- LARGS, a parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr; containing, with the late quoad sacra district of Fairlie, 4044 inhabitants, of whom 3523 are in the town and suburbs of Largs, 13½ miles (N. N. W.) from Saltcoats, and 79½ (W. by S.) from Edinburgh. The name of this place is supposed to be derived from the term Learg, signifying "a plain;" but this etymology, the only probable one assigned, is not clearly established, as there is no considerable portion of ground in the locality answering to that distinctive appellation. The ancient records connected with Largs refer chiefly to the history of its church, which was dedicated to St. Columba, the abbot of Iona, and was a rectory, the patronage belonging to the lordship. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, Walter the Stewart, "for the safety of his own soul and that of his late spouse, Marjory Bruce," granted the church, "in pure and perpetual alms," to the monastery of Paisley, with all the tithes. The church continued in the possession of the monastery till the Reformation, when Lord Claud Hamilton, the commendator of Paisley, obtained the patronage and tithes of Largs, with the other revenues and lands of the monks, the whole of which were made a temporal lordship for himself and his heirs, with the title of Lord Paisley. In 1621, he was succeeded by his grandson, James, Earl of Abercorn, from whom, in the reign of Charles I., the patronage and tithes of the church of Largs passed to Sir Robert Montgomerie, of Skelmorlie, from which family they have descended to the present proprietor, the thirteenth Earl of Eglinton. A celebrated battle took place here on the 3rd of October, 1263, between the Norwegians and Scots. The former, under their king, Haco, were at first victorious; but, fearing that subsequent reinforcements might enable the Scots finally to triumph, they retreated, and Haco not long afterwards died at Kirkwall, on his return to Norway. His son and successor, Eric, however, married one of King Alexander's daughters; and thus all future hostilities were prevented.The town was formerly but a small village clustering round the church, and has attained its present populous and thriving condition by degrees, chiefly from its situation on the shore of the Frith of Clyde, from its superior facilities for sea-bathing, the salubrity of the climate, and the beauties of the surrounding scenery. Some parts of the vicinity are marked with features of a bold character. The hills on the east, which form a barrier against the violence of the winds, rise to a great elevation as they approach the town, and comprise the eminences called the Hill of Stake, and, more southerly, Irishlaw and Knockside hill, reaching respectively the height of 1691 feet, 1576, and 1419 feet above the level of the sea. From the summits of these heights, and from their abrupt declivities bordering on the town, views of the most diversified and picturesque scenery may be obtained. Among the other objects of interest is the Gogo river, which, rising in the south-eastern quarter, receives, besides numerous smaller tributaries, the water of the Greeto about the middle of its course, and falls into the sea at the town. The Noddle rises in the north-east, and, after traversing the vale of Brisbane, empties itself into the sea about a mile higher up, towards the north. Largs has been celebrated for a considerable period as an agreeable and healthy summer resort; and from the month of May till about the middle of October, the population derives an increase, owing to the influx of visiters, varying from 300 or 400 to 1000. The plain on which the town stands consists of a fine gravel, quickly absorbing the moisture after rain; the whole coast is perfectly safe, and the beech affords good opportunities of bathing at all times of the tide, by its gentle slope. The town has been completely remodelled and enlarged since the beginning of the present century, and lighted with gas since the year 1839. The environs, also, have been richly studded with elegant villas; but the only public building is that of the baths, which, in addition to accommodations for hot and cold bathing, contains a spacious billiard and reading room. Two circulating libraries have been established. About three miles south of Largs, and also on the coast, is the pleasing little village of Fairlie, inhabited by above 300 persons, and, on account of its retired and attractive character, and the handsome villas lately erected there, preferred by many persons to the town.See Fairlie.About 240 or 250 hands in the parish are employed in the manufacture of shawls and shawl borders, the work being obtained chiefly from Paisley; there are two branches of the Western Bank of Scotland, and a general post-office. The public road from Ayr and Irvine runs along the coast; and a road has been formed, and made turnpike, across the moor, which passes in a south-eastern direction to Kilbirnie and Dalry, and is of great benefit to the neighbourhood, for the conveyance of lime and coal. A parish road, also, has been constructed through the vale of Brisbane to the boundary of the parish, near Loch Thom; it joins the Greenock parish road, and shortens the distance between that place and Largs about two miles. The boundaries of the harbour extend from Haylie to Noddleburn, and there is a considerable traffic by means of steam-boats. Till lately the