From New Cumnock to Newcastle


Lanemark Football Club was formed in 1875 with many of the players already turning out for the existing Lanemark Cricket Club under the auspices of the Lanemark Coal Company. The company worked the coalfield in the vicinity of the lands of Lanemark and the Boig in the west of the parish of New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. The football ground was situated at miners rows in Connel Park sandwiched between the colliery railway line and the Boig Road. After the club folded in 1920 the Junior side New Cumnock United played at the pitch until they folded eight years later. In 1930 Glenafton Athletic was formed and played at Connel Park through to 1959/60 until they moved to their current home at Loch Park in the village.


Showing Lanemark’s Football Club’s ground at Connel Park, New Cumnock Courtest http://www.nls


The above Newcastle United line up includes three former Lanemark players, Joe Wallace, Tom Crate and Willie Graham all three having lived in New Cumnock and worked in the coalfield at one time or another. Buy how did they get there?

joe_wallace_00JOSEPH WALLACE (1867-?) | Forward

Joseph Wallace was born on 21st April 1867 at Hurlford the son of Robert Wallace, coal miner and Agnes Smith.  By 1881 the family had moved to Connel Park in the parish of New Cumnock, where 14 year old Joe is working in the pits alongside his widowed father and two elder brothers. At some time later the family then moved to Glenbuck in the parish of Muirkirk, however it is not clear whether that was before or after Joe Wallace started playing for Lanemark.  The earliest record of Wallace at Lanemark appears in September 1888 when he was commended for  ‘his good left wing play’ in the 7-0 win over Stevenston Thistle in the 1st round of the Scottish Cup .

The following season he represented the Ayrshire County while playing for Newmilns, on the left wing. Back at Lanemark at the start of Season 1890/1891 he scored for the Laney’s in the 3-2 defeat away to Saltcoats Victoria in the 1st round of the Scottish Cup. He briefly returned to Newmilns and after impressing against Newcastle East End in a friendly in mid-December 1890 he signed for the Newcastle side scoring two goals in his debut in a 4-1 home win over Burnley on Hogmanay.

[Note: In 1892 his younger sister Isabella Wallace married New Cumnock born John Menzies, both now living at Glenbuck—John also played for Lanemark]

tom_crate_00THOMAS CRATE (1871-1942) | Forward

Thomas was born on 16th June 1871 at Kilmarnock the son of bonnet-maker Emily Thornton, who a few years later married coal miner Charles McCreight. By 1878 the couple and their growing family had settled at Connel Park. It was ten years later in Season 1888/89 that the name McCrate, more often now shortened to Crate, first appears in reports of Lanemark games. The New Cumnock side reached the 4th round of the Scottish Cup that season where they were soundly beaten 8-0 by St.Mirren at Connel Park, nevertheless the ‘dashy forward’ Crate was identified as one of the Laney’s successes that day. The 19 year old was catching the eye and prior to the start of season 1891/92 he signed for Newcastle East End. Tom scored on his East End debut in a 4-1 home win over London Casuals  –‘running the length of the field to score’.

willie_graham_00WILLIAM GRAHAM (1866-1937) | half-back

William was born on 12th January 1866 at Dreghorn, the son of coal miner John Graham and Mary Robertson. The couple with their 5 sons and 2 daughters moved to Connel Park in 1870, when William was five years old, where a third daughter was soon added to the family. As the Graham brothers grew up they joined their father working in the Lanemark pits and developed a skill and passion for the blossoming game of football under association rules. Elder brothers George and John played in the first ever Lanemark game, a friendly against  Cumnock at Connel Park on 28th August 1875.


John Graham

His elder brother John, a half-back, later played for Annbank and was capped for Scotland in 1884 before moving to Preston North End the following season by which time 19 year old Willie had probably kicked off his Lanemark career, also at half-back. In the summer of 1888 he too signed for Preston North End, although on an amateur basis. The English League was formed that season and Willie played alongside his brother John in the first five games before being dropped. Preston went on to win the League unbeaten and the F.A. Cup for the first ever “double” – earning the team the title of  “The Invincibles”. Preston North End retained the title the following   season but John Graham suffered a bad injury that all but ended his professional career in England, and he too returned to New Cumnock with two English League Championship medals, and F.A. Cup Winners medal and F.A. Cup runners-up medal.

