DALMELLINGTON, Ayrshire

"When the time shall come (as come it will) when English cottages or English neatness shall be introduced into Scotland, what a village Dalmellington may be. A few trees, irregular ground, tumbling burns, a spire, and a mill - what more is wanted?" {Lord Cockburn on a visit in 1844}

Dalmellington ".. has the appearance of being a singularly virtuous and happy village; and I am told it is the last place in Ayrshire where, with a great deal of old primitive manufacture, rural simplicity and contentment still linger. But it is now to taste of manufactures in an improved state. The devil has disclosed his iron, and speculation has begun to work it. There seemed to be about a dozen of pits sinking within half a mile of the village, and before another year is out those now solitary and peaceful hills will be blazing with furnaces, and blighted by the vices of a new population of black scoundrels. They were already lying snoring, and I presume, drunk, on many indignant knolls." {Lord Cockburn on a return three years later.}

Bibliography

"The 'Hill; Its People and its Pits" a History of the Village of Lethanhill/Burnfoothill" by T. Courtney McQuillan, published by Cumnock and Doon Valley District Council, Council Offices, Lugar, CUMNOCK, Ayrshire KA 18 3 JQ, Scotland.

"Benwhat and Corbie Craigs; a brief History"by Robert Farrell, published by Cumnock and Doon Valley District Council, Council Offices, Lugar, CUMNOCK, Ayrshire KA 18 3 JQ, Scotland.

Cemeteries

"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions; an index for Carrick, Ayrshire" edited by Alison Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1988 by the Scottish Genealogy Society covers the old graveyard at Patna.

Angus Mitchells's "Burial Grounds in Scotland: An Index of Unpublished Memorial Inscriptions" Scottish Genealogy Society, first published 1991; lists in their collection of Memorial Inscriptions some for Ardrossan:

Publication of other Dalmellington MIs has yet to be achieved.

Church History

"The church of Dalmellington was formerly a prebend of the chapel royal of Stirling, and during its connection therewith, the patronage belonged to the king. The church of pre-Reformation times was superseded by a new church built in 1766. This church proved too small, and was uncomfortable owing to dampness. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, it continued in use as a sacred edifice until the erection of a more commodious and comfortable church in 1846, after which the old one was converted into dwelling houses, but has in later times been used as a hall for Sunday School, church, and public purposes."

"At first, after the Reformation, there was only a reader in Dalmellington, and his duty was to read the Scriptures, and the prayers, out of John Knox's prayer book. As late as 1641, there was a reader in the church. From this period date the session records, beginning with the ministry of James Nasmyth, M.A. The present incumbent, Rev. George Smith Hendrie, M.A., was ordained to the charge on the 22nd of July, 1880. By him an interesting account of the parish was written, and published a few years ago."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr"by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.

Description and Travel

Dalmellington is a moderately large parish in south-east Ayrshire around the small town of Dalmellington but including the hilly plateau and the valley of the Doon river, including Loch Doon. It also contained one of the largest ironworks in Ayrshire.

The ironworks and the coal mines which so worried Lord Cockburn have come and gone. The little town of Dalmellington retains a neglected air but the hills and the valley of the Doon have regained something of their former tranquillity.

An 1837 description of Dalmellington, including a listing of the key personalities of the town, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.

At Waterside, some 3 miles downstream from Dalmellington, was the site of the largest ironworks in Ayrshire. Founded in 1847 by the Dalmellington Iron Company, extended in 1866 by their successors Bairds & Dalmellington Ltd, and subsequently modernised, it exploited the plentiful iron ore and coal resources of the Doon Valley. The works used an extensive network of rail lines to bring the raw materials and also rough pig iron from hill-top sites to the main ironworks. The railway lines can be still traced on the hills, as can the remains of the isolated hill-top villages of Benquat, Lethanhill, Burnfoothill, Corbie Crags, Craigmark etc. which were created by the owners to house the miners and their families.

The railway lines were often the only means of communication with the outside world. When the iron ore was worked out in the 1930s, the works shifted to brick production, a business which was gradually phased out by the National Coal Board after they took over the nationalised mines in 1947. The Waterside works finished their days as a storage and sorting depot for open-cast coal. The Waterside site has recently been acquired by the Dalmellington and District Conservation Trust with a view to developing it as an interpretative centre for Ayrshire's industrial heritage. The Ayrshire Railway Preservation Trust has developed the old Minnivey Colliery as the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre.

The Macadam family, of tarmacadam fame, lived at Craigengillian Estate which is found on the outskirts of Dalmellington.

To the south-east of the parish is the county boundary with the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the Parish of Carsphairn.

View photographs of Dalmellington and the surrounding area.

Gazetteers

Historical Geography

Information about boundaries and administrative areas is available from A Vision of Britain through time.

Maps

View maps of Dalmellington.

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