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Ramble Round Kilmarnock
Chapter II


Craigie Road--Knowehead and its surrounding--The Buchanan Bequest-Treesbank Manor House--Scargie--John Burtt--Knockmarloch--Craigie Hill--Craigie Church--The Village--The Witch Stane--Craigie Castle--A Strange Story--A Curious Stone.

Upon entering Craigie Road, I passed some neat cottages, and little farther on other of a humbler order, and after a brisk uphill walk gained Knowehead, an eminence over which the road passes and from which an extensive view of the surrounding country can be obtained. Pausing, my eye swam over the scene. Behind was the quaint village, with the smoke curling from the cottage chimneys; beyond it, in the hollow, old Kilmarnock, with its stalks and spires; in front the estate of Treesbank, with its manor-house peering out from amongst the trees, and the road winding over hill and dale until lost to view on a rugged range of hills over which it passes. To the right Ayr road and the estate of Caprington were the most prominent objects on the landscape; to the left, on a hilly piece of ground, stands the farm-steading of Witch Knowe. Doubtless its site was supposed to be a resort of the uncanny fraternity in times past, or perhaps some withered beldame was burned on it. The scene withal was very pleasing, and the song of the lark and the multifarious sounds that greeted the ear made it doubly delightful.

Beyond Witch Knowe is the estate of Bellfield. The mansion-house is concealed by belts of trees which surround the beautiful garden and fine pleasure grounds. Bellfield House was the residence of Misses Margaret, Jane, and Elizabeth Buchanan, daughters of the late George Buchanan of Woodlands, Glasgow, who died in the order of seniority, the youngest on the 23rd April, 1875. During their lifetime they jointly executed a will, and although subject to the alternation of the last survivor it substantially remained as agreed upon, and confer the following munificent bequests:--£10,000 to the Merchants’ House of Glasgow, the revenue to be applied in the same way as the funds of the House are at present, on condition that the tomb of the family in the Glasgow Necropolis be maintained in proper order and repair during all time coming. £4,200 of reduced three per cent. annuities of the Principal and Professors appointed by the University Court of Glasgow, to found bursaries for the maintenance of two matriculated students who intend to become licentiates of the Established Church of Scotland. £30,000 to be held by the trustees on the estate and accumulated for ten years, the object being to found an hospital for the maintenance of indigent and infirm burgesses of Glasgow, of sixty years and upwards, preference to be given to those of the name of Buchanan. The trustees are to purchase two acres of ground with eight miles of Glasgow, and erect an hospital theron, and furnish and fit it up; and on the lapse of ten years they are to hand over the hospital and all the funds which they have accumulated to the Lord Provost, and Magistrates of Glasgow, the minister of the High Church, the minister of St. George’s Church, and the testamentary trustees as governors.[It is expected that the accumulation at the end of the ten years will be something like £12,000, which will cover the cost of the ground and of the erection and fitting-up of the hospital, and the £30,000 will remain for the purposes of endowment.] It is stipulated that no fewer than ten burgesses will at one time have the benefits of the hospital. The land and estate of Bellfield to be held by the trustees till Marinmas, 1885, and the rents to be accumulated during that period; part of the mansion-house to be fitted up as a library, and to be open to the public for consultation only, at such times and under such regulations as the trustees may think proper; all the portraits, paintings, books, and fittings suitable to be placed in this library; the grounds and garden to be open to the public of Kilmarnock and Riccarton at such times and under such regulations as the trustees may think proper; £5 to be paid yearly to the Ragged School of Kilmarnock out of the revenues of Bellfield; £3 yearly to the Fever Hospital and Infirmary of Kilmarnock; £130 for a missionary to be appointed by the minister of the parish of Riccarton, and £10 yearly for him to buy flannel clothing for the poor. If the trustees find the revenue to admit of it, they may fit up the remaining portion of Bellfield house as an asylum for poor people of sixty years and upward who have resided in the parishes of Kilmarnock and Riccarton for ten years consecutively, and for young person who may have been permanently injured by accident. The trustees are to lease the minerals on the estate, and at the end of ten years the estate and accumulated funs are to be conveyed to the Provost and Magistrates of Kilmarnock, to the minister of Kilmarnock and the minister of the parish of Riccarton for the time being, and to the testamentary trustees, for the carrying on of the purposes above-mentioned. The balance of the revenue, after providing for these purposes, is to be divided equally between the parishes of Kilmarnock and Riccarton, to be distributed by the minister to the deserving poor not on the poor’s roll, and these must always be a certain sum set apart for this object. The whole residue of the estate, after providing for these purposes, is to be paid, one half to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the other half to the Glasgow Asylum for the Blind. [Condensed from "Abstract of settlement made by Misses Margaret, Jane, and Elizabeth Buchanan of Bellfield, dated 8th July, 1861, as altered by codicil made by Elizabeth Buchanan of Bellfield, 11th May, 1871.]

