Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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" Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses For honest men and bonny lasses."





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Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 Years Ago

A Y R 

" Add Ayr, where ne'er a town surpasses For honest men and bonny lasses."

THE county town stands in the three parishes of Ayr, St. Quivox, and Newton-upon-Ayr, on the bright sandy shore of Ayr Bay, at the mouth of the Ayr River, which flows through its centre into the sea. It is distant from Glasgow, via Kilmarnock and Fenwick, 34 miles; from Edinburgh 76 miles; and from London, 407 3/4 miles. The section on the north side of the river is in the parishes of St. Quivox and Newton-upon-Ayr - which join at the New Bridge-and bears the district names of Wallacetown above the bridge and Newton below it; that on the south side of the river is in the parish of Ayr, and constitutes the ancient royal burgh whose charter was granted by King William (The Lion) in the year 1202, securing to the people all the lands in Ayr parish (6935 acres). Long ago, for a mere trifle, they sold it nearly all but what is now the Racecourse (90 acres). Of this rare document, Hill Burton says, it " is perhaps the oldest known charter absolutely bringing a burgh into existence." The modern municipal and Parliamentary burgh includes the whole  town (except some skirting villas and cottages) north and south, which is compactly built, oval in shape, and united across the river by the two celebrated poetic "Brigs of Ayr." Population in 1871, 17,954; in 1881, 30,967. Annual value of real property in 1880-81, .£102,435- being higher than any other town of similar size in Scotland. 

The Auld Brig was built, it is said, about the year 1350, by two maiden sisters, who were so grieved with the spectacle of people drowning at the ford known as the Ducot-stream, two hundred yards above, that they resolved thus to spend their means. It is a charming specimen of ancient bridge architecture - high, and so narrow that " twa wheelbarrows tremble when they meet." The New Brig, two hundred yards below, was erected when John Ballantyne, banker, friend of Burns, was Provost; and it was during its erection, when the poet was a visitor at the Provost’s house, that he wrote the poem of "The Brigs of Ayr," and inscribed it to his generous friend, " Skilled in the secret to bestow with grace.

" That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke, And ken the lingo of the sp’ritual folk ; Fays, spunkies, kelpies, a’ they can explain them, And ev’n the vera deils they brawly ken them,

was proved in January, 1877, when the proud New Brig  showed signs of giving way, and had to be rebuilt, for thus was brought to pass the prophecy contained in the following extract from the dialogue of the Brigs :-

 " I doubt na’, frien’, ye’ll think ye’re nae sheep-shank, Ance ye were streekit o’er frae bank to bank ! But gin ye be a brig as auld as me-Tho’, faith, that day I doubt ye’ll never see - There’ll be, if that date come, I’ll wad a bodle, Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle."  

" While crashing ice, borne on the roaring spate, Sweeps dams, an’ mills, an’ brigs a’ to the gate ; And from Glenbuck, down to the Ratton-key, Auld Ayr is just one lengthened tumbling sea ; Then down ye’ll hurl - deil nor ye never rise ! And dash the gumlie jaups up to the pouring skies."

Ayr enjoys a goodly share of wind and rain - comparatively warm in winter-washing and blowing it clean, and helping to maintain its long-established renown as a fashionable and cheery health - giving place of abode. All round the shores of Great Britain there are hardly any such pure and sprightly sands as the sands of Ayr. 

