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Kilbride, Buteshire

Historical Description

KILBRIDE, a parish, in the island of Arran, county of Bute, 20 miles (S. W. by W.) from Saltcoats; containing, with the villages of Brodick and Corrie, 2786 inhabitants, of whom 271 are in the village, or kirktown, of Kilbride, called also Lamlash from its situation on the bay of that name. This parish, which derives its name from the dedication of its ancient church to St. Bridget or Bride, was the scene of some interesting events during the wars with England that originated in the disputed succession to the Scottish throne, after the death of Alexander III. In 1306, Robert Bruce, who during his reverses of fortune had remained for some time in concealment in Ireland, landed on the Isle of Arran with a small fleet, and being joined by Sir James Douglas and others of his adherents, assaulted and reduced the castle of Brodick, which was then held by Sir John Hastings for Edward I. of England. Upon this occasion, Bruce, in recompense of their important services, conferred upon his friends many of the lands of Arran, which, however, long since passed from their descendants, and are now the property of the Duke of Hamilton. The island of Arran, which at that time was thickly wooded, became a favourite resort of the Scottish kings, for pursuing the diversion of the chase; and the castle of Loch Ranza, the remains of which denote its former magnificence, was erected as a hunting-seat by one of the Stuarts, prior to the year 1380.

In 1544, the castle of Brodick was demolished by the Earl of Lennox, whom Henry VIII. of England had sent with an expedition against the west coast of Scotland, this being one of the king's warlike measures to punish the Scots for their refusal to concur in the proposed alliance of Mary of Scotland with Prince Edward, afterwards King of England. Some years subsequently, the Earl of Sussex, lord lieutenant of Ireland, who had landed with a considerable force in Cantyre, then in the possession of the Macdonalds, to retaliate the frequent incursions of the islanders into the north of Ireland, sailed to the bay of Brodick, and laid waste the adjacent country. In 1651, the castle of Brodick was garrisoned by Cromwell, who also repaired the fortifications, and erected an additional bastion; but the garrison, who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the inhabitants, were surprised while on a foraging party, and put to the sword. The remains of this fortress are considerable, though, from its frequent demolition, but little of its ancient character is preserved. The Duchess of Hamilton, more than a century since, made a large addition to the buildings; and within the last few years, extensive repairs and additions have been effected. In February 1845, a few weeks after the principal tower had been completed, that portion of the structure fell down; but it was soon afterwards rebuilt, with every precaution taken to prevent a similar accident. The castle is now called Arran House, and is the principal residence, especially during the summer, of the Marquess and Marchioness of Douglas.

The PARISH, which occupies nearly one-half of the Isle of Arran, is bounded on the east by the Firth of Clyde, and on the west by a range of mountains separating it from the parish of Kilmorie, which forms the remainder of the island. It is about twenty-two miles in extreme length from north to south, varying from two miles to four and a half in breadth; and comprises an area of 42,000 acres, of which nearly 6000 are arable, 900 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture, moorland, and waste. The surface is strikingly varied with hills and mountains, interspersed with deep and narrow glens of picturesque character; and the scenery abounds with features either of wild magnificence and majestic grandeur, or of romantic beauty. The hills, from the southern boundary of the parish to the bay of Brodick, rise gradually in gentle undulations to a height of 800 feet, and are covered to their summits with grass and heath. Towards Loch Ranza, near the northern boundary, however, they rise precipitously in rugged masses of barren rock, the highest of which, Goatfell, has an elevation of nearly 3000 feet above the level of the sea. The glens, the principal of which are Glen-Rosa, Glensherag, Glenshant, Glen-Sannox, Glencloy, and Ashdale, are watered by their respective rivers, flowing between narrow banks of mountainous acclivity that darken their stream: the river of Ashdale, obstructed in its course by masses of rock, forms two romantic cascades, falling respectively 100 and 50 feet from ledges of columnar basalt. These rivers, which, in their progress through the glens, receive numerous tributary streams, abound with trout and eels of small size; and when swollen with rains in summer, salmon and sea-trout ascend in considerable numbers. The only lake belonging to the parish is Loch Urie, on the hill of Urie; it is of small extent. Springs of the purest water, issuing from the rocks, occur in many parts; and there are some springs impregnated with iron and other minerals.

The whole extent of the SEA-COAST, except where it is indented with bays, is guarded by a ledge of rude cliffs and rugged precipices, between which and the sea is a narrow tract of level land. These rocks are in many places clothed with ivy, and interspersed with birch, ash, oak, and brushwood. On the eastern shore are the bays of Lamlash and Brodick. That of Lamlash is a fine circular haven, about three miles in length, of sufficient depth to afford safe anchorage to a large fleet of vessels of any burthen, and surrounded with a fine sandy beach. The entrance to this bay is by two inlets at the extremities of the island of Lamlash, or the Holy Isle, which lies in front of it, a picturesque island of conical form, rising to a height of 900 feet above the level of the sea. A quay was formed here by the Duchess of Hamilton, at a cost of nearly £3000; but the materials were, from time to time, removed for building the village at the head of the bay, and the loss is now severely felt. The bay of Brodick, to the north of Lamlash, is about two miles in length, and of considerable depth; and at the northern extremity are the remains of the ancient castle, now Arran House, the residence of the Duke of Hamilton's eldest son. To the south of Lamlash is Whiting bay, of smaller dimensions, but the shores of which present much interesting scenery; and to the north of Brodick is the bay of Corrie, where is a small harbour. There is also a good harbour at Loch Ranza, on the north-west. The sea abounds with various kinds of fish; the most numerous kinds are whiting and haddock, but cod, ling, mackerel, conger-eels, skate, flounders, soles, and turbot are likewise taken in considerable quantities. Lobsters, crabs, and other varieties of shell-fish are also to be obtained on every part of the coast; oysters are found only at Loch Ranza. Herrings occasionally visit the coast, but in greater numbers on the north and west sides of the island.

