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Barr, Ayrshire

Historical Description

BARR, a parish, in the district of Carrick, county of Ayr, 8 miles (E. S. E.) from Girvan; containing 959 inhabitants, of whom about 230 are in the village, it is supposed to have derived its name from the almost inaccessible site of the ancient village, surrounded on all sides by rugged hills of precipitous elevation, and only to be approached by a narrow and wild glen, frequently impassable from the swelling of a small stream which intersects it, and which in winter attains the violence of a torrent. This parish, which formed a natural barrier between the counties of Ayr and Galloway, was included in the parishes of Girvan and Dailly till the year 1653, when it was erected into a parish of itself. It comprises nearly 70,000 acres, of which only 1200 are arable, and not above 1000 more capable of being rendered profitable. The surface is mostly an extensive level, with various ridges of different elevation, two of which rise from the banks of the river Stinchar to the height of nearly 1200 feet; while a third, in a direction nearly parallel to these, on the south-east, is about 1400 feet above the sea. Another range, forming part of that chain of mountainous heights stretching from Ayrshire into Galloway, has an elevation of nearly 2700 feet. The chief rivers are, the Stinchar, which has its source in this parish, and taking a south-western course, falls into the sea at Ballantrae; and the Minnoch, which, rising in the highest ridge of hills, flows southward through the lands, and falls into the river Cree, a stream that separates this parish from the county of Galloway. In its course of nearly fifteen miles through the parish, the Stinchar forms a beautiful cascade of about thirty feet; and most of the smaller burns with which the parish abounds, in their several courses fall from heights, with various degrees of beauty. There are numerous lakes of different extent, varying in depth from six to fifteen feet, all of which afford trout of a dark colour, and also yellow trout. The scenery is dreary, from the want of wood, of which there is scarcely any in the parish.

In the lower lands the soil is of good quality, and in the high lands principally moss; the chief crops are grain of all kinds, and potatoes. Surface-draining has been extensively practised, and the grounds are partially inclosed; but improvement in the system of husbandry is greatly retarded from the want of good roads and facilities of drawing lime. Attention is paid to the management of the dairy, and a moderate number of milch-cows, mostly of the Ayrshire breed, have been introduced; but the main dependence of the farmer is on the rearing of cattle and sheep, for which the hills provide tolerable pasturage. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7578. The few trees indigenous to the soil are ash and alder; and the plantations, which are on a very limited scale, are larch, interspersed with oak and ash, which seem to thrive well. The substrata are chiefly conglomerate rock, which appears in very irregular masses, and limestone of good quality, which is wrought to a small extent: in that portion of the limestone that lies near the bed of the river, some fine specimens of fossil shells are found. Slate-quarries have been also opened, but they have not been wrought to any extent. The village, which is neatly built, has a post-office established under Girvan. Fairs are held annually, but very little business is transacted at them, and from the want of good roads, little facility of intercourse is afforded with the surrounding district.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £231. 3. l., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £18 per annum. The church, an ancient edifice, is in good repair, and had a gallery added in 1834; it is adapted for a congregation of 410 persons. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church. The parochial school is well conducted; the master's salary is £34. 4. 4½., with £18 fees, and a house and garden. A parochial library has been established, which has a collection of nearly 200 volumes. There are some remains of a chapel called Kirk Dominae, and on the rising ground near its site is a well, to which is an approach through an ancient and well-built archway: this chapel was in tolerable preservation till the year 1653, when the roof was taken off, and placed on the parish church. Viscount Stair, well known as ambassador of George II., at the court of France, in 1720, was born in the parish.

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