that the cars were roadworthy and no doubt if the engines were based on the aero engines produced during the war they would have been powerful. Its short life may be due to the fact that it was a very physical job and may have proved too much for the ladies of Kirkcudbright now that the war was at an end, so the firm and cars became history. But apart from this Tongland does have more to offer than cars and hydro electricity as in 1218 Fergus, Lord of Galloway founded a mighty abbey but unfortunately all that remains is a doorway forming part of the 19th. century parish church. In the graveyard is buried James Neilson (1792-1865) who was the inventor of the hot blast technique for smelting iron which cut down on the amount of fuel needed to produce the iron so much in demand by the railway and ship building industries. Finally to confirm that the residents of Tongland had a lot more going for them, we find that the last Abbot of Tongland, an alchemist called John Damien was known as ‘The Frenzied Friar of Tongland’, tried to fly from the walls of Stirling Castle to impress king James 1V. He landed in a dung heap breaking a leg, but survived the flight. So you see, wherever you look there is something of interest to form the basis of a tale. See you next week.