Facts and figures
‘A’ Listed building. The church was built between 1654 & 1656, after the area which included the medieval Kirk of St John (St John’s Tower in Citadel Place is the only remaining part) had been taken over by Cromwell’s Commonwealth forces. The local commander, Colonel Alured, authorised funds to help pay for a replacement church. The remainder of funds were raised by local people.
The church seats more than 900. Cruciform shape (originally T-shaped, then added to in 1836). 3 lofts (not ‘galleries’) : Merchants’ (facing pulpit), Sailors’ (above left ), Trades’ (above right – outside entry); all supported by Corinthian columns.
Sailors’ loft : model of ship Arethusa (42-gun ship, 21 ports on each side) suspended from ceiling is successor to a model of a barque given by French sailors in 1662 in thanks for help Ayr folk gave after they were shipwrecked in Ayr bay. Visiting sailors used to sit in this loft. One window of modern glass showing Christ on Waves, another (Garallan window) of stained (not painted) glass.
Trades’ loft : access from outside only. Various trades of town life sat here. Chairman of Trades Council sat in centre (there was robust rivalry for chairmanship). Shields at lower edge of the loft’s front panels represent trades eg fleshmen, bakers.
Merchants’ loft : clicking door half-way up stairs had sneck – man was appointed to prevent children rattling it during services and throwing stones into doorway; John Welch statue (on loan) – minister 1600-02; merchants sat here on Sundays and met here on Mondays as Town Council (present loft has been extended and rake increased) – table was for tall hats to be deposited on way to pew. Front pew is still reserved for Council for their annual Kirkin’ and on Remembrance Sunday.
Looking into chancel area :
• wooden ceiling replaced hessian one after church built. Roof space above, with huge beams, shaped without modern tools but using adze, and oak nails, and slates secured by wooden pegs, accessible from Merchants’ loft;
• organ loft was originally behind pulpit. Full pipe organ (not electronic, though controlled electrically);
• militia flags are those of local regiments (Ayrshire Yeomanry, Royal Scots Fusiliers) – see brass plates for descriptions – also large cross with circle, from France, on right as face Trades’ loft.
Pulpit : has canopy, which acts as sounding-board (necessary before microphones), and lower pulpit for Reader (was rescued from contractor’s yard). The pulpit was restored in 1952 and became the church’s Second World War Memorial.
Pulpit wall : ‘Obiit’ Board – records bequests to help poor of the town; “Amamanite” memorial, weeping over lost ashes of husband; cross above pulpit donated by Women’s Guild.
Communion table (dedicated at Tercentenary in 1954) contains panels from old Church of St John (see brass plaque).
Front of Sailors’ loft – where did Master Craftsman meet Apprentice in carving?
Note moveable font frame – a previous minister was left-handed.
John Welch window to east of pulpit – Welch (son-in-law of John Knox) was Wyatt Earp-type of personality; Ayr in 1600-1604 was wild town, he often separated warring factions on streets, provided meal and restored peace.
Under Trades’ loft :
• Boys Brigade window (2nd Ayr Company) given at their centenary;
• memorial tablet to Eric D Gairdner, military surgeon and a perfect gentleman, holder of Croix de Guerre and Distinguished Service Order (DSO);
• modern Flaming Window (Burning Bush is symbol of Church of Scotland) – Dittany plant (see Exodus 3 v3) – note also motto (Latin) ‘nec tamen consumebatur’ : ‘burning but not consumed’ – cross incorporates pillar of window;
• in end wall, Cairns Duncan window – memorial to previous minister (1886-1926) who set up Clog fund for barefoot children and went round pubs collecting - includes Auld Kirk at bottom left, Christ as child, St Cecilia, Arran hills, New Jerusalem and Burning Bush; also memorial to Lt Col William Smith and others;
• note box pews, once occupied by Session Clerk.;
• Burns pew and Burns statue (replica of one in Burns Statue Sq.).
In front of pulpit and facing doorway :
• on immediate left, tablet for 7th centenary of Ayr Academy in 1933 (close links between church and school);
• glass case containing Deed of Gift letter from Colonel Alured;
• Fastl plaque (memorial to Rev Gillieson) – lists all ministers of Auld Kirk (Second Charge and First).
Seat rents were paid until mid-20C, names were in card-holders at ends of pews.