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Ashkirk, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

ASHKIRK, a parish, partly in the county of SELKIRK, but chiefly in the district of HAWICK, county of ROXBURGH, 6 miles (S.) from Selkirk; containing 563 inhabitants. The name of this place is said to have been derived from the great number of ash-trees with which the neighbourhood abounded, and of which a considerable number is still remaining. Ashkirk was formerly part of the see of Glasgow, and the occasional residence of the bishops, who had a palace here, some slight vestiges of which might lately be traced in a field retaining the name of Palace Walls. The parish is about seven miles in length, and three miles and a half in breadth, comprising about 3000 acres under cultivation, 400 in woods and plantations, and a considerable portion of waste. The surface is generally hilly, with tracts of level land in the intervals between the hills and the narrow valley of the Ale. The Ale has its source in the lakes of Alemoor and Shaws, and flowing through the parish in a direction from west to east, divides it into two nearly equal portions; it abounds with trout of excellent quality, and a few sea-trout and small salmon are occasionally taken in it after floods. There were formerly numerous lakes in the parish, but from the practice of draining the lands, many of them have disappeared. The principal now remaining are, Essenside loch, covering about twenty acres of ground; and the Sheilswood loch and Headshaw loch, both of which are of smaller dimensions: they all abound with perch, pike, and trout; and afford good sport to the angler. Synton Moss, once a very extensive lake, has been completely drained for the sake of obtaining the marl and peat with which it abounded, and which have been successfully applied to the improvement of the lands. In this moss, many interesting organic remains are occasionally dug up.

The soil is generally light, in some places clay mixed with gravel, and in others a rich loam; the chief crops being oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is improved, and the farm-houses are tolerable, but the cottages are in general very wretched. Some few dairy-farms are managed with great care, and the butter produced here is of excellent quality. Considerable attention is paid to the rearing of live stock, upon which the main dependence is placed: the sheep are almost exclusively of the Cheviot breed, with occasionally a mixture of the Cheviot and the Leicestershire; and the cattle are of the short-horned breed, which are found to be the best adapted to the lands. A few Highland cattle are pastured here during the winter. There appears to have been formerly a great abundance of natural wood, but very little ancient timber at present remains: the plantations are larch, spruce, and Scotch firs, intermixed with oak, ash, elm, and other forest-trees; they are all of modern formation, and are in a thriving state. The annual value of real property in the Roxburgh portion of the parish is £3483, and in the Selkirk portion, £1510. The rocks belong to the transition series, and consist almost entirely of greywacke with a basis of clay-slate: the general direction of the stratification is from south-west to north-east. The parish is in the presbytery of Selkirk and synod of Merse and Teviotdale: the minister's stipend is £205. 12. 9., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £28 per annum; patron, the Earl of Minto. Ashkirk church, erected in 1791, is a plain substantial edifice adapted for about 200 persons. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church. The parochial school is attended by about 80 children; the master's salary is the maximum, with about £16 fees, and a house and garden. There are remains of two Danish encampments on the lands of Castleside, one of which is in good preservation, but the other is almost obliterated by the plough. On the lands of Salineside was formerly a very strong tower, of which there are scarcely more than some slight vestiges; and in various parts of the parish are remains of ancient encampments. The farm of Whitsled, in the parish, is the scene of the popular and very ancient Scottish song "The Ewebuchts": the "merry knows" mentioned in the song still retain the name.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis