Campbells of Dalhanna: Road Builders

Campbells of Dalhanna

The Campbell family have a long association with the lands of Dalhanna (Over Dalhanna) in the lower reaches of Glen Afton in the parish of New Cumnock, legend has it perhaps from the times of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots and numbered among those persecuted in the parish during the Covenanting times.

Dalhanna Farm, New Cumnock

In the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock the tombstones of William Campbell and Margaret Young and their family stand side by of that of their son James Campbell and Elizabeth McKnight and their family.

James Campbell & Elizabeth McKnight and William Campbell & Margaret Young

I. William Campbell of Dalhanna (1768-1857)

  • Spouse: Margaret Crawford Young (1773-1858)
  • Children: James (1797), John (1798), William (1799), Elizabeth (1802), Quintin (1804), Jean (1806), Katherine (1808), Robert (1810), Thomas (1812), Marion (1814), Peter (1816), Margaret (1819).

The story of William Campbell, Laird of Dalhanna can be found in the section in thr Heritors of New Cumnock (1833) at New Cumnock History. He married  Margaret Crawford Young, the daughter of the Reverend James Young minister of the parish of over 50 years and remembered as ‘Jamie Goose’ in Robert Burns’ attack on the church “The Kirk’s Alarm”. Together William and Margaret had 12 children,  all named on the family headstone, made up of 7 sons and 5 daughters.


Eldest son James acquired the lands of Dalhanna on his father’s death in 1857  but life on the farm was not for him and  by that time James Campbell had already established himself as a leading road surveyor in the Ayrshire. Before considering James Campbell’s contribution to road network of his time, let’s first consider its development.

Dalhanna Farm and Glen Afton

Turnpike Roads and the Ayr Road Acts

The history and development of the Ayrshire road network is well documented by David McClure in his excellent booklet ‘Tolls and Tacksmen’ [1] and on-line at ‘Old Roads of Scotland’ [2]. Our story of the Ayrshire starts during the turnpike period where tolls were established to meet the costs of building and maintaining roads. An Act of Parliament was necessary to allow a trust to be formed, the first of which applying to Ayrshire was passed in 1767 , some thirty years before James Campbell was born.

The 1767 Ayr Road Act 

McClure explains the provisions of this act and are summarised as follows –

  • named 24 roads with total length of 255 miles,
  • named 135 trustees and their qualifications
  • set tolls which could be applied and permitted the erection of gates, both on turnpike roads and on side roads
  • it permitted the raising of capital by subscription
  • it stipulated that the first meeting should be held on 14th July 1767, with subsequent meetings to be set by adjournment
  • it allowed the conversion of statute labour “for such sums annually as to the said trustees shall seem reasonable” and the appointment of collectors
  • it provide for the setting of milestones.

Road N0.9 of the 24 roads was the road from  ‘Ayr, by Ochiltree, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, towards Sanquhar so far as the Road within the County of Ayr’

The boundary of New Cumnock -Kirkconnel & Sanquhar road

The 1774  Ayr Road Act 

Provisions of this new act included –

  • named 39 roads with a combined length of 295 miles and the 24 roads brought forward from the previous act  giving a combined total of 63 roads and 550 miles
  • continued with the trustees from the previous act
  • increased the tolls for certain roads in former act and set tolls for new roads
  • it gave preference to the roads contained in the former act
  • as well as milestones it provided for setting up of guide-posts where the roads crossed or joined other roads.

Road No.39 was the road from ‘Dalmellington to New Cumnock’.

Dalmellington Road at Mossmark with junction to Afton Road on left

McClure identified the most active trustees as William Logan of Castlemains, New Cumnock who was in attendance at 129 meetings (including the inaugural meeting 0n 14th July 1767) over the period 1767 to 1805, some 38 years.  Other trustees from New Cumnock included John Logan of Knockshinnoch, William Hyslop of Blackcraig, Thomas Gordon of Earlstoun (Baronet of Afton) , Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Adam Crauford Newall of Dalleagles.

