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


Culzean coach house
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Old Statistical Account


[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]

[Vol. VI, pages 102–111]

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

By the Rev. Mr John Ramsay.

Name, Surface, Soil, c

The etymology of Kirkmichael, (the church dedicated to St Michael), is obvious.  The surface of the parish is hilly, and, towards the south and east, mountainous and rocky; mostly green, and of a clay soil, inclining to loam rather than to strong clay, upon a tilly bottom.  There are a few patches of light gravellish soil, in the form of conical hills; and, on the banks of the rivers and burns, are some flat dry holms.  The ground is for the most part arable, but turns to the best account, where there is a judicious mixture of tillage and pasture.  The climate is rather variable and moist, especially in autumn, and early in the winter.  The people are in general healthy, nor do any particular diseases prevail.  The water of Girvan runs through this parish; and the river Doon bounds it for several miles.  The latter is a considerable stream, well adapted for manufactures, being a large body of pure, soft, limpid water, with many falls for machinery; by [103] a sluice out of Loch–Doon, out of which it issues, the river can be kept under perfect command, so as neither to exceed nor prove deficient in respect of water.  The length of the parish is 9 miles, and its breadth 4.

Minerals, Fuel, and Woods.

Freestone is found in a few places, but no regular quarry has been opened.  A great quantity of moor–stones are scattered up and down the surface; the grey granite chiefly prevails.  Limestone has been discovered in several places, chiefly on the south, where there are extensive and valuable quarries of that useful article.  No coal has as yet been discovered in the parish, though there is an appearance of it.  The common fuel is coal, brought from 4 to 6 miles distance, and costing 3s per ton at the pit.  An ordinary farmer will consume 12 ton in a year.  On 2 or 3 farms, peats are used in part.  One hill is supposed to contain lead; some attempts were made to bring it to light, but without success.  Shell–marle has been dug out in a few places, but in no great quantities.  There are immense stores of hard marle, of various degrees of richness; but on account of its being slow in its operation, and not admitting of distant carriage, it has been used only in the vicinity of the pit.  It would be a valuable treasure where lime is scarce.  In the parish are many natural woods, chiefly of oak, ash, birch, and alder, of great value to the proprietors, and very convenient for the country.  They are cut once in 40 years, though, if they were properly managed when young, more crops might be taken.

Produce, Inclosures, and Manure

Of late, great quantities of good oats have been raised; some bear, a few pease, and little or no wheat.  The culture of potatoes is well understood, and great crops are produced.  Hitherto lint has appeared only [104] in some patches; turnips have been tried, but with no great success, the soil being too wet, and the servants have an aversion to them, as they are thereby exposed to much cold and dirty work.  Many of the farms have natural meadows, and several farmers sow artificial grasses, both for pasture and hay.  In this remote part, hay cannot be sold to any great extent.  About 30 years ago, the country was for the most part uninclosed; low ill paid rents, poor farmers, starved cattle, puny horses, no carts, and scarcely a tolerable instrument of husbandry prevailed every where.  Now the reverse of all these is the case.  The farms, two or three excepted, are now all inclosed, and subdivided; the hedges in many places are excellent strong fences; the work of ditching and hedging is well understood, and generally well executed.  A kind of stone fence, called Snap–dykes, peculiar to Carrick and the north parts of Galloway, is admirably fitted for sheep parks; being from 4 to 6 feet in height, strong and firmly locked together at the top.  It costs from 4s to 7s per fall of 18½ feet.  Lime, as a manure, is now very common, and is usually laid out on the sward, at the rate of 100 to 160 bolls of powdered lime, which costs 6d per boll at the kiln, on each acre, and gives a good return (from 4 to 6 quarters) after the first year.  Oats weigh, at an average, 36 lb the Winchester bushel, and are the general and most profitable crop in this part of the country. [1]


Horses, Cattle, and Sheep

For many years past, few horses have been bred in this neighbourhood, the waste being chiefly supplied from Ireland, though of late, owing to their increased price, some of the farmers have begun to rear them, and are well paid for their trouble, as home–bred horses are more profitable, and more to be depended upon, than foreigners.  Breeding cattle makes part of the business of almost every farmer; they are chiefly of the Galloway kind, short–legged, long and deep in the body, broad above, without horns, hardy, handsome, easily led, and tell well at the end of the balance.  They are high priced to their size, but swell incredibly when promoted to better pastures.  The common breed of cows are not remarkable for the quantity of milk they give, nor is the dairy, as an article of export, much attended to in this part of the country, though good butter for private use is made here.  The manufacture of cheese is not understood.  At and above 4 years old, the bullocks and cut queys [sic] are driven to the English market, and fetch great prices.  Considerable numbers of Highland and Scotch cows are fatted [106] for home consumption.  All the black cattle, the milch–cows excepted, lie in the fields the whole year round, and are fed in winter with hay and straw.  Few sheep are raised in this parish; formerly every farmer had a flock which grazed promiscuously with his black cattle and horses.  As there were no inclosures, and the ground overstocked, all were in poverty, and in hard seasons numbers perished for want; now, there is plenty of food for both man and beast.  Many of the farmers keep a few sheep for their own use, but nothing like a flock is to be seen except on two or three farms.  Swine have been tried, but generally given up.


