Johnnie Stuffie
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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 20


"A queer wee man, wi' simple air"

THE opening line of the poem by the Rev. Roderick Lawson gives an apt description of "Johnnie Stuffie" one of the best known "characters" in the long history of Maybole which, throughout the centuries, has produced many noteworth and loveable personalities.

John McLymont was born in Maybole in 1763 and lived for most of his 84 years in the town. He was a very small man with a large head and, unfortunately, was of simple intellect or "had a want" as the local expression has it for those who do not altogether measure up to modern I.Q. standards. Like all simple people he had a knack of being embarrassingly honest in his outlook, often much to the discomfort of his more able fellow townsmen who tried to make fun of him, but who, more often than not, found the tables turned against them.

He was eccentric in his dress, invariably wearing a high crowned top hat and a tail coat which was far too large for him and the tails of which usually trailed on the ground. He had a great love for clothes and local people gave him their cast-offs, which he hoarded carefully and in time he accumulated dozens of coats and hats of every style and size. As he was a great snuff addict his clothes were badly stained with it and he always carried a large coloured handkerchief with which he would loudly blow his nose and wave about like a banner when in a heated argument with his tormentors

He never learned a trade and throughout his whole life he ran errands and carried water from the various wells in the town for the housewives who paid him an odd copper for this service. He never used the ordinary shoulder yoke to carry his two wooden pails but devised a sort of oval wooden hoop which he laced through the handles of his "luggies" and which encircled him like the bumpers of the small electric cars seen in present day fairgrounds.

From his youth he was known as "Johnnie Stuffie" because he was a great glutton and was always "stuffing" himself. He became so used to his nickname that he invariably answered to it and on many occasions did not realise he was being spoken to if addressed as Johnnie McLymont. After the death of his mother he lived by himself and would let no one into his house to tidy it up or interfere with his hoard of coats and hats. He used to say "Women are a' richt in their place but my place is no' for them." For years he lived in a house in Whitehall which stood on the site where the Carrick Hotel now stands, latterly moving to a small house behind what is now known as Greenhead and finally to a house in Buchanan Street, or Inches Close as it was commonly named. About 1846 he was no longer able to stay by himself and a kindly relative took him to his home in Crosshill and looked after him until he died the following year. On his death a kindly Minnieboler met the cost of his funeral and he was buried in the old cemetery at the foot of the Kirkwynd where his gravestone still stands near the entrance gate with the inscription: "Here rests until the Resurrection, John McLymont, the Maybole Natural, who died 18th May, 1847. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones."

Many tales of Johnnie have been handed down over the years since he was a kenspeckle figure on the High Street with his lum hat and luggies. He was always the butt of the younger people, as his queer style of dress and odd physical appearance, together with the fact that he was simple minded, gave great scope for the youngsters to play tricks on him. Even their elders sometimes tried to belittle him but in their case Johnnie invariably came out best with his honest and simple approach to all problems.

One day he stopped the Rev. Dr. Paul, the Parish Minister, and put to him a problem which had been bothering Johnnie for some time. He wanted the Minister to tell him whether or not certain situations called for a lie to be told and on being answered that lies should never be told he asked: "Whether is it better to tell a lee and keep the peace or tell the truth and kick up a Hell o' a row." Such a problem has puzzled many wiser men than Johnnie and no doubt the simple wee man would go blythely and happily through life telling a lie or the truth according as to what he thought was the better thing to do.

He was always a willing and eager messenger and water carrier but would hardly have fitted into modern life where so much is governed by the clock. He was asked one Saturday night to bring a pail of water to a certain householder and replied: "Man, I'm unco' busy the nicht, but if you pit it ower tae Monday I'll make sure ye get it then." Sunday being a day of rest Johnnie never ran errands or carried water but religiously attended church where he sat on the top step of the pulpit stair next the Minister from where he could watch the congregation and loudly report to the preacher if any of the flock appeared to nod off to sleep during the lengthy, and often dreary, sermons. One of the elders in the church was reproached one day by Johnnie for never visiting him and the elder excused himself by pointing out he was not in his "district" for visitations. The excuse was not acceptable to poor Johnnie, however, who wanted to know if there were "special districts in Heaven."

He was a great glutton and ate enormous quantities of food when any kindly person offered him a meal after he had run an errand or carried water for them. If he was given a bowl of soup and a scone he always contrived that one outlasted the other and would need another scone to finish the soup or a drop more soup to go with the bit of scone that was left. Once he rather overplayed his hand when he was attending communion in a local church and had been asked to have a meal in the minister's kitchen after the service. During the meal he had managed to hide some extra food in what he thought was his top hat so that he could take it home with him. Unfortunately when the meal was over and everyone ready to make home it was discovered Johnnie had filled the beadle's hat instead of his own and the outcome was that poor Johnnie was forbidden ever to enter the manse again.

He was well aware of his shortcomings and once when a young girl jeered at him and asked if he knew he was a fool he replied: "Aye, but I'm a fool of God's making and your one of your aim making." On the whole he was kindly treated by the townsfolk who believed in looking after their own "naturals" rather than shutting them up in institutions and someone would always see that he never wanted for food or clothing. He was a bit of a miser and saved every odd penny he could put aside, banking it with Mr. Niven in the Royal Bank of Scotland. On being asked one day how much money he had he replied: "Naebody kens but God Almighty and Mr. Niven."

The Rev. R. Lawson wrote the following poem about him which immortalises one of the town's best loved worthies and it gives a word picture which will never be bettered.

A queer wee man, wi' simple air, Was Johnnie Stuffie,
Well kenn'd alike by rich and puir Was Johnnie Stuffie,
The water-carrier o' the toon, The Messenger to a' aroun', And the butt o' every idle loon
Was Johnnie Stuffie.

Nae common bonnet croon'd the heid O' Johnnie Stuffie,
But auld lum-hat was there instead On Johnnie Stuffie;
A lang great-coat, ance thocht genteel, Ay wrapped him roun' frae neck to heel, Which only did the feet reveal
O' Johnnie Stuffie.

On Sabbath days, first in the kirk Was Johnnie Stuffie,
Wi' well brushed hat and well washed sark Cam' Johnnie Stuffie;
But no amang the rest sat he, But on the pulpit steps sae hie, The congregation a' could see
Bauld Johnnie Stuffie.

But a' folks dee, and 'mang the lave Maun Johnnie Stuffie,
He rests non in his quiet grave; Wee Johnnie Stuffie,
Nae mair he'll stand the idle jeer, Nor answer gie baith quaint and queer:
Though girr and water-stoups are here Whaur's Johnnie Stuffie?

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