Notes on the way
through Ayrshire - 100 years ago
The village of Fenwick
stands north west of Loudoun.
In the Churchyard is a
monument to Captain John Paton
of Meadowhead, the Covenant
hero and martyr, who was interred in Greyfriars’ Churchyard,
the tombs of several other martyrs
of less note, and of John
Howie, author of the "Scots
Worthies." The picturesque old Parish Church, kept still in good
repair, may be regarded as sacred to the memory of the Rev.
William Guthrie, celebrated
Covenant preacher, author of "The Christian’s Great Interest."
He was ordained minister of Fenwick in 1644.
self-taught astronomer and mathematician, was born at Fenwick, 1800,
and bred a shoemaker. Died in 1854. See his orrery
in Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow; it is one of the wonders of the world. Lochgoin
farmhouse, far away on the wild moors near the north-east boundary of
the parish and of the county, five or six miles from Fenwick by road, is
famous as the birthplace and residence of John
Howie, and as a refuge for Covenanters.
Above the door of the old one-story dwelling are the dates, 1178, 1710,
1816, indicating when it was built and re-built by the generous and
patriotic family of Howie,
whose residence it has been all the time. During the long years of
persecution it was frequently visited by the enemy in search of refugees,
and was plundered twelve times. John
Howie, born 1736, was bred to
working on the farm, where he remained during his lifetime, devoting his
evening: to self-education and writing the lives of his country’s
martyrs. He published the " Scats Worthies" in 1781; collected a
valuable library and a few relics of Covenant heroes. Died in 1793.
About two miles
south-south-west of Lochgoin is Meadowhead, once the home of
whose sword and Bible are amongst the relics preserved by the Howies
at Lochgoin. When he was about to be executed in the Grassmarket,
Edinburgh, May 8, 1684, he handed his Bible down from the scaffold to his
poor, devoted wife, who had followed him thither.
The parish contains
coal, ironstone, and limestone. The surface, from 914 feet ahove sea level
at Lochgoin, slopes gently down south-west. Originally very wet, it
has been greatly improved of late by drainage, but much of it lies in poor
natural grass. Its length, from east to west, is eight and a quarter
miles. Area, 16,134 acres. Population in 1821, 1852; in 1871, 1318; in
FENWICK, a parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr; including
the villages of Kirktown and Upper Fenwick, and containing 2018 inhabitants,
of whom 355 are in Upper Fenwick, 4 miles (N. N. E.) from Kilmarnock. This
place in ancient times formed part of the parish of Kilmarnock, from which it
was separated in the year 1642, and called New Kilmarnock, its present
appellation having been subsequently derived from Fenwick hill, in the
vicinity of the church. The parish is nine miles in length, and upwards of six
in breadth, and is in figure nearly an oblong, the surface rising gradually
from the south to the north, and reaching an elevation of about 700 feet near
the part where it joins the Mearns moor. The climate is moist, and rain is
very frequent, and the soil to a great extent unproductive, several large
tracts consisting of deep moss, which, at many seasons in the year, are
impassable without risk of life. The lower division contains most of the
population, and the land here produces good average crops; the higher grounds,
bordering on Renfrewshire, are chiefly pastoral, and of excellent quality, and
the stock grazed upon them is of a good breed, and in superior condition. The
process of draining has been for some time attended to, and much land once
entirely useless is now under tillage, and affords good returns. Limestone is
abundant, and is quarried in several places; coal has recently been discovered
in much larger quantities than those formerly obtained, and iron has also been
found in the same locality in considerable abundance, one bed measuring five
feet in thickness.
The parish contains several
small hamlets; the inhabitants generally dispose of their produce at the
markets of Glasgow and Kilmarnock: coal is procured from the neighbourhood of
the latter place, and peat is obtained plentifully from the mosses in the
district. The public road from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and Ayr passes through
the parish. The rateable annual value of Fenwick is £9366.
The ecclesiastical affairs
are under the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and the
patronage vested in the Earl of Glasgow; the minister's stipend is £123, of
which a part is received from the exchequer, with a manse, and a glebe of
eight acres, valued at £24 per annum. The church, seated on the right bank of
one of the two streams which intersect the parish, is a plain cruciform
structure, built in 1643, and containing between 700 and 800 sittings, all
free. There is a place of worship for members of the United Secession. The
parochial school affords instruction in the ordinary branches; the master has
a salary of £28, with a good house, built in 1805, a rood of garden, and £20
fees. There is a second school, with an endowment of £10 per annum; and the
parish contains a subscription library. The Earl of Glasgow takes the title of
Baron Boyle, of Fenwick, from this place.