The minutes of the general meeting of the trustees in 1782 reveal that ‘the portion of the high road to Dumfries that lay within the parish of New Cumnock was complete.’ The conversion money (i.e. the conversion of statute labour into a tax) for the parish amounted to about £70 per year. Another noteworthy minute involved trustee John Logan of Knockshinnoch (friend of Robert Burns) who was deputed with the great road-builder John Loudon McAdam to go to  Sanquhar for a meeting with Dumfriesshire trustees to consider the appropriate place for McCadam’s Muirkirk to Sanquhar road to cross the county line.

In 1776 George Taylor and Andrew Skinner surveyed the roads of Scotland and the Ayrshire section shows the Ayr to Old Cumnock road (15.2 miles) and then on to New Cumnock (5.1 miles) and from there to Sanquhar (12 miles).

George Taylor and Andrew Skinner (1776)

The 1805  Ayr Road Act 

Further roads were added to the Ayrshire network including the following two relevant to New Cumnock  –

  • ‘A road from the village of Old Cumnock leading past Benston Limework to join the Dalmellington to New Cumnock Road.’
  • ‘A Branch, or other Road, to go off from the Road last described on the Estate of Ochiltree, through Part of that Estate, then through the Lands of Burnockston, and across the Water of Burnock, through another part of the Estate of Ochiltree, all in the said Parish of Ochiltree, till it joins a Road made by the late Earl of Dumfries on his Estate on the March of the Parish of Old Cumnock, leading to the said Earl’s Limework, and the Village of New Cumnock, where it terminates and falls into the great Turnpike Road between Ayr and Dumfries.’
Benston Toll (the tollhouse sat to the left)

The Reverend Matthew Kirkland, minister of the parish of New Cumnock,  writes in the New Statistical Account of the parish in 1832 “There is one turnpike road in the parish and several parish roads in good repair. On the public road there passes daily coach from Glasgow to Carlisle, and from Carlisle to Glasgow.

II. James Campbell of Dalhanna (1797-1871)

  • Spouse : Elizabeth McKnight (1797-1869)
  • Children: Catherine (b.1828), Margaret (b.1829), William (b.1831), Elizabeth (b.1833 d.1836) Jane (b.1835 d.1835), John (b. 1837), Elizabeth (b.1840).

James Campbell was born in April, 1797 at Dalhanna while his future wife Elizabeth Mitchell McKnight was born in September of the same year in the Old Mill farm, the daughter of John McKnight and Katherine Rankine. The McKnight family could trace their time in the mill back to the late 16th century. Within its confines once stood an inn where Elizabeth’s grandparents George McKnight and Betty Mitchell played host to Robert Burns.

The couple moved away from New Cumnock and their first child Catherine was born in 1828 in the neighbouring parish of Ochiltree, where James’ skills as a surveyor were no doubt put to use on the parish and perhaps on the road referred to above in the 1805 Act.

The young family was soon on their travels again and set up home at High Street, Ayr where another daughter Margaret was born the following year. By 1841 the family had grown to five with the addition of three more children William, John and Elizabeth in that order and loss of two in infancy (Elizabeth & Jane).

A flavour of the work carried out by James Campbell can be found in the following extracts from Ayrshire newspapers and local directories.

The Ayr Advertiser , September 12th, 1844

‘CONTRACTORS WANTED: To Raise and Prepare a considerable quantity of PAVING STONES from the lands of South Craig in the Parish of Coylton which are to be carted to Ayr, For particulars application may be made to Mr James Campbell, Road Surveyor or to John Paul, Dean of Guild, Ayr. Ayr, 12th Sept. 1844′

The Ayr Advertiser or West Country Journal, Thursday November 28, 1844

‘ROAD MONEY — AYR DISTRICT: NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the CONVERSION MONEY, in lieu of Statute Labour, for the year 1844 is now under COLLECTION as follows, viz: – For the parish of Tarbolton by Mr ROBERT WALKER, Tarbolton; for the parishes of Coylton, Stair, Ochiltree, Cumnock, New Cumnock and Dalmellington, by Mr JAMES CAMPBELL, Road Surveyor, Ayr; and for the parishes of Newton, Prestwick, Monkton ,St. Evox and Dalrymple by W. BONE, 53 Sandgate Street, Ayr, 25th Nov. 1844′

