"With environs bleaker perhaps than those of any other town in southern Scotland, Muirkirk is the seat of an extensive iron manufacture and was brought into existence through the discovery and smelting of iron ore in 1787. The place has undergone great fluctuations of prosperity, but since about 1830 and especially since the formation of the railway, it has been flourishing as to rank among the great seats of the iron manufacture in Scotland. The works of the Eglinton Iron Company have several blast furnaces and rolling mills; coal mining and lime-burning are actively carried on. New works for collecting ammonia as a by-product at the furnaces were erected at a large outlay in 1883. In 1894 a drainage scheme estimated to cost £1,100 was begun. Muirkirk has a post office, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, 2 hotels, a gas company and fairs on the Tuesday after 18th February for hiring shepherds and the Thursday nearest 21st December, when shepherds meet to restore sheep which have strayed from their owners. Muirkirk black faced sheep have carried off the first prize at several of the Highland Society's shows and at the Paris exhibition of 1867."
The parish church built in 1812, renovated in 1883 at a cost of £1,000 and repaired in 1893, contains 800 sittings. Other places of worship are a Free Church built soon after the Disruption, a United Protestant church (1823) an Evangelical Union Church and St Thomas' Roman Catholic church (1856) enlarged and improved in 1882.
More details on the history of the church in Muirkirk are on the kirk pages.
Muirkirk is a remote parish in the north east of the former Kyle district of Ayrshire. It lies ten and a quarter miles ENE of Auchinleck. The parish also contains Glenbuck village. Muirkirk formed part of Mauchline parish until 1631. The parish is deeply and pathetically associated with the martyrs of the Covenant. A martyrs monument was erected in 1887 and upon Priesthill farm is one to John Brown who on 1st May 1685 was shot by Claverhouse.
John Lapraik (1727-1807) was confined for a time as debtor after the collapse of the Ayr Bank in 1772. He conducted a public-house and the village post-office at Muirkirk after 1796. Lapraik published 'Poems on Several Occasions' (1788). Three famous 'Epistles' were addressed to him by Robert Burns.
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