Kirkmichael & Crosshill, Ayrshire
Kirkmichael [Tayside; Stathclyde] 'Church of Michael (personal name), presumably named after the Archangel, for there is no saint of this name (which means 'Who is like El?') with Scottish connections.
Above from The Dictionary of Scottish Place Names by Mike Darton Page 165
Kirkmichael is a village in the parish of this name and District of Carrick, some 76 miles from Edinburgh; 22 miles from Kilmarnock; 14 miles from Girvan; 10 miles south of Ayr; the like distance east of Dalmellington; 8 miles north by east of Dailly; 4 miles from Straiton; 3 1/2 miles from Maybole. It is pleasantly situated in a valley, on the road from Newton Stewart to Glasgow - 36 miles from the former and 44 miles from the latter.
The general surface of this parish is hilly - toward the south and east mountainous and rocky; but the whole is more or less cultivated. Its extent is nine miles in length, by four in breadth. The proprietorship is pretty equally divided between the Marquess of Ailsa, Col. Shaw Kennedy, Sir James Ferguson, Sir David Hunter Blair and Mr Ritchie. It possesses some good lime quarries. The Girvan runs through it, the Doon is its boundary for several miles and the Dyrock water flows through the village, which latter derives its name from a church that formerly stood here, dedicated to St. Michael.
The present religious structure, which is neat and commodious, was built in 1787, on its site. In the churchyard is the tomb of Gilbert McAddam, who was shot in 1685, by the Laird of Collerea and Ballockmyle, for his adherence to the Covenanters. Two Sunday schools are in the parish; one in Kirkmichael - the other in the small village of Cross-Hill, about two miles hence. Fairs are held on the third Thursday in February, the third Thursday in April, the third Friday in August, the second Thursday in September and the first Thursday in November.
This transcript was kindly provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
Parish of Kirkmichael
Presbytery of Ayr, Synod of Glasgow and Ayr
The Rev. John M'Ewen Minister
I.. - Topography and Natural History
Name.- The name of this parish, which is common to no fewer than five parishes in Scotland, is obviously derived from St Michael, a saint of great note in Romish Breviary, - who flourished in the tenth century.
Boundaries, Extent.- Its extent in imperial measure is 15,250 acres. Its greatest length is 12 miles; its greatest breadth 5 miles, 6 3/4th furlongs. It is bounded on the north and north-east by Dalrymple; on the east by Straiton; on the south by Dailly; and on the west and north-west by Kirkoswald and Maybole.
Topographical Appearances.- The character of the parish is hilly. On the banks of the rivers and streams, there are considerable tracts of level ground; but these bear a small proportion to what are unequal and undulating. The hill-pasture continues fresh and green, for most part of the season. In the upland farms, there is some little heath and moss, but no naked rock. The ground to the south from Girvan Water continues to rise, with some interruptions, till it reaches the hill of Glenalla, which is 1612 feet above the level of the sea. The eminence above the farm-house of Guiltree-hill is well worth being visited. On the one side, are the Galloway and Straiton heights, with the rich and well-wooded valley of the Girvan; and on the other, are seen, is still greater outline, the bold peaks of Arran, the bay of Ayr, and the towns along the coast, with the Highland hills and Ben-lomond in the distance.
Climate and Soil.- The climate is similar to that of the districts situated on the western coast. The wind blows west and south-west, at least three-quarters of the year; and the rain from the same quarter is proportionally frequent and copious. It is to this cause chiefly, that Ireland is indebted for her green fields, and Ayrshire for its far-famed pasture. The atmosphere, though humid, is mild and salubrious. There are no prevailing diseases in the parish. Fever sometimes exists among the destitute poor, but seldom to any fatal extent. Pulmonary complaints, which are said to be so much on the increase in some places, do not seem to be so here. It is a fact now admitted by all, that the great improvement of land by furrow-draining, which has been so extensively introduced into the district, has contributed materially to promote the general health of the community. The soil on the haughs, is rich sharp mould, which when properly cultivated, sends forth most luxuriant crops. In other parts, it is of a clayey nature, inclining to loam. On sloping arable lands, and on the sides of some of the lower hills, it is light and gravellish; while on mountain elevations, it is a covering of thin turf, on a shingly bottom.
