From The Statistical Account of Scotland

Retyped for Sorn Web site by Margaret Morton 1998



By the Rev. George Gordon.

Situation and Name

This parish, which lies in the shire, synod, and presbytery of Ayr, and district of Kyle, is bounded on the east, by the parish of Muirkirk; on the south, by that of Auchinleck; on the west, by that of Mauchline; and, on the north, by those of Galston and Strathaven. The church, which is nearly in the centre of the parish, is about 3 miles distant from Mauchline, the nearest post town, 60 miles west of Edinburgh, 30 south-west of Glasgow, and 15 east from Ayr.

The proper and intended name * of the parish is Dalgain; but the castle of Sorn, an ancient seat of the family of Loudon, happening to stand contiguous to the church, has insensibly communicated its own name to the whole parish; insomuch, that the former name is now but little known or regarded. Both these names are originally Gaelic #. The former signifies Sandbed, being compounded of dail, a field, and gain, sand; a name exactly descriptive of the ground about the gentleman’s house from whose estate the glebe and church-yard were detached; and a name, too, which that estate, now the property of Mr. Stevenson, still bears. To ascertain the precise meaning of the word Sorn, is, it seems, a matter of greater difficulty. By those who are skilled in the Gaelic language, I am informed, that, among other meanings, Sorn signifies a rifting-ground of a frowning or unpleasant aspect. According to this etymology, the name may have taken its rise either from the rock on which the castle is founded, and which, at a considerable height, overhangs the river of Ayr; or rather, perhaps, from the general aspect of the rising-grounds in the neighbourhood, which, at no very remote period, must have been extremely bleak and dreary.

* By a strange typographical error in the Statistical Account of Muirkirk, this parish is called Lorn, which is well known in the district of Argyleshire, far remote from this part of the country.

# As indeed are most of the names of places in this parish. Some of these I shall mention, with the explanation, which I have received from a friend in the Highlands. Glen-shamroch, clover vale; Dal-charnach, the field of cairns; Dal-dorch, oak field; Dal-diling, a field liable to be overflowed; Car-leith, a winding torrent; Auchin-cloich, stone field; Barboich, comely grove; Blair-kip, the field of archers; Auchmonnach, hill-field.

Extent, Form, and General Appearance

Cutting of a triangular point of land, which runs beyond the general line of march, at the south-west extremity, and which may consist of about 300 acres, the form of this parish is nearly square, whose side is 6.5 miles. The river Ayr, running from east to west, divides this square into two parts; the one on the north side being somewhat larger than that on the south. This river, which rises in the adjoining parish of Muirkirk, being, a little before its entrance into this parish, increased by the Greenock and Garpel rivulets, and, in its progress thro’ it, still further augmented by a number of smaller streams, from both sides, forms, by the time it arrives at the western boundary, a considerable body of water; which, during its whole course, runs with great rapidity on a bed of roundstones and gravel. It frequently attempts to shift its bed, and to make encroachments on the adjacent holms. A gentleman, who has paid much attention to rivers, characterises it as the greatest tyrant of the kind he has ever known.

Its banks are almost every where steep and bold, and clothed with natural wood on one side or other, and very frequently on both. The scenery on its banks, therefore, especially about Sorn Castle and the manse, is, in an uncommon degree, picturesque and pleasing.

The land, observing the same course as the river, is highest on the east-side, and descends gradually towards the west; diversified, however, by various inequalities on its surface. The only considerable hill is Blackside-end, situated in the north-east corner of the parish; the height of which above the level of the sea is from 1500 to 1600 feet: It is the beginning of a ridge, which, with occasional interruptions, sweeps a great way towards the east and south. It commands a prospect of almost the whole extensive county of Ayr; the high lands of Galloway on the south; the Irish Channel, the rock of Ailsa, the isles of Arran and Bute, on the west; and part of the shires of Renfrew, Lanark, and Argyle, on the north.

Natural Productions

The moors and fields are pretty well stocked with the usual kinds of game; but I have never heard of any singular or uncommon plant or animal in this parish; neither are there any lakes in it. It abounds, however, in peat, coal, lime-stone, iron-stone, and red free -stone, all of good quality. Hard by Sorn Castle there is likewise a beautiful kind of stone, of a blue-grey colour, and of a close texture, which takes a polish little inferior to that of marble, and is therefore admirably fitted for the purpose of hearth-stones, pavements, steps of stairs, &c. In a deep glen, too, in the upper part of the parish, there are symptoms of spar and lead-ore. In the river of Ayr there was abundance of fresh-water trout, and some salmon; but it is generally believed, that they have, of late, been much diminished in their numbers, by the iron and tar works in Muirkirk, and by the coal and lime works both in that parish and the parish of Sorn. Most of the springs are, more or less, impregnated with iron, some of them with lime, and some with sulphar; but, owing to the obscurity of their situation, in this remote corner of the country, none of them have hitherto attracted much attention.

Soil and Climate

As nearly as I can compute, without actual measurement, this parish contains about 23,660 English acres; of which, about 3,000 acres consists of moss; 7,000 of hills, moors, and other pasture lands; about 200 are covered by wood, partly natural, and partly planted in belts and clumps; and the remaining 13,460 are arable, though not all at present in a state of actual cultivation. The moss is distributed through several parts of the parish, and is, for the most part, of the black kind. In some places however, it is reddish, particularly in Aird’s moss; the west or lower end of which begins in the fourth side of this parish, and runs up through it, and the parish of Auchinleck, to the distance of 8 or 9 miles. The moors and mosses produce little but heath, bent, sprits, and rushes. In several places, however, the soil, which yields these course productions, is only about a foot in thickness, and below this covering there is a rich bed of clay. Such lands are, therefore, evidently capable of much improvement. Excepting the holms on the banks of the river, and on those of the larger brooks, which are of a light and gravellish nature, the prevailing soil in the arable districts is that of a reddish clay, upon a bottom of blackish till. This soil, under proper management, in the favourable seasons, yields good crops of oats; but, as it retains too much moisture, it is apt, when in pasture, to be soon overrun with moss and rushes. I have been informed by a gentleman, who had himself made the experiment, that the best method of destroying rushes, or at least of keeping them in so feeble a state that they can do little harm, is to cut them early in the season, about the time when they begin to flower, and afterwards, if necessary, in the Autumn; always taking care not to allow them to run to seed. By this operation, repeated during two successive seasons, he has completely cleared his pasture-lands of a very exhausting and imperious weed. The climate is much the same here as in the other parishes of this county: Strong gales of wind, blowing directly from the Western Ocean, and accompanied with frequent and heavy showers of rain, constitute the prevailing weather. Complete rainy days, however, are, I think, less common here than on the east coast; neither does snow fall in such quantities, or lie so long; and we have seldom reason to complain of fog.


