Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Mauchline derives its name from the Gaelic magh, a meadow, and linn, a lake


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Google Map of Mauchline



Comments attached to 1851 Census

"The population of the Parish in 1841 was 2147. The present census is 2471, showing an increase of 324, principally owing to the influx of Irish during the making of the Glasgow and South Western Railway through the parish, many of whom with their families have now settled in the parish and are employed in draining of the land. Signed in Mauchline 24th April 1851 by Thomas Mitchell, Super Enumerator"



Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago


East of Tarbolton. The town of Mauchline stands 11 miles east-north-east of Ayr, on a beautiful countryside that slopes gently down south to Ayr Water. It is. sheltered on the west by the woods of Netherplace, and is of a roundish shape, with a number of streets, presenting many varieties of handsome new and old gray features-like proud young ladies and their humble grandmas. We love the grandmas for the charming old histories they give us. It has a railway station (nearly half-a-mile south), a post! office (with telegraph, money order, and savings bank), a Commercial Bank, two hotels; Established, Free, and United Presbyterian Churches; a large public school, with an endowment, to the extent of £120 pounds a-year, for the education of fifty poor children of the town and neighhood; and extensive manufactories of fancy woodwork. Population in 1871; 1574; in 1881, 1616. The history of Mauchline is strongly marked by the courage of her people. So far back as 681, it is said, an army of Irish invaders were defeated here ; and in the times of persecution, Mauchline fought and bled for the conservation of Scottish Rights with true Ayrshire patriotism. At Mauchline Hill, in the vicinity of the town, the Covenanters, in Episcopal troops in 1647. In the town is a monument to five martyrs of the reign of James VII. Another religious battle fought at Mauchline in the year 1785, though no lives were lost, has attained a more, worldwide fame. In this case the persecuting party was not the Episcopal Government - for it was in the reign of George III.- but it was the kirk-session of Mauchline,. and the persecuted party was Mr. Gavin Hamilton, writer, Mauchline. The kirk-session, mainly at the  instigation. of an elder named William Fisher, better known as "Holy Willie," threatened to deprive Hamilton of church privileges, on the following charges :-" (1) Unnecessary absence from church for five consecutive Sundays; (2) Setting out on a journey to Carrick on a Sunday; (3) Habitual, if not total Mr. Hamilton, perceiving that his lawful rights were being invaded by unscrupulous tyrants, as were those of, the Covenanters before him, appealed for justice to the Presbytery of Ayr - the case being argued í before that reverend body by Robert Aiken, writer in Ayr.  Whether some or all of the above charges were proved to be false does not appear, but the Presbytery gave a ,decision í in Hamiltonís favour, July, 1785. After this exasperating Ď" defeat, William Fisher it seems, was heard to utter a long and horrible prayer, as the Pharisees of old, and characterised by all the grossly vulgar familiarity with the Almighty and his sacred name that marked the style of some self conceited old-fashioned Calvinists, who believed themselves alone to be the few elected from all eternity to live forever in glory, and who, though they might, through Adams cause, be tempted to backslide into the mire of carnal sin, could not by any possibility ,fall, while the. whole human race besides must perish without hope. To correct this hideous perversion of the saving Christian faith, and to forbide the vulgar abuse of the sacred privilege of communication with Heaven by prayer, the newly-inspired bard of Scotland, endowed with  a spirit of insight and a power of expression above all men, was stationed at Mossgiel. The bard performed this part of his mission by recording "Holy Willie's Prayer," as an example of the forbidden style, in verse so bold, clear, and fascinating as to insure its being read, remembered,and shunned with terror by men of prayer through all ages to come. Another painful abuse of religion, besides that of sinful prayer, at Mauchline and elsewhere, was turning the Communion Sabbath into a day of festivity like a fair; and it was to put an end to that practice also that the newly inspired Poet described " The Holy Fair." The old Parish Kirk around which the festivities arose was a very plain building - low, long, and dark. It stood in the Kirkyard more than 500 years, where a handsome, lofty, steepled church of red freestone now stands. " Poosie Nancieís " house, curious as the scene of the "Jolly Beggars:" is still to be seen, as also Mauchline Castle, a small-sized old square edifice, with crow-stepped gables and breast-work fortification. It belonged originally to the ancient priory of Mauchline, now extinct, and subsequently became the property and residence of Gavin Hamilton, who was born 1753. He was a writer by profession (as was his father before him in the same place) ; was a man of superior education and culture; religious without hypocrisy; generous, affable, free, open-hearted as a child; and, withal, he was endowed with a strong manly individuality of character that made him a " hero in the strife." He was thus well fitted for the noble duty which he had to perform, as the first friend and patron of the great poetic genius who was to redeem the nation from superstition and hypocrisy, and to invest it anew with the spirit of brotherly love which it had lost through ages of cruel warfare. Gavin Hamilton was not only the friend of the Poet, but of all the Burns family. When the affairs of old William Burns were reduced to ruinís brink by litigation with his landlord, and he was dying of consumption at Lochlee, Mr Hamilton granted to his family, in name of Robert and Gilbert (the two eldest), a lease of Mossgiel farm (118 acres), which he had himself leased from the Earl of Loudoun. The boys and girls had no capital to stock the Robert had nothing at all, having lost all his savings in an unfortunate flax-dressing enterprise at Irvine, when his uninsured stock and premises were destroyed by fire. It was in Mr. Hamiltonís frank and generous nature to trust them. A warm and steady friendship grew up between the young Poet at Mossgiel and his landlord at Mauchline Castle - a sure evidence that the former, not-withstanding his passionate self-reproaches, was an industrious, well-behaved tenant, At the same time a warm , and steadfast love grew up between him and Miss Jean Armour, his future wife. It was nothing very unreasonable for a man to be courting a woman in his own station, only his income was rather small - £7 a-year and his food-and that with the buying of working and kirk clothes he had been able to save scarcely anything since the fire, and had not the wherewith to furnish a house, and go through a public marriage ceremony. There was also the perfect certainty that Jeanís parents would forbid the marriage. Driven by the forces of love and poverty, and approaching disgrace, to their witsí end, they took the advice of Gavin Hamilton - performing a private marriage between themselves by a written contract, that being a legal form of marriage by the law of Scotland, and in the event of a baby coming to the world, rendering it legitimate. It was arranged between them that the young wife should continue with her parents for some time, until her husbandMrs. Burns had to disclose to her fond parents the secret that she was a married woman, and they would soon be grandpa and grandma, her father " fainted away." Was he so overcome with joy at his daughterís union with a greater than Homer or Shakespeare? Nay! He must have been of Holy Willieís company ; believed his daughterí ruined, prevailed upon her to give her consent to the cancelling of her marriage certificate in the presence of witnesses, and forbade her ever again to meet with her husband. This adverse proceeding greatly affected Burns, as can be seen from "The Lament," which he composed on this occasion. "In the state of mind which this separation produced," writes his brother Gilbert, "he wished to leave the country as soon as possible, and agreed with Dr. Douglas to go to Jamaica as an assistant overseer, or, as I believe it is called, a book-keeper on his estate. As he had not sufficient money to pay his passage, and the vessel in which Dr. Douglas was to procure a passage for him was not expected to sail for some time, Mr. Hamilton advised him to publish his poems in the meantime by subscription, as a likely way to provide him more liberally in necessaries for Jamaica. Agreeably to this advice, subscription bills were printed immediately, and the printing was commenced in Kilmarnock - his preparations going on at the same time for his voyage." The volume was dedicated to Gavin Hamilton. The publication realized Hamiltonís expectations. The Poet had composed his farewell dirge to his native land  and he was away on his road to catch the ship at Greenock, when a gentleman on horseback came galloping after him. Was it the sheriff-officer again hunting the poor, harassed national Poet, who had before fled to the hills for refuge, and had now sent off his chest through the night for fearof it being seized ?   No ; it was