The following are the number and probable size of the lochs in the parish. Drumore contains about 9 imperial acres; Kirkmichael, 5; Barnshean, 28; Shankston, 12; Croot, 10; and Spalander, 45; in all, 109 acres. Of these Spalander is justly celebrated for its trout, plentiful and good. Char also is found in this lake.
Geology.- The prevailing rock throughout the parish is sandstone; and an examination of the dip and direction of the strata, in the courses of the Dyrock Burn and the Girvan Water, distinctly indicates its character and geological relations. The Dyrock flows through the northern part of the parish, in a south-westerly direction, and joins the Girvan, a mile below the village; and in tracing its banks from the junction upwards, the sandstone strata are found to dip at an angle of about fifteen degrees towards the north-east, which inclination can be traced throughout the parish of of Dalrymple, till they pass under the Coylton coal-field. Towards the east, the sandstone becomes much redder in colour, and harder in texture; and the ridge at Guiltree-hill exhibits clinkstone or wacke. In crossing the country from the Dyrock to the Girvan Water, the sandstone near Glenside is found to change its inclination, and to dip away to the south-west, where it soon also passes into the wacke, and is, towards Patna, and more to the east, surmounted by the coal measures. The axis on which the sandstone turns, in opposite directions, is very distinctly seen on the Girvan Water, a little above the Castle of Cloncaird, and may be traced, exhibiting the same relative position to the coal measures, from Glenside to the sea, - circumstances which plainly identify it with the old red sandstone formation.
On the north of Spalander Burn, on the farm of Glenside, a ridge of highly crystalline greenstone rises through the strata, and the trap, in a similar way, may be observed at several points in the course of the Girvan. On the same farm, a bed of limestone is found, which has been quarried for agricultural purposes by Mr Ritchie, the proprietor. No organic remains have been noticed in it; and along with the great and valuable strata of limestone found on the south side of the Girvan Water, on the properties of Sir David Hunter Blair and William Niven, Esq. of Kirkbride, it is obviously, with the red sandstone, to be classed among the members of the carboniferous series. Good clay for the manufacture of tiles, is found near the lime-quarry at Glenside; and by its liberal use of these two important substances, Mr Ritchie has converted a naturally cold and barren tract into dry and fruitful fields, which in many cases exhibit as smooth and verdant surface as the lower lands of the parish. In the wacke at Guiltree-hill and Montgomerieston, veins of galena are found, of sufficient importance to have been at one time worked; and they are said to have yielded a high per centage of silver. The surface of the land, and more particularly along Barclay-hill, on the Kirkmichael estate, is covered with granite boulders, - some of which are of great magnitude, and are raised and dressed for gate pillars, and as large blocks for the harbour of Ayr. The peculiar situation of the boulders on the eastern declivities appears to indicate a current from the south-east, which is exactly in the direction of the mountains at Loch Doon, where granite is found in situ.
Hydrography.- The River Girvan nearly divides the parish. Rising in the hills of Barr and Straiton, it enters Kirkmichael below Blairquhan, and flowing past the seat of Henry Ritchie, Esq. beautifully situated on the eminence above, it reaches the village of Crosshill when, after a winding course of two miles, it forms the boundary between Dailly and Kirkoswald. From the Cloncaird approach, it has a very striking appearance, with its broad channel, and rapid stream, and banks embellished with wood rising precipitously on both sides.
The River Doon, whose "banks and braes" have been immortalized by the classic muse of Burns, touches this parish about two miles and a half below Patna. Passing the house, pleasure grounds, and gardens of Skeldon, the village of Dalrymple, and the old and stately mansion of Cassilis, it strikes to the west, dividing the parishes of Maybole and Dalrymple.
The little stream of Dyrock takes its rise from Shankston lock, has a small tributary from Barnshean, and the main one from Spalander, and thence flowing by the church and village of Kirkmichael, it empties itself into the Girvan above the farm of Mackailston.
II. - Civil History.
Land-owners.- The land-owners of the parish, according to the order of valuation, are; The Marquis of Ailsa; Colonel Shaw Kennedy of Kirkmichael; Sir Charles Dalrymple Fergusson of Kilkerran, Bart.; Sir David Hunter Blair, of Blairquhan, Bart.; Henry Ritchie, Esq. of Busbie; William Niven, Esq. of Kirkbride; the Honourable Mrs Leslie Cumming of Skeldon; William Bell, Esq. of Threave.
