Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Maybole

Maybole, a town and a coast parish of Carrick, Ayr. shire. The town, lying 3¾ miles inland, and 200 to 350 feet above sea-level, has a station on the Ayr and Girvan section (1857-60) of the Glasgow and South-Western railway, 9 miles S by W of Ayr, 49½ SSW of Glasgow, 87 SW of Edinburgh, and 67½ NNE of Portpatrick. It stands on the slope and partly along the skirts of a broad-based, flattened hill, with south-eastward exposure, the summit of the hill intervening between it and the Firth of the Clyde; but it commands a pleasant and somewhat extensive view over one-half of the points of the compass into the interior of Carrick. An old rhyme, using one of several obsolete variations of the town's ancient name, says-

Minniboie 's a dirty hole,
It sits aboon a mire.

The notion conveyed by these words, of the town being situated on miry ground, is now, and probably was always, incorrect. A broad belt of deep green meadow, nearly as flat as a bowling-green, stretches along the base of the hill, and anciently seems to have been a marsh; but it could not have been a marsh of a miry kind, or otherwise than green and meadowy; nor does it, even at present, form the site of more than a very small and entirely modern part of the town. The ancient site is everywhere declivitous, abounding with copious springs of pure water; and not improbably was clothed in its natural state with heath. Two sets of names, both very various in their orthography, but represented by the forms Maiboil and Minnybole, were anciently given to the town. They have greatly perplexed etymologists; but, according to Col. Robertson, are derived from the Gaelic magh-baile, ` town of the plain or field.' The lower streets of the town, called Kirklands, Newyards, and Ballony, are not within the limits of the burgh of barony, and consist almost wholly of artisans' houses and workshops, tidier and better than similar buildings in many other towns. The main street runs nearly due NE, and-with exception of a short thoroughfare striking off westward at right angles from its middle-occupies the highest ground within the burgh. A considerable space, sloping between it and the lowlying suburbs, is disposed to a small extent in the ancient burying-ground with the relics of the collegiate church; to a greater extent in four or five incompact and irregularly arranged streets; and to a yet greater extent in fields and gardens which give all the intersecting thoroughfares a straggling or detached appearance, and impart to the whole town a rural, airy, and healthful aspect.

The only parts of the town which draw the attention of strangers are Main Street and what is called Kirk Wynd. These are narrow and of varying width, quite destitute of every modern adornment, and guiltless of all the ordinary graces of a fine town; yet they possess many features of antique stateliness, decayed and venerable magnificence, which strongly image the aristocratic parts of Edinburgh during the feudal age. As capital of Carrick, the place anciently wielded more influence over its province than the modern metropolis does over Scotland, and contained the winter residences of a large proportion of the Carrick barons. As seat, too, of the courts of justice of Carrick bailiary-the place where all cases of importance in a roistering and litigating age were tried-it derived not a little outward respectability from the numbers and wealth of the legal practitioners who made it their home. In connection, too, with its collegiate church and its near vicinity to Crossraguel Abbey, it borrowed great consequence from the presence of influential churchmen, who, in a dark age, possessed more resources of power and opulence than most of the nobility. No fewer than 28 baronial mansions, stately, turreted, and strong, are said to have stood within its limits. Out of several of these which still remain, two figure in association with such interesting history that they deserve to be specially noticed.

The chief is the ancient residence of the Ailsa or Cassillis family, the principal branch of the Kennedys. This, standing near the middle of the town, bears the name of the Castle par excellence, and is a lofty, well built, imposing pile, one of the strongest and finest of its class. It is said to have been the place of confinement for life of the Countess of Cassillis, who eloped with the Gipsy chieftain, Johnny Faa. (See Cassillis.) The Earls of Cassillis, directly and through collateral branches of their family, wielded such power over the province that they were known as the ` Kings of Carrick;' and they used the castle of Maybole as the metropolitan palace of their ` kingdom, ' whose limits were thus defined in an old-world rhyme:-

xt Wigtown and the town o' ayr,
Portpatrick and the Cruives o' Cree,
You shall not get a lodging there
Except ye court a Kennedy.

