Bruce 750

by Robin McKelvie

When I think of Ayrshire I immediately think of Rabbie Burns and also Robert the Bruce, who was born here at Turnberry Castle. While our national bard is brilliantly celebrated in Alloway, the trail of arguably Scotland’s most seminal king can be harder to follow. The dynamic North Carrick Community Benefit Company have many strings to their bow, with a major focus this year on celebrating the 750th anniversary of the birth of Robert the Bruce in ways that have a lasting legacy for the North Carrick communities and that puts their warrior king on the map.

“NCCBC is a development agency for this part of South Ayrshire,” explains Claire Bryan, Assistant Manager. “We are working with local businesses and groups to develop and promote tourism. A key focus is Bruce 750, celebrating 2024 as the 750th anniversary of the birth of the King of Scots at Turnberry Castle. We are running a variety of initiatives, the main one being a Bruce Festival at the Glebe in Maybole.”

The Roots

The roots of the NCCBC are green. This community-focused development agency was established to distribute windfarm revenue with direct community benefit funding and has evolved into a development agency for Maybole and the eight surrounding villages. The communities of Dunure, Kirkoswald, Minishant, Maidens, Turnberry, Crosshill, Straiton and Kirkmichael have plenty to shout about with swathes of history (Bruce and beyond), superb food and drink, and great walking and cycling options.

The NCCBC have secured an impressive level of funding. As well as the wind farm, they have won funding from both the Scottish and UK Governments to develop a number of tourism-related projects. The NCCB has implemented some of their projects, but most have been led  by the local groups they support. 

“We started off as a community organisation that you could apply to for projects, and then the company has grown from there, employing people like myself,” says Claire. “We now have many different projects, within overarching themes and priorities. People can still apply for community funding, but we’re also doing our own projects and supporting other community groups and initiatives. Often, we take ideas that have been sitting in communities for a while and get them over the line.”

NCBBC have myriad priorities, with Bruce 750 just one. They have two full time employees and part-time employees too. An energetic, youthful team, the employees are augmented by volunteers. They take their volunteers from the community seriously, as Claire stresses: “ We try to provide a volunteer experience that is going to benefit them. We set clear expectations and tell them where we are going with things and how it will help their future. It is important to NCCBC that community volunteers end an event with work experience and get something positive out of it.”

“Tourism is important to our local economy. Our services are geared towards increasing visitor numbers and spend so as to increase employment and income levels,” explains Claire. One idea is developing plans for a large, nationally significant ‘Lion of Carrick’ monument near Turnberry, the brainchild of NCCBC Development Manager Stuart Lindsay, who has been working on it for 15 years. They are working with other organisations to secure funds to take plans forward. They’re aiming for a national monument akin to the Kelpies in terms of significance and impact. They are currently securing funding and looking at various sites. Also under investigation is adding a café and visitor attraction as the project morphs into a heritage enterprise village, a “network between the Lion, Maybole and local artists and craftspeople” as Claire puts it. There could be workshops and classes for people and the opportunity to buy. The complex would complement what makers in the area are already doing, helping plug any gaps. 

Bruce 750

Simon Glendinning, NCCBC events assistant and historian, tells me about another huge project. It is a new Bruce trail telling the largely untapped story of Bruce. “People know about Ayrshire and Burns, but not Bruce,” smiles Simon. “I’m the chairperson and founder of the Carrick History Society and most historians agree he was born at Turnberry Castle and our feasibility studies show people want more about information about Bruce here not Burns. Burns can stop at Alloway, there is no need to extend his story south as they tell it so well in Alloway. North Carrick and Maybole are at the heart of what we call ‘Bruce’s Web’. This is both for the local community and to bring other people in from outside.” 

The new community arts trail on the Bruce theme will feature eight pieces of public art and they will be built to last at least 25 years. The NCCBC have already been round primary schools chatting about Bruce, getting and spreading ideas. Some North Carrick villages have very strong links to Bruce. “Our designs are being created at the moment after school consultations by the end of this year. There will also be App accompanying the sculptures, as well as an augmented reality and game element. It will be North Carrick’s answer to Pokémon.”  