Parochial Registers.- The sessional records were kept somewhat irregularly, till about the year 1711. The date of the earliest entry is 8th July 1638. The following extracts from the session books are given. Some of these possess merely local interest, while others serve to illustrate the sentiments of a former age, in matters of religious observance and church discipline,
"In 1692, Mr Gilchrist, after the persecution, having constituted a session of elders that had held office during Mr Cockburn's ministry, he enquired into the old session book, which had been taken by the late curate, who had been apprehended in a rebellion in the north, imprisoned, and then escaped to France, and taken with him the register, which it was supposed he had destroyed."
" Session, September 224, 1693, - The session appoints John Forgan to employ a Straitown tailor to make a coul or covering of sackcloth for the said Jonat Kennedy, like unto that which they have in Straiton; there having been no such thing here for these many years, it's thought none of the tailors of this parish know how to make it,"
" Session, October 16, 1693. - The minister told the session, that he was appointed by the synod to go to Aberdeen against the first of November next, and to preach in that city the space of a quarter of the year,"
"Session, June 26, 1710,- Likewise it was concluded by the session, that there should be a collection gathered for repairing of bridge of Kirkmichael, which is like to become ruinous, and the next two Sabbath collections that there is sermon here, is to be applyed for that use." Several bridges in the neighbourhood were built by the same means.
A.D. 1711, Sermon on week days commonly once a fortnight," except in plough time and harvest,"
"Session, September 28, 1712,-Also the minister proposed that there should be a diet for prayer appointed, which was accordingly done to be observed at the manse Saturday next," From the session books, it appears that such diets were appointed from time to time.There was, very frequently, one observed on the Monday before the sacrament.
Session January 26, 1725.- This day David armour contracted with the session to build the bridge over the Doon at Dalrymple for the sum of L.76, Is. Sterling."
"Session, April 24, 1726.- The session having considered Sarah M'Kie's case ( adultery), agree that she appear in sackcloth, and that none guilty of that sin shall be dispensed with as to the use of sackcloth in time coming."for this offence she appeared eight times before the conngregation, besides being as often admonished privately and examined by the session on the principles of religion, on the nature of repentance,&c.
Antiquities..- There are traces of five British or Danish fortlets in this parish, two in the farm of Guiltreehill, one in Keonston,one in Cassanton,and another in Castle Downans. They are all circular, and are supposed to belong to the early period of the fourteen century. They are about 100 hundred yards in diameter, with a ditch of near 15 feet wide; on being ploughed up, fragments of pitches, spears, horns ashes &c. are everywhere discovered.
The ruins of an old Romish chapel lately existed on the farm of Linsayston, opposite to the new house of Tannock Park. The last of the stones were taken, a few years ago, to fill drains. It is said to have to have been in connection with the Abbey of Crossraguel. The well is still known by the name of Chapel-well, and was contiguous to the building.
In the troublous times of 1685, Gilbert M'Adam was taken prisoner, and carried to Dumfries, on a charge of non-conformity, but was liberated on a heavy caution being given. Soon after, he was again apprehended, and, refusing the oath of allegiance and supremacy, he was banished to the Plantations. In the course of the same year, however, he contrived to return, and, late upon a Saturday night or early on Sabbath morning, in a cottage near the present House of Kirkmichael, when, with some of his friends at a meeting for prayer, he was surprised by a company of militia, and shot in attempting to escape by a window. In the church-yard, a tomb-stone was placed over his remains, with an epitaph recording the circumstances of his death by the " Laird of Colzean and Ballochmyl." By some hand these two names were erased. Old Morality, however, took care to re-insert them, and they now remain as legible as the original lettering. In 1829, a new tomb-stone was erected, in which the old tablet is preserved.
Cassillis House, the property of the Marquis of Ailsa, is a fine old building, romantically situated on the banks of the Doon. It seems to belong to the middle of the fifteenth century. An excellent addition was made to it, in the year 1830, when it was fitted up for the late Earl. There is, besides, an extensive lawn, on which there is a great abundance of timber.
Under the body of the castle, there is a large subterraneous apartment, with a secret door leading to it. Some years ago, this place was cleaned out, with the view of making it a wine-cellar. In this process, a great many carts of human bones were removed. These, it is to be feared, were the lingering witnesses of deeds and times long gone by, when the devoted guest and the refractory vassal went so frequently missing, having met a fate which some might suspect, but none durst inquire into.
