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located in the district, but also that the tradition has some foundation in fact.
From the Churchyard I passed up a respectable, closelybuilt street, and soon arrived in Prestwick Cross, which is situated on the highway between Kilmarnock and Ayr.
Prestwick, or the Priests' Village, as the name signifies, is a pleasant little place, with a Council House, and very many substantial houses and neat villas of recent erection. Although situated on the highway within two and a half miles of the county town, and close to a line of railway, it has little to boast of in the way of trade, and in the meantime is only famous for the excellent quality of its kail plants. Its future, however, is promising, for it is gradually growing in importance as a fashionable watering place.
Like Monkton it owes its origin to its church or other religious house erected in its vicinity, but at what time it sprang into existence is unknown.
The charter erecting it into a burgh or barony—which was renewed by James VI. at Holyrood, 19th June, 1600-expressly states that it was known as a free burgh or barony 617 years previous to that date. Now this borders on the fabulous, for it brings its erection back to the year 983, a period “far beyond the epoch of record,” as Chalmers shrewdly remarks.
« The lands of the burgh,” says the same writer, “extend to about 1000 Scots acres, and are divided among thirty-six freemen or barons,* as they are called, each of whom possesses a lot of arable land, and a right of pasturing a certain number of sheep and cattle upon the common. None of these can sell their freeholds but to the community, who have a right to sell them again to whom they please. The magistrates have power to regulate the police of the burgh, and a jurisdiction over the freemen for enforcing the recovery of small debts. Though they have the power of committing a freeman to prison, they cannot lock the doors upon him ; but if he comes out of the prison without proper liberation by the magistrates, he loses his freedom or baronship in the burgh." By the renewed charter the freemen
# In the olden time a freeman was a vassal in earnest. By a statute dated October, 1561, it was enacted that “ylk freman of this burgh (Prestwick) at has hors, at thai haf ryden geyr wyth ane sadyl, brydyll, gak, steyl bannet, and ane slot staf, or ane pow ax, suerd, and buckler.'
were privileged to elect annually a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and several councillors, to grant franchises to several trades, and to hold a weekly market, as also a fair on the 6th of December, the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron of the burgh. The records extend as far back as 1470, and throw considerable light upon the history of the place, and more especially upon privileges enjoyed by freemen, but lengthy extracts would be out of place here. The original number of freemen is still kept up, but the freeholds have decreased, and at this date do not exceed 700 acres. It is almost needless to add that the privileges so long enjoyed with immunity are now valuable only on account of their antiquity. The cottages skirting the highway have a remarkably tidy appearance, and look so snug with their gardens and flowerplots that town folk are almost tempted to break the tenth commandment by coveting their neighbour's house. The good people of Prestwick, however, render the violation unnecessary by offering to let apartments for a given term, as numerous little cards peering from the folds of snow-white window curtains testified. The locality, if not the most picturesque, has at least the advantage of being salubrious, for the children were rompish and rosy, and every countenance beamed with health. Reaching new Prestwick, which is just a continuation of the old village, I was thoughtlessly pushing onward when the words “Kingcase Cottage” caught my eye. Surely, said I, the ruins of the lazarhouse and the well, whose waters were so potent to cure leprosy, must be at hand. Turning into a rugged unkept road on my right, I tapped with my stick at the door of a humble cottage. After some delay a woman made her "appearance, and with the frankness of an old acquaintance informed me that the well and the “pickle ruins,” as she termed the remains, lay on the brae face behind her dwelling; but lest I should not conveniently find them, she singled out a boy from a group engrossed in a game of marbles to be my guide. He proved a nimble chap, for he darted round the corner of the house and led the way up a steep wire-fenced path until he came to an opening. “There,” said he, pointing to an old well and a pile of stones lying in a field to the west. “There, there it's,” and before I could either tender thanks or offer a gratuity, darted off at the top of his speed to continue the game of “knuckle down.” Finding myself alone I approached the well, which is about a stone-throw from the path referred to, and found it enclosed with rude masonry. Stepping down to its brink I drew a drinking cup from my coat pocket, and lifting a dripping bumper of the pure liquid, heroically drank to the memory of King Robert the Bruce, for tradition tells how that monarch was cured of a leprous disease by imbibing its waters. The draught proved cool and of excellent quality, but the flavour was greatly enhanced by the addition of a little brandy and a snack of bread and cheese. From the well a dozen paces brought me to the “pickle ruins,” or, in other words, the meagre remnant of Kingcase Hospital. As a ruin it is of no interest, and only consists of a portion of a side wall and some loose masonry, amongst which dock-weeds and long grass luxuriantly flourish. Finding nothing worthy of attention I sat down on a portion of the grass-covered foundation and