Statistical Account of the Isle,
of Cimbrae.

(County of Ayr-Presbytery of Irvine-Synod of
Glasgow and Ayr.)

By a friend of the Rev. Mr. Henry Graham,
Minister of that Parish.


Name, Situation, and Extent.

The name Cambray, Cimbray, or Cimbrae, is said to be derived from the gaelic, implying a place of shelter or refuge. It is an island in the Firth of Clyde, surrounded by the sea, distant from Largs 2 miles, upon rhe E; from the Island of Bute 4 miles, to the W.; and separated from the Little Cimbrae, upon the S., by a strait three quarters of a mile wide. The length of the island, from N. E. to S. W., is 2½ miles; the breadth, from E. to W., 1½ miles. It is of an irregular figure. The surface contains 2,300 acres, one third of which is, or might be made arable.

Hills and Prospects.

With few exceptions, the hills rise with a gentle assent, to the various heights and forms they assume, from the skirts of the island, till towards the centre, where they may come near 400 feet above the level of the sea; and unless in 2 or 3 places, they are not much incumbered with rocks. The prospect, from every point of view, is delightful; particularly from the south., where the Little Cimbrae, and the Point of Pencross, with their ancient castles, bound it by sea. The Firth too, often displays the beautiful scenery of the extensive navigation of the west; while that noble beacon, Eilsa, rises towards the horizon; and to the north., Gatefield, in Arran, seems to support the clouds on its brow.

Climate and Diseases.

The island, being surrounded by the sea, and there being little marshy ground, the air is pure and sulubrious. Snow seldom lies long; and frost does not penetrate deep, unless in very severe winters. Its effect upon the vegetables in the garden, is much less than on the adjoining grounds. The parish abounds with excellent spring water. These advantages, joined with a temperance and industry, contribute greatly to the health of the inhabitants. As evidence of the goodness of the climate, there are at present (May 1793) 35 people above 60 years of age in the island; an uncommon number advanced in years, in so small a community. There is no particular disease prevalent. Fever rarely visit the island; and when they do, seldom prove fatal. Inocculation now prevails, which renders the small-pox both much milder, and more frequent.

Soil. Cultivation, Produce, and Minerals.

The soil in general, is a gravelly loam, and some clay. It produces good crops of Oats, Bear, Pease, Potatoes, and some flax. The manure, besides that which is made on the farm, is sea- weed, and shells, with small coral, which they dig out of pits in several parts of the island. It has been observed, that were the farms more generally inclosed, and subdivided and improved, by the introduction of turnips and sown grass, it would add much to the fertility of the island. The advantage of these improvements, and the addition of the manure, upon their farms, that such crops would produce, could not fail, with the industry of the farmers of this island, to be highly beneficial, and would put the ground in a progressive state of melioration. Were a plan of this kind properly formed, there can be little doubt but suitable encouragement would be given by the proprietors, assisting them in inclosing their farms and by lengthening their leases, which are too short, and their renewal too precarious, for great exertions; a circumstance which equally affects the interest of the landlord and tenant. There is plenty of lime-stone in the island; but the great expence of coal has hithto prevented it being used as a manure. There is also an unexhaustible fund of free-stone.


There are few trees on the island; but the few we have, seem to grow tolerably well. Lord Glasgow has made a small plantation of Pines and Scots Firs, on a piece of moorish rising ground; and should they thrive, the hills might be planted farther up; and, assisted by the shelter of those below, in keeping them from the influence of the sea-water, such plantations might in time be very valuable, from the demand on the Clyde, and the advantage of water carriage.


The population of this island is nearly doubled within these 40 years. On the 1st of January 1793, there were in the Parish.

Males - -
Persons under 60 years of age -
Females - -
- between 60 and 70 -
------70 and 80 -
In all - -
----80 and 90 -
Families - -
--aged 96 - - -
Average of births for 10 years
----marriages, ------
Total - - -
The return to Dr. Webster, in 1755 was
Hence there is an increase of

Cattle, Commerce, Fish, Manufactures, Etc.

The number of weavers is -
Number of loiners is - -
--tailors -
-- masons and quarriers

There are at present, 33 horses, 350 black cattle, and 347 sheep. The prices of provisions are regulated by the Greenock market. The farmers find a ready sale for what they can spare, after supplying their families, among the seafaring people and tradesmen; who besides a ready market, save them the expence of carriage. The fish chiefly caught here are haddocks, cod, whitings, lyth, cuddies, mackerel, and a few herrings. Of shellfish, too there is some variety, but in no great quantity. No manufactures of any conequence have ever been attempted here. The chief obstacles, to any considerable exertion in that way, are the expence of fuel, the want of a sufficient run of water to drive machinery, and the ferry being often interrupted by storms. From 1600 to 2000 yards of course linen, however, and some linen yarn are exported from the island; with free-stone, to the value of fully more than 200 l a year.

Village, Harbour and Roads.

The village of Millport, contains about 60 houses, which have been mostly built within these 25 years, and are still increasing. It is pleasantly situated on the South- west side of the island, and has a commodious dry harbour, that will admit vessels of considerable burden, particularly during spring tides, when the water rises from 10 to 12 feet along the shores. There is also an anchoring ground, which is well sheltered by a small rocky island, where vessels may be moored to iron rings in the rocks, and ride in safety in the greatest storms. The prosperity of the village as well as that of the island, is much owing to its being the rendezvous of the Royal George revenue cutter, Captain James Crawford. The officers and crew of this vessel are inhabitants of the island. There is little done to the roads, exceping to that between the village and the ferry, which has lately been repaired, and a ready intercourse established between the island and Largs.

Proprietors and Rents.

The whole island belongs to the Earls of Glasgow and Bute. The valued rent is 1087 l. 8s 2d Scots. The real rent is nearly £700. sterling. The average rent of the arable land may be from 10s to 12s per acre; and the remainder of heath and pasture, from 1s to 2s per acre.

Church, Poor, and School.

The value of the living is about 70 l, with a small glebe. The Earl of Glasgow is patron. The church was built in 1612 and is now to small to accommodatethe inhabitants. The manse was built about 26 years ago, and is in good repair. There are few poor upon the session list. The collections made at the church door, amounting to 16 l, with the interest of a small fund, is nearly equal to their support. English, writing, and arithmetic, are carefully taught, ans the school is pretty well attended; but the schoolmaster's, salary and perquisites are very trifling.

Natural Curiosities.

There are two rocks, called Reppel Walls, on the east side of the island. They rise out of the elevated ground, and run along, or rather across, a plain near the sea, in the direction of south by east, and north by west, distant from each other 500 feet, running in parallel lines; the one to the east, about 30 feet in height, 89 feet in length, mean thickness 10 feet; that to the west 200 feet long, 70 feet high where it comes out of the hill, and 60 feet near its outer end; the thickness 12 feet. In the same direction, there is the appearance of a foundation run-ning into the sea. Something similar to those seen on the opposite side of the island. They have joints and seams like the basaltic rocks in Staffa, but not columnar. They are composed of the same materials, and may be estimated as the production of vulcanic fusion and eruption; a process of nature, which, however dreadful and tremendous, seems to be productive of the greatest changes the surface of this globe has undergone.