An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Girvan Town

The town of Girvan, originally called Invergarvan, from its being situated at the influx of the Garvan or Girvan to the sea, is delightfully situated on the left bank of the river; 13 miles north by east of Ballantrae; 41 north-north-east of Portpatrick; 12 south-south-west of Maybole; 21 south by west of Ayr; 54 from Glasgow; and 93 from Edinburgh. It runs along the sea-side directly opposite Ailsa Craig, and commands a magnificent view of the frith of Clyde, and its gorgeous encincturing scenery: See articles AILSA CRAIG and CLYDE. But as to its interior landscape, or the appearance and grouping of its houses and streets, it is utterly unworthy of its splendid site. Heron, in the narrative of his Scottish tour, in 1793, though sufficiently prompt and liberal in his praises whenever an object not positively displeasing met his eye, describes the town as then in so miserable a plight that he was obliged to move onward to Kirkoswald to find a night's lodging and he says respecting Girvan: "The houses are huts more miserable than those of Ballantrae. They are so low as to seem, at the south end of the village, rather caves dug in the earth, than houses built upon it. On the north-west side, and close upon the banks of the river, are, indeed, some more decent and commodious houses." The place is exceedingly improved since the period when Heron wrote. Still it is far inferior in neatness and dignity to many Scottish towns of its size; and, with a small aggregate proportion of exceptions, consists of cottages one story high, distributed into a workshop and a dwelling-room, the latter, in many instances, being occupied by two or even three families. Even the recently built erections are, in a large proportion of instances, small houses, occupied by the lowest order of immigrant Irish, who come hither in search of employment in cotton-weaving. The whole population, with inconsiderable exceptions, are cotton-weavers and their families. The number of hand-looms, including a few in the vicinity, was, in 1838, no fewer than 1,800. The fabrics woven are almost all coarse cottons for the manufacturers of Glasgow. - Girvan harbour, till very recently, with from 9 to 11 feet of water at the mouth of the river, admitted only vessels of small burden; but it is now so far improved as to admit of a steamer of from 90 to 100 feet keel, and to afford some facility for the exportation of coals and agricultural produce. The small bay at the embouchure of the river is an excellent fishing-station; but though capable of yielding an abundant produce, of great variety and of prime quality, it has been very lazily and limitedly plied. The town has a small subscription-library, two circulating libraries, a considerable number of friendly societies, a savings' bank, a branch office of the Royal bank of Scotland, a branch-office of the Ayr bank, a weekly market, and two annual fairs. Girvan was erected into a burgh-of-barony by royal charter, in 1696, granted in favour of Sir Archibald Muir of Thornton, provost of Edinburgh; but it now holds of Hamilton of Bargany. The burgh property consists of houses, and has suffered no alienations within these forty-six years. In 1832 the revenue was 148 14s. 6d., and the expenditure 73 12s. 9d. The debt of the burgh amounts to 1,500, and is heritably secured over houses. The jurisdiction of the magistrates extends over the burgh and the barony of Baliochtoul. A bailie court is held weekly on Wednesday in the town-hall. Civil causes to the amount of 2 in value are tried there; and prosecutions are entertained for petty delinquencies within burgh, for which fines, not exceeding 1, are imposed; and if the fine imposed is not paid imprisonment follows. The magistrates have no assessor; yet are sometimes assisted in their judicial deliberations by professional advice. The magistrates and council have the patronage of the offices of town-clerk treasurer, billet-master, and town officers. The treasurer has no salary. All the office-bearers are chosen annually. All persons wishing to trade or manufacture within the burgh must enter as freemen, and pay 2 to the common good. There are no incorporated trades enjoying exclusive privileges. The sett of the burgh was altered from what it had previously been by the late Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton, Bart., the superior. He increased the number of the council from 12 to 14, including two bailies. He provided that four of the council should retire annually by ballot, without prejudice to their being re-elected, and that the vacancies should be filled up by the votes of the resident burgesses from the members of their incorporation; that the senior bailie should, in virtue of his office, remain a councillor, and the junior bailie fill the office of senior magistrate for the ensuing year, his place being supplied by a new election ; and that in the event of the death, or retiring, of any of the bailies during the period of their holding office, the person last in office should become junior bailie till next annual election. There are 74 householders, whose rents amount to 10; of whom 52 are burgesses. The number of those whose rents amount to 5, but not to 10, is 40; of whom 18 are burgesses. The police of the burgh is not regulated by special statute; it is under charge of the magistrates. There is no special establishment for watching and cleaning. Persons are employed for these purposes when "need requires," who are paid from the general fund. Sixty of the inhabitants are appointed constables annually by the magistrates, who act, when required, for the preservation of the peace, and are paid either from the general fund, or from tines imposed upon delinquents. Population, in 1830, 5,300.  





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