Monday, 20 February 2012

Going back to my Scottish Roots

Our first day in Scotland was spent in Ayrshire visiting Scottish ancestral haunts.  First stop Kilwinning, for it was here in the 15th century that the first Patrick's of Ayrshire were known to have owned land around the Monastery of Kilwinning.   So in the drizzling rain we walked around the ruins of the historic Kilwinning Abbey, thought to date back to the 13th century.

Kilwinning Abbey, Ayrshire
A short drive north of Kilwinning is Beith, a pretty wee town where at least 7 generations of my ancestors lived.  We found the street where my great great grandfather lived on for the first 15 years of his life, in a small house which they shared with a massive Hand Loom, as Weaving was the trade of his father.  These Hand Looms were often the property of the local Mill & I suspect, were rented out to many on the street so that they could earn a pittance of a wage. 

New Street, Beith c. mid - late 1800's
New Street. Beith as it is now
The street named New Street, not the most imaginative name for a street, was also the  birthplace of Henry Faulds, the genius who discovered that the fingerprint could be used to identify criminals.  Henry & my great great grandfather would have lived on New Street during the same time period.

Just a few miles outside of the village of Beith, in the farming district of Barrmill, we went in search of a house which I believed was once owned by my 8 x great grandfather.  To our absolute delight we found the actual house & found that he'd actually built it himself leaving a large stone plaque inlaid into the outside wall above the front door engraved with the following inscription: “Built by [my 8 x great grandfather] in 1736”.  Left there for his 8 x great grand-daughter to find over 275 years later!

The home built by my 8 x great grandfather, Barmill, nr. Beith, Ayrshire
Buoyed by this find, we moved on to Kilmarnock to pass through more streets where ancestors were known to have lived.  Neither Boyd Street or Robertson Place were particularly thrilling areas of Kilmarnock but it was interesting none the less, to envisage our ancestors walking around here as we were now doing, 200 years later.
Robbie Burns Cottage, Alloway
While  getting late, we decided to chance our luck travelling on to Alloway near Ayr, to visit the thatched cottage where poet Robbie Burns was born & the nearby Heritage Park where we took a walk over the remarkable Brig o' Doon, a late medieval bridge used as the setting for the final verse of the Burn's poem 'Tam o' Shanter'.  Heading home after a night of drink  and debauchery, Tam is pursued by Nannie the witch. Tam and his trusty mare, Maggie, must reach the bridge’s peak, the point that marks the official crossing from one side of the river to the other. For it is widely known that witches and other evil spirits cannot follow their would-be victims past the middle of a running stream.

At the Brig o' Doon

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