- KIRKURD, a parish, in the county of peebles, 6½ miles (N. E.) from Biggar; containing 305 inhabitants. This place derives its name from the situation of its church on an eminence, urd being the Celtic for a height. It appears to have formed part of the lands conferred by James II. upon Sir David Scott, of Buccleuch, ancestor of that ducal family, in recompense of his services during the civil wars with the Douglases, whose defeat at the battle of Arkinholme, in the valley of Esk, was attributed to the important aid given to his sovereign on that occasion. The parish is about five miles and a half in length, from east to west, and from three to four miles in average breadth; and is bounded on the north by the water of the Tarth, which separates it from the parishes of Linton and Newlands; on the east by the parishes of Newlands and Stobo; on the south by Broughton; and on the west by Skirling and Dolphington. The surface is diversified with hill and dale in nearly equal portions. The highest of the hills is Hell's Cleuch, which has an elevation of 2100 feet above the level of the sea, and on the summit of which is a cairn, situated on a point where the parishes of Stobo and Broughton come in contact with this parish; it is called the Pyked Stane, and commands an extensive view, embracing the country beyond the Forth, and the chain of mountains extending from the eastern portion of the county of Fife to the county of Dumbarton, as well as North Berwick, the Eildon hills near Melrose, and the Cheviot hills in the county of Northumberland. The Tarth is the only stream of any importance; but there are several springs of excellent, water, affording an ample supply, and near Castle-Craig a sulphureous spring, which, on being analysed, was found to contain properties similar to those of Harrogate, but inferior in strength. The scenery is generally pleasing, and in many parts enriched with thriving plantations.The soil is light and gravelly, and seems well adapted for the growth of timber. The whole number of acres, according to actual measurement, is 6620, of which 2200 are arable, about the same quantity meadow and pasture land capable of being brought into cultivation, 600 in woods and plantations, and the remainder chiefly sheep-pasture and waste. The crops are, oats, barley, peas, potatoes, and turnips: wheat has been raised in very small quantities, but was not found suited to the soil. The system of husbandry is advanced; the lands are well drained, and irrigation is practised on some of the meadow lands with singular benefit: the farm-buildings are comfortable, though inferior to many others in the neighbourhood; and the various improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. Considerable attention is paid to the management of the dairy, and to live stock: about 2000 sheep are annually pastured, chiefly of the black-faced kind, and 250 black-cattle of the Ayrshire breed are annually reared. The woods and plantations are carefully attended to, and have been much increased of late. The substrata are not various; the prevailing rocks are of the transition class, but there are neither mines nor quarries. In digging for marl, the horns of an elk were discovered in excellent preservation; and in some of the boggy lands, have been dug up quantities of hazel-nuts in a perfectly sound state. The rateable annual value of the parish is £2638. Castle-Craig, the seat of Sir Thomas G. Carmichael, Bart., is a spacious and handsome mansion, erected by Sir John G. Carmichael, and enlarged and embellished by the present proprietor; it is situated in a highly-cultivated and improved demesne, and the gardens and pleasure-grounds are laid out with great taste. Netherurd House, formerly Cairnmuir House, is also a handsome residence, the seat of the White family. The nearest market-towns are Biggar and Peebles, with which, and with other places, the inhabitants have facilities of intercourse by roads kept in excellent repair; and the turnpike-roads from Edinburgh to Dumfries, and from Glasgow to Peebles, pass through the parish.The ecclestastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Peebles and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; and the patronage is in Sir Thomas Carmichael. The stipend of the incumbent is £158, of which more than a half is a grant from the exchequer; the manse was erected in 1788, and the glebe comprises about nineteen acres, nearly the whole of which is good arable land. The church, built in 1766, and conveniently situated for the population, is a neat and substantial edifice adapted for a congregation of 300 persons; every tenant in the parish has a sitting in it for himself and family. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £26 per annum. Attached to the school is a good library; and until the last few years there was also a parochial library, supported by subscription, in which was a considerable collection of standard works: on its discontinuance the books were divided among the members. In the vicinity of Old Harestanes are some remains of Druidical origin. Near Castle-Craig are the ancient mounts called the Castle and the Law; they are supposed to have been stations for the administration of justice in former times. To the east of them is a circular intrenchment on an eminence, named the Ring; and to the west of them, another fortification, styled the Chesters; both probably military stations. A stone kistvaen, inclosing an urn of clay with human bones, was found in 1754, at Mount-Hill; and at the base of that eminence was discovered, some years afterwards, a stone coffin containing human bones, with several rudely-formed weapons of flint, and a small ring. James Geddes, of Rachan, author of an essay on the Composition and Manner of Writing of the Ancients, and of several other tracts, was born in this parish in 1710; and the enlightened Dugald Stewart resided for some time at Netherurd House.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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