The Selby Antiquarian Collection

Dr Robert Bird Selby and his son William were medical practioners in the Wigtownshire village of Port William. Between 1890 and 1916 they built up a collection of locally found prehistoric tools. Most of the objects were discovered by local farmers and ploughmen, many of whom were also patients of the Selbys. It has been said that Robert Selby sometimes waived his medical fees in return for a particularly important or attractive archaeological find.
Robert Bird Selby was born in 1836. In 1857 he enrolled at Edinburgh University to read medicine and in 1868, at the age of 32, he was appointed Medical Officer of Health in the parish of Kirkcowan. He married Margaret McDowall, daughter of a Kirkcowan seed merchant, and in 1878 they moved to Port William. The couple had six children, three of whom studied medicine at Edinburgh. 

The major landowner in the Port William area was Sir Herbert Maxwell who inherited the Monreith estate in 1877. Maxwell was an enthusiastic antiquarian, conducting his own excavations, collecting artefacts and encouraging friends and tenants to bring him their finds. It is likely that Maxwell influenced Robert Selby, encouraging his interest in archaeology and persuading him to pass over his finds. In 1888 Maxwell presented his own collection to the Museum of Antiquities. This transfer of finds to Edinburgh may have contributed to Selby's decision to start his own collection. 

William McDowall Selby was Robert's eldest son and he joined his father's practice in Port William in 1897. He also inherited his father's interest in antiquities and continued to build up the collection. He added objects from outwith Wigtownshire including flints from the Borders and even some stone axes from Bolivia. William was active in village life. He was a church elder, a Justice of the Peace and an active golfer and bowls player. He doesn't appear to have maintained his interest in archaeology and after 1916 little was added to the collection. William Selby died in 1933 aged 60. 

This wonderful example of a late Victorian private antiquarian collection remained in the family home at Port William until the 1950s. In 2004 it was donated to Stranraer Museum by John Selby, the grandson of William Selby. 
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