The Edinburgh Magazine (1761)

A description of a parish in the Shire of Air called the Muir-Kirk of Kyle.

The parish of Muir-Kirk is bounded upon the N. and N.E. by the parishes of Avendale and Lesmahagow, on the E. and S.E. by Douglas and Crawford John, on the S. and S.W. by Auchinleck, and on W. and N.W. by the Sorn and Galston.

The church lies near the middle of the parish, 10 miles N.E. from Mauchline, 20 miles N. by E. of Irvine, 14 miles E. of Kilmarnock 10 miles E. by S.E. from Newmilns, 20 miles S.E. of Glasgow, 16 miles S. from Hamilton, 10 miles S. from Strathaven, 15 miles S.W. from Lanerk, 10 miles S.W. from Lesmahago-kirk, 10 miles almost W. from Douglas, 14 miles W of Crawford-John kirk, 16 miles N.W. from Sanquhar 18 miles from Dalmellington, 10 miles N. from Cumnock, and 18 miles N.E. from the city of Air, the presbytery seat.

This parish was formerly a part of the parish of Mauchline (as was also that of the Sorn), but was constitute into a parish, a church built, a stipend of 1,000 merks per annum, and a minister settled there, viz., one Mr Farquhar about the year 1625, who lived some little time there, and was succeeded by Mr John Reid, who preached here till he died, being succeeded by his son-in-law Mr Hugh Campbell, about the time of the planting of the church with bishops, who was then turned out for non-conformity, and one James Gray, accurate put in his room, who enjoyed the benefices until the time of the revolution, when the said Mr Campbell was restored, and preached there till his death; being succeeded by Mr Alexander Orr, who was transported to Hoddam; and succeeded by Mr John Campbell grand son to the above Mr Hugh Campbell, who in a little time thereafter, was transported to Galston; being succeeded by Mr William Younger, about the year 1738 who preached there till his death, being succeeded by his brother-in-law Mr Andrew Mitchell the present minister.

The parish is mostly mountainous, and consists of the following store-rooms, belonging to the several heretors whose names are annexed thereto.

Names of the Store-rooms Heritors Names
Overpriesthill. The E. of Loudoun
Superior and patron
Standing Cleugh.
High Black-side.
A fourth part of Dalquhrame with Muirmiln.
Eshawburn. The Laird of Logan
Mid-town of Greenock.
Greenock dike.
The Nether and Over Whitehaughs.
Lightshaw, West and East Dernhunches His Grace the Duke of Douglas
Over and Middle Welwoods. John Campbell gent.
Nether Welwood and Nether Priesthill. Thomas Hamilton do.
Nether-woods and Corshill. Mr Hunter writer.
Greenock-Mains. Mr Campbell do.
Terdoes Hairshield and Blackside. William Nivine merchant.
Auld house-burn and Meg’s lee. John Campbell gent.
Corflate East house and Waulk miln. Robert Aird ditto.
Over-Combs or Combhill. Thomas White.
Three parts of Dalquhrame. John Lickpravick.
Nether and Upper-halls. Thomas Blackwood.
Burn-foot. John Pritchard.
Waterhead. Andrew Brown gent.
Aird’s green. John Blackwood
Spire-slack. The Earl of Hyndford.
Lamont-burn. The Laird of Baloch-myle.
Middlefield Mr Francis Vialet.
Townhead and Townfoot with part of Greenock dike. Hugh Begg.
East Glenbuck and Newmains. James Veitch gent.
West Glenbuck. Thomas Bryce and James Watson.
Part of Townhead and Greenockdike. John Fogo.
Under the brae, Bankend, and Garranhill. The Laird of Gilmincroft.

