Lochwinnoch, pp.295-297.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   LOCHWINNOCH,1 a parish in Renfrewshire, bounded on the north by Kilmalcolm; on the north-east by Kilbarchan; on the east by the Abbey parish of Paisley and Neilston; and on the south and west by Beith and Kilbirnie in Ayrshire. It extends about 12 miles from east to west, and, where broadest, about 6 miles from north to south; and contains 19,219 English acres, of which 9,000 are cultivated, or capable of cultivation; 9,119 are in pasture, of all sorts; 700 are covered by wood; 300 by water; and 100 by gardens and orchards. The value of raw produce is about £14,000. In aspect this parish is greatly diversified. Part consists of high and bleak hills in the back ground; and part of a low winding valley of great fertility and beauty. This valley, with the shelving country towards it on both sides, contains nearly the whole population. In its centre is a fine lake, and it is also ornamented with plantations, whilst the houses of its numerous small proprietors are each set down under the shade of a few old trees in the midst of well-cultivated spots of ground. The whole strath has a warm and cheerful appearance, insomuch that worthy George Robertson, in his description of 1818, waxing poetical for once, justly pronounced it “the very Vale of Tempe of Renfrewshire.” The highest hills in the county are situated in the western extremity of tins parish. One of these heights – appropriately called Misty-law – is about 1,240 feet above the level of the sea; and another, the hill of Staik, is a few feet higher. The prospect from Misty-law extends over 12 counties, including the frith of Clyde and its islands. This hill is surrounded by moorlands, which abound with game, and afford tolerable pasture for sheep. Another range of high land, mostly arable, passes through the eastern part of the parish. The lower grounds are clay and loam; the higher, exclusive of moor, are a light dry soil, on rotten rock or whinstone. Coal is wrought at Hallhill, and limestone at Howwood. Freestone and other kinds of stone for building abound, and quarries are opened when they are required. About 2 miles north-west of Castle-Semple house is a magnetic rock, of which the following description was given in the Statistical Account of 1795: “The compass was sensibly affected all round the rock to the distance of 150 yards. The effect was most remarkable on the east and west side of it, and, in every direction, it was greater as the compass was nearer to the rock itself. In its immediate vicinity, or nearly in a perpendicular direction above it, the position of the needle was very unsteady and irregular, and as the compass was gradually brought nearer the ground, the deviation from the magnetic meridian was more remarkable, and the vibrations more rapid. When the compass was set on the ground, the north pole of the needle invariably directed itself to one small space of the rock, on whatever side of it the needle was placed.”2 The lake already mentioned is properly called Loch-Winnoch, but more commonly from the estate it adjoins CASTLE-SEMPLE Ioch: which see. When covered with ice, it forms an excellent arena for the invigorating game of curling, which is keenly prosecuted by the parishioners. Here, upwards of half-a-century ago, a famous bonspiel was played between Douglas, Duke of Hamilton, popularly called ‘the Sporting Duke,’ and Mr. Macdowall of Castle-Semple, and their respective tenantry, when, after a long protracted contest, his Grace’s party gained the day by one shot. In the north-west of the parish is a sheet of water called Queenside-loch, containing about 21 acres; and in the opposite extremity is one much less, called Wa’s-loch, which is remarkable for the quantity of water-lilies it produces. The river Calder runs wholly within the parish. It rises on the north-west, on the borders of Ayrshire, and pursues a winding course towards Castle-Semple loch, which it enters near the village. On this river are some romantic waterfalls, and its banks, which are overhung with wood, both natural and planted, are exceedingly picturesque. Their beauties were first pointed out by Alexander Wilson, the ornithologist of America, who, although not a native of this parish, resided in it for some years before his emigration, and founded several of his poems on its scenery and incidents. He thus lamented the neglect to which all his time the banks of the Calder had been doomed:- 

“Say, ye blest scenes of solitude and peace, 

Strayed e’er a bard along this hermit shore? 

