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Posts Tagged ‘Ayr’


Tuesday 26 September – Tuesday 31 October 2017

A special exhibition in Ayr Carnegie Library’s non-fiction lending area showcasing the original source material which has informed the professional archaeologists, as they prepare to dig deeper, and investigate what lies at the heart of Auld Toun. The Riverside Block on Ayr’s High Street occupies part of the earliest core of the Royal Burgh as laid out after the grant of its charter in 1205. Sitting between the late C15th Auld Bridge, and the C18th New Bridge, the original C13th plots were laid out falling from the High Street to the River Ayr. Representing Ayr’s commercial past, and the epitome of its 20th century development, this plot was never expected to become available as a site of interest.

Visit the Carnegie’s Local History department to see the maps, photographs and books which helped the Archaeologists understand the history of the site over 800 years, and, provide the clues as to what the dig might reveal!

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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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One hundred years ago, families spread across the whole of Ayrshire were mourning the loss of loved ones. News was arriving of the heaviest loss of life the county had yet suffered in the Great War. On 12 July 1915, Scottish soldiers of the 52nd Lowland Division rose from their trenches and charged part of the Turkish lines at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. They included the 4th and 5th Territorial battalions of Ayrshire’s county regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers. This was the latest of the many attacks which had been launched since British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops landed on the peninsula in April. The aim of the campaign was to force the passage of the Dardanelles Straits, knock the Turkish Ottoman Empire out of the war, and open up Black Sea supply routes to Russia and, via the Danube, to Serbia. This apparent opportunity to break the stalemate of the Western Front was faltering due to resolute Turkish resistance.

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The Gallipoli Peninsula is shown in pink. The Cape Helles sector was at the south west tip, with the front line just south of Krithia village. The ANZAC sector was further north, between Gaba Tepe and Suvla Bay.

The allied bombardment which preceded the 12 July attack had reduced the Turkish positions to a confusing maze of shattered trenches. As officers and NCOs were killed and wounded, command and control began to break down in the face of Turkish shellfire and counter-attacks. The ‘trench’ chosen from aerial photographs to be the final objective turned out to be just a shallow scrape, and many men pressed on beyond it. Few of them returned. Others had been given the hazardous task of digging communication trenches from the British front line to the captured positions. This meant standing in the open exposed to enemy fire, and losses were heavy. Fighting continued through the night. Some isolated groups fell back to avoid being cut off and surrounded. This resulted in the withdrawal of others who thought that a general retreat must have been ordered. However, with the help of reinforcements from the Royal Naval Division, the captured trenches were secured by the end of 13 July. The operation would be officially referred to as the Action of Achi Baba Nullah. The British commanders judged it to have been a successful limited attack, but the offensive capability of the 52nd Division had been destroyed. Turkish losses were also heavy, but were more easily replaced.

Six of the Ayr men who fell in the 12-13 July fighting at Gallipoli. Robert Capperauld was a reserve player with Ayr United Football Club. From the Ayrshire Post.

Six of the Ayr men who fell in the 12-13 July fighting at Gallipoli. Robert Capperauld was a reserve player with Ayr United Football Club. From the Ayrshire Post.

The two RSF battalions had lost over 200 dead, including 12 officers, and 300 more were wounded. There are few of Ayrshire’s public war memorials which do not bear the names of men who fell at Gallipoli on 12 and 13 July 1915, or died of wounds in the following days. Ayr’s memorial has 15 such names, and Troon’s 10. The battalions of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers which attacked alongside the RSF suffered even more severely.

Four of the six Maybole men killed in the 12 July attack, three of them by the same shell while digging a communication trench. From the Ayrshire Post.

Four of the six Maybole men killed in the 12 July attack, three of them by the same shell while digging a communication trench. From the Ayrshire Post.

It was not only in British Army units that Ayrshiremen fought and died at Gallipoli. They were to be found in the ranks of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, among the British emigrants to these countries who made up a significant proportion of their army volunteers. Ayrshire local newspapers published letters which they had written from Gallipoli to their relatives in the county, and news of those killed and wounded also appeared.

Private John Oman from Girvan, killed 8 May 1915, was one of a number of Ayrshire emigrants who died at Gallipoli while serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. From the Carrick Herald.

Private John Oman from Girvan, killed 8 May 1915, was one of a number of Ayrshire emigrants who died at Gallipoli while serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. From the Carrick Herald.

The most prominent and controversial Ayrshireman at Gallipoli was the head of one of the county’s oldest landowning families. Major General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston of Hunterston, who had been born at Hunterston in 1864, was placed in charge of operations in the Cape Helles sector. He would be criticised for ordering a succession of mis-managed and costly frontal attacks in the early part of the campaign. Learning from these, he later changed to more carefully-prepared assaults with concentrated artillery support and limited objectives, of which the 12 July attack was one. He was typical of British commanders at this stage of the war in being inexperienced in modern methods of warfare, and in command of officers and men similarly inexperienced and often inadequately trained.

