An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Maybole Town

MAYBOLE, a burgh-of-barony, an ancient town, and still the reputed capital of Carrick, stands near the southern extremity of its cognominal parish, on the mail road between Glasgow and Port-Patrick; 12 miles from Girvan, 25 from Ballantrae, 9 from Ayr, 22 from Kilmarnock, 44 from Glasgow, and 81 from Edinburgh. It stands chiefly on the declivity and partly along the skirts of a very broad-based and flattened hill, with an exposure to the east, the summit of the hill intervening between it and the frith and coast of the Clyde; and 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,—

"Minnibole's a dirty hole,

It sits aboon a mire."

This representation, in the sense usually attached to it of the town being situated on miry ground, is now, and probably always was, incorrect. A broad belt of deep green meadow, nearly as level as a bowling-green, stretches along the base of the hill, and seems anciently 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 whole ancient site is 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, and seem to have bewildered the usually astute George Chalmers; but they may, Professor Gray thinks, be referred to Gaelic roots, which make them mean, 'the Heath-ground upon the marsh,' and 'the Heath-ground upon the meadow.' A town built upon a heathy declination, and closely skirted by a meadow, or even a grassy marsh, may thus, without 'sitting aboon a mire,' be both 'Minnibole' and Maybole. The lower streets of the town, called Kirklands, Newyards, and Ballong, are not within the limits of the burgh, and consist almost wholly of weavers' houses and workshops, tidier and in every respect better than similar buildings in most other towns. The main street runs nearly north and south, and—with the exception of a brief thoroughfare going off westward at right angles from its middle—occupies the highest ground within the burgh. A considerable space, deeply sloping between it and the low-lying suburbs, is disposed to a small extent in the ancient cemetery and 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 which draw the attention of a stranger, are the Main street, and what is called the Kirk-wynd. These are narrow, and of varying width, quite destitute of every modern attraction, and sinless of all the ordinary graces of a line town ; yet they possess many features ot antique stateliness, decayed and venerable magnificence, and even fading dashes of metropolitan greatness, which strongly image the aristocratical parts of Edinburgh during the feudal age. As the capital of Carrick, the place anciently wielded more influence over its province than the modern metropolis of the kingdom does over Scotland, and was the site of winter-residences of a large proportion of the Carrick barons. As the seat, also, of the courts of justice of Carrick bailiery, —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 connexion, too, with its collegiate church and its near vicinity to Crossraguel abbey, it borrowed great consequence from the presence of mitred or influential ecclesiastics 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. Two of several of these which still remain figure in association with such interesting history that they must be specially noticed.

