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Ayr

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Ayr, the capital of Ayrshire, is a seaport, a seat of manufacture, and a royal and parliamentary burgh. It stands on the river Ayr, at its influx to the Bay of Ayr, and at a convergence of railways southward, south-westward, and northward. By sea it is 23 miles SSE of Garroch Head in Bute, 14½ SSE of Ardrossan, 16¾ W of Arran, 25 NE of Ailsa Craig, and 59 ENE of Torcar Point in Antrim, Ireland; by rail it is 15½ SSW of Kilmarnock, 41¾ SSW of Paisley, 40½ SW by W of Glasgow (34 by road), 50½ WSW of Carstairs, 78 SW by W of Edinburgh, 60 NW by W of Dumfries, 93 NW by W of Carlisle, and 66½ NNE of Portpatrick. Its site is low ground, on the lip or sea-margin of a champaign, about 4 or 5 miles broad, screened all round by gently-rising heights, which form a great natural amphitheatre. Its outskirts and environs, and many of its streets and houses, command a magnificent view over a large expanse of the Firth of Clyde, to Ailsa Craig, the alps of Arran, the Cumbrae isles, the hills of Bute, the mountains of Argyll, and the hanging plains of Cunninghame. Its own outlines, as seen with the great amphitheatre around it for a background, particularly from the brow of Brown Carrick Hill (912 feet), which overhangs the left bank of the river Doon, 4¾ miles to the SSW, form a singularly brilliant and imposing picture. The general view from Brown Carrick Hill, indeed, away across Kyle and Cunninghame, and over the Firth of Clyde, is so extensive, and all so brilliant and exquisite as to dwarf the town and its environs into only one small feature of the whole; but that one feature, nevertheless, is very striking. Suburban villas and blocks of buildings, all more or less shaded by plantations, are seen on the hither side; the Gothic mass of Wallace Tower, and the lofty tapering spire of the Town's Buildings soar from the centre; the chimney tops and gable ends of the old parts of the town start up irregularly on the further side, and are seen through Such vistas or in such arrangements as make the town appear much larger than it really is; and the entire place sits so grandly on the front of the great amphitheatre, with the firth sweeping round it in a great crescent blocked on the further side by the peaks of Arran, as to look like a proud metropolis of an extensive and highly picturesque region.

The town comprises Ayr proper on the left bank of the river, and the continuous suburbs of Newton-upon-Ayr and Wallacetown on the right. Consisting of two nearly equal parts, separated from each other by the river, it must be treated here in some respects as only Ayr proper, in others as including the two trans-fluviatile suburbs. These, Newton and Wallacetown, have a topography, local interests, and a history of their own, and will be noticed in separate articles; but they stand compact with one another, and all mutually contiguous to Ayr proper; and they and it are one town both for all business purposes and for parliamentary representation; so that all, in considerable degree, require to be described together in the present article.

Ayr proper, so late as the early part of the present century, presented a motley aspect, and could boast of little street improvement. It had just acquired the very fine extension of Wellington Square, but, with that exception, it consisted mainly of mean buildings, with fronts, gables, and corners projecting to the roadways as chance or caprice had directed. Its only thoroughfares were High Street, Carrick Vennel, Mill Vennel, Old Bridge Street, New Bridge Street, Sandgate Street, and Wellington Square; and these were wretchedly paved, very indifferently cleaned, ill-lighted, and destitute of side pavements for foot-passengers- The principal approach to it from the N, too, was then a squalid winding way through Wallacetown; and what is now the principal approach through Newton was then the water-way of a mill-lade, blocked by an old huge building, partly mill and partly dwelling-house. But the improvement which began in the erection of Wellington Square went rapidly forward; it accomplished more in the twenty years up to 1835, than had been accomplished during the previous hundred years; it made a further start at and after the opening of the railway to Glasgow in 1840; and it has issued in giving the town a high rank for at once orderliness, cleanliness, and beauty, among the second-class towns of Scotland. Wellington Square stands in the SW, and, as regards at once the neatness of its houses, the spaciousness of its area, the fineness of its situation, and the fine seaward view commanded by its windows, is scarcely excelled by any modern extension in any other provincial town in the kingdom. Handsome suburbs, with numerous villas, have radiated from Wellington Square or arisen beyond it; and these, with the square itself, constitute an ornate and urban West End. All the parts nearest the river and toward the shore have, generally speaking, a modern town-like aspect; those in the centre and towards the S continue, in considerable degree, to be either antiquated, mean, or of village-like character. High Street is still to be the principal street, winding through both the modern regions and the old, and partaking the character of both.

