There were a few silversmiths noted as working in Ayr during the 19th century, but one who appeared to grab the headlines more than most was the jeweller, Andrew Wallace. Below are some details that were appeared in various publications in the 1800's:
Those who had been at Glasgow or Edinburgh generally returned with something new, such as an addition to or change in their dress, and all was duly noted and commented on. A dashing jeweller, bearing a patriotic name, who went to Edinburgh occasionally to replenish his plate, once took advantage of his trip to get his hair dressed in Princes Street. Such an occurrence could not escape notice, and the news soon spread, after the first tea and card party the jeweller attended. Accordingly, whenever he was seen leaving by the Telegraph, the remark was current that Jeweller Wallace had gone to Edinburgh to get his hair cut.
Source: Reminiscences of 'Auld Ayr' - James Paterson - 1864
The Dublin "Leerie" – Hamilton, the Fresh Water Sailor, and the Watch Robbery.
Before the introduction of gas, Ayr was very imperfectly lighted by a few dim, glimmering oil lamps, which generally became extinct about midnight. The magistrates had always a difficulty to get a " leerie" to light and trim the lamps during the season, so much so that they had to advertise annually in the county papers for some individual to fill the situation, as no one in the town would take the office on any consideration. This arose partly from the meanness of the office, and partly from the torment the holders of it used to experience from the youths of the town, who wickedly and maliciously tormented the holder of it during the time he exercised his special avocation. I remember of a "leerie" coming from Dublin, about forty-two years ago ; he was a tall, stout man, dressed in sailor fashion, with blue trousers and jacket, and a glazed hat. He was tormented very much, and being of a fiery temper, would in return charge the boys through the streets, not unfrequently throwing the flaming torch at them. In some instances the boys were severely burned. So frequent became these collisions, and so sore was the damage done by the "leerie", that the magistrates determined to dismiss him, which, as soon as they had secured the services of another, was done. It was on a Saturday that he was dismissed, and between Sunday night and Monday morning the shop of Mr. Andrew Wallace, jeweller, was broken into, and a great number of valuable watches and other articles extracted. The robbery had been committed by cutting a piece out of the window shutter, large enough to admit a hand and an arm to work freely. The shop was in a building a little below the Fish Cross, on the right hand side going up the street, and formerly known as the Gallery of Fashion. The second flat had been fitted up, and was occupied by one M'Adam, from Glasgow, as a haberdashery warehouse, who gave it the designation referred to. The shop windows were bow-shaped at that time, plate-glass being then unknown as a window ornament. The entrance to the shop was by two steps from the pavement. It was the custom of Mr. Wallace to visit his shop every night before going to bed, to see that all was right. On the night in question, as he was making his usual survey, he found a man standing in at the door of the shop, and at once asked him what he wanted there. He was answered by the individual that he was waiting for a comrade, being bound to sea that night, and the evening being rainy, he had stepped in to shun the shower. After this explanation, Mr. Wallace remarked that it was not a place for him to be standing, and requested him to go away, while he himself went to bed without thinking any more of the matter. In the morning he was awakened, and informed that his shop had been broken into during the night. On repairing to his shop and examining, he found his loss to be considerable. The authorities were immediately informed of the occurrence, Mr. Wallace at the same time narrating the circumstance of the preceding evening, describing the man as tall and dressed in sailor garb. Angus Gunn, the thief-catcher, was sent for, who, on hearing all the circumstances, immediately suspected the late leerie. On going to his lodgings, Gunn found that he had sailed for Dublin that morning about two o'clock, which confirmed his suspicions. Gunn was in a dilemma, as there were no steamboats in those days to follow and overtake the vessel. Repairing to the shore, he saw the vessel becalmed a little way off the Heads of Ayr, and immediately addressed a fresh-water sailor, named Hamilton, telling him the occurrence, and on whom his suspicions rested. Hamilton still further strengthened Gunn's suspicions by saying that he had seen the leerie go aboard the becalmed vessel, carrying with him a box which seemed rather heavy. The sailor volunteered his services to procure a boat, and take the messenger of justice to the ship to apprehend the leerie. The sequel will show with what confidence a villain will charge an innocent person with the crime which he himself has committed. A boat was got, manned, and with Mr. Gunn on board, soon rowed to the vessel. When the ship was reached, Mr. Gunn informed the captain of his mission, and requested his assistance in his search. The lamp-lighter was kept under strict surveillance while the thief-catcher and others made a search of his luggage, and, in truth, of the whole ship from stem to stern, but without avail; none of the missing property was found, nor even a trace of it. The suspected person was accordingly allowed to proceed on his voyage, and Mr. Gunn returned to land disappointed at heing unsuccessful in recovering the stolen articles and apprehending the thief. His suspicions afterwards fell on other parties, and among the rest Hamilton himself came under his eye, but after searching his house, and other suspicious places without success, the case was abandoned as altogether hopeless.
