Cuthbert's Shoe Factory
Maybole has risen into fame chiefly through the Shoemaking industry. For the
introduction of this trade among us, we are indebted to the enterprise of two
men -Mr Charles Crawford, and Mr John Gray; while for its remarkable expansion
we are indebted to Mr James Ramsay, Mr T. A. Gray, Mr Robert Crawford, Mr Lees,
and several others. It says not a little for these men that they have hitherto
managed to secure a comparative monopoly of this branch of manufacture in
Scotland. Other towns, more favourably situated, might have equalled or
surpassed us, but these contrived to be first in the field, and have so led the
way that Maybole shoes are now found all over the world.
the present date, there are ten shoe factories in the town:
Messrs John Gray and Co., Ladywell.
Mr T. A. Gray, Lorne.
Mr James Ramsay, St. Cuthbert's.
Messrs John Lees and Co., Townend.
Mr William Boyd, St. Helen's.
Maybole Shoe Factory, Drumellan St.
Mr J. M. Runcie, Greenside.
Mr G. Dick, Ladyland.
Messrs M'Garvie and Co., Society St.
ten factories employ over 1500 people, and produce annually about a million
pairs of boots and shoes, valued at £250,000.
aid in disposing of this immense stock of shoes, a large number of shops have
been established throughout the country, each bearing Maybole Shoe Shop on its
front. This well-known sign may be seen not only in Scotland but also in England
and Ireland. A friend even noticed it in far off Manitoba. It is chiefly the
heavier class of shoes that are manufactured here, although large quantities are
also made for ordinary wear. The employers have ever been foremost in the
introduction of new machinery, so as to keep in the forefront of the trade; and
a walk through one of our factories is a treat to the visitor. Most of these
factories have tanning and currying works connected with them also, so that
while the raw hide is brought in at one door, it is taken out as manufactured
goods at the other.
Cuthbert's is the shoe factory best known to visitors as standing in the main
line of traffic. It is adjacent to St. Cuthbert's Well, whose name it has taken,
and fronts the castle, whose well-known figure it has adopted as a Trade Mark.
of interest about Maybole, 1891.
years ago, there were five schools in the town. The Parish School, at the
Greenside, was the first in dignity. The West Church School, now turned into a
Fever Hospital, had, however, greatly the largest attendance. The Free Church
School, now occupied by the "Brethren." was also well attended. The
Industrial School at the Greenhead, now turned into dwelling houses, was filled
to overflowing. While the Episcopal School, now become once more a Methodist
Chapel, was also attended by a number.
August, 1876, all the above schools were closed, and the Ladyland Public School
was opened by a grand procession of the scholars through the town, and an
equally grand conversazione of the parents in the school in the evening. This
school was, by-and-by, felt to be too small for the growing wants of the town,
and so, after various alterations on it, an additional school was opened, called
the Cairn School, situated in the Kirklands. Ladyland School has now
accommodation for 850 pupils, and Cairn School for 450; end the total average
attendance amounts to over 1000 pupils.
School was designed by Mr John Murdoch, Architect, Ayr. Cairn School was
designed by Messrs James A. Morris and Hunter, London and Ayr, who also designed
the alterations and additions made on the Ladyland School. Certainly, our school
accommodation has been wonderfully improved since the days of the old regime.
of interest about Maybole, 1891.
OLD PARISH SCHOOL
first glimpse we get of the Parish School of Maybole is when it stood in the old
churchyard adjoining the Parish Church. This was about the year 1644, when the
Rev. James Boner was minister of the parish, and, doubtless, it was a very
humble temple of learning then. But the first teacher whom I can trace is Mr
David Dunn, whose mouldoring tombstone still stands in the churchyard, bearing
the following inscription:-
in memory of David Dunn, late Schoolmaster, Maybole, who died on 5th July, 1810.
aged -years Rota currus velut vita nostra currit votuta, exiguusque jacemus
cinis, ossibus solutis. (The wheel of a chariot, like our life, runs roiled
along and we lie down, our bones dissolved, a wee pickle cinders) This stone having
been removed was repaired and re-erected by a number of surviving acquaintances
and scholars of the deceased. Nov.. 1849." Mr Dunn was a leading magistrate
of the town in his day, and is mentioned in an extant letter of Burns's as
having been one of those congenial souls" whom the poet met on his visit
to Maybole, 1786, in the company of Mr William Niven, who had been an old
school-fellow of his at Kirkoswald.