Willie Graham remained in Preston and married a Lancashire lass and together they had a son John before the family settled at Connel Park; Willie back in his “pit bits” and lacing his “fitba’ bits” for Lanemark at the start of the 1891/92 season; his young brother James  now the club’s centre-forward while his elder brother Johnnie was making the occasional  “veteran” appearance. It was clear that Willie could play at a higher level and at the start of the 1892/93 season he joined Newcastle East End, on professional terms.


Like Lanemark Football Club the roots of Newcastle East End Football Club can be found in a cricket club when in 1881 Stanley Cricket Club agreed to form Stanley Football Club. However, the following year due to confusion with a club of the same name from County Durham they changed their name to Newcastle East End. In 1889 the club was the first one in Newcastle to turn professional and was one of the founding members of the Northern League which started in Season 1889/90.

With Joe Wallace (1890/91), Tom Crate (1891/92) and Willie Graham (1892/93) now in their ranks Newcastle East End hosted Celtic in a friendly on 3rd September 1892 the at  the opening of their new ground, St. James’ Park.  Celtic, who were on a four match tour,  won 1-0.  In their side that day was Willie Mahey, the brother of Father Charles O’Malley  the priest at St. John the Evangelist R.C., Church in Cumnock. Willie would go on to become the first manager of Celtic and ib his 43 year tenue he won 16 Scottish League titles and 14 Scottish Cups.

Four days later East End entertained Sunderland in a friendly with Wallace and Crate scoring the home side’s goals in a 2-2 draw.

Slightly less glamorously in October 1892, East end faced a “South of Ayrshire” side captained by John Graham, presumably Graham was making a “guest” appearance as his playing days at Lanemark appeared to be over. All three of the former Lanemark players lined up against their former team with Tom Crate bagging a brace in a 7-0 drubbing.


By December of that year local rivals Newcastle West End had fallen on hard times and they approached East End looking for a merger which eventually was secured. On 12 December 1892 the team hosted Middlesbrough Ironopolis at St. James Park in a Northern League match under the name of Newcastle United (although the Football Association formally accepted the new name of Newcastle United on 22 December) with the Lanemark  triumvirate were in the line up.

Newcastle United was accepted into the English League Division Two at the start of Season 1893/94. On 2nd September 1893 the three former Lanemark players Crate, Graham and Wallace, all once miners in the New Cumnock coalfield at one time or another, lined up to face Woolwich Arsenal at Manor Field, Plumstead. The honour of scoring Newcastle United’s first English League goal fell to Tom Crate in a 2-2 draw and four weeks later he scored a hat-trick against them in the return fixture.

The playing record for the three players courtesy of

NEWCASTLE EAST END /  NEWCASTLE UNITED 1st Game Appearances* Goals* Final Game
Joe Wallace 31/12/1890 53 27 12/04/1895
Tom Crate 05/09/1891 50 18 05/01/1895
Willie  Graham 03/09/1892 109 13 12/09/1896
* League and Cup games only

On the 31st March 1897 Newcastle United played Sunderland in front of a crowd of 5,000  in a benefit match for Willie Graham and Willie Thompson,” two of their older players”, United winning comfortably by 5 goals to 2.


joe_wallace_00JOE WALLACE: He finished his playing career with Jarrow of the Northern Alliance League . Joe married and raised a family in Newcastle and later lived in Gosforth,  working as a coal miner.

During the depression in the 1930s he fell on hard times and forced to accept handouts for Newcastle United. In his later years he worked as a night watchman.


tom_crate_00TOM CRATE: He played briefly for Blyth at the end of Season 1894/95 season before briefyl playing for Hebburn Argyle, the following season; both teams playing in the Northern Alliance League. Tom also married in England where he and his wife raised a family of five, although it does appear that he turned out for Lanemark during this period – albeit some of the references to Crate in the newspaper reports at the time were likely to be his brothers Charles and William. By 1901 the family had settled at Connel Park, where five more children were born. Tom was back working in the coal mines and playing for Lanemark. The surname Crate would continue to be associated with football teams,on and off the park, that came and went in the parish of New Cumnock. Tom Crate passed away in 1942, fittingly at the Football Row, Connel Park a penalty kick from Lanemark’s football field, then graced by Glenafton Athletic.

willie_graham_00WILLIE GRAHAM: In 1895 tragedy struck the Graham brothers John and Willie and their family when their father, John Graham snr., was killed by a roof fall in the Lanemark Coal Company’s  Burnfoot Pit (Afton No.1).  His grave can still be seen in the Auld Kirkyard.

