Personalities
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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.
Table of Contents


Chapter 19

PERSONALITIES

ACCORDING to some dictionaries a "personality" is defined as "a person of distinctive character, outstanding among his fellow men". If this be so Maybole has always had "personalities" among its citizens, men who were outstanding for their ready wit, their distinctiveness in dress, their eccentricities and that indefinable "something" which sets a "personality" apart from the ordinary mortal who is born, lives, dies and is soon forgotten. In the old town most "personalities" are usually spoken of as "worthies" and what better word can be used for persons whose memories are worth handing down through the years. One of the greatest of the old worthies were John McLymont, known to all as "Johnnie Stuffie" who lived about two hundred years ago, and his droll sayings and queer manners have been retold from generation to generation until even today there are few townspeople who do not immediately visualise "The queer wee man wi' the simple air" when his name is mentioned. So many tales have been handed down about him that he deserves a chapter to himself in this story of Maybole.

The most prominent townsman in days gone past was Bailie Niven and when dealing with the town's history about a hundred and fifty years ago it is practically impossible to turn up any notes on matters relating to the town and district where the bold Bailie's name does not appear. He was undoubtedly at that time "Lord God of Maybole and Master of all the Lime Kilns in sight" as his manservant once described him. He was a school-friend of Robert Burns, a banker and merchant in the town, "Leader" of the council for many years, Laird of Kirkbride, the only townsman to have a vote before the Reform Bill of 1832 and at his unmourned death left over 100,000. As his coffin was lifted on to the shoulders of the pall bearers one of the few spectators remarked: "Hoist him up, he'll never be nearer heaven." He was a great miser and on the occasions he was forced to have guests for a meal at Kirkbride or in the Bank House in Maybole he would often be heard to say: "Wha's for cheese, I'm for nane. Pit it bye Maggie." It is unfortunate that a man who was a genius in business and undoubtedly did a tremendous amount of good for the town by his far sighted, if ruthless, policies in Council should only be remembered for his meanness and his pompous manners, but his success in business made him many enemies and it is true that "the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones."

The town crier and court officer about the time that Bailie Niven ruled from the bench in the old Tolbooth was William Gordon and he was a well-known character with a great sense of his own importance. One day he was going round with the "Deid Bell" when he passed his son riding a donkey. "Weel, Jock," he said as he passed. "I see ye're riding your brither." "Man, faither," replied Jock, "I clidna ken he was yin o' yours tae." He had a full sense of the importance of his office and once when going about his business met Sir David Hunter Blair who, in the passing, asked where he was off to on such a fine day. "Sir David," was the dignified reply, "If I was to ask you where you were going you would say I was ill bred." He was sent to Ayr on town business one summer day, and, having walked to Ayr and back by the High Road, decided to slake his thirst in an alehouse which was then in Slateford village. Having no money he sold his boots to the publican, drank the proceeds, then starting home again was heard to remark to himself. "Step fortit, Gordon, if it's no' on ye, it's in ye."

Rab Bryce is still remembered in the town although it is over a hundred years ago since he lived in a house at the foot of Coral Glen and gave his name to the spot still known locally as "Bryce's Corner". He was a carter of enormous size and great strength and loved to take part in any quarrel which developed into fisticuffs, caring naught whose side he was on but purely for the fun of it. He always wore a broad Kilmarnock bonnet and a gray jacket and knee breeches and acted as a carrier for many of the local merchants. His horse was always poorly fed and its harness old and rotten but Rab continually boasted of its strength and prowess and once contracted to draw a caravan from Maybole to Girvan. He harnessed his nag to the caravan, stepped to its head and urged it on but as soon as the animal put strain on the harness it broke and Rab marched off gaily leading the horse and leaving the caravan behind. When the bystanders drew his attention to what had happened he remarked: "I teilt ye ma horse was strong. It only needs a tinkers powney tae pu' that contraption."

