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The History of Kilmarnock
By Archibald M'Kay (1858)

A day spent wondering around in Kilmarnock, taking videos of various areas and landmarks

Auld Killie (The Streets and Neuks)


In submitting to the public this edition of the History of Kilmarnock, the author may state that, by the favourable reception given to the work on its first appearance, he has been induced to publish it in its present revised and enlarged form. He trusts that the original matter introduced into various parts of the text, together with the many illustrative foot-notes that have been added, will render it still more deserving of general patronage.

He must acknowledge, however, that, from the difficulty of obtaining accurate information, he has been sometimes obliged, especially in the early part of the narrative, to give only a mere outline instead of a complete picture; but even that outline, affording, as it does, an idea of the appearance of the town and the social condition of the inhabitants, at a comparatively remote period, cannot fail to prove generally interesting.

Of the various members of the Boyd Family a more lengthened account might have been given; but this would have extended the volume beyond its proposed limits. The eventful career, however, of the unfortunate last Earl of Kilmarnock has been traced at some length, partly from its singularly pathetic interest, and partly from its close connection with an important period of Scottish history.

For the same reasons, the sufferings of the Covenanters in Kilmarnock and its neighbourhood have been briefly noticed. Their struggles and trials, it is true, are already widely known; but to have passed them over in silence would have" been at variance with the spirit of the present volume, the object of which is to chronicle, in a concise yet faithful manner, the principal incidents and traditions connected with the locality.

An abridged translation of the Charter, by which the town was erected into a Burgh of Barony, and several other interesting papers, that could not be conveniently woven into the text, have been given in the form of an Appendix.

The author may add, that, should this edition be found to contribute still further to the information or entertainment of his fellow-townsmen, and others interested in the historical associations of the district, he will not regret the pains he has taken, or the time he has expended, in the composition of the work.

116 Kino Street,
Kilmarnock, 1st June, 1858.


Chapter I.
Antiquity of the town, and origin of its name
Ancient Church of Kilmarnock
Supposed site of the first houses of the town
Population of the town and parish in 1547
Pont’s description of the town and kirk in 1609
Franck’s description of the town in 1658
Proclamation anent drinking in 1702
Principal architectural erections about 1609

Chapter II.
Situation of Bean Castle, and origin of its name
Ancient name of Kilmarnock Water (note)
Captain Grose’s visit to Dean Castle
Conjectures regarding the time of the erection of the Castle
Pont’s description of the Castle about 1609
General description of the Castle
Historical associations of the Castle
Grounds around the Castle
The Castle injured by fire
Kilmarnock House and the Lady’s Walk

Chapter III.
Origin of the Boyd Family
Mylne and Fullarton on the origin of the Boyds (note)
The first Sir Robert Boyd at the Battle of Largs
The second Sir Robert Boyd joins the army of Wallace
The third Sir Robert Boyd espouses the interests of Bruce, and is
rewarded with gifts of the lands of Kilmarnock, &c.
Portincross Castle described (note)
Sir Thomas Boyd at the Battle of Durham
Sir Thomas Boyd, Dominus de Kilmarnock, kills Neilson of Dalrymple
Sir Thomas Boyd, Lord of Kilmarnock
Sir Thomas Boyd slays Sir Allan Stewart, and is himself killed through revenge

Chapter IV.
Monument of Lord Soulis
Traditionary story regarding Lord Soulis
Sir Robert Boyd—Sir Alexander Boyd
The Boyds accused of Treason
Thomas Boyd created Earl of Arran
Execution of Sir Alexander Boyd
Earl of Arran—his lady imprisoned in Dean Castle
James Boyd slain by Hugh Montgomery
Bobert Boyd at the Battle of Glasgow
Robert, master of Boyd, assassinates Sir Niel Montgomery
The fourth Lord Boyd at the Battle of Langside
Lord Boyd’s Epitaph in the Low Church
Kilmarnock made a burgh of barony
Pass granted bj James VI. to Thomas, fifth Lord Boyd {note)
James, eighth Lord Boyd—William, first Earl of Kilmarnock

Chapter V.
The Covenanters—John Boss and John Shields
General Dalziel and his soldiers in Kilmarnock
The Thieves’ Hole
Finlay shot by orders of Dalziel
Soldiers stationed in Dean Castle—their cruelty
“The year of the Highland Host,”
Losses occasioned by “the Highland Host” (note)
Six natives of Kilmarnock transported
Persecution for nonconformity
James Robertson and John Finlay
Further persecutions for nonconformity
Trial and execution of John Nisbet

Chapter VI.
Letter written by Captain Inglis to the Laird of Rowallan (note)
Captain Paton of Meadowhead
The Family of Locbgoin (note)
Captain Paton surprised by aoldiers at Locbgoin
Skirmish between the Captain's party and the soldiers
Disgraceful conduct of the Incumbent of the parish
Captain Paton at the funeral of his child
Execution of Captain Paton
Captain Paton’s monument
Tragical encounter at Little Blackwood
Covenanters carried prisoners to Newmilns
Encounter at Ducat Tower, Newmilns

