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. III, pages 586–594]

(County of Ayr.)

By Mr William Crawford, Assistant to the Rev. Mr McDermit.

Origin of the name

When the Romans were masters of this part of the island, they formed roads of communication between their stations.  The islanders called these roads strats, strets, or streets, from a resemblance they bore to the streets in their own miserable villages.  Hence it is inferred, that towns or villages, the names of which begin with strat  or stret, are so named, because erected on or near some Roman high–way. [1]   To favour this conjecture, that the village of Straiton or Strettown stands on or near one of these Roman roads, there are still visible some vestiges of an oblong entrenchment on the summit of Benan [sic] Hill, which stands south from the village about half a mile, commanding a very extensive view of Carrick, Kyle, Cunningham, Arran, the rock of Elsa [sic], and some of the hills in the West Highlands.  Some years ago, in digging a foundation for an obelisk, erected on the top of this hill, by the late Sir John Whitefoord, there was found an urn, curiously carved, and filled with ashes; and, at the farther side of the [587] same hill, there was found, about 3 years ago, another urn, much smaller than the former.

Situation and Extent

The parish of Straiton lies in that district of Ayrshire called Carrick, in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr.  It is about 15 miles in length, from SE to NW; and, at an average, 5 miles in breadth; containing about 75 square miles in surface.  The situation of the village, at the bottom of 2 hills, between which runs the water of Girvan, is delightful.  It is built on a rising ground.  The houses are neat and uniform, being all constructed upon the same plan, about 30 years ago, by Thomas Earl of Cassilis [sic].  The uniformity of the houses, together with the adjacent green hills, skirted with wood, the vicinity of the Girvan, and a considerable number of very old trees in the church–yard, and about the village, justify those who visit this place, in pronouncing it one of the most beautiful Highland villages they have ever seen.  It stands 13 miles SE from Ayr, and about the same distance NE from Girvan.

Soil, Surface, Climate, &c

In a parish of such extent, there is, as might be expected, a variety of soils, and diversity of climate.  The greatest part of the surface is only fit for pasturage.  The south–east part of the parish, though not very high, is extremely wild and rocky, having a number of small lakes scattered here and there in it, abounding with excellent trouts.  There is one farm, containing upwards of 6000 acres, which does not pay to the proprietor above £50 of yearly rent.  A great deal, even of the arable part of the parish, is employed in raising cattle.  The farmer reaps a greater, at least a more certain profit, this way, than from tillage.  The land employed in raising corn, bears a [588] very small proportion to the whole.  The proportion is much smaller now, than it sees to have been about 50 or 60 years backwards.  The quantity of grain sown annually may amount to 600 bolls.  The soil, in which it is sown, is generally either an earthy gravel, or a light loam.  In the neighbourhood of the village, and in the barony of Whitefoord, oats will yield 6 or 7 feeds at an average, and barley in proportion.  Wheat, in some seasons, succeeds very well; but, being rather precarious, is very little cultivated.  The climate is very temperate and healthy, and the soil, in general, dry; so that the farmers winter their young cattle, without ever bringing them into a house.  The snow seldom lies long, especially about the village.  A person travelling from the east, as he approaches it, is sensibly struck with the warmer temperature of the air.  The harvest is remarkably early, considering the proximity of the hills.  The disease, most fatal in the parish, is consumption on the lungs.  The small–pox carries off very few, the practice of inoculation having become very general, even among the lower orders of the people.  There are, in the parish, several persons who have reached the age of 80, some 90, and one 100.

Rent, and Stock in Cattle

the valued rent is £4548 19s 10d Scotch; the real rent, about £3000 Sterling.  There are only 7 proprietors, 3 of whom reside in the parish.  It maintains about 20,000 sheep, which yield about 171 packs of wool, which has been sold, at an average of the 3 last years, for £3 or 5 guineas per pack.  Wedders, 3 years old, are sold for half a guinea, or 11s and other sheep in proportion.  There are, in the parish, about 2100 black cattle, sold at different prices, according to their age and weight.  Some of the farmers sell them, when only two years and a [589] half old, at 5 guineas a head.  They are very like the cattle in Galloway, both in size and shape.

Prices of Provisions

The price of butcher meat depends upon the Ayr market.  It is commonly sold a halfpenny per pound cheaper in Straiton than in Ayr.  A pair of fowls sells at 1s 4d; chickens, 6d; a dozen of eggs, 2d; a pound of butter, 8d.


The Doon, the eastern boundary of Carrick, issuing from a lake of the same name, 7 miles in length, washes the east and north east side of the parish; and running north–west about 18 miles, empties itself into the Frith of Clyde, about 2 miles south from Ayr.  In both loch and river there are salmon, red and white trouts, and cuddings, or charr.  The rains used formerly to raise the loch in such a manner, that the river, receiving the accumulated water from this reservoir, frequently overflowed its banks, and destroyed the meadows.  The rock, over which the loch discharged itself, has lately been cut in tow places at considerable expence, bu the Earl of Cassilis, and Mr McAdam of Craigingillan [sic], the proprietors on each side; so that, by means of sluices, not only the damage is prevented, but some land is gained, by a diminution of the extent of the loch.  The Girvan has its source in the parish, about 8 miles above the village.  Like the Doon, it rises from a loch, or rather a great number of lochs, the principal of which are Garany and Braden.  These two, and 12 other lochs in the parish, are inhabited, some of them by red, and some by white trouts, some by both, and one of them entirely by pikes.  In the Water of Girvan there are trouts and salmon.  The course of the Girvan, till it pass the village, is north–west.  After leaving the parish, which it divides into two unequal [590] parts, it turns south west, and discharges itself into the Frith of Girvan, after a course of 20 miles.


