Famous Folks
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Maybole, Carrick's Capital Facts, Fiction & Folks by James T. Gray, Alloway Publishing, Ayr. First published 1972. Copyright Permission for display on this site granted by David Gray. You may view and download chapters of this book for personal research purposes only. No other distribution of this text is authorized.

The story of this ancient Ayrshire town from its early beginnings in the 12th century through its growth and development until the nineteen sixties. A fascinating record of the history of a town including a wealth of factual information on its outstanding buildings  growth of industry etc., the book also gives an insight into the life of the community and townsfolk themselves.
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Chapter 18

FAMOUS FOLKS

THE town of Maybole, being the only community in the district for generations, naturally became the focal point for all the people of Carrick and many famous persons have been connected with the old town on the hillside.

Robert the Bruce must often have trod its street, as it is only seven miles distance from his castle at Turnberry. The fight for the independence of Scotland began by Bruce's attack on Turnberry Castle when he landed from Rathlin Island in the bay at Maidens. Local lore has it that when he landed and was told the signal fires had not been lit but that whins had caught fire on the cliff north of Maidens he remarked: "This is a weary neuk to land in" thus giving the present day name of "Wearyneuk" to the spot in the village. The bay he landed in is now shown on the maps as "Port Murray" but its former name was "Port Morrow" believed to be a corruption of "Port of Sorrow" while the headland on which the whins burned is now called "Barwhin Point" but was formerly known as "Burnwhin Point". There can be little doubt but Bruce during his journeys throughout Carrick must often have visited the town. (Some would have Bruce's birthplace at Lochmaben instead of Turnberry but every Carrick man treats such a suggestion with scorn and puts it down to the natural jealousy of Gallovidians).

In early days when Maybole had the families of over twenty noblemen living in it, the Kennedy family, "The Kings of Carrick", looked on the old capital of their kingdom as their home town and many famous members of this family have gone from it to become prominent figures in Scotland's history.

Bishop James Kennedy, who founded St. Salvators College in St. Andrews, was the son of James Kennedy of Dunure and Princess Mary, and was one of the most prominent churchmen of his time. His daughter, Kate Kennedy, is still the central figure in the annual pageant at St. Andrews where she is always impersonated by a young male student. The Bishop was chief adviser to James II and guardian and tutor of James III. At his death it is said the whole Scottish nation went into mourning.

 David, 3rd Lord Kennedy, who was created Earl of Cassillis in 1509, took his men from Maybole to fight at Flodden in 1513. He was killed, as was his sovereign, James IV, in that disastrous battle and his body was brought back for burial in the Old College in the Kirkport.

Gilbert, 3rd Earl of Cassillis, was a famous Scottish statesman and he was appointed Lord High Treasurer in 1554. He was one of the Commissioners who went to France to arrange the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, with the Dauphin, and, because he refused to agree that the Scottish crown should go to the French heir, he was poisoned at Dieppe and his body was also brought back for burial in the "Auld College".

Gilbert 4th Earl of Cassillis, was a confidant and adviser to Mary, Queen of Scots and was with her when she visited Carrick in August, 1563. Tradition has it that the Maybole people gathered at the Howmoor to see their tall Queen with her retinue pass on her way from Dunure Castle to Ardmillan where she stayed before journeying to Ardstinchar. Queen Mary gave Gilbert a necklace as a keepsake and this necklace is still in the possession of the present Marquess of Ailsa. It was his daughter Jane Kennedy who tied the handkerchief round Queen Mary's eyes before she knelt to be beheaded at Fotheringhay that Wednesday morning on the 8th February, 1587.

 Archibald, 11th Earl of Cassillis distinguished himself as a naval commander and raised the seige of Lisbon in 1760 and the people of that city presented him with a handsomely engraved silver platter which is still in the possession of the present Marquess of Ailsa. After he retired from the sea, Archibald, lived in No. 1 Broadway, New York, but, on his refusal to take part in the Boston Tea Party, George Washington evicted him from his home and took possession of it for himself. The Earl married Anne Watts, daughter of John Watts of New York and part of her dowry is said to have been Long Island in New York State but the Earl lost all his American property during the War of Independence. When Glenlyon's Regiment carried out the massacre at Glencoe in September, 1692, a young ensign in the regiment refused to take part in the slaughter and he was taken back to Fort William and ignominiously discharged. Tradition has it, truth or not, that the name of the young ensign was Archibald Kennedy of Maybole.

Another famous Kennedy was Quintin, Abbot of Crossraguel, and it was he who held the, debate in Maybole in 1562 with John Knox. This event was so noteworthy in the history of the town that it is dealt with in another chapter of the book on Maybole.

