An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


CUMNOCK,(1) (Old Cumnock,) a parish in the eastern section of  the district of Kyle in Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north by Auchinleck and Muirkirk; on the east by Dumfries-shire; on the south by NewCumnock; and on the west by Ochiltree and Auchinleck. It is of an oblong figure, and about 10 miles in extreme length, by about 2 in average breadth: stretching, as to its length, from east to west. The surface is in part flat, and in part hilly. The soil in general is clay upon a strong till; but in some places is bog, and in the holms is a light and dry mixture of sand and gravel. The river intersects the parish from east to west, drinking up several rivulets in its course, and eventually emptying itself, near Barskimming, into Ayr water; and it abounds in trout, and furnished an occasional banquet of eels. On the southern confines of the parish are three lakes which jointly have an area of about 100 acres, and which, though communicating with one another, discharge their waters south-eastward, though the rivulet Aith into the Nith, and north-westward, through another rivulet, into the Lugar. The uplands — hilly but not mountainous, though partly covered with heath — are in general verdant, abound in a coarse grass called sprit, and exhibit some volcanic appearances intermixed with basalt. In the beds of the rivulets, petrifactions of shells and fish are thrown up from the strata. In an extensive lime-quarry belonging to the Marquis of Bute, are beds abounding with a species of coral. The limestone in this quarry is, in some places, mixed with
shells and spar, takes a beautiful polish, and is capable of being dressed into a pleasing bluish marble. A vein of lead-ore likewise runs through it, and was found, on trial at the lead-mines of Wanlockhead, to yield 65 pounds per cwt. Freestone abounds, is of easy access, and has contributed largely to the walls of neat and comfortable dwellings. Coal is supposed, with a covering or crumb-cloth of strata, to carpet the parish; but has been 'worked chiefly in subordination to the burning of lime. Very recently a bed of what is called black ironstone, 2½ feet thick, has been
discovered here. Hugh Logan, Esq., 'the Laird of Logan,' and celebrated wit of Ayrshire, was a native of this parish. Here also, within the precincts of the burying-ground, are the remains of the famous Alexander Peden, of covenanting, and, as the vulgar say, of prophesying memory, — remains which were originally interred in the aisle of Lord Auchinleck, — which, after forty days, were exhumed by a body of dragoons, who intended to hang them up on a gallows, — and which, in yieldance with the entreaties of the Countess of Dumfries and other influential personages, were eventually allowed to rest along with the remains of other martyrs, at the Gallowsfoot of
Cumnock. Around the dust of Peden, as well as on the estate of Logan, and on the moor which forms the south-west boundary of the parish, is the dust of martyrs, who, in popular phrase,
sacrificed themselves to the covenant of Scotlnnd, but who may be allowed to have surrendered their lives in the cause of heaven. The principal proprietor is the Marquis of Bute and Earl of Dumfries, who acquires from the parish his title of Baron. Dumfries-house, the seat of the Marquis, is situated in the north-west part of the parish, near the banks of the Lugar, and is surrounded with a fine demesne {The grounds belonging to a mansion or country house} which, extending on
both sides of the river, is connected by an elegant new bridge at the most accessible point from the mansion. The other mansions in the parish are Garallan, Logan, and Glasnock, the last of which, situated on the stream whence it derives its name is a recent and elegant edifice, built of white free
stone. Within the demesne of Dumfries-house stand the ruins of Terringzoan castle, whence the present Countess of Dumfries—Countess in her own right, though Marchioness of Bute by matrimonial alliance— still derives the title of Baroness. Some traces, in the southern division of the parish, exist of an old keep called Boreland castle, and also of a Catholic chapel, which gives to the farm on which it stands the name of Chapel-house. This parish is traversed, south-eastward, by the
great line of road from Glasgow to Dumfries, and, in various directions, by minor lines; and it boasts no fewer than 16 bridges. Population, in 1801, 1,991; in 1831, 2,763. Houses 454.
Assessed property, in 1815, £7,287. - The parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Murquis of Bute. Stipend £218 0s 7d.; glebe £20. - There are 3 schools, one parochial and 2 nonparochial. Salary of the parish schoolmaster £34 4s. 4½d., with £45 other
emoluments. The parish-church, built in 1754, and situated in the village, at a distance of 5½ miles from the most remote limit of the parish, has from 600 to 700 sittings. A United Secession meeting-house, also situated in the village, has 900 sittings. More than one-third of the parishioners are
dissenters. Cumnock was dislocated, early last century, into its present form, and that of the parish of New Cumnock. Originally it was a rectory; but in the l5th century it became a prebend of the cathedral of Glasgow, and afterwards a vicarage.

