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Colmonell, Ayrshire

Historical Description

COLMONELL, a parish, in the district of CARRICK, county of AYR, 5 miles (N. E.) from Ballantrae; containing 2801 inhabitants. This parish, the name of which is of very uncertain derivation, is about nineteen miles and a half in length, and seven miles in extreme breadth. It is bounded on the north by the Firth of Clyde, and comprises 56,800 acres, of which 4000 are arable, 2000 fine meadow land, 800 in woods and plantations, and the remainder moor and rough pasture. The surface is beautifully varied with hills of gentle elevation, inclosing fertile valleys, and with gradually-rising grounds and level meadows. The chief river is the Stinchar, which has its source in the parish of Barr, and, in its winding course of nearly nine miles through this parish, receives the waters of the Dhuisk, or Blackwater, a river of almost equal breadth, over which are three bridges of stone, and several of wood. The banks of the Stinchar and the Dhuisk are clothed with wood, chiefly oak, ash, elm, birch, alder, and larch. There are also several lakes; the principal are Loch Dornal and Loch Mabiery, which both abound in romantic scenery. The higher grounds command prospects of the surrounding districts, but none of the hills have an elevation of more than 700 feet above the sea, and the views, though interesting, are not very extensive: the finest prospect is that from the hill of Knockdolian, embracing the whole extent of the vale of the Stinchar, from Penmore to Knockdolian.

On the banks of the Stinchar the soil is extremely fertile; the higher lands are chiefly a stiff clay resting upon gravel, and a considerable portion is poor moorland affording scanty pasturage. The chief crops are oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, and turnips; the system of agriculture is in a very advanced state, and all the most recent improvements are in general practice. Great attention is paid to the management of the dairy, and about 4000 stone of cheese are annually produced for the neighbouring markets; the Cunninghame breed of cows is yearly increasing, and many of that kind are pastured on the several dairy-farms. The cattle reared for sale are chiefly of the Galloway breed, and some hundreds of them are aunually sold to the cattle-dealers from the south. About 9000 sheep of the blackfaced breed, and 200 of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds, are on the average pastured. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,425. Limestone is extensively quarried, and there are five kilns, at which about 20,000 bolls of lime are burnt for manure every year. A fishery on the coast is carried on with success; the chief fish found here are cod, whitings, haddocks, turbot, skate, and herrings, and lobsters are taken in abundance, and sent by steam to Dublin, where they are in great demand. Salmon is also found, in the river Stinchar, and there are several salmon pools, the rents of which in the aggregate amount to £30 per annum. The chief seats of the parish are, Penmore and Dalgerrock, which are of some antiquity; and Knockdolian, Dhuisk Lodge, Corwar, Ballochmorie, and Drumlamford, of recent erection. Colmonell village, formerly consisting only of a few thatched cottages, has been almost entirely rebuilt in a regular style; and, since the passing of the Reform act, has been a polling-place for the election of a member for the county. A post-office is established. Fairs are held un the first Monday in February, May, August, and November (O. S.); and three cattle-markets at Barhill, a small hamlet of recent origin, on the river Dhuisk, on the fourth Friday in April, September, and October (O. S.).

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Stranraer, synod of Galloway, and in the patronage of the Duchess de Coigny. The minister's stipend is £256. 18. 9., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum. Colmonell church, erected in 1772, and repaired in 1832, is a neat substantial edifice, adapted for a congregation of 500 persons. A chapel of ease has been erected, in which the incumbent officiates every fourth Sunday during ten months of the year; and there are places of worship for Reformed Presbyterians, Original Seceders, and members of the Free Church. The parochial schoolmaster has a salary of £34, with £26 fees, a house and garden, and the half of £21. 15., the rent of the farm of Little Dungart, bequeathed by Dr. Kennedy, for the gratuitous instruction of six poor scholars. There are some remains of the ancient castles of Knockdaw, Carleton, Craigneil, Kirkhill, Penwherry, and Knockdolian. The most interesting of these are the ruins of Craigneil, supposed to have been erected in the thirteenth century, and to have been frequently visited by Robert Bruce; they are situated on a rock, and the castle was anciently a prison, and a place of execution for criminals.

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