George Wishart of Kirkcudbright 



George Wishart
GEORGE WISHART, Salmon Fisher, c1780

George Wishart of Kirkcudbright was the chief salmon fisher on the river Dee around the turn of the 18th century.  The fish-house he occupied lies on the west side of the road to Borgue, a few yards south of Seaward House. It was originally a very small building, cut into the hillside, overlooking a sharp turn in the channel of the river Dee (pictured below).

George Wishart's Fish House, c. 1790

In 1815, George Wishart the tenant of the fishings of the Dee belonging to the town of Kirkcudbright continued the good practice of presenting the first fruits of his labours annually to the Magistrates and their friends;

He invited them thus –


'Tis my sincere and fervent wish
That at my house you eat a fish
I'll furnish all the apparatus
The butter, vinegar and potatoes
I'll charge you nought for what you eat
You pay the drink – I'll find the meat
The salmon will be all set doon
At three tomorrow afternoon
P.S. Please let me know and not neglect
How many here I may expect.
I am, Gentlemen
Your most obedient servant,
G. Wishart

and the bill was presented to the company after dinner, also in verse –


I have according to your will
Attempted to make out a bill
There's nought for fish, or beef, or kail
But just for whisky and for ale
Five quarts of whisky you have had and ale
Six bottles good and bad
The price of toddy well you know
Ye ken the price of ale also
So I shall say no more aboot it
You'll make it oot I'll never doot it
I'm only proud indeed to see
That you've enjoyed your jaunt so free
And that your noble minds incline
To treat a man of ninety-nine

The reference in the last line is to John McMin, a veteran of 99, who resided in the neighbourhood of the Fish-house and the party prevailed upon him to join in the feast. His venerable appearance and the cheerful manner in which he told anecdotes of his youthful days added much to the pleasure of the evening. – from unattributed notes by Thomas R. Colin

The writer of the reminiscences was told by Mrs____, who was upwards of eighty years of age, whose mother, a widow, lived at the Fish-House and kept a public house there, that she, the daughter, often started at half flood tide for Kirkcudbright in a small boat containing a keg of smuggled spirits for the boatman, (who sold drink as the boatman did until a few years before the boat ceased running), and for others, she returning by the ebb tide." – from an address given by John C. McKenzie, published in the "Report of the Laying of the Foundation or Memorial Stone of the New Public Buildings, Kirkcudbright, (1878).

On receiving his bill for rent to fish on the river Dee, Wishart wrote as follows, "To the Honourable the Provost and Bailies of the Royal Burgh of Kirkcudbright –

When times were good, I was content
Yearly to pay my fishing rent;
But now the times are altered sair,
The fish grown scarce, nae cash to spare,
Which makes a body quake for fear
That Waugh or Herries may appear
Unwelcome folk as you do ken,
When they do visit honest men;
You may believe me when I say,
The rent is more than I can pay.

from Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser 1 October 1880, (poem by George Wishart originally written about 1821).

" Geordie Wishart –  An eminent rustic bard, and one of the most social of men. He is chief salmon fisher on the Dee, but was born and bred somewhere on the Scottish border. In his ways all – he is quite an original; every motion of either his body or his mind attests it. He can tell the most humerous tale without giving a single smile with his countenance; he will have all around him in a roar of laughter, and himself sitting the while as serious as Socrates….."
The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia,
by John Mactaggart, (1824)

All the above from Kirkcudbright, An Alphabetical Guide to its History, written and compiled by David R. Collin, published by The Stewartry Museum, Kirkudbright, 2003. 
© Copyright of original text, David R. Collin 2003.