Extracted from the Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, Volume 2. Published in Glasgow in 1842.

The Parish of Kirkbean

KIRKBEAN, a parish at the south-east extremity of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire, occupying a peninsular place between the estuary of the Nith and the body of the Solway Firth. It is bounded on the north by New Abbey; on the east by the estuary of the Nith; on the south by the Solway Firth ; and on the west by Colvend. It is an oblong, 5 miles long from north to south, and 3¾ miles broad; but with an indentation on its west side 1½ mile deep, and on the average 1¼ mile wide.

Southwick water traces, over a distance of 4 miles, the western boundary. Kirkbean Burn rises in the northern boundary, and runs 4¼ miles circuitously through the interior, to the sea at Carse Bay; and is joined a mile from its mouth by Preston Burn, after the latter, also of local origin, has performed a semicircular course of 4 miles in the interior. Kirkbean Burn has wooded banks, and forms amid their shades a beautiful cataract, a little above the village of Kirkbean. The coast line is 9½ miles in length: the estuary of the Nith is on the average 3 miles broad ; and the Solway Firth is 10 miles broad.

Flounders, skate, cod, soles, shrimps, and some other species of fish abound; turbots are rare ; herrings come in shoals, at intervals of several years. The tides flow five hours and ebb seven; and, owing to their rapidity, they occasionally upset vessels, and have been known to tumble a ship's anchor a considerable way from its place. The coast is low and sleachy, and slowly gains accessions of excellent salt pasture from the recession of the sea.

On Southerness point, the most southerly land, running ¾ of a mile into the sea from a base of 1 mile upon the body of the parish, stands a tower, erected as a landmark for vessels. Vessels often come to anchor here in three or four fathoms at low water, to escape the collision of the flood tide. Carse or Carsethorn bay, near the northern extremity of the parish, and 11 miles south of Dumfries, is a safe anchoring place, and has a rude harbour, and offers shelter to all vessels waiting a spring tide to take them up the Nith, or encountering contrary winds when coming down. On the northern boundary of the parish rises the imposing form of the far-seeing Criffel, sending its summit 1,895 feet above the level of the sea, at a distance of 1¾ mile from the margin of the Nith, the southeastern termination of a ridge which runs 10 miles inland, and the monarch mountain of all the country, lying south of the southern highlands.

Along the western boundary, or a little inward from it, over a distance of 2¾ miles, runs a spur or offshoot of Criffel. From these heights the surface of the parish inclines to the shore, and exhibits a rich, beautiful, and extensive prospect, fields well-enclosed and highly cultivated, and several clumps and belts of plantation. The soil, in general, is fertile; on the northwest and west, it lies on limestone; on the southeast it is a rich and deep clayey loam; and on the south or south-west, over a tract of 1,000 acres, called the Merse, it is a light and sandy conquest from the sea, nearly all arable.

The parish claims to have led the van in the south of Scotland in the march of modern agricultural improvement, and owed its eminence, in this particular, to William Craik, Esq., of Arbigland. Limestone abounds, and is worked. Expensive but vain searches have been made for coals. The mansion of Arbigland, with its grounds and sea-views, is a delightful place. The village of Kirkbean, 12 miles south of Dumfries, and the same distance east of Dalbeattie, occupies a pleasant site on the Kirkbean Burn, almost surrounded with little hills and rising grounds covered with wood. The decayed and almost extinct village of Preston, stands on the cognominal estate, once the property of Regent Morton, and is said to have been a burgh-of-regality, with the privilege of holding four annual fairs. An ancient cross, seven feet high, on a base of stone-wall about four feet square, commemorates its former importance. There is another village, Southerness. Two ancient castles, Cavens and Weaths, which both belonged to the Regent Morton, and which, with the barony of Preston, were granted, on his forfeiture, to the family of Nithsdale, are yet partially standing. On the farm of Airdrie is a Druidical circle.

Admiral John Campbell, and the notorious Paul Jones, were natives of Kirkbean; the former the son of the parish minister, and born in 1719, - the latter the son of John Paul, a gardener, and born about the year 1745. An American recently repaired Paul Jones' native cottage.

The parish is well-provided on the east and south with roads; but it has only two thoroughfares, one on the south-west, and another on the north, leading out of its own limits. Population, in 1801, 696; in 1831, 802. Houses 142. Assessed property, in 1815, £6,504.

Kirkbean is in the presbytery and synod of Dumfries. Patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. Stipend £202 12s. 8d.; glebe £18. Parish schoolmaster's salary £25 13s. 3¼d., with £28 fees, and upwards of £25 other emoluments. There are two non-parochial schools. The interest of £400 is divided among the teachers of all the three schools, for the gratuitous tuition of the children of the poor.

Kirkbean is mistakenly supposed to have been anciently called Caerben, and to have contained the Caerben torigum of Ptolemy, an object which must be sought at what is now called Drummore Castle at the mouth of the Dee. The parish seems to have had its name from the dedication of its ' kirk' to Bean, either St. Bean, the first bishop of Murthlac, a saint of the 11th century, or more probably one of two Irish saints, who both had the same name. The church belonged of old first to the church, and next to the college of Lincluden.