A Roman road led from Dumfriesshire, through Galloway, into Ayrshire; passed by way of Dalmellington and Ponessan to Ayr; traversed the site of the town along the line of what is now Mill Street; and seems to have terminated in either a military station or a harbour at the month of the river. It could be traced in many parts within the town, so late as about the beginning of the present century; is still traceable in the SW of Castlehill Gardens, within 1½ mile of the town; and, till about the beginning of the 18th century, formed the only line of communication from Ayr to Galloway and Dumfries. Some urns, culinary utensils, and other small objects, believed to be Roman, have been found when digging foundations in the town. -A castle was built near the month of the river, about 1192, by William the Lyon, and is mentioned by him as his ` new Castle of Ayr, ' in a charter erecting the town into a burgh about 1200Often destroyed and rebuilt in the course of successive wars, it held a strong garrison in 1263, to watch the progress of the Norwegian invasion under Haco, when it is said to have been assaulted and captured by the Norsemen. In 1298 it was burned by Robert Bruce, to prevent its becoming a stronghold of the English army, who were marching westward to attack him; but it was so repaired before 1314 as then to be garrisoned by Edward Bruce's army of ` full seven thousand men and mair, ' raised for his expedition into Ireland; and it is said, but on very questionable authority, to have existed down to Cromwell's day. No trace of it appears to have been visible for several centuries; but its site is supposed to have been a rising ground near the river, behind the present academy- The burgh seal is thought to have been adopted from the castle, exhibiting three battlemented towers, together with emblems of St John the Baptist. - A temporary barrack, known in history as the Barns of Ayr, was erected by the forces of Edward I. of England on the SE side of the town, probably because they found the castle not Sufficiently commodious or their occupancy; and that barrack -was in 1297 the scene of the famous tragical exploit of Sir William Wallace, separately noticed under Barns of Ayr. -A citadel, afterwards called the Fort, was erected by Oliver Cromwell in 1652, on ground extending from the sea to the site of the present Fort Street; was built chiefly with stones freighted from Ardrossan, and at so great a cost as to have made Cromwell exclaim that it seemed to have been built of gold; occupied an area of about 12 acres, on a hexagonal ground plan; had bastions at the angles, with the main one close to the harbour, and commanding the entire circuit of the fortifications, the river's mouth, and the town itself; and enclosed the cruciform church of St John the Baptist, founded in the 12th century, and converted by Cromwell into an armoury and guard-room- The citadel was constructed for the occupancy of a large body of troops, both to command the town and harbour of Ayr, and to overawe and defend the W and S of Scotland; and it continued to be garrisoned till the end of Cromwell's time, but was dismantled after the Restoration. The ground it occupied, together with Such of its buildings as remained, was given to the Earl of Eglinton, in compensation for losses Sustained during the Great Rebellion, and, under the name of Montgomerystown, it was created a burgh of regality, and became the seat of a considerable trade. In 1726, however, it was purchased by four merchants of the town, and during a few years prior to 1870, it was most of it covered with handsome villas.