Being a place of great antiquity, Ayr still retains many quaint and humble dwellings, and some venerable manufactories; but in new manufactories, in shipping, in beauty and magnificence of streets, of shops and public buildings, suburban villas and cottages, has of late years made a marvellous progress, and, indeed, in the amount of rich and costly architecture is unequalled by any town of her class in Scotland or England. Perth and Inverness, to be sure, come closely behind. There are manufactories of leather, boots and shoes, carpets, lace, woollens, winceys, and agricultural implements; shipbuilding, coachbuilding, engineering, ironfounding, worsted spinning, sail-making; rope works, chemical works, sculpture works, saw mills, and grain mills. The principal shop streets are: Sandgate, extending south from New Bridge-broad, straight, exhibiting much fine, rich architecture ; High Street, starting from Sandgate Street at right angles, near the bridge, following the line of the river eastward, passing the approach to the Old Bridge, thence bearing southward-long, diversified with old and new buildings, highly important; Newmarket Street, crossing from High Street to Sandgate a little above the Old Bridge; and Main Street, running north from the New Bridge. Of the recent public buildings, it may be noticed that the Municipal Court-Room and Public Hall, adjoining the Town Buildings at the corner of High Street and Sandgate, were completed in 1881, at a cost of £30,000; a new Hospital was erected in 1883, at a cost of about £11,000; a beautiful Esplanade and new Slip Dock were constructed in 1880, at a cost of £13,036; a new Academy, finished in 1880, cost £3000; a new Industrial School was built in 1876, at a cost of £5500; and two new Public Schools in 1875, at a cost of £8672. The New Bridge, rebuilt in 1877, cost £16,300. New Harbour Works (including a new dock, 650 feet by 400 feet), covering a space of 78 acres, with quay walls of 33 feet, were constructed in 1874-78, at a cost of £200,OOO ; and their hydraulic hoists, erected at the same time, cost a further sum of £9700. Of earlier date, the County Buildings, in Wellington Square, after a design copied from an ancient temple in the City of Rome, cost over £30,000. The Town Buildings, in the very centre of the town, are a stately edifice, adorned with a tower surmounted by the famous Ayr steeple, 226 feet high. The Post Office, situated in Newmarket Street, is a head office, with telegraph, money order, insurance, annuity, and savings bank departments. Some of the banking offices are very grand. These are the Bank of Scotland, British Linen Company Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Commercial Bank, National Bank, Royal Bank, and Union Bank. There are four Free Churches, six Established Churches, two United Presbyterian Churches, an Original Secession Church, an Evangelical Union Church, a Wesleyan Methodist Church, an Episcopalian Church, and a Roman Catholic Church. The oldest is the Established Church, off High Street, erected in 1654, on the site of the Greyfriars’ Monastery, founded in 1472, and supposed to be near the site of the Monastery of the Blackfriars, which was founded in 1230 by Alexander II. Not a vestige of the two Monasteries now remains. When Cromwell visited Scotland with an army to assist the party opposed to Charles II., he constructed a fortification here, enclosing 11 acres by a water ditch, over which there was a drawbridge. As it happened, the only church of the place - an ancient one dedicated to St. John the Baptist - was enclosed within the selected space; and it was decided to erect a new one outside for the use of the inhabitants, Cromwell defraying a twentieth part of the cost. That new church is the Old Church, off High Street. Its most famous minister of the olden time was John Welsh, son-in-law to the great John Knox. Mrs Welsh (Elizabeth Knox) died at Ayr, 1625.

The Churchyard contains a monument to seven martyrs, who suffered December 29th, 1666. St. John’s, within the Fort, was used for storing arms, and was afterwards allowed to fall to ruins, and has all gone but the tower. It is memorable as the house in which the first Parliament under Bruce assembled, in 1315, and settled the Scottish Crown on the descendents of that heroic King, who still wear it. Only a fragment of the Fort remains.

As a seat of learning, Ayr has a prestige somewhat like that of a University town. There are 17 schools, having accommodation for between 4000 and 5000 scholars. This is no doubt due to the "honest men and bonny lasses " employed as teachers, the agreeable manners imparted to the scholars by the general fashion of the place, and to its salubrious situation. As behoves a seat of learning, Ayr produces a large aggregate of literature, and has an extensive trade in printing and publishing and bookbinding. Eight or nine newspapers are printed here weekly, five of which are published in the town. The Ayr Advertiser, the first newspaper in the county, and the oldest but seven of the 192 newspapers of Scotland, was established in 1803, by the enterprising spirit of John Wilson (the " We Johnnie" of Burns), who printed and published the first or Kilmarnock edition of the poet’s works. As a Magistrate of Ayr, his public spirit gained him much respect. Mr. Wilson died here, in Wellington Square, 1831, aged about 70. 

It seems to have always been a seat of learning. We read in Latin literature of one Joannes Scotus Erigena (John Scott of Ayr), who lived in the ninth century, and who excelled all men of his time in the knowledge of language and philosophy. He travelled to Athens, where he acquired the Greek and Oriental languages; and on his journey homeward was induced by Charles I., King of France, to remain at his Court several years. Having offended the Pope by translating into Latin the works of Alfred, King of England, to restore learning at Oxford. He wrote a number of works in philosophy and history, the greatest of which that has been preserved is the "Division of Nature; or, the Nature of Things " - which lay in manuscript upwards of 800 years, till it was printed and published at Oxford in 1681.

Andrew Michael Ramsay, Chevalier, was the son of a baker in Ayr, where he was born, June 9th, 1681. He was educated at Ayr and Edinburgh University, and went to the Continent, where he spent his life, chiefly as a tutor of young Princes, and was made a Knight of the Order of St. Lazurus - thus his title of Chevalier. He wrote " Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion," " Essay upon Civil Government," " History of M. de Turenne," " Remarks on Shaftesbury’s Characteristics," " Discourse upon Epic Poetry," " Life of Fenelon," his illustrious friend. Died at St. German-en-Laye, France, May 6th, 1743. Archibald Crawford, poet and miscellaneous prose writer, was born at Ayr, 1774. He is author of "Tales of my Grandmother, " "The Gaberlunzie," "The Huntly Casket," the popular song, "Bonnie Mary Hay," &c. Died at Ayr, 1843.

John Wilson, R.S.A., marine artist, born at Ayr, 1774, was apprenticed to a house decorator in Edinburgh, where he took lessons in landscape painting from Nasmyth, who painted the well-known portrait of Burns. Having removed to London, he gained a prize offered by the British Institution for the best painting of the Battle of Trafalgar. This and many other works sustain Mr. Wilson's fame as an artist of rare genius. Died at Folkestone, 1855, aged 81.

John, Lord Cowan, born at Ayr, 1800; educated at Ayr Academy and Edinburgh University, for the law. Solicitor-General, 1851; Lord of Session, same year. Died, 1857.

James Ferguson, D.C.L., F.R.S., architect, was born at Ayr, 1808. Engaged in business in India; retired, and travelled in the East. Published " Rock-cut Temples of India," " Ancient Architecture of Hindostan," " Hand-book of Architecture," " History of Modern Styles of Architecture," " Tree and Serpent Worship," &c.

John Loudon Macadam, inventor of broken stone or macadamized roads, was born at Ayr, September 21, 1756. In 1815 he was appointed surveyor of the Bristol district of highways, and next year published " Practical Essay on the Repair and Preservation of Public Roads," with the result that all the principal highways in the English part of Great Britain were covered with macadam - that is, regular small broken stones. The inventor of macadamized roads (hardly less important than railways) deserves a marble statue in a space laid with neatly sized broken stones in Wellington Square, where there are already statues of General Neil and Archibald William, thirteenth Earl of Eglinton.

There is a statue of Sir William Wallace at the junction of Newmarket Street and High Street, the spot where the hero was thrown over a prison wall for dead ; and farther up High Street, on the left side, stands Wallace Tower, of unknown antiquity, restored and raised to a height of 113 feet in the year 1830. It is in the order of ancient Scottish architecture, and contains, in a lofty niche facing the opposite (west) side of the street, a hands of the giant hero, by the artist Thorn, a native of Tarbolton. It is satisfactory to know that, though the Tower has been rebuilt, it still contains the old clock whose voice was heard by Burns while composing his. " Brigs of Ayr," at two in the morning. 

" The drowsy Dungeon clock had numbered two, And Wallace Tower had sworn the fact was true." 

Oral tradition has always called it Wallace Tower, and it is supposed to have been a residence of his father. Some light will be thrown on the subject by an extract from the opening passage of Henry the Minstrel’s great poem, "The Life of Wallace," in two books. The curious old spelling is not that of the poet, as he was blind.

 " I will my proces hold of Wilyham Wallace as ye hef hard beyne teld. His forbears quha like till understand, Sehir Ranald Crawfurd, nicht Sheretf of Ayr, So in hys tyme he had a dochtir fayr, And younge Sehir Rannahl Schirreff of that toune, Hys systir fayr, of good fame and renoune ; Malcolm Wallace her gat in mariage, That Elrisle than had in heretage, Auchinboth, and othir syndry place, The serund 0 he was of gud Wallace."

The reader will observe that 0 stands for son, as it still stands for sun in some almanacs. Malcolm Wallace was. the second son of Adam Wallace of Riccarton, a seat on the Kyle side of the Irvine, Kilmarnock (now extinct), where the paternal ancestors of the family had lived for generations. One of the opposite party, who did not wish to accept the hero Wallace as ruler of Scotland, spoke of him disparagingly as not a King of Scotland, but "A King of Kyll, for yat he callit Wallace." This shows. plainly enough that the patriot was a Kyle man by both father and mother’s side, as also by repute; and there is really no evidence that he was not a lad born in Kyle, though it has been generally assumed that he was born at Elderslie, Paisley. The sundry other places mentioned by Henry as having belonged to Malcolm appear to have been this Wallace Tower in Ayr and Black Craig, New Cumnock, the only place where his patriot son ever had a household of his own. It is not incredible that this Wallace Tower was the residence of Malcolm and his young wife, Joan Crawford, daughter fair of Sir Ronald ,Crawford, Sheriff of Ayr, and sister fair of young Sir Ronald, Sheriff of that town, when their second son, the patriot hero, was born in 1276. Though Bruce and Baliol had each obtained the assistance of Edward of England to place him on the throne of Scotland, and were supported in that cowardly action by nearly all the nobility and gentry also swearing allegiance to that monarch, Malcolm Wallace refused to do so, and his household was broken up. His wife and younger son, or sons, went to reside with her uncle, near Dundee, at which town young Wallace went to school. His father .and elder brother did not go to Dundee, and were both killed by the English at Loudoun. It was this event that first roused the spirit. of the young hero to vengeance, when, at the age of 15, he slew an Englishman, the son of the English governor of Dundee Castle. From this time Wallace was outlawed, and there was nothing but death for him if he fell into the hands of the English. He fled with his mother, first to her brother who was stationed as a clergyman at Dunipace, and next to her brother the Sheriff at Ayr. But the English invited his uncle, the Sheriff, along with the best men of the town and county - Blair, Montgomery, Kennedy, "many Crawfords," and " kynd Cambellis, that neuir had beyne Barklais, Boidis, and Stuartis of gud kyn" to a  friendly conference in the Barns or Barracks at Ayr, and hanged them in pairs, one after the other, as they were not allowed to enter in a body, but were called in by name when the ropes were ready for them. The poet Barbour, who wrote about fifty years later, laments over such worthy men being "hangyt intill a berne in Ayr.‘" Henry the Minstrel says:-

