Evelyn Stuart, Lady
Ailsa, was born in 1848. She was married to the Marquess of Ailsa in 1871. She
brought him five children, one of whom, Evelyn, died before her. The surviving
children are Archibald, Charles, Aline, and Angus.
conversion, the following account is from the pen of her friend, Miss Marsh.
"It is now several years ago since Lady Ailsa withdrew herself from
London, in the height of the season, and retired to the sea-girt castle which
was her Scottish home. There, for some hours in each day, she gave herself to
the study of the Bible, and to prayer, that God would show her, through His own
Word, the way of salvation. More than once have I heard her say that she thanked
God that her conversion came through no human instrumentality, but it was by
the guidance of the Holy Spirit alone that she met with the Saviour. She
accepted His Atonement in its completeness, and at once surrendered herself to
Him." Mr Anderson in the Reaper also says— "Lady Ailsa seldom
referred to the manner or circumstances of her conversion. Not that she shrank
from an open confession of it, but she preferred the reality of the inward life
to be proved by the outward actions, and while forgetting the things which were
behind, she strove to reach forth to higher attainments."
Miss Marsh revives
the old story of the threatening letter which Lady Ailsa received some time ago.
The writer of this was never discovered, but nobody here thought seriously of it
at the time. People of a malicious turn of mind like to indulge in the amusement
of writing anonymous letters, but sensible people usually throw these things
into the fire. Lady Ailsa was never in danger from the people of Maybole. She
was too much beloved here, and there was not a workman in the town but would
have fought in her defence.
The first cause she
sought to advance was the cause of Temperance. And there was much need for
workers in that cause here. Lady Ailsa organised a Blue Ribbon Band in Maybole,
and so fostered it that it came to number upwards of 300 members, and is, as it
has long been, the chief Temperance force in the town. She next set agoing a
Coffee House, with Reading Room, as a help to the Temperance cause; and when the
Militia were in training at Ayr, she established a Temperance Tent for them,
which was also used for Gospel meetings. And not content with setting these
agencies agoing, she wrought at them herself. Personally she visited and pleaded
with the victims of strong drink that they might be rescued; and many and
touching are the stories told of her efforts in that direction.
D. M. had joined
the Blue Ribbon Band, but soon broke his pledge. Lady Ailsa called to see him in
his humble garret, and found him lying in a drunken sleep on the floor. She sat
down beside his wife and mingled her tears with hers. She left, saying she would
make an effort to save him. Next morning, a messenger came in from Culzean
desiring D. to come out. He was naturally loth to go, under the circumstances,
but was at last prevailed on. Lady Ailsa kept him at Culzean for several days,
and so pled with him, that from that day D. has been an altered man.
occasion, she followed one of her strayed Blue Ribbonites into a certain small
Public House, which rejoices in the name of "Aunty Jean’s." He had
just sat down to his "poison," but before he had time "even to
smell it" (as he phrased it), Lady Ailsa came into the shop. She asked him
to follow her, adding quietly, as her reason, —"This is the
gate/rouse to Hell." She took him home, and afterwards sent him a letter
(dated Feb. 27, 1879), in which she says :—" It has given me great pain
to hear that you have gone back to sin and misery. I find it difficult to
believe that you have left our Lord Jesus, and the life, peace, and joy you were
feeling in Him; and all for what? I have been very much struck with how ill you
look when you drink. I do not believe you will live long if you ‘ continue
drinking; but your early death here is nothing when compared with the future.
When you feel the temptation for drink, why do you not fall on your knees and
pray? You trust in yourself; you are not trusting in Jesus Trust Him, and you
will be kept by the power of p. God"
When the navmes
were engaged at the Maybole Water Works, she asked one of the Blue Ribbon
Band to invite them to Tea in the Coffee House one Saturday night, and when only
a few responded to the invitation, she sent him out to the streets to "compel
them to come in," and in this way got a considerable number out of
temptation’s way into a more promising place.
On one occasion she
found herself in the kitchen of an Trishwoman, who addressed her first as
"your Reverence"; and then, bethinking herself that this title was
usually reserved for the male sex, she altered it to "Mrs
Marchioness," to Lady Ailsa’s great amusement, no doubt.
occasion, a farmer saw her coming to him, evidently full of the Temperance
question. He had been "tasting" that morning, so felt rather uneasy at
the prospect. He therefore, as he said, "kept dodging to leeward,." so
that she might not detect the smell of his ‘breath. For, in all her ways, she
was simplicity itself; and this, in fact, was part of her power, for everybody
felt ashamed to cheat one who was so well-meaning, as well as so unsuspicious.