Directory of Ayr Newton Wallacetown St. Quivox  Prestwick and Monkton

‘Ayr District of Roads and Trustees. — The roads embraced in this district lie in ten parishes of the County — Newton, Monkton, St Quivox, Coylton, Dalrymple, Dalmellington, Ochiltree, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, and Tarbolton. The turnpike roads are upheld out of the money realised from the let of toll-bars, which, this year, amounted to £3910. The statute or bye-roads on the other hand, are maintained out of the conversion money. The assessment for this purpose, in the parishes stated above, amounts to somewhere between £500 and £600. The conversion money is levied at the rate of 50s. per hundred pounds Scots of valued rent upon tenants of land. Householders are charged 3s., and carters and innkeepers, who let out horses for hire, are assessed in lieu of six days’ statute service —1s, per day for their horses, and 6d. for themselves. Clerk, J, M’Murtrie; Treasurer, William Bone; Surveyor, James Campbell.’

The Campbell family moved to the far end of the High Street, Ayr to Townhead House, presumably in the Townhead district of Ayr with Townhead  Railway Station nearby, which stood a few hundred yards from the modern-day Ayr Station. James Campbell also owned a housed in Afton Bridgend that was rented out.

In 1857 his father William Campbell, the Laird of Dalhanna passed away and James inherited the lands of Dalhanna. There was to be no return to farming for the surveyor and his younger sister Margaret and her husband William Sharp worked  Dalhanna as tenants.

James Campbell fortunes were on the rise and by the 1861 census the family is found at Nursery Hall on the road from Ayr to the small settlement of Whitletts. The property has long since disappeared and would have on sat on what is now the Whitletts. Sadly no postcards or photographs appeared to have survive but the map shows a fair size building with adjoining orchards, gardens or nursery. The property was previously owned by William Campbell Esquire, perhaps a distant relative, who held the lands of Milnquarter, Braehead and Milnacre in the parish.

Nursery Hall, Whitletts

Road Building Brothers

William Campbell (1799-1858) and Thomas Campbell (1812-1884)

The parish of New Cumnock continued to fall under James Campbell’s responsibility as the county’s surveyor. His brothers William and Thomas both worked on the roads. William was ‘a labourer on the turnpike’ and lived at Pathbrae with his wife Janet Park and their children. He was struck down with cholera in 1858, aged 59 years. Thomas was also a labourer on the turnpike and later a roadway surfaceman. He lived with his wife Agnes McMillan at various houses in Afton Bridgend, including for a time in the manse of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and Coupla Brae where he would pass away in 1884, aged 72 years old.


Other ‘Road Surfacemen’ at that time included John Mills who  lived at Afton Bridgend and John Montgomerie a tenant at the Old Mill farm. Montgomerie also farmed at Nether Dalhanna for a time and was clearly known to the Campbells. His son John was killed serving as a sergeant in the Imperial Yeomanry at Boshof, South Africa during the Boer War and is remembered on the family headstone in the Auld Kirkyard.

George Sanderson in ‘New Cumnock  Far and Away’ [3] identifies the change in the nature of the work on road surfaces and in particular the change from the use of water stones & earth to the best blue whinstone; he comments “Samuel Sharp and Tammas Campbell, roadmen of the past, now gave way to a new job description, stone knappers with their long shafted hammers, among them Alex Rorrison, John Blackwood , George Sanderson and Jock McKenzie“.

Critical to the funding of the work carried out on the road networks was the collection of tolls including those strategically positioned to prevent any ‘fly’ detours designed to avoid payment. Trawling through the Census records the following people and places associated with toll-keeping appear.