CUMNOCK, a village in the parish just described, situated in a deep sheltered hollow, at the confluence, of the Lugar and the Glisnock, 10½ miles south-west of Muirkirk, 6½ south-east of Mauchlin, and 16 east of Ayr, on the main road from Glasgow to Dumfries. It was, in the year 1509, made a burgh-of-barony by James IV., and consists principally of a sort of square, or rather triangle, which occupies the area of what was anciently the burying-ground. A remarkable circumstance is that, situated in a sort of mimic basin, it can, from any point of the compass, be entered only by a declivity. Its subsistence is weaving, which, when trade is good, keeps 120 looms at work; hand-sewing, winch is a common employment with both adult and young females; the manufacture of thrashing-mills, which are in high esteem throughout the west of Scotland, and are, in considerable numbers, exported to Ireland; a pottery, which, from clay of the best quality found in the parish, produces a superior brown-ware; and the manufacture of wooden snuff-boxes, which, throughout Scotland, have, for their inimitable beauty, rendered—among snuff-takers, at least—the village surpassingly celebrious. In the last of these sources of support, Cumnock is competed with only by Laurencekirk and Montrose. An ingenious mechanician of the name of Crawford, seized — from a box which had been made at Laurencekirk, and which was sent to him to be repaired — the first idea of the celebrious Cumnock manufacture. Improving upon the pattern which was produced by previous inventors, he, or his successors, contrived to execute so delicately the hinge of the snuff-box, as to make the name of Cumnock essential to the vest-pocket's storehouse of most in Scotland who are politely "led by the nose." "A few years ago, "says a writer in the New Statistical Account of Scotland," a solid foot of wood, that cost only 3s., could be manufactured into boxes worth £100 sterling, and then the workmanship increased the original value of the wood nearly 700 times; but at present a solid foot of wood, will only yield, in finished boxes, about £9 sterling. "The great falling-off is to be accounted for chiefly by the satiating of the passion for novelty, — snuff-takers being as curious in the recherché of their box, as antiquarians are in the high date and freshness of their discoveries; and, in a degree, by the sharpness of competition from the quarters whence the idea of the 'Cumnock snuff-box' was originally obtained. In addition to the area already mentioned, Cumnock consists of very narrow lanes; and, on the whole, it is irregularly built. Yet it occupies a picturesque site, is clean and healthful, overlooks some beautiful woodlands in the parish, is romantically interspersed with fine old trees, and altogether presents a picture on which the eye of the traveller may delight to rest. The village contains good shops in all departments, a gas-work, and branch-offices of two banking companies; and, owing to its advantageous position in relation to the surrounding country, transacts much retail business. Of the 16 bridges in the parish, 3 are in the village. Four annual fairs are held here, respectively in February, in May, in July, and in October, O.S. Here, also, are 2 public libraries, 3 friendly societies, and a savings-bank. Population of the village in 1801, apart from the parish, 1,798.

