The advance and general diffusion of agricultural knowledge has completely changed the character of the district in regard to soil. Apart from systematic husbandry, the importance of thorough draining and trenching, where the land was wet, began early to be understood, but it was only when the laird found it convenient to do the work at his own expense that any progress in this direction was made, for, however willing the tenant might be to have his ground improved by tile draining, it was rare that he could command the funds. During the eighteenth century an immense improvement was effected in agriculture in the parish, consequent upon the introduction of the cultivation of clovers and artificial grasses and of turnips. Rents increased at least one-third by the close of the third quarter of the century, and also kept steadily rising during the last quarter, through the operation of the high prices prevailing during the French and Continental wars.
The position of the laird was most favourable, as his income had greatly increased, largely through his own active participation in the new agriculture. The laird of that day might well be termed a country squire; he usually farmed a considerable area himself, was in all respects a practical farmer, and usually a pioneer in matters of agricultural improvement. His amusements and recreations were neither expensive nor ultra refined, and, as a rule, he lived on his estates and spent the greater part of his surplus income in their improvement, and took a very active part in the amenities of rural life. The position of the laird of the present day is decidedly inferior to that of his predecessor of the eighteenth century; his amusements and habits have become more expensive, but in the rivalry with the aristocracy of commerce he has often had to take second place. He is no longer practically conversant with farm cultivation, and where the management of the estate is wholly committed to agents the old relationship which survived the abolition of the feudal system is gradually dying out.
The farmer was a man of ruder and rougher type than is to be generally met with at the present time. He rose with the lark, wrought with his workers in the fields, was blessed with but little more education than they, but he possessed most of the solid comforts of life without any of its elegances. He rarely travelled far from the parish, and his world was very circumscribed, but the exigencies of the then cultivation needed little knowledge of what is now termed scientific agriculture, and, comparatively ignorant though he was, he made money.
The farmer of today belongs to a new order, although here and there men of the old stamp may be met with, especially on small crofts. The imperative use of artificial manures and feeding stuffs, the introduction of expensive and complicated machinery, and the approximation of agriculture to an exact science, necessitate larger capital and wider knowledge. He is much better educated and more refined than his ancestors, but in this age of luxury he has acquired more expensive habits and some want of relish for physical labour. He may not make much money, but he lives well, and possesses most of the comforts of life and a fair proportion of its luxuries.
The Farm Servant
The position of the farm servant or ploughman a hundred years ago was most unenviable. He wrought long hours for a mere pittance of a wage, averaging about eight or ten shillings per week, and subsisted principally on oatmeal. He was coarse and uncouth, and almost devoid of education. Today he works shorter hours and receives double the wage paid to his predecessor, and his position has vastly improved. Free education is provided for his children, some measure of political power has come to himself, and his general habits have materially improved, but the cottage in which he lives is often insanitary and in some cases woefully deficient in bedroom accommodation.
The conversion of two or three small farms into one large farm has been a means of checking the supply of farm servants in the locality, and we find the ploughmen forsaking the parish and resorting to Glasgow and other populous centres, attracted by higher wages and shorter working hours, and also impelled by the desire for change which has so largely followed the spread of education. The scarcity of suitable servants thus occasioned is to a certain extent checking the development of dairying in the parish, one of the most lucrative branches of modern agriculture.
Advancement in Husbandry
Although the main features of agriculture have remained seemingly unaltered for many generations, yet there are few of the myriad branches into which this great industry is split up which do not show proof of considerable advancement and improvement, until now, we may truly say, our oldest and principal industry in the parish has in several ways become truly scientific. Not only has it secured the devoted service of men who are highly scientific, but the vast body of farmers and all others interested in husbandry are learning how to put away ignorance and fallacies of many types, and in their place are adopting views and methods founded upon true principles. For ages the produce of Kippen parish has been held in high esteem, but there are few things grown which within living memory do not show signs of improvement. In most cases the improvement is still more marked in the methods of production.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the crops in the parish generally sufficed to supply home requirements, although the produce was small and the quality inferior compared with present standards. Several years in the early part of the last century were disastrously bad, so that prices for cereals ruled high till 1812. At that period farmers in the carse lands beneath the village sold wheat in Stirling market at 63s. per boll; but instead of poor, thin wheat, often weighing little over 52 lbs. per bushel, and running down to 14 bushels per acre, this cereal can now be grown from 45 to 50 bushels per acre, nearly all of which exceeds 65 lbs. per bushel, the average price being 28s. per quarter.
In earlier times, oats, barley, peas, and beans entered more largely than at present into the ordinary food of the parishioners, but when these were used exclusively as substitutes for wheat, they generally deranged the bodily health of the consumer.
Formerly wheat was frequently divided into two classes:- the winter, Triticum Hibemum, and the summer, T. Astivum. This classification, however, is no longer recognised, as it is now well known that the cereal, by being constantly sown in the spring, quite changes its habits as to time of ripening. The produce of wheat sown in the spring acquires the habit of perfecting its growth quicker than the produce of the same wheat sown in the autumn. In soils containing large proportions of sand, or of organic matter, but deficient in clay, we often see the young plant very luxuriant at first, but without the power to build up its stem, for which a certain amount of silica and potash are necessary. Silica and lime are also required for the chaff, with potash, phosphoric acid, magnesia, and ammonia for the seed. In no other description of soil will wheat flourish. These substances are generally found to exist in clays to a greater extent than in other kinds of earth - hence the suitability of the carse for this important crop.