Part of a gateway of the town, called the Old Port, still stood at the Townhead within the present century, projecting on the pavement, in connection with the present ` Tam o' Shanter Tavern. '-The original Tolbooth, in which, according to Blind Harry, Sir William Wallace was confined, stood in High Street, and was supplanted by a house, long since removed, which, in its front, had a carved head, claiming to be a bust of Wallace. -A house in New Market Street, built in lieu of the one demolished, contains in a niche a figure of Wallace. -The next tolbooth, known to record as the Old Jail, stood on the rising ground in the centre of Sandgate, and, leaving barely room for carriages to pass, was the first object that attracted a stranger's attention on entering the town by the New Bridge. It was gained from the street by a stair of nineteen steps, so that prisoners taken into it were said to have gone up the nineteen steps; and had in front a steeple surmounted by a spire rising to the height of 135 feet, and furnished with a public clock, called in Burns' Brigs of Ayr ` the drowsy dungeon clock.' The building dated from some time unknown to record, and it remained long without a steeple. A mere belfry, ` for the use of the town and the Kirk, ' was erected on it in 1614; a steeple was projected in 1697, but rose to only the first story in 1715, and was not completed till about 1726. The entire structure, in consequence of its obstructing and almost blocking the thoroughfare, was taken down in 1826.-The Fish Cross, round which the fishwives vended their fish, stood near the river, and was a very plain structure, with a two-stepped basement and a Surmounting pillar.-The Malt Cross stood near the site of the present Town-Hall; was an elegant structure, with hexagonal base, surmounting pillar, and crowning unicorn, somewhat similar to the ancient cross of Edinburgh; was the scene of a notorious burning of a lady of the name of Osborne, for imputed witchcraft, about the middle of the 17th century; and, after the building of the New Bridge and opening of the thoroughfare thence to Sandgate, about 1788, was taken down.-The massive three-story mansion of the Osborne family on the N side of High Street, believed to have been the residence of the reputed witch, was demolished in 1881, and a fine hotel erected on its site.-A large turreted house stood near the Osborne mansion, separated from it only by a lane leading down to the river; belonged originally to the Blairs of Adamton, afterwards to the Chalmerses of Gadgirth; and later than 1800 was partly occupied as the ` Queen's Head Inn. '-An ancient small baronial tower at the corner of High Street and Mill Vennel belonged for some time to the Cathcarts of Corbieston, was purchased by the town council in 1673, and acquired, one knows not why, the designation of Wallace Tower. Partly reconstructed in 1731, it gave place in 1834 to an elegant edifice in the Gothic style, 113 feet high, now one of the most prominent buildings in the town, and accepted in popular belief as the veritable Wallace Tower or true representative of that in which the hero lay. In it are the clock and bells of the quondam ` dungeon ' steeple, and its front is `adorned ' with a statue of Wallace, carved by the well-known self-taught sculptor Thom. -Newton Castle, in the Newton suburb, on a site between Garden Street and the Old Bridge, was a strong edifice, Suited alike for military and domestic purposes. It was taken by the Norwegians in 1263, prior to the battle of Largs; belonged in 1468 to Adam Wallace, a relative of the Craigie family, and passed, in the time of James V., with the lands of Sanquhar, to Sir William Hamilton, then taking the name of Sanquhar-Hamilton Castle. In 1585 it was the temporary residence of the Earl of Arran; in 1588 passed to the family of Craigie; and was demolished in 1701.

The bridges which link Ayr proper to its suburbs are ` The Twa Brigs ' of Burns' famous poem. They stand within 150 yards of one another. The Auld Brig is the upper one; seems, on the evidence of record, to have been built at some time between 1470 and 1525; but is commonly said, without a shadow of proof, to have been erected in the reign of Alexander III. (1249-86), at the expense of two maiden sisters of the name of Lowe, whose effigies, now crumbled away, were pointed out near the S end of the eastern parapet. It comprises four lofty and strongly-framed arches; and has a narrow enough roadway to have been fairly liable to the New Brig Spirit's taunt about its ` poor narrow footpath of a street, where twa wheelbarrows tremble when they meet.' A ford, the Ducat Stream, immediately above the bridge, seems to have been the only passage from the town in olden times; and, prior to the erection of the bridge, was yearly the scene of much loss of life during the floods of winter and spring. The New Bridge was built (178588) chiefly through the exertions of Provost Ballantyne, to whom Burns dedicated his poem, and it was a neat structure, with five arches, after a design by Robert Adam. Injured by the floods of l877, it was rebuilt (1878-79) at a cost of over £15,000; and thus was fulfilled the Auld Brig's prophecy-

'and tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn.'