A well-known clockmaker (whose clocks are now much sought after) had a shop in High Street and was known to all as "Watchie Logan" early last century. He travelled the district repairing clocks in the farmhouses and was fond of a dram after he had done his work. On one occasion he was at West Enoch attending to a clock when the farmer was over generous with his bottle and "Watchie" left for home in a happy, but rather sleepy, condition. On reaching the "Beggars Rest" he sat down and fell asleep and some of the weavers who had been for a walk round the "Cross Roads" found him snoring away completely oblivious to everything. For a ploy they put him into a sack (he was a very small man) and carried him down to the back shop of a local butchers where they told the butcher they had poached a deer on Mochrum Hill and would let him have it for ten shillings. The butcher, anxious for a bargain, paid over the money and the weavers made themselves scare as quickly as possible, before the sack was opened. When the butcher untied the sack the cat (or rather "Watchie") was out of the bag and the fun started, as "Watchie" had sobered up and was indignant at his treatment while the butcher felt that someone should repay him his outlay for the poached "deer". They both set off in search of the weavers and finally ran them to earth in "Jimmie Edgar's" well-known howif in Weaver Vennal, where they were celebrating their windfall. The upshot of the matter was the appearance of "Watchie" and two of the weavers in court the following morning on a charge of insobriety. The ten shillings (a large amount in those days) had been spent while the question of its repayment was discussed and the innkeeper was the only one who benefitted by the trick played by the weavers on poor "Watchie". For years afterwards the local wags delighted to walk into the butcher's shop when customers were being served and loudly ask the owner if he would like to buy a deer.

About the beginning of the 19th century one of the kenspeckle figures in the town was Dr. Hathon or "The Marquess of Blarney" as he was commonly called by all. He was a skilful doctor but inclined, like many men of his time, to take a little too much to drink, until some of his friends finally persuaded him to be a little more temperate. He made a resolution never to drink before noon and managed to keep to this for some weeks until one day about 11 a.m. he met the farmer from Attiquin on the Street at the door of the Kings Arms Hotel. The farmer was due him a fee for his attendance on a sick member of his family and took the chance to pay the doctor and to invite him into the Kings Arms for a dram. The bold doctor hestitated for only a moment and then looking up at the town clock declared, "Weel, it's hardly my time yet, but I'll mak' up for it the morn". Once he attended a woman in childbirth when he was rather unsteady and the husband remonstrated with him and told him he should not drink when he had patients to attend and the doctor excused himself with the retort: "I've had a dram, but I'm no' fu'. My Goad, man, naebody could face a job like this cauld sober."

Another well-known practitioner was Dr. McCann, an itinerant Irish quack who settled in Maybole and boasted he could cure every ill but "the rale die". He was attending a woman in Kirkoswald one December day and the patient railed and moaned there was no cure for her. "Deed, I canna cure ye," said the Doctor, "but I think I can cobble ye up 'till March comes in." He would never admit that any patient died when being treated by him but protested that he had either been called in too late or the patient hadn't followed his instructions. After examining a patient his invariable remark was: "Ye're no' in a guid way but gie me sixpence and a bottle and I'll mak' up something tae pit ye on your feet." A young man consulted him and was told: "Ye're in a bad state but I can cure you. It'll cost you ninepence though:" Dr. McCann travelled all over the district with his quack medicines and begged lifts from anyone going his way. On one occasion he returned to town on the front seat of a hearse which was returning from a funeral in Kirkoswald and on being twitted about this pointed out he was a suitable man for the front of a hearse, "For," as he said, "I'm gey watery eyed." He made up all his own medicines from dandelions, dockens, and other weeds and herbs and although it is doubtful that he was entitled to be called "Doctor" the local people had great faith in his cures and swore by his "six-penny bottles" which he maintained could cure anything from cholera to consumption. In later life he was not able to gather his herbs to make his potions and consequently his practice fell away and he died in the "Poors House" about 1865.

Last century in 'Sinclair's Close there was a butcher's shop owned by a Thomas McCall, who was a noted character, and some of his sayings have become byewords in the town. He was in the shop one day when a lady brought him the news that an heir had been born to him. "Dae ye tell me, noo," he asked. "It is a man-child or a boy?" He had two daughters and he was wont to describe them as "the biggest is the weeest" which translated merely meant the oldest was the smallest. He was in the habit of buying sheep in preference to cattle, which were much dearer, and when asked for a joint or a bit of pork he would lean over the counter and confidentially ask the customer: "Wud ye no' hae a bit mutton insteed, wummin? It's a gran thing tae pit beef intae a man."

Old Attie Hughes, who was the town scavenger and who pronounced Bailie Niven's epitaph "with the consent of the whole parish", was extremely proud of his position as a "burgh man" working for the Council and considered no one could equal him with brush and shovel in clearing up the streets. As he grew older the Council engaged an assistant scavenger and Attie was grieved at the imputation he was no longer fit for his work and held his assistant in bitter contempt. "Ye see him" he would declare, "Weel he micht dae for plain work, but for ornamental work like sweeping roon a lamppost or afore Bailie Niven's door, why it's simply no' in him." He was the bitter enemy of an old townsman named Kirkwood who used to be given cast off clothes and occasional alms by a man who lived in Whitehall. When Kirkwood died, Attic was sweeping the street in Whitehall when the gentleman passed and asked about Kirkwood, mentioning he hadn't seen him for some time, and he had some clothes to give him. "He's deid," replied Attic. "Dead !" said the gentleman. "Aye, deid," crowed Attic, "there's your great favourite for ye. Awa' an"never let ye ken". 

