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The new ‘Births, Marriages and Deaths from the Ayr Advertiser 1803 − 1835′, providing an online index to family history data from newspapers, is a joint project between South Ayrshire Council Libraries Service and Opportunities in Retirement Family History Group Ayr.

If you would like to travel back to the past, and view details of births, marriages and deaths from 1803 to 1835, then a new online resource available through South Ayrshire Council’s website is just the thing for you. The new facility was launched at Carnegie Library in Ayr where the hard work began. OIR Ayr member Robert Laird from Ayr and the late Bill Reid from Mossblown have been the inspiration and driving force behind this project, working over many years with fellow OIR members.

It was originally intended that the index would be published as a book, however with the passing of two decades since work began, and the great leaps that have been made in technology; it was decided to make it an online resource.

The OIR Ayr members involved in this project have done an outstanding job and now anyone with internet access will be able to view this information at a time that suits them. The OIR Ayr members have plans to expand the online records up to 1855 in due course.

Councillor Robin Reid, Mrs Fay Reid, widow of the late Bill Reid and Sheena Taylor, Carnegie Library, Ayr.

Libraries Manager Jean Inness, Councillor Robin Reid, Mrs Fay Reid, widow of the late Bill Reid, Sheena Taylor, Elaine Docherty and Tom Barclay  at Carnegie Library, Ayr.

Mr Laird being presented with a Quaich by Tom Barclay our Local History Librarian

Mr Laird being presented with a Quaich by Tom Barclay our Local History Librarian

Searching the Archive

The online facility is available at www.south-ayrshire.gov.uk/libraries/bmd.aspx. The charge for access is £2 for a seven day subscription which gives unlimited searching during that period. Payment can be made online for those wishing to access the system from home. It is free to consult at any library in South Ayrshire Library.

You can search the index by key words and dates or you can enter a surname will bring up a list of all birth, marriage and death records which include that surname. This can be refined by entering any or all of forename, type of event, date, place, and spouse in the case of marriages. A more varied and detailed search can be carried out by selecting ‘BMD Interactive Reporting Archive’. This permits users to customise the information they gather.

If you have any problems using this database please contact us: localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

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A previous post told of Scotland’s first passenger rail service on the Kilmarnock & Troon Railway. In July this year, to commemorate the bicentenary of this pioneering railway’s completion, a new plaque was unveiled for Laigh Milton Viaduct – the world’s oldest surviving public railway viaduct. The plaque commemorates the great Devonshire civil engineer William Jessop, the surveyor John Wilson (who eventually came to manage both the railway and Troon Harbour, and is buried at Crosbie Kirkyard near Troon) and the unsung hero of the railway’s construction, the resident engineer Thomas Hollis.

The restored viaduct at Laigh Milton, which carried the Kilmarnock & Troon Railway over the River Irvine.

The restored viaduct at Laigh Milton, which carried the Kilmarnock & Troon Railway over the River Irvine.

When the Marquess of Titchfield (he became the 4th Duke of Portland in 1809) engaged William Jessop as consultant engineer, Jessop’s health was already beginning to fail – he would die in 1814 – and it was on his fellow Englishman Thomas Hollis that most of the responsibility would fall for building Scotland’s first proper railway.

Part of the original railway plan. Towards the left, the red line of the railway crosses the river on the viaduct.

Part of the original railway plan. Towards the left, the red line of the railway crosses the river on the viaduct.

In 1809 Thomas contracted with Glenbuck Ironworks for 1,000 tons of rails to be cast, in sections 3 feet long and 4 inches wide. In March 1810, tenders were invited for the carving of stone sleeper blocks from local quarries – a total of 60,000.

Tenders are invited for stone railway sleeper blocks. (From the Ayr Advertiser.)

Tenders are invited for stone railway sleeper blocks. (From the Ayr Advertiser.)

The L-section cast iron track lengths were pinned to wooden plugs in the centre of the stone blocks, which were covered by gravel. In the stretch of replica track on the viaduct, exposed concrete blocks have been substituted.

