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Ramble Round Kilmarnock
Chapter V

The House of Auchans--Dundonald Castle--The Village and Parish Church--Extracts from the Parochial Registers--Smuggling--Tam Fullarton--New field--"Fairlie o’ the Five Lums"--Old Rome--Home again.

Leaving ecclesiastical haunts, I entered a path in the wood, and after following its intricate windings through the glade arrived at Auchans Castle, as it is called, but strictly speaking it is nothing more than a mansion-house of the olden time that has been built for defensive purposes. The building is extremely plain, is constructed for the most part of whinstone, and forms two sides of a square. One wing bears the date, 1644, which infers that it is an addition to an earlier portion, and possibly the erection of Sir William Cochrane, who acquired the land of Dundonald in 1638, and those of Auchans in 1649. Previous to the ancestor of the Earls of Dundonald coming into possession, the house of Auchans was the residence of a family named Wallace, the last of whom was a Colonel James. He was a devoted supporter of the Solemn League and Covenant, and headed the rising at Pentland. Through the unfortunate scientific speculations of Archibald, ninth Earl of Dundonald, Auchans came into the possession of the Eglinton family. The last individual of distinction who occupied the venerable mansion was Archibald, eleventh, Earl of Eglinton, and his gifted mother, the Countess, to whom Ramsay inscribed his "Gentle Shepherd." That gentlewoman died in it in 1780, in the ninety-first year of her age. Boswell, in his "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Dr. Johnson," in 1773, states that he along with the celebrated lexographer visited her ladyship, while she resided in the house of Auchans, and gives a  spirited account of the interview, and states that when going away she embraced her distinguished visitor, and said, "My dear son, farewell!" The ground apartment of the building are at present occupied by foresters on the estate, but the greater part of the interior is in a ruinous condition, and curious enough the recent portion of it has suffered most. Ascending the stair of a tower situated in the corner of the courtyard, I was struck by the devastation that time and neglect has wrought. Many of the apartments were in a hopelessly irreparable condition, and looked as if they had fallen through, and in others rotten rafters and portions of walls hung so loosely that I expected every moment to see them crash into the rooms below.

Leaving the somber-looking building I crossed the grass-covered courtyard and entered the garden, which is still under cultivation. In the orchard grew the parent tree of the Auchans pear, which was brought from France at an early date, and was the first of its kind in this country. It was blown down in 1793.

From the garden I passed through a wicket and strolled along a footway that runs along the bottom of a thickly-wooded bank. In some parts the light of day was almost excluded by the wealth of foliage overhead, and in others

"The birch rock-rooted drooped
And draped with lightsome shadows from its leaves
The lone path, and burn that sang a song unheard."

At a neat gate the romantic footway merges into an old road that passes beneath the shade of some fine old trees. Following its course for a short distance I arrived at a low wall that surrounds the rocky mound on whose summit stands Dundonald Castle, roofless and shattered, and in decay, looking stern and defiant from its commanding position, and bidding fair to brave the elements for many years to come. Crossing the wall I began the ascent, browsing on the scant herbage that clothes the hillside, for they looked wonderingly at me as if half inclined to resent the intrusion. Reaching the ruin without mishap, I began my explorations, but lack-a-day! it bore ample testimony that wreck and decay had long held unchecked revelry within and without, for blocks of masonry lay as they had toppled from the walls, and melancholy silence pervaded the place. The courtyard--a portion of the walls of which are still standing--was covered with debris and rank grass, and like its surrounding had an abandoned and desolate appearance. The castle is not extensive; it is a rectangular building, two storeys high, but tradition states that it was at one time three, and that the stones of one were used to build the house of Auchans. Its architecture is very plain, and the walls, which are of great thickness, contain gun ports and arrow slits. On the western wall the royal arms of Scotland and other devices in alto relievo are still discernible, although much disfigured by time and weather. The interior consists of one spacious chamber and an arched roof of rubble work, a portion of the keep, a cell of which is entire, and several underground vaults, which are for the most part filled with rubbish. Round the conical eminence portions of a moat can be distinctly traced. This would render the stronghold almost impregnable prior to the introduction of artillery, and would make it worthy of the royalty that history and tradition ascribes to it.

Following the example of some boys, I climbed to the top of the castle by the aid of some rusty-looking nails that some one had driven into the wall; but I near came paying dearly for my foolhardiness, for a portion of the masonry gave way, and I was within an ace of coming down faster than I went up--a circumstance that most likely would have been the means of furnishing my family with mourning dresses.

