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


Culzean coach house
Return to Home page Go to About page Go to list of Articles Go to Bibliography Go to Links page Go to illustrated catalogue of Ayrshire milestones Go to Research Postings Search this site

Copyright notice:  Links to this site are welcomed.  However none of the material on the site may be duplicated in any form.  The copyright of the articles is the property of the authors.  Copyright of the web pages is the property of David McClure.

Old Statistical Account


[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]


[Vol. II, pages 109-116]

By the Rev. Mr William Auld.

Name, Situation, etc

In old deeds, the name of Machlein, or Machlene is used, but of alte it is more commonly spelled Machlin.  It is derived, as some imagine, from the Gaelic, and signifies in that language, a field of flax.  It is situated in the presbytery, synod, and county of Ayr.  It is about 7½ miles in length, and from 2 to 4 miles in breadth.  It was a priory or cell, belonging to the Abbacy of Melrose; and when that Abbacy was erected into a temporal lordship, the lands and barony of Kylesmure, and Barmure, and the patronage of the church of Machlin, were given to the Lord of Loudoun.  From the town or parish, the eldest son of that noble family takes his title to this day.

Surface and Soil

The parish is in general flat, excepting Machlin-hill, which rises a little to the north-east of the town, and runs in a ridge, from east to west, about a mile in the parish, terminating at Schioch-hill, in Tarbolton.  From the hill there is a very extensive prospect, not only over a [110] great part of Ayrshire, but as far as Cairnsmure, and other hills in Galloway, and Benlomond, Jura, Arran, Kintyre, etc.  The town of Machlin is situated on the south side of this rising ground, which gradually declines towards the river Ayr, on the south and south-west.  About 80 years ago, the town had a charter, which is now lost, and with it, the right of chusing magistrates.  This is much to be regretted, as that privilege, if properly exercised, might contribute much to the public good, by checking riots and disorders, which are at present too frequent, and promoting the good order, peace, and happiness of the community.

The soil in the parish, is, for the most part, of a clayish nature, except some fields, about Machlin, which are of a light sandy, or mixt kind.  Hence, the same weather does not suit both; and, when there is a good crop on the one, there is a light or bad crop on the other.  The whole of this parish is arable, except two small mosses, and some declivities on the banks of the Ayr, fit for planting.  A large tract of land, called Machlin-muir, has, of late years, been turned into arable land, and properly inclosed and surrounded with belts of planting, by the late Sir Thomas Miller.  In general, all the lands or farms in the parish, within these 40 or 50 years, have been inclosed and subdivided.

Minerals, etc

There is a good red stone quarry, near Machlin town; and another white stone quarry called Deacon-bank, about 3 miles to the north-west.  This last is much esteemed for its fine grain and colour.  At Bridgend, about 2½ mils from Machin, there is a coal-work, with a fire engine.  At Killoch, there is a lime-stone quarry and iron stone, both belonging to Miss Scot.  Lime-stone also at Auchmillan, belonging to Sir William Miller.  In, and on the confines of Machlin parish, are various curious caves cut out of the solid [111] rock, by the late Lord Auchenleck, and the late President Miller.

Statistical Table of the Parish of Machlin, An. 1791

Population An. 1755 according to Dr Webster


Number of inhabitants, in 1791




Inhabitants in the town


Inhabitants in the country










Servants and lodgers


Births at an average of 5 years, ending 1790






Number of acres


Valued rent (in Scots money)


Real rent in 1750 (in Sterling money)


Real rent, An. 1790 (in Sterling money)




Writers or attornies




Student at the university








Wrights or carpenters










[112] Hosiers






Messengers, or king's bailiffs


Sheriff officers




Horses employed by them


Black cattle




The poors stock in this parish, is between £80 and £100.  The number of poor families, or weekly pensioners, is about 30.  The income from collections, mort-cloths, and some seats in the church, £50.  The annual expenditure £60 yearly, and some years more; but the difference is made up by an assessment, unanimously agreed to by the heritors, at a meeting in 1771; who, in order to prevent begging in the parish, assessed themselves in a sum, amounting to £22 10 10 per annum, one half of which, however, is payable by the tenants.  This increased the poors stock at the time; but as the fund is gradually decreasing, in consequence of the number and necessities of the poor, unless a new assessment is made, it will not be possible for the ordinary income to supply the demands which are made upon it.  It must be obvious to every body, that according to the present mode, the burden of maintaining the poor, is most unequally divided.  It falls almost entirely on tenants, tradesmen, servants, and charitable persons attending the church; while other people, however rich, particularly non-residing heritors, whatever their income may be, contribute little or nothing to the charitable funds of the parish.  Hence there is, in general, ample ground for the common observation, “that it is the poor in Scotland who maintain the poor.”  It must be confessed at the same time, that, it is very difficult forming a plan that would provide for the poor, [113] without encouraging in them either inattention, indolence, or waste.

It may be added, that for the relief of distressed brethren, there was a society established in this place about ten years ago, called Machlin Friendly Society.  The present allowance is two shillings weekly to such as are unable to work, and 3s to such as are confined to bed.  One guinea is paid at entry.  The present stock is £300.

