Legend has it, the Auld Brig was paid for by the Lowe sisters as one mourned the loss of her love to the rapids on a stormy night.
Long ago in Ayr, there lived two maiden sisters, Isobel and Margaret Lowe. Both sisters were beautiful, so beautiful that it was a mystery to all who knew them as to why they had never taken husbands, despite the many, many suitors and proposals to their father over the years. The wealth and reputation of the Lowe family had seen propositions of marriage for the sisters from such a young age, that upon their 6th Birthday the sisters made a pact; they would never marry unless they were truly in love.
Many years passed but the sisters had kept their promise. Their parents had long since died, and the Lowe fortune was left with the sisters, but the maidens remained unmarried. That was until Isobel fell in love, and soon she was betrothed to be married to a soldier who was fighting for the King. He had been gone for five years, fighting against the English but vowed to return to her to be wed. On the winter evening Isobel’s soldier was to return from war; the silence of night was broken only by the roar of the river and the howl of the wind, as lightning lit the empty black sky, and the heavens opened. The pale moonlight silhouetted the arc of the solitary wooden bridge connecting either bank of the River Ayr, which this night was dangerously rocking to and fro, battered from the wind and the lashing of the rain. Many a storm this bridge had conquered, but this night would see its last.
The soldiers arrived on shore, and wearily departed their ship, grateful to be on land once more. Isobel’s love, desperate to find shelter from the storm, made his way to the town until he reached the foot of the bridge. Apprehensively, he took his first step. The creaking of the boards beneath his steps left him anxious, but courageously he continued forward, head bent low against the elements that battered him on all sides. Isobel, expecting him this night, had been sat by the window staring out toward the river since dawn, desperate for any sign of the man she loved. Her heart swelled as she saw his figure on the bridge, silhouetted by a flash of lighting, making his way home to her. Suddenly, all relief vanished as another strip of lightning ripped forth from the dark clouds, striking the bridge with an almighty crack, loud enough to wake the dead. In horror Isobel watched as the bridge began to crumble and split. Isobel raced outside towards the river, but it was too late. The bridge had gone, and Isobel’s soldier plunged into the torrid rapids below. Isobel reached the riverbanks in time to see her soldier, gasping and thrashing against the current before it dragged him under for a final time.
And so, with this, both sisters kept their childhood promise. Never to marry unless for love. It is said that this night Isobel’s heart turned as cold as the water that stole her soldier from her and she never loved again.
The sisters, wishing no one to feel the same heartbreak, gave the money to the town to build a new bridge. One made of stone and made to withstand the cruel storms of winter. In tribute to the sisters’ generosity, their likeness was carved on either side of the bridge. Many say you can still hear Isobel’s sobs when night falls, along with the soothing sounds of Margaret trying to comfort her sister.
Inspired by the folk tale, and following quote from the book The Brig of Ayr: Ayr and something of its Story by James A. Morris (1912).
“The reputed founding of the Brig of Ayr* by the beneficence of two maiden sisters, one of whom, Isobel Lowe, saw her lover perish before her eyes, in the dark waters of the often sudden and turbulent river, is a beautiful birth-song ; but legend and romance must to-day inevitably yield place to prosaic fact, and, whatever the motive and origin, the earliest authentic reference to the Brig, whether it be the Brig we know, or an earlier, is in the charter granted by Alexander II. in 1236, to the Royal Burgh of Ayr; wherein, besides provision made for the Town and harbour, is also ad susten-tationem pontis (to the suspension bridge).”
Written by: Kirsty McConnell
Illustrations by: Jazz Buchanan
Audio by: Elisha Bennison
Audio recording and mixing by: Scott Andrew