Gilbert, fourth Earl, who lived in the unsettled period succeeding the commencement of the Reformation, pushed his power into Galloway, and in 1575 acquired the large possessions of the Abbey of Glenluce, just five years after his roasting of Allan Stewart, the commendator of Crossraguel. A feud, arising from or aggravated by that crime, between the Earls of Cassillis and the Lairds of Bargany, issued at last in very tragical events. In Dec. 1601 the Earl of Cassillis rode out from Maybole Castle at the head of 200 armed followers to waylay the Laird of Bargany as he rode from Ayr to his house on the Water of Girvan; and on the farm of West Enoch, near the town, he forced on the Laird a wholly unequal conflict. The Laird, mortally wounded, was carried from the scene of the onset to Maybole, that there, should he show any sign of recovery, he might be despatched by the Earl as ` Judge Ordinar ' of the country; and thence he was removed to Ayr, where he died in a few hours. Flagrant though the deed was, it not only-through bribery and state influence-passed unpunished, but was formally noted by an act of council as good service done to the King. The Laird of Auchendrane, son-in-law of the slain baron, was one of the few adherents who bravely but vainly attempted to parry the onslaught; and he received some severe wounds in the encounter. Thirsting for revenge, and learning that Sir Thomas Kennedy of Colzean intended to make a journey to Edinburgh, he so secretly instigated a party to waylay and kill him, that no witness existed of his connection with them except a poor student of the name of Dalrymple, who had been the bearer of the intelligence which suggested and guided the crime (1602). Dalrymple now became the object of his fears; and, after having been confined at Auchendrane and in the Isle of Arran, and expatriated for five or six years as a soldier, he returned home, and was doomed to destruction. Mure, the Laird, having got a vassal, called James Bannatyne, to entice him to his house, situated at Chapeldonan, a lonely place on the Girvan shore, murdered him there at midnight, and buried his body in the sand. The corpse, unearthed by the tide, was next by the murderers taken out to sea at a time when a strong wind blew from the shore, but was soon brought back by the waves, and cast up on the very scene of the murder. Mure and his son, who had aided him in this horrid transaction, fell under general suspicion, and now endeavoured to make away with Bannatyne, the witness and accomplice of their guilt; but he making full confession to the civil authorities, they were brought to the bar, pronounced guilty, and put to an ignominious death (1611). These dismal transactions form the ground-work of Sir Walter Scott's dramatic sketch, Auchendrane, or the Ayrshire Tragedy.

The house lately occupied as the Red Lion Inn was anciently the mansion of the provost, and is notable as the scene of a set debate between John Knox, the Reformer, and Quentin Kennedy, Abbot of Crossraguel, 28 Sept. 1561. An account of the controversy, written by Knox himself, was republished in 1812 by Sir Alexander Boswell, from a copy-the only one extant-in his library at Auchinleck. - Occasioned by a challenge from the abbot in the church of Kirkoswald, the debate was conducted in a panelled apartment, in the presence of eighty persons, equally selected by the antagonists, and including several nobles and influential gentlemen. It lasted three days, and was then broken off through want of suitable accommodation for the persons and retinues of the auditors; but it did good service in arousing public attention to the doctrines of the Reformation. The members of a ` Knox Club, ' instituted in 1824 to commemorate the event, and consisting of all classes of Protestants, used to hold a festival to demonstrate their warm sense of the religious and civil liberties which have accrued from the overthrow of the Papal domination.