John Loudon Macadam the famous roadmaker, although born in Ayr, in 1756, was educated at a school in Maybole and he was a frequent visitor to the district until his death in Moffat in 1836. From 1785 to 1798 he lived at Sauchrie a few miles out of the town and on leaving his Carrick home he spent the next sixteen years in studying the conditions of roads, travelling thirty thousand miles and spending 535,000 of his own money on road research. It is locally believed that he first carried out his experiments in 'Macadamising" on the stretch of roadway between where the Station Bridge is now sited in Culzean Road and Whitefaulds Farm and no one will disabuse a Minnieboler of this belief.

In 1749 Gilbert Blane was born at Blanefield at Kirkoswald and he also received his early schooling in Maybole. He became Sir Gilbert Blane and was made a fellow of the Royal Societies of London, Edinburgh and Gottingen, of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg and of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris. He was physician to the fleet in the West Indies during the American War and it was during this period he found a preventative for scurvy which was a plague to all seamen at that time. It is said a ship was captured which had a load of limes as cargo and Sir Gilbert dosed the sailors on his ship with the juice of these fruits and found his seamen did not contract the disease. From then on all British seamen were given lime juice as a preventative for scurvy and this gave them the nickname of "Limejuicers", which is now shortened to "Limey", the name for Englishmen in nearly every foreign country. He was commended in a letter written by Lord Rodney for his "assiduity in preserving the lives of thousands of the fleet". He later became physician to both King George IV and King William IV, afterwards retiring to spend the remainder of his days at Blanefield where he carried on his research in medicine and found a vaccine for smallpox before he died in 1834.

Many Maybole ministers have played a prominent part in church history in Scotland and the Rev. James Bonar was one of the most famous. He was parish minister from 1608 and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1644. He was a rich man and built an aisle to the Parish Church at his own expense and also gave a donation of 150 marks to the Glasgow College Library.

 In the early part of the nineteenth century James Smith of Monkwood Grove at Minishant was one of Scotland's greatest botanists. He gave much valuable information on botanical subjects to Sir William Hooker which Sir William incorporated in his famous books on botany. James Smith died in 1848 and was buried in Ayr old churchyard where his friends erected a tombstone with the following inscription: "Erected by his friends and admirers in memory of James Smith, Botanist, Monkwood Grove, who died 1st January, 1848, aged 88 years. This simple monument to the Father of Scottish Botany will direct the many students who profited by his kind gratuitous instructions in the science of Botany, where the tear of fond remembrance may mingle with the dust of a real and true friend". He was the tenant of the gardens and orchard at Monkwood and was a simple and unworldly man but his knowledge of botany was unsurpassed by any in the whole of Scotland at that time and people came from many countries to listen and learn from him and many old gardens throughout Scotland today owe their beauty to the humble Minishant gardener who advised on what should be be planted in them.

During the second World War many local people played their part as they have always done in time of need, and one who has become a legendary figure was Lt. Col. Bernard Fergusson, D.S.O., O.B.E., Of Kilkerran. He gained world fame for his daring exploits with the Chindits and later became Governor General of New Zealand, a position his father, Sir Charles Fergusson, had held many years previously.

When the Marquess of Ailsa gifted Culzean Castle to the National Trust for Scotland he made a stipulation that General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces be gifted the top flat for his use as a Scottish home during his lifetime. On many occasions the General, who later became President of America, spent holidays at Culzean with his family and friends and enjoyed a rest when he could shoot and golf and be free from the cares of his busy life. He was a frequent visitor to the town which he always considered, as he said, "his Scottish hometown", and on Saturday, .5th October, 1946, the Freedom of the Burgh was conferred on him by the townspeople. This was the first instance of such an honour being granted to anyone and President Eisenhower, in his remarks after the ceremony, said he would "always consider himself a true Minnieboler, if not by birth, at least by adoption". This sentiment is echoed by all townsfolk who proudly claim fellow citizenship with the first King of Scotland and a President of America. -The Freedom Scroll presented to the President was encased in a beautifully carved oak miniature chest designed and made by Mr. James Jeff, the Kirkcudbright artist who also carved the Town Staff which is carried before all Council processions by the Town Officer.

Maybole has also produced some fine artists and undoubtedly the most famous one was Robert McBride, who was born in the town in 1913 and schooled at Carrick Academy before studying at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1930s. He, with another Ayrshire artist, Robert Colquhoun of Kilmamock, mostly lived and worked in England and Ireland and they were both featured in a B.B.C. production on "Living Artists" some years ago. McBride's paintings are exhibited in galleries throughout the world and some have a prominent place in the museum of Modern Art in New York and the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. After Robert Colquhoun died in the early 1960s, Robert McBride went to live with A. J. Cronin in Dublin where he was killed by a bus in 1967. Dylan Thomas, the famous Welsh poet, exchanged some of his manuscripts of his poetry for some pictures by McBride but unfortunately these valuable manuscripts have been lost.

There have been many other local people who have gained fame outwith the bounds of the burgh and surrounding district but these few notes on some of them prove that the quiet old "village on the hill" has been the hometown of men who have played an important part in much of Scotland's history.

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