Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Note:- There is also an Auchinleck in Dumfries and Galloway

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Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago   


South of Muirkirk, Sorn, and Mauchline. The town of Auchinleck stands on the north side of Auchinleck Burn, three-quarters of a mile above its confluence with the Lugar, and one mile and a-quarter north-west of Old Cumnock. It consists of one street of partly two-story and partly one-story houses, half-a-mile in length, with a short transverse street at its south end, where the Established Church marks the original centre. It has also a United Original Secession Church, a large public school, a boarding school for young ladies; a post office, with money order and savings bank departments; numerous shops at intervals along its length; and a railway station, where a branch line goes off to Muirkirk. Population in 1871, 1199; in 1881, 1528. William Murdoch, the inventor of gas, was born in the parish, 1754. Either from want of capital or want of selfishness, he did not get his brilliant invention patented; and after he had brought it to practical use by a great amount of ingenious labour, it was absolutely snatched from his hands by wealthy firms and companies, who pocketed large dividends; and while the nations of the world were laughing with amazement at the beauty and convenience of the new light, the poor toiling inventor remained as obscure and unheard-of as if he had never existed. Watt, recognising his inventive power, got him employed in his works at Birmingham. It is not known to what extent the perfection of Watt’s steam engine is due to Murdoch, though he gets credit for having invented the slide valve; also the oscillating cylinder, so valuable for marine engines; and what is far greater, the locomotive. Without gas and the locomotive, what would this brilliant, progressive nineteenth century all over the world have been? How strange that most of its surpassing greatness should have come a free gift from the head and horny hands of that poor working man ! and how strange, too, that a little bit of a stone should never be raised to his memory in his native parish ! John M‘Gavin, author of '‘ The Protestant," was born at Darnlaw, less than a mile from Auchinleck, on the road to Mauchline. He received a little education at the parish school before removing with his parents to Paisley, where he worked as a draw-boy in a silk factory; after-wards as a printer’s boy. Persevering with his own education, be became an assistant teacher in a school; afterwards engaged in business as a silk manufacturer; failing in that, obtained a situation in a Glasgow shipping house, of which he became a partner in 1813; was appointed to the Glasgow agency of the British Linen Company Bank in 1822; completed the publication of " The Protestant," in four volumes, the same year. Mr. M‘Gavin also published editions of Knox’s " Reformation " and Howie’s "Scots Worthies," besides working as a lay preacher. Died 1832, aged 59. A large and highly ornate monumental structure bearing his statue has been erected in Glasgow Necropolis by his fellow-citizens.

Auchinleck House stands amid fine wooded scenery three miles west of the town, with the Whirr Loch on its east, the Swan Loch on its south, and the ruins of Auchinleck Old Castle, at the junction of Lugar Water and nipple Burn, on its west-all within half-a-mile. Dr. Johnson well describes it as "a house ‘of hewn stone, very stately and durable." And of the old castle he says:-" I was, however, less delighted with the elegance of the modern mansion than with the sullen dignity of the old castle. I clambered with Mr. Boswell among the ruins, which afford striking images of ancient life. It is like other castles, built upon a point of rock, and was, I believe, anciently surrounded with a moat, There is another rock near it, to which the drawbridge, when it was let down, is said to have reached," A peculiar interest attaches to it as having been the property and residence of Boyde of Auchinleck, whose wife was one of the two daughters of Sir Rannald Crawford, Sheriff of Ayr, and sister of the mother of Sir William Wallace. The two sisters were named Margaret and Joan, but which of them was the hero’s mother seems to remain uncertain. The Boswell family lived in the old castle from the time of James IV. till it became uninhabitable. Several members of this family are known to fame. James Boswell, the biographer of Johnson, eldest son of the Judge, Lord Auchinleck, who built the modern mansion, was born 1740. At the age of 22 he published a poem entitled "The Club at Newmarket: a Tale;" first met with Dr. Johnson, 1763; published "Account of Corsica, with Memoirs of General Paoli," 1768. In 1790 appeared his great work, "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.-a work which describes the career of the renowned lexicographer, depicts his tastes and habits, and reproduces his remarkable conversations of wit and wisdom with his many and versatile literary friends with such minuteness, dramatic vivacity, and felicity, as clearly to place it above comparison with any other work of its kind. Died in London, June 19, 1795, aged 55. Sir Alexander Boswell, Bart., poet, eldest son of the preceding, was born October 9, 1775. He possessed all the humour and vivacity of his father, but seems to have lacked somewhat of his conciliatory disposition. At the age of 27 he published a small volume entitled "Songs, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect." Several of these songs obtained popularity, and one at least, " Jenny’s Bawbee," is a permanent favourite. In 1810 he published, under the assumed name of "Simon Gray," a poem in Scotch, entitled "Edinburgh, or the Ancient Royalty: a Sketch of Former Manners." "Skeldon Hauchs, or the Sow is Flitted," a tale in Scotch verse, founded on an old Ayrshire tradition of a feud between the Crawfords and the Kennedys, was published in 1816. The honour of knighthood was conferred on Mr. Boswell in 1821. During a period of political excitement, in which Sir Alexander took active part, some satirical poems and letters having appeared in the Sentinel, attacking personally James Stuart, Esq., younger of Dunearn, and that gentle-man having traced their authorship to Sir Alexander, he challenged him to fight a duel. The antagonists met at Auchtertool, in Fife, Sir Alexander’s second being the Hon. John Douglas, brother to the Marquis of Queensberry, and Mr. Stuart’s second the Earl of Rosslyn. Both having fired, the bullet from Mr. Stuart’s pistol entered the poet’s neck, shattering his collar bone. He died next day. This unfortunate event took place March 27, 1822.

