An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Muirkirk Parish

MUIRKIRK, a parish in the extreme north-east of Kyle, Ayrshire, containing the most easterly land in the county. It is hounded on the north and east by Lanarkshire; on the south and southwest by Auchinleck; and on the west and north-west by Sorn and Galstone. Its greatest length, from east to west, is 9 miles; its greatest breadth, from Forrest-cairn to Stoney-hill, is 8½ miles; and its area is about 58 square miles. On all sides except the west and the north-west, or over a sweeping segment of 25 miles its boundary is a water-shedding line of summits. The surface of the interior is a rough, broken, dreary expanse of moorish hills, averaging from 800 to 1,000 feet in altitude, tame in outline, darkly heathy in general dress, now rising in solitary heights, and now forming ridges which run toward almost every point of the compass, slenderly intersected with uninteresting valley-grounds, and nearly altogether destitute of either grandeur or any other attraction of landscape. Cairntable, on the boundary with Lanarkshire, near the south-east extremity, is the highest ground, attains an altitude of l,650 feet above sea-level, and commands, on a clear day, an extensive and diversified prospect. About the middle of the eastern boundary, and half-a-mile inland from it, are two artificial lakes, jointly covering 121 acres, cut out at the beginning of the century by Messrs. Finlay & Co. of Glasgow, as reservoirs to supply their cotton-works at Catrine. Issuing from the first of these and traversing the second, the river Ayr runs 8 miles westward through the parish, cutting it into very nearly equal parts. Of numerous independent streams, all of local origin, which join it in its progress, the chief on its right bank are Powness, Greenock, and Whitehaugh-waters, respectively 3, 9½, and 5 miles long, and on its left are Garpel-water and Procribe-burn, respectively 4 and 2 miles long. The Ayr and the Greenock have a few eels, and abound with blackish coloured trouts. Only about one-thirtieth of the area of the parish is in tillage; about two-fifteeths have been ploughed, but cannot fairly be reckoned arable or cultivated ground; and all the remainder, excepting about 200 acres of plantation, amounting to five-sixths, are either totally waste or wildly pastoral. A natural forest waved its shadow, in the 12th century, over a large part, perhaps nearly the whole, of the surface; and has left dreary memorials both in such names as Netherwood and Harwood, worn by utterly treeless farms, and in long trunks and branches deeply buried in moss. The mountain-ash is the chief tree which appears to grow spontaneously; it adorns the wildest scenes; and unexpectedly meets the eye by the side of a barren rock or sequestered stream, seldom seen except by the inhabitants of the air or the solitary shepherd and his dock. Coal lies on both sides of the Ayr, at no greater a depth than 6O fathoms, in six seams aggregately 30½ feet thick, and severally 3½, 3, 7, 9, 2½, and 5½; and is mined on the most approved plans and in very large quantities both for exportation and for local consumpt and manufacture. Ironstone occurs in the coal-field in five workable seams, so thick that three tons of stone are obtained under every square yard of surface. Limestone likewise plentifully occurs, and is worked jointly with the ironstone and the coal. Lead and manganese have been found, but not in such quantity as to be remuneratingly worked. -The parish is deeply and pathetically associated with the martyrly history of the Covenanters. Of various monuments the most remarkable is the tomb-stone of the eminent and devout Scottish worthy, John Brown: see article PRIESTHILL. On the top of Cairntable there was anciently, according to tradition, a place of worship, and there are still two large cairns. The villages are GLENBUCK [which see] and Muirkirk, noticed below. The parish is traversed eastward by the turnpike between Ayr mid Edinburgh, and southward by the road between Glasgow and Dumfries by way of Strathaven. Population, in 1801, 2,560; in 1831, 2,810. Houses 442. Assessed property, in 1815, £3,820. —Muirkirk is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Marquis of Hastings. Stipend £157 17s. 3d.; glebe £20. The parish-church was built in 1813. Sittings 913. —An United Secession congregation was established in the village of Muirkirk in 1822; and next year built a place of worship at the cost of £900. Sittings 380. Stipend £71. —An Independent congregation was established in 1799 or 1800. Their place of worship, also situated in Muirkirk, was originally two dwelling-houses, is let as a school-room during the week, and, along with adjacent ground, was valued, in 183G, at probably £50. Sittings 130 According to an ecclesiastical survey made in 1836, the population then consisted of 2,596 churchmen, 320 dissenters, and 33 nondescripts, —in all, 2,949 persons. Parish-schoolmaster's salary £28, with £30 fees, and £5 other emoluments. There are four non-parochial schools, one of them supported by the Iron-works company. Till 1631 the parish was included in MAUCHLINE: which see. The church erected in it, at its being made independent, was appropriately called 'the Kirk of the Muir,' —abbreviatedly Muirkirk, —and more formally the Muirkirk of Kyle.  





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