"Burke" Morrow was a carrier in the town and with his horse and cart had a steady business hauling fish from Ballantrae to Ayr station where they were despatched by train to Glasgow. Many were the rumours that his loads often consisted of more than fish but no evidence could be found until one night "Burke" was late with his load from Ballantrae and decided to put his cart in the yard of "Pat O'Hara" until the following morning. Later that night a man, McLelland, who had been carousing in "Pats" (a public house at the foot of Kirkland Street) felt the journey to his home was rather much for him, and seeing Morrow's cart with a large sheet over it, crept under the sheet and slept soundly for an hour or two. On wakening he realised his bed was a cart of fish and thinking he would like a fresh herring or two for breakfast he climbed out and started to fill his pockets. As he put his hand under the sheet to search for a nice big fish he gripped the foot of a dead body which had been hidden under the mass of herring. This quickly sobered him up and he immediately made off to look for the town constable to whom he told his tale, but by the time they both got back to Pat's Corner, the bold "Burke" was on the High Road to Ayr. He was caught up with about the head of Lovers' Lane but on being searched no body could be found and it was decided McLelland had not fully recovered from his spree and had been "seeing things". Although the truth of this story could not be vouched for the townsfolk decided there was never smoke without fire and Morrow was ever after known as "Burke", as it was commonly believed he was a bodysnatcher, and there are many points which lead one to think there may have been some truth in the rumour. At this time it was common for the kin of those recently buried to watch at night over the fresh graves in case the corpse was stolen and sold to a doctor for dissection and a sentry box was erected in the old cemetery to shelter the watchers. The backyard of "Pat O'Hara's" inn was next to the old cemetery (the St. Cuthberts Road not being in existence at that time) and it would have been easy to slip a corpse over the wall and quickly store it under the fish in Morrow's cart. It was at this period the local sexton was fined by the Council for digging up new graves and selling the coffins although no reference was made as to the disposal of their contents. Rumour had it that the doctor who lived at Redbrae (now Lumsdon Home) was keenly interested in the dissection of bodies and before Morrow's cart was searched at the top of Lovers Lane it had already passed Redbrae house where a body could have been quickly dropped into one of the outhouses of the doctor's home. The townsfolk must have turned those facts over in their minds and felt prevention was better than cure and if one examines the graves in the old Kirkport cemetery it will be found that "thruch" stones and iron cages which fully covered the lairs were greatly the fashion at this period. At any rate Morrow ever afterwards rejoiced in the name of "Burke" and was considered an authority on all matters pertaining to the disposal of the dead. Mr. Galloway, who had an inn in Weaver Vennal, once erected a sign outside his hostelry which read "Funerals attended to. Shrouds lent". Few knew what a shroud was and Burke was asked to explain. "Shrouds," said he. "Why, these are the cloths the hearse drivers tie round their hats at funerals."

"Lunnan" Jimmy, a shoemaker in the Dangartland (Drummellan Street) received his nickname through the fact that in his youth he had travelled afar, and had even once been in London, a fact which gave him a subject for conversation for the rest of his life. He had gone by sea from Leith and as the ship was sailing down the east coast of England a strange ship approached, and the captain of Jimmy's ship came to the conclusion it was either a pirate or a French ship, and he made preparations for a possible attack by it on his own vessel. The passengers as well as the crew were given guns and swords but "Lunnan" Jimmy refused them as he swore he was against bloodshed, being what was more recently known as a "conchie". He was willing to help though and offered to "go down below and hand up the ammunition". The two ships passed on their way, however, without engagement and Jimmy came home to relate his experiences in the ship and in the city of London. In those days a visitor to such a distant place received as much adulation on his return as the men who now walk the surface of the moon. "Sturdy" Bain lived in Whitehall and was a merry shoemaker who spent more time in the alehouse than on the cobbling bench. He was a great maker of rhymes and once made a bet with Sandy Tannock, the fiddler, that he could make a better verse about nothing than Sandy, who also prided himself on his turn of poetic speech. The couple adjourned with some friends to the Red Lion Inn and finally the judges agreed that "Sturdy" had won with the verse:

"On naething I'm compelled tae write, I see't as plain's winnock, The merest naething ere I saw, Was Fiddler Sandy Tannock."