Beyond a small chamber there is nothing of interest to be met with on top of the building save the extensive prospect. I was fairly enchanted with it, and remained up some time to enjoy it. Towards the north-west a wide exspance of sea glistened in the afternoon sunlight, and inland an expansive view of the fertile district of Cunninghame lay before me. At my feet, as it were, the pretty little village of Dundonald, with its line of street and neat parish church, was in itself a picture of rustic neatness. Behind the castle, and at the foot of the eminence, there is a truly picturesque scene which consists of a precipitous cliff clothed with wood. It looked dark and gloomy. Around it swooped flocks of dark-plumaged birds, which kept up a discordant noise as they screamed forth their harsh notes of pleasure or alarm.

Having performed the somewhat dangerous and difficult task of descending from the top of the building, I strolled down the face of the hill and left the scattered remnant of the castle to crumble and decay beneath the heavy finger of time. The mound on which the castle stands is the only piece of ground in the district that now belongs to the Dundonald family, and it is stated that the Earl takes his title from it, and will retain is so long as the walls of the castle hold together.

When or by whom the castle of Dundonald was built is unknown, but judging by the style of its architecture and the construction of its walls it is probable that its erection dates as far back as the twelfth or thirteenth century. Tradition states that a fortlet of a much earlier date occupied the site, and a popular rhyme of great antiquity makes mention of it as follows;--

"There is a castle in the wast,
They ca’ it Donald’s din;
There’s no a nail in it ava,
Nor yet a timmer pin."

"The first historical notice we have of the place," says the Statistical Account," is in the time of the third Walter the Stewart, who was styled ‘of Dundonald’ and was made Justiciary of Scotland by Alexander II., at St. Andres, in 1230. It is said, however, by Chalmers that the manor and parish belonged to Walter, the son of Allan, the first Stewart, who held the whole of the northern half of Kyle, in the beginning of the reign of William the Lion, and that it might have been granted to him by David I. or his successor, Malcolm IV. Nothing more is known or even conjectured regarding it until the reign of Robert II., who appears, by several charters dated at Dundonald, to have made it the place of at least occasional residence from 1371 till the time of his death in 1390. This latter event is particularly mentioned by the Prior of St. Serf’s Inch, Lochleven.

‘The second Robert of Scotland Kyng
As God Purwaid maid endying
At Downownald in this countrie.
Of a schort sickness thare deyed he.’ --Wynton, B. ix C.10.

That his gentle but ill-starred son and successor, Robert III., died in the same place, is also asserted by the same aurthor; and though his authority on this point is disputed by Pinkerton and Fourdon, there are others of no mean authority, such as Ruddiman and Macpherson, who stand up in defence of the testimony of the poet. But, be this as it may, there cannot be a doubt of his continuing to reside here sometime after his father’s death; and it is probable that it was honoured by occasional visits from his royal successor till the time of James IV. >From the predecessor of this monarch, James III., Allan, first lord Cathcart, obtained the custody of the castle, with the dominical lands, in 1482, and with this family they may be supposed to have continued for some time. The next account we have of it is in 1527, the date of a charter from James V., confirmatory of one probably given in his minority, and granting it in right of possession to a person of the name of Wallace, a cadet, in all likelihood, of the family of Craigie." This family probably built the original part of the house of Auchans when the castle began to be ruinous. From the castle hill I strolled through the village of Dundonald, and found it to be neat in appearance and picturesque in situation, being embosomed in a hollow at the foot of one of the Clavin hills. Its vicinity is well wooded, and the somber ruins of the castle that frown from the height near it makes it doubly romantic. The houses are all modern in construction, and form a line of street, about a quarter of a mile long. The inhabitants are cleanly in their habits and very tasteful about their dwellings--in fact, the whole place has an air of bien respectability and comfort. It contains two inns, a commodious schoolhouse, and two churches--the one Established and the other Free. The Established, or Parish Church, stands at the head of the village, in front of the graveyard, and is a plain square building with a handsome spire, in which there is a clock and bell. It was built in 1803, and occupies the site of a very ancient religious edifice that belonged to the monks of Paisley previous to the Reformation. In it was interred the mortal remains of William, first Earl of DunDonald. He died in 1686. The bell that belonged to it is an antiquarian curiosity. It is in the possession of the Free Church of Dundonald, and bears the following inscription:-- "SANCTE EGIDIE ORA PRO NOBIS ANNO DNI. M.CCC.LXXXX. V TO X," which being translated, signifies,--"Saint Egidius pray for us. In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1395." during the construction of the new church this relic was suspended between two trees in the churchyard, and was rung to summon the congregation to attend the ministrations of a clergymen who preached from a tent. The graveyard contains many gravestones, but there are none very curious or interesting. The oldest is dated 1737.

