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Fri 7 August 2020
James Macrae Memorial, Monkton, AyrshireMost people who have travelled through the Monkton district of Ayrshire will have noticed the monument that stands on the high ground behind the Dutch House Caravan Park, and wondered what it is and why it is there. The monument is in the form of a square tower, surmounted by a small spire and overlooks Prestwick Airport to the south, the caravan park to the north and the Monkton roundabout on the Prestwick bypass to the east. It is called Macrae's Monument and is one of the few things left in Ayrshire to remind us of a very remarkable man called James Macrae.

James Macrae was born in 1670 in dire poverty. He was, however, an intelligent boy and soon left Ayr in favour of a life at sea. His journey eventually took him to India where, with his keen mind for commerce, he became governor of Madras in 1725.

James returned to Ayr in 1731 a very wealthy man. In 1736 he bought the estate and mansion house of Monkton which he renamed Orangefield in honour of King William III (formerly Prince of Orange) of whom he had been an ardent admirer and supporter. The property included all of the land now occupied by Prestwick International Airport. His mansion house was used for 25 years as the airport hotel and reception area until it was demolished about 1965. The materials were used to build the airport control tower and several other airport buildings including the customs and office areas. Large murals from the mansion are now on the walls of Prestwick Indoor Bowling Club.

The monument was built in 1748 but collapsed soon after it was completed. It was re-erected in 1750. The exact circumstances concerning the building of the monument are not known. He may have had it panned as a mausoleum before his death or friends may have erected it to his memory. Legend maintains that his remains were removed from Monkton Kirkyard and placed in the monument but this can not be substantiated. To know the exact circumstances of the building of the monument to James Macrae is of no consequence. It matters only that it is a tribute well deserved and well located. From its lofty position, one can see the parish of his birth, the route by which his mother took him to Ayr, the town of Ayr in which he ran errands as a boy, the harbour from which he went off to sea, and all of the land that was his estate of Orangefield. By his romantic rise to fame and fortune and his great philanthropy to those who cared for his mother, James Macrae was a credit to the land of his birth.

His incredible story must not be forgotten in Ayrshire.

Photos: Jon McRae 2006

James Macrae Memorial, Monkton, Ayrshire

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