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Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire

by John Smith




WE have now arrived at the Irvine district, and back again to the estuary of the Garnock. It is by no means so rich in archaeological subjects as the parishes of Stevenston and Dundonald on either side of it.

In Bartonholm Sand-pit I picked out of the stratified sand, at a depth of 10 feet from the surface, a hollow scraper of flint (Fig. 222). This is perhaps the most ancient article which has been found in Ayrshire, indicating at least a rise of the land of 50 feet since it was lost.

FIG. 222.-Hollow Scraper of Flint found in Bartonholm Sand-hole.


The Lawthorn (first part of name suggestive of a court hill or grave) Mound occupies a commanding situation, although not placed high up, the view from it being extensive in all directions, and only slightly obscured towards the north-west by the Eglinton Woods. It is 21 paces in diameter at the base, and 14 feet in diameter on the top, the height being 9 feet 8 inches. It appears to be largely composed of boulders, and a large one of graywacke, 7 feet long, is partly buried on the top edge facing the south.

The GIRDLE stood 3 furlongs to the south-west of the Lawthorn Mound, and appears to have been so well constructed and cared for that it was the admiration of everyone who saw it.

I am indebted to Mr. Rodger, the manager of Fergushill Colliery, for the following information concerning it. As far as he recollects, it was about 30 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, was surrounded by a turf dyke and thorn fence, outside of which were a number of trees, mostly beech. It was completely levelled some thirty-nine years ago.

On Irvine Moor there is a mound made in the shape of a court hill , with flat top. It is 20 paces in diameter, 2 feet 6 inches high on one side , and 13 feet 8 inches high on the other.

One hundred and fifty-two paces north-east from it there is a round-topped mound, 30 paces in diameter, 6 feet high on one side, and 8 feet 10 inches high on the other

FIG. 223.-Amber Bead found at Bartonholm

The first one may have been a court hill, and the other one the gallows hill, although the Ordnance surveyors have placed the gallows hill site a short distance to the south-west of this spot.

I have an amber ' melon ' bead, which was got in a drain under moss at Bartonholm. It was lying beside a large bone, the interior of which was bristling with crystals of vivianite ; but, unfortunately, this bone was not preserved (Fig. 223). This bead measures - 16 of an inch in diameter through the perforation, and H - in the other direction. It has not been quite perfectly made; and as there are no amber deposits in the West of Scotland, it may have been brought from a considerable distance, perhaps from the Aberdeenshire coast, where amber is thrown ashore by the waves.

As already remarked when speaking of Cuff Hill and St. Inan's Chair, this confessor app ears to have been connected with Irvine sometime during the earlier part of the ninth century.

On the Town Moor there is an old racecourse, which is still the scene of some activity one day in the year-at Merrymass ; and near it a few ancient relics have been picked up.

The castles of the Irvine district are Stane Castle (Montgomeries), leading from which there is a subterranean passage, and Seagate Castle ( Montgomeries ), both of which are still in a fair state of preservation.

FIG. 224.-Lead Bullet found at Kidsneuk

When an old house in the townhead of Irvine was being taken down, five silver spoons were found, and are now in the National Museum, Edinburgh. One of the spoons is figured in the seventh volume of the Ayr and Wigton Collections. In Fullarton (Irvine) there is a Haaf Way, and in West Kilbride

FIG. 225.-Sinker found in Snodgrass Holm,

there is another. This is a Scandinavian term for road to the sea, and is indicative of Norwegian colonization.

The Murrees in Fullarton is probably a corruption of monkish Latin for the sea. The ground on which the old powder-house stands is called the Gofields, where golf is said to have been played in days of old before it was put a stop to by Government.

There is a division of opinion as to the meaning of the word Irvine, some giving it as the winding stream, and others as the green margin; even the west-flowing river has been suggested, and is probably correct.

There are some march-stones at the boundary of the Borough Lands. Fig. 224 represents a leaden bullet, of peculiar construction, which was found in a drain at Kidsneuk. It is probably not very old. Fig. 225 represents a stone sinker found in the Snodgrass Holms, and is similar in type to the sinkers found in connection with the Clyde canoes.

About 1890 there was found at the Murrees a gold memorial ring, bearing the inscription, 'Lady Mary Boyle, died rath May, 1757.

In 1895, when a drain was being cut along the High Back Way, some bits of glass, brilliantly coloured from age, and several coins, dating back for two hundred years or so, were found.

At the Gripp, as the name would seem to indicate, there was probably a grave-mound.









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