Wayfarer Column- The fascinating history of Ballantrae

I suppose everywhere you go there are tales to tell, but this part of the Scottish coastline excels in quality of the tales that are available.

Ballantrae, now there is a name to conjure with and by that I am not meaning the novel ‘Master of Ballantrae’ by Robert Louis Stevenson which had very little to do with the village apart from Stevenson having spent a night there and attracting the attention of the locals due to his flamboyant clothing.

Stevenson liked the name and used it for his novel which was actually set in Galloway.

However to get back to the village of Ballantrae which was only established in 1617 when an Act of Parliament allowed the removal of the church from its site some two and a half miles inland to its present site on the coast.

The present church was built in 1819 and from1826 to 1830 the minister was the Reverend Thomas Burns nephew of famous bard Robert Burns.

Ballantrae harbour consists of a small pier constructed at a cost of £6,000 including excavating the rock to form a basin for the boats.

It is somewhat surprising to learn that the village and harbour at one time was a very important fishing port.

In 1890 it is recorded that 1,322 barrels of herring were landed and cured annually from 516 boats which involved a total workforce comprising 921 fishermen, 78 fish curers, 51 coopers and some 800 other ancillary workers.

It is interesting to note that 516 fishing boats seemed to be crewed by 921 fishermen and then to realize that the total numbers involved must have comprised the whole village and the surrounding area.

No mention as yet of smugglers but we know that Ballantrae and the surrounding area was at one time well known for smuggling.

The registration ‘BA’ is a Ballantrae registration and most fishing boats along this coast carry it reflecting the historical importance of this village as a fishing port.

However there is more to Ballantrae than fishing as it houses the remains of Ardstincher Castle built by Hugh Kennedy of Bargany in around 1450 after having given up the ministry to travel to the continent where he became a confidant of Charles V11 of France.

After accompanying him to the Holy Lands Hugh Kennedy was rewarded with sufficient funds to purchase the Ardstincher lands (£10) and build a castle.

Well there you are, a short history of Ballantrae which may have surprised you, but I have yet to explore the tales which must be there to tell.

See you next week for more tales.