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Ramble Round Kilmarnock
Chapter XV


The Policies of Loudoun Castle--The external and internal appearance of the Building--The Family Portraits--The Library--The old Yew Tree--The Loudoun Family, and salient points in the History of some of its Members--The old Castle of Loudoun--Its destruction by the Kennedys, &c.

From Loudoun Kirk I passed along a very romantic road, and after a sharp but pleasant walk arrived at the entrance gate of Loudoun Castle. The policies are thickly wooded, exquisitely picturesque, and possessed of a wild romantic beauty that charms the eye and thrills with ecstasy the lover of romantic scenery. Throughout the estate there are very many aged trees of symmetrical loveliness, whose gnarled arms in the vernal season of the year are almost hid from view by wealth of foliage. These monarchs of the lawn and dark wood are mementos of that enterprising and zealous nobleman, John, fourth Earl of Loudoun, who is said to have greatly improved the estate and imparted to it its sylvan beauty by planting upwards of one million trees which he collected from all parts of the globe. The drive to the castle is lined on each side by a neat grass border and by stately trees, which shadow the path with their leafy boughs. Admiringly viewing it, I stood in the roadway irresolutely scratching my head, for I felt somewhat perplexed upon this occasion as to the ways and means of gaining admittance to the castle and grounds. Summoning up courage, and putting on an air of importance, I passed through the gate without being stopped or questioned by the people in the lodge, and  on and on until I came within sight of the imposing and magnificent mansion of the Loudoun family. Through the trees on my left I observed the neat villa of Mr. Robert Mackie, the manager of the estate, and from that quarter feared an abrupt termination to my explorations, but in this I was agreeably disappointed.

Arriving at the castle, I was struck by its massive appearance, and was delighted to find upon examination that it combines the gracefulness of modern architecture with the massive strength of early times. One turreted, battlemented, square tower was erected in the twelfth century, and another which overlooks the entire building in the fifteenth. To these antiquated structures Sir John Campbell who was created Lord Chancellor in 1642, made an extensive addition, and in 1811 the whole was augmented by a large and stately portion, which gives up the pile quite a palatial appearance. The interior is fitted up with the great magnificence and sumptuously furnished, the walls of the principal apartments being literally covered with finely executed portraits of the Loudoun and Rowallan families. Some of these paintings are very old and recall to one’s mind many stirring events in the good old days when plain speaking and hard blows were in fashion, and when the four feet of cold steel which dangled by every gallant’s side was used to enforce arguments and settle differences. Among the family likenesses a portrait of Charles I. is very interesting at this date on account of its disfigurement. When the castle was besieged by Cromwell’s soldiers it hung in the gallery, and after the capitulation of Lady Loudoun-- who defended the place right gallantly--formed an object for the soldiers, who ransacked the rooms whereon to vent their contempt for his Majesty by making thrusts at his picture with their swords--a pastime, no doubt, which was well seasoned with jokes and laughter. The library is very extensive and contains nearly 10,000 volumes, besides ancient manuscripts, some of which are very curious. Close to the castle wall grows a patriarchal yew tree of unknown antiquity. Under its deep shade, in the time of William the Lion, one of the family charters was signed, and when the union between Scotland and England was entered into, Lord Hugh Campbell of Loudoun subscribed the articles beneath its umbrageous boughs. During the reign of Charles II., when James, second Earl of Loudoun, was banished in Holland, he held secret communication with his lady, and addressed his letters "to the gude wife at the Auldton, at the old yew tree, Loudoun, Scotland." The aged veteran at this day looks healthy and strong, and appears to be as capable of withstanding the blasts of another century as any tree on the estate.

No family in Ayrshire can boast of a more lengthened possession of their property or a more honourable pedigree than that of Loudoun. About the year 1189 the barony was granted to James, son of Lambrinus, by Richard de Morville, overlord of the district of Cuninghame and minister of William the Lion. At his death he left an only daughter, who married Sir Reginald de Craufurd, hereditary Sheriff of Ayrshire, and by him had four sons, from one of whom are descended the Craufurds of Craufurdland. Their great-grand-duaghter (Margaret, only child of Hugh de Craufurd) married Sir Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie, and was mother of Sir William Wallace, the famous hero. In the fifth generation, the ancestral line of the Craufurds of Loudoun terminated in the only daughter of a Sir Reginald, who fell in battle in  1303, while fighting for Scottish independence. This lady married Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, and from this union sprang the first Campbell of Lochow, and from this union sprang the first Campbells of Loudoun. In the twelfth generation the Lochow Campbelss were merged into those of Lawers by the marriage of Margaret, Baroness of Loudoun, with Sir John Campbell in 1620. In the fifth generation the Lawers Campbells terminated in Flora Mure, Countess of Loudoun, who married in 1804 Francis Rawdon Hastings, Earl of Moira. In 1816 he was created a British Peer by the title of Marquis of Hastings, Viscount of Loudoun, etc. He was Governor of India and Commander-in-chief of Malta. He died in 1836, and was succeeded in the Loudoun estate by his descendants, in whose possession it now is.

