Seagate castle, Irvine
Maryborough salt pan houses
weavers' cottages in Crosshill


Culzean coach house
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Old Statistical Account

Kilbirny [Kilbirnie]

[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]

[Vol. VII, pages 149–152]

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

By Mr James Adam, Assistant.

Soil and Climate

The parish of Kilbirny is, in soil and appearance, very various.  More than one third of it on the north–west is muir, moss, and hill, fit only for sheep and black cattle, with plenty of hares and muir–fowl.  Another third of it lies gently declining to the southward, with soils of sand, clay, and earth, and not unfruitful either in grass or corn, and capable of great improvement.  The remaining part of it lies low along the river Garnock, and is composed of some of the finest deep moulds of earth and clay in Scotland, the most part of yielding generally 8 or 10 bolls of oats per acre; but is thought rather wet and level for wheat.  The climate is very healthful; the air neither too moist nor too dry.  We have no peculiar diseased, nor any epidemical, excepting the smallpox, which once every five or six years, carries off a number of our young ones.  Inoculation, though a great mean of preserving both life and beauty, is not by far so much attended to and practised here as it ought to be; but I hope that the people will soon be more and more convinced of its salutary effects.  The most common diseases are colds, [150] rheumatisms, inflammatory and nervous fevers; with a few consumptions, and very seldom the putrid fever and sore throat.


There is a fine loch, about two miles in length, and near half a mile in breadth, well stored with pike, perch, trout, and eel.  The late Earl of Crawfurd kept pleasure–boat on it; and now there is a collier–boat erected on it, much more useful, for conveying coals from this to the Beith side of the loch.

Garnock is the only river of any consequence, but not navigable.  It rises from the foot of a very high hill in the muir called Misty Law, and runs shallow, clear, and dimpling beautifully down the hills southward, and almost divides the parish into tow halves, circulating the lower grounds on the south–east side; and then holding on its course through Dalry and Kilwinning, enlarging as it flows, until near Irvine it pours a torrent into the sea.

There are no bleachfields, nor printfields, nor cotton mills as yet on this river, though it is finely situated for them all; and, as there is plenty of fire and provisions in this place, and the manufacturing business going on briskly in this west country, it is not to be doubted but that there will soon be some of these public works in the parish.


The mansion–house of Kilbirny, an old castle, was built by the Crawfurd family near 300 years ago, and a new house, with large office–houses adjoined, about 100 years ago, and long inhabited by the Crawfurd family, and Viscounts of Garnock; and again, about 36 years ago, repaired and beautified by the late Earl of Crawfurd; but soon thereafter was unfortunately burnt; so that now it stands quite unroofed and ruinous.  It was pleasantly situated, commanding a noble prospect, with fine gardens, large parks, [151] and policies, all of which are going to ruin.  The place, the parks, and more than 1000 acres of good land, are set to one farmer.  This arrangement seems here, as in other parts, to be a loss to the proprietor, as well as to the community at large.  It turns out many industrious families, thins the country, prevents marriages and population, and makes the land no better than it was an hundred years ago.  Hence, at the end of every lease, the proprietor only gets an advanced rent in proportion to the rise and value of other commodities and necessaries of life; whereas, if small farms of 60 or 80 acres were only given to one person, every inch of ground would be improven, many subdivisions would be made, industry would be more encouraged, and marriage, population, and improvement, would go rapidly on; and then the proprietor would, at the end of every lease, get an advanced rent, both in proportion to the growing value of his lands, well improven, and also in proportion to the rise and value of other commodities, much heightened by the increase of demand and population.


The town or village of Kilbirny contains about 80 families, or 300 people.  About 50 years ago, there were only three houses there; but the late flourishing silk manufactories have wonderfully increased the population of all the little towns in this west country; and, if the cotton works go on as they are now promising to do, the number of houses and inhabitants in every village will still increase.  In 1755, the numbers were 651; and now there are nearly 700.  Though the town has greatly increased, yet the country part of the parish has rather decreased, owing to the foresaid ruinous policy of setting large farms to one person.  There are, below 10 years of age, nearly 180; and between 10 and 20 years of age, 140; between 20 and 50, 215; [152] between 50 and 70, 140; and between 70 and 100, 25.  The proportion between males and females is nearly, as usual, 13 to 12.  The births, one year with another, are 22; marriages, 11; and burials, 14.


The people are sober, quiet, active, and industrious, and generally wealthy.  There are few poor, and none that go a–begging.  The poor's funds are good, and more than sufficient for the parish poor.  The present minister, Mr Malcolm Brown, was settled here in the 1734 [sic], and is now a man above 90 years of age, with judgement and memory sound and good, but sight and hearing greatly on the decline.  He can walk straight and steady, ride a mile once or twice a week, marry and baptize all that offer, and preaches once or twice a year.  The stipend is 8 chalders.  He has been married these 50 years; and his wife, near 80, is still a strong, active, lively, and sensible woman.  They are both much esteemed and respected by all that know them.





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