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. VII, pages 1–41]

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

By the Reverend Dr James Wodrow

Name, Ancient History, &c.

The name of this parish is said to have been derived from a person called Stephen, who came from Ireland and settled her; or, perhaps, from the church having been dedication to Saint Stephen.  It was probably an appendage of the abbacy of Kilwinning.  The house of Kerrila, the only old castle in the parish (which was lately inhabited by the proprietors, the Hamiltons of Grange, but is now [2] a ruin), belonged, according to tradition, to the abbot.  After the Reformation, the then Earl of Glencairn, who became proprietor of the whole parish, lived in it.  The concave roof of the old hall in that castle, a very spacious square room, was ornamented with the coats of arms of the greatest part of the Scottish nobility.  In the year 1678, the parish was very inconsiderable, if we may judge from the proportion of the assessment it paid towards the maintenance of the Highland Host, and other exactions, during those unhappy times.  It must then have consisted of farmers only, who do not make a tenth part of the inhabitants at present.  The two populous towns of Saltcoats and Stevenston, have arisen almost within the present century.  There was, indeed, about a quarter of a mile east from the latter, a group of 14 or 16 houses, chiefly inhabited by persons who manufactured, or played on the trump, or Jew's harp, the ruins of which lately remained; and one of the coal–pits contiguous to their ancient dwellings, is still call the Piper–heugh.  This parish lies on the northern shore of the Bay of Ayr; its form is a kind of irregular square, two miles and a half in length, and about as much in breadth; but beyond this, the sandy ground stretches two miles farther to the south–east, and terminates on a point of land opposite to Irvine Harbour.  The two rivers Garnock and Irvine, meet near this place, and their waters immediately enter the Atlantic.  The line of shore between the Harbours of Irvine and Saltcoats is about five miles, and thus is nearly double the length of the northern boundary.  The town of Stevenston is centrical, with respect to the inhabited part of the parish.  The church stands on an elevated ridge, immediately above the town, and commands a very extensive and delightful prospect of the whole bay of Ayr, narrowed by a long stretch of the mountainous coast of Carrick towards the SE, distant about [3] five or six leagues.  Corresponding to this, on the west side, at a seemingly equal distance, appears the greatest part of the romantic Island of Arran, with its still more lofty and tremendous mountains, and broken creeks.  Between this Island and Carrick, the sea opens unbounded to the eye; and the beautiful regular rock Ailsa appears, as if set down exactly in the middle of the opening, about 40 miles distant.

Sea Coast

The five miles line of shore is quite a sandy beech [sic], on which the sea deepens in the most gradual manner imaginable.  Hence, during a westerly storm, it is formidable to such ships as have the misfortune to be here embayed, as they strike the ground a considerable distance from the shore, which is covered with a dangerous surf.  The sandy beech begins at Saltcoats, and sweeps round by Irvine, along the whole coast of Kyle, for more than 20 miles, to the mouth of the river Doon or Dune beyond Ayr; interrupted only by a small peninsula of rocky ground at the Trune.  The coast of Carrick, beginning at Doon, is rocky, as is likewise the coast of Cunningham northward from Saltcoats towards Greenock.  The Harbours of Ayr and Irvine within their respective rivers, the mouth of which is crossed by a bar or bank of sand, cannot be entered but at spring tides; and the harbour of Saltcoats, which is a natural one, at an ordinary tide; and none of the three can at any time admit ships above 220 tons burden.  Accordingly, when they are checked within this bay by a westerly storm, which sometimes continues for several days together, it is impossible for them to make the safe road of Lamlash in Arran, on the west, and equally so to clear the rocky shore of Cunningham, and the point of Pencross, six miles NW of Saltcoats, in order to get shelter in the Fairlie Road.  There is only one particular place in this open bay, which will afford them [4] shelter in such a situation, viz. under the Lady Isle, a small unhabited rocky island, about two miles SW of the Trune, and near four miles NW of Ayr, on which there are two beacons or spires, erected by the town of Glasgow about 17 years ago.  If the distressed ship can get to the south–east of this little island, between it and Ayr, and bring these two spires to bear in a line with herself, she may drop her anchors with safety, within a cable's length of the shore, in water from 10 to 14 fathoms deep, on very good ground. [1]

Appearance and Soil of the Parish

The parish naturally divides itself into two districts, the upper inclosed farms on the north, and the low sandy plain on the sea.  The last is narrower, but nearly double the length of the first.  The ground of the upper parish is unequal, many parts level, mixed with little hills, and continued stretches of rising ground, toward the boundaries; and this track will soon exhibit a fine appearance, from the rising belts, and plantations of Mr Hamilton's estate, and his very elegant house lately built in the middle of it.  The prevailing soil here is clay, not very stiff, but easily subdued.  There are also several fields of kindly gravel and rich loam.

The lower division is a continued plain, the inequalities made by the sand hills, as they call them, excepted, some of which are above 30 or 40 feet high.  The soil here is pure sand throughout; yet the stratum of clay prevalent in the higher ground continues under the sand, and has been once bare, and cultivated nearer the sea than at present; for a section of the clay, in a regular curved line (the [5] undoubted vestige of ancient plowed ridges) is frequently laid open to the eye, on the sides of the canal and other deep drains.

A steep ridge of rocky ground, the greatest part of which is now covered with soil, runs for two miles nearly in a straight line from west toe east, between these two tracks of the parish, and suddenly raises the upper plain to a considerable height above the lower.  On the west end of this ridge, where it dips into the sea, is the town of Saltcoats, built on the rocks.  More than a mile east, immediately under the ridge, is the town of Stevenston, adorned with trees, and two gentlemen's houses, with their parks at some distance, one on each side of it.  All the rest of the plain, considerably elevated to the east, exhibits a waste and dreary prospect of sand, which blows in some places, and is prevented only by the deep–rooted bent growing through it, from being reduced to a deal level.  At present, the sand–hills or mounds are continually sinking, and laying open to the eye the spires of Irvine, and other land objects, never seen before.  In a course of time, the inland part of these sands, raised by the storms from the sea, will cover a little more of our cultivated ground; and the outer part of them, undermined by the spring tides, and blown by the dry NE winds, will gradually raise the bottom, and narrow the bound of the sea, which has in fact retired in a very sensible manner within the last 30 years. [2]

[6] There is little sea–weed thrown in upon the sandy shore, but abundance on the neighbouring shores of Ardrossan and Kilbride, where it is chiefly used as manure to their barley grounds.  There are very few white fish caught in the open bay.  From the shores contiguous to Saltcoats, we are [7] sufficiently supplied with shell fish of all kinds, except oysters.  Of these there are very few on any part of the west coast.  There is a small salmon fishing at the mouth of the rivers Garnock and Irvine, from whence they sometimes come along the whole shore of the parish, and are caught near Saltcoats Harbour.  The salmon seldom   make their appearance in these rivers till about the beginning of July.  They are inferior in taste and quality to those caught in the other rivers of Ayrshire.  In general, the season of the salmon is earlier, and their quality better, according as the rivers lie farther to the south, that is, according as they become clearer, and their channels more rocky, by their approach towards the mountainous part of the country.  There is a small fresh water lake covering, perhaps, about 30 acres of ground, at the NE part of the parish, where it meets with the parishes of Kilwinning and Ardrossan.  No fishes are caught in it, except a few perches and pikes.