Perhaps it may not be out of place here to notice the salient points in the history of some members of the Loudoun family. Sir John Campbell of Lawers, who was created Earl of Loudoun, Tarrinzean, and Mauchline in 1633, and afterwards Lord Chancellor of Scotland, was a staunch Covenanter, and acted a conspicuous part in the stirring events of his time. He distinguished himself in 1637 by his active resistance to the ill-judged and unconstitutional attempt of Charles I. to force Episcopacy upon Scotland. He was one of thecommissioners from the Scots army who settled the pacification of Berwick with Charles I. in 1639, and was subsequently committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason. After remaining there for some time, he was, through the influence of the Marquis of Hamilton, liberated. He commanded the Scots army at the Battle of Newburn, and was afterwards appointed First Commissioner of the Treasury, with a yearly pension of £1000. After taking an active share in the Civil War at the Restoration he was deprived of the office of Chancellor, and fined 12,000 pounds Scots. He died in 1652, and is interred in the queir of Loudoun Kirk. The third Earl of Loudoun was a Privy Councillor in 1697, and was appointed in 1704 one of the Commissioners of the Treasury, and made a Knight of the Thistle. In the following year he was appointed joint Secretary of State for Scotland, and named on of the commissioners for the Union. In 1708 he was appointed keeper of the great seal in Scotland, with a pension of £2000 a year. In 1715 he was made Lord Lieutenant of Argyleshire, and served as a volunteer under the Duke of Argyle at Sheriffmuir. He was also one of the sixteen Scots representative peers from 1707 to 1731. His countess was a remarkable woman, having greatly improved the grounds around her residence at Sorn Castle, where she died in her hundredth year. Their only son John--the fourth Earl of Loudoun--was a distinguished military officer, and sat as a representative peer for forty-eight years. He was a staunch royalist, and in 1745 raised a regiment of highlanders for the service of government, and on the breaking out of the rebellion of that year joined Sir John Cope, under whom he acted as adjutant-general. After taking part in the highland campaign, he was appointed captain-general and governor-in-chief of the province of Virginia, and was constituted commander-in-chief of all the British forces in America. Although thus busily engaged abroad, he was the first agricultural improver of the district of Loudoun. In 1740 he commenced operations by making roads through the parish and causing a bridge to be built over the Irvine. He was also a vigorous planter and encloser, and was the first to introduce foreign trees into the West of Scotland; in fact, he may be said to have bequeathed to Loudoun braes that sylvan beauty for which they are so justly celebrated. During his time ten entire swivel brass cannon marked with the Campbell arms were discovered near to the castle, buried some two feet below the surface to the ground, but how they came to there was never ascertained. This enterprising nobleman died in 1782, aged seventy-seven years.

After lingering about Loudoun Castle for some time I entered the principal avenue and leisurely strolled in the direction of Newmilns. Now the path would pass through a strip of wood and be darkened by the foliage of stately trees, then it would emerge into the open glade and wind along a verdant bank, or down a dell and over a burnie, bickering amongst the brackens. At a shady nook by the side of a little streamlet, a good half-mile distant from the castle, I diverged from the path, passed over the brow of a well-wooded bank, and arrived at the brink of a broad gully which partly encircled a rugged and almost unaccountable mound. Descending the chasm, I with difficulty reached the bottom and passed through a luxuriant crop of nettles and up the opposite ban, a feet accomplished by laying hold of whatever would assist my ascent. Gaining the summit, several half-buried block of masonry and portions of foundations made know that I stood on the site of the old castle of Loudoun--a building which was anterior to any portion of the present magnificent structure. Regarding its history there is nothing authentic known, but it is preserved in the traditional mind that it was burned by the clan Kennedy during a fray. This is very probable, and is partly borne out by the fact that a family on the estate, who have occupied their farm for centuries, claim descent from a noble liegeman, who at the risk of life and limb dashed into the burning pile in spite of chief and clansmen, and dragged forth the charter chest of the Loudoun family and bore it off in triumph. This family tradition is somewhat strengthened in history, for a deadly feud existed between the Campbells of Loudoun and the Kennedies of Carrick about the year 1527. During a foray which the former made into the territory of the latter, the Earl of Cassillis was slain, but to avenge his death the Kennedies entered the district of the Campbells on several occasions and laid it waste by fire and sword; therefore it is possible that during one of these raids the old castle was attacked and left a smoking ruin. A ballad, from which I make the following extract, was at one time very popular in the district, but as it ascribes the burning of the castle to "Adam o’ Gordon and his men," it is probably an adaptation, for it is well know that the wandering minstrels of old, by changing the names of persons and places, adapted their lays to suit similar incidents in different localities:--

Out then spake the Lady Margaret,
As she stood upon the stair--
The fire was at her goud garters,
The low was at her hair--

"I would give the black," she says,
"And so would I the brown,
For a drink o’ yon water
That runs by Galston toun."

Out then spake fair Annie,
She was baith gimp and sma’,
"O row me in a pair o’ sheets,
And tow me doun the wa’."

"O hold thy tongue, thou fair Annie,
And let they talkin’ be,
For thou must stay in this fair castle,
And bear thy death with me."

"I would rather be burnt to ashes sma’,
And be cast on yon sea foam,
Before I’d give up this fair castle,
An my lord so far from the home.

"My good lord has an army strong,
He’s now gone o’er the sea,
He bade me keep this gay castle
As long as it would keep me.

"I’ve four-and-twenty braw milk key
Gangs on yon lily lee,
I’d give then a’ for a blast of wind
To blaw the reek from me."

O pittie on yon fair castle,
That’s built o’ stone and lime,
But far mair pittie for Lady Loudoun,
And all her children nine.

The scenery in the vicinity of the mound is wild and romantic. After gazing upon it for some time I reluctantly left the spot, and returned to the avenue with my mind mad up to go as far as Newmilns, for, as the reader is probably aware, the principal drive through the policies of Loudoun Castle merges into a road which terminates in the ancient village.


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