Straiton is a neat village, in the parish of its name and District of Carrick; 80 miles sw from Edinburgh, 26 s from Kilmarnock, 14 s by e from Ayr, the like distance w from Girvan, 8 se from Maybole, the like distance ne from Dailly and 6 sw from Dalmellington, finely situated on the banks of the Girvan and on the road leading from Glasgow to Newton-Stewart, 48 miles s by w from the former and 30 miles w from the latter town. The parish which extends about fifteen miles in length by five in breadth, consists for the most part of pasture land, the surface especially in the south-east, being wild and rocky, interspersed with a number of small lakes, there is, however a considerable supply of natural wood and several extensive plantations, and besides the Girvan and lakes, it is watered by the Doon.
The inhabitants are chiefly employed in weaving. About half a mile south of the village are the vestiges of an oblong entrenchment, from which an extensive view is commanded, about this spot, the artificial work on which must be presumed to be of Roman origin, various ancient relics have been found, particularly two carved vases, or urns, containing ashes.
Straiton has a neat parish church, and a parochial school. The Marquess of Allan, the Hon. Colonel F.M.Cathcart and Sir Davis Hunter Blair are the proprietors of the land, the last named gentleman has a mansion at Quhan in the parish.
This transcript was kindly provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
Parish of Straiton
Presbytery of Ayr, Synod of Glasgow and Ayr
The Rev. Robert Paton Minister
I.. - Topography and Natural History
Name. - The name of this parish, in charters of the thirteenth century, is written Strattin and Stratoun. A pair of communion cups, which are believed to have been presented to the parish in the reign of Charles II., have an inscription " for the Kirk of Strattin." Since the Revolution, the name has been written Straiton. It has been, in all probability, derived as Chalmers suggests, from the Gaelic Strath, a valley. The whole of the district was inhabited by a Celtic race, and the village stands upon the Girvan, at the entrance of a pleasant and fertile valley.
Extent, Boundaries, &c. - Straiton is one of the largest parishes in Ayrshire. Its extreme length, from Carnochan on the river Doon, to the farm of Star, at the head of Loch Doon, is more than 20 miles. Its extreme breadth from the Doon near Dalmellington, to the farm of Knockgarner, is upwards of 8 miles. The number of square miles may be about 82. It is bounded on the north by Kirkmichael and Dalrymple parishes; on the east, by Dalmellington; on the south, by Carsphairn, Kells, Minigaff, and Barr; and on the west, by Dailly and Kirkmichael. Straiton village is distant from Ayr 14 1/4 miles, from Maybole 6 1/2, from Kirkmichael 4, and from Dalmellington 6 3/4. On the Galloway road there is neither town nor village nearer than Newton-Stewart, at a distance of 30 miles.
Topographical Appearances. - In a parish of such extent, there cannot but be a great variety of scenery. The valleys of the Girvan and Doon are arable, and are either cultivated or in meadow, so that they present many agreeable landscapes. The rest of the parish is hilly, and the south-east extremity is remarkably wild and rocky. Craigengower, or the hill of the goats, rises immediately behind the manse, to the height of 1300 feet. Bennan hill, half a mile south of the village, on which a small obelisk was built about fifty years ago, is about 1150 feet high. From both these hills, there are fine views of Ayrshire, the Firth of Clyde, Arran, and part of the coast of Ireland. The hills in the higher part of the parish are exceedingly numerous, but do not rise to any great elevation.
Meteorology, &c. - The climate is rather moist, but more mild than the vicinity of the hills might lead a stranger to imagine. All kinds of fruit-trees grow well upon the banks of the Girvan, and in some seasons even peaches come to perfection upon an open wall. Fruit-trees have never, however, succeeded on the banks of the Doon in this parish. In the higher parts of the parish, particularly along Loch Doon, no crop is seen except, adjoining the farm-houses, very small patches of rye.
The parish is very healthy, - the average number of deaths for the last ten years being only 1 in 71 of the whole population' although many young men in the prime of life are always leaving the parish, to settle in the towns of Scotland, or to engage in the employment of travelling dealers in England.