" The poor manís friend in need, The gentleman in word and deed,"

his warm-hearted friend, Gavin Hamilton, bearing the copy of a letter from the celebrated Dr. Blacklock, of Edinburgh, to Burnsí friend, the Rev. Dr. Laurie, minister of Loudoun, earnestly suggesting the publication of a second edition of the poems, "for the sake of the young man." His chest was thereupon ordered back. He visited Edinburgh, cleared £500 by the new edition of his poems there ; returned to Mauchline, and got married to his wife anew, but this time by a minister, in the presence of witnesses, and in Gavin Hamiltonís house. Burns now removed to Dumfriesshire. Gavin Hamilton died on 8th February, 1805, at the age of 52. His sister, Charlotte, "a charming girl," having removed to Harviestoun, a residence on the south base of the Ochil Hills, with the river Devon meandering through a green vale in front of it, was visited there by Burns, who made her the subject of the finest allegorical song in the language, "The Banks of the Devon." She is also the subject of his last song, "Fairest Maid on Devon Banks." This, too, may be regarded as an allegory. She is this fair and beauteous world, and he is her faithful lover; she was wont to smile on him, but she now frowns. He is dying, literally dying of a broken heart. He has been unfit for duty as an excise officer for some time, and had his salary reduced by one half; has gone a little in debt to a haberdasher for bits of clothing for his children; the haberdasher, taking it into his head that he is dying, commences a lawsuit against him ; he writes this last song, in a state of health in which the handwriting shows he was hardly fit to hold the pen, at Brow, on the Solway Frith, 12th July, 1796, and sends it the same day in a letter to Mr. Thomson, publisher, Edinburgh, imploring him for Godís sake to lend him £5 to prevent the haberdasher from putting him into jail. Nine days after this, on the 21st of July, 1796, he died, aged thirty-seven years and six months. But he still lives, above and beneath the sky.

" He haunts, he haunts his native land, As an immortal youth ; his hand Guides every plough ;

He sits beside each ingle-nook, His voice is in each rushing brook, Each rustling bough."-Longfellow.

