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Castlehill Woods, Ayr

Ayr merchant John Ballantine (provost of the town in 1704) was trading in Virginia tobacco during the late seventeenth century, and his sons William and Patrick followed him in this trade - Patrick eventually settled in Virginia and died there. William Ballantine married a sister of John Bowman, one of the wealthy Glasgow 'tobacco lords' who became a provost of that city. This marriage connection enabled William to participate in Glasgow's booming tobacco trade, boosting the family's wealth. His daughter Elizabeth married David Fergusson of Castlehill, and as a result of this marriage the Castlehill Estate passed back to the Ballantines, who had previously possessed it during the sixteenth century. Elizabeth's brother Patrick built a new mansion house there in 1804, and when Patrick died in 1810 another brother, John, a banker, took over the estate.

John Ballantine is a major figure in Ayr's history. He was provost 1787-89, 1793-95 and 1796-98, was instrumental in the building of the New Bridge and the establishment of Ayr Academy, and was a friend and patron of Robert Burns who dedicated his poem 'The Brigs of Ayr' to him. Except for being a partner in a short-lived sugar refinery at Ayr Harbour, it is not clear if John himself had any direct involvement in transatlantic trade, but he handled the Scottish side of financial affairs relating to the Jamaica plantations of the Hamiltons of Rozelle and Belleisle, and his family's fortune was built on slave-grown Virginia tobacco.

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