From: A Topographical Dictionary
of Scotland (1846)
For a period of forty-six years James Currie has figured in the business
circles of Milwaukee as a florist and landscape gardener and is today at
the head of a mammoth business that has been built up under the name of
the Currie Brothers Company, of which he is the president. A native of
Scotland, he was born in Fenwick, in Ayrshire, June 10. 1853, and
is a son of James and Anna (Boyd) Currie, who were also natives' of that
place and have now passed away. The father was born July 3, 1827, and died
October 29, 1905. He represented the family found in Ayrshire from the
days of Wallace and Bruce in the thirteenth century and many
representatives of the name still reside in Ayrshire, the Milwaukee family
being the first to emigrate from the ancestral home. Mrs. Currie was a
descendant of Lord Boyd, whose estate was confiscated because of his
adherence to the cause of the Pretender, Prince Charles. "Lord Boyd, or
Earl of Kilmarnock, was born in 1704, was taken prisoner at Culloden,
tried for treason, and executed at the Tower of London, his being one of
the last three executions for political offences in the Tower; the other
two were the Lords of Balmerino and Lovat, all convicted after the
rebellion of 1745. The death of William Boyd, Earl of Kilmarnock, ended
the title and the estates in the family. The old castle, called 'Dean
Castle," near Kilmarnock, in Ayrshire, is still standing and many relics'
of the earlier and more distinguished period have descended to Mrs.
Currie." It was in the year 1886 that Mr. and Mrs. James Currie, Sr.,
came- to Milwaukee, following the arrival of their sons in this city. The
former devoted his life to landscape gardening and floral culture and it
was he who laid out the famous gardens of Sir Peter Coates on the banks of
the Doon. He was greatly interested in beautifying Milwaukee especially
through the development of public parks. He belonged to St. Andrews'
Society and to the Milwaukee Curling Club.
James Currie, whose name introduces this review, acquired his education in
the public schools of Girvan and of Minnishant, in Ayrshire, and also
attended the Ayr Academy, one of the oldest and most celebrated places of
learning in Scotland His home was within two miles of the quaint and
historic birthplace of Robert Burns. It was in November, 1872, that James
Currie crossed the Atlantic to the United States being then a youth of
nineteen years. He made his way to the home of relatives at Waltham, La
Salle county, Illinois, where he remained for a short time and then came
to Milwaukee in January, 1873. Here he was joined by his brother, William,
in March, 1875, and the firm of Currie Brothers was organized in the same
year. In 1878 they were Joined by their brother, Adam, and in 1886 the
father and other members of the family came to the new world. Through a
period of forty-six years the business has been continuously carried on
and was incorporated on the 12th of September, 1903, under the name of the
Currie Brothers Company, with James Currie as president, and as seedsmen
and florists they have built up a large reputation. Their business has
been most prosperous and has extended to all parts of the country,
particularly to the west. On the 1st of July, 1880, James Currie was
appointed superintendent of Forest Home Cemetery and still occupies that
position. On the 1st of June, 1911, he was appointed a member of the board
of park commissioners in Milwaukee and has been president of the board for
the past two years. In 1911 he was made a member of the county park
commission of Milwaukee county and was elected president of that board in
1921. His labors have been most effective in promoting the beauty of the
city through its park system, as well as through following his private
On the 3d of July, 1878, Mr. Currie was united in marriage in Milwaukee to
Miss Jeannie A. Harper of this city, a daughter of William and Mary
(Baxter) Harper, both deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Currie have become parents of
four children: William Boyd, who married Beatrice Washburn and has three
children, James W., Esther and Richard; Florence Baxter, at home; Alice
Mary, the wife of Harold W. Drew and the mother of three children,
Prentice James, Joan and Alan; and Jean Young, at home.