The Ayrshire Yeomanry setting off for Gallipoli from their training base at Annsmuir near Cupar, 26 September 1915.

The Ayrshire Yeomanry setting off for Gallipoli from their training base at Annsmuir near Cupar, 26 September 1915.

Reinforcements for the 52nd Division which arrived in the autumn included men of the Ayrshire Yeomanry, the county’s Territorial cavalry unit. They left their horses behind and served as infantry. By this time major assaults had ceased, but they were engaged in several sharp actions and lost 18 killed.

Reluctant acceptance that the campaign had failed, and that the troops could be better employed elsewhere, led to the evacuation of Gallipoli. The ANZAC/Suvla sector was evacuated in December 1915, and the Cape Helles sector in January 1916. This was so well-managed that in both cases, the Turks did not realise what was happening until the last men had embarked. The 52nd Division with its Ayrshire units fought on against the Ottoman forces in Egypt and Palestine until transferred to the Western Front in the final stages of the war.

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reminiscence

New revised Reminiscence Boxes available for loan

Carnegie Library’s Local History Department has Reminiscence Boxes available for loan. The boxes contain memorabilia which help bring back memories of past times and provide talking points for the elderly and people with dementia. These boxes have been very popular with nursing homes and day centres and are available for a two week loan period which can be extended if there is no waiting list.

To arrange a loan or for more information please contact the Local History Department at Carnegie Library.

Telephone 01292 272231 or email localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

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The 25th of January will see world-wide festivities commemorating the birthday of South Ayrshire’s most celebrated local hero, Robert Burns (1759-1796). A marble bust of Scotland’s national bard is on display in the local history area of Carnegie Library, Ayr. It was sculpted by Amelia R. Hill (1820-1904), who was born Amelia Robertson Paton in Dunfermline, and whose brothers, Sir Joseph Noel Paton and Walter Hugh Paton, became well-known painters. In 1862 Amelia married the Scottish artist and pioneer photographer David Octavius Hill. She produced many portrait busts, but is best known for her statue of David Livingstone in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, and as the designer of the Burns statue in Dumfries.

Amelia R. Hill’s marble bust of Robert Burns in Ayr’s Carnegie Library.

Amelia R. Hill’s marble bust of Robert Burns in Ayr’s Carnegie Library.

David Octavius Hill died in 1870, and in the following year the widowed Amelia was working on a bust of Robert Burns in her Edinburgh studio when she received a visit from the industrialist James Baird of Cambusdoon. He belonged to a Lanarkshire family of iron and steel magnates, and he had come to Ayrshire in 1844 to oversee the exploitation of the county’s coal and iron ore deposits. He built the mansion of Cambusdoon, near Burns’ birthplace of Alloway, as his residence.

Not long before his visit to Amelia’s studio, James Baird had received a request for a donation from the committee of the subscription-funded Ayr Public Library, set up in 1870. The committee members were no doubt hoping to receive money with which to buy books, but Baird decided that Amelia’s bust of Burns would be an appropriate gift. He purchased the bust, and on 1st November 1871 he presented it to the library, to be placed in its reading room in the MacNeillie Buildings in Newmarket Street.

From 1870 until 1893, Ayr Public Library rented space in Ayr Town Council’s MacNeillie Buildings, Newmarket Street (named after John MacNeillie, provost of Ayr 1864-1873). Above the doorway are carved representations of the religious reformer John Knox (centre), flanked by the Scottish warrior heroes Sir William Wallace (left) and King Robert the Bruce (right).

From 1870 until 1893, Ayr Public Library rented space in Ayr Town Council’s MacNeillie Buildings, Newmarket Street (named after John MacNeillie, provost of Ayr 1864-1873). Above the doorway are carved representations of the religious reformer John Knox (centre), flanked by the Scottish warrior heroes Sir William Wallace (left) and King Robert the Bruce (right).

In 1890 the library committee sought support from another philanthropic industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, who had returned from America to his native Scotland. Carnegie offered to fund the construction of a library building on condition that Ayr Town Council would adopt the Public Libraries Act and establish a free library service. The necessary majority vote in favour by the town’s householders was obtained, and in September 1893 the Carnegie Library was opened. The books and other items belonging to Ayr Public Library were transferred to it from Newmarket Street. They included Amelia Hill’s bust of Burns, and it has remained in the Carnegie ever since. The building also houses the local history collections of South Ayrshire Libraries, including a large Burns reference collection.

A small selection from the extensive Burns reference collection in the local history area of Ayr Carnegie Library.

A small selection from the extensive Burns reference collection in the local history area of Ayr Carnegie Library.

Andrew Carnegie was an admirer of the works of Robert Burns, and in offering to fund the construction of a library in the town, he wrote that Ayr had a special place in the hearts of all Scotsmen, as it was so intimately associated with the most beloved Scotsman of all.
(The previous post The history of Carnegie Library, Ayr has more information about the building.)

