A Letter from Glenafton’s past.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGlenafton Athletic were delighted to receive the ‘Minute of Agreement’ between new signing Peter McDonald and the club dating from September 1947 from Alex Christie from Irvine. He also provided a letter from the club secretary sent to the player later in that season .

These documents are  not only fantastic pieces of club memorabilia from some 70 years ago but their story ends with  a poignant reminder of one of the darkest days in the history of New Cumnock.

Peter McDonald , who lived at 4 Perceton Cottage, Irvine signed for the Glenafton Athletic at New Cumnock on 1st September 1947 with the ‘Agreement’  (contract) running from 6th September 1947 to 30th May 1948 for which he would be paid six shillings and sixpence a week (32 pence).  The contract was signed by player and club secretary John Taylor before being witnessed William Edwards.

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These were difficult times for Glenafton Athletic . The team based at the heart of the miners rows in Connel Park had very much been a powerhouse in Ayrshire Junior football since their formation in 1930 until they suspended operations in 1940 for the duration of World War II with the locals thirst for football  quenched by the success of the juvenile side Connel Park Rangers.

Season 1945/46

Glenafton Athletic resumed operations in the summer of 1945 with the club office bearers H. Brown (President) , H. McLatchie (Vice President), S. Dickson (Secretary) and J. Stewart (Treasurer) . The scale of rebuilding the side was brought into sharp focus after the trial match against the Connel Park Rangers ended 6-1 in favour of the Juvenile side.

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Sam Dickson

Secretary Sam Dickson, a former club president  had an impressive footballing pedigree beginning in 1914 serving on the committee of juvenile sides Ardnith Rovers and then Lanemark Athletic. He progressed to the Junior code with New Cumnock United and then to their successors Glenafton Athletic. His negotiating skills proved to be instrumental not only in gaining Glenafton’s acceptance into the lucrative Wester League Association in 1933/4 but also that of fellow South Ayrshire sides Kello Rovers and Auchinleck Talbot.

On Sunday 17th June 1945 a general meeting of Glenafton Athletic Supporters club was held in the club-house with Jack Orr in the chair. It was agreed that the Supporters Club should resume activities on behalf on Glenafton Athletic and it here that we first encounter the name of John Taylor, as secretary of the Supporters club.

Office bearers: Jack Orr (President), Sam Montgomery (Vice President) , John Taylor (Secretary), Henry Brown (Treasurer), William Riddall (Promoter)

Committee: Messrs A. McLatchie, J. Lopez, T.Clapperton, J. Fulton, R. Mackie

curries_vimtoAttention quickly turned to fund-raising and booking the Town Hall for a dance on the first free Saturday on August.  The booking cost £1 7s 4d  (£1 37p) including 5s (25p) for the hall keeper while the advert in the Cumnock Chronicle required a further 1s 6d (7p) and the “Five Swingers” the band for the night would be paid  £7 fee.  Twelve dozen bottles of soft drink were purchased from Curries for £1 7s (£1 35p)and sold at 2s (10p) a pop while 4 gallons of ice-cream were acquired for £2 10s (£2 50p) and sold for 1s 6d (7p) a go! The dance proved to be a great success and cleared £17 16s 10d ( £17 84p)!

The St. Leger Sweepstake in September proved equally successfully. The prize money was set at 1st place £15, 2nd place £6, 3rd place £3 and a £1 for last-out-the-hat.Accounts show that 849 tickets at a shilling (5p) a ticket were sold  £42 9s (£42 45p). There is no record of the lucky winner who picked out Cham0issaire ridden by Tommy Lowrey  – but in the words of Drummer , “if you hivnae a ticket, you hivnae a chance!”

revburnettpicMeanwhile the Cumnock Chronicle reported the marriage of the Reverend Andrew Burnett of the Martyrs’ Kirk (the parish church of New Cumnock) to Meta Louisa Hitchcock daughter of Alfred Hitchcock. The suspense gripping the parish was soon lifted as it was revealed that the Alfred in question was from Edinburgh, while his namesake was in Hollywood busy directing ‘Notorious’ starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, sure to be a big hit at Biddall’s Picture House.

The Reverend Burnett had been minister of the parish for 20 years. Sadly he passed away 5 years later in Edinburgh while visiting the meetings of the General Assembly.

