Kirkoswald, pp.189-190.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   KIRKOSWALD, a parish in Carrick, Ayrshire; bounded on the north by Maybole; on the east by Kirkmichael and Dailly; on the south by Dailly and Girvan; and on the west by the frith of Clyde. It measures along the sea-coast 6 miles, and contains nearly 11,000 Scottish acres. The coast is, for the most part, a sand-beach, with a beautiful and rich carpet of grass to the very sea-mark. The northern part is peculiarly favourable for sea-bathing; and even in spite of the absence of a village, or a fair sprinkling of houses to serve as bathing-quarters, attracts to the farm-houses and cottages in its vicinity a considerable number of visiters. The surface inland luxuriates in an utter opulence of beauty, and the panorama seaward, over the vast landlocked frith of Clyde, with Ailsa-Craig so clearly defined in its centre, as to seem not more than 2, while really from 11 to 18 miles distant, is thrilling and magnificent. From many a point in the interior, too, but especially from the summit of Mochrum-hill, most part of Ayrshire, and a sea of heights far beyond its further limits, are added to the prospect. The surface of the parish is surprisingly and very beautifully diversified. To describe it as hilly, though abstractly correct, is morally erroneous; for it suggests ideas of ruggedness or boldness of outline, or of cold and tame gatherings of pastoral heights utterly foreign to the district. Its hills are neither numerous nor very high; and yet, in consequence of the breadth of their bases, they leave little of the area, except along the sea-board, to be smoothed down into level ground; and they are very diversified in form, but generally waving and decidedly beautiful in outline. The most remarkable is Mochrum, an exceedingly flat and broad-based cone, with curved or undulating sides, mantled all over in fine thriving plantations, and esplanaded with a spiral carriage-way leading up to its summit. This hill is an imposing and even sumptuous feature in the general landscape of the country, as seen from almost any point in the interior, but particularly as seen from the frith. So powerful, too, is its physical attraction on this humid coast, that it frequently acts completely as an umbrella to the district around its eastern side; and a person who drives round its west side from Maybole, and returns the same day, may leave the town in a drought, get a thorough drenching during his drive, and, on his return, pass a distinct line, beyond which not a drop of ram has fallen. Between Mochrum and the sea, the forest which comes wavingly down its slow descent, continues to stretch away to the very beach, slightly interrupted with lawn, and artificial lake, and gorgeous castellated mansion and offices, – the seat and demesne of the Marquis of Ailsa: see article COLZEAN-CASTLE. The whole of this division of the parish, the north-west comprehending probably one-fifth of the entire area, is either so regularly set with plantation, or so thickly belted and chequered and patched with trees, as to seem one continuous forest. Along all the south-east, likewise, is a profusion of wood; and in some other districts, is quite enough for the purposes of both shelter and ornament. Nearly all the rest of the parish is regularly or occasionally under the plough; and all is finely enclosed with neat walls or thriving hedges. The soil west of the great post-road between Ayr and Girvan, which bisects the parish lengthways, is, in general, a very rich loam mixed with a considerable quantity of clay; and east of that road, the surface being higher, the soil is more light and humid, intermixed with some clay, and lying on a freestone bottom. Several marl-pits have yielded up large treasures to the farmer. Two large hillocks within 30 yards of sea-mark, and 10 yards apart, and which had existed from time immemorial, were accidentally discovered to consist of a substance which resembled coal-ashes, and which was found for some purposes, to be a good manure. “Although above 1,000 cart-loads have been taken,” says the statist in the Old Account, “yet there remain in the two hillocks, at a moderate computation, above 3,000 loads more. Tradition does not inform us whence these ashes came in such quantity. There is no vestige of any building whatsoever, nearer than the old farm-house, and the place is 4 English miles distant from any coal-work. It has been supposed they are the effects of barbarous superstition in times of idolatry in this country.” Immediately south-east of Mochrum is a lake which covers 24 Scottish acres, and 1½ mile south of it is another about two-thirds its extent. A stream, formed by head-waters issuing from both, runs 4¾ miles south-westward past the village of Kirkoswald to the sea at Turnberry. Five or six other independent streamlets rise in the interior, or near the eastern boundary, and run to the sea; and these, with their tiny tributaries, welling up from numberless springs out of every hill, supply the parish with abundance of pure water. A valuable mine of coal, consisting of 5 seams, from 6 to 15 feet thick, caught fire about the middle of last century, resisted all attempts to extinguish the combustion except being abandoned, and though wearing toward extinction, continued to burn at the date of the Old Statistical Account, 45 years after it became ignited. The white fishery on the coast is plentiful, and employs a number of boats. – On the coast, 3 miles south of Colzean castle, are vestiges of the ancient castle of TURNBERRY; and close on the post-road, 2¼ miles north of the village of Kirkoswald, are the stately ruins of CROSSRAGUEL ABBEY: see these articles. Half-a-mile south-east of Colzean is the house or castle of Thomaston, traditionally said to have been built in 1335, by a nephew of Robert Bruce, anciently very strong and capacious, inhabited so late as a century ago, and now the property of the Marquis of Ailsa. Within a mile of Turnberry-castle, on the height which swells up between it and the village of Kirkoswald, lies the farm of Shanter, now annexed to another farm, and denuded of its buildings, and the scene no longer of such smuggling and bacchanalian exploits as those of the ‘Tam o’ Shanter,’ the tenant who occupied it in the days of Burns. In other particulars, besides connexion, through this farm, with the horrific tale, whose scenes are laid in Alloway kirk, the parish owes some notoriety to the Ayrshire bard. – The village of Kirkoswald occupies a picturesque site on the west or shore-road between Ayr and Girvan, 4 miles south-west of Maybole, 13 miles from Ayr, and 8 miles north-east of Girvan. It is of considerable size, and neatly edificed, the site of the parish-church, of a commodious inn, and of a large fine schoolhouse; the seat on the 5th of August of an annual fair, and its buildings chiefly constructed of sandstone, and covered with slate. Population of the parish, in 1801, 1,679; in 1831, 1,951. Houses, 341. Assessed property, in 1815, £10,544. – Kirkoswald is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Crown. Stipend £212 15s.; glebe £6. Parish-schoolmaster’s salary £30, with £40 school-fees, and £5 and some trifling few other emoluments. The parochial school is attended by about 100 scholars; and three non-parochial schools by about 80. – The saint of the parish was Oswald, a Northumbrian king, who showed great zeal in propagating the form of professed Christianity with which he was acquainted, but was slain at Oswestry on the 5th of August, 642, and canonized after his death. The ancient church, standing within Turnberry manor, was, for several centuries, called Kirkoswald of Turnberry. Originally it belonged, by gift of Duncan, who became Earl of Carrick, to the monks of Paisley, but seems to have been granted to them on the condition, which they did not fulfil, of their establishing in Carrick a monastery of their order; and the monastery of Crossraguel being founded by Duncan a little before his death, the church was transferred to the monks of that abbey, and continued to be a vicarage under them till the Reformation. During part of the 17th century, it was held by the bishop of Dunblane. In 1652, about one-fourth of the ancient parish, consisting of a tract on the north-west side of Girvan water, was annexed to the parishes of Dailly and Girvan. The old church, which had served for ages, and seemed to have undergone many alterations, stood on a very low site, a little north of the rising ground which bears aloft the present edifice. 

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