The Clan

The Irving Border Towers

Bonshaw Tower and the house attached to it stand on level ground bounded on the east by a cliff with the Kirtle water flowing below, to the south by a steep ravine and to the west by the farmyard and rough ground of Bonshaw Mains that stands over where ditches and ramparts once stood. To the north the cliff gradually merges into the hillside.

To the west lie the lands of Dumbretton, while Robgill Tower is to south with Woodhouse a little further downstream and Cove beyond closer to the Border. Wysebie is across the river, a little to the north of Bonshaw and further upstream lies Braes on the right bank and on the left is Old Kirkconnel. There are lesser well known stone towers, one being at Kirkpatrick further south down the Kirtle water.

Of all these old Irving Border Towers that lay within Clan territory, only Bonshaw Tower and Robgill Tower, the ruins of Woodhouse, Stapleton and New Kirkconnel at Ecclefechan, remain. Bonshaw and Robgill are the only remaining Towers still in private hands and currently lived in.

The present Tower at Bonshaw is known to have been built in the 1560’s but there has been a previous construction on the site between 1542 and 1548. The English failed to burn down or indeed to blow up the tower with their cannon. Although Bonshaw has been set afire, it has successfully withstood four sieges by the Maxwells in the 16th century and was described by Lord Scrope, when he held office as English Warden of the West Marches, as “one of the strongest howses of that border”.

Bonshaw Tower – the ancient seat of the Chiefs of the Clan, Robgill Tower, Woodhouse, Stapleton and Cove were the principal strongholds of the Clan to which should be added many other places of smaller importance – Wysebie, Brotts, Beltenment, Dronnock Wood, Skaills, Graitney Hill – all close to the Border with the auld enemy – England.

Bonshaw Tower & House was sold by the Irvings of Bonshaw – the line of the Clan Chiefs – in the late 1950s, and it has since passed through a number of private hands, where it is now owned by a junior line within the Irvings of Gribton & Dumfries, a distant branch of the Irvings of Bonshaw.