In Search of St Conal and the Ancient Spiritual Secrets of Upper Nithsdale


Discover the secrets of Upper Nithsdale’s ancient spiritual landscapes in a Cosmic Conversation with an eminent expert on Scottish historical geography.

Professor David Munro MBE has been the Geographer in Residence at Drumlanrig Castle, a post that has allowed him to delve deep into the area’s mysterious past.

This Saturday he will be giving a talk at A’ the Airts in Sanquhar as part of the Cosmic Conversations series, being run in partnership with the nearby Crawick Multiverse artland, that has been taking place throughout the summer.

This will be followed by the chance to join him for a drink and a chat while enjoying The Landscape of Waves exhibition at the nearby Merz Gallery.

Prof. Munro said: “Crawick Multiverse sits within a landscape that is rich in spiritual context, reflecting how people in times past connected with and interpreted the universe.

“The talk will explore how the landscape of Upper Nithsdale – its churches, chapels and ritual sites – connected with individuals, both real and imaginary, that are as disparate as early Christian saints, such as St Conal, and the Devil.

“Their stories, representing the fears and hopes of previous generations, have been placed in the landscape waiting to be retold in modern times.”

St Conal is a key figure in the story of Upper Nithsdale. Reputed to have been a fifth century missionary, he is credited with having converted the local population to Christianity and is remembered in local place names such as Kirkconnel.

A geographer with a passion for exploring landscapes, Prof. Munro has been studying the landscape and historical heritage of Nithsdale for the past six years as a consultant to the Duke of Buccleuch.

The speakers in the series transport their audiences to the farthest reaches of the universe, deep into spiritual landscapes and in the case of Scotland’s Astronomer Royal – there was also be magic. The final talk will also look at costume, performance and traditional Sanquhar pattern – among the great contributions the area has made to the world of art and design.

The Cosmic Conversations have been designed as a chance to discover more about themes such as astronomy and cosmology that inspired the Crawick Multiverse, which is located between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel.

The next events are:

  • SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPES OF UPPER NITHSDALE: Professor David Munro, Geographer in Residence at Drumlanrig Castle. Prof. Munro will discuss how Crawick Multiverse sits within a landscape rich in churches, chapels and ritual sites. He will discuss what these tell us about how people of the past connected with and interpreted the universe. Saturday, 3 September, 7pm.
  • PATTERNS OF THOUGHT: Alex Rigg, artist, director and performer
and May MacCormick, leading expert in traditional Sanquhar pattern. Alex will discuss the ideas that inspired his spectacular performances and costumes for the solstice events at the Crawick Multiverse in 2015 and 2016. Thursday, 8 September, 7pm.

The Cosmic Conversations are also a great chance to find out more about the Landscape of Waves exhibition which is a collaboration between Charles Jencks and Alex Rigg the Scottish-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer.

It features paintings and sculptures by Mr Jencks, some entirely new and others reflecting the original artistic and intellectual development of Crawick Multiverse.

There are also some of Mr Rigg’s costumes, which have been used in live performances at Crawick, illustrations he made for their design, and a sculpture entitled Black Hole which is a response to Jencks’ ideas.

The five themes of the exhibition are:

  • The Crawick Multiverse
  • Two Galaxies and Two Black Holes
  • A Landscape of Waves
  • Solar Flare – Earth Shield
  • Supercluster and Multiverse.

The Cosmic Conversations take place at A’ The Airts, 8-12 High Street, Sanquhar. Tickets are £5 each but entry is free to those aged 25 and under.


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