There is a great deal of natural wood in the parish, which is very profitable to the proprietors.  Some of the hills are beautifully skirted with it, almost to their tops.  There are some considerable plantations of exceeding good trees of different kinds; such as oak, elm, ash, beech, lime, sycamore, fir, &c, especially about and near the place of Whitefoord.


There is plenty of coal, lime, marl, and free and iron stone in the parish.  It is to be regretted, that the coal is at a distance of more than 4 miles from the village, and the road unpassable with carts for the greates part of the year; so that the inhabitants are obliged to bring their coal from the parish of Dalmellington, at the distance of 8 miles.  On the margin of Loch Doon, there are beds of a very singular soft bluish clay substance, which, when taken up, and exposed to the sun and atmosphere, becomes as white as any fuller's earth, and acquired the consistency of chalk.  It has been examined chemically by the celebrated Dr Hutton, who can give the fullest and best account of it.


The old stipend was £53 18s 22/4 [fraction?] with 48 bolls of victual, two thirds meal and one third bear.  The Court of Session last year granted an augmentation of 40 bolls meal and bear, in the above proportions, with £3 6s 8d for communion elements.  The glebe, including the garden, consists of 8 acres of good land.  The patronage of the parish belongs to the Crown.  The manse, though built so lately as in 1753, is in very bad repair.  The incumbent is the third [591] minister from the Revolution.  There is but one Seceder, and no Roman Catholics.


The school–house is in good condition; but the salary being only 100 merks, no teacher thinks it worth his while to stay long in the parish.  Accordingly, of late, there has been a very rapid succession of schoolmasters, to the great detriment of the parish.  The smallness of the emoluments excludes from a choice of teachers.


According to Dr Webster, the population, in 1755, amounted to 1123.  The number of souls, taken last summer (1791), at a parochial visitation, was 934.  Of these there are,









Under 8 years of age




Above 8 years of age




Families in the village




Families in the country





There has been no register of marriages and burials kept in the parish before 1783.  From the register of baptisms it appears, that the number has decreased.  This, indeed, might be expected, as several farms that formerly kept 2 or 3 families, are now possessed by individuals.  Of this frequent proofs are seen, in the vestiges of old houses, of which only the foundations remain.  In all countries, where the people live chiefly by pasturing cattle, this will be the case.  As they improve by enclosures, &c, fewer hands are necessary to superintend the flocks and herds.




Number of Births

Average per Annum


1700 to 1710




1740 to 1750




1750 to 1760




1760 to 1770




1770 to 1780




1780 to 1790




Division and Conditions of the Inhabitants

Of the 184 families, 3 belong to proprietors of land, 33 to farmers, and 41 to villagers.  The rest are the families of shepherds, cottagers, labourers, and coalliers.  There are 4 shoemakers, 3 taylors, 4 masons, 4 blacksmiths, 2 millers, 3 joiners, 2 cartwrights, 1 butcher, and 1 baker, who are chiefly employed by the people in the parish; and 12 weavers, besides journeymen and apprentices, who, till very lately, were employed principally in making woollen webs for the Ayr and Maybole markets.  During the last year, the greatest part of them have betaken themselves to the weaving of muslin.  Before the late extension of the excise laws, there were in Straiton a considerable number of smugglers.  The late regulations, having increased the risk, at the same time that they diminished the profits, have, in this place, almost entirely put an end to this kind of illicit traffic.  There are in [593] the village 2 inns, and 4 ale–houses.  It is to be wished that ale only were sold in them.


The decay of smuggling has reduced several families, that used to live plentifully, to great poverty, so that the number of the poor may be expected to increase.  The number of paupers, supported by the parish funds, has increased from about 12, within these 2 or 3 last years, to 19.  The sum annually expended upon them is about £30, which is procured by the weekly collections at church, and the interest of £120 appropriated to them.  They live in their own houses, and the greatest part of them earn something by their industry, besides their monthly supply from the funds.  Scarcely any of them beg.


Besides the two urns already mentioned, there is, upon a little island in Loch Doon, the ruins of an old castle, which has been built of very large free–stones.  The form is octangular.  The arch of a Gothic gate is still entire.  The history of this castle, which must have been a retreat of great strength and security, cannot now be obtained.  The island on which it stands is nearest to the Carrick shore, and belongs to the Earl of Cassilis.  How the stones, which are very large, were brought hither, is not easy to conjecture.  There is no quarry nearer than 8 miles, and the intervening ground is rough and hilly, without any vestige of a road.  In Loch Braden, one of the sources of the Girvan, there is also an island, with the remains of a castle on it.  There are several vestiges of those cairns, so frequently met with in Scotland, in the parish of Straiton; one in particular, which seems to have been a place of great consequence and solemnity.  It is remarkable, that Sir James [594] Cunningham, a former proprietor of the barony of Dalmorton, now belonging to Sir Adam Fergusson, bound his tenants, as appears from old leases, “to attend his Baron Court, at the cairn, in the holm of Dalmorton.”


[1]           Vide Cambden, p.636; & Bede, B. 1. c. 11.





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