Barley is generally admitted to the second place in the order of cereal crops, but our climate and soil being as a rule better adapted for oats, the latter take the precedence in the farmer's estimation.
The Scotch, or horse bean, is the principal bean grown in the parish, and the method of distributing the seed broadcast is practised in the carse lands.
The machinery of the farm has also shared in the general improvement. The manufacture of farm machinery and implements has passed from the hands of the village blacksmith and joiner into those of great engineering firms, who have been able to employ scientific experts to develope ideas to the greatest advantage, and to provide machinery which render construction much more efficient. It would be an impossibility for the higher class of machinery to be turned out at the village smithy, and the employment of scientific engineers has resulted in the application of sound mechanical principles. This has affected comparatively simple implements as well as more intricate machinery. At the same time our country blacksmiths have added a considerable number of inventions to the list, some of them of great value.
The primitive home-made utensils contrast strangely with the improved agricultural implements of the present day. Ploughs in the earlier times were seldom bought, but, as a rule, manufactured on the farm. In 1330 we find their price one shilling, and between 1361 and 1370 their value was one shilling and sixpence. The implement, of course, was common joiner's work, and subject to no demand. Wooden ploughs, wooden harrows, wooden threshing implements (flails), and a host of other wooden articles were the weapons which our farmers had mainly to rely upon in wresting their crops from the soil. The material might have mattered less had the implements been less crudely constructed. In spite of their crudeness, however, there were a great many implements and machines in use which embody the principles of today.
What see we now in the fields? Light, easily-drawn steel ploughs and grubbers, drill harrows, potato planters and diggers, turnip lifters, seed and manure distributors, self-binding reaping machines, hay forks and rick lifters,and also portable steam threshing machines. At the farm steading we now have machines which make it possible for the first portion of a cow's milk to be churned into butter before the milker can strip the cow's udder clean; also incubators for the wholesale hatching of chickens.
No doubt the merry scene of a band of the young of both sexes striving with the hook as to who should have the honour of carrying off the "maiden" for the crown of the harvest home, was attractive, but although hoeing and weeding, and even sheafing, may still be done on our smaller crofts in the parish by manual labour, the days of the "hairst" field are gone for both hook and scythe.
Some great feats in shearing were, however, performed with the " hook," notwithstanding the fact that the reaping machine sweeps down the grain, in regard to time, in the ratio of ten to one. One old woman in the parish was known to shear with the hook over 400 good-sized sheaves daily.
The district has now become famous throughout the United Kingdom owing to the advancement made in the breeding of a superior strain of Clydesdale horses, Mr. Andrew Dewar, Amprior, having bred, amongst other famous animals of the Clydesdale breed, the sensational stallion, "Royal Favourite" (10630). This horse was got by the noted Cawdor Cup Champion horse, "Royal Gartly " (9844), and his dam was a daughter of the famous Keir-bred horse, "Brooklyn" (6547), which fetched £700 at the Keir sale in 1890. "Royal Favourite" has not been much shown, but the illustration we give elsewhere proves him to be a thick, well-built, and typical Clydesdale stallion. "Royal Favourite" was foaled on 6th May, 1897, and was sire of first and second yearling fillies, and first, third, and fourth yearling colts at the Glasgow Show of 1902. Six of his produce won sixteen prizes last year, and a yearling filly, "Nellie," sired by him, bred by and the property of Henry Gray, Kincardine-on-Forth, won first at the Highland and Agricultural Show at Aberdeen in 1902, and also won the Female Clydesdale Championship at Glasgow Show the same year. He is now owned by Mr. Dewar's son, Mr. Peter Dewar, who refused the very tempting offer of £3,000 for him in 1902.
Other breeders of a superior class of Clydesdales who have realised handsome prices are:
William McKeich, Woodend, Buchlyvie.
George Graham, Faraway, Port of Menteith.
John More, Fordhead, Kippen.
James Gray, Birkenwood.
John Paterson, Wester Frew.
John Risk, Culmore.
Particular attention has also been paid to the breeding of Ayrshire Cattle with considerable success by:
John Drysdale, Arngibbon.
Arch. Blair, Arnmore.
John More, Fordhead.
James Macfarlane, Oxhill.
James Strang, Knockinshannoch.
Owners of Farms
There are thirty farms in Kippen Parish, the largest holders of property being:
Dame Helen Catherine Connal, of Arngomery.
Stephen Mitchell, Esq., of Boquhan.
James Stirling, Esq., of Garden.
John Monteath, Esq., of Wright Park.
William Galbraith, Esq., of Blackhouse and Littlekerse.
William Forrester, Esq., of Arngibbon.
James Harvie Brown, Esq., of Shirgarton.
James Macfarlane, Esq., of Oxhill.
