There can be no doubt that the Romans traversed the parish. Galloway, of which Carrick formed part, as well as Cunninghame and Kyle, were subjected to their arms. A spearhead of bronze, dug up in the farm of Drumbeg, and a small image, of the same metal, representing Justice, with her equal weights, found in the farm of Drumshang, attest the presence of the Roman legions. There are various encampments in the parish, and traces of others, enclosed by mounds of earth. Though they may have been British fortlets, of the Roman period, it is probable that they were connected with more recent wars - the invasions of the Irish, or the Danes and Norwegians.
On the farm of Trees there is a very distinct encampment, and also on the brow of the eminence near Dunduff Castle. There are several large standing stones within the bounds of the parish, but no remains of a Druidical circle, so far as we are aware. One is to be seen on the farm of Doonbank, not far from the river Doon, which is said to have been set up in memory of the treaty concluded between the Picts and Scots. crombie says : "There is also upon the descent of Broun-Carrick-Hill, near to the mains of Blairstoune, a big whinstone, upon which there is the dull figure of a cross, which is alledged to have been done by some venerable churchman, who did mediat a peace twixt the King of the Picts and the Scots; and to give the more authority to his proposals, did in their sight, by laying a cross upon the stone, imprint that figure thereon."
Such was, apparently, the tradition when Abercrummie wrote. It has also been attributed to Wallace as to Bruce. The stone, which may at one time have been standing, lies apparently in the same position it did in Abercrummie's time. It is now surrounded by a wall to ensure its preservation.
Tumuli are frequently to be met with in the parish, a good specimen of which exists on the farm of St. Murrays. As previously mentioned there are several remains of religious houses in the parish. The walls of the Church of Kirkbride, with the surrounding burying-ground, still remain; and an adjoining field bears the name of the Priest's Land. The ruins of the Collegiate church of Maybole are still in existence, as well as two of the residences of the priests, the Black House and Well Trees, while the orchards that surrounded others of the fraternity are well known. " The collegiate church is used as a burying-ground by the family of Cassillis and others, who formerly contributed to its repair. It was, nevertheless, allowed to fall into a most ruinous and filthy condition from which it was only rescued by the public spirit of Walter Andrews, Esq., and the inhabitants of Maybole, who, a number of years ago, by subscription, surround it with a wall, and tastefully laid out and planted the enclosure."
"Besides the dwellings of the ecclesiastics and the Earl of Cassilis, commonly designated in these days the King of Carrick, the following houses of the gentry still remain : the present tolbooth, the town residence of the lairds of Blairquhan; the house of Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean [possessed by the late Mr Niven of Kirkbride]; the house of Kennedy of Ballemore, in the Kirk Wynd ; the garden of Eden, the house of the Abbots of Crossraguel, &c., extending, according to some, to the number of twenty-eight." (Statistical Account.)
A very curious key was found some years ago on the streets of Maybole. It is supposed to be of Florentine manufacture, of exquisite workmanship. The handle is surmounted with something like the old Scottish coronet or crown, before the alterations made upon it by James V. and has the initials J. R. [James Rex]. It is of small dimensions, and seems to have been the key of a wardrobe or scrutoir belonging to some of the royal family prior to the time of James V. It would be useless to speculate as to how such a relict came to Maybole. It was, when we saw it, in the hands of Mr Hannah, town-clerk, but how he should be in possession of it he did not recollect. By him it was recently given to Captain Kennedy of Bennane, who, in turn, presented it to the Marquis of Ailsa, in whose possession it now remains
St Helen's Well, to the north of Balloch Mount, was, in Roman Catholic times, famous for the cure of unthriving children, at the change of the quarter, more particularly at May-day. This superstition long outlived the downfall of the Popish religion; and even in the remembrance of persons now alive, the well used to be surrounded by visitors on May-day. The well at Pennyglen Cross also enjoyed a high reputation for the cure of the muir-ill in cattle, and its waters used to be carried to great distances for that purpose. The " muster lea " is a field beyond Gardenrose toll-bar, and is so called because the Covenanters mustered there before the battle of Drumclog.
There are the remains of a number of the ancient seats of the feudal chiefs of the district - more than is to found in any other parish of the county. These speak of an epoch gone by, and are still a marked and interesting feature of the country. They refer to a period when there were few Stone houses in the country, and the land unenclosed. "Within the last forty years," says the writer in the Statistical Account, "there was scarcely a hedge, the greater part of the land was in pasture, and the only crops were oats, bear, and a few peas, and beans." In such apparently barren land as this, the stately castles or mansions of the proprietors, with their orchards, gardens, and old trees, planted in the choicest situations, must have had a peculiar effect. But their is probably exaggeration in the averments of most of our statists, in contrasting the low state of agriculture in past times with its present improvement. The writer already quoted elsewhere says : "It is little more than thirty years since wheat began to be partially cultivated ; and it has only been raised within the last twenty years." If this is correct, agriculture must have fallen very low during the 18th century ; for there can be no doubt that Abercrummie's account of Carrick gives a very different idea of its riches and fertility. indeed it is quite certain that wheat was cultivated in Carrick during the sixteenth century. In the testament of Lady Baltersan, in 1530, elsewhere given, so much as a legacy is distinctly mentioned; and the various items of the document bespeak a degree of agricultural prosperity not to be expected from such statements. as we have quoted. It is probable, at the same time, that agriculture retrograded after the Reformation, in consequence of the civil wars and disturbances, and the removal of the priesthood, who were the great promoters of husbandry.
