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Mauchline Cross - - 297617.jpg
Mauchline Cross Junction of the B743 from Ayr to the village of Sorn, with the A76(T) road from Kilmarnock to Dumfries.
East Ayrshire UK location map.svg
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Location within East Ayrshire
Population3,900 (mid-2020 est.) [1]
OS grid reference NS498272
  Edinburgh 70 mi (110 km)  SW
  London 380 mi (610 km)  SSE
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district KA5
Dialling code 01290
Police Scotland
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
Website Village website
List of places
55°30′58″N4°22′44″W / 55.516°N 4.379°W / 55.516; -4.379 Coordinates: 55°30′58″N4°22′44″W / 55.516°N 4.379°W / 55.516; -4.379

Mauchline ( /ˈmɒxlɪn/ ; Scottish Gaelic : Maghlinn) [2] is a town and civil parish in East Ayrshire, Scotland. [3] In the 2001 census Mauchline had a recorded population of 4,105. It is home to the National Burns Memorial.



The town lies by the Glasgow and South Western Railway line, 8 miles (13 kilometres) east-southeast of Kilmarnock and 11 miles (18 km) northeast of Ayr. It is situated on a gentle slope about one mile (1.5 kilometres) from the River Ayr, which flows through the south of the parish of Mauchline.

In former days Loch Brown was about 1 mi (1.6 km) west of the town, but was drained when the railway line from Kilmarnock was built. Bruntwood Loch, near the old laird's house of that name, was once an important site for waterfowl, but drained for agriculture in the eighteenth century.


Mauchline Castle in 1790 Mauchline Castle 1790 - Ayrshire.jpg
Mauchline Castle in 1790

In 1165, Walter fitz Alan, Steward of Scotland, granted a charter giving land to the Cistercian monks of Melrose. In those days the parish extended to the border with Lanarkshire at Glenbuck. The monks built an abbey, the ruins of which still exist and are known as Hunters Tower or, more recently, as Mauchline Castle. Mauchline was created a burgh of barony by James IV in 1510 and was granted a further charter in 1610; both these charters however have been lost, believed to have perished in a fire at Register House, Edinburgh, in the 17th century. A ley tunnel is said to run from the castle of Mauchline to that of Kingencleugh. [4]

Mauchline featured in the Scottish Reformation. After the reformation the lands of Mauchline passed into the hands of the Earl of Loudoun, and no further historical events are recorded in the parish.

The Holy Fair has been revived as an annual event in Mauchline. Formerly horse races were held on the road from the National Burns Memorial past Mossgiel as part of the annual Mauchline Fair.

Scottish Reformation

William Aiton's map of Mauchline and surrounding areas, circa 1811. Map of Auchinleck and Cumnock, Circa 1811.jpg
William Aiton's map of Mauchline and surrounding areas, circa 1811.

In 1544 George Wishart, an influential Protestant preacher, visited Mauchline to find the doors of St Michael's church barred against him. His reaction to this was to retreat to Mauchline Moor and to preach for over three hours to a large congregation, under the watchful eye of the Sheriff of Ayr and an armed force. John Knox also preached in Mauchline in 1599 after his return from exile in France and Switzerland. When the Scottish Parliament adopted the Scots Confession of 1560, the reformation was immediately accepted in Mauchline.

Later, Mauchline became something of a stronghold for the Covenanter movement. Mauchline Parish's minister at the time, Reverend George Young, signed the Covenant in Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh in 1633 and subscribed to the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643, and several battles and skirmishes took place in the area during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. In 1684 the Covenanter James Smith was wounded during a skirmish at Burn of Ann in Kyle. He was taken to Mauchline where he died in prison. In 1685 five men from the town were dragged out of their homes and executed at the loan. A monument was placed over their grave (this was removed in 1861 and replaced by a plinth, with the original monument being built into the wall of the school shed where it stands to this day). The Battle of Mauchline Muir took place in 1648 between Covenanters and Royalist troops. A Covenanters' flag from this battle still hangs in the church. The flag was also carried at the battles of Drumlog and Bothwell Brig.


Barskimming Mill ruins, River Ayr. Barskimming Mill ruins, River Ayr, Mauchline.JPG
Barskimming Mill ruins, River Ayr.
Sandstone Cave near Barskimming Old Bridge and the site of Kemp's House. Sandstone cave, Old Barskimming Bridge, Mauchline, Ayrshire.JPG
Sandstone Cave near Barskimming Old Bridge and the site of Kemp's House.

