Maybole does not appear in any historical or other document that we are aware of, prior to the charter of Duncan in 1193. Its history begins with this grant. It is said that of old there was a town in Carrick called Carrick; but, unless Turnberry was the site, no other has been condescended upon. Maybole, at all events, does not appear to have existed as a community prior to the grant by Duncan of Carrick. It had not even then a church, and it did not become the capital of Carrick until a much later period. Turnberry, on the contrary, has the first recorded church in Carrick. Even the church of Kirkbryde seems to have existed previously, at all events contemporaneously with that of Maybole, both of which were granted by Earl Duncan to the Cistertian Nunnery of North Berwick - the latter in 1216. This grant was confirmed by Neil, the son of Duncan of Carrick.
" The church of Maybole continued to belong to the nuns of North Berwick till the Reformation. A portion of the revenues of the church was appropriated to the vicarage, which had been established by the Bishop of Glasgow. In Bagimont's Roll, as it stood in the reign of James V., the vicarage of Maybole, in the Deanery of Carrick, was taxed £5, 6s. 8d., being a tenth of the estimated value. Before the Reformation, the half of the vicarage of Maybole appears to have been annexed to the prebend, called Sacrista Major, in the Collegiate Church of Glasgow.
In 1562, this part of the vicarage was reported as being only worth ten merks yearly. At the epoch of the Restoration, the revenues of the parsonage of Maybole, the glebe excepted, were held on lease by Thomas Kennedy of Bargany, for the yearly payment of £22, twenty oxen, and twelve cows. In the church of Maybole, a chaplainry, which was dedicated to St. Ninian, was founded in 1451, by Sir Gilbert Kennedy of Dunure, who granted to God and to St. Ninian, the lands of Largenlen and Brockloch, in Carrick, for the support of a chaplain to perform divine service in the Church of Maybole. On the lands of Auchindrain, which is about three miles northeast of Maybole, there was, before the Reformation, a chapel that was subordinate to the parish church of Maybole." (Chalmers, Caledonia.)
The parish of Kirkbride, which was dedicated to St Brigid, also continued in the hands of the Nuns of North Berwick till the Reformation. It stood on the seacoast, about half a. mile north of the old castle of Dunure. The ruins of the church and churchyard still exist. It does not appear at what time the junction of the two parishes occurred, but must have been prior to 1597, in December of which year the church of Maybole was finally separated from the Convent of North Berwick, and established as a rectory, by act of Parliament. Gilbert Kennedy of Bargany obtained a grant of the 40s. land of old extent, which belonged to the church of Maybole, and also of the patronage of the rectory of Maybole, with, its tithes. The patronage continued to belong to Lord Bargany till 1696, when it was vested in the Crown.
Alluding to the ecclesiastical state of Carrick, Abercrummie says, " There was also a Collegiat Church at Mayboll, the fabrick whereof is yet extant and entyre; being now used as the burial place of the Earl of Cassilis, and other gentlemen who contributed to the putting a roofe upon it when it was decayed. On the north syde of which kirk is the burial place of the Laird of Colaine, within ane enclosure of new square stones, lately built, The Colledge consisted of a Rector and three Prebends, whose stalls are all of them yet extant, save the Rector's, which was where these low buildings and the gardens are, on the east syde of that which is now the Parson's house. The other three are the Black House, Ja. Gray's house, with the orchard, and the Welltrees. The patrimony of this church were the Provest (lands) and Priest's-lands, in the parish of Kirkmichael, which fell into the Earl of Cassilis' hands, upon the dissolution of the Colledge, at the Reformation; out of which he as yet payes, yearly, to the minister of Mayboll, the sum of 70 merks Scots.
As for the Church, its present patrimony is out of the tyth of the parish, which, before the Reformation, was all possessed and enjoyed by the Nuns of North Berwick; and on the dissolution of the said Nunnerie became a prize to the Laird of Bargany. The present church stands at a little distance from the foresaid Colledge, eastward. It does not appear when it was built; (It was built after the Reformation, by the Earl of Cassilis, out of the Kirkmichael lands, aided by private contributions.) but the large Isle, that lyes from the body of the church southward, and makes the figure T, was built by Mr. Ja. Bonar, minister thereat, in the reign of King Charles the First. Within the said parish of Mayboll there have been other chapells of old, as Kirkbryde on the coast syde, whose walls and yaird be yet extant; and within the lands of Auchindrain and elsewhere, there have been other chappells, whereof the rudera are yet to be seen."
'The schoole," continues Abercrummie, "is upon the east end of the church, separated from it by a partition of timber, wherein doors and windows open not only a prospect into the church, but opportunity of hearing to the greatest distance."