The parish, at a gross computation, is supposed to contain about 10,000 acres; 1400 of which are under tillage, the remainder in woods, hay, and pasture.  Land lets from 3s to 10s per acre, on 19 years leases.  The rents are generally well paid.  The valued rent is £3904 Scotch.  The statute labour is commuted at the rate of 25s for each £100 of valued rent.

Manufactures, Exports, and Mills

Though there is not a town, and scarcely any thing that deserves the name of a village, yet the parish is not altogether without manufactures; several thousand ells of plaiding are spun and wove in it.  In this article the old women, the wives of labourers, and the women–servants of farmers, are occasionally employed.  The raw undressed plaiding brings from 7d to 12d per ell, and is sold to merchants from Glasgow, at Ayr and Maybole fairs.  For some months past, the woolen [sic] manufacture has been greatly lessened, by the weavers being employed in weaving muslins sent from Glasgow, the muslin being both a lighter and more lucrative work.  The chief exports are oats, oatmeal, black cattle, woolen cloth, and from one district, some [107] butter and cheese.  A good many cattle are imported from the muir countries and the Highlands, kept a year, and sent to the English markets, or sold to Scotch butchers for the consumption of the manufacturing towns.  Of late, the quantity of oats raised, and of oatmeal exported, has been considerable; though formerly the inhabitants were often supported, during summer, by importations from Ireland and the north of Scotland.  In nothing has this part of the country received greater improvement than in kilns and mills.  Formerly the latter were miserable machines, at which much time was consumed, and the grain horribly abused.  Now, there are tyle kilns at all the mills, and at many of the farm houses.  The mills have excellent machinery, conducted by skilful tradesmen, and grain is manufactured cheaply and profitably.  As good barley can be made in this parish, as any where in the kingdom.  There is also an excellent lint–mill, which, it is hoped, will encourage the growth of flax.


This parish is excellently accommodated with fine gravel roads, owing to the public spirit of the heritors, and their wisely foreseeing that it would eventually promote their own interest.  About 20 miles of road have been made and supported for many years.  In 1769, the heritors agreed to borrow a sum to enable them to make the roads at once, and to take the conversion–money, before mentioned, for their repayment, which was accordingly done.  The benefit to the public has been great, and the heritors have been repaid in part, but not in full; if they should not receive full payment in specie, they will certainly be reimbursed by the increase of their rentals.  There is not a turnpike in the parish. [2]



It appears probable, from several circumstances, that this parish was more populous half a century ago, than it is at present.  At that time, the farms were small, and abounded with inhabitants.  When inclosing became general, about 30 years ago, the farms were enlarged and made more commodious.  At first, many of them were laid out in pasture, and committed to the management of one person.  As there was less country work, and few or no manufactures, many of the old inhabitants were obliged to remove.  So far as the parish registers are preserved, it appears, that there were more marriages and baptisms, previous to, and about that period, than there have been every since; though the returns to Dr Webster from this district was only 710 souls, whereas the total number at present, is,




Yearly average of burials





Heritors resident


Under 10



Heritors non–resident


Between 10 and 20



Weavers, apprentices and journeymen


Above 20, married



Carpenters, ditto





Shoemakers, ditto





Taylors, ditto







Yearly average of baptisms for 7 years, preceding 1791, from the registers


[similarly] marriages




Ecclesiastical State, School, and Poor

All the inhabitants are of the Established Church.  An excellent and commodious church was built in 1787.  The stipend, including an allowance for communion elements, amounts to 48 bolls of meal, and £65 15s sterling, in money, with a glebe of 14 acres, worth £10 per annum.  The king is patron.  There is an established schoolmaster, whose salary is a pitiful 100 merks, paid by many different hands.  It is to be regretted, that an office so laborious and useful should be so meanly provided for.  The schoolmasters certainly deserve compassion of the legislature, and it would be disgraceful to oppose a reasonable augmentation of their salaries.  The poor, on the parish roll, are from 16 to 20, very scantily provided for on the whole, as the funds for their support, arising from the interest of some mortified money, the collections at the church–door, and the fines of deliquents, amount only to between £20 and £30 per annum. [3]


Miscellaneous Observations

The people are in general sober and industrious, and few have no visible means of subsistence.  Many of the farmers are respectable intelligent men, who know they have a character as such in the country, and are at pains to support it.  They are generally solicitous to give their children a good education; and there is a happy prospect in this corner, that many of the young people will turn out sensible useful members of the community.  As to their religious character, there is certainly less apparent seriousness, and less respect to the external ordinances of religion, that were to be seen in former times.  It is to be regretted, that a proper respect to religion should ever be diminished; it gives ground to suspect that there is not a real regard to it.  If this increases, and becomes general, the consequences will be dreadful.  Morals, among the bulk of mankind, will stand upon a precarious foundation, as they will be without the restraints necessary to keep them from going astray.