" Wallas wept for gret loss off his kyne. Him thocht for baill his breyst ner bryst in twyn.

This was on the day after the massacre, when he received the horrible news from a woman. They were in search of him also, and he and three others on horseback fled in the direction of the Laiglane Wood, hotly pursued by 15 mounted Englishmen, who appear to have had the best horses, for Wallace and his three men were obliged to wheel round and give battle to the 15. The infuriated young giant killed five of them, his three men killed other five, and the remaining five saved themselves by flight. Night having come on, the woman went out and informed Wallace in the wood that the beastly army of murderers, having indulged in a heavy drinking bout-

"Of Irland ayl the mychtenst couth be wrocht ; Through full gluttre in swarff swappit like swyn. The woman tauld him rycht; ‘ Slepand as swyn ar all yon fals menyhe,. Na Scotis man is in that compane.’ Than Wallace said, ‘ Giff thai all dronkyn be, I call it best with fyr sor thaim to se. "

The woman gathered a few men to him--as it seems that women only dared to move about; he marched to the  Barns, blocaded the doors, set fire to them and consumed the whole, with their contents, numbering about 4000 men. The Minstrel says there "gat nane away, knaiff, & capitaine, nor knycht."  In addition to these, there were ,another thousand English soldiers quartered in the town .and castle who were put to the sword and slain by the people of the town, organized and commanded by the friars. 

" Of lykly men, that born was in Ingland, Be suerd and fyr that nycht deid fyve thousand.

Wallace, now joined by the relatives of those who had been treacherously hanged, marched by Mauchline Muir, and met another English company at Loudoun. Arrived in sight of them-in the words of the Minstrel-

" Than Wallace said-‘ Her was my fadyr slayn, My brothyr als, quilk dois me mekill payne, So sall my selff, or vengit be but dreid ; The traytour is her the cause was off that deid.’ "

He defeated them, and took possession of their stores. Nor did he rest until he had slashed and scotched the whole of the English armies out of Scotland, north and Bruce and his party on their side. On the 11th of November, 1297, two months the famous victory of Stirling Bridge, he was chosen his army Guardian of the Kingdom, which he accepted in name of the exiled King John (Baliol); and at the same time the conquering hero established his household at New Cumnock

Henry the Minstrel, the greatest war poet of Scotland -- " a second Homer " - was born about the year 1446. Major, the only authority, says he was blind from his birth, but has, unfortunately, omitted to record his birth-place, or any of his family relations. He is known only as Henry the Minstrel, which has led many people, not of Ayrshire, to surmise that Henry was his Christian name, which they have vulgarised to Harry---" Blind Harry." In Ayrshire we have found a general belief existing that Henry is his surname, and that he belonged to here. This belief may have come down to us by oral tradition, or it may have been founded on the facts that his great poem-the greatest heroic poem in the language - commences at Ayr, and contains many forms of expression peculiar to the district. This belief is supported also by the supposition that the poet’s extraordinary love and enthusiasm for the noble hero was partly occasioned by their both belonging to Ayrshire. As a minstrel of the first class he would, according to an old historian, be permitted to wear silk attire, and take rank with knights. He seems to have been in good circumstances, as the vast labour he spent on his "Life of Wallace " was done without the reward or patronage of any one, and without fear of enemies, which can be seen from his own words:-

" All worthie men at redys this rurall dyt, Blaym nocht the buk, set I be unperfyt. I suld hawe thank, sen I noch trawaill spaird ; For my laubour na man hecht me reward ; Na charge I had off king nor othir lord ; Gret harm I thocht his gud deid suld be smord. I haiff said her ner as the process  gais;  And feryeid nocht for frendschip nor for fais.

