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ancestryblog

Ancestry Library Edition brings the world’s most popular online genealogy resource to South Ayrshire Libraries.

Discover your family history story with sources like censuses, vital records, immigration records, family histories, military records, court and legal documents, directories, photos, maps, and more.

This online resource is only available for FREE in our libraries and isn’t available from home.

Expert help available in our Local History Department

For expert advice on how to go about family and local history research it is highly recommended that customers visit our Local and Family History Department based at Ayr’s Carnegie Library.  The department houses unique records and resources that compliment the Ancestry Library Edition and would benefit our customers in their Family History research.

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Exhibition

Wednesday 6th August – Saturday 30th August 2014, Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia will be on show in Ayr’s Carnegie Library. It will cover the battlefields and the home front, including auxiliary hospitals. Tributes will be included to the soldiers from Newfoundland and the airmen from the Commonwealth and America who were brought to Ayrshire by the war.

Entry to the exhibition is free.

The Great War Home Front on Film: A Scottish Screen Archive Selection

Wednesday 13th August 2014, 7pm Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

Local History Librarian Tom Barclay will present seven short films from the National Library of Scotland’s Scottish Screen Archive. They include; the visit of King George V to Clydeside in 1917; a 1918 government film about food production; the fund-raising visits of a tank to Scottish cities; Peace Day celebrations in Kilmarnock in 1919; and the unveiling of Saltcoats War Memorial. The screening will last approximately one hour followed by refreshments.

Tickets £3 including refreshments. Numbers are limited for this event, please book in advance.

Tickets available from Carnegie Library or phone 01292 286385 to book.

Ayrshire’s Great War: The local impact of the global conflict 1914-1918

Wednesday 20th August 2014, 7pm, Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr

As part of our First World War Centenary commemoration, Local History Librarian Tom Barclay will be repeating his presentation on Ayrshire’s part in the war which he prepared for our South Ayrshire History Fair in June. He will follow the course of the conflict, and look at its effect on the county’s men and women and on those from further afield who were brought here by the war. The talk will last approximately one hour followed by refreshments.

Tickets £3 including refreshments. Numbers are limited for this event, please book in advance.

Tickets available from Carnegie Library or phone 01292 286385 to book.

Robert the Bruce’s defeat of Edward II of England at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 was the most spectacular event in his colourful career, a career which had its origins in what is now South Ayrshire. Robert’s unrecorded birthplace was almost certainly Turnberry Castle, the ancestral home of his mother, Marjorie, countess of Carrick, and Robert in due course became earl of Carrick.

The fragmentary remains of Turnberry Castle, probable birthplace of King Robert the Bruce, can still be seen beside the lighthouse on the edge of the famous golf course.

The fragmentary remains of Turnberry Castle, probable birthplace of King Robert the Bruce, can still be seen beside the lighthouse on the edge of the famous golf course.

Having seized the Scottish kingship in 1306, Robert was defeated and forced to seek refuge for a time among the islands off the west coast. When he returned to the Scottish mainland in 1307 to launch his fightback against English garrisons and the many Scots who were hostile to him, he sailed from Arran to Ayrshire’s Carrick coast and landed near Turnberry. Here he could be sure of mustering men whose loyalty he could depend on, and who, along with the Islesmen accompanying him, would form the nucleus of his army. After a faltering start, Robert’s guerrilla campaign began to deliver the string of successes (including the repulse of an English force at Loudoun Hill) which ultimately led to the confrontation of the kings near Stirling in 1314. Edward was caught off guard when Robert suddenly abandoned his defensive tactics and seized the initiative with a dawn attack. Advancing in good order, the Scottish spearmen closed with the English knights before they were able to mount an effective charge. They kept pushing forward to bottle up the entire opposing army and then drive it into the steep-banked channel of the Bannock Burn.

King Robert the Bruce and his men are featured on the cover of the official brochure for the 1934 Pageant of Ayrshire.

King Robert the Bruce and his men are featured on the cover of the official brochure for the 1934 Pageant of Ayrshire.

Around 1375 John Barbour, archdeacon of Aberdeen, wrote The Bruce, an epic poem celebrating the deeds of King Robert (who had died in 1329) and his comrades in arms. While Barbour’s vivid description of Bannockburn differs on a number of points from other accounts of the time, it remains the principal source for the events of the battle. Barbour places the men of Carrick in Robert’s own division, along with the men of Argyll, Kintyre and the Isles. Other Ayrshire contingents probably served under Sir Walter Stewart in the division of Robert’s brother Edward Bruce.

