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Mauchline

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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Mauchline (anciently Machlein, Machlene, or Maghline, Gael. magh-linne, ` plain with the pool '), a town and a parish nearly in the centre of Kyle district, Ayrshire. The town stands, 460 feet above sea-level, on the Glasgow and Dumfries high-road, 1¼ mile N of the river Ayr and ½ mile N of Mauchline Junction on the Glasgow and South-Western railway, this being 6¼ miles NW of Cumnock, 11¼ ENE of Ayr, 9¾ SSE of Kilmarnock, and 33½ S by W of Glasgow. Mauchline is built on a southward slope, in the midst of a highly cultivated country, which, abounding in springs, must at one time have presented the appearance indicated in its name. It has a neat and pleasant appearance, and looks busy and prosperous in proportion to the number of its inhabitants. There are no principal buildings in the usual sense of the term. The barn-like edifice which served as the church in Burns's time was replaced in 1829 by the present building. This, occupying a site in the centre of the town, rises from the churchyard, round which crowd many old houses, and it is considered to be one of the handsomest churches in Ayrshire. Mainly Gothic in style, it is built of red sandstone, and has at its eastern end a tower, 90 feet high, surmounted with turrets. It has sittings for about 1100 persons; and an organ was introduced in 1882. Its predecessor, well known as the scene of Burns's Holy Fair, stood for six centuries on the same site. In May 1884 both the Free church and the United Presbyterian church were about to be rebuilt. The schools under the school board are noted in connection with the parish. The New Educational Institution, founded and endowed in 1847 by the late James Stewart, Esq., is not under the board. Of its scholars 50 are educated gratis, and the remainder pay fees. It is conducted by two masters, with salaries respectively of £40 and £20, and one female teacher with a salary of £20. A monument, placed in 1830 on the public green at the town-head of Mauchline, marks the spot where five Covenanters were executed and buried in 1685, during the reign of James VII. The following lines were transferred to it from the original tombstone which it replaced:-

' Bloody Dumbarton, Douglas. and Dundee,
Moved by the devil. and the Laird of Lee,
Dragged these five men to death with gun and sword,
Not suffering them to pray nor read God's word;
Owning the work of God was all their crime.
The Eighty-five was a saint-killing time.'

A fine new cemetery has recently been opened near the scene of the brush between Middleton's troopers and the Clydesdale yeomen in 1648. The town has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a public library, an office of the Commercial Bank, agencies of 5 insurance companies, a gas-light company, 2 hotels, a temperance hall, and various other institutions and associations. It carries on extensive manufactures of wooden snuff-boxes, cigar-cases, card-cases, ornaments, and knick-knacks of various kinds in white varnished or tartan-painted wood. The trade began at Cumnock with the fine hinge of the snuff-box, but it was afterwards much extended and developed by the introduction of the painting, and it now occupies three firms at Mauchline, carrying on a large and far-reaching trade. This town has for a very long period been noted as a market for cattle and horses. Fairs formerly were held for cows, horses, and hiring, on the first Thursday after 4 Feb.; for general business and races, on the second Thursday of April; for cows and horses, on the first Wednesday after 18 May, the fourth Wednesday of June, the first Thursday after 4 Nov., and the fourth Wednesday of December; for cows, horses, and shearers, on the first Wednesday of August; and for cows, horses, ewes, and lambs, on 26 Sept. and the first Thursday thereafter. An omnibus plies to Catrine (2 miles) twice daily, except Sunday. A carrier goes to Glasgow and back on Tuesday and Friday; to Kilmarnock and Catrine on the same days; and to Catrine and Ayr on Tuesday.

Mauchline was created a free burgh of barony by charter of James IV. in 1510, and so remained till after the Reformation. In 1606, along with other lands and lordships, it passed by Act of Parliament into the hands of Hugh, Lord of Loudoun, on which occasion Mauchline received another charter creating it a free burgh of barony, with a weekly market and two fairs yearly. This, however, was unfortunately lost in the conflagration of the Register Office at Edinburgh towards the beginning of the 18th century; and the village has not reacquired power to elect its own magistrates. Its affairs are managed by justices of the peace. Pop. of the village (1831) 1364, (1861) 1414, (1871) 1574, (1881) 1616, of whom 751 were males. Houses (1881), occupied 372, vacant 16, building 5.