Willie Graham and his family returned to New Cumnock and lived at Mansfield Terrace for a time while working in the local pits . he returned to the heart of Lanemark’s defence at the start of Season 1898/99. The family continued to grow in number with children born in New Cumnock, Old Cumnock and Ochiltree. Willie passed away in 1937 at Skares Row, Old Cumnock.


Robert Guthrie | 16th December 2019

Posted in Football | Tagged , ,

The Feuding Hamiltons

Complaint by George Hamilton in Westland and others


Patrick Hamilton in Colcreoch and others for assault on their persons

– Edinburgh 28th June, 1642 –


Meikle Westland

Complaint by George Hamilton in Westland, William Hamilton of Garrive, William Reid in Craigdarroch, Rebecca Hendersone, spouse to Mr John Charters, minister at Currie and Mause Henderson, widow of Mr Henrie Charters, W.S., heritor of the lands of Craigdarroch, and the said Mr John for his interest as follows : –

The said Mause and Rebecca Henderson possess the said lands heritably by good and sufficient rights and the said George Hamilton is their tenant, who by himself and the said William Reid, his son, has been in peaceful possession thereof this long time, till now that on the 7th June instant Patrick Hamilton in Colcreoch {Coalcreoch}, Bessie Dumbar, his spouse, William Hamilton, his brother,_ _ _ , his wife, Margaret Hamilton, sister to the said Patrick, John Dumbar, son to Patrick Dumbar of Penkley {Pencloe}, Andrew Hamilton, son to John Hamilton of Hillend, John Campbell in Eshmark {Ashmark}, and Grissel Andersone in Knockshinnoch, with several others, armed with swords and staves came to the said lands of Craigdarroch, brought with thame the household plenishing {furniture} of the said Patrick Hamilton, forciblie entered within the same and placed the said plenishing there, patt on sixteene heid of nolt {cattle} upoun the grisse roumes {grass space} of the said lands.


Nether Westland

And upon the tenth day of the same moneth the saids Patrik and William Hamiltons and thair wyffes, the said Margaret Hamilton and Grissel Andersone, Eufame Campbell in Eshmark, Helen Dumbar spouse to Andrew McNacht in Cumnock Mayns, Jean Dumbar , spous to Connell Wilsone in Lochbrowing {Lochbrowan} , Sara Campbell, spous to William Kirkwood in Over Garrive, Jean Campbell in Boutfoot, Bessie Hamilton, daughter to Johne Hamilton in Blackcraig (the saids women being all hounded out be their husbands), all boddin {equipped} with swords, rungs, pitch forks and other weapons invasive, came to the said William Reids hous in Craigdarroch, entered within the same, brake and abused his haill plenishing, kuist the same to the doore, strake, hurt and wounded the said Williame and his wife, thrust thame out of thair houses, tooke the said Patrik Hamiltons plenishing out of the house they had putt in the day before and sett it in the said William Reids house, hounded out thair dogs at the compleaners bestiall {farm livestock} being upon the ground, wirried a number of thair sheepe, cruellie birsed {pressure applied by a crowd} and bruised thair nolt with rungs and scattered thame so as they could not find the same agane. And, when as upon the morne the said George Hamilton and the said William Hamilton of Garrive and William McKall, his servant, came to thair awne lands and desired thir persons to suffer thame peaceablie to possess thair houses and roumes, the said Bessie Dumbar strake the said William Hamilton twice upon the head with a rung, then drew a knife and strake him in at the hersche {buttocks}. And when the said William McKall preast to take the knife from her she bait him and wounded him with the knife to the effusion of his blood, so as to the said George Hamiltoun wes forced to retire to his dwelling of Westland three myles distant from his possession of Craigdarroch.”



Charge having been given to the said William Hamilton, Helen Dumbar, Grissel Anderson, Eufame Campbell, Sara Campbell, Jean Campbell, Patrick Hamiltoun, Bessie Dumbar, Margaret Hamiltoun, John Dumbar, son of Patrick Dumbar of Penclay, Andrew Hamiltoun, John Campell in Eshmark and Jean Dumbar, none of whom compeared {appeared}, but the said George and William Hamilton compearing personally and the said Mr John Charters also compearing for himself and the other pursuers, the Lords ordain the defenders to be put to the horn and escheated {lands returned to owners}.