Climate and Diseases

In consequence of the dry situation, and the south and west winds which blow into the open bay for three fourths of the year, the air is in general salubrious, and the climate more mild by several degrees, than in the higher country; snow being seldom seen in the lower part of the parish for 24 hours.  The climate is also more dry; the loaded clouds often passing on till they touch the hills.  Nevertheless, rheumatisms, coughs, and consumptions are as frequent as in the inland parishes: Epidemical fevers perhaps more frequent.  The ravages of the small–pox are sometimes dreadful, among the children of the families who neglect inoculation.  The measles and the chincough are seldom, I may say, almost never, mortal.  The stopping,  or croop,  a disease said to be attached to the sea–coast, has made [8] its appearance twice or thrice within these 30 years, and cut off between 12 and 20 young children at a time.


Saltcoats is the principal watering place in Ayrshire.  From 300 to 500 people usually resort there, during the Summer months, for sea–bathing, from the inland country, especially from the towns of Paisley, Glasgow, and Hamilton.


There is a mineral well in the north quarter of the parish, of the same kind with the chalybeate spring at Moffat, but weaker; and, probably, several other springs impregnated with iron, if one may judge from their taste, and the tinge they leave on the clay or sand from whence they issue.  A vein of iron stone, from 10 to 14 inches thick, has lately been found between the coal strata.  The upper parish abounds in different strata of stone, whin, flag, and free stone, both the softer and harder kinds, which are worked whenever there is occasion for them: And in the sandy grounds, near Mr Warner's house, there are inexhaustable [sic] quarries of post free–stone, fifty feet thick, of a very white and excellent kind, susceptible of a fine polish.  This is carried into the inland country, for tomb–stones; and often by water, along the coast, to gentlemen's seats, for hearths, stairs, gates, &c.  It is also exported to London–derry and Dublin, and sells there at £1 12s per ton of stone, which is 16 feet, i.e. 2s per cubical foot.  Beneath the rocks on which Saltcoats stands, and within the sea–mark, there is found a kind of black stone, which has the appearance of a coarse marble, but without the calcareous quality of marble or limestone.  On the contrary, it stands any ordinary fire, and on this account is much uses as cheeks, in which they fix their grates.  Fitted up in this manner, these [9] have perfectly the appearance of Carron grates.  In the upper part of the parish, there is plenty of good limestone.  Two of the proprietors have draw–kilns, which are kept going for a considerable part of the year, to answer the ordinary demand of lime for building, and especially for manure, which is purchased by their own tenants, and by the farmers of the country westward along the shore, where there is none of it.  Notwithstanding this abundance, a small quantity of Irish limestone is imported at Saltcoats, as ballast, in the coal ships.  The lime made of it is whiter than the Scots, and answers better for plaister–work, and for casting of houses and walls.


The principal object oworthy of attention in this parish is the town of Saltcoats, and the coal–mines in its neighbourhood, which have furnished an article of exportation from that town to Ireland for near a century back.  The town is singularly situated, on the limits of the two parishes of Stevenston and Ardrossan, and almost equally divided between them.  There were leased of houses and gardens granted to a few families as long ago as the year 1565.  But it is certain, from unquestionable traditionary [sic] testimony (that of parents of children now living) that a century after that time, or about 120 years ago, there were only four houses in Saltcoats, which now consists of about 400.  Yet at a much remoter period, salt was made there; which appears not only from tradition, but from the remains of considerable heaps of ashes south and north of the present town.  It was then made by poor people, in their little pans or kettles.  They digged [sic] up the coal near the surface of the ground, at a very small expence, and lived in huts on the shore.  Hence, probably, the name of Saltcotes or Cottages.

 [10] The improvement of districts, and even of countries and kingdoms, seems to depend, not so much upon a natural and regular tendency in the progress of society towards improvement, as upon the happy spirit of particular men, raised up by Providence from time to time, endued with uncommon talents themselves, and capable of rousing the talents, stimulating the exertions, and directing the industry of others.  Of this sort was a Robert Cunningham of Auchinharvie, who, by the death of his uncle Sir Robert Cunningham, physician to Charles II became proprietor of this whole parish, during the latter part of the last century.  Mr Cunningham, with a very enterprising genius, and persevering spirit, made trial, at great expence, on the different seams of coal, bored, and also put down shafts or pits at considerable distances from one another, to ascertain their declivity, their thickness, their qualities, with the principal troubles or obstructions to them.  These things he ascertained with an exactness that surprised his successors, who are still in possession of some of his papers, and have seldom found him far mistaken in his conjectures about this dark subterraneous field.  he drove a level mine under ground, through his own and Lord Eglinton's estate, for a mile and a half, and this laid the upper part of several of the seams dry.  After this, he began to turn out a much greater quantity of coal than ever had been done before; and to open a door for the exportation of it, and thus compleat [sic] his great and useful design, he set about building a Harbour at Saltcoats, carrying on this work entirely at his own charges, amidst many difficulties and discouragements from its exposed situation; the Winter storms, for several years, demolishing part of what he had done during the preceding Summer.  At last, he completed the Harbour, about the year 1700; and, with some small reparations, it stands to this [11] day, a monument of his public spirit and enterprise.  He built salt–pans, with all their appendages, to consume the useless part of the coal.  By these expensive schemes, however, he hurt his fortune, and was obliged to sell a considerable part of his estate, reserving to himself the track of it nearest Saltcoats, with a servitude for working the coal on the rest.

For 60 years after his death, the coal continued to be worked in different places of the parish.  A fire or steam–engine was erected near Saltcoats in the 1719 [sic], the second then in Scotland.  The small cylinder of it was brought from London, only 18 inches in diameter, not much larger than their present pumps.  It could, however, raise little water.  The work was carried on with a cautious spirit, and moderate success, yielding a maintenance to miners, salters, and many others employed in carrying the coals; the shipping of Saltcoats increasing in the meantime gradually, but slowly, till about 20 years ago, when a new and very successful push towards improvement was made.  This shall be explained immediately.  But in order to render it intelligible, it will be necessary to attempt some description of the coal–field, which the writer of this has been enabled to do, from papers put into his hands by the present Robert Cunningham, Esq., one of the proprietors, and the sole conductor of the work.

Description of the subterraneous Coal Strata

Coal has been wrought not far from the surface in most places of the parish; but the proper coal–field now, is the lower sandy division, the surface of which has been described, from Saltcoats on the west point, to the river Garnock on the east; an oval piece of ground, above four miles in length, and a mile [12] or more in breadth.  In this field there are eleven strata or seams of workable coal, which usually dip (decline downward) one fathom in five, towards the south, or the sea, but in a circular direction, from the south–west to the south–east; and they all rise towards the land in the opposite direction.  The first or uppermost of these seams crops out [3] nearest the sea, and the rest follow it towards the land, at regular distances; all the different seams being perfectly parallel to one another.  The distance, or respective deepness, with the thickness of the several seams, will best appear from the annexed sketch.