The civil history of Mauchline has been carried so far back as 681, when an invasion of Cruithne from Ireland is said to have been repulsed at the town, or on its site. In 1544 the celebrated reformer and martyr, George Wishart, was invited to preach in the church of Mauchline; but on his arrival he found the place guarded by a party of soldiers, under the sheriff of Ayr. Wishart restrained his adherents from violence, and induced them to follow him to Mauchline Moor, where he preached to them for three hours. The parish was situated in the very heart of the Covenanting district of Ayrshire, and much of its history is interwoven with that of the western Covenanters. In 1661 Mauchline Moor was the halting-place of western Covenanters, previous to their march, which ended in the battle of the Pentlands. The more modern historical interest of Mauchline centres wholly in its connection with Robert Burns (1759-96) during one of the most prolific periods of his poetic genius. The farm of Mossgiel, on which the poet lived from 1784 to 1788, and which he subleased from Mr Gavin Hamilton, a writer in Mauchline, lies 1½ mile NW of the town. Mr Hamilton's residence, an old relic of the former priory, and known as Mauchline Castle, contains the room in which Burns wrote his parody-sermon called The Calf, and that in which he is said to have married his ` Bonny Jean.' The cottage or change-house of ` Poosie Nancy ' or Agnes Gibson, the scene of the piece called The Jolly Beggars, stands nearly opposite the church-yard gate. ` It was, ' says Allan Cunningham, ` the favourite resort of lame sailors, maimed soldiers, wandering tinkers, travelling ballad-singers, and all such loose companions as hang about the skirts of society; ' but, though Burns had visited it, it was by no means one of his haunts. Separated from the gable of this house by an intervening lane, called the Cowgate, stood ` The Whitefoord Arms, ' a plain thatched building of two stories, a favourite resort of Burns, and kept by John Dow or Dove, upon whom the poet wrote the absurd epitaph, beginning, ` Here lies Johnnie Pigeon.' It was along the Cowgate that ` Common Sense ' or the poet's correspondent, Dr Mackenzie, escaped, when a certain minister approached the tent in The Holy Fair. In the Cowgate also stood the house in which Jean Armour lived before she was married to Burns. It was separated from the Whitefoord Arms by a narrow cross street, and is now replaced by a two-story building. Beside the churchyard was the house of Nance Tinnock. We have already adverted to the church as the scene of The HolyFair. In the grave-yard are to be seen, besides the graves of two of Burns's children, those of the Rev. Mr Auld, Nance Tinnock, etc. ` Holy Willie,' renowned for the prayer which Burns puts into his mouth, was a member of Mauchline Kirk-Session. The Belles of Mauchline celebrates six young ladies of the town, with whom Burns was acquainted. There are numerous allusions to persons and events connected with Mauchline in Burns's other poems; and the scenes of some of his most exquisite lyrics are laid on the banks of the river Ayr.