In the Tam o’ Shanter Inn, which is preserved as a genuine relic of Burns, visitors may enjoy the chairs in which Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnny sat on market nights, and the caups from which they quaffed the "reaming swats." South, out of High Street, we pass into the Monument Road. It is the road along which " Tam skelpit on through dub and mire, Despising wind, and rain, and fire’."

The genius of Macadam has done away with the dub and mire, and modern wealth has adorned the route with bright villas, pleasure-grounds, and flower gardens. Fully 8 mile south of the town is a bridge over the burn a little above "the ford, where in the snaw the Chapman smoor’d." Other suspicious places passed by Tam may be traced. South of the bridge we pass the woods of Rozelle mansion, which stands on the left. Beyond the woods the road bends a little to the west, as if to allow the sunshine to fall more in front of the Birthplace of Burns- a humble, thatch-roofed, whitewashed cottage, on the way-side, facing the south-east. It was the property of the Poet’s father, William Burns. The spelling was Burness until it was altered by the Poet and his brother Gilbert, evidently to make it harmonize with the pronunciation. William Burns left his paternal home, a small farm in Kincardineshire, at the age of 19, and came south to Edinburgh, where he remained several years, working as a gardener. After a good many years’ experience, he leased a few acres of land here at Alloway, for the purpose of planting a nursery. Becoming hopelessly fascinated with the charms of a loving, virtuous girl - Agnes Brown, a farmer’s daughter of the adjoining parish of Maybole - he built the cottage for her with his own hands, and married her. Here, in the kitchen bed, on the 25th of January, 1759 - two years and one month after the marriage - was born Robert Burns, the most wonderful prodigy of love and poetry the world has yet known. It needs no fine critical analysis to perceive that the sun is brighter, warmer, and cheerier than the moon and stars. As the uncultivated nursery ground was swallowing up the saved earnings of William Burns, he took a situation as gardener to Mr. Ferguson of Doonholm, Provost of Ayr, which he held for six or seven years, still residing in his own cottage, until Mr. Ferguson granted him a lease of the farm of Mount Oliphant, about two miles eastward of the cottage, and lent him £100 to stock it. Before leaving the cottage, little Robin had begun to toddle down to school at Alloway Mill, on the Doon, half a mile off. At Mount Oliphant he was educated - first at home, by his father, who was a man of culture; and afterwards at Dalrymple school, where he made rapid progress under Mr. Murdoch, a clever young teacher who boarded some time with the family at Mount Oliphant. The Poet himself says:- " Though it cost the schoolmaster some thrashings, I made an excellent English scholar; and by the time I was ten or eleven years of age, I was a critic in substantives, verbs, and particles. In my infant and boyish days, too, I owed much to an old woman who resided in the family, remarkable for her ignorance, credulity, and superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, war-locks, Betty Davidson (for that was her name) was there to store his young mind with tales and songs in the rich oral dialect, which is always the most pathetic and humorous, the most poetically or infinitely expressive part of every language. She fostered within him the growth of that universally unequalled power of expression which he posRiving the words to gar them clink." 

No mere scholastic selection of language could satisfy the natural feelings of him

" Whose songs gushed from his heart, As showers from the clouds of summer, Or tears from the eye-lids start ; Who through long days of labour, And nights devoid of ease, Still heard in his soul the music Of wonderful melodies."

In his fourteenth year Burns was sent to school at Ayr, boarding with Mr. Murdoch, who gave him a start in the French language-which he liked, and persevered with in the intervals of labour at home until he could read and understand prose authors. He also commenced to learn Latin, under Mr. Robertson, teacher, Ayr-which he did not appreciate, and left off. His period of education at Ayr was cut short. Mr. Ferguson, their generous landlord, died, and they fell into the hands of the merciless factor celebrated in the " Twa Dogs." They " lived very poorly." His father’s health and strength broke down, and he was no longer fit for work. The labour of the farm-ploughing, harvesting, threshing the corn with flails-had to be done by. the little boys, Robert and his brother Gilbert, two years younger. In Robert’s fifteenth autumn, Nellie Kilpatrick, the blacksmith’s daughter, a year younger than he, was his partner at the shearing. She was a " bonnie, sweet, sonsie lass; " he had not been in love before, and he says--" I did not know why my pulse beat such a furious ratan when I looked and fingered over her little hand to pick out the cruel nettle-stings and thistles. Among her other love-inspiring qualities, she sang sweetly; and it was her favourite reel to which I attempted giving an embodied vehicle in rhyme. . . . Thus with me began love and poetry." This, his first poetical composition, "Handsome Nell," is a very pretty song, having an innocent, boyish sentiment, true to nature. : Rather more than a year after this his father sold his cottage, left Mount Oliphant, and went to Lochlee, Tarbolton. For many years previous to 1880 the cottage was let as a public house by the  Corporation of Shoemakers at Ayr, but it was bought in that year by the Burns’ Monument Trustees, for £4000, to be converted into a Burns Museum, which it now is.