Other noteworthy buildings are the ancient town residences of the Kennedys of Knockdow, Colzean, and Ballimore; of the abbots of Crossraguel (called the Garden of Eden), etc., and the Town Hall, a cumbrous old pile with a low, heavy tower, situated at the Cross. Though the town has not one modern public civil building, it abounds in commodious and comfortable dwelling-houses,- greatly superior, for every domiciliary use, to even the best of its remaining baronial mansions. In 1371 Sir John Kennedy of Dunure, founding a chapel for one clerk and three chaplains, dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin, and endowed it with the five-mark lands of Barrycloych and Barrelach, the six-mark lands of Treuchan, and various other sources of revenue. This collegiate chapel seems to have been the earliest of its kind in Scotland; and afterwards, when similar ones arose, it was called a collegiate church, and its officials were styled the provost and prebendaries. The ground on which the town is built belonged to this church, which now is the burying-place of the Ailsa and other families, whose ancestors stayed its impending ruin. On 19 May 1563 Mass was last sung within its walls to 200 Kennedys, armed with jacks, spears, guns, and other weapons. The present parish church, at the NE end of the town, is a plain edifice of 1808, with 1192 sittings. The West quoad sacra church, at the SW end, was built as a chapel of ease about 1840 at the cost of Sir C. D. Fergusson, Bart. The Free church dates from Disruption times; and a new Gothic U.P. church, with spire and large stained-glass window, was built in 1880, as successor to one of 1797. An Episcopal mission is worked in connection with Girvan; and the fine Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and St Cuthbert was erected in 1876-79 at a cost of £3000, which was mainly defrayed by D. Hunter-Blair, Esq. Second Pointed in style it is closely modelled on the ruined church of Crossraguel Abbey, and consists of a nave, with a semioctagonal apse, stained-glass windows, richly sculptured bosses, etc. The public school, whose cost exceeded £5000, is a handsome two-story structure of recent erection; and a Roman Catholic school was built in 1882 at the cost of the Marquis of Bute and Mr Blair.

Maybole, besides, has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments; branches of the Royal and Union Banks; offices or agencies of 15 insurance companies, 3 hotels, a mechanics' institution, a working men's club, a combination poorhouse for six of the Carrick parishes, farmers' and horticultural societies, water and gas companies, etc. Thursday is market day; and fairs are held on the third Thursday of April and October. Handloom weaving has declined; and boot and shoe making and the manufacture of agricultural implements are now the staple industries. Five large shoe factories turn out 200, 000 pairs per annum, representing a value of nearly £90, 000. Immigrants from Ireland and their offspring have long been so numerous as almost to outnumber the native inhabitants, and to give law to the place. As a burgh of barony since 1516, the town is governed by a senior and a junior magistrate; whilst as a police burgh it is governed by a provost, 2 magistrates, and 9 commissioners. The police force is a detachment of the county police. The burgh court sits on the first Thursday, and a justice of peace court on the first Wednesday, of every month. Pop. (1851) 3862, (1861) 4115, (1871) 3797, (1881) 4494, of whom 2284 were females. Houses (1881) 602 inhabited, 26 vacant, 3 building.

The parish of Maybole, containing also the villages or hamlets of Culroy, Dunure, Fisherton, and Minishant, comprises the ancient parishes of Maybole and Kirkbride, the former to the S, the latter to the N. It is bounded W and N W by the Firth of Clyde, NE by Ayr, E by Dalrymple and Kirkmichael, SE by Kirkmichael, and S and SW by Kirkoswald. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 85/8 miles; its utmost breadth, from E to W, is 57/8 miles; and its area is 35½ square miles or 22, 720¾ acres, of which 613½ are foreshore and 114¾ water. The ` bonny Doon ' winds 6¾ miles north-north-westward to the firth along the Dalrymple and Ayr borders; the Water of Girvan flows 1¾ mile south-south-westward along the south-eastern boundary; several rivulets rise in the interior, and run to one or other of these two streams; and half-a-dozen others go direct to the firth. Of four or five tiny lochlets, the only noticeable one is Heart Loch, whose outline is exactly designated by its name, and whose appearance in a wooded hollow is softly beautiful. Perennial springs of excellent water are numerous, especially on the site and in the vicinity of the town; and one of them, called the Well-Trees' Spout, emits a stream powerful enough to drive a mill wheel, or between 160 and 170 imperial gallons per minute. Of various mineral springs, once of medicinal repute, but all neglected now, St Helen's Well, 2¼ miles N of the town on the high road to Ayr, was anciently reputed to have the power on May Day of healing sick or delicate infants. The coast-line, 81/8 miles in extent, towards the mouth of the Doon is low and flat, but elsewhere is mostly bold, though but little diversified with either headland or bay. At the Head of Ayr it rises rapidly to 258 feet above sea - level. The eastern and south-eastern districts are an undulating plain, very diversified in surface, never subsiding long. into a level, nor ever rising into decided upland. The other districts are a sea of heights, partly arable and partly pastoral, so pleasingly diversified in superficial outline as to want nothing but interspersion of wood to render them delightful rambling-ground to a lover of fine scenery. Along the middle of the hill district, parallel with the firth, and 1½ mile distant from it, stretches a range of summits nearly 4 miles long, attaining a maximum altitude of 940 feet above sea-level, and bearing the name of Brown Carrick Hill. This range, though heathy in itself, and rising like a screen to intercept a view of the firth and its framework from the interior, commands one of the finest prospects in Scotland. On the SE and S the surgy surface of Carrick stretches away in alternations of green height and bold brown upland till it becomes lost among the blue peaks of the Southern Highlands; on the SW and W are the broad waters of the Firth of Clyde, with many a sail like a sea-bird skimming the surface, and Ailsa Craig riding like an ark on the wave, while behind are the serrated mountains of Arran veiled in mist or curtained with clouds of every form and hue; on the N, immediately under the eye, extends the deep sylvan furrow of the Doon, with the Burns' Monument glittering like a gem on its margin; and away thence stretches the great luxuriant plain of Kyle and Cunninghame, pressed inward in a long sweeping segment by the firth, dotted with towns which look like cities in the distance, chequered also with a profusion of mansions and demesnes, and gliding dimly away in the perspective into the gentle heights of Renfrewshire, overlooked in the far horizon by the blue summit of Ben Lomond. The same prospect, in much of its extent and most of its elements, is seen from a thousand vantage-grounds of this land of beauty; but nowhere are its scope so unbroken, its groupings so superb, and its effect so striking. Should any one wonder that Burns grew up on the threshold of this home of romance, and for many years might daily have gazed upon its gorgeous visions, and yet has made no allusion to it in his writings, he must remember that the bard, though possessing a keen eye for the beauties of nature, was the painter rather of manners than of landscape-the type in poetry not of Salvator Rosa, but of Hogarth and the limners of Holland.

