Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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(Old) Cumnock Parish

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Google Map of Cumnock


Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago   


South of Auchinleck. The town of Old Cumnock stands in a hollow, where Glaisnock Water from the south falls into the Lugar, on the north verge of the parish, with a few villas and cottages extending into Auchinleck Parish, 16 miles east of Ayr, 16 miles south-east of Kilmarnock, and five miles north-west of New Cumnock. It is of a roundish form, with street ends projecting in star-fashion round the main body; has a spacious centre square, with an opening at each corner, and a neat Gothic church of recent erection standing in the middle. The east side of the square is occupied by the Black Bull Hotel, with shops on each end of it; the south side is a splendid line of shops; the west side is filled with shops, the Clydesdale Bank, and a small inn; while the north side is partly assigned to business. The opening in the south-west corner leads down a flight of broad stairs to some narrow, humble streets, called the Deil’s Elbow, a name derived from a steep turn in an old road; the opening in the north-west corner leads down an irregular street of shops to Lugar Bridge, thence past the residence of the late Rev. James Murray, the poet ; that in the north-east corner leads into a short street, with shops on the left and the high garden wall of Hillside House on the right, and from that up past the Cemetery, containing the monumented graves of the Rev. Alexander Peden, the prophet, and three martyrs, named Paterson, Dun, and Richard, in the place where, in 1686, stood the gallows tree. That elegant commercial square was the Churchyard until the persecutors of the Presbyterians, foiled in all their efforts to take the life of the prophetic Covenanter, vented their horrid feelings by digging up his body after it had lain six weeks in the Churchyard of his native parish, and re-interring it here, at the foot of the gallows. The good people of Old Cumnock were so affected by this cowardly proceeding that they on their deathbed requested their friends to inter their remains at the foot of the gallows, beside Mr. Peden’s; and this they continued to do until it became the regular burial place of the town and parish. The old Churchyard being trodden over and unsightly in the heart of the town, they removed the hurth stanes, levelled the mounds, and gave it a thick covering of gravel--the best thing they could do. Adjoining the south-east corner of the square is another smaller and less symmetrical square, with shops irregularly ranged about it. This is the ancient market place. Of the ancient streets diverging from it, a narrow one, with shops on left side, goes west behind the establishment of Hunter Brothers, in the big square; a very narrow one passes north behind the Black Bull; another, with shops right and left for some distance, extends its long length east to the townhead; while a fourth, called Glaisnock Street, goes south, Glaisnock Water crossing underneath it unseen. This, the best street in the town, is lined on both sides with first-class shops, and contains the publishing offices of two weekly newspapers. The Royal Bank, an interesting Gothic edifice, is at the end of Ayr Road, which extends west from Glaisnock Street, and is studded with ornate cottages and villas. Farther up Glaisnock Street, on the left side, is Cumnock Pottery; and a few yards off the street, on the same side, are the engineering works founded by the late George M‘Cartney, whose inventive genius, displayed in the production of threshing mills, made him and Cumnock famous over Scotland, some parts of Ireland, and even America. Still farther south is a long array of grand cottage residences, among which a very substantial Scotch-Gothic one, with balustrade and pretty flower garden in front, catching the eye of the passer-by, is the residence of the poet, A. B. Todd, whose father was a farmer in Fenwick. A little beyond this, on the opposite side, is a large new Catholic Chapel; and beyond that the station on the Ayr and Cumnock Railway, about half-a-mile south from the square. The town is a police burgh, possessing its own water works; has a new and stately Town Hall; three public schools, for 650 scholars; a head post office, with telegraph, money order, and savings bank departments; branches of the Bank of Scotland, Royal, and Clydesdale Banks; Established, Free, United Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, and Evangelical Union Churches, and a Roman Catholic Chapel; two hotels, two railway stations, two tweed factories, two engineering works, two cabinet works, coach building, iron founding, and coal works, in its neighbourhood. Population in 1871, 2903; in 1881, 3345.

It is now chiefly remarkable for the number and quality of its retail shops; though in the early part of the century it bore a distinctive characteristic in the manufacture of snuffboxes of planetree wood, so beautifully artistic in design and finish as to defy competition. The artistic inventor of the Cumnock snuffbox was a Mr. Crawford, a native of the parish. This happened in a social period of Scottish history, when it was the fashion for most men and many women and boys to carry a small box of snuff, I and have a good sneeze and a hearty laugh with everybody they met. Without the influence of lectures or literature, a sudden decline in the use of snuff set in everywhere; and a corresponding decline in the demand for the Cumnock speciality brought much distress on the town, but most upon Mr. Crawford’s family, who, it is said, were blamed entirely for the disastrous state of the trade. In time of prosperity the number of "sneeshin’ mills" produced varied from 25,000 to 35,000 annually, and they were sold at such a price that a foot of rough timber made £100 worth. A few individuals may still be employed in the art here, but the centre of the trade has been transferred to Mauchline, where, in addition to snuffboxes, numerous pretty little articles are made of planetree wood grown in places mentioned in the works of Burns, and command a steady market as souvenirs of the Poet. 

The Rev. James Brown, D.D., Editor of "United Presbyterian Missionary Record," "Life of Rev. John Eadie, D.D., LLD.," "Life of a Scottish Probationer," was born here, March, 1835. 

