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Old Statistical Account


[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]

[Vol. XII, pages 81–89]

(County of Ayr, Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, Presbytery of Ayr.)

By the Rev. Mr Stephen Young.

Patron, Stipend, &c

Barr was erected into a parish in the year 1653, formerly annexed to the parishes of Girvan and Dailly.  The parish seems to have taken its name from a small estate called Barr, upon which the kirk stands.  The Crown is patron.  The stipend is £100 a year, besides glebe and manse.


According to Dr Webster's report, the number of souls was then 858.  Of inhabitants at present there are 750, of whom 115 are under 8 years of age; males 386, females 364.  For 20 years  prior to 1791, there appears from the parish records, males born in the parish 195, females 155; in all 350; marriages in the above time 129; and burials 286.  For 20 years prior to 1791, upon an average, there [82] appears to have been annually males born in the parish 5 short of 10; females 5 short of 8; total 10 short of 18; of marriages 7 short of 7 annually; and of burials 6 short of 15 annually.  The parish seems to have contained more inhabitants in former times than at present.  In the year 1770, there were born in the parish, males 15, females 12, total 27.  In the year 1790, males 7, females 4, total 11.  In the year 1791, males 9, females 6, total 15.  Population in this parish has decreased much for these 30 years; and the reason is obvious.  Proprietors of lands of late years have cast two or more of their farms into the hands of one tenant; by which means, in place of a family with cottagers and servants upon almost every farm, there are some farms in which there is not one inhabitant, and many where a shepherd mad servant and his family alone occupy the farm, which is no more than is absolutely necessary to herd the grounds.  Of mechanics, there are 2 millers, 4 blacksmiths, 12 weavers, 6 masons, 3 carpenters, 2 shoemakers, 5 tailors, 5 innkeepers.  Of farmers 46; there are many more farms in the parish; some individual farmers hold some 2, others 3, 4, or 5 farms.  There is one seceder.


There is, about a mile SW of the parish church, the remains of an old Popish chapel, standing on an eminence, by a small river called Stencher [sic].  There are no traditional accounts worthy of communication concerning this chapel: it is called Kirk Dominæ, the Kirk of our Lady, supposed to be dedicated in honour of the Virgin Mary.  When it was built, is uncertain; but it had been in some repair in the year 1653 [5 indistinct], as the rook was then taken down, and put upon the parish church.  Though there is no village at this chapel, but one small farm–house only, yet there is a great annual fair held here upon the last Saturday of May, called Kirk Dominæ Fair.


Mineral Springs and Minerals

This parish being a hilly country, abounds with springs of fine water, many of them mineral.  But there is one called Shalloch–well, which has deservedly the pre–eminence.  The virtues of this water are well known in this country; it is a pretty strong chalybeate, and partakes of the sulphur also to no inconsiderable degree.  About 30 years ago, people of the first rank and fashion in Carrick and the neighbourhood, attended this well; but this is not the case at present; every season, however, produces some company, and the waters have been rarely known to fail in giving relief to persons afflicted with stomachic or scorbutic disorders.  The reasons why this water is in a great measure deserted, is the want of proper accommodation at the well.  There is freestone in the parish, and abundance of limestone.  No coal has yet been found in it; and through want of a road to the coal–pit, on the water of Girvan, the inhabitants are necessitated to depend principally upon turf and peat for fuel.  It is supposed that this, like many high countries, possesses valuable minerals; for certain, there is lead in it; but the trial, properly speaking, has never been made (though once attempted) to find out whether it would be to the advantage of the proprietor to follow after this valuable article.


The climate is not by any means unfavourable to health.  The parish is extensive; the inhabitants sparse, and families living at a distance from each other, contribute much to the salubrity of the place.  There is a village at the parish church, but it does not contain above 86 inhabitants, old and young.  An eminent surgeon in this neighbourhood, now some years dead, who practised in this country near 50 years, was in use to observe, that in all than time he never knew an epidemical distemper in this parish.  There have been many instances of longevity in the parish, of people living considerably [84] above 80 years.  There is a poor old woman in the village, who must, from her own account, be above 90; she remembers well the young men in this place learning the use of arms in the year 1715, and was reaping on a corn–ridge, a big lass about 18 years of age, when the above men passed by to join the loyalists; she is healthy, and able to walk about with her staff.  Consumptions prevail most in this place.