Walter, head of his family, with his principal seat at Ayrshire’s Dundonald Castle, later married Robert’s daughter Marjorie Bruce and founded the line of the royal Stewarts. It is now thought that a Scottish division said by Barbour to have been jointly commanded by Walter Stewart and Sir James Douglas was an invention intended to please Walter’s son King Robert II – the third Scottish division at Bannockburn was led by Robert the Bruce’s nephew Sir Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray.

Many traditions of King Robert would be related in Ayrshire in later times. He was said that when he held a parliament in Ayr in 1315, he established the burgh of Newton-upon-Ayr and granted privileges in the new burgh to 48 men who had distinguished themselves at Bannockburn. These privileges were passed down to their descendants, the Freemen of Newton. Situated on the north bank of the River Ayr near its mouth, Newton was in the territory of the Stewarts, and it is likely to have been they who actually founded the burgh. However, this does appear to have taken place in the period soon after Bannockburn.

Bruce’s Well at Kingcase, Prestwick. Tradition tells that here the ailing king drank the healing waters and founded a leper hospital.

Bruce’s Well at Kingcase, Prestwick. Tradition tells that here the ailing king drank the healing waters and founded a leper hospital.

Towards the end of his life, Robert suffered from a painful and disfiguring skin disease, said by English chroniclers to be leprosy. In the later Middle Ages, the spittal of St Ninian at Kingcase, south of Prestwick, was dedicated to the care of lepers. It was understood to have been endowed for this purpose by King Robert the Bruce, who had drunk from its healing well. The king probably did visit the spittal at Kingcase during the last months of his life. He travelled down the Ayrshire coast during the course of a pilgrimage from his estate at Cardross near Dumbarton to the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn. The well at Kingcase became known as Bruce’s Well. In 1912 Prestwick Town Council restored and rebuilt the well, replacing its rough old stonework and worn steps with fine masonry to create its present appearance.

Thank you to all – public and stallholders – who attended the South Ayrshire History Fair on Saturday at Troon. It was a most successful day despite the weather.

We are especially grateful to Neil Fraser from SCRAN, who very kindly agreed to come from his stall to give a presentation when our second speaker, Alistair McEwan, was unable to attend, having unfortunately been taken ill. Remote access to the amazing resources of the SCRAN website has just been arranged for all members of South Ayrshire Libraries.

Councillor Peter Convery having opened the event, the programme of talks was presided over with cheerful authority by eminent historian Professor Dauvit Broun.

With the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War approaching, our own local history librarian Tom Barclay covered many aspects of Ayrshire’s involvement in the war, including the auxiliary hospitals run by the Red Cross and the many war memorials erected after the end of the conflict.

Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute library and museum became a Red Cross auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War, one of many around Ayrshire

Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute library and museum became a Red Cross auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War, one of many around Ayrshire

Thomas Clancy of the University of Glasgow looked at the place-names mentioned in the earliest Ayrshire charters of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, placed them in the context of the complex linguistic history of the area in the early Middle Ages, and explained what can be learned, and guessed at, from their distribution.

Archaeologist Derek Alexander of the National Trust for Scotland described the alterations and explorations which have taken place in recent centuries in the vicinity of the Bannockburn Visitor Centre, culminating in the recent extensive survey and excavation work leading up to the 700th anniversary of the battle.

The war memorial at Largs is topped by an impressive group of figures

The war memorial at Largs is topped by an impressive group of figures

We hope you can join us for next year’s Fair will take place on Saturday the 6th of June at the usual venue of the Walker Halls, Troon.

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South Ayrshire History and Family History Fair
Saturday 7 June 2014

Want to explore your ancestry, but don’t know where to start? Fascinated by the past and wanting to learn more? Looking for something different to do at the weekend? Well look no further as South Ayrshire’s History Fair is almost upon us and promises to be much more than a trip down memory lane.

In addition to a full programme of informative talks featuring respected guest speakers. Between 9am and 4.30pm a number of stalls will also be attending offering advice and guidance on family history, tracing your roots, exploring local and national history as well as a specialist Scottish bookshop. Admission to the stalls is free.

