History of Barbados Villa, Wigtown

GALLOWAY boasts many connections with various corners of the world but there is one story behind a Wigtown house which has such a pull for one man it saw him travel from Canada.

Ed Procter flew in from his hometown of Hillsdale, Ontario to see the ancestral home built by his great, great, great grandfather at Station Road - now named Dunure but known to the town and Ed's family by its former name of Barbados Villa.

Having never been to Scotland, this trip was a chance for Ed to see what the lure was which brought his ancestor, Wigtown provost John McGuffie, back from Barbados where he had made his fortune in shipping native goods.

Ed said on Monday: "For me, this is all about discovering my roots because that is what makes us who we are today.

"I wanted to see the house my ancestor built and passed on to his daughter because the story is one which has been discussed by the family since they started researching the family history."

Ed, so moved by the story when he heard it as a child, has now called his own home Barbados Villa but seeing the real thing was important to him.

His granddad John McGuffie was born in 1795 and found his way to Barbados having left Scotland to travel. Whilst there, in between making his fortune, he fathered two children to a young slave with whom he had a relationship for some time called Mary Ann Stenhouse, a 'free mulatto'.

But, given the social circumstances of the day, he was never able to fully acknowledge the son and daughter as his.

So when he left to return to Wigtownshire he did so alone.

But then, just six years later, Margaret - the now older daughter he had been forced to leave behind - made her way to Wigtown in search of her father and John now welcomed her with open arms into the house he was on the verge of completing - Barbados Villa.

John lived a comfortable life in the huge house overlooking Wigtown Bay until his death in Liverpool in 1861, where he had travelled for treatment.

His body was returned to Wigtownshire on the Countess of Galloway steamer upon the orders of his daughter and because he had never remarried, the house was left to her.

History has it recorded that Margaret had many friends but few were native to Wigtown and she travelled lots to stay with them but in her later years she became a recluse, seldom leaving the big house and eventually living entirely alone when her servants moved on.

When Margaret McGuffie died at the house in 1861, money from the sale of it was sent to her then-deceased brother's children. With this legacy, the family moved from the West Indies to North America - and Ed's Canadian heritage was cemented.

Barbados Villa was purchased in 1897 by Mr Hugh Todd, a solicitor living with his large family in Carleton, Bladnoch. The house was renamed 'Dunure' after the Ayrshire village of family connection.

The second buyer, Mr James Millar, veterinary surgeon, purchased Dunure in 1944 and the house was used as the town's vet surgery until 1970 when the Barbados Villa was once again sold on, this time to the Brewster family.

Donna Brewster, still resident in Wigtown, wrote a fictional book based on the McGuffie family story called "The House that Sugar Built" and she was only too happy to meet Ed this week and show him around Wigtown.

He said: "I was also very interested to see the Martyrs' Stake as the effects of the death of those two Margarets must have still been very prominent in the days of my family in Wigtown and as a believer, I find their story fascinating."

And in another connection to the town, John McGuffie - as provost - laid the foundation stone for WIndyhills monument overlooking Wigtown.

Ed visited on a windy and wet Monday but said he was very glad he had.

"I just wanted to make sure I made the journey and now I have, I am thrilled I can say I've seen Barbados Villa and the town where my family lived."