Agriculture

There has been no lack of agricultural enterprise. With a moist climate, and, generally, a rather heavy soil, drainage was necessary for the successful growth of green crops. Up to about 1840, a green crop in the rotation was seldom seen, except on porous river-side land, or on the lighter farms of the lower districts. In the early part of the 19th century lime was a powerful auxiliary in the inland districts, but with repeated applications it gradually became of little avail. Thorough draining gave the next great impetus. Enough had been done to test its efficacy before the announcement of Sir Robert Peel's drainage loan, after which it was rapidly extended throughout the county. Green-crop husbandry, and the liberal use of guano and other manures, made a wonderful change in the county, and immensely increased the amount of produce. Potatoes are now extensively grown, the coast-lands supplying the markets of Scotland and the north of England. Of roots, turnips, carrots and mangolds are widely cultivated, heavy crops being obtained by early sowing and rich manuring. Oats form the bulk of the cereal crop, but wheat and barley are also grown. High farming has developed the land enormously. Dairying has received particular attention. Dunlop cheese was once a well-known product.

Part of it was very good; but it was unequal in its general character, and unsaleable in English markets. Dissatisfied with the inferior commercial value of their cheese in comparison with some English varieties, the Ayrshire Agricultural Association brought a Somerset farmer and his wife in 1855 to teach the Cheddar method, and their effort was most successful. Cheddar cheese of first-rate quality is now made in Ayrshire, and the annual cheese show at Kilmarnock is the most important in Scotland. The Ayrshire breed of cows are famous for the quantity and excellence of their milk. Great numbers of cattle, sheep and pigs are raised for the market, and the Ayrshire horse is in high repute.

Other Industries

Ayrshire is the principal mining county in Scotland and has the second largest coalfield. There is a heavy annual output also of iron ore, pig iron and fire-clay. The chief coal districts are Ayr, Dalmellington, Patna, Maybole, Drongan, Irvine, Coylton, Stevenston, Beith, Kilwinning, Dalry, Kilbirnie, Dreghorn, Kilmarnock, Galston, Hurlford, Muirkirk, Cumnock and New Cumnock. Ironstone occurs chiefly at Patna, Coylton, Dalry, Kilbirnie, Dreghorn and Cumnock, and there are blast furnaces at most of these towns. A valuable whetstone is quarried at Bridge of Stair on the Ayr - the Water-of-Ayr stone. The leading manufactures are important. At Catrine are cotton factories and bleachfields, and at Ayr and Kilmarnock extensive engineering works, and carpet, blanket and woollens, boot and shoe factories. Cotton, woollens, and other fabrics and hosiery are also manufactured at Dalry, Kilbirnie, Kilmaurs, Beith and Stewarton. An extensive trade in chemicals is carried on at Irvine. Near Stevenston works have been erected in the sandhills for the making of dynamite and other explosives. There are large lace curtain factories at Galston, Newmilns and Darvel, and at Beith cabinet-making is a considerable industry.

Shipbuilding is conducted at Troon, Ayr, Irvine and Fairlie, which is famous for its yachts. The leading ports are Ardrossan, Ayr, Girvan, Irvine and Troon. Fishing is carried on in the harbours and creeks, which are divided between the fishery districts of Greenock and Ballantrae.