The railway viaduct, 3 furlongs above the Auld Brig, is 26 feet wide, and consists of 4 arches, each of 60 feet span, with a footpath outside the parapet.-The County Buildings on the NW side of Wellington Square were built from a design by Mr Wallace, after the model of the temple of Isis in Rome, at a cost of more than £30,000. They have a portico decorated with columns of Arran stone; their upper story contains Justiciary and County halls, the latter enriched with portraits of the twelfth Earl of Eglinton, the fourth Earl of Glasgow, and the late Mr Hainilton of Sumdrum.-The Town's Buildings, erected in 1828, at the junction of High Street and Sandgate-the latter in a line with the New Bridge-were originally a tasteful structure, surmounted by a beautiful spire 226 feet high, and were greatly enlarged and improved in 1880-81 at an estimated cost (considerably exceeded) of £19,952, by the addition of a fine new police court and a town-hall with stained-glass portraits of Wallace, Bruce, John Welsh, Burns, Scott, and Shakespeare, and with a powerful organ. -The prison, since 1880 the only one in the shire, stands near the shore behind the County Buildings, and contains 149 cells, in which, during the year ending 31 March 1880, there were confined 1459 criminal offenders, the gross expenditure being £2433. -The northern station, built by the Glasgow and Ayr Railway Company in 1840, and standing at Lottery Ha' in the Newton suburb near the New Bridge, is a neat Tudor edifice erected at a cost of about £8000. It was converted into a luggage station in 1857 on the opening of the southern passenger station at the Townhead, in connection with the Dalmellington railway, which southern station is now (1881) about to be rebuilt. New locomotive sheds were erected in 1877 on the N side of the town; the engine shed, a fine stone building, is 300 feet long and 90 broad.-A bronze statue of Brigadier-General Jas. Geo. Smith-Neill (181057), who fell at the first relief of Lucknow, stands in Wellington Square, where he was born; and a monument to Archibald William, thirteenth Earl of Eglinton (1812-61), of tournament memory, stands on the W side of the Square, facing the portico of the County Buildings. Designed like General Neill's by Mr Noble, it was erected in 1865; and comprises a granite pedestal 16 feet high and more than 40 tons in weight, and a bronze statue 12 feet high and 4½ tons in weight. St John the Baptist Church was either the original church of Ayr or at least a very ancient building, and was the meeting-place in 1315 of the parliament of King Robert Bruce which assigned the Succession to his brother Edward. It stood between the town and the river's month, on a site afterwards enclosed within Cromwell's citadel; and was a cruciform structure, with a tower at its W end terminating in a crow-stepped roof. It continued the parish church till the erection of Cromwell's citadel, when it was converted into an armoury and guard-room. The present old parish church was built in 1653-55, at a cost of £1708 sterling, partly defrayed by Cromwell. It stands in a retired space behind High Street; has a cruciform shape, somewhat resembling that which St John's Church had, yet presents nothing to vie with the grand Gothic ecclesiastical edifices of preceding times; was, not long since, reseated and adorned with splendid memorial stained-glass windows; and also has a very fine organ. The New Church was built in 1810 at a cost of £5703; was re-roofed about 1830, at considerable expense; and, both without and within, is handsome enough, though lacking the important feature of tower or spire. The total sittings in the two parochial churches are 1982. The parish church of Newton was built towards the close of last century, and that of Wallacetown in 1834-36, this being a Gothic building, raised in 1874 to quoad sacra status. Four Free churches are Ayr, Martyrs', Wallacetown, and Newton; two U.P. churches are Cathcart Street (1816; 1182 sittings) and Darlington Place (1860; 820 sittings). Other places of worship are a United Original Secession church (1799; 605 sittings), a Moravian chapel, an Evangelical Union chapel, a Wesleyan chapel (1813; 530 sittings), Trinity Episcopal church (1839), Early English in style, and the pro-cathedral of the Bishop of Glasgow, and St Margaret's Roman Catholic church (1827; 684 sittings), a Gothic edifice, built at a cost of £1900.-The original cemetery lay around St John's church; the next cemetery was that around the old parochial church; and a beautiful new cemetery is on the river Ayr, about ½ mile from the town.-A Dominican friary, St Catherine's, was founded in 1230 somewhere about the head of Mill Street, but has been so completely effaced that even its precise site cannot now be ascertained. An Observants' friary, founded in 1472, stood on the site of the present Old Church; and is now represented by nothing but an excellent spring, the Friars' Well. A chapel dedicated to St Leonard stood in what is now called Chapel Park, about 1½ mile SW of the town; and left ruins which existed into the present century, but have now entirely disappeared.

A public school, dating from 1264, or perhaps from 1233, was connected till the Reformation with St John's Church, passing thereafter under the town council's management. It had for its rector, in 1727 and following years, the celebrated grammarian Mair, author of the Introduction to -Latin Composition. Reconstituted, under the name of Ayr Academy, in 1794, it received a royal charter in 1798; gives instruction (1881) to 394 pupils in classics, modern languages, mathematics, etc.; is conducted by a rector, four masters, and a large staff of assistants; and passed under the Burgh school-board in 1873. The original building stood at the head of School Vennel, the present Academy Street; and was a plain quaint structure, with a thatched roof. The next, in an open healthy situation, near the site of Cromwell's citadel, was erected in 1810 at a cost of £3000, and in 1880 was superseded by the present edifice, which, costing £8000, stands in front of the old, and can accommodate between 500 and 600 pupils. A plain but massive Grecian two-storied structure, with rustic basement, centre, and two wings, it measures 140 by nearly 300 feet; a tetrastyle Corinthian portico is adorned with medallions of Wilkie, Watt, and Burns. The public schools, with their accommodation, average attendance, and grants for the year 1879-80, were:-the Grammar School (245,245, £233, 2s. 6d.), Newton Academy (400,233, £202,12s.), Smith's Institution (351,271, £180), Lady Jane Hamilton's school (350,174, £142,3s.), Wallacetown (486,328, £238,11s.), and Newtonhead (486,492, £369,5s.). Totals for the six were:-average attendance, 1743; number examined, 1362; number of passes, 3044; school fees, £1194, 7s. 10d.; grants, £1365,13s. 6d. There are also Episcopal and Roman Catholic schools, which, with respective accommodation for 176 and 155 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 140 and 123, and grants of£120, 2s. and £69,14s.-The mechanics' institution, founded in 1825, had a large and excellent library, but it has since been incorporated with the public library and reading-room in Macneille Buildings. Other institutions are a branch of the Royal Lifeboat Institution, an auxiliary shipwrecked fishers' and mariners' benevolent society, a sailors' society (1581), an incorporation of whipmen, a religions tract society, a Bible society, an agricultural association, etc. The district lunatic asylum, opened in July 1869, has accommodation for 230 patients, and in July 1880 had 97 inmates. The Kyle union poorhouse (1860), to the E of the station, contains accommodation for 168 paupers; and had 126 inmates in July 1880. A little beyond it a new two-storied hospital, 400 feet long, for 44 general and 20 fever patients, is (1881) in course of erection at a cost of £8000, the fever ward being detached.