Did e’er his pencil your perfections trace? 

Or did his muse to sing your beauties soar? 

Alas! methinks the weeping rocks around, 

And the lone stream, that murmurs far below, 

And trees, and caves, with solemn hollow sound  

Breathe out one mournful melancholy ‘No!’ ” 

This river is crossed by three bridges. The highest, that of Brigend, is of considerable antiquity. The property adjacent to it occurs under that name in the 16th century, and is still so called. The arch of this bridge is very fine, and the mason-work more elegant than is now usually employed in such structures. Originally it was very narrow, but was repaired and widened in 1814. The second bridge, at Calderhaugh, was built in 1769, and the lowest upwards of twenty years ago. Several burns either flow within the parish or bound it. Next to the Castle-Semple property, the history of which has been described under that article, the second large property in the parish is Barr, which anciently belonged to a family named Glen. John de Glen, the first that occurs, swore fealty to Edward of England in 1296. The family became extinct in the person of Alexander Glen in 1616, and the lands of Barr were acquired by a branch of the Wallaces, who appear to have afterwards assumed the surname of Hamilton. Barr continued in the possession of the Hamiltons till about 1788, when it was sold to Mr. Macdowall of Castle-Semple. About 22 years afterwards it was purchased by James Adam, Esq., who, in 1820, sold it to William Macdowall, Esq., nephew of the gentleman just named, and representative of the Macdowalls of Garthland and Castle-Semple. By Mr. Macdowall the mansion-house, (which stands on that part of the barony called Garpel,) was principally built, and the thriving plantations which surround it formed. Here he resided, esteemed by the parishioners for his innate worth and deeds of unostentatious open-handed charity. He died at Barr-house in his 70th year, and was succeeded by his brother. At his death he was vice-president of the Maitland club, (a distinguished literary association,) and one of the deputy-lieutenants of the county. Barr-loch, which covered about 250 English acres, was so well drained by Mr. Adam during his proprietorship, that its site is now only occasionally and partially inundated after a heavy fall of rain in winter. In summer it waves with luxuriant crops of oats and hay. The castle of Barr is agreeably situated on an eminence on the south side of the road leading from Lochwinnoch to Kilbirnie. It is a high oblong tower, of 4 stories, the walls of which are entire, but without a roof. From the walls having both slits for arrows and ports for guns, the building may be referred to the 15th century, when the people of this country were passing from the one mode of warfare to the other. Above the door are the initials of one of the former proprietors, the Hamiltons, and his wife. – In the south-eastern extremity of the parish is a barony called Auchenbathie-Wallace, to distinguish it from another called Auchenbathie-Blair, which belonged to a different family. The former belonged to the Wallaces of Elderslie, and is mentioned by Blind Harry as one of the places that Malcolm Wallace, father of the hero, “had in heritage.” On this property there are the remains of a small castle called the tower of Auchinbathie. The only other objects of antiquity we have to mention are the remains of two hill-forts, the one on the farm of Castlewa’s, and the other on Knockmade, a hill near the Kame.3 On 18th June, 1685, a skirmish took place at Muirdykes, in the eastern part of the parish, between the Government troops commanded by Lord Ross of Hawkhead, and a remnant to the number of 75, of those who had joined in the rising under the Earl of Argyle. The latter, under the command of Sir John Cochran, having taken up a position within some enclosures, bravely repelled the enemy, and kept their ground till nightfall, after which both parties withdrew from the field. Sir John’s men then dispersed, and the Earl himself having been previously taken prisoner near Inchinnan, the unfortunate enterprise came to an end. – Besides the proprietors of Castle-Semple and Barr, the chief land-owners in the parish, in the order of their valuations, are Mrs. Barr, Robert Fulton, Esq. of Hartfield; Ludovic Houston, Esq. of Johnston; the family of the deceased William Cochran, Esq. of Ladyland; and William Patrick, Esq., writer to the signet. The rest of the parish is broken down amongst small proprietors amounting to nearly 130. The lands of Beltrees belonged to a distinguished family, the founder of which was John Sempill, youngest son of the 3d Lord Sempill, and husband of Mary Livingston, sister of Lord Livingston, and one of the maids of honour to Queen Mary. His son, Sir James Sempill, enjoyed the confidence of James VI., and was the author of several works in prose and verse. Robert Sempill, the son, and Francis, the grandson, of Sir James, inherited his poetical talent. In our account of KILBARCHAN, there is some farther notice of this family, which is now represented by James Stuart, Esq., merchant in Greenock, great-grandson of that Robert Sempill who died in 1789. 

