Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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[Poor Relief Records]  [1820 Census]  [Google Map of Irvine]


100 Years Ago  

 (Notes on the way - Through Ayrshire)

Irvine Parish


WEST of Dreghorn. The town of Irvine stands on Irvine River, near its mouth, in the centre of Irvine Bay, six and a half miles west of Kilmarnock, 11 miles north of Ayr, and 29 1/2 miles south-west of Glasgow. It is bisected by the river, and connected by a spacious stone bridge, and also an elegant new footbridge-the section on the left side, bearing the names of Halfway and Fullarton, being in Dundonald parish. It is a Parliamentary burgh - uniting with Ayr, Campbelton, Inverary, and Oban in returning a member - and is one of the oldest royal burghs of Scotland, having been chartered by King Robert Bruce in 1308. Ranks in size and importance in the county next to Ayr and Kilmarnock, and its ancient and modern architectural features and spacious plan show grace and dignity suitable to its rank. Population in 1871, 6886; in  1881, 8517. It has waterworks, constructed at a cost of £40,000; a Town Hall, an Academy, three primary public schools, an industrial school, two Established Churches, two Free Churches, two United Presbyterian Churches, a Baptist Church, and a Roman Catholic Church; Royal, British Linen Company, and Union Banks; a post office, with telegraph, money-order, insurance, annuity, and savings bank departments; a large and rich aggregate of shops, and a railway station. It is a seat of Established and Free Church Presbyteries and Sheriff Courts, and publishes three weekly newspapers-Irvine Herald, Irvine and Fullarton Times, and Irvine Express. The shipping is considerable, and other trade of the town extensive and varied. There are engineering, ironfounding, shipbuilding, chain-cable and anchor manufacturing, coachbuilding, brewing, and chemical works, and sawmills. The most interesting antiquity is Irwin Castle, a fine, old ruin situated in the town, understood to have been a Royal residence, though the documentary evidence identifying it as such is rather slight. In the Churchyard is a monument to the memory of James Blackwood and John McCoul, who suffered martyrdom here, December 31, 1666. James Macknight, D.D., son of William, minister of Irvine, was born September 17, 1721. Studied at Glasgow University and at Leyden; ordained minister of Maybole, 1753, where he published "Harmony of the Four Gospels," 1756, and "Truth of the Gospel History," 1763; was Moderator of General Assembly, 1769; removed, first to John Gait, novelist, was born at Irvine, May 2, 1779. Having, with little success, tried several occupations, he adopted literature as a profession, laboured with great industry, and produced a large number of works. The necessity of immediate returns for his labour caused him to devote much of his time and energy to the compiling of works for the booksellers. These are skillful works of *their kind, but Galtís fame as a man of genius rests upon his novels, which stand out quite distinct from all others, because they are inimitable. The most delightful of his works are his "Annals of the Parish," his " Entail," and his "Ayrshire Legatees."  We commend these as rare Scotch productions, while we disapprove of novels in general, as fit only to make silly minds sillier. Died April 10, 1839, aged 60.

James Montgomery, poet, son of John Montgomery, a Moravian preacher, was born at Irvine, November 4, 1771. When little over four years of age he left Scotland with his parents, who were natives of Ireland. When he was twelve years old, his father, determining to go abroad as missionary to the slaves in the West Indies, left him and his two younger brothers in a Moravian School near Leeds, and took their mother with him. The parents never returned to the forsaken children, but died in the West Indies. James, who was apprenticed to a baker, began to compose poetry. He, however, ran away from his employer, with only three shillings and sixpence in his pocket. Having trudged along nearly 20 miles south-eastward, an intelligent shopkeeper at Wath generously took the benighted boy into his family, where he stayed as shop assistant more than a year. He next got employment in the office of a London publisher. By and by he returned to the shop at Wath, but soon after obtained a situation as clerk in the office of a Sheffield newspaper, and became editor and part proprietor, as James Montgomery & Co., at. the age of 23. In six months time he was tried, and sentenced to pay a fine of £20 and undergo three monthsí imprisonment, for printing for a street singer some verses on the French Revolution, by a Belfast clergyman. This was at the time Burns was threatened with dismissal from the Excise for his French sympathies. Shortly after this, for publishing in his paper an account of a riot in Sheffield, reflecting on the character of a certain magistrate, Montgomery suffered six monthsí imprisonment and a fine of £30. His strong religious and moral nature enabled him to bear these hardships with equanimity Thenceforward his course became more pleasant, and he wrote and published a large amount of excellent poetry, full of humane Montgomery also delivered courses of lectures on "The British Poets." In 1835 he was offered the chair of rhetoric in the University of Edinburgh, which he did not accept. In 1841, at the age of 70, the poet visited his native county, and was received in Irvine and other towns with great enthusiasm; but returned again to his home in Sheffield. During the remainder of his life, and for some time before this, "the Christian Poet " enjoyed a pension of 2150 a-year from the Crown. Died at Sheffield in 1854, aged 83.

Burns, the poet, in his twenty-third year, commenced business here as a flaxdresser, in company with another young man who had previous knowledge of the business; but the shop took fire and was burned to ashes, and he returned to farm work without a sixpence. Alexander Macmillan, founder (in company with his brother Daniel) of the great publishing firm of Macmillan & Co., London and New York, was born in Irvine, 1818, and educated here.