Hydrography. - Next to the multitude of hills, the most striking feature is the number of lakes that are either wholly within the parish, or upon its borders. Loch Doon belongs to this parish, being included in the charters of the Marquis of Ailsa. This loch is upwards of six miles long, and a mile in breadth, and is much frequented in summer by fishing parties. The scenery around is bleak and rugged. There is no wood upon its banks, and the sluices made about fifty years ago, to regulate the egress of its waters into the river Doon, have destroyed the bold outlet it had, when the stream poured over the natural rocky barrier, and laid bare a large extent of gravelly and useless land. There are twenty-two other small lakes in the parish. Upon three of them, Loch Braden, Dercleugh Loch, and Loch Finlas, boats are kept for angling.
Two rivers rise in the parish. The Doon flows from Loch Doon, forms the boundary of the parish for ten miles, and, after passing through the parishes of Dalrymple and Maybole, falls into the sea two miles from Ayr. Immediately beneath Loch Doon, it runs for upwards of a mile through a very bold and narrow channel. The glen of Berbeth, in which its bed is buried in this part of its course, is perhaps the grandest of all the natural objects to be seen in Ayrshire, and may vie with any of the most celebrated Highland scenes. A walk has been formed along the very brink of the river, from which the glen is seen to great advantage, especially in autumn after a flood. The river pent up in a channel of not more than four or five yards, is chafing and fretting among the rocks at your feet, the craigs of Ness rises perpendicularly before you on the other side, to a height of 230 feet, and the cliffs on both sides are seen clothed with trees of richest foliage, of which the branches overhang the river, and often kiss the foaming stream. From the glen the Doon flows in great beauty through the grounds of Berbbeth, and then expands into a loch much frequented by water-fowl. From this loch to Patna it runs sluggishly for five miles through meadows without the ornament of a single tree.
The river Girvan has its source above Loch Braden, about twelve miles from Straiton, and falls into the sea at Girvan. From Tarelaw fall, three miles from Straiton, it flows to the village through a highly cultivated valley surrounded by hills, which are in some parts covered with natural wood, and rise in others in bold precipitous cliffs. From Straiton it winds for three miles through the richly wooded grounds of Blairquhan, and then enters Kirkmichael parish. The river Stinchar bounds this parish for a mile or two, near its source among the lochs in Barr parish.
There are two waterfalls in the parish. Dalkairney Llinn, which is formed by a small stream near Berbeth, is a perpendicular jet of forty feet, and is noticed in old books for tourists. Tarelaw Linn is upon the Girvan above Straiton. The stream rushes down several successive falls, forming together a descent of more than sixty feet, and then opens into a deep and wooded dell.
Geology and Mineralogy. - The parish offers an extensive field of study to the geologist. The hills above Loch Doon and the island in the loch are granite. Adjoining this formation are grey-wacke and greywacke slate. Along the Girvan the rocks are of the trap species, interspersed with mountain limestone; and in the lower part of the parish the red sandstone is common. Granite in the form of boulders is found scattered over every part of the parish. Limestone has been quarried in seven different places, of which Threethorns once yielded the largest quantity, though the only mines now extensively wrought are those of Patna and Keirs. Coal has been found in four different quarters of the parish. Of late, Patna is the only colliery that has been wrought to a great extent. The mine at Patna runs through 1st, 48 feet of rough freestone; 2nd, a bed of course sandstone; 3rd, 3 1/2 feet smithy coal; 4th, 2 feet of slaty stone; 5th, 12 feet coal; 6th, 6 feet grey stone; 7th, 6 feet coal. The declivity is 1 foot in 5, and the dip 1 in 3. The limestone at Keirs abounds with petrified marine shells, chiefly bivalve. The soil is very various. On the banks of the Girvan it is gravelly and light; on the borders of the Doon it is clayey and retentive.
Zoology. - The streams abound with trout, and in favourable seasons salmon are numerous in the Doon and Girvan. The lakes are full of trout and pike. Par are never seen beyond Tarelaw fall, another proof to the many which naturalists have, that they must have access to the sea, though it is remarkable that the nature of so common a fish should still be a question in science. The moors abound with grouse and black game. Roe-deer have been seen two or three times lately. Two pair of eagles usually have their eyries in the higher part of the parish, and one more than seven feet between the extremities of the wings was lately shot, on the farm of Star.