In the first postwar the Western League split into North and South Sections with 10 teams in each section. Joining the Glens in the South were Annbank United, Auchinleck Talbot, Cumnock Juniors,  Kello Rovers , Muirkirk,  Ayr Newton Rovers , Whitletts Victoria the newly formed Maybole and the re-formed Lugar Boswell and now to be known as Lugar Boswell Thistle.

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Bobby White

The young Glens side made a promising start to the league campaign and fairly quickly half-backs Brown and Clowes and were snapped up by Kilmarnock, although neither would go on to make a first team appearance.

Experienced players made appearances for the team  including  Lyle Irvine (Glens most capped player), Bobby Hawthorn and Bill Gray – three greats from the 1930’s.

Temporary recruits from the Army were local men Sam Riddall (who had spent 5 years a prison of war) and Bobby White (left) who would represent Scotland later in the year in a Services International in a 2-1 win over England at Gibraltar.

However, the wheels came off and it proved to be an abysmal season for the New Cumnock side in both league and cup competitions.

Changing conditions and the advent of a new town in our parish make it imperative that a new venue may have to be considered and this is a big undertaking. The past season has been one of the most difficult in the history of the club, it having been left to a few loyal members to overcome adversity. Traditionally New Cumnock has always been associated with football – players of the highest ability have gone out and proved their value to the game. Today they are still going – what of the future?

If all sections of our community are a united front and rally to the Glens by being present at the AGM this week-end, we can achieve what we all desire to see – a Glens team winning the Scottish Cup. So be there

Changing conditions in the country as well with Clement Attlee’s Labour Party winning a landslide in the July’s General Election on the platform of rebuilding the country post-war with a vision of full employment, a National Health Service and cradle-to-grave welfare state. Change too in the New Cumnock coal-field . The mechanisation of the New Cumnock Collieries Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery continued with the lowering underground of a diesel engine locomotive and two shuttle cars. At Grieve Hill where the coal had been worked on the lands of Mansfield since the late 18th century it was now being extracted through open-cast methods by Wimpey Limited at the rate of 400 tonnes per day. On the 31st May the bill for the nationalisation of the coal industry was passed at its 3rd reading, some 53 years after Kier Hardie had introduced a Nationalisation of Mines bill that never passed its 1st reading.

Season 1946/47

The equilibrium of 20 teams evenly distributed across North and South sections in the Western League was disturbed as six more teams swapped war time mothballs for footballs. Ardrossan Winton Rovers, Kilbirnie Ladeside, Kilwinning Rangers and Largs Thistle joined the North while Darvel joined the South. To provide even-numbered sections Hurlford United flitted from the North to the South, to give 14 and 12 team sections respectively.

Glenafton’s response to a very poor season was to retain only five players – Dick (goalkeeper), Goodwin (full back), Sam Riddall (half-back), Wilie Henderson (forward) and Smith (forward).  Joining them were the ten new recruits-

Goal – Barbour (QoS and Army); Backs – O‟Hara (Annbank & Army); Brown (Navy); Half-backs – Hamilton (Cumnock), Low (Army), Elliot (Army); Forwards – Davidson (Morton), Stevenson (RAF), McIntyre (QoS & Army), McMaster (Army).

Matters didn’t change much on the playing field of Connel Park for the Glens and the season proved to be only marginally better than last. There was some early promise in the Scottish Junior Cup beginning with a 5-4 victory over Ardrossan Winton Roversin the 1st round . A football special train carried 1,000 Glenafton supporters down the tracks to Kirkconnel for the 2nd round tie against Kello Rovers. McIntyre and Henderson put the Glens two ahead before Cummings pulled one back for the home side. Jimmy McIntyre restored the visitors two goal lead and ensured the New Cumnock side extended their Scottish Junior Cup record against Rovers to four wins out of four.

Glenafton: McCreadie; Goodwin & Ewart; Nisbet, Fulton & Alex. McIntyre; Hamilton, Stevenson, Henderson, Davidson & J. McIntyre

Miners were allowed to start work early and leave on time to catch the football special for the 3rd round trip to Blantyre Victoria with 1,000 away supporters making up a crowd of 3,000.  The Glens put up a good show but went down 1-0 after having a goal disallowed.

