Scotland’s only celebration to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 took place in Tongland on Saturday, and was a great success. Under warm sunshine, almost 70 local residents and invited guests gathered in Tongland churchyard to watch Mr. Alexander McCulloch, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of the Stewartry unveil an information panel outlining the link between Alan - Lord of Galloway, the Magna Carta and the founding of Tongland Abbey in 1218. The panel serves to inform visitors to the churchyard about the medieval Abbey which once stood on the site. The panel’s main feature is a revealing artist’s reconstruction drawing of how Tongland Abbey might have looked in 1450.
The gathering then proceeded to an adjacent marquee set up in the grounds of the former Tongland manse, through kindness of the owner Mrs Susanne Powell. An 800th anniversary cake was enjoyed by all. The same grounds have in recent weeks been the subject of a geophysical survey aimed at identifying the extent of the original abbey. The spire of the Abbey was reputedly the tallest in Galloway at around 200ft, and was still standing in 1700. But over the intervening years the Abbey ruins were quarried for building stone, leaving only one short length of wall and a doorway remaining today, which form part of the old parish church.
The proceedings then moved to Ringford Village Hall, where an appreciative audience of almost 100 heard a fascinating lecture from Professor Richard Oram of Stirling University on Alan, Lord of Galloway, and his role in the Magna Carta. The lecture clearly demonstrated Alan’s considerable importance in Brtain’s military and political history during the reign of King John of England and Alexander II of Scotland. The occasion also saw the launch of a new tourist leaflet about Alan, Magna Carta and Tongland Abbey and the project organisers are also planning to take the story into local primary schools in the new term. A small bursary has also been set aside to encourage further research at university level on Alan and the Magna Carta.
Tongland and Ringford Community Council are most grateful to the Magna Carta 800 Committee whose financial support made the whole project possible.