The farmer in Laigh Grange, like all good Carrick men, held family worship every morning and evening, to which all the farm workers and any visitors to the farm were invited. Laigh Grange seldom, if ever, changed his form of prayer and many who attended the services could have taken the old man's place at the big "ha' Bible". His opening lines of the evening prayer were invariably: "Guid Lord, as the muckle black craw flees high but dirties laigh doon on the stanes by the sea shore, whilk the tides wash away every twenty four hours, so do Thee wash away our sins by Thy grace. Watch ower oor Belle that's awa' in service,. Guid Lord, and keep her frae harm, but as for Jenny that's at harne here, dinna bother aboot her as I'll mind hei mysel." There was no vagueness in his requests as he asked for protection for his lass who was away from home nor hestitation in his own responsibility to look after the daughter still under his care and he was supremely confident he could "mind her himsel."

At the curling matches on the Heart Loch in the long hard winters of last century many of the town and district worthies gathered to enjoy the game, the rich stew which always simmered in the pot at the side of the loch and of course the dram which is as necessary to a curler as the whin brooms which were used at one time to "soop" the stones over the "hog". Many stories are told of "Lochiands", "High Grange", "Attiquin", and many others who enjoyed the roaring game and the companionship of their fellows when heavy frost made it impossible to work the land or carry out other outdoor work. On one occasion the "Eglinton" match was being played at Maybole when the Earl of Eglinton took part and skipped his rink against a Maybole rink which included the worthy but hard swearing farmer from High Grange. Before the match this enthusiast was warned by the club secretary to tone down his language, as not only was the Earl playing against his rink, but the local minister was also playing with him, and this he managed fairly well for a few ends. The Earl was playing extremely well that day and High Grange grew more and more excited until, on the Earl delivering a fine shot which took out a stone played by the Minister, he could contain himself no longer and he threw his broom in the air and yelled at the top of his voice: "Wee! dune, by Goad, my Lord, ye're awa' tae Hell wi' the minister". On another occasion a game was in session when the Marquess of Ailsa was skipping a rink and one of his players imbibed rather freely so his Lordship decided to hide the whisky bottle. The worthy curler on searching for it between ends was told the whisky was finished whereupon he indignantly threw down his broom and declared, "My Lord, whisky and curling gang thegether. If there's nae whisky there's nae curling" and marched off the ice.

Hughie Nocher, an Irish gangrel settled in the town and lived for years by selling crockery from a barrow from door to door, at the same time collecting rabbit skins and he always described himself as a "fur and china merchant". Falling on hard times, when he once took ill, he was forced to spend some time in the Poorhouse, but on his recovery he left it and again started up in business. On being asked how he fared during his sojourn in the Poorhouse he bitterly complained that he was fed on porridge and ale and someone protested that surely he got bread and tea also. "Tay," he retorted. "Did ye say tay? Why you may as well look for holy water in an Orange Lodge." Hughie was a strict Catholic and the deadly enemy of the leader of the Orangemen, one James Kirkwood, who was nicknamed "King William" until a large scab grew on his nose when he was rechristened "Lord Limpet". This worthy always took a prominent part in Orange parades and at one such parade Hughie turned to a bystander and spluttered. "Look at him. There he gangs wi' the Bible in his loof and he canna even read it an' if he could he wadna'." 

About the middle of last century one of the townspeople who was a joiner by trade also carried out the duties of undertaker and sexton, and it would seem the latter employments paid him best, as in his own words, he had "nae materials tae buy". He seldom attended church but invariably sat on "Jack's" dyke waiting on the kirk to skale when he would eagerly ask "Onybody prayed for the day?" If the answer was in the affirmative he would anxiously enquire: "Nigh unto daith?" and if the answer was to his pleasing, he would produce his snuff box and reward his informer with a pinch. He always presented his bill the day after the funeral as he maintained it was easier to get payment from the bereaved "when the tears were in their een." If trade was slack he would often lament: "I dinna ken what things are coming tae. I hav'na turned a sod for weeks." On one occasion he was speaking to an acquaintance about a person who was so ill his life was despaired when he said: "Ah wed, it matters naething tae me. Hir burial grun is in Kirkmichael." His interest in the funeral side of his business became so much of an obsession with him that on one occasion when his son met with a bad accident and was thought to be dying he was heard to mutter: "Dear me, dear me! Oor Adam deeingan' I'll get naething for burying him." Fortunately the son recovered and joined his father's business so in all probability the position would be reversed and Adam would "get naething" for burying his father. 

