Adam's Ale
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Maybole, 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 themselves.
Table of Contents

Chapter 14


FROM earliest times great importance was placed on the plentiful supply of good wholesome water from the town wells and all writers specially mentioned that Maybole had a great number of springs and wells which provided the inhabitants with Adam's Ale. Before piped water was commonplace in all communities the existence of good springs was of paramount importance and the Minniebolers were fortunate indeed that throughout the town there were numerous wells where water could be drawn within easy carrying distance of each home. Indeed the abundance of springs must have been one of the main reasons why the earliest inhabitants decided to settle here and for over seven hundred years Minniebolers thrived exceedingly well on the stoups of water they carried to their houses or which were brought to the doors by the town's water carriers, the most famous of whom was "Johnnie Stuffie" who is still remembered for his eccentricities to this day.

One of the main wells was My Lord's Well at the foot of the High Street and it was originally situated within the courtyard of Maybole Castle. An overflow from it ran down the hill (now St. Cuthbert's Road) and the townspeople drew water from the overflow at Market Square before the old buildings at the Castle were removed. When these alterations were made the townspeople had full access to what had formerly been the private well of the Castle and a pump (costing £18) was erected over it, about 1806, to save the labour of hauling up buckets by hand. This old pump was in existence up to 1862 when a new and ornate metal pump, with a gas lamp on top, was fitted and this stood as a local landmark, known to all as "The Pump", until it was removed in the 1930s. When the use of My Lord's Well was common to all, the part of the overflow which had been used by the townspeople was allowed to become derelict but in 1869 when St. Cuthbert's Road was formed the overflow was cleaned out and piped to a trough with an arch over it and this well became known as St. Cuthbert's Well to distinguish it from My Lord's Well further up the hill, which by that time had become known as "The Pump". St. Cuthbert's Well was in use up until the 1930s and proved invaluable at the time the town's reservoir went dry in 1933, and the people had to draw water once again from many of the old town's wells, but finally it was diverted into the town's sewers and the archway built up. Both My Lord's Well and St. Cuthbert's Well were supplied from springs in Kirklandhill Path which originally ran down an open watercourse, being piped at a later date through the lands of the Free Church, the Castle Garden, down St. Cuthbert's Road to Pat's Corner and thence to Tunnoch Burn.

Another well-known well is still in existence in the garden of Welipark in Culzean Road and this well was an overflow from the Green Well which was in the centre of the Ballgreen. This Green Well was still in use in the latter part of last century and served many of the old houses in Ladyland Road which did not have piped water near at hand, but in 1881 it was built in, and an ornamental granite fountain raised over it. At Gardenrose House (The Bumbee) and in "May Youngs" field there were other draw wells but these have been built in for many years and their water diverted into drains. The Parish Church in Cassillis Road was unfortunately built over the site of the springs which supplied the east end of the town at "Townhead" and these caused endless trouble to the Heritors who were constantly called on to repair damage to the church caused by the rotting of floor timbers, etc., through dampness. There were other springs in "McGeachies Field" where the Roman Catholic School now stands, in the playground of Cairn School and behind the old inn now known as the "Grey Man" and also in the grounds of the old manse (now Swan Court) and the east end of Maybole had an over-abundance of springs which, before they were diverted into drains and built up, sometimes proved troublesome, especially after wet weather.

The west end of the burgh was also amply supplied with springs and the best known was the Welltrees Spout. This, in the old days, was the source of water for the prebend's house at Welltrees, the "Maison Dieu", and other properties built around it and great importance was placed on it being kept clean. In 1807 the council bought a piece of ground around it from John McClure for £4 is 8d. so that better access could be formed to it. Later in the nineteenth century a public subscription was raised to build an ornamental wall around it with the words "Ye neir ken the worth o' water till the well gangs dry" inscribed on it to remind the townsfolk to take care of their water supply. This well was calculated to give 10,000 gallons of water per hour and was known and affectionately cherished by all the locals. Unfortunately when new houses were built near it in 1968 the local council found it necessary to build up the well and removed the coping with the inscription which had been known to generations of townspeople. The name of the well was derived from a grove of ash trees which stood around it from time immemorial. The last of these trees was cut down in May, 1939, as it was thought to be in a dangerous condition (although when it was felled it was found to be perfectly sound in heart and would have stood for many years) and a forestry expert calculated the tree was well over 200 years old.

In Coral Glen there was another spring, much smaller in its volume of water and which at times was really only a trickle, but known to all Minniebolers as the "Wee Spout in the Glen", or "Cockydrighty", and nearly all young lads have slaked their thirst at its "stroup" at one time or other. Public subscription in the latter part of last century again met the cost of erecting a wall round it with the inscription "Ye may gang farther and fare waur" and no true Minnieboler ever forgets the advice he was given in his youth when he learned by heart the inscriptions over "The Welltrees" and the "Wee Spout".

A famous well in old days was at the foot of "The Bog Brae" and was known as "My Lady's Well" giving the name to the factory which was built beside it and which became locally famed as "The Ladywell' or "The Bog". It was given its name because it was on lands belonging to the "Auld College" and it also gave an ample supply of water in its day. These were the main wells of Maybole in days gone past but there were many others throughout the town. Traces of some are still to be found but most have been filled in and forgotten. There were many in the yards of the houses in High Street, the best known being behind the shop now occupied by McKay, Butchers, and the shop recently used as a showroom by the South of Scotland Electricity Board at the top of High Street. This well served a public house which once stood there and also the shop at the corner of School Vennal occupied by a grocer locally known as "Hungry Archie". These wells although now disused and supposedly filled in, must still gather water from time to time as often the conduits and manholes for telephones, etc., in High Street are flooded and it would seem the flood water must seep in from the old wells.

