POTTED HISTORY of FAIRLIE, SCOTLAND
Fairlie Village, lying to the south of Largs, on the west coast of
Scotland had a reputation as the "best village of the wealthy
in Scotland" [Lord Cockburn in 1842]. But its character has been
changed by the building of bungalows in the inter-war and post-war
years. Fairlie was renowned for the quality of the racing yachts produced
by several generations of the Fife family, in a business on Bay Street
which survived until the 1980s. Not far from the church is a 16th
century Tower House. Fairlie Parish Church has a plaque commemorating
the pilot Alan Boyle, who flew the first British monoplane in 1909
The Village of
Fairlie lies on the
North Ayrshire coast, approximately 2 miles South of Largs. It is
a charming village with a natural beauty, nestling between hills
to the East and the Firth of Clyde to the West, looking directly
towards the Cumbraes, two small islands, just off the coast, and
with a magnificent view of the Isle of Arran.
King David I appointed
Sir Richard de Morville, a Norman, to hold land in Scotland. He
became High Constable of Scotland and Lord of Cunninghame, Largs
and Lauderdale. This piece of land was sub-divided among Richard's
relatives and friends, and, in the 13th century the land of Fairlie
was held by the de Ros (or Ross) family of Tarbert, the land to
the North was held by the Boyles and to the South by the Sempills.
It was one of the sons of the Ross family who built the Castle and
adopted the name Fairlie. The family continued to live in the Castle
until the 17th century, but by the end of the 19th century the castle
was in ruins.
The land to the South
of Fairlie Burn, held by the Sempills, was never held by the Fairlie
family and is actually in the Parish of West Kilbride. The Montgomerie
family latterly held the estate (Southannan). The original building
of Southannan House or Castle was demolished in the 18th century
and the present house was built some time later. To the North of
Fairlie are the Kelburn lands, with a fine castle, where members
of the Boyville (Boyle) family have been since the 12th century.
A David Boyle was honoured in 1703 by being created Viscount Kelburn
and Earl of Glasgow. One of the later Earls, in 1850, had a wall
built round the estate to give work to the poor people of the area.
The present Earl has greatly improved and developed the estate.
It is now a country centre, open to the public, and attracts many
visitors from far and wide.
According to ancient records it would appear that Fairlie developed
as a fishing village, as it had a good, sheltered anchorage which
was fully used in the 16th century. Weaving also began to help the
prosperity of the village as the demand for Paisley shawls increased.
The cottages below Fairlie Castle (Burnfoot) were known as Weaver's
Row. A little further North was the "middle row" (Ferry
Row), where the fishermen and ferrymen lived. The remains of the
old ferry quay can still be seen. This became known as Knox's Rocks
as Knox White, an old Fairlie worthy, hired boats in this area in
the 20s and 30s. Still further north was "north row",
an indeterminate group of modest dwellings (the Bay Street area).
The families kept pigs and hens, grew fruit and vegetables - the
more affluent had a cow - other necessities of life were obtained
from peddlers, who travelled the countryside. An occasional visit
to Largs (by foot) especially to Hyndman's market or to Colm's (Columba's)
Day fair. A turnpike road was built from Greenock to Stranraer in
the 18th century and merchants and master mariners began to move
into Fairlie. The channel between Fairlie and Cumbrae (Fairlie Roads)
was a popular anchorage for merchant shipping, mainly to avoid the
dangers of press-gangs at Greenock and the customs could be easier
avoided at Fairlie. The old cottages, in time, were improved and
some enlarged, new buildings were erected.
Some of the originals are Rockhaven (the Ferry House), Fairlie Lodge,
Beach House, Allanbank, Fairlie Cottage and part of Brookside.
It was in the late 18th century that John Fife came from Kilbirnie
to set up business as a cartwright in Fairlie, leading to the famous
Fifes of Fairlie. Another character, Peter Peterson, arrived in
Fairlie from Glasgow, where his business was. He seemed to be lawyer,
banker and estate agent, and was the first commuter to live in Fairlie,
realising that he could have the best of both worlds. He set up
a bank in the village and the good people at that time made good
use of it. Unfortunately he absconded with all the money, leaving
many debts behind. A story, published in the local paper at the
time, said that he had committed suicide and that his body was buried
at low water mark and covered with large stones. It was believed
at that time, that suicides would never be at rest and might walk
from their graves, unless weighed down.
Other 'new' residents
soon arrived, a Mr C.S.Parker, his brother-in-law, Mr Tennant and
his friend Professor Milne and around 1820 Fairlie House, Fairlie
Craig and the Creich were built. The new residents, who were fairly
affluent, instigated and raised money for the building of a church
and a school, and in 1834 the work of building Fairlie Parish Church
was completed. At first it was a 'Chapel-of-Ease', an off-set of
the Parish of Largs to 'ease' its membership. (See Out of the Past
-St Paul's Church of Scotland, Fairlie, by Alexander Watson M.A.).
A Church school was also built,and in 1843, at the Disruption, the
then minister, Rev John Gemmel, signed the Deed of Demission, In
1844 the Free Church (St Margarets) was built with the money raised
by public subscription.
The two churches flourished side by side until 1968 when circumstances
arose to facilitate the union, as it was recognised that what separated
the churches was much less important than the shared common beliefs.
St Margarets became the Church Hall after the union in 1968 and
has since been sold , St Pauls reverted to its old name of Fairlie
Parish Church. ( St Margarets has since been sold and is now a dwelling
Around the latter part
of the 19th century, Fairlie was still quite a small place, and
it was only after the coming of the railway which was opened to
traffic in 1880, that it began to grow. Bungalows at the South end
of the village proliferated in the 20s and 30s, housing many of
the employees of I.C.I.'s Explosives complex at Ardeer, Stevenston.
A small council development grew up at the North end of the village.
This progress was halted during the war years, but the advent of
the Atomic Power Station at Hunterston , the NATO Boom Defence Depot
in the 60s and the Ore Terminal in the 70s encouraged growth. Since
1960 Fairlie has just about doubled itself population wise. The
Railway Pier station was opened in 1882, and became an important
part of life in Fairlie, serving the Isle of Arran and the Cumbrae,
as well as being a stop for many cruise steamers. One of the first
'drive-on, drive-off' ferries, the Glen Sannox, commenced in 1957
serving the Isle of Arran. Boat trains ran to and from Glasgow and
Kilmarnock and a freight service also ran daily.
The growth of road transport and the private car began to take its
toll on the use of the railway to serve the boats. The pier itself
was of wooden construction and began to require extensive and costly
repair. It closed in the 1980s and the Isle of Arran was served
by the boats using Ardrossan Harbour. The local boatyard was eventually
demolished, making room for more housing development. Fairlie now,
in this new millennium, is a quiet residential place, with an ever
changing population of commuters and pensioners. It still has a
railway station, and a Church, and a Filling Station with grocery