The farmer in Daltammie (now Dalchomie) once advertised grazing to let for cattle on the "Naps of Daltammie" and an applicant called at the farm to look over the land before making an offer for the season's grazing. The grazier was not impressed by the area to be let and remarked there was little grazing for cattle on it, to get the reply: "There's maybe no' muckle grass for the beasts but, man, they'll ha'e plenty o' water an' a gran' view." The farmers in the district were all of ready wit and had a pawky humour which can only be really appreciated when the stories about them are told in the local vernacular. There are many tales of the kenspeckle figures of High Grange, Attiquin, Trees, etc., who were all well-known personalities in the town and district and the farmers were always called by the name of their farm and seldom, if ever, were addressed by their proper surnames. One well-known farmer was a great attender of local funerals and always wore an old fashioned high tile hat with "weepers" tied round it. One day a local lawyer twitted him on his old fashioned headgear and asked where he had got it. "Man, Fiscal," was the reply, "It was a' that was left o' ma faither's estate yince ye had dealt wi' it. "

When the town had two companies of Volunteers one was commanded by a Captain Shaw and the other by a Major Logan, both retired regular army officers and both a little jealous of each other. Once the Major dined with Captain Shaw and his family and on being asked by an acquaintance what he had for dinner he replied: "There were new shore potatoes but I couldn't get at them for the Shaws" The bold Major quarrelled with a local dignitary over a verbal bargain they had made and which the dignitary did not keep, excusing his withdrawal from the bargain by pointing out it was not binding because it had not been written on stamped paper. A short time afterwards both parties were in a company in the Kings Arms Hotel when the defaulter happened to mention he was troubled with dysentery and did not know what to take for it. "Take stamped paper, my man," instantly observed the Major. "You know yourself there's nothing more binding." The company commanded by the Major had the reputation of having the best marksmen in the regiment and on being asked why this should be, he pointed out that all the men were noted poachers. Major Logan was a keen musician and a fine violinist but was very aggrieved when an acquaintance one day asked if the letter W.L.F. (West Lowland Fencibles) on his uniform stood for William Logan Fiddler.

Funerals last century seemed to be rather convivial gatherings where the whisky flowed more freely than the tears but near the end of the century they became more sober occasions as is evidenced by a conversation the Rev. Mr. Moir had with a mourner one day. By way of conversation he remarked to the mourner that the old heavy drinking customs at funerals seemed to be dying out. "Deed aye," was the answer, "a funeral's no' worth going tae nooadays." Once the Rev. R. Lawson approached a parishioner and asked a small favour, supporting his plea by mentioning he had officiated at three weddings in his family. "Three weddings," replied the parishioner, "that's nothing. Ye've been at three funerals tae." A story is told of a woman going into a shop in the town and ordering two pounds of "biled ham and two bottles of whisky." The shopkeeper's immediate reaction was to ask: "Wha's deid?" as invariably the mourners were regaled with a dram and a plate of cold ham at the tea always held after the funeral. Many townsmen made a habit of attending all funerals in the surrounding villages, as they knew they would get a refreshment and something to eat afterwards to refresh them before they started homewards, and Crosshill funerals especially were a favourite with the local worthies. A local minister noted this favouritism towards Crosshill interments and on asking why from one of the regular "mourners" received the reply: "Man a Crosshill funeral's better than a Kirkmichael wadding."

It was not only last century, however, that personalities were commonplace in the town and many have cropped up since the start of the 20th century and are remembered by the townsfolk who will probably pass on tales of them to be recounted in the years to come whenever Maybole people gather together to crack about their hometown. Many remember "Ruggy Duggy" who was a great walker and who once bet he could walk from "Stumpy" in Girvan to Maybole Town Hall in two hours. He left "Stumpy" one day at two o'clock and on reaching the Town Hall the clock in the belfry showed the time as 4.35p.m. "Ruggy" looked up at it and swore: "It's a damned lee. Templeton's pit it forrit on purpose," thus maligning the poor clockkeeper whom he swore was in "cahoots agin him". The youths of the town were the bane of poor "Ruggy's" existence, and tormented him unmercifully, but their elders always looked well after him and saw he did not want until his death in the 1920s.