The sketch exhibits a small section of the eleven seams, as they would appear to the eye if they were visible, with somewhat of their proportional distances.  They yield coal of different qualities, all good and quick burning, except the last, the raise coal, which is duller than the rest, and chiefly used in making salt and lime; but it has also been exported.  The present dip–engine pit is cradled on the pavement of the first seam.  The figures on the left side, mark the distances of the respective seams from one another in fathoms, and consequently, their perpendicular depth, at that place, from the surface of the ground.  The figures on the right hand mark the thickness, from the roof to the pavement, of the several seams, in feet and inches.  From these things it appears, that from the pavement of the first seam to that of the eleventh, is 104 fathoms; consequently, if the engine–pit were removed so far to the dip as to take hold of first seam, or Bow–bridge coal, at a depth of 20 fathoms, it would take hold of the whole 11 seams at the depth of 124 fathoms, which is said to be less than the depth from which coals are raised at Newcastle and Whitehave; and [13] such a pit would command [4] 37 feet of good coal, which is said to be more than they raise from the same depth at either of these places.  And along with the coal they could raise, with little expence, a vein of iron–stone, lying upon the roof of the seventh seam of coal.  But this is an enterprise which must be left to future generations.  At present, the dip enginge–pit, reaches only 54 fathoms, and takes in only five of the seams, viz. from the pavement of the first: And though the engine on that pit has a cylinder 5 feet in diameter, and a 16 inch working barrel, yet they were justly afraid that it would not be able to manage the prodigious weight of water; so that they have lately erected on the rise pit (40 fathoms deep), a second steam–engine, with a 4½ feet cylinder, and a 13½ inch working barrel, which it is to be hoped will do their business effectually; and they have at present a field of coal on the level and rise, which will probably serve them for a generation or two.

Subterraneous Divisions of the Coal Fields

1. This very extensive field of coal, reaching from Saltcoats to Garnock, is cut into three parts, by two great galls or dikes that run through the whole field, nearly in a line from north to south.  The first western division next Saltcoats was wrought improperly in the 1719; and the greatest part of it remains, very much incommoded by water, open to future adventurers.  It is bounded on the east by the Caponcraig Gall, a great dike of hard whin–stone, above 20 yards thick, at least where it appears at the surface, sinking perpendicularly into the earth to an unknown depth.  This [14] dike does not in the least disturb the strata of coal where it cuts them, but has the happy effect of keeping off the great waste of water on the west side of it, from [ends thus]

2. The second centre division of the coal–field, by much the largest which is wrought at present.  This is bounded on the east by the Piper–heugh gall, a dyke small and thin compared with the former, and the metal of substance of it soft.  It is what the miners call a hitch, i.e. it disturbs all the strata of coal, and every thing else in its neighbourhood, so as to make them start suddenly about ten or twelve fathoms out of their former inclined plain: But they immediately go on again in a similar declivity, at their regular or parallel distances.  In this division there is said to be an extent of a field of coal about 2000 yards on the level of the dip engine pit, viz. at 54 fathoms, and all clear to the rise of this.

3. The third or east division reaches from the Piper–heugh step to another, called the Milldam–step, and gives them an extent of level of about 1500 yards.  Here the coal, instead of its usual dip of one fathom in five, dips one in ten.  The second and third seams become also so thin as to be worth nothing, and the whole coal, when it approaches towards the last named Milldam–step, becomes very much troubled, and turns into what they call humph, a black useless substance.  In all probability it continues in the same state to the east, as several unsuccessful trials have been made in the parish of Kilwinning and on the Muir of Irvine, on the level of the Stevenston coal, and not a little money sunk in these experiments.

Late spirited efforts in working the Coal–mines

But to trace [15] a little further the late improvements in this parish.  – About the year 1770, the Auchinharvie estate, comprehending the western division of the coal–field, the harbour of Saltcoats, the Salt–pans, and every thing connected with the colleries [sic], came into the possession of the present Robert Reid Cunningham, a gentleman who inherits a sufficient portion of the active and enterprising spirit of his great–grandfather, and has prosecuted his schemes with judgement, perseverance, and success.  The servitude already mentioned, page 11, being then expired, Mr Cunningham entered into a copartnery for a long period with his neighbour Mr Warner, the proprietor of the rest of the coal–field.  They made trial, by sinking pits between the 2d and 3d divisions, not discouraged by the prodigious depth of sand, which required three or four hundred men at the beginning to work night and day without intermission, is scooping a circle near a hundred feet in diameter at the surface, narrowing it gradually, till they reached the clay at a depth of 30 or 36 feet, and were thus able to secure themselves against the increasing force of the under water.  Here they found excellent coal, but loaded with the expence of a considerable land carriage to Saltcoats, through deep sands.  Mr Cunningham hesitated for some time between the two schemes of constructing a waggon–road, or cutting a canal.  He fortunately fixed on the last, which was executed at much less expence than had been calculated, and free of all the formidable dangers that had been predicted.  The canal was finished and navigated September 19, 1772, the first upon which any business was done in Scotland.  It is a ditch without any locks, byt very wide and deep in some places, from the inequality of the ground; 2¼ miles long, besides the long side branches afterwards cut to the mouth of every new pit that was opened; twelve feet wide at the bottom, the sides inclined at an angle of 45 degrees; the [16] water four feet deep; the boats carry for the shipping, or the salt–pans, from twelve to ifteen tons; the land carriage 600 yards from the west end of the canal to the harbour of Saltcoats.

In the year 1778, these gentlemen made a new and successful trial, where nothing had ever been attempted before, in a field call the Misk, on the banks of the Garnock, at the eastern extremity of Mr Warner's estate and of the parish.  There they erected a fire–enginne on a pit forty fathoms deep, and wrought the first and fourth seams, (see figure.)  They continued in the mean time to work on their western colliery till they were stopped by an unconquerable depth of sand.  This obstacle they endeavoured to surmount by a very ingenious effect.  They attempted to drive a very small canal under ground, from the bottom of the pit along the level and pavement of the coal, and actually carried this canal more than 200 yards eastward; purposing, had things answered, to have driven it on, the whole way to the Misk; to have connected their two colleries [sic] by means of the subterraneous communication, and thus to have saved themselves the enormous expence of sinking pits from the surface along this track.  But unfortunately their coal at that place began to degenerate, and turn into humph; so that they were forced to abandon this project, and execute another more obvious and practicable for the exportation of the Misk coal.  This was, to cut two short canals above ground, from the Garnock to the mouth of their two pits, with flood–gates facing the river; and to build lighters of thirty tons burden.  Into these the baskets full of coal are emptied, or poured, as they come up from the mouth of the pit, at a very small charge; and, sailing down the canals and the river, the lighters discharge their coals either into empty vessels lying at anchor in [17] the bay, or, more frequently, into the Irvine ships, which have already taken part of their loading withing the bar of their own river, and, for want of depth of water, are unable to complete it.  Thus these gentlemen have increased the trade of the port of Irvine, as well as that of Saltcoats.  This work, however, can only be carried on in moderate weather; but no dangerous accidents have hitherto attended it.

At these two colleries there are upwards of 200 men, exclusive of boys, employed, and about 50 horses: Near 20 of the horses under ground; the rest in the gins and land carriage.  The secondary employment created by the exportation, and by the carriage of an extensive land sale, cannot be stated.

Produce of the Colleries



The quantity of round coal, splent coal, small or pan coal, raised from the West Colliery, taken at an average of twenty years, ending March 27, 1790, amounts yearly to about


The quantity of the same, raised from the East or Misk Colliery, taken at an average of eleven years from the same day, amounts yearly to about


Total annual out–put about



This is greatly on the increase, from the present good establishment of the work; the Western Colliery alone, during the present month, March 1791, having put out more than 500 tons weekly.