THE VILLAGE Of LUGAR stands on Lugar Water, two

Lugar Water flows "mang moors and mosses many" till it approaches the village, and thence winds past the town of Cumnock, through a fine cultivated sylvan vale, past Dumfries House, Ochiltree

Auchinleck Old Castle, and meets the Ayr at Barskimming Mill, one mile and a quarter south of Mauchline

The village of COMMONDYKE is one mile north-west of Lugar. Population in 1871, 396; in 1881, 1048. A Roman Catholic Chapel is at Birniknowe, a little west of it; and a mile north of it is the village of DARNCONNAR, which has a provision store, a public school, and a new iron church. Population, 928. The village of CRONBERRY, with a public school and a railway station, is one mile north-east of Lugar. Population, 799. The village of GASWATER, or GRASSWATER, is two miles from Lugar.

All these mining villages are near the border of the dark region of Aird’s Moss, where, on the 20th of July, 1680, a number of devout Covenanters, along with Richard Cameron, their minister, were engaged in worship under a covering of mist, and were stealthily surrounded by a troop of dragoons commanded by Bruce of Earlshall, who had been hunting them from Sanquhar through the upland wilds of New Cumnock, Auchinleck, and Muirkirk for many days. Of the small band of religious patriots, numbering 63, who had fled to the Moss for safety, only a very few of the strongest and swiftest escaped. These having fought till most of their brethren had fallen, cut their way through the solid circle, and took to their heels in different directions through the Moss Hags, pursued by the soldiers, who had left their horses at the edge of the Moss. One of these was the famous covenant warrior, James M ‘Michael, a man of giant stature, younger brother of Daniel the martyr. Of the soldiers who pursued him, all were quickly outrun except one, a powerful athlete, who managed to overtake him, when a desperate combat took place, which lasted until some of the breathless soldiers had come up so near them as to be able to report that the unevenness of the ground caused their comrade to stumble, when he received the thrust from M ‘Michael’s sword which laid him lifeless on the heather. This is the tradition as handed down in the M ‘Michael family, which is slightly different from that given by Dr. Sympson, apparently from a different connecting line. Mr. Cameron being amongst the dead, the soldiers cut off his head and right hand, and carried them to Edinburgh, where his father, a small shopkeeper from Falkland, was lying in prison for nonconformity. They showed the head and hand to the poor old man, asking if he knew to whom they had belonged. "I know, I know them; they are my son’s-my own dear son. It is the Lord ! blessed be the name of the Lord ! " The mutilated body of Mr. Cameron was buried here, in Aird’s Moss, along with the rest of the slain, the names of eight of whom are on the monument 

