Author: Agnes Wilson

Editors Note: I couldn’t find any photographs of Richard Tarbet to illustrate this article so I used one of Hastings Square from around 1900 found on Ayrshire Roots.

Back in the day education, although valued wasn’t readily accessible to many people who wanted to further their education and many of them spent long hours in the local libraries expanding their knowledge.

The Tarbet family had been weavers for several generations until Robert, son of Richard Tarbet and Jean Mitchell who lived in Hastings Square, broke away from the traditional weaving to become a schoolmaster. Their son, Richard, born in 1832, followed his father’s occupation as a schoolmaster in Darvel, a position he held for over 55 years. Married to Jane Gardner, they lived with four of a family in Mairs School House, Darvel. He was a local historian and poet and on his retirement, his friends and older pupils presented him with an illuminated address. Described as an author on numerous articles of historic and scientific interest with a strong interest in nature and botanical pursuits.


Robert Tennyson Tarbet, his eldest son became a minister and by the late 1800’s was minister in Buittle, Kirkcudbrightshire. By a coincidence, whilst looking into his past, one of his articles appears on the website of my cousin, who for a number of years, until recently, lived in the manse in Buittle (pronounced ‘Bittle’). Robert married Elizabeth Sarah Cowie in Glasgow in 1895. He died on the 4th of February 1913 in Leicester.

Their children, Jean Mitchell Tarbet, married John Maxwell a farmer’s son and church missionary from Dalton, Dumfriesshire.
Mary Aitken Tarbet b: 1867 Infant school mistress and married Arthur Harry Swain, an insurance broker from Largs.
William Gardner Tarbet b: 1871 became an analytical chemist and married Jane Todd Ord, in 1897 in Kelvin

In the book on Darvel chairs, Richard Tarbet’s name is given as having an article published in the Kilmarnock Standard.
Richard’s grand nephew, Peter lived with his sister Agnes (Aggie) in Hastings Square where they had a grocers or sweet shop. Peter may have been a musician in his earlier years but became bedridden for most of his life. I understand that some of the old music hall players such as Will Fyfe and Sir Harry Lauder visited him. He died in 1949 with carcinoma of the stomach. Perhaps someone can offer some confirmation of Peter’s musical interests.

Before Peter died, they played host to Major John Randal of the SAS who was the first man who went into Belsen POW camp to rescue the prisoners after the war. John Randal never forgot them and they have a mention in his biography, ‘The Last Gentleman of the SAS”.
As a poet, Richard wrote the following:

A Mid-Summer Day’s Dream

A kinglier form did ne’er ascent a throne; A kindlier hand came never from above; Heart-conqueror of the world he walks alone, The living Hero of the dreams of Love.

Rose-ord crown’d Emperor of the eye and ear
He stands a statue-moves a victor-King; He stands and Nature holds her breath to hear He sings as none except a god can sing.

The incarnate pageant-glory of his tread Imagination domes with triumph-towers’ Before him, Strength hows down his haughty head; Beneath his proud feet Beauty scatters flowers.

Nobly achieving duties high and low, The sone-height of his soul is still to pray. To turn to joy, this wailing world of woe As Heaven’s blest sun turns Darkness into Day!

Through the wide flashing of his deep soul-spheres Streams the far glimmer of a coming light, As from his exile of six thousand years, A star sings t’ward his long-lost brethren bright.

The lion and the lamb are linked in him! Love is the light that doth his sould illume! And, like the soft flame in a lanthorn dim, Glows through his frame the clear celestial
bloom!

Richard Tarbet from “The Poets of Ayrshire’ by John McIntosh, author of ‘The Life of Burns’.