Sir John Faa.- This place was the scene of the story of Sir John Faa, and furnishes the ground-work of a popular ballad. About the middle of the seventeenth century, the Lady Jane Hamilton, daughter of the Earl of Haddington, was betrothed to the young knight of Dunbar, but a more tempting offer having been made in the person of John Earl of Casisillis, she was desired by her father to break up her former engagement. According to the spirit of the times, the feelings of the young lady in such an alliance were little consulted. She was treated as if she were not a party concerned, or only a marketable commodity to be made over to the highest offerer, But the Lady Jane was not to be so easily managed. Neither the threats of her ambitious father, nor the importunities of her noble suitor, could divert her affections from the object of her first attachment.
Having considered a great many plans, it was finally arranged that Sir John should go to the continent under a solemn pledge of returning in a few months. Two full years, however, passed without furnishing any intelligence of his situation. This circumstance naturally induced the belief that some dreadful calamity had befallen him, - a supposition which seemed to be confirmed by a letter from the English ambassador at Madrid, giving assurance of his death by the hands of some bravos. Upon receiving this intimation, the lady at last reluctantly yielded her hand to the Earl of Cassillis. This nobleman was a person of stern and forbidding presence, and of that haughty and imperious temper that might create awe, but was ill fitted to awaken confidence and affection. Finding that his Countess preferred solitude and the musings of a gloomy melancholy to his society and pleasure, he conceived for her, if not a violent dislike, at least a settled indifference. She accompanied him in none of his travels, nor shared any of his pastimes. He continued to attend his public duties, or to pursue his schemes of ambition, while she remained for months at home, dejected and heartbroken, without friend or attendant.
While leading this miserable life, one evening, as she was taking her accustomed walk on the battlements of the Castle, she descried a band of Gipsies making haste to the house. Such bands were very common at that period, but the number and suspicious appearance of the company were calculated to create considerable alarm, the more especially as the Earl was from home attending the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. On approaching the house, however. instead of offering violence, they commenced some of those wild strains, by which they generally succeeded in attracting the notice, and exciting the liberty of those to whom it appealed. The Countess was in the act of dropping from her window the usual gratuity, when all at once she recognized in the leader of the Gipsies the tall commanding figure of Sir John Faa. An interview immediately ensued, and the mysterious cause of his absence fully explained. He had been confined for four years in the Inquisition, on account of some unguarded expression he had respecting the Church of Rome. Upon his enlargement, he instantly hastened to London, where he learned for the first time of the marriage of Lady Jane. After many persuasions and great hesitation on the part of the Lady, she at last consented to fly with him. They had not, however, well set out, when the Earl most unexpectedly arrived with a powerful retinue of vassals, who had assembled to welcome his return, and accompany him home as a guard of honour. Being informed of what had taken place, he called his retainers, who had just alighted, to remount and pursue the fugitives. The whole party, headed by the Earl, now maddened with rage, and burning to repay the ancient grudge he owed his former rival, speedily overtook, and after a short encounter, captured the desperate knight and his wretched companion. On being carried back, Sir John and his followers were halted at a tree of dismal notoriety, well known by the name of the dule (dolor) tree; while the Lady was taken to a room, from which she was compelled to witness her gallant and his associates struggling in the agonies of death. This room still goes by the name of the Countess' Room. The lady was afterwards sent to Maybole, where the family had a winter residence, and was confined there for life. Her picture, which is said to be a correct likeness, hangs at present in the lobby of Cassillis. A large full tear appears falling from her eye, too sadly descriptive of her melancholy fate. The dule tree, a plane of great expanse and beauty, still flourishes on a little knoll at the entrance to the castle. The ford where Sir John and his party crossed the Doon ids known to this day as "The Gipsies Steps."
Family of Kennedy. - The family of Kennedy held ascendant in feudal times over an immense district, - from Wigton to the town of Ayr, - and the name of Cassillis, it is well known, appears conspicuous in many details of Scottish history. As both the old residence and title are derived from this parish, it may not be improper to subjoin a few particulars in connection with the early origin of the family, and its subsequent advancement to wealth and honour.
The first notice we have of this ancient house is in 1220, when Nicol de Carrick granted the Church of St Cuthbert, at Maybole, to the nuns of North Berwick. His son, Roland, several years after, obtained a charter from Neil, Earl of Carrick, which in A. D. 1276 and 1372 was confirmed by Alexander III. and Robert II. respectively. This deed is intituled "Confirmatio Johannas Kennedy," which makes a change of name from Carrick to Kennedy, a Gaelic compound signifying the head of the house or family..
