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surprised the garrison, and put every Southron to the sword. At this date no vestige of the building remains, and its exact site is somewhat uncertain, but it is generally agreed that it stood behind the present academy, and was swept away by the revolutionizing Cromwell.
Besides its castle, Ayr possessed in early times a church and two religious institutions. The first was dedicated to St. John. It had four altars, eight chaplains, and a bevy of monks. In it the Parliament was held which fixed the succession to the Scottish throne on the family of Robert the Bruce ; but despite this and its consecration, Cromwell in after
years turned it into an armoury, and ultimately pulled it down to make room for a fort. Its tower still stands, but is so incorporated with other buildings that it is not easily distinguished.
The institutions referred to have completely worn out of the traditional mind, but their positions have been pretty accurately ascertained. One was the Monastery of Dominicans or Black Friars, and was founded in 1230 by Alexander II. It was possessed of considerable wealth, and frequently received gifts from royalty, especially from James IV, and V., who often visited Ayr; but its coffers were oftener replenished by individuals of less note. For instance, it is stated in the History of the County of Ayr that the lands of Dankeith, in the parish of Symington, belonged to the Dominican friars. This appears from a curious document among the records of the burgh bearing date 4th May, 1411. It is termed—" Ane testificat, witnessing that a noble and worshipful man, Allan Lander, gave in perpetual almonds the lands of Dalnkeith to the friars preachers of Ayr, for the soul of umql, Allice Campbell, his wife, and for the souls of his posteritie, for continued prays of the friars, and for the anniversary of the said Allice, and that the same was honestlie and reverentlie done." When suppressed, nearly the whole property of this house was inherited by the burgh. The other institution was the Monastery of the Franciscan order of Grey Friars, founded by the inhabitants of Ayr in 1472. It also received royal patronage, and was celebrated for a statue of the Virgin Mary-at whose shrine the halt, the blind, the maimed, and the diseased were miraculously cured.
When vast wealth, and consequent sensuality, rendered
the clergy and the laity of the Romish church intolerable, the social revolution which ensued convulsed Ayr as much as it did every other town in the kingdom. The people, however, although sufficiently daring to break away from the thraldom of the Mother Church, were at first rather unwilling to submit with any degree of meekness to the rigour of the new faith, and the charge of “wicked” which Burns brings against the town was more than merited at the period. Howie, in his life of John Welch, its first Protestant minister, states that that “worthy” found it in a very wicked state when he first came to it—“so wicked that no one would let him a house to dwell in.” “The place,” he goes on to say, “was so divided into factions, and filled with bloody conflicts, that a man could hardly walk the streets with safety; wherefore Mr. Welch made it his first undertaking to remove the bloody quarrellings, but he found it a very difficult work; yet such was his earnestness to pursue his design, that many times he would rush betwixt two parties of men fighting, even in the midst of blood and wounds. He used to cover his head with a head-piece before he went to separate these bloody enemies, but would never use a sword, that they might see he came for peace and not for war, and so, little by little, he made the town a peaceable habitation. His manner was, after he had ended a skirmish amongst his neighbours, and reconciled these bitter enemies, to cause a covered table to be put upon the street, and there brought the enemies together, and beginning with prayer he persuaded them to profess themselves friends, then to eat and drink together, then last of all he ended the work with singing a psalm. And after the rude people began to observe his example, and listen to his heavenly doctrine, he came quickly to such respect amongst them, that he became not only a necessary counsellor, without whose counsel they would do nothing, but also an example to imitate.” That society in Ayr was in a very disturbed state long after that period is fully borne out by the session books and town records. Street brawls, wife-beating, and drunkenness were of frequent occurrence, and the Sabbath was looked upon as a day of recreation, and people were continually lapsing into the habit of working, buying, selling, and playing at games on that day, but the session stamped out the practices by c
