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Proprietors.- In this parish there must be nearly 200 heritors. Consequently, property is very much subdivided and broken down. His Grace the Duke of Hamilton is patron of the parish. He is superior of nearly the whole, and proprietor of more than one-fourth of the lands. In Hamilton of Wishaw's account of the Sheriffdom of Lanark, it is stated, that “this baronie of Avendale did anciently belong to the Bairds, and thereafter came to Sinclair, and from them to the Earle of Douglass, with whom it continued several ages; and after his fatall forfaulture in anno 1455, it was given by King James the 3d to Andrew Stewart, whom he created Lord Avendale, and it continued with him and his heirs until 1538 or thereby, that he exchanged it with Sir James Hamilton for the baronie of Ochiltree, in the Parliament 1543, from which time it continued with the successors of Sir James Hamilton until it was acquired by James first of that name, Marquis of Hamilton, and continued with his successors since.” There are twelve commissioners of supply in the parish. The principal properties are Netherfield, belonging to Miss Young, Overton, Lambhill, Newton, &c.
Parochial Registers. The following records are at present in the possession of the kirk-session of Avondale. Minutes of the kirksession, Vol. i. from 1660 to 1701; Vol. ii. from 1734 to 1757; Vol. iii. from 1779 to 1827; Vol. iv. from 1827 to 1834. Registers of births, Vol. i. from 1699 to 1785; Vol. ii. from 1785 to 1834. Registers of proclamation, Vol. i. from 1723 to 1755; Vol. ii. from 1775 to 1834: A bound book containing a copy of Shawtonhill's mortification: The Acts of the General Assembly, Vol. i. from 1638 to 1649; Vol. ii. from 1690 to 1715; Vol. iii. 1715 to 1724.
Remarkable Occurrences.—The people in this parish suffered much from the “ Bloody Claverhouse,” who frequently visited this district during the “persecuting times." He never forgot the defeat which he experienced at Drumclog in this parish, on Sabbath the 1st June 1679. On that day the country people had met for worship in great numbers, many of them armed, and determined, if attacked, to defend themselves. Claverhouse rested his men some time in the town of Strathaven, and then marched west about six miles, when he came in sight of the Covenanters at Drumclog, a farm belonging to the Duke of Hamilton, about two miles to the east of Loudoun-hill. The armed part of the congregation marched steadily forward to meet him, and chose their situation with much skill. It was at the foot of a gently rising ground, with a small rivulet in front, the banks of which were so
soft that the horses of the dragoons were unable to pass. In endeavouring to cross this little stream, the military were exposed to the deadly aim of the country people, who from all accounts behaved with uncommon coolness and steadiness. Claverhouse himself was in imminent danger. He was the first to
the his own defeat to Glasgow.— Auchengelloch in this parish was also famous for its conventicles; but as it is quite inaccessible to cavalry, it does not appear that the people ever experienced any interruption. At this latter place, a small stone monument was lately erected, pointing out the place, where the “ remnant of the covenant,” far out in the wild and the waste, met together to hear the glad tidings of salvation proclaimed to them.
I grieve to be under the necessity of noticing a “rising" here of a very different description in 1819, — a rising in open rebellion against lawful authority, and intended against both the altar and throne. I refer to the attempt of a few deluded persons calling themselves “ Radicals” who, with something like weapons in their hands, marched from this place towards Glasgow, under the command of a James Wilson, whose life was soon after forfeited to the outraged laws of his country. It does not appear that Wilson ever contemplated carrying matters so far as to become an open rebel against the laws of his country; but he had infused a spirit into his companions which he was unable to control. This rising was in the utmost degree contemptible, for it comprised no more than thirteen individuals, deluded by a false report that a general rebellion had taken place in Glasgow. It has been remarked that none of those who joined in the ludicrous crusade afterwards experienced any thing like prosperity.
III. - POPULATION.
1831, Population of the town in 1831, Number of families in the parish,
chiefly employed in agriculture,
in trade, manufactures, or handicraft. The number of weavers in both town and parish may be said to amount to nearly 800. Many of the weavers are proprietors of their own houses, and upon the whole are diligent and industrious. There are several extensive dealers in cheese and cattle. In these two departments, there is perhaps more business done in Strathaven than in all Lanarkshire, with the exception of the city of Glas
3597 1246 311 672
gow. A branch of the Glasgow Union Bank has been established here for some time. The inhabitants are a well-informed, reading people.
Marriages.- In 1828 the number of proclamations in order to marriage was 50. In 1829 it was 58; in 1830, 61; in 1831, 54; in 1832, 61; in 1833, 65; and in 1834, 56. Among the lower classes, large gatherings at weddings are very common. There is uniformly a race for the broose. When the distance from the house of the bridegroom is considerable, the company ride on horseback; the bridegroom and bride, and as many as can crowd together travel generally in a chaise or coach. The broose, or contest who shall first reach the house of the bridegroom, is then very keenly maintained by the young men belonging to the different districts of the parish; and if the parties belong to different parishes, much anxiety is displayed by each party to get before the other, and obtain honour to their parish.
Births.— The number of births cannot be accurately stated, as they are not regularly recorded in the parish register.
