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Keir or Kier, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

KEIR, or KIER, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 2 miles (S. W.) from Thornhill; containing, with the village of Barjarg, 984 inhabitants. This parish is supposed to derive its name from the British word Caer, signifying "a fort", used in reference to some fortress of importance, all traces of which have now disappeared. It is thought to have anciently belonged to the abbey of Holywood, or, as some say, was a vicarage belonging to the parish of Caerlaverock, which latter was a parsonage connected with the abbey. After the Reformation, the feus that used to be paid to the Church were given to the Earl of Morton; but that nobleman having disobliged the sovereign, they were afterwards granted to the Earl of Nithsdale, whose successors were the chief heritors of the parish till 1702, when James, Duke of Queensberry, purchased the barony of Keir. The property has since been increased by several purchases, and consists at present of three large portions, held by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, and extending to nearly one-half of the whole parish. The other estates are Capenoch, Waterside, Barjarg, and Blackwood, one of which is still in the possession of a very ancient family.

The PARISH is about seven miles and a half long, and two miles and a half in extreme breadth, containing between 7000 and 8000 acres. It is bounded by the parish of Penpont on the north, by Dunscore on the south, by Closeburn on the east, and by Tynron and Glencairn on the west. The surface is diversified with numerous hills, affording excellent sheep pasture: the rivers are, the Nith, and its tributary the Scar, the former of which constitutes the eastern boundary of the parish. The Edinburgh road passes within the south-east end of the parish for half a mile. The holm land on the banks of the rivers consists of a fine rich loam. In other parts where the ground is level there is a light, dry, and fertile earth, producing good crops in moist weather, but soon parched up with drought. The soil on the high grounds is deep and strong, but very stony, and generally covered with coarse though nutritious grasses. About 3375 acres are cultivated for the usual white and green crops; 750 are meadow land, and nearly 2600 natural pasture: between 600 and 700 acres are occupied by wood, natural and planted. The sheep are chiefly the black-faced, and the cattle of the Galloway and Ayrshire breeds. Many improvements have been introduced into the district, the chief of which is the reclaiming of waste land by drainage and other means, so as to increase the extent of arable ground in a very great degree. The rocks in the parish consist of greywacke in many varieties, with sandstone and abundance of limestone, of the latter of which a quarry is worked, producing annually lime worth about £2500. The annual value of real property in Keir is £4562. The mansions are Barjarg, Capenoch, Waterside, and Blackwood Houses, all of them modern with the exception of the first, which is partly an old edifice. There are two villages, namely, Keir-Mill and Barjarg. About eight miles and a half of turnpike-road run through the parish, and five bridges connect Keir with the adjoining districts: one of these bridges, a suspension-bridge of a new construction, was lately erected by the Duke of Buccleuch over the Scar; the span is 110 feet. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Penpont, synod of Dumfries and Galloway; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The stipend is about £220; and there is a good manse, with a glebe of ten acres, worth about £18 per annum. Keir church, which is inconveniently situated at Keir-Mill, near the upper end of the parish, was built in 1814; it contains 430 sittings, and is in good repair. There are two parochial schools, in which Greek, Latin, mathematics, and all the usual branches of education are taught: each of the masters' salaries is £25. 13.4., with from £14 to £18 fees.

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