AMAZING how a wee snippet of information
on Maybole can set you thinking! In this case it was an item in the
Postscript column which features on the Ayrshire Post's letters page.
Under the heading `100 Years Ago' were census returns from 1901, showing
Maybole as the second-biggest town in South Ayrshire. South Ayrshire was
more of a geographic term in those days, as local government was by burgh
councils and Ayr County Council.
the point is that Maybole was an important centre of influence. The town's
1901 population was 7,852 - more than 300 up on the 1891 figure of 7,532.
Compare that with these Ayrshire towns in 1901 (1891 figures in brackets):
Girvan - 4,867 (4,906); Troon - 5,113 (3,781); Monkton and Prestwick -
3,854 (2,605); Cumnock - 5,143 (4,713). Boot and shoe making helped give
Maybole its large population, and the town was the hub of an area that
employed hundreds more in agriculture, weaving and mining. Dailly's
population in 1901 was 1,673 (1,809 in 1891); Kirkoswald's was 1,450
(1,477); Crosshill's 1,108 (1,176); Dalrymple's 931 (1,018); and
Kirkmichael's 839 (885). The village figures seem to indicate a steady
move away from the land into manufacturing jobs in the towns.
But the landward area was still vibrant,
and if you add in people from Straiton, Minishant, Dunure, Maidens and
Turnberry, the Maybole area population must have exceeded 16,000. That's a
healthy figure in the Britain of 1901, when there were around 25 million
fewer people on these islands. Maybole a century ago was a bustling
manufacturing, retail and social centre. Railway travel had reached the
town way back in 1857, and the present station was built in 1880. The Town
Hall was built on to the tower of the old tolbooth in 1887, and the Town
Green (Greenside) was laid out in 1894.
These improvements showed a town with
plenty of civic pride, and further advances came early in the 20th century
with a new public library (1906) and a new Post Office (1913). Not that
everything in the garden was rosy. The Maybole of 1901 (like other towns
in Britain) had a poorhouse and a high infant mortality rate.
But it had more civic clout than today.
Maybole didn't even figure on a list of 19 Ayrshire `principal towns'
(populations of 5,000 and over) in an Enterprise Ayrshire leaflet of a
couple of years ago. In South Ayrshire terms, Maybole is the smallest of
the area's five main burghs (behind Ayr, Troon, Prestwick and Girvan).
Hundreds of Maybole people now have to leave the town every day to get to
their places of work.
And there's no specialised shoe shop in
a town that was once the boot and shoe capital of the British Empire.
Maybole is sometimes regarded as a dormitory town - or worse still, a
dormitory suburb of Ayr! But the town still has something important going
for it - and that can be summed up by the word `community'. Maybole has a
community council that is regarded as a benchmark for others and a
community association that organises events like the gala day. A new
community development group offers hope of boosting the town's economic
fortunes. Maybole also boasts dozens of other community-oriented groups
that all help maintain its unique identity. So although Maybole isn't the
place it was - for better and worse - it still has an identity that many