The chief is the ancient residence of the Ailsa or Cassilis family, the principal branch of the Kennedys. The building stands near the middle of the town, bears the name of the Castle par excellence, and is a high, well-built, imposing pile, one of the strongest and finest of its class. It was the place of confinement for life of the Countess of Cassilis, a daughter of the 1st Earl of Haddington, who eloped with the Gipsy leader, Johnnie Faa. [See article CASSILIS CASTLE.] The town's-people assume looks of solemn mystery when turning a stranger's attention to the building, and tell strange traditions respecting the lady and her days of duresse. The Earls of Cassilis, directly and through the medium of collateral branches of their family, wielded such power over the province that they were called both popularly and by historiographers, "Kings of Carrick;" and they used the castle of Maybole as the metropolitan palace of their "kingdom." Gilbert, the 4th Earl, who lived in the unsettled period succeeding the commencement of the Reformation, pushed his power into Galloway, and by murder and forgery seized the large possessions of the abbey of Glenluce. He, for some time, saw his uncle abbot of Crossraguel; but, the office passing to Allan Stewart, who enjoyed the protection of the Laird of Bargany, he rapaciously desired to lay hands on all its revenues and temporal rights. His brother, Thomas Kennedy, having at his instigation enticed Stewart to become his guest, the unprincipled Earl conveyed the ensnared abbot to Dunure castle, the original residence of the Cassilis family, and there, by subjecting him to such torments as have rarely occurred but among the American Indians, or in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, forced him to resign by legal instruments the possessions of the abbacy. A feud arose from this event, or was aggravated by it, between the Earls of Cassilis and the Lairds of Bargany, and at last issued in very tragical events. In December, 1601, the Earl of Cassilis rode out from Maybole castle at the head of 200 armed followers to waylay the Laird of Bargany on a ride from Ayr to his house from Girvan-water; and on the farm of West Enoch, about half-a-mile north of the town, he forced on the Laird an utterly unequal conflict, and speedily brought him and several faithful adherents gorily to the ground. The Laird, mortally wounded, "was carried from the scene of the murderous onset to Maybole, that he might there, if he should evince any symptom of recovery, 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 murder was, it not only—through manouvering and state influence highly characteristic of the period—passed with impunity, but was formally noted by an act of council as good service to the King. The Laird of Auchendrane son-in-law of the murdered 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 murder him that no witness existed of his connexion 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. 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 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 Chapel Donan, a lonely place on the coast, murdered him there at midnight, and buried his body in the sand. The corpse, speedily unearthed by the tide, was carried out by the assassin to the sea at a time when a strong wind blew from the shore, but was very soon brought back by the waves, and lodged on the very scene of the murder. Mure, and his son who aided him in the horrid transactions, fell under general suspicion, and now endeavoured to destroy Bannatyne, the witness and accomplice of their guilt; but the unhappy peasant making full confession to the civil authorities, they were brought up from an imprisonment into which the King, roused by general indignation, had already thrown them, and were placed at the bar, pronounced guilty, and summarily and ignominiously put to death. These sanguinary and dismal transactions form the groundwork of Sir Walter Scott's dramatic sketch, called 'Auchendrane, or the Ayrshire Tragedy.' The house now 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, uncle of the 4th Earl of Cassilis, and abbot of Crossruguel. An account of the transaction, written by Knox himself, I was, with all its obsoleteness of verbiage and antiqueness of phraseology, republished in 1812 by Sir Alexander Boswell, from a copy —the only one extant— in his library at Auchinleck. The debate was occasioned by a challenge, on the part of the abbot, given in the church of Kirkoswald; it was arranged in the course of an interesting correspondence, during which Knox laboured to obtain for it a large audience and conspicuous publicity; it was conducted in a dingy, pannelled apartment, in the presence of 80 persons equally selected by the antagonists, and included several nobles and influential gentlemen; it lasted for three days, and was eventually broken off through the want of suitable accommodation for the persons and retinues of the select auditors; it consisted partly of idle quibbling and logomachy, partly on Knox's side of powerful and impassioned appeal, chiefly of controversy respecting the priesthood and offering of Melchizedek in connexion with the doctrines of sacrifice and the popish mass, and in no degree of argument on the grand points at issue between Romanists and the Reformed; and it ended in the virtual prostration of the abbot under the weight of Knox's blows, and in healthfully arousing and directing public attention as to the foul doctrinal corruptions of the Romish creed. The members of a 'Knox club, I instituted in the town to commemorate the event, and consisting of all classes of Protestants, hold a triennial festival to demonstrate their warm sense of the religious and civil liberties which have accrued from the overthrow of the Romish domination.

The noticeable civil buildings, additional to the two mentioned, are the ancient town-residence of the Lairds of Blairquhan, now used as the tolbooth, -the ancient residence of the Lairds of Kilhenzie, now the White Horse inn, —the ancient residence of the Kennedys of Knockdow, now called the Black house, —the house occupied by Sir Thomas Kennedy of Colzean, now the property of Mr. Niven of Kirkbride, the ancient residence of the Kennedys of Ballimore, situated in the Kirk-wynd, —the ancient residence of the abbots of Crossraguel, called the Garden of Eden, and the Town-hall, a cumbrous old pile with a low, heavy, spiral tower, situated at the Cross. Though the town has not one modern public civil building, it abounds in commodious and comfortable dwelling-bouses, greatly superior, for every domiciliary use, to even the best of its remaining baronial mansions. The parish-church is a plain edifice, and might even claim to be neat were it not disfigured by a small steeple which looks like a burlesque upon architecture. The United Secession chapel arrests attention chiefly for having a deep slice cut away from one of its corners, —occasioned by a very bigotted and discreditable attempt to prevent its erection.

