the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago
South west of Fenwick,
west of Kilmarnock. The town of Kilmaurs stands on Carmel Water
(called here Kilmaurs Water), two miles north of Kilmarnock. It
is a place of historic antiquity; was made a burgh of barony in 1527,
by James V.;
has a Town Hall, with ornamental spire; a post office, with money order
and savings bank departments; two public schools; Established, Free, and
United Presbyterian Churches; a few shops, a shoe factory, a smithy, a
railway station, and grain mills. Population in 1871, 1145; in 1881,
feature of Kilmaurs in its early days was the manufacture of cutlery.
Having regard to this, an anecdote has come down to us from a time when
the ministers of Ayrshire, more than of any other part of Scotland, were
at one with the people in stoutly resisting the encroachments of
Anglo-Roman Episcopacy, and not only that, but-not much like the
ministers of our day-were at one with the people in resisting also the
encroachments of the English dialect. On a certain Sabbath, one of those
young would-he-English clergymen, whose "English style and gesture
fine were a’ clean out o’ season,"
was permitted to preach the forenoon sermon in the Parish Church, On the
afternoon the pulpit was occupied by the honest-hearted parish minister,
who thus began his discourse:-
freens, we ha’e had great routh
o’ fine English ware amang us the day! but aiblins my Kilmaurs whittle
will cut as keen as ony English blade."
A ruined castle close by
was the residence of the noble family of Cunningham.
Alexander Cunningham, first Earl of
Glencairn, was created Baron
Kilmaurs in 1450, and
afterwards Earl of Glencairn,
by James III.
He was killed fighting against the English at Sauchieburn, June 11,
1488. James, fourteenth Earl,
patron of Burns,
was born 1749. He introduced the subject of Burns at a meeting of
the gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt in the winter of 1786,
and made a motion, which was carried unanimously, that each gentleman
subscribe for one copy of Burns’
Poems and pay a guinea for it. The
publisher’s price was only six shillings. To this bold and generous
movement of the noble Earl, which was joined by most of the nobility and
gentry of Scotland, was mainly due the extraordinary success of the
Edinburgh edition, which brought to the empty pockets of the starved
national poet the sum of £500. It was during the same year that the Earl
sold his estate of Kilmaurs. The gratitude of Burns to his intelligent,
sympathetic friend was fairly beyond bounds. Writing to Dr.
Moor, he says:-" A kind
Providence placed me under one of the noblest of men, the Earl
of Glencairn. Oublie moi, grand Dieu,
si jamais je l’oublie."
And in the concluding stanza of his "Lament for James, Earl of
Glencairn," we have the most beautiful and loving tribute ever paid
to the memory of a man:-
" The brideqroom
may forget the bride Was made his wedded wife yestreen ;
The monarch nay
forget the crown That on his head an hour has been ;
The mother may forget
the child That smiles sae sweetly on her knee ;
But I’ll remember
thee, Glencairn, And a’ that thou hast done for me."
Died, January 30, 1791,
aged 42. He was succeeded by his brother John,
fifteenth Earl, who survived him
only five years; and, dying without issue, the title became dormant.
village two miles south-by-west of Kilmaurs, has a railway station, an
Established Church, a public school, and agricultural implement works.
Population, 740. Its antiquity is the ruin of Crosby Castle.
ELLERSLIE and FARDELHILL
are neighbouring villages, with a joint population of 450. Tour, Thornton,
Craig, Carmelbank, and Towerhill are seats.
Gentle heights, adorned
with tufts of plantation, vary the level aspect of the country here. The
land is finely cultivated. Coals are extensively worked. Length of the
parish, south-west, six miles; greatest breadth, nearly three miles. Area,
5900 acres. Population in 1871, 3449; in 1881, 3704.