The church which Abercrummie thus describes was superseded by a new building in 1755. It was a large but mean looking structure, situated near the heart of the town. This again gave way to a more elegant place of worship, which was erected to the eastward of the town, in 1809. It was rather extensively repaired in 1830, and is calculated to hold about 1200. A church was some time ago opened at Fisherton, not far from the old parish church of Kirkbride, which is a great accommodation to the parishioners in that quarter.
Of the rise and progress of the town of Maybole we have no account whatever until the time of Abercrummie, who gives a very interesting description of it as it existed previous to the revolution. "In all this countrey there is not anytown corporat, save one, viz., Mayboll, which is neither a burgh royal, for it sends no commissioner to Parliament, nor is it merely a burgh of barony, such having, only a power to keep mercats, and a magistracy settled amongst them, in dependence on the baron of the place. But here it is quyte other-wayes for they have a charter from the king erecting them into a burgh, with a toune-councell of sixteen persons, for manadging the common concernes of the burgh, with power to them to elect from amongst themselves two baillies, their clerk and treasurer, and to keep courts for maintaining order amongst the inhabitants, and to admit burgesses of their Corporation. [Maybole was created a burgh of barony 14th November, 1516, in a grant to Gilbert, Earl of Cassilis, the patron, and to the provost and prebendaries of the Collegiate Church of Maybole, to Which belonged the lands whereon the town is situated.
In October, 1639, an act, ordaining that the head courts of Carrick should be held at Maybole, was passed by the Lords of the Articles. It is true, indeed, the Earle of Cassilis is the superior of all the land whereupon the town is built; but they deny him to be their superiour, in their constitution as a burgh, and disputed their right with him. During, the dependence of which action, he, as baron, set up a baron baillie, to exercise authority over the inhabitants, and to lessen the magistrates' authority; but the people being poor and divided among themselves, and the Earle being got into the government, upon the Revolution, they were forced to submit and yield to his pretensions.
"This toune of Mayboll stands upon an ascending ground, from east to west, and lyes open to the south. It hath one principall street, with houses upon both sydes, built of freestone; and it is beautifyed with the situation of two castles one at each end of this street. That on the east belongts to the Erle of Cassilis; beyond which, eastward, stands a great new building, which be his granaries. On the west end is a castle, which belonoed sometime to the Laird of Blairqhan which is now the tolbuith, and is adorned with a pyremide, and a row of ballesters round it, raised from the top of the staircase, into which they have mounted a fyne clock. There be four lanes which passe from the principall street; one is called the Back Venall, which is steep, declining to the south east, and leads to a lower street, which is far larger than the high chiefe street, and it runs from the Kirkland to the Welltrees; in which there have been many pretty buildings, belonging to the severall gentry of the countrey, who were .wont to resort thither in winter, and divert themselves in converse together at their owne houses. It was once the principall street of the toune; but many of these houses of the gentry have been decayed and ruined, it has lost much of its ancient beautie. Just opposite to this venall, there is another that leads northwest from the chiefe street to the green, which is a pleasant plott of ground, enclosed round with an earthen wall, wherein they were wont to play at foot ball, but now at the Gowffe and byasse bowls. At the cast end of the principall street are other two lanes; the one called Foull Venall, carryes northward; the other farder east, upon the chiefe street, passes to the south east, and is called the KirkVenall, and is the great resort of the people from the toune to the church. The houses of this toune, on both sydes the street, have their several gardens belonging to them; and the lower street there be some pretty orchards, that yield store of good fruit."
The description thus given by Abercrummie, nearly two hundred years ago, presents a minute picture of Maybole even at the present time. The town has no doubt grown to some extent during so long a period, but not in proportion to many places in the county, comparatively of modern date. On east the town is no longer bounded by the castle, and the Earl of Cassillis' granaries. The castle, no doubt, occupies its original site, but a superior range of buildings, called the New Yards, extend the line of houses very considerably in that quarter. On the west, Whitehall, and a number of recent buildings, have produced a similar extension ; while upon the north and south the sides of the town have been swelled by numerous houses, shops, and villas. The introduction of cotton-weaving into Maybole during the last century occasioned a vast increase of the population, by the rapid influx of Irish families; and it may be said to have wholly lost that aristocratic character, the decline of which Abercrummie deplores even in his time.
