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Dunoon

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Dunoon, a favourite watering-place and a parish of Cowal district, Argyllshire. The town extends more than 3 miles along the western shore of the Firth of Clyde, from the entrance of Holy Loch south-south-westward to beyond West or Balgay Bay, and consists of Hunter's Quay to the N, Kirn, and Dunoon proper to the S. Each has its separate steamboat pier, that of Hunter's Quay being 6 miles WNW of Greenock and ¾ mile N of Kirn's, which is 1 mile NNE of Dunoon's, which again is 1¾ mile W by N of Cloch Lighthouse, 11 miles NNW of Largs, and 11 NNE of Rothesay. Old Dunoon arose beneath the shadow of an ancient castle, which, crowning a small rocky headland between the East and West Bays, is supposed by some antiquaries to have been founded by dim Dalriadic chieftains in the early years of the 6th century, and later to have been held by Scandinavian rovers. However that may be, from the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1058-93) this castle was the seat of the Lord High Stewards of Scotland, on the accession of the sixth of whom, Robert, to the throne in 1370, it became a royal palace, under the hereditary keepership of the Campbells of Lochow, ancestors of the Duke of Argyll. By royal charter of 1472 Colin, Earl of Argyll, Lorne, and Campbell, obtained for himself certain lands around the Castle of Dunoon, which in 1544 was besieged and taken by Lennox, the would be regent, and on 26 July 1563 received a visit from Mary Queen of Scots. In 1646 it was the scene of a cruel atrocity wrought by the Campbells on the Lamonts of Cowal and Bute, thirty-six of whom were most traitorously carried from the houses of Escog and Castle Toward to the village of Dunoon, and there were hanged on an ash-tree at the kirkyard. ' Insomuch that the Lord from heaven did declare his wrath and displeasure by striking the said tree immediately thereafter, so that the whole leaves fell from it, and the tree withered, which being cut down there sprang out of the very heart of the root thereof a spring like unto blood, popling up, and that for several years, till the said murderers or their favourers did cause howk out the root. ' Henceforward the castle, which seems to have covered an acre of ground, and to have had three towers, was left to utter neglect, its stones abstracted for neighbouring cottages, so that now its bare outline can hardly be traced, though the greensward of course is imagined to cover a perfect labyrinth of vaults. Hard by, on the site now occupied by the parish church, stood the castle chapel-a nunnery in popular belief; and also near were the butts or cuspars, the gallows' hill, and a moat-hill (Gael. Tom-a-mhoid). As the castle decayed, so too decayed the village of Dunoon, in spite of its being the regular ferry between Cowal and Renfrewshire and an occasional resort of invalids for the benefit of drinking goat's whey. The year 1822 found it a Highland clachan, with a church, a manse, three or four slated cottages, and a sprinkling of thatched cottages or huts. But in that year the late James Ewing, Esq., LL.D., purchased a feu here, and built thereon the handsome marine villa called, from the neighbouring castle, Castle House; and it was not long before others followed his lead, steam navigation having by this time brought Dunoon within comparatively easy reach of Glasgow. Fringing the sweeping curves of East and West-or Milton and Balgay-Bays, modern Dunoon stands partly on the low platform of the Firth's old sea-margin, partly on gentle ascents, with immediate background of broken, heather-clad braes, and, beyond, of the Cowal heights. The whole exhibits a charming indifference to town-like regularity, villas and cots being blended with gardens and trees; sea, wood, and mountain being all within easy access; and the views of the Clyde and its basin being wide as they are lovely, from the Castle Hill embracing parts of the five shires of Renfrew, Dumbarton, Ayr, Argyll, and Bute. Good bathing-ground occurs at Balgay Bay; boats may be had for hire; and the excursions alike by land and by water comprise not a little of Scotland's fairest scenery.

