The old paternalistic methods of transfering land occupation rights from father to son had slowly been giving way to a more capitalistic method of selection of tenants on the basis of ability to pay rent. There were winners and losers in Cumnock, Ayrshire, throughout the eighteenth century. The end of three McCowan farms in Old Cumnock Parish may have come in 1773 when their leases came due. (The bottom of this interesting document is missing, so a date is not shown. However, the previous 19 year lease on Hill of Leifnorries was signed in 1754.)
Rental of the Lands to be Sett by the
N.B. The Grassums above mentioned are all oferd by the present possessors of the several mailings excepting Greenbraehead possessed by William Gemmil who is not in a condition to give any grassum nor would it be adviseable to sett the possession to him at any rate as his whole houses are now ruinous and he not in a condition to repair them.
The Tenents Names marked thus + are reputed honest people and good neighbours but have hitherto only been able to stock their possessions and pay their rent with some difficulty... [last line missing from copy]
George McCowan for Little Shang at £60 "Scots money", John McCowan (1743-1812) for Hill of Leifnorries at £90 and William McCowan for Skairs of Auchenway at £40 were all marked +.
George McCowan had lived at Dalleagles and Brockloch in New Cumnock Parish between 1742 and 1752 and tenanted Little Shang, Old Cumnock, from about 1754 until at least 1764 according to the Parish Baptism Registers and Dumfries House papers. He must have left an impression as he was remembered by the Minister at Auchinleck in 1801:
It is possible that the Earl might reward a faithful old tenant by taking his daughter into his household staff for a time. Notably, George had arrived at Little Shang perhaps as early as 1752, so it does appear that he did not convince the estate manager to renew his lease on the farm at renewal time in 1773.
As for William and John, we are not absolutely certain of the fate of their respective offers to re-rent their farms. The previous 19 year lease on Hill of Leifnorries was signed in 1754 by his late father, also named John. We do know that John McCowan (1743-1812) eventually turned to the transportation business as he was a "carrier" in Cumnock by 1789. Hill of Leifnorreis had been held in lease by his family since at least the early seventeenth century.
The story of Pennyfadzeochmiln is surely interesting, as suggested by court records. In 1728, Hugh McCowan had left it in liferent to his sister Jean Templeton and her children, William apparently being the eldest.