Lineone (Tiscali)

Macadam's Stone

I am sure many people reading this page will be familiar with the term "tarmac" - or to give it's full name, Tar Macadam.
Somewhat confusingly, it has over the years been accepted as the name given to the tarred top surface on a road. Sorry to have to dispel this!

Being a native of Muirkirk, I was taught the following (italicised and inset) while attending Primary School there:

John Loudon Macadam Plaque

"Tar" Macadam was a nickname given to John Loudon Macadam, solely as a result of his association with Lord Dundonald's Tar Works in Muirkirk. The tar however was NOT used as a top surface in road construction but as a means of making rope more durable in it's numerous industrial applications.

The term "Macadamised" refers to the use of progressively graded stones in a number of layers as the basic construction of a road. The result is a resilient, smooth (well, relatively speaking!) top surface which allows any water to drain through. This was indeed a tremendous improvement over the "dirt tracks" which were the norm of the day. These very often became treacherous mires

(Visiting various memorials to his name, every conceivable spelling of "Loudon Macadam" has been used. Which one is correct I cannot say. However, in the interests of consistency, I will use one only throughout!)



John Loudon Macadam was born in Ayr on 21st September 1756 in the house shown opposite. It stands at the corner of Sandgate and Cathcart Street.

In his early teens, he emigrated to America, where he amassed considerable wealth, before returning to Scotland, spending his later years in the town of Moffat, Dumfries & Galloway - where he was to die, on 26th November 1836.
His grave can be found in theOld Kirkyard.

Curiously there is no reference on the gravestone to his roadmaking activities.

Strange, don't you think?

Macadam's birthplace
Currently used as a Tourist Information Office,
the house where Macadam was born also
served very briefly as Ayr's Cyber Cafe





Macadam's Stone

To the south of Muirkirk, where Furnace Road ends, is the former "Drover's Road" to Sanquhar, used as the background image on this page.
On its east side, just beyond Springhill, stands "Macadam's Stone."

Since taking the above photo, Macadam's Stone (or Cairn) has been rebuilt. The image opposite was taken on 25th March 2005.

Macadam's Cairn, March 2005



The inscription on the cairn reads:

1756 - 1836
1786 - 1827

(Nobody claimed Grammar was a
strong point at the time!)

Inscription close-up


Conflicting opinion exists as to whether or not Macadam actually experimented with road construction in Ayrshire. It is alleged that one of the first roads to benefit from being "Macadamized" was the Ayr to Maybole road, part of which is still in use today.
Similarly, Furnace Road in Muirkirk is believed to have been one of Macadam's early experiments in road construction.
Whilst "Tar" (as has already been stated) was not used in road construction at that time, more as a means of weatherproofing - rope in particular, Furnace Road in Muirkirk was partly constructed by Macadam, as he perfected his method of road construction.


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Stuart Thomson


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Last updated 1st January 2010

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