Welcome to Lockerbie

Lockerbie is an attractive old red sandstone town set in the charming countryside of Dumfries and Galloway, with a history and culture which makes it and its people an integral part of the life of this most significant of Scottish regions. Lockerbie’s significance has long come from its position on the major road from England to Central Scotland. It is the second settlement northbound traffic will pass on the busy M74, after Gretna and before Moffat after the English border, while Lockerbie’s main train station, in the centre of the town, is the first stop in Scotland for trains to Glasgow.

The earliest clues of the town’s ancient settlement is the name itself. Lockerbie is derived from Old Norse for Loki’s Village. Whether this was a name the Vikings gave to a town they founded or whether they merely renamed an old Celtic settlement is unclear. Certainly the Viking connection suggests that Lockerbie has been settled for over a thousand years to when the Vikings dominated this area.

Later the Celtic kingdom of Rheged emerged in this area. Strongly influenced by Scandinavian culture over time it was renamed as the Kingdom of Galloway. Lockerbie was most likely a significant settlement in this kingdom, which survived up until the area’s incorporation into Scotland.

Feudalism, imported from France and England, was the basis of the new social order which would bind this new territory to the Kingdom of Scots. Norman lords were often appointed overlords of territories by kings in return for allegiance. One such territory was Galloway, offered to the Bruce family, who were of Norman descent, by David I in the 12th century. From this family Scotland’s most famous king, Robert the Bruce, would emerge one century later to champion Scotland in the Wars of Independence.

It was the Bruces who built up nearby Lochmaben Castle. Interestingly the stronghold is considered one possible birthplace of King Robert the Bruce (although the most likely is Turnberry Castle). If Robert was born here he would have been born in an old wooden castle, which may have been little more than a tower and a ditch, as the first stone building was constructed from the 13th century. Lochmaben Castle was put under siege several times during the Wars of Independence and played host to the Black Douglases, James V, Mary Queen of Scots, Lord Darnley and James VI before finally becoming the interesting ruin which we see today.

Throughout these centuries Lockerbie developed as a staging post on a dangerous road between two feuding nations and also as a market town of some importance. However, it was not until the 1603 Union of Crowns between Scotland and England that the road became safer and thus more travelled. Stimulated by increased traffic and by the investment of the increasingly wealthy local landowners, the Johnstone family, Lockerbie arrived at in the mid 18th century as a sizeable agricultural and market centre. By the 1780s carriages between Glasgow and London often stopped off in the town, by 1816 Thomas Telford’s road helped to increase that traffic further and the town’s status was enshrined when in 1847 it became a stop on the pioneering Caledonian railway. The coal brought by the railway aided the establishment of a gasworks. In this time of prosperity much of the red sandstone buildings so prominent in today’s Lockerbie were constructed, which help to make it a colourful Victorian town.

For over a thousand years the people of this town had made a living because of the easy hospitality they had shown to travellers and by the fruit of their labours, when on the 21st of December 1988 the name Lockerbie became known throughout the word as the site of the greatest terrorist atrocity in British history. The 270 people who died that day, including 11 townsfolk, when a Boeing 747 destined for New York exploded in the skies over the town, are commemorated at a number of sites in Lockerbie such as the stained glass window in the Council Chambers displaying the flags of the 21 countries from which the victims came and the Garden of Remembrance.

While no-one can fail to be affected by the occurrence of such a tragedy in the still recent past, regarding Lockerbie as being only the location of disaster would be a tragedy in itself. Lockerbie is an old town with a great deal of character; its connections with the Vikings, our most heroic king and national hero, the struggle for national identity as well as Lockerbie’s welcoming nature, makes it an important part of the life of the region and of Scotland as a whole.