Rivers in this parish are –

First, The beautiful river of Air, which takes its rise from Glenbuck bog, at the west limits of the parish of Douglas, and after it runs about two miles straight west, it receives from the north the water of Ponask, at a place called Aird’s green and the property of John Blackwood; and then inclining its course S.W. betwixt the Lightshaw-wood and the Waulk miln, where it receives a small rivulet called the Eschawburn burn; and then continuing its course about a mile and a half further, betwixt the church on the N. and Auldhouse-burn on the S, receiving several small inconsiderable rivulets on each side all along to the Over Welwood, the property of Mr Campbell, it receives from off the ills on the S a small rapid river called the Garpel water, on which some years ago, a great many fruitless trials were made for lead. Then it goes on in a winding course about a mile and a half further, taking in two or three small rivulets from the S. and takes a turn directly N. a little below the Nether-welwood the property of Mr Hamilton, (who is also Chamberlain to his Grace the Duke of Douglas), at a place called the Muirmiln dam head, turning about nearly W. about the eight part of a mile, to the damback which as a lead therefrom, about half a mile long. The water has also another course over the damback, inclosing a pretty haugh of near 20 acres of fine arable ground betwixt that and the lead, at the foot whereof stands the miln, at which the whole corns within the parish are grinded, being all thirled thereto. The water and the lead being again joined, it takes its course directly W. towards Mr Lickpravick’s of Dalquhrame, taking in a small rivulet called Polquharnel on the S. which separates the parish from that of Auchinleck. A little below on the south-side of the water, is the iron forge, at which place my Lord Cathcart bestowed a great deal of fruitless labour, being obliged to desist for want of wood charcoal, about the year 1730; and then it continues its course about two miles further , dividing the parish from that of Auchinleck aforesaid, receiving the water of Greenock from the N. at a place called Greenock-mains, the property of Mr Campbell of Whitehaugh, now the Laird of Logan. Gooing on a little further inclining S.W. about a quarter of a mile or thereabouts, it leaves the parish of Muirkirk, and takes its course through the parishes, viz. Sorn Mauchline, Stair, Culton, and St Quivox &c. then it runs below the bridge of Air, and loses itself in the Frith of Clyde.

Secondly, The water of Greenock, arises about eight miles from the Greenock-mains, at which place it empties itself into the river Air. It has two heads, the one called the Strand, and the other the Dippel water. The first springs out betwixt two mountains, the one called Bubling-wood Law, and the other Bubland. The second springs out of two or three mountains, each of them producing a small rivulet of the same name with themselves, viz Rodge-cleugh Prquharnell, and Lees-burn in a wild common muir, upon the west limits of the parish of Lesmahago, near a place called Auchingilloch, (noted for being a great shelter to the party called the Whigs in the time of persecution) belonging to the Lairds of Linburn, Blackside, Nether Priesthill, and the Hall muir the property of Thomas Blackwood. Each of these heads runs a mile at least before they unite in that called the Dippel water, which runs about a mile further straight S.W. till it meets with the first head called the Strand, where they unite at property of Mr Brown; taking the common name of Greenock-water and running directly S. for about half a mile, to an old ruin called Hareshield, the property of William Nivine; where it changes course directly S.W. running all along till it passes Thomas Blackwood’s of Halls; and then for a long space, more than three miles, it goes on in a winding and crooked course, which makes it very destructive to the corns, when a flood happens in the harvest time. After which at a place called the Mains-shield it takes a short course N.W. to an old ruinous house called Linshawbog, where it receives a very rapid rivulet from the N. called Pokebbock, and then alters its course S.W. surrounded with inaccessible rocks on each side, till it comes to a place about a mile further called the Wine-burn, where it receives a small rivulet of that name from the N. Then it takes a turn or rather windings S or S.W. and by S. like an inverted S, leaving the pleasant store-room called thee Chapel-house on the W. as it were in its bosom, and the Greenock-mains on the E. (which is situated in the forkings betwixt the waters of Air and Greenock), and loses itself in the river of Air.

