- OCHILTREE, a parish, in the district of Kyle, county of Ayr, 3½ miles (W. by N.) from Old Cumnock; containing 1601 inhabitants. This place, of which the name, in various ancient records written Uchletree, is of uncertain derivation, has some pretensions to antiquity; and it is recorded that in 1296, Symon de Spalding, then rector of the parish, swore fealty to Edward I. at Berwick. In the reign of Robert I. the church, with all its appurtenances, was granted by Eustace de Colville to the monks of Melrose Abbey, to whom it belonged at the time of the Reformation. The lands, which constituted a barony, were in 1530 exchanged by the proprietor, Sir James Colville, for the barony of East Wemyss, and became the property of Sir James Hamilton, of Finnart, who conveyed them to Andrew Stewart, Lord Evandale, who in 1543 was created Lord Stewart, of Ochiltree. After passing to various proprietors, the lands were at length vested in William, the first earl of Dundonald, who gave them to his second son, Sir John Cochrane, by whom they were forfeited to the crown in 1685; but they were afterwards re-granted to his son, William, and remained in the family till they were purchased, about 1730, by Governor Mc Rae, from whose representative they passed by marriage to the Earl of Glencairn. They now belong to different families. The parish is about eight miles in length and five miles in breadth, and is bounded on the north by the parish of Stair, on the east by the parishes of Old Cumnock and Auchinleck, on the south by New Cumnock and Dalmellington, and on the west by the parishes of Stair and Coylton. The surface, which has an elevation varying from 400 to 1000 feet above the level of the sea, is intersected with ridges, running in nearly parallel directions from east to west, with tracts of level ground intervening; and the scenery is in some parts enlivened with small patches of wood and young plantations. The lands abound with numerous springs of excellent quality, affording an ample supply of water; and there are two lochs, of which the larger covers about twenty-seven acres of ground. The rivers are, the Lugar, which separates the parish from that of Auchinleck, and in its course receives the Burnock water and some other streamlets; and the Coila, which divides the parish from Coylton. Both fall into the Ayr.The soil is in general a clayey loam, resting on a subsoil of retentive clay, but in the upland parts of the parish, mossy, resting also upon clay. The whole number of acres is estimated at 15,387, of which 10,242 are under tillage and in good cultivation, and the remainder hill-pasture, plantations, and waste; the crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry is improved, and the lands have been partially drained; but much still remains to be done in order to render the soil fully productive; the farm-buildings, also, are inferior to those of many other parishes; and a few of the houses only are slated, by far the greater number being thatched. The lands are inclosed partly by stone dykes, and partly by hedges of thorn. Considerable attention is paid to the rearing of live-stock. From 3000 to 4000 sheep are annually fed, for which the hills afford good pasture; they are of the black-faced breed, with a few of the Leicester, SouthDown, and Cheviot breeds; and on one farm are some of the black Egyptian breed, of which the wool is remarkably fine. About 1050 cows are kept for the dairy, and 150 head of cattle fattened annually; they are all of the Ayrshire breed, and thrive well on the soil; and a moderate number of horses are reared, chiefly for agricultural uses. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9521. Ochiltree House is the residence of the Dowager Lady Boswell. The village is situated on the site of what is said to have been an ancient camp, from which circumstance probably may have been derived the name of the parish; it is neatly built, and well inhabited. There is a manufactory for reapinghooks, which are in great repute, and of which great numbers are sent to distant places; and many of the female inhabitants are employed in working muslin for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley. The nearest market-town is Ayr, with which, and with other towns in the vicinity, facility of intercourse is maintained by good roads kept in repair by statute labour, and by the turnpike-road from Dumfries and Cumnock to Ayr, which passes for nearly seven miles through the parish. Fairs for horses and cattle are held in the village on the second Wednesday in May, and the first Tuesday in November; and a savings' bank has been formed, which is well encouraged. A post-office is established under Cumnock. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Ayr and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The stipend of the incumbent is £247: the manse, erected in 1800, and enlarged in 1833, is a comfortable residence; and the glebe comprises about nine acres of land, valued at £20 per annum. The church, which is in the centre of the village, is a neat substantial edifice erected in 1789, in good repair, and is adapted for a congregation of 900 persons. The parochial school, also situated in the village, affords a liberal education to about 100 children: the master has a salary of £34. 4., with a house and garden; he also receives £6. 3. 4. per annum, a bequest by Mr. Patrick Davidson, charged on the lands of Shield, in the parish of Stair; and the school fees average £30. There is a library connected with the school; likewise a school of which the master derives his income solely from the fees. At a place called the Moat, on the turnpike-road to Ayr, was found a few years since an urn containing calcined bones, and subsequently a crown-piece of the reign of James I. of Scotland, in excellent preservation. There are no other remains of the ancient castle of Ochiltree than the foundations, which may still be traced on the bank of the river Lugar; the walls have been levelled to furnish materials for buildings and other purposes. On the same river a detached portion of rock, which rises from its bed, sixty feet in height, forty feet long, and twenty feet broad, covered on the summit with shrubs and heath, presents a singularly romantic appearance, and from its resemblance to a fort has attained the appellation of Kemps Castle.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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