Wayfarer column- Many historic tales can be discovered in Ayr

There are a lot of fascinating tales about Ayrshire, for us to find if we are interested enough to appreciate that history is the foundation of the future. Ayr is the principal town in this locality and many a tale it can tell.

The High Street is constructed to a 13th century plan which, if you follow its winding course, you will pass the Wallace Tower built in 1832 commemorating Sir William Wallace, who began his campaign in 1297 against the English by ‘Burning the Barns of Ayr’. Carrying on down the high Street you will come to the Town Hall Steeple 225 feet high designed by Thomas Hamilton in 1827, both buildings which may require some further investigation.

Before arriving at the Town Hall Steeple, just off the High Street you will come across the ‘Auld Brig’ a narrow cobbled bridge which dates from the 15th century, replacing a wooden bridge dating back to 1250 which for many years was the only way into the town from the north.

In 1788 a Robert Adam-designed new bridge was erected downstream from the Auld Brig and Robert Burns in his poem ‘The Brigs of Ayr’ had the two bridges trading insults with each other. The New Brig says to the Auld Brig ‘Poor narrow footpath of a street, where twa wheeled barrows tremble when they meet’ to which the Auld Brig replies ‘Conceited gowk! All puffed up with windy pride! This mony a year I have stood the flood and tide, I’ll be a brig when you are a shapeless cairn’.

This actually came to pass as, nearly a century, later the New Brig was swept away by floods to become a shapeless cairn and be replaced in 1877 by the present bridge.

The days of the Auld Brig seemed to be numbered when the town planners wished to knock it down as, due to lack of maintenance, substantial funds were required to restore it .

However Burns Club members and enthusiasts from across the world raised the necessary funds to restore the Auld Brig which proudly stands there to this day cocking a snoot at all those lofty town planners. Councils are constantly trying to change things to give the impression that they are making improvements without giving any consideration to other concerns.

They may have had a change of heart with Scotland’s oldest merchant’s house, the Loudon Hall built in 1513 and standing near the New Brig which has been resurrected as an arts centre.

It is not necessary to change everything just to create the impression of progress as some of these old constructions were very well designed by our forebears to last. See you next week.