  • George Hamilton in Westland – either Meikle of Nether Waistland
  • William Hamilton of Garrive – the original name of Mansfield
  • William Reid of Craigdarroch
  •  Rebecca Henderson was the daughter of Laurence Henderson, merchant. She married Mr John Charteris, Minister of Currie, Edinburgh from 1631 until his death in 1688, aged 64 years. He was the son of  Henry Charteris, Professor of Divinity and later Principal of the University of Edinburgh. ( He was married three times and had 23 children).
  • Mause Henderson, widow of Mr Henry Charteris (


  • Patrick Hamilton (Coalcreoch)
    • Spouse Bessie Dunbar
    • brotherWilliam Hamilton
      • his spouse?
    • sister Margaret Hamilton
  • John Dumbar,
    • son to Patrick Dumbar (Penkley)
  • Andrew Hamilton
    • Son to John Hamilton (Hillend)
  • John Campbell (Eshmerk)
    • Spouse Eufame Campbell
  • Grissell Andersones (Knockshinnoch)
  • Helen Dumbar
    • Spouse Andrew McNacht (Cumnock Maynes)
  • Jean Dumbar
    • Spouse Connell Wilsone (Lochbrowing)
  • Sara Campbell
    • Spouse William Kirkwood (Over Garrieve)
  • Jean Campbell (Boutfoote)
  • Bessie Hamilton
    • Daughter John Hamilton (Blackcraig)



  • Blackcraig
  • Boutfoot (at the foot of the Bowt)
  • Craigdarroch,
  • Cumnock Mayns (Castlemains)
  • Eshmark (Ashmark),
  • Garrive,  Over Garrive (Mansfield)
  • Hillend (of Corsencon),
  • Knockshinnoch,
  • Lochbrowing (Lochbrowan)
  • Penclay (Pencloe)


  • Many thanks to Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontarion


Posted in New Cumnock | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New Cumnock’s Fallen in Northern Russia

Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice  between the Allies of World War I and Germany “on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918” in France. While the news would generate scenes of joy and celebration across Europe, including the parish of New Cumnock, soldiers from the Royal Scots, among others, were fighting for their lives in Northern Russia.


Three men from New Cumnock lost their lives in the Northern Russia campaign, including one on Armistice Day.

  • Private David Smith Paton, 20 years old, killed 27th October 1918
  • Private William Collins, 20 years old, killed 11th November 1918 – Armistice Day
  • Private Samuel McWhirter, 22 years old, killed on 22nd February 1919

The 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots

Raised in Linlithgow in 1914 the 2/10th Battalion was based for most of the war around Berwick and Coldingham on coastal defence duties.  In June 1918 it was stationed in  on garrison duty at Ireland.

“By that stage of the war the Battalion was largely manned by soldiers who, although rich in experience, were officially graded as fit only for garrison duty.”

The battalion was strengthened to a force of 1,000 and at the end of July left for Aldershot, prior to setting sail for Archangel in northern Russia  as part of a task force that numbered British, Canadians, French, Italians and Americans.

archangel map

Archangel (Arkhangelsk) Campaign

“The Allies considered that the Russian Bolshevik regime was a puppet of Germany. Accordingly it was felt that, if those forces opposed to the Bolshevik government were reinforced and encouraged, the Romanovs might be restored.”

  • August 1918

On the 25th August the Royal Scots reached Archangel situated on both banks of Northern Dvina River near its meeting with the White Sea some 500 miles of Moscow.  The following day three companies embarked on barges at Archangel and, by the end of the month, reached the village of Bereznik near the confluence of the Dvina and Vaga.

  • September 2018

On the 11th September an attack by a Bolshevik column was successfully repulsed.  A small forced advanced up the river and captured a 3-inch gun (which can be seen at Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik).  A combination of the tricky terrain and frequent engagements ensured progress up river was slow for the next two months.

  • October 2018

In late October there was a severe setback when an attack on the village of Topsa was unsuccessful and the Battalion’s losses were about 80 killed, wounded or missing. It was during this engagement on the 27th October that Private David Smith Paton from Connel Burn, New Cumnock  was killed in action.

  • November 2018

On the 11th November – on the day the Armistice was signed – the Bolsheviks mounted a major attack aided by gunboats. The attack on the right bank was readily repulsed but that on the left bank continued throughout the day with fierce fighting and an uncertain outcome.  By nightfall the Bolsheviks withdrew after heavy losses with several hundred killed or subsequently succumbing to their wounds or exposure in the north Russia winter.  The 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots lost 19 men while 34 others were wounded. Numbered in the fallen on Armistice Day was Private William Collins from Craigbank, New Cumnock.