Mr Dunn came apparently the Rev. Hugh Davidson, who, in 1817, was transferred to
the Parish Church of Eaglesham, near Glasgow. After Mr Davidson, the school was
taught by Mr William Pyper, from Laurencekirk, who, after four years stay, was
appointed first to the Grammar School of Glasgow, then to the High School of
Edinburgh. and finally to the Chair of Humanity in St. Andrews University, where
I remember seeing his quaint energetic little figure bustling about in the
Mr Pyper came another minister, the Rev. Samuel Richardson, who, in 1825, was
transferred to the Parish Church of Penninghame, Newton-Stewart, in which church
there is a marble tablet erected to his memory by the congregation. After Mr
Richardson came still another minister, the Rev. John Inglis, who, after a stay
of twenty years, was transferred to the Parish Church of Sanquhar, where I had
the pleasure once of visiting him. He was a capable scholar, a respectable
teacher, and a very genial man. He died at Helensburgh in 1881, aged 82, and now
lies buried in our old churchyard.
heritors, naturally getting tired of so many changes in their Parish teacher,
resolved in future to have nothing to do with clerical schoolmasters. They
accordingly next chose Mr John WyIlie from Minto, who came in 1845. He was a
pleasant-spoken, spectacle-wearing man, who took his duties easily. The number
of his scholars in my day was never above a hundred, and as these gradually grew
less, the heritors gave him a retiring allowance of £50 a-year and engaged in
1869 Mr J S Porteous, who still remains in charge of the Public School Mr Wyllie
died at Wigtown in 1890 When Mr Wyllie appeared before the heritors previous to
his retirement, Mr James Baird was struck with his juvenile appearance, and said
in a half-joking way, Man, ye may leave for twenty years yet!" (which he did, and one more). Mr Wyllie's reply was admirable
for its pawkiness: "Mr Baird, I'll live as long as I can."
own reminiscences of the old Parish School are connected chiefly with the
Annual Examinations by the Presbytery which I confess, were rather perfunctory
affairs but were better than nothing in days when School Inspectors were not.
After the examination was over each minister, I remember was expected to deliver
his opinion regarding the school's efficiency in a short speech. Then a holiday
was begged for the scholars (a request always received with rapturous applause),
and the whole proceedings wound up with a dinner at the manse. When the old
school was sold, it was bought by Mr Aikman of Glasgow, with the view of its
being turned into a shoe factory, but this intention was never carried out, and
now it is occupied by a branch of the Salvation Army.
Letter, July, 1895.
is a stone inserted in the front of this school bearing the words "Carrick
Academy 1843 "; and this not only gives the date of its erection, but shews
somewhat amusingly the ambition of its founders. Dr Johnson was once twitted by
the elder Boswell as "ane that keeped a schule and ca'd it an
Academy," but our Whitehall School founders not only "ca'd it an
Academy" but carved that name on its front.
first teacher, I believe, was a Mr Henderson, whose son, the Rev. Elias
Henderson, is still minister at Belford, Northumberland. Following Mr Henderson
came Mr West, who died recently, minister of Southbridge, New Zealand. He
emigrated in 1863. After him came Mr Claud Wilson, who however only stayed a few
months. By this time, Sir James Fergusson had taken a lease of the school, and
provided a salary for the teacher, with the object of offering a good education
at a cheap rate to the children of the town. Struck, however, with the
incongruity of the high-sounding title, he claimed the right in his lease to
delete the words Carrick Academy" and insert " West Church School"
in its place, although this was never done.
after I came to Maybole, Mr Robert Milligan was appointed teacher, and remained
for some years. He was then promoted to the Parish School of Kirkgunzeon in the
Stewartry of Kirkcudbright where he still remains. Following him came Mr William
Smith who was after some years removed to Brodick School, Arran. Thence he went
to the University of Glasgow was ordained minister at Forth near Lanark, and
finally was appointed to the Principalship of the General Assembly's Institution
Calcutta, in which position he remained till he died It was at his invitation
that I visited India in the winter of 1888-89. Mr Smith was succeeded by Mr
Robert Fulton, now in Callander Public School, and he in turn was succeeded by
Mr John Chapel now in Townhead School Kirkoswald. It was in Mr Chapel a time the
new Public School in Ladyland was opened and the schools belonging to the old
regime were finally closed.
