GALSTON, a parish in the north-east corner of the district of Kyle, Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north by Irvine water, which divides it from the parishes of Kilmarnock and Loudon in the district of Cunningham; on the east by Avon water, which divides it from the parish of Avondale in Lanarkshire; on the south by the parishes of Sorn and Mauchline; and on the west by Cessnock water, which divides it from the parishes of Riccarton and Craigie. In extreme length, from east to west, it measures from 12 to 13 miles; and in extreme breadth, from north to south, 4½ miles; but it is extremely irregular in outline, and contains scarcely 23 square miles of superficial area. The surface differs widely in the several districts; but, on the whole, is a level variegated with considerable hills. The most upland portion is the eastern and south-eastern; and there it is, for the most part, dingily carpeted with heath, moorland, and moss. Along the banks of the Irvine, over nearly the whole length of the parish, is a stripe of plain, covered with rich alluvium, and delightfully fertile and well-cultivated. South of this plain, over a distance of 2½ miles, a very wide belt of forest stretches east and west, and, along with lesser belts and clusters in other localities, occupies about 1,000 acres. About two-thirds of the whole parish are arable, and about four-tenths are pastoral or mossy. There are few places in the county in which improvement has made such rapid progress as Galston moor. About 30 years ago, the whole presented a bleak and sterile appearance; but by the judicious and enterprising spirit of the late Nicol Brown, Esq. of Lanfine, the aspect of the whole is changed: well-constructed farm-steadings, regular hedge-rows, and healthful plantations now give beauty and life to the scene; and the ground that was once unproductive is now bringing forth abundantly. Bruntwood-loch, in the south-west extremity, formerly the resort of wild ducks and swans, has recently been rifled of its ornithological wealth by agricultural improvement, and made to contribute its bed for the growth of the fruits of the earth. Loch Gait, at the eastern extremity, once a sheet of deep water, abounding in trouts and very large eels, and the chief source of the Water of Avon, which gives name to the district of Avondale in Lanarkshire, has now, by some strange process, become transmuted into a pitiful marsh. A considerable proportion of the hills and rising grounds of the parish terminate in whinstone summits. The highest elevations are Distinct-Horn and Molmont-hill, both in the eastern division, which rise respectively 1,100 and 1,000 feet above the level of the sea. Molmont-hill is arable to the top, and commands an extensive and delightful prospect. A spectator, standing on its summit, looks immediately down on the windings of the Irvine, the thriving town of Galston, and the ancient seats of Cessnock tower and Loudon castle, with their extensive woods and ornamented demesnes; he surveys, in the distinct tints and perfect shadings and perspective of Nature’s own painting, all Cunningham, most of Kyle, and a great part of Carrick; he sees, right before him, across the glittering frith of Clyde, the huge barometer of Ayrshire, the mystic-looking island of Arran, shrouded at times, and at times gorgeous and brilliant in its cloudy drapery; and he even obtains, on a clear day, a far-off and almost mysterious view of the apparently sinking coast of Ireland. The climate of the parish, though moist, is not unhealthy; a frequent prevalence of high winds, operating, it is believed, to prevent insalubrious effects from very frequent falls of rain. About 90 years ago all the fuel used in the parish was peats from Galston moor, excepting a few coals, brought, in sacks on horses’ backs, along almost impassable roads, from Caprington near Kilmarnock. But now, though the operations are greatly hindered by the prevalence of “dikes,” coal-mines are extensively worked in the western district from the coal-field of Ayrshire, the dip of whose strata here is north-west. On Molmont-hill agate and chalcedony frequently occur, though seldom of a character to be cut into gems; and at its west base, in the channel of Burn-Anne, is found the beautiful stone called the Galston pebble. On the summit of the same hill are remains of a Druidical circle, great part of which has been destroyed, originally about 60 feet in diameter. At Claymore, half-a-century ago, an urn was dug up containing several ancient coins; at Waterhaughs twenty-two silver coins were discovered; and, in 1831, in the eastern part of the parish, a coin was found of Cæsar Augustus. At a place called Beg above Allanton are rude traces of an extensive Roman camp, where the patriot Wallace, with only fifty followers, obtained a complete victory over an English officer of the name of Fenwick at the head of 200 men. Wallace had several places of retirement in the uplands on the eastern verge of the parish, and in those of the conterminous parish of Loudon; and has bequeathed to a hill in the former, and a hollow glen in the latter, the names respectively of Wallace-hill and Wallace-gill. Excellent turnpikes and good parish roads traverse Galston in various directions to the aggregate extent of about, 30 miles. Its western division, in particular, is cut from north to south by the turnpike between Glasgow and Dumfries. Population, in 1801, 2,139; in 1831, 