The village has at some point been a centre for quarrying sandstone, clock making, box-work, and the production of curling stones.

The sandstone quarry dates back to the 18th century. The peak of production and demand was at the turn of the 19th century when over 200 men were employed at the quarry. A railway siding was installed and as many as 60 wagons a day were transported from Mauchline. Many old building throughout the West of Scotland are built with Mauchline sandstone, and stone was being sent as far away as America. After 1918 the use of sandstone declined (houses were built with bricks instead) and this coupled with increased costs meant that eventually, in the 1950s, the last quarry closed.

In the 18th century, Mauchline was renowned for clock making – John "Clockie" Brown is buried in the Kirkyard. The industry declined in the 19th century.

Mauchline ware

The production of Scottish white-wood products, or Mauchline ware, was carried out from the 1820s until 1939 by the firm of W & A Smith among other less long-lived manufacturers. These boxes were extremely collectable. They ranged from the basic transfer as on small vases, each piece having the view of the place of purchase. The transfer subjects ranged across Scotland and more of the British Isles to the rest of the world. Tartan ware was also extremely popular as a result of the Smiths inventing a machine for "weaving" tartan designs on paper. Fernware was introduced in the 1870s. This involved applying actual ferns to the wood which was then stippled in dark brown, the ferns removed and the wood varnished. The wood used was Sycamore. These products were sent all over the world. A fire in 1933 stopped production, which was never restarted, and W & A Smith finally closed down in 1939. [5]

Curling stones

The making of curling stones began in the 19th century and for many years experienced full production, however for various reasons, the industry began to decline. Forty people were employed in the 1960s compared to a dozen now. However, the Kays of Scotland curling stone factory is now the only one of its kind in the world, leading to an upsurge in trade.

Robert Burns

The Robert Burns National Monument in Mauchline, designed by William Fraser Robert Burns National Monument, Mauchline, Scotland, ca. 1895.jpg
The Robert Burns National Monument in Mauchline, designed by William Fraser
Poosie Nansie's tavern in Mauchline, scene from Robert Burns poem The Jolly Beggars, sculpture by George Anderson Lawson (Victoria Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia) The Jolly Baggers, Robbie Burns Statue, Halifax, Nova Scotia.png
Poosie Nansie’s tavern in Mauchline, scene from Robert Burns poem The Jolly Beggars, sculpture by George Anderson Lawson (Victoria Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Robert Burns, Scotland's National Poet came to live on the outskirts of the village at Mossgiel farm in 1784. Many of his poems are believed to have been written whilst he was there, notably The Holy Fair, To a Mouse , and Holy Willie's Prayer . Many of his poems were directed towards the perceived hypocrisy of the Church. The Church was particularly fanatical in Mauchline, which conflicted with the liberal attitude of Burns and his friends. The minister in Burns's time was the Rev William Auld of Old Helenton near Symington, South Ayrshire.

Burns made many friends (his wife Jean Armour was born in Mauchline) and a lot of enemies whilst in Mauchline, many of whom are buried in the kirkyard: "Holy Wullie" Willie Fisher, the Reverend William "Daddy" Auld, John Richmond, James Armour, "Clockie" Brown and notably Gavin Hamilton his best friend. The plaque which marks Hamilton's grave was only placed there in 1919 by the Partick Burns Club. Gavin Hamilton had stated that he wanted no headstone, probably due to his run-ins with the Church in Mauchline. On one occasion Burns encountered Wilhelmina Alexander whilst walking through the grounds of Ballochmyle and this led to his famous song 'The Bonnie Lass of Ballochmyle.'

Robert gave shelter to Adam Armour, his wife's brother, following an incident in which Agnes Wilson, a maid at Poosie Nancie's, was driven out of the village by Adam, aged 15, and a group of 'Auld Licht' friends. Burns wrote Adam Armour's Prayer that describes the incident.

William Campbell of Netherplace came to the poet's attention due to his wife Lilias Nelson, a domineering individual of whom Robert wrote Epitaph on a Henpecked Squire;

"As father Adam first was fool'd,
A case that's still too common,
here lies a man a woman rules,
The devil ruled the woman."

