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Places of Interest about Girvan
Hew Ainslie, Poet


WHEN you turn your Lack on Bargany House, and cross the Girvan water by the handsome old stone bridge there, you see, facing you on the right, a brae planted with evergreens and dotted with snowdrops. This brae gets the name of the " Butler's Brae," from the fact that in times gone by, the butlers of Bargany used to reside in a cottage which stood on the top of it. In this cottage, which was removed about 50 years ago, there were born two poets. The first was Hamilton Paul, born 10th April, 1773, and who seemed at one time likely tq divide the laurel crown with Thomas Campbell, author of the Pleasures of Hope. The two were friends and poetical rivals at Glasgow College, and kept up a correspondence for some years. But Paul's vein of poetry was thin, and soon ran out. In Carlyle's phrase, "he struck twelve at first"; and so, while Campbell went on to fame and fortune, Paul sank gradually to occasional verse-maker, assistant editor of the Ayr Advertiser^ and finally a commonplace minister of the Hugh Blair pattern, at Broughton, Peebles-shire.

But the second poet born at the Butler's Brae of Bargany, 19 years after, turned out to be of better stuff. He came into the world on 5th April, 1792. His name was Hew Ainslie, son of George Ainslie, butler in Bargany. There is only one person in the district now (an old man of 92) who remembers seeing him, but several have told me that their parents were well acquainted with him. The old forester at Bargany says that George Ainslie took charge of the place when the laird, Sir Hew D. Hamilton, was from home, and, on these occasions, he sometimes took contracts for making roads on the property. All that he can remember about the poet, however, is that his father and he were boys together.

Hew was a delicate youth, tall and slender, and humorously dubbed himself The Lang Linker in one of his after volumes. He was educated partly at home, partly at Ballantrae Parish School, and partly at Ayr Academy. Afterwards, he wrought as assistant-nurseryman on Bargany grounds. When he was seventeen, his father removed to Roslin, and Hew, through the good offices of Mr Thomas Thomson, another Dailly man, became a clerk in the Register Office, Edinburgh. From his skilful penmanship and general intelligence, he was employed as amanuensis to Professor Dugald Stewart. In 1820, along with two friends, he took a trip to his native Carrick, which he seems to have enjoyed greatly. An account of this trip he published two years after, under the title of A Pilgrimage to the Land of Burns, incorporating into it most of the songs he had written. In 1822, he emigrated to the United States of America, and tried farming, brewing, building, and even Owen's Social System at New Harmony; but he does not seem to have succeeded in any of them. After a short visit to his native land, he returned to America, and died at Louisville, nth March, 1878. He married his cousin, and had a numerous family, some of whom have attained wealth in the iron trade at Louisville. The Centenary of his birth was very becomingly celebrated by a large meeting held at Girvan, when a Lecture was given by the Librarian of the M'Kechnie Institute on his life and writings. A number of his songs were sung, and two friends from a distance, who had known the Poet personally, gave reminiscences of him, and exhibited a few relics.

It was Robert Chambers who first called attention to the merits of our Carrick Bard. The "Rover of Lochryan" was his favourite, as it is with most people; although, "It's dowie in the hint o' hairst" is quite as excellent in its own way. The leading traits that strike one about our poet are his perfect command of the national Doric, his cheery, pawky humour, his true and touching pathos, and his perfervid Ayrshire patriotism. He had in his day mingled in the polite society of Edinburgh, had crossed the Atlantic, and shared in the life of the new world; but his heart to the last, as we may see by his writings, was among the hills of Carrick and the woods of Bargany. I don't think he was of the highest type either of poet or man; he had, like Burns, a great deal of human nature about him, and lived by the way perhaps more than he ought to have done; but he had the art of making and keeping friends; and while he left no unworthy lines behind him, he has left some which, it is hoped, may minister to the solacement and cheer of his " brither Scots " for many years to come.

In illustration of this, much might be quoted, but I shall • content myself with two pieces. And first with what Professor Blackie calls the "Homeric Vividness" of the Rover (in plain language, the Smuggler) of Lochryan, which is the best Scottish sea song we have, and, in many of its turns of expression, fairly smells of Ballantrae steep stony beach, and the venturesome nabbies of its fishermen. {Music in National Choir, J. & R. Parlane, Paisley.)

The Rover o' Lochryan, he's gane
Wi' his merry men sae brave;
Their hearts are o' the steel, an' a better keel
Ne'er bowl'd on the back o' a wave.
Places of Interest about Girvan.
It's no when the loch lies deid in its trough,
When naething disturbs it ava,
But the rack an' the ride o' the restless tide,

Or the splash o' the grey sea-maw.
It's no when the yawl an' the licht skiffs crawl
Owre the breast o' the siller sea,
That I look to the west for the bark I lo'e best
And the Rover that's dear to me;
But when that the clud lays its cheek to the flood,
And the sea lays its shouther to the shore,
When the wind sings high, an' the sea-whaups cry
As they rise frae the whitening roar.

It's then that I look to the thickening rook
An: watch by the midnight tide;
I ken that the win' brings my Rover hame
Owre the sea that he glories to ride.
Oh, merry he sits 'mong his jovial crew
Wi' the helm-heft in his hand,
An' he sings aloud to his boys in blue
As his ee 's upon Galloway's land:

"Unstent and slack each reef an' tack,
Gi'e her sail, boys, while it may sit,
She has roar'd through a heavier sea afore,
An' she'll roar through a heavier yet.
While landsmen sleep, or wake an' creep,
In the tempest's angry moan,
We dash through the drift, an sing' to the lift
O' the wave that heaves us on."

It's dowie in the hint o' hairst,
At the wa'-gang o' the swallow,
When the wind grows cauld, and the bums grow bauld,
And the wuds are hinging yellow.
But oh! its dowier far to see
The wa'-gang o' ane the heart gangs wi',
The deid-set o' a shining ee,
That darkens the weary world on thee.

There was muckle love atween us twa —
Oh, twa could ne'er be fonder;
And the thing on yird was never made
That could hae gart us sunder.
But the way o' Heaven's aboon a' ken,
And we maun bear what it likes to sen'—
It's comfort, though, to weary men,
That the warst o' this warld's waes must en'.

There's mony things that come and gae,
Just kent, and just forgotten;
And the flowers that busk a bonnie brae
Gin' anither year lie rotten.
But the last look o' that lovely ee,
And the dying grip she gied to me —
They 're settled like Eternitie—
Oh, Mary! that I were wi' thee.

Oh gi'e me a sough o' the auld saut sea,
A scent o' his brine again,
To stiffen the wilt that this wilderness
Has brocht on this breist and brain.
Let me hear his roar on the rocky shore,
His thud on the shelly sand;
For my spirit's bow'd, an' my heart is dow'd
Wi' the gloom o' this forest land.

Your sweeping floods an' your waving wuds
Look brave in the suns o' June;
But the breath o' the swamp brews a sickly damp,
And there's death in the dark lagoon.
Oh gi'e me a jaup o' the dear auld saut,
A scent o' his brine again,
To stiffen the wilt that this wilderness
Has laid on my breist and brain.


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