Turnpike Road

  • Pathhead: Robert McKenzie (1861)
  • Old Mill Toll / School House: Robert McKenzie (1855), Frances & Flora McKenzie (1871)
  •  Gatelochside (Situated on the New Cumnock to Kirkconnel Road between the farms of Blackwood and Polshill ): Agnes Vallance (1841), Elizabeth Richard (1851)

Parish Roads

  • Bowes Cottage (Mansfield Road): Robert Wilson (1851), Marion and Andrew Beattie (1881)
  • Benston Toll: Janet Dunbar (1851), Allan McQuarry (1871), Alexander Boyd (1881)
  • Dalleagles: Andrew Ross (1875), David Turnbull (1881) – also worked as grocer and cow-feeder
T.P. – Toll Point at the Old Mill / Schoolhouse – this area is still known as The Toll

Meanwhile the work of the Ayr District Road Trust continued and the plans for activity during the period March 1863 to March 1864 were proposed by James Campbell, surveyor.

The Ayrshire Express , March 7, 1863

‘AYR ROAD TRUST: STATED MEETING of the TRUSTEES on the TURNPIKE and PARISH ROADS in the DISTRICT of AYR will be held in the Court-House, Ayr on Friday, the 13th March, at Twelve, noon. At this Meeting the Conversion Money will be allocated to all the Parish Roads in the District. The Allocation proposed by Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor, appears from the subjoined Report, prepared an lodged by him  in order of the Trustees. JOHN McMURTIE, Clerk   Ayr 3d March, 1863′

The Report prepared by James Campbell, 25th Feb 1863 covered the parishes of Coylton, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Monkton, Newton, Ochiltree, Saint Quivox, Tarbolton. It included “an estimate of the probable Expense of Making, Widening, Improving and Repairing the Parish Roads in the District of Ayr, from March 1863 to March 1864.” The extract from the parish of New Cumnock reads –

The Parish of New Cumnock: Sum for allocation £117 5s 3 1/2d

  1. Afton Road / £15
  2. Auchincross Road / £15
  3. Branch from Burnton to Mansfield Road* / £25
  4. Road from Moat to Marchburn Road to the Road from Benston Toll to South Bogg / £5
  5. Road from the Mansfield Road by Midtown to the Cumnock Road** at March £15

* This roads crosses the Nith by a ford. **Cumnock Road is the turnpike road and this is the road from Corsencon to March at the boundary between Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire)

Afton Road with Craigbraneoch Hill and Stayamara in the distance

‘There was a REMIT from the District Trustees to take the Road from the south end of the Afton Road to the separation of Roads to Craigs and Craigdarroch into the list. This road has been formed and slightly metalled. The formation is rather narrow, and the water course are defective. A considerable part on the high side is upon rock. The water courses will not be easily cut in it. Some parts of the high side will require breast walls. Part on the low side has retaining walls without any protection fence. This is dangerous for persons passing along the Road. There are some points of rock that will require to be cut off. The whole Roadway covered 12 feet broad, an 6 inches deep of clean gravel. The water courses cleaned out. In aid of this £92 5s 3 1/2.’


The funding for building and maintaining bridges in Ayrshire was managed by the Bridge Committee.

Ayrshire Express, Saturday 21st February 1863

The Ayrshire Express, April 4, 1863

‘The Stated Meeting of the County Road Trust was held on the Court-house yesterday, at 12 o’clock noon. Present – P.B. Mure Macreadie, J. D. Boswell, Thomas Davidson, Gavin Gemmell, Provost Paterson, Baillie Smith, Robert Robertson and A. Lang. The balance at the credit of the Bridge Fund was ascertained to be £3805 10s 3 1/2d; and it appeared from the pass books containing the account of the Bridge Money, kept by Mr Boswell, that there was in the National Bank of Scotland, at Ayr, on 2d March, £3823 to their credit.’

Mr Boswell, was John Douglas Boswell Esq. of Garallan, Old Cumnock who also owned the lands of South Boig, New Cumnock. Among other things he was the collector of bridge money and  determined how this would be allocated. Sadly this would prove to be his last meeting of the Bridge Committee. He had been in poor health and on travelling from his residence in Ayr to the family estate at Garallan, caught a cold and passed away on 14th April . He lies in the family lair in the kirkyard at Ayr.

Of particular interest in Boswell’s final committee meeting is the allocation of funds to two bridges in the parish of New Cumnock – one small and one large.

