History of Irvine


"At any rate the Royal Burgh of Irvine ranks as a veteran among her compeers of Scotland, and is mentioned as a place of great antiquity in a charter granted by Robert I, dated February 1308. This charter was granted by the Bruce in consequence of the services rendered by the inhabitants in the wars of the succession."

"The supposition that the Royal Burgh of Irvine is of higher antiquity than that of Ayr is in no degree weakened when it is found that the royal sisters were wont to quarrel occasionally over their respective rights and liberties, and that King Robert II having commanded an inquest to be held concerning the boundaries and liberties of the contentious pair, it was found that Irvine had been from time immemorial in possession of the whole barony of Cunninghame, including the barony of Largs, annexed to the liberties of the said burgh."

"The ancient burgh is at present in a very prosperous state, and its general trade and manufactures are of considerable importance, and include engineering, shipbuilding, brewing, chemical works, coach-building, &c., &c. Among its public buildings are included a Town Hall, an Academy, two Established, two Free and two United Presbyterian churches, a Baptist church, and a Roman Catholic Chapel. The old bridge, built in 1533, was replaced by a new structure in 1748, at a cost of £350 sterling. This bridge was only 11 feet in width. In 1827 it was widened in stone to 25 feet 8 inches, and in 1889 re-widened in iron to 38 feet 4 inches. The new bridge is adorned by a casting of the burgh arms. The affairs of the burgh are managed by a Provost, three Bailies, a Dean of Guild, a Treasurer, and twelve Councillors."

"Early in the sixteenth century the Bailieship of Cunninghame was held by the Earl of Eglintoun, who appears to have differed with the Magistrates of the Royal Burgh anent their respective powers of administering justice. This dispute led to an agreement between the dignitaries whereby the Magistrates' right was admitted to extend over the freedom of the burgh-woods, burgh-lands, and community, while the Earl was to 'keep the heid fair' of the burgh, holden annually on the 15th day of August. The town, about that time, consisted chiefly of one main street running parallel with the river, and was enclosed with gates and ports, one at the west end of Glasgow Vennel and the other at Eglintoun Street. It had also its Burgh Cross, which was removed in 1694, but the site of which is still marked on the causeway. Irvine has for its armorial bearings a lion rampant-guardant, having a sword in one of his fore paws, and a sceptre in the other with the motto, 'Tandem bona causa triumphat'. These are sculptured over the entrance door of the Council-chamber, the walls of which are hung with portraits of some of the celebrities connected with the burgh."

"The old Tolbooth was an antiquated building of two stories, and had at its south-east end a tower surmounted by a short octagonal spire. It stood nearly in the middle of High Street until its removal in 1860, when it was superseded by the new Town-house. The carved stones of the old Tolbooth have been preserved and built into the walls of the new erection. The ancient structure and its inmates suffered during a violent thunderstorm in 1740. 'On 28th November 1740', says a quaint old chronicler, there was a thunderbolt broke on the steeple of Irving, and it stroke one man dead, which was in the Tolbooth, and wounded several others very sore; and a woman that was in seeing the prisoners, her clothes were burnt off her, and one of her eyes burnt out, and one of her shoes burnt off her feet, and her one side was burnt that they saw her bare ribs in her side, yet her life was saved; and it rent out of the middle of the steeple a hole that a man could have gotten in, out of the hewn stone, and rent several holes through the slate of the Tolbooth, and several folks in the town were dong down to the earth, and got no more harm; and at the same time the vittles were very scarce in the markets, the old meal was 14d and 15d per peck, and the bear was twelve pound per boll."

"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.