Maybole Parish
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The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland Volume II (Gordon-Zetland)
Dictionary of Scottish Topography complied from the most recent authorities, and forming
 A complete body of Scottish Geography, Physical, Statistical and Historical
Edited by The Rev. John Marius Wilson

Contributed by Duncan A. McLaren and Pearson Park


Maybole, a parish containing a post town of its own name, also the villages of Culroy, Dunure, and Fisherton, in the north-west corner of the district of Carrick, Ayrshire. It is bounded by the frith of Clyde and by the parishes of Ayr, Daylrymple, Kirkmichael, and Kirkoswald. Its greatest length in a straight line, is 9 miles, but by the nearest practicable road is 12; It’s greatest breath in a straight line is 5 miles, but by the nearest practicable road is 7; and its area is 33 1/4 square miles. The eastern and south-eastern districts are an undulating plains, very diversified in surface, never subsiding long into a level, nor ever rising into decided upland. The other districts are a sea of heights, partly arable, and partly pastoral, so pleasingly and rapidly diversified in superficial outline as to want nothing but a free interspersion of wood to be delightful rambling ground to a lover of fine scenery. Along the middle of the hill district, parallel with the frith, and 1 ½ mile distant from it, stretches a range of summits nearly 4 miles long, attaining an extreme altitude of 924 feet above sea-level, and bearing the name of Brown Carrick hill. This range, though heathy in itself and rising like a screen to intercept a view of the frith and its frame-work from the interior, commands one of the most gay, magnificent, and extensive prospects in Scotland. On the south-east and south stretches the surgy surface of Carrick, expanding away in alternations of green height and brown bold upland till it becomes lost among the blue peaks of the southern Highlands of Scotland; on the south-west and west are the broad waters of the frith of Clyde, with many a sail like a sea-bird skimming the surface, and the rock of Ailsa riding like an ark on the wave, while behind are the serrated mountains of Arran veiled in misty exhalations , or curtained with clouds of every form and hue; on the north, immediately under the eye, extends the deep sylan furrow of the Doon with the monuments of Burns glittering like a gem on its edge; and away thence stretches the great luxuriant plain of Kyle and Cunningham pressed inward in a long sweeping segment by the frith, gaily spotted with towns which look like cities in the distance, chequered also with a profusion of mansions and demesnes, and gliding dimly away in the perspective into the gentle heights of Renfrewshire, over-looked in the far horizon by the blue summit of Benlomond. The same prospect, in much of its extent and most of its elements, is seen from a thousand vantage-grounds inspiriting land of beauty; but nowhere are its scope so unbroken, its groups so superb, and its effect upon the mind so exquisitely thrilling. Should any one wonder that Burns grew up on the threshold of this home of romance, and for many years might have daily gazed on its gorgeous visions, and yet has not made an allusion to it in his writings, he must remember that the bard, though possesing a keen eye for the beauties of nature, was the painter rather of manners than of landscape,-the type of poetry not of Salvator Rosa, but of Hogarth and the limners of Holland.

The river Doon, over 4 ½ miles in a straight line but 7 or 8 along its numerous curvatures, forms the boundary-line on the north-east. But over ½ of a mile above its emouchure it forsakes its ancient bed, and places a small portion of the parish, a piece of haugh-ground on its right bank. Along nearly all its connexion with Maybole, it has a deeply furrowed, dell-like path, profusely covered with copsewood and trees. Girvan water forms the boundary for a short distance on the south-east and is there a mirthful fine-clad stream. Rannochburn, running 2 ¾ miles westward along an entwisting glen to the sea, traces part of the southern boundary. The interior running waters, owning to the configuration of the surface, are mere rills; but the largest gathers a considerable volume in five or six sources on Brown Carrick hill, and runs in an easterly course of 4 miles to the Doon near Auehendrane. Of four or five tiny lochlets, all lying in the south-east, the only noticeable one is Heart-loch; whose outline is exactly designated by its name, and whose appearance in a wooded hollow, with vegetation coming freely up on the outer surface of its waters, is softly beautiful. Perennial springs of excellent water are numerous, especially on the site and in the vicinity of the town; and one of them, called the Well-trees’ Spout, emits a stream powerful enough to drive a mill wheel, or between 160 and 170 imperial gallons per minute. Of various mineral springs, formerly of medicinal repute, but all now neglected, the most remarkable is St. Helen’s-well, 2 ¼ miles north of the town on the high road to Ayr,-anciently associated with Popish superstition, and reputed to have the power on Mayday of healing or invigorating sick or delicate infants.

The geological structure of the coast presents an interesting correspondence in its strata with those of the confronting coast of Arran. The predominant rocks of the interior are old red sandstone and trap. The sandstone, in a quarry at St. Murray’s often affords beautiful specimens of arborescence, from the presence of the black oxide of manganese, and is traversed by veins of lead ore. The soil of the arable lands is partly of a light nature, and partly of a strong, clayey character. About 17,000 imperial acres are in tillage; nearly 1,000 are under plantation; about 570 are meadow; and the rest of the area is variously moorland and hill pasture. The principal landowners are the Marquis of Ailsa, the Right Hon. T. F Kennedy of Dunure,  Sir James Fergusson, Bart. Elias Cathcart, Esq. Of Auchendrane, Sir David Hunter Blair, Bart. and four others. 