Prices of Coal

The price of coal here to the shipmasters [18] is 6s per ton.  The British duty about 1s 2d per chaldron.  The duty by the Irish Parliament 8d per ton.  Additional duty or tax laid on by the Lord Mayor of Dublin for paving the streets, &c 1s 2d.  The price in the Dublin market is fluctuating; never below 16s per ton; seldom above 20s; sometimes it rises to 30s; and last winter, when the ships were kept in their ports by more than two months of westerly storms, it rose to 36s per ton.  The quantity of Ayrshire coal imported into the north of Ireland bears but a small proportion to what they receive from Whitehaven.  The coal ships return here from Dublin in balast [sic].  Except some very trifling articles of provision, they bring home the value of their cargoes in hard guineas.


The dross or rubbish of the coal, mixed with a little good round coal, is used for making salt.  The same stuff is employed to heat their steam engines, and to burn lime, and is sold for the last purpose at half price.  A new salt–pan was erected about two years ago: They talk of building two more.  At present there are four, all contiguous to the harbour, with a large reservoir, which, however, unless during the heat of summer, is of little service in strengthening or evaporating the sea–water.  Though the pans are five miles distant from the mouth of two large rivers; yet, during a track of rainy or of dry weather, there is a very considerable difference in the strength of the water, and consequently in the quantity of salt made from it.




The quantity of salt made at the pans for four years, ending March 27, 1790, was



Average quantity made yearly, being a fourth of the above




[19] The yearly duty payable on the above, at 6s per boll, is £978 12s.  This, however, is the gross duty, some little discount being allowed for sea waste, prompt payment, &c.  The quantity made will increase from the additional salt–pan.  It is chiefly disposed of by an inland sale, reaching to the skirts of Renfrewshire and Clydesdale, till it meet the Borrowstounness salt from the east coast; which, for I know not what reason, seems to be made cheaper than on this coast, and can therefore bear the cost of a longer land carriage.  A cargo of salt is sometimes shipped from Saltcoats to the coasts of Galloway and Nithsdale, but never to Ireland; on the contrary, over the whole west coast of Scotland, from Mull to the Solway Frith, the Irish salt is smuggled in such quantities as to be very prejudicial to the salt manufacturers and to the revenue.  Considering the high price of coal in Ireland, it may seem strange that we should be rivalled and undersold in an article so much connected with coal; but it is to be accounted for from these circumstances; that the two processes of making salt and burning lime are combined in Ireland, and carried on with the same fuel, probably turf; that their salt is almost free from any duty; and, above all, they have the liberty of importing rock–salt from the English mines without any duty, or with a very trifling one.  The mineral–salt dissolved in sea–water makes their process easy and cheap, an advantage from which the British manufacturer is cut off entirely.  This grievance deserves the attention of those who have it in their power to remove it; and the means is very obvious, viz. the laying of such a considerable but equitable duty on the exportation of the English rock–salt as would bring the prices of the Irish and British salt to par: For, though every indulgence ought to be given to the sister kingdom which her situation requires, it seems rather [20] unreasonable to stretch this, so far as to hurt the manufactures and revenues of Britain.

Extent of the Coal Country of Scotland

Though the account of the coal has been extended, perhaps, too far, because it is the most distinguishing feature in the ancient and present state of this parish, yet I cannot conclude it without taking notice, that the Stevenston mines are the northern limit of the coal country on the west coast of Scotland; as the Bargeny mines, near Girvan, are the southern limit.  North of Saltcoats there are no coal strata [5] to be found, to the extremity of the island.  South of Girvan, none, till you cross the Solway Frith.  There will be two points, corresponding to Saltcoats and Girvan, on the east coast: And, within these four points the coal country of Scotland stretches, nearly from the SW to the NE across the island; in breadth between 30 and 40 miles. [6]



The spirited and successful exertions in the coal branch which have been described, the circulation of Irish gold, and the animating example of Mr Cunningham, gave a new spur to the industry and improvement of the parish.  Other circumstances concurred; such as the American war.  The Saltcoats people, finding an increasing demand for ships, which they could not build in America, nor buy at that time in Britain but at a high price, were naturally led to attempt to build them themselves, their harbour being remarkable convenient for launching them.  Accordingly, they began to import ship timber from South Wales; and in a place where scarcely a boat had been built before, three carpenters yards were set up one after another, which have gone on successfully ever since.  In these yards there have been built, from the year 1775 to the 1790,

No. of Vessels


6 ships, from 160 to 220 tons


37 brigs, from 55 to 180 tons


18 sloops, from 20 to 85 tons


3 small vessels at present on the stocks


Total 64 vessels


[22] Value of the above from the carpenter's hands, at the low rate of £5 per ton


Value of the iron, the masts, yards, rigging, sails, &c.

as much more


All these vessels do not belong to the port of Saltcoats.  Several of them were built by commission for other ports; and some of the largest of them were afterwards profitably sold by their owners, in England, Ireland, and Spain.  The three carpenters yards generally employ 60 men.  There are not so many at work at present, as the demand is less than formerly.  One of the masters us about to remove to Belfast, but will soon be succeeded by another.

Other Branches of Manufacture

About the same time a rope–yard was established, which continually employs, at an average, 25 men, and works up annually a cargo or more of hemp, imported in a large brig from Peterburgh and Riga.  The establishing a manufactory for working sail–cloth at Saltcoats, has been thought of; but there is not sufficient encouragement as yet for carrying this scheme into execution.  Three or four men are employed at the rope–yard in making (sewing) sails.  Some time after, a considerable brewery was built near Saltcoats, which continues to supply the towns and the country for several miles around with small–beer.  A distillery was set on foot about five years ago, which, while it continued, consumed weekly a very great quantity of bear and barley; but when the duty on licensed stills was doubled, the proprietors found themselves obliged to give it up.

Trade and Shipping of Saltcoats

The esports from Saltcoats, besides the coal and salt, are only a few herrings, with [23] some bales of Paisley silk and cotton manufactures, which go that way to Ireland.  A considerable quantity of oats from the parish, is carried in boats every Spring to Arran and Kintyre for seed [feed/seed?].

There is annually imported a cargo of hemp from Petersburgh;

A cargo of iron from Gottenburgh;

Three cargoes of fir timber from Memel; and

As much ship timber from Wales as is needed.

The average of oats, oatmeal, and barley, for three years preceding January last, imported chiefly from Galloway, above 2000 bolls annually.  From January to May 1791, imported about 3000 bolls.  The Ayrshire boll is exactly the English quarter.  A little linen yarn, and some trifles of provision from Ireland, are all the other imports recollected.

During the Summers, 1788, 1789, 1790, three vessels, about 100 tons each, were annually employed in the Newfoundland fishery.  They were very successful on the Banks, in getting as much fish as they could carry; but from some circumstances and accidents, the sales of their cargoes did not answer expectation, so that the adventurers have dropped this business at present.

For a consideralbe time backwards, Saltcoats vessels have been employed in the West herring fishery, to the number of 12 or 13 annually.  This business is also on the decline, as there are now only about eight, and these have been unsuccessful for the last three years.  The busses from Campbelton and Rosa, have done better than the Saltcoats ones.  [24] The reason for this may be, that the Saltcoats busses are too large, from 80 to 90 tons, navigated by 18 men.  The expence of their maintenance for more than three months, and that of the nets, salt, &c exhaust all the profit of their small cargoes, together with the bounty, now in part withdrawn; whereas the Highland busses are only from 60 to 65 tons, navigated by 10 or 11 men.  But the principal reason may be, that the Highland sailors and rowers are more expert at the business than ours.