The earliest mention of the lands of Cassillis is contained in a writ given by King David II. to Sir John Kennedy about the year 1360, in which the monarch confirms to the knight the donations, grants, and venditions made to him by Marjory Montgomery, and her daughter, of the lands of Castlys, in the county of Ayr. Soon after, the wealth and influence of the family were greatly advanced by the marriage of Sir James Kennedy to the daughter of King Robert III. Gilbert, the second Earl of Cassillis, was a man of splendid talents, and was employed in several offices of high trust. He was assassinated at Prestwick, by Hugh Campbell, sheriff of the county. His son, Quintin, abbot of Crossraguel, is famous for the dispute which, for three days, he maintained with Knox at Maybole. His zeal and learning in behalf of his faith so much gratified the Romish clergy, that on his death he was publicly canonized.
Gilbert, the third Earl, was the pupil and intimate friend of the celebrated George Buchanan. The bitter satire that Buchanan wrote against the Franciscan friars, was composed during his residence at Cassillis.
John, the sixth Earl, was an ardent friend of the Protestant cause in general, and of the Church of Scotland in particular. He was one of the three ruling elders sent to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643, to ratify the solemn league and covenant. His wife was the ill-starred lady who figures in the matter with Sir John Faa. His daughter, a lady of distinguished piety and excellence, was married to Bishop Burnet.
His son, the seventh Earl, was the single person who lifted up his voice against the act for punishing conventicles. This independent line of conduct was so offensive to the ministry, that he was denounced an outlaw, and forced to flee the country.
Under the act of abolishing heritable jurisdictions in 1747, John, the eighth Earl, was allowed L. 1800 for the regality of Carrick, in full of his claim of L. 13,000.
Modern Mansions.- Cloncaird Castle, the residence of Henry Ritchie, Esq. of Busbie, was originally in the style of feudal mansions of the sixteenth century, having a huge square tower, narrow spiral staircase, &c. In 1814, an entire new front was built, which now renders it, both from site and exterior, one of the handsomest seats in Ayrshire. There is a large stretch of lawn in front, and plenty of old trees adjoining.
Kirkmichael House, the property of Colonel Shaw Kennedy, is an excellent and commodious family residence. Contiguous is a natural lake of five acres extent, which shows to great advantage from the house. The extensive and judicious improvements lately made on the grounds will serve to beautify a spot, in itself of great natural amenity. There are some splendid trees within the policy, and very thriving plantations throughout the estate.
There is a local tradition, besides some proofs from ancient documents, that Blairquhan is within the original land-marks of this parish. Convenience, no doubt, suggests the propriety of its belonging to Straiton, and possibly, in this way, the old parochial connexion may have been altered without further title or deed of annexation, ecclesiastical or civil. The main part of the beautiful approach to the castle, along the banks of the river, is within the present boundary of the parish.
III. - Population.
The gradual increase of the population for the last eighty years will appear from the subjoined account.
In 1831, the government census was 2758, males 1327, females 1431.
As near as can be ascertained the yearly average number of births for the last three years is, 8
IV. - Industry.
The number of acres standard imperial measure, in the parish, is 15,250; of which there are under wood, natural and planted, 1130. Five hundred acres might, with profitable application of capital, be added to the cultivated land.
Rent of Land.- The valued rent amounts to L. 3829, 4s. 8d.; the real rent to L. 9330. The rent of good haugh land is about L. 2, 2s. per acre. The grazing of a cow for the season is L.3, 3s.; of a sheep, 8s. The general duration of leases is nineteen years. Furrow-draining is extending as the good effects of it are observed. The farm-steadings are, in general, slated, comfortable, and commodious.
Agricultural Improvements.- It is worthy of mention, that the person who, forty years ago, gave the first stimulus to farming enterprise in this place, was the Rev. John Ramsay, the incumbent of Kirkmichael. He was the founder and the first President of the Carrick Farmers' Society, which flourishes to this day, rich in funds, and numerous and respectable in members. Although many local Associations of this nature now exist in the country, this one deserves special notice, from its early formation, and from the eminent success that has attended its exertions, in exciting an honourable emulation among farmers, and in otherwise promoting the interests of husbandry in the district.
