"One of two different objects, it seems to me, ought to be kept in view in compiling a summary of the history of any province. On the one hand, a writer may devote himself to collecting and repeating the traditions lingering among the people, and transcribing events from the narratives of former chroniclers, without making too searching inquiry into the evidence on which they rest. On the other hand, he may venture to reject such local lore as will not endure critical analysis, and, working in the light of the research which during the last two centuries has been so patiently and fruitfully directed on the records of the past, apply himself to sift what is authentic from what rests only on hearsay, and confine himself to preparing what shall be a concise and trustworthy, even though it may be a dry, narrative of such events as are capable of historic proof. It is the latter of these objects that I have set before me.
The time is not unfitting for an impartial and dispassionate review of the course of events and social change in Dumfriesshire and Galloway, concise enough to be within reach of those connected with the south-west, conscientious enough to be relied on as a text-book for easy reference, and leaving undisturbed, save where necessity arises for dispelling fallacy, the accumulations of fable and tradition which have gathered over the past. The ballad literature of the south-west is so profuse and picturesque, and so closely woven into the true story of our country, that I have found it difficult to refrain from quoting it at greater length than I have done. But to have indulged in wide excursions in the field so thoroughly worked by Allan Cunning ham, Sir Walter Scott, and the late Professor Veitch, would have swelled the present work far beyond its prescribed scope and size. The narrative has not been brought beyond the close of the eighteenth century, because no one requiring information about events since that time need be at any loss for authoritative records.
The changes during the present century have, indeed, been sweeping and rapid, but they have not been violent, and to trace their course would take a great part of the space which I have thought it better economy to devote to those centuries where the light is less full and more conflicting. But in spite of the alteration brought about in the outward aspect of the country by improved agriculture and the development of railways, and in the social condition of its inhabitants by education and by a franchise repeatedly extended, the south western counties of Scotland have not lost all traces of earlier ages. Witness to the continuity of its ethnology is borne by the prevalence among the population of the old Gaelic or Pictish nomenclature, mixed with a strong leaven of Anglo-Saxon and some traces of Scandinavian names." - From the introduction.