To descend to details, the town has two post offices of Dunoon and Kirn, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Clydesdale and Union Banks, 21 insurance agencies, 10 hotels, a gas company, an excellent water supply, fed by a reservoir with storage capacity of 45, 000, 000 gallons, agricultural and horticultural societies, a capital bowling-green, fairs on the third Thursday of January and February, and three weekly papers-the Independent Saturday Argyllshire Standard (1870), the Independent Wednesday Cowal Watchman (1876), and the Liberal Saturday Dunoon Herald and Cowal Advertiser (1876). The Burgh Buildings, erected in 1873-74 at a cost of £4000, are a two-storied Scottish Baronial pile, and contain the municipal offices, with a hall that, measuring 73½ by 35½ feet, can accommodate 500 persons, and is adorned with a stained-glass window. A fine stone edifice, Romanesque in style, and originally erected at a cost of £11,000 for a hydropathic establishment, was, thanks to Miss Beatrice Clugston of Lenzie, opened in 1869 as the West of Scotland Convalescent Sea-side Homes. Fitted with splendid baths, and accommodating 150 inmates, as enlarged by a new wing in 1880 at a cost of £8000, these Homes have hitherto (1882) been the means of restoring 19, 000 invalids to health; on 5 Aug. 1872 they were honoured with a visit by the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne. A skating rink, with asphalte floor, 118 feet long and 60 wide, was opened in 1876. The first wooden steamboat jetty formed by a private joint stock company in 1835 proving insufficient, the present pier, with waiting-rooms and separate allotment for vehicle traffic, was built a few years ago by the late Mr Hunter of Hafton; it extends 390 feet into the water, which at its head has a depth of about 4 fathoms. Kirn pier is of similar construction; whilst Hunter's Quay is a stone erection of 1828, with a projection and slip, and, near it, the Royal Clyde Yacht Club-house. In 1880 a broad esplanade, protected by a breast-wall, was formed along the northern shore of Balgay Bay at a cost of £500; beyond, spanning Balgay Burn, is the Victoria Bridge (1878). The parish church, built in 1816, and enlarged in 1834 and 1839, is a good Gothic edifice, with 838 sittings, and a massive square pinnacled tower; in its graveyard are time-worn tombstones to the Rev. John Cameron and Andrew Boyd, Bishop of Lismore, bearing date 1623 and 1636. The Free church, dating from 1843, was rebuilt (1876-77) in the French Gothic style at a cost of £10, 000; and a Free Gaelic church is the old U.P. church of 1828, converted to its present purpose in 1875, in which year the U.P. body built a handsome new Gothic church at a cost of £5000. A Scottish Episcopal church, Holy Trinity, Early English in style, with nave, chancel, and stained-glass windows, was built in 1850; a Roman Catholic church, St Mun's, in 1863. Other places of worship are an English Episcopal church and a Baptist chapel, both open only during the summer months; with a quoad sacra and a U.P. church (1863) at Kirn. The beautiful cemetery, 2 acres in extent, contains the graves of Robert Buchanan of Ardfillayne (1785-1873), professor of logic in Glasgow University, and the late James Hunter, Esq. of Hafton (d. 1855); but at Greenock, not here at her birthplace, rests Mary Cameron, Burns's ' Highland Mary ' (d. 1786). Dunoon public, Kirn public, and Dunoon Free Church schools, with respective accommodation for 200, 118, and 180 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 171, 79, and 142 children, and grants of £132, 12s., £80, 4s., and £115, 13s. Since 1868 a burgh, with Kirn and Hunter's Quay, under the General Police and Improvement Act, Dunoon is governed by a senior and two junior magistrates, and by 9 other police commissioners. The municipal constituency numbered 944 in 1882, when the burgh valuation amounted to £68, 963, whilst the revenue including assessments for 1881 was £3400. Pop. (1844) 1296, (1861) 2968, (1871) 3756, (1881) 4680-a number raised by summer visitors to upwards of 7000.