"Wullie" McJanet was an able and skilful joiner whose great distinction seemed to be that he was the most unkempt and unwashed man in the town. He shuffled around in summer and winter, wearing a long coat fastened at the neck with a safety pin, and his boots never knew laces. He was always in demand, however, when a skilful piece of joinerywork was required and he was always most temperate, never known to use bad language and his manners were always impeccable. He was a bit of a recluse. But when he could be presuaded to enter into conversation his listeners were invariably surprised that such a disreputable looking man could converse with such fluency and knowledge on practically any subject. Few townspeople were aware of the tragedy in his life which made him lose heart and become what he was in later life. He was born in the district and had been well educated, and became engaged to be married to a girl in Edinburgh. His fiancee took ill a week before the wedding and died and was buried in her bridal gown on the day and at the hour the marriage was to take place. "Wullie" was so heartbroken he gave up everything, took to drink and tramped the country for a time. Finally he pulled himself together, gave up drinking, learned the trade of joinery and came to settle in Maybole where he lived until he died. He was buried in a pauper's grave and when his effects were gone over by the Rev. D. Swan it was found he had a beautifully made cedarwood chest in which were stored his wedding clothes together with white flannels, blazers, etc., that he had worn when he played cricket in his happier days. His was certainly a case where people are inclined to judge harshly when facts are not truly known.

One of the outstanding personalities in the first half of the present century was undoubtedly the genial host of the Kings Arms Hotel, the redoubtable John G. McCubbin, known to all as "the Provost" and to his intimates as "John G.". He became owner of the Kings Arms Hotel after the death of his father, Thomas McCubbin, who had taken over the hotel in 1881. It was then a small country inn but Mr. McCubbin added an upper storey, built a hall and stables and opened up an entrance to the "Back Road" to give easy access to the railway station. On a sunny summer afternoon "John G." was a ken-speckle figure leaning against the highly polished brass rail which used to protect the window at the side of the hotel entrance, with his thumbs in the armholes of his yellow waistcoat, his hat tilted down to shade his eyes and a large cigar tilted at a Churchillian angle and placed dead centre between his lips. He knew everyone, as everyone knew him, and his usual reply when anyone halted to enquire how he was keeping was: "I'm no' complaining." His great hobbies were breeding collie dogs and horses and he was often successful in showing both all over the country. In his later years he devoted his energies to training racehorses and his greatest success was when his horse "Craigenelder" won the Adamhill cup at Bogside. He was fond of fox-hunting and had many good hunters which he often raced at point-to-points and in steeplechases at Bogside, Carlisle, Perth, Kelso, etc. He had a ready wit and often scored in an argument with his pawky repartee and delighted in telling stories, many against himself. One of his favourites was about the time he bought a horse from one of the local farmers after a long tussle as to its price. After the bargain was sealed by the usual handshake the farmer remarked the horse had two faults which he thought the purchaser should know. "Two faults," quoth John G. "I'll soon cure them, what are they?" "Well," said the seller, "It's difficult to catch when it's running loose in a field." "I'll keep a head stall on it," was the reply. "That'll make it easier to catch. What's its other fault?" The farmer looked at him and said: "It's no' worth a damn yince it's caught," and John G. ruefully concluded his story by admitting the farmer was right about both points. 

One day a local remarked on how well he was looking and enquired as to his age when John G. proudly owned up to being over seventy. "Man, but ye're fresh for your age," said the enquirer, adding "but of course ye should be. Ye've never done any work in your life." John looked along his cigar at his inquisitor and replied: "Weel you've naething tae greet aboot. I never kept you oot o' a job." He took a prominent part in the affairs of the town and district and was Provost from 1927 to 1936, during which period he was undoubtedly the "Leader" of the council as Bailie Niven had been a hundred years previously. He was always genial and unruffled, but firm in his convictions and cared not a jot for any man. His ready wit was ever appreciated by even his antagonists (and what Provost ever lived who did not have detractors) and "John G." will always be remembered with affection by Minniebolers.

The medical men of Maybole have produced many characters who are affectionately remembered by the townsfolk. Dr. Hugh Girvan will always be remembered for his pawky and dry humour as will his father who was known as "The Old Doctor" to distinguish him from "Young Doctor Hugh". He was a well known figure on his two barred bicycle, with his little black bag strapped on the carrier, as he travelled around the district on his old machine. For a time he had a motor cycle with a basket woven sidecar but he returned to his push cycle in his latter years. At one time he was troubled by boys pulling his house bell at nights and he spoke to his friend, Inspector Miller, about it who promised he would see it was put a stop to. About a week later the Inspector met him and enquired if he was still troubled by the bell being rung by the boys and Dr. Hugh told him he had not been bothered for a few nights. The Inspector promptly claimed honour for his constables in putting a stop to the nuisance so quickly but was rather taken aback when the Doctor quietly remarked: "You see, the night after I spoke to you about it, the boys pulled the whole bell out by the roots and it won't ring at all now!"