Although not within the burgh there are some wells in the district which were well-known to the townspeople who believed their waters had curative powers and who regularly drew water from them if they or their children were sickly.

One was at Ballochmount, a little beyond Slateford Village on Laigh Grange Farm and was known as St. Helen's Well.. It was believed to cure ailing children if they drunk its water on Mayday and on this day yearly many mothers used to walk from Maybole to get a jug of water from it if they thought their springs weren't thriving as they should. Another medicinal well was on Pennyglen Farm and it was believed sick cattle would be cured if they drank from it and this belief was strongly held by local farmers up until the middle of last century but now both wells are derelict and forgotten and mothers and farmers rely on powders and potions instead of the health giving waters of the wells. Actually the old beliefs were not so fanciful as analysis has shown that both wells have water impregnated with various health giving minerals. Ladycross Well at the foot of the Stey Leas was another which was a favourite spot for townsfolk to rest and slake their thirst on a warm Sunday afternoon when walking round the Cross Roads.

At Tippersweil on the road to Cultizeoun Farm there was another spring, often mentioned in local lore, which stood beside the old road which ran from Whitefaulds Farm to the old road at Abbey Mill and then on to Kirkoswald. It was near a thorn tree on Baltersan Farm where Peden once preached in Covenanting times and which was known as Peden's Thorn, and many a thirsty traveller welcomed the coolness of its water on warm summer days when they stopped to freshen themselves and wash their face and hands before entering the town. A cottage, now gone, used to stand near to it and round by Tippersweil, Cultizeoun and back by Mochrum and the Shore Road was a favourite walk for courting couples for generations. Like the cottage, the well and thorn tree are now gone but the spot is still known to all locals although few now associate it with Peden and the Covenanters but remember it as the birthplace of the "Eastern Princess".

All these wells were of such major importance to the townspeople in days gone by that each year the Magistrates specially appointed committees to inspect and report on them from time to time. They had to ensure that no person presumed to "wash any foul clothes, fishes or entrails of beasts" in them under a penalty of twenty-two shillings Scots, a very considerable sum in those days when a weaver's wage was about 7/- weekly. The people appear to have recognised the necessity of keeping the water supplies pure as there is no reference to any of the inhabitants ever incurring a fine and they were ever ready to subscribe to collections raised for the purpose of building walls, etc., round the wells.

The abundance of water was of course of great importance to the weaving and shoe trades, the weavers needing it to wash their wool (although this was mostly done at the Cairders Burn) and the shoemakers for their tanneries. It was of importance also to the two lemonade works which once were situated in the lower part of the burgh where artesian wells gave a great supply of excellent water.

As time passed the townspeople naturally tired of carrying "gangs" of water in "stoups" when they saw other communities well served with piped water to their doors and even into their houses and they looked around for a source to give them a plentiful supply. Last century a reservoir was first formed at Glenside Farm and then another at Lochspouts Farm (the combined cost being in the region of £11,000) and the Minniebolers not only had gas to cook with but taps that filled their pots, without the heavy task of carrying spring water and the town became really modern and could hold its head up among other burghs. Some progressive citizens immediately installed piped water in their houses, and pumps were placed at strategic points throughout the town to supply houses where the people did not do so, but many of the older inhabitants still persisted for many years to draw water from the Welltrees, the Spout and St. Cuthbert's. As one old worthy was heard to remark, "Lochspouts is a' richt for washing claes, but gie me the Weiltrees when I'm drouthy". Through time, however, the old prejudices died and every house in the town came to have its piped supply and the days of the famous old Maybole wells passed away. In October, 1933, the reservoir at Lochspouts dried up and once again the townsfolk had to draw water from the wells and boys went round the town selling water at fourpence per pail.

As the town spread up the hill it was found there was not supcient pressure not enough water in Lochspouts to give adequate supplies to the houses above the railway line and in the 1940s the town council arranged to connect the upper part of the burgh to the Ayr County Council water main which passed above the town from a break pressure tank on Brockloch Farm. The burgh was responsible for the maintenance of its own water works until 1968 when all the water districts in Ayrshire were combined with the Ayr and Bute District Water Board and now the responsibility of providing Adam's Ale to townsfolk rests with this body.

It is interesting to note how Maybole developed in layers, one on top of the other, entirely due to the sources of the water supplies. The oldest part is at the bottom of the hill where in early days there was a plentiful supply gathered from the springs and burns running down from the higher ground. Later as springs were opened and cleared higher up the hill the town grew round the High Street. When water under pressure was introduced development started along Barns Road, Culzean Road and Greenside and finally the plentiful County supply permitted building up Gardenrose Path, etc., and the town's largest single housing scheme has commenced at Gardenrose Farm, where only twenty years ago water had to be pumped up to the farmhouse by a windmill.

The introduction of piped water naturally led to changes in sanitation and soon the privies, which were formerly installed at the bottom of the house gardens, became obsolete and w.c.'s became commonplace, although many of the present townspeople were well reared without them. This necessitated the installation of drains and a sewage disposal works and the town's first sewage works were built on the lands of Ballony Farm in 1905. These were adequate for a long time but as more houses were built and older houses were fitted with bathrooms the need for larger sewage works became of paramount importance and gave much worry and many headaches to the local councillors for many years until finally a site was found near Littleton Farm, a loan was raised to meet the cost (around £85,000) and a new sewage farm was formed in 1957. When built it was thought it would be sufficient for the town’s needs for many years but recently with the growth of housing schemes and the introduction of new factories in the town, there are many who doubt if the sewage works are yet large enough and it may be that very soon they will require to be enlarged.

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