The town has a head post office, branches of the Bank of Scotland, the British Linen Co., the Clydesdale, Commercial, National, Royal, and Union banks; and 45 insurance agencies. There are 12 chief hotels and inns, besides 3 temperance hotels, and a Working Man's Public House, erected in 1880 at a cost of £6000 by Henry and William Holdsworth, Esqs. Papers are the Thursday Liberal Ayr Advertiser (1803), the Tuesday and Friday Conservative Ayr Observer (1832), the Saturday Ayrshire Argus and -Express (1857), and the Tuesday and Friday Liberal Ayrshire Post (1880). Tuesday and Friday are market-days, and fairs are held on New Year's day, the Thursday before the second Wednesday of January, the first and third Tuesday and the last Friday of April, the Thursday and Friday before the second Monday of July, and the second Thursday and third Tuesday of October. On the racecourse, to the S of the town, is held in September the three days' Western Meeting. Coaches, in communication with railway trains run to Kirkmichael and Straiton every Tuesday, and to Ochiltree and Cumnock every Tuesday and Friday. The town had anciently so great trade as to be styled by Buchanan ` emporium non ignobile; ' and Brereton in 1634 described it as `a dainty, pleasant-seated town, most inhabiting in which are merchants trading into and bred in France. ' From causes, however, not well understood, it greatly declined in prosperity, so that Defoe wrote early in the 18th century:-` It is now like an old beauty, and shows the ruins of a good face, but is still decaying every day; and from having been the fifth best town in Scotland, as the townsmen say, it is now the fifth worst; which is owing to the decay of its trade. So true it is that commerce is the life of cities, of nations, and even of kingdoms. What was the reason of the decay of trade in this place is not easy to determine, the people themselves being either unwilling or unable to tell ' (Tour through Great Britain, ed. 1745, p. 114). The writer of the New Statistical account of it in 1837 also says:- It has often been a matter of surprise, that Ayr has not been more benefited by manufactures and public works, possessing, as it does, so many advantages for this purpose, and such facilities of communication with other places, both by sea and land. With such an extensive grain country surrounding it, distilleries could not fail to thrive; the price of labour is low rated, and all the other requisites are easily procurable. Cotton works might prosper as well here as at Catrine, the town being as favourably situated in regard to all the materials necessary-coal, water, and labourers in abundance; while it has greatly the advantage, by enjoying the means of sea, as well as of land, carriage. And we can see nothing to hinder the manufacture of wool in its various branches, particularly in the weaving of carpets, from succeeding as well in this place as in Kilmarnock, which owes to this cause so much of its wealth and prosperity. ' The woollen manufacture, as a matter of fact, was introduced in 1832, and has been prosperous. Begun, for wool-spinning and carpet-weaving, in a small building, once a cotton mill, it succeeded so well as to occasion great extensions of the premises from time to time, till they came to cover a large area; and in these premises are employed some 150 carpet weavers, and 350 other persons. Another factory, built about 1863, employs some 35 persons in the weaving of winceys and flannels; and several other small factories carry on considerable trade in the making of blankets, flannels, plaidings, and various kinds of woollen wearing apparel. Muslin-flowering, for the manufacturers of Glasgow, rose gradually into importance, all round the town, and through much of the county, from about the end of last century; but it received a sudden and severe check in 1857, and it does not now exist to one-half its former extent. Shoemaking for the foreign market was carried on to a large extent in the early part of the present century, and is still very prosperous. Among recent works may be noticed the sawmills of Messrs Paton & Sons, transferred in 1881 from the S to the N quay, and now 8 acres in extent, also a lace factory opened in the same year. There formerly were nine incorporated trades; and six of them-hammermen, weavers, tailors, squaremen, shoemakers, and fleshers-still retain an embodied form, with deacons, deacon-convener, and trades' house; but they do little more than supply the demands of the local population. A fishery at the town formerly swept well-nigh the entire firth, for the supply of Greenock, Glasgow, and other places, and likewise made great capture of salmon in the rivers Ayr and Doon, sometimes sending them as far as Carlisle and London; but it shrank into a comparatively narrow sphere after the introduction of steam navigation, yet still is productive enough to bring abundant supply of all kinds of fish to the local market, and employs 270 boats of 799 tons. Shipbuilding was anciently carried on for several of the Kings of Scotland; and it still, in a small way, gives some employment. One sailing vessel of 98 tons was built in 1867, one of 93 in 1869, and one of 94 in 1875, this being the last to the close of 1880.