  • No 12: Petition by the Most Noble Marquis of Bute and Curators for a Grant to build a Bridge near Dalgig Burn, on the Turnpike Road from the Moat Toll to the Marchburn. £28 16s from new bridge fund
  • No 13: Petition by the Trustees of the Ayr District for additional Grants to re-build and widen the Bridge over the Water of the Nith, on the Turnpike Road from Ayr by Cumnock to the march of the County. £303 15s for widening the bridge from the repair funds, and £604 for repairs from the repairs fund.
Bridge over Dalgig burn

On the motion of Mr Robertson, seconded by the Provost Paterson, it was agreed to transfer the £217 originally given to Afton Bridge for repairs, but which repairs might with perfect safety be laid aside for some time, to the bridge over the Nith at New Cumnock, on the recommendation of the district committee.

Afton Bridge repair funds diverted to the Nith Bridge

The plans for the building a three-arch bridge over the River Nith were quickly progressed and the following advert placed in the Ayrshire Express (18th April 1863)

‘CONTRACTORS WANTED: To BUILD a BRIDGE of THREE ARCHES over the Water of Nith, near New Cumnock on the road from Ayr by Cumnock and New Cumnock to Dumfriesshire. Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor will attend at the Nith Bridge on MONDAY, the 27th current, at 11 o’clock and show the Plans, Sections, and Specifications for the works. Sealed estimates to be lodged by Mr McMurtie Clerk to the Road Trustees, Ayr on or before THURSDAY, 30th current. The Road Trustees do not bind themselves to accept the lowest, or any of the Offers. Security will be required for the due performance of the works. Ayr, 17th April, 1863.’

Nith Bridge with Afton Hotel on the left and original Free Church on the castlehill

The Glasgow to Dumfries and  Carlisle South Western Railway line ran parallel with the River Nith as it cut across the parish of New Cumnock on its way to the Solway Firth. This section of the railway had been completed in 1850 and although it provided competition to the roads, the local traffic from the village to the railway station and back relied heavily on the Nith bridge.

Three-arched Nith Bridge with Arthur Memorial UF Church on the castlehill

NITH BRIDGE FOUNDATION STONE [The Ayrshire Express, 8th August, 1863]

The foundation stone was laid on Thursday 6th August 1863 -“the day was observed as a holiday, being quite a gala day in the parish; and the weather was exceedingly favourable.” The procession left the Castle at one o’clock and the ceremony at the bridge began with some singing followed by a prayer from the parish minister the Reverend Robert Murray. which included the words –

May this bridge, of which we are about to lay the foundation stone, be of great service to this community, and may all who pass over it remember that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.

The foundation stone was laid and a bottle containing the newspapers of the day and coins of the realm was deposited in the cavity of the stone along  memorial inscribed brass plate.

Nith Bridge, New Cumnock

The Ayrshire Express, November 14, 1863

Ayr Road Trust: The report on the Nith Bridge was read. Provost Campbell made a thorough survey of the work, and found it most substantially executed. The committee had authorised payment of the contract prices. Authority had also been given to Mr Campbell, surveyor, to valuate several pieces of which obstructed the approaches to the bridge, with a view to their purchase. The committee reported that the total outlay was £1475, or less by £125 than the sum of £1600 which by the minutes they were authorized to expend.’

The road to Dalhanna

The three-arch Nith Bridge still stands today over 150 years later a fitting legacy of James Campbell of Dalhanna and his working years as road surveyor with the Ayr District Road Trust. The Old Roads of Scotland web-site [2] provides the following overview of James Campbell, surveyor.

James Campbell

  • Surveyor for the turnpike and statute labour roads in Ayr and Mauchline Districts noted the high cost of maintaining roads in towns due to heavy traffic, pavements, and obtaining road materials.
  • He thought it was more economical to have management of both types of road and that it would be beneficial if revenues could be diverted from particular parishes and particular turnpike roads so that they could be used where most needed.
  • He noted the dissatisfaction with the toll system and felt this could be alleviated if trusts were consolidated and tolls re-sited so that payment only had to be made every 5 or 6 miles. Having to keep separate accounts for each trust led to a great deal of unnecessary work.
  • He thought that having an assessment in place of tolls would be more unfair than tolls, and that it would be difficult to collect a horse assessment.

