DALRY, Ayrshire

The town and parish of Dalry takes their name from 'Dail righe' meaning 'the field of the King', which is located above an important crossing point on the River Garnock.

Eighteenth century writers noted that Dalry had long been noted for the excellence of its dairy, and the attention that had been given to improve the tillage and practice of agriculture in the parish. The rich peaty soil was excellent for agriculture.

Bibliography

Church History

The churches to be found in the modern town of Dalry include:

The following notes describe some earlier churches.

Dalry is first mentioned in 1226 as a "chapel of Ardrossan". If the parish was not formed at that date, it surely was by 1279 when a certain "Henry, Rector of the Church of Dalry" appears in the Register of the Diocese of Glasgow. There appear to have been two places of worship in the parish by the late 13th century. One was on the east bank of the River Garnock at Kilcush, and th other on the west, situated near to ground called 'the Old Glebe'. The latter appears to have been the main, or parish church; although it would have been a small simple building probably with an earthen floor, thatched roof and a few windows. This church building was almost certainly dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch, a virgin martyr of the 3rd or 4th century.

"The church of Dalry was one of those belonging to the monastery of Kilwinning, and the monks as a matter of course enjoyed the factorial tithes and revenues, a vicarage being established for serving the cure. At the Reformation, the monks received 100 yearly for the rectorial tithes of the church, which were levied for the payment of the annual rent. The lands which belonged to the church were acquired by the Earl of Eglinton after the Reformation. Before the year 1610, the patronage of the church was acquired by John Blair of Blair, the proprietor of the adjacent barony of Blair. His son, Bryce Blair, obtained in 1616, a lease of the tithes of the church of Dalry from Archibald Spottiswoode, who was then the Commendator of Kilwinning."

The first church after the Reformation stood about half a mile south-west of the existing one, while the first church on the present site was erected in the year 1608 and rebuilt in the year 1771. Two stones bearing the dates mentioned may be seen in the west wall of the new church. The present parish church is of Gothic architecture, built from designs by David Thomson, Esq., an eminent Glasgow architect, and cost somewhere about 6,000. The foundation stone was laid with full Masonic honours, by Colonel Muir of Caldwell, Provincial Grand Master Mason of Ayrshire, on 10th May, 1851. The clock by which the spire was graced was the gift of G. Fullarton, Esq., of Kerelaw, and the bell was presented to the parish by James M'Cosh, Esq., of Merksworth.

"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.

The Dalry register of births and marriages commences in 1683, but was not regularly kept until 1724. By the acts of the Kirk Session, the observance of the Sabbath was strictly enforced, and the usual strict measures were pursued against those guilty of immoral conduct. However the session minutes do not go back far enough to record those strange cases of witchcraft for which Dalry was somewhat infamous.

There were other non-conformist churches at different times. Such records are usually held in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh.

Description and Travel

Dalry is a relatively large rural parish in the north-east of the county in the Garnock Valley, centred on the small town of Dalry. The parish is about ten miles long and varies from three to eight miles in breadth and includes the villages of Blair, Burnside, Drakemire, Southfield and the Den. The Garnock valley is the distinguishing feature of the parish. The valley is both fertile and beautiful. The River Garnock flows through the parish for about seven miles, in the course of which it is joined by the Caaf and Rye, and several other tributaries. Dalry was non-existent as a village until a "kirktoun" grew up around the new parish church, built in 1604. That kirk essentially made the village. By 1700, the inhabitants of Dalry numbered barely 100.

The whole Garnock Valley area until the 1830s was a successful rural economy based on the rich peaty soil which was excellent for both arable and dairy farming. The town was reinforced by developments to provide housing for wealthy Glasgow businessmen and the like. But the opening of various limeworks, a number of coal pits and what became the Glengarnock Steel Works in Blair in the 1840s, wholly changed the character of the parish of Dalry. It became an increasingly industrial area peppered with iron mines to provide the ore and coal pits to fuel the blast furnaces.

The decline and end of the iron and steel industry has allowed the Garnock valley to page to something of its earlier rural state, but with evidence of pit workings still scarring the landscape.

South-east of the village lies the impressive mansion Blair House, set in its own great park. The Barony of Blair in Dalry, Ayrshire was granted by King William in the mid-12th century. Sir Bryce Blair was an adherent of Sir William Wallace but was executed by the English at the Barns of Ayr in 1296. His brother's son, Roger, was knighted by King Robert the Bruce for his services before and during the Battle of Bannockburn. Blair House was occupied continuously by the family between 1202 and 1980.

An 1837 description of the parish, 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.

View photographs of Dalry 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 Dalry.