Joseph Train

The antiquary, historian and poet Joseph Train was born in the vicinity of Sorn in 1779. Apprenticed to a weaver in Ayr he was later called up to the local militia where his literary interests caught the eye of his commanding officer Sir David Hunter Blair.

On Blair's recommendation he was appointed as a excise man or gauger in Ayr where he published his first set of poems,  Poetical Reverie, in 1806; this work was dedicated to Blair. 

Posted to Newton Stewart, Train began to collect Galloway folktales, customs and anecdotes which were brought together and published in his  Strains of the Mountain Muse published in 1814. Walter Scott saw a copy of this book and contacted Train, encouraging him in his pursuit of local knowledge and stories; the two continued to write to each other until Scott's death in 1832. Scott drew heavily on these Galloway tales and a many of his characters including Wandering Willie in  Redgauntlet, Madge Wildfire in  Heart of Midlothian and Edie Ochiltree in  The Antiquary were based on information or ideas supplied by Train. 

Train, after some time in Cupar, took up customs posts in Dumfries and Castle Douglas. He continued his interest in local history publishing  An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man in 1845 and  The Buchanites from First to Last in 1846; the latter was an account of a bizarre Galloway religious sect inspired by the prophesies of Elspeth Buchan 'Friend Mother'. Train's last work  The Wild Scot of Galloway: a Poem was published in 1848. 

During Train's time in the Stewartry he was responsible for securing for Scott the bronze pony cap from Torrs near Kirkcudbright. This incredible piece of Iron Age metalwork, now in Edinburgh's Museum of Scotland, is one of the finest archaeological objects ever found in the country. 

In 1909 a monument to Train was unveiled in the MacMillan Hall, Newton Stewart. A similar monument was erected in Castle Douglas Town Hall. 

Further reading: 

John Patterson, 1858,  Memoir of Joseph Train, Glasgow. 

Julia Muir Watt, 2000,  Dumfries and Galloway - a literary guide, Dumfries. 

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