Notes on the way
through Ayrshire - 100 years ago
of Kilbirnie. The town of Dalry is located between Rye
Water and Caaf Water, on the west bank of
Garnock River, 17 miles north of Ayr, 11 miles north-west of
Kilmarnock, and 22 1/2 miles by rail south-west of Glasgow. It was in
existence near the beginning of the seventeenth century, but remained
comparatively small until the erection of large ironworks and the
development of mining, about 1845, when it soon became the
great industrial and business centre which it now is. A central
with five radiating principal streets, rich in shops, form its main body;
and BLAIR, or Blair Ironworks, is a
suburb on the east side of the river. The beautiful town hall opened in
1884; Daly also contains a post office, with telegraph, money order,
insurance, annuity, and savings bank departments. The British Linen
Company, Clydesdale, and Union Banks also had homes in Dalry, along with
schools, two Established Churches; Free, United Presbyterian, and
Roman Catholic Churches. Dalry also contained several
cheap hotels, and a
railway station with diverging lines. Population in 1871, 5214; in 1881, 5010.
about a mile south-east of the town, is a mansion, partly modern and
partly a very ancient
tower of great strength, famous
as having been the residence of Sir
Bryce Blair, one of the sterling
patriots who fought and bled with
Wallace and never swore fealty to Edward.
It has exceedingly fine gardens and wooded grounds,. decked with flowering
plants, flaked with shadow and sunshine, and traversed by Bombo Burn.
In the beautiful Glen Dusk, at the south side of the woods, is a Covenanters.
seat one mile and a half up the burn from Blair House, is the
paternal home of James George,
General Neill, who was born 1810.
Before he had completed his seventeenth year he joined the 102nd
Fusiliers, then called the 1st Madras European Regiment, of which he wrote
an interesting "Historical Record." During the Indian Mutiny,
1857, his wonderful sagacity and courage brought him quickly to the front
rank of distinguished generals; but while his fame was spreading, and
before he could receive the thanks of a grateful nation, he was killed at the
relief of Lucknow, September 25, 1857, aged 47. A fine statue of the
general has been erected in Ayr.
SOUTHFIELD is a
village one mile north-east of Dairy. Population, 374.
DEN is a village a little farther on. Population, 995.
KERSLAND has an
Established Church, a public school, and a ruined castle, made sacred by
the memory of the Covenanter, Robert
Ker of Kersland.
LANGBAR is a
village on both sides of the march between Dairy and Beith, close to
Kilbirnie railway station. Population, 750.
village on the Rye - forming a northern suburb of Dairy - has woollen
manufactories. Population, 325.
village with public school, is a little farther north.
CAMPHILL is a
place, with public school, away up the Rye.
The Rye has its
source among high hills, past the north-west end of the parish. On its
course of eight miles to the Garnock are some pretty bits of
scenery, but the most interesting spot is that about which the world has
been singing for centuries - the spot where it was crossed by a ford below
Ryefield House. Before the erection of any bridge at Drakemire,
the fording of the stream had occasioned much fun and banter, as shown by
the many traditionary verses of the light and beautiful song that
commemorates the primitive scene. Here is one :-
" Gin a body
meet a body Comin’ through the Rye : Gin a body kiss a body Need a body
cry ? Ilka lassie has her laddie, Nane, they say, ha’e I ! Yet a’ the
lads they smile on me, When comin’ through the Rye."
rising farther south in the same hill range, has a frolicking run of seven
miles south-east to the Garnock, making a splendid leap over a
ledge about a mile from its final destination.
1099 feet above sea level, and situate between the Rye and the
Caaf, is the most eminent feature of the parish, which is hilly in the
west and moderately low and arable in the middle and east. For a
description of the coal seams in the valley of the Garnock see Kilwinning.
The length of the parish is nine miles, and its greatest width, east and
west by Dairy, is seven miles. Area, 19,284 acres. Population in 1871,
10,885; in 1881, 10,153.