Carrick's Capital Facts, Fiction & Folks by James T. Gray,
Alloway Publishing, Ayr. First published 1972. Copyright ©
Permission for display on this site granted by David Gray. You may view
and download chapters of this book for personal research purposes only. No other
distribution of this text is authorized.
The story of this ancient Ayrshire town from its
early beginnings in the 12th century through its growth and
development until the nineteen sixties. A fascinating record of the
history of a town including a wealth of factual information on its
outstanding buildings growth of industry etc., the book also
gives an insight into the life of the community and townsfolk
Table of Contents
IN 1950 a third Statistical Account of Scotland was
published and once again it was a minister in the town who prepared the article
on the Burgh of Maybole. The Reverend Alexander Williamson, minister in Maybole
West Parish Church, was the writer and as he was for very many years resident in
the burgh and had a great interest in local affairs there was no one better
fitted to deal with the subject. From time to time he had written many articles
for publication in local papers on the street names, the old worthies,
Crossraguel Abbey, etc. and he dealt very thoroughly with the facts about the
old town in his article for the Third Statistical Account. It is a curious fact
that all articles on Maybole's history have been written by local ministers but
no doubt in their visitations throughout the town and district they gained an
insight to the place overlooked by other townsfolk.
During the period between the Second Statistical Account and the publication
of the Third Statistical Account (a little over one hundred years) Maybole had
risen from an impoverished little country town to become a thriving place of
industry which produced boots and shoes for all districts in Britain and
agricultural implements, from the famous works of Jack & Son, for all
countries in the world. The last half of the nineteenth century was the boom
period for Maybole and its townsfolk prospered exceedingly well. There was work
for all and while wages were small (considered by present day standards) they
were sufficient to meet all daily needs and leave a little over for pleasure.
This is evident by the great love of sport in the town about the last decade of
the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century when
Maybole had a sports ground which equalled any in Scotland at that time, and
many of the local men were famous as runners and cyclists throughout Britain. At
that period there was also a very fine silver band, and a choral society, and
concerts were given often by Frame, Lauder, Hamilton and other well-known
Scottish artistes in Wyllies Hall, Jacks Hall and the Town Hall, when invariably
every seat was filled.
About 1908, however, one of the larger shoe factories
(Grays) closed down and gradually the industry dwindled and Maybole again
returned to hard times. It is said over 2,000 of the townsfolk emigrated around
1910 many of them going to Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, where there is still a
district known as "Wee Maybole". By the time the Rev. A. Williamson
wrote his article the population had fallen from 5,500 in 1891 to around 4,200
in 1931 and had gradually increased again to about 4,800 in 1947.
He describes the situation of the town in similar terms to that given by the
previous writers which is natural as geographical features do not change much in
three hundred years. Housing is dealt with very fully and he details the total
number of houses in the town as numbering 1,250, of which 40 were villas, 115
cottages, 32 in terraces and the remainder of the tenement type, mainly of two
storeys, a few with three and one with four storeys. Of the total of 1,250 the
Town Council had built and let 318 by 1950 but this number has been greatly
exceeded since then and in May 1971 the 1000th Council House was formally
opened. Overcrowding was prevalent in the 1940s and over 20% of the council
owned houses had more than one family living in them. Most houses in the town
had gardens attached and the usual services of water, sanitation, cleansing, gas
and electricity were amply provided and Maybole compared favourably with any
other town of equal size in Scotland. Mention is made of the Castle and the
Tolbooth as in previous accounts and the only new building erected in the
twentieth century of any note were the Carnegie Library in 1906 and Post Office
It is interesting to note in the Third Statistical Account the detail of the
tradespeople in the town and to compare it with the list given a little over one
hundred years previously. In 1950 the shops and businesses in the town consisted
4 Confectioners & Tobacconists.
6 Grocers (one with an "Off" licence).
7 Public Houses.
2 Licensed Hotels (Kings Arms and Commercial Hotel).
1 Radio Dealer.
3 Motor engineers.
3 Taxi Hirers.
2 Picture Houses.
It will be noted that easy access to the county town of Ayr and to Glasgow
had changed the trend of shopkeeping in Maybole and the ladies would appear to
have taken their custom to the larger towns as fifteen milliners and a staymaker
had gone out of business since the previous census of shops etc. had been taken.