The geological structure of the coast presents an interesting correspondence in its strata with those of the confronting coast of Arran. The predominant rocks of the interior are Old Red sandstone and trap. The sandstone, in a quarry at St Murray's, often affords beautiful specimens of arborescence, from the presence of the black oxide of manganese, and is traversed by veins of lead ore. The soil of the arable lands is partly light, and partly of a strong, clayey character. Threefourths of the entire area are in tillage; nearly 1000 acres are under plantation; and the rest is meadow, hill-pasture, or moorland. In feudal times there were within the parish at least fifteen towers or castles, the residences of brawling chiefs. Of these, Dunure and Greenan have been noticed separately. The castles of Newark and Kilhenzie have undergone renovation or repair; but all the others-Auchendrane, Smithstown, Beoch, Craigskean, Garryhorne, Doonside, Dalduf, Glenayas, Sauchrie, and Brochlock-are much dilapidated, or have left but a few vestiges. Numerous camps occur, so small and of such rude construction, as evidently to have been thrown up by small invading bodies of those Irish who subdued the Romanised British tribes. Tumuli, the burying-places of a field of carnage, are frequent. Kirkbride church is still represented by ruins, ½ mile E of Dunure; another preReformation place of worship stood on the lands of Auchendraue; and traces of several others were extant towards the close of the 17th century. Twelve proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 11 of between £100 and £500, 14 of from £50 to £100, and 49 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Ayr and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, the civil parish includes nearly half of Alloway quoad sacra parish, a small part of Crosshill, all Fisherton, all Maybole proper, and nearly all West Church quoad sacra parish; the livings of the two last being worth £435 and £224. Three public schools -Fisherton, Maybole, and Minishant-with respective accommodation for 100, 650, and 90 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 94, 640, and 84, and grants of £82, £600, 6s., and £58, 3s. 8d. Valuation (1860) £29, 023, (1884) £35, 470, 17s. 6d., plus £5848 for railway. Pop. (1801) 3162, (1841) 7027, (1861) 6713, (1871) 5900, (1881) 6628, of whom 2935 were in Maybole ecclesiastical parish, 2625 in West Church, 609 in Fisherton, 421 in Alloway, and 38 in Crosshill.—Ord. Sur., sh. 14, 1863.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Maybole ScoP       Ayrshire ScoCnty
Place: Maybole

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