Botany. - To classify the indigenous plants in such an extensive parish would require a long period of study. The quantity of natural wood is a very pleasing feature in the scenery of the parish. Sir D. Hunter Blair has planted extensively on his lands; the Honourable Colonel Macadam Cathcart has also large plantations around Berbeth. The Marquis of Ailsa, with 25,000 acres of property, has not more than an acre under wood, if the standard trees near the village be excluded. There are some fine old trees, chiefly sycamore, around the village and manse. The old wood around Blairquhan gives great beauty to the mansion, particularly a dark avenue formed by two ranges of lofty lime trees. The most remarkable trees in the parish are the Dool trees of Blairquhan, on which the barons, in olden times, hung the culprits that were under their jurisdiction.
II. - Civil History.
Historical Notices. - Chalmers in his Caledonia gives an account of the parish. There is also a slight notice of it in a small work of Mr Abercrombie, minister of Maybole, during the prevalence of Episcopacy. These, with the former Statistical Account, are the only written documents that give any information regarding the parish.
Chief Land-owners. - The valued rental of the parish is L. 4428, of which the Marquis of Ailsa has rather more than a fourth; Sir D. Hunter Blair, Bart., and the Honourable Colonel Macadam Cathcart, have each nearly a fourth. The remainder is property chiefly of Sir James Fergusson, Bart., and the Honourable Mrs Leslie Cumming, the Heirs of Mr Baird of Nether Berbeth having a single farm. Sir D. H. Blair is the largest proprietor in real rent.
Antiquities. - The most remarkable object of antiquity in the parish is the ruinous castle of Loch Doon, situated on an island near the head of Loch Doon. It was in ancient times a royal castle under the keeping of the Earls of Cassillis. The whole enclosure, formed of eleven irregular sides, is about 230 feet without the walls. The tower is square. The style of the building, which is a mixture of Saxon and Gothic, has been of a superior order, and every expedient has been used by battlements, embrasures, and a portcullis to render it secure. There is no tradition regarding the time when it was built, that is worthy of attention. It was one of the five strongholds which were held by the royalists during the minority of the Bruce's son, when the rest of Scotland yielded to the English power. Its gallant defender was John Thomson, who is believed to be the same that led back the remains of the Scottish army from Ireland, after the death of Edward Bruce. The interest of this venerable ruin, which is probably more than 600 years old, has of late been greatly increased by the discovery on two occasions of canoes in the loch near the castle gate. Three were found in the year 1823, and three in the year 1831. One of the former is in the Museum of Glasgow University. The latter are preserved in a pond near Berbeth. All of them have been hewn out of single oak trees. The largest is 23 feet long, 2 feet 6 inches in depth, and 3 feet 9 inches in breadth at the stern. In one of them were found an oaken war club, a battle-axe, a number of large animal teeth, and a quantity of hazel-nuts. These canoes were probably used at the building of the castle. Where the oaks grew out, of which they were scooped, is a question which it would be difficult to determine. The whole country around has been desolate for centuries, yet, as one of the titles of the Earls of Cassillis is said to have been ranger of the forest of Buchan, they may have grown in the vicinity. There are, however, few oaks of such magnitude in our age, even in the most cultivated parts of Ayrshire. The old Castle of Blairquhan, of which some of the windows and mouldings are preserved in the kitchen court of the modern mansion, was a great antiquity. A considerable part of it had been built about the year 1570, but M'Whirter's tower was some centuries older. A curious legendary tale regarding one of this family in the reign of James III., may be found in Chambers's Picture of Scotland. The castle afterwards became the property of the Kennedys, a branch of the family of Cassillis. In the reign of Charles II. it came into the possession of the Whiteford family; and at the end of the last century it was purchased by the present family of Hunter Blair, who are maternally descended from the Kennedys, Earls of Cassillis.