The nearness of Bellfield to Kilmarnock and Riccarton, and the facto of its salubrious situation and finely-wooded grounds, will render it a favourite resort to all who are desirous of retiring from the noise and bustle of the town to enjoy suburban quiet and hold communion with nature.

Rambling onward, the cool air of the morning fanned my cheek, and as I contemplated the tiny wayside flower, the stately tree, and the numerous natural beauties met with at every step, my very soul was thrilled with ecstasy and adoration--adoration to Him who has clothed the earth with verdure and filled the groves with melody.

Passing through the tollbar of Shortlees, some ruined cottages appeared on my left, and I soon arrived at a part of the road where the trees on either side interwine their branches and form a leafy canopy overhead. Walking beneath the rustling boughs I arrived at a small bridge which spans a burn as it jinks through a small plantation by the wayside. Across the bridge there is a drive to Treesbank manor house. The manor house--which has recently been enlarged and improved--was built by Sir Hugh Campbell of Cessnock, and gifted along with the estate to his second son, James, upon his (the son’s) marriage with Jean, daughter of Sir William Mure of Rowalan, in 1672, and from that union the present proprietor is descended.

Leaving the purling burn, I followed the course of the road, and after climbing a steep brae, passed Scargie, a couple of thatched cottages of mean appearance standing a little of the road. Scargie is associated with the name of John Burtt, author of the sweet song beginning

"O’er the mist-shrouded cliffs of the grey mountains straying."

And of other lyrics and lengthy pieces of verse. Although born at Knockmarloch, Burtt spent the greater portion of his boyhood at Scargie with his grandfather, who occupied the place. In early manhood he was a schoolmaster in Kilmarnock, but emigrated to America in 1817, where he became a clergyman, and was honored with the chair of Ecclesiastical History in the college of Cincinnati.

Traveling onward, I passed Sunnyside--a neat farm house--and soon arrived at Knockmarloch. A small plantation skirts the road, and within its shade the feathered throng rendered the air vocal, for they chanted their joyous lays right merrily, and the rich shrill notes of the blackbird echoed, and the cadence died away like the last low strains of a lute. I paused and listened, for the sounds and the scenery had an exhilarating influence upon me--an influence that only those who are confined to the desk or the bench six days out of the seven can best comnprehend. Turning down a bosky land that skirts the plantation, a walk of hundred yards brought me to a bubbling brook that purled amongst the brackens. Here, a portion of a dry-stone dyke was broken down, and up to an ivy-mantled ruin that was almost hid from view by the tall firs of the plantation, a foot road worn by the feet of the curious ran zigzag through the gowan-spangled grass. The ruin--a solitary gable which the ivy green has clasped with its tendrils and adorned with its shining leaves--is a remnant of Knockmarloch manor house, but there is nothing interesting associated with it. It was a thatch-covered mansion of the olden time, and was last used as a family residence by Major George Brown, a descendant of the Browns of Knock- mar loch, a family who had possessed the estate for a hundred and fifty years. About 1800 the estate cam into the market and was purchased by Robert Shedden, a relative of the Knockmarloch family, who had spent the years of his boyhood upon it. It is still in the possessions of the Sheddens. They  have always been non-resident, and on this account the Manor House was allowed to fall into decay. Ultimately, with the exception of the shattered gable, the walls were pulled down and the stones used to construct a couple of cottages that stand a little off the main road by the side of the plantation. About a stonethrow from the ruin there is a farm-steading, the dwelling-house of which was once the coach-house of the mansion. It bears the date 1775, and is at present occupied by a grandchild of Major Brown’s coachman, who, by the bye, was the father of John Burtt, the poet.

Retracing my steps to the road, a sharp walk brought me to the base of Craigie Hill, an eminence that stands some 500 feet above the level of the sea, and although comparatively low, yet the view from its summit is extensive and beautiful A short distance from it are the limestone mines of Howcommon, the excavations of which penetrate the bosom of the hills, and form vast caverns through which a horse and car can be driven with facility. Being desirous to gain the top of the rugged height, I entered a field gate, but here the stillness was broken by the sound of the hammer and pick, and the snorting of a steam engine, for workmen were busily engaged in a kind of quarry, cutting away the columnar, trap of which the hill is composed. Climbing the steep, I gained the verdant summit somewhat out of breath with the exertion, and sat down upon a boulder to gaze upon the landscape at my feet. Stretched before me was a panoramic view of over one hundred miles, consisting for the most part of an undulating and highly cultivated track of country. Away in the misty distance I beheld the Crampian Hills, "the lofty Benlomond," the Mull of Cantyre, the Paps of Jura, and the coast of Ireland. More near, the Frith of Clyde, and the historic Carrick Shore, with the rock of Ailsa towering above the waters like some rude monument, while along the coast lay scattered numerous towns and villages. Landward, there is a fine view of Loundoun Hill and other historically interesting places. On the plain below the hill, the town of Kilamrnock with its spires and smoky sky seemed spread out in a valley, while the estates of Caprington, Treesbank, Coodham, and Knockmarloch filled up the picture between. Amon the many farmhouses dotting the landscape that of Mosshead is worthy of remark--it being the birthplace of Sir James Shaw, a gentleman who by energetic perseverance rose from a comparatively humble position to that of Lord Mayor of London.

