An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Barns of Ayr

BARNS OF AYR, an encampment, or military building, held by the English forces in the reign of Edward I., on the south-east side of the town of Ayr, celebrated in history for the fearful revenge which Wallace executed upon the garrison then in possession of the place, for the treacherous seizure and putting to death of Sir Reginald Crawford, Sir Bryce Blair, and Sir Hugh Montgomerie. Dr. Jamieson, in his notes to 'Wallace,' says: "The story of the destruction of these buildings, and of the immediate reason of it, is supported by the universal tradition of the country to this day; and local tradition is often entitled to more regard than is given to it by the fastidiousness of the learned. Whatever allowances it may be necessary to make for subsequent exaggeration, it is not easily conceivable, that an event should be connected with a particular spot, during a succession of ages, without some foundation. Sir D. Dalrymple deems this story 'inconsistent with probability.' He objects to it, because it is said, 'that Wallace, accompanied by Sir John Graham, Sir John Menteith, and Alexander Scrymgeour, constable of Dundee, went into the west of Scotland, to chastise the men of Galloway, who had espoused the part of the Comyns, and of the English;' and that, 'on the 28th August, 1208, they set fire to some granaries in the neighbourhood of Ayr, and burned the English cantoned in them.' — Annals, I. 255, N. Here he refers to the relations of Arnold Blair and to Major, and produces three objections to the narrative. One of these is, that 'Comyn, the younger of Badenoch, was the only man of the name of Comyn who had any interest in Galloway ; and he was at that time of Wallace's party.' The other two are; that 'Sir John Graham could have no share in the enterprise, for he was killed at Falkirk, 22nd July, 1298; and that 'it is not probable that Wallace would have undertaken such an enterprise immediately after the discomfeiture at Falkirk.' Although it had been said by mistake, that Graham and Comyn were present, this could not invalidate the whole relation, for we often find that leading facts are faithfully narrated in a history, when there are considerable mistakes as to the persons said to have been engaged. But although our annalist refers both to Major and Blair, it is the latter only who mentions either the design of the visit paid to the west of Scotland, or the persons who are said to have been associates in it. The whole of Sir David's reasoning rests on the correctness of a date, and of one given only in the meagre remains ascribed to Arnold Blair. If his date be accurate, the transaction at Ayr, whatever it was, must have taken place thirty-seven days afterwards. Had the learned writer exercised his usual acumen here — had he not been resolved to throw discredit on this part of the history of Wallace — it would have been most natural for him to have supposed, that this event was post-dated by Blair. It seems, indeed, to have been long before the battle of Falkirk. Blind Harry narrates the former in his Seventh, the latter in his Eleventh Book. Sir David himself, after pushing the argument from the date given by Blair as far as possible, virtually gives it up, and makes the acknowledgment which he ought to have made before. 'I believe,' he says, 'that this story took its rise from the pillaging of the English quarters, about the time of the treaty of Irvine, in 1297, which, as being an incident of little consequence, I omitted in the course of this history.' Here he refers to Hemingford, T. I. p.123. Hemingford says, that 'many of the Scots and men of Galloway had, in a hostile manner, made prey of their stores, having slain more than five hundred men, with women and children.' Whether he means to say that this took place at Ayr, or at Irvine, seems doubtful. But here, I think, we have the nucleus of the story. The barns, according to the diction of Blind Harry, seem to have been merely the English quarters,' erected by order of Edward for the accommodation of his troops. Although denominated barns by the Minstrel, and horreas by Arnold Blair, both writers seem to have used these terms with great latitude, as equivalent to what are now called barracks. It is rather surprising, that our learned annalist should view the loss of upwards of five hundred men, besides women and children, with that of their property, 'as an incident of little consequence, 'in a great national struggle. Major gives nearly the same account as Blair. Speaking of Wallace, he says, 'Anglorum insignes viros apud horrea Aerie residentes de nocte incendit, et qui a voraciflamma evaserunt ejus mucrone occubuerunt.'__Fol.lxx. There is also far more unquestionable evidence as to the cause of this severe retaliation, - than is generally supposed. Lord Hailes has still quoted Barbour as an historian of undoubted veracity. Speaking of Crystal of Seton, he says—It wes gret sorow sekyrly,That so worthy persoune as heSuld on sic maner hangyt be.Thusgate endyt his worthynes.And off Crauford als Schyr Ranald wes.And Schyr Bryce als the Blar,Hangyt in till a berne in Ar.'The Bruce, III.260 v. &e.This tallies very well with the account given by the Minstrel.'Four thousand haill that nycht was in till Ayr. In gret bernyss, biggyt with out the toun,The justice lay, with mony bald barroun.'Wallace, vii. 334.Miss Baillie has made good use of this incident in the life of Wallace, in her 'Metrical Legend.'





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