Kirkcolm

   KIRKCOLM, a parish, in the county of Wigton, 6 miles (N. by W.) from Stranraer; containing 1793 inhabitants, of whom 391 are in the village. The word Kirkcolm is evidently corrupted by usage from Kirk-Columba, a name at first applied to the church, which was dedicated to St. Columba, and afterwards used as a proper name for the parish. The place is of great antiquity, the original church having been built at, or shortly after, the time when the saint flourished to whom it is dedicated. It is doubtful whether St. Columba was of Irish or Scottish origin; but he was in high repute in Scotland in the 6th century. He fixed his residence in the isle of Icolmkill, or "the chapel of Columba," and spent his whole life in endeavouring to convert the natives to Christianity, and in sending out missionaries into the western parts of Scotland for the same purpose. The remains of Corswall Castle, said by Sympson, who wrote in 1684, to be then a heap of ruins; an ancient church dedicated to St. Bride; and the chapel of the Virgin, called Kilmorie, also testify to the great antiquity of the parish.
   Kirkcolm is about five and a half miles in length and four in breadth. It forms a small peninsula, being bounded on the north and west by the sea; on the east by the bay of Loch Ryan; and on the south by the parish of Leswalt. The surface, in its general appearance, is irregular, sloping gently towards the west. From Portmore bay northward, then westward round Corswall point, and southward along the Irish Channel, the scenery is varied by the bold rocky elevations of the coast. There is a considerable stream, turning the mill of Corswall; and near the middle of the parish is Loch Connel, about a mile in circumference. Springs of good fresh water are found in every direction. The soil in the interior is a productive loam; but near the coast which encompasses the larger extent of the parish it is poor, and so thin as scarcely in many parts to cover the rock. The number of acres under cultivation is between 10,000 and 11,000; there are upwards of 1200 acres waste and pasture, and between 100 and 200 planted. The crops of wheat, oats, and barley on lands covered fifty years back with whins and heath, show the great progress of the parish; but the climate is bleak and rainy, and not favourable to the highest improvement of the soil. The farm-houses, with few exceptions, are substantial and comfortable dwellings. The best black Galloway cattle without horns are numerous; but the cross of the Ayrshire cow with the black Galloway bull is generally preferred in the dairy-farms. The subsoil is gravelly and rocky; the rocks are of the greywacke transition class, and there are considerable quantities of red sandstone, as well as greywacke-slate, clay-slate, and pure clay. Quartz and granite are also sometimes found. The rateable annual value of the parish is £6267. Corswall House, standing in an elevated position on the margin of Loch Ryan, in the midst of spreading plantations, is seen from a distance as a pleasing object. The only village is Stewartown, where the young women, as in most other parts of the parish, are chiefly employed in embroidering muslin webs. Little traffic is carried on; but the basin called the Wig, on the coast of Loch Ryan, is a convenient and safe retreat for vessels, two or three of which, under forty tons' burthen, belong to Kirkcolm. Corswall lighthouse, finished in 1816, and situated on a rocky projection on the western side of the parish, is a noble and commanding structure; it is built of whinstone, and has a revolving light on the top of the tower, which is eighty-six feet high, and embraces a very extensive view, comprehending a large part of the Irish coast.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Stranraer and synod of Galloway; patrons, James Carrick Moore, Esq., &c. The stipend of the minister is £216, with a good manse, and a glebe of ten acres, valued at £15 per annum. The church is a commodious and substantial edifice, accommodating 650 persons; it was built in 1824, and is in good repair. There is a parochial school, in which reading and writing, English grammar, arithmetic, and book-keeping, with mensuration, navigation, and Latin, are taught; the master has a house and garden, with a salary of £27, and about £ 18 in fees. Among the relics of antiquity are the ruins of Corswall Castle, distant a mile from the sea, in the northern part of the parish: a cannon seven feet long, a gold ring, some coins, and a silver plate with an inscription, were found here some years since. About a mile from this castle are the foundations of the ancient church dedicated to St. Bride; and on the southern part of the coast of Loch Ryan are the ruins of a wall belonging to the chapel of Kilmorie. A stone from this chapel was placed over the west door of the old church of Kirkcolm when it was repaired in 1719, and left in the churchyard when the church was taken down in 1821. It is a rude specimen of ancient sculpture, so much worn by time that the figures can scarcely be traced with any accuracy. One side appears to bear a shield, with an animal sculptured on it, and, on the top of the shield, a large cross; the other side is distinguished by a figure having the arms extended on a cross, with another figure beneath. The stone is of grey whinstone.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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