If ever a team emerged glorious in defeat the Glen’s team did in this game. The disallowed goal was unfortunate, referee poorly positioned – described as displaying a ‘Homing instinct’. The Blantyre officials and supporters are a good sporting lot and extended every courtesy to their visitors’.

Glenafton later lodged a protest on the grounds that Vics player Gilbert McKeeman had not been reinstated as a Junior after a spell with Dunfermline Athletic – to no avail.

Meanwhile the changes in the coal-fields of Britain continued at a great pace with the nationalisation of the coal industry in the summer of 1946 and the formation of the National Coal Board. On vesting day, 1st January 1947, notice boards were erected at pit-heads the length and breadth of the land  .

“This colliery is now managed by the National Coal Board on behalf of the people”.

Four days later on Sunday 5th January, 1947 at 11 o’clock in the morning  the blue and white flag of the NCB was hoisted at all pits and mines which had previously belonged to New Cumnock Collieries Ltd. At the highly mechanised Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery the flag was unfurled by Mr. Sam Findlay, Castle Grove  who at 70 years old was the oldest working miner . After the unfurling the company met in the office and Mr John Bone the manager of the colliery addressed the gathering proclaiming “new era called for cooperation between workers and officials with the common aim of increased.”

Mr J McTurk, County Council and president of Mines Union considered it “a great day in the mining world” and asked miners to “give of your best for the working and the future of this great industry‟ .Mr Dryburgh, sub-agent declared his wish “like to see more facilities for mining education and instruction” while  Mr Robert Timpany, manager of Bank No.1 pit “called on all of the young men to attend the classes at their disposal”.

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Afton No. 1 Pit  (Guthrie Hutton)

The Bank House, former home of the Hyslops of New Cumnock Collieries was acquired by the Premier Oil Development Company. Part of the house was converted into a dwelling for the manager while plans were made to transform the rest of the building into a laboratory. Forty men were now employed in producing heavy oil from coal and the ‘Afton Carbonite’, a form of briquette, which was proving highly successful as a domestic fuel saver.

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Premier Oil Plant (Guthrie Hutton)

William Pearson, General Secretary of NUM (Scottish Area) paid a visit to New Cumnock and a crowd of over 100 gathered in the Town Hall to listen to his views on the 5-day Working Week Agreement that was about to be secured in the mining industry.

New Cumnock fully embraced the new phenomenon of Coal Queen that was sweeping across coal communities across the country.  Over 300 people were in attendance when Miss Anna McLatchie of Afton Crescent was crowned the first Coal Queen of New Cumnock.

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New Housing layouts at Castlemains, Lime Road & Hamilton Drive

Meanwhile the progress of the house building in New Cumnock generated lively interest in the allocation of both the pre-fabricated and the permanent houses to be erected at Castlemaines Avenue and Hamilton Drive, several of the occupants moving from Connel Park into the town.

The Glenafton Ladies Supporters were busy raising funds by hosting a beauty contest ‘10 Lovelies’. Judged by Miss Johnstone from Florida the ten New Cumnock lovelies (in alphabetical order) were Anna Houston, May McQue, Jessie Kilday, Grace Belfort, Anna Ferguson, Anna McLatchie, Jean Jackson, Nancy Cochrane, Mrs William Hunter and Nan McDonald. Later in the month the Glenafton Ladies organised a dancing display in the Town Hall, by Margaret Loy’s troupe of Highland Dancers.

Season 1947/48

Members of the football club were busy during the close season on improving the pavilion including adding the club name in the club colours above the entrance.  However, they were soon in mourning  following the news that Mrs Agnes White (nee Nisbet) had passed away at her home in North Boig Street. She was well-loved in football circles and acted as a mother to all players visiting the Connel Park pitch coming into contact with them through her husband Wull White who had been groundsman for several years.

The names of those New Cumnock men that fell in World War II were engraved on the War Memorial and unveiled in a sombre service at Afton Cemetery. Former parish minister the Reverend William Bodin, also fondly remembered in the parish as a goalkeeper for New Cumnock United, addressed the gathering acutely aware that his son Hugh had been killed while serving with Royal Air Force. Bugler Dalziel played the Last Post and Reveille while the pipers played Flowers of the Forest.