As an enlightened and enthusiastic agriculturist, this parish sustained an irreparable loss in the premature and lamented death of the late Earl of Cassillis. The same activity and ardour which made his name so illustrious in sporting life, were no less conspicuous, when turned to more useful and important purposes. In a very short time, the whole appearance of the lands under his management was changed; new breeds of cattle and sheep were introduced; the most approved modes of farming in all its branches were adopted; and improvements, in a style and to an extent never before attempted in Carrick, were skilfully and successfully prosecuted, when death put a sudden stop to his operations. No event of the kind ever produced, in the neighbourhood, so sincere and universal lamentation.
Mr Ritchie holds the first place, in this part of the country, as an improver of land; and his experience unites with that of other enlightened land owners, in establishing the fact, that no outlay of capital yields so high and certain a return, as what is judiciously applied to the purposes of agricultural improvement.
The estate of Kirkbride, the property of William Niven, Esq. on coming to its present proprietor, was a wild, bleak, barren moor. By means of suitable enclosures,numerous belts of wood, ample facilities for lime, drains,&c. the soil has been brought completely under cultivation,and now produces most luxuriant crops, while the elegant farm- houses which have been erected convey to the mind of the beholder the pleasing impression of liberality on the part of the landlord, and domestic comfort on that of the tenant
About thirty years ago,the proprietor of the barony of Dalhoan commenced feuding on one of his farms in the heart of his estate,with the view of increasing his rental, and raising the value of land in the neighbourhood. This undertaking happened to be entered upon at a most favourable time, during the war, when manufactures were in a very flourishing condition. a large influx of wanderers from the other side of the water caused the high rents to be maintained, and houses to be still more in demand. In this way fresh encouragement was given for new buildings. A great proportion of the inhabitants of Crosshill, 800 out of 1000, are either Irish or of Irish extraction. In many instances it must be confessed, they exhibit too common characteristics of their countrymen, indolent, improvident, and passionately addicted to spirits and tobacco. At the same time, it is but doing them justice to say, that they have visibly improved in these respects. They are beginning to appreciate the excellence of quiet and orderly habits, and can now spend, in healthful exercise and rational amusement, those hours that were previously consumed in degrading sloth or sensual indulgence. Not a few take a pride in copying the example of their Scottish neighbours, have a wish to possess a suit of better clothes for the Sabbath, and to appear like other people at church.
Manufactures- The manufacture of cotton is the staple trade of the place. The large Glasgow warehouses appoint agents here,who give out the cotton to the hand- loom weavers, and are responsible for it's manufacture into the required fabric. By this means, a large sum of money is transmitted weekly from Glasgow to the country. Children are put to the loom, as early as the age of ten. Women are frequently as expert weavers as men. Women who have not been brought up to weave, make a livelihood by filling bobbins. There is another very extensive branch of industry, - the Ayrshire needle-work, which is executed in this village, in a very superior style. It is a valuable means of employment, and furnishes decent support to many respectable females, yet it is to be feared that the continual confinement, which is indispensable in order to a subsistence will prove more injurious to health than if the work were harder, and the person more exposed.
The proprietor of Cloncaird, forty years ago, made several attempts by boring for coal, but without success. This spring a similar trail was made by the Marquis of Ailsa on the Cassillis lands, but with no better result.
Quarries.- There is an excellent freestone quarry at Balwhirn, the property of William Niven, Esq. There are few parishes where there is such an abundant supply of lime. The following is an abstract of the number of bolls sold at the respective places in a season.
Conclaugh, although unexhausted, has been closed for several years; Glenside has never been worked to any extent. There is another quarry, Trochain, on the Cloncaird estate, which has been found to contain a substance exceedingly pure and in great abundance.
Mr Ritchie erected a tile-work in 1832, which has been of great service to the country. The annual supply of tiles has reached the sum of 330,000, which has nevertheless, been always short of the demand.
V. - Parochial Economy.
Kirkmichael is three miles from Maybole and ten from Ayr. The village contains 560 inhabitants; Crosshill, 1005.
A daily post arrives from Maybole at noon, and leaves at five in the afternoon; Kirkmichael carrier goes to Ayr twice a week; Straiton carrier passes the village to Ayr twice a week; Newton-Stewart carrier to Glasgow once a week; Crosshill to Glasgow once a week; Glasgow to Kirkmichael and Patna once a week; Crosshill to Ayr, two carriers twice a week; Dailly carrier through Crosshill to Ayr twice a week. There is, besides, a covered cart for passengers on the market days to Ayr.
