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Places of Interest about Girvan
Some Carrick Originals


JAMIE BAIRD was one of our Girvan Naturals in my boyhood's days, and was wont to accost the postman with—"Hae ye ony letters for my faither the day?"—"No, Jamie."—"Will ye hae ony the morn—a question which rather puzzled the man of letters. Jamie Scott was another of the weakminded brotherhood. On one occasion, he was summoned before a Commissioner on lunacy, who was accompanied by Mr Matthew Scott, our Inspector of Poor, and a staunch teetotaller. The Commissioner offered Jamie a dram, having heard he was fond of it, but Jamie, suspecting a trap, sidled out, saying—"Na, I 'm no for ony; but giet to Matthew there, he's the boy can nip it,"

Jock Aird, who died Dec, 1891, was the last of our Public Naturals. He was bora, as he died, in the parish of Kirkmichael, but his wandering habits brought him under the notice of all the mischievous boys in Carrick. His portrait is given at the head of this paper. He used to be sorely tormented by the evil disposed, but was accounted a privileged person by all else. His appearance was unique, and his behaviour was in keeping with his appearance. Small in stature, shabby in dress, but always wearing an aii of refined conceit which proved an irresistible temptation to the boys, Jock's appearance in the town was the invariable signal for a crowd. "Chin," "Craw," "Nosey," were the opprobrious names with which he was hailed, and which soon raised Jock to the boiling point. He would stop, threaten, flourish his stick, run after one or two of the more conspicuous, appeal to the passers-by to be relieved of his tormentors—but all to no purpose. He got no peace till he left the town again.

I remember once assisting at a concert in Dalrymple Parish School to aid in providing Jock with a suit of clothes. Jock's part in the programme was a tune on a board which he called a fiddle, with a stick for a bow, and which he went through with all the gravity imaginable, wiping the sweat off his brow afterwards in the most approved fiddler fashion. Jock's dress was peculiar. For one thing, there was always a dress hat, not only for gentility, but also for convenience in stowing, away the bread and cheese he received on his travels. When very excited, however, Jock would take off his hat and kick it, regardless of its contents. His coat, again, was usually a policeman's old one, although it was not allowable to call Jock's attention to this, as he counted that an insult

One of Jock's unfailing characteristics was his sense of politeness. Even in the heat of passion, if any one went up to him, and offered to shake hands, the courtesy at once disarmed him, and Jock was profuse in his bows and acknowledgments. On my last visit to him, the first thing he did, after saluting me, was to go up to a man who was sitting with his cap on, and remove it, pointing significantly to me as his reason for doing so.

Jock also prided himself on his wit, although this usually consisted merely of certain plays on words. "Is your watch gaun the day, Jock?" Hoo can it be gaun when I'm carryin' it? Ha, ha. I 'm in ye noo." On one occasion, the minister of Coylton having said that "it was twenty minutes to three o'clock," Jock pulled out his old watch-dial, set the string carefully, and then remarked—"I think it's nearer the half oor; but it wadna dae to contradict the minister!"

When staying in Maybole over night, Jock used to sleep where there were two looms, a broad one and a narrow; and Jock's interpretation of the sounds they made was this : the broad one said, "I'm gaun to heevin! I'm gaun to heevin!" to which the narrow one replied, " Idoot it I doot it!"

The children of Kirkmichael are invited annually to Cloncaird Castle, where they are regaled with a variety of good things. On one occasion Jock was there, and was busy discussing a large piece of bread covered with jelly. A message came that the ladies would like a tune on the fiddle from Mr Aird. But Mr Aird had not finished his "piece." It was suggested that he should put it into his hat as usual. "Na," said Jock, "it'll be safer in my guts" and so continued the storage till it was finished.

Jock lived till he was 79, and was wonderfully active to the last, although his hearing was impaired. The boys, however, could still rouse him by pointing to their chins as they passed, and that was enough. "Old age ne'er cooled the Douglas blood." The man with whom he was boarded said that for a day or two before he died, "John was uncommonly wice, and ye wad hae thocht he had got his senses back again." So be it—he has perhaps got his senses back again now.

John Duff was Town-officer of Girvan in my boyish days, and I can recollect him ringing the bell on the street, and shouting out—"Gather unto me, all ye ends of the earth!" On one occasion he is said to have turned his intimation into rhyme thus:—

Fresh cod and saut cod,
|Mackerel and skate,
To be sold at Matthew Sloan's
At a reasonable rate.

A friend who kept a licensed house once cautioned John with the old proverb—"Every glass you drink is a nail in your coffin." The only effect on John was that next time he came for his accustomed beverage, it was to inquire for "Tippence worth o' coffin nails." On going round with the Parish minister in his annual visitation (as was the custom then), John was getting visibly intoxicated. Mr M'Master kindly remonstrated—"Now, John, you must take care not to drink too much." "Na, na," said John, "that wad never dae. Whatever we dae, Mr M'Master, we manna get fou."

I can distinctly remember Jacky M'Cafferty, the Doune-park Schoolmaster, with his stately walk, and his old blue dress-coat almost sweeping the ground. Jacky was one of three handloom weavers who made an agreement that each should go in turn to school, while the other two should work for his support. The arrangement was carried out, and two of them got into prosperous businesses in the town, while Jacky continued in the paths of learning. The whisky, however, proved too much for him. And it is related that when his little school assembled in the morning, and found the Master "incapable", he used to give them a holiday, but not before asking two of the bigger boys to assist him to the Desk, from which he recited the customary Benediction! Peace be on him! With all his failings, he was a general favourite.

Alexander M'Callum, or "Lang Sandy" as he was familiarly called, was likewise one of our Girvan originals. He was a weaver to trade, but never took kindly to that branch of industry. He became famous first as a fiddler at weddings, and used to make violins for sale. Then he took to the Antiquarian business, and gathered a wonderful "fouth o' auld nick-nackets" which he delighted in showing to visitors. Next, he came out'as an inventor, and planned a torpedo boat. And, finally, he emerged as a Geologist and Guide to the district, becoming acquainted with Sir Roderick Murchison, Hugh Miller, and others, the first of whom named one of the Silurian fossils after him.

And, to mention but one more, Willie Maitland was long a trusted servant about Ardmillan. When Lord Ardmillan returned to his old home as laird, Willie had great difficulty in giving him his proper title, and usually styled him "Mr Jeems." Lord Ardmillan was very short-sighted, and a poor hand at the gun. One day Willie and he had been out together, and shot after shot had been fired in vain. At last, they came upon a covey sitting close and thick upon the stubble. Fearful lest they should escape, Willie counselled that he should let drive at them where they were. His lordship accordingly "let drive," but not a feather remained. Willie's patience was sorely taxed, but he simply remarked—"Heth, Mr Jeems, but ye gar'd thae yins shift their quarters!" On another occasion, he had got tired following his lordship, and on its being proposed to try "just one field more," he replied—"Well, Mr Jeems, I see nae use in 't; but ye can gang yourser, and I 'll sit doon and hae a smoke till ye come back!"


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