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New Cumnock War Mmorial, Afton Cemetery

Changes in the league set up saw newly formed Craigmark Burntonians admitted to South Section as Junior football returned to Dalmellington parish since the demise in 1931/32 of Benquhat Heatherbell and Dalmellington United. Dunoon Athletic gained entry to the North Section and Riccarton Bluebell flitted to the South Section to give two leagues of 14 teams.

Some early promise with a 5-2 win over Hurlford United and a 4-2 win over their nieghbours Riccarton Bluebell followed by a share of the points in a 6 goal thriller with Whitletts Victoria.

It was during this run at the end of August when Peter McDonald first appeared for the Glens as a trialist in the 2-1 win over Muirkirk Juniors in front a large crowd at Connel Park. Indeed centre-forward Peter scored Glenafton’s opening goal while inside-left Willie Henderson scoed the winner. The Glens team that day was-

Glenafton: McCreadie; Lawson & McPhilips; Goodwin, Kerr & Fulton; Fraser, Ewart, McDonald, Henderson and Ewart

Glenafton made an early exit from the Scottish Junior losing 2-0 at home to Cambuslang Rangers and went out of the Ayrshire Cup to Beith at Connel Park to the same scoreline.

At a special meeting of the club Samuel Dickson, secretary tendered his resignation, which was accepted with regret.  New office bearers were appointed with John Taylor, secretary of the Supporters Club now secretary of the football club.

Office-bearers: President William Edwards, Vice President A. McLatchie, Secretary John Taylor, Minute Secretary Patrick Park, and Treasurer Samuel Capstick.

It was soon after this on the 1st September 1947 that John Taylor signed Peter McDonald on behalf of the club having previously impressed as a trialist.

The club however continued to struggle. Two players failed to turn up for the Glens trip to face new boys Craigmark Burntonians for the first time and  couple of spectators made up the 11 that earned a 1-1. The trip to face their oldest rivals Kello Rovers ended in a 2-1 defeat and with the Glens linesman being sent to the pavilion for coming on the field of play to support the Glens captain Lawson in appealing a decision made by the referee!

For the trip to high-flying Cumnock Juniors the Cumnock Chronicle correspondent turned to John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim Progress” to describe Glenafton’s current position

“Glenafton’s visit to Cumnock Juniors are usually eagerly anticipated but Glens are in ‘the slough of despond’ “

The game ended in glorious failure with the Glens making a game of it and rather than the expected drubbing lost 5-3 in an enthralling encounter with Peter McDonald man-of-the-match while Willie Henderson scored his last goal for the club as he was transferred to Cumnock after the game.

Glenafton: McCreadie; Hamilton & Goodwin;  McIntyre, Lawson & McDonald; Anderson, McCutcheon, Henderson, Watson & Irvine

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Jimmy McKnight

The visit of Lugar Boswell Thistle to Connel Park generated added interest with local lad and former Connel Park Rangers player 19 year old Jimmy McKnight playing at right-half for the visitors.  He had a fine game and noted for his ‘free action and quick tackling’ and by the end of the season would step up to the seniors with Queen of the South. Nevertheless Glens triumphed 2-1 in what was only their 5th win of the season.

Glenafton: McCreadie; Hamilton & Goodwin;  Bingham, Newman & W.Kerr; Ballantyne,  McIntyre, Boyle, McCutcheon & Watson

Lugar: Fraser; Stirling & Watters;  McKnight, Baird  & Kelly;  W. Ballantyne, McCall, Nisbet, Smith & Baird

One name missing from the Glenafton line-up was that of Peter McDonald. It was not uncommon for players not to turn up for a match. On doing so they would receive a letter from the club secretary asking them to explain their absence and be reminded it was a violation of their Agreement.

John Taylor’s letter to Peter McDonald survives to this and thanks to Alex Christie it has possible share this marvellous snapshot of Glenafton Athletic’s history . The first thing to notice from the secretary’s letter head is the club colour were maroon at that time  – it was not until the Glens moved to Loch Park in 1960 that the club adopted the current colours of red and white.