Notwithstanding the prevalence of rain and moisture, the climate is found, by experience, to be remarkably healthy. The ague is a disease altogether unknown here, and even the rheumatism prevails much less than might be expected from the wetness of the soil and climate. The exemption from this last disease, is so great a degree, is undoubtedly to be ascribed, in part, to the general use of woollen-clothes, and to the abundance of fuel; an article with which even the poorest families are pretty well supplied. The small-pox, indeed, commits the same ravages here as in the other places where inoculation is not generally practised. The notions of absolute predestination, which is still deeply rooted in the minds of the country-people, lead the generality of them to look upon inoculation as implying an impious distrust of Divine Providence, and a vain attempt to alter its irreversible decrees. It is truly painful to think, that, in the course of the last summer,(1796), and in my immediate neighbourhood, no less than six children, from one to twelve years of age, have been cut off by this destructive disease, all of whom might probably have been preserved by means of inoculation. Some of these children, too, were beautiful and promising in an uncommon degree. Three families, however, wiser than their neighbours, inoculated their children in time, and the issue was such as might well have encouraged others to follow their example. The cases were all remarkable mild and favourable. It is to be hoped, that a few more examples of this kind, contrasted with the terrible, and often fatal, effects of the disease in the natural way, will at length open the eyes of the people at large, and completely remove their prejudices; especially as the practice of inoculation has, within these few years, become general in the village of Catrine. In this parish, one man has, from his infancy, been dumb, deaf, and blind; two men are blind from age, and two women in consequence of the small-pox.


A considerable number of both sexes arrive at 80 years of age, and some even exceed 90. Within a very small distance of the church, there are just now living a shoemaker in the 90th year of his age, and who still occupies the house in which he was born; the church-officer, who is in his 85th year; a gardener in his 95th, and his wife, nearly of the same age*; also the possessor of a small farm, who is now in his 97th year. The last of these is the most vigorous of them all, and walks 2 or 3 miles every day. It is not a little remarkable, that all these aged persons, except the first, were servants to the late Countess-dowager of Loudon, who herself lived, at Sorn Castle, till within 3 or 4 months of her 100th year.

*They had been married 68 years.

State of Property

The valued rent of this parish is L.5416 Scotch; and the real rent, including that of the lands occupied by the proprietors, may amount to about L. 4000 Sterling. This property is divided among no less than 27 heritors. Of these, Mr Tennent of Sorn, the most considerable proprietor, resides occasionally; Mr Gray of Gilmillscroft, Mr Campbell of Auchmonnach, and 10 small proprietors, reside constantly; the rest do not reside at all. The non-residing heritors, arranged in the order of their valuations, are the following, viz.
Mr Stevenson of Dalgain.

Mr Boswell of Auchinleck.

Mr Alexander of Ballochmyle.

Mr Logan of Logan.

Mr Campbell of Fairfield.

The Earl of Dumfries.

Mr Dugald Stewart (Professor of Moral Philosophy in the university of Edinburgh).

The Marchioness of Titchfield.

Mr Macadam of Craigingillan.

Mr Campbell of Netherplace.

Mr Innes of Stow.

Colonel Mackenzie of North-hill.

Lord Glenlee.

Miss Taylor of Brigs.

Population and Employment

The number of families in this parish, exclusive to those in the village of Catrine, is 243, and of souls 1429; of these 677 are males, 752 females. It appears from the annexed account that Catrine contains 1350 souls. Total in the parish 2779 souls. The return to Dr Webster’s account, in 1755, was 1494; consequently the increase amounts to 1285 souls. Of the population of the parish, exclusive of Catrine, there are,

Under 10 ........................ 365

From 10 to 20 ..................282

From 20 to 50 ..................472

From 50 to 70 ..................262

Above 70 ........................ 48

TOTAL ............................1429

The average number of births, which have been registered for the last 5 years, is 65; and marriages 18. The number of births, however, is by no means complete, as very few Dissenters register their children's names. No exact register of deaths can be kept, as so many of the families have their own burying-places in the neighbouring parishes.

About 100 families, including the residing heritors, are chiefly employed in the business of agriculture.

The number of:-

Menservants ....... .......................... 48

Women-servants .......................... 59

Weavers .........................................20

Shoemakers .....................................8

Masons ..........................................11

Wrights ..........................................6

Tailors ...........................................6

Smiths ...........................................3

Gardeners ...................................... 2

Dyers .............................................1

Coopers .........................................1

Corn-mills and millers ................... 3

Wauk-mills and millers ................. 1

The rest are colliers, lime-quarriers, ditchers etc.

The number of Dissenters from the Established Church is about 78, the greatest part of whom are Burgher Seceders. The very few exceptions are Antiburghers and Cameronians.

Village of Dalgain

Though there are several groups of houses in the central part of the parish, on both sides of the river, inhabited chiefly by colliers and other labourers, yet the only one that can properly come under the denomination of a village is Dalgain, situated a little to the eastward of the church, in a beautiful holm, having the river on the front, or south side, and a winding bank, covered with natural wood, on the north. About 16 years ago, the late Dr Stevenson, physician in Glasgow, the proprietor, parcelled out this holm among several different feuers, for the purpose of building a small village, at the rate of 4 d. per fall of annual fue-duty. Accordingly, a village soon arose, built on the north side of the road to Muirkirk, in one row, and with a good deal of uniformity. The village now consists of 24 houses and 43 families, beside 7 families who reside in houses on the banks of the river, which, from the proximity of their situation, may be reckoned a part of the village, though built long before it. These 50 families contain 191 souls; among whom are 3 shopkeepers, 3 innkeepers, 3 masons, 7 shoemakers, 5 weavers, 5 tailors, 4 seamstresses, and 7 colliers; the rest are labourers, aged, widowed,&c. This village is, therefore, evidently the residence of a large proportion of the tradesmen belonging to the parish. It has not, however, added much to the population, as most the families formerly lived in cothouses, which are now in ruins. Most of these families are provided with gardens, of various dimensions, behind their houses, which they cultivate with great care, and raise in them not only the common kinds of esculent plants, but also strawberries, gooseberries, and currants, and occasionally flax and barely. Some of them, too, are very successful in the management of bees.

Price of Labour

About 10 years ago, when the village of Catrine began to be built, the wages of masons and wrights were raised to about 20 d. per day; and at that rate they have continued ever since, with little variation. In the course of the last 7 years, however, the price of other kind of labour has been considerably advanced. Seven years ago, the wages of a labouring man-servant was from L.7 to L.8; they are now (that is, in 1796) from L.10 to L.12; of women-servants, the yearly wages were then from L.3 to L.3, 10s; they are now L.4. A tailor, when maintained in the families of his employers, then earned 8 d. per day; he now earns 1 s. A labourer then earned 10 d. a day in winter, and 1 s. in summer; he now earns 15 d. or 16 d. a day in winter, and 18 d. or 20 d. in summer.