During the persecution, a garrison was stationed in Blairqhan, of 100 foot, and 20 horse. Four persons were at that period shot in the parish, one of whom one Thomas M'Haflie has a tombstone erected to his memory in the church-yard
Modern Mansions. - Blairquhan Castle, the seat of Sir D. Hunter Blair, Bart., was finished in the year 1824. It is upon the banks of the Girvan, almost upon the site of the ancient castle, and about a mile from Straiton village. It is a correct specimen of the architectecture of Henry the Seventh's time, and its general effect is striking and splendid. The porch is of the Tudor style. The saloon, which communicates with the principal apartments, is 60 feet in height. The approach, which is entered by a handsome bridge and lodge, has been conducted up the river for two miles and a half, and winds through rocky and well-wooded banks, till it comes within sight of the house, at the distance of half a mile, and presents a sudden prospect of the mansion, and the hills of Craigengower, and Bennan, in the back ground, peculiarly interesting and grand. The grounds have been laid out with great judgement and taste.
Berbeth, the residence of the Honourable Colonel Macadam Cathcart, is on the Doon at an extremity of this parish, nine miles from Straiton, and three from Dalmellington. The house is a plain fabric, but the natural beauties of the grounds are of peculiar and very high order. The Marquis of Ailsa has a shooting lodge eight miles from Straiton, which stands on the banks of the Stinchar, among rugged cliffs and lofty mountains.
Parochial Registers. - The registers of the parish commence in the year 1644. They are regular in the registration of births and marriages, excepting during the reign of James, till 1770. From that period till 1825, they are very imperfect. During the last twelve years they have been kept with great care, embracing almost all that have been born or that have died within the parish, not as is sometimes the case, only those that were baptised or buried in the parish. The session records begin in 1734, and, with the exception of a few years, about fifty years ago, are complete from that period. From these records, instances of immortality appear to have been as frequent in former days as in our own age, though there were undoubtedly more examples of men of ardent piety, and of zealous attendance on sacred ordinances.
III. - Population.
Of these 696 were males and 681 were females.
There are three almost wholly blind and one deaf and dumb.
In the course of the last three years there were 7 illegitimate births in the parish.
There are three resident proprietors with more than L. 50 of rental. From the number of baptisms registered, the population appears to have been as large two centuries ago as at present.
The food and clothing of the people are superior to what they were forty years ago, and have improved even within the last ten years. A very great improvement has also taken place in the houses of the tenantry, but, with a few exceptions near Blairquhan and Berbeth, and among the feuars in Patna, there has been no improvement in the accommodation of the labourers, and mechanics, and cotmen. Straiton is still a neat, clean, and regular village, but some houses, which forty years ago contained only one family, now contain two, and the houses are not now in such order as when recently built. The proprietors are averse to grant feus, or to build houses themselves, and there has been in consequence a demand for dwellings beyond the supply. The increase of population has arisen from the improvements in agriculture in all parts of the parish, and from the coal and lime having been wrought more extensively at Patna.
IV. - Industry.
the greater part being now occupied in weaving tartan worsted cloth for the Glasgow manufacturers.
The trees planted are larch, spruce, silver, and Scotch firs, oak, beech, elm, and ash. The plantations are managed on the most judicious principles, and are now making a profitable return to the proprietors by the sales of wood and bark.
Rent of Land. - The maximum rent of arable land is L. 3, 12s. per Scots acre. The average may be L. 1, 10s. The grazing of a cow varies from L. 2 to L.4; of a sheep in the hills, from 4s. to 5s., and in the low ground from 8s. to 10s. yearly.
Rate of Labour. - A ploughman's wages when he lives in the master's house may average L. 13 yearly, and a good female servant's L. 7, 10s. There has been more than usual demand for female servants, in consequence of the number who have lately become Ayrshire needle-workers. This employment occupies about thirty in this parish, who, when expert sewers, earn at present 1s. a day. The rate of wages for country labourers varies with the time of year, and the demand, but those employed constantly have been paid for the last twelve years 9s. weekly in summer, and 8s. weekly in winter. The shepherds are paid chiefly by certain privileges, which vary in value, and which are usually believed to secure them more comfort than a labourer can enjoy. The wages of colliers are on average 18s., and are at present above a guinea a week when they are fully employed. Many children are occupied in summer among the turnip fields, who are paid 4s. weekly, and whose health is rather improved by a few months of rural labour. Since this system began, the parish school has been fuller in winter, parents being better enabled to have their children educated.
Live-Stock, &c. - The Galloway cows, which formerly were kept by almost all the farmers, have given place in a great measure to the Ayrshire breed; although the bulls are still often Galloways, that the stock may answer the English market. The sheep are nearly all of the black-faced kind, but the Cheviot have been lately introduced, and if the high prices of wool continue, will probably extend over the district.