There are only 3 public houses in the parish; indeed one might serve all the purposes of refreshment.  Whisky, so prevalent [111] in many places, is not esteemed a genteel drink in this corner.  The general beverage, of late, among the better sort of farmers, is good porter, which they find to afford nourishment as well as chearfulness [sic], when moderately used.

The language is a mixture of Scotch and English, without any particular accent.  In this district, as in every other, there are certain provincial words and phrases peculiar to itself.  It is probable that the Celtic was once the common language, as many names of places in this parish seem to be of the etymology.

It must strike every one, that the advantages of this parish are very considerable.  There are good roads, great abundance of wood, lime stone in different places, immense funds of hard marle, and coal at no great distance.  The disadvantages it labours under are, the uncertainty of the climate, the unequal and steep situation of the surface in many places, and the springiness of the soil, the water often bursting out towards the base of the hills.  This last inconveniency may, in a great measure, be remedied by draining.


[1]           There is a method of preserving corn, peculiar to this part of the country, called Rickling, thus performed: After the corn has stood some days in uncovered half stooks, from 40 to 60 sheaves are gathered together, and put up into a small stack, (the sheaves being set up as erect as they will stick together,) and covered with a large sheaf, as a hood, tied down with two small straw ropes.  It keeps corn and fodder to admiration.  Scarcely any spoilt grain is heard of in this country; though the climate is so wet, that without [105] this precaution, it would be difficult to preserve it at all in bad seasons.  It does best with short grassy corn, keeps the grain sound, and the fodder sweet, and prevents heating in the stack.

             There is a method of preserving beans, practised here for several years, always with success.  When cut, they are laid in regular handfulls, all one way, and suffered to lie 8 or 10 days upon the ground; then two persons going together, each lifts a handful, and sets it down on the root end, the one opposite to the other, so as to be separated at bottom and to support each other at top.  The same operation is repeated on the open sides, till it becomes a round hulk, and more is added all round, till it stands firm, always taking care to keep the heap open below, to give it stability, and to allow the air to pass.  It is wonderful how the hulks will resist very severe blasts; and the present incumbent, in the year 1787, had two acres of beans, which stood 44 days in the rain, without damage.  When ready for stacking, they are bound with thumb ropes, and put on the carts.

[2]           Among the improvements to be taken notice of in this parish, the visible [108] alteration in industry, cleanliness, and comfort, that has been introduced among the common people, is none of the least.  In many of the farmers houses, a man of good rank can be entertained and lodged very comfortably.  Clean houses, dry warm beds, and plain wholesome well–dressed food are common here; and, to increase the relish of the whole, there is generally a hearty welcome, and in many individuals also a fund of rational, useful conversation.  [109] These are solid proofs of the increasing improvements of the country, though at the same time it must be owned, that what has been said above is not applicable to every individual.

[3]           The daily wages of carpenters are 1s, of taylors, 7d, and of masons, 1s, victuals included in each case; of day–labourers, from 8d to 1s in winter, and from 10d to 15d in summer.  Men–servants employed in husbandry get £7, and women–servants £3 a year, with bed, board, and washing.  Wages of every kind have risen one third at least within these 15 years.  The farmers employ two kinds of men–servants, the one such as are called Cote–men, who are married, and live on the farm, who receive what is called a benefit, viz. a house and yard, a cow kept in grass and fodder, 6 and one–half bolls of meal, liberty to plant a certain quantity of potatoes, from £4 to £6 in money, and a stipulated measure of fuel led home; worth in all from £13 to £15 sterling.  The other kind of men–servants are unmarried lads, living in the farmers houses.  The wiser farmers chuse [sic] a mixture of these; as the cote–men are steady, and the lads active.  If the wages are higher than formerly [110], much more work is done by the same hands.  Threshing in the morning is universally introduced, and winnowing at night, that the light of the day may be employed out of doors.  Such farmers as have large quantities of grain, get it threshed at 10d the boll, or English quarter.

             Butcher meat of every kind, butter, cheese, wool, and hay, are sold by the tron stone of 24 lb avoirdupois.  The meal stone weighs 17½ lb avoirdupois.  The old measures for the country have generally gone into disuse, and the Winchester bushel is now universally used; 8 bushels make a boll of oats and barley, and 4 bushels a boll of wheat, pease, and beans; the potatoe [sic] peck contains 8 English gallons.  With respect to oats and barley, the present measure is considerably better, and, as to wheat, pease, and beans, it is much worse, than formerly.  Beef, mutton, veal, and pork, sell for 6s the stone, fowls for 10d and chickens 3d each, butter 8d and common cheese 3½d per lb tron; good bear, 20s, good oats, 18s, pease and beans 14d, the boll,





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