This parish is partly arable, but consists principally of pasture–grounds.  As to improvements of any sort, it may be said to be in its natural state.  Though there is plenty of lime in the parish, yet the want of roads renders it difficult to procure coals, in order to prepare lime–stone for the purpose if improving the grounds; but if a free communication was opened between the coal–works upon the water of Girvan and this place, by making a good road, which is in extent about 4½ [check fraction] miles only; improvements might find their way to this part of the country also, the nature of the grounds in this parish is such, that they produce but very poor scanty crops, without lime or marle; therefore the farmers here plough but very little; but those who have made any attempts by means of the lime, have had considerable returns.

Black Cattle

In this parish the farmer's attention has been principally directed to the breed of black cattle, and has succeeded.  In this particular, they have attained to great perfection.  Carrick produces, perhaps, as handsome black cattle as any part of Scotland; but not the dulce only, but the utile is to be taken into consideration.  It is a fact founded upon repeated experiment, that the handsome Carrick cattle are much easier fed, and at much less expense, that the cross made hook–boned [h? unclear] cattle of like size; that pasture which can bring [85] the coarse made cattle to a keeping condition only, will make the Carrick black cattle thorough fat; and that pasture which can bring the latter into a middling condition only, will scarce be able to keep the former in life.  Cattle reared in this country, and sold at the age of 3, or 3½ years (from the moors) will bring from £4 10s to £5 5s each; and if put upon low lying enclosed pasture for an year, they will be ready for the English market, and bring from £6 10s to £8 each.  This parish is supposed to hold from 1500 to 2000 black cattle.

Cheviot Sheep, &c

It would be well for the farmers here, could as much be said for their sheep stock; but this cannot be expected, so long as so many black cattle are reared in the parish.  They not only lessen the quantity of food, being permitted to pasture among the sheep, but poach the surface with their feet, and even the grass which springs where the cattle dung, is unwholesome for sheep.  Sheep in this parish are inferior in point of strength to the sheep in Crawfordmoor, but make better fat.  Wedders 3 and 4 years old from the common hill pasture here, when come to the best state of flesh the groungs bring them, between Michaelmas and Martinmas, will weigh from 10 to 14 pound English the quarter, and produce tallow from 9 to 12 pounds English, and sell at from £10 to £13 the score.  The pasture ground of this parish is for the most part dry; its hills consist partly of heath, but mostly what is called white ground, and, as one might judge, not unfavourable to the improvement of wool, by means of the Cheviot breed.  The writer of these remarks is the rather inclined to think so from the following experiment, now making in this parish: Two score of ewe hogs, and a ram of the Cheviot breed, were put upon a farm called Tarrafessock, June 1792, the property of the Earl of Cassillis, possessed by Mr McHutchson [sic] of Changue.  This farm is one of the highest in [86] the parish, and consequently subject to storm.  The hogs have plenty of coarse grass, and such attention paid to them as ought to be paid to stranger, or what is called heiring [ir? indistinct] sheep.  But, considering the wetness of the harvest, the stormy winter and spring, the hogs and stranger hogs, too, brought to a high cold farm; from all this it might have been expected, that most, if not all of this Cheviot breed, would have died during the course of the winter.  But, what is astonishing, upon the 27th March 1793, two days since, they were all alive, and likely to do well, which is by no means the case with the natives either upon that farm, or those of the neighbourhood.  This has been a very sickly season, and, by all accounts, every where upon the S and W of Scotland, the fall of sheep has been considerable, through poverty and disease.

The wool of this parish is greatly superior to that at Crawfordmoor, but inferior to the small white faced sheep in Penningham or Mochrum in Galloway, or that of the sheep on the shore of Dunnure [sic] in this county.  Wool in this parish sells from £4 10s to 6 the pack; from 7s 6d 10 10s the stone; and as it takes 10 fleeces for most part to the stone, each fleece sold in wholesale, brings from 9d to 1s the fleece.  Ayrshire stone is 2 lb English.  This parish is supposed to keep 25,000 sheep.