3,655. Houses 417. Assessed property, in 1815, £9,638. – Galston is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Duke of Portland. Stipend £178 16s.; glebe £15. Unappropriated teinds £178 16s. The parish-church was built in 1808. Sittings 1,028. A United Secession congregation, established about the year 1786, has a place of worship which was built in 1797. Sittings 547. Stipend £104, with a manse and garden. Salary of the parochial-schoolmaster £34 4s. 4½d., with about £45 fees and £10 other emoluments. Maximum attendance at the parish-school 131. There are four schools non-parochial attended by a maximum of 316 scholars. In three of them Latin is taught, besides more ordinary departments. The late Charles Blair, Esq., left the whole of his property for the establishment of a free school in Galston: to be brought into operation so soon as the property should realize £200 per annum. Such being now the annual rental of the property, the trustees erected a structure at once massive and elegant. The dwelling of the teacher is in the lower flat, the school-room above. The salary of the teacher is, according to the will, £40 per annum; but the trustees are enabled, without any violation of either the letter or spirit of the will, to make it £60 per annum. – The church of Galston was anciently dedicated to St. Peter; and, in 1252, it was granted to the convent of Red friars at Faile, and continued in their possession till the Reformation. Before 1471, a chapel was founded in Galston, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary; and it was upheld by an endowment for the support of a chaplain. In 1578, the property of the chapel belonged, in right of its patronage, to Campbell of Cessnock.
The town of GALSTON stands on the left bank of the Irvine, at the point where it receives the waters of Burn-Anne; 5 miles from Kilmarnock; 14 from Cumnock; 16 from Ayr; and 22 from Glasgow. It occupies a low and sheltered site, surrounded on all sides by gentle rising grounds, is overhung on the north by the wooded “banks and braes” of Loudon, and altogether has a very pleasing appearance, and exerts a considerable local influence in the midst of an opulent and productive district. A fine stone-bridge of three arches communicates between it and the northern bank of the Irvine. Loudon castle lifts its magnificent castellated pile into view, from amidst a rich embowering of woods, about a mile to the north. In the town are the parish-church and the United Secession meeting-house, the former ornamented with a spire and clock; 4 corn-mills, 1 lint-mill, 1 paper-mill, and 2 saw-mills. But the chief occupation of the inhabitants is cotton-weaving. The principal manufacture, during the years of the hamlet-history of the place, was shoes for the merchants of Kilmarnock or for exportation. But when, in dependency on Paisley and Glasgow, the weaving of lawn and gauze was introduced, it somewhat suddenly expanded the bulk of the hamlet, gradually swelled it into a small town, and, for a long period, gave it a healthy and athletic aspect. The first loom for light work was set up in 1787; but so early as 1792 the number of looms was about 40, and in 1828 it had increased to 460. In 1799 the population was 455; in 1792 it was 573; and in 1831 it had increased to 1,891. But though, subsequently to the last date, population continued to increase, weaving had begun to receive such a check that, between 1828 and 1838, the number of looms was reduced from 460 to 423. Galston has four annual fairs; only two of which are of any importance, held respectively on the third Thursday of April, and the first Thursday of December. A stage-coach passes through, and affords opportunities of easy communication with Ayr, Edinburgh, and places intermediate. Another stage-coach, which traverses the parish not far from the town, maintains communication with Glasgow and Dumfries, and, through the latter, with Carlisle and London. One carrier travels six days a-week to Kilmarnock; and two travel twice a-week to Glasgow. Near the town is the ‘Patie’s mill’ of song; and 3 miles distant, farther up the Irvine, is the large village or little town of Newmills, partly in Galston parish, but chiefly in that of Loudon: See NEWMILLS. – “The number of persons,” say the commissioners on municipal corporations, “who reside in the village of Galston, whose rents in property or tenantry amount to £10 and upwards, is 43; of those whose rents are above £5 and under £10, the number is 113. – The inhabitants, feeling the want of a magistracy in the village, made application, a few years ago, to the baron-bailie appointed by his Grace the Duke of Portland, the superior of the village, to delegate his powers to two persons in the village. The application was granted, and two persons named out of a leet fixed upon by the inhabitants. In addition to the two bailies there are 12 councillors, one-half of whom retire annually; their places are supplied by the election of the householders, who meet and vote by signed lists. There are no customs or assessments levied. The bailies impose small fines for assaults or disorderly conduct tending to a breach of the peace, and, failing payment, cause the delinquents to be imprisoned for a short time in a place of confinement which they have. The bailies represent that they are destitute of any real authority, and are in doubt as to the extent to which they are entitled to carry the little they possess.”