The parish is bounded N by Riccarton (detached) and Galston, E by Sorn and Auchinleck, S by Auchinleck, SW by Ochiltree and Stair, and W by Tarbolton and Craigie. Its greatest length, from NNW to SSE, is 6¾ miles; its breadth varies between ½ mile and 33/8 miles; and its area is 8907 acres, of which over 70 are water. The river Ayr winds 5½ miles west-by-southward, mainly along the southern and south-western boundaries, but for 15/8 mile across the southern interior; Lugar Water, its affluent, curves 21/8 miles north-north-westward along the Ochiltree and Stair boundaries; and Cessnock Water, a tributary of the Irvine, meanders 4½ miles north-north-westward through the interior, then 25/8 miles west-north-westward along the northern boundary. The surface undulates gently, sinking along the Ayr to 190, along Cessnock Water to 220, feet above sea-level; and rising thence to 524 feet near Mossgiel, 606 near Grassyards, 426 at Friendlesshead, and 580 near North Auchen. brain. A large tract of land, formerly called Mauchline Moor, exhibits now no trace of its ancient condition, but shows the generally well-cultivated, arable nature of by far the greater part of the parish. The soil near the town is light and sandy; in a few places it is a rich loam; but in general it is clayey. Thin strata of coal, ironstone, and limestone are found, but not worked; but both white and red sandstone is quarried within the parish. The river Ayr flows between steep red sandstone cliffs, 40 or 50 feet high, and beautifully overhung with wood. A cave cut out of the rocks on the banks of the Lugar is called Peden's Cave, and is said to have been a hiding-place of the celebrated Alexander Peden during the persecutions. Barskimming Bridge, across the Ayr, with a span of 100 and a height of 90 feet, was built towards the close of last century by Sir Thomas Miller, Lord President of the Court of Session; a railway viaduct, near Howford Bridge, across the Ayr has a span of 175 and a height of 180 feet. The only lake in the parish was Loch Brown, called Duveloch in old charters, which formerly covered 60 acres; but this has been drained for many years, and its bed is occupied by cultivated fields, and traversed by the railway.

Besides the town of Mauchline, the parish contains the village of Haugh. It is traversed by the Glasgow and South - Western railway between Glasgow and Carlisle; by the high roads between Glasgow and Dumfries, and between Edinburgh and Ayr, which intersect at the town; and by other thoroughfares. The principal mansions are Netherplace, Ballochmyle, Rodinghead, Viewfield, and Beechgrove. Mossgiel Farm deserves mention also. The chief pro. prietors are Alexander of Ballochmyle, the Duke of Portland, Boswell of Auchinleck, and Campbell of Netherplace.

Mauchline parish is in the presbytery of Ayr and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is £280, including manse and glebe. The public schools of Crosshands and Mauchline and the New Educational Institute, with respective accommodation for 83, 250, and 211 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 30, 174, and 179, and grants of £41, 17s., £209, 17s. 4d., and £215, 3s. 4d. Valuation (1860) £9717, (1884) £12,875, 11s. 11d., plus £4502 for railways. Pop. of both civil and ecclesiastical parish (1801) 1746, (1831) 2232, (1861) 2303, (1871) 2435, (1881) 2504, of whom 1186 were males and 3 Gaelic-speaking. Houses (1881) occupied 527, vacant 24, building 5.—Ord. Sur., shs. 14, 22, 1863-65.

The parochial records go back only to 1670. The ancient parish of Mauchline comprehended also the territory now forming the parishes of Sorn and Muirkirk. Chalmers, in his Caledonia, says, that in 1165, during William's reign, Walter, son of Alan, granted to the monks of Melrose the lands of Mauchline, with certain privileges. The monks established a priory of their own order at Mauchline, which remained a cell of Melrose till the Reformation. An old tower, already mentioned, is the sole relic of this building. The power and property of the monks gradually expanded about the nucleus of Mauchline; and ` they contributed greatly to the settlement and cultivation of the district.' Their estates of Mauchline, Kylesmure, and Barmure were afterwards formed into a regality, whose court met at Mauchline village, erected into a free burgh of barony in 1510 by James IV. After the Reformation the ecclesiastical lands, etc., about Mauchline were formed into a temporal lordship in favour of Hugh, Lord Londoun, whose original grant was dated 1606. The town of Mauchline was at the same time made a burgh of barony. In 1631 what is now Muirkirk, and in 1636 what is now Sorn, were detached from Mauchline parish, which was ` thus reduced to less than a fifth of its former magnitude.' Before the Reformation there had been a chapel on each of these portions. One was on Greenock- Water; the other on the Ayr, dedicated to St Cuthbert, stood E of the present village of Catrine, on a field known as St Cuthbert's Holm.

Besides the relics of the priory in the town, the old tower of Kingancleugh may be mentioned among the antiquities. The Braes o' Ballochmyle, and indeed the whole course of Ayr, is classic ground in Scottish poetry, from its connection with Burns.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available.

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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