   In this parish there are two cotton-mills, namely, the old mill erected about 1788, and the new mill in 1789, which give employment to upwards of 500 workers. There is also a mill for carding and spinning wool, erected in 1814. It is in the third story of a building near the Calder, the under part of which is one of the largest and most complete corn-mills in the country. The bleaching of goods is extensively carried on. In 1835, there were about 200 handloom weavers, employed by Paisley and Glasgow houses. Population of the parish, in 1831, 4,515; in 1841, 4,716. Houses, in 1831, 538. Assessed property, in 1815, £13,730. – The parish is in the presbytery of Paisley, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patrons, the heritors. About 1813, the patronage was bought from Mr. Macdowall of Castle-Semple’s trustees for £1,550, and disposed of among 77 heritors, holding more or less shares from 1 to 5, and having votes proportioned to the number of their shares, each of which cost £10. The church was built in 1806; sittings about 1,150. Stipend £277 1s. 6d.; glebe £19 10s. Unappropriated teinds £998 2s. 6d. – In the village there is a mission-station belonging to the Establishment, opened 7th December, 1834. The chapel is a school-room fitted up with a pulpit and moveable seats; sittings 237; salary of missionary £60. There is in the village a church belonging to the United Secession body, built in 1792 at the cost (including the manse, &c.) of about £1,200; sittings 503; stipend £100, with £6 for sacramental expenses, besides a house and garden. Salary of parochial schoolmaster £34 4s., (from which £5 is paid yearly to one of the schools not parochial,) with school-fees varying in the branches taught; and £25 annually arising from an endowment. There are 9 other schools, with one teacher to each. There is hardly a person in the parish who cannot read. 

   The village of LOCHWINNOCH is on the north-west side of Castle-Semple loch. The situation is very pleasant, being sheltered in all directions except the south-east, either by rising grounds or thick plantations. The place consists of a main street half-a-mile long, with some streets crossing it at right angles. The houses are generally of two stories and covered with slates. There is a branch bank in the village. The cross of Lochwinnoch is distant 9 miles and 6 furlongs from that of Paisley. Population of village, in 1838, 2,636. Besides HOWWOOD, [which see,] the only other village in the parish is Glenhead, the population of which, in 1831, was 53.

1  The name is vulgarly pronounced Lochinoch, the accent being laid on the first syllable, and the gutturals being sounded. It was spelled in from 30 to 40 different ways before the present orthography was finally adopted. In Semple’s work, published 1782, it is ‘ Lochinioch.’ The first syllable of the name evidently refers to the lake or loch in the neighbourhood of the village, but the derivation of the remainder is doubtful: it may either be innich, the genitive of the Celtic word innis, a small inland referring to an islet in the lake; or Winnoc, a saint to whom it is said a chapel was here dedicated. There appear to have been three different saints of that name, – one, if not two of whom, was a native of Britain, another was an Irish saint. Other derivatives have been suggested, but they are quite fanciful. 

2  In the New Philosophical Journal for July – October, 1831, there, is an article respecting such rocks. 

3  The former is described in the New Statistical Account of the parish, p. 96; the latter is not, but a notice of it will be found in the Paisley Magazine, p. 524.

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