Kirkmabreck

   KIRKMABRECK, a parish, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 3½ miles (E. by N.) from Wigton; containing, with the burgh of Creetown, 1854 inhabitants, of whom 870 are in the rural districts of the parish. This place derives its name from the situation of its ancient church in a brake, at that time overgrown with thorns and brambles. The lands were part of the possessions of the abbey of Dundrennan and the priory of Whithorn, but, after the Reformation, were granted by the crown to different families, and at present are divided among many proprietors. The parish, which includes the greater portion of the ancient parish of Kirkdale, is bounded on the west by the river Cree, and on the south-west by Wigton bay, and is about nine miles in length and five miles and a half in breadth. The whole number of acres is not known; 5030 are arable, 900 meadow, 1000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland pasture and waste. The surface is mountainous in some parts, and in others diversified with hills of only moderate elevation, and fertile valleys. The principal mountains are, the Clints of Drumore, Craig, Pibble, Cairnharrow, and Larg, varying from 800 to 1000 feet in height; and a portion of Cairnsmore, which has an elevation of 2222 feet above the level of the sea, is also within the parish. The coast, which is about six miles in length, is in general flat and sandy; but the shores of Kirkdale are bold and precipitous, and the rocks perforated with numerous caverns and fissures, some of which are identified with the scenes described by Sir Walter Scott in the novel of Guy Mannering. The river Cree has its source in Loch Moan, near the spot where the counties of Ayr and Wigton unite with Kirkcudbrightshire, and flows into Wigton bay, from which it is navigable for small vessels to Carty.
   The soil along the banks of the river, and in the valleys, is rich; but on the hills and other parts, of lighter quality, interspersed with tracts of moss. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, and potatoes; the system of agriculture is in a state of progressive improvement, and the lands in many parts have been rendered fertile by the use of bone-dust and guano as manure. The farm-buildings in Kirkdale are generally substantial and well arranged, but in other parts of the parish many of them are of very inferior order; the lands are inclosed with stone dykes. Much attention is paid to the improvement of live stock: the cattle, of which large numbers are pastured, are of the pure Galloway breed, with some cows of the Ayrshire on the dairy-farms. The sheep are mostly the black-faced, and of small size, with some of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds; of the first description about 7000, and of the others 800, are reared in the pastures. There are considerable remains of ancient wood: the plantations of more recent growth are, oak, ash, hazel, alder, beech, sycamore, chesnut, elm, and firs, for all of which the soil is well adapted. The substrata are, clay-slate, greywacke, and granite, of which last the rocks are principally composed. Lead-ore has been discovered in several parts, and pure specimens of galena have been found; a coppermine was formerly wrought, but has been abandoned. There are some extensive quarries of granite, opened by the trustees of the Liverpool Docks about 1830, and in which, in 1834, not less than 450 men were engaged; they are still in operation, but on a smaller scale, employing about 160 persons. The stone, which is raised in large blocks, and split into any required form or dimensions, is of excellent quality and in high repute. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5889. Kirkdale House, a splendid mansion of polished granite, in the Grecian style of architecture, after a plan by Mr. Adam, is finely situated in a demesne tastefully embellished, and abounding with picturesque and romantic scenery. Barholm House is a handsome residence of chaste design, pleasingly situated in grounds to which the approaches are well laid out. Cassencarrie is an ancient mansion, with a tower of interesting character; and Hill House is a substantial building, fronted with polished granite, and commanding some good views. The only village in the parish is Creetown, which is noticed under its own head.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Wigton and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £249, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; patrons, the Crown and John Mc Culloch, Esq. The church, erected in 1834, at an expense of £2000, is a very handsome structure in the later English style; it is near the burgh, and contains 800 sittings. The ruins of the ancient churches of Kirkmabreck and Kirkdale are yet remaining in their respective churchyards, which are still used as places of burial; and in the latter is the vault of the Hannay family, built of granite. There is a place of worship for members of the Secession. The parochial school is attended by about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £30. A second school is supported by the fees and by the heritors, who allow the master a house and garden, and a salary of £10 per annum; and a school of industry, in which thirty girls are taught, is under the patronage of the minister. There are several chalybeate springs in the parish, of which one, at Pibble, is strongly impregnated. Remains of Druidical circles are found in different places; and in 1778, while removing some stones from a tumulus, were discovered a coffin containing a skeleton of gigantic size, an urn inclosing ashes, and an earthen vessel for holding water. In 1809 was found a coffin of rude form, containing a skeleton of large dimensions, the arm of which had been nearly separated from the shoulder by a stone axe: the blade was still remaining in the wound. Cairn-Holy is traditionally said to have been raised over the remains of a bishop of Whithorn, who, with many of his brethren, was slain in a battle with the English on Glenquicken Moor in 1150, and buried here. Dr. Thomas Brown, late professor of moral philosophy in the university of Edinburgh, was born in this parish, of which his father was minister, in 1778; he died in 1820, and was buried in the churchyard of Kirkmabreek.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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