State of Agriculture

Agriculture is here still in a very imperfect, but, at the same time, in a progressive state. Few of the tenants possess more than a ploughgate of land, but a considerable number of them possess much less. The leases are usually for 18 or 19 years, with some restrictions as to management. With respect to the rotation of crops, the general rules prescribed are, that only one-third of the farm is to be ploughed at the one time; the two first crops to be oats, the third bears and grass-seeds, the fourth hay, and the next five years pasture; or instead of this, the third crop may be pease, the fourth bear and grass-seeds, &c. From the want of proper subdivision, however, and the absence or inattention of the proprietors, these rules are seldom strictly observed. Instead of bear and grass-seeds the third year, it is but too common a practice to take a third and even fourth crop of oats, and then leave the lands for pasture, without sowing any grass-seed at all.

Within the last 10 or 12 years most of the farm-houses have been rebuilt, with considerable improvements, both in point of size and accommodation. Several of the pendicles have been thrown into the adjacent farms, and about a dozen of cot-houses have been allowed to fall into ruins, their inhabitants having repaired to the villages, (which have lately started up in this parish). where they find sufficient employment, and good wages, both for themselves and their families.

The use of oxen, for the purpose of labour, is a thing altogether unknown, or at least never practised, in this part of the country. The wauk or fulling mill, and the three corn-mills, in the parish, are all upon the river of Ayr. The seasons of sowing and reaping are much the same here as in neighbouring parishes.

From the general poverty of the tenants, and other causes, lime has hitherto been less used, as a manure, in this parish than in some of the neighbouring parishes, which lie at a greater distance from it. As their circumstances have, of late, been improving, however, they are now beginning to use it more, and, at the same time, to cultivate their land in a better manner, to pay more attention to their gardens, the breed of horses and cattle, and, in short, to every kind of rural economy and improvement. With the exception of thirlage to particular mills, personal and feudal services are almost entirely abolished.

According to the leases of former years, the average rent of the arable lands was only about 5 s. per acre; but as these leases expire, the rent is from 10 s. to 12 s. and, in the immediate neighbourhood of the villages, from 20 s. to 30 s. or even higher.

In the course of the 3 last years, the occupier of a pendicle of 5 acres, consisting mostly of moss, has introduced a method of cultivating this kind of soil which bids fair to be productive of much general utility. He forms his moss ground into beds of 9 or 10 feet wide, exactly resembling the lazy beds in which potatoes are sometimes planted. Between these beds he makes a trench, throwing its contents upon the beds, in such a manner that the upper surface may lie directly upon the under. this part of the work he executes in the autumn and winter, and then spreads lime upon the beds. In spring he sows them with oats, and then applies the harrow, if the ground will admit of it; but if it will not, be, with a shovel, throws a covering of loose earth upon it from the bottom of the trenches. By means of this process, the first year yields a crop of about 4 bolls per acre, and the second a crop of about 6. The same kind of soil, under similar management like-wise produce excellent crops of potatoes. Other persons have already begun to follow the example of this worthy and industrious improver; and we may now, therefore, indulge the pleasing prospect, that the moss grounds, which abound so much in the parish, and which have hitherto been of very little use, may be gradually converted into good corn fields, and excellent pastures.

Stock and Produce

The upper or moorland part of the parish, consists of several store farms, which, altogether, maintain about 5,000 sheep. In the breed of these sheep there is nothing remarkable; they are of the common black-faced kind, and of a size somewhat larger than those in the southern districts of this county. In the enclosed farms, sheep are strictly prohibited, in order to preserve the young plantations and hedges.

From the jealousy and reluctance which most of the tenants discovered to give an accurate account of their flock, I am unable to ascertain the precise number either of horses or black-cattle; but, from the best information which I could procure, I have reason to conclude, that the number of the former amounts to about 240, and of the latter to about 1470. Some of the horses are still of the old diminutive breed of the country; but the greatest part of them are an improved breed, of a middle size, hardy, and well adapted to the purpose of agriculture. The farmers rear most of their own horses; and a few likewise for sale. The number of ploughs is about 80, and that of carts about 160.

The black-cattle consists partly of the small ancient breed, but mostly of a mixed breed between that and the Cunningham kind. About two-thirds are milch-cows, and the rest young cattle, rearing for the same purpose. Very few are reared or fed directly for the purpose of slaughter. Several of the tenants have removed to this parish from the parish of Dunlop, or its neighbourhood; the art of making Dunlop cheese is now, therefore, generally and well understood. It is only within these 10 or 12 years, however, that this species of manufacture was much practised in this parish. The average produce of butter from each cow is 2.5 stone, and of cheese 8 stone; about two thirds of which is of the sweet-milk, or Dunlop kind. From these data, a pretty correct estimate of the produce of the milch-cows of the parish may be easily formed. This produce is sold partly to the shopkeepers and private families in the neighbouring villages, and partly to those in Glasgow. With-in these few years, some of the farmers have begun to feed a pig or two, with whey in summer, and with potatoes and a little oat-meal in winter. As this kind of stock is found to be profitable, it will probably soon become an object of more general attention.

Potatoes constitute a very large proportion of the food of the inhabitants. Almost every family raises them for its own use; and the occupiers of the land have lately began to raise them also for the purpose of feeding horses and cattle, particularly milch-cows, a practice which is found to be highly advantageous. The inhabitants of the villages, and others who possess no land for raising potatoes, take a piece of ground from some of the nearest proprietors or farmers, at the rate of 6 d. per fall, beside furnishing a reasonable quality of dung. These pieces of ground they cultivate with great care and industry, sometimes with the plough, but more frequently with a spade and hoe. The average produce of an acre is about 30 bolls; and about 100 acres are every year appropriated to the culture of this most valuable root.

All who possess any portion of land, however small, raise flax sufficient for their own domestic purposes, but very little for sale. About 20 to 30 acres may be annually occupied with this kind of crop, which, in general, succeeds very well. About 250 acres are every year sown with clover and rye-grass. In some cases, a crop of wheat has lately been tried upon holm-lands immediately after a crop of potatoes, and with very good success. There is little probability, however, that this species of grain will ever be much cultivated in this parish. Oats and bear, especially the former, have hitherto been, and are still likely to continue to be, the principal objects of attention. The average produce of an acre is about 5 Ayrshire bolls, equal to as many English quarters. The prices of grain, and of other provisions, need not be particularly specified here, being much the same as in the other parishes in the neighbourhood. There is no regular fair in this parish; but for more than 50 years there has been an annual race, in the month of March, which draws a considerable concourse of people. As many of these meet for business more than for amusement, this race, in some measure, answers the purpose of a fair.