After retiring from his role as road surveyor James continued to live at Nursery Hall with his wife Elizabeth and son William (civil engineer) and daughter Margaret, both unmarried. Elizabeth passed away in 1869, aged 72 years, while staying with their son John McKnight Campbell (shipbroker) at his home in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. James passed away two years later, aged 74 years, at his home at Nursery Hall. They rest together in the Campbell lair in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock are also remembered on the McKnight family headstone a few steps away.


McKnight headstone – including Elizabeth wife of James Campbell, Road Surveyor

III. William Campbell of Dalhanna (1831-1914)

Following the death of his father William Campbell, aged 40 years, inherited the lands of Dalhanna. Unmarried William worked as a civil engineer for a time in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He returned to Scotland and lived with his parents at Nursery Hall on the outskirts of Ayr while the farm at Dalhanna continued to be tenanted by his sister Margaret and husband William Sharp.

William followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a road surveyor; this is his occupation recorded in  the 1875 Valuation Rolls for New Cumnock as the proprietor of Over Dalhanna. It is not clear when he began working in this capacity for the Ayr Road Trust and indeed he later enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Trust in his endeavour to be admitted as Trustee and this is played out in number of newspaper articles.

He had previously applied to join but withdrew his application in January 1879 only to apply again in July of that year. His application may have been motivated by the Trust’s refusal in March 1879 to accept a petition put forward to the Trust meeting in March.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  March 20, 1879

A petition from farmers and others along the Afton road in the New Cumnock district, complaining of the hardship of having to pay a toll when they used only about 70 yards of the turnpike road, and prayed to be relieved from that exaction, was refused

At the same meeting the Surveyor’s recommendation to raise the rate at the Benston toll in the parish of New Cumnock “from 2d to 3d a cart, and other vehicles in proportion was accepted, on the ground that the present revenue was insufficient to maintain the road in the repair“.

Carcow burn bridge & Lochingerroch Farm on the Afton road with Blackcraig hill in the distance

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  August 7, 1879

William Campbell’s application to join the Trust was also dismissed –

An application by Mr Wm. Campbell of Over Dalhanna to be appointed a Trustee to the roads in the district of Ayr was unanimously dismissed. Mr Campbell’s qualification was, it was explained, sufficient to entitle to him to act as a Trustee for the County, but it was optional on part of the Trustees to appoint him to any district. The dismissal of the application was moved by Col. Campbell of Treesbanks and seconded by Dr Ronald, Ayr.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  September 18, 1879

Nevertheless, William Campbell attended the meeting of Ayr Road Trust at the County Buildings in September where the newspaper report refer to him as the “ex-surveyor”. It proved to be a heated meeting. Colonel Campbell moved that Mr Campbell be asked to withdraw, but he refused to do so and stated his case

‘By the Ayrshire Roads Act, I am entitled to vote on the question of maintaining the roads in the County. I may also mention another thing which Mr Shaw (Clerk), will be aware, that independent of any motion, by the minutes of the general meeting, I am entitled to sit as a trustee in the parish of New Cumnock.‘ The heated discussion continued and the Chairman moved that the meeting proceeds to buisness and leaves Mr Campbell’s name of the sederunt which was met with applause and seconded by Dr Ronald. There was then an exchange of words between Colonel Hay Boyd of Townend and William Campbell. “What are you making such a noise about?” demanded the Colonel. “I am not making a noise about anything“, replied Campbell , “I want to talk about my right to act as a Trustee.”  The Chairman instructed the Clerk to proceed to business and the matter was then dropped.  Mr Campbell, maintained his place at the table, and occasionally took part in the conversation on the different subjects discussed.

The Glasgow Herald, November 15, 1879

The newspaper report of November’s meeting of the Ayr Road Trust was accompanied with the sub-heading ‘A Scene’ with William Campbell’s right to attend the meeting was grabbing the headlines again.