Nothwithstanding these discouragements, the number and the value of the vessels belonging to the part have doubled within these last twelve years, and doubtless the trade increased in some proportion to this.  The number at present is 188 vessels below 100 tons; 23 vessels from 100 to 200 tons.  Total vessels 41, the registered tonnage of which is about 4300 tons, navigated by above 320 men.  About a dozen of the largest of these vessels do not frequent their own incommodious port, but find employment, in the carrying trade, in the ports of Glasgow, Liverpool, and London. [7]


Population and Police of Saltcoats



inhabited by Persons

In the south or Stevenston side of the town there are



Ardrossan side



Total houses and inhabitants




There are no magistrates, nor any local police in Saltcoats; only one inconsiderable annual fair; no market–place nor weekly markets; no tonnage paid by the vessels.  A shore–bailiff levies the small anchorage dues, and carries into execution such regulations as are necessary for the loading and sailing of the vessels; which regulations the owners or masters come under a written obligation to submit to.  The Earl of Eglinton is proprietor, and receives rent for all the houses on the Ardrossan side, built by the possessors on longer or shorter tacks.  His Lordship is also superior of the Stevenston side of the town, all the houses, except a few, paying him a small feu–duty.

Population of the Parish

Annual average of the Births for the last 40 years


Annual average from January 1, 1751 to January 1761


Ditto, from Jan. 1761 to Jan. 1771

between 53 and 54

Ditto, from Jan. 1771 to Jan. 1781


Ditto, from Jan. 1781 to Jan, 1791


Annual average of the Deaths for the last 40 years


Annual average from January 1, 1751 to January 1761


[26] Ditto, from Jan. 1761 to Jan. 1771

between 35 and 36

Ditto, from Jan. 1771 to Jan. 1781

between 39 and 30

Ditto, from Jan. 1781 to Jan, 1791


Annual average of the Marriages for the last 40 years


Annual average from January 1, 1751 to January 1761

between 12 and 13

Ditto, from Jan. 1761 to Jan. 1771

between 11 and 12

Ditto, from Jan. 1771 to Jan. 1781


Ditto, from Jan. 1781 to Jan, 1791



The marriages comprehend those only where the couple continued to reside in the parish.  Those, where the bride left it, were purposely struck off the lists, to avoid confusion with other parishes.

In answer to the queries, this abridgement from the parish registers has been given, but no calculations can be founded on the deaths, as many of the parishioners die at sea, and in distant places of the world.  The increasing population of this parish is chiefly to be ascribed to the influx of strangers from other parishes into a place where they have a reasonable prospect of work and maintenance; and the rate of this wll be best seen from the following facts.

It is certain, that the number of souls in Stevenston parish in the year


was below 400

No. when Dr Webster's survey was made



No. of souls from actual–surveys in the year



Ditto, in the year



Ditto, in the year



Ditto, in April




[27] In April 1791, there were





In Saltcoats




In Stevenston town




In the country, gentlemens, farmers, and miners houses




Total in the parish





Of these 535 families, there are 506 married and widows, and only 29 heads of families unmarried, (of these about 20 females).  The children under the age of seven are, in Saltcoats, very near a fifth part; in Stevenston and the country, very near a fourth part of the whole inhabitants.  All the individuals do not actually reside in the parish; they have, however, no fixed house or residence but there.

Different Classes

About ten years ago, a Relief Meeting–house was built near Saltcoats.  There are about 80 families in this parish of that persuasion, 14 families of Burghers and Antiburghers, and a single Cameronian.  Three persons in the parish were born in England, five or six in Ireland, and more than a half of the heads of families born in other districts of Scotland.  There are 20 families of farmers, and six or eight cottagers, or persons in that stile [sic], though they may hold their small possessions from a proprietor.  The number of those individuals in the parish who are and have been sailors cannot be ascertained, probably between two and three hundred.


Employed about the coal, above




Besides these, there are about 12 carters and 14 salters


Carters and carriers in the two towns


Weavers, about










Servants household, chiefly female, above




Labouring men servants, about







There are none just now living in the parish who have attained to the age of 90; three or four very near it.  Two died lately beyond that age, and one some time ago considerably beyond 100, viz. a Highlander, who had been at the battle of Killiekrankie.

Horses, &c

The number of horses in the parish is 135; a ggod breed of milk cows, between the English and the country kind; no sheep, except the few reared for the gentlemen's tables.  There are at present three, generally four chaises, none for hire as yet, except during the sea–bathing, and between 70 and 80 carts, taking in the whole parish.  The canal has greatly diminished their number.


The valued rent of the parish is £1206 Scotch.  The real land rent (valuing the ground in the proprietors hands at a very moderate rent) may be about £1170 Sterling.  The rent of the houses in the two towns, from the increasing demand for them, is higher than in most places of the kingdom.  The best of the houses, possessed by the owners themselves, pay no rent; but, according to a calculation, which may be depended on, were the whole 169 houses in Saltcoats [29] let at the present high rate, they would give £800.  Those in Stevenston (excluding the manse, and a gentleman's house contiguous to it) £460; in all £1260 annually.


There are seven heritors or land proprietors.  They all reside in the parish except the Earl of Eglinton, whose property in it is but small.  Of the six residing heritors, three draw about five–sixths of the rent.  The arable or cultivated ground in the parish is now all inclosed; about 400 acres of it possessed by the proprietors; 20 farms, and about 100 acres in small inclosures contiguous to the towns.  These may comprehend altogether near 1500 acres.  About two thirds of this inclosed ground is in pasture or hay.  The uninclosed and uncultivated sandy ground has never been properly measured.  It is visibly larger in extent than the former, and may be somewhere between 1600 and 1800 acres.  This extensive track, however valuable from the coal in its bowels, yields nothing from the surface but a scanty provision during the summer to about 50 cows; besides a rabbit–warren in the west quarter of it, out of which they annually kill near 300 dozen.  The furs and the flesh are in value about 10s the dozen.


The ground in the inclosures contiguous to the town is generally let from 30s to £3 per acre.  The average rent of the farms is just now about 13s an acre.  This will rise considerably at the expiration of the long and cheap leases of four of the largest farms.  After that event, there will scarcely be an acre under a guinea, the usual rate of the new tacks or leases at present.  The farms are not large.  At the end of the present tacks they will be still smaller, the proprietors finding it their interest to subdivide them.  By the late tacks, the farmers are bound to plow [30] three years, and rest six.  But, if they choose to manure an inclosure every third year with a specified quantity of dung, they may continue to plow it as long as they please.  Of their own accord they lay down all the ground they rest with grass–seeds, chiefly rye–grass, the seed of which they save themselves, raising tolerable good crops of it on every kind of ground.  The clovers, especially the red, does not suit their particular kind of clay; not that it is too strong, but there is something in the soil adverse to it, which no manure nor cultivation can conquer.  On the loams, the gravelly, and even the pure sandy soil, there are crops of grasses raised abundantly rich and luxurious.  The farmers pay their rents chiefly from the dairy.  The turnip husbandry is never attempted, for a reason easily guessed at.