The harbour lies within the river's mouth, and formerly was nothing more than a shallow, narrow, natural tidal basin, with no better appliance than an old range of storehouses. A bar, obstructing the river's mouth, seemed for a long time to resist removal, in consequence of constant fresh deposits on it of alluvial matter; but after great expenditure of labour and money, was considerably reduced, and finally got rid of altogether. A pier, from 20 to 25 feet high, diminishing from about 24 to 8 feet in width, and extending to about 1100 feet in length, was constructed on the S side seaward about the year 1827; another pier, of similar dimensions, was constructed on the N side seaward a few years later; and a breakwater outward from the extremity of the piers, and shielding the mouth of the entrance to the harbour, was constructed subsequently to 1837. Two lighthouses, with three lights, give the line for taking the harbour. The lights bear SE by E ½ E 850 feet; two of them are bright, the other red; and one of the bright ones and the red one are in the same building, and show all night. Between 1874 and 1881 a wet dock and slip dock were constructed at a cost respectively of £140,000 and £13,500. The former (opened 18 July 1878) is 7¼ acres in area, has 15 feet of water at low tide and 2000 feet of quayage, and is provided with hydraulic hoists; in connection with the latter an esplanade, protected by a concrete bulwark, is being formed along the S beach. In 1880 the harbour income was £11,846; the expenditure, £16,088. From 2459 in 1836 the aggregate tonnage registered as belonging to the port rose to 3684 in 1843, 6668 in 1852, 8758 in 1866, 8317 in 1874,11,471 in 1878, and 14,095 in 1880, viz., 40 sailing vessels of 13,195 and 8 steamers of 900 tons. The following table gives the aggregate tonnage of vessels that entered and cleared from and to foreign and colonial ports and coastwise in cargoes and also-for the three last years-in ballast:-

Entered Cleared
  British For'gn Total British For'gn Total
1851 48,325 .. 48,325 103,317 .. 103,317
1856 42,548 325 42,873 101,059 187 101,246
1865 27,985 2198 30,183 89,067 1557 90,624
1874 138,618 2527 141,145 136,266 3075 139,341
1878 257,147 5287 262,534 254,417 5497 259,914
1880 217,156 7125 224,281 220,825 7259 228,084

Of the total, 2124 vessels of 224,281 tons, that entered in 1880, 673 of 67,657 tons were steamers, 1022 of 112,741 tons were in ballast, and 2090 of 212,842 tons were coasters; whilst the total, 2155 of 228,084 tons, of those that cleared, included 620 steamers of 62,167 tons, 131 vessels in ballast of 14,273 tons, and 2118 coasters of 217,475 tons. The trade is mainly then an export coastwise one, and coal is the chief article of export-137,499 tons in 1864, 102,684 in 1869, 176,571 in 1873, 384,846 in 1878 (10,368 thereof abroad), and 86,419 in the second quarter of 1881. The commerce of bygone days included much import of wine from France, and much export of corn and salmon. The modern commerce was long and severely curtailed through the great improvements in the navigation of the Clyde carrying up much trade to Green ock, Port-Glasgow, and Glasgow, and likewise through the formation of Ardrossan harbour; yet, notwithstanding the continuance and increase of competition from these quarters, it has undergone great revival, due partly to the opening of the railways, partly to mining extension and agricultural improvement. The owners and the workers of the rich mineral-fields in Kyle and Carrick, and the farmers and corn-merchants throughout most of these districts must ever regard Ayr as a valuable seaport. The chief imports now are whisky from Campbeltown; beef, butter, barley, yarn, linen, limestone, whiting, and porter, from Ireland; slates and bark from Wales; guano from Liverpool and Ichaboe; bones from South America; spars, deals, and heavy timber, from North America and the Baltic; and tar and pitch from Archangel. The chief exports are coal, pig-iron, farm produce, leather, ale, and manufactured goods. In 1880 the value of foreign and colonial imports was £57,709 (£73,427 in 1875); of exports, £5403; and of customs, £2317. Steamers sail regularly to Greenock, Glasgow, Campbeltown, Girvan, Stranraer, and Liverpool.