along, the Whitehall School was a popular one. The Parish School never had the
large numbers attending it that "the Academy" had. I can remember when
over 200 were in average attendance, and the teacher could hardly find room to
move about. The furniture too was rude enough, and the floor latterly became so
shaky that it was a common occurrence to hear a shriek from the far end of the
school, followed by a breathless urchin rushing up and saying:- "Maister,
there's anither lassie's leg through the flure."
was in the Whitehall School I long carried on the Penny Savings Bank. It was
here also I taught for a number of winters a Free Writing Class of about 100 for
enabling grown people to improve their handwriting, or to begin it when they had
not learned it. And it was in this school too I commenced a series of Saturday
Evening Penny Readings, although latterly I had to remove these to the larger
Hall of Mr Jack's work. Many pleasant memories are thus entwined round the old
Whitehall School. Minister, teachers and children were all alike young then, and
youth makes joy for itself.
Letter, September, 1895.
I came to Maybole, there were three other schools in the town beside the Parish
one and the Carrick Academy. The first was that in Society Row, and was
supported by the Free Church. The next was at the Greenhead, was taught by the
Misses Connel, and was camed on in connection with the Parish Church. The third
was in the building now occupied by the Methodists and was carried on in
connection with the Episcopal Church.
these, the largest was the Society Row School. Originally, it was a weaving shop
like the houses adjoining but when the Free Church began, the house was
purchased by the late Mr William Brown, and became a school in connection with
that denomination. For greater convenience, a porch was erected at the back, and
an entrance formed there instead of at the front.
I came here, this school was taught by Miss Brown, whom I afterwards met at
Castle Douglas, where she had married and settled down. After her came Miss
Huntly, a lively energetic person, who also got married in due course. At her
resignation, the school was closed along with the others, when the new Public
School was opened in 1873.
the building was sold, it was bought by Captain Armstrong of Girvan, with the
view of being used as a Mission Station, and was transferred to a committee for
that end. It was here the Revival movement in our town was largely carried on at
the beginning. Latterly, it fell into the hands of the "Brethren," and
is at present occupied by the "open "section of that body.
Letter, October, 1895
I was a boy in Girvan, it was the custom for people invited to a marriage to
assemble at the bridegroom's house and march two-and-two in procession to the
bride's dwelling, where the ceremony was performed. In that procession the
bridegroom and bridegroom's man marched first, while the fiddler with his green
bag brought up the rear. Guns also used to be fired in honour of the event, and
a friend tells me that a cake was broken over the bride's head at her
home-coming in token of good luck. Of course, the marriage procession was
cheered lustily by admiring crowds of boys and girls, and doubtless I have often
tossed up my cap and joined in the joyous "Hurrah for the weddingers " that accompanied the party on its way.
baptisms, again, which were always celebrated in church, it was the Custom for
the person who carried the child to hand "a piece" to the first boy or
girl met on the way, with the notion, I suppose, of initiating the child into
the Christian grace of giving. I remember, at any rate, the good woman who
carried me on that occasion, used to tell me that she had faithfully observed
funerals, refreshments were the order of the day, and the orthodox number of
rounds was three - the first two of whisky and the last of rum or wine. Each
round was accompanied by a service of bread and cheese. And I can remember, when at a funeral in the Highlands, whisky and oatmeal cake were
produced at the grave, and partaken of by the company seated on the churchyard
school, there is much improvement in the matter of school books and teaching
apparatus. Punishments, too, are a great deal milder now. The Saturday holiday
movement was just beginning, and I can recall a statement of my mother's that
she would gladly pay the teacher extra fees to keep us in on Saturdays too. The
Bible was read regularly as a text-book, and the Shorter Catechism was
faithfully committed to memory in those days.
railway now takes us from Girvan to Ayr in less than an hour, but in my boyish
days the Robert Burns coach took three hours and often longer. Indeed, there is
a story told of a certain long-legged shoemaker who used frequently to walk past
the coach when heavily laden, and who, when the coach-man hailed him, would
reply, "I haena time to wait the day!"