Andrew Dougall, Esq., of Angusstep.
Moses B. Scouler, Esq., of Middlekerse.
The study of agricultural chemistry is making rapid progress among the majority of our farmers of the present day, and it is evident that an element of the greatest moment in attaining their present advanced position has been chemical analysis, which now constitutes one of the agriculturist's most useful servants. Under its guidance he is taught to prepare and conserve farmyard manure satisfactorily. He knows what plant food his soil requires, and how best and in what form to apply it. His choice is directed in purchasing costly fertilisers and foods, whose preparation, again, is largely dependent on help rendered by analysis; moreover, through its instrumentality he finds efficient protection from fraudulent and careless dealers.
As a result of this progressive movement, we now find practical men respecting and seeking, rather than slighting, well-directed scientific efforts, and whereas a farmer's knowledge formerly consisted chiefly of isolated facts and rule of thumb procedure, we observe precision and true economy extending as the reasons underlying various courses of action become more apparent and appreciated.
Kippen Parish consists of a variety of soils, which are named respectively carse, dryfield, and moor.
This extends along the banks of the Forth, the whole length of the parish from Buchlyvie to the Bridge of Frew. It is composed of the finest clay, without stones, and interspersed with strata of marine shells.
The following is an analysis of the carse soil:
Water, 10 parts.
Carbonate of Lime, 2½
Organic matter, 6
Oxide of Iron, 1½
Soluble Salts, 1
Soluble matter, 2
Loss matter, 5
The term dryfield is not descriptive of the soil, but is used merely to distinguish it from the moor and carse lands. Its average depth is six or seven inches. It rests on a subsoil of gravel or till, and, springing from the valley, abruptly in some places, stretches for the most part slopingly - with here and there patches of rich tableland well enclosed and tastefully studded with trees - till it reaches the ridge, where it joins a moor.
Sloping southwards the entire length of the parish, its appearance is somewhat cold and bleak in winter, but bright and genial when clothed in summer with its robe of heather. What is called moor comes to be termed dryfield by cultivation.
Old Yew Tree at Arngomery
In testimony of the fertility of some parts of the soil of the parish, as also the genial nature of the climate, we may refer to the grand old yew tree of Broich, now named Arngomery. For symmetry and general appearance this tree is admitted to be the finest in Britain. Growing on the lawn in front of the mansion house of Arngomery, it presents a stately and majestic appearance from the approach, and it is computed that a party of 160 might easily dine under the branches unobserved from the lawn outside.
In 1858 the girth of trunk of this tree at the ground was 14 feet 6 inches; at three feet from the ground, 10 feet 1 inch; height, 35 feet 4 inches; circumference outside the branches, 205 feet.
In 1878 a measurement was taken by the Rev. W. Wilson, and the girth at the ground was 14 feet 9 inches; at three feet from the ground, 11 feet 2 inches; and the circumference, 213 feet.
In December, 1901, we measured the tree. The girth of trunk at ground was 15 feet 1 inch; at three feet from the ground, 11 feet 5 inches; circumference outside the branches, 235 feet. It is therefore steadily growing.
At Fortingall, in the West of Perthshire, there is a large yew tree, considered the oldest in Scotland, but it is unshapely; indeed, it seems cleft asunder, and appears as two trees. In Wiltshire, on the property of the Marquis of Bath, there is a yew tree, the girth of which at the ground is 32 feet; height, 50 feet; and circumference outside branches, 164 feet. In the churchyard of Knockholt there is a yew tree, the girth of which is 22 feet; height, 46 feet 7 inches; and circumference outside branches, 202 feet. These trees appear to be higher and thicker in the trunk, but the branches of neither of them so spreading, nor, we should imagine, so handsome or so graceful as the tree at Arngomery.
An ancient Act of Parliament decreed that yew trees should be planted in all burying grounds of the Kingdom, to furnish material for bows. When the late Mr. Ewing took down the old house of Broich, which stood in front, but a little west of the site of the mansion house of Arngomery, in 1852, he found stones which antiquarians pronounced at least 800 years old, and it was inferred that probably the tree was of the same age. We do not think it is quite so old. Naturalists tell us that the age of a yew tree may be arrived at by giving a century to every foot of diameter of trunk. It is obviously upon this principle that the age of the tree belonging to the Marquis of Bath has been determined, and if we apply the same rule to the yew tree at Arngomery, its age must be about 500 years.
While on a visit to Arngomery in 1849 the late Lord Robertson composed the following lines on the yew tree:
"Ne'er vaunt of blooming shrub, of stately tree,
The waving of sycamore, time-honoured oak,
As if their spell might solemn thought evoke,
Within these changeless shades enshrined there be
The silent depths of nobler sympathy,
At dewy morn, beneath the vesper star,
Tidings may waft, from cloudless realms afar,
Of times long past unveil the history.
No record proud proclaims thy mystic birth,
Thy prime no glimmering legend seems to tell,
Whether thou wavest o'er unhallowed earth,
Or at thy feet some Celtic warrior fell,
Or from the land of dreams enchanted here,
The mist-born spirits did their temple rear."