CUMNOCK (New), a parish, in the district of Kyle, forming the south-eastern limb of Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north by Auchinleck, Old Cumnock, and Ochiltree ; on the east by Dumfries-shire; on the south by Galloway; and on the west by Dalmellington. It has an outline of very nearly an oblong square; is 12 miles in length from east to west, somewhat more than 8 in breadth, and contains an area of upwards of 100 square miles, or about 30,000 acres. Its surface is dotted with hills, and, in its southern division, is warted with mountains. Its highest elevations are Black-craig, about ½ a mile from its eastern boundary, rising 1,600 feet above the valley of Nith, and Black-Larg-hill, on its southern boundary, which rises 2,890 feet above sea-level; but these elevations are excelled in interest by the Knipe, to the south, 1,260, and especially by the Corsancone, 872, which, owing to its position, commands a beautiful and extensive view. Indeed the whole southern division of the parish is lifted upwards by elevations, Craigdarroch, Saddlehagg, Coptaw-Cairn, Benty-Cowan-hill, Chang-hill, High-Chang-hill, Enoch-hill, Blackstone-hill, Craig-hill, and several other heights. The lowest ground is the valley of the Nith, — a river which, rising in the south-west extremity of the parish, intersects it from west to east, flows here about 500 feet above sea-level, and, on leaving the parish to irrigate Dumfries-shire, begins to form, in that county, the district of Nithsdale. The Nith is here shallow and sluggish, highly tinctured with moss, and about 15 feet broad. Flowing northwards, of local origin, and falling into the Nith, the small stream called the Afton, forms a beautiful valley, and is overlooked by richly sylvan banks. There are, on the northern confines of the parish, 3 small lakes, averaging about ½ a mile in circumference; but abounding in perch, pike, and water-fowl. Carboniferous limestone occurs in abundance, lies in beds 2 feet thick, and is wrought, at Benstone, Mansfield, and Polquhortor. Improved limekilns have been erected by the enterprising and judicious Monteith of Closeburn, Dumfries-shire. Freestone, for the most part of a dingy white colour, and coarse in the grain, is plenteous. Ironstone is found in bands and balls, but has never been wrought. Alternate seams of smith's coal and cannel coal appear to pavement the eastern district and are in considerable request; the former for making gas in Dumfries and Catrine, and the latter, for less chemical purposes, in Ayr, Kilmarnock and other places. Plumbago, or black-lead, is found in the coal-formation, and has, for a considerable period, been wrought. It is, however, of very inferior quality to that of Borrodale in Cumberland. There are the parish, 3 villages, or hamlets, Path-head, Afton-Bridge-end, and New Cumnock; which had, in 1831 a population, — the first, 361; the second, 242; and the third, 161. Two great roads traverse the district both through New Cumnock, the one from north to south, along the valley of the Afton; and the other, the great road from Glasgow to Dumfries a short way due south, and then from east to west, making an extraordinary debouche in consequence of the hilly configuration of the surface. Population, in 1801, 1,381; in 1831, 2,184. Houses, 454. Assessed property, in 1815, £8,538. - New Cumnock is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Marquis of Bute. Stipend £194 11s. 8d.; glebe, £24. This parish was S' nally a section of that of Cumnock, or Old Cumnock and shared in its ecclesiastical history. Its present church is of recent structure, and accommodate 1,000 sitters. — Connected with the Reformed Presbyterians, there are here about 120 individuals who have a local place of worship. There are also nearly 200 members or hearers of the United Secession, who attend their place of worship in the village of Old Cumnock. - Schoolmaster's salary, £32, with school-fees of from 2s. to 3s. per quarter, and other emoluments, £4 10s. There are 2 schools non-parochial.  

{1 "The name of Cumnock, "says the author of 'Caledonia,'" is derived from the British cym, a hollow or valley, and cnoc, a hill, which was usually pronounced 'Cumnock.' The British cym,
in the prefix of the name, applies exactly to the hollow or valley in which the church and village or Old Cumnock "stand, on the bank of Glasnock rivulet, which falls into Lugar water; but whether the cnoc, in the termination of the name, applies to the small hill at the village, or to some other hill in the
vicinity, is not quite certain."}






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