Ardrossan Castle, high on Castle Hill, can be seen from many places in the town and surrounding area.

Also visible is the tall MacFadzean’s Monument, situated about 140 yards from the Castle.

This prompts the question – who was MacFadzean and why is there a monument?

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: MacFadzean’s Monument.

The monument’s inscription gives a partial answer.

Erected to the memory of Alexander MacFadzean, Esquire, M D by his friends in Ardrossan and elsewhere as a monument of their high esteem for his active benevolence in the exercise of his profession, united to great and untiring zeal in the promotion of those measures and institutions which had for their objective the moral and religious improvement and the welfare of the inhabitants of Ardrossan and neighbourhood.

The inscription reveals Alexander MacFadzean was a doctor of medicine who died at the age of 60 on January 8, 1849.

He was an excellent practitioner who was held in very high regard by the local community.

Although helpful, the inscription reveals very little of Dr MacFadzean’s life and work.

However, further research on Alexander reveals an existence characterised by good deeds.

Alexander MacFadzean was baptised in the parish of Loudoun, Ayrshire on May 2, 1787, so he was probably born near there in April of that year.

He graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from Glasgow University, most likely in the 1810s, and practised in Ardrossan, where he married Margaret Oswald on September 1, 1832.

Margaret was a member of the prominent Oswald family.

She was the daughter of Alexander Oswald of Shieldhall and his wife Margaret Dundas.

Margaret’s brother, James Oswald, was the Member of Parliament for Glasgow from 1832 to 1837.

There is a statue of him in the north-east corner of George Square in Glasgow.

The city's Oswald Street is also named after the family.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: James Oswald Statue.

Alexander bought the baths of Ardrossan, now more commonly referred to as Bath Villa, in 1833.

The baths had been neglected for years but, at his own expense, Alexander refurbished them and allowed free access to those who could not afford to pay.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Bath Villa.

Alexander was a greatly respected philanthropist who played a large part in the project to build the New Parish Church of Ardrossan – later the Barony Church – which opened in 1844.

He worked tirelessly for the welfare of the inhabitants of Ardrossan and gave freely to relieve the suffering of the disadvantaged.

He encouraged the development of good standards of hygiene and was instrumental in providing Ardrossan with a filtered water supply for the general use of its inhabitants and industries.

The census of 1841 indicates that Dr MacFadzean and his wife still lived at the Baths.

It states Alexander was a 49-year-old physician, implying that he was born in 1792 - five years after his actual birthdate. There is no mention of children.

On October 31, 1844, at a dinner in the Eglinton Arms Hotel, Alexander was presented with a portrait of himself, painted by the renowned artist John Graham-Gilbert.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The portrait of Alexander MacFadzean.

The painting had previously been exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy where it attracted great attention on account of the remarkable likeness to the doctor.

Archibald William Montgomerie, the Earl of Eglinton and Winton, chaired the event, which was attended by many prominent people.

Addressing Dr MacFadzean, the Earl said: "Your skill and success as a physician have already given you a widespread celebrity in your great professional talent, but it is only those more immediately connected with this town who can be aware of your ever-flowing stream of charity which, directed by your benevolent disposition, has effected so much good and relieved so much suffering.

"We all know that no case of distress is disclosed to you in the course of your professional duties without the most efficient exertions on your part for its immediate alleviation."

Alexander accepted the portrait with gratitude, pride and humility.

Sadly, Alexander died on January  8, 1849, from erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin.

Announcing his death, the Ayr Observer wrote: "Ardrossan, Saltcoats and surrounding country have been deprived of a zealous promoter of all works of utility, an efficient county magistrate and a skilful surgeon who held a long and high professional position in these localities.

"In his professional capacity, he was confiding, attentive, soothing and tender-hearted. In private circles, he was deemed humorous and agreeable."

It is very clear that Dr MacFadzean was revered by those who knew him and that he was not forgotten.

Then, 15 months after his death, the Ayr Observer indicated on April 12, 1850, the intention to build a monument to his memory.