The civil jurisdiction of Carrick was a bailiary, belonging heritably to the Earl of Cassillis, and, as already mentioned, Maybole was the ordinary seat of the courts of justice. Capital punishments were repeatedly inflicted at these courts, and the Gallow Hill is still Aberpointed out as the place of execution. William Pollock, Esq., writer and banker, Ayr, is in possession of an address, in MS., written by the last person executed at Maybole, at the beginning of last century. The crime was murder, of rather a deliberate character. It was meant to be read or spoken by the culprit before his execution. The well known disputation between John Knox and the Abbot of Crossraguel took place in the house of the Provost of Maybole in 1562. The parochial records extend no farther back than the beginning of last century. The probability is that they were carelessly kept, and have disappeared.
Among the ministers of Maybole may be mentioned Dr Macknight, the author of many standard works. He was admitted minister of Maybole in 1753, the duties of which office he faithfully discharged for sixteen years. He was succeeded by Dr Wright, who was highly esteemed, and who published a volume of sermons. Mr James Bonar, of whom Wodrow tells a characteristic anecdote, was minister of Maybole about the middle of the seventeenth century. A Mr Fairweather was minister of Maybole in 1717. He came before the Presbytery, on a charge of drunkenness, and his case seems to have occupied that reverend body for great length of time. The evidence led is curious, as illustrative of the habits of his parishioners at the time. Wine, brandy, and ale were the favourite beverages of the better sort; and it was nothing uncommon for the minister and some of the neighbouring lairds to spend the greater part of the day "birling at the wine," in one or other of the snug hostelries of Maybole. Alexander Kennedy of Drummellane, aged about forty, was a witness in the case of Mr Fairweatlier. Was with him in Mr M'Clymont's shop in Maybole, about eight in the morning. Between three persons they had two chopins of ale, and two gills of whisky. David Kennedy of Drummellane, aged about seventeen, another witness, convoyed Mr Fairweather from his father's house on the day libelled. His face was ruddier, and his eye duller, while his tongue faultered. On leaving the gate he observed him stagger, but whether from drink or a stone could not say.
The Council records of Maybole go no further back than 1721. The first minute (23 Dec.) shows that there were 17 Councillors elected out of a leet presented by the Earl of Cassilis. Alexander Binning of Machrimore was one of the councillors, and Mr. John Millan, "Master of manners and dancing," was admitted a burgess. Next year, Mr. George Hutchison of Monkwood, advocate, and Alexander Binning of Machrimore, were appointed magistrates.
According to minute of 23d Oct. 1724,. the inhabitants were stented, as in former years, for payment of the schoolmaster's salary, officers' wages, keeping of the clock &c. The customs, at the same time, were rouped at £46 Scots. Linen and Woollen cloth had been manufactured in Maybole about this time.
A minute of 24th March 1726, states that John Duuthie, merchant, had been appointed stampmaster, to inspect the quality of the linen and woollen cloth made for sale within the burgh.
The main street of Maybole appears to have remained uncausewayed till 1745. A minute of 4th June of that year, orders the street to be causewayed, and appoints a committee to look where stones and sand can be found; and the inhabitants are ordered to go out three days now, and three days after harvest yearly, to gather the stones in heaps; and those having, horses to cart the same until the street is finished.
Mr. David Doig, was appointed Schoolmaster 10th June 1749.
The income of the burgh, from Michaelmas 1747, to Michaelmas 1749, was £635, 11s. 10d., and the outlay £451, 15s. ; balance £133, 16s. 10d.
4th June 1767. Council agree that two of their number should go to Auchinleck, and consult Mr. James Boswell, younger of Auchinleck, advocate, [author of the life of Johnson] as to their liability to go beyond their boundaries, to work on the high-ways. Boswell's opinion was, that royal burghs were subject, much more so burghs of regality of barony. The magistrates, in consequence, agreed to compromise.
24th May 1774. A hand-bell purchased for the use of the town crier, cost 15s. Sterling.
25th Jan. 1775. Subscriptions gone into for causewaying the Foul Vennel. The customs were at this time rouped by the running of a sandglass.
16th Feb. 1779. A number of new burgesses, "on account of spice and wine," and other gratuities, such as money, admitted.
17th Dec. 1790. No person to kill except in slaughterhouse. 12th Feb. 1791. Market-house built.
13th Aug. 1792. Mr. David Doig, son of the deceased schoolmaster, appointed Post-Master of Maybole.
14th Feb. 1797. Resolved to offer his majesty a corps of volunteers, to be called " The Loyal Carrick Volunteers," the Earl of Cassillis to take command.
Present Church built about 1806-8. Town engaged for one-eighth part, not to exceed £300. In 1814, several minutes occur as to billet-masters and other military matters, and numerous regiments passed through the town, on their way to Ireland to be shipped for the continent: but curiously enough no notice is taken of the rejoicings for the victory of Waterloo in 1815, when the town was illuminated.