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set the table in a roar by his quaint remarks. He was inflexibly regular in the distribution of his time : he studied so much every day, and took his walk at the same hour in all kinds of weather. He played at golf a whole twelvemonth without the omission of a single week day, except the three on which there are religious services at the time of the communion. His views of many of the dispensations of Providence were widely different from those of the bulk of society. A friend told him of an old clergyman, an early companion of his own, who, having entered the pulpit in his canonicals, and on being about to commence service, fell back and expired in a moment. Dr. M'Gill clapped his hands together, and said, . That was very desirable ; he lived all the days of his life.'"
Besides stones commemorating contemporaries of Burns, there are others of engrossing interest.
One to the memory of the local martyrs mentioned in last chapter, who died for principle during the era of the Persecution, bears the following inscription:—“HERE LIES THE CORPSE OF JAMES SMITH, ALEXANDER M‘MILLAN, JAMES M‘MILLAN, JOHN STEWART, GEORGE. M‘KIRTNY, JNO. GRAHAM, AND JOHN MUIRHEAD, WHO SUFFERED MARTYRDOME AT AJR 27th DECR., 1666, FOR THEIR ADHEREANCE THE WORD OF GOD AND SCOTLAND'S REFORMATION.
“ THIS SMALL TRIBUTE TO INCORPORATE TRADES OF AIR, Anno DOMINI, 1814.
“ FOR THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL BE EPIT IN EVERLASTING REMEMBERANCE.
“ Here lie seven martyrs for our Covenants,
A sacred number of triumphant saints,
Lord let us never see such days again.”
Though Boreas' blasts and heaving waves
Has tost me to and fro,
I harbour here below,
THE ABOVE WAS DONE BY
Where at an anchor I do rest
Hoping for to set sail again
Before taking leave of the old church and its graveyard, a few anecdotes of Daft Rab Hamilton—a character of much local notoriety who was known the length and breadth of the shire, may be related. Although long dead, his face and figure are familiar to old people. He is described as having been an odd-like personage above the ordinary height and about sixty years of age—that was about the period of his death. He walked with a stoop and limped along with a shuffling gait, dragging as it were the one leg after the other. As to dress, he was in no way particular, for it depended very much upon chance and charity as to how he was clothed. He usually wore a battered and almost crownless hat, which he pressed down so far on his head that the upper portion of his face was all but concealed—a circumstance which caused him to blink and look upwards as if striving to peer through its rim. Although imbecile, he was quick at repartee, and often more pointed than pleasant in his remarks, but, upon the whole, inoffensive and harmless, even when “half seas over;” for he dearly lo'ed the whisky, and would, it is said, have drunk a pailful of water were he certain of securing a glass of the coveted liquid at the bottom. “ Gude ale,” he was not averse to, but “sour thing” he was extremely fond of, and drank amazing quantities when chance afforded.
In spite of his penchant for drink, Rab regularly attended church. He generally sat on the pulpit stair, and reverently listened to “the godly Maister Peebles" of the Newton, for in his estimation he was the best of preachers. On one occasion, however, he was persuaded to attend the Old Church of Ayr, and took up his position on the pulpit stair, as was his custom in what he termed his ain kirk. By some means he failed to catch the number of the psalm given out, and in his eagerness to procure the place he thrust his head through the stair rail to make the necessary, enquiry at some people below. All went well; he got the information, but unfortunately, having put his head through a wide place of the rail and allowed his neck to slip down into a narrow place, he found himself fast, and although he rugged and tugged neither
backward nor forward could he get. Ultimately, to the great amusement of the congregation, he yelled out, " Murder ! murder ! a man a-hanging in the house of God this day. Oh! that I sud hae left my ain guid, godly minister to come an' listen to an auld blether like you. Being assisted from his novel position, he picked up his hat and shuffled off, muttering that better could not have happened him for coming to hear the drones o' the auld kirk. Some time after the occurrence, Mr Auld asked him the reason of the disturbance, and having heard Rab's explanation, said, “Never mind, Robert, come again and here me preach." “Na, na," quoth he, “ye dinna preach, ye only read.” Auld smiled.
