Suggested Meaning:back of the moss
First element:Scots moss ‘marsh, bog, tract of soft wet land’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Moshouse?
OS Names Book (1855-57):Mossback
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Earlier Forms
Moshouse (1654)

Moshouse, situated between Powhois (High Polquheys) and Nether PowhouB (Low Po/lquheys) may or may not be the forerunner of Mossback, however it does indicate the presence of a moss, a stretch of marshy ground, in the vicinity.

Map 1 Moshouse | Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) entry for Mossback reads –

The remains of an old house on Polquheys farm and close to Polquheys Burn

The Ordnance Survey map shows Mossback ruins to the east of High Polquheys on the north bank of Polquheys / Muirfoot Burn, while south of the burn a stretch of moss is marked.

Scots moss ‘marsh, bog, tract of soft wet land’

One of the definitions for moss given in the Dictionary of the Scots Language [1] reads ‘a marsh, bog, a tract of soft wet ground‘ and also notes it is ‘frequently found in collocation moss and muir’. In its journey from its source to its confluence with the River Nith the Polquheys burns flows past Mossback and Muirfoot.

There are almost 20 named mosses in New Cumnock and probably just as many unnamed including the one at Mossback, reflecting the upland nature of the parish.

Mossback near Polquheys

Mossback Ruins on Polquheys Burn | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Mossback would originally have housed agricultural labourers, along with their families, that worked on the Polquheys farms. However, in the 1841 Census there were two branches of the Houston family, 11 people in all, living at Mossback headed by brothers George and Alexander who worked as coal miners at Mansfield Colliery, a mile or so to the west of Mossback. By the 1851 Census George and his expanding family had moved to Mansfield Cottage but tragically he and a colleague were killed as they were being hauled up a shaft when a fall of stone sent them crashing to the bottom.


[1] Dictionary of the Scots Language | moss
Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1 | Blaeu Colia Provincia (1654) | Moshouse
Map 2 |OS Map (1892-1960) |Mossback
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 |Mossback (ruins)