Character, etc

In such a number there must be some exceptions; but, in general, they are a sober industrious people, charitabley disposed: Careful and even punctual in attending the church on Sundays, and on sacramental occasions; and their practice in the main is agreeable to their profession.  The inhabitants are of a middle size, from 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches, and make a decent appearance, particularly at public meetings.  It is a great disadvantage to them that no manufacture is carried on.  But they are willing to encourage any plan that may tend to promote the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and manufacture; in all which they are making some progress.  The manner of living and dress, is much altered from what it was about 50 years ago.  At that period, and for some time after, there were only two or three families in this parish, who made use of tea daily, now it is done by, at least, one half of the parish, and almost the whole use it occasionally.  At that period, food two-penny, strong-ale, and home-spirits were in vogue; but now even people in the middling and lower stations of life, deal much in foreign spirits, rum-punch, and wine.  In former times, the gentlemen of the county entered into a resolution to encourage the consumption of their own grain, and, for that purpose, to drink no foreign spirits.  But, in consequence of the prevalence of smuggling, and the heavy taxes laid on home-made [114] liquors, this patriotic resolution was either forgotten or abandoned.  As to dress, about 50 years ago, there were few females who wore scarlet or silks.  But now, nothing is more common, than silk caps and silk cloaks; and women, in a middling station, are as fine as ladies of quality were formerly.  The like change may be observed in the dress of the male sex, though, perhaps, not in the same degree.

School and Language

There is a public established school in this parish, with a salary of £10 yearly; and there are two private schools in the town, besides some in the country.  The Scots dialect is the language spoken, but is gradually improving, and approaching nearer to the English.

Climate, etc

The air is milder and more temperate here, that towards the eastern coast of Scotland.  It is rather wet, but not unhealthy.

There are no diseases peculiar to this parish.  Inoculation for the small pox is practised with success.  As a means of better health, it were to be wished, that the clothing, and houses of the lower sort, were more warm and comfortable.  The contributing thereto would reflect great honour, and afford much real satisfaction to the more opulent.  The inhabitants of this parish, are in general, addicted to exercise and temperance, two great sources of long life and good health.  But death, against whom there is no defence, is ever snatching away some of all ranks and ages, the rich and the poor, the young and the healthy, as well as the old and the diseased.  The people, however, in general, are long-lived.  Among other instances of longevity, the ministers might be adduced.  The late incumbent, Mr Maitland, held the charge of Machlin for 44 years; and the present incumbent was ordained about 50 years ago, to wit, in April 1742.


Church, Manse, etc

The manse was built in 1730; and has since been several times repaired.  The church, it is believed, was built before the Reformation.  The stipend consists partly of victual, and partly of money; and, including the glebe, which measures from 5 to 6 acres, may amount annually to about £100.  The right of patronage is in the family of Loudoun.

At the town-head of Machlin, on the green, there is a tombstone, with engravings; from which it appears, that in 1685, under the unhappy reign of James VII of Scotland, five men were put to death there.  Under their names, there are the following verses in the language of those times:

“Bloody Dumbarton, Douglass, and Dundee,

Moved by the devil, and the Laird of Lee,

Dragg'd these five men to death with gun and sword,

Not suffering them to pray, nor read God's word;

Owning the work of God was all their crime;

The eighty-five was a saint-killing time.


The hole where the gibbet was fixed is still visible.

Miscellaneous Observations

There are two great turnpike roads which cross one another at Machlin; one from Ay to Edinburgh, the other from Kilmarnock to Dunfries.

The river Ayr runs through this parish from east to west about a mile south of Machlin.  In its course, there are several great works carried on at present; to wit, and iron work at Muirkirk, and a cotton-mill at Cattrine.  Over this river, there are several useful bridges near Machlin, particularly the new-bridge at Barskimming; built by the late Sir Thomas Miller.  It excels all the bridges of the county in beauty and elegance, and is one [of] the greatest curiosities to be [116] seen in it.  The river Ayr in its course, especially through Machlin parish, passes between steep rocks, from 30 to 40 feet high.  How this passage was formed, whether by art, or be the water gradually making a channel for itself, is a point which cannot now be ascertained.  The only loch in the parish, called Loch-Brown, is about three miles north-west from Machlin.  Wild-ducks, geese, and sometimes swans resort to it.  It coves about 60 acres of ground; and would have been drained many years ago, had it not been for the sake of two corn mills which it supplies with water.  There is no tradition of any battle in the parish, except one at Machlin muir, between the kings part and the Covenanters, about the year 1647, when the former was defeated; and their military chest was found, it is said, many years after, hidden in the ground.  The antient parochial records of the parish are now lost.  Sometime before the Reformation, the Popish clergy perceived their interest declingin, and their down-fall approaching, to prepare for the worst, they sold their lands in ready money, in small parcels, and then departed, carrying with them all their money and effects, and all the books and registers belonging to this, and, it is believed, to other parishes in the neighbourhood.






back to top
Return to Home page Go to About page Go to list of Articles Go to Bibliography Go to Links page Go to illustrated catalogue of Ayrshire milestones Go to Research Postings Search this site