The County of Ayr is rich in Story and Tradition. And no wonder. Before the days of the Romans it was inhabited; and from the time that these early progenitors in the march of civilization left these shores never to return, a succession of races have either dwelt on its plains or in its towns, and by its river mouths, or have left unmistakable traces of their presence Pict, and Scot, and Briton; Danish rover and Scandinavian Viking; English invader from beyond the Tweed coming and going at intervals down to the days when Oliver Cromwell was in the Fort of Ayr, and stabled his steeds under the shadow of St. John's - all have been here in turn. The Roman has left his roads and his camps, the Pict his dykes, the Celtic lake-dweller his crannogs, the Briton his tumuli, to tell the tale of a hardly recoverable past.
Great national movements have inwrought themselves with the history of the Shire. On the streets of the county town and in the country surrounding, Sir William Wallace first seriously measured strength with the invader. Robert the Bruce was Earl of Carrick. He stormed Turnberry, the home of his youth, and he wrought wondrously among the hills of Dailly, on the uplands of Cumnock and of Dalmelington, and by the base of Loudoun hill. And in a less degree, down to the days of the Revolution, Ayrshire men were prominent in the wars and in the counsels of the period. It was to Ayrshire the Lollards came, with the leaven of a new faith. And the Reformation found many of its most ardent promoters among the gentry, as well as among the peasantry, of Kyle, Cuninghame, and Carrick.
In the centuries when feudal strife was rampant the great families of Kennedy, of Cuninghame, of Craufurd, of Montgomerie, of Campbell, of Boyd, maintained ceaseless activity in their warrings with one another. Their horsemen scoured the countryside; their yeomen went down in the encounter; their castles blazed intermittently from the borders of Renfrew in the north, to the waters of Stinchar in Southern Carrick, and from the moorlands adjacent to the march of Lanark to the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Their intrigues, their plots, their raids, their wiles, their machinations, are they not written on the creation of the existing social life of Ayrshire?
My main purpose has been to endeavour to present a series of historical pictures of the national and feudal history of the Shire. It will remain with the reader to say how far I have succeeded. I have not thought fit to give chapter and verse for all the historical facts recorded, but the reader may rest assured that these have been amply and carefully verified.
The chapters dealing with the social conditions are founded on the data of the periods treated; and the traditions recorded are those which, a hundred years ago and more, were universally accepted in the districts where they had their birth.