Mr. Currie has never sought to figure prominently in connection with
politics but has always given stalwart support to the republican party at
the polls. He belongs to the Calvary Presbyterian church, and on the 12th
of November, 1894, was elected and became a member of Kilbourn Masonic
Lodge of Milwaukee, of which he served as master in 1901. He was also
elected a member of the St. Andrews' Society of Milwaukee, April 9, 1874,
and through several years served in various offices of the society, being
its president in 1891 and 1892. He likewise has membership in the City
Club. His activities have always been on the side of progress, reform and
improvement and his labors have at all times been far-reaching and
Improvement of Knowledge Society 'Knowledge is the treasure of the soul'
The following is taken from the periodical noted below, regarding a group at Fenwick who formed themselves into the said Society. There are quite a few
Fenwick folk mentioned herein, and I hope it is of use to someone.........Jim Bundy
The Scottish Historical Review
MacLehose, Jackson and Co.
Publishers to the University
Four Shillings Net
Volume XVII 2
The Editor of the Scottish Historical Review has to thank Mr Hugh Fulton, Pollockshields, Glasgow, for the opportunity to print the following crisp,
concise and racy record of winter-night debates in the village of Fenwick, in Ayrshire, in the years between the Reform Act and the repeal of the Corn
Laws. The minute book of the little debating Society of young men in Fenwick belongs to Mr Fulton, and its significance was indicated to the writer of
this note by Mr William Gemmill, Writer, Glasgow, who shares with Mr Fulton a keen ancestral interest in Fenwick and its Reform debates. Accordingly
there is now printer verbatim et literatim the text of the curious little minute book. It is six inches by four inches, in several handwritings, often
ill spelt, and worse punctuated, but always brisk and entertaining, instructively disclosing a decisive and robust mentality among the young
artisans of the Ayrshire village, situated about four miles from Kilmarnock. The parish, eight miles in extreme length, and from two to five miles broad,
had, in 1831, a population of 2018. The almost coterminous villages of Fenwick and Low Fenwick, best known as Laigh Fenwick from which probably the
membership of 'The Fenwick Improvement of Knowledge Society' was mainly recruited, can hardly have contained more than 500 inhabitants, whose
prevalent industry was weaving.
It is perhaps not surprising that, in the generation which followed Burns, we should find in an Ayrshire village, sympathy alike with liberty and
literature, yet the intensity of feeling manifest throughout, argues the existence of dominating inspirations in the minds of the leaders of the
coterie which, from 1834 until 1842, discuss so many attractive and important themes. The minutes are a remarkable interpretation of their time,
and could hardly have better conveyed than they have done, what these village politicians and social critics thought and said and sang.
The following persons meet in the house of Hugh Thomson on the 16th Decr 1834 and agreed to form themselves into a Society to be called the Fenwick
of Knowledge Society, when they agreed to the following articles Andrew Gemmell, John Kirkland, James Taylor, John Gemmell, Daniel Love, John
Anderson, Robert Howit, Alexander Armour, Alexander Fulton, William Morton, John Fowlds
Article 1st. The Club shall meet at Fenwick every second Friday night when a Question on any subject shall be proposed (Doctrines of Religion excepted)
which Question is to be discussed in the Club each member taking whatever side he thinks proper.
2nd. The Society being meet the one who presides being chosen the night previous opens the meeting by stateing the subject formerly given out for
discussion, those haveing written Essays shall have precedence.
3d. When the President reads from the Society's Book the Question to be discussed the Member next the preses on the right hand shall speak first
then the Member next on the other side shall reply and so on till all the Members shall have given there opinions and when a smaller number shall be
allowed to reply and so on untill all the opposite side shall have spoken and are answered no person allowed to speak out of his order without leave from the precess.
4th. In the time of a debate one only shall be heard at once and not above fifteen minutes at a time when he shall give place to another and so on
until it is finished any majority shall determine what side has the merit of the Question.
5th. When the discussions of the Meeting are finished for night the business of the meeting shall be to choose a President for next meeting when the
President or any other Member shall be at liberty to propose any member he thinks fit: if more than one is proposed the one who has the majority of
votes will be considered elected.
6th. That all private conversation during the debate shall be strictly prohibited - and all profane and obscene & abusive language shall reproved
by the president and if persevered in shall exclude the offender from the Membership of the Society.
7th. That no person shall be allowed to make known any of the Society's debates for the purpose of ridicule or jest out of the Society on pain of exclusion.
8th. Any person applying for Membership will be admited only by consent only of three fourths of the Society: those having objections to admitance of any
individual as a member are not required to give his reasons for so doing.
9th. Every person alternately may propose any subject he chooses for the next discussion , which shall be adopted provided his motion meet the
approbation of the meeting.
10th. Any Member absenting himself from the Meeting for one night forfits one halfpenny; for two nights, one penny; for three nights, two pence; four
nights, exclusion from the Society without giving a reasonable excuse. Abrogated.
