An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


SORN, a parish in the north-east of the district of Kyle, Ayrshire. It is nearly a square, 6½ miles deep; and comprehends about 23,000 acres. It is bounded on the north by Galston; on the east by Muirkirk; on the south by Auchinleck; and on the west by Mauchline. The surface, in a general view, is high in the east, and declines toward tue west; but it is much diversified by moorland, hill, rising ground, hollow, and haugh. Blackside-end-hill, the highest ground, and situated in the north-east, has an altitude of 1,540 feet above sea-level, and commands a gorgeous view of Ayrshire and Strathelyde, and parts, it is said, of fourteen other counties. The river Ayr, running westward, drains the greater part of the parish, and flows between steep, bold, copse-clad, and picturesque banks. The Cessnock, a tributary of the Irvine, has some of its headwaters in the north-west. Cleugh-burn, which falls into the Ayr amid the brilliant scenery around Sorn-castle, traverses a deep and richly wooded glen, and has some romantic and fascinating cascades. Calctuff occurs in line specimens on the face of the precipices over which this streamlet leaps. Carboniferous limestone occurs in great plenty, and has been both long and extensively worked. Coal occurs, though to what extent is not known; and hitherto it has been little mined. Ironstone is plentiful; and was, at one time, exported hence to Muirkirk. Sandstone of very various character and hardness is plentiful. The soil, in the haughs, is a gravelly loam; and elsewhere is, for the most part, a reddish clay. Upwards of a third of the parochial area is cultivated pasture; upwards of one-fourth is hill-pasture, moss, or wilderness; somewhat less than one-sixth is re-claimable, but uncultivated natural pasture; somewhat less than one-sixth also is in tillage; and one acre in every thirty-two is under wood. The village of Sorn stands on the right bank of the Ayr, 4 miles east of Mauchline. It has two annual fairs, the one on the second Tuesday of March, old style, and the other on the first Monday of November, new style. Population of the village about 300. The neat and pleasant little manufacturing town of Catrine stands 1¾ mile to the west: see CATRINE. —Sorn-castle, immediately west of the village of Sorn, is most delightfully situated on a lofty and well-wooded rocky terrace overlooking the Ayr. The building is of very high but unknown antiquity. About the year 1400 it became, along with the manor of Sorn and other lands in Kyle, the property of Andrew Hamilton, 3d son of Sir David Hamilton of Cadzow, ancestor of the Duke of Hamilton ; and, in subsequent times, it passed by marriage to the Earls of Winton, and by purchase to the Earls ot Loudoun and three other successive families of proprietors. A Dowager-countess of houdoun lived in it till withm a lew months of her hundredth year, attended by servants who attained nearly as great a longevity. Under the miserable persecutions of Charles II. the castle was taken possession of as a fortalice of the royal forces, and made the seat of a garrison for overawing the Covenanters.(1) Dr. Matthew Stewart, and his son, the celebrated Dugald Stewart, were landowners in the parish and frequent visiters. The house which they occupied still stands; and near it, in a beautiful and airy situation, are a new mansion and tasteful pleasure-grounds, the property and seat of their descendant. The illustrious and devout but much misrepresented Scottish worthy, Alexander Peden, was born and died in the parish. Exhausted with his prolonged toils and sufferings in traversing the kingdom as a proscribed minister, and believing himself to be approaching his dissolution, he returned to his brother's house in Sorn to die; but he was there in the immediate vicinity of the garrison posted in Sorn-castle, and lived chiefly in an artificial cave, —uniformly protected, as he had been in an hundred places before, from the peering searches of the blood-thirsty soldiery. He was visited on his death-bed by the celebrated James Renwick; and, after he had been specially but vainly searched for in his brother's house, he died there at the age of 60, in the year 1686. Some villanous but perfectly harmless indignities were offered by the wretched persecutors to his mortal remains: see CUMNOCK (OLD). The parish is traversed eastward by the road from Ayr to Muirkirk, and southward by that from Galston to Auchinleck. Population, in 1801, 2,606; m 1831, 4,253. Houses 483. Assessed property, in 1815, £7,783. —Sorn is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, Somerville of Sorn. Stipend £195 11s.; glebe £15. The parish-church, situated in the village of Sorn, was built in 1658, and repaired and somewhat enlarged in 1826. Sittings 611. Catrine —as noticed in the article on that village —has a place of worship connected with the Establishment, and a United Secession meeting-house ; and two or three years ago it was erected into a quoad sacra parish. The population of Sorn, quoad civilia, was exhibited by an ecclesiastical census of 1836, as then amounting to 4,053, and consisting of 3,287 churchmen, 729 dissenters, and 37 nondescripts The parish was, in 1692, disjoined by the teind-court from the originally huge parish of MAUCHLINE: which see. Its original name was Dalgain, the ground for the church, manse, and glebe having been a gift from the proprietor of Dalgain; but, owing to the vicinity of the church to the ancient castle, the most commanding artificial object in the district, it gradually became changed to Sorn : see DALGAIN. In 1834 there were thirteen private schools, six of which were attended by 192 scholars; and one parochial school, attended by 66. Parish schoolmaster's salary £34 4s. 4½d., with £13 fees, and £10 9s. other emoluments. ======================= {1 Sir William Hamilton, whose daughter and heiress married George Lord Seaton, and carried the property to the Earls of Winton, was one of the senators of the college-of-justice, and lord-treasurer to James V. On the eve of the daughter's marriage, the King set out to honour the bridal with his presence; but he had to traverse a long and dreary tract of moor, moss, and miry clay, where there was neither road nor bridge; and, when about half-way from Glasgow, he rode his horse into a quagmire, and was with difficulty extricated from his perilous seat on the saddle, far from a house, exposed to the bleak wind of a cold day, and environed on all sides by a cheerless moor, he was compelled to take a cold refreshment in no better a position than by the side of a very prosaic well; and he at length declared, with more wild pettishness thau wit, that "if he were to play a trick on the devil, he would send him to a bridal at Soru in the middle of winter." The well at which he sat is still called the King's well; and the quagmire into which his horse went is called the King's stable. An inn in the vicinity is now the principal stage between Glasgow aud Kilmarnock, and daily offers to every wayfarer luxuries, oue-hundreth part of which would once have been highly prized by a King.}  





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