Muirkirk Parish 100 years ago
East of Sorn. The town of
Muirkirk stands near the centre of the parish, on Ayr Water, four
miles from its source, 27 miles east-north-east by railway from Ayr.
Being built on a straggling plan, with most of its houses one story, it
lines a long length of roads; and though it contains fully as many
inhabitants as Old Cumnock, it posses much more the appearance of a
village, or a number of villages combined. Its name is derived from the
Muir Kirk - " a puir wee kirk, theeked wi' heather" - erected
here about 1650 to accommodate the scattered inhabitants of
"the moorlands of mist where the martyrs Lay." Before that
time the place was called the Garron, and was included in the
parish of Mauchline. The famous Muirkirk Ironworks were commenced
in 1787, and from that date the town has gradually expanded to
its present extent. The town has Established, Free, United Presbyterian,
and Evangelical Union Churches, a Roman Catholic Chapel, a public
school; a post office, with telegraph, money order, and savings bank
departments; a Clydesdale Bank, several hotels, and numerous shops.
Population in 1871, 2376; in 1881, 3470.
In the churchyard is a monument to the
martyr, John Smith, who was shot in the
parish of Lesmahagow, February 1685. John
Lapraik, poet, and early correspondent of Burns was born, 1727.
He was laird of the farm of Dalfram, three miles from Muirkirk,
until the failure of the Ayr Bank (Douglas Heron & Company), in 1772,
caused him to sell his property.
The village of
lies at the source of the river Ayr. It originated with a mining company
from England, who abandoned their project: afterwards became partly
occupied by handloom weavers from Glasgow, and, they also failing, it
was deserted and fell to ruins almost; but lately, through mining and
ironworks, it has risen to a cheery, thriving, and more important place
than ever it was before. It has an Established Church, a public school,
a post office, and a railway station. Population in 1871, 311; and in
1881, 858. Glenbuck House is a pleasant seat in its neighbourhood.
On the moor, fully a mile to its north-west is the
monumented grave of
the martyr, John Brown of Priesthill.
Brown was granted time to pray to his maker before his execution, and,
when he had done so, Claverhouse commanded
his men to shoot; but the soldiers were so affected by the poor man's
prayers, and the presence of his wife and children, that they could not
shoot, and stood silent, when Claverhouse, with his own cold-blooded
hands, raised his gun and shot him, May 1st 1685.
The little village of WELLWOOD,
about two and a half miles west of Muirkirk, has a public school. Near
to it is the grave, with tombstone, of William
Adam, a young man who had made a tryst with his lass to meet at
this quiet spot on Proscribe Burn - there was no village then -
and, while waiting her arrival, was occupied in reading his bible, when
he was set upon by dragoons under command of Dalziel, and shot. Greenock
Mains, a mile or two northward of this, was a farm of Thomas
Richard, the martyr. He was a fine old man nearly 80 years of
age. They granted him a few minutes for prayer before his execution, but
shot him before he had done. His grave is beside those of other martyrs
and the Rev, Alexander Peden, in Old