An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


BALLANTRAE, a large parish forming the south-east corner of Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north and north-east by the parish of Colmonell; on the east and south-east by the parish of New Luce in Wigtonshire; on the south by that of Inch in Wigtonshire; on the south-west by Loch Ryan; and on the west by the Irish sea. The extent of sea-coast is about 12 miles. The shore, excepting for about 2 miles opposite to the village of Ballantrae, is in general high and rocky, having a tremendous surf or swell beating against it when the wind blows from the west or north-west. Opposite to this coast the sea appears land-locked: for a most spacious bay of nearly 25 or 30 leagues diameter is formed by part of the coast of Galloway, part of the two counties of Down and Antrim in Ireland, the east coast of Argyleshire, part of Dumbartonshire, and the whole stretch of coast along the shire of Ayr for about 80 miles. All this vast extent of coast is easily discernible by the naked eye in a clear day, together with the islands of Sana, Arran, Bute, and the two small islands of Cumbrae. The land rises with a gradual slope from the shore to the tops of the mountains forming part of that extensive range of hills which stretches across the south of Scotland almost from the Irish sea to the frith of Forth beyond Edinburgh. The highest hill is that of Beinerard, about 6 miles south-east of Ballantrae, which, according to Thomson's atlas has an elevation of 1,430 feet. The surface is much diversified with heights and hollows, intersected by little streams of water descending from the hills. All beyond the mountains towards the east is soft mossy ground covered with heath and ling {common Old World heath}. The principal river is the ARDSTINCHAR: see that article. There is another stream called the App, which flows in a south-west direction through Glenapp into Loch Ryan. Mr. Aiton estimated the superficial area of this parish at 49,000 Scots acres; in the Statistical report of 1838 it is estimated at between 24,000 and 25,000 of which about 7,000 are arable. The valued rental is 3,551 1s. 6d. Scots; the real rental in 1790, about 2,000, but, in 1838, nearly 7,500. The want of roads, complained of in the Statistical report of 1791, has now been remedied; there is a good turnpike-road from Stranraer to the village of Ballantrae, a distance of 17 miles, and also from Ballantrae to Girvan, a distance of 12 miles; besides numerous branch-roads. The village of Ballantrae consists of about 84 houses, with a population of 456. It now enjoys regular steam-communication with Glasgow at least three times a-week. Population of the parish, in 1801, 837; in 1831, 1,506. Houses 263. Assessed property, in 1815, 4,684. - The parish of Ballantrae is in the presbytery of Stranraer, and synod of Galloway. Both the parish of Ballantrae, and the neighbouring parish of Colmonell, were originally connected with the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; but were disjoined in 1699, on account of their great distance from the seat of presbytery, and annexed to the presbytery of Stranraer and synod of Galloway. Patroness, the Duchess De Coigny. Stipend 258 1s. 3d., with a manse, and a glebe {A plot of land belonging or yielding profit to a parish church or an ecclesiastical office.} of the value of 15 10s. Church built in 1819; sittings 600. Parochial schoolmaster's salary 31 4s., with 16 school fees, and 16 other emoluments. Average number of pupils 40. There are three private schools in this parish, which were attended, in 1834, by about 80 pupils. There is a chapel and a school in Glenapp. Chambers says: "The inhabitants of this part of the country were, till within the last twenty or thirty years, almost as wild and rude as the remote Highlanders of Ross-shire, though no doubt a great deal wealthier. And what the natural circumstances of the district gave rise to, was greatly influenced, at one period, by the lawless state into which much of the population was thrown by smuggling. It is not yet more than forty years, since the immense bands of people, who, in this district, attend funerals, would fall out on the road to the parish town, where the church-yard is situated, and without regard to the sober character of their duty, set down the corpse and fight out to quarrel, with fists, sticks, and such other rustic weapons as they happened to be possessed of, till, in the end, one party had to quit the field discomfited, leaving the other to finish the business of the funeral. Brandy, from the French luggers that were perpetually "hovering on the coast, was the grand inspiration in these polymachia, which, it is needless to say, are totally unknown in our own discreeter times. Another fact may be mentioned, as evincing the state of barbarity from which Ballantrae has recently emerged, that previous to the end of the eighteenth century, there was not a single individual connected with the three learned faculties, not so much as a justice of the peace, in the whole district, nor within twelve miles of it." The only antiquities within the parish are the remains of an old church at the north-east extremity of the parish, which seems to have been formerly the parish-church, and to have been deserted for the present one as being more commodious for the inhabitants; and the remains of a large old castle adjoining the village, and situated upon a high rock now within the minister's glebe, which about a century ago belonged to the Lords of Bargeny.




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