Notes on the way
through Ayrshire - 100 years ago
West of Beith, and
bounded by Renfrewshire on the north-east. The town of Kilbirnie stands on
the right brow of Garnock River (which flows south), 20 miles
west-south-west of Glasgow, and fully 20 miles north of Ayr. At the
beginning of this century it was only a small, quaint village; and its
present importance has been attained chiefly by enterprise in various
branches of manufacture, and in mining. The principal manufactures are
winceys, ginghams, woollen shirtings, flannels, linen thread, linen yarn,
ropes, and fishing nets; and there are engineering and ironfounding
It has a post office, with telegraph, money order, and savings bank
departments; a Clydesdale Bank, numerous shops, two public schools,
Established and Free Churches, a Roman Catholic Chapel, a hotel, and a
railway station, which is a mile off. Population in 1871, 3313; in 1881,
Kilbirnie Place or
Palace is a ruin a little to the west of the town. About 1395, its
earliest known residents were Barclays, a branch of
Kilbirnie Loch, fully
half-a-mile east of the town, is one mile and a half long and less than
half-a-mile broad It contains trout, pike, and perch.
GLENGARNOCK, at the south end of the loch, has a post office, with
telegraph, money order, and savings bank departments; a public school,
with about 400 scholars; a United Presbyterian Church, large iron and
steel works, cabinet and other manufactories. Population, 1276, 406 of
whom are in the parish of Dalry.
Glengarnock Castle, a
most romantic old ruin, stands on the Garnock, one mile and a half north
of Kilbirnie, Hugh
Barclay, a Scotch poet of
considerable power and humour. Here is a scrap of his poetry, written
about 1580, and addressed to a brother of the poetic craft, Alexander
Montgomery of Hessilhead, Beith:-
" My best
belovit brother of the craft, God ! gif ye knew the stait that I am in.
Thoght ye be deif, I know ye are not daft, Bot kynd aneugh to ony of your
kin. If ye bot saw me m this winter evin, With old bogogers, hotching on a
sped, Draglit in dirt, whylis wat evin to the ‘skin, I trow thair suld
be tears or we tua shed, But maist of all, that hes my bailis bred, To
heir how ye on that syde of the mure Birlis at the wyne, and blythlie goes
to bed, Forgetting me, puir plewman I am sure. Low, sillie I, opprest with
barmie Juggis, Invyis your state, thats powing Bacchus’ luggis"
Had that been written
after, instead of 200 years before Burns,
we might have pronounced it a good imitation.
The River Garnock
forms among high moors at the northern extremity of the parish, runs
rapidly down south-east until it reaches the town, and thence meanders
quietly south, in a rich, level country, past Dalry and Kilwinning,
till it joins the Irvine, just before entering the sea, 20 miles.
About two miles from its source it makes a grand cataract, or series of
small cascades, over rugged rocks, 60 feet high, called the Spout of
Misty Law, north
of the Spout, 1663 feet above sea level, is the most prominent
feature of the hilly portion of the parish. A thick vein of sulphate of
barytes in this hill has been worked with profit. The prevailing rocks are
basaltic. The stratified rocks in the valley contain coal, ironstone,
fireclay, limestone, and sandstone.
The parish is about
seven miles long, north-west, and from two to four miles broad. Area,
10,335 acres. Population in 1871, 4953; in 1881, 5243.