Sorn and Catrine, formerly Dalgain
"Halt, curious passenger, come here and read,
Our souls triumph with Christ our glorious Head,
In self-defence we murdered here do lie,
To witness 'gainst the nation's perjury."
Inscription on the Covenanter Memorial at Airds Moss.
A church was built at Dalgain in 1658, in the times of the Commonwealth - a characteristic it shares with the Auld Kirk in Ayr. However it was not until 1692 that the establishment of the new parish was completed. The parish was first called Dalgain, and the ground on which the church and manse was built, and also the glebe, were a gift from Hugh Mitchell of Dalgain. The church became known as the Kirk of Sorn, possibly because of the near vicinity of Sorn Castle, and gradually the name was adopted for the whole parish.
Sorn Parish Church was restored in 1826 and further improvements made in 1910. The churchyard, as with many Ayrshire parish churches has a number of Covenanter's monuments, including that for 16 year-old George Wood.
The relatively large parish of Sorn in central eastern Ayrshire, forms nearly a square of about 6 miles. It is bounded on the east by Muirkirk, on the west by Mauchline, on the north by Galston, and on the south by Auchinleck. Sorn did not exist as a separate parish until 1692. It was then detached from the overgrown parish of Mauchline, which until a few years of that time included Muirkirk also. The parish includes the villages of Catrine and Darnconner. The parish lies astride the River Ayr as is it runs between the high plateaus of Airds Moss to the south and Blackside to the north. Airds Moss (or Airsmoss) was the scene of one of the bloodier attacks on Covenanters in July 1680 - the murder of the Cameron brothers and 7 others.
Catrine was established as a separate parish in the mid 20th century, after a period of being the 'quod sacra' (chapel of ease) parish of Sorn. In Catrine, there was the James Findlay Cotton Works, where cotton was brought in raw and worked into cloth then taken to the bleachfield to be whitened and then returned to the factory to be sewn into sheets and pillowcases, which were sold throughout the UK and exported all over the world. James Findlay also managed tea plantations in India.
An 1837 description of Catrine, Sorn and Mauchline, including a listing of the key personalities of the towns, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead <email@example.com> from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
Sorn was originally known as Dalgain until the 17th century. It is now a classic Ayrshire village with the attractions of the church, the hump-backed bridge over the River Ayr and Sorn Castle. Sorn Castle was originally built in the 14th century but there have been several additions and rebuilds which have created a modern mansion. It lies on a steep crest above the River Ayr. The word Sorn is Celtic, and means a projection, or promontory or snout, and may have been applied originally to the rocky eminence on which the castle was built. Sorn Castle is occasionally open to the public in the summer months.
The whole village, both public areas including the picnic area by the river, and domestic gardens are maintained to a high standard. Sorn has won British and European awards for its tidy environment and floral displays.
Alexander Peden (1626?-1686) born in Sorn became a famous Covenanter of Glasgow University. He was ordained minister of New Luce in 1660. But he was ejected in 1663, for refusing to obtain episcopal collation. By his power of speech and supposed prophetical gifts, as well as his extraordinary hardships, he gained immense influence among the conventicles of southern Scotland. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock in 1673, but was liberated in 1678. peden spent his last days in a cave near Sorn.
- The transcription of the section for Sorn from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.