" Where Cameron’s sword and his Bible are seen, Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green." About four miles east of Lugar, up Glenmuir Water, where " In Glenmuir’s wild solitude, lengthened and deep, Were the whistling of plovers and bleeting of sleep," 

stand the modern mansion and old farm steading of Dalblair, where James Hislop, the poet, lived as a feed boy, herding sheep. He is author of "The Cameronian’s Dream," from which we have been quoting, a poem that has shed a hallowed, charm over the whole district. He was born in the parish of Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire, 1798, his father being a customer weaver. By educating himself, the poetic youth was able to teach an evening school before going to Greenock, at the age of 21, to teach a day school. Two years later "The Cameronian’s Dream" appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine, when the critic Lord Jeffrey influenced the poet to open a school in the capital. He was afterwards appointed teacher on board the Doris, whence he contributed "Letters from South Africa " to the Edinburgh Magazine. He contributed also to the London press; wrote "The Cameronian’s Vision," in the same measure as the "Dream," but longer, and "The Scottish Sacramental Sabbath," in the style of "The Cottar’s Saturday Night." Having joined the war ship Tweed, Mr. Hislop was seized with a severe illness while ashore on St. Jugo, and died there, 1827, aged 29.

Half-a-mile above Dalblair, on an elevated point of land at the confluence of Guelt and Glenmuir Waters, stands the ruin of Kyle Castle. The extent of the entire building (which was probably a square tower) cannot now be ascertained, but a wall of great thickness testifies to its formidable strength. Examining the mortar in the wall, which is as hard as stone, it has the appearance of standing for thousands of years to come, and the wonder is how it can be so old as to have crumbled to what it is. There being no remains of any other castle of this name in Kyle, it may safely be regarded as the residence of the traditional King of Kyle, and probably the only genuine relic of the old monarchy now in existence. It looks much, too bare for Royalty now, but we must take into calculation the evidences of this having at one time been the heart of a great forest. All east of this is moorland, clad with bent, heath, and sprotts, affording a good living for gray-faced sheep and grouse. The surface of the parish is hilly and wild in the east, and moderately level in the middle and west. About one-third of it, consisting of the west and south middle, is under tillage farming, and not a little of that is a cold, self-willed clay, that refuses to comply with the wishes of the farmer. Coal, ironstone, and lime abound in the west half, and are extensively worked. The known seams of coal, in order of descent, are:-Ell coal, 3 feet; main coal, 4 feet; 3 feet 6 inch coal; another main coal, 4 feet; 2 feet 4 inch coal; mussel coal, 2 feet 2 inches; 2 feet 7 inch coal; 2 feet coal. It is surmised that the Muirkirk seams lie below these, at a great depth. A Muirkirk seam crops at Penbreck, in the far east of this


1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


How a Sheeps Head Begat Strife Between AUCHINLECK And CHILDFREE

There stands on the bank of the Lugar, in the parish of Auchinleck, the remains of an old castle, the House of Auchinleck. It is the veriest of ruins. What still endures tells of a stronghold of five centuries ago and more, when Ayrshire was the battle ground of contending families, and when mansions were built for defence and for defiance. 


Some Auchinleck Death Records


  Google Map of Auchinleck

This Link takes you to the GOOGLE MAP SITE where you will find a map of the town and the surrounding area as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


Map of  Auchinleck today

This Link takes you to the MULTIMAP website where you will find a map of the town and the surrounding area as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


StreetMap of Auchinleck

This Link takes you to the STREET website where you will find a street map of the town as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


Old Maps of Ayrshire Towns

This link goes directly to the OLD MAPS website for an Ayrshire Index to detailed old maps of most Ayrshire Towns around 1860. You can explore out to all sides by using the arrows at the top of the page. These maps are ideal for finding the locations of areas such as farms.  



At the beginning of the sixteenth century the barony of Auchinleck was acquired by Thomas Boswell, who appears to have been in the immediate service of James IV. In 1505 he obtained charter of the lands of Cruikstoun, Over and Nether Keithstone, and Rogertoun, and about two years thereafter obtained another charter erecting the village and land of Keithstoun, in his barony of Auchinleck, into a burgh of barony. Keithstoun is now incorporated in the town of Auchinleck. ...>




Auchinleck Web Sites

Auchinleck Living Memory Group


Auchinleck Books and Maps


Pathfinder Map 0468 (NS42/52): Tarbolton, Mauchline & Auchinleck
Ordnance Survey

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Boswell, Laird of Auchinleck
Frederick A. Pottle (Editor), Joseph W. Reed (Editor)

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History of Auchinleck
Dane Love

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Ayrshire Books


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