"The Statistical Account," in mentioning the Parochial Registers, says--"The oldest volume, containing the records of session, and bearing date 1602, is tolerably entire; nay, strange to say, much more so than any of the succeeding ones. It extends over a period of forty years, comprising a silent interval of sixteen years, and contains a great deal of parochial information that is curious and interesting. Among other entries of this kind are minutes of the trial of Patrick Lowrie, warlock, and Catherin M’Tear, demite of witchcraft. These seem to have been cases of peculiar interest and considerable judicial difficulty, from the minute detail of evidence adduced, and the length of time they appear to have been under trial.. The attention of the session was more or less occupied by them for nearly five years--a term which would now-a-days do no small honour to a chancery lawsuit. Notwithstanding all this trouble, however, matters seem to have been left just where they began, no decision being recorded. The volume contains a record of a different, and to the Scotchmen at large, of a more interesting kind--namely, the Solemn League and Covenant, to which are added no fewer than 222 signatures. But of these, which is a lamentable proof of the low state of education at the time, 179 are subscribed by proxy, because, as is stated, ‘they could not wryt themselfs.’ It appears, however, that the eyes of the public were beginning to open to this defect, as we find them making arrangements two years afterwards, in 1640, for forming what may be considered the first parish school." The following extracts may be interesting to the reader:--

"17th March, 1605.--John Fergushill, younger of Haly, deferrit and slanderous taill spoken to him by Agnes Lyoun, spous to Petir Renkin in Parkheid; she aledgand upon George Lachland her author, as the said George Lachland aledgit Symon Muer his author--’That the late minister of Kilwining now departit this life was eardit with his mouth down, and that he conessit that the minister of Ayr and Irvine, and he, had the wyt of all the ill wedder this year.’"

"10 July, 1608.--The quilk day Isobell Turnbill, in Lones, comperand before the session, was accusit of the sclandler of ane superstitious doing by her. Declared that she was sent for anes or twys be Catherine Walker, spous to John Dook, in Chamber in Lonis, and that when she cam to her she took ane auld left scho of the husband’s, and therein thrust the said Catherine’s sair pap, and cast the said scho over the balk; and that shw thrust her pap in the scho, and cuist it over the balk twys or thryse, and thereafter she grew seik."

"8 November, 1629.--The quhilk day the minister publicklie out of the pulpit, by the authority of the Presbytery, did inhibit and discharge all sorte of charming, and resorting to charmes, consulting with wizards, sorcerers, and uthers of that sorte, certifying all and sundrie who did so in time cuming, they should be chalengit criminallie thairfore, and followit and persewit with death, as for the crime of witchcraft."

"16 May, 1642.--The Session ordained that no woman be suffered to sit in the Kirk in the tyme of sommer with plyds upon their heids, because it is a cleuck to their sleiping in tyme of sermon, and desired the minister to exhort them gravelie the next day to the observance of the same."

The above are taken from several curious entries which throw considerable light upon the manners and customs of the people in byegone days, and upon the stringent measures the church adopted to enforce morality. Notwithstanding her vigilance, however, cases of illegitimacy frequently occurred, and the cutty stool was too often in requisition to be consistent with ethics.

