Ayr
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yr is a royal burgh on the Firth of Clyde, having been granted its priveliges in 1205 by William the Lion (grandfather of the current king). Its position makes it a centre of trade between the Scottish lowlands and the rest of the Irish Sea, as well as the first line of defence in the event of rebellion by the Earl of Carrick.

Geography and Features

The town sits on the southern bank of the River Ayr, only slightly inland from the sea. It is surrounded on its three landward sides by a wooden palisade, which passes under the stone tower of St John's church. The tower serves double duty as a bell-tower and lookout post in case of raiders from Galloway, Carrick or the islands. The burgh is also served by the Friary church of St. Katherine and its community of Dominican friars.

A few outlying farms sit outside the palisade, along with a ferry that links the roads running north to Prestwic and Kilmarnock, and south into Carrick.

At the mouth of the river, separated from the town by a patch of wet, boggy ground, a royal castle serves as the seat of the Sheriff of Ayr.

People

As is typical of Scottish burghs, the population is small - rivalled, in fact, by the larger villages of the lowlands. Approximately 1000 souls live in its tightly-packed buildings. The inhabitants are polyglot, as befits a trading town, though roughly half of them learned Scots English as their first language. The remainder are evenly split between Gaelic- and Breton-speakers, with a few Welsh and Flemings to season the mix.

The burgh charter does not establish a controlling authority for the town, with the result that the day-to-day governance is split between the Ayr merchant guild and the sheriff. In the event that he needs to canvas the opinions of the townsfolk, the sheriff summons a council of the more prominent merchants and guildsmen, and the curate of St John's.

Guilds and Commerce

The merchant guild was formed shortly after the burgh's founding, and consists of a score of the town's more successful traders and merchant adventurers. It makes representations to the sheriff on matters of taxation and law enforcement.

The last generation has seen a steady expansion of trade, leading to the formation of the tanners guild in anno domini 1239. The tanners spend more of their time setting prices and regulating the quality of their products than playing politics, though they have been known to raise their voices on matters relating to relations with the Earl of Carrick, given the importance of the Gaels' cattle to their business.

The burgh market is held every week on Wednesday. The meadow outside the palisade plays host to a fair each year on the Feast of Saint Marnock (the 25th of October). The fair is timed to coincide with the arrival of the cattle drives from Carrick and the uplands, and brings hundreds of merchants, peddlers and gawkers to town. Despite this, it is not popular among the townsfolk as trade within the town proper is forbidden during the fair. This forces the local traders to relocate to market stalls in order to continue their business, although they can earn a little money on the side by renting out their empty shops as accommodation for travellers.

Notable Figures

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