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New Cumnock 15.12.1947

Dear Peter,

I have been instructed to draw your attention, and to ask for an explanation as to your failure to answer your Post Card for the match which you were advised to attend on Saturday 13th inst. versus Lugar Boswell at New Cumnock and further, to point out to you that you have violated Rule 2 of the minute agreement which was accepted by you, and of which you have a copy. Trusting that we shall have your explanation I remain

Yours in Sport

John Taylor

The aforementioned Rule 2 of the Minute of Agreement reads –

The player agrees to play football for the Club in an efficient manner and to the best of his ability when and where required, and to attend the Club’s ground or any other place decided upon by the Club for the purpose of, or in connection with, his training as a player, in accordance with the instructions of the Club, its officials or authorised servants.

The matter was resolved amicably and Peter returned to the side . He scored the equaliser against a strong Auchinleck Talbot side at Connel Park before the visitors fired in four more. Talbot went on to pip Cumnock for the league and the following season they Talbot lift the Scottish Junior Cup for the first time in the club’s history..

Glenafton held their half yearly meeting and several suggestions were put forward regarding changes to the constitution which were held in abeyance and a special meeting called and to be held in the Clachan.

These opportunities occur when the affairs of Glenafton Athletic require careful handling. That the people of the parish are keen on the success of the Glens is shown by the good attendances even when things go badly on the field. A wise selection of officials to control the club affairs, an increased support and also a guaranteed income from a voluntary source would soon establish the Glens in their proud place in Ayrshire football. By harmony and goodwill this can be accomplished.

Results on the field didn’t improve and a depressing season saw the Glens finish 11th in the 14 team league and fail to win  game in any of the six cup competitions.

Originally to be held in the Recreation Hall the AGM of April 1948 had to be moved to the football field due to the large numbers, a record attendance, which had turned up – the ideal weather conditions helping. The retiring president William Edwards expressed his warm appreciation to the ladies and gents of their respective Supporters Club for their valued services. It was expressed very definitely that the New Cumnock public desire a first class team and the new management should be under no illusions in this matter. If they deliver the goods they are assured of unbounded support

Club officials were duly elected –

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Walter Young  Hon. Vice President

Hon. President Mr Stewart, NCB;  Hon. Vice President Walter Young; President Samuel Dickson; Vice President Mr Timpany; Secretary James White; Treasurer William Hunter; Minute Secretary Patrick Park; Financial Secretary Charles Fleming. A representative committee was also appointed.

A wholesale change in office-bearers with many familiar and experienced faces reappearing including Sam Dickson returning as President and Jimmy White as Secretary with John Taylor stepping down from that role. Im the Honorary roles were Mr Stewart representing the National Coal Board, landlords of the Connel Park and the local worthy Walter Young, farmer at Lochill. Meanwhile Peter McDonald would appear for the Glens in a few of the opening games the following season before moving to pastures new.

On a more cheery note there was a boost on the jobs front in the community with the news that Charles W. Hall (Hosiery) of Leicestershire was locating in New Cumnock. Initially the company would set up temporary premises at the Afton Recreation Hut in the town and employing 50 girls by the end of the year with intention of moving into a new purpose built hosiery served with 200 of a workforce.

The mood in the coal industry however was much darker for it was not only that Glenafton that were in crisis. At the Scottish NUM conference consideration was given to foreign labour working in the mining industry.

Poles and voluntary displaced persons from Europe will be welcome to work in Scottish pits provided they first join the NUM and that in the event of redundancy will be the first to be laid off work.’

While the absenteeism rate in Scotland (9.24) was lower than the overall rate in the UK (10.53), William Pearson condemned absenteeism and urged action against habitual offenders as it was clear the current coal crisis could not be overcome as matters stood. Machinery and equipment left a lot to be desired and the current manpower of 82,000 in Scotland would need to be increased.

A survey of Scottish Collieries was conducted and reported in August 1948 providing an excellent snapshot of the pits in the parish of New Cumnock.

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  • N.B. Bridgend pit was a private pit and not under the control of the NCB

BankNo1x.jpgAccidents at the collieries both under-ground and at the pithead could often result in serious injuries or less frequently fatalities and 1948 proved to be a bleak year n the New Cumnock coalfields.

