Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Dr. Henry Duncan, who spent much of his life as a minister in the village of Ruthwell, would be turning in his grave if he could witness the goings-on in today's world of personal finance.  He would be horrified at the rapacious treatment of the poorest in society by the purveyors of so-called "pay-day loans", and he would despair of the derisory interest rates offered to hard-working savers.  Dr. Duncan believed passionately in the dignity of the poor, of whom there were plenty at that time - the early 1800s - and he campaigned for the financial independence of the ordinary man, setting up "an economical bank for the savings of the industrious", effectively the first proper trustee savings bank.  The bank offered the chance to open an account with as little as sixpence and an interest rate on deposits of 5% - a distant dream for today's savers.  There is a Savings Bank Museum in Ruthwell which tells Dr. Duncan's story. 

Dr. Duncan also had a hand in the other main attraction in the village, namely the Ruthwell Cross.  The cross dates from the 7th century and is carved with Biblical scenes and verses from The Dream of the Rood, the oldest-known English poem, whose authorship is unknown but is likely to be an Anglo-Saxon poet.  The cross was smashed by Presbyterian iconoclasts in the 1600s, but Dr. Duncan restored it and it now has pride of place in the cute little whitewashed Ruthwell Church.  To the west of the village is a well called Brow Well, with water containing supposedly health-giving salts of iron.  The well was visited in 1796 by Robert Burns, in a quest to cure his ailments by drinking the water.  Near Ruthwell is the village of Powfoot, which has a golf course and a beach which is suitable for paddling but not swimming.  There is a coastal path and plenty of birdlife to watch out for.

Map of the area. 

File:Ruthwell Parish Church - - 1065124.jpg
Ruthwell Parish Church. Photo by Walter Baxter, via Wikimedia Commons

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