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 Parish of Kilmorie 1846




KILMORIE, a parish, in the Isle of Arran, county of Bute, 24 miles (S. W. by W.) from Saltcoats; containing 3455 inhabitants. This place, which occupies the western portion of Arran, and derives its name from the dedication of its ancient church to St. Mary, is, in all its historical details, identified with the parish of Kilbride, which occupies the eastern portion of the island. Kilmorie is bounded on the south by the Frith of Clyde, and on the west by the sound of Kilbrandon, which separates it from Cantyre, and is here about eight miles wide. It extends from Largybeg Point, in the southeast, to Loch Ranza in the north-west, and is thirty miles in length and six miles in breadth, comprising an area of nearly 93,000 acres, of which 8300 are arable, and the remainder hill pasture and waste. The surface is generally mountainous, and diversified with hills interspersed with deep and narrow glens; and the lands are watered by numerous rivulets descending from the heights, and of which some are of great rapidity, forming in their course beautiful cascades, the falls of Essmore and Esscumhan being the most prominent. The highest of the mountains is Beinn-Bharfhionn, or "the white-topped mountain," so called from its summit being usually covered with snow, and which has an elevation of more than 3000 feet above the level of the sea. There are several lakes in the parish, of which the principal are, Loch Tanna, about two miles, and Loch Iorsa, about one mile, in length, they are both very narrow, the former abounding with trout, and the latter with salmon. Trout are also found in the rivulets, all of which afford good sport to the angler.

The sea-coast, more than thirty miles in extent, is generally bold and rocky. The chief headlands are,
Dippen Point, Benan Head, Brown Head, and Drumidoon; and the bays are, Pladda Sound, Drumidoon, Machray, and Loch Ranza, the last at the north-western extremity of the parish, and the only one affording safe anchorage for vessels. Opposite to Kildonan, in the sound, is the island of Pladda, on which a lighthouse was erected in 1800, and another, of greater elevation, in 1826, both exhibiting fixed lights, visible at a distance of five leagues. Fish of various kinds are taken off the coast; the chief are, haddock, whiting, mackerel, and cod. Ling and turbot are found towards the south; lobsters and crabs are caught in abundance near Kildonan, for the Glasgow market; and off the northern coast, the herring-fishery is carried on with considerable profit by the inhabitants. The rocks are indented with numerous caverns, of which one, at Drumidoon, called the King's Cave, was for some time the retreat of Robert Bruce, during his reverse of fortune, when contending for the throne. This cavern is 114 feet long, forty-four feet broad, and forty-seven and a half in height; and at the upper end is a hunting-scene rudely sketched in the rock, said to have been done by that monarch while in concealment.

The soil varies in different parts of the parish; near the shore, it is sandy and gravelly; towards the interior, clayey; and in the vicinity of the hills, mostly moss: the valleys, along the banks of the rivers, are generally a loam. The arable lands in
the vale of Shisken and near the seacoast are usually fertile, and in good cultivation; the crops are, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and the various grasses. The system of husbandry has, within the last few years, been greatly bettered; the lands have been drained, and inclosed with hedges of thorn; and the farm buildings and offices are now substantial and well arranged. The cattle, formerly a mixture of the Galloway, Ayrshire, and Argyllshire breeds, are gradually improving under a more careful management; and the native breed of sheep, supposed to have been originally Norwegian, has been exchanged for the black-faced and Cheviots. The moors abound with black game, and grouse are found in profusion; but, since the destruction of the ancient forests, the roe, wild-boar, and other animals of the chase, have disappeared. There are still some small remains of old wood; and plantations have been formed upon a moderate scale, which are in a thriving state. The rocks are chiefly granite, mica and clay slate, conglomerate and trap; the principal substrata are, red and white sandstone, and limestone, of which last there are mines at Clachan and Glenloig, in operation to a moderate extent. The rateable annual value of the parish is 6806. There is a shooting-lodge at Dugharidh, about a mile below Loch Iorsa, and pleasantly situated on the river of that name. The only village is Shisken, and this is but inconsiderable; at Shedog is a grain-mill; and there is likewise a mill for lint and wool at Burican. About ninety boats are engaged in the herring-fishery, which are of the burthen of four tons and a half on an average, each having a crew of three men. Fairs are held at Shedog in November and December, and a fair, chiefly for horses, at Lag about the third week in November. The nearest post-offices are at Brodick and at Lamlash, in the parish of Kilbride. Facility of communication is maintained by the turnpike-roads to Brodick and Lamlash, and by packet-boats from Southend to Ayr, and from Blackwater to Campbelltown.

The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of
Cantyre and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is 237, with a manse, and a glebe valued at 15 per annum; patron, the Duke of Hamilton. The parish church, rebuilt on the original site in 1785, and enlarged in 1824, is a neat structure, containing 832 sittings. A church at Shisken was rebuilt in 1805, at a cost of 700, raised by subscription, and contains 640 sittings: divine service is performed every third Sunday by the minister of the parish. The church at Loch Ranza, noticed in the account of Kilbride, is open to the inhabitants of both parishes. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. There are three parochial schools, situated respectively at Kilmorie, Shisken, and Imachar; the masters of the two first have salaries of 17. 10. and 15 respectively, with a house and garden and some land, and the master of Imachar has a salary of 5. 16.: the fees in the aggregate average 10. There is also a school at Loch Ranza, common to both parishes. The principal relics of antiquity are, the ruins of Danish forts, Druidical monuments, obelisks of unhewn stone, cairns, and tumuli, which last are scattered in profusion over the whole island. On the lands of Drumidoon are the remains of a large fortress called the Doon, in front of which the cliffs rise perpendicularly from the sea to a height of 300 feet. Around the summit of the hill, which has a steep declivity towards the land, is a wall of dry stones, inclosing a level area of several acres, in which are the ruins of various rude buildings; the walls have been partly removed for the sake of the materials, but the gateway is still plainly to be seen. The largest of the cairns in the parish is Blackwater-Foot, originally 200 feet in diameter at the base, but of which a great part has been used for building. To the north of it is a tumulus where Fingal is said to have held his courts of justice. There are also vestiges of numerous ancient chapels; and in the burying-ground at Shisken is the grave of St. Molios, who removed from the isle of Lamlash, and ended his days here. The Rev. William Shaw, author of the first Gaelic grammar and dictionary ever published, was a native of the parish; he was favoured in his difficult undertaking by the patronage and advice of Dr. Johnson and the then Earl of Eglinton.

From:   A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)






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