- KIRKCONNEL, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 4 miles (N. W. by W.) from Sanquhar; containing 1130 inhabitants, of whom 500 are in the village. St. Connel, to whom the church was dedicated, appears to have given the name to the parish. The church at one time belonged to the monks of Holywood, who received the tithes, establishing a vicarage for the due performance of divine service. At the Reformation the revenues were held by Lord Crichton, of Sanquhar, on the payment of £20 Scots yearly to the monks; but after that event, the patronage and tithes, with other property of the abbey, were vested in the crown, and granted by it to John Murray, of Lochmaben. In the reign of Charles II. the patronage was transferred to the Duke of Queensberry; and upon the death of the last Duke, William, it came, with the title, into the family of Scott, to whom nearly the whole of this parish, with very extensive property in the neighbouring districts, now belongs. The parish is about fifteen miles in length and eight in breadth, and contains upwards of 26,000 acres. It is bounded on the north and north-east by the parish of Crawfordjohn, in the county of Lanark; on the north-west and west by New Cumnock and Auchinleck, in the county of Ayr; and on the south-east and south-west by the parish of Sanquhar. The surface throughout is irregular and hilly. The ground gradually rises for some distance on each side of the river Nith, which intersects the parish from west to east, after which it forms a continued range of hills, of considerable elevation, distant from the river on each side about two or three miles, and affording good sheep pasture. Beyond these hills, to the north and south, the land consists of peat-moss covered with heath and grass, or cold and swampy land, intersected with narrow valleys and deep ravines.The soil under cultivation in some parts is a light gravelly mould; in other places it is a loam or clay, and sometimes a mixture of moss and clay. Occasionally there is a deep rich earth, especially upon the holm lands at the banks of the river. About 6300 acres are arable; about 19,100 are hill pasture, 542 low pasture, and 178 under wood: grain and green crops of all kinds are raised, but barley and wheat are sown in but small quantitles, on account of the great distance from a regular market. The sheep, of which 11,000 or 12,000 are kept, are chiefly of the native black-faced breed, as being the most hardy, and the best suited to the bleak exposure of hill pasturage: about 7000 lambs are annually reared, 5000 of which are sent to market. The cows, which are principally kept for the dairy, are of the Ayrshire or Cunninghame breed. Improvements in every branch of agriculture have been extensively carried on, chiefly by the noble proprietor of the parish; and the rateable annual value of Kirkconnel now amounts to £5647. Limestone and ironstone are found in this district; but it is chiefly celebrated for its coal, which is of the best quality, and was extensively wrought until the mining operations were transferred to the neighbouring parish of Sanquhar, for more general convenience. There is an iron-plating forge upon a small scale, employing eight or ten men. A great public road runs through the upper district, upon which the Glasgow and Carlisle coach passes and repasses daily: the parish roads are in good repair, but bridges are much wanted on the great road. The village is principally inhabited by labourers. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Penpont and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. The stipend is £221, with a good manse and convenient offices, and a glebe valued at £18 per annum. The church, a plain structure bearing the date 1729, has been enlarged and repaired within the present century, and is in very good condition. There is a parochial school, in which English, writing, and arithmetic are taught; the master has the minimum salary, with a house, and about £34 fees. On the farm of Rigg are two mineral springs, useful in stomachic complaints, but owing to the want of accommodation they are not much frequented; the waters, however, are often sent to distant parts of the country.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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