11th. That at the close of the debate if any Member have anything valuable to communicate connected with the object of the Society will be at liberty so to do.
12th. No Member who has an Essay the property of the Society for perusal shall be at liberty to give it in loan or otherwise shew it to any person
who is not a member of the Society.
13th. That no fundamentall article of the Society can be altered or abrogated, nor any of the Society's funds disposed of for any purpose
whatever, without a majority of votes agreeing thereto and passed for two successive nights of regular meeting, nor any new article adopted.
Supp to Art. 4. Number of votes on each side of any question to be entered in the minute of meeting and no decision to be given when they are on a par.
Supp. To Art. 5th. The President shall have a vote along with the other members, and on a par shall have the casting vote: this applies to all cases
except what comes under Article 4th.
A Statement of the Subjects discussed by the Society
1st. The Utility of Societies for the Improvement of Knowledge.
2nd. That whither the greatest amount of happiness flows from Implicit belief or rational and enlightened Conviction.
3d. Whither Riches or genius are most desirable.
4th. Whither Religion supported by voluntary means or by a civil Establishment is best fitted to promote true Religion.
5th. Whither the death of Archbishop Sharp was Murder or Patriotism. Decided in favour of Patriotism.
6th. Whither Celibacy or a Conjugal life is best fitted to promote individual happiness.
7th. Whether Monarchical or Republican forms of Civil Government are best
fitted for the People's Welfare. Decided in favour of Republicanism after two Nights Debate. 8th. What is the best method of Replacing Monarchical Governments by
Republican and Whither by Moral or physical means. Decided in favor of moral means.
9th. On general Literature.
10th. Whither Open Voting or By Ballot gives the Purest Elections. After two nights debate decided in favour of Open Elections.
11th. A Contrast between America and Britain.
12th. Whither Abstinence or a Temperate use of Ardent Spirits is most productive of good. Decided in favor of Abstinence.
13th. Whither human Friendship or Love is most permant. Decided in favor of Love.
14th. Whither Improvement in Machinery would tend to promote the benefit of Mankind. Decided in favor of Improvement of Machinery.
15th. The best Method of turning the Benefits of Machinery to the Interests of the Working Classes. Decided in favor of the Restrictive Laws being
Repealed and Equality of Priviledge given to all.
16th. Octr 19th. On the motion of James Taylor Whither fictitious Writings has been beneficial or not in general. Decided that they have not.
17th. Nov 2nd 1835. On the Motion of William Morton Whither is a Town or Country Life Productive of Most Happiness. Decided in favour of a Towns Life.
18th. Novr 16th 1835. On the Motion of John Kirkland it was Agreed to hold a General Conversation on the State of Society. Thomas Fulton President.
19th. Nov 16th 1835. On the motion of Robert Howat that the Subject for discussion be for the 30th Novr That Whither Real or Imaginary Pleasure in
Love and amusement affords most satisfaction, was agreed to.
20th. 30th Novr Agreed by the Society that John Kirkland's motion relative to the presant state of society be resumed on the 14th Dec. Thomas Fulton President.
21st. 14th December. On the motion of William Morton it was agreed that the subject of debate be Whether the Drunkard or the Miser is most miserable.
28th Dec. Alexander Fulton President Decided that the Drunkard is Most Miserable.
22nd. 28th Dec 1835. On the motion of James Taylor, agreed to take a Retrospective View of 1835, for Janr 11th 1836. Alex Fulton, President.
23rd. 11th Janr 1836. On the Motion of John Kirkland agreed that it be debated on the 25th of Janr Whether the once popular Doctrine of Ghosts and
Witches have any claims on the beleif of Mankind. Robt. Orr President. Decided that they have none.
24th. 25th Janr 1836. On the Motion of John Kirkland agreed that it be debated on the 8th Febr Whether Poetry or Music has the strongest effect on
the passions. Robert Orr President. Decided that Poetry has the strongest effect. 25th. 8th Febr 1836. On the Motion of William Morton, agreed that the
utility of Abstinent Societies from all ardent spirits be discused on the
22nd Febr. Alexander Armour President. Decided to be of great utility.
26th. 22nd Febr 1836. On the Motion of James Taylor agreed that it be debated on the 7th March whether Tobacco so extensively used as at preasant
be beneficial to the Community. Alex Fulton President. Decided it was highly prejudicial.