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The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, Ayrshire

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Lanarkshire or from Stewarton itself but now very few can be had from either source. Skilled harvest workers from Ireland are generally obtained for the hay and oats harvests and are housed comfortably in bothies and paid a weekly wage. School children have never been employed in this district.


Fenwick was originally in the parish of Kilmarnock and the people had a long way to go to church. The memory of these days has been preserved in one of the half-humorous rhymes which the choirs used to sing when practicing the psalm tunes:

When Finnick parish did untae

Kilmarnock yince belong

They seldom gaed untae the kirk

Because the road was long.

According to the first Statistical Account the parish was at one time called New Kilmarnock. The historical fact behind this is that in 1642 the moorland region in the north of Kilmarnock parish was disjoined and made a separate parish. Later, when the two little villages which stood at the junction of the Kilmarnock-Glasgow road and the crossroads from Kilmaurs and Stewarton had grown in size and importance with the addition of a new Kirkton the parish took the name of Fenwick (still pronounced Finnick) from the villages. V The temporary name is worth remembering, however, because it bears witness to the close connexion of Kilmarnock and Fenwick. The two parishes form a geographical unit. The Water that flows through the centre of Kilmarnock is formed by the union of the Fenwick and the Craufurdland Waters, the two main streams that rise in the north of Fenwick parish. and nearly every drop of it has come from the Fenwick moorlands and bogs by countless tributary burns. And the three reservoirs that provide the Burgh of Kilmarnock with Water, the Burnfoot Reservoir and the two on the Dunton Burn, are situated in Fenwick parish or on its boundaries. No less important for both town and villages is the great road to Glasgow across the Fenwick moors over which passed long lines of carriers’ carts in pre-railway days and which has regained much of its former function in the age of buses and motor lorries. Kilmarnock four miles away has always been the social and educational centre for Fenwick folk and the constant succession of buses passing through has brought them closer than ever. The origins of the two Fenwicks, Laigh and Heigh, is obscure. The name does not tell very much. It is commonly interpreted as ‘the village at the fen or bog’, but that is just what it is not. It is situated on the west of the Fenwick Water on alluvial land well away from the bogs. In any case the spelling, which is no older than the eighteenth century, is misleading. The name is pronounced ‘Finnick’, or as it appeared on the Covenanting Flag ‘Phinigh’, which according to john Smith (Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire) means good corn land. The oldest Fenwick seems to have been Laigh Fenwick which at the time the parish was formed comprised four small farms, namely Rose Fenwick, Wattie’s Fenwick, Townhead of Fenwick and Little Fenwick with the Hill of Fenwick on the west.

FENWICK. The conjoint village with its 700 inhabitants is a mixture of old and new. Laigh Fenwick, the oldest part, where the road from Kilmaurs comes in, was originally a group of crofts; and the cottages with their outhouses were stretched in a row along the road. Many of these old buildings have been converted into dwelling houses and five sets of single storey houses with three or four houses in each set now line the east side of the road. Between these older cottages newer buildings have been erected, but the squat thick-walled low-roofed cottages are still a feature of Laigh Fenwick. The Kirkton Brae which runs from the upper village to the Spoutmouth Brig was thick at one time with houses. The first minister, the Rev. William Guthrie of gracious memory, allowed people from a’ the airts to build on the glebe, the only stipulation being that no backdoors were to open on the kirk yard, but when the parishioners all became dissenters they were evicted by a later minister and only two cottages remain. High Fenwick at the Stewarton Road junction, built after the main road had been shifted back from the river, is comparatively new and the buildings are nearly all two storeys high, and none of them has ever been thatched. With recent building the two villages are gradually being made one.

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 Between 1914 and 1938 two new housing schemes were completed, one of 8 houses, the other of 33, four of the latter for farm workers. Since 1947, 20 new houses have been put up, of which 10 are for farm workers. Alongside the new building there has been a gradual modernising of the older houses. All but condemned houses have electric light and laid-on water. Inside sanitation is universal in High Fenwick, but there is no sewage scheme as yet in the Laigh village. Industries. The main industries in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were handloom weaving and shoemaking. The shoemakers who formed a colony of their own in the Kirkton were mostly employed in making sturdy country boots for which there was a great demand especially among Spanish hill men. Most of the weaving consisted of tweeds, blankets, muslins and some silk. The weavers were men of character and enterprise, and their Society founded in 1769 was the first association in Scotland to buy food stuffs (oatmeal) co-operatively for the benefit of its members. Religion in the Covenanting tradition was strong among them. Fenwick as a weaving community had its own set of secular words when it sang the psalm tune “Desert” on week days:

A weaver said unto his son,

The nicht that he was born,

‘My blessings on your curly pow,

Ye’ll rin for pirns the morn’.

