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Prehistoric Ayrshire

John Smith



AT Redburn, near the castle of Eglinton, there are three irregularly-shaped mounds. One of these, with the permission of the late Lord Eglinton, I made a trench through, but found that only some 2 feet on top of it was artificial, the great bulk of the mound consisting of stratified sand. These mound-like structures had probably been carved at one time out of the raised beach sands by the waters of the Garnock. Nothing was found in the one I opened, but it had been' pitted ' before I touched it. [* Since this was in print a stone coffin, formed of slabs, has been found on the Pun Brae (probably Pan Wrae, or Chief's Fort), Stevenston. It measured inside 44" x 20" x 20 ". Inside of it there was a hand-made ornamental urn , 7" high, and a stone club.]

When some railway excavations were being carried on at Seven acres, there was unearthed a built cundy, covered by sandstone slabs, and at the end of it a circular stone, roughly dressed, and about 5 feet in diameter. This stone had a hole in its centre, in which there was a stone plug luted with tough yellow clay. When I had this stone lifted, it was found to cover a shallow cavity, but nothing was found in this hollow. The mortar used in the whole structure had been tough yellow clay (Fig. 133).


FIG. 133. Circular Stone, etc. (underground ), at Seven Acres.

FIG. 134. Ancient-built Grave at Dirrans, near Kilwinning.

Near Dirrans, on the south bank of the Garnock, there was brought to light, when rough sand was being dug for the' pig-beds, a very peculiar and ancient structure. It was built of channel stones, without cement of any kind, and measured 4 feet deep by 15 inches wide, being circular in plan, and somewhat like the one to be noticed in Colmonell district. This chamber must have been a very ancient structure, as the stones of which it was built- mostly whinstones - were very much decomposed , some of them so much so as to be easily crushed to powder in the hand. It was placed 12 feet from the top of the south bank of the Garnock Water, but had probably been at a much greater distance from the river at one time, as it-the latter -was corroding its bank in a southern direction (Fig. 134). It had no lid or covering of any sort, and a small tree grew right on the top of it. In the bottom there were a few inches of a fine, grayish, powdery material, which I took out and sifted carefully through a riddle, but found no relics. The rest of it was filled with sand. There was, therefore, nothing to indicate what the structure may have been used for, but it had in all likelihood been a place of interment. It could not possibly have been a well, as water is not got in the district till a depth of 10 or 12 feet is reach ed. It is figured and described in the Ayr and Wigton Collections.

Just to the south of the old house, or, as it is sometimes called, the Bishop's Palace, of Montgreenan, there are the remains of a mound, pointed out to me by Mr. Kerr, the forester on the estate.

A deep trench has at one time been cut through it, and in the trench there once was an ice-house. Perhaps this mound was the original Montgreenan, or mound of the sun, in days of old when that luminary was looked upon as the symbol of deity. The Gooseloan Mound is a very fine one, in good preservation, and crowned by a small clump of trees; and, although placed in a valley with rising ground on either side, the view from it towards the south-west is extensive. It is ' pretty large, and placed on a sloping surface, measuring 7 feet above the ground on its upper side. So far as I know, it has never been opened .

The Lomond Mound, on Woodgreen, has, unfortunately, been all but levelled with the ground. I was informed by the late Mr. Alexander Robertson, of Bannock Cottage, that sixty years ago it was a conspicuous object in the district, the view from it towards the south and west being extensive.

The Druids' Grove Mounds, on the other hand, are placed low down, at the outer angle of a bend in the Garnock Water. They are three in number, placed in an almost equilateral triangle, with their bases nearly touching; and a line passing between the two south ones in a north and south direction would almost cut through the centre of the north one. The north one is 104 paces in circumference at the base, 7 feet 6 inches high at the shallowest part, the top being rather flat, and 9 paces in diameter. Its north side has been partly carried away by a stream which enters the Garnock close by. The west one is 96 paces in circumference, at the base, and 8 feet 10 inches high. The east one- by far the largest-the one towards the rising sun, is 105 paces in circumference, and 10 feet 4 inches high, the top being somewhat flat, and 15 paces in diameter (Fig. 135). The spot where they stand is known as the Druids' Grove, traditionally, I suppose; and , so far as I know, none of this remarkable group has been opened.

FIG. 135. Druids' Grove Mounds, near Kilwinning.

At Dalgarvan Mill there is an incised sandstone slab, with five cup and junction gutters. It appears to have been modernized a bit , and has done duty as a piece of pavement (Fig. 136). It was probably an ancient grave-slab ; and we shall see by-and-by, when we come to King Coil's Tomb district, that slabs inscribed with cup and ring markings were anciently used for covering human remains. Grave-slabs of a more recent date, inscribed with a sword and a cross, indicating a man-a warrior-and with shears and a cross, indicating a woman-a spinster- were unearthed when recent explorations were made at Kilwinning Abbey, founded in 1140, and destroyed at the Reformation.

