When it came to selecting images from our files for a seasonal post, a set of winter scenes from the collection of the late Jean Kennedy was an obvious choice. These photographs are printed on cards bearing the inscription ‘Bara, Ayr & Troon, N.B.’. (N.B. standing for North Britain.) Evidence in the images dates them to between spring 1902, when the tram line was extended to Alloway, and 1909 when Ayr Grammar School was extensively altered. In fact, they are likely to have been taken during the winter of 1902-03, as Bara’s Troon studio seems to have closed around that time or soon after.
In 1876, John Joseph Ambrose George Barat married Eliza (Lily) White in Kensington, London, and soon afterwards they moved to Ayr and took over a photography business in what is now Citadel Place. It was as Ambrose and Lily Bara that they chose to be known. In 1883 a photographic studio, designed by the distinguished Ayr architect James A. Morris, was built for Ambrose Bara in Citadel Place. Ambrose’s principal assistant for nine years was Alexander Monnickendam, who set up his own photography business in Ayr around 1893. At the age of only 36, Ambrose died in December 1890 as the result of a tragic accident. Having been overcome by a fit while passing through Prestwick on horseback, he fell to the ground and sustained fatal injuries. Lily carried on the business for a time. By 1911 she had moved to Devon (where she died in 1936) but the Bara photography business in Ayr continued in existence until the beginning of the 1920s.
The essential starting point for research on early photographers in Ayrshire is the data assembled by Rob Close, which can be viewed here:
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