On another occasion he was met by the same gentleman and asked how he was getting on. “O brawly,” replied Rab, as he blinked from under the broken rim of his hat, “but I had an unco queer dream last nicht.” 66 A dream ?" said Mr Auld, “and what was it about, Robert ?" " Atweel, sir," said he with a grin, “I thocht I was dead, an' that I was at the door o' heaven rappin' to get in, au' whan the door was opened the angel said, "Whaur are ye frae ?? • Frae the toon o? Ayr,' says I. • An' what kirk did ye gang to?' says he. • To that o' the godly Maister Peebles o’the Newton,' said I. • Ay, ay,' said the angel, 'come awa' in then, for there hasna been a body here frae the auld kirk o' Ayr sin' the days o' the gude Maister Walch.'” Having thus delivered himself, Rab hilched away, leaving Mr Auld to draw whatever conclusion he pleased. This dream became a favourite one and a source of profit to Rab, for he was often called upon to relate it. Once he was stopped on the New Bridge by a fop, who prevailed upon him to do so. While going on with the rehearsal, the would-be wit interrupted him at the word Heaven, and asked—“But what news from hell ?” Man," said Rab, as he laid his hand on his interrogator's shoulder, they're expecting you there every day.”
Upon one occasion a character from Glasgow named “Daft Jamie" paid a visit to Ayr, and having met with and found a kindred spirit in the redoubtable Rab, they agreed, being equally daft, to splice their odd coppers and celebrate their meeting with a drink of ale. Being unco thick an' pack thegither,” they repaired to a public house and called for a quart; but when the foaming tankard was placed before them
Rab laid hold of it and drank the contents without taking a breath. “There !" said he, as he placed the can on the table with a triumphant flourish, “there ! that's the Ayr fashion." “ An' there ! cried the astonished conipanion, as he picked up the empty measure and struck him a stounding blow on the head, “ that's the Glasgow fashion;" and I suppose Rab thought it an odd one, but he afterwards apologised by saying that he would not have drunk the ale had he not been desirous of seeing the bonnie wee flower at the bottom.
Once when immured in the Poorhouse, Rab listened attentively to a local clergyman asking a blessing on the meagre breakfast set before the paupers. He said nothing, but seemingly thought much, for when it was concluded he edged up to the divine and dryly said—“'Deed, sir, I aye thocht there was a blessing wi' the puirshoose parritch, for when I tak a spoonfu' oot the hole aye
fills up again." Rab was very fond of money, and would have done anything for it. The offer of a coin generally caused him to smile all over; and its proper value he was fully alive to, as was shown one day when a gentlemen presented a sixpence and a penny and told him to select whichever he pleased. Rab looked, smiled blandly, and said—“I'll no be greedy, I'll tak the little ane.”
Waggery and poetry are often combined, and in Rab Hamilton they were not apart, for he had the reputation of being a maker of verses in a small way. It was glorious fun for the boys when they caught him on the street to compel him to jump over a straw or sing a song of his own composing. The poor fellow generally preferred the leap, but if there was no alternative he would whine, groan deeply, and cry—“Oh! de boys, de boys; oh! de boys,” and then drawl away in a nasal manner at one of his favourite ditties. One was a kind of squib on a tailor who had offended him, and was entitled — “ Ye ninth part o' a man.” The following humorous fragment of this satire is remembered by a venerable friend of the writer who knew Rab and appreciated his drollery > “ Once upon a time a tailor neat an' fine
Spied a louse on his left shouther bane;
The louse gi’ed a roar, an' the tailor took the door;
But he cam back wi’ speed when he thocht the louse was deid:
Hit it owre the back wi' an elwand,
Jumped up an' doon the floor, up an' doon the floor,
And what can a poor tailor do more ?" Blackguard Jamie Jellie," as another of Rab's rhymes was styled, was composed on a small grocer who attempted to raise the price of meal during a period of great scarcity, but unfortunately it is irrecoverable, as also "Oswald's Cavalrie,” a strain composed in praise of the deeds of the Ayrshire Yeomanry, who were at the time under the command of Oswald of Auchincruive. The poor demented creature's life was a hard one. He preferred to roam about and pick up a precarious livelihood rather than submit to the restraint of the poorhouse. The foxes had holes and the birds of the air nests, but Rab had no fixed place of residence; he slept anywhere, and was in every sense of the word a child of chance. One night he might pass in a stable among straw, another in a hay-rick, or out of the way corner. Some days he fared sumptuously, and picked up many savoury scraps, and occasional waughts o' "sour yill,” but there were others again when he scarce broke his fast. He was the only child of an excise officer,
" born with a want.” His father died when he was a stripling, and his mother—to whom, it is said, he was ardently attached—died some years afterwards. After the latter event there was no one to look after him, and he became a homeless wanderer, going hither and thither through the country as fancy directed.
After a contemplative ramble through this highly interesting churchyard, I passed through its quaint-looking porched gateway, and continued my journey.