Thirdly, The Whitehaugh water has its rise near a place called Tack-me-down, on the south limits of the parish of Avendale; at which place there is a road that leads from the shire of Lanerk to that of Air; thus it runs about a mile directly S. and receives a rapid rivulet called Pobeth, which takes its rise on the S.W. side of the hill called Bubland, opposite to the head that called the Strand above mentioned. After running about two miles directly W. it meets the Whitehaugh water, where they both unite, and then turns a little S.W. about half a mile, at which place is that storeroom called the Over-Whitehaugh; continuing its course a mile further, where stands that ancient place called the Nether Whitehaugh, the property of the Laird of Logan, it takes its course directly S.E. about another mile, where stands a gentleman’s seat, called the Garpell aforesaid, and then it empties itself into the river of Air.

All these rivers, especially the rivers of Air and Greenock, afford plenty of trouts; but few or no salmon are found there in the summer; they only frequent these waters about the Michaelmas time for spawning, and then they abound in such plenty, that I have known one family to kill two dozen in one night, with listers, by the light of bleezes made of heather, of which that parish hath great plenty.

The parish tho' mountainous is exceeding good for pasturage, affording great store of sheep, which is the chief commodity the inhabitants depend on; there are storemasters here whose rooms contain more than ninety scores of old sheep, besides lambs. They have also a great deal of black cattle; some of them will have above thirty milk cows, besides others which they keep in proportion; and each of them as much tallage (a few rooms (farms) excepted) as affords them as much corn and bear, as mostly maintains their families, except it be in time of dearth. The women here are exceeding fine dairymaids, and make a good deal of butter and cheese; the former they mostly use for mixing tar, for the laying of their sheep. I have seen cheeses four stone troy in weight, made of ewe milk there, which they sell at a great price. They scarcely at any time sell any of their cheeses below four shillings per stone at the first hand, and I never eat any in my life more palatable than what this parish afford. Few places can equal them for breeding of horses, of which they have great score. Some of the inhabitants will have twenty, and scarce anyone has below six. They have plenty of moss, which they cut into peats, and dry them in summer-time for fuel. They have also coal and limestone in great plenty in every room or mailing; so that each family, if they please, may dig and find coal and limestone below their house floors.

There is also plenty of free stone there. The thing they mostly want is wood, which is very scarce here. The muirs afford great store of wild fowl such as the heath-cock and heath-hen, partridges, green and grey plover, and a bird with a long beak called a whaap, duck and drake, and hares in great plenty, which makes it a fine place for game in the summer.

The chief mountain in the shire is here, and takes its rise about 24 miles from the sea. This mountain is of great height, has two tops, and goes under the name of Carntable. It is seen a great way off, and has a trough cut out of a rock, 12 feet long, 6 feet broad, and 8 feet deep, which always stands almost full of pure spring water, near the top of the mountain; of which several fabulous stories are told, such as, that the Picts made use of this cistern for steeping heather, of which they made a delicious drink. There is not a more delightful place in the summer, nor a finer air in all Scotland than here, nor a more industrious frugal people than the inhabitants; there is none in the nation that will take a more hearty bottle when occasions offers than they. There are few or no poor people here, at the most not above three at a time, whom they plentifully maintain by a fund they annually raise; and there is scarce any parish whatever that can say they ever saw any of the inhabitants of the Muir Kirk of Kyle begging; I dare say there is none. The parish is in length from the Dog hillock at the march of parish of Douglas, to the north of Limmerhaugh march at the N.E. limits of the parish of Sorn, eight computed miles. The highway betwixt Edinburgh and Air, running all along the whole space. And the breadth from the top of the Bubland to the north side of the Strand, which makes on of the heads of the Greenock water, to the top of the mountains called Wardlaw on the South side of the water of Air, is about seven computed miles.

The parish was formerly under the authority and power of the regality-court at Mauchline, held there by the Earl of Loudoun (who was chief magistrate) or his deputes. Their decreets passed in court, when extracted by their clerks, ran thus, John Earl of Loudoun, Lord Mauchline, Lord of the Regality of Mauchline, Kylesmuir and Barmuir; to the officers &c. But since the jurisdiction act, it is subject to the Sheriff-court held at Air, the head town of the shire. They have a justice of the peace there, viz Thomas Hamilton of Nether Welwood. This parish also lies within the diocese, and commissariot of Glasgow.

G.M’. __________

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