Meibothelbeg and Bethoc
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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 2


IT is not until the 12th century that the first written reference can be found regarding Maybole as the district around the town which we know today. In the year 1193 Duncan, (son of Gilbert and grandson of Fergus) granted a charter to the Monks of Melrose of the "lands of Meibothelbeg and Bethoc in Carric" for the building of a church, and this is the first time mention is made of the original name which gradually throughout the centuries changed through various spellings to "Maybole" as it is today.

The original charter was written in Latin, and very carefully detailed the boundaries of the area and with a little study and local knowledge these boundaries are traceable to this day. The first place mentioned is "Crubder" or "Crumder" which is near the site of the old rifle range on the Howmuir on Trees Farm. A stream ran from there and marked the boundary to "Culelung-ford", which was near where Garryhorn Farm now stands, then followed a stream called "Poltiber" or "Polnetiber", (flow known as Culroy Burn), to the River Doon at Auchendrane near Minishant. The boundary then followed the River Doon up stream to a burn called in the Charter the "Polnegarrah", (now Chapelton Burn) then followed the "Polnegarrah" up to "the little moss" between what is now Laigh Smithston and Laigh Grange. The next traceable point in the description is "Duvah" between "Meibothelbeg" and "Meibothelmore" and it is thought this was where Slateford village was sited in later years. The boundary then continued to "Brocklaue" (now Brockloch) and by a wooded glen to the first point mentioned at "Crubder". All the area within the boundaries detailed in the old Charter was described as the lands of "Meibothelbeg".

The Charter, after detailing the lands of "Meibothelbeg", then continues with a description of the lands of "Bethoc" and once again the boundaries are easily followed by a native Minnieboler. The first point named is "Lemenelung" which is now locally called the "Spout of Lumling" on the Howmuir and is a well known spot in the district. From there the boundary followed east to "Tunregaith" on the "Polsalacharic" which is the Sauchrie Burn and follows this to the "Polnetiber" (Culroy Burn) linking up with the first area described and completing the area of "Meibothelbeg and Bethoc" gifted by Duncan to the Monks of Melrose.

The area comprised a large portion of what is now the Parish of Maybole but did not actually include the site of the present township. It is probable however that there was a clachan or small "toun" on the hillside facing south and sheltered from the north winds as it would seem to be the natural place for people to settle, having a plentiful supply of water from the many local springs and wells. Probably the site of the township was noted by the far seeing Duncan as a place of potential growth and, while he wished to make a gift to the Church, he was practical enough to give a large tract of what was then not of such value as the pleasant site of the present town and its immediate surroundings.

Meibothelbeg was the name first given to the district and as the small village grew, and became the most populous part, it would naturally assume the name. From then onwards the spelling was varied in many charters and records and was given as "Meybothel" (dropping the "beg" or "little part"), "Maybotel", "Minnyboil", "Minniebole", "Maiboil" and finally "Maybole".

Owing no doubt to such a diversity of spelling etymologists have given many derivations of the meaning of the name and even the ingenious George Chalmers seems to have been puzzled and tries to account for it by stating that "Maybottle" is from the Anglo-Saxon and means "the dwelling place of the Kinsman Maybole or cousin". Three factors however seem to discountenance having two Chalmers' derivation, the first being that at no time has the spelling of Maybottle ever been used in records except in the community original charter; secondly the Celtic language was used in Carrick with until a comparatively late date (some say as late as the sixteenth and seventeenth century) and the local people would not be likely to use Anglo-Saxon words for place names as it was then a foreign language, and thirdly there must have been many houses of kinsmen or Commemoul cousins in the area and there seems no special reason why one in Maybole should be singular in any respect. The one and only time the spelling of "Maybottle" was used can be accounted for by the fact that the Monks of Melrose themselves wrote the original charter and were better acquainted with names in the south of Scotland where Anglo-Saxon was used at an early period and they probably spelled the name according to their own ideas of its meaning.

Another rather fanciful description of the name gives it as meaning "a little fold for milk cows, sometimes on the hill and sometimes on the plain". This comes from the Gaelic "Maigh" or "Mai", a plain, and "Buile" a fold for milk cows. While possibly correct it does not somehow fit or seem probable, as the "plain" below the town was, in early days, a large marsh running from what is now Allan's Hill down the valley past Myremill (the mill on the marsh) to the River Doon and it would be impossible to fold or graze cows on what was a large bog subject to continual flooding.

As Carrick was inhabited by Celtic speaking people it seems natural that the correct and most acceptable derivation should come from that language. If, however, the most common old spelling of "Minniebole" is taken it is easy to trace from it "Minnie" or "Minnyz", a moss or miry place, and "Botil', a dwelling place, giving a complete picture of Maybole as it was some centuries ago- "the town, or dwelling place, above the mire". Looking to the situation of the town on the sloping hillside above the flat ground below it, which was a large marsh until it was drained, (and is still referred to as "The Bog") this is the most acceptable and probably correct meaning of the name and is supported by the age old rhyme-

 "Minniebole's a dirty Hole;
It site abune a mire",

which the youngsters of the town have chanted for generations but few of whom nowadays add the last couplet-

"But to me and hundreds like me,
It's the finest in the Shire."

It has also been said that the name means "the heath ground upon the marsh" and once again this gives an exact description, as the hillside on which the town is now built would probably be covered with heath or heather in early days. The difference between these last two derivations is so slight it can surely be accepted that the true meaning of the name is to be found in one of them. For many generations arguments have been put forward to support the various derivations given and many ingenious explanations only add to the trueness of the saying that "the manner in which etymologies have been sought from a distance, while they may be found at the very door is a satire on the researches of philological antiquaries".

Whatever the derivation may be, Maybole has meant "Home" to thousands of townspeople throughout the centuries and no "Minnieboler" ever forgets it, no matter how far he may stray, and it is not surprising so many come back to settle down in the old town to spend the last of their days at "Parliamentary Dyke" or the "Castle Corner" or to take a "daun'er" round the "Cross Roads" or the "Whinny Knowes".

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