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. IV, pages 112–116]

(Presbytery, synod and county of Air.)

By the Rev. John Steel, of Gadgirth.

Date of Erection

Stair was first erected into a parish in 1653, for the accommodation of the noble family of Dalrymple of Stair, whose residence was a great distance from Ochiltree, their parish church.  With a view to this accommodation, that family agreed to pay three chalders of victual, one half of the stipend then allotted to the minister.  The other half was to be paid to the parish of Barnwell (sic), then suppressed and united to the adjoining parishes of Craigie and Torbolton (sic).  On account of some differences between the parties concerned in the transaction, and a wrong locality of the stipend, the errors were rectified by a new process in 1709, when several lands were disjoined from , and others united to, the parish.  This new erection, though it produced a different locality, made no alteration in the sum of the stipend; which, however small or inadeuqate to the support of a family, remains still unaugmented, though in some years it has produced no more to the incumbent that £35.


Extent, Soil, Surface, &c

This district lies between the rivers Air and Kill [Coyle[; and is about 6 miles in length by 2 in breadth, though at one place it is completely intersected by the parish of Ochiltree.  The soil, that of some small vallies [sic] alont the sides of these rivers excepted, is a stiff clay.  The general appearance of the parish, as well as the productiveness of the soil, has been greatly improved since the year 1735, when the present incumbent was settled.  At that period, there was no fence of any kind, excepting one small enclosure of fir near Barskimming, and some coppices of natural wood.  In summer, the cattle were herded between the different corn fields; and in winter, they ranged at large over the whole country; at present, every farm is inclosed and subdivided; and so completely have the notions of the commonality changed in the respect, that scarcely any person will agree to take a farm, or pay an adequate rent, unless the lands are properly inclosed: although formerly their prejudices against inclosures were so violent, that dykes and gateways were frequently broken down as soon as erected.  This, the present incumbent had frequently the unhappiness to experience when he first began to inclose his property in this parish, and in that of Coylton.

Heritors and Produce

The heritors and 6 in number.  To the activity, exertions, and public spirit of the four principal ones, (Sir William Miller of Barskimming, General Stuart of Stair, Mungo Smith of Drongan, and the incumbent), is chiefly to be ascribed the rapid improvement of agriculture in this place, and the great increase of the value of their own estates, which are now successively planted with thriving timber, inclosed and improved in a very elegant and judicious manner.  The grain raised in this parish is, oats, bear, pease, beans, and wheat; turnip and potatoes are also cultivated.  This and the neighbouring districts are remarkable for [114] producing good cheese and butter.  The practice of laying down the land with artificial grasses, introduced by the incumbent in 1737, has contributed greatly to increase the quantity, as well as to improve the quality, of these articles of produce.  To the same cause is evidently to be ascribed the improvement which has taken place in this district, with regard to the breed of horses and black cattle.  Both are incomparably better fed, during winter as well as summer, since the introduction of these grasses.  Instead of the naked pastures upon which the horses were formerly driven, the greater part, even of the smallest farmers, have at present a small inclosure sown with red clover, which is cut twice or thrice in the season, and given the cattle in intervals of work.  The same expedient has also greatly increased the food of the milch–cows; winter feeding, however, is still defective in this neighbourhood, the soil being too wet for turnips.  The incumbent has been generally successful in recommending to the tenants to plant rows of trees around their grass inclosures, as a shelter and ornament to the fields.


The parish of Stair is exceedingly well supplied with fuel.  On the lands of Drongan is an extensive coalliery [sic], which has been wrought above a century, to the great benefit of Air and the neighbourhood.  On the property of the incumbent are also two coallieries with fire engines, which promise a long and cheap supply to the country of that necessary article of life.  In the lands of Dalmore, upon the banks of the river Air, is a species of whetstone, well known in the country by the name of the Water of Air Stone: it has been exported to different parts of Europe and America, and has been found preferable to every other stone for sharpening edge tools.  Near the same place is also a quarry of black lead, specimens of which have been sent to Whitehaven, and have been [115] found to answer all the purposes of that useful mineral.  On the lands of Dalmore have been found some strata of copper and intimony; which, from experiments already made, promise to be productive of these metals, and at some future period may probably be wrought to advantage.  No limestone has yet been found in this parish, though, from its abundance in some part of the country not far distant, there is a probability that the agriculture of the district may be still farther encouraged by the discovery of that article.

Miscellaneous Observations

In 1755, the number of souls in this parish was 369, now it is increased to 518.  The church was lately repaired, and is in good order.  There is no manse at Stair, the present incumbent residing at Gadgirth castle, the seat of the family of Chalmers, to which he succeeded in 1748.  When he was first settle, the tenants and labourers were poor, ill clothed, and worse fed; the farm houses were small, ill furnished, and mean in their appearance.  Notwithstanding the advanced rents which they now pay, the tenants are in much better circumstances, and their taste for cleanliness, dress, and every decent accommodation, has increased in proportion to their wealth.  The inhabitants in their morals are sober, honest, and industrious; and, amidst all the animosities and divisions which have arisen in this country, they have remained steadily attached to the Established Church.  There are two turnpike roads in the parish; and three bridges over the water of Air; one of which was built in 1745 at a very considerable expence: another of them, erected at the private cost of the late Sir Thomas Miller, Lord President of the [Court of] Session, near his house of Barskimming, consists of one arch, springing on each side from a perpendicular rock above 40 feet high.  This, with his extensive plantations, and other improvements along the banks of the rivers, aided by the romantic beauty of [116] the the place, form a landscape rarely to be met with in an inland situation.  It is only since the settlement of the incumbent that the use of waggons [sic] and carts has been introduced into this parish; formerly all the grain, manure, coals, and other articles, used to be transported from one place to another in sacks or in creels, on horses backs.






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