Whatever may be its disadvantages as to soil and climate, has an ample compensation in its minerals, particularly coal and lime. On the north side of the parish, Mr. Campbell of Auchmonnach has a large field of lime-stone; but, as it happens to be 3 miles distant from the nearest coal, little advantage has hitherto been derived from it. As the demands for lime, however, is yearly increasing, he erected a draw-kiln last summer, and now proposes to carry on the work with spirit.

In the north-east district of the parish, adjacent to Blackside-hill, there is an extensive moor, part of the estate of Sorn, in which there is a seam of excellent coal, about 5 feet thick, within 4 or 5 feet of the furnace, and of an unknown extent. This seam, it appears, has been party wrought in former times, but has been so much neglected during the present century that its very existence was forgotten, till it was in a manner rediscovered last summer. In the same moor and its vicinity there are great quantities of iron-stone; specimens of marble and of black-lead have likewise been found there, and some lime-stone of an admirable quantity. Were a communication opened with this moor, by means of a road of 2 or 3 miles in length, it would probably, beside improving the farm through which it must past, become a source of great wealth to the proprietor, as well as of great accommodation to the surrounding country. In this instance, and in many others which have not been sufficiently explored, the bleak moors of Caledonia, and her hills covered with blue mist, will, doubtless, be found to contain some of her most valuable treasures.

Farther to the southward, but still on the north side of the river, and about a mile distant from it, there are 2 lime quarries, on the march between the Sorn and Dalgain estates, one upon each of these estates. The quarry on the Dalgain side has been wrought for many years, and both works are now carrying on together. Last summer 10 men were employed in quarrying and burning the lime-stone, and the contractors had engaged to furnish 12,000 bolls of shells; owing, however, to the wetness of the season, and the impossibility of procuring a sufficient number of hands, this quantity was not fully completed. At the same place, and on the Sorn side, there are rich seams of excellent coal; but as a fire-engine is necessary for drawing off the water, and none has yet been erected, this coal has hitherto been, in great measure, inaccessible. In another extensive field, on the Sorn estate, and at a very small distance from the castle, there are 2 seams of coal, each about a foot in thickness, with a stratum of hard till, of about 2 feet thick, running between them. These seams, it is true, are rather inconsiderable; but as they are only about 8 or 9 fathoms deep, and not in the smallest degree incommoded by water, they are wrought at very little expense. Nine colliers are at present employed at this work; and the out-put per week is about 250 loads. As this coal lies nearer to the principal markets than any other in the parish, the proprietor, taking advantage of this circumstance has lately raised the price from 6 d. to 8 d. per load. Seven years ago, the price was only 4 d. in other parts of the Sorn estate there are rich mines of excellent lime-stone; and in other parts, too, trials are at present making, for the purpose of finding new seams of coal; trials which promise to be attended with success.

In a rising ground on the south side of the river there is a lime-work of long standing, the property of Mr. Farquhar Gray of Gilmillscroft; and two collieries, one belonging to him, and the other, contiguous to it, in the farm of Burnhead, the property of Mr. Logan of Logan. The former of these gentlemen has been pleased to favour me with a short account of these works, which I will take the liberty of communicating nearly in his own words.

"The average quantity of lime raised at this work, during the 28 years that I have concerned in it, is about 9,000 bolls of shells, each consisting of 5 Winchester bushels; but in some particular years we have sold 14,000 bolls. This was actually the quantity sold last season; and so great was the demand, that, could it have been prepared, we could have sold double the quantity. We have contracted with workmen for raising 20,000 next season. As the quantity brought to market varies, the number of hands must vary in proportion. A good workman will, in a year, raise 500 tons, equal to 2000 bolls; but as little can be done in winter, you may reckon a man for every 1000 bolls, besides those employed in bearing and in carting the lime and coals to the draw-kiln. The bare, which, 18 years ago, was only 15 feet, is now 30. This circumstance has, of late, obliged us to have recourse to the expedient of mining the rock, which consists of about 7 feet thick, in so many beds; with a roof of hard till 18 inches thick. This stratum of till, with 10 feet of blaze over it, makes a good roof, and allows us to work the mine from 16 to 20 feet wide, leaving pillars about 18 feet square. When I entered upon this work, the wages of the workmen , both above and below, were from 9 d. to 14 d. per day: they are now from 14 d. to 2 s. This lime-stone has been worked 80 years. It is carried to the neighbouring parishes of Auchinleck, Ochiltree, Mauchline and Stair, to the distance of 10 or 12 miles.

"When I came to this place, there was only about 6 men employed at the colliery; their wages 14 d. per day, and their out-put 10 loads per man; sold at 3.5 d. per load. Without including those employed in drawing to the bank, the number now employed at our colliery, and the adjacent one of Burnhead, will average about 20; their out-puts from 12-15 loads per day, per man, sold at 6 d. Their wages are from 2 s. to 2.s 6 d. The main seam is about 8 feet thick, with 6 inches of fire clay in the middle. Immediately above this seam, there is a stratum of the same kind of clay, 18 inches thick; above this 18 inches of coal; then 20 inches of hard black slate; and over that near 3 feet of course coal. The former practice has been to work only the lower seam, leaving about 6 inches of it for a roof; but I have lately gone back, and brought away both that roof and the next 18 inches of coal. The field is irregular below, having many steps, throwing the coal up and down, a circumstance which increases the expense of working it. Had we a sale for iron-stone the case would be very different, as these steps are composed chiefly of that mineral. My present going pit is 30 fathoms deep, driven by a horse-gin.

"By a memorandum in our charter-book it appears, that, ever since the year 1623, the standard Gilmillscroft coal-creel was 14 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 30 inches long within; price 2 d. Sterling. It further adds, that the coals had been wrought in the Burrow-lands since the year 1497. We continue nearly the same measure for half a load, now sold at 3 d. of which about 7 load make 20 cwt."