It must be observed in favour of the Cheviot breed, (but by no means to exaggerate in favour even of them); those of the Cheviot breed in this parish, though hogs (and every storemaster knows that hog wool is by far the coarsest of the wool) last season produced wool greatly superior in quality and quantity to the wool of this parish.  The wool of the natives, or, what may be called the short sheep of the farm of Tarrafessock, where the hogs of the Cheviot breed, or long sheep, pasture, and of the farms in the neighbourhood, sells at [87] 7s 6d the stone, 9d the fleece, taking 10 fleeces to the stone.  50 score of sheep at this rate will bring in wool £37 10s; but the wool of the long sheep, or Cheviot breed in the parish, gave last season 15s the stone, 7½ fleeces to the stone, 2s the fleece; 50 score of which, at this rate, would bring £100.  Fine wool in the lower parts of Galloway brings from 12s to 14s the stone.  Suppose it to bring 15s the stone, there is still this consideration in favour of the Cheviot breed.  The Galloway fine wool will take 14, 15, or even 16 fleeces to the stone; suppose, in general, 15 fleeces, the Cheviot breed in this parish, though of the small kind, take 7½ fleeces only to the stone.  It therefore follows, that when 30 Galloway sheep bring £1 10s for two stone of wool, 15 fleeces, and 15s the stone, the Cheviot breed, in number 30, will bring £3, four stone of wool taking 7½ fleeces, and giving 15s each stone.

It is asserted that the Cheviot breed will require much better feeding, consequently more grass than the natives of this country.  This observation may be well founded; but the question is, how far and whether, upon this supposition, the Cheviot breed of sheep called the long sheep, may not be the most advantageous stock still?

Suppose a farm holding 50 score, or 1000 short sheep, the natives of the country, should not be able to keep above 40 score, or 800 of the long sheep, 50 score of short sheep will bring £37 10s, at the rate of 7s 6d the stone, 9d each fleece, taking 10 fleeces to the stone; 40 score of long sheep, taking 7½ fleeces to the stone, giving 15s the stone, will bring £80.  Further, is 40 score of long, eat the grass of 50 score of short sheep, it may be presumed that the long sheep is a fifth part stronger in the bone, and, if brought to t a like state of fat with the short, will, in their carcase [sic], weigh a fifth part more, give a fifth part more tallow, consequently a fifth part more money.  Therefor the produce of 40 score [88] of long sheep, in point of cascase, should bring as much money as that of 50 score of short sheep.

It may be observed that the skins of sheep slaughtered at or after Michaelmas, are of considerable value, and principally from the wool upon them.  But it has already been shown, that the wool of long sheep is 1s 3d the fleece preferable to the generality of the wool of this place.  Suppose, then, 40 score of long sheep cast off annually for sale, fat wedders and ewes, and parking ewes 10 score, 1s 3d each skin, £12 10s; call it 1s each skin preferable to those of the short sheep, 10 score of skins, at this rate, will bring £10, which, together with the £80 formerly mentioned as the price of the wool shorn from off the long sheep, makes, in whole, £90.  Therefore a farm holding 50 score short sheep, and able to keep 40 score long, will advance the wool by means of the Cheviot breed, from £37 10s to £90; and the foregoing observations being just, will, in other respects, be equally advantageous.  Suppose such a farm brings of gross produce from 50 score of short sheep £150 annually, the same farm, by means of the Cheviot breed, keeping 40 score, will, of gross produce, bring £200.

The writer of the above remarks has seen and examined the state in which the long sheep in this parish are.  He had an opportunity of seeing the wool, also the produce of the Cheviot hogs last season, he has certain information of the price the wool brought, and he believes, both from the general character of the Galloway fine wool, and from information, that he has not undervalued it; that it is not higher, if so high as the price stated. [1]

[89] I shall only add as a further proof of the experiment of the Cheviot breed of sheep taking place in this parish, and of their doing well, the farmer, whose property they are, is resolved to bring upon the same farm, this ensuing season, some scores more; and it is hoped others will see it their interest to follow the example, to purchase into their respective farms a number of the Cheviot breed, less or more, as is most answerable.  Perhaps it might not be advisable to change the whole stock of the short sheep at once; but by degrees, in this way, there can be no risk.  Even bringing in rams of the Cheviot breed, and crossing them with the ewes of the short sheep, would greatly improve the wool of the parish.

[1]           If the above profit is so great, calculating the wool at 15s the stone, how much more would it not be, if the wool had fetched its real value of 20s the stone?  And it is hoped that the Cheviot breed will soon be improved, so as to produce wool worth even 30s the stone.



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