Oats is the principal grain which they sow.  It covers, perhaps, three fourths of their plowed ground.  On the rest they have bear, or barley, and beans, sown at the usual times.  For ten years past, the farmers and proprietors have begun to sow a little wheat, under the disadvantage of being obliged to carry it 14 and 18 miles to a market.  This is in part removed, by wheat mills erected nearer them.  In consequence of the very superior profit of this grain on our dry grounds, the wheat culture is increasing every year.  It is seldom or never sown here after a thorough Summer fallow, but after a potatoe [sic] fallow, the rows of the potatoes four feet distant, the spaces between them plowed four or five times, from the beginning of June ot the beginning or middle of August, when the rows become luxuriant, and begin to unite.  This, besides the preparatory plowings and dressing of the ground in the Spring.  They use, for fallowing and planting the potatoes, a small plough of the Scotch form, drawn by a single horse.  Another practice they have very lately learned, [31] which deserves attention and imitation.  They break up the oldest, the richest, and dryest of their leys with a single tilth, and immediately sow wheat upon it.  They endeavour to plough deep, and to lay the ridges turned up by the plough as close as possible, to prevent the growth of the under grass during the Winter, which, however, seldom disturbs the crop.  The ground is generally dressed with lime or dung, about a month or so before; but if the ley be old and rich, they reserve the manure for the subsequent crops.  A crop of oats, in a wet season, would lodge on such ground: The wheat runs little hazard.  This ley–wheat is sown in the beginning of September; that on the potatoe fallow in the end of October, sometimes in the middle and towards the end of November.  There is never any severity of Winter here to hurt it. [8]



There was formerly a great deal of thin narrow linen, from 10d to 1s 1d a yard, made in this [33] parish and neighbourhood, leached by private families, sold at the fairs in the beginning of August, and sent to England, where it was chiefly stamped for handkerchiefs; but for a number of years past the demand for it has gradually declined, perhaps from their making it too slight.  Still a little coarse linen is made for the market, besides the demand for the parish wear; and they are improving the texture of it.  But above 45 of the weavers are now employed by the Paisley manufacturers in the silk, besides a few in the cotton branches.  A number of young girls are employed also by them and the Glasgow manufacturers, in flowering and tambour work.  Within these few weeks, the Jeanies have been introduced, and will give employment to boys and girls in spinning cotton.  There is a bleachfield in Stevenston town, which has sufficient business from the parish and neighbourhood, bleaching between 8000 and 9000 yards yearly.  The nets for the herring busses are weaved by the Saltcoats children.

Stipend, School, and Poor

The stipend, being mostly victual, is variable.  The whole living, including the glebe, may be at an average about £96 yearly.  Messrs Alexander Hamilton of Grange, and Cunningham of Sea–bank, are vice– [34] patrons.  The former has the next vice.  the manse, after undrgoing several reparations, was at last pulled down, and rebuilt about four years ago, and is now a very good one.  It is above 120 years since the church was built.  A large aile [sic] was added to it by the Saltcoats people, about 48 years ago.  The school–house is an old inconvenient one and must be rebuilt immediately.  The schoolmaster's salary is scarcely £5 yearly, and ought to be augmented.  His scholars are not numerous in proportion to the parish, only about 50; but there are two, and sometimes three other schools.

The poor are sufficiently numerous in this populous parish.  The funds for their supply are under the management of the minister and kirk session, who lay their accounts once a year before the principal heritors.  There are from 9 to 12 pensioners on the list, who receive from 6d to 1s 6d weekly; and between 30 and 40 more who receive supply occasionally.  Above £7 is paid annually for house–rents to the poor; £4 for the education of poor children, who are taught in the different schools at a lower price than the other children; and a small sum annually for medicines to the sick.  The whole annual disbursements amount to £64 8s at an average for 10 years back.  The fund which chiefly supplies this expence, is the collections at the church, amounting, at the same average, to £50 10s; which with the other smaller funds belonging to the poor, give the sum of £70 annually.  There is a charitable society in the parish, and two boxes belonging to the coal–hewers and the sailors, which give a little assistance in this humane work, independent of the session; not to mention the private charity of the better sort, which, in a parish circumstanced like this, is very considerable and commendable, because the highest of them are [35] well acquainted with the situation of the poor, and interest themselves in it.

From tacks of three of the best farms in the parish, written more than 80 years ago, and still extant, it appears, that the rent of these farms at that time, and probably of all the rest, was about a sixth part of their present rent.

Morals, Manners, and Turn of the People

The writer of this, during a residence of more than 30 years, has had the satisfaction of observing a gradual, yet a very striking change on the face of the parish, by canals, and other efforts, which have increased the mining, trade, and shipping; by good roads, convenient bridges, well built houses, both in the towns and country; the whole upper parish, almost open, now inclosed; a better mode of culture easily introduced, and willingly followed by the children of the old farmers.  These things have improved the situation of the inhabitants, with respect to most of the conveniencies [sic] and comforts of life; and they have been projected and executed by many different sorts of persons concerned in them, not only with a judicious and proper regard to their own interest, but with a liberal and laudable public spirit.  he most sincerely wishes that it was in his power to give the same favourable testimony of their improvement on a higher scale – he means of their minds and morals.  But the constant influx of unknown persons from different parishes, less under the restraints either of religion or character than the native inhabitants, is an unfavourable circumstance in the way of example.  The manner of life both of the sailors and miners, furnishes some temptation to drunkenness and intemperance, and leads on to habits of these vices.  The high wages of the miners, earned by disagreeable and severe labour, are too often immediately [36] dissipated; little laid up for the maintenance of their families, whose education is too much neglected.  This, however, is with the exception of several individuals.  The temptation is much increased by the cheapness of spirituous liquors, and the number of inns, and houses for selling spirits.  Of these there are no less than 18 in Stevenston town, and 16 in Saltcoats, 34 in the whole parish; an evil which ought to be somehow checked by a better police; for it certainly has very melancholy consequences on the health, the industry, and the morals of the people.  It soon renders them weak and crazy, turbulent and riotous, idle and worthless.  It opens a door to pilfering, and all other vices connected with idleness.

Happily the disorder here is as yet confined to the very lowest class.  The generality of the people are fully as sober, and perhaps more intelligent, as well as more industrious, than they were 30 years ago; and having employment enough, they are in a reasonable degree easy and happy in their present situation; while several of them are very ingenious in discovering, and attentive in improving the means in their power to better it.  The luxury and profligacy of the great towns have not yet reached them.  The fortunes of the better sort are small, indeed, but gradually increasing by frugality.  The situation of the greatest part of the parishioners, with their habits of education, naturally create a prejudice in favour of the sea–faring life, and cherish, in young minds, the spirit of adventure.  Numbers of them never return home, but marry, and settle in various parts of the world.  By far the greatest part of those who do return, behave decently in their families, and appear less infected with the vices of foreign countries than the generality of that class of men.  During the American war, it was computed that [37] about 200 Saltcoats sailors (including the whole town) were on board the navy; one in the rank of a captain, three lieutenants, and above a dozen inferior officers in the fleet.