After lingering on Craigie Hill I descended to the main road and directed my steps towards the village, which nestles in sweet retirement at the foot of the whinney ridge of which the eninence above mentioned is the highest elevation. Passing the manse, I turned down a narrow path to the left that runs along the foot of the hills and terminates at a wall that sur- rounds a burying ground. In its centre stands Craigie Parish Church. It was erected in 1776, and is a small old-fashioned like structure. The churchyard is overgrown with grass, and although

"Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrants of his field withstood!
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest;
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood,"

Yet there is no stone in it that is curious or containing any remarkable inscription. The church of Craigie that existed before the present one was very old. Paterson says --"In 1177 Walter Hase of Cragyn" (the then patron), "whose father had previously granted half a carucate of land, gave to it another half carucate, gifting the whole--church and lands--in pure alms, for the salvation of the souls of his father and mother, to the monks of Paisley," and, according to Chalmers, the property remained in their hands till the Reformation, after which the parish of Craigie was united to that of Riccarton, but was gain disunited, as previously stated.

The village of Craigie adjoins the church. It consists of about eighteen neat cottages, a post office, a schoolhouse, and an inn which flourished under the name and sign of "The Red Lion." A parish seminary has recently been erected by the School Board, and forms a handsome addition to the secluded little hamlet.

After partaking of refreshments in the village inn, and indulging in a chat with the landlord, I retraced my steps to the highway, and in doing so got into conversation with an old lady who was very loquacious and well versed in the lore of the district. Amongst other things, she informed me that once on a time the church of Craigie had a narrow escape of being destroyed by a witch who had taken umbrage at it. It seems that the hag selected a large stone, and having placed it in her apron, flew with it in the direction of the building with the intention of dropping it upon its roof. Her design, however, was frustrated by the breaking of her apron strings, for, upon nearing the object of her spleen, they gave way, and the stone fell with a crash that shook the earth. This accident seemingly so disheartened the carlin that she abandoned the destructive idea and allowed her burden to lie where it fell. The boulder lay in a field near the churchyard wall, and was known as "The White Stane." It was long regarded with superstitious awe by many; but the farmer on whose ground it lay being of a practical turn of mind, looked upon  it with an eye to utility, and had it blasted for building purposes. Strange to relate, when broken up the debris filled twenty-five carts--a circumstance that would lead one to suppose that the witch must have been very muscular, and must have worn a very large apron.

On my arrival at the highway I stopped a youth who came whistling along and enquired my nearest way to Craigie Castle. "That’s the soonest," said he thoughtfully.-- "Yes."--"Weel, gang alang the road till ye come to the yett next the hill, when there you’ll see an auld road gaun through the parks; follow it till ye come to Smeetonrig (Smithstonridge), turn the corner o’ the house an’ you’ll see the castle before you." After I had thanked him for the information, he resumed his whistle and passed on his way "happy as a king." Following his directions, "the yett next the hill; was soon found, and having passed through it I traversed a rudely Macadamised traffic-worn road which stretched across the open fields, and after a pleasant walk by the gowan-spangled lea--the pleasure of which was heightened by the cry of the peesweep and the song of a lark--I arrived in a farmyard, and most unexpectedly found myself face to face with a watch-dog that did its best with voice and gesture to frighten the life out of me. Expecting every moment to be torn in pieces, and not knowing whether to go forward or turn back, I was relieved from embarrassment by a middle-aged woman appearing upon the scene. Having stated my difficulty to her, the goodwife of Smithstonridge-- for such the lady proved to be-invited me forward and in the kindest manner conducted me to the end of her house and showed me the object of my search in the hollow. From her I learned that the old Tarbolten Road, a portion of which winds over a neighbouring hill and is now covered with brambles and wild brier, passed by the farm, and that it was the remains of it I came along. After a kindly goodbye to Smithstonridge I struck through the fields in the direction of Craigie Castle.