accommodation for them was indifferent; but, on application to Sir Thomas Macdougal Brisbane, Bart., he agreed to give some ground for a pier, receiving its value in shares: a subscription was commenced, and, an act of parliament being obtained in 1832, the foundation-stone was laid on the 10th of January, 1833, and the pier opened on the 1st of December, 1834. Great advantage has been experienced in the landing and shipping of passengers and goods by this pier, the cost of which was £4275; the shareholders are thirty-one in number, and the shares, of £50 each, return about six per cent. The produce of the parish is generally sent for sale to Greenock, Glasgow, and Paisley; but a considerable portion is appropriated to domestic use. A fair, called vulgarly Comb's-day, from St. Columba, is held on the second Tuesday in June, O. S., for pigs, horses, and especially young cattle, large numbers of which last are brought from the Highlands. The town has a baron-bailie appointed by the superior; but he rarely interferes in judicial matters, the justices holding a monthly court, where cases of small debt and breaches of the peace are tried.The parish stretches along the coast of the Frith for nine miles, and measures in breadth a little more than four miles, comprising 19,143 acres, of which 8598 are heath and moorland pasture, and the remainder comprehends 1145 acres in tillage, 3300 pasture and meadow, 5500 green pasture, and 600 woodland and gardens. The usual kinds of grain and green crops are raised, with the exception of wheat, which is but little cultivated; and the four and six shift courses of husbandry are each in operation. About 600 cows, of the pure Ayrshire breed, are kept for the dairy; the farmers near the town mostly sell the milk, or make butter, while those in the rural district convert the produce into cheese. The number of young cows yearly reared is about 300; nearly 500 head of cattle are fattened, and 4600 sheep are kept on the high lands, besides a few English sheep on the lower grounds; with a considerable number of swine. Improvements of various descriptions are gradually advancing, especially the draining and recovering of waste land; and some new plantations have been recently formed. Red and white sandstone are the principal sorts of rock, and are extensively quarried for building houses in the neighbourhood: the substrata of the higher grounds consist mainly of secondary trap. The rateable annual value of the parish is £13,743. Among the seats is the old mansion of Kelburn Castle, which was originally a square tower, but was enlarged by David, Earl of Glasgow, and is the seat of the present earl, having been the property of the family from a very remote period; it is situated two miles south of the town, and embraces beautiful views of the Frith and the surrounding scenery. The house of Brisbane, the seat of Sir Thomas Macdougal Brisbane, who is of a family long located here, and the chief of their name, is two miles north of the town, in the beautiful glen of Brisbane. Skelmurly Castle, a seat of the Earl of Eglinton, is an ancient structure, having been built in the year 1502; and is pleasantly situated on a commanding eminence upon the coast, four miles north of Largs. In addition to these, there are numerous elegant residences and villas, among which is that of Hawkhill, on the Gogo, near the town, in the neighbourhood of which, salmon, and the usual white-fish caught in the adjacent seas, are plentiful.Largs is in the presbytery of Greenock and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Earl of Eglinton; the minister's stipend is £246, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £36. 8. per annum. The parish belonged to the presbytery of Irvine until 1834, when it was transferred to that of Greenock, newly formed. The church was built in 1812, and enlarged in 1833; it contains 1268 sittings. A chapel in connexion with the Establishment, containing 300 sittings, was erected at Fairlie in 1833, by private subscription, and made the church of a quoad sacra parish in 1835; but it has now no ecclesiastical district attached. There are a place of worship for members of the Free Church, one for the United Associate Synod, and another for the Relief persuasion. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches: the master has a salary of £25. 13., with a house, and about £2 fees; also the interest of £175 bequeathed for his use. A school, likewise, has been recently founded by Sir Thomas M. Brisbane, and premises erected, with a house for a master, at a cost of £350: the nomination of the teacher, who has a salary of £30, and the management of the institution, are vested in the family of Brisbane, and the minister and Kirk Session of Largs. On the south of the parish, and situated within the ancient barony of Fairlie, is the ruin of the old castle, which belonged for more than 400 years to a family of that name, and at the beginning of the 18th century was sold to David, Earl of Glasgow, with whose descendants it still remains. The ruins of the house of Knock are also yet standing: the Frazer family possessed the estate for about 250 years till 1650, when the property passed into other hands. Kelburn confers the title of Viscount on the Earl of Glasgow, David, Lord Boyle, having been created Viscount Kelburn and Earl of Glasgow, April 12, 1703.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.