  • January-February 1919

Hostilities resumed and as the winter gave way the Bolsheviks mounted offensive operations in Vaga. It would be during these attacks that on 22nd February 1919 that Private Samuel McWhirter from Connelburn, New Cumnock was killed in action.

  • Spring 1919

It became apparent that allied success in northern Russia had no prospect of strategic success. Although the Americans were withdrawn in May the British were slower to reach the same decision.

  • June 1919

The Battalion moved to Murmansk after being relieved by the 2nd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment.  A few days later the Battalion embarked at Murmansk and sailed into Leith on 18 June 1919 where they were me by cheering crowds as they marched to Leith Central station en route to Redford Barracks where they were to be demobilised.

The Battalion had been in existence for five years and, although it had only seen operational service for ten months it had suffered 132 fatalities. It also achieved the distinction of gaining for the Regiment the battle honour ‘Archangel 1918-1919’, the only battle honour won during the war by second-line battalion of the Regiment and an honour shared with just two other regiments of thee British Army.

The New Cumnock Fallen in Northern Russia

It is not clear when these three young men joined the 2/10th Battalion Royal Scots but perhaps was at the time it was strengthened while on garrison duty in Ireland.

Private David Smith Paton (b. 14.10.1898, k. 27.10.1918)

  • Paton family

James Paton found work in the New Cumnock as an engine keeper (stationary) and along with Grace Gray moved there in 1870 along with their two children.  Together they had six more children born in New Cumnock, including Janet born in 1876 at Connelpark. It was here too that Janet gave birth to her son David Smith Paton 14th October 1898.

Young David was brought up by his grandmother Grace Gray, who following  James Paton’s death had set up home at Helen’s Cottage, Leggate, New Cumnock while his mother Janet found work as a dairymaid at Little Creoch farm.  On Christmas Day 1903 at Helen’s Cottage Janet married Alexander Hawthorn, coal miner who lived at Highhouse Rows, Auchinleck. Janet set up home there with her new husband and together they had several children.


The Leggate in the distance from Connel Burn


Connelburn and the Legate

At Helen’s Cottage on Christmas day 1903 Janet married Alexander Hawthorn, coal miner who lived at Highhouse Rows, Auchinleck.  The couple set up home at Auchinleck  and together they had several children. David continued to live with his grandmother Grace. She passed away on April, 1915, when David was 16 years old.

David is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial.


Private William Collins (b. 21.12.1897, k. 11.11.1918)

  • Collins family

Kilmarnock-born John Collins found work as a coal-miner in the coalfield, probably at Patthead initially when he lived wih his parents at the Burn Brae, Mansfield.  On  31st December 1890 he married Agnes Paxton, farm servant at Crosshouse. Together they had 11 children (5 girls and 6 boys) all born in various locations in New Cumnock – Craigbank, Afton Bridgend, Bank Cottages, Bank Furnaces, and 42 Stable Row, Craigbank before settling at 3, The Crescent, Craigbank.

William Collins was the 5th child of John and Agnes born on 21st December 1897 at Bank Furnaces.


Bank Furnaces, Craigbank and Bank Cottages at Post Office (P.O.)


Craigbank with the Crescent


William Collins was killed on Armistice Day and  is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial

William’s eldest brother David Collins served with the Cameron Highlanders in World War I and having emigrated to Australia he later served with Australian forces in World War II.

Private Samuel McWhirter (b. 31.12.1896, k. 22.02.1919)

  • McWhirter family

Samuel McWhirter was born on 31st December 1896 the first child of William McWhirter, ploughman and Annie Britton. The family later lived at Polquhirter Cottage where two more children were born before settling at Connelburn. Here William worked above ground at the pits as a boiler fireman while Samuel worked as a loco shunter.

In April 1918 Samuel enlisted in the General Service Corps and presumably joined the 2/10 Battalion Royal Scots.



Samuel McWhirter was killed on 22nd February 1919 and is remembered on the Archangel Memorial and the New Cumnock War Memorial.



National Library of Scotland

Scotland’s People


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments



Bannockburn memorial (Robert Guthrie)

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots victory over Edward II, King of England at the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, is celebrated in the adopted national anthem “Flower of Scotland” and ends with the taunt of proud Edward being “sent homeward think again”.

But this was not the first time that as Edward II of England he headed homeward from Scotland, to think again. It is necessary to travel back in time to Dumfries in the winter of 1306, at which time he was Edward, Prince of Wales and his father Edward I was on the English throne, to reveal to his first retreat. It was here on the 10th February that Robert the Bruce killed John Comyn [B1]and six weeks later was crowned King of Scots at Scone.