His father, "old Dr. Robert" once became greatly interested in mesmerism and, on being twitted by a brother physician on the subject, wagered a gill of whisky he could mesmerise the doubter. They both adjourned to the Kings Arms, a gill was put on the table and Dr. Robert proceeded to make passes which soon seemed to put his subject to sleep. The Doctor was delighted with his success and went out to get some fellow townsmen to witness the sleeping man, but as soon as he left the room the "victim" sat up and quaffed the gill of whisky. This so incensed the mesmerist that never again did he practise the art. Dr. McTyer and Dr. MacFarlane were fellow practitioners in the town and one day "Dr. Robert" swallowed some poison by mistake and Dr. MacFarlane was immediately sent for, but on arrival he was so upset he could do nothing and Dr. McTyer was speedily summoned. As Dr. McTyer entered the bedroom where the poisoned patient was lying he found Dr. MacFarlane sitting on a chair at the bedside being soothed by Dr. Girvan who looked up and said: "McTyer, whether do you think it's MacFarlane or me has been pushoned."

Dr. Cowan and Dr. Valentine who both lived in the New Yards, were also typical old fashioned and worthy country doctors, beloved by their patients and "skeely" at curing all common ills, although Dr. Cowan, who was a brilliant man of medicine, unfortunately died at an early age just before the first World War. Dr. Inglis and Dr. Sandilands are still remembered by many of the older generation who placed great faith in them and many are the tales told of them, especially about the "wee Doctor" who was a notable figure in his long scarf and raincoat driving around the countryside in his T Ford, with invariably a Borzoi or a spaniel dog sticking its nose out of the back seat. He was a keen shot and loved a day with the ferrets and a gun at the rabbits. One day he went shooting with some friends at Burncrooks when one of his companions shot at a rabbit which bolted down a hole. Thinking he had wounded it the sportsman knelt down and put his hand into the burrow to try and pull it out. The Doctor, unaware of what had happened, and being a little shortsighted, saw something moving amongst the whins where the burrows were and let fly, with the result that his companion was pelleted in the part which was most prominent as he was bending down. The rest of the party were then treated to the spectacle of the doctor sitting on a stone puffing at a cigar, with the wounded and indignant rabbiter over his knees, picking out the shot with an old penknife and treating the scars with liberal doses from his whisky flask, between times steadying his own nerves with sips from the same flask. When the job was done the Doctor stood up and remarked to his aggrieved companion: "There noo Willie you'll maybe no' sit easy for a time, but you're aye fleeing about anyway so it'll make nae difference." On one occasion in the Town Council, of which he was a prominent member for many years, he crossed swords with a young councillor who grew more choleric as the argument raged until finally the Doctor ended matters by declaring: "Sit down, man. I brought you into the world and if you don't calm down I'm likely to see you out of it."

The practitioners of old knew every patient practically from birth, and were relied upon to cure everything from wee Jeannie's cough to Grandpa's hoast. They were advisers, arbiters, father confessors, and confidants to all, travelling long distances in their dogcarts or boneshaker cars and bicycles and very often were paid in kind with a dozen eggs or a fowl or a pair of rabbits, and indeed very often not paid at all, but they were a dedicated body of men and respected throughout the community. Their successors are every bit as dedicated and respected today but somehow in these modern times the demands of the National Health Services seem to place a greater burden on them and some patients feel they are reduced to cyphers on cards stored in surgeries instead of personal friends of their doctors to whom they can unburden their woes. This is rather unfair to the modern medical men who wish they could spend more time with their patients but they are besieged every night, when surgery opens, with many who in the old days would keep a cold until it was better but now feel that free health services entitle them to full medical services for every minor ailment. No doubt many a present day doctor sighs for the old days when life was at a slower pace and "the doctor" had time to have a crack with his patient, soothe the relatives and lift his half crown fee from the corner of the mantleshelf as he went out.

At the latter end of last century and the beginning of this century one of the great and powerful personalities in the town was the Rev. Roderick Lawson, minister of the "Glen Kirk" for many years. He took a great interest in local affairs, wrote many articles and poems on the town and district and was the power behind the throne in local politics. He persuaded the council to change many of the old street names unfortunately and it was he who was responsible for the loss of century old names like Dangartland, Smithy Brae, New Yards and Kildoup which became humdrum and commonplace streets now known as Drummellan Street, St. Cuthbert's Street, Cassillis Road and Welltrees Street. He was really the last of the old style parochial ministers and ruled his flock with a rod of iron and if any were absent from kirk on Sunday morning they had to have a very good excuse ready for him when he called on Monday to inquire as to the cause of their absence. When he started his ministry in the town many of the older generation had been married by the Scots style of proclaiming they were husband and wife and had settled down to rear their families fully confident of their marital status. This practice was not acceptable to the Rev. Roderick Lawson and he persuaded most of the old couples to be married again with the blessings of the church, and often boasted afterwards that he had "married half of Maybole". One old lady in Weaver Vennal rather flummoxed him, however, when he pointed out to her that although she was legally married in Scots style she was not married "in the eyes of God", and that he would be glad to marry her and her husband again. "Get married again," she said. "Na, na, I'd rather gat rid o' him. Onyway I'd look a fule getting married at ma' time o' life an' me wi' seven o' my aim and nine grandweans." This was one of the few occasions he did not get what he had set his heart on and had to admit defeat.