It stated: "The inhabitants of Ardrossan and neighbourhood and other friends of the late Alexander MacFadzean, viewing his death as a public loss, have resolved to take steps for the erection of a monument to perpetuate his memory.

"A subscription has therefore been set on foot and a handsome sum already realised."

The Earl of Eglinton and Winton, as well as donating, allowed the monument to be erected on Castle Hill at no charge. The builder was Walter McLachlan of Irvine.

MacFadzean’s Monument, over 40ft tall, could be seen for miles around, standing in due testament to a good man who devoted his life to the service of others, particularly the poorer citizens of Ardrossan.

On April 28, 1860, the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reported that the portrait had been bequeathed by Dr MacFadzean and hung in the Town Hall, now the Masonic Hall in Harbour Street.

It stated: "So long as the Monument stands upon the Cannon Hill at Ardrossan, the good deeds and active benevolence of the late Dr MacFadzean will not be forgotten by the inhabitants.

"He was sunlight in the dwellings of the poor and a genial and warm friend to his neighbours."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: In 1860, the building on the corner of Princes Street and Harbour Street was the Town Hall.

In August 1972, a strange request was made of Ardrossan Town Council and reported in the local paper.

A relative of Dr MacFadzean in Australia asked to buy the monument and presumably transport it to Australia.

The council declined on the ground that it was paid for by local people and so, in a sense, it belonged to Ardrossan.

It will never be known if the council simply applied common sense or was aware of the Herald’s words of 1860: "So long as the Monument stands upon the Cannon Hill at Ardrossan, the good deeds and active benevolence of the late Dr MacFadzean will not be forgotten by the inhabitants."

How sad it would have been if Ardrossan Town Council had acceded to this request and deprived its townsfolk of an enduring tribute to a man loved and respected by those who knew him.

It is, however, a tribute to the affection in which Dr MacFadzean was held that a relative would be willing to transport tons of masonry more than 10,000 miles.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The 1972 report.

North Ayrshire Council became the custodian of the monument in 1996.

In 2017, it commissioned a restoration "to ensure the long-term security of an important monument which remembers the work of one of Ardrossan's favourite sons, Dr Alexander MacFadzean."

The refurbishment was duly completed and MacFadzean’s Monument now stands proudly in tribute to a good man highly respected by his contemporaries.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The 2017 restoration.

Researching the life of Dr MacFadzean answered several previously unknown questions, but two mysteries remain: where was Alexander buried and where is his portrait?

It might be expected that, given Alexander’s fondness for Ardrossan and his care for the welfare of its citizens, he would be buried in the local cemetery.

Council records showed that this was not the case.

I found this puzzling and set out to find his resting place.

The Kilmarnock Journal of January 18, 1849, reported that "the remains of Dr MacFadzean were conveyed per special railway train for interment to Glasgow." 

Unfortunately, no more detail was given.

I visited the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and was able to find details of his burial in the ledger for Glasgow Cathedral.

The record showed that on January 11, 1849, Alexander MacFadzean, a 64-year-old surgeon from Ardrossan, was buried in James Oswald’s lair by undertakers Wylie and Lochhead.

There were six carriages, four horses and 10 ushers. The funeral cost £2 2s.

Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher the handwriting that noted his burial place.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The handwritten record of Alexander’s burial place.

I looked for burial record of Alexander’s wife who, I had previously learned, died on May 25, 1857, at Bath Villa.

Her record showed that on May 29, 1857, 71-year-old Margaret Oswald, relict of Alexander MacFadzean, was buried by the undertakers, Wylie and Lochhead, in George Oswald’s lair, 6 Nave Cathedral.

There were four carriages, four horses and eight ushers. The funeral cost £2 12s.

There were strong similarities to Alexander’s record.

I noted that Margaret’s grave was 6 Nave Cathedral.

I looked again at the handwritten entry for Alexander — and immediately decoded it as ‘Nave’.

After years of searching, I had found the burial place of Dr Alexander MacFadzean — the Nave of Glasgow Cathedral.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: George McGrattan at the burial place of Alexander MacFadzean in the Nave of Glasgow Cathedral.

Unfortunately, despite enquiries, I have not found the whereabouts of his portrait.