For the admirable state in which the roads of the district are kept, much praise is due to our excellent surveyor, Mr Reid. In Kirkmichael, there are twenty-six miles of turnpike, ten miles of parish roads, and five toll bars.
Of this parish Chalmers says, it was called in former times Kirkmichael of Gemilston, evidently a corruption of Gemmil, which is still a prevailing name in Ayrshire; and in Latin charters, it was described as " Ecclesia Sancti Michaelis de Gemilston. The church was granted to the prior and canons of Whithorn by John de Gemilston, and confirmed to them by Robert I. in May 1325. In James V., the vicarage of Kirkmichael, in the deanery of Carrick, was L.3, 6s. 8d. being a tenth of its estimated value. In 1562, the half of the vicarage was enjoyed by Sir Thomas Montgomery, the vicar of the church, who received from it L.15 yearly, and L. 5 more as the rent of the glebe-lands and the manse. How the other half of the vicarage was disposed of appeareth not. But the tithes and revenue of Kirkmichael, which belonged to the priory of Whithorn, were leased to Jonet Mure, for payment of L. 100 a-year. The church of Kirkmichael, with the other property of the priory, were vested in the King by the general annexation act of 1587. The whole was granted by the King in 1606 to the bishops of Galloway. In 1641, it was transferred to the University of Glasgow, but it was restored to the same bishop in 1661; and it was held by the bishops of that see till the final abolition of Episcopacy in 1689, when the patronage was vested in the King, to whom it now belongs."
The Church, with its romantic burying-ground, is beautifully situated on the Dyrock burn, and surrounded by a row of old and majestic ash-trees. The position is well chosen, for convenience of people generally. The family farthest from the church on the southern extremity, is seven miles and a half distant, and the one on the northern extremity is five miles distant. The church was built in 1787, contains accommodation for 556 persons, in a substantial house, and in good repair.
A new manse has just been built. It is after the style of the old English manor-house, and is in exact keeping with the character of the place. It is a happy change from the common manse form, and is equally creditable to the liberal spirit, and the excellent taste of the heritors. The contract price without offices was L. 968, 8s., which, considering the nature of the building, is thought exceedingly moderate.
The glebe contains 16 acres, and, after a little improvement by draining, may run from L. 2 to L. 3 per acre. The stipend was last year augmented to 17 chalders, half-meal, half-barley, with L. 10 for communion elements.
Ministers of Kirkmichael.- The following are the ministers of this parish since the Reformation, - Mr Roger Melville; Mr William Peebles, ordained 1638; (Mr William Cockburn; Mr William Irvine, curate during Episcopacy;) 1692, Me James Gilchrist; 1711, Mr James Lawrie; 1765, Mr John Ramsay; 1802, Mr David Kennedy; 1835, Mr John M'Ewen.
There are only three sittings of half a pew provided by law for the whole population of Crosshill. To remedy so great an evil, measures have been adopted to erect a new chapel, which commenced this summer, and is expected to be opened for public worship in a few months. The two chief proprietors of the village, Sir Charles D. Fergusson, and Mr Niven, have come forward and generously put forth their hands to this good work. At the same time Mr Smellie, an active and talented young preacher, has, for two years, been employed in preparing the field.
However deeply the religious and well disposed part of the community felt in the success of this undertaking, their best exertions must have been altogether vain, unless aided by the ready and Christian munificence of one whose professions of attachment to the church harmonize at all times so beautifully with his personal sacrifices and labours to promote its extension and efficiency. The church looks well, and is a great ornament to the neighbourhood. It will cost from L. 700 to L. 800, and is to contain 460 sittings without a gallery.
The great body of the people adhere to the Establishment. By a census made in 1836, with a view to answer the queries of the Religious Instruction Commission, it was found that the total inhabitants of the parish amounted to 2856; of which number belonging to the Establishment were 2567; Dissenters, 172; Catholics, 117.
The average number of communicants is about 650.
Education.- There is one parochial school in the parish. The average attendance of pupils runs from 60 to 70. The teacher has the legal accommodation with the maximum salary. The fees average L. 30, but are ill paid. The usual branches of education are taught, and at the usual rates.
