Maybole Town
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The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland Volume II (Gordon-Zetland)
Dictionary of Scottish Topography complied from the most recent authorities, and forming
 A complete body of Scottish Geography, Physical, Statistical and Historical
Edited by The Rev. John Marius Wilson

Contributed by Duncan A. McLaren and Pearson Park

The Town of Maybole is a burgh of barony, and the reputed capital of Carrick. It stands near the southern extremity of the parish of Maybole, on the road from Glasgow to Portpartrick, 9 miles south by west of Ayr, 12 north-north-east of Girvan, 22 south-south-west of Kilmarnock, and 81 south-west of Edinburgh. It stands chiefly on the declivity and partly along the skirts of a very broad based, and flattened hill, With an exposure toward east, the summit of the hill intervening between it the frith of the Clyde; and it commands a pleasant and, some what extensive view over one-half of the compass into the interior of Carrick. An old rhyme using one of several obsolete variations of the town's ancient names says,- 

" Minnibole's a dirty hole, It sits aboon a mire" 

This representation, in the sense usually attached to the town being situated on miry ground, is now, and probably always was, incorrect. A broad belt of deep green meadow, nearly as level as a bowling-green, stretches along, the base of the hill, and seems anciently to have been a marsh; but it could not have been a marsh of a miry kind or otherwise than green and meadowy, nor does it, even at present form the site of more than a very, small and entirely modern part of the town. The whole ancient site is declivitous, abounding with copious springs of pure water, and not improbably was clothed in its natural state with heath. Two sets of names, both very various in their orthography, but represented by the forms Maiboil and Minnybole, were anciently given to the town; they have greatly perplexed etymologists, and seem to have bewildered the usually astute George Chalmers; but they may, Professor Gray thinks, be referred to Gaelic roots, which make them mean 'the Heath-ground upon the marsh,' and 'the Heath-ground upon the meadow.' A town built upon a heathy declination, and closely skirted by a meadow, or even a grassy marsh, may thus, without sitting aboon, mire be both Minnibole and Maybole. 'The lower streets of the town, called Kirklands, Newyards, and Ballony, are not within the limits of the burgh, and consist almost wholly of weavers houses and workshops, tidier and better than similar buildings in many other towns. The main street runs nearly north and south, and with the exception of a brief thoroughfare going off westward at right angles from its middle occupies the highest ground within the burgh. A considerable space, deeply sloping between it and the low-lying suburbs, is disposed to a small extent in the ancient cemetery and the relics of the collegiate church; to a greater extent in four or five incompact and irregularly arranged streets; and to a yet greater extent in fields and gardens which give all the intersecting thoroughfares a straggling or detached appearance, and impart to the whole town a rural, airy, and healthful aspect. 

The only parts of the town which draw the attention of a stranger, are the Main street, and what is called the Kirk-wynd. These are narrow, and of varying width, quite destitute of every modern attraction, and sinless of all the ordinary graces of a fine town; yet they possess many features of antique stateliness, decayed and venerable magnificence, and even fading dashes of metropolitan greatness; which strongly damaged the aristocratical parts of Edinburgh during the feudal age. As the capital of Carrick, the place anciently wielded more influence over its province than the modern metropolis of the kingdom does over Scotland, and contained the winter residences of a large proportion of the Carrick barons. As the seat, also, of the courts of justice of Carrick bailiery, the place where all cases of importance in a roistering and litigating age were tried, it derived not a little outward respectability from the numbers and wealth of the legal practitioners who made it their home. In connexion, too, with its collegiate church and its near vicinity to Crossraguel abbey, it borrowed great consequence, from the presence of influential ecclesiatstics who in dark age possessed more resources of power and opulence than most of the nobility. No fewer than 28 baronial mansions, stately, turreted, and strong, were said to have stood within its limits. Two, of several of these, which still remain figure in association with such interesting history that they must be especially noticed. 

The chief is the ancient residence of the Ailsa or Cassilis family, the principal branch of the Kennedys. The building stands near the middle of the town, bears the name of the Castle par excellence, high, well-built, imposing pile, one of the strongest and finest of its class. It was the place of confinement for life of the Countess of Cassilis a daughter of the first Earl of Haddington, who eloped with the Gipsy leader, Johnnie Faa. See CASSILIS. The Earls of Cassilis, directly and through the medium of collateral branches of their family, wielded such power over the province that they were called both popularly and by: historiographers, 'Kings of Carrick;" and they used the castle of Maybole as the metropolitan palace of their kingdom. Gilbert, the fourth Earl, who lived in the unsettled period succeeding the commencement of the Reformation pushed his power into Galloway, and seized the large possessions of the abbey of Glenluce. He, for some time, saw his uncle abbot of Crossraguel; but, the office passing to Allan Stewart, who enjoyed the protection of the Laird of Bargany, he rapaciously desired to lay hands on all its revenues and temporal rights. His brother, Thomas Kennedy, having at his instigation enticed Stewart to become his guest, the Earl conveyed the ensnared abbot to Dunure castle, the original residence of the Cassilis family, and there, by subjecting to terrible torments, forced him to resign by legal instruments the possessions of the abbacy. A feud arose from this event, or was aggravated by it, between the Earls of Cassilis and the Lairds of Bargany and at last issued in very tragical events. In December, 1601, the Earl of Cassilus rode out from Maybole castle at the head of 200 armed followers to waylay the Laird of Bargany on a ride from Ayr to his house on Girvan-water; and on the farm of West Enoch, about half a mile north of the town, he forced on the Laird an utterly unequal conflict, and speedily brought him and several faithful adherents gorily to the ground. The Laird, mortally wounded, was carried from the scene of the onset to Maybole, that he might there, if he should evince any symptom of recovery, be despatched by the Earl as" Judge Ordinar' of the country' 'and thence he was removed to Ayr, where he died in a few hours. 


