Parish of Kirkconnel

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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1791-99: Kirkconnell
1834-45: Kirkconnell

Kirkconnel, a village and a parish of Nithsdale, NW Dumfriesshire. The village, standing on the Nith's left bank, 530 feet above sea-level, has a station on the Glasgow and South-Western railway, 3¼ miles WNW of Sanquhar and 29½ NNW of Dumfries. Successor to the Village or church hamlet of Old Kirkconnel, 2 miles NNW, it is a pleasant little place, with an inn and a post office under Sanquhar. Pop. (1861) 413, (1871) 432, (1881) 464.

The parish, containing also part of Crawick Mill village, is bounded N by Crawford john in Lanarkshire, E and SE by Sanquhar, and W and NW by New Cumnock in Ayrshire. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 8 miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 61/8 miles; and its area is 26,808 acres, of which 148¼ are water. The Nith, entering from New Cumnock, flows 53/8 miles east-south-eastward through the interior, then 2 miles along the Sanquhar boundary; and here it is joined by Glenquharry Burn (running 4½ miles southward), by Kello Water (running 5¾ miles east-north-eastward along the Sanquhar boundary), by Crawick Water (running 8 miles south-south-westward along the Sanquhar boundary), and by sixteen lesser tributaries; whilst Spango Water, one of the Crawick's head-streams, flows 73/8 miles eastward through the northern interior. Two mineral springs on the farm of Rigg, 1¼ mile W by S of the village, resemble but excel the waters of Merkland Well in Lochrutton parish and Hartfell Spa near Moffat, yet have never acquired much celebrity. In the extreme SE, at the Crawick's influx to the Nith, the surface declines to 440 feet above sea-level, and chief elevations to the right or S of the Nith are White Hill (1331 feet), *Dun Rig (1648), and *M'Crierick's Cairn (1824); to the left or N, Black Hill (1589), Todholes Hill (1574), Cocker Hill (1653), *Mount Stuart (1567), Kirkland Hill (1670), and *Nivistop Hill (1507), where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the confines of the parish. These hills, forming part of the broad range that runs across the South of Scotland from the Berwickshire to the Ayrshire coast, are so grouped and distributed as both to offer much diversity of contour and to enclose a number of ravines and hollows, yet they are mostly so moorish, mossy, or thinly clothed with herbage, as to exhibit a general aspect of bleakness and desolation. The banks and immediate flanks of the Nith alone contain nearly all the arable lands and the seats of population; and these, inclusive of gentle slopes on either side from the hills, have a mean breadth of 1½ mile. The rocks are partly carboniferous, but chiefly Silurian. Coal abounds, but has never been largely worked; limestone and ironstone occur; and lead is supposed to exist in several hills towards Crawick Water. The soil of the arable lands along the Nith is variously deep rich alluvium, a light gravelly mould, loam, clavy, and a mixture of clay and moss. Rather less than one-fourth of the entire area is in tillage; 186 acres are under wood; and the rest of the land is either pastoral or waste. Cairns and a reach of the Deil's Dyke, running S of the Nith, are the only antiquities; but St Connel, to whom the original church was dedicated, is said to be buried on Halfmerk Hill, 3 miles NNW of the village, where a memorial cross of the Iona pattern was lately erected by the Duke of Buccleuch. Natives have been James Hislop (1798-1827), author of The Cameronian's Dream. and the ` surfaceman ' poet, Alexander Anderson (b. 1845); whilst George Jardine (1742-1827), professor of logic in Glasgow University, was parish schoolmaster in 1759. The Duke of Buccleuch is much the largest proprietor, one other holding an annual value of more, and one of less, than £100. Kirkconnel is in the presbytery of Penpont and synod of Dumfries; the living is worth £369. The parish church, at the village, was built in 1729, and, as enlarged about 1806, contains 300 sittings. Two public schools, Cairn and Kirkconnel, with respective accommodation for 44 and 150 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 23 and 136, and grants of £18, 7s. 6d. and £123, 9s. Valuation (1860) £7808, (1883) £10,246, 5s. 6d. Pop. (1801) 1096, (184l) 1130, (1861) 996, (1871) 952, (1881) 1019.—Ord. Sur., sh. 15, 1864.

Kirkconnel, an ancient parish in Annandale, Dumfriesshire, annexed, after the Reformation, to Kirkpatrick-Fleming. Its graveyard, on a meadow within a fold of Kirtle Water, 2½ miles NNE of Kirtlebridge station, contains the ashes of ` Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lee,' and those of her lover, Adam Fleming, in saving whose life she lost her own, from the bullet of her less favoured suitor, a Bell of Blacket House. Whether her own name was Bell or Irving is hard to determine, but tradition seems to refer the tragedy to some time in the 16th century; and it forms the theme of that sweetest of Scottish ballads-

'I wish I were where Helen lies,
Night and day on me she cries;
Oh that I were where Helen lies
On fair Kirkconnel Lee!'

Bell's Tower, the home of Fair Helen, was demolished in 1734.—Ord. Sur., sh. 10, 1864.

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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