to the year 1820, the mails between Ayr and Portpatrick were carried in
saddlebags strapped in front of the horseman, the roads then not being fitted
for coach traffic. But in my own recollection, there was a mail-coach on the
road, with a guard in a flaming red coat, whose performances on the horn or the
bugle formed quite an event in the day's history. In those days, the postage on
a letter from Girvan to Ayr was 4½d, and from Girvan to Glasgow 8½d; and I can
distinctly remember the ceremonious way postage stamps were purchased and
affixed when first they came out.
believe I attended the first course of Lectures ever given in Girvan, and I am
certain I attended the first Public Soiree, little thinking at the time how
frequently I should have to take part in these things in days to come.
was no gas in Girvan in those days, so tallow candles or small oil lamps were
used instead. In farm houses you saw the ancient crusie hanging up, redolent of
train oil, a specimen of which I secured when in Shetland; while the lamplighter
with his ladder and blazing torch, was a nightly source of interest to juveniles
who shouted after him:-
leerie, licht the lamps,
Lang legs and crooked shanks."
can recall to mind the first introduction of lucifer matches to our town. There
was a folded piece of sand paper in each box, through which the match was drawn
briskly. Before the matches came, spunks were used, dipped in sulphur merely,
and before the spunks, flint and steel were used.
I can remember, also, the "Tent" at Communion seasons being duly
erected in the churchyard, and the large crowds that used to gather to "the
preachings," although the palmy days of those "Holy Fairs," when
there were sixteen tables and half-a-dozen assistant ministers, had begun to be
talked about as things of the past. I can remember, too, the Sunday morning
parliaments held at the head of the kirk brae, where the farmers and others
discussed the news before going in to church, just as Ian Maclaren has portrayed
it at Drumtochty.
every hard working wife then had a big wheel for spinning wool, and a wee wheel
for spinning flax, in which occupations the winter evenings were spent
cheerfully enough. Servants then stayed for years in their situations, and were
looked on almost as part of the family, and the first "big greet" I
can remember was over the death of a domestic who died in our house.
scarcely ever see a person now going for "a gang of water," although
the practice was then a daily one, and a place for the stoups behind the kitchen
door was then a recognised necessity in every house. The very word "gang'
is now obsolete, although a Paisley poet has thus used it pithily in describing
a fire in that town:-
Rab Macpherson he was there,
And he was unco thrang,
He ran wi' water in his mouth,
For it would haud a gang."
in those days had an individuality of which he was not ashamed. It was the
custom then to call people after their trades, as Miller Austin, Baker Howie,
Cooper Gardner, Watchie Davidson (as distinguished from Postie Davidson), and
Tinkle Murdoch; while nearly every outstanding character had a nickname by which
he was better known than by his Christian name. Thus an old naval hero who had
served under Nelson was called Copenhagen, a well known fisherman was dubbed
Geshur, a grimy shoemaker rejoiced in the name of the Black Laird, and a slow
speaking worthy, whose wife sold candy stalks, was universally known as Smart
Smallack. What a host of characters, indeed, rise on my memory as I recall those
days! Daft Jock Bryce, Blin' Jock Grant, Jacky M'Cafferty the Dominie, Jock Duff
who rang the bell (when sober), and Dowie the Dounepark Buffer, whose deeds at
Kirkdandie Fair were reckoned by us as next to those of Achilles at Troy.
to amusements, we boys had shinty and pinning matches on the green, our elders
had penny reels at fairs, and a good tough fight on the street was counted a
public diversion not to be despised, while Ord with his open-air circus, and
indispensable merryman, used to enliven the town for weeks together.
were no policemen in those days, old Donald M'Andrew, the town officer, being
the only official guardian of the peace. But to make up for that, most of the
respectable inhabitants of the town were enrolled as constables, and used to
patrol the streets on Saturday nights when disturbances were feared. The
municipal laws may now be counted severe, but they are mild in comparison with
those of our grandfathers. And although Girvan had no jouggs like Maybole, I can
remember an unfortunate wight once tied to the tail of a cart, and made to
parade the town with a large placard on his back, on which the words were
written:- Potato Thief.
all these things have now vanished. The old order has changed and given place to
the new. And certainly the new is smoother, but whether better or not is another
question. Still people in those days loved and laughed, wept and rejoiced,
wrought hard and stood up to their buffets much as they do now. For outward
circumstances don't determine a man's happiness or character, and though the old
customs may seem rude to us, yet:-
men and clever hizzies
Were bred in such a way as this is."
Letter, January. 1897.