Hamilton after this went to sea, and sailed several trips to and from Ireland. On the last trip he and a shipmate quarrelled about some matter over a glass of grog, and Hamilton being cognisant of the fact that his shipmate had taken some soap on board to smuggle to this country, went in revenge, and to curry favour with the captain after they had put to sea, and informed him what the sailor had done. The captain immediately ordered the sailor to bring the soap on deck and throw it overboard, lest the ship should be seized when it came into port. The sailor being done out of his soap, in retaliation resolved to be revenged on Hamilton. He knew that Hamilton had been suspected of being engaged in the shop robbery in Ayr, and had had his suspicions roused by seeing Hamilton, on more than one occasion, offer valuable watches for sale in Ireland; and further, by having seen more than one in his possession. He informed the captain, who had no great notion of Hamilton's honesty, of his surmises. When they reached Ayr Bay, the pilot and a tide-waiter came on board as usual. The captain asked the waiter to examine Hamilton's chest carefully, as he had been informed that he had some valuable watches and other seizable articles in his possession. Accordingly he examined Hamilton's chest with more than ordinary care, and on doing so observed that the inside of it was shallow in comparison with the depth outside. This led to further examination, when it was discovered that the chest had a false bottom. On lifting this he was astonished to see it filled with watches. The owner was instantly ordered below and a guard placed over him. The boat was sent ashore, which soon returned with Hamilton's old acquaintance, the thief-catcher, who took him into custody, and also carried away the discovered property. Mr Wallace identified the watches as those which had been stolen from him. Hamilton was tried for the crime at the ensuing circuit, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed. He then made a confession of the robbery, stating that he had hid the watches in a hay-stack in the corner of Provost Shaw's Park, where they had lain for several weeks before he could get an opportunity to remove them; he further stated that he had more than once tried to get them disposed of in Ireland, but could not accomplish his desire. Hamilton's wife had some time before this been wet nurse in a nobleman's family near Edinburgh. The family, on her account, used all their influence, and got the husband's sentence commuted to transportation for life. Hamilton was sent to Botany Bay, where he was liberated in a few years, and appointed Chief Constable of the colony. In this situation he amassed a considerable sum of money, sent for his son, who had been left chargeable on the parish after his father's banishment and mother's death, and placed him in affluent circumstances in the colony. Thus, it ultimately turned out to be a lucky thing for Hamilton and his son that he had at one time rubbed shoulders with the gallows. We would not, however, advise any one to try the same trick, lest he should not be so fortunate.
Source: An Historical Account of the Town of Ayr for the Last Fifty Years - James Howie - 1861
In April 1816, twenty-three watches were abstracted from the shop of Mr Wallace, jeweller in Ayr. Every exertion was made to discover the robbers, but without effect. Last week, the Lady Hill of Ayr, on her passage from Dublin, was put into Loch Ryan by contrary winds; and, on being overhauled by the Custom-house officers, some smuggled starch was found in a trunk belonging to one of the sailors, of the name of Hamilton. In a concealed part of another chest, belonging to this, man, were found ten watches, of such an appearance as to raise a suspicion that they were not fairly come by. The man was apprehended, and, having made a full disclosure of his guilt, was committed for trial.
Source: The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany - Volume 80 - Printed for Archibald Constable and Co. - 1817
Circuit Court of Justiciary - Ayr - 11th September 1817
William Hamilton, charged with breaking a shopwindow of Andrew Wallace, jeweller, Ayr, and stealing therefrom several watches, pled Guilty. The Depute Advocate, however, examined several witnesses, who proved the robbery. He was recommended to mercy. The Judge (Hermand) sentenced him to he hanged on 17th Octoher, at Ayr, but gave hopes that mercy might he extended to him.
Source: The Edinburgh Observer - 27th September 1817