FIG. 136. Cups and Gutters on Sandstone Slab, at Dalgarvan

Near to the Abbey was St. Winning's Well, a built structure; . and at Bullerholes there is the Powder Well, so called from the taste of the water. It is placed in the bed of the stream, and the village may have taken its name from it.

In the district have been got the following antiquities ; an urn, 7 inches high by 6 inches, and 2 5/8ths inches wide, found at Eglinton,


FIG. 137. Stone implement found at Clonkeith

FIG. 138. Axe-hammer of Greenstone found at Eglinton

and figured in the first volume of the Ayr and Wigton Collections; a finely-shaped round and oval stone implement, in my collection, 4 3/4 inches long, tapering to a blunt point, which shows marks of usage-it is glossy over a large part of the surface-found by the late, Mr. Baird Kirkland at Clonkeith (Fig. 137); a stone celt, 3 7/8th inches long, with oblique cutting-edge, found by Mr. Matthew Kirkland at Pyetbog ; a perforated axe-hammer, found in a drain at Redwells by the late Mr. Kerr ; a perforated axe-hammer, 8 inches long, 2 3/4 inches deep, and 2 5/8th inches wide at the eye, the shaft-hole being towards one end -the most weathered specimen I have even seen- found by Mr. John Palmer at Eglinton (Fig. 138) ; a white marble ball, 2 1/4 inches in diameter, and with a small hole bored into it for a distance of 7/8th inch, very much weathered all over the surface, found in a drain at Fairlie Bog by Mr. James Calderwood; a bronze axe 6 3/8th inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide at the face, found at Fairlie Bog, and figured (as from Bog) in the fourth volume of the Ayr and Wigton Collections. It is ornamented on the surface with chevrons (Fig. 139).

 FIG. 139. Bronze Axe, found at Fairlie Bog.

FIG. 140. 0il-shale Bead got in a Drain at Nethermains

I have a beautifully-made oil-shale bead, which was got in a drain on Nethermains (Fig. 140). In the same drain there was found a flint scraper, both articles having been deposited in river gravel.

In Mr. Young's garden, West Doura, when the gardener, Mr. McLellan, was preparing the ground, he found a very beautiful arrow-head of yellowish, slightly mottled flint. It is of the same type as the Kilmarnock one (Fig. 151), but not so large. Mr. McLellan had searched for thirty years to try and find a flint arrow-head, and got one at last when not searching.

At Whitehurst there was got a 'finely-shaped elliptic quartzite pebble, some 7 inches in its longest diameter. In its broad side it has got a hole, and from the bottom of this hole four small holes diverge at an oblique angle to the large one. It was found by the late Mr. James Hendrie, who presented it to me.

The late Mr. Alexander Robertson informed me that some fifty years ago, when peats were being cast from Auchentibber Moss, there was a straight line of wooden stakes discovered under the peat, which was, perhaps, 10 or 12 feet thick.

The castles of the district are Eglinton, Montgomeries -a recent structure replacing a more ancient one- Clonkeith, Cunninghames-above the door of which there is a piece of fine corbelling still in good preservation -and Monk Castle, a small place recently restored. Near it there are the remains of an ancient dovecot.

In- the Montgreenan Woods are the remains of a bishop's palace, sometimes called a castle, of which little appears to be known, and not far from it part of an ancient gateway. The palace has even got a greater' rumping' than the abbey. Near the latter a number of fragments of stags' horns have been found, but from the manner in which they have been cut it is evident they have been so treated by a modern-style saw, and probably belong - to abbey times.

In the Garnock there is an island called Ringen's Isle, possibly named after the saint, Ringen or Winning, who is thought by some to have given his name to the district, although others interpret it as meaning the Wood of Winning, the old name of which was Segton-by-the-Sea.

In the time of the monks there were coal-pits worked at Monkredding.

On cleaning out one of the abbey vouts (vaults), a brass spicket and pins with riveted-on heads were found.

Corsehill Muir (now a plantation) is a bit of rising ground on which the ecclesiastical ceremony of witch-burning used to be performed.

At Fergushill there is the remains of an old lade, which supplied water to drive a wheel wherewith the old coal-pits used to be drained

On Montgreenan lands, in the Chapel Park, there was found a pot of silver coins.

At the entrance to the Monks' Walk there is a sculptured stone built into the gable of a house, high up. It is supposed to represent David, the shepherd-king, playing on the harp.

In a field near the town there was got a copper counter, with 'W PIT DRIVE' on it.

In Montgreenan Policies, near the ruins of 'the tower, fortalice, and manor-place of Montgreenan' there was a waulk-mill.

The first day of November is called Bell's Day, the first of February St. Winning's Day.








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