Ayr (; , "Mouth of the River Ayr") is a large town and former Royal Burgh in Ayrshire, Scotland. Ayr was the county town of the wider county of Ayrshire until 1975. Ayr is now the administrative centre of South Ayrshire council area, which is the unitary local authority.
On 26 April 1315, the first Parliament of Scotland was held in Ayr by Robert The Bruce at St. John's Tower by the sea. It was once known as 'Inverair/Inverayr' (meaning mouth of the Ayr) and this usage is still retained in the Scottish Gaelic form of the name Inbhir Air. Later, during Cromwellian times, the town was used as a base and fortress for some of his men. Cromwell built a huge wall around certain areas of the town, most of which can still be seen today, creating a citadel. St John's Tower was originally part of a massive church, but the church was knocked down, and the tower used to practise on; it is now protected by the "Friends Of Saint Johns Tower" (FROST) residents of the nearby "Fort Area". A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Ayr Barracks (later known as Churchill Barracks) on the citadel site in 1795.
Ayr's industry has flourished over the years mainly because of the River Ayr. Ships that were built on the mouth of the River Ayr in the eighteenth century improved Ayr's economy. From 1883 to 1901, 143 ships and barges were built on the Ayr by Samuel B Knight and the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company. Repair work on the Ayr ceased in 1960 when Ailsa moved its operations to Troon.
The North side of Ayr Harbour still operates as a commercial port today, mainly exporting coal, and extensive railway sidings still lead down from the main railway line near Newton-on-Ayr station.
Manufacturing of textiles such as carpets and lining was important to Ayr's economy until the factories closed in the 1970s. This caused mass unemployment in Ayr. Many of the old factories are still standing and can be seen on McCalls Avenue and Walker Road in Lochside, North Ayr, though many are derelict and unsafe. There was a large factory engaged in the production of fertilisers and other agricultural products. This has since closed, but parts of the old complex are sublet by local businesses.
Ayr has always been a hub for shopping in South Scotland with the first department store, Hourstons, opening in 1896. In the 1970s, Ayr flourished further with the opening of further stores including Marks and Spencers and Ayr's first shopping centre, the Kyle Centre (1988). Heathfield Retail park, an out-of-town retail park, opened in 1993 with shops such as Halfords and Homebase. Ayr Central Shopping Centre opened in March 2006 with shops such as Debenhams and H&M and underparking for 500 cars.
During the 19th and 20th centuries Ayr became a popular holiday resort. This was due to its fine sandy beach and its popularity was increased by the building of the rail link to Glasgow in 1840.
Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses
Notes for Ayrshire
Family History Societies covering Ayrshire include:
Old Parish Register Provision
Transcriptions of Gravestone Inscriptions
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions; an index for Carrick, Ayrshire" edited by Alison Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1988 by the Scottish Genealogy Society. This covers the parishes of Ballantrae, Barr, Colmonell, Barrhill cemetery, Old Dailly, New Dailly, Girvan, Kirkmichael, Kirkoswald, Crossraguel cemetery, Maybole, Straiton, Patna and Alloway (i.e. parts of South and East Ayrshire).
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions in Kilmarnock and Loudoun District" edited by Alistair G. Beattie and Margaret H. Beattie and published in Edinburgh in 1989 (reprint) by the Scottish Genealogy Society. This covers burial grounds in the parishes of Dunlop, Stewarton, Fenwick, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Riccarton, Galston and Loudoun (i.e., central Ayrshire excluding Ayr and its environs).
The Troon & Ayrshire FHS has published the following books of Monumental Inscriptions: Old Alloway, Coylton, Craigie, Crosbie (Troon), Dundonald, Monkton, Newton Green Cemetery (Ayr), Six Kyle graveyards (includes Barnweill, Culzean, Coodham, Fairfield, Newton-on-Ayr and St. Margaret's, John St., Ayr), The Secessionist Graveyard (King St., Ayr), St. Nicholas (Prestwick), St. Quivox, Symington, Wallacetown Cemetery (Ayr), Ayr Auld Kirk.
Further Sources of Reference
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