Hints for the Improvement of the Parish

The raising coals from a depth of more than 50 fathoms, by double horse gins, is very expensive.  There is a small neat steam engine in the parish of Gorbals, a mile south of Glasgow, which, under the management of a single man, performs the gin–work in half the time, and with much greater effect than any horse gin; raising large baskets full of coals alternately, from a depth of about 60 fathoms.  At the sinking of a new dip–pit, this improvement may be worthy of the attention of our people, and, probably, many other improvements which the inventive genius of the present age may produce.  Perhaps and able mechanic might, with little expence, combine the Gorbals machinery, which is very simple, with the machinery of every engine–pit, i.e. make a part of the water raised by the pumps to raise the coal at the same time.  If this be impracticable, the hint will be forgiven from one who pretends to no skill in mechanics.

It is very practicable to bring a part of the uninclosed 1700 acres of sandy ground in this parish into good culture and pasture; it would, indeed, require a great sum to be expended in inclosing, levelling, and manuring, but would in the end refund the expence many fold.  Three or four of the farms, and part of the parks of the two proprietors, are already on the skirts of that ground.  The soil, though pure sand, is very kindly, more fit for the grass–husbandry than the clay soil; more fit for potatoes than any soil whatsoever.  The loosest of the sand makes excellent garden ground.  It will bear good wheat, which has been raised on an acre of it in the glebe, and several acres [38] of it in the inclosures near Saltcoats.  As to the levelling. – These Saltcoats inclosures were feued out, 15 years ago, in a state perfectly useless to the eye, full of large hills or mounds of sand.  These the feuers annihilated in a few weeks, without almost either labour or expence.  After any heavy rain, they led the scattered water, which drilled over from the higher grounds into a single very small stream.  This they directed against the middle of one of the sand hills, which was gradually and soon undermined, of whatever height or bulk it might be.  Thus reducing them one after another, they brought the whole inclosure to a dead level.  The sand hills, indeed, at a greater distance from the higher grounds, cannot be so easily subjected to this operation; but there are acres and hundreds of acres which would need little levelling or smoothing. [9]

Enlargement of the Harbour of Saltcoats

The last thing [39] deserving attention is the enlargement of Saltcoats Harbour.  Though the first building of it, 90 years ago, was a great effort for a private gentlemen [sic], it does not now suit the improved state of the trade and shipping.  It consists of a quay, all of stone, about 24 feet thick, large hewn stones on each side, and an outer wall to shelter the ships, of a considerable height.  This building runs along a natural ridge of rocks, in a straight line form NE to SW five hundred feet.  At the SW end, it turns at a right angle, more than a hundred and sixty feet, forming a pier which points nearly north.  Within this rectangular space is the present harbour, capable of containing 24 vessels, having a proper clay bottom, dry at low water, and from 10 to 12 feet deep at spring tides, admitting vessels of 200 tons.  But, as only two large, and three smaller vessels can be loaded at a time, and the large ones must be hauled down to the very end or point of the pier, before they can complete their loading, and must sail too, at a spring-tide, in order to make room for the loading of the rest.  This delay is a very great inconvenience in the coal trade.

To remove which, it is proposed to carry forward the first described line of quay two hundred and fifty feet beyond the pier, onwards to the SW along the same line of natural rocks, which still continues.  Then to turn it through the sea, northward and eastward with a single obtuse angle, till it comes so near the point of the pier as to leave room for ships to enter.  This would form an outer harbour capable of containing 14 vessels more, in water from 15 to 16 feet, and much more commodious that the present one.  For the present pier (stripped of its outer wall) would stand as a tongue or middle quay between them, from which vessels could take their loading on each side; the largest always [40] lying in the outer harbour, which would admit ships of 300 tons.  Every person may conceive in a moment of what advantage this would be to the trade of Saltcoats, where the vessels now lie for several weeks before they can receive their loading; while, in the mean time, perhaps the price of coals is high in Dublin, and an English fleet of colliers arrives there before them, and brings down the price three or four shillings a ton.  The public benefits also would be very considerable to the Glasgow ships, and to all other ships checked within the bay, as they sometimes are, by westerly storms.  They would then have a better place of shelter to run to than under the Lady isle, described page 3, and at times, too, when, perhaps, from the course of the winds, that Isle was inaccessible to them.

Of late, a more than usual attention and ardour has been raised about this object, partly owing to the statistical inquiries now going forward.  Within this fortnight, (26th May 1791), an accurate survey has been taken, and plans and estimates drawn out, which state the expence of this very important improvement at only about £2000.  Small as this sum may appear, it will require the assistance of public spirited persons.  It is especially worthy of the attention of the Earl of Eglinton, who has such a particular connection with this rising town.  The lien which divides the two parishes runs across the present harbour from east to west.  On the north or Ardrossan side, which is his Lordship's property, there is a sheltered place for ships, nearly double the extent of both the inner and outer harbours which front it.  The bottom of this space is rocky; but, if it were deepened by raising the rock, which is free–stone, (and would be very useful in building the new harbour), and if a quay were carried out from the north side, till it should come not far from the [41] point of the present pier, and the whole square bason [sic] completed, (which perhaps would not cost above another £1000), it would make one of the most convenient and spacious harbours in the kingdom.


In the above report, miles always mean English miles, and acres Scotch acres.


[1]           Some ships saved themselves here, while fourteen others were wrecked, December 8th 1789, on the Kyle and Carrick coasts.

[2]           There is little ground to doubt, that these and the other adjoining tracks of sand consist of the soil of the upper country, carried by land floods down the large rivers of Garnock and Irvine into the sea, beaten back again incessantly by the tides, and thus reduced to their present state and form.  At every land flood, the sea appears to they eye brown and [6] muddy for a mile round the mouth of these rivers.  Every appearance indicates, that, at a very remote period, the sea covered the whole tracks, for the upper soil is loose sea sand, without a stone in it – that, at a less remote period, perhaps several centuries ago, the sea covered the lower part of the track nearest Saltcoats, washed the whole rocky ridge above described, and stretching NE through low marshy grounds, wnet within less than a mile of Kilwinning, and thus left the east part of Stevenston sand hills more elevated than the rest, together with the parishes of Kilwinning and Irvine, in the form of a circular island, three miles in diameter, surrounded either totally by the sea, or in part by the Garnock, which seems to have then held a more westerly course than at present.  The proof of the insular situation of that part of the coast, and that it was probably a deer island, are these – The anchors of boats dug out of the lower marshy grounds – The name of the estate of Patrick Warner Esq., the proprietor of a great part of the track, Ardeer, (the only Gaelic name in the parish) – The old house stood on a part of the rocky ridge, which juts out beyond the rest like a promontory – Two pair of branching deer horns, lately found; one pair with part of the scull [sic] sticking to them, dug out of the ground 30 feet deep; the other at a less depth, discovered by the course of Stevenston burn; both now in the possession of that gentleman – A cave under ground, discovered about two years ago, near the same gentleman's house, or a cavity in a solid rock of free stone, 24 feet long, 12 wide, and 6 high.  The stone in the bottom of this cave, and in the sides, two feet up, is polished or worn smooth in such a manner, as leaves no doubt that it must have been washed either by the waves of the sea, now above a mile distant, or by the course of a river.  The river is above three miles distant. –Lastly, An old atlas, said to have been in Eglinton Castle about the beginning of this century, in which there was a chart of the coast, exhibiting this insular appearance.  It is doubtful, however, whether this change be so recent that it could appear in any chart; but the fact itself seems sufficiently established.

[3]           English technical term, Bassets out.  [Note: A basset is the edge of a stratum showing at the surface; an outcrop.  Hence, to basset is to crop out at the surface.]