Mr William Campbell (the late road surveyor) objected to a portion of the minutes in so far as they related to the erection of a bridge over the Nith and that he objected to the bridge being made of wood instead of iron.”

The Clerk asked Mr Campbell to put his objection in writing before the Chairman (General Burnett of Gadgirth) challenged his right to attend the meeting. Back and forth went argument and counter-argument until the exasperated Chairman exclaimed “You have no right to speak, sir, and if you do you will be turned out the room” forcing Provost Steele to interject “with all respect to the chairman, he did not think the meeting would support such a line of action.” Mr Campbell in deference to some of his friends decide to retire but he had to tell the meeting and the chairman that he had to be there.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, November 27, 1879

Undeterred William Campbell penned a letter to the Editor of The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal

“Sir -Having been prevented at the meeting of the above Trust, held on Friday 14th, from explaining how I claimed to be a member of the Trust in so far as the Parish of New Cumnock is concerned. I will feel obliged by your granting me space to show that I claimed nothing but what I was fair and legally entitled to.”

Campbell proceeds to the specific Clause of the Ayrshire Roads Act drawing particular attention to the statement “provided always that the Heritors of each Parish who are Trustees under this Act shall be Trustees of their respective parishes.

Campbell explains I consider this latter part of the clause

“justifies me in attending any meetings, wherever held, at which business regarding the Parish Roads in New Cumnock is taken up, and not, as the Clerk (Mr. C. G. Shaw) states, only those which are held in the Parish of New Cumnock, where a meeting of the Parish Roads Trustees has not been held during the currency of the present Act, which came into force in 1847. It is even doubtful if such a meeting has been held in the parish within the memory of oldest inhabitant. I may also give the opinion of the Clerk (Mr. Wm Pollock) of the General Road Trust for the County, and that is – I am entitled to be present at all meetings of the Ayr District Road Trust at which business affecting the Parish Roads in New Cumnock is taken up, and my experience is that business affecting them may be brought up by any member.”

Campbell then expanded on the matter of the bridge over the Water of Nith, on a New Cumnock parish road, that he had been prevented from discussing at the Trust meeting last week. He explains

“A bridge there is much-needed, and I merely wished to say that if, instead of erecting a wooden foot-bridge, a grant from the bridge funds had been applied for to build a bridge with stone abutments and iron girders and of a width suitable for the traffic of district, three-fifths of the cost might have been obtained, and the proprietors benefited would no doubt have contributed handsomely.”

From the Ha’Runnel : Bridge over River Nith in foreground with Glen Afton in the distance

The Ayr Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, December 18, 1879

County of Ayr Road Trust: The TRUSTEES will hold a STATED GENERAL MEETING within the COUNTY BUILDINGS, at AYR, on FRIDAY the 2d of January next, at Noon. The meeting will dispose of the following matters: namely,

  1. A motion, of which notice was given by MR JAMES INGLIS McDERMENT Eldest, Bailie of the Burgh of Newton-on-Ayr, at the last Stated General Meeting of the Trustees, that the Resolution of the Trustees at their Stated General Meeting held on the 1st August last, refusing an application of William Campbell of Over Dalhanna, Nurseryhall, Ayr to be appointed a Road Trustee for the District of Ayr and on the Parish Roads in the Parishes of that District, be revoked and that Mr Campbell be appointed in terms of his application.
  2. An appeal by the said Mr WILLIAM CAMPBELL against the proceedings of a meeting of the Road Trustees for the District of Ayr, held on the 14th November last, in so far as his acting as a Trustee for the Parish Roads in the Parish of New Cumnock is concerned.
  3. Applications for the Authority to Pay Grants of Bridge Money

William Pollock, Clerk / Ayr, 16th December, 1879.

The new decade began with good news for the New Cumnock landowner. 

The Glasgow Herald, 3rd January 1880

On the motion of Mr McDerment and seconded by General Burnett of Gadgirth, William Campbell, late road surveyor, was unanimously appointed a Trustee for the Ayr District.

His appointment went through unanimously, the motion being seconded by Burnett of Gadgirth who had threatened to have Campbell ejected from the meeting back in mid-November, perhaps in an attempt to building some bridges, metaphorically speaking!

