[Vol. IXX, pages 453–458.]
[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]
( County of Ayr , Synod of Glasgow and Ayr , Presbytery of Ayr .)
By a Friend to Statistical Inquiries.
Situation and Extent, etc.
The parish of Tarbolton, situated in Kyle, the middle district of Ayrshire, surrounded by the parishes of Craigie, Mauchlin, Stair, Coylton, St Quivox, and Monkton, is a high–lying tract of ground, of between seven and eight miles in length, and about six in breadth. It is about 5 miles from the sea–coast; and its elevation above the level of the sea, sees to exceed the middle height between the highest and lowest parts of the county. Its ancient and natural aspect has evidently been sufficiently rude and wild; bare and unsheltered; varied with frequent inequalities of surface; marshy in the hollows, on the heights [ 454 ] overgrown with heath. But the rude aspect of nature has here, long since, given place to the beauties and the wealth of industrious cultivation.
Number of the Inhabitants, etc.
The number of the inhabitants of this parish was, in the year 1755, about 1365. It has been since rather diminished than augmented, and may be at present calculated not greatly to exceed 1200; of whom about 450 are inhabitants of the village of Tarbolton . The heritors are 19; and of these the principal are, the Earl of Eglinton, lately Colonel Montgomery of Coilsfield, Mr Cunningham of Enterkine, the Marquis of Titchfield, Mr Cooper of Smithstone, the heirs of Colonel Hunter, Dr Hunter of Park, Captain Davidson of Drumley, Mr Neill of Schaw. The farmers are in number about 130. In the village are several stocking–makers. Around it are the possessions of several of those small proprietors, who are usually distinguished by the appellation of portioners. Here is a farmer society, for the purposes of the friendly societies now common in Scotland ; as also a farmer club, for the ends of agricultural improvement. In the village are two mason lodges.
Animal Stock and Valuation
The animal stock on the lands in the parish has been reckoned at about 386 horses, 1800 cows, and 500 sheep. The valued rent is between £7000 and £8000 Scotch.
The capital species of industry followed by the farmers, is, the management of cattle for the uses of the dairy. The leases are commonly for nineteen years, and restrict the tenants to the generally received modes of cultivation. The cows are of a race famous for the abundance of their milk. They are frequently brindled, and [ 455 ] have short heads, straight backs, and square ribs. A prodigious quantity of butter and cheese is annually made here for sale: And in the preparation of these articles, the people of this parish, as well as the other inhabitants of this middle district of Ayrshire, are well known to excel the farmers of every other part of Scotland .
Barley and oats are the prevalent articles of grain–crop. The lands are carefully subdivided and inclosed, here and there with hedge–rows of trees and belts of planting. Potatoes are the principal article of green crop; among other varieties of the potatoe, there is particularly a beautiful long white one, very advantageously in use here. The gardens afford abundance of pulse and pot–herbs. The climate is here, as around this western coast in general, moist, and subject to frequent rains. Yet it is sufficiently genial; for in the middle of September in the year 1795, the harvest was more than one half advanced. The soil is a reddish loam; and here and there are considerable strata of peat– earth. The culture of turnips, as a crop for forage and for fallowing, is not yet fully established in this parish; but begins to be continually more and more adopted.
Houses, Fuel, etc.
The farm–houses and office–houses are commodiously arranged in a square, open in front; and having, on this side, before the door of the dwelling–house, a smooth green, a pond of water, and the dunghill. They are covered with thatching, and are usually one story in height. Sown grasses are universally in use throughout this parish. The common proportion between the grass and the corn in the agriculture of a farm, gives one–third of the arable ground to the latter; to the former two–thirds. Lime, for manure, is not indeed found within the parish; [ 456 ] but is obtained in great abundance, and at a reasonable price, in its immediate neighbourhood. Peats and pit–coal are the common fuel; the latter is obtained in plenty from no great distance. It is in one quarter only of the parish that barley has been found to answer as an article of crop. The inhabitants are, in general, a stout, healthy, cleanly, good–looking people, not ill educated, and still impressed with a great and serious respect for the ordinances of religion.
Markets and Roads
The nearest market towns are, Ayr , Irvine , Kilmarnock , and Mauchlin. The cross roads are numerous, well laid, and kept in good condition; but with this disadvantage, that they are conducted without any distinction, indifferently up heights, and down into the hollows. Ayrshire, abounding in coal and limestone, demanded for the conveyance of these, good roads, at a time when, in other parts of Scotland, roads were not thought to be worthy of great attention in parish–police; and when such attention had not yet been paid to them in this country, as was necessary to discover how much better it is to conduct a road round the base of a hill, than over its summit.
Minister and School, etc.
The present parish minister of Tarbolton is the Reverend Mr Ritchie. The church is in a decent condition. A new manse has just been built for the present incumbent. The value of the benefice does not exceed £150 a year, nor yet fall greatly short of it. The parishioners, from the highest to the lowest, give a decent and diligent attendance at church. The parish schoolmaster's emoluments may be about £50 a year. Latin, arithmetic, writing, the reading of English, are taught in the school.
[ 457 ]
Collections for the Poor
The average Sunday collections for the poor are from 12s to 15s in amount. At the dispensation of the Sacrament, and upon other extraordinary occasions, the collection arises to from £2 to £5.
Tarbolton was most probably a station of the Danes, at that remote period of our ancient history, when these people possessed all the northern and western isles adjacent to Scotland , and even considerable posts and possessions upon the shores of the mainland. Closely contiguous to the village is a mount, now named Hood's Hill, which strikingly exhibits the appearance of an old Danish encampment and fortification. Adjacent, at no great distance, within the beautifully ornamented grounds which surround the house of Coilsfield, are a scene, which the tradition of the country relates to have been a field of battle; and a stone held in veneration as the monument of old King Coil. It may more probably have been the scene of a battle between the Danish invaders, and the old Gaelic inhabitants of the country. The rude stone may have been originally placed to cover the body of some chieftain, although not that of him to whom it is ascribed. Tarbolton was perhaps the boundary between the Danes and the Gael. Kyle, the name of the district, was probably first imposed upon it, in respect to the people inhabiting it, and in contradistinction to Cunningham, the name of the adjoining district, which was more permanently occupied by the Danes. Near to the village of Tarbolton stands the ruined monastery of Feale, having beside it a small hamlet of cottages. It is said to have been a cell or priory dependent upon Paisley , and belonging, by consequence, to the Black Monks of Clugni. I know not whether it may not be the same with that priory of Failefurd, to which [ 458 ] John Graham, laird of Tarbolton, and Steward of Kyle, granted the patronage of the church of Tarbolton, by a charter, dated at Failefurd in the year 1337, and afterwards confirmed at Dundonald in the year 1368, by John Earl of Carrick, afterwards King, by the name of Robert the Third.