Engineers surveying the seabed of the Firth of Clyde and the North Channel on the route of a planned undersea power cable recently came across a wreck. It was identified as that of a First World War German submarine, or U-Boat, either UB-82 or UB-85. Much press coverage resulted, due to the bizarre claim made by the captain of UB-85 when he surrendered to a British warship. A sea monster, he said, had attacked his vessel and damaged it so badly that it was unable to submerge. It seems more likely that human error was actually to blame, and that the captain did not care to admit this.

The war saw the transformation of the submarine from coast defence novelty to wide-ranging commerce destroyer. The wreck discovery is a reminder of the threat posed by these craft in the waters to the west of Ayrshire’s southern tip, where the shipping lanes in and out of the Irish Sea, the North Channel and the Firth of Clyde all converged. This was the closest to Ayrshire that the shooting war came.

On 11 March 1915 the auxiliary cruiser HMS Bayano, a converted merchant vessel, was sunk by U-27 about seven nautical miles south west of Ballantrae. 195 men were lost, and 20 of the 26 survivors were landed at Ayr.

Sectional view of a mine-laying coastal U-Boat.

Sectional view of a mine-laying coastal U-Boat.

Some classes of U-Boat were equipped to lay mines, and many commercial craft including Clyde Coast paddle steamers were hastily converted to auxiliary minesweepers. The Ayrshire shipyards at Ardrossan, Irvine and Troon constructed a total of 31 purpose-built minesweepers.

The Carrick Herald of 6 November 1914 reports the latest restrictions on local lighting. These were progressively tightened and extended in all coastal areas, and transgressors were fined.

The Carrick Herald of 6 November 1914 reports the latest restrictions on local lighting. These were progressively tightened and extended in all coastal areas, and transgressors were fined.

Concern that U-Boats would use lights on shore to navigate after dark led to a blackout being imposed in coastal areas around Britain. When a U-boat fired shells at a chemical plant at Whitehaven in Cumbria in August 1915, it raised fears that Ayrshire’s greatest contributor to munitions production, Nobel’s British Dynamite Factory on the coast at Ardeer, might be similarly targeted or attacked by saboteurs coming ashore. A permanently-garrisoned fortified perimeter was constructed around the works with small coast-defence guns emplaced on the seaward side.

A snapshot dated April 1918, taken from a window in Wellington Square, shows an SSZ class Royal Navy non-rigid airship off the beach at Ayr’s Low Green.

A snapshot dated April 1918, taken from a window in Wellington Square, shows an SSZ class Royal Navy non-rigid airship off the beach at Ayr’s Low Green.

Not long after the sinking of the Bayano, a Royal Naval Air Service base for anti-submarine airships was established at West Freugh on Luce Bay, Wigtownshire, and these craft would have become a familiar sight off Ayrshire’s southern coast. Unlike the huge and complex German Zeppelins with their rigid framework, they were simple gasbags with a rudimentary compartment for crew and engine slung beneath. Their main weapon was the radio with which they could summon patrolling warships if they sighted a submarine. In November 1916 airship SS-23 force-landed near Girvan due to engine failure. Its gasbag was deflated, and it was taken to West Freugh by road to be put back into service.

White crosses mark the graves in Girvan’s Doune Cemetery of French sailors Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel, drowned when the Longwy was sunk in 1917.

White crosses mark the graves in Girvan’s Doune Cemetery of French sailors Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel, drowned when the Longwy was sunk in 1917.

The French merchant ship Longwy was heading into the Firth of Clyde with a cargo of iron ore from the Spanish port of Bilbao when she was torpedoed by UC-75 on the night of 4 November 1917. She went down in the same area where the Bayano had been lost. The weather was rough and none of the 38 on board survived. The bodies of three of the crew, including the captain, Joseph Huet from Saint-Malo, were washed ashore near Girvan and were buried in the town’s Doune Cemetery. The following appeal appeared in the local press: ‘It would be a graceful thing on the part of this community, if there were a representative attendance at the interment’. Captain Huet’s remains were later returned to France, but at Girvan, crosses bearing the legend ‘Mort pour la France’ mark the graves of Adolphe Harre and S. Brajuel. Telegraphist Harre was one of an eight-strong French Navy detachment on board.

Although it eventually brought America into the war, the German U-Boat campaign took Britain to the brink of starvation before shipping convoys were belatedly introduced.

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Saturday 26 November, 6pm at Ayr’s Carnegie Library

Join us as we celebrate Book Week Scotland with a visit from Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Rab Houston. Rab will be talking about how an independent Scottish nation emerged in the Middle Ages, how it was irrevocably altered by Reformation, links with England and economic change, and how Scotland influenced the development of the modern world.

This event will be a concise, lively, and at times opinionated account of Scottish history, politics, society, religion, and culture – both past and present.

Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr KA8 8EB Tel: 01292 286385
Free event, but booking required

South Ayrshire Libraries Blog

Patricia Andrew.pngThursday 17 November 2016, 7pm
Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr KA8 8EB 
Free event, but booking required Tel: 01292 286385

Dr Patricia R. Andrew FSA, FSAScot, AMA, FRSA, whose career has been mainly in museums and galleries in Scotland and England, is now a freelance consultant, researcher and lecturer. She has written many exhibition catalogues and has published widely on varied art-historical topics from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century – voted Scottish History Book of the Year 2015, is the first study of Scottish war art and artists of the twentieth century and is a fascinating visual record of Scotland’s experience of conflict, both on the home front and in theatres of war.

Muirhead Bone, Britain’s first Official War Artist and currently the subject of an exhibition at Rozelle House Galleries, will be featured in…

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Déniécourt Château, Estrées © IWM (Art.IWM REPRO 000684 36)

‘Inspiring Landscapes’ exploring the life and times of WWI Official Artist, Sir Muirhead Bone, is now open at Rozelle House Museum & Galleries, Ayr. Supported by funding from Museums Galleries Scotland, this project has involved local people researching the life and times of Sir Muirhead Bone, and creating Fine Art Prints inspired by the South Ayrshire landscape.

The exhibition runs from 29 October – 29 January 2017. Entry is FREE.

We are also proud to include the prints created by participants at our associated Rozelle Print Studio workshops. We asked people – including 3rd year Art pupils of Ayr Academy – to bring along their South Ayrshire based ‘inspiring landscapes’. Master Printmaker Ian McNicol then guided them through the printmaking process, exploring the techniques Muirhead Bone would have used.


Attend one of our FREE printmaking taster workshops taking place throughout the exhibition:

Saturday afternoon’s from 1pm – 4.30pm on:

• 12th November 2016

• 26th November 2016

• 10th December 2016

• 21st January 2017

To find out more, and to book your place please telephone Rozelle House on 01292 445 447 or visit Rozelle House, Rozelle Park, Monument Road, Ayr KA7 4NQ


Saturday 25 June, 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Cyber Centre, Carnegie Library, Ayr, KA8 8EB

Urban Detectives research Scotland’s towns and cities, discover hidden stories of everyday places and contribute this ‘missing history’ to the National Record of the Historic Environment.

This free event is suitable for heritage newcomers.  Booking in advance is essential.

For more information and to book visit:


Staff at the Scottish and Local History Library, Carnegie Library, Ayr welcomed Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association members (and some of their guests!) on a special tour through their local and family history resources – maps, newspapers, printed books and photos, to mention a few. Designed to inform B&B owners on the sources we hold, so they can pass this onto their guests, we were delighted by their enthusiasm and interest!

“A wonderful resource on our doorstep”

The Scottish and Local History Library is located on the first floor of the Carnegie Library in Ayr. We hold a wealth of free resources for anyone who is researching their family tree or studying the local history of the area. We have dedicated, friendly, experienced staff who are happy to assist and give advice on all aspects of your research. We aim to help customers bring family names, dates and places to life.

The department currently has two PCs connected to the Internet available for Local and Family History research.  Customers can also access online Births, Marriages and Deaths Archive Search from the Ayr Advertiser: 1803-1835Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past free. Customers can also use their own devices by taking advantage of our unlimited free Wi-Fi access.

If you have any questions or would like further information please contact us localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or tel: 01292 272231.



‘Shanter Farm and Bay, Carrick’ by David Octavius Hill, from the 1840 publication ‘The Land of Burns’.

This image encapsulates the themes of all of the talks at the 2016 South Ayrshire History & Family History Fair at the Walker Halls, Troon on Saturday 4th June.

In one of his illustrations for the 1840 publication ‘The Land of Burns’, the artist and pioneer photographer David Octavius Hill imagined the farmer and smuggler Douglas Graham and his companions about to set off from the coast of Carrick. Their horses carry casks of smuggled brandy. The Fair’s first talk at 10am will be ‘The Smuggling Coast from Stranraer to Girvan’ by Frances Wilkins, a leading authority on this subject.

The scene is located at the ancient standing stone now on the edge of Turnberry Golf Course, with Maidens Bay in the background, and two of the day’s talks are about early human activity – ‘Ayrshire before History’, about the county’s early sites and their archaeology, by Tom Barclay of South Ayrshire Council Libraries at 11am, and ‘A Founder’s Workshop from the Bronze Age? Excavations from the shadow of Hunterston’ by archaeologist Thomas Rees at 3pm.

On foot and speaking with the smugglers is the teenage Robert Burns, taking time off from his school classes at Kirkoswald. (He is unlikely to have been so well-dressed at that time.) It is claimed that he later based his best-known character Tam o’Shanter on Douglas Graham. The 2pm talk is by Professor Chris Whatley and is ‘Men at War: securing Burns’ memory in the West of Scotland c.1859 – c. 1896’, about the race between towns in the region to have a statue of Burns.


The ancient standing stone overlooking Maidens Bay.