[4]           In the eastern part of the field, there are two thin seams, besides those exhibited, lying between the 9th and 10th, one of 3 feet, and anotther of 2 feet 4 inches, which would make the thickness of the whole coal raised there 42 feet 4 inches.

[5]           I say strata.  Some veins of coal, or of a finer similar substance, from six inches to two feet thick, have been found in the island of Mull, at Castle–Leod, and perhaps other places in the Highlands, among veins of lead, between fissures of rocks, and under what has been (perhaps erroneously) taken for jointed lava or basaltes [sic].  But these coal veins are so short and inconsiderable, and the qhole appearance of the metals, as they call them (the other subterranean strata), is so different from the appearance in a coal field, that the veins must be considered as singular phenomena, which may, indeed, exercise the ingenuity of the naturalist, but upon which so solid practical conclusions as to the existence of coal can be founded.

[6]           The north line begins at Saltcoats, or rather at Campbelton (nearly SW of us), runs through the parishes of Dalry, Kilbirny, Lochwinnoch, Kilbarchan, crosses the Clyde about four miles west of Glasgow, passes through the east corner of Dumbartonshire, takes in (probably) all Stirlingshire, Clackmannanshire, passes through the middle of Fife, along the high country to the south of the river Eden, and ends somewhere near Fifeness.  The south line begins near Girvan, goes on to [21] Demellington [sic], Sanquhar, Muirkirk, Lismahagoe [sic].  It cannot be traced farther, from the accounts of the miners.  It ends, probably, near North–Berwick.  More light will be thrown upon the subject, from the Statistical Reports of the different parishes when they are completed.  The coal country in the north of England, from Whitehaven to Newcastle, is probably of a greater breadth than the Scottish, and seems to run across the island in a similar direction.  There is also coal in the south–west of England, from Somersetshire to North Wales; but it is probably insulated, or in patches; at least, this is the case with two great beds of it, one in Colbrook–vale [sic], at the Iron–bridge, in the north of Shropshire, and another in the south of Staffordshire, which have no connection with one another, or with the rest of the mines.  It would be well worth while to trace the extent of this valuable mineral throughout the whole island.

[7]           The carrying trade has been greatly hurt by a late Regulation of the Congress, according to which, goods imported to America in British bottoms, pay considerably more duty than goods imported in American bottoms.  The effect of this might be easily destroyed by a counter–regulation of the British government, to confine the benefit of their debentures entirely to goods exported from this island in British bottoms.  Without some such regulations, this kind of trade, so important to Britain in raising a nursery of sailors, is in some danger of being transferred to America, as our merchant already employ their ships, and let our's [sic] lie idle.

[8]           The following steep is generally used before sowing, and it effectually prevents the smutt in wheat.  Dissolve, in a quantity of water sufficient to cover the seed, as much common salt as will bring the pickle to such a strength that an egg will swim on it.  Pour in the wheat very slowly and gradually, stirring it in the mean time strongly and incessantly, and carefully skimming off all the light grain that rises to the surface.  Let the wheat, thus purified, lie under the pickle about thirty–six hours; then take it out of the hogshead in small quantities, spreading it in very thin layers on the floor (before a fire, if convenient), and sifting [sisting?] pn every layer as much quicklime as will dry or crust the drenched wheat, in such a manner that every grain can be easily separated and sown with the hand.  Sow it immediately, if the weather will permit; if not, it will suffer nothing by lying for a few days in that state.

             A respectable English agricultural writer has lately denied the efficacy of salt, or any other steep, to prevent smutt in wheat.  Without conjecturing on different soils, and seed, and modes of preparation, I shall only say, that after more than 20 years trial of this steep, I never saw any smutt in the very small quantity of wheat I raise annually.  On the other hand, I never examined a field where it was neglected without finding some; a rare ear or too, perhaps, the first eyar, but abundance [32] the next.  From motives of frugality, we dissolve dirty salt (the sweepings of the garnels, bought at a low price) in sea water.  But I should hardly think this circumstance could make any difference.

             A vast quantity of potatoes is raised in this parish, not only by the farmers, but every family in the towns have a patch of them, which they plant and dress themselves, in the neighbouring inclosures, if they can procure ground, if not, they go to a considerable distance.  This not only makes a principal article of family provision, but is used here for feeding swine, horses, and especially milk cows.

             The price of many articles of provision  is lower, and that of labour higher here, than in many other districts of Scotland.  The first is the consequence of plenty, joined with or distance fro the great markets of Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock.  The last is the consequence of the increasing demand for labour.  Eggs are from 3d to 4d per dozen; beef, and all butsher–meat, from 4d to 6d per lb.; pork somewhat dearer; butter from 7d to 10d the lb.; the Ayrshire pound is 24 ounces, or 1½ pounds English; honey at 6s the Scotch pint, i.e. 5 pounds English; salmon, except at an early season, 3d the English pound.  The price of most of these articles, and also of cheese and coals, has risen, within these alst 20 years, about a third part.  The price of eggs, butter, and also of horses, has doubled; that of salmon, in consequence of an easier carriage from Ayr to Edinburgh, tripled.

             The wages of the coal–hewers, or miners, are from 2s 6d to 3s a day; but they never work above five days in the week.  The coal is now so well ascertained, that it is lately set by the piece at one of the collieries, much to the advantage both of master and workmen.  Long before the late act of Parliament, the coal–hewers and their children in this district, were set free from their ancient servitude, by a voluntary deed of their master; and this much more effectually than that act of Parliament did.  They are here quite on the same footing with all other workmen.  The wages of the carpenters are 2s a day: Those of masons now isen to half a guinea and 11s a week, besides sharpening their tools.  Wrights, 10s a week.  Common labourers, 1s in Winter, 1s 2d often, 1s 4d in Spring and Harvest.  Wages of house maid–servants, £3 a year and upwards; and of a labouring man–servant, not living in [33] the house, in money, meal, milk, and potatoes, about fourteen guineas yearly.  This last is a general answer to the 3d page of the queries, because the families of these labouring servants live almost as well as any other common labourers.  The earnings of their wives and children, must ever depend upon their turn for industry.  Seldom, very seldom, is it in the power of an industrious mother of three or four young children, to earn, by spinning even fine yarn, more than 1s 8d a week.  The poor families of Highlanders in Saltcoats, can live upon much less that the natives of the place, and seldom apply to the poor's funds.

[9]           As there is scarcely any sea–weed on the shore, the great difficulty would be to find manure sufficient to raise one single good grass crop, to bind the surface by the net–work of its roots, after which the ground would be gained.  Lime, tho' beneficial, does not answer so well as dung, especially cow–dung.  A village of manufacturers, enticed by cheap fuel, and a very low rent or feu–duty, each family set down by itself (as all manufacturers ought to be), with small inclosures of three or four acres behind the houses, would soon, by means of their cow and potatoes, make their small inclosures as valuable as the Saltcoats ones.  The rest, and by much the greatest part of the track, could not be brought into culture without much expence.  But, as it is already inclosed in part, by the canal and its various branches, it might be planted with trees of different kinds best suited to the soil, especially the pine or fir kinds; and, though the sea air and storms would undoubtedly destroy a small part of the young trees most exposed to this danger, yet the rest would soon rise under the shelter of one another, favoured by the great inequality of that part of the ground, and, in proper time, turn this dreary, bare, barren waste, into a comfortable, extensive, and valuable plantation.





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