Chapter VII.
Charters granted to the town
Loyalty of the third Earl of Kilmarnock
The Rebellion of 1715
The Volunteers of Kilmarnock march to Glasgow
Jacobite Lyric
The Volunteers of Kilmarnock march to Perthshire
William, the fourth Earl of Kilmarnock
Document respecting the cleaning of the streets in 1735 (note)
The Earl of Ealmamock engages'in the Rebellion of 1745-6
Tradition regarding the Earl attempting to raise men for the Pretender
Report of the Highlanders being about to invade the town
Public meeting at the Netherton
Adventures of Avid, Soulis at Falkirk

Chapter VIII.
The Earl of Kilmarnock at the Battle of Falkirk
Anecdote of Lady Kilmarnock
The Earl at the Battle of Culloden
Brief outline of the battle
The Earl of Kilmarnock taken prisoner
Anecdotes of Lord Boyd
Trial of the Earl of Kilmarnock
His sentence
Petitions in favour of the Earl
Walpole’s description of his appearance at his trial

Chapter IX.
Behaviour of the Earl of Kilmarnock after his sentence
His execution
Colonel J. W. Craufurd of Craufdrdland
Anecdote of Rankine, the rhyming blacksmith (note)
Letter from Lord Boyd to Colonel Craufurd
Lady Kilmarnock
Letter from the Earl of Kilmarnock to his Factor
Letter from the Earl to his son, Lord Boyd
Lord Boyd recovers the lands of Kilmarnock
He succeeds to the title of Earl of Errol
The Honourable Charles Boyd
Dr. Johnson visits the Earl and his brother at Slains Castle
The Earls of Glencaim (note)
Charles Boyd useful to the poor as a physician
Anecdote of the Earl of Errol
He visits Kilmarnock—Dr. Beattie’s opinion of him

Chapter X.
The Cross of Kilmarnock the site of a com mill in early times
Appearance of the town about 1750
Carts first used in the county
Trades of Kilmarnock—Miss Maria Gardiner
Green Street Woollen Factory established
Silk weaving, &c., in 1777
The Old Town-house
The Meal Market
The Low Church
Ecclesiastical privileges enjoyed by the parishioners in Popish times
The High Church
Rev. Mr. Oliphant—Rev. Mr. Russell
Anecdote of Bums and Mr. Russell
Mr. Russell proposes the establishment of a Sabbath School
Account of Mr. Russell, by the late Hugh Miller
Mr. Russell's successors

Chapter XI.
Pastimes of the people
The fairs
Kings’ birth-days
Biding the Marches
Processions of the trades
Pastern’s E’en
The warning dram
Funerals attended by women
The skdlat-beU
Remarkable instance of longevity
Out-door recreations
The May-pole, or “Simmer Trees” (note)
Carling practised at the Cross
Historical sketch of the game
The Bev. William Guthrie

Chapter XII.
Religious character of the inhabitants
The Rev. William Lindsay
Extracts from the Session Records, &c.
Riotous conduct of the people at Mr. Lindsay’s induction
Ballad on the occasion
Brief notice of the anthor
Trial and sentence of the principal rioters
The Rev. James Mackinlay, D.D.
The Rev. John Robertson
List of the ministers of the Low Church since the Revolution

Chapter XIII.
Grant by James Lord Boyd “for keeping ane schoole within the parocheine,”
Parish School about 1727
Origin of the Burgh School
Burgh Schoolmasters from 1745 till 1782
State of the Parochial School under John Graham, A.M.
Sketch of Mr. Graham
Mr. John Duncan, Mr. Shepherd, Mr. William Thomson
Burgh Schoolmasters—Mr. Andrew Henderson, Mr. Morton, Mr. William Henderson
Erection of the Academy
Successive teachers of the Academy
Side Schools
Adventure SchooLs
Schools in connection with the Free High Church
Schools established for benevolent purposes

Chapter XIV.
New street between Kilmarnock and Riccarton
The first Kilmarnock Dissenting Church
Meeting-house at Gallows-knowe—its ministers, &c.
Clerk’s Lane Church
Sketch of the Rev. James Robertson
Rev. Dr. Ritchie—Rev. David Wilson
Rev. James Morison
Princes Street United Presbyterian Church
Evangelical Union
Mr. Morison’s Successors

Chapter XV.
Letterpress printing first introduced
Short notice of John Wilson
Printing of the first edition of Burns’s Poems
Burns's Kilmarnock patrons
Sandy Patrick’s “Public,” a houff of Bums
Origin of “Tam Samson’s Elegy*
Sketch of John Goldie
Sketch of Gavin Turnbull, the poet
Sketch of Jeanie Glover, author of “O’er the muir among the heather,”

Chapter XVI.
Commercial Statistics
Narrowness of the streets
Anecdote of an English traveller
The town burnt
Disastrous fire at Netherton-Holm
Melancholy occurrence in the Parish Church
List of the persons who were killed (note)
Superstitious notions of the people regarding the accident