Another well-known minister was the Rev. David Swan who came to the town as assistant to the Rev. Mr. Porteus and stayed as minister in the Auld Kirk until his death some years ago. He was a great walker and visited all his country parishioners on foot and was often met on country roads tramping along with his flat crowned hat, his ministerial coat, strong leather leggings above his heavy leather boots and a heavy stick in his hand. He always enjoyed telling of the time he first preached a sermon in church and afterwards, keen to know how he had fared, asked the beadle how he had enjoyed it. "Weel," replied that worthy, "There was no' much pith in it, but man, ye had a fine genteel way o' setting it aff." He was noted for his liking for good food and his ability to "clean his plate" and once he was visiting a farm where he sat down to tea when a large "clootie" dumpling was set on the table. One of the children sitting opposite complained: "Mither, I canna see the minister ower the dumpling." "Gie him time," replied the farmer's wife, "He'll shune empty the plate an' ye'll see him then." 

Many other townsfolk have been outstanding in their wit, their style of dress or their individual habits which set them apart from ordinary folks but they are too numerous to mention, as Maybole seems to have been a town which produced kenspeckle figures in every generation. They will live long in the memories of those who knew them, however, and in years to come will become household names as Johnnie Stuffie is still remembered. Few who saw "The Gentle Shepherd" bowling along the New Yards in his high wheeled gig behind the "humpy backit" pony will ever forget him. "Wee Davie" McCulloch will be spoken of by those who never saw him but have heard the numerous stories about him told by the older folks. "Smiley", who used to take off his jacket as he came out of "T.I's" every Saturday night and challenged everyone to fight and Hughie Watson who tramped the country, enlisted in seven regiments, deserted from six of them and was drummed out of the seventh one, will live on in local lore. One well remembered townsman attended all public meetings and usually had much to say on nearly every topic under discussion. He once attended the annual meeting of a local society and in a heated exchange with the chairman accused the society's committee of "fugeling the books". The society took umbrage at this as they thought they knew what their accuser meant and they approached a local lawyer on the matter and asked that he be charged with slander. The lawyer (being a local man) also thought he knew what was meant by the accusation and agreed to take proceedings but when he got down to drafting the charge he discovered no dictionary gave the meaning of the word "fugeling" and the matter was dropped much to the merriment of all Minniebolers who have their own interpretation of the word which is unknown, it seems, to compilers of dictionaries.

"Tam" Tennant, in his half tile hat, and "Wee Tam" from the "Grain Store", Inspector Miller, the stalwart and beloved Inspector of Police, and "Kill the Pig" one of his predecessors were all men of great personality. They gave a sparkle to life in the town in the days before Burton's or John Collier forced on menfolk a standardised style of dress which makes all men equal from a sartorial point of view but somehow seems to kill any personality they may have hidden under their narrow lapelled jackets. In bygone days a yellow waistcoat, a half tile, a cut away coat, or a velvet or astrakhan collar to a top coat seemed to give the wearers that little touch of individuality which is so sadly missing among the men of today.

One of the peculiarities of Minniebolers is the giving of nicknames to fellow townsmen and invariably anyone who is outstanding in anything, from sport to poaching, is rechristened, but never in a manner which is hurtful or derogatory and many townsmen answer to their nickname as readily as to their Christian name. Thus instead of the ordinary Toms, Dicks and Harrys many rejoice in such names as Jumper, Snuffle, Killarney, Jint, China, Lord Limpet, The Crigger, Wumphy, The Doodler, Shirty, Sooty, The Sheik, Teerie, Soda, Haddy, The Daisy, La-di-dah and other fanciful appellations. No person who is disliked or unworthy of notice is ever given a nickname and the "personalities" who are thought worthy of being thus singled out should indeed consider themselves above the ordinary run of men. A "Jimmy" or "Johnny" usually requires the addition of a surname to identify the person spoken of, but there is never any doubt who is referred to when "Beau" or "Boss" are mentioned.


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