A week into the New Year, three men suffered burns after a gas ignition at Seaforth, heralding a catalogue of accidents at the pit. Two days later two men suffered from exposure to Black Damp and two days after that 39 year old Edward Harris and 26 year old Charles McAnespie, both of Connelburn,  were drowned when water burst its way from an old disused mine and completely flooded the ‘Dook’, with a 1 in 1 incline in which they were working.

In mid-June, George Capstick (64) of Connlpark , pit bottomer at Bank No. 1 pit was fatally injured while moving a  hutch loaded with  coal  into the cage when the cage was suddenly raised to the surface. George had long been a keen supporter of Glenafton Athletic Football Club and in his younger days was trainer for New Cumnock United, while his son Sam served as Glenafton’s treasurer for a time. George’s grandsons followed in their grandfathers footsteps and are regular fixtures at Glens game to this day.

Two years later on the 7th September 1950 the darkest day in New Cumnock’s mining history descended on the parish as news that an inrush of liquid peat into the No. 5 heading of Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery had trapped  129 miners underground.

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Knockshinnoch Crater

In  a dramatic and heroic rescue 116 men were brought to the surface two days later through the working of the neighbouring Bank No. 6 pit.

Sadly 13 souls lost their lives in the Knockshinnoch Disaster including John White of the Football Row and the son of Jimmy White, Glenafton Athletic secretary.

Also lost was John Taylor. Only three years had passed since September 1948 when he conducted one of his early duties as Glenafton Athletic secretary in signing Peter McDonald, perhaps his first signing.  John was born on 28th February 1916 at 3 Crescent,  Craigbank the illegitimate son of pit labourer Tommy Taylor and Mary Blackwood Collins.

Two years later his mother Mary married William Murray a coal miner from the Burnfoot Rows, New Cumnock. Their wedding certificate also records that William was a driver in the Royal Garrison Artillery at the time.  The family settled at 7 Blair Street, Craigbank with  John now known as John Murray and lived there for many years. Tragedy struck in 1940 when William Murray died of tuberculosis at Glenafton Sanatorium  at the age of 43 years old.

Four years later in 1944 John married Christina Geddes and, as was common in his situation at that time, he reverted to his birth name of John Taylor. The couple moved to the Glen Inn, Bank Glen and two years later they had a daughter Mary. In between times his widowed mother Mary had married David McClymont.

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Glen Inn, Bank Glen

It was John Taylor’s Bank Glen address that appeared onthe Glenafton Athletic letter-headed paper used for the club secretary’s correspondence for that short period between September 1947 and April 1948.

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It was from here that John would on Thursday 7th September 1950 head for work at Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery and not return home, as ws the case for 12 of his comrades. His body was the fourth to be recovered,  more than four months later, on 21st January 1951. John Taylor lies buried in Afton Cemetery  a few hundred yards from the site of the Knockshinnoch crater. His contribution to Glenafton Athletic, the club and the supporters club, is remembered with a shield at the base of his headstone

‘In Loving Memory of John Taylor from Glenafton Athletic F.C.”

Knockshinnoch John Taylor

John Taylor Memorial

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Mr Alex Christie, Irvine

  • Minute of Agreement of Peter McDonald and for John Taylor’s Letter

Cumnock Chronicle

Guthrie Hutton, Mining Ayrshire’s Lost Industry (1996)

Map

See alsothe following blog posts

This entry was posted in Coal Mining, Football, New Cumnock. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Letter from Glenafton’s past.

  1. Jean bell says:

    I am a miners daughter born and raised in new cumnock lots of people forgot their heritage not me I’m proud to be a daughter of a coal miner

  2. Robert McKay Gray says:

    I am Robert McKay Gray from Stockton near Newcastle NSW Australia, I have never forgot my New Cumnock Connel Park heritage & as a matter of fact I am very proud of that family history that is entwined in the New Cumnock area. “Hawtrees” was the family home just over the Connel Park Bridge, I have seen the Grave Headstone erected by William McKay Gray my Great Uncle for his wife Isabella, sons Nisbet & James.
    It’s funny that family friend May Clark from Melbourne used to visit the Gray’s at Hawtrees on & off since she was a little girl, when May showed me various photo’s from the past I couldn’t help but feel i’d been there & i could even tell her what was around the photo’s she showed me. But I have never been there, funny hey. Genetic memory I suppose.

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