Maybole, in every thing except its buildings, has been singularly denuded of its ancient character; and, after passing through a season of great depopulation and decline consequent on the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, has risen into considerable importance as a busy outpost of the cotton-manufacturers of Glasgow, and a ready receptacle of the immigrant weavers of Ireland. It has no manufacture whatever of its own, beyond the usual produce of handicraftsmen for local use; and figures simply as a seat of population, where the Irish weavers and the agents of Scottish employers conveniently meet. Incomers from Ireland have been so numerous as almost to counterbalance the aboriginal inhabitants, and give law to the place; and, many of them being Orangemen, they make periodical party-demonstrations, such as give some trouble to the sheriff, and excel in boldness most which occur in even Orangeized Ulster. Excepting a few coarse woollens and blankets, all the fabrics woven are pullicates, imitation thibets, and mull and jaconet muslins. Maybole, jointly with the villages of Crossbill and Kirkmichael, had, in 1828, 1,700 hand-looms, and, in 1838, 1,300. The gross average of wages earned by each weaver is about 6 shillings per week. The Report of Assistant Hand-loom Weavers' commissioners, says that the morals of the Maybole weavers are "apparently very low," and gives some details respecting them and the agents which we do not choose to repeat. The procurator-fiscal believes the value of weft annually stolen in these parishes [Maybole and Kirkmichael], amounts to £1,300 per year, and that warp is sent by 'small corks' at Glasgow to certain weavers at Maybole, to be wefted there with 'bowl' weft, so called because women who sell bowls were employed to buy it.