The same gentleman adds, "the whole of Sorn parish above, and a considerable space below, the church, abounds in coal, lime-stone, and iron-stone; and the White-ach iron-ore marches with the head of the parish, and runs into it. There is also a string of lead at Hollhouse-mill; and the spar at the Burntshiel-burn is promising. In the river of Ayr there is water sufficient for any machinery, and abundance of fall every quarter of a mile"

Roads and Bridges

About 25 years ago there was nothing, of any extent, in this parish that could properly deserve the name of a road. Happily, however, the case is now very different. Beside half-a-dozen of private roads, made at the expense of the respective proprietors, the parish is now intersected by 3 public roads. One of these, leading from Glasgow to Dumfries by Galston, passes through the centre of the parish, from north to south. This road is crossed by 2 others, leading from Edinburgh to Ayr, by different routes. Separating a little on this side of Muirkirk, the one passes through the village of Old Cumnock and Auchinleck, and the southern part of this parish; the other, on the north side of the river, passes through the village of Dalgain, and by the church towards Mauchline, where both meet again. In the original plan of this latter road, an unfortunate error was committed; instead of being carried down the narrow vale, close by the river, as far as Sorn, which would have formed a level and beautiful line of road, it was carried through the higher grounds, at some distance, where there are two ascents of considerable length and steepness; the one of these must be encountered by those who go to Muirkirk, the other of those who return from it. So sensible are the trustees of this error, that they were lately proposing to make this part of the road anew, and to carry it along the river; but found that their funds were insufficient for this purpose. They have it now in contemplation to alter the line in one or two places, in order to avoid the steepest pulls; and thus to palliate an evil which cannot be entirely removed. These various roads, though not every where of such dimensions, nor in such repair, as might be wished, may yet, upon the whole, be considered as good, and highly useful.

Besides a number of smaller bridges, there are two across the river of Ayr; one of these in the lower part of the parish, on the south road from Edinburgh to Ayr, the other consisting of two arches, is close by the church, where the Glasgow road intersects the north road to Edinburgh. For this latter bridge the country is indebted to the Reverend Mr. Steel; of whom I shall more than once have occasion to make an honourable mention. This bridge was built solely by means of contributions, which he collected in the parish and neighbourhood.

Ecclesiastical State

This parish, as well as that of Muirkirk, was originally a part of the parish of Mauchline, which must have then resembled a little county more than a parish. In the year 1656 the present church was built; but in the times of persecution and distraction that succeeded, no fixed pastor was settled till after the period of the Revolution. At length, however, in the year 1692, a minister was ordained, a stipend and glebe provided, a manse and offices built, and this parish completely and finally detached from that of Mauchline. The first minister who was settled here was Mr. Mungo Lindsay, who discharged the duties of his station with exemplary diligence and fidelity, till the time of his death, which happened in 1738. Having no family, he bequeathed a legacy of 200 merks to the poor of this parish. He was succeeded, in due course by Mr. William Steel, whom I have already mentioned, and who, indeed, will long deserved to be remembered by his successors, and even by the parish at large. For he was not only distinguished by his abilities as a preacher, and a speaker in church-courts, but also by his public spirit, his zeal, activity, and taste, in promoting every kind of rural improvement, at a time when such improvements were but little known in this part of the country. His character and talents, and the active part which he has taken in the cause, recommended him to the choice of the General Assembly, in the year 1751, as one of their commissioners, for the purpose of applying to the Government for a general augmentation of the ministers stipends throughout Scotland. This application was, however, entirely defeated by the warm opposition of the landed interest. On that occasion, Mr. Steel and his fellow commissioners are said to have committed an error, which the Church of Scotland, and even the country in general, have reason to regret. Though no augmentation, either in money or grain, could be obtained, yet, it is said, an augmentation of the glebes might have been easily procured; but this advantage the commissioners neglected to secure. The value of land in Scotland was then so low, that, under the chagrin which they felt from their failure in the main object, they probably thought small augmentation of glebe was a boon not worth soliciting, or accepting. How much are circumstances now changed? and how differently would their successors act in a familiar situation?

Mr. Steel, unwilling, perhaps, to return to his native land, after the total overthrough of his favourite scheme, readily accepted an invitation from the Protestant Dissenters to become a preacher at Salter’s Hall, London, where he soon after fell into a consumption, of which he died. He was succeeded, in 1752, by Mr. James Connel, a man of respectable character, good sense, and moderation, who filled the charge till his death, which took place in July 1789; and, in May 1790 was succeeded by the present incumbent.

Soon after his settlement, Mr. Steel, beside laying out a handsome garden of half an acre, and inclosing both it and the glebe with hedges, which still remain, for the most part, in a thriving condition, likewise built, upon a very scanty allowance from the heritors, and therefore partly, at his own expense, a manse, which, in point of strength, accommodation, and neatness, was then hardly equaled by any thing of the kind in this county. The late Mr. Connel, however, having a large family, added to the west end of it a handsome wing of one floor, with a slated roof; and, soon after the settlement of the present incumbent, the heritors added another, at the east end, corresponding with it. These additions, joined to the beauty of its situation, and interior repairs and improvements which it has lately received, chiefly at the expense of the incumbent, have rendered it both a commodious and pleasant habitation. It affords, indeed, a striking instance of the good economy of building a manses, &c. in a substantial manner, and upon a liberal plan, instead of doing it, as too often happens, according to the lowest estimate. While other manses, within the bounds of this presbytery, have been built and rebuilt, some of them more than once, the manse of Sorn has already stood firm and unbroken for nearly 60 years, and will probably do so for many years to come. It likewise still maintains a respectable station among its neighbours, even in a country where the heritors have, of late, displayed a commendable liberality in the building and repairing of churches and manses. The offices are in a very indifferent condition, and will soon require to be rebuilt from the foundation. About l0 years ago, the inside of the church was repaired, and seated anew, and three galleries were erected in it; so that it is now a very decent and commodious place of worship.

In a small parish in the neighbourhood of a town, where a horse and manservant can be dispensed with, a glebe can be let, and is therefore a real advantage, in proportion to the rent which it brings; But in a remote and extensive parish, where a horse and manservant are indispensable, a small glebe may be considered as a necessary evil, because the produce is by no means equal to the expense unavoidably attending it. This was exactly the state of the glebe of Sorn till the year 1793, when, upon a representation of the case, the heritors and presbytery readily concurred in granting an augmentation of 3 acres and 3 roods. In consequence of this augmentation, the glebe, which formerly consisted only of 5 acres 3 roods and 3.25 falls, including the garden and site of the houses, now consists of 9 acres 2 roods and 3.25 falls, which, when duly improved, will equal, or perhaps even a little exceed, the necessary expense.

Ever since the year 1757, when a small augmentation was obtained, the annual stipend has consisted of 3l bolls 10.5 pecks of meal, 16 bolls 4.25 pecks of bear, and £44 5s. 7 1/4d Sterling, including £3 6s. 8d for communion elements. A considerable part of this stipend is paid by the parishes of Mauchline and Tarbolton; and the whole is paid in a number of trifling articles, a circumstance which unavoidably occasions a good deal of expense and inconvenience to the incumbent. William Tennent, Esq; of Sorn is patron.