 The estimated value of raw produce in 1837 was £ 47,552. Assessed property in 1855-6, £ 28,592. The parish is traversed by the road from Ayr to Girvan, and has a branch railway of its own, completed and open for traffic in September 1856, and going into junction with the Ayr and Dalmellington railway. There were in the parish, in the feudal times, at least fifteen towers or castles, the residences of brawling chiefs. Dunure-castle, an interesting extant one of these, has been noticed in our article on Dunure. Grenand, or Greenan castle, half-way between the mouth of the Doon and the Heads of Ayr, is a tall, qaunt, lanthorn-looking pile, rising nakely upon the margin of the sea, on an elevated bank, overlooked by a bold ascent;and, as seen with the Clyde for its back-ground it has a haggard aspect, striking suggestive of the misery of feudal times. The castles of Newark, Maybole, and Kilkenzie, have recently undergone renovation or repair, and are at present inhabited; but all the others- the castles of Auchendrane, Smithstown, Beoch, Craigskean, Garryhorne, Doonside, Dalduff, Glenayas, Sauchrie, and Brochlock- are much dilapidated, or have left but a few vestiges.

Numerous camps occur, so small and of such rude construction, as evidently to have been thrown up by small invading bodies of those Irish who subdued the Romanized British tribes. Tumuli, the burying places of a field of carnage, are frequent around it, tyrannized over in ancient times by the Kennedies; and exhibits not a few memorials of disasters inflicted, or of conflicts maintained, by them and their underlings. Population in 1831, 6,287; in 1851 7,615. Houses 948.

This parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Crown, Stipend, £335’7d.;glebe, £30. Unappropriated teinds, £51 19s 3d. Schoolmaster’s salary, £34 4s 4 ½d, with about £100 fees. The parish church was built in 1808, and altered and improved in 1830, and contains 1,192 sittings. There are two chapels of ease, the one at the west end of the town, built by the later Sir C. D. Fergusson; the other on the coast, at Fisherton. There is a Free church in the town and the amount of it’s receipts in 1856 was £647 9s. 1 ½d. There is an United Presbyterian church in the centre of the town built in 1797 and containing 555 sittings. There is also an Episcopalian chapel. There are six non parochial schools. The present parish of Maybole comprehends the ancient parishes of Maybole on the south and Kirkbride on the north. The church of Maybole, anciently dedicated to St. Cuthbert, was given in the reign of Alexander II by Duncan of Carrick, son of Gilbert of Galloway, to the Cistertian nuns of North Berwick, whose convent was founded soon after 1216; and continued to belong to them, and to figure as a vicarage established by the bishop of Glasgow, till the Reformation. The entire revenues of the vicarage were estimated in the reign of James V. at only £ 53 6s 8d. and half of even these were annexed for some time before the Reformation to the prebend called Sacrista Major in the collegiate church of Glasgow. At the Restoration, the revenues of the parsonage, the glebe excepted, were held on lease by Thomas Kennedy of Bargany, for the yearly payment of £22, twenty oxen, and twelve cows. In 1451, a chaplainry was founded in the church by Sir Gilbet Kennedy of Dunnure, dedicated to St. Ninian, and endowed with the lands of Largenlen and Brochlock. A chapel, subordinate to the parish church, anciently stood on the lands of Auchendrane; and other chapels, in other parts, were traceable at the end of the 17th century. The church of Kirkbride was given to the same parties as the church of Maybole and by the same donor, and continued in their possession till the Reformation. The annexation of it’s parish to Maybole occurred probably in the days of Popery, and certainly before 1597. In that year, the church of Maybole figures as the place of worship for both parishes, and by an act of parliament, was formally separated from the convent of North Berwick, and established as a rectory. The ruins of the church of Kirkbride, on the shore about half-a-mile north of Dunure castle, are still distinctly observable, surrounded by a burying-ground which continues to be used, and in the vicinity of a field which bears the name of the priest’s land or glebe. In 1371, Sir John Kennedy of Dunure, founded, near the parish cemetery of Maybole, a chapel for one clerk and three chaplains, dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, and endowed it with the five mark lands of Barrycloych and Barrelach, the six mark lands of Trechan, and various other sources of revenue. This collegiate chapel seems to have been the earliest establishment of its class in Scotland; and afterwards, when similar ones arose, it was called a collegiate church, and its officiates were styled provost and prebendaries. During part of the reigns of James III and James IV., Sir David Robertson was provost; and , in 1525, Mr. Walter Kennedy, rector of Douglas, canon of Glasgow, and rector of the university of Glasgow, was appointed to the office. The ground on which the town stands belonged to the collegiate church. Two houses, which were the domiciles of two of its priests, and orchards, which belonged to the domiciles of the others, still exist. The church itself is now the burying-place of the Marquis of Ailsa and other parties, whose ancestors arrested the progress of the pile toward ruin; and is surrounded by a planted and neat path of round enclosed with a wall.



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