Along the road, about three furlongs south of Burns’ Cottage, on the "Banks and Braes o’ Bonny Doon," are a new Gothic church, the ruins of Old Kirk Alloway, a hotel, the New Bridge of Doon, the Old Brig o’ Doon, mingled with flowering shrubs and trees on height and in . .I hollow, green braes scattered with daisies and sweet-scented clover, blooming fresh and fair, the beautiful ’ Burns’ Monument towering high in the midst, and the turrets and gables of elegant mansions rising in the various-tinted groves around - all forming the most adorable scenic group in the enchanted Land of Burns. The " roof and rafters " of " Alloway’s Auld Haunted Kirk," that dirled to the skirling of Auld Nick’s bagpipes, are all gone-having been nibbled away and manufactured into precious relics. Two of these are chairs, made by Mr. David Auld, one of which was sent to King George IV., and is now, it is said, in Windsor Castle. The other he presented to the Earl of Eglinton - receiving in return a service of silver plate - and it is to be seen in Eglinton Castle

In the Old Kirkyard are the graves of Burns’ father, mother, and sister. The Burns Monument stands on a bank of garden flowers at the head of a brae that ascends from the Doon. Its erection, in 1820, was due to the efforts of Sir Alexander Boswell, the poet, of Auchinleck, and cost £3350. It is of white stone, turned gray, and has a massive rustic base, triangular in shape, 30 feet wide, rising to a height of 18 feet, on which stand a circle of nine Corinthian columns with rich capitals, supporting a highly ornamental dome or crown surmounted by a gilt tripod. The triangular base and tripod represent the three ancient divisions of the county - Kyle, Carrick, and Cunningham; the nine columns indicate the nine muses; and the patriotic eye will discern in the crown something of an Ayrshire bonnet, artistically designed so as to appear there and not there - a bonnet and not a bonnet. The entire structure-which is about 60 feet high-is after the style of ancient Greek temples erected in honour of the gods, and is a masterpiece of the famous architect, Thomas Hamilton. The interior of the base is a circular chamber, 18 feet wide and 16 feet high, lighted from above by a cupola of stained glass. It contains, on a pedestal in the centre, a marble bust of Burns, with the shirt neck open and blown back as it were by the breeze-said, by one of his sisters, to be like him when he was sowing corn. A few sacred relics are preserved in the chamber.

"There lies his Bible, witness of the truth And love that dwelt within him for the fair And dearest, truest lover of his youth : Behold a lock of Highland Mary’s Hair ! "

At the lower side of the two acres of enclosed pleasure-grounds belonging to the monument, in a charming little grotto prettily paved with sea shells, are viewed with laughing admiration the celebrated statues of Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnny, by the artist Thorn

Seats on the Doon, below the Monument, are Cambusdoon, Mountcharles, and Belleisle; above the Monument, Doonholm and Auchendrane. Belmont and Castlehill are nearer Ayr; and Newark, south of the Monument, is in the parish of Maybole. 

The surface of Ayr parish is level, comparatively, and well cultivated. From the shore to the east end of Loch Fergus, on an island in which is the site of an old monastery, the length of the parish is five miles; and from the Ayr to the Doon, a little above Blackhill, its widest part is fully four miles. Area, 6935 acres. Population, including the section of Ayr town on the south side of the river, 10,086.

ST. QUIVOX PARISH, Ayr.--North side of Ayr river. The hamlet of St. Quivox, with Established Church, public school, and Auchincruive railway station, is about two and a-half miles north-east of Ayr. 

The village of Whitletts, on the road between it and Ayr, has a post office and a public school. Coalworks are in the vicinity. Population, 588. 

The Mansion of Auchincruive stands on the north bank of the Ayr, and has an extensive timbered park, with beautiful shrubberies, lawns, and gardens, and a neighbourhood very fine, with large and small bits of plantation interspersed with green fields rounded in outline, In old-world times it was the property of the Wallaces, and an occasional resort of the  patriot. 

Craigie house, down the same charming river, near the town, is also a comfortable seat, amid luxuriant sylvan ornature. 

The surface of the parish is level, and the soil light, with some slight departures in the east. From the centre of Ayr town, north-east, the length of the parish is four and a-half miles; and from Pow Burn, near the Shaw Monument, south-east to a burn between Brocklehill and Annbank, its widest part is three miles. Aea, 4876 acres. Population, including Wallacetown and Content sections of Ayr town, 7352.

