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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 129 neither commodious nor elegant. He therefore had it immediately pulled down, and a splendid new castellated edifice erected in its stead Of the buildings and lands we are tempted to quote the following description, written a few years after the completion of the structure :- “ It is one of the finest and most magnificent buildings in the west of Scotland ; nor is the noble appearance without disgraced by the finishing and furniture within-everything there is elegant and princely. Its site is indeed low, and still more concealed by being embosomed among fine old elms. It stands upon an extensive lawn, which is converted into the most beautiful pleasure-grounds. Nature here has put on none of her bold and majestic features ; but art has done much. Neither the towering rock, nor extended lake, nor navigable river, adds to its magnificence ; only a small river runs past it on the east and north, which is rendered much broader than it naturally is by being dammed back. On the banks of this stream the most delightful walks are formed. As you walk along, at one time a thicket of shrubbery conceals the water from your view, and at another it unexpectedly bursts upon your sight, and raises the pleasurable feelings, no less by surprise than by the beauty it displays ; small, however, as the river is, it adds much to the beauty of the scenery ; and the vast number of trout, which on a fine evening are seen sporting on its surface, tend much to increase those tranquil but pleasing emotions, which the song of the grove and the smiling landscape never fail to excite in the mind which has a taste for the beauties of nature, and a heart fitted for relishing the enjoyment of innocent pleasures. To these the humane and benevolent mind receives a vast accession, on seeing around it the timorous hare sporting unmolested in numbers. This persecuted creature finds here a safe asylum throughout this extensive policy, which contains nearly fourteen hundred acres ; not one of them is allowed to be molested or killed. On the dusk of a summer evening they reward his lordship’s protection with their confidence, by often playing their innocent gambols before him, round one of the largest and most beautiful chestnut trees I ever saw, which stands on the green exactly opposite to the house.” The Earl was an excellent farmer, and continued to improve on the plans of his predecessors, by draining and cultivating the waste lands, and otherwise increasing the value of his estates. Among other instances of his lordship’s anxiety to create sources of local attraction niay be mentioned the institution of “ Bogside Eaces,” which, during his lifetime, from being well attended by gentlemen of the turf, were a vast benefit to the town of Irvine. His attention, however, was by no means confined to his own immediate locality, the affairs of the county, and indeed all public matters, received a corresponding share of his attention. On the death of the Earl of Errol, in 1798, he was elected one of the representative Peers of Scotland; and was again re-chosen at the general election in 1802. The most extensive of all the Earl of Eglinton’s undertakings was one which, although it proved in some measure ruinous to himself, now bids fair to realise some of those advantages to his descendants, which he of course never could expect to witness himself. We refer to the formation of the harbour of Ardrossan, and the projected canal from thence to Glasgow. The advantages presented by such a proposal appeared so manifest to the Earl, that he entered upon the speculation with the utmost enthusiasm, calculating upon his views being at once seconded by the commercial capitalists of Glasgow and Paisley, if not by some of the proprietors, whose lands would be considerably increased in value by the canal. The primary object of the design was to cut off the circuitous and even dangerous navigation of the Clyde, which, previous to the v VOL. 11. S
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130 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. introduction of steam-vessels, was a serious obstacle to the growing commerce of Glasgow. The bay of Ardrossan presented many natural advantages for an extensive harbour, having at its entrance a depth of six fathoms at low water, and five to three fathoms for more than one-half of its extent, with good anchorage, wherein the largest frigates, as well as merchantmen, might ride in safety ; while, by cutting a canal to Glasgow, a ready transit for commerce with the west was anticipated, besides opening an internal communication through the most populous and important districts of the country. The line of canal, as well as the harbour and docks, were surveyed and estimated by the celebrated Mr. Telford. According to the plan, the canal was to commence at Tradestown in the suburbs of Glasgow ; thence stretching along by the manufacturing districts of Paisley, Johnstone, etc., traversed one of the most remarkable seams of coal, being from seventy to ninety feet in thickness. There were to be in all thirty-one locks on the canal. In short, it was anticipated that Ardrossan would become to Glasgow what Liverpool is to Manchester. The Earl immediately set about the immense undertaking, by procuring two Acts of Parliament-one for the harbour, and another for the canal ; and on the 31st July 1806, being the anniversary of the birth of his eldest son, Lord Montgomerie, the foundation stone of the harbour was laid with more than usual masonic ceremony, and amid a vast concourse of spectators. “ On the summit of the rocks Lord Eglinton caused tents to be erected, in one of which were tables for thret hundred persons ; there was also an elegant tent for the reception of the ladies. The Freemasons of the ancient mother lodge, Kilwinning, with their Grand Master, William Blair of Blair, Esq., and a party of the Saltcoats Volunteers, with the band of the Ayrshire Rifle Battalion, proceeded from the town of Saltcoats along the shore to Ardrossan. Before the procession arrived at the harbour, they were joined by the Earl of Eglinton, accompanied by a number of the most respectable gentlemen of the country and neighbourhood -by Mr. Telford, the engineer, etc. At the moment the procession, amidst crowds of spectators, arrived at the pier, the Countess of Eglinton, attended by Lady Montgomerie, and above fifty ladies of the first rank and distinction in the country, appeared on the point of an eminence near the old Castle of Ardrossan, which overlooks the bay. At three o’clock the principal foundation stone, at the point where the pier is connected with the shore, was laid by the Grand Master, with the usual solemnities. The Earl of Eglinton then addressed the company in a very neat speech, in which his lordship stated that though, in the course of nature, he could not expect to see these works at the summit of their prosperity, he had no doubt that, long after he and many of those who had given aid to the measure were gone, the country would reap the advantages of them, and estimate their true value. Then, after a very impressive and suitable prayer waa given by the Rev. Mr. Duncan, minister of Ardrossan, and immediately on a flag being hoisted in the adjacent mason’s shed, where the stone had been prepared, a round was fired from eight fieldpieces placed near the old Castle, and returned from two of his Majesty’s cutters, which were stationed in the bay, with twenty-one guns. Two tables, each a hundred and twenty feet long, were laid, and upwards of two hundred persons eat doxn to a splendid dinner, with choice wines and every fruit of the season, provided by the Earl of Eglinton. After dinner several loyal and appropriate toasts were given. About seven o’clock the Earl and his Countess proceeded to Eglinton Castle, where a splendid ball concluded the evening‘; at Saltc:oats also various parties spent the evening in dancing and festivity.” The cost of the harbour of Ardrossan was originally estimated at S40,OOO ; but the work was not long begun before it was evident, from unforeseen obstructions, that that sum would not half complete it,, while the merchants of
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