Ayr was made a royal burgh about 1200 by a charter of William the Lyon, ` which,' says Hill Burton, ` is perhaps the oldest known charter absolutely bringing a burgh into existence; ' and it then received the extensive privileges it still enjoys. The municipal burgh includes Ayr proper, Newton, and Wallacetown. as likewise does the parliamentary burgh, which unites with the four other Ayr burghs, Irvine, Campbeltown, Inverary, and Oban, in sending a member of Parliament-a Liberal (183774), a Conservative (1874-80), and now again a Liberal, who polled 2303 against his opponent's 1420 votes. The town council comprises a provost, 4 bailies, a chamberlain, a treasurer, a dean of guild, a procurator-fiscal, and 18 other councillors. The General Police and Improvement Act was adopted in all its parts prior to 1871. In 1880 the police force numbered 20 men (Superintendent's pay, £200); in 1879 1106 persons were tried at the instance of the police, 31 committed for trial, 1048 convicted, and 238 not dealt with. The annual value of real property within the parliamentary burgh was £52,168 in 1871, £90,781 (plus £3297 for railways) in 1881, when the municipal and parliamentary constituency numbered 2136. The corporation revenue was £2057 in 1833, £2646 in 1864, £3482 in 1874, and £3245 in 1880. Pop. (1841) 15,749, (1851) 17,624, (1861) 18,573, (1871) 17,853, (1881) 20,821, of whom 9782 were males, and 11,039 females. Honses (1881) 4279 inhabited, 277 vacant, and 60 building.

Ayr may be presumed to have been a place of some importance long before the period of authentic record. It is not mentioned by any Roman writer; yet it clearly appears, from the Roman road to it, and from Roman relics found in and near it, to have been well known to the Roman forces in Britain. It comes into notice in the time of William the Lyon in aspects which imply it to have long before possessed at once political and commercial consequence. It also figured prominently both in the War of Independence and throughout the religions struggle at and after the Reformation. Wallace and Bruce on the one hand, and the forces of Edward I. of England on the other, stand boldly out in connection with Ayr. Even the local disturbers of the public peace, the heads of septs in Kyle and Carrick, the Crawfurds, the Campbells, and the Kennedys, in the 16th and 17th centuries, made it the focus or scene of some of their endless quarrels. Famous natives and residents, too, have thrown luster over the town. Joannes Scotus Erigena, who shone like a star amid the darkness of Europe in the 9th century, is claimed by Ayr, but was more probably an Irishman. John Welsh, the famous High Presbyterian divine, was minister of Ayr from 1590 to 1605; at Ayr, in 1625, died his wife, Elizabeth Knox, daughter of the great Reformer; and in Young's Life of him, edited by the Rev. Jas. Anderson (1866), is much of interest regarding Ayr. Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686 -1743), commonly called the Chevalier de Ramsay, well known for his Travels of Cyrus, but better known as a convert to Romanism and as tutor to the Young Pretender, was a native. Dr M`Gill who, by his Essay on the -Death of Christ, led the way to a great heresy in the latter part of last century, was one of the ministers of Ayr, and lies in its churchyard; his colleague was Dr Dalrymple, who figures in a poem of Burns as ` D'rymple mild.' Dr William Peebles, who dragged M `Gill's heresy into notice, and is styled by Burns ` Poet Willie,' was minister of Newton. Natives, too, were John Loudon Macadam (1756-1836) of road-making celebrity; David Cathcart, Lord Alloway (1764-1829), judge of the Court of Session; Archibald Crawford (1779-1843), a minor poet; and Jas. Fergusson, D. C. L. (b. 1808), writer on architecture. But on Alloway, Burns' birthplace, Ayr rests its highest claim to fame. He made the town so thoroughly his own by his graphic descriptions and humorous effusions, that it blends itself with much of his biography, both as a man and as a poet; and he knew it so long and so intimately that his panegyric may well be taken for true-