The former proprietor of Crosshill built a large school-house for the benefit of the village. There is a small salary paid by the feuars to the master, amounting at present to L. 3, 10s. The school has lately been connected with the General Assembly's Scheme. The average attendance is about 70. From the poverty of the inhabitants, the payment of the school wages is wretched in the extreme.
There are, besides, Sabbath schools for children, adults, and young communicants, both at Kirkmichael and Crosshill. The attendance at the former may be about 120, at the latter 130.
Friendly Societies, - Two friendly societies were established, in the year 1811. They were both founded on the principle of giving 8s. weekly, when the patients were confined to bed, and 4s. when walking about. On the death of a member, each surviving member contributes 1s. towards defraying the funeral expenses. The age of admission is from the age of sixteen to thirty. In process of time, one of the societies perceived that their allowances were too liberal, and reduced them accordingly - 5s. when confined to bed, and 2s. 6d. when walking about; and, if confined to bed for more than a year, to receive only 2s. 6d., and when walking about 2s. per week. This Society is in a very flourishing state, having about ninety members, and funds amounting to L. 220. The other society, by keeping too long to its original rules, and admitting members up till the age of forty, was obliged to break up a few months ago. Associations of this kind are of immense advantage in establishing habits of economy, and exciting an honourable feeling of independence. They cannot be too strongly recommended to the young tradesman and labourer.
Library.- A parochial library has just been established, which from the interest taken in its formation, and the good judgement shown in the selection of works, promises to be eminently useful in extending and fostering a taste in the district for wholesome and instructive reading: A committee consisting of 12, with a librarian, are elected annually as trustees and managers for conducting the affairs of the library, according to the fundamental rules of the institution. There are from 30 to 40 subscribers. There is no entry money. A penny a week paid quarterly or yearly is the term of admission for each member.
Savings Banks. - Two savings banks have been established in the parish; but it is to be lamented they have not been available in securing those important benefits to the people, which were the object of their institution.
Poor.- The number on the poor's roll is 16, who have, according to their necessities, from 2s. 6d. to 8s. per month. A considerable number, however, although not on the roll, receive considerable number, however, although not on the roll, receive assistance pretty regularly, and in various shapes, in coals, clothing, victual, rent, &c. The annual collections at church, amount to about L. 40; proclamation and other dues, to L. 10. There are two mortifications for the poor, the one, left in 1678, by one of the lairds of Kirkmichael, of 1200 merks Scots; the other by the Rev. James Gilchrist, in 1710, of 1000 merks Scots. These two principals have been mortgaged on the estate of Kirkmichael, and the interest arising therefrom, L. 5, 6s. 8d., is payable to the kirk-session on demand. Whatever deficiency exists, after these funds are exhausted, the heritors agree to supply by making a voluntary contribution, according to their respective valuations. The whole expense of managing the poor may be set down at L. 97 per annum. This sum, of course, varies with the state of trade, the price of living, the number of orphans, the health of the people, &c.
With the native population, there is yet much (although wearing out) of that fine old Scottish feeling that scorns a state of dependence, and regards a subsistence from the poor's box as a reproach to themselves and their kindred. But there are not a few, especially of the manufacturing class, who have no such high-minded sentiments, who are neither very anxious to secure a competence for themselves, nor very moderate in their demands on others.
Alehouses.- 10, a number unwarrantably large, required neither for the accommodation nor the good morals of the community.
Mills.- There is a large saw-mill on the Girvan Water, erected by the enterprise of Mr John M'lymont in Balsaggart, and its operations are conducted under the judicious management of Mr James Dunlop. It has brought wood on the adjoining properties to a ready market. Attached to this is a bone-mill, which, from the extended use of this manure, has been no less serviceable to the public at large, than it has been convenient to this neighbourhood. There is one lint-mill in the parish. The annual quantity of flax dressed is 200 stones. There are likewise four corn-mills in the parish.
Fuel.- Peat is used as fuel only in one farm in the parish. The distance of the nearest coal-pit is five miles, where a ton of coals or 20 cwt. costs 4s.; and the price of a cart of coals of five creels, or 12 cwt. laid down at Kirkmichael, tolls and cartage, is 4s. 7 1/2d.
Copyright © 1999 W. F Couperthwaite. Neither this page nor any of its contents may be reproduced without prior consent of the author. Last updated 20 September 2000