The village reached the highest point of prosperity in the second quarter of the nineteenth century when the population stood for a time at the two thousand mark. Then from mid-century on came a decline in weaving and shoemaking, and a reduction in the number of farms, and large numbers of people emigrated to Australia and New Zealand with the help of a village scheme of co-operative finance. By 1890 the two trades had practically ceased to exist, though Matthew Foulds the worthy centenarian weaver whose life has been recorded in a memorial volume was still working at his loom in 1906. To-day the special industry of Fenwick is that of road transport. Thirty years before the Milk Marketing* Board the Fenwick Farmers established a central creamery of their own at Water- side and co-operated in bringing their milk into a collecting station and having it transported to Glasgow under a single contract. The creamery is still operating, and its haulage department and four other haulage firms employ among them some 30 men. Besides these, six men and two girls are in the service of the Bus Company. There are two joiners’ shops with 17 workers between them. They build lorry bodies and farm vehicles, and do upkeep and repair work on farms and other buildings. ‘Before the introduction of tractors two smithies were kept busy shoeing horses and doing similar jobs, but now there is only one, and the smith works singlehanded. An interesting new industry began in Fenwick about 18 months ago by the firm of Scottish Horn Products is the manufacture of horn brooches, spoons, paper knives and trinkets. At one time or another several whinstone quarries have been worked in the parish. For a long period Waterside and Kingswells quarries were used for road maintenance. Then the Langdyke quarry was opened in 1896 by the contractor who made the Dunton reservoir. A new quarry was opened at Gardrum Mill Farm in 1908, and was worked until 1942. All the material for the widening of the main road to the Renfrewshire border and for the maintenance of the other roads came from it. Sixty-five people travel by bus to work in Kilmarnock and twenty to Glasgow, rather more than half being women. Thirty-four people are regularly engaged in farm work and many more are prepared to assist at rush times. There are 48 retired persons all over pension age: 12 retired couples, 16 retired women, 6 retired men living alone or with relatives. No fewer than 16 are over the age of 80 and the oldest inhabitant is over 90.

Recreation. With Kilmarnock only four miles away the main entertainment of the villagers is the pictures, but the village has quite good resources of its own. There are two public halls, the larger seating 300, and the other 55; also committee rooms and a not very modern library. In the big hall dances and whist drives are held about twice a month throughout the winter by the various local societies: Fenwick Farmers, W.R.I., Co-operative Guild, and Bowling Club. There is a popular Carpet Bowling Club with two rinks and an enthusiastic membership of Go. From time to time visiting cinema shows attempt an entry but are unable to compete with Kilmarnock. There is a football Held, presented to the parish by Lord Rowallan, on which some football is played in the summer but there are too few young men to keep a football club going. The annual Agricultural Show is held here. The Curling Club dates back to 1789 and there are records of the game being played a hundred years earlier. A bowling green, presented in 1927, is a gathering place for the male population on summer evenings. The neighboring farmers take a good share in all activities, and some of the most energetic members of the flourishing W.R.I. come from the farm houses. Eight out of seventeen members of the kirk session are farmers. There have been no licensed houses in the parish since it was voted a ‘dry’ area in 1920, but at a recent election in which 87% of the electors voted, the majority favoured repeal of the ‘No Licence’ position. There is now a hotel with a six days’ licence. ‘

Education. The village school was considerably enlarged about 1930 and a gymnasium added. It is a Junior Secondary School with a roll of about 170 pupils: 36 in the infant department, 94 in the primary up to the age of 12 or so, and 40 between 12 and 15 in the upper classes. Pupils wishing a full secondary education leave for Kilmarnock Academy after the primary course.