Exclusive of the school in Catrine, the parish school is the only regular and standing one; but the inhabitants of the more remote districts occasionally unite; and employ teachers for the instruction of their own children. The parish schoolmaster has no garden, but he has a school and dwelling-house, both among the most wretched that are to be found in any cultivated country. The late Mr. James Boswell of Auchinleck, the last time he was in this country, declared his determination , to do everything in his power, in order to redress this parochial grievance as soon as possible; but his death, which unfortunately happened soon after, preventing his doing anything in the business, and it has not yet been taken up by any other person. The schoolmaster’s salary is L. 8 : 6: 8; and the school-fees are, for reading 1s.8 d.; reading and writing 2 s. 6 d.; writing and arithmetic, 3 s. per quarter. Latin is not taught here. The average number of scholars is from 25 to 30, and the schoolmaster’s whole annual income, including his emoluments as session-clerk, amounts to about L. 20. The school is by no means in a flourishing state, and there is but little probability of its ever being so, till better provisions is made for the master.


In this parish, it may truly be affirmed, that the poor are maintained chiefly by the poor. What the proprietors of the land contribute for this purpose, owing to their non-residence, and other causes, is but very inconsiderable. The poor are maintained in their own houses; and beside occasional supplies, the average number of pensioners upon the role has, for several years past, been about 22; who, according to their several necessities, receive 1 s. to 3 s. or 4 s. per month. The poor’s funds are made up of the weekly collections in the church, small fines imposed on delinquents, mortcloth-money, and the interest of L. 110, the result of some small donations, and of the savings of former years. These articles, including one-half of the collections from the Chapel of Ease in Catrine, (for it has been thought proper, in the infancy of that establishment, to apply the other half to different purposes), amounts altogether to about L. 26 per annum. These funds are under the administration of the kirk-session, subject to the occasional, review of the heritors. The sum above mentioned, may appear to be a very slender provision, for the poor of so extensive and populous a parish; but, in a country where the mode of living is still, upon the whole, simple and frugal; where fuel is comparatively cheap; where there is so much health, such abundance of employment, and such high wages for all the descriptions of people, the funds, in considerable as they are, have hitherto been found tolerably to answer the necessary demands.

During the late seasons of dearth and feareity, no extra-ordinary exertions were made in favour of the poor, till winter 1795, when the greatest part of the residing heritors, in conjunction with the principal farmers and tradesmen, contributed a considerable sum, for the purpose of selling meal to the poorer families at a reduced price; and Mr. Stevenson of Dalgain gave a present of L. 3, 3 s. to be disposed of by the kirk-session. Whatever may be the case hereafter, the village of Catrine, from the variety of employment which its manufacturers afford, from the friendly societies established in it, and from the circumstance of many of the families not having yet resided so long in it as to constitute them parishioners, has hitherto been but very little burden-some to the poor’s funds.

Progress of Improvements

About the end of the last century, Mr. Mitchel, then proprietor of the estate of Dalgain, who had taken an active part in promoting the ecclesiastical establishment of this parish, planted an orchard* and a considerable number of forest-trees, both which plantations succeeded very well.

*This orchard, by the fruit of which the tenants used to pay the rent of a considerable farm, has, from age and neglect, gradually gone to decay, and is now almost annihilated. Almost all the other orchards in the district of Kyle have undergone a similar fate.

But the first person who carried rural improvements to any considerable extent in this parish, was the late Countess-dowager of Loudon. This lady was daughter to John first Earl of Stair, and wife to Hugh Earl of Loudon. Beside her personal charms, which were very considerable, she had acquired a large portion of those mental and liberal accomplishments, which so much adorned the brilliant courts of Queen Anne and George I.; and possessed, moreover, in a high degree, that dignity of character and deportment, and that vigorous and active spirit, by which her brother, the celebrated ambassador, was so eminently distinguished. After she took up her residence at Sorn Castle, which happened in the year 1727, this spirit soon displayed itself, in operations at once useful and ornamental to the country. At this time the parish was in a very uncultivated state, and the whole aspect of the country dreary and uncomfortable. In a soil and climate where roads and shelter were peculiarly necessary, not a single road or hedge, and very few trees, were to be seen. Not discouraged by these unfavourable circumstances, she determined to create a scene more congenial to her own taste, and more like the scenes to which she had been accustomed in a better country. Accordingly, her skill and activity gradually produced an agreeable change. Beside enlarging and improving the garden and orchard, she subdivided an extensive farm which she occupied herself, enclosed it with hedges and hedge-rows, and interspersed it with belts and clumps of planting. Through the whole extent of her farm, she likewise adorned the banks of the river and of the rivulets, with walks and plantation of various kinds of trees. These operations she herself carefully superintended, and many of both the fruit and forest-trees were actually planted and pruned with her own hands, and still remain stately and pleasing monuments of her laudable industry. These, her useful labours, did not pass unrewarded. When she first settled in this country, her constitution and health appeared to be entirely broken; but, in the course of her rural occupations, these were gradually re-established, insomuch that, during the last 50 years of her life, she enjoyed an uncommon share of health and cheerfulness. After an illness of a few days, she died on the 3rd of April 1777, regretted by her friends and the industrious poor, to whom she had so long been a benefactor. Had she lived to the forth of September the same year, she would have completed the 100th year of her age, - While I walk through the scenes which her taste adorned, and under the shade of the trees which her hands planted, I feel a peculiar pleasure in paying this little tribute of respect to her memory, His faltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani munere.

The example of this respectable lady, was afterwards followed successively, by Mr. Steel, Mr. Farquhar of Gilmillscroft, Mr. Dunlop of Garnkirk, and others. These improvements, however, were mostly confined to the vicinity of the river and central parts of the parish, but, in later times, they have been extended much further, and in this extension, all the more considerable heritors have had their share. Some parts of the moorlands, and more than three-fourths of the arable lands, are now enclosed, in some places with stone-dikes, but for the most part with ditches and hedges. It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that, owing partly to the soil and climate, but much more to the want of proper attention and skill, few of the latter are in a thriving condition, or sufficient to answer the purpose of complete fences. A growing conviction of the importance of such fences, begins at length to excite more of the attention both of the proprietors and tenants, in order to procure and preserve them.

