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

Old Cumnock

[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]

Old Cumnock

[Vol. VI, pages 407-416.]

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

By the Rev. Thomas Miller D.D.

Soil, Climate, etc.

The parish of Old Cumnock, from which that of New Cumnock was disjoined early in this century is of an oblong figure, partly flat, and partly hilly.  The soil in general is clayey, and at the bottom, a strong till.  Part of it mossy; all the holms are of a light dry soil, formed of sand and gravel.  The air in general, as through all this higher part of the country, is moist, but not unhealthy, as may be collected from the number of aged persons, and from there being no prevalent distempers.  An aversion to inoculation prevails here, and has not yet been removed by all the pains made use of; in consequence of this the small-pox occasionally makes havock among the children.  But this must gradually lessen, as inoculation gains ground, though slowly, every year.

[408] We have several mineral springs, chiefly chalybeate, and many rivulets, all running into the water of Luggar, a stream which empties itself into the river of Air near Barskimming.  This stream abounds in trout, and some eels are found in it.  On the confines of the parish, are three lochs or lakes, which may cover in all about 100 acres of land.  Their depth is unknown, and they communicate [with] each other.  The water of the eastern one runs into Nith, while the western loch runs into the water of Luggar.  The fish in these lochs are pike and eel.

Hills and Minerals

The hills, (for the parish has no mountains), though partly covered with heath, are chiefly green, and abounding in a coarse species of grass callet sprit.  There are several volcanic appearances in them, on which are found stones of the Basaltic species; also a few figured stones; and in the beds of the rivulets, petrifactions of shells and fish are thrown up from the strata.  These alre also found in an extensive lime quarry, belonging to the Earl of Dumfries, and one of its upper beds abounds with a species of coral.  The lamina of lime stone in this quarry are of different qualities, and the lime stone in some places, being mixed with shells and spar, takes a very fine polish, and would make a pretty enough blue marble.  Through this quarry, there runs a small vein of lead ore.  This upon a late trial, being dressed and smelted at the works of Wanlockhead, was found to produce 65 lb of lead from 100 cwt of ore.  Free stone abounds in different parts of the parish, and particularly in the vicinity of the village.  The quarries are of easy access, and supply materials of the best kind for building.  Many houses have been rebuilt, and a good many new houses have been lately erected from the quarries, in the village and vicinity.  Coal is still more plentiful.  A considerable part of the parish is supposed to stand upon it.  One of [the] mines has been worked for more than 30 or 40 years.  [409] And there are other mines now opening in the immediate neighbourhood of the village.  The consumpt, though pretty general, is however inconsiderable.  What is used by the villagers and round the country excepted, it is principally consumed in burning lime stone.  Of this, as above said, there is an inexhaustible quantity in the parish.  The present price of coals is as nearly as can be guessed, 2s 6d per ton.  The lime in shells 2½d per bushel, five of which are equal to eight Winchester bolls.  And the lime stone, unburnt, 1s 8d and 2s per ton.  All at the coal hills, lime post and kilns; consequently exclusive of the expence of leading.  The Earl of Dumfries has also in this parish a blind coal, which he attempted to export to Ireland.  But the expence of a land carriage of about 16 miles to the port of Air, obliged him for the time to relinquish the design.

Statistical Table

Length in English miles nearly




Population, anno 1755


Ditto anno 1765


In the village


In the country


Ditto 1791 1792


Average of births for 5 years preceeding 1792


Average of males


Average of females


Deaths, ditto


Marriages, ditto


Inhabitants in village and environs


Inhabitants in the country part of the parish


Of the former, males


Of the former, females


Of the latter, males


Of the latter, females


Males in all




Under 10


Between 10 and 20


Between 20 and 50


Between 50 and 70


Between 70 and 80


Between 80 and 90


Between 90 and 100


Houses inhabited


[410] New houses and rebuilt in 10 years


Families supposed


Married persons






Children at an average each marriage


Of the established church




Twins in 10 years, of which three in 1792


Proprietors residing


Valued rent Scots

£3784 17 8

Supposed real rent nearly (sterling)


Number of acres supposed to amount to


Wheel carriages


Carts, mostly one horse used




Cattle old and young nearly


Scors of sheep, about


Horses, over head, may be valued each at


Cattle each at


Sheep per score of 21




Established schoolmaster






Innkeepers and stablers




Cart and mill wrights








Weavers beside apprentices






Stocking weavers












Carters for coal and meal


Day labourers


Skin and wool dealers


Chelsea pensioners


Lint dressers






Colliers and coal heavers


Male servants, domestic and farm


Female ditto


Average number of poor


Capital of their funds


Annual expenditure


Schoolmaster's salary about


[411] Average number of scholars


Of which taught Latin


His fees for English, per annum


Writing ditto


Arithmetic ditto


Latic, etc ditto


Wages of Farm servants per annum

from £7 to £10

Women ditto

from £2 to £4

A man for harvest


A woman ditto


Domestic servants get nearly the same as farm servants


A dya labourer without meat

10d to 15d

A mason ditto


A carpenter ditto

1s 2d

A taylor with maintenance


Prices of:


