Kirkcowan – What's Going On?

The Milroy Family

The Covenanter Gilbert Milroy came originally from Penninghame Parish, but he settled, upon his safe return to Scotland, in Kirkcowan Parish and served until his death as an elder in the Parish Kirk.

John Milroy, born in 1680, was a young child when his father was captured and transported to Jamaica. He lived at Airyligg and was a tailor. In 1721 he died while crossing the steps of Airyligg when he fell and was fatally pierced in the side by his own tailor’s shears.

His son John, born in 1713, lived at Gargrie and lived until 1805 when, aged 92 years, he died at Barhoise.

It was he who began the mill enterprise with his son Robert.

Robert, born in 1751, served his time as apprentice dyer in Mochrum with John Falconer, son of the dyer Falconer who had fled to Mochrum, it is believed, to escape punishment for his part in the Porteous Riots in Edinburgh. When Robert Milroy returned to Kirkcowan in 1779, he was 28 years old. He married Janet Masterton and he was an elder in Mrs. Reid’s Cameronian Church in Newton Stewart. With his father, Robert Milroy founded the first Milroy mill on the Water of Tarff. As his own family of six sons and two daughters grew up, the mill expanded and flourished.

Four of his sons, John, James, Robert, and Peter worked in the family business before emigrating to various parts of the West Indies and Canada, from where, by sending money home, they enriched the family’s capital and made extension to and enlargement of the mill possible.

When Robert died in 1814, a new carding mill was under construction. William Milroy, of Waulk Mill, with one son, and Thomas Milroy, of Tarff House, with six sons, carried on the family business.

At its peak in the mid—to—late nineteenth century, the mills were run by grandsons and great grandsons of the original founders. At that period, the three brothers who were the mainstays of the business were:

William, Thomas, and Robert. Eventually, William was left in sole charge, his brothers having retired, but he was a tenant of his brother Robert who had bought the mill feu.

In 1895, presumably upon his own retirement , William Milroy was honoured with a presentation of silver and speeches were made which contained references to the fact that he was descended from the Covenanter Milroy.

William Milroy, a bachelor, was the last of the family to own and operate the business of the Waulkmill.

His brother Inglis, after his retirement from business in Manchester, assisted him. Their sister married a Dr. Parker from the English Midlands. The present resident of the house of Waulkmill, Mrs. Molly Parker, a native of the village, is the widow of their son, also Dr. Parker.