Following some early set-backs and defeats to the occupying English forces Robert the Bruce and his followers escaped from the mainland of Scotland to take refuge during the winter of 1306/07 before returning to Bruce’s native south-west of Scotland in the spring. His return quickly came to the attention of Edward I of England and an immediate response.


Lanercost Priory

The  ageing and ailing king of England set his counter-offensive in motion from his sick-bed at Lanercost Priory near to the Scottish border some 12 miles north-east of Carlisle. Orders were issued to Great Yarmouth and 24 other English ports ‘forbidding all export of provisions, horses and arms (except to Gascony) as they will be required for the Scottish expedition’. [C1]

While, closer to his base at Lanercost Edward commanded the Sheriff of Cumberland to – ‘collect all the vessels and empty barges on his seacoast to provide them with stout crews, and despatch them towards Ayr in pursuit of Robert de Brus and his abettors, and destroy his retreat’. [C2]

Fuming in early February, Edward I wrote to Sir Aymer de Valence earl of Pembroke his lieutenant in Scotland expressing

his great and not unnatural wonder at hitherto having no news from him how he and other lieges lately despatched to Ayr have succeeded in crushing the Scottish rebels, or following them, or what they purpose doing afterwards’. [C3]

Bruce and his followers employing guerrilla tactics enjoyed victories over the English forces at Glen Trool, Galloway in April and then at Loudon hill, Ayrshire on the 10th May 1307, according to John Barbour in his epic work ‘The Brus’. [B1]

Bruce Stone , Glen Trool and Loudon Hill

Bruce Stone , Glen Trool and Loudon Hill (Robert Guthrie)

The Chronicle of Lanercost captured the despondent mood in England –

Howbeit, notwithstanding the terrible vengeance inflicted upon the Scots who adhered to the party of the aforesaid Robert de Brus, the number of those willing to establish him in the realm increased from day to day’ [L1]

On the 15th May Walter, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, treasurer and currently based at Lanark commanded on behalf of the King that Sir James de Dalileye, escheator south of the Forth pays the wages of the garrisons of the town and castle of Ayr, town of Lanark and the castle of Cumnock. [C4] Three days later the treasurer, now at Dumfries, commanded that Sir Ingram de Umfraville and Sir William de Feltone were supplied with a tonel wine and 10 quarters of wheat and flour to store the castle of Cumnock. [C5] He travelled on to Carlisle that day and gave his account of the provision of the fortresses of Ayr and other fortresses in that quarter –

‘That the King had been so greatly pleased with his account that he had kissed him especially for his borrowing the Castle of Comenogh, lying between Lanark and Ayr, from its owner, Earl Patrick for a term, and garrisoning it with 30 men-at-arms under Sir Ingram de Umfraville and Sir William Felton, besides 100 foot. Relates the King’s preparations to invade Scotland in person, and other news.’ [C6]

Earl Patrick was Patrick, 8th Earl of Dunbar, one of the Competitors for the Scottish Crown in 1286, following the death of Alexander III. Although the Dunbars ancestral lands were in Dunbar, East Lothian they also held the Barony of Cumnock in Ayrshire. He swore fealty to Edward I of England at Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1296 and his name appears in the Ragman Roll as ‘Patrik de Comenagh, del counte de Are’ [R1]. Cumnock Castle stood on a hill overlooking confluence of the Afton Water and the River Nith at the heart of what is now the village of New Cumnock. This meeting place of waters possibly gave rise to the name Cumnock from Gaelic comunn achadh ‘the meeting place’. [NC1]


Map 1: Cumnock Castle

Cumnock castle now played a strategic role in the English struggle to hem Bruce and his men in this corner of south-west of Scotland.  Not only situated at the head of Nithsdale, the natural route from Dumfries to Ayr, route through Glen Afton (referred to the Carrick Pass as late as the 17th century [NC2] ) provided a more protected but torturous route from the plains of Kyle into Bruce’s safe-haven of Glen Trool and its environs. This must be a strong contender for Bruce’s route from Glen Trool to Loudon Hill; with New Cumnock 25 mile north-east of the former and 15 miles due south of the latter.

On May 21st at Carlisle John de Drokensforde guardian of the Wardrobe commanded James Dalileye or his lieutenant at Dumfries to give such victuals as they require to Sir William de Feltone and others who are about to go Cumnock. [C7]

The Wardrobe accounts for the 22nd May read [C8]-

Roll of horses. [For the garrison of Cumnock Castle. Laurence de Ripariss at 20 marks, Ralph de Kirkeby at 100s. Soldiers – Adam de Levinton at 10 marks, Thomas le Convers at £10, his horse died at the abbey of Valle’ on 17 June 1307. 7 others named.