** stalls update ** Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society and Lanarkshire Family History Society have also confirmed they will be attending

Here is a list of the stalls so far who have booked for the Fair…

Tickets

Tickets for the speaker’s programme start at just £3 per talk up to £10 for the whole day. Tickets are available from Carnegie LibraryTroon Library or at the Walker Halls on the day.

A January 1948 meeting of the Eglinton Hunt at  Castlehill House, Ayr, built in 1804 by Patrick Ballantine and demolished in the 1960s

A January 1948 meeting of the Eglinton Hunt at Castlehill House, Ayr, built in 1804 by Patrick Ballantine and demolished in the 1960s

The Ballantines of Ayr were said to be descended from the Bannatynes of Kames on the Island of Bute. (For a long time, the surnames of Bannatyne and Ballantyne/Ballantine were interchangeable.) During the 16th and early 17th centuries they possessed the lands of Castlehill, just east of the town of Ayr, but then they seem to have fallen on hard times, and Castlehill passed out of their hands. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the estate was in the possession of a branch of Ayr’s Fergusson family of merchants and lawyers, but they in turn faced ruin when the Ayr Bank of Douglas, Heron & Co. collapsed in 1772.

David Fergusson of Castlehill was provost of Ayr for much of the period between 1766 and 1791. His wife Elizabeth was the sister of John Ballantine, an Ayr banker who was a friend and patron of the poet Robert Burns and who was provost himself 1787-89, 1793-95, and 1796-98. John was instrumental in the building of Ayr’s New Bridge and the creation of Ayr Academy. By the time David Fergusson died in 1791, Castlehill had come back to the Ballantine family through his intermarriage with them. It was possessed first by John’s brother Patrick Ballantine, a merchant, who replaced the old mansion house there with a fine new one in 1804. When Patrick died in 1810, Castlehill and its mansion passed to John, who died in 1812.

The estate continued to be owned by the Ballantines and their relations until 1909, when it was purchased by William Wilson. Wilson was a muslin manufacturer from Paisley. He arrived in Ayr around 1900 and took up residence in Castlehill House as a tenant before buying the estate. He died in 1933, and a stained-glass window commemorating him can be seen in Alloway Church – he and other family members lie in the burial ground there. He was succeeded at Castlehill by a son, Glasgow stockbroker Leslie Hamilton Wilson (1884-1968). Another window in Alloway Church commemorates his son Leslie Cowans Wilson, killed in a plane crash at Prestwick Airport on Christmas Day 1954. In 1935 the estate passed into the possession of Castlehill Securities Ltd, but there continued to be a family presence in the mansion.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1909 shows Ayr’s Castlehill House and its stables (at top left of centre) around the time that Paisley mill owner William Wilson purchased it.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1909 shows Ayr’s Castlehill House and its stables (at top left of centre) around the time that Paisley mill owner William Wilson purchased it.

During the Second World War the house and estate were taken over by the Army. Plans to build a military barracks there in the mid 1950s were dropped, and the estate was eventually purchased by the local health board. They planned to build a new hospital on the site of the now-derelict 1804 mansion house, which was demolished in the mid-to-late 1960s, but after long delays another site was chosen for the hospital. In the early 1990s the estate was acquired by Kyle & Carrick District Council, and it is now a public park.

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Arrangements for our 2014 South Ayrshire History & Family History Fair on Saturday 7th June are well underway with the four guest speakers booked.

They are:

Thomas Clancy, University of Glasgow
Language and land in 12th and 13th century Ayrshire: Place Names and Charters

Derek Alexander, National Trust for Scotland
Digging for a Victory: searching for the archaeology of Bannockburn

Tom Barclay, Local Studies Librarian, South Ayrshire Council
Ayrshire’s Great War: the local impact of the 1914-1918 Global Conflict

Alistair McEwan, Project Coordinator of Edinburgh’s War Project
‘Title to be confirmed. The subject will be the World War One enlistment of Scottish emigrants in the forces of their adopted countries, and the return of many of them to Scotland to enlist’

As usual, the Fair will be held in the Walker Halls, Troon, from 10am until 4pm. Further details will be appearing on the blog in due course.

History Fair Enquiries

If you have any enquiries that you have about the History Fair or would like to make a booking please do not hesitate to contact us.

Jean Inness
South Ayrshire History Fair,
Library HQ, John Pollock Centre, Mainholm Road,
Ayr KA8 0QD

Tel: 01292 294320 or 294303 Fax: 01292 619019

Email: localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or jean.inness@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

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