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

The civil parish of Ayr comprises the ancient parishes of Ayr and Alloway, which, nearly equal to each other in extent, are separated by Glengaw Burn. The united parish is bounded N by the river Ayr, parting it from Newton and St Quivox; E by Coylton; SE by Dalrymple; SW by the river Doon, which separates it from Maybole; and W by the Bay of Ayr or Firth of Clyde. It has an extreme length and breadth of 4½ miles, and an area of 71391/3 acres, of which 106¾ are foreshore, and 931/3 water. The surface for a good way from the beach is low and flat, but afterwards rises gradually eastward and south-eastward, attaining 100 feet near Kincaidston, 126 near Crofthead, 225 near Macnairston, 381 near Cockhill, and 208 near Bromberry. The low level tracts in the SW were long bleak and barren, or covered mostly with firs and heath, but both these and all the other low level lands are now so enriched by cultivation and so embellished with wood as to look almost like a series of pleasure-grounds. The parts farthest inland are cold and bleak, and have a very tame appearance. The rocks lie deep, can be seen only in the river beds, in quarries, or in mines, and belong mainly to the Carboniferous formation, partly to massive or intersecting traps. Sandstone was formerly quarried, but it lies too deep to be now economically worked. A species of clay stone, well-known to artisans as ` Water of Ayr stone,' and used-for whetting fine-edged tools and for polishing marble and metals, is got in the bed of the Ayr. Some fine specimens of agate are occasionally found on the shore. The soil, near the coast, is light and sandy; over the next 2 miles, or nearly so, is a light, rich, fertile mould; farther back, becomes somewhat churlish; and, on the boundary heights, is a cold, stiff, tilly clay. A lake, Loch Fergus, (3 x 1 furlong), with an islet in its centre, lies on the SE boundary; and another smaller lake, Carcluie Loch, lies toward the S. The chief country residences are Castlehill, Belmont Cottage, Rozelle, Doonholm, Bellisle, Cambusdoon, and Mount Charles. A battle is said to have been fought between the Romans and the Caledonians, in the year 360, on the banks of Doon. Another battle figures obscurely, in the writings of Hollingshed, Boethius, and Buchannan, as having been fought, at some early period, between tribes of the Caledonians, somewhere on the south-western border of the parish; and is represented as having been fatal both to Fergus I., King of the Scots, and Coilus, King of the Britons. Loch Fergus is said to have been named from the former of these kings, and Coylton and Kyle from the latter. Seven proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 67 of between £100 and £500, 94 of from £50 to £100, and 100 of from £20 to £50. The seat of a presbytery in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, the civil parish contains part of the quoad sacra parish of Alloway. The charge is collegiate or double, the income of the first minister being £568, of the second £336. Valuation of landward portion (1881), £14,948, 3s. 2d. Pop. (1801) 5492, (1831) 7606, (1861) 9308, (1871) 9589,(1881) 10,246.—Ord. Sur., sh. 14,1863. See D. Murray Lyon's Notes on Ayr in the Olden Time (1875), and the Marquess of Bute's Burning of the Barns of Ayr (1878).

The presbytery of Ayr, meeting there on the first Wednesday of February, April, May, July, October, and December, comprises the old parishes of Auchinleck, Ayr, Barr, Coylton, Craigie, New Cumnock, Old Cumnock, Dailly, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Dundonald, Galston, Girvan, Kirkmichael, Kirkoswald, Mauchline, Maybole, Monkton, Muirkirk, Newton-on-Ayr, Ochiltree, St Quivox, Riccarton, Sorn, Stair, Straiton, Symington, and Tarbolton; the quoad sacra parishes of Alloway, Catrine, Crosshill, Fisherton, Fullarton, Girvan-South, Maybole-West, Patna, Troon, and Wallacetown; and the chapelries of Annbank and Lugar. Pop. (1871) 100,556, of whom 18,734 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878, when the sums raised by the above congregations in Christian liberality amounted to £12,165. The Free Church also has a presbytery of Ayr, in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, with four churches at Ayr, and others at Ballantrae, Barr, Barrhill, Colmonell, Crosshill, New Cumnock, Afton, Bank, Old Cumnock, Dailly, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Dundonald, Girvan, Kirkoswald, Maybole, Monkton, Ochiltree, Stair, Symington, Tarbolton, and Troon. In 1880 the members of these 26 churches numbered 4822. The United Original Seceders likewise have a presbytery of Ayr, comprehending charges at Ayr, Anchinleck, Colmonell, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, and Stranraer, and two charges in Ireland.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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