Maybole appears to have been erected into a burgh-of-barony by a charter of James V., dated at Edinburgh the 24th November, 1516. This charter gave to the inhabitants full power to buy and sell, within the burgh, wine, wax, woollen and linen cloth, and the power and liberty of "having and holding, in the said burgh, bakers, brewers, fleshers, and venders as well of flesh as fish, and all other tradesmen belonging to a free burgh-of-barony." It granted, likewise, "that there be in the said burph free burgesses, and that they have power, in all time to come, of electing annually bailies, and all other officers necessary tor the government of the said burgh." The power of electing their own magistrates does not appear to have been exercised by them for more than a century. The records of the burgh prior to 1721 have been lost, but they are preserved from that time, and it appears that the burgh was then, and has ever since been, governed by a council, consisting of 17 members elected for life. When a vacancy occurs by the death or resignation of a councillor, or by his leaving the burgh, it is filled up by a person elected by the remaining councillors. The council choose two bailies and a treasurer yearly out of their own number. The property of the burgh consists of the town-house, flesh-market, and slaughter-house; apiece of ground called the Ball green, and another piece of ground, of about four falls in extent; and a pew in the gallery of the church, occupied by the magistrates and council. There is a debt of £30 due to the burgh from the parish conversion money. The debt due by the burgh amounts to £37 1s. 5d. The revenue is derived partly from the property, and partly from street custom, market-dues, fees from entries of burgesses, amounting to about £5 per annum on the average of the last forty years, and from an annual tax imposed upon the inhabitants, called stent, amounting, for the year 1832, to £40 17s. 6d. The total revenue of the burgh, for the year 1832, was £68 5s., and upon the average of the six years previous it was £65 per annum. The expenditure for the year 1832 was £63 2s. 3d. The magistrates have jurisdiction over the whole burgh, and possess the usual powers of the magistrates of burghs-of-barony, which were independent of the superior previous to the passing of the Act 20, Geo. II. They hold a weekly court, in which petty delinquencies, and personal actions to any amount are tried; and they judge in a summary manner in actions called 'Causeway complaints,' when the sum at issue does not exceed 6s. 8d., and in geneial services of heirs. From 1820 to 1833, the average annual number of criminal cases before the burgh court was 10, of civil cases 7. The magistrates have no assessor but the town-clerk, who has no salary for the judicial part of his duty; and the council patronially elect only the town-clerk, who has £4 4s. a-year and fees, —the procurator-fiscal, who has £2, —the collector of stent, who has 10 per cent, on the amount collected, —and two town-officers, each of whom has £1 1s. and fees. A burgess-right must be obtained by any person who would manufacture or trade within the burgh, and costs to a stranger £1 1s., and to the son of a burgess 10s. 6d. The number of burgesses, in 1833, was 205, of whom 137 were resident. There are not within the burgh any incorporated crafts possessing exclusive privileges. The town is lighted with gas, and supplied with water, from the common good; the police is regulated by the magistrates in virtue of their powers at common law; and the streets are maintained and cleaned at the expense of the turnpike-road trust funds of the county. A weekly market is held on Thursday; and annual fairs are held on the first Tuesday of February, O.S., and on the last Tuesday of April, of July, and of October. The town has branch-offices of the Ayr bank and of the Ayrshire banking company; a savings' bank; nearly 40 inns and ale-houses; a subscription and circulating library; a parochial school; and an agricultural association called the Carrick Farmers' society. In 1833, the population, within burgh, was about 3,000, and in the streets of Kirklands, iS'ewyards, and Ballony, about 1,000; and, in the same year, the number of householders within burgh whose rents amounted to £10 was about 55, anil in the adjoining streets 27, —of householders whose rents were £o, but less than £10, was within burgh 184, and in the adjoining streets 40.

Maybole, till after the commencement of the present century, was, in a great measure, isolated from other town's, and from all Scotland except its own immediate precincts. The deadening influence which fell upon it after it lost its metropolitical character and importance, placed defences around it almost as impassable as the moat and the exterior fortifications of a feudal castle. Access to it was neither invited, by its inhabitants, nor desired on the part of most strangers; and by the few who sought it, it was not easily obtained. But —through the exertions chiefly of Mr.Niven of Kirkbride —excellent roads have been opened to it from every direction, and various appliances set up to bring it into terms of free communication with other parts of Scotland. An extensive: carrying-trade to Glasgow, rendered necessary since the introduction of cotton weaving, has gradually familiarized it with the metropolis of the west, and has led to a numerous transference of the enterprising or adventure-seeking part of its population. The Glasgow and Port-Patrick mail daily passes through it, to both the north and the south; a stage-coach between Girvan and Ayr runs through it twice a-week; a stage-coach of its own runs daily to Ayr: and an impulse, not of trivial value, has been given by the opening of the Glasgow and Ayr railway. —The climate, though very humid, is said to be markedly salubrious. Maybole escaped the visitation of Asiatic cholera, and is traditionally reported to have escaped the plague. Instances of longevity are numerous. " Within these 5 years," says the Old Statistical Account, "Mr.David Doig, schoolmaster at Maybole, died at the age of 104. About three years ago, a woman died here, aged 105. In this town there are at present 10 persons, whose ages put together amount to upwards of 900 years." —The Rev. Dr. Macknight, the well-known theological writer, was minister of Maybole for 16 years, and, respectively in 1756 and 1763, while he held the office, published his 'Harmony of the Gospels' and his 'Truth of the Gospel Histories.' The Rev. Dr. Wright, the author of a volume of Sermons, succeeded Dr. Macknight. A surviving successor is the Rev. George Gray, now Professor of Hebrew and Oriental literature in the University of Glasgow.  





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