Professor David Dickson, born in Glasgow, 1583, was ordained minister of Irvine, 1618. This was before the commencement of the civil war, occasioned by the persistent attempts of Charles I. to abolish the reformed religion of Scotland, by re-establishing the ritualistic practices of the Church of Rome, under the name of the Church of England. Sunday, the 23rd of July, 1637, having been appointed by the privy council of Charles as a day for commencing the use of the English liturgy in St. Gilesí Church, Edinburgh, Dickson, of Irvine, and Henderson, minister of Leuchars, together privately instituted a counter movement. In accordance with Roman fashion, little round cushioned stools, about six inches high, were placed at the feet of the worshippers to rest their knees on when kneeling at prayer. As soon as the Dean, arrayed in his surplice (long white linen robe), began to read the Service Book, the congregation, putting Dickson and Hendersonís movement into execution, began clapping their hands, stamping their feet, and shouting "A Pope! a Pope ! Antichrist ! stone him." This silenced the Dean, but the Bishop, relying, no doubt, on his higher grade to quell the tumult, now ascended the pulpit and began to read a prayer in fine serene long-drawn ritualistic tones. But, all of a sudden, an old lady named Jenny Geddes sprang to her feet, and exclaiming, "Out thou foul thief! wilt thou say mass at my lug?" hurled a stool through the air at his head. Other three stools instantly whizzed by like shot in the same direction, from three old ladies behind her, named Euphemia Henderson, Bethia Craig, and Elspeth Craig. Thus began the armed struggle in defence of Scotch religious liberty, which lasted upwards of half a century, and terminated in victory for the Presbyterians. Dickson was also one of the leaders in calling the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638. He was, in 1640, appointed Professor of Divinity in Glasgow University. He is author of "Treatise on the Promises," and various other works. Died in Glasgow, 1663, aged 80.

ANNICK LODGE, a village with public school, is three miles north-east of Irvine. Population, 352. 

The seat of Bourtreehill is one mile and a half east of Irvine;

and the village of Bartonaolm one mile and a half north of the town. Populaton, 379.

Bogside Racecourse lies a mile north-west of the town.

The parish is level and sandy next the shore, loamy and slightly elevated inland, finely farmed and beautiful with wood. Length, from Muirhead steading to the shore, at the joint mouth of the Irvine and the Garnock, four and a half miles. Area, 3930 acres. Population in 1871, 5875; in 1881, 6013. Irvine River rises near Drumclog, and flows west to the sea at Irvine, 30 miles.

1868 - 1886 Rev Henry Reid MA (an ancestor) was minister of the West United Presbyterian Church.
There were two UP churches in Irvine. From an old map of Irvine (1897) available via NLS (http://www.nls.uk) it does in fact appear that there were two UP churches. One is shown on West Road (I believe the premises *may* now be occupied by Royal British Legion), the other (East UP Church) is shown on Cotton Row.
Rev Henry Reid was married to Catherine Murdoch Hutchison (daughter of farmer James Hutchison of Blairston, by the River Doon near Alloway) they were married in 1869 - at that time there was no manse but the couple stayed in Adelaide Cottage which is shown on the map of 1897 as being on "New Road" (later became an extension of Bank Street). In 1872 a manse was built in Kilwinning Road.

Information supplied by Keith Duncan


Welcome to Wellwood

Article on the Burns Museum By Joan Biggar

Irvine Manuscript

Thirty-four pages of the holograph printer's copy of Poems (1786). They are housed in the Burns Museum belonging to Irvine Burns Club.


Irvine in the Burns Encyclopedia

In 1781, when Burns was twenty-two, he became dissatisfied with his prospects as a farmer..............


Some Old Parish Registers for Irvine


Photographs of Headstones In Irvine Cemeteries

By Kenny Monaghan kennymonaghan@btinternet.com contact him here


1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


Map of Irvine 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 Irvine

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.



Ordnance Survey Town Plan of Irvine 1859

Zoom in on Old Irvine streets.



GenUKI Irvine

At any rate the Royal Burgh of Irvine ranks as a veteran among her compeers of Scotland, and is mentioned as a place of great antiquity in a charter granted by Robert I, dated February 1308. This charter was granted by the Bruce in consequence of the services rendered by the inhabitants in the wars of the succession.............




Irvine Web Sites


  Irvine Ayrshire Info

This site includes the Irvine Ayrshire forums where you can post comments & interact with other residents of Irvine Ayrshire, The history of Irvine, Irvine links, Fun stuff, Irvine gallery.




Website for Irvine Harbour Arts



The Irvine Marymass site, with loads of pictures and stories



Website for the Irvine Burns Museum



Ian Dickson's Website


St Andrew's and St Peter's Scottish Episcopal Church

The web site for the Churches of St. Andrew's and St. Peter's the Episcopal Church in Ardrossan, Irvine and Dalry.


Irvine Books


Irvine Street Guide

To Order or More Information

Irvine, 1819
John Wood

 To Order or More Information

Old Irvine
David Pettigrew

To Order or More Information

Ayrshire Books


Help needed to source old pictures, postcards or photographs, interesting articles or the history of Irvine. If you would like to help please email me at the address below






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