The account included a later entry which details the death of a hose on 17th June at ‘abbey of Valle’ , i.e = Fail Abbey a few miles west of Ayr.

Details of payments (undated) to be made to the garrison of the castle of Cumnock survive giving the names of some of the knights and a reference to 100 infantry. [C9]

  • Laurence de la Rivere and 2 [esquires?], 42s.
  • Robert de Vienna and 1 [esquire?], 14s.
  • 5 others [named] with 1 [esquire each ?], 14s each.
  • [Further sums of 50s, 20s and 10s are noted]
  • The valets of Thomas de Bykenore [2 names], total, 18s.
  • The valets of William de Rithre [4 names], total, 56s.
  • Adam de Levynton and 2 [esquires?], 14s.
  • Sir William de Felton and 4 esquires, £4 4s 0d.
  • 100 [altered to 90] infantry at 3d each, £11 19s 2d.
  • 2 sergeants at arms [named] to be sent to Lanark in place of 2 valets of William de Rithre
  • Total £27 7s 2d.
  • Item, for Thomas de Leyburn, 100s [deleted].

With garrisons in place and Edward’s great ‘Scottish Expedition’ advancing to the Scottish border ill-health got the better  of the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ and he died at Burgh on Sands near Carlisle on 7th July 1307, never to set foot in Scotland again. His son, now Edward II of England, halted the advance of the great army to take stock and deal with the consequences of his father’s death.


Edward I and Edward II at York Minster (Robert Guthrie)

However, attempts to hunt down Bruce continued with the English occupying forces and their Scots allies unaware of the death of Edward and the change of monarch. It was at this time, possibly at the end of July 1307 that Robert the Bruce, King of Scots and his men escaped from the combined forces of John of Lorn and Aymer de Valence in Glen Afton cutting through the hills of New Cumnock. The close encounter is captured by John Barbour in his epic work ‘The Brus’ and tells of how John of Lorn , nephew of John Comyn, hunts own the King of Scots aided by a sleuth-hound.


Glen Afton, New Cumnock with Blackcraig hill and Stayamera (Robert Guthrie)

The king is pursued by John of Lorn and his tracker-dog;

Professor A.A.M. Duncan’s translation of John Barbour’s ‘The Brus’ with additional notes is the chief source used to better understand this encounter which forms part of Book 6 of ‘The Brus’. [B2]

The episode begins with Robert the Bruce and his force of a good four hundred men were in Cumnock  ‘quhair it straitast was’ and  ‘up in the strenthis’. 

So where in Cumnock were these locations?

Duncan observes that “Cumnock does lie in the narrow valley of the Lugar Water and the Barbour’s use of ‘straitast’ suggests tactics, a reference to a skirmish he which he does report. The modern-day town of Cumnock sits on the Lugar Water, however in any historical references to Cumnock that pre-dates the division of the parish of Cumnock in 1650 into the two new parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock it is necessary consider the landscape of both these parishes.  As already explained Cumnock Castle, the seat of the barons of Cumnock, stood at the confluence of the Afton Water and River Nith in what is now the parish of New Cumnock. As the settlement around the castle developed Cumnock Maynes and Cumnock Mill would be located nearby, while today the main thoroughfare through the village of New Cumnock is simply called Castle. [NC1]

Duncan also explains that ‘Strenthis, a word used quite frequently by Barbour of the strong points at which King Robert took refuge. Here it must mean natural eminences, hilltops, and that is probably the usual sense.

Barbour’s references to Cumnock where it is ‘straitast‘ and ‘strenthis’ points to Glen Afton and the hills of New Cumnock which the Afton Waters cuts through from its source  near to the boundary between Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire to its meeting with River Nith at the heart of the village of New Cumnock.

Castle William

Castle William rock at the head of Glen Afton with Stayamera to the right (Robert Guthrie)

Bruce’s ally James Douglas and his men travelled to meet Bruce  in some haste to warn the king that Sir Aymer de Valence had assembled a great company of men from ‘Ingland and Lowthiane’ to hunt him out of the land with hound and horn.


John Barbour ‘The Brus’

Unperturbed, Bruce was determined to ‘abid in this countre’ and stand and fight. He kept to the high ground and enjoyed a good view of Sir Aymer’s and his men making their way down the valley plain below. However, unbeknown to the king, a force of 800 men under the command of John of Lorn was approaching from the rear, hidden from view by the side of a hill.


