An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


FENWICK,(1) a parish in the district of Cunningham, Ayrshire; bounded on the north by Renfrewshire; on the east by Loudon; on the south by Kilmarnock; and on the west by Stewarton. It is about 9 miles long from east to west, and 6 miles broad, and contains an area of 14,500 acres. Though high above the level of the sea, it is not mountainous; and seen from the hills of Craigie in Kyle, it appears a large plain; but it possesses, in reality, a sloping surface, inclining easily from its boundary with Renfrewshire to the south-west, and commanding, on many spots, or from almost every farm and every house, extensive views toward Kyle and Carrick, the frith of Clyde, and the Arran and Argyleshire mountains. At a former period the district was almost all a fen or bog; and, in 1642 when it was disjoined from Kilmarnock, and erected into a separate parish was considered as a moorland region. Except in the southern or lower division, the soil in every part is still mossy; and nearly one-fourth of the entire parish continues to be bog. All the surface of the reclaimed sections, though thinly sheltered with plantation, has a verdant and cultivated aspect, and is distributed chiefly into meadow and natural pasture, with about 1,600 acres of tillage. The live stock consists of nearly equal numbers of sheep and milk cows, a considerable proportion of pigs, and about 160 horses. The climate, though humid, is not unhealthy. Two small brooks, each having tiny tributaries, rise in the northern limits of the parish and flow south-westward through it to make confluence after entering the parish of Kilmarnock. The brooks abound with trouts, but possess no scenic beauties. A thin seam of coal and a freestone quarry occur on the western limits. Limestone is abundant, and exhibits numerous marine shells, and other memorials of the ancient inhabitants of the ocean. The great road from Glasgow to Kilmarnock traverses the parish in a direction west of south, and sends off one branch-road southward to Galston, and another westward to Stewarton The village of Fenwick stands on the Glasgow road, at the point where that to Stewarton branches off, nearly 4 miles north by east from Kilmarnock; and is a considerable agglomeration of small houses occupied almost all by weavers as dwelling-houses and work-shops. Here are the parish-church, and a capacious meeting-house of the United Secession. Another village, called Rose-Fenwick, similar in character to Fenwick, but smaller, stands half-a-mile south of it on the Glasgow road. Population of the parish, in 1801, 1,280; in 1831, 2,018. Houses 279. Assessed property, in 1815, 8,987. - Fenwick is in the presbytery of Irving, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Earl of Glasgow. Stipend 149 8s. 1d. ; glebe 23. Unappropriated teinds 132 17s. 5d. Schoolmaster's salary 25 13s. 3d., with from 15 to 18 school-fees, and about 3 other emoluments. There are three schools not parochial, attended by a maximum of 137 scholars. Maximum attendance at the parish-school 68. - Fenwick, for some time after its establishment as a separate parish, was called New Kilmarnock; but it eventually acquired its present descriptive name which means the village of the fen. - This parish is celebrated for having enjoyed the ministry of the devout though eccentric Guthrie, not the least of Scotland's worthies, a firm assertor of the cause of Presbyterianism under the persecuting innovations of the Stuarts, and the author of writings which have shed the light of heaven over the hearts and minds of the inmates of many a cottage. - In this parish is the venerable dwelling of the Howies of Lochgoin, that during the persecution frequently afforded an asylum to those who for conscience' sake were obliged to flee from their homes, to such men as Captain Paton and to many such worthy ministers as the intrepid Richard Cameron, which rendered this house so obnoxious that, during these trying periods, it was twelve times plundered, and the inmates forced to take refuge in the barren muirs around. Here are preserved many of the relics of those days of "fiery trial," in the Bible and the sword used by Captain Paton, the flag of Fenwick parish, the drum beat at the battle of Drumclog, etc. If antiquity can add any lustre to birth, the present generation of the Howies may lay claim to a remote ancestry; being descended from the great Waldenses, three brothers of whom, of the name of Howie probably Howy, still common in France fled for safety and settled in Ayrshire, in 1178. One of these brothers took up his residence in Lochgoin, and his posterity to this day inhabit the same spot, retaining all the primitive and pastoral habits which distinguished the Waldenses. The father of the present generation, John Howie, compiler of the lives of the 'Scots Worthies,' will be remembered by every Scotsman with a peculiar interest, in having furnished his country with short though valuable sketches of the roost remarkable transactions of those who suffered for the covenanted work of reformation.

{1 This parish was originally named Inverugie, and occasionally Lagley, until 16116, when the name for what reason is not known was changed to St. Fergus. We may here observe that the Rev. John Craigie, writer of the Old Statistical Account of St. Fergus, and minister of the parish, in stating that the common patois, or "dialect, called Broad Buchans, is spoken here," as it still continues to be, although it is now losing much of its provincial peculiarity, and that "it is thought to approach nearer to the ancient Gothic than the language of any other district in Scotland," remarks, that as the Picts were the ancient inhabitants of the East coast of Scotland, they imposed names on the different places, expressive, (in their language,) of their situation, or some particular property. It is not easy to assign any good reason for attempting to derive the names of places in this country from the celtic, as there is no evidence that it was inhabited by Celts. The names of all the places in this parish and the adjacent country plainly appear to be Gothic, Saxon, or Danish."}  





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