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Stevenston’s Legend of the Hidden Gold
After the routing of the Spanish Armada in 1588, many of the Spanish Galleons escaped and tried to find North West passage through the North Sea: around the tip of Scotland and back to Spain. A vicious storm caused the loss of many more boats in the North Sea and by the time they reached the area of the Ayrshire Coast many of the badly damaged galleons were in need of food and fresh water.
Legend suggests that one of these Spanish ships tried to reach Stevenston or a coastal village nearby. The foreign ship was sighted and just as darkness fell the men of Stevenston gathered on the beach, and, in a cunning Ruse, attached lighted lanterns to the tails of Donkeys to give the impression that other ships were anchored within a deep Bay. The Spanish Galleon promptly sailed on to the beach and grounded itself. The ship and its men were then at the mercy of the Stevenston men, who looted all the valuables from the ship. Amongst the hoard was several hundredweight of Spanish Gold in the form of ingots. According to local tradition these ingots were secreted away, buried in a safe place in the environs of Stevenston, and then forgotten about as time passed. Whether there is any truth in the legend is a mystery.
The act of wrecking (luring ships onto unsafe shores) was a very profitable venture in the days of sailing ships. There are many tales of wreckers in other parts of Britain especially Cornwall.