The L-section cast iron track lengths were pinned to wooden plugs in the centre of the stone blocks, which were covered by gravel. In the stretch of replica track on the viaduct, exposed concrete blocks have been substituted.

Thomas took up residence in the house which would later become Marine Cottage, near Troon’s South Beach. (The flats at Marine Court View now occupy the site.) The Dundonald Old Parish Registers record three sons born in Troon to Thomas and his wife Ann in 1812 (Thomas Hall Ashmead Hollis), 1814 (John Hollis) and 1815 (Nicholas Alexander Hollis). The couple may have been the Thomas Hollis and Anne Davis who are on record as marrying in Manchester in 1799.

On 31st May 1816 one of Thomas’s colleagues in the Duke’s railway and harbour management team at Troon, William Evans, was hanged at Ayr having been found guilty of forging bills of exchange. This affair must have in some way reflected badly on Thomas (who had been a character witness for Evans at the trial). It is surely no coincidence that it is at this very time that his employment by the Duke appears to have been terminated. The sale of his furniture and livestock was advertised in the local press. However, it seems that he remained in the district and, having in unknown circumstances reverted to single status – probably through the apparently unrecorded death of his wife Ann – he in due course married again.

 Thomas has to sell up and move out of his house in Troon. The house itself was owned by his employer the Duke of Portland, who had apparently sacked and evicted him. (From the Ayr Advertiser.)

Thomas has to sell up and move out of his house in Troon. The house itself was owned by his employer the Duke of Portland, who had apparently sacked and evicted him. (From the Ayr Advertiser.)

In May 1830 the marriage is recorded in Kilmarnock of a Thomas ‘Hollins’ and an Ayrshire-born widow, Catherine Smith. The Dundonald burial register records the death at Crosshouse on 10th March 1833 of a Thomas ‘Hollas’, and his burial at Dundonald three days later.

In Dundonald Churchyard stands a stone bearing the names of local-born monumental sculptor Joseph Boyd and his wife Mary ‘Hollies’, who erected it in 1864 in memory of one of their children. On the side of the stone Joseph also commemorated his father-in-law Thomas ‘Hollies’ and his mother-in-law Catherine Smith. The day and month given for Thomas’s death, 10th March, corresponds with the 1833 record, but the year on the stone is 1836. (Thomas’s age at death is given as 60.)

The stone in Dundonald Churchyard on which monumental sculptor Joseph Boyd commemorated his wife’s parents.

The stone in Dundonald Churchyard on which monumental sculptor Joseph Boyd commemorated his wife’s parents.

On the 1879 death certificate of Catherine Smith, her second husband is noted as having been Thomas ‘Hollies’, civil engineer. On the 1885 death certificate of Catherine’s daughter Mary, the wife of Joseph Boyd, her father is given as Thomas Hollis, civil engineer, and it is as Mary Hollis that she appears on the family gravestone in Ayr Cemetery. All of this, and the rarity of the surname in the district, surely confirms that the Thomas ‘Hollies’ commemorated in Dundonald Churchyard is the Thomas Hollis who was resident engineer of the Kilmarnock &Troon Railway.

Joseph Boyd and his family moved from Dundonald to Ayr, and in the town’s Holmston Cemetery are many examples of his work, including a number of fine portrait medallions. Here is his family gravestone in the cemetery.

Joseph Boyd and his family moved from Dundonald to Ayr, and in the town’s Holmston Cemetery are many examples of his work, including a number of fine portrait medallions. Here is his family gravestone in the cemetery.

In early census records, the age attributed to Mary indicates that she was born around 1831/32, but later records accord with the age at death in February 1885 of 50 which appears on her death certificate and gravestone. (No birth/baptism record for her has emerged.) If she was indeed born in 1834/35, it probably explains why Joseph Boyd engraved 1836 on the Dundonald stone as the year of Thomas’s death – to conceal the fact that, having actually died in March 1833, he was not Mary’s father.

This has been an interesting case study in family history detective work, as well as illustrating the vagaries of spelling which an unfamiliar name may undergo in older records.

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