summary and severe punishments. During the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Welch, the plague or pest, as it was termed, visited the county, and, the better to guard the town against infection, the Magistrates ordered the gates to be closed and closely watched, so that infected persons might be kept out. One day a brace of packmen presented themselves and demanded admittance. The Magistrates being called, sent for Mr. Welch to obtain the benefit of his counsel, but he promptly told them to send the men away for they had the plague in their packs. This was afterwards verified, says the account, for in Cumnock where they disposed of their goods “such an infection was kindled that the living were hardly able to bury the dead.” Notwithstanding precautions adopted, the pest entered the town, but its ravages were more severely felt in after years. In 1610 it is estimated that 2000 persons died of it. and upon another occasion the population was so far reduced by it and famine together that the town was in a measure depopulated. After the battle of Dunbar the troops of the Commonwealth occupied Ayr, and upon its churchyard and some sixteen acres of adjacent ground built a regular fortification (the fort alluded to), with a fosse and an esplanade, which was considered one of the most complete works of the kind in the kingdom. At the Restoration the whole was dismantled and gifted in 1663 to Hugh, seventh Earl of Eglinton, in consideration of his father's services () during the usurpation. In 1681 it was purchased from that noble family by the magistrates of Ayr for the town, but was re-purchased by the same house and a distillery erected within it in 1734. It afterwards came into the hands of the Culzean family. It is now the property of John Miller, Esq., an enterprising gentleman, who has feued out the grounds and transformed the castle into a handsome residence. A considerable portion is now traversed by streets and terraces of elegant villas, and when the whole is built upon the locality will be a fashionable and populous suburb of the old and much-respected town. Although these changes have taken place, a considerable portion of the citadel remains, and fragments of its massive walls are still to be seen. There is a current tradition that Cromwell demolished Ardrossan Castle and shipped the stones to Ayr to aid in the construction of the fort. This is probable, and partly borne out by the fact that a considerable portion of that castle has been removed by some means and for some purpose.
“During the Cromwellian period, and while the troops of the Commonwealth garrisoned the fort,” says James Paterson in his history of the county, “the session records bear ample evidence that, in morals at least, the soldiers were by no means puritanical. They appear to have arrived in Ayr in 1651. . . . . . There are innumerable instances of Sabbath breaking and uncleanness on the part of Cromwell's troops. One entry records the fact of an English soldier having been scourged through the streets for adultery.”
During the attempt to force Episcopacy upon the people of Scotland the lads of Ayr stood nobly to the front, and boldly maintained the tenets of civil and religious freedom, and that with their lives, for many suffered martyrdom ; but the sentences of eight were considered so unjust that the hangman fled in dismay, so utterly horrified was he at the idea of having to execute guiltless men. To fill his place the Irvine executioner was applied to, but he stedfastly refused to put the men to death, and although dragged to Ayr and placed in the stocks, and threatened with death, he would not be prevailed upon to perform the odious task. One of the condemned, however, was tempted by the offer of a free pardon to execute his companions; “but he,” says Woodrow, “would have refused at the last had he not been kept partly intoxicated.”
Beyond the stirring events of early times there is little connected with Ayr calling for particular notice. The advance of the rebel army in 1745 created considerable excitement amongst the inhabitants, and proved their loyalty to the house of Hanover. The Radical movement also made some stir, but the troops held in readiness to preserve law and order in the event of a rising awed the malcontents, and they never engaged in anything save a war of words. Since then Ayr has been in a measure remodelled, and prosperity has been its constant attendant.
THE BURGH - THE
THE KIRK'S ALARM”—THE MARTYRS' STONE-A CURIOUS EPITAPH-DAFT RAB HAMILTON.
The situation of Newton-upon-Ayr is not striking, nor is its neighbourhood remarkable for beauty. Although containing a population of 4686 souls, and forming part of the Parliamentary burgh of Ayr, it has few manufactures and little traffic, and as to its buildings, they are of such a common-place description that a rambler might stray through its streets without harbouring a wish to linger on his way. The constitution of the burgh, however, is of some interest on account of it being only paralleled by Prestwick, but when it was created cannot, at this date, be ascertained with certainty, its original charter being lost. Notwithstanding this, tradition states, and the freemen affirm, that the lands were conferred by Robert the Bruce upon forty-eight individuals who distinguished themselves at the battle of Bannockburn. This may, or may not have been, but it is certain that the privileges enjoyed by the burghers in early times were renewed by a charter from James VI., which enipowered the community—as the forty-eight participators are termed—to grant feus and divide amongst themselves the lands acquired by their ancestors, and also to elect two bailies, one treasurer, and six councillors.
Each lot or freedom extends to about six acres of arable land, and the right of succession is limited to direct descent. For instance, a son succeeds to his father; and a widow, not having a son, enjoys the property of her husband as long as she lives, but daughters are excluded from benefit, and the