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Carsphairn, Kirkcudbrightshire

Historical Description

CARSPHAIRN, a parish, in the stewartry of KIRKCUDBRIGHT, 12 miles (N. W. by N.) from New Galloway; containing, according to the census of 1811, 790 inhabitants, of whom 103 were in the village of Carsphairn. This parish, which was separated from the parishes of Kells and Dairy in 1627, is supposed to have derived its name from the erection of the church and village on a small level plain, at that time overgrown with fern. The parish is bounded on the east by the river Ken, and on the north and west by Loch Doon and the county of Ayr; it is nearly circular in form, about ten miles in length, and nearly nine in breadth, comprising about 56,000 acres. With the exception of a small tract of arable land around the village, the surface is mountainous and hilly. The highest of the mountains is Cairnsmuir, which has an elevation of 2696 feet above the sea, commanding an unbounded view in every direction except the south-west, where the prospect is obstructed by the mountain of Carlines Cairn, nearly equal in height. The lower hills are covered with heath; but those of greater elevation are clothed with verdure to their summits, affording excellent pasturage for sheep and black-cattle. The river Deugh, which descends from the northern heights with great rapidity, takes a south-eastern course, and flows into the Ken; and the parish is also intersected by numerous mountain streams, some of which abound with trout. For the most part the scenery is wild, with few old trees, and but very small patches of modern plantations. The lands are principally sheep-walks, which have been improved by surface-draining, and the parish is almost entirely pastoral. About 30,000 sheep of the black-faced breed are regularly pastured, and a very considerable number of cattle of the Highland breed are kept during the winter, and in summer sent to the English markets. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5414.

The substrata are chiefly greywacke and granite. A rich vein of lead-ore has been discovered on the lands of the Honourable Col. M. Cathcart, who has spared no expense in bringing it into successful operation, for which purpose be has employed a number of miners, chiefly from Wanlockhead and Leadhills. Ironstone has aiso been found on the same estate. Buildings have been erected for crushing, washing, and smelting the lead-ore, on the most approved plans, and for separating the silver from the lead, under the superintendence of skilful overseers. Cottages for the workmen have been built on the spot, with a schoolmaster's house, and spacious schoolroom for the instruction of their children; and the proprietor gives a liberal salary to the master and mistress. Since the last census, the population of the parish has increased from 790 to not less than 1000, owing to the success of the lead-mining works. There is a post-office, a branch of that of Ayr, and facility of communication is afforded by the road from Ayr to Dumfries and Kirkcudbright. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £182. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £27 per annum; patrons, the Crown and the Forbes family of Callendar. Carsphairn church, which is nearly in the centre of the parish, is a plain structure, erected within the last twenty or thirty years, and containing 400 sittings, to which Col. Cathcart has added a gallery for the accommodation of his miners. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, also the interest of £500 bequeathed by the late Mr. Mc Adam of Castle-dykes, and the fees average about £15. The poor have the proceeds of various bequests amounting to £800, of which £500 were left by Mr. Mc Adam. The chief remains of antiquity are cairns, in some of which, on their removal, stones in the form of coffins were found, containing human bones; there are also remains of a Druidical circle. The late Dr. Jackson, professor of natural philosophy in the university of St. Andrew's, was a native of the place.

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