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St John’s Tower in Citadel Place is all that remains of Ayr’s medieval parish church, dedicated to St John the Baptist. The church appears to have been founded in the late twelfth century, and it was enlarged during the following centuries. In 1315 King Robert the Bruce convened a parliament or assembly in the church to decide the succession to the Scottish throne. At some point, a large tower was added to the church’s western gable. The many alterations which it has undergone make it difficult to date, but it seems most likely to have been built during the fifteenth century. Internally the tower has five stages – a ground-floor vault, three rooms and a bell chamber, all accessed by spiral staircases.

Encircled by Victorian terraces, St John’s Tower stands guard in the middle of Ayr’s Fort residential district.

Encircled by Victorian terraces, St John’s Tower stands guard in the middle of Ayr’s Fort residential district.

The series of civil conflicts which swept the British Isles during the mid-seventeenth century culminated in Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Scotland in 1650-52. Ayr was chosen to be the site of one of the garrison fortresses constructed by his occupation army, and St John’s Church was commandeered and enclosed within its walls. (What is now the Auld Kirk was built by the townspeople at this time as a replacement.) The fort garrison divided up the church building for use as a chapel, a mill house and a storehouse, and the tower was used as an armoury and look-out. (Incidents from the Cromwellian occupation will be featured in forthcoming posts.)

Part of the view of Ayr from the north side of the harbour published in John Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae of 1693. It shows St John’s Church and its tower within the demilitarised Cromwellian fortress.  Slezer, a military engineer, is known to have visited Ayr in 1678, and no doubt sketched the scene at that time.

Part of the view of Ayr from the north side of the harbour published in John Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae of 1693. It shows St John’s Church and its tower within the demilitarised Cromwellian fortress. Slezer, a military engineer, is known to have visited Ayr in 1678, and no doubt sketched the scene at that time.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660 following Cromwell’s death, the demilitarised fort – including the former church of St John – was gifted by the crown to the 7th Earl of Eglinton as compensation for the losses suffered by his family while supporting the royalist cause. The fort grounds became the barony of Montgomerieston, a private estate lying between the town of Ayr and the sea, where various industrial activities were carried on. By 1726 it was owned by a consortium of Ayr merchants, and around that time the body of the church was demolished to provide stone for the re-building of the High Tolbooth in the Sandgate. (See the previous post The Gibbet Stones from Ayr’s Sandgate Tolbooth.) The tower was left standing as it was an important navigational aid, guiding mariners to the harbour entrance.

The tower as it appeared when it came into the possession of John Miller in 1852. The inverted V on its east wall shows where the roof of the church building had been joined to it.

The tower as it appeared when it came into the possession of John Miller in 1852. The inverted V on its east wall shows where the roof of the church building had been joined to it.

In 1852 gunsmith John Miller returned to Ayrshire from India, where he had made his fortune. He purchased the barony of Montgomerieston, and he thus became known locally as Baron Miller. To provide himself with a suitably baronial-looking residence, Miller set about transforming the old church tower. Architect John Murdoch added extensions to it in Gothic style, creating a mansion which was christened Fort Castle. Keeping a walled yard around his home for himself, Miller disposed of most of the rest of the fort estate as house plots.

Fort Castle as viewed from Citadel Place, on a postcard of the early 1900s. Part of the old tower is visible behind the Victorian Gothic-style additions of Miller and Murdoch.

Fort Castle as viewed from Citadel Place, on a postcard of the early 1900s. Part of the old tower is visible behind the Victorian Gothic-style additions of Miller and Murdoch.

‘Baron’ John Miller at the entrance to his residence of Fort Castle.

‘Baron’ John Miller at the entrance to his residence of Fort Castle.

Following John Miller’s death in 1910, Fort Castle was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Bute. He had inherited the enthusiasm of his father the 3rd Marquess for using the family fortune to preserve and restore historic buildings. He engaged architect James Kennedy Hunter to return the old tower to its appearance when John Slezer sketched it in the seventeenth century.

One of J. K. Hunter’s 1913 drawings for the restoration of the tower following the demolition of the Victorian additions.

One of J. K. Hunter’s 1913 drawings for the restoration of the tower following the demolition of the Victorian additions.

St John’s Tower photographed immediately after the completion of the 1913-14 reconstruction which gave it its present appearance.

St John’s Tower photographed immediately after the completion of the 1913-14 reconstruction which gave it its present appearance.

In 1913-14 Miller’s additions were torn down, and extensive restoration work resulted in St John’s Tower as it stands today. The 5th Marquess of Bute gifted it to the town of Ayr in 1949, and it is now in the care of South Ayrshire Council. The tower and its grounds are normally closed to the public, but each year on Doors Open Day, on the first Sunday in September, it is usually possible to gain access and enjoy the spectacular views from the roof parapet.

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