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Old Statistical Account


[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]


[Vol. V, pages 394–405.]

By the Rev. Mr William Logan.

Situation, Extent, Soil, Surface, etc.

The parish of Symington, in the shire of Ayr, in the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in that district of the county called Kyle Stewart, affords few materials for statistical investigation, as it contains neither any antiquities, natural curiosities, nor has been the scene of any singular or eventful transactions.  The length of the parish from SW to NE is little more than 4 miles, and its mean breadth about a mile and a quarter.  The soil, in general, is clayey, a few fields excepted, of a fine vegetable mould, on a bottom of rotten rock.  It presents a surface beautifully diversified with gentle rising grounds and sloping fields.  The public road from Portpatrick to Glasgow and Edinburgh, one of the most pleasant and best frequented in North Britain, [395] runs the whole length of the parish; which, in this district, is made of very durable materials, being land or whin stones collected off the fields, beaten small, laid on to a great thickness, and kept in excellent repair.  On every side there is an easy descent, for the rain water to run into the ditches, which are well scoured from time to time.  This road from the Monkton road, till it reaches the middle length of Symington, rises by a gradual ascent, and from thence descends to Kilmarnock.  On the highest parts within the parish, the traveller is presented with extensive, beautiful, grand, and diversified prospects, consisting of the wide and fertile plains of Kyle and Cunninghame, with their numerous inclosures, belts, clumps of planting, and gentlemens seats.  These most rich and delightful views are bounded on the south, east, and north, by distant cloud–capp'd mountains, and on the west by the frith of Clyde, in which are seen the magnificent, and wave–surrounded rock of Ailsa, the island of Arran, with its towering summits, and the ships saiing to and from Ayr, Irvine, Saltcoats, Greenock, and Port–Glasgow.

Water, Climate, and Diseases

There are no rivers in the parish, nor even a stream, which deserves the name of a rivulaet; but the inhabitants are generally supplied with excellent water from open springs, or from sunk wells.  From the quality of the soil, and the local situation of the parish, the air is dry and salubrious.  The clouds which rise from the Atlantic, being attracted by the distant hills on every side, float in fogs on their summits; and, when they break into rain, the greated part of it falls on them.  Hence, the inhabitants are remarkabley healthful, and no local distempers of any kind prevail among them.  Even when they are visited by the natural small–pox, the disease is generally more mild, than in the neighbouring parishes.  Inoculation [369] has only taken place in two or three instances, and it were earnestly to be wished, that the minds of parents could be reconciled, to adopt that happy method of saving their offspring, from the ravages of a most virulent disease.  There are no remarkable instances of longevity; but what is of more importance, that a few accidental examples of uncommon old age, great numbers enjoy the blessings of health and strength, to an advanced period of life, and a few are living at present, who, between 80 and 90, can undergo considerable fatigue in the respective callings, and with chearfulness entertain the young with the tales of former times.


About 50 years ago, this parish, like others in the neighbourhood, was almost in a state of nature.  At that period there were no inclosures, except the glebe, and a few acres adjoingin, which, about 70 years ago, were inclosed with hedge rows.  The country in winter was a naked waste, scarce a tree appeared to gratify the wandering eye, except a few about the seats of residing heritors; and the roads were all deep and unformed.  The unmanured and half ploughed fields yielded scarcely three returns; which, after servants wages, and a trifling rent were paid, afforded only a scanty subsistence for the farmer and his family.  About the year 1740, the proprietor of the lands of Dankeith, who was a bachelor, and resided occasionally, planted, with taste, several belts and clumpts on his property, dressed a few of his fields with compost, and was among the first who introduced rye–grass into Ayrshire; but as he did not reside constantly, his improvements were partial, nor were the minds of his neighbours sufficiently enlarged, to adopt the example he had set them.  They continued their wretched husbandry, without any attempt to meliorate or improve the soil; until about 20 years ago, when the [397] lands of Rosemount, on the SW end of the parish, were fertilised and beautified, by the skill and attention of the proprietor, who holds them mostly in his own possession.  This gentleman, distinguished by fortune and public spirit, began to improve his paternal inheritance, with an ardour and assiduity, becoming an enlightened and generous mind.  He laid out his fields with taste, surrounded them with planting, inclosed them with proper fences, and meliorated a naturally cold, stiff, and clayey soil, with calcarious and other manures.  The good effects of his improvements soon appeared, not only on his own property, but also on that of other proprietors, who laudable imitated the example, and, in a short time, similar improvements were made through the whole parish, which was inclosed, and made arable; and the land, which before that period was let, on an average, for 2s 6d per acre, is now let at £1 1s.  It is a singular fact, and worthy or remark, that the rental of the lands of Rosemount, which, at the period above mentioned, was only £70 per annum, and thought to be high, is now nearly ten times the value; and about 20 acres of that property, which was then let for one pound of butter per acres, and believed to be a fair rent, is now let at £1 5s.  From a spirited and well managed husbandry, not only the value of these lands is thus surprisingly increased, but also the population; for, besides a number of labourers from the neighbourhood, who find constant employment, and unmarried servants, there are 17 families in separate houses, with a numerous and healthy progeny, well lodges, fed, and clothed, where formerly there were but 7, every way poorly accommodated.

