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Help and advice for Tarbolton

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"Tarbolton is a place of considerable antiquity, and was erected into a Burgh of Barony by Charles II, in 1671, and granted to John Cunninghame, Esq., of Enterkin. In burghal constitution it was held to be governed by two Bailies and twelve Councillors, elected annually by the householders. The town-house was erected by subscription in 1832. Near the village is a mount called Hood's Hill, which strikingly exhibits the appearance of an old Danish encampment or fortification, and has given rise to the suggestion that Tarbolton was probably a station of the Danes at the remote period of our ancient history when these people possessed all the northern and western isles adjacent to Scotland. The inhabitants of Tarbolton are principally employed in weaving cotton, woollen, and silk fabrics, for the manufacturers of Glasgow; and at one time there were a few stocking-makers in the village. At present there are upwards of fifty hand-loom weavers employed, the webs being chiefly plain silk."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.



South Ayrshire Libraries have published Monumental Inscriptions for Tarbolton Churchyard.


Presbyterian / Unitarian
Tarbolton, Church of Scotland

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Church History

"The present parish of Tarbolton comprehends the ancient parish of that name, and the larger part of the parish of Barnweill. Ancient Tarbolton was twice subjected to the monks of Faill, yet did not remain with them, but continued to be a free rectory, and, in 1429, it was erected into a prebend, or canonry, of the cathedral of Glasgow. The present parish church was built in 1821, at a cost of upwards of £2,500. Alexander Peden, the Covenanter, was for some time precentor of Tarbolton Church, and the celebrated Dr William Ritchie, Professor of Divinity in Edinburgh, was at one period its minister. Tarbolton being situated near Sorn Castle, where a garrison was stationed during the times of the Covenanters, it is not surprising to know that the ancient churchyard boasts of its Covenanting memories."

"About July 1685, Lieutenant Lauder, a subaltern from the garrison, was scouting the country in search of fugitives, and at the wood-head of Tarbolton, met a young man not more than 18 years of age, named William Shillilaw, whose name had been given to the soldiers by the cowardly curate of Sorn, as one who refused to acknowledge Episcopacy. With no other charge against him, and without even the mockery of a trial, he was seized by Lauder and shot dead on the spot. His remains were buried in the churchyard, and an upright monumental stone marks his last resting place."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.


Description and Travel

The parish of Tarbolton is a relatively small area in central Ayrshire, lying north-east of Ayr and east of Prestwick. The parish includes the villages of Tarbolton and Failford. Tarbolton is a small country village with strong connections with Robert Burns, it lies in a farming community. To the north of the village is the remains of a motte and bailey, whose presumed wooden castle has long gone. The motte was surrounded by the Tarbolton Loch, now reclaimed.

An 1837 description of Torbolton (as it was then spelt), Failford, Stair and Joppa, including a listing of the key personalities, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.

Burn's famous Bachelors Club is located in the village, the only survival of pre-18th century Tarbolton. The house on Sandgate has been acquired and restored by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public.

"Burns, who frequented the village when. residing at Lochlea, has rendered it for ever famous. 'Willie's Mill' the scene of the grimly humorous conversation between 'Death and Dr. Hornbook', is situated on the banks of the Fail stream, a few hundred yards from the village."

"The Tarbolton Lodge of Freemasons (St. James'), to which he addressed the well-known farewell, beginning, 'Ye brethren of the mystic tie' still exists, and has in its keeping some interesting relics of the poet. The chair used by Burns when he, was Deputy Master of the Lodge is still preserved, and used at the meetings. The old minute book with the poet's signature, and the Deputy Master's apron, worn by Burns, are also carefully treasured by the brethren of the Mystic tie. Near Hood's Hill, adjacent to the village, is a well-worn seat, said to have been that on which Burns sat when composing 'Death and Dr. Hornbook'. The castle o' Montgomery, too, where Burns wooed his Highland Mary, is within half an hour's walk of the town."

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