The Wondrous Mauchline Quern

In the 9th century the Welsh monk Nennius wrote a history of Britain, the Historia Brittonum, in which he lists the thirteen wonders of Britain and included in it is the wondrous 'Mauchline Quern' that ground constantly, except on Sundays. It could be heard working underground and the local place name "Auchenbrain" may celebrate it, translating from the Gaelic as "field of the quern". [6]


As well as containing the remains of many of Burns' contemporaries, including the man generally assumed to be the model for 'Holy Willie', Mauchline Kirkyard is the resting place of Mary Cameron, the wife of the last leader of the Chartist movement George Julian Harney. [8] A rare example of a morthouse is located at the western side of the cemetery.


Mauchline railway station was closed in 1965, however the Glasgow South Western Line is still open. The nearest open station is Auchinleck. Ballochmyle Viaduct over the River Ayr south of Mauchline is the highest extant railway viaduct in Britain.

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alloway Auld Kirk</span> Church in Alloway

The Alloway Auld Kirk, which dates back to the 16th Century, is a ruin in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Scotland, celebrated as the scene of the witches' dance in the poem "Tam o' Shanter" by Robert Burns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holy Willie's Prayer</span>

"Holy Willie's Prayer" is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1785 and first printed anonymously in an eight-page pamphlet in 1789. It is considered the greatest of all Burns' satirical poems, one of the finest satires by any poet, and a withering attack on religious hypocrisy.

Mauchline railway station was a railway station serving the town of Mauchline, East Ayrshire, Scotland. The station was originally part of the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Failford</span>

Failford is a hamlet in South Ayrshire, Scotland. It is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of Mauchline, where the Water of Fail flows into the River Ayr.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lochlea, South Ayrshire</span> Body of water

Lochlea or Lochlie was situated in a low-lying area between the farms and dwellings of Lochlea and Lochside in the Parish of Tarbolton, South Ayrshire, Scotland. The loch was natural, sitting in a hollow created by glaciation. The loch waters ultimately drained via Fail Loch, the Mill Burn, and the Water of Fail. It is well-documented due to the presence of a crannog that was excavated and documented circa 1878, and its association with the poet Robert Burns, who lived here for several years whilst his father was the tenant. Lochlea lies 2+12 miles northeast of Tarbolton, and just over three miles northwest of Mauchline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loch Brown</span> Body of water

Loch Brown, also known in Scots as Loch Broun, Broon or Broom, was situated in a kettle hole in the mid-Ayrshire clayland near Crosshands. It is nowadays (2011) visible as a surface depression in pastureland, partially flooded, situated in a low-lying area close to farms and dwellings of Skeoch, Dalsangan, Ladebrae, Lochhill, and Crosshands, mainly in the Parish of Mauchline and partly in Craigie, East Ayrshire, Scotland. Duveloch is an old name for the loch and this may derive from the Gaelic Dubh, meaning black or dark loch.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Littlestane Loch</span> Former lake in Irvine, Scotland

Littlestane Loch, was situated in the mid-Ayrshire clayland near Stanecastle, Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland. It is nowadays (2011) only visible as an area of permanent water in the Scottish Wildlife Trust Sourlie Nature Reserve. The loch was natural, sitting in a hollow created by glaciation. The loch waters outflow was via the Red Burn that flows into the River Garnock. The site of Littlestane Loch site is partly built over and much of the site is now public open space lying within the Parish of Girdle Toll.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John MacKenzie (doctor)</span>

John MacKenzie (c.1755–1837) was a Scottish army surgeon. He was a native of Ayrshire, where he married Helen Miller (d.1827), one of the "Six proper Mauchline belles" who is buried in Irvine's Old Parish church. He was a member with Robert Burns of the St James Lodge, Tarbolton. His house in Mauchline is now the 'Burns House Museum,' run by East Ayrshire Council. MacKenzie wrote "Origin of Morals and Common Sense."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mary Campbell (Highland Mary)</span> Lover of Robert Burns

Mary Campbell, also known as Highland Mary, was the daughter of Archibald Campbell of Daling, a sailor in a revenue cutter, whose wife was Agnes Campbell of Achnamore or Auchamore. Mary was the eldest of a family of four. Robert Burns had an affair with her after he felt that he had been "deserted" by Jean Armour following her move to Paisley in March 1786. The brief affair started in April 1786, and the parting took place on 14 May of that year. Her pronunciation of English was heavily accented with Gaelic and this led to her becoming known as 'Highland Mary.'