For want of space we regret to omit some notes of the Poetís life in Dumfriesshire. Jean Armour, wife of Robert Burns, was born at Mauchline, February, 1765. Her father was a master stone mason, poor, but respectable. She was six years younger than her husband, to whom she bore a family of five sons and four daughters. The youngest, a boy, was born on the day of the Poetís funeral, and was soon after laid in the same grave. She was then only thirty-one years of age. Though not a literary character, Mrs. Burns was a clever woman, pure and refined in her tastes; had a fine musical ear and bright soprano voice, and "sang in a style but rarely equalled by unprofessional singers. In ballad poetry her taste was good, and range of reading rather extensive. Her memory, too, was strong, and she could quote when she chose at considerable length and with great aptitude. Of these powers the Bard was so well aware that he read to her almost every piece he composed, and was not ashamed to own that he had profited by her judgment." This love of poetry and music in her sweet and placid disposition made her marriage with Burns the most fortunate circumstance to them both: After her bereavement a number of the admirers of the Poet, and of her devoted kindness to him, collected a sum of money, which, together with the profits of Dr. Currieís edition of the Poetís works, placed her in comfortable circumstances, and enabled her to give to her surviving sons a respectable education. She continued to reside in the same house in Dumfries, where for upwards of thirty years she was visited by thousands and thousands of strangers of every rank, from the peer to the ragged ballad singer, out of loving curiosity to see Burnsí house Ďand his "bonny Jean." The latter were never refused an audience, or dismissed without reward. She died of paralysis, 26th March, 1834, in the seventieth year of her age, and 38th year of her widowhoood. Robert Burns, their eldest son, was born at Mauchline, September, 1786 ; educated at Dumfries Academy ; wrote one song; held an appointment in the Stamp Office, London ; retired, and lived for many years at Dumfries, where he died, May William Nicol Burns and James Glencairn Burns, two younger sons, both entered the service of the East India Company, and both rose to the rank of Lieut.-Colonel. The former, born at Ellisland, Ď1791, died 1872, aged 81 ; the latter, born at Dumfries, 1794, died 1865, aged 71. The rest of the children died young. Father, mother, and five sons are interred in the family vault, St. Michaelís Churchyard, Dumfries ; some of the daughters in Mauchline Churchyard.

Going north of Mauchline half-a-mile, the road branches in two, that on the right going north to Kilmarnock, this on the left going north-west to Lochlee and Tarbolton. Between these two roads, at the distance of half-a-mile from their diverging point, stands the farmhouse of Mossgiel. These are the celebrated roads that were

" Clad, frae side to side, Wií monie a weary body, In droves that day.

" Here farmers gash, in ridiní graith, Gaed hodden by their cotters ;

There, swankies young, in braw braid-claith, Are springiní oíer the gutters.

The lasses, skelpin bare-fit, thrang, In silks aní scarlets glitter ;

Wií sweet-milk cheese, in monie a whang, Aní farls bakíd wií butter Fuí crump that day."

Down a wooded ravine of the Ayr is Ballochmyle Bridge, celebrated in a strathspey tune of that name, by Mr. Archibald MĎAlpin, the blind violinist of Mauchline. Its grand

Haugh village, with factories, lies a short way below it. 

Near the town of Mauchline is the great Ballochmyle Quarry of red freestone. 

Crosshands public school is fully two miles north of the town. The parish, dotted all over with neat farm steadings, is finely cultivated and moderately wooded. Its length, from Cessnock Water, north of Rodinghead House, south to Dipple Burn at Auchinleck House, is six and a-half miles; greatest breadth, four miles. Area, 8907 acres. Population, 2504.


Anderson and Gilmour Family papers

The first are probably a file of the documents provided to one party in a very complex law suit in which David Brunton, who was brother in law to David Gilmour, attempted to defend his ownership of a parcel of land in Mauchline

The other group of documents connects to the Garvin Anderson family, preserved by Garvin's daughter Isabelle, who married into the Wylie family. This connection brought these papers into the Rodgers family.


  Photographs of Headstones in Mauchline Churchyard

By Kenny Monaghan kennymonaghan@btinternet.com contact him here



1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


1851 Census for Mauchline (2% of Census Total only)

The 2 per cent extract of the 1851 census was done by taking every 50th enumeration book, and transcribing that entire book; NOT every 50th page. As a result, you get full data for all those persons in those books which were taken (Not randomly selected - just every 50th book in the sequence throughout the UK was transcribed). The result is that you might find all the household of interest to you, but the odds are 50 to 1 against!


Map of Mauchline 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 Mauchline

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.



Mauchline Websites


Mauchline Online

Mauchline Online, the official home of Mauchline on the web.


Mauchline Books


Mauchline Memories of Robert Burns

 To Order or More Information .


Mauchline Ware and Associated Scottish Souvenir Ware
John Baker

 To Order or More Information



Mauchline Maps


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

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Ayrshire Books


Burns Books



Help needed to source old pictures, postcards or photographs, interesting articles or the history of Mauchline. If you would like to help please contact me  (email link below)







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