WHEN the traveller turns the point of the road where Ardmillan Cove and
the Hole in the Rock are situated, he sees before him the beautiful Bay
of Lendal, with Carleton Hill towering above it The ruined Tower to the
left is where "fause Sir John" lived who drowned his wives, and was
afterwards drowned himself. Right beyond where the boat is sailing stands
Gamesloup, where the tragedy took place. Behind the rocks in front is
the tombstone of the drowned fishermen and the villages of Lendal and
Carleton, while the road winds all the way close by the sea till it turns
the corner at Bennan, and the Bay of Ballantrae lies stretched out before
In Samuel Rutherford's days, the laird of
Carleton was a notable 'student of the Spiritual life, and several of
Rutherford's Letters are addressed to him. Wodrow, the Church historian,
testifies that this laird was particularly skilful in deciding cases of
conscience, which seem to have been more common among our earnest living
forefathers than with us. But all the lairds of Carleton were not of this
stamp. For down from a remote antiquity has come floating to us one of the
wildest legends told by the firesides of Scotland. It appears that one of
the former dwellers in this stronghold was a very bad man—a sort of " Blue
Beard " in his way— whose practice was to marry fair ladies for their money,
and then drown them. The place where he drowned them may still be seen by
the curious. It is a lofty precipitous crag, called Gamesloup) about two
miles farther along the shore. As was the case, however, in the old story of
our boyhood, so did it prove with the " fause Sir John." He was beaten at
his own game. A .young lady, called May Collean in the ballad, who was
destined by him to go the way of ail who had gone before her, cleverly
escaped his toils, and substituted himself in her stead.
Fause Sir John
To a maid of beauty rare;
May Collean was this lady's name,
Her father's only heir.
He's courted her
but, and he's courted her ben,
And courted her into, the ha',
Until he got the maid's consent
To mount and ride awa'.
She's gane down to
her father's stable,
Where a' the steeds did stand,
And she has taken the best steed
That was in her father's land.
He's got on, and
she's got on,
And fast as they could flee,
Until they come to a lonesome part—
A rock abune the sea.
"Light down, light
down," says fause Sir John,
"Your bridal bed you see;
Here have I drowned seven ladies fair,
The eighth one you shall be.
"Cast off, cast
off your jewels fine,
Cast off your silken gown,
They are owre fine and owre costly
To rot in the salt sea foam."
"O turn ye then
about, Sir John,
And look to the leaf o' the tree,
For it never became a gentleman
A naked woman to see."
He turned himself
straight round about
To look to the leaf o' the tree;
She has twined her arms around his waist,
And thrown him into the sea.
"Now lie you
there, thou fause Sir John,
Where ye thought to lay me;
Although ye'd hae stripped me to the skin,
Your claes ye hae gotten wi' ihee."
"O help, O help
now, May Collean,
O help, or else I drown;
I'll tak' you hame to your father's gates,
And safely set ye down."
"Nae help, nae
help, thou fause Sir John,
Nae help nor pity to thee;
Ye lie not in a caulder bed
Than the ane ye meant for me."
So she went on her
As fast as she could gae,
And she cam' hame to her father's house
Before it was break of day.
Off these shores there are several rowes or
points which are somewhat dangerous to navigation. The two off Lendal are
called the Lendal rowes; while there is another, about 4½ miles from Girvan,
which was long called Langridge Point, owing to a Revenue Cutter of that
name being wrecked on it. One of her carronades was brought to Girvan, and
still, I believe, forms the only piece of ordnance available for the defence
of that important burgh.
A little past Gamesloup, about 9 miles from
Girvan, there is a large cave leading off the sea-shore, called Barcrochan
Cove. The access to it is rather difficult, but with a little trouble and a
lighted newspaper or two to make the darkness visible, the sight is worth
seeing. But the finest cave of the whole is Bennan Covey which has long been
used by gypsies for camping in. Bennan Head, which the cave pierces,
receives Sir Roderick Murchison's unstinted praise. It is, he says, "a lofty
lichen-covered vertical cliff of serpentine and greenstone, which forms as
pictorial a scene of igneous rock as any in Scotland." The drawing on the
opposite page will give the reader an idea of its appearance. The entrance
to the cave is below, while the road is seen winding up the seaward ascent,
leaving the beach strewn with fragments of greenstone, which take on a
beautiful polish. When Bennan Head is reached, Ballantrae is in sight, with
Ailsa, Arran, Cantire, Rathlin, and the hills of Antrim to the right, while
the low point of Corsewall, the mouth of Loch Ryan, the green Dounan, and
the conical Carlock, fill up the rest of the horizon.