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barony of Kersland</span>

The remains of the old castle of Kersland lie about 1.5 miles to the north-east of the town of Dalry in North Ayrshire, Scotland, in the old Barony of Kersland. The River Garnock lies nearby.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kingencleugh Castle</span>

The remains of the old castle of Kingencleugh or Kingenclough lies close to east of the town of Mauchline, East Ayrshire, in the old Barony of Mauchline off the A76. The castle is Category B listed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Haugh, East Ayrshire</span> Human settlement in Scotland

Haugh or The Haugh is a small village or hamlet in East Ayrshire, Parish of Mauchline, Scotland. The habitation is situated about two and a half miles downstream from Catrine, on the north bank of the River Ayr. The River Ayr Way runs through the village.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kate Kemp</span> Poets muse

Kate Kemp of Barskimming lived with her father at the Bridge House on the northern side of the single span Barskimming Old Bridge, River Ayr, Scotland. Both Robert Burns and James Andrew, the miller at Barskimming Mill, had a romantic interest in her and one visit led to the composition of the poem and dirge "Man was made to Mourn".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ballochmyle cup and ring marks</span>

The Ballochmyle cup and ring marks were first recorded at Ballochmyle, Mauchline, East Ayrshire, Scotland in 1986, very unusually carved on a vertical red sandstone cliff face, forming one of the most extensive areas of such carvings as yet found in Britain. They have been designated a scheduled monument.

Adam Armour (1771–1823) was the younger brother of Jean Armour and therefore the brother-in-law of the poet Robert Burns. In addition, being married to Fanny (Frances) Burnes, he was also related to the poet through his father-in-law 'Poor Uncle Robert', who lived at Stewarton.

James Armour was a master mason and father of Jean Armour, and therefore the father-in-law of the poet Robert Burns. His birth year was shown here as 1730. The Scotland's People database has no record of this year of birth for a James Armour. Wikitree and several other data sources have his birth date as 10th/24th January 1731. The Scotland's People database has this record but showing his baptism on 24 January 1731. His birth on the original Old Parish Record is shown as 15 January 1731 to John Armour and Margrat(sic) Picken in Kilmarnock. James named his first son John which would normally be after James's father i.e. John. The chances of there being two James's born on exactly the same date exactly one year apart appear very remote and the naming of the first child seems to validate the conclusion that James Armour was born in 1731 and not 1730.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Holy Tulzie</span> Holy Tulzie or The Twa Herds by Robert Burns

'The Holy Tulzie', 'The Twa Herds' or 'An Unco Mournfu' Tale was a poem written in 1784 by Robert Burns whilst living at Mossgiel, Mauchline, about a strong disagreement, not on doctrine, but on the parish boundaries, between two 'Auld Licht' ministers, John Russel and Alexander Moodie It was followed by "The Holy Fair", "The Ordination", "The Kirk's Alarm", "Holy Willie's Prayer", etc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gavin Hamilton (lawyer)</span>

Gavin Hamilton was one of Robert Burns's closest friends and a patron. The first 'Kilmarnock Edition' of his poems were dedicated to Gavin Hamilton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Richmond (lawyer)</span>

John Richmond (1765–1846) was one of Robert Burns's closest friends and confidants. He was born in Sorn parish at Montgarswood, Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, Henry Richmond, was a merchant in Mauchline and owned Montgarswood Farm that lies near Sorn. This farm passed to James, John's brother, having once been farmed by William Fisher, Burns's Holy Willie.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Burns (farmer)</span> Unmarried youngest brother of the poet Robert Burns

John Burns (1769–1785) was the youngest brother of the poet Robert Burns and the last son born to William Burness and Agnes Broun. John was born at Mount Oliphant Farm on the Doonholm Estate near Alloway on the 12 July 1769. He was christened circa 21 July 1769 by Rev. Rev William Dalrymple.


  1. "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. "Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba - Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland - Database". Archived from the original on 24 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  3. Rev. John Marius Wilson. The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland. 1854. Vol. II (GORDON–ZETLAND). pp. 398–400
  4. Cuthbertson, David Cuningham (1945). Autumn in Kyle and the Charm of Cunninghame. London : Jenkins. Page 100
  5. Trachtenberg, David; Keith, Thomas (2002). Mauchline Ware - A Collector's Guide. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club Ltd. ISBN   1-85149-392-1.
  6. Watson, William J. (1926). The History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd., p. 187.
  7. Wilson, Professor & Chambers, Robert. (1840) The Land of Burns. Pub. Blackie & Son, Glasgow. Facing P. 23.
  8. "Mauchline Churchyard - CDVMI".