The spirit of improvement in husbandry has been in great activity for twenty years. It began on the lands around Blairquhan, was afterwards extended to the farms in the valley, particularly Dalmorton, and has of late reached the lands near Berbeth, and the farm of Grimmet on the Doon. The cultivation of turnips is rapidly extending along the banks of the Girvan, the dry gravelly soil being favourable to this crop. Wheat is sown to some extent, and one field has at great expense prepared for irrigation. Bone manure has been used for ten years, and is found particularly suitable in those fields in which there is a great declivity. Surface draining has been carried on extensively on the pasture lands; and common stone draining on the arable lands. Of late tile-draining has been introduced, and would be prosecuted on a larger scale, could a clay bed for the manure be found.
The leases are usually for nineteen years. Most of the farmers have comfortable houses two storeys high, and suitable buildings for their cattle, all slated and finished in a neat and substantial manner. The greater part of the farm-houses, indeed, have been rebuilt within the last fifteen years, and the appearance of the valley of the Girvan, from neat houses, and could cultivation, and natural beauty, is rarely equalled.
There are seventeen thrashing-mills, and two saw-mills in the parish.
Produce. - The average amount of raw produce raised yearly in the parish may be
Under the head of pasture, the value of the wool is included, which for the last seven years may average L. 1200.
V. - Parochial Economy.
The market frequented by the parishioners is Ayr, fourteen miles distant from the village, and twenty-six from the farthest farm-house. The villages are Straiton and Patna. Straiton was mostly rebuilt seventy years ago, and contains 330 inhabitants. Patna has been wholly built within the present century, and contains 220 inhabitants. It is on the banks of the Doon, distant from Straiton by the public road seven miles, and by the moor, which walkers and riders only can cross, and which is almost impassable in winter, four miles and a-half.
A penny-post office under Maybole was established five years ago at Straiton. The length of turnpike roads running through the parish is twenty-three miles. There are ten stone bridges within the parish or on its borders, and two wooden bridges designed for carriages, besides four for foot-passengers. A coach was run from Ayr to Newton-Stewart, through Straiton, about fourteen years, for a short time, but it was found unprofitable. In 1832, a coach ran for a few months between Straiton and Ayr. At Keirs bridge, four and a-half miles from Straiton, or at Dalmellington, six and a-half miles distant, the coach running between Ayr and Dumfries may be got.
Ecclesiastical State. - The church is a very plain building, some centuries old, which was altered and repaired in 1787, and again in 1813. Attached to it is an aisle of Gothic architecture, which is believed to have been a part of the ancient church before the Reformation, and is now the private gallery of Sir David Hunter Blair. In ancient times the church was dedicated to St Cuthbert. Duncan, Earl of Carrick, in the reign of Alexander II. granted it to the monks of Paisley. It was afterwards transferred to the monastery at Crossraguel. Robert Bruce confirmed this transfer. At the Reformation the patronage became vested in the Crown. The church accommodates only 414 persons, at the usual allowance for a sitting, though in July the audience is often considerably greater. There are fifty sittings in the communion seats at the disposal of the session. The church is more than eight miles from one extremity of the parish, and more than twelve miles from the other. Before the building of Patna village, it was in the centre of the population, according to the sound principles laid down by the ingenious author of the Manse Garden. There is still no place where it could be properly fixed, except the present site. The manse, which is a plain building, of the size common in 1795, when it was erected, is striking in situation, and is a pleasant residence in summer. The glebe is between 7 and 8 acres in extent, of the value of L. 16 yearly. The stipend is 15 chalders, half meal, half barley, and has averaged for the last five years L. 225. The sum of L. 8, 6s. 8d. is allowed for communion elements.
There is no church or chapel except the parish church; but a small chapel in connection with the Established Church, has just been contracted for at Patna, and is to be finished in October next. Since the year 1817, there has been public worship occasionally at Patna by parish ministers, and frequently since 1830, by preachers of the United Secession. There has been regular service in different rooms of that village since last autumn, both by the Church and the Secession. A free site for a chapel of the Establishment was granted in June 1836, by the Honourable Mrs Leslie Cumming, and subscriptions have been collecting since that time. The building will have no gallery, but will be constructed to admit of one being added at any time. The population that will be benefited by this chapel is at present 621, of whom 411 are in Straiton parish, and 210 in the parishes of Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Kirkmichael, Ochitree, and Coylton. The whole of this population is from four to seven miles from any church, and the case seems one that deserves as it needs the aid of Government, under whose notice it has been brought through the Royal Commission. Of the population of 621 near Patna 580 profess to be of the Established Church.