NEWTON-on-AYR PARISH, which is mostly in the Parliamentary

Until recently, Newton was a separate burgh from Ayr, supposed to have been made by King Robert Bruce, and has an interesting history of its own. We give one historical incident, as it seems to have had some influence in establishing at an early date that fostering care that makes females here so successful in their loving determination to restore to health and energy the invalids who come to lodge in their houses. The giant patriot, Wallace, had slain three out of five English soldiers who attacked him while he was fishing in the Irvine at Riccarton, and was hiding in the Laiglin Wood near Auchincruive. On a market day he left his horse with his boy in the wood, walked into the town-it is believed to purchase food - and was immediately surrounded with English soldiers. In fighting his way through them he broke his sword at the hilt; the glittering blade flew away, and he was taken prisoner. In prison, Henry the Minstrel says, "Barrell heryng and wattir thai him gawe." They starved him in that dungeon until they believed he was dead, and tumbled his body over the wall. Henry the Minstrel says :- 

" In a draff myddyn, quher he remannyt thar. His fyrst noryss, of the Newtoun of Ayr, Till him scho come, quhilk was full will of reid, And thyggyt leiff away with him to fayr. Into gret ire thai grantyt hir to go. Scho tuk him up with outyn wordis mo, and on a caar wnlikly him thai cast: Atour the wattir led him with gret woo, Till hyr awin houss with outyn any hoo. Sho warmyt wattir, and hir serwandis fast His body wousche, quhill filth was of hym past. His hart was wicht, flykeryt to and fro, Als his twa eyne he kest wp at the last.

His fostyr modyr, lowed him our the laiff, Did mylk to warme, his liff giff scho mycht saiff; And with a spoyn gret kyndnes to him kyth. Hyr dochtyr had of twelf wokkis ald a knayff; Hir childis pape in Wallace mouth scho gaiff. The womannys mylk recomprd him full swyth :Syn in a bed thai brockt him fair and lyth. Rycht cowertly thai kepe him in that saiff, Him for to sawe so secretlye thai mycht. Scho gart graith up a burd be the houss side, With carpettis cled, and honowryt with gret lycht : And for the worce euiry place suld bide, At he was ded, out throuch the land so wide, In presence ay scho wepyt wndyr slycht ; But gudely meytis scho graithit him at hir mycht."


1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts

Click on the Parish List tab then select Account Year  followed by County and Parish required. Click on the page link in the 'reference' column when this is found.


Map of Ayr in 1818

Map of Ayr Town 1818 - Parts of Parishes of Ayr, Newton, St Quivox


The Annuls of Ayr

It has been generally supposed that in early times the mouth of the Doon was much nearer Ayr than at present, and it is conjectured that originally the stream found its way into the sea by two channels, the main estuary passing through the grounds about Blackburn House, and the other entering the bay as at present. The lands of Cunning Park, being thus enclosed by water on all sides, were called the Isle of Cunning Park. But although this name was still given them in the period with which we are dealing, the northerly channel of the Doon had disappeared, and the river flowed into the sea as it does now. The southern boundary line of the burgh ran up the Curtecan burn, which must at one time have been a tributary of the Doon, joining it about Belleisle bridge......... 


The Trial of the Feudalist at AYR in 1507

THE old Court-house of Ayr is crowded, every seat occupied, all the standing ground utilized. And that not by the degenerate crowd, which in the latter days of light and leading flocks to the halls of justice; but by an assemblage representative of the higher ranks and the historical interest of the early days of the sixteenth. Those who shall take their places at the bar are not the dregs, the off scourings of society, but men whose castles and towers dominate broad acres, and yeomen who follow in their train..........


The Kirk of Ayr Ruling the People

There is some truth in the conclusion, no doubt, but there is also some fiction. Were such a thing possible, and were the observer of this century suddenly to have a vision placed before him of the habits and customs of those who walked the shores and the plains of Ayrshire, and the streets of her towns and villages, and who dwelt in her castles or in her religious houses, five or six centuries ago, the social state would unquestionably present a series of startling changes............



Proverbially, bad news travels fast, and that same evening, from all parts of the immediately surrounding country, came in persons to gaze upon the corpse. Among them was James Bannatyne, the farmer of Chapeldonnan. When one of his servants had told him that there bad been a dead body cast up on the beach he had become at once intensely agitated. For three or four days previous he had been observed at irregular intervals scanning the sea and the sea beach, as if in expectation of finding something. He had also been morose, fretful, and restless, and had altogether been a changed man. There was nothing known that could account for his altered demeanour. For some weeks there had been residing with him a young man, a relative of his own, William Dalrymple by name. Somewhat suddenly, nigh a week previous to the discovery of the body, he had taken his departure; but nothing was thought of the event. Dalrymple was a native of Ayr, and had friends in different parts of the shire. He had only come to Chapeldonnan farm on a visit; and, his visit being ended, he had, as Bannatyne said, left to join his friends elsewhere.