Flagrant though the deed was, it not only through maneuvering and state influence highly characteristic of the period-passed with impunity, but was formally noted by an act of council as good service to the King.  The Laird of Auchendrane, son-in-law of the slain baron, was one of the few adherents who bravely but vainly attempted to parry the onslaught, and he received some severe wounds in the encounter. Thirsting for revenge, and learning that, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Colzean intended to make a journey to Edinburgh, he so secretly instigated a party to waylay and kill him, that no witness existed of his connexion with them except a poor student of the name of Dalrymple, who had been the bearer of the intelligence which suggested and guided the crime. Dairymple now became the object of his fears; and, after having been confined at Auchendrane, and in the island of Arran, and expatriated for five or six years a soldier, he returned home, and was doomed to destruction. Mure, the Laird, having got a vassal, called James Bannatyne, to entice him to his house situated at Chapel Donan, a lonely place on the coast murdered him there at midnight, and buried his body in the sand.  The corpse, speedily unearthed by the tide, was carried out by the assassin to the sea after a time when a strong wind blew from the shore but was very soon brought back by the waves, and lodged on the very scene of the murder. Mure, and his son who aided him in the horrid transactions, fell under general suspicion, and now endeavored to destroy Bannatyne, the witness and accomplice of their guilt; but the unhappy peasant making full confession to the civil authorities, they were brought up from an imprisonment into which the King; roused by general indignation, had already thrown them, and were placed at the bar, pronounced guilty, and summarily and ignominiously put to death. These dismal transactions form the groundwork of Sir Walter Scott's dramatic sketch, called ‘Auchendrane, or the Ayrshire Tragedy.’ 

The house now occupied as the Red Lion inn, was anciently the mansion of the provost, and is notable as the scene of a set debate between John Knox, the reformer, and Quentin Kennedy, uncle of the fourth Earl of Cassilis, and abbot of Crossraguel. An account of the transaction; written by Knox himself was republished in 1812 by Sir Alexander Boswell, from a copy—the only one extant - in his library at Auchinleck. The debate was occasioned by a challenge, on the part of the abbot given in the church of Kirkoswald; it was conducted in dingy, pannelled apartment, in the presence of 80 persons, equally selected by the antagonists, and included several nobles and influential gentlemen it lasted for three days, and was eventually broken off through the want of suitable accommodation for the persons and retinues of the select auditors; and it did good service in practically prostration the abbot, and in arousing public attention to the corruptions of Romanism. The members of a Knox club, instituted in the town to commemorate the event, and consisting of all classes of Protestants, used to hold a festival to demonstrate their warm sense of the religious and civil liberties which have accrued from the overthrow of the Romish domination.

The noticeable civil building, additional to the two mentioned, are the ancient town-residences of the lairds of Blairquhan, now used as the tolbooth, - the ancient residence of the Lairds of Kilhenzie, now the White Horse inn, -- the ancient residence of the Kennedys of Knockdow, now called the Black house,--the house occupied by Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean, now the property of Sir Thos. M. Cunningham, -- the ancient residence of the Kennedys of Ballimore, situated in the Kirk-wynd,-the ancient residence of the abbots of Crossraguel, called the Garden of Eden,--and the Town-hall, a cumbrous old pile with a low, heavy, spiral tower, situated at the Cross. Though the town has not one modern public civil building, it abounds in commodious and comfortable dwelling-houses, greatly superior, for every domiciliary use, to even the best of its remaining baronial mansions. 

The parish-church is a plain edifice and might even claim to be neat were it not disfigured by a small unsightly steeple. The church at the west end of the town is a very creditable edifice. The United Presbyterian church draws attention by having had a deep slice cut away from one of its corners, occasioned by a bigoted attempt to prevent its erection. Maybole, after passing through a season of great depopulation and decline consequent on the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions has risen into considerable importance as a busy outpost of the cotton manufacturers of Glasgow, and a ready receptacle of the immigrant weavers of Ireland. 

Having no manufacture whatever of its own, beyond the usual produce of handicraftsmen for local use; and figures chiefly as a seat of population, where the Irish weavers and the agents of Scottish employers conveniently meet. Incomers from Ireland have been so numerous as almost to counterbalance the aboriginal inhabitants, and give law to the place. Excepting a few coarse woollens and blankets all the fabrics woven are pullicates, imitation thibets, and mull and jaconet muslins. Maybole, jointly with the villages of Crosshill and Kirkmichael, had, in 1828, 1700 hand-looms, and, in 1838, 1360. The condition of the weavers is similar to that in other towns where weaving is the chief occupation, and if darkened by some peculiar local features is perhaps at least equally lightened by others. 

A weekly market is held on Thursday; and annual fairs are held on the third Thursday of January, April, July, and October. The town has offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and of the Union Bank. It has likewise six insurance agencies, a water company, a gas light company, and a mechanics institution, and is the meeting place of the Carrick farmers society. It has long had daily coach communication with Ayr, but it will derive greatly increased benefit from its branch railway to the Ayr and Dalmellington railway. It was erected into a burgh of barony in 1516, and is governed by 2 bailies, 15 councillors and a treasurer. Its public revenue averages about £65 a year. A bailie court is held on every Thursday, and a justice of peace court sits on the first Wednesday of every month. Population in 184l, 3,43l in 1851, 3,862. Houses, 394.




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