In March 1836, the population of Straiton parish was ascertained to be 1417. There were 289 families, of whom 280 were of the Established Church, and 9 of the other denominations. Of the whole population 1383 were of the Established Church, and 34 of other bodies of Christians. But the number of communicants appears to be the correct method of fixing the religious professions of the people. The communicants of the Established Church were 642; of the United Secession 11; of the Reformed Presbytery 2; of the Roman Catholic 3; and of three other bodies one each. In the number of Dissenters only six live within four miles of Straiton. Several families living on the higher banks of the Doon, attend Dalmellington church. The attendance at church in summer is good. There are only 800 souls within the distance of four miles from the church. The average number of young communicants for the last three years has been 31, and the number joining communion 570.
The church collections have gradually increased from time to time to which the account extends till the present time. The yearly average amount for five years preceding 1710, was L. 9; 1790, L. 24; 1825, L. 31; 1837, L. 37. For other purposes the collections have averaged L. 5 yearly.
The ministers of Straiton prior to the reign of Charles I. cannot be ascertained. Mr David M'Quorne, and Mr George Mich preceded the Revolution. Since that time the ordinations have been:- 1690, Mr Alexander Kennedy; 19th Sep. 1738, Mr Robert Walker; 3rd August 1749, Mr John M'Dermont Fergushill; 21st April 1791, Dr William Crawford; 1st May 1817, Mr John Paul; 22nd April 1824, the present incumbent.
Mr Walker was translated to Leith and Edinburgh, and has left a durable monument of his talents and piety in his admirable sermons. Dr Crawford became Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews. Mr Paul is now one of the ministers of St Cuthberts, Edinburgh.
Education. - There are two parochial schools, at which all the usual branches are taught. The Straiton schoolmaster has a salary of L. 31, 10s., the legal accommodation, and fees amounting to L. 32. The Patna teacher has a salary of L. 11, a house and school-house from the proprietor, and fees varying from L. 20 to L. 25. The charge for reading is 3s. and for other branches a little more in addition per quarter. There are few children above ten years of age unable to read. Four families have teachers in their houses. Last month the number attending Straiton school was 86, and Patna 60, and all schools, public and private, 170, or about one-eighth of the whole population. The total number attending in the course of a year for longer or shorter periods, - a test which we believe is often used, may be 240, or one-sixth of the whole population. The number of Latin scholars has been gradually diminishing, and for some years has been only one, Geography is by degrees studied more and more.
There is a parish library at Straiton, possessing between 400 and 500 volumes. There are two Sabbath schools, one at Straiton, taught by myself, and attended by 45 children and young people, and one at Patna, attended by 35, which is taught by the schoolmaster and elder of the district.
Friendly Societies, &c. - The parish has two societies of this kind, one formed in 1812, and the other in 1818. The one has L. 50 of funds and the other about L. 80. The members in both amount to 130. The ailment allowed is 6s. weekly to bed-rid members, and 3s. to the sick that can walk about; and for funerals an allowance of L. 2, 10s. is given. They are highly useful, though they would be still more beneficial were they deemed only subordinate to savings banks. In 1829, a bank of this kind was established at Maybole, with a branch at Straiton. Though it was warmly recommended both privately and from the pulpit, it has not been by any means successful. The farm-servants are paid half-yearly, and when they wish to be provident, open an account for themselves in a bank in Ayr. The villagers, who might economize, are unwilling to let their circumstances be known. Notwithstanding the apparent failure of the bank in this parish, I have no doubt that the aggregate of the sums, which servants, labourers, and mechanics, have saved and deposited in banks, amounts to L. 1000 or L. 2000. And since the feeling which prompts to secret saving is characteristic of Scotsmen, it has occurred to the writer of this account, that it would be for the good of the working classes were the ordinary banks in provincial towns to receive smaller sums in deposit than they do at present.