Burials.— The number of burials here in 1828 was 147. In 1829, 114; in 1830, 114; in 1831, 134; in 1832, 199. (This season we were visited with Asiatic Cholera, of which 50 of our people died.) In 1833, 156; and in 1834, 115.
Customs, &c.-Much time is lost, and no small expense unnecessarily incurred, by the way in which funerals are conducted in this parish. Great numbers of both men and women usually attend and sit together and receive their “service” together in the barn or place of meeting. Though warned to attend at twelve o'clock, they seldom make their appearance till much later, and do not leave the place of meeting with the body before two o'clock; and having perhaps to travel several miles, the interment is seldom over till towards four o'clock. In general, three “ services” are given, two glasses of wine, and one glass of whisky or rum. A practice prevailed at one time very generally here, but which is now beginning to wear out, of collecting vast numbers of the friends and neighbours together, to witness the “chesting,” or putting the body into the coffin. The writer of this has witnessed forty persons present on such an occasion; after which they generally drink tea, perhaps in the same apartment with the coffined remains of their departed friend; and, except when some pious influential person is present, it is to be feared that the conversation is not altogether becoming the occasion.
In both town and parish the inhabitants are hospitable, kind, and obliging. They are also cleanly, sober, and industrious.
IV.-INDUSTRY. Agriculture. It has already been stated that the parish contains 32,000 acres : of these rather more than the half have been cultivated; and about 2000 are in undivided common.
Within the last thirty years the rental of the parish has been doubled. Vast quantities of moss and marsh have been reclaimed, and are now yielding most abundant crops. The Strathaven moss, consisting of about 200 acres, and which, little more than half a century ago, was perfectly worthless, is now drained and improved, and is perhaps more productive, than any land in the parish. Some of it is let as high as L. 4 an acre. Throughout the whole parish, the farmers are actively and extensively engaged in fur draining their lands. They in general open a drain in every furrow, which they fill up to a certain depth with stones; and as there is plenty of whinstone in every district of the parish, this process may be carried on to any extent, and to very great advantage. The rental of the parish might be increased to a very great amount.
This is a pastoral district, and the dairy produce is what the farmers chiefly depend upon for the payment of their rents. The Dunlop cheese is made here as good as in any part of Scotland. In many parts of the parish little more land is cultivated than seems necessary for the support of the cattle. The lands, from one end of the parish to the other, are very favourable for pasture. There are, however, excellent crops of oats raised everywhere,- — bear or big, barley, and on some farms to the east of Strathaven, excellent wheat. Great quantities of potatoes are also planted, which are chiefly disposed of to the farmers in the low country for seed. Though the soil be peculiarly adapted for turnips, yet they are not extensively cultivated ; and in a district where so many cattle are reared, and so much food required, it seems not a little strange that this should be the case.
Rent of Land.- In the lower parts of the parish, and in the vicinity of the town of Strathaven, the lands are well cultivated, and very productive. Some of them sold during the war as high as L.140 anacre for cultivation. Even now, L. 100 and L. 105 an acre can be obtained for land in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. There, the annual rent of land is about L. 4 an acre; at a distance from the town, the rent falls much lower.
The gross produce of the parish I am unable to ascertain with accuracy.
V.-PAROCHIAL ECONOMY. Roads, 8c.- In every part of the parish the roads are excellent and kept in good repair. It is greatly in favour of Avondale that two turnpike roads, the one leading to Ayr, and the other to Muirkirk, run nearly parallel to one another from the town of Strathaven to the western extremity of the parish, the one on the north and the other on the south side of the Avon. The other roads kept by the parish statute labour extend to perhaps sixty miles, and cost the parish, including every thing, about L. 300 a year. There are about 30 bridges over the different rivulets in the parish, but in general they are too narrow. The road commissioners employ a clerk, treasurer, and overseer, (who is in general the same person) at the very moderate salary of L. 15 a year. He superintends all their road operations, and has improved the bridges and lines of communication very much.
Town of Strathaven.-Strathaven was erected into a burgh of barony in 1450. It had an extensive common, which has now all become private property. There is a weekly market, besides a great many annual fairs.
. It is ruled by a baron bailie, who is appointed by the Duke of Hamilton. For some years past the town has been deprived of this functionary, or if there be a person appointed to that situation, he is non-resident. The population of the parish of Avondale and town of Strathaven may be stated now to be 6000. The population of the town in 1781 was 1444. In 1791 it had increased to 1610, and in 1831 to 3000; and at present it may be rated at 4000.
Strathaven lies prettily at the end of a small ridge of eminences on the banks of the little stream of Pomilion, which runs through it, and divides it nearly into two equal parts, and contributes greatly to its cleanliness and comfort. It has the appearance of being a very old town. The houses in the old part of it are very much crowded together, and the streets are narrow and irregularly built. It is built in the immediate vicinity of the castle, which is now in ruins. No doubt the cause of the narrowness of the streets, and the crowding of the houses so much together, was, that the inhabitants wished to be under the protection of the castle. Though now in ruins, the castle is still a beautiful feature in our landscape. It is said to have been built by Andrew Stewart, grandson of Murdoch Duke of Albany, and must have been a place of considerable strength.