Henry Cockburn (1779 – 1854) Bonaly-born Solicitor General for Scotland who had a passion for writing. Toured Scotland and wrote about his travels in his work ‘Circuit Journey’s’ which includes references to Ardrossan and Arran.
Henry Cockburn was born on the 26th of October 1779 in Midlothian. The son of Janet Rannie and Archibald Cockburn, a judge.
He attended the Royal High School in Edinburgh and then the University of Edinburgh. He entered the Faculty of Advocates in 1800 as a lawyer and would go on to become a judge and eventually the Solicitor General for Scotland.
So what does this have to do with North Ayrshire?
In his later life it became apparent that Henry had literary ability and multiple works of his were published (some posthumously). One such work was ‘Circuit Journeys’ (Published in 1888) which recorded the thoughts and feelings of Henry on his tours of Scotland between 1837 and 1854.
Arriving in Ardrossan on the 9th of September, 1842 he headed to Fairlie for a walk about and described the village as the ‘best village of the wealthy in Scotland’. With “excellent houses, capital gardens, umbrageous trees, the glorious Clyde, backed by Arran and its dependencies stretched out before them, a gravelly soil and a mild western climate.”
He also enjoyed Arran, except the boat ride from Ardrossan as he mentions lying down flat on the deck (with his eyes shut) as soon as he embarked, in order to avoid seasickness.
He spent a few days on the island, climbing Goatfell and enjoying the beautiful scenery. He was quite enamoured with Brodick but was unimpressed by Lamlash which he described as being “far inferior to its rival capital; particularly in want of wood, want of high hills and want of scattered cottages.”
Unfortunately, he seemed unimpressed with Ardrossan. His description states that the town has “no beauty in its own immediate neighbourhood. But no place on the Firth of Clyde can ever be without charms and interest, and until Arran shall be covered again by the waters, it will always be delightful to look from Ardrossan.” Quite the backhanded compliment!
If this has piqued your interest you can read ‘Circuit Journey’s’ for free below. Including an amusing section in which he discusses ‘bathing performed by ladies’ which he claims he has never seen done in Scotland even with common decency!
Read ‘Circuit Journey’s‘ (p166 for Ardrossan)