Agriculture and Produce

The mode of culture generally practised in the parish is this:  Every farm is divided into three parts.  Each of these is plowed in its turn for 3 [398] years, and remains in grass for other two.  The tenant is bound to sow grass seeds with the third years crop, and is allowed only to cut his hay for one season.  This, however, deprives him of the power of trying any useful experiments, or of using any other kind of rotation; which, perhaps, might be more advantageous to himself, and more improving to the soil.  Hence the principal productions are oats and bear, with some barley.  Wheat is reckoned to be a precarious crop, and very little of it is raised, from a conviction, that two crops of oats are more profitable.  Green crops, such as turnips, pease and beans, are sown in small quantities, though the soil seems excellently adapted for the latter.  There is lime in the parish and in the neighbourhood.  100 bolls, consisting of 5 Winchester bushels each, when slaked, are commonly laid on each acre, before it is broke up by the plough.  After this manure, the farmer may expect, when seasons are favourable, two excellent successive crops of oats, yielding generally from 6 to 10, which may be estimated to produce, at an average, 7 returns. [1]   Little lint is raised but for domestic use.  Potatoes are only raised for the same purpose, or feeding of cattle.  The farms at present in lease are 25.  Two of these consist of about 200 acres each; one of 160, two 120, two 100, two between 70 and 80, six from 50 to 60, five from 30 to 40, and the rest from 25 to 12, besides a few acres rented by some of the villagers.  New leases for 19 years are granted at from 17s to £1 5s and some land about the billage at £1 10s per acre.  Many of the tenants being boung to pay the cess and statute labour, the latter is commuted at £1 5s on each £100 Scotch of valued rent.

Cattle, etc.

There ate in all about 120 horses in the parish; some are hired for farm work during the winter and spring'  [399] The price of draught horses is generally from £20 to £25.  All the ploughs, except one or two, are of the Scotch kind, and drawn by 3 horses, because the soil, in general, is deep, clayey, and stiff.  There are about 290 cows, of a middle size, and generally of a good milk kind, giving from 10 to 14 Scotch pints per day. [2]   The young ones reared annually may be between 50 and 60.  Few cattle are fattened, for they do not yearly exceed 150.  The profits in this way, no doubt, are fluctuating, and depend on the rise and fall of the markets for lean and fat cattle; yet, as feeding is attended with less trouble and expence, than the management of the dairy, it may be frequently more advantageous.  The sheep are mostly of the domesticated and improved kind, but the inclosures are too small for their walk, and they are destructive to the hedges.

Village and Population

The village of Symington, is most delightfully situated, in the centre of the parish.  It [400] stands on a rocky ground, and abounds in most excellent water, from the purest springs.  It contains 56 families, or separate dwellings.  Two of these families, consist of 10 persons each; two of 9; four of 7; four of 6; six of 5; four of 4; nine of 3; sixteen of 2; and nine houses or rooms are inhabited by individuals; in all 204 inhabitants.  It is to be regretted, that in so fine a situation, the houses are not built in such order as to form a regular street.  The population of the parish has increased within these 30 years, chiefly owing to the many married ploughmen, and labourers, who live on the lands of Rosemount.  One fourth part of the inhabitants, in the country part of the parish, reside there, although these lands consist only of about a sixth of the surface, and are mostly in the proprietor's own possession.

