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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
Earl of Dumfries With the Grassums oferd
by the Tennants for a Nineteen Year Tack

Rent: Scots Money


Hugh Mitchell for Lochbrouan 106 42
+ George Muir for Boylston & Broadmeadow 70 3
John Crichton for South and middle Barshairs 100 8
Alex Johnstone for Stay by the Gate 28 12
James Finlay for a part of the Hall of Barshair 16 3
Thomas Wallace for Bank & Fald 48 5
John Sutherland for Greenbraehead 40 5
John Ferguson & William Merry each of them for Woodside 80 6
+ George McCowan for Little Shang 60 5
Alex Johnstone for Brigend; Tarrenzean Miln 116 42
John Howat for Knockterrow 106 17
William Maclanochan for Craighumphy 33 5
+ John McCowan for Hill of Leifnorries 90 7
+ William McCowan for Skairs of Auchenway 40 3
+ Bethia Duncan for another part of the Hall of Barshair 16
Shankstoun 139
William Templetoun for Pennyfadzeochmiln 31

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:

This informs the Right Honnourable Earl of Dumfries that Margrat McOwan your old servant has been sick of a fever for some time and is fallen short of Money for her suport so is obleadged to aplay to your Lordship for som small mite to help untill she recover and your Petitonar will ever Pray

Margrat McOwan

NB the above Margrat McOwan was Daughter to George McOwan who lived for the space of 22 years in the Chang under your Lorship

That the above statement is agreable to truth is attested by John Lindsay Minr

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.

Scarboro Heights Record, V11 #4