Poor. - The average number of regular paupers for the last five years has been 26, about the same number as were twenty years ago. The average monthly allowance may be 5s. considerably more than was given twenty years ago. The annual cost ranges from L. 2 to L. 7, the average being L. 3, 2s. Among them are two children, of whom one, who is in the Edinburgh Blind Asylum, is supported chiefly from a separate fund. The poor cost nearly L. 80 yearly, on average, of which L. 37 is raised from collections, L. 8 from other sessional sources, and L. 35 by a voluntary contribution among the heritors. Though contributions from the heritors were first paid in the year 1819, sums equal to them in amount had been taken, for seven years previous, from stock. The habit of parishioners leaving legacies to the poor ceased entirely in 1814, and was the cause of contributions from the heritors being required. Coals are annually distributed to the poor, both by Lady Hunter Blair, and by the kirk-session, and many poor householders receive aid from Blaiequhan. Taking into account private charity as well as session disbursements, and also what relations give, the paupers seem to have nearly an equal amount of aliment with a married labourer who has a large family. Many of them earn a little by their own industry. In so far as the writer can judge, the poor are likely to require more for the future than the past, chiefly from the standard of living always becoming higher among the working classes. This both renders their support more expensive, and diminishes the powers of sons and daughters to assist their aged parents. In judging of the cost of the poor in different parishes, it is usual to look only to the existing population; but this method is quite erroneous. The new families, in a rapidly increasing population, being young, are never burdensome, The true criterion is the population twenty or thirty years ago. By this test, the apparent anomalies of certain parishes in Ayrshire may be explained; for a number and cost of paupers will be found to be in proportion throughout almost all, to their respective populations, thirty years ago. It may also be observed that, in an extensive rural parish like Straiton, a large amount is contributed towards the support of the poor of the manufacturing parishes in alms to vagrants. Begging has never been so prevalent since the measures employed for its suppression in the year 1832, yet, by a moderate calculation, the sum given to vagrants in this parish is estimated at L. 160; fully more than our own poor receive from all sources whatever. There are two or three persons residing in Straiton parish that sometimes seek alms over the country; and a number of the paupers go among the farm-houses twice a-year, in summer for wool, and in winter for butcher meat. All the paupers except one are of Scottish origin, and the greater number are natives of Straiton. There are indeed only a few Irish families in the parish.
Inns. - There are usually four houses licensed in Straiton, and one in Patna, - fewer than were when the last Account was written, but more than are required, and than are either profitable to the persons licensed, or useful to the parish.
Fuel. - The fuel used in the lower part of the parish is coal, which is brought from Patna, Dalmellington, and Dailly. Peat is used to some extent in the more distant farm-houses, and exclusively in the houses that have no good access to the public roads. The average price of coal at Patna and Dalmellington is 3s. 6d. and delivered in Straiton village, 8s. per imperial ton.
The parish has undergone great changes since 1792, when the former Account was written. The population has risen from 934 to 1417. The rental has increased from L. 3000 to nearly L. 9000, and is at present larger and almost as promptly paid as at any period during the war. The village of Patna has been built, the mansion at Blairquhan erected, and almost all of the larger farmers furnished with excellent new houses and offices. The land under tillage has been more productive, and several hundred acres reclaimed. Carts were then the only conveyances. There are now eight taxable carriages among the farmers, besides those of the resident proprietors. A new road, which runs for ten miles through the parish, has been made from Ayr to Newton-Stewart, and has been executed with taste and skill. The road to Dalmellington has been improved. The old road to Patna has been abandoned, and a better but more circuitous one formed. The physical improvements chiefly required are still such as would render the different parts of the parish more accessible, particularly an improved line of road to Dalmellington, a shorter road to Patna, and two roads from Glenacchy on the Girvan, to connect that part of the parish with Dalmellington, on the one side, and the foot of Loch Doon on the other. As the resident proprietors, Sir David Hunter Blair, Bart., and the Honourable Colonel Macadam Cathcart, have shown a desire to promote the improvements of the parish, it is hoped these changes will gradually be made. A neater style of building cottages, such as has already been introduced near Blairquhan and Berbeth, may also be expected to prevail.
April 1837. - Revised October 1837.
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