In the present times, the most distinguished improver, beyond dispute, is Claude Alexander, Esq; of Ballochmyle. The greatest part of his property, indeed, and of course the principal scene of his improvements, lies in the parish of Mauchline; where, in making roads, building bridges and farm-houses, planting forest-trees, inclosing, laying down, and ameliorating lands, he has proceeded with a rapidity, taste, and judgement, which has rarely been exceeded by a man of equal fortune in any country. In this parish, beside highly improving his landed property, he has built the cotton-mills and village of Catrine, which has infused new life and activity into this part of the country. These various operations, he himself suprintends with unwearied attention and activity. It is no more than justice to acknowledge, too, that in every kind of public work, in which he has any concern, such as the building or repairing of churches, manses, and school-houses, he has uniformly discovered a laudable zeal, to have every thing done in the most substantial, handsome, and liberal manner, even in cases where the principal share of the expense was to fall upon himself.

Condition and Character of the People

About 7 years ago, poverty prevailed very generally among all classes of people in this parish, and they were not without the faults, which are usually found to accompany such a condition. Though the rents were by no means over stretched, yet very few of the tenants were able to pay them with punctuality and ease; and very few of the tradesmen and labourers were in easy circumstances, owing, in part, to the dissipation of too large a portion of their incomes in alehouses and whisky shops. Since that time, however, both their condition and character have been considerably altered for the better. This agreeable change has been occasioned, partly by the rise in the price of labour, and of all the productions of agriculture, partly by the scarcity and high price of spiritous liquors, and partly by the strong incentives to industry, which the manufactures and ready-money of Catrine, together with various rural improvements, have afforded. Though there are still some exceptions, yet they may now, upon the whole, be regarded as peaceable, sober, and industrious people, contented with their lot, tolerably regular in their attendance upon public worship, and attached to the principles of the British Constitution, by which they find their lives and properties so well secured. If there are any exceptions in this last respect, I believe very few of them will be found among the farmers of any rank. Very few of the native inhabitants, have, at any time, inlisted in the army, and though there may have been occasional irregularities among them, I have heard of no instance of any of them being punished, or even tried, for a capital crime. The accession of prosperity which they have lately experienced, seems to have hitherto proved beneficial in every view; and if they have not yet attained that mediocrity of condition, which is most favourable to rural felicity, they are daily and rapidly approaching to it.

Advantages and Disadvantages

From the particulars already stated, it is manifest, that this parish possesses several very capital advantages; advantages arising from the salubrity of its climate, the abundance of its peat, coal, lime, free-stone, and other materials for building; from the number of its roads and bridges, and the ready markets which the villages afford for its various productions. On the other hand, it is subjected to considerable disadvantages, by the wetness of the climate, the coldness and tenacity of the soil, the lateness of the feed-time and harvest, and especially by the non-residence of the greatest and wealthiest part of the proprietors. I am likewise doubtful, whether I ought not to reckon among its disadvantaged, the number of small properties, and small farms or pendicles, which are contained in it. Certain it is, that, of the small proprietors, some have lately, in consequence of negligence and dissipation, been obliged, first to mortgage, and then to fell, very snug possessions, of from L 50 to L 100 a year; while others, though men of sober and inoffensive characters, yet discover of activity or enterprise. With very little exertion, they can make a shift to exist, as their fathers did before them, and they look for nothing further. Their lands, accordingly, are, for the most part, worse cultivated than those of the tenants, who pay a reasonable rent; their habitations are in some instances more wretched, and their mode of living in every respect more uncomfortable. As to the occupiers of small farms or pendicles, they are neither entirely farmers nor entirely labourers, and generally in a worse condition than either. As they are obliged to depend for ploughing their land, either upon hiring, or joining with some of their neighbours, they frequently miss the proper season; and as the produce is usually consumed by their families, they can seldom, without much difficulty, afford to pay even a moderate rent. Thus they struggle on from year to year, without either improving their possessions, or making any comfortable provision for their families. They contribute to the population of the country indeed, but, in other respects, they contribute, I fear, but little either to its happiness or improvement. In the possession of land, whether by property or lease, it should seem, that there is a certain medium which is most favourable to the industry and comfort of the possessors themselves, and to the general improvement and produce of the country. Though it be undoubtedly desirable, that they should be both properties and farms of various dimensions, yet the nearer the generality of both approach to this medium, the interest of the community at large will probably be so much the better secured and promoted. Upon the whole, this parish in order to arrive at the highest degree of rural improvements of which it is capable, seems to have little more to do but to avail itself, to the utmost, of its natural resources, and to extend and perfect those plans which are already begun and considerably advanced.


On the northern, though not the highest part of Blackside-end hill, there is a large cairn of stones, without any mixture of earth, which, I think, is rather an uncommon circumstance. At the base, this cairn is about 250 feet in circumference, and its height above the surface of the ground 10 feet. The stones, which, as far as appears, are not large, have, with no small labour, been collected from the hill, and from the bottom of pretty deep chasms made by the rivulets which pour down its sides. Such of the stones as are exposed to the weather, being over-crusted with grey moss, remind me of the grey stones so frequently mentioned in the admirable poems of Ossian. At what time, by whom, and for what purpose, this mass of stones was formed, it is now perhaps impossible to discover. It is not unreasonable to suppose, however, that under it lies the dust of some mighty hero of ancient times, greatly and extensively renowned in his day.

The only other article worthy of notice, under this head, is the Castle of Sorn. By whom, or at one precise time, this castle was built, I have not been able to ascertain; but it was most probably some time in the course of the 14th century, if not at an earlier period. The proprietors of this castle, and their descendants, were once among the most illustrious families in the kingdom, as appears from the following short account, which has been obligingly communicated to me by a right honourable Lady in the neighbourhood, not more distinguished by her rank, than by her character, talents, and general information.

"About the year 1406, the lands of Sorn, with several other in the district of Kyle, were acquired by Andrew Hamilton, third son of Sir David Hamilton of Cadzow, ancestor to the Duke of Hamilton. This Andrew Hamilton married Agnes, a daughter of Sir Hugh Campbell of Loudon, Sherrif of Ayr, and by her had a son, Sir Robert Hamilton of Sorn and Sanquhar. Sir Robert married a daughter of Sir William Crawfurd of Lochnorris; and Sir William Hamilton of Sorn and Sanqhar, a son of this marriage, was one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and Lord Treasurer to King James V. This Lord Treasurer married a daughter of the family of Cassillis, by whom he had an heiress, Isobel Hamilton, who married George Lord Seaton, and by him was mother to Robert first Earl of Winton, to Alexander first Earl of Dunfermline, and Margaret the wife of Claud Hamilton, Lord Paisley, ancestor to the Earl of Abercorn. The lands and Castle of Sorn were sold by the succeeding Earl of Winton to the family of Loudon, and after remaining in the family upwards of 150 years, they were sold to William Tennent, Esq; of Poole, in 1782."

