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consequence is that freedoms frequently revert to the community. These, however, are not retained, but disposed of to the most respectable and industrious inhabitants of the burgh, and in this manner the commune has been kept in existence. At this date many of the freedoms have been disposed of, and the privileges which the charter conferred are of no practical utility, but notwithstanding, the freemen are still the superiors, and meet frequently to transact business.
Wallacetown adjoins Newton, and is also part of the Parliamentary burgh of Ayr. It originated towards the end of the last century, and is entirely built on ground feued from the Wallaces of Craigie.
The church, and ancient churchyard of Newton, are hid from view
Council Chambers—an odd-like building which stands near the centre of Main Street-but they afford no inducement to the rambler to linger by them. The church, however, although obscurely situated, has gained a kind of celebrity on account of the number of ordinations which have taken place in it since the Disruption, and the fact that many of its clergymen have risen to eminence. For instance, the Rev. Dr. Caird, Principal of Glasgow University, was its minister for some time; as also, the Rev. John Stuart of St. Andrew's, Edinburgh; the Rev. Dr. Boyd (long connected with Fraser's Magazine); the Rev. Dr. George Burns of Glasgow Cathedral; the Rev. Dr. Wallace, formerly of Greyfriars, Edinburgh, and now editor of the Scotsman; the Rev. John M‘Leod (cousin of the lamented Dr Norman); and others equally deserving of notice.
From Newton I passed through Wallacetown and sought the Auld Brig o' Ayr-a ponderous old-fashioned structure of four lofty arches, whose weed-covered buttresses and solid architecture have, according to general belief, witnessed the passage of six hundred years and the many changes which have followed in their train. A pretty little legend has it that the old pile was erected by two maiden ladies named Lowe to prevent the annual loss of life which ensued from the crossing of a ford near the spot it occupies, and that the chief incitement to the praiseworthy act was the melancholy circumstance of a young man to whom one of them was betrothed having perished while attempting to cross the stream
during a flood. Be this as it may, two faded effigies which tradition points to as theirs may still be seen on the inside of the eastern parapet, and also the time-worn figures “1, 2, 5, 2,” which possibly denote the year in which the edifice was constructed. This legend may be an historical fact, but the annals of the venerable structure are few and fail to record it.
Although early occurrences associated with the venerable pile are unchronicled, many a regal, many a warlike, and many a devotional cavalcade has doubtless defiled across its narrow path in times passed away, when it formed the principal if not the only means of communication between the northern and southern banks of the Ayr in the district; but a truce to speculation.
About 1785 the ancient bridge began to display such symptoms of decay that the magistrates of Ayr had it examined, and the result was, that it was pronounced no longer capable of withstanding the strain of heavy traffic. At first they thought of taking it down, but after considerable deliberation and negotiation, an Act of Parliament was obtained which empowered them to build a new bridge, and place a toll upon it, to refund the money expended on its construction. In May, 1786, the first stone of this structure was laid, but it was not until November, 1788, that the last was imbedded and the whole work finished.
Mr. John Ballantyne, banker, Ayr, a very warm friend, and a sincere admirer of the poetical and personal merits of Robert Burns, was Provost during the time of its erection, and took a deep interest in its progress. He generously offered to advance the necessary funds to print a second edition of the poet's works. This, and many another kindness, seem to have been fully appreciated by Burns, for in a letter to his earliest Ayr patron-Robert Aiken-he says :" I would detest myself as a wretch if I thought I were capable in a very long life of forgetting the honest, warm, and tender delicacy with which he (Mr Ballantyne) enters
interests." Poets have seldom more to give than a song, and at this most unfortunate and vexatious period of his existence Burns had little else. However, as a mark of his esteem and gratitude, he inscribed to him the clever dialogue in which he makes the old and new bridges hurl
all the opprobrious epithets at each other a poet's fancy could command, and thereby rescued his name from oblivion.