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Religion. Religion has played a large and often a stormy part in the life of the parish. The flag inscribed ‘PHINIGH FOR GOD CWNTRY AND COVENANTED WORK OF REFORMATION’ which is preserved at Lochgoin, accompanied the Fenwick men to all the Covenanting fights, and many of them died a martyr death. In 1737 a Praying Society which later joined the Secession movement was formed, and following the forced settlement of the Rev. William Boyd on the parish in 1780, practically the whole population went over to the Secession Church which later became a United Presbyterian congregation. After the Disruption of 1843 the Free Church built a third church in the same area of High Fenwick. The twentieth century has seen them happily reunited: U.P. and Free Kirk becoming the United Free in 1913, the United Free and the old Parish Church becoming Fenwick’s one church in 1933. And so very fittingly the beautiful old seventeenth century church has once more become the centre of religious faith and work. The original building was burned down in 1929, but was immediately restored with its beauty and dignity preserved. It is in the form of a Greek cross with ‘corbie stap’ gables and walls three-feet thick. The ancient ‘jougs’, a hinged iron collar fastened by a chain to the wall, for the correction of evildoers, remain ; and inside the church an hour glass still stands at the left of the pulpit and is turned each Sunday when the preacher gives out his text. On the communion roll at the last revision there were 602 members, of whom 251 were male. The people take a very warm interest in their church. An average of 350 attend the half yearly communion. The Woman’s Guild has a membership of 85 and has within its care a Mother’s Circle for mothers of young children. About a hundred children attend the Sunday School, and the Church Youth Club for young people between the ages of 15 and 25, resuscitated after the War, meets in a room reconstructed out of the manse stable, on Sunday evenings and on two week nights.

WATERSIDE. Two miles east of Fenwick is the little village of Waterside with a population just over 100. This arose at the beginning of last century round a wool mill, where the high- road from Galston leading to the Kilmarnock-Glasgow road crosses the Craufurdland Water. Its one-teacher school, now attended by 25 pupils, has a remarkable record. One of its schoolmasters during the twenty years he held the post at the end of last century passed through his hands five doctors, three ministers and a Cabinet Minister. Another teacher in the same school started a Mutual Improvement Association which has carried on with steady enthusiasm since its inception in 1893. This Association was one of the forerunners of the Young Farmers’ Clubs. It meets fortnightly during the winter months for discussions on topics pertaining to agriculture, and besides training its members in the art of public speaking it has exercised a great influence on local farming practice. Out of its discussions grew the co-operative project known as the Fenwick Farmers’ Creamery, which appropriately enough has its collecting station in Waterside itself.

THE COUNTRY AREA. The land slopes gently upwards from 350 feet at Rowallan Castle and Craufurdland Bridge to a height of 900 feet. The lower end round the villages is rich arable land, but the greater part to the north and east is hill and moor, suitable only for grazing. The whole parish, with the exception of a few marginal farms and about half a dozen moorland farms devoted to black-faced sheep and the rearing of young cattle, is engaged in milk production. The cows are of the Ayrshire breed and all but two herds are attested. Fenwick did pioneer work in milk recording and has long been a source of Ayrshires with a good milk yield. Fifty years ago the cattle on Drumtee farm were in the forefront and the cows bred there have descendants in most of the good stocks in the county. W. T. Dunlop of Gree has to-day a nation-wide reputation for his pedigree herd. Prior to 1900, the farmers made a good deal of cheese and butter ; and four or live times a week the farmers’ milk carts with their twin barrels made the journey into Glasgow, leaving Fenwick as early as 2 a.m. Now all this is changed. Most farms have electricity and nine out of ten of them milk by machinery. Milk is collected at the road ends by the Milk Marketing Board and feeding stuffs are delivered by motor lorry. Motor cars are universal and tractors are steadily displacing horses. On one farm, carrying a large dairy herd, there have been no horses since 1939. The average arable farm ranges from 90 to 130 acres, while the rent up to 1914. was from 24/- to 30/- per acre. Since the creameries were established in the early years of the century, the fertility of the soil has greatly improved owing to the amount of imported grain fed to the cattle. The farms are carrying double the cattle they did fifty years ago. Up to the beginning of the Second War when the direction to plough more land was enforced the tendency in the parish was to curtail the corn crop, and expand the hay. There have always been some fine timothy meadows in the parish. The method of securing the hay crop is to erect the field ricks on tripods, so that the hay may be brought in earlier and its value as a winter feed improved. The first silo in Ayrshire was built on the farm of Cauldstanes in the early eighties, but it was not a success because the addition of molasses had not been thought of then, and it was only used for two or three years. A good number of farmers built silos during the 1939-45 War but they proved rather wasteful and very few are now in use. Under the government aided scheme for draining a big number of fields have been re-drained. The greater part was done by hand draining,