Viewing the ruin from a distance, it seems destitute of that hoary appearance that is so inviting about shattered places of strength, but upon nearing it I was agreeably surprised to find it alike magnificent in situation and architecture, and if not so noted and extensive as other buildings in a like condition, it at least displays a degree of military science and skill rarely to be met with. The ruin stands upon a knoll between what appears to have been two marshes, and probably ditches were cut between them when the castle was in its entirety. This being the case it would be isolated from the mainland, and an insurmountable barrier raised to besiegers at the period when gunpowder was unknown, and when no missile, save from a height, could be thrown at any great distance with effect. Two crumbling gables, portions of walls, and shreds of battlements yet remain in tolerable preservation, also several underground vaulted chambers are entire, although party filled with rubbish. In these the fox has now its lair and the bat its abode, and wreck and decay are the chief characteristics of the pile. Picking my steps amongst solid blocks of masonry that lay as time had hurled them from their position, I gained what appeared to have been the principal apartment. The roof had fallen in, but from the appearance of the walls it seems to have converged at the top and been supported by fluted columns. Here lay a shattered and dismantled cornice; there, party hid by rubbish, pieces of sculpture that bore testimony to the skill and taste of the designer, while stunted trees and shrubs grew in places once trod by the mirthful and gay. To me it is a spirit-depressing task to stray through an old ruin, for each crumbling stone is a monitor that speaks of death and decay, and points to the futility of all human labour. At this ruin I met with a natural curiosity in the shape of an old tree. Against it lay two huge blocks of masonry that have toppled off the rampart; the trunk was bent and distorted as if the plant had done its utmost to support or throw off the encumbrance, and curious enough, in spite of it, the growth had continued and imbedded portions of the burden in its wood.

Craigie Castle was long the residence of the descendants of the Wallaces of Riccarton, but when or by whom it was built cannot be ascertained with certainty. Previous to that family one of the name of Lyndesay possessed the lands; but the race terminating in a daughter, who became the wife of John Wallace about 1371, the property passed to his family. In 1588 they removed to the Castle of Newton-upon-Ayr, and left the Craigie mansion, which doubtless being tenantless got out of repair, and in the course of time became ruinous.

Amongst the many traditions connected with this Castle, perhaps that of how it became ruinous will interest the reader. It is told by Woodrow, and from that indefatigable writer that I quote the following strange story:--"The Lairds of Craigie we none the best affected to the gospell….. When the ministers wer very strict in discipline, the Laird of Craigie had iether some tenant or servants who brought some horses laden with carriages from some distant place, and traveled openly upon the Sabbath day, throw many parishes. The ministers of the places wrote to Mr. Inglish about such and open and scandalous breach of the Sabbath. He spoke to the Laird of Craigie, and he huffed, and told it was done by his orders, and he would support them in what they had done! The minister caused cite the persons guilty to the session; but being supported by their master they would not compear. When noe other way was left, Mr. Inglish took occasion to bear testimony against it very plainly in a sermon. The Laird was in the church, sitting in his seat before the pulpite, and the minister fell upon it soe flatly Craigie’s malice and spite was so raised that he rose up, and took up his whinger (a short sword) and threw it at him, when in the pulpite! Mr Inglish, when he perceived him draw it and going to cast it, gote down in the pulpite and escaped it. The whinger went over his head, and struck in the backside of the pulpite. After he had risen and composed himself a little, he addressed himself to Craigie, and said--"Sir, you have put ane open affront upon God and his Ordinances in what you have aimed at me, and now I will tell you what God will doe to you. Your great stone house, in this place, shall be reduced to a heap of stones, and he that offers to repair it shall lose his pains; and your son now; whom you have such great hopes of, shall die a fool!’ And none of Mr. Inglish’s words fell to the ground. His son was then in England, in the army, and was at the time a youth of great parts and expectation. Whether by a fall of sickness, within a little time turned fatous and silly, and died soe. His great house of Craigie fell to be some way out of order, and either he or his son went to repair it, and when the workmen were at it a great part of it fell down and had almost buried them all; and its how, indeed, a ruinous heap!" About a portion of the castle falling while undergoing repair is borne out by tradition, but the other part of the story is unsupported. Sire Hugh Wallace, the laird referred to in the foregoing, was knighted by Charles I. He was most liberal in his ideas, fought with Montrose at the Battle of Philiphaugh, and was amongst the vanquished insurgents. He died about 1650.

After straying among the ruins of Craigie Castle I crossed the field in which they stand, and soon arrived in the farm-yard of Craigie Mains. Here, built into a wall is a curious old stone with some grotesque figures cut on it. It was found amongst the ruins of the castle, and the design was considered by the peasantry to represent wild men engaging in a game of draughts. At first glance it is not unlike a thing of the kind, but upon closer inspection the initiated in heraldic designs finds it to be the arms of the Wallaces of Riccarton and the Lyndesays of Craigie quartered--the circumstance suggesting that a portion of Craigie Castle was built during the lifetime of John Wallace, who, as already stated, married the Craigie heiress.


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