The townspeople had become more temperate and made do with two Hotels and seven
Public Houses in 1950 compared with three Hotels, twelve Public Houses and
thirty Ale Houses in 1837. Health must have improved' with modern sanitation,
etc. as four doctors sufficed for 4,800 people against the six required a
hundred years earlier for a much smaller population, while half the number of
lawyers could deal with legal matters. Blacksmiths had practically disappeared
but were replaced by motor engineers, and taxi hirers and a radio dealer had
started business with the advent of cars and wireless while two picture houses
had displaced the former concerts and "penny geggies" which were set
up from time to time in the Town Green. The boot and shoe industry still existed
to a certain extent but: the great days when there was full employment in this
trade had passed. About the turn of the century the Ladywell and Lorne factories
were in full production and the trade which had been started by the foresight of
John Gray and Charles Crawford in the nineteenth century and expanded by James
Ramsay, John Lees, Robert Crawford, John McCreath and others had passed its
heyday and by 1950 only the factories owned by Lees & Co. at Townend and
McCreath in Society Street were still in existence. Maybole specialised in heavy
footwear and the decreasing demand for this and the tariffs imposed by fire
(where a great amount of the local footwear had been marketed) did much to kill
the local trade and in 1950 only 3,500 pairs of boots and shoes were produced
weekly against a total of 20,000 pairs weekly 1 Optician. 1 Chiropodist. 3
Lawyers. 2 Picture Houses. early in the century. The Millar Tanning Company,
(which had taken over the former Ladywell Shoe Factory) was busy at this period
however and tanned leather from it was sold all over Britain. Unfortunately this
connection with the boot and shoe trade has also gone from the town as the
tannery closed down in 1969 and there is now no connection in the town with the
great boot and shoe industry which made it such a thriving community for nearly
a hundred years, with the exception of the firm of Hanison & Goudie which
employs a few workers and strives to keep some connection with the boot and shoe
trade in Maybole.
At the same time as the footwear industry prospered in the town the making of
agricultural implements was greatly increased by Alexander Jack and Sons and by
the beginning of the present century their implements were famous throughout the
world. The agricultural implement industry was started in the latter half of the
nineteenth century by the two firms of Alex. Jack and Thomas Hunter and gave
employment to many of the towns- people. The two firms united early this century
and continued until the 1950s when, like the footwear factories, trade
diminished and finally the agricultural works closed down. At one time in the
agricultural world the name of "Jacks" carried a guarantee of
excellence in materials and workmanship.
The government of the town had changed since the previous Statistical Account
and in 1857 the old Burgh of Barony had become an ordinary Police Burgh with a
Town Council of twelve members, including the Provost and two Bailies. In 1950
the officials consisted of a, part-time Town Clerk and Treasurer (who was also
Housing Factor) and a full-time Burgh Surveyor. The J.P. Court for the district
was held in the local Court House which was formerly the Tolbooth and this was
also the meeting place for the Carrick District Licensing Court. The District
Council members met in the District Office (formed in part of the town's old
"Poorhouse") and these courts still continue to make their decisions
in the old burgh.
Once again the ministerial writer of the Statistical Account wrote fully on
ecclesiastical matters. In 1950 there were four churches belonging to the Church
of Scotland, those being the Old and West Churches (both Barish Churches) the
Cargill (once the Free Church) and the Kincraig (the U.P. Church). At that time
the Cargill and the Kincraig Church were used separately although united under
one minister, but shortly after- wards the two congregations combined in what
was formerly the Cargill Church (which became known as the Cargill-Kincraig
Church) and the Kincraig Church was sold to a local builder who demolished it
and built private houses on the site. The combined congregations of the four
churches totalled around two thousand members. In addition to these there were
places of worship for the Episcopalians, Plymouth Brethren, Baptists and the
Salvation Army, while the Roman Catholics, with a member- ship of three hundred
had their own church at the foot of Coral Glen. A few townspeople who were
Christian Scientists and Spiritualists travelled to Ayr for their services and
it would appear religious observances occupied a fair share of public attention.
The Rev. Williamson, like his predecessors, remarked on the tremendous
indifference of the townspeople in their attendance at church services and it
would seem the Minniebolers have never pleased their ministers in this
About 1571 the parish churches of Maybole and Kirkbride (near Dunure) were
combined and the list of ministers since then who served the community makes
interesting reading and shows that Maybole had many brilliant men who made their
mark in church affairs, among them being two who were Moderators to the General
Assembly. The following list gives the names of the parish ministers since 1571.