The beauty of the environs is much enhanced by two lofty railway viaducts-one over the picturesque valley of the Glaisnock, the other over a deep chasm of the Lugar. Dumfries House occupies a low situation on the south side of the Lugar, about two miles west of Cumnock, its heavily wooded grounds-crossed by the Ward and Ross Burns, and containing the ruin of Terringzean Castle - extending to a skirt of the town, Its ancient name of Lochnorris was abrogated by the Bute family, a branch of the Royal Stewarts, at the time they obtained the title of Earl of Dumfries. Lochnorris, or Liffnoris, and Terringzean, or Torringzean, were anciently separate estates, and were the property and residences of Crawfords, relatives of Sir William Wallace’s mother. The most eminent member of the Bute family was John Stewart, third Earl, born May 25, 1713. He succeeded his father, 1723; was made Knight of the Thistle, 1738; Privy Councillor, 1760; Principal Secretary of State, 1761; and First Lord of the Treasury, May, 1762. We were then at war with France, and, having taken Canada from that nation, were fighting on the European Continent for German interests. Lord Bute, convincing Parliament of the foolishness of exhausting the national strength in fighting the battles of other people, concluded a treaty of peace with France, February 10, 1763, securing solid advantages to the nation. No sooner was the treaty signed than the Prime Minister found himself almost totally deserted by his party, and retired from office - the best possible proof of his extraordinary ability. He carried his party with him, as it were by a spell of magic, and when the spell was over they rubbed their eyes, exclaiming-" Confound it! where have we been?" Such magical power in a statesman is a rare gift. It was brilliantly manifested in Sir Robert Peel when he carried the Corn Laws Bill, and in Mr. Gladstone when he carried the Irish Church Bill. Unfortunately for the nation, Lord Bute did not return to politics. With his magical ability and peace principles, he would have easily averted the most foolish and disastrous war that has ever befallen our nationality-the war against its own colonists in America, that drove them to assume reluctantly what they had never contemplated, a seperate nationality. While the-Government were thus engaged in hacking the nation to pieces, the retired philosophical statement, Lord Bute, was peacefully occupied with the production of a great botanical work, which he published in nine large volumes. Died in London, May 10, 1792, aged 79.

Logan House, beautifully situated among trees on the elevated left bank of the Lugar Water, one mile and a quarter east of Cumnock, has a pleasing association with the greatest extemporaneous wit and humorist of Scotland, Hugh Logan, "The Laird o’ Logan." It is now the, property of Cunninghame. Less than a mile southward of Logan House, in the middle of a bare field, stands the old monumental stone of John M’Geachen, who suffered martyrdom here in 1688.   Garrallan House and public school are fully one mile and a half south-west of the town, in a district finely cultivated, wooded, and watered with burns. Glaisnock House, on Glaisnock Water, one mile and a half south, has recently been enlarged by one-half, and bears a slight resemblance to the far-famed Abbotsford, on the Tweed, but fronts the east instead of the north-west. The site of Borland Castle, marked by grassy mounds and a few sturdy old trees, is two miles on the road to New Cumnock. Borland signifies boardland -- i.e., land granted to the feudal chief for the supply of his board. 

It is roughly calculated that more coal remains to be worked in this than in any of the adjacent parishes. Limestone is plentiful, and there is also ironstone. The surface rises to the south more than to the east, and is corrugated with the courses of numerous burns. The soil is of, medium quality, and under tillage, excepting a little bit along Corsgailoch Heights in the south-west, a, round benty hill towards the south-east, and a small part at the east end, mostly in the farm of Craigshield, which is clad in heath, bent, sprit, and bits of fine grass and rush bushes where cultivation has been carried on at an earlier date. The renowned "field to field" practice is diminishing at some other point the cultivated area. The length of the parish, east and west, is about 10 miles; breadth across the west, four miles; across the east, one mile-comprising 14,140 acres. Population, 4861.



1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


1837 Pigot's Directory of Cumnock

Local Directory of the town and it's people in 1837 by Pigot.


Margaret Willson born abt 1670 Cumnock on Nith, Ayrshire

she said, "I am one of Christ's children, let me go." She was then once more placed in the sea, and her sufferings ended by death.


Some Monumental Inscriptions in Cumnock Cemeteries


Map of Cumnock 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 Cumnock

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 Place Names

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.



The burgh stands in a sheltered hollow among the hills at the junction of the Glaisnock and Lugar waters, and is traversed by the public road leading from Kilmarnock to Dumfries. Its name is supposed to have been derived from Cym, meaning a hollow valley; and cnoc, a hill, which was usually pronounced Cumnock...>



Cumnock Websites


This site provides an online community focus for the East Ayrshire town of Cumnock, Scotland. Forums are provided to enable an online exchanges of views.

Cumnock Byways and Glenmuir

Not active at last check

Old Cumnock on CD-Rom

Contact Robert Hart Robert.Hart2@btinternet.com 

New Website with CD-Rom details www.robert.hart2.btinternet.co.uk 

Cumnock Books & Maps


Pathfinder Map 0480 (NS41/51): Cumnock (South) & Patna
Ordnance Survey

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Cumnock and New Cumnock in Old Picture Postcards
John C M Laurenson

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Cumnock Pottery
G Quail, David Reid (Editor)

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Cumnock Street Guide
Nicolson Maps

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Cumnock Street Map

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Historic Cumnock

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History of Old Cumnock
John Warrick, Dane Love (Editor), Alexander Gardner (Illustrator)

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Old New Cumnock
Donald McIver

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Pathfinder Map 0480 (NS41/51): Cumnock (South) & Patna
Ordnance Survey

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Pathfinder Map 0481 (NS61/71): New Cumnock & Kirkconnel
Ordnance Survey

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Pictorial History of Cumnock
Dane Love

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