It cannot now be told when St. John's was built; but that it is the oldest building in Ayr is undisputed. In all probability it was a century old when the "Auld Brig" was thrown across the river. It was contemporary with the Castle of Ayr and the Castle of Newton, with the oldest of the Tolbooths.......  



With the advance of the centuries we have outgrown witchcraft, but three hundred years ago its existence was a common article of belief; and the ministers and the gentry, as well as the venerable senators of the College of Justice, were instant, in season and out of season, in rooting. out the abominable thing...... 


Photographs of Headstones in various Ayr Cemeteries     Alloway

Pictures taken by Kenny Monaghan Kenny  kennymonaghan@btinternet.com  contact him here.


The Bard your Complete Guide - Rabbie Burns

Robert Burns is Scotland's best-loved bard and Burns Suppers have been held in his honour for over 200 years. This site gives you the complete guide to Robert Burns the man, his poems, his travels, haggis, whisky and much more.


Robert Burns Organisation - The Official Robert Burns Site

The Official Robert Burns site
Welcome to
Burns Country


Robert Burns - Family History

"Robert Burns was descended from the Burness family of Kincardineshire, where his ancestors were tenant farmers. His father William moved to Ayrshire in 1750, where Robert was born in 1759. Robert signed his name Robert Burness until March 1786, when he adopted the spelling Burns, which was a common name in Ayrshire. The surnames Burn, Burns, Burnes, and Burness all derive from the word burn, which means a small stream, and originated with an ancestor who lived beside a burn. As there are thousands of burns in Scotland and England, there are many unrelated families named Burns................."


Google Map of Ayr

This Link takes you to the GOOGLE MAP SITE where you will find a map of the town and the surrounding area as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


Map of Ayr today

This Link takes you to the MULTIMAP website where you will find a map of the town and the surrounding area as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


StreetMap of Ayr

This Link takes you to the STREET website where you will find a street map of the town as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


Old Maps of  Alloway   &   Wallacetown

These links go directly to the OLD MAPS website for a detailed old map of the town around 1860. You can explore out to all sides by using the arrows at the top of the page. These maps are ideal for finding the locations of areas such as farms.

Old Maps of Ayrshire Towns

This link goes directly to the OLD MAPS website for an Ayrshire Index to detailed old maps of most Ayrshire Towns around 1860. You can explore out to all sides by using the arrows at the top of the page. These maps are ideal for finding the locations of areas such as farms.


Ordnance Survey Town Plan of Ayr 1855

Zoom in on Old Ayr streets.


Statistical Accounts for Ayr



The Parish Church (the Auld Kirk) off Kirkport, a narrow way a little below the Wallace Tower, in High Street. The church was built between 1652 and 1654, paid for by Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Government which had requisitioned the original medieval church. (All that remains of that church is St John's Tower, close by the Fort.) In the lychgate of the Auld Kirk are some of the heavy iron grave-covers which were common in the days of the body-snatchers.


Ayr Web Sites



Holmston Primary School

Published by volunteers with a new issue every 2 weeks during 1999-2000. News, 2000/175, Former Pupils, History etc. Linked to an after-school Web Club run by a volunteer parent. Celebrates and commemorates the vision of the school's founder, John Smith, and his charitab


Maybole Site's Ayr Page

".... Auld Ayr wham ne’er a toun surpasses For Honest Men and Bonnie Lasses"



An up-to-date online guide to Ayr,


Ayr Books

Ayr Street Plan
Ronald P.A. Smith

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Breaths of Ayr
David B. Vallance

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                                                                    Landranger Map 0070: Ayr, Kilmarnock & Troon
                                                          Ordnance Survey


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Pathfinder Map 0455 (NS32/33): Ayr, Prestwick & Troon
Ordnance Survey

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Auld Kirk of Ayr (St. John the Baptist)
Audrey L Snook (Editor)

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Ayr & Prestwick Street Guide

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Ayr 1909: Old Ordnance Survey Map

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Ayr, 1818
John Wood

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A Breath of Ayr
H. Downie

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Celebration 2000 Ayr
Simon Harwin (Editor)

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Honest Men and Bonnie Lasses
Ayr Writers' Club

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Look at Ayr

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Old Ayr
R. Kennedy, J. Kennedy

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Pictorial History of Ayr
Dane Love

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Port of Ayr 1727-1780
Eric J Graham

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Tramways of Ayr
Ronald W Brash

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Ayrshire Books


Help needed to source old pictures, postcards or photographs, interesting articles or the history of Ayr. If you would like to help please contact me.






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