The Wayfarer - An insight into Ailsa Craig’s rich history

Halloween is well past, the shortest day fast approaching, so perhaps it is time to reflect on this part of the world and all the tales which must abound.

Let me start with Ailsa Craig a massive granite rock some 1,110 feet high which stands proudly out at sea for all to admire.

There cannot be many Girvan residents who have not made the 11 mile trip to explore this historic island. The granite on the island is famed for the curling stones which have been used in the Olympic games, but there is more than that which can be attributed to this rock. The Craig has a lighthouse built 1883-1886 by D.&.T. Stevenson, accommodation for the keepers, gasworks to power the lighthouse and the two fog horns, all now no longer in use since the lighthouse became automatic in 1990. However long before all the aforementioned happened we find that in a charter of 1404 Ailsa Craig belonged to Crossraguel Abbey and was used by the monks to send wayward abbots out to harvest the seabirds for the Abbey. That was some punishment as before the castle was built there was little shelter to protect them from the elements. At that time there was not much hereabouts that did not come under the influence of Crossraguel Abbey, but that gradually waned over the centuries. Thomas Hamilton was appointed keeper of the island and in 1597 erected the castle which stands approximately a third of the way to the top. It is a substantial keep built of sandstone which is impressive as the stone would have had to be transported across from the mainland. However despite the Garry loch at the top producing fresh water there was nothing on the island to sustain any long term inhabitants.

There was a time when it was feared that Ailsa Craig could have been taken over by a foreign power as Hew Barclay of Ladyland attempted to annex it for Philip of Spain. He was quickly ejected and no more was heard of this ploy. Perhaps he thought of it as the Spanish equivalent of Gibraltar?

Ailsa Craig has been in Kennedy hands since the 1500s and its chief the Marquis of Ailsa took his title from the rock.

It is known to have been the haunt of smugglers using the many caves the island boasts. Thankfully the rats have been exterminated to allow Ailsa Craig to be home again to the very attractive puffin. It is a natural home to many birds, including gannets who can often be seen diving for fish in Woodlands Bay.

See you next week.