1571 Alexander Davidson. (Reader at Kirkbride).
1572 Matthew Hamilton. (Reader at Kirkbride and Maybole).
1591 Hew Hamilton. (Reader).
1595 John McQuorn, M.A.
1599 David Barclay.
1608 James Bonar, M.A. (Moderator of General Assembly, 1644).
1655 John Hutchison.
1667 John Jaffray. (Episcopal Curate)
1673 William Abercrombie, M.A. (Episcopal Curate).
1688 John Hutchison. (Re-admitted).
1696 Alexander Fairweather.
1720 Robert Fisher.
1753 James McKnight, D.D. (Moderator of General Assembly)
1770 James Wright, D.D.
1823 John Paul, D.D.
1828 George Gray, D.D.
1840 Andrew Thomson.
1843 William Menzies, D.D.
1870 George Porter, D.D.
1902 David Swan,
B.D. (Assistant and successor until 1919).
George Anderson, M.A.
Education was still of prime importance to the townspeople in 1950, as it had
been for over two hundred years, and within the burgh there were (and still are)
three well equipped schools, the Carrick Academy, the Cairn School and the Roman
Catholic School, with two primary schools in the parish at Minishant and
Fisherton. The Carrick Academy is the main school where all children are
transferred after they have completed their primary training at the other
schools, and is a well built modern Academy with every facility for a complete
secondary training. Carrick Academy was one of the first schools in Ayrshire to
provide a mid-day meal for the pupils and its advanced outlook on scholastic
matters gives it a high ranking among the County Schools. The Cairn School is
entirely primary and although the buildings are much older they had been
completely modernised by 1950, and since then many improvements have been
carried out and the playground has been enlarged. St. Cuthbert's Roman Catholic
School is an elementary school and most of the pupils from St. Cuthbert's
normally go to St. Margaret's in Ayr to complete their schooling. .Evening
classes were held in all schools during the winter months and over 200 persons
attended each session to be taught needlework, cookery, woodwork, country
dancing, art, drama, etc. These classes still continue and are well
The Statistical Account points out that townspeople are well provided for in
opportunities of recreation and in the Memorial Park, formed after the 1914-18
war, there is, the nine hole golf course, four tennis courts and a bowling green
all for the use of the townspeople and visitors. In addition there is one of the
oldest private bowling greens in Scotland situated in Cassillis Road, formerly
solely a men's club but in recent year ladies have been admitted as members. In
the 1940s a junior football club was started and the old football ground, which
had been the pitch for the local team who played Glasgow Rangers in a Scottish
Cup tie just before the first World War, was reformed and became known as
Ladywell Stadium. Many of the towns- people were keen anglers and there was
always a great demand for membership in the local angling club which had the
right to fish part of the River Girvan.- There was also a strong Curling Club
whose members usually played in Ayr Ice Rink but who took every opportunity to
enjoy the game outdoors when there was keen frost, and the local curling pond at
the "Beggar's Rest" was a busy place at such times with curlers and
skaters of all ages enjoying their sport. With the exception of the Curling
Club, which is now defunct, these recreational facilities are still enjoyed by
the townsfolk and the golf club and bowling club are well patronised although
the tennis courts are not so popular with the young people as they were in the
Around 1950 there was a great upsurge of social life which was enjoyed by all
after the dreary years of the second World War and nearly every week whist
drives or dances were held in the Town Hall or one of the smaller halls in the
town. There were also many guilds, clubs and societies with good memberships and
in the winter months a full social life was enjoyed by most of the townsfolk.
About this time wireless enjoyed a great vogue and in 1949 one thousand one
hundred wireless licences were issued from the local Post Office while the two
picture houses in the town were usually well filled every week night and had
queues waiting to get in every Saturday night. With the advent of television the
picture houses became more or less redundant and now one has been taken over as
a warehouse and the other converted into a Binge Hall and there are no picture
houses in the town nowadays. In summer nearly every organisation had outings for
their members and trips were often made to Aberdeen, Blackpool, etc. and indeed
a favourite venue for a day trip was the Isle of Man.
The Rev. A. Williamsorr again stressed in his
article for the Statisical Account the fact that Maybole was an exceedingly
healthy place to live in and it is curious each writer made much of this point.
It would seem there was a stereotype way to write a Statistical Account but
probably this was because the instructions regarding it were given under certain
headings which have been more or less similar in each case. Finally the writer
ends his article by emphasising that Maybole is a friendly and couthy little
town with a distinct feeling of unity among the townsfolk and what better
description could be