Statistical Table of Symington

Length in English miles



Population in 1792


Population in 1755




Average of births for 8 years preceding 1791


Of deaths


Of marriages


Inhabitants in the village


Inhabitants in the country


Number of males


Number of females


Number of persons under 10 years of age


Persons between 10 & 20


Persons between 20 & 30


Persons between 30 & 40


Persons between 40 & 50


Persons between 50 & 60


Persons between 60 & 70


Persons between 70 & 80


Persons between 80 & 90


Number of families


Number of married persons


Number of widowers


Number of widows


Number of members of the Established Church, about


Number of families of Antiburgher Seceders


Number of Burgher ditto


[401] Number of persons born in Ireland


Number of proprietors residing


Number of ditto non–residing


Number of clergymen


Number of schoolmasters


Number of farmers, above £50 a year


Number of ditto, under £50


Number of keepers of alehouses


Number of smiths, apprentices included


Number of masons [3]


Number of wrights


Number of weavers


Number of shoemakers


Number of tailors


Number of millers


Number of coopers


Number of hosiers


Number of male servants, unmarried


Number of female ditto


Number of plough–makers


Number of day–labourers [4]


Number of poor


Number of young persons taught English, writing, etc.

From 40 to 50

Number of ploughs


Valued rent, in Scotch money, nearly

£2000 0 0

Real rent, in Sterling, anno 1792, about

£3000 0 0

Number of draught horses


Number of saddle ditto


Number of young ditto


Number of sheep


Number of black cattle, about



Annual Produce


No. of Acres

Oats [5]


Bear, barley and wheat


Beans, pease and potatoes


In pasture, planting, and meadow hay




Church and Heritors

The church is old, and bears no date; it is also dark, and too small.  About 40 years ago, it received a thorough repair, being furnished with new pews, all painted, and the rook was plaistered.  It has received some partila repairs since that period.  The walls and roof which is oak, and said to have grown in the parish, where there is now no natural wood, are still good, but the ceiling begins to fail.  The Earl of Eglinton is patron.  The stipend is 106 bolls 2 firlots of meal; 13½ bolls bear; and, by a late decreet of the Court of Teinds, £35, with £4 3s 8d for communion elements, making in all, at the old conversion, £100; but, according to the average price of meal and bear, for some years past, its real value may be £120, exclusive of the glebe, which is not 4 acres.  In 1786, the heritors, unsolicited, and with a liberality which distinguishes their character, built a large, commodious, substantial, and well finished manse and office.  The two principal residing heritors live in elegant modern houses, pleasantly situated.  One of these in particular commands the view of a rich, various, and extensive landscape; and though by no means in an elevated situation, yet part of 13 different counties are seen from the top of the house.  The fields, orchard, garden, and pleasure grounds around it, do honour to the judgement and taste of the proprietor.

School and Poor

In 1788, a house, with a slated roof, was built for the schoolmaster, consisting of a school–room, kitchen, and a small bed–room.  The salary is only 100 merks Scotch, or £8 6 8 Sterling.  The fees of the master are, for teaching English 1s 6d per quarter; for writing, 2s, for arithmetic 2s 6d, with some small emoluments, as session–clerk, and for registering baptisms and marriages.  The whole does not exceed £23.  The number of poor in the parish, who, at present, receive aid from the charitable [403] funds, are, 2 poor widows, with their young families, 3 infirm and aged persons, and 1 insane.  There were more till of late.  They receive a large monthly allowance, and none are permitted to go a–begging.  Before they are received on the roll, they must acknowledge the session to have a claim on their effects, if they leave any.  As the great road from Portpatrick to Glasgow, etc. runs through the parish, it is infested with Irish vagrants, and with sturdy beggars from the neighbouring towns.  Our funds for the poor on the session roll, are the weekly collections, which, at an average, is 6s per week, making £15 12s per annum, and the interest of £260 accumulated in former times, when few or no poor were on the box.  This sum is lent out on proper security, and brings yearly about £12 4s which, with the collections, amount to £27 16s and is adequate to the present exigencies of the poor; but some years past, when they were more numerous, the session, who manage the funds, with the consent of the heritors, were obliged to encroach upon a few pounds of the capital.  Besides assistance to regular pensioners, occasional supplies are given to distressed families.  No parish, perhaps, bestows more liberally on the poor.  It appears from an old session record, that, about 70 years ago, the weekly collections, at an average, did not exceed 8d Sterling.