Like all other
labourers in good, she had many things to damp her zeal. The Blue Ribbon Band
did not always prosper. Once, indeed, it broke up and became defunct. But she
persevered, with the simple but characteristic remark: "Well, we must have
patience: this is their besetting sin, as we have ours."
But she did not
stop with Temperance. She carried on three Mission Stations—Maybole, Maidens,
and Kirkoswald; and, for a time, maintained a Missionary and a Biblewoman. At
these mission-stations, she not only attended regularly herself (her last act of
common worship being at one of them), but she forced herself to address them
occasionally, although she was not naturally gifted that way. Still she
persevered, and became latterly tolerably effective as a speaker.
Her zeal for the
good of others prompted her not only to speak to the poorest as to their duty to
God, and their privileges in the Gospel, but to write to those of the same rank
in life as herself. These letters were so faithful that one of the high-born
made the remark—" Lady Ailsa writes to me as if I were a common
Her next attempt
was to erect a Convalescent Home at Maidens, which was intended chiefly for
workmen from Glasgow, although special cases from the neighbourhood were not
refused. There was a charge made for admission, but cases of extreme poverty
were received without any charge at all.
For many years she
carried on a branch of the Scottish Girls’ Friendly Society in the district,
and personally superintended it, while she sought out those who might be
inclined to take an interest in the matter, and lend their aid. She also erected
a handsome block of workmen’s houses in the town.
Lady Ailsa, like
all right Christians, was both godly and kindly. There are many people who are
kindly. But Lady Ailsa’s kindliness was always mixed with godliness. For that,
after all, was her outstanding feature. She was a faithful servant of God,
and endeavoured by every means in her power to do good to everybody with whom
she came in contact.
Perhaps at times
she was a little visionary and unpractical in her plans, but this arose from her
want of experience. And now that she is gone, her imperfections are all
forgotten in the grand memory of a life of constant self-sacrifice, and
constant labour for others’ benefit.
She was a tower of
strength in this district for every good cause, and a friend to whom the poorest
could look for sympathy and help in their day of trouble. And even those who
fought shy of her, owing to her aggressiveness, could not but respect her kindly
When her life, a
few years ago, was trembling in the balance, prayer was made without ceasing for
her; for we then began to realise what a loss her death would be to the
community. And when her little girl died of diphtheria, she rose into the
dignity of true Christian motherhood. She nursed her with her own hands, and at
the funeral issued this touching request—" It is expected that no token
of mourning be worn, as the maid is not dead but sleepeth.
Lady Ailsa had
naturally a very dignified carriage, but behind that there was a most unassuming
spirit. She looked on her possessions simply as things to be owned for a very
little time, and meanwhile to be employed for the good of others. She had a
slight impediment in her speech, and once asked a Christian friend whether God
might not remove it or remedy it, in answer to prayer. Another of her defects
was the very slight sense of humour she possessed; but to make up for that, she
had a sunny temperament, which brightened everybody she came into contact with.
Her conversation was almost always on spiritual subjects, and the best ways of
doing good to others. Her heart was in these things, and out of the abundance of
her heart she spoke.
Her funeral was
attended not only by the customary friends from her own rank in life, but by
those whom she had cared for and wrought for. A company of the Militia came up
from Ayr, with a wreath to lay on her grave. The friends of Temperance in
Maybole formed another large party, and also brought a wreath. The Magistrates
and Commissioners of Maybole were present, as also the whole of the tenantry and
servants on the estate. The choir of the Blue Ribbon Band, 36 in number, sang
suitable hymns while the body was being borne from the Castle to the grave. The
day was beautiful in the extreme, and the entire ceremony, from first to last,
was touching and yet comforting.
She now lies beside
her little daughter in the cemetery at Culzean, with a marble Cross at the head
of her grave, bearing this inscription—" Evelyn Stuart, Marchioness of
Ailsa, Born 25th June, 1848: Died 26th July, 1888. Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God." While, on the girl’s tombstone, she had
caused to be inscribed the characteristic words :—" Is it well with the
child? It is well. Nevertheless, the light of mine eyes is gone from