Archive for the ‘Local History’ Category

Votes for Women



This extract from the 1914 voters’ roll for Ayr’s Main Street includes the Carnegie Library’s librarian, David Elder Edward. Only men are listed.


The 1918 voters’ roll lists not only librarian David Elder Edward but also his wife Jessie. Many other women appear. (Mr Edward’s bequest continues to be used for the cultural benefit of the people of Ayr.)

On 6th February 1918, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was given royal assent and became law. For the first time, British women were entitled to vote in general elections, provided they were over 30 and were property-owners. (Many women could already vote in local elections.)

The years immediately preceding the outbreak of the First World War had seen increasingly militant action being taken by the supporters of the campaign for women’s’ suffrage. When Ayr Racecourse was commandeered by the military soon after the commencement of hostilities, the club stand had just been rebuilt, having been gutted by fire one night in 1913. The culprit was a Suffragette who was never caught and who in recent times has been revealed to have been a Kate Taylor from Glasgow. There had also been a failed arson attack on Burns’ Cottage at Alloway by Fanny Parker, a niece of Lord Kitchener. One of the foremost Scottish Suffragettes was Janie Allan, who resided in Prestwick and was the daughter of the owner of the Allan Shipping Line. Fanny and Janie were both imprisoned – in Janie’s case for breaking shop windows. They both went on hunger strike and had to endure forced feeding.

On the outbreak of war, the mainstream Suffragette movement suspended their campaign and called on women to assist the war effort. In return, an amnesty was granted to imprisoned Suffragettes. As more and more men joined the Forces, women filled the gaps in the home workforce, and were able to confound those who had sought to deny them the vote on grounds of limited ability.

The only reference to the bill becoming law in Ayr’s local papers of the time was in a report of a meeting of the Ayr branch of the Women’s Temperance Association. The president, Miss C. E. Robertson, said in her opening speech that women had long sought for and fought for the vote, and now that they had it they should use it well. She went on to urge that they use it to enlist the support of candidates for the prohibition of alcohol.


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Arrangements for our 2017 South Ayrshire History & Family History Fair on Saturday 3rd June are well underway with an exciting line-up of speakers.

Whether you’re interested in exploring your family roots or wanting to take a more specialised look at a particular topic, the History Fair – and the guest speakers – will help bring your interest to life.

The tomb effigy at Dunkeld Cathedral of Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, son of the first Stewart king Robert II (who died at Dundonald Castle) and Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan.

Our Speakers for the day are:

Thomas Rees, Rathmell Archaeology –  Demolition work for the Riverside Development in Ayr will include an archaeological investigation of a significant area of the historic town centre. Thomas will explain the project’s potential to uncover new evidence about the Royal Burgh’s medieval origins.

Tom Barclay, Local Studies Librarian, South Ayrshire Council – King Robert the Bruce is arguably the most important figure in the shaping of Scotland’s later medieval history. Tom will look at Bruce’s many connections with Ayrshire, and the traditions and sites associated with him in the county.

Professor Steve Boardman of the University of Edinburgh – Ayrshire’s Kyle district was an important power-base for the Stewarts in their rise to occupy the Scottish throne. Professor Boardman will speak about the career of one of the most notorious of the family, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, better known as ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’.

Neil Fraser, The Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN) – SCRAN is an online treasure-house of images covering all aspects of Scottish history and culture, which is constantly being added to. Neil will give a presentation on the site’s resources which will highlight its extensive and fascinating Ayrshire content.


In addition to a full programme of informative talks featuring respected guest speakers, stallholders from various groups will be offering advice and guidance on family history, tracing your roots, and exploring local and national history between 9am and 4.30pm. There will also be a specialist Scottish bookshop. Admission to the stalls is free.

Location and Cost

As usual, the Fair will be held in the Walker Halls, Troon, from 10am until 4pm. The cost of the full day conference is £10, £5 for half a day.  Tickets for individual talks are priced at £3 each or £2.50 for 2 or more and will be available from Troon and Carnegie Library during the month prior to the fair.  Tickets will also be available to purchase on the day.

History Fair Enquiries

If you have any enquiries about the History Fair or would like to make a booking please don’t hesitate to contact us. Tel: 01292 559318 or 272231  Fax: (01292) 616301 or email: localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk.

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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 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:


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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.


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Photographs taken of the King’s Arms Hotel and the views across the river from its rear. The hotel was near the foot of the High Street and was demolished in 1925. This hotel along with the Black Bull Hotel in River Street survived from the 18th century. After demolition F W Woolworth appeared in its place. The original hotel was renewed in 1833 by its owner William Noble after a fire.

In 1820 there were over thirty carriers transporting goods to and from Ayr by horse and cart. A four-horse passenger coach left twice daily from the Kings Arms for Kilmarnock and Glasgow alternating each month with the Black Bull across the river.

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Photographic Exhibition Carnegie.jpeg

Due to it’s popularity our Picturing the Past exhibition at Ayr’s Carnegie Library has been extended until the end of February 2016.

The bygone days of the town and its people are celebrated in this exhibition of images from the library service’s photographic collection. Special features include Gray’s carpet factory and Daniel Wyllie’s chemical works.

Carnegie Library, 12 Main Street, Ayr KA8 8EB

The exhibition is on display in the Non-Fiction Lending Department.

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