The inhabitants of this parish, in general, are sober and industrious, attentive to their respective callings, and exemplarily regular in their attendance on divine ordinances.  They are, for the most part, moderated in their religious sentiments, charitably disposed, and seem contented with their condition.  They have a taste for dress, and young women of the middle, and even of the lower ranks, would now blush to be seen in the blue cloaks, red plaids, and plain caps, which only 20 years ago, adorned [404] their sex:  Nay, even the scarlet mantle, which lately was a badge of distinction among the daughters of farmers, is now despised; and, O tempora! O mores! the silk–worms of the East must be pillaged, to deck the heads and shoulders of our milk–maids.  The bonnet–makers of Kilmarnock, no longer find demand for their manufacture, from the servant men and labourers in this part of the country; but hats are worn both by men and boys of all ranks.  Our young men are not to be seen, at church or market, in a coat of their mother's spinning, but dress theselves in English broad cloths, fashionable cotton stripes, and fine linen.  Every stripling, as soon as he arrives at puberty, must have a watch in his pocket; whereas, only 40 years ago, there were but 3 in the parish.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The parish derives several advantages from its local situation, which is in a populous, well cultivated district of the country, and not above 6 or 7 miles from 3 principal market towns, where the farmer finds ready sale for the produce of his dairy and farm.  Both limestone and coals are in the parish.  The latter, at present, is not wrought, but it abounds in the neighbourhood, and the roads to the pits and quarries are all in excellent repair.  The farms are well inclosed and divided, and the tenants comfortably lodged.  But among the many advantages of the parish, there are a few disadvantages, and the want of manufactures in the village is none of the least.  An individual, for 3 years past, has made an attempt to carry on a branch of the woollen manufacture, by which he employs a few cpinsters; but want of stock obliges him often to purchase the materials on credit, and consequently, at a high price; and to sell the produce instantly, at whatever ready money it will bring.  Were moderate feus granted, and encouragement given to [405] woollen or cotton manufactures, to settle here, the pleasantness of the situation, the purity of the air, the excellence of the water, the goodness of the roads, the nearness of coal, and the vicinity of Symington to so many market towns, would render it a most eligible place.  Were such branches carried on to any considerable extent, the property around would be rendered still more valuable, and old and young, who could work, might be profitably employed.  There are 2 corn mills in the parish, where, when supplied with water, (which fails in frost or drought), the best oat–meal in the country is made; but this advantage is clogged with a material disadvantage.  Many of the tenants are restricted to a heavy thirlage, which is a pernicious check on agriculture, and is a species of vassalage, that ought to be abolished in every civilized and improving country.

Miscellaneous Observations

There are only two houses where ale and British spirits are sold; one in the village, which is not much frequented; and the other by the side of the public road, where the weary traveller may find refreshment.  No person belonging to the parish, has been judicially impeached or convicted of any crime, in the memory of the oldest inhabitant, except one unfortunate woman, who was banished many years ago.


[1]           For farther particulars, see the Statistical Table.

[2]           2320 stones of excellent sweet milk cheese are made yearly, which, at 7s per stone, is £812.  1160 stones of skimmed milk cheese, at 4s per stone, are £232.  385 stones of butter, at 12s per stone, are £232.  The value of cheese and butter made in the parish, is £1276 which, at an average, is £4 8s per cow.  Little milk is sold in the parish, as most of the villagers keep one or two cows.  Three fourths of the butter and cheese are sold in Ayr, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, and other places.  It may be thought, that this is a very profitable produce to the farmer or cowkeeper; but let it be considered, that his rent is high, and the price of his cows generally from £7 to £9 per head, that to manage a dairy well, requires expence, labour, and attention, and the hire of maid servants, who understand it, is, from £3 10s to £4 per annum.  The wages of men servants, who can plow, are, from £8 to £9.  Those who keep cows, and rent no land, pay £2 for the grass of each, and it will cost from £1 5s to £1 10s to maintain them through the winter.  The balance on their produce is but a trifling rewared for the time, cost, care, and attention bestowed on them.

[3]           This mason is also a farmer, but mason work is likewise performed reasonably by the cooper and the plough makers, who are very useful and expert at various other handicraft employments.

[4]           These are all married, and are either hired by the day or the year, at the lime quarries, etc.  The wages of tradesmen and labourers, are the same as in the neighbouring parishes; and the prices of provisions are regulated by the markets of Ayr and Kilmarnock.

[5]           The total produce of oats per annum is about 4500 bolls.  These bolls measure 8 Winchester bushels each.  Of these oats 2125 bolls were milled last year in the parish.





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