Since I have written on the areas of Galloway,
land of the Galloway cow (among other things) and Angus, where the Angus
cow originated, I thought I would skip across Scotland and in keeping with
the cattle theme address the area of Ayrshire, a breed of cattle I have
personal knowledge of since I assisted with their care during summers on
my grandfathers farm in very rural Vermont. His herd was made up mostly
of Ayrshires since he said that they were 'easy keepers', survived well in
the outdoors in the hard Vermont winters, and gave a good quality milk.
They also got along very well in a herd with none of the aggressive nature
of some other breeds. We even had a couple favorite ones that one or two
of us would ride bareback to and from the pastures in the middle of about
50 other cows (Don't try this one at home, kids). Though the Ayshires (we
pronounced them "ash-sures", but then we also pronounced car as 'cah') I
knew as a child were all black and white, I understand that they also are
found in hues of brown and white.
Ayrshire, an area of low hills and farmland, is on the western coast of
Scotland, southwest of Glasgow. Its western border is the Firth of Clyde
and it looks out on the island of Arran (where tradition tells the story
of Robert the Bruce and the spider in the cave) and the tip of Kintyre.
Many of you will recognize Ayrshire as Robert Burns (born in Ayr which is
celebrating its 800th anniversary this year) country, though there are
other equally famous names associated with the area, such as Robert the
Bruce (who was the Earl of Carrick which later became South Ayrshire), who
held his first Parliament as King of Scotland in 1315 at St. John's Tower,
and William Wallace, who was born in Ellerslie. There is also a belief
that Robert the Bruce was born in Turnberry Castle here. Other well-known
people born in Ayrshire were John Dunlop, inventor of the inflatable tire,
Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of Penicillin, and John McAdam (Macadam
roads). This was the land of the Stewarts, Cunninghams, Hamiltons,
Kennedys, and Boyds to name a few. This area has its own tartan, which
was designed by American, Philip Smith, PhD in 1988. (District Tartans by
Gordon Teall of Teallach, and Philip D. Smith, Jr.). In modern times
Ayshire has become a site for the British Open Golf Champioship.
Relative to the rest of the Lowlands Ayrshire's history appears much less
tumultuous, known more for its scenery and home to Scotland's bard, than
for battles. It was and apparently still is a fairly quiet seaside
agricultural area. However there were and are still several castle and
fortifications in the area. One of the best-known castles in this area is
the much visited Culzean Castle sitting at the edge of a cliff in Maypole
with a view of the island of Ailsa Craig in southern Ayshire. This was
the former home of the Kennedys. The chief of the Clan Kennedy still holds
the title Marquess of Ailsa. In the 1940's the top floor of the castle
was 'given' to Dwight Eisenhower in appreciation of his leadership in the
War. Eisenhower did visit Culzean Castle and stayed in his suite many
times during his lifetime.
With not quite the magnificence of Culzean Castle, but equally as well
known in southern Ayrshire is the home of Robert Burns' buddy, souter
(shoemaker) Johnnie, whose name he mentioned in his poem Tam 'O Shanter.