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Dunsyre, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

DUNSYRE, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Lanark, 1½ mile (W. N. W.) from Roberton, and 5 miles (S. W.) from Linton; containing 288 inhabitants, of whom 68 are in the village. This place, the name of which, of Celtic origin, is supposed to signify the "hill of the seer", appears to have formed part of the possessions of various families of distinction in the earlier periods of Scottish history, and is now, with the exception of a small portion, the property of Sir Norman Macdonald Lockhart, Bart. The parish is more than four miles in length from north to south, and from three to four miles in breadth, and is bounded on the east and south by the South Medwin, and on the north by the North Medwin and Dryburn. It comprises an area of 11,000 acres, of which about one-eighth are arable, and the remainder pasture and waste, with about forty acres of woodland and plantations. The surface is generally elevated, and rises into hills of considerable height, of which that of Dunsyre forms the termination of the Pentland hills, a range extending nearly twenty miles from the immediate vicinity of Edinburgh. This hill has an elevation of 500 feet above the general surface of the lands, and of 1230 feet above the sea; and a small range of gradually diminishing hills branches off from it towards the west, stretching to the parish of Carnwath. Between the Dunsyre and Walston ranges is the level valley of the South Medwin, about three miles in length and a mile broad. The scenery of the parish is enlivened with plantations and with numerous streams, of which the only one that may be called a river is the South Medwin, having its source in the north-eastern extremity of the parish, near the base of Cragingar, and which, flowing through the valley, is, after a course of two or three miles further, diverted towards the west, where it receives a stream called the West water, issuing from the hills to the north. Craneloch is about a mile in circumference, but being situated in the moorland, its scenery is destitute of beauty, presenting nothing but marshy lands skirted with heath; it abounds with pike and perch, and trout are also found in the Medwins. The lands abound with springs of excellent water, and there are some which have a petrifying quality, and others strongly impregnated with iron.

The SOIL is generally light and sandy, in some parts intermixed with clay, and in others almost a barren heath; the crops are oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is advanced, and the rotation plan of husbandry universally adopted; the lands have been drained to a considerable extent, and the channel of the South Medwin straightened to afford greater facilities for draining the marshy grounds in its vicinity. Attention is paid to the management of the dairy, and to the improvement of stock; the milch-cows on the dairy-farms are all of the Ayrshire breed, and a crossbreed of cattle of a heavier stock is reared for agricultural purposes and for the market. More than 3000 sheep, chiefly of the black-faced breed, are pastured. Considerable quantities of cheese and butter are sent to the neighbouring markets; and the dairy produce generally is esteemed equal in quality to that of any part of the county of Ayr. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2624. The substrata are mainly whinstone of a bluish colour, freestone, and an indifferent kind of limestone, with partial seams of a much purer kind resembling grey marble, and varying from eight to sixteen feet in depth. Traces of iron-ore are found in several places, and copper-ore is supposed to exist. Coal is also thought to prevail in some parts, but no efficient attempt to procure it has yet been made. The woods and plantations are chiefly Scotch fir and larch, but they are rather diminishing than increasing in extent. The village is pleasantly situated in the vale of the North Medwin: at Medwin Bank are a carding-mill and a dyeing establishment. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Biggar, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and in the patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £156. 15., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £28 per annum. Dunsyre church, situated on an eminence on the bank of the river South Medwin, is an ancient edifice, with a tower in the later English style, which was added to it in 1820, when it underwent a complete repair; it is adapted for a congregation of about 250 persons. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £25, with £5 fees, and a house and garden. There were formerly numerous castles in the vale of Dunsyre, in one of which the baron-bailie held his courts. Several relics of Roman antiquity still remain, and the ancient Roman road through the lands to the camp at Cleghorn may be traced. The entrance to the glen in which the hill of Dunsyre is situated, and which is called the Garvald, forms a communication between the east and west portions of the parish; the route of the army of Agricola through this rugged defile is pointed out by a dyke of earth, and some cairns are yet remaining, in which sepulchral urns of burnt clay, rudely carved, have been discovered.

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