Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago


EAST of Riccarton, south of Loudoun. The town of Galston stands on the Ayrshire Road from New Cumnock to Glasgow by the Mearns Moor. The town occupies a sheltered, hollow place at the foot of the beautiful Anne Burn, on the left bank of the Irvine, crossed here by a Duke of Portland, delegating to the people his power of governing the place. As the system was not authorised either by royal prerogative or Act of Parliament, it was unsatisfactory to the bailies and councillors, as well as to the people who elected them. It is now a police burgh; has Established, Free, United Presbyterian, and Evangelical Union Churches ; several public schools ; British Linen Company and Union Banks; a post office, with telegraph, money order, insurance, annuity, and savings bank departments; a railway station; woollen, millboard, and lace manufactories. Population in 1871, 4727; in 1881, 4085.

The only village in the parish is GREENHOLM, a suburb of Newmilns. Lanfine House, one mile and a-half west, and Milrig House, in a detached part of Riccarton parish, two miles south of the town, are nice places, each of them standing in an ornamental park and woods. Cessnock Castle, a mile south-east, with the lovely Anne Burn babbling through its woods, is a scene of antiquity and beauty. Robert Wallace, post office reformer, was a son of John Wallace of Cessnock, and was born in 1773. His father having sold Cessnock and bought Kelly in 1792, he removed thither, and at his father’s death succeeded to that estate. He became senior partner of the firm of Wallace, Hunter & Co., Greenock; in 1833 was elected M.P. for Greenock ; and, as evidence of the extraordinary estimation in which he was held by his constituents, he was, for four successive elections, returned free of expense. By four years of incessant advocacy of post office reform, he acquired a wide popularity; was honoured with a complimentary communication from the Postmaster-General of France ; presented with an address by the people of Kilmarnock; had conferred upon him the freedom of the cities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Perth, and the burghs of Paisley, Dingwall, Inverness, and Dornock ; and when harassed by commercial misfortune in his old age, Mr, Wallace was presented with a public testimonial in the shape of an annuity of £500. Died at Seafield, Greenock, aged 82.

John Goldie, miscellaneous writer, was born in the parish of Galston, 1717 ; removed to Kilmarnock, where he carried on the business of cabinetmaker, subsequently of wine merchant. He is author of a volume entitled "Essays on Various Subjects," humorously known as Goldie’s Bible, and is held in grateful memory as a friend of Burns. Died in 1809.

The Churchyard is hallowed with the tombs of several martyrs. The field of Drumclog is on the Strathaven side of the east boundary of the parish. Here, on a Sabbath in June, 1679, a large congregation of Covenanters having gathered from the banks of the Irvine and the Avon to worship God on the moor - as they were not allowed to do so in their homes and churches, unless according to the Roman ritual enforced by the English Government - they were discovered by a body of dragoons and foot soldiers under Claverhouse. The worshippers had no alternative but to put their Bibles in their pockets, send the, women out of sight with the children, range themselves in order of battle, and fight for their lives. The soldiers were completely defeated by the country folk, many of whom were armed only with the peaceful implements of industry-- hay and corn forks. Lest it should appear an exaggeration to give the victors’ account of this battle, we subjoin that of Claverhouse himself. His spelling, compared to the general literature of the time in which he lived, proves that he was not a man of culture, and had read little. His account proves also that he was a coward, being the first to gallop off the field. This we might expect, for the history of the human race clearly shows that no man of extraordinary cruelty has ever been a hero. He says:-" I thought that we might make a little tour to see if we could fall upon a conventicle; which we did, little to our advantage, for when we came in sight of them, we found them drawn up in batell, upon a most advantageous ground, to which there was no coming but through mosses and lakes. They were not preaching, and had got away all there women and children. The consisted of four battallions of foot, and all well armed with fusils and pitchforks, and three squadrons of horse. We sent both partys to skirmish, they of foot and we of dragoons; they run for it, and sent down a battallion of foot against them; we sent three score of dragoons, who made them run again shamfully; but in the end they Mr. Crawford and Captain Bleith, besides that with a pitch-fork they mate such an opening in my rone horse’s belly, that his guts hung out half an elle, and yet he caryed me af an myl; which so discoraged our men, that they sustained not the shok, but fell into disorder. There horse took the occasion of this, and purseued us so hotly that we had no tym to rayly. I saved the standarts, but lost on the place about aight or ten men, besides wounded; but the dragoons lost many mor. They ar not corn esily af on the other side, for I sawe several1 of them fall before the shok. I mad the best retrait the confusion of our people would suffer, and I am now laying with my Lord Rosse." The number of Claverhouse’s men killed at Drumclog was about 40; and nearly the whole of them would have been slain, but the majority of the Covenanters disobeyed the command of their General, Sir Robert Hamilton, and did not pursue the retreating forces, owing to a previous resolution that they should not fight on ,the Sabbath except in defence of their lives. A monument is erected on the field.

Valuable coal seams, somewhat broken with trap dykes, lie under the western part of the parish, and coal-works animate the district. Chalcedony, agate, and another precious stone known as the Burmawn or Galston pebble are found on the surface, which is moderately diversified with hill and dale, rising east and south-east to the summit of Distinkhorn, 1258 feet above sea level. The lower and middle parts are in prime cultivation, and furnished in many places with sheltering plantations, and the upper part is dotted with sheep, where

" The rising sun owe Galston muirs, Wi’ glorious light was glintin’."

Its length, east and west, is 124 miles; its general breadth, about three miles; its area, 15,243 acres. Population, 5961.

"Barr Castle! Tenantless and wild!
Dome of Delight! Dear Haunt of mine!
The shock of ages thou has foiled,
Since fell the last of Lockhart's line;
Thou, left a hermit, to grow grey
O'er swallow, crane and bird of prey

John Wright, local poet, circa 1815.



Photographs of Headstones in Galston Loudoun Kirk Churchyard

By Kenny Monaghan kennymonaghan@btinternet.com contact him here



1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


Map of Galston 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 Galston

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.



Galston's original economy was based on weaving, originally of blankets from local wool, but later specialising in lawns and gauze using imported cotton. The 19th and first half of the 20th century saw the rise and eventual fall of the coal industry which has affected much of the area.....>


Galston Web Sites


 Parkers of Loudoun & Galston Geneaology


Newmilns and Galston Brass Band Website



Galston Books


Pictorial History of Galston
James Mair

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Ayrshire Books


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