The SOIL of the cultivated lands is generally light. In the valleys the soil is extremely various; in some places, little more than sand; and in others, a fine alluvial loam, and moss and marsh converted by draining and manure into rich black loam, more or less interspersed with gravel. The crops raised in the parish are oats, barley, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips, with a few acres of flax. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved under the encouragement of the principal proprietor, and by the stimulus of a farming association which awards prizes for the best specimens of stock and rural management. The lands have been well drained and inclosed; the farm houses and offices are generally substantial and commodious; and the various recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been introduced. On the hills there is good pasturage for the numerous flocks of sheep, which are of the black-faced breed, with a few of the Cheviot and Merino on the lower grounds. The cattle are mostly of the Argyllshire Highland breed, to the improvement of which much attention has been paid. Ayrshire cows are kept on the dairy-farms, which are well managed; and the butter and cheese produced here are equal to what is made in the best districts of Ayrshire. There are some remains of the ancient woods, which were very extensive. The plantations round the castle of Brodick, near the bay of Lamlash, and at Kilmichael, which last are of very recent date, consist of larch, Scotch, spruce, and silver firs, oak, ash, elm, sycamore, and birch, and are in a thriving condition. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4548.

The geology of the district is in the highest degree interesting, exhibiting within a small compass a kind of epitome of the mineral structure of Scotland. There are granite, trap, porphyry, and porphyritic clay-stone; and rock crystals of almost every variety are found: the substrata also comprise sandstone, clay-slate, limestone, ironstone, and coal, which last is found near the Cock of Arran. There are quarries of limestone and freestone near Corrie. An attempt was once made to work the coal, but for some reason it was abandoned; and a slate-quarry in the neighbourhood was for a time in operation. At Sannox is a quarry of barytes, the proprietor of which has erected a large mill for pulverizing the mineral, and extracting the sulphate, which obtains a high price in the market. The ironstone, though abundant, is not wrought. The whole of the parish, with the exception only of the farm of Kilmichael, belonging to John Fullarton, Esq., who resides on his estate, is the property of the Duke of Hamilton. The village of Lamlash consists chiefly of a few rural cottages and some shops, and, during the summer, is the resort of visiters for sea-bathing: there are three good inns. A small fair is held at Lamlash, about the commencement of winter, principally for horses, but it is not much frequented; and there is also a fair at Brodick, for cattle, horses, and wool, held in the last week of June, and numerously attended. Two branch offices in the parish, under the post-office of Saltcoats, have daily deliveries. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads in various directions, and by steamers which frequent the bay, plying in summer daily, and in winter twice a week, between Arran and Ardrossan, and also twice in the week between Arran and Glasgow from the beginning of June till the end of September.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Cantyre, synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £259, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; patron, the Duke of Hamilton. Kilbride church, situated on the shore of the bay of Lamlash, was erected in 1773; it is a plain structure, without either tower or spire, and contains 560 sittings. A chapel in connexion with the Established Church was erected at Loch Ranza, about the year 1782, by the Duke of Hamilton, for the accommodation of both the parishes of Arran; it contains sittings for 400 persons. The minister has a stipend of £41, arising from an endowment by the Duchess of Hamilton. A church was erected at Brodick in 1839, at an expense of £850, of which £100 were given by the duke, £167. 15. by the extension committee of the General Assembly, and the remainder raised by subscription; it is now occupied by the Free Church of Scotland, the missionary or assistant minister who officiated in it having seceded at the time of the Disruption in 1843. The salary of the parochial school is divided among four teachers, one of whom, at Lamlash, has £19; one at Brodick £16; one at Corrie £4; and the fourth, at Loch Ranza, £6, with nearly an equal sum from the parish of Kilmorie, to which that school is open. The masters have each a house and garden, rent-free, from the Duke of Hamilton, in addition to their fees, which vary from £14 to £5 per annum. There is also a school at Whiting bay, to the master of which a salary of £25 is paid by the General Assembly. A parochial library, established in 1824, and having now a collection of more than 300 volumes, is supported by subscription.

There are some remains of Druidical circles; and several have been destroyed at different times, to furnish materials for building. Near the manse are two sepulchral cairns; and at the head of Moniemore glen, is one more than 200 feet in circumference at the base, on the removal of part of which stone coffins were found. Similar coffins have been found in various places, containing human bones; and in one of them was a piece of gold, supposed to have been part of the guard of an ancient sword. The Holy Isle, at the entrance of Lamlash bay, was the solitary retreat of St. Molios, a disciple of St. Columba, who, for greater seclusion, is said to have removed from Iona to this place, whence he diffused the light of Christianity among the pagan inhabitants of Arran. The cave that was his abode was hewn in a sandstone rock; and in the roof is a Runic inscription, setting forth his name and office. A monastery was afterwards founded on the island, the ruins of which were visible in 1594: the cause of its abandonment was the loss of a vessel, conveying a number of people attending a corpse for interment in its cemetery, which was distinguished by various rude tombstones till within the last ten years, when they were removed. In Glencloy were till lately the remains of the ancient chapel of Kilmichael; and at Sannox was a church, the only vestige of which now remaining is a rude figure of its patron saint, built up in the wall of the cemetery, which is still used.

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