Chapter XVII.
Public Improvements
Opening up of King Street, and erection of the Council Chambers
Town Hall—Portraits of Sir James Shaw, Sir John Dunlop, and B. R. Bell, Esq.
Opening up of Portland Street* &c.
Old road through the town from Glasgow to Ayr
The Sharpshooters and the Volunteers
Sergeant Ewart of the Scots Greys
Murder of two females
Assassination of the young fifer, James Millar
Erection of the Exchange buildings

Chapter XVIII.
First Kilmarnock periodicals
Sketch of James Thomson, author of “The Ayrshire Melodist,”
Sketch of John Burtt, author of “Hor Poetic,”
Sketch of John Kennedy, author of “Geordie Chalmers,”

Chapter XIX.
Meeting at Dean Park for Parliamentary Reform
Apprehension and trial of Messrs. Madaren and Baird
Radical movements of 1819 and 1820
Extract from Radical Placard (note)
The Magistrates and the Military search for the ringleaders
The Reform Bill
Chartist agitation
Members of Parliament for the Kilmarnock Burghs since 1832

Chapter XX.
Statistics—Gas Company
Worsted shawl printing—Kilmarnock Building Company
The Cholera
Kilmarnock Newspapers
Kilmarnock Annuals
Sketch of Robert Crawford, Esq.

Chapter XXI.
King Street United Presbyterian Church
Reformed Presbyterian Church
Independent Chapel
St. Maraock’s Church—St. Andrew’s Church
Free St. Andrew’s Church—Free High Church—Henderson Church
Roman Catholic Chapel—Trinity Episcopal Church
Original Seceders’ Church

Chapter XXII.
Sir James Shaw’s Monument
Memoir of Sir James Shaw

Chapter XXIII.
Astronomical Observatory
Sketch of Thomas Morton, Esq.
F. G. P. Neison, F.L.S., author of “Contributions to Vital Statistics,*
Sketch of Thomas T. M‘Christie, Esq., Revising Barrister for the city of London
Professor Johnston, author of the “Chemistry of Common Life,” &c.

Chapter XXIV.
The Fine Arts
The Messrs. Tannock—their Picture Gallery
Kilmarnock Drawing Academy
Mr. William Macready—Mr. James Douglas—Mr Thomas Barclay
Mr. John K. Hunter
Mr. William Fleming
Mr. Alexander S. Mackay—Mr. John Curdie—Mr. James Mackay, Mr. J. Brown Reid

Chapter XXV.
Poetical Writers, &c.
John Ramsay, author of “Woodnotes of a Wanderer*
Marion Paul Aird, author of the “Home of the Heart, and other Poems,”
Alexander Smith, author of the “Life Drama,” “City Poems,” &c.
Mr. Templeton, Vocalist
Duncan Macmillan, “The Ayrshire Ventriloquist,”

Chapter XXVI.
The Inundation of the 14th July, 1852
Remarkable power of the torrent at Hairshaw Mill Farm
Havoc at Mr. Alexander’s Spinning Mill
Destruction at Sandbed Spinning Mill
Damage at Assloss
Great height of the water near Dean Castle
Perilous state of those dwelling at the Foundry and Townholm
Destruction at the Factory of Messrs. Laughland, Roxburgh, and Gilchrist
Great destruction of property, and loss of life at Craighead
Ravages committed between Townhead Bridge and the foot of Green Street
Destruction of property in Waterloo Street
Perilous position of the prisoners in the Police Cells
Violent rush of the water into the Cross
Effects of the Flood in King Street, &c.
Table, showing the height of the water in the principal street
Estimated value of the whole property destroyed

Chapter XXVII.
Recent Improvements
Bonnington Square
Sheriff Court—New Court-House
Town Council—Commissioners of Police
Statistics—Number of the Houses—Population—Rental of the Burgh, &c.
Parliamentary Boundary (note)
Commercial Statistics
Coal and Iron-works
Water Company
Kilmarnock Library—Philosophical Institution
The Athenaeum
Philharmonic Society
State of the Poor—Benevolent Bequests
Glance at the rural part of the parish
Principal Landowners
Craufurdland Castle
Rowallan Castle
Sir William Mure, author of the “True Crucifixe for True Catholikes,” a version of the Psalms, &c.
Specimen of Sir William’s Psalms
Country Seats


I. — Charter by James VI. erecting the town into a Burgh of Barony
II. — Kilmarnock Lands
III. — The Town Green, and the Rights and Titles of the Burgh
IV. — The Kilmarnock Coat of Arms
V. — The Furniture of Dean Castle in 1611
VI. — “The Red Steuart,"
VII. — “Rabbling the Minister,”
VIIL — Fastem’s E’en,
IX. — List of the Magistrates, Treasurers, Provosts, and Clerks of the Burgh from 1695 till 1857

See also Rambles Around Kilmarnock

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