There is a tradition well authenticated, that King James V. honoured his Treasurer Sir William Hamilton with a visit at Sorn Castle, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter to Lord Seton. The chair on which his Majesty sat on that occasion was always carefully preserved at the castle till the sale of the estate, when it was transferred to Loudon Castle, where it is still kept as a relic of ancient times. It is a large chair of oak, curiously carved; and the arms of Sir William Hamilton are on the back.*

*The King’s visit at Sorn Castle took place in winter; and being heartily tired of his journey, through so long a track of moor, moss, and miryclay, where there was neither road nor bridge, he is reported to have said, with good humoured pleasantry which was characteristic of so many of his family, that "were he to play the Deil a trick, he would send him from Glasgow to Sorn in the middle of winter." The trick now-a-days would not prove a very serious one; for Satan, old as he is, might travel very comfortable one-half of the way in a mail-coach, and the other half in a post-chaise. Neither would be forced, like King James, for want of better accommodation, to sit down, about mid-way, by the side of a well, (hence called the King’s Well), and there take a cold refreshment, in a cold day. At that very same place he might now find a tolerable inn and a warm dinner.

Mr. Tennant, beside repairing the old Castle of Sorn, in the completest manner, has lately built a large addition to it, nearly upon the same plan. Among other apartments, it contains a very magnificent drawing-room, with a handsome stair-case. Thus repaired and augmented, it now forms at once a spacious, commodious, and most comfortable mansion. This gentleman has very lately sold both the castle and the estate; but as, from some peculiar circumstances, it is still uncertain who is to be the future proprietor, it was not deemed necessary to take any further notice of this change.

Eminent Persons

If we except the personages already mentioned, I cannot learn that this parish ever gave birth to any person eminently distinguished in any walk of life. This circumstance has not arisen from any deficiency in the natural talents of its inhabitants, (for in this respect they are by no means inferior to their neighbours), but entirely from the want of proper means and opportunities of improving them. Placed in a sequestered, and, till very lately, a poor and uncultivated country; occupied wholly by the concerns of rural life, and by far removed from, the seats of learning and the scenes of public action, it was but barely possible that any of them should emerge from their native obscurity, and make a shining figure in the world.

"Chill penury reprefs’d their nobel rage,
"And froze the genial current of the foul."

It may be proper, however, to mention, that Dr. Mathew Stewart, late Professor of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, so well known over all Europe for his original genius and high attainments in geometrical science, though not a native, was an heritor, and lived many years in this parish. - The statistical writer, too, of some future period, will, I doubt not, record, that one of the brightest ornaments of the same university, and, at the same time, one of the most amiable men of the present age, if not born in this parish, yet passed a great part of his early life in it, and laid the foundation of those speculations, by which he is now enlightening and charming the minds of so many of our British youth.

It will naturally be expected that, on this occasion, I should take some notice of Mr. Alexander Peden, a clergyman of the last century, who was native to this parish, where some of his collateral descendants still remain. He was destined to live in the perilous and miserable times which intervened between the Restoration and the Revolution; (times in which the rights of conscience were too little understood and regarded by either party); and he had an ample share in the suffering in which the Presbyterians of Scotland were then involved, by the cruel and misguided policy of the unfortunate house of Stewart*.

* The professed object of this policy was to establish an uniformity of opinion and practice in matters of religion; an object which is utterly impossible ever to attain, and which, if really attained upon any other ground than that of absolute perfection in knowledge, would prove a curse to mankind instead of a blessing. Indeed the conduct of men must invariably prove absurd and pernicious, where it aims at ends which thwart the established laws of providence. Their true wisdom must ever consist in understanding those laws, and making them the rules of their expectations and their conduct.

In the year 1663, he was settled as minister of the church and parish of New Glenluce in Galloway, and after remaining about three years in this station, he was forced, by the violence of persecution, to abandon it. He skulked about from 1666 till 1673, when he was apprehended, and confined a prisoner, sometimes in Edinburgh, and sometimes on the Bass, till December 1678, when he, together with several other persons, were condemned to be transported to Virginia, and with that view were actually conveyed by sea to London. Soon after their arrival there, however, they were set at liberty, probably in consequence of the interposition of some powerful friends. But though thus saved from transportation to a foreign land, Mr. Peden was by no means permitted to live in peace at home. He was still an object of vengeance, and hunted about from place to place. He found a retreat sometimes in Ireland and sometimes in Scotland; till at length, in January 1686, death put a period to his suffering and his dangers, in the 60th year of his age.

But the spirit of persecution, whether Catholic or Protestant, whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian, is seldom satisfied with the death of the object which it pursues. It wished also to destroy the soul in hell; but, secretly conscious of its inability to gratify such wishes, it endeavours to satiate its implacable fury by outrages on the body. This actually happened in the case now under consideration. The body of Mr. Peden, after being buried about six weeks in the church-aisle belonging to the family of Auchinleck, was raised from its grave, and, as a mark of ignominy, carried to the village of Old Cumnock, and there interred at the foot of the gallows. His sincere and fervent piety, his zeal, constancy, and suffering, in what was generally deemed he cause of truth and liberty; these virtues, joined to a good deal of sagacity in forming probable conjectures respecting the future, and to something sententious and oracular in his manner and conversation, all conspired to gain him the reputation of a prophet among the common people of this country, both in his own and succeeding times; a distinction which he enjoyed in common with several others of his contemporaries and associates. That the gracious Ruler of the world, on some particular occasions, impart to those who are suffering severely in a good cause, previous intimations of future events, in which their own fate or that of their oppressors is deeply concerned, it would, I think, be rash and unwarrantable positively to deny. In general, however, the gifts of prophecy and discerning spirits, which were so fondly ascribed to Mr. Peden and some of his fellow-sufferers, will not easily be admitted by thinking men in the present age, especially when it is recollected, that these gifts were sometimes exercised in detecting and exposing witches. Bur whatever errors and imperfections a more enlightened and peaceable age may discover in the principles and conduct of this good man, and in those who acted and suffered with him, they will always be entitled to the esteem and gratitude of their countrymen, not only on account of the high virtues which they possessed, but also on account of the share which they had in preparing the way for the establishment of our civil liberties by the Revolution, and in maintaining, at the expense of a thousand hardships and perils, our Ecclesiastical constitution; a constitution which, though that of most other Christian societies, built perhaps upon too narrow a foundation, has, nevertheless, at a very small expense, been in several respects eminently serviceable to the country.

Though, therefore, this constitution be not without its enemies, and though even the rock of poverty, on which it was said, by a celebrated statesman, to be founded, be not absolutely impregnable, yet it is to be hoped, that when its basis is extended a little, it may still stand immovable for ages, and prove a rock of defence to solid learning, found morals, sacred truth, and rational liberty, both civil and religious.

Rev George Gordon

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