Beef per lb of 24 oz

4½d to 6d

Mutton ditto

4d to 5d

Veal ditto


Lamb ditto


Pork per stone


A fowl

from 8d to 1s

Eggs per dozen

from 3d to 4½d

Butter and cheese per stone


Common cheese per stone

from 3s 6d to 4s 6d and 5s

Meal at an average per peck

11d and 11½d

Looms employed for muslins and cottons


For woollen


Total looms


Shoes manufactured per annum

6000 pairs

Boots ditto


The increase of 327 since anno 1765 is the more remarkable, because, if the numerous small farms now under grass, and let only from year to year, were let upon leases of 19 years, this circumstance would make a very considerable addition to the number of souls, proportionably heighten the general population, and shew how much, as with reason has been [412] supposed, it is upon the increase.  The lists of births, deaths and marriages, in the table, are taken from the parish registers, which, though kept with care, cannot be depended upon; owing to the obstinacy and ignorance of the people, and their aversion to have the births and deaths in their families duly inserted.  The general average of births is supposed to amount to 51 annually, which is as 1 to 32 of the whole population.  As to the average of deaths, for the reason above given, this cannot be ascertained, nor can the incumbent obtain means of ascertaining them with any accuracy.  Of the twin births mentioned in the table, three happened anno 1790 when there was an uncommon number of such births in this, and in other countries.  A fact remarked at the time, but never attempted to be accounted for.  The people, particularly those in the manufacturing line, and women servants, emigrate to Glasgow, Paisley, and Kilmarnock.  But these emigrants have not materially affected the general population, to which the Earl of Dumfries, by the number of labourers he employs, gives all imaginable encouragement. [1]

Produce, etc.

The greater part of Lord Dumfries's lands which form the bulk of this parish, are presently out of leases, and let from year to year in grass.  But is the arable ground [413] was under culture, notwithstanding the slovenly mode of agriculture too generally followed, it is apprehended the parish could not only supply itself with provisions, which for the most part it is supposed to do, at present, byt night furnish considerable quantities of meal, as it now does, of butter and cheese, and occasionally some barley (big), to the great works of Muirkirk and Catrin, both which are in its neighbourhood; the former at 10, and the latter at 5 miles distance.  In most years the inhabitants bring meal from Dumfries-shire, and pot barley from Lothian.  Part is consumed in the parish, and aprt is carried to the above mentioned works at Catrin and Muirkirk.  Flax was of late only cultivated in this parish, and there are now lint mills all over the country.  Its culture in consequence was increasing, but has of late been checked by the prevalent taste for, and use of cottons.  Few grass seeds are sown, except by the gentlemen who have the property and reside in the parish, who may have a few hundred acres under sown grass.  For the reason already mentioned, the bulk of arable land is under pasture.  Peas and oats are sown in March and April, and big in May, and reaped in September and October.  The crop most attended to is potatoes, of which the people all over the country make great use.  There are varieties of marble and clays.  One porcelain, ochre, etc as reported from an actual survey lately made.  The wetness of the climate is one of the chief disadvantages.  The distance from markets is now happily removed by the works of Muirkirk and Catrin; the influence of which on this country in general, the parish shares in. [2]


Ecclesiastical State, and Poor

The patronage of the parish is in the Earl of Dumfries.  The value of the living including the glebe does not amount to £100.  The church was built in 1754, and the manse about 1750.  The heritors are 6 in number, of the whom 4 reside in the parish.

The poor are supported in part from the interest of the capital belonging to them, and partly from the Sundays contributions, which are greatly aided by the liberality of the family of Dumfries, who regularly attend divine service, and are yet more liberal in their private charities to poor house-keepers.  Of these an obscure and sequestered individual could speak, did he not know, that there are still those who “do good by stealth and blush to find it fame.”  There is also here a charitable fund established about three years ago, under the name of the “Cumnock Social Depositary”, which already amounts to £170, and which promises to increase and to be of proportional service to the sick labourer, manufacturer, etc. who become members of it.  Institutions of this kind are gaining ground; and if encouraged, as they ought to be by landed interest, and carefully managed, must prove the means of lessening the parochial poor, and preventing the introduction of a poor's rate, of which the English so justly complain. [3]