Smuggling was extensively carried on in Dundonald in the olden time, and very many stories are related regarding those engaged in it. The nearness of the village to the coast, and the hilly nature of the country, facilitated the contraband trade considerably. It was carried on extensively from the year 1700 until 1819, when the stringent measures then adopted by the Government put a stop to it. From what I have learned concerning smuggling exploits in the parish, the men engaged in the illicit traffic must have been a brave lot of fellows, fearless alike of danger and law. When on business each man carried what was called a "kent’;" this was a stout stick about four feet long, and very often loaded with lead. But many carried more effective weapons, and were not slow to use them when hard pressed by an enemy. A detachment of infantry were generally stationed at Irvine for the purpose of protecting the revenue officers in the discharge of their duty, and many an encounter occurred between them and the smugglers; but the latter, armed with the "kent" were often more than a match for the soldiers. Upon one occasion a ship arrived in Troon bay ladened with brandy, which was successfully landed and carted across the hills under the shadow of night. A considerable quantity found it way to the Holmes and was secreted, but by some means the excise officers were apprised of it, and arrived most unexpectedly, accompanied by a strong body of infantry. Making a seizure the booty was placed in carts, and triumphantly marched in the direction of Ayr. When passing Rosemount plantation a party of smugglers dashed out, "kents" in hand, and attacked the military. The fight was short, sharp, and decisive, and ended in the defeat of the revenue party, who being routed, left the field and the prize to the victors. I have often heard the name of Tam Fullarton mentioned in connection with many smuggling raids. Tam was a harum-scarum sort of a chield, a kind of a dare-devil, who was as fond of a fight as any Irishman could be. Upon one occasion Tam was accompanying a string of carts laden with contraband goods through a pass in the hills near the village, when an outlook espied a party of soldiers drawn up in the way to intercept them.. Tam, however, was equal to the emergency, and being a good general, he acted at once. Advising his companions to retrace their steps and to drive as fast as whip and rein would permit, he added, "I’ll keep yon lads in check till ye’re out o’ danger." Turning their horses, they set off at full gallop, while Tam ascended a precipitous cliff, on which was a drystone dyke. Placing himself behind it he roared defiance. The soldiers, supposing that a party of smugglers were about to offer battle, advanced and attempted to attack the place whence the sounds proceeded. Tam kept his position, and hurled down stones with such regularity and precision that the soldiers had to retire. Deciding upon a new mode of attack, they proceeded to take the enemy in the rear. Tam observing this, and knowing that his friends had sufficient time to be out of danger, gave a shout of triumph and dashed into the wood. The soldiers being unacquainted with by-paths, and not relishing Tam’s peculiar warfare, relinquished the undertaking and returned to the turnpike road. I might continue the narration of smuggling stories--for I have collected many--but I trust the above are sufficient to convey to the reader a faint idea of the fearless class of men who trod the hills long ago, defiant alike of law and revenue officers. Crags and caverns, know only to themselves, were their store houses, and in time of emergency the vaults of the Castle have concealed many a keg of brandy and bale of silk.

From the village of Dundonald I turned into the Kilmarnock road, and started on my homeward journey. From the hamlet it rises to a considerable elevation, then strikes off along an almost dead level. On the height, I paused and looked back upon the village and the frowning ruin, then sped onward. On m right I passed Newfield, the seat of William Finnie, M. P. The mansion house is situated on the top of some rising ground a short distance from the road, and is almost hid from view by trees. Of late years it has been greatly improved and additions built, and it is now a handsome residence. Near to it in a marshy piece of the ground is said to be the remains of a Roman bath or reservoir. The place is nearly always flooded with water, and it is only in very dry weather that the relic can be seen. Passing through Damdyke toll-bar, I soon arrived at "Fairlie o’ the five lums," as Fairlie House is locally termed. It is  at present occupied by Captain Tait, a relative of the Caprington family. It stands off the road some considerable distance, and is approached by a broad carriage drive, at the gate of which there is a neat lodge. Beyond, on the brow of a steep brae, where the road swoops down and crosses a fine bridge that has recently been erected over the Irvine in place of the old structure, I passed Old Rome, a row of ruined cottages of mean appearance that were at one time occupied by a colony of colliers, who left the place when the pits in the neighbourhood became "worked out." The prospect from the bridge is very pleasing, and I need not say that I lingered sometime to enjoy it. The river comes sweeping round a bend after washing the bank of the beautiful estate of Caprington ad turning the wheel of Cambuskeith Mill; it is when skirted by a hanging wood, passes the remains of Old Rome distillery, purls beneath the bridge, and rolls round a curve on its way to the sea. Leaving the pleasing scene, I followed the course of the road, which, a short distance from the river, crosses a line of railway and enters Gatehead, a small village that has sprung into existence within the last fifty years. It has a railway station, but no feature of interest, being possessed of neither kirk, market, mill, or smithy.

From Gatehead the scenery is very tame, and it was only at a turn where the road crosses a railway bridge that I had a glimpse of the picturesque. The gloaming had set in, and the western sky was tinged with the glory of sunset. Nature seemed hushed, but the stillness that reigned was at intervals broken by the lowing of cattle and the notes of a blackbird that piped its evening lay. In the hollow flowed the Irvine. The turrets of Caprington Castle peered over the tree tops, and, in the receding distance, Kilmarnock and the quaint village of Riccarton loomed in the fading twilight.

Passing Gargieston tile-works, and the entrance to the Mount, the handsome residence of Mrs. Guthrie, I gain Pointhouse toll, and turned down a narrow lane that runs to the edge of the Kilmarnock water. Crossing a wooden bridge I passed up West Shaw Street, and arrived in the Holm Square, none the worst of my long walk.

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