Tollbooth of Maybole.- This building, which stands at the west end of the older portion of the main street, was, as already stated, the town house of the Kennedies of Blairquhan. It seems to have consisted originally of a strong tower, to which an addition had been subsequently made. It no doubt has undergone considerable alteration since the property came into the hands of the burgh. A clock had been put up when Abercrummie wrote, and the bell which occupies the spire was cast at Maybole in 1696, as the following inscription upon it bears: "This bell is founded at Maiboll Bi Albert Danel Geli, a Frenchman, the 6th November, 1696, Bi appointment of the heritors of the parish of Maiyboll, and William Montgomeri, and Thomas Kennedy, magistrates of the burgh of Maiyboll." "The seal of the burgh of Maybole " is a brass stamp with the town house cut out upon it, inclosed by the above inscription.
Cassilis town-house, as Abercrummie states, formerly in-closed the street, at the east end. It is of greater magnitude than the house of Blairquhan appears to have been. The kitchen, a low building attached to the main tower, stretched across the street, so as to leave only a narrow foot passage. This building was taken down many years ago, so as not to incumber the street; and the building has of late years been much altered. The unfortunate heroine of the ballad of "Johnnie Faa," as tradition avers, was confined here until her death; and the figures of nineteen heads which ornamented the windows are said to have been placed there in commemoration of the gipsies by whom she was abducted. If there is any truth in this, the affair must have been of more ancient date than some writers imagine.
Dunure. - This, we should think, is one of the oldest family residences in the parish of Maybole. It is thus noticed by Abercrumniie : - "This countrey is the ancient seat of the Kennedies, whose principal dwelling was the castle of Dunure, standing on the seasyde, in a rockie shoar, in the parish of Mayboll, and gives a designation to a baronie lying round about it; but this being wholly ruined, their chief mansion is the house of Cassilis," &c. The site of the castle is at once delightful and secure. The castle itself occupies the whole of the cliff upon which it is built, the outer wall, towards the sea, appearing as a continuation of the rock itself, while the mass of the building extends landward as far as convenience and safety seem from time to time to have dictated. Assault by land was cut off by a draw-bridge, and the outline of the moat may still be traced; while the anchorage of the boat, used for pleasure or necessity by the inhabitants of the castle, is still to be seen at the foot of the turnpike leading down to the sea. From the style of the building -having an eye to safety more than ornament - Dunure may be regarded as one of those strongholds supposed to have been built by the Vikings. Indeed the author of the "Historie of the Kennedyis " attributes the building of the castle to the Danes. His account, however, of the origin of the Kennedies, and their acquisition of Dunure, is unquestionably fabulous, for it is clear enough that there were Kennedies in Carrick long before the battle of Largs.
It is presumable that the barony of Dunure belonged to Duncan, Earl of Carrick, who granted the church of Kirkbride to the Nuns of Berwick between 1225 and 1230, Kirkbride being situated about half a mile north of Dunure Castle, and that John de Kennedy, who married the heiress of Sir Gilbert de Carrick, acquired the castle and barony of Dunure in a very legal and peaceful manner. There can be no doubt that Dunure Castle was an early residence of the main branch of the Kennedies. The house of Cassilis, after the acquisition of that barony by Sir John Kennedy, became the principal seat, though Dunure, still maintained for its strength, continued to be a place of no small importance during the feudal conflicts in Carrick. Here, in the "Black Vout " (vault), the Abbot of Crossraguel, Allan Stuart, was subjected to a process of compulsion peculiarly illustrative of the insecure state of society at the time. The "roasting of the Abbot," as the circumstance was designated, took place on the first and seventh days of September 1570. The castle was taken by Bargany and the friends of the Abbot on this occasion, and held for some time, in defiance of the most desperate attempts of the Master of Cassilis to regain it. The castle has probably been in ruins since the middle of the seventeenth century, as Abercrummie speaks of it as " wholly ruined " in his time. From the calcined appearance of more than one part of the building, it was in all likelihood destroyed by fire. Amid the mass of ruins it would be vain to attempt to identify the "Black Vout " wherein the Abbot was roasted.
The whole under buildings seem to have been vaulted, and the adventurous antiquary may possibly push his way into more than one apartment where the "iron chimney " and the fire to which the limbs of the Abbot were bound, might have been placed. In former times, we need scarcely remark, the grate in such places stood in the centre of a spacious square or oblong chimney, along three of the sides of which stone seats were arranged, so as to admit of a large number of persons sitting round the fire. The fourth side of the square was left open, so as to communicate light and heat to the rest of the apartment. The castle as well as the barony of Dunure have been in the possession of the Kennedies of Dalquharran since the beginning of last century.
