STRANRAER, a royal burgh, a sea-port, and parish, in the county of Wigton, 6¼ miles (N. E. by N.) from Portpatrick, and 50 (S. S. W.) from Ayr; containing 3440 inhabitants. This place, the name of which, of Gaelic origin, is supposed to be derived from its situation on a shore that is dry at low water, is of considerable antiquity, and was formerly the residence of the earls of Stair, whose ancient castle of Stranraer is still remaining. The town, which is coextensive with the parish, and the capital of the district of the Rhyns, is beautifully situated at the head of Loch Ryan, a branch of the Frith of Clyde; and consists mainly of several parallel streets, of which the principal extends for nearly half a mile along the loch, and which are intersected at right angles by smaller streets leading to the shore. The houses are well built, and many of them of handsome appearance; the streets are paved, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants amply supplied with excellent water. From its advantageous situation, and the healthiness of its climate, it has become the residence of many respectable families. Two public libraries, the one containing a good collection of works on general literature, and the other chiefly a theological library, are supported by subscription; there are also a public reading and news room well furnished with daily journals and periodical publications, and a mechanics' institution. Several good houses have been recently built in the immediate vicinity; considerable improvements have been made in the town itself, which extends into the parishes of Inch and Leswalt; and a regatta club has been established, under the patronage of Prince Albert.
   The scarcity of fuel has hitherto prevented the extensive introduction of manufactures. A few of the inhabitants, however, are employed in the weaving of linen and cotton for the Glasgow houses; there are some tanneries and a sail-cloth manufactory, and also some nurseries in which large quantities of plants, fruits, and vegetables, are raised. An important fishery is carried on in Loch Ryan, for skate, flounders, turbot, halibut, cod, haddocks, whiting, lobsters, and crabs; oysters of good quality are also found in great abundance. The herring-fishery, too, was formerly extensive, and employed 300 boats; but for many years this pursuit has not been so productive as it was. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the export of grain, cattle, and other agricultural produce, leather shoes, and a few other articles, which are sent to Glasgow, Belfast, and Liverpool; and in the importation of timber from the Baltic, iron, and coal. A good trade is also carried on for the supply of the town and the neighbouring district. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port, in 1843, was thirty-four, of an aggregate burthen of 1895 tons; and the amount of duties paid at the custom-house during that year was considerable. The harbour is easy of access to vessels of tolerably large burthen, though only those not exceeding one hundred tons can approach the quay, and unload and take in their cargoes; and the loch affords safe anchorage for vessels of 300 tons within half a mile of the pier. The depth of the harbour is ten feet at spring tides. A considerable sum was expended by the corporation, in 1820, for its improvement; but, not having the authority of an act of parliament, the proposed increase of harbour dues has been resisted, and the corporation have not been indemnified for the outlay, which exceeded £4680. The bay of Loch Ryan is about ten miles in length, and two miles wide at the entrance: about half way up, a sand-bank called the Scar, stretches across it obliquely for a considerable distance, beyond which it expands into a breadth of four miles. A market, which is amply supplied with provisions of all kinds, is held weekly, on Friday. Fairs are held annually, on the Tuesday before the first Wednesday in January, and the Tuesday before Kilton Hill fair in June, for horses; on the third Friday in April, the first and third Fridays in May, and the third Friday in July, August, September, and November, for cattle; and on the third Friday in October, for fruit. There are three branch banks in the town. The post-office has a good delivery; and facility of communication is afforded by the great military road from Carlisle to Edinburgh, which passes through the town, and by vessels that frequent the harbour.
   The town was erected into a royal Burgh, in 1617, by charter of James VI., under which the government is vested in a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and thirteen common-councillors, elected agreeably with the provisions of the Municipal Reform act. There are no incorporated trades having exclusive privileges; but the magistrates may compel any one carrying on business within the burgh to enter as a burgess, for which the fee of admission varies from one to three guineas. The magistrates exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction, and hold both bailie and dean-of-guild courts for the trial of cases within the burgh. The town-hall, situated in George-street, is a neat structure containing the requisite accommodation; and the prison is under good regulations. The burgh is associated with New Galloway, Whithorn, and Wigton, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is 196. The rateable annual value of Stranraer is £3905. The parish, consisting of about forty acres, originally formed part of the parishes of Leswalt and Inch; its ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Stranraer, of which the town is the seat, and of the synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £158, including an allowance for communion elements, and of which £120 are paid from the exchequer; an allowance of £30 per annum is received in lieu of a manse, and the glebe is valued at £70 per annum; patron, the Crown. The old church, which contained 700 sittings, being condemned in 1833 as unsafe and incapable of repair, a temporary building of wood was erected by the minister for the use of the congregation; and the present church, which is a neat structure, was built by subscription in 1841. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, United Secession, Reformed Presbyterians, and the Relief; and a Roman Catholic chapel. The Academy, erected in 1845, at a cost of £2000, is well attended; and a parochial or burgh schoolmaster has a salary of £20, and the fees. The place gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Stair.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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