Reflections on Ayr Mount’s Bicentennial
“A Hundred Thousand Welcomes” was the theme for Ayr Mount’s bicentennial year – which in Scottish Gaelic is “CEUD MÌLE FÀILTE”. The house, built in 1815, by William Kirkland, merchant and family patriarch, was named after his birthplace of Ayr, Scotland. Throughout the year of 2015, we honored Kirkland’s roots as well the historic house and extensive grounds that make Ayr Mount a unique place to visit. The celebratory calendar was full of music, dancing, dining, learning, sharing, socializing, and just a whole lot of fun!
The opening event for this banner year was the Earth Day Fair at Ayr. Visitors ambled on the grounds and the Poet’s Walk, planted trees, and learned about a myriad of topics: vermicomposting, recycling, land conservation, and the North Carolina Mountains-To-Sea Trail, which crosses over CAHPT land.
A birthday dinner held on May 2nd brought 230 friends, patrons and preservationists together for a festive celebratory evening. Music, delicious food, perfect weather and a bright full moon seamlessly coalesced for a night to remember. Opening with a kilted bagpiper welcoming guests as they arrived and closing with Dick Jenrette leading the diners in a chorus of Carolina Moon Keep Shining; it was a true Classical American Homes moment.
Later the same month, a time capsule filled with Kirkland family relics was on exhibition before it was laid in the ground. Maps, coins, Civil War items, Kirkland family information, and letters from the community honored the past, present, and future. On William Kirkland’s 347th birthday on May 19, 2115, Ayr Mount’s Time Capsule will be unearthed. Perhaps your great grandchildren will be at Ayr Mount for the big unveiling!
Hearkening back to 1815, The Ball at Ayr Mount brought Scottish music and English Country dancing to the site for a very proper and delightful evening. Regency attire consisting of empire gowns, cravats, waistcoats, tartans, turbans, gloves and walking sticks were the fashion of the evening. Guests danced to the tunes of Geud Man of Ballingigh, Jack’s Maggot, and Flowers of Edinburgh. After all the spirited dancing, guests partook of planter’s punch, lemon flummery, lavender shortbread, and molded pastries. The Kirklands and Jane Austen would have had a lovely time.
The Kirkland’s 1797 pianoforte, similar to the one used by Beethoven, was conserved for a special concert in September. Pianist Keiko Sekino and soprano Andrea Edith Moore delighted the audience with music from Mozart, Schubert and Stephen Foster, held in the West Parlor, which is furnished with early 19th-century classical furniture, sculptures and paintings. The acoustics were excellent and a Kirkland descendant in the audience said that the first Kirklands would have loved the concert.
With the Saltire and the Lion Rampant flags flying high the most attended event of the year was the Cèilidh. Bagpipers, drummers, dancing, stories, food, even a Loch Ayr Monster surfacing in the pond, plus bonnie Carolina weather made for a delightful Scottish festival. Guests learned traditional Scottish dances, listened to great music and even the wee bairns had a good time playing in the castle and practicing slaying the dragon. It was “dead brilliant” – Scottish slang for great!
The year ended with Christmas in the Ayr with Ayr Mount’s interior and exterior decorated with fresh cut greenery, flowers, fruits and vegetables. There were mantles, table tops, pediments, window sills all adorned with cranberry garlands, lush green magnolia, lilies, roses, feathers, fist sized poppy pods, pineapples, oranges, lemons, pinecones, heather and thistle. The cheerfulness of the holiday season was a perfect way to end our bicentennial year.