The parish comprises the ancient parishes of Dunoon and Kilmun, and, besides the town and suburbs of Dunoon, contains the post-office villages of Sandbank, Kilmun, Strone, Blairmore, Ardentinny, and Inellan. It is bounded N by Strachur, NE by Lochgoilhead, E by Loch Long and the Firth of Clyde, S by the Kyles of Bute, W by Inverchaolain, and NW by Kilmodan. Its utmost length is 16¼ miles from N to S, viz., from Whistlefield inn to Toward Point; its breadth, from E to W, varies between 2 and 75/8 miles; and its land area is 44, 595 acres. The coast-line, reaching from 1½ mile NNE of Glenfinart to opposite Rothesay, extends about 23 miles-7 along Loch Long, 5 around Holy Loch, 9 along the Firth of Clyde, and 2 along the Kyles of Bute. It is everywhere bordered with the low green platform of the old sea-margin, a natural terrace thickly fringed with town and village and pleasant mansion, and backed by hills or mountains. The 3 lower miles of narrow Loch Eck belong to Kilmun; and from its foot the Eachaig river winds 5¼ miles south-south-eastward to the head of Holy Loch, and receives by the way the Massen and Little Eachaig, the former running 8½ miles southward and south-eastward through the interior, the latter 4¼ miles east-north-eastward along the boundary of Kilmun with Inverchaolain and Dunoon. Dunoon is not so mountainous as Kilmun, its chief elevations from S to N being Inellan Hill (935 feet), Ben Ruadh (1057), Garrowchorran Hill (1115), Corlorach Hill (1371), Kilbride Hill (1294), Horse Seat (1282), the Badd (1215), *Bishop's Seat (1651), Dunan (575), Strone Saul (993), Finbracken Hill (649), and Dalinlongart Hill (643); whilst in Kilmun rise Kilmun Hill (1535), Stronchullin Hill (1798), Ben Ruadh (2178), *Creachan Mor (2156), and Cruach a' Bhuie (2084) to the E of the Eachaig and Loch Eck, and, to the W thereof, Ballochyle Hill (1253), Clachaig Hill (1708), Sgarach Mor (1972), A' Chruach (1570), Clach Beinn (2109), and Benmore (2433), where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the confines of the parish. Clay slate, greenish, greyish, or bluish in hue, sometimes finely laminated and firmly grained, is a predominant rock, and has been quarried for roofing purposes on Toward estate and near the town of Dunoon. Highly indurated mica slate, traversed by veins of compact quartz and contorted into every variety of curve, is still more prevalent, forming by far the greater portion of the ancient parish of Dunoon, and passing into clay slate in the southern part of Kilmun Hill. Silurian rock, course-grained and merging out of junction with clay slate, occurs at Strone Point and Toward; whilst Old Red sandstone skirts the shore from Inellan to within about a mile of Toward Castle, and has been quarried, at different periods, for building purposes. Limestone, in small quantity and here and there of quality akin to marble, occurs contiguous to the Old Red sandstone, which near Toward Point is traversed by dykes of trap; and serpentine, taking a high polish, is fairly plentiful on the coast near Inellan. The soils are generally light and shallow, consisting chiefly of humus, sandy gravel, or sandy loam. Great agricultural improvements have lately been effected, especially on the Benmore estate, where and at Castle Toward hundreds of acres have been planted with millions of trees. On Ardnadam farm is a cromlech; ancient stone coffins have been found in various places; an artificial mound, 90 by 73 feet, and 10 feet high, on Ardinslat farm, is supposed to have been formed by the Romans; and Kilmun has interesting ecclesiastical antiquities. The principal mansions, all separately noticed, are Castle-Toward, Hafton House, Benmore House, and Glenfinart House; and 6 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 32 of between £100 and £500, 99 of from £50 to £100, and 360 of from £20 to £50. Dunoon is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Argyll; and the civil parish is divided ecclesiastically among Dunoon-Kilmun itself (a living worth £426) with the chapelries of Strone and Toward, and the following quoad sacra parishes, with date of erection as such Ardentinny (1874), Inellan (1873), Kirn (1874), and Sandbank (1876). The seven schools, all of them public but the last, of Ardentinny, Inellan, Kilmun, Rashfield, Sandbank, Toward, and Glenloan, with total accommodation for 655 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 386, and grants amounting to £375, 17s. Valuation (1860) £34, 889, (1882) £80,774, 16s. 6d. Pop. (1801) 1750, (1831) 2416, (1841) 4211, (1861) 5461, (1871) 6871, (1881) 8003.—Ord. Sur., sh. 29, 1873. See S. Martin's Guide to Dunoon (Dunoon, 1881).

The presbytery of Dunoon comprises the old parishes of Dunoon and Kilmun, Inverchaolain, Kilfinan, Kilmodan, Kingarth, Rothesay, Lochgoilhead and Kilmorich, and Stralachlan and Strachur, the quoad omnia parish of North Bute, the quoad sacra parishes of. New Rothesay, Ardentinny, Inellan, Kirn, and Sandbank, and the chapelries of Strone, Toward, Kilbride, Tighnabruaich, and Rothesay-Gaelic. Pop. (1871) 21, 627, (1881) 23, 711, of whom 3102 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in l878. -The Free Church has a presbytery of Dunoon, with 3 churches in Rothesay, 2 in Dunoon, 2 in Kingarth, and 8 at respectively Inellan, Kilfinan, Kilmodan, Kilmun, North Bute, Sandbank, Strachur, and Tighnabruaich, which together had 3237 members in 1881.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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