began to gaze from the elevated position upon the village and fertile district beyond. No tree or shrub adorns the site of this ancient institution or relieves the monotony of the scene in its immediate vicinity. The soil all around is composed of dry loose sand, upon which it is difficult to walk; but, notwithstanding its barren appearance, a great portion is under cultivation and excellent crops are raised upon it, as was evident from the fine grain waving in more than one field on the occasion of my visit. “At Kilcase, which is now called Kincase or Kingcase, on the coast of Kyle, in the Parish of Prestwick,” says Chalmers, “there was founded an hospital for leprous persons, which was dedicated to St. Ninian. Tradition relates that the founder of this establishment was King Robert Bruce, who was himself afflicted with leprosy, the result of hard fare, hard living, and hard work. This hospital was endowed with the lands of Robertloan, which is now called Loans, in Dundonald parish, with the lands of Sheles and Spittal Sheles, in KyleStewart, and with other lands which cannot now be specified. As the foundation charter of this hospital does not exist, it cannot be ascertained what number of persons were originally maintained in it. It appears, however, to have been governed by a guardian or prior, and it had a chaplain. In the reign of James II., Wallace of Newton acquired the lands of Spittal Sheles which belonged to this hospital, as the name implies, and the hereditary keeper or governor of the hospital and lands belonging to it. In 1515-16 all these were resigned by Hugh Wallace of Newton in favour of his brother Adam. After the whole property of this hospital was thus granted away, the only revenue that remained to it was the feu-duties payable from the lands, in this manner granted in fee-farm ; and these, amounting to 64 bolls of meal and 8 merks (Scots) of money, with 16 threaves of straw for thatching the hospital, are still paid. For more than two centuries past this diminished revenue has been shared among eight objects of charity in equal shares of eight bolls of meal and one merk (Scotch) to each. The leprosy having long disappeared, the persons who are now admitted to the benefit of this charity are such as labour under diseases which are considered incurable, or such as are in indigent circumstances. The right of appointing these belonged to the family of Wallace of Craigie for a long time, and was purchased about 1790 [in 1787] by the Burgh of Ayr, which still retains this patronage. The old hospital, which existed in the better days of this charity, has long been in ruins. In the description of Kyle by Robert Gordon, in the reign of Charles I, he mentions the chapel of this establishment, and says that the persons admitted to the charity were then lodged in huts or cottages in the vicinity.” Reference is repeatedly made to Kingcase Hospital in the records of the Burgh of Prestwick. From these it is evident that leprosy was much dreaded, every precaution being taken to keep the inmates apart from the general community, and fines and imprisonment were in many cases inflicted upon persons brought before the “burro court” for visiting the institution. When the building became ruinous is not exactly known. From the following entry in the above-mentioned records it appears to have been tenanted so late as 1740:—“24th May, 1740–William Alexander, in King's-case, applys for the liberty of a yeard as now inclosed by their allowance formerly, and a piece of ground for the house he presently possesses southward to the Coall road. The freemen allow the same during his life, and allow the same to Elizabeth Shearer, his spouse, in case she survive him, and live in the
hospital of Kingcase altenarly; for which they agree to pay two shillings sterline yearly.”
There is a popular juvenile tradition connected with Kingcase well, which states that King Robert the Bruce when afflicted with leprosy wandered about the country. When skulking in the neighbourhood of the then very small village, it avers, he thrust the shaft of his spear into the sand and lay down beside it to rest his weary limbs. Having slept some time he rose to resume his wanderings, but when he withdrew his weapon to his surprise a stream of pure water issued from the indentation. Kneeling, he drank copiously, and shortly thereafter became whole. Attributing the cure to virtue in the water, and wishing others to participate in its benefits, he built and endowed the hospital, and also as a mark of royal favour erected the village into a burgh, and endowed it with the track of land lying between the Pow Burn and the river Ayr.
The tradition may be taken for what it is worth, as also the popular idea that the hospital was founded by Bruce; but it is just probable that it existed before his day, for Blind Harry tells how Sir William Wallace and his uncle, Sir Ranald Crawford, made a halt at it when on their way to Ayr to attend “the Black Parliament.”
From the ruin, and tradition-hallowed well, I returned to the wire-fenced path and followed its course to the highway. From New Prestwick to Ayr the road runs in an almost straight line, studded here and there with neat cottages and comfortable, capacious mansions. Numerous pedestrians and vehicles passed and re-passed, and several pleasure-seekers from Kilmarnock drove along in holiday glee, and at Tam o' Shanter speed. Holding on the even tenor of my way, I soon reached the outskirts of Ayr, and at “Tam's Brig.” stopped to dust my travel-stained boots and apparel before entering Newton. The bridge referred to crosses a line of railway, and from it one commands a fine view of the county town and its environs. But here I will take leave of the reader, and devote next chapter to a descriptive and historical sketch of the town of Ayr.