Miscellaneous Observations

In the parish lies the village of Cumnock at the confluence of the stream of Glisnock, and the water of Luggar.  It gives the title of baron to the family of Dumfries.  The great roads from Air to Dumfries, from Air by Muirkirk to Edinburgh, from Glasgow by Galston, and Sorn to Dumfries, and from Glasgow by Kilmarnock to Dumfries, pass through this village.  It is distant from Edinburgh 58, from Glasgow 36, from Dumfries 45, from Air 16, and from Kilmarnock 16 miles,  Besides the advantage of the public roads, the parish is greatly benefited by many cross roads, running in different directions, to the extent of ten or twelve miles, which the Earl of Dumfries has made at his own private expence for the conveniency of his coal, lime, etc. and while they serve these works they greatly benefit the parish and country in general. [4]


The people in general are above the middle size.  The manufactures in the village are weaving, shoemaking, tanning, dying, etc.  The manufacturers and tenantry in general have little or no stock worth mentioning; they are in consequence moderate in their expences, strangers to luxury, but with the country in general, acquiring a taste for dress, which, will probably in time be an incitement to their becoming more industrious.  At present the great body that make up the inhabitants of the parish may be said to enjoy freedom to work or to be idle; strangers in general to intemperance, their living is chiefly supplied by the dairy; the manufacturers excepted, who with a few others, may be said to be better acquainted with a meat diet and with the use of beer; which it were to be wished, could be substituted for the prevalent use of spirituous liquors.  Education is little valued.  And next to the occupations peculiar to their several lines of life, their leading object, is to converse and dispute about religious subjects and church government, concerning which there is a considerable diversity of opinion amongst them.  When time shall have softened down the keenness and pertinacity generated by this diversity of religious opinions, when it shall have rendered them tolerant and forbearing towards those they differ from, there will be wanting only a general spirit of industry to meliorate their condition, and to furnish them with the real and solid comforts of life.


[1]           There are no remarkable plants.  But considerable plantations of Scotch fir, larix, elm, beech and plane trees; the natural woods consist mostly of birch and oak.  The ash, mountain ash, alder, and the bird cherry abound also, but few of any size; the natural woods and plantations cover at least 400 acres.  And it is said that Lord Dumfries draws cimmunibus anuis [legibility?], about £100 by the sale of wood, which he replaces by very extensive new plantations.  For he must have drawn hedges and ditches to the extent of about 40 miles, and stone dykes to half that length, since he came into possession of that estate.

[2]           As Airshire formed a part of the antient Gallovidia, throughout which the Gaelic was universally spoken, it may be expected that traces of it should be found here; and these are yet found in the names of many of the farms.  As Auchingsbartte, Mellzioch, Barlonachan [legibility?] etc, all of which are supposed to be of Gaelic original.

[3]           There is no regular market; but the prices of the articles generally claughtered in their several seasons, and sold here, are as stated in the tables.  It should only further be observed, that almost every kind of provisions, meat excepted, is doubled at least in its price within 15 or 25 years past.  The wages for servants, as will be seen from the table, have also greatly risen.  And their condition is certainly preferable to that of the day labourer, who even with his advanced wages, and with the advantage of getting coal at a moderate rate, (at the rate of a cart contining 900 cwt [9 cwt?] for 2s 2d) usually brings up his family in a very poor manner.  His earnings are more abridged, in consequence of piec work being little known, though creeping in; which, with increasing industry, will enable the day-labourer to afford better fare to himself and family than they taste [legibility?] of.  His work in general, of consequence, seems [415] proportionally small to those acquainted with English labour, or even with that of the Lothians or Berwickshire.

[4]           On the lands of Borland are the vestiges of a chapel or religious house; and the farm is, to this day, named chapel-house.  These lands were originally in a family of he name of Hamilton, from whom they passed by marriage into the Montgomerys, a branch of the Coylsfield family; and having passed through different purchasers are now the property of the Earl of Dumfries.

             In the vicinity of the village of Cumnock are the remains of a moat, where, as tradition says, the baron coarts were held of old.  It is almost entirely surrounded by the Luggar; and as its banks are steep and completely wooded there, the whole forms a very beautiful and picturesque scenery.  The castle of Terranzean lies also in this parish.  It is now in ruins; was probably the mansion that belonged to the barony of Terrenzean, which successively passed from a branch of the Crawfords to the Boyds.  Upon their forfeiture it fell to the Crown, who having successively made grants of it to different proprietors, it came at last into the family of Lowdon, from whom it was purchased by the Earl of Dumfries, whose property it now is.  From this barony, the present countess of Lowdon is Barroness [sic] Terrenzean.





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