“ The Brigs of Ayr" is one of our poet's happiest efforts, but little did he think when he penned it that he had put a prophesy into the mouth of the presiding genii of the old bridge which would be fulfilled to the letter before a century rolled into the vortex of eternity. Mark the language. The hour is midnight, and
“ The Goth is stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch,” when his new-come nee bor"—in course of erection some hundred and fifty yards farther down the stream-catches
“ Wi' thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, doun the water, gies him thus guid-e'en :
“ I doubt na, frien', ye'll think ye're nae sheep-shank,
Ance ye were streekit o'er frae bank to bank,
66 Auld Vandal, ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi' your scantie sense ;
This mony a year I've stood the flood and tide;
When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil,
It came to pass as the Auld Brig predicted. ceited gowk” is no more, and another equally handsome bridge is “streekit o'er frae bank to bank” in its stead. In March, 1877, its masonry was found to be so rent and insecure that it was condemned, and ordered to be taken down, but it was not until the 5th of November same year that it was reduced to “a shapeless cairn.” Then, its parapets and packing being removed, the arches were blown up with dynamite, and in the presence of a vast concourse of spectators assembled to witness its overthrow, it fell into the bed of the river, a shattered, formless mass of masonry.
Reader, do not smile at the writer's enthusiasm when he tells you that he not only crossed and re-crossed the Old Bridge, but curiously examined everything about it, and what is more, leaned over the weather-worn parapet and watched the water gliding from beneath the massive arches. He took a strange delight in doing so, for to be where the admired bard of his country found a theme for his muse gives one a more lively and vivid conception of the man, and a clearer insight into his master mind.
Despite the boast of the ancient edifice, its many good qualities are so far impaired that it is only traversed by footpassengers now, but notwithstanding, it appears quite capable of bearing such “aboon the broo,” and most likely will perform the degenerate duty for many, many long years,
The “New” Bridge was a graceful, broad structure of five lofty, well-turned arches. On each of its sides were niches containing statues of heathen deities, and above the central spandril the armorial bearings of the town were displayed. On the whole, it was the handsomest public bridge in the county of Ayr.
and that too despite the assaults of time and the blustering wintry torrents which in the course of nature may lash themselves into foam against its buttresses.
After lingering by the celebrated edifice, I traversed a narrow, old-fashioned lane and entered the High Street, a well-paved thoroughfare containing many large shops and other places of business, and not a few buildings belonging to a former age. An observant pedestrian finds much to interest him in a bustling town, and objects to engage attention are not wanting in “the auld toon o' Ayr.” Indeed, it will amply repay any person who has time to leisurely examine it, and although its store of antiquities is not great, yet they are worth hunting up and interesting when found.
For instance, I had proceeded but a short distance along this, the chief artery of the town, when my attention was attracted by a dumpy, ill-proportioned statue of the hero Wallace, peering in serio-comic fashion from a niche in the side wall of a corner tenement, which is said to occupy the site of the Tolbooth or prison-house in which “Scotia's ill-requited chief” languished after killing Lord Percy's steward. Blind Harry narrates the circumstances in “ Buke Secund” of his metrical life of Wallace, and states that he was brought so low by damp and disease while immured that the gaoler during one of his visits considered him dead, and had him tossed over the prison wall like so much carrion. According to the minstrel, the gaoler's mistake was the means of preserving the patriot's life, for being found by “his first nurse,” he was conveyed to her residence in Newton and concealed until health and strength were regained.
There are many curious old buildings in the vicinity of the tenement containing the statue referred to, but none more so than those situated in an adjacent alley named Isle Lane. One especially, which appears to have been the town residence of some noble family, carries one as far back as the Elizabethan period.
Entering Kirk Port, a narrow, but respectable lane branching off High Street nearly opposite Newmarket Street, I soon arrived at the gate of the quaint burying-place surrounding the old Parish Church, a venerable building of considerable interest, which stands on the site of the Grey Friars' Convent, an ecclesiastical edifice alluded to in a former