Simon tells me the new trail will have sustainability in mind. “You can drive it, but we’re trying to encourage active tourism on our new art trail,” he beams. “Through South Ayrshire Community Transport we’re having 12 bikes in Maidens, Kirkmichael and Maybole. We’re working with local businesses so you can pick up near where you stay. It’s important to join the dots. The infrastructure has to be there – where to get the bikes, where to charge, where to hose down. There will be electric vehicle charging and public toilet provision too. We want to encourage a sustainable visitor experience that does not negatively affect the community and the environment.”

“Bruce 750 will be massive,” insists Simon. “Each village already has events like a gala day or festival of the sea and we want to go along to try to get the other communities to embrace the theme. Our main event will focus on Maybole on 13th July.” They are planning seriously big. You’ll be able to see and learn. Did you know that a young Bruce was so renowned for his jousting skills that he ironically caught the eye and favour of Edward I? You will be able to see ‘Bruce’ in action again.

The big Bruce 750 day in Maybole will also tempt with a medieval village showcasing crafts and guilds, such as calligraphy, blacksmithing and healing (tying into the local heritage of ‘witches’). There will also be the important medieval sport of falconry, and local heritage will be showcased through tours of local sites. Carrick History Society will also be present to showcase the other eras of history and heritage that is available to view and enjoy in the North Carrick area. The NCCBC are also hoping to kick off the week of celebrations with an ecumenical service at Crossraguel Abbey on 7th July, with medieval costumed monks and tours of the abbey.

Inspiring Young People

Simon sees Bruce 750 as very important for the community: “We’ve been round all the primary schools and S2 at the Carrick Academy in Maybole. The kids are very interested in Heraldry, but know little about the Scottish Wars of Independence. It hasn’t been on their curriculum, but we’re trying to get that brought in. We go into schools and talk about local history. A lot of the teachers are from outwith the area, so we are more than happy to come in to help with our knowledge. It’s important to inspire kids to learn history and Bruce 750 is a huge part of that.”

Claire also stresses the importance of working with local kids in the community: “For Bruce 750 there will be inclusive events with free elements so all the kids on the Glebe can enjoy themselves. Some older people say kids never get involved, but we know they do. You just have to know what they are into – they love Horrible Histories and things like that, so you have to come at it from those angles. History Matters will come and do re-enactments right there on the Glebe and they’ll love that. Local kids missed out a lot during Covid. They’ve not had the summer events we had at that age, so we want to fill that gap and make Bruce 750 very memorable for them.”

Temporary Locals

“Temporary locals are very welcome in North Carrick and at Bruce 750,” continues Claire. “We also want to work with other communities and their groups. We worked, for example, with Go Girvan and collaborated with them on a photography competition. We want to get visitors to this part of the world and then to stay and spend money in the communities here as they engage with those communities.”

Bruce’s legacy may often be overlooked in North Carrick peering from outside, but NCCBC are determined to put ‘Bruce’s Web’ on the map and leave a lasting legacy from Bruce 750. Simon says proudly, “Bruce 750 does not end this year. The public sculptures will live on for at least a quarter of a century. We’ve also made a short Bruce meets Burns film where they interact together with each other on the stage. We’re looking ahead to 2029 already, the 700th anniversary of Bruce’s death.”

Claire is looking to the future, too: “We have another windfarm income cycle starting, and this is such an opportunity for another twenty years of community benefit projects. Moving forward, there will be a focus on our youth strategy targeting 6-16-year-olds, as well as older teens and 25-year-olds. We are passionate about children and young people and factor them into all the projects. They are the future and the ones who will live with our legacies. We’ve been working hard to get one of the Royal Family to visit, too – Prince Charles was Earl of Carrick before he became King; Bruce was at one point, too. A Royal visit would be the perfect way of celebrating our unique history and sense of community.”







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