An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Kilmaurs Town

KILMAURS, the capital of the above parish, a burgh-of-barony, and a considerable village, stands on the right bank of Carmel water, 2 miles from Kilmarnock, and 6 from Irvine. It is pleasantly situated on a gentle ascent, looking towards the south ; and consists chiefly of one street, decorated at its middle with a small town-house and a steeple, and flanked by some by-lanes and back-houses. Its inhabitants are principally shoemakers, colliers, and subordinates to the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley. At one time about thirty cutlers, and a good many tinkers, gave the town its character and tone. The work of the cutlers was excellent. The breakfast-knives of their manufacture were alleged to be superior to the produce of even Sheffield or Birmingham ; and were of the best metal, neatly shaped, finely polished, and set in a haft of tortoise-shell, or stained horn, girt with silver virlets.{1} On the left bank of the river stands an old mansion called the Place. This was the property of the Earlg of Glencairn; but is only a fraction of the edifice which was intended to be erected. The 9th Earl, the chancellor, laid the foundation of a very extensive building; but, owing to pecuniary embarrassments —which he incurred in the service of Government, and from which he vainly hoped to obtain relief —he never was able to execute his plan. The Place was occupied in the latter part of last century by Lady Eglinton. A little north of it, on the farm called Jock's Thorn, are some vestiges of the original or more ancient residence of the Glencairn family. Kilmaurs had formerly a weekly market, which was swamped by the neighbouring one of Kilmarnock; and it still has annual fairs in June, August, and November. It was erected on the 2d June, 1527, into a burgh-of-barony, by James V., at the instance of Cuthbert, Earl of Glencairn, and William, his son, Lord Kilmaurs. The charter contained powers to create burgesses, and elect bailies, and other officers. In November of the same year, the Earl of Glencairn granted a charter of the lands erected, consisting of 240 acres, to forty persons in equal portions, "for buildings and policy to be kept up and maintained by them and their heirs," and to be held " in feu farm and heritage and free burgage in barony for ever." This charter—so unusual in its main provisions —contains several curious particulars, especially a clause that " no woman succeeding to an inheritance in the said burgh, shall marry without our special license." The effect of granting to each of the original settlers so large a patch of rich land as 6 acres, though intended to make the place the seat of manufacture, was to convert the next generation into a race of petty landholders, averse to sedentary employments, and contented with producing kail-plants for markets throughout Ayrshire, Clydesdale, Nithsdale, and Galloway. In 1793, the practice required by the original charter that the burgesses should be resident, and should, in no instance, possess more than one tenement, began to fall into abeyance. The burgh, therefore, no longer exhibits the curious aspect impressed by the peculiar character of its tenures, and has suffered a great reduction in the number of its burgesses. From the sale, division, and particularly the union of tenements, the number of persons entitled, in 1832, to be burgesses was only 18 or 19; and even that number was, by instances of non-residence, minority, and succession of females, reduced to 12. The burgesses are all councillors, and have the exclusive power of electing two bailies, a treasurer, a fiscal, and a clerk. The property of the burgh is very trilling. The revenue amounts to about £11 or £12, and is expended in keeping up the market-place, and the town-house with its spire and clock. Population, in 1831, about 1,200.

{1- "The keen edge," says the Old Statistical reporter, "which they," the cutlers, "put on instruments requiring it, gave rise to a mode of speech which is yet in use through the country. A man of acute understanding, and quickness in action, is said to be as sharp as a Kilmaurs whittle. An old Presbyterian clergyman, in addressing himself to his audience, upon rising to speak after a young divine, who had delivered a discourse in flowery language and English pronunciation, said, 'My friends. We have had great deal of fine English ware among us the day, but aiblins my Kilmaurs whittle will cut as sharply as ony English blade;' meaning that the language of his own country would be better understood, and do more good."}  




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