Historical background by Neil Stirrat
Photo, from 1905/6/7: Capt. Walter Muir (on horse) inviting the Magistrates and Councillors or the Royal Burgh to the Moor to join the Carters in the Races, in the days before there was a Marymass Queen and entourage.
Irvine owes its existence to the small piece of land that is now the Pitch &Putt golf course at the northern end of the Low Green. Nine hundred years ago the high tide water mark reached as far as Seagate, and in this sheltered cove now the Pitch & Putt course, the fishermen found a safe place not only to shelter, but unload their catches also. There was no need to wait for the tide to proceed to sea again as they had to previously when it was necessary to beach the boat to unload, and wait for a suitable tide to re-float it.
It was not long before houses began to appear in the area we know today as Seagate. Access to Irvine at that time from the south was only possible along the beach between Irvine & Troon, and old maps warn travellers to keep a sharp look-out for quicksands. Entry to the town itself was by crossing the river at the Puddlie-Deidly (Puddleford). As the river was still tidal (the weir was not built till much later) travellers sometimes found it necessary to wait for the sea to recede before they were able to cross. As a result houses began to appear on both sides of the ford (Kirkgate, Loudon St.), and it could be said that Irvine consisted of two villages.
The cove was soon to be Ayrshire’s premier port and was recognised as the port for the city of Glasgow. If this small cove is credited with the birth of Irvine, the Carters must be credited with the growth and prosperity of the town, as they were responsible for the delivery of merchandise destined for the city, and delivering the manufactured goods for export, not only from the city but also Kilmarnock and the surrounding areas. This was no easy task, as roads as we know them today were non existent. One hundred and fifty years ago the Earl of Eglinton was accompanied by six followers whenever he travelled by coach to lift it back on to the highway should it slip off the road.
The Carters will tell you that they were at Noahs’ Ark; “whoever heard of a flitting without a Carter?” When the Irvine Town Council decided to move the statue of the Lord Chief Justice of Scotland David Boyle from his position in High Street to its present site in Castle Street, it was a Carter to whom the responsibility was given. A councillor approached the Carter and offered him eight pounds to carry-out the task. When the Carter and his load reached the Salt-store in Bridgegate, the councillor approached the Carter advising him that he hadn’t confirmed the contract with the ‘Cooncil’ and he could only give him four pounds.