William Campbell continued to represent the parish of New Cumnock for many years. He moved from Nursery Hall and lived with his spinster sister Margaret at Stewart Villa in the Hawkhill district of Ayr, on the Whitletts Road.

The Ayr Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, February 8, 1879

County of Ayr Road Trust:  The first meeting of the Trustees appointed under the Roads and Bridges Act of 1878 was held in the Court House, Ayr, on Tuesday last. The meeting was the largest of the kind we have seen in Ayr, both the area and the gallery of the Court House being filled.

The New Cumnock representatives that day were –

  • William Campbell of Dalhanna
  • James Craig of Craigdarroch
  • Alexander Hazle of Blackcraig
  • William Howat, Burnfoot
  • William Hyslop of Bank
  • Hugh C McKerrow, Muirfoot
  • John Picken, Mansfield Mains
Bout Burn Bridge, Afton Road with Blackcraig Hill

Perhaps by that time, or soon after, Campbell and other landed proprietors in New Cumnock had been successful in their application for funds to build an iron bridge with stone abutments over the River Nith. It is fitting that after James Campbell had been a driving force to improve the Nith Bridge on the turnpike road through the town of New Cumnock, that his eldest son William Campbell had been a driving force in building of the Nith Bridge on the parish road from Connel Park to Old Cumnock.

Bridge over the Nith on the parish road from Connel Park to Old Cumnock

William Campbell died in 1914, aged 83 years old, at his home at Stewart Villa. His sister Margaret Crawford Young Campbell had passed away at their home three years beforehand and both lie together in the family lair in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. William’s younger, and only, brother John McKnight Campbell had passed away in 1906 and his story will follow. It was John’s son James Campbell that fell heir to the lands of Dalhanna. Born in Glasgow in 1866 , he would marry Grace Bryson from the parish of Sorn, his father had acquired the lands of Daldorch in that parish. This family moved to County Durham where John became a very successful iron merchant and the Campbell of Dalhanna’s links with New Cumnock were now entirely that off absentee landlord, the tenants farmers at Dalhanna had not been a member of that family for over forty years.

The road to Dalhanna Farm road

Dalhanna Farm continues to nestle on the lower slopes of Dalhanna hill a few hundred yards from the Afton Water in glorious Glen Afton.


Following in the footsteps of James Campbell and his son William as road surveyors in the district of Ayr was surveyor Allan Stevenson, born in Tarbolton. His father John Stevenson later worked on Garallan Estate, Cumnock for a time before moving to Sorn and then returning to Changue in Cumnock where the well known Stevensons Dairy Farm emerged.

Muifoot Burn Bridge, Mansfield Road

Allan Stevenson was appointed as the first secretary of the Road Surveyors Association of Scotland in 1884 and held the post for 25 years. He became a prominent architect in the county and his contributions in New Cumnock listed in the Dictionary of Architects [4]  are as follows – the Muirfoot Burn Bridge on the Mansfield Road (plans, 1875), West Polquhirter Bridge (plans, 1880), Afton Bridge (additionss & alterations, 1882), New Cumnock Town Hall (1888), Afton Cemetery (plans, 1901) and Glen Afton Sanatorium (site architect, 1904; extensions, 1908, 1915).  Another of Stevenson’s contribution worthy of note in the context of the Campells of Dalhanna is the additions and alterations made in 1921 to former Campbell residence of Nursery Hall, Whitletts, then owned by William Baird & Company. 

You can read more about Allan Stevenson at the Dictionary of Scottish Architects project


[1]  David McLure (1994), Tolls and Tacksmen. 18th century Roads in the County of John Loudoun McAdam. Ayrshire Monographs No. 13. Ayr Arch & Nat Hist Soc.

[2]’Old Roads of Scotland web-site’, Gerald Cummins at

[3] George Sanderson (1992), New Cumnock Far and Away, Geddes (Irvine)

[4] Dictionary of Scottish Architects project

National Library of Scotland

Scotland’s People

Scotland’s Places 

The British Newspapers Archives

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