Greenan Castle. - This is the only other feudal residence in the parish of Maybole which overhangs the sea. It is situated upon a bold perpendicular cliff, about three miles south west from the town of Ayr, and within a short distance of the junction of the Doon with the sea. "The Greenand," says Abercrummie, "is a high house upon the top of a rock, hanging over upon the sea, with some lower new work, lately added to it, but never finished. It is too open to the cold and moisture, arising from the sea, to be a desirable habitation, and has been designed to be the owner's security against a surprise, rather than a constant residence." The "lower new work- " has been wholly removed, and nothing remains but the ruins of the tower - " a small square building - more, resembling a keep than a castle - about fifty feet in height; the lower, or ground story, forming an arched, and totally dark dungeon..... As seen from the suburbs of Ayr, in the dusk of a summer evening, jutting out upon its craggy eminence, and yet appearing as if indented in the bosom of Carrick Hill, with the ocean flowing to its base, it forms an interesting feature in the 'beautiful romance of nature' which surrounds it."
The tower is not very old, at least the letters and figures "J. K. 1603," appear over the door-way. John Kennedy was the proprietor at the time, and it is probable that the tower was wholly built by him. At the same time there is little doubt that some similar stronghold existed on the spot long previously. Mention is made of the castle in the reign of William the Lion, in a grant of the Doon fishings to the Abbey of Melrose. It was then the property of Roger de Scalebroc, a vassal of Duncan, Earl of Carrick. In 1510, it is mentioned as "his own mansion-house," in a notarial deed by Thomas Davidson, dated 1st July of that year; and in various other documents it is shown that the barony of Greenan had a tower, or other place of residence, before the date of the present fabric. On the day of his slaughter, near the Duppill burn, 12th May, 1602, the Laird of Culzean called, in passing, on his kinsman, John Kennedy, at the Greenan, which shows that the proprietor resided there the year before the date, over the door of the tower. It is probable that the murder of Culzean, and the disturbed state of the district, arising out of the family feuds of Carrick, induced Kennedy either to build or substantially repair the tower, as a place of safety. That he repaired it only seems probable from the fact that, when Thomas Davidson, in 1576, disposed the barony to Paul Reid, he had "heretabill stait and sasing, of all and haill the fourtie shilling land of the Manis of Grenane, with tour., fortalice, zairdis," &c.
The other "pretty dwellings " in the parish of Maybole, enumerated by Abercrummie as existing and inhabited in his time, are -Dalduffe, Kilhenzie, Auchenwind, Bogend, Smithstoune, Monkwood, Donine, (Dunneane), Knockdone, Sauchry, Craigshean, Beach, Garrihorne, Dunduffew, "a house on the coast never finished," Glenays, Newark, Bridgend, Blairstoune, and Auchindraine. Of these,
Dunduffe still exists in its unfinished state. It had been designed, apparently, to form an oblong square tower of considerable magnitude. The walls are as high as the second storey, which seems to have been intended for the dining room. The windows are large, and the apartment has, even in its unfinished and ruinous state, a light and pleasant appearance. The site of the castle, on the range of hills not far from Dunure, commands a beautiful prospect. The ruins do not seem much older than the middle of the seventeenth century.
Newark Castle. - The old baronial residence of Newark- now the property of the Marquis of Ailsa - is delightfully situated at the base of the range of hills which distinguish the coast of Carrick from that of Kyle, a short distance south of the Doon. It is still in a habitable condition, though the feudal pomp of former times has long departed from it. The castle, originally a single square tower, in the style of those places of strength which began to spring up throughout the country in the eleventh century, is built on a rock, rising gently above the surrounding surface, but at the same time affording, ample means of defence, according to the system of warfare which then prevailed. It was surrounded by a moat - only recently filled up - with a drawbridge; and a small streamlet, which now winds past the knoll, supplied the fosse with water. The tower, including the arched keep, consists of four stories, and was ascended, prior to the improvements subsequently made, by an inside spiral stair of very narrow dimensions. The entrance from the drawbridge appears, in olden times, to have been through a portion of the rock. Of the age or history of the building, few particulars, we believe, are extant.
In the "Historie of the Kennedyis," mention is made of the property of Newark as connected with the origin of a deadly feud between the houses of Cassilis and Bargany.
From the transaction related, which took place probably about 1580, it would appear that the "sex pund land of New Wark," belonged to the Bargany family. After the death of Old Bargany," the Laird of Culzean - the Hon. Thomas Kennedy - who was tutor to the Earl of Cassilis, "raist summondes on his auld assignatioune, quhilk, as ye hard, he had gottin fra this Blak Bessy, of the landis of New-Warke," - and the young Laird of Bargany "nocht being acqueintit with the lawis," allowed decreet to pass against him for "tuelf thousand merkis for the byrunnis, quhilk war awand to hir befoir hir deceise." This, however, Culzean did not put into execution, but kept it above young Bargany's head as "ane aw-band," which gave the latter great offence, and was the beginning, according to the author of the "Historie," of those tragical events which Sir Walter Scott has immortalized in the well-known tragedy of "Auchindrane."