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Ayr Academy as an institution

In 1791 John Fergusson of Doonholm, who had made his fortune as a merchant in Calcutta, left a bequest of £1,000 to benefit education in Ayr. In 1794 Provost John Ballantine proposed that this be employed towards the establishment of an academy, which would be an upgrade of the burgh school. A public subscription was launched to raise more of the necessary funds, and over two hundred people responded. Many of the Ayr merchants and professional men who contributed (including Ballantine himself) owed their wealth to the town's trade in tobacco and sugar from slave plantations. The list also includes nineteen subscribers resident in Jamaica, nine resident in Bengal (the part of India, including Calcutta, which was most closely controlled by the East India Company) and two in Virginia. Classes began in 1796 in the old school building, and a new academy building was completed in 1800.