John Barbour ‘The Brus’

Lorn, had with him a sleuth-hound, which some men say, when a whelp it had been fed and nourished by Bruce himself and would not be parted from him. Before Bruce was alert to the impending danger, Lorn and his men were all but upon him, while Sir Aymer and his force pressed on from his other side. With the lesser of these two encroaching forces greatly outnumbering that of Bruce, the king quickly concluded –

Lordis we haiff na mycht, As at this tyme to stand and fycht’

Bruce split his force into three so ‘that all will not be attacked’, and agreed in confidence (for fear of spies in the camp) a place of rendezvous at which to regroup. When Lorn arrived at the spot from where the three groups had departed the hound without hesitation followed the king’s party.

Lorn ordered five of his best men (fyvesum) to chase after Bruce by which time he was only in the company of his foster-brother and together they agreed to stand and fight. Three of the five-some attacked the king while the other two the closed singled out his foster-brother. Bruce with sword in hand struck his first attacker with such force that he sliced his ear and cheek down to the neck as well shearing off his shoulder. Three of the remaining four were killed by Bruce and the other by his foster-brother.

Meanwhile Lorn and the sleuth-hound remained in pursuit forcing the king and his companion to hide in a nearby wood. With the hound on their trail the pair waded through a stream for a time and realising the hound had lost the king’s scent John of Lorn gave up the chase.

Robert the Bruce had evaded capture and lived to fight another day with the Battle of Bannockburn  lying seven years in the future!


John Barbour ‘The Brus’

From the letters of Aymer de Vallence to James Dalziel in late July it is possible to offer an account of the events that led to the encounter in Glen Afton and the hills of New Cumnock.

A letter of the 19th July has Aymer de Valence at Dalmilling in Ayr at which time John of Argyll (of Lorn) is guarding Ayr with 22 men-at-arms and 800 foot. Duncan recognises that Barbour’s source must have been accurate as ‘quite remarkably his number Lorn’s ‘aucht hunder’  is correct. Five days later de Valence writes from the Glenkens in Kirkcudbright in a foray south to flush out Bruce, thought to be at Glen Trool.  It is worth noting that the letter is written in the King’s 35th year, i.e. de Valence is not aware that Edward I had died 17 days ago on the 7th July.  A week later Aymer de Valence writes from Skeldon, Dalrymple on his return from the Glenkens and if this was by way of Glen Afton, it suggests that the encounter in the ‘strenthis of Cumnock’ took place in the closing week of July 1307.

19 July, 1307 Dalmolin (Dalmilling, Ayr)

From Aymer de Valence to James Dalyyel [C10]

As John of Argyll and his people are guarding the town of Ayr and parts adjacent, he commands that they be aided with money and victuals while there. That is to say, for 22 men-at-arms and 800 foot. Warrant attached, to deliver 6 qrs. oats to his marschal.

24 July, 1307 Glenken (The Glenkens, Kircudbrightshire)

From Aymer de Valence to James Dalyyel or his lieutenant at Dumfries. [C11]

Commands him to give with all haste to Sir Ingeram de Umfraville and Sir Alexander de Balliol, a ‘tonel’ of the King’s wine, that they may better do the King’s business on the enemy. Written at Glenken, the 24th July, in the King’s 35th year

31 July, 1307 Skeltoune sour Douun (Skeldon on the River Doon nr. Dalrymple)

From Aymer de Valence to James Dalyell or his lieutenant at Dumfries [C12]

‘ acknowledging receipt from Sir James Dalilee for his own use ‘ demesne,’ of 11 qrs. wheat, a tun of wine, 9 qrs. oats, and 40 ‘ soutz desterlings,’ of the K.’s victuals.


Map 2: South West Scotland

Aymer de Valence returns from The Glenkens by way of the Ken Valley and the head of Glen Afton while John of Lorn travels from Ayr by way of Cumnock Castle and the lower reaches of Glen Afton [NC2]

Proud Edward’s Army march to New Cumnock and his retreat!

By the time Aymer de Valence had reached Skeldon on the 31st July , Edward II had already mobilised his later father’s army and on 29th July left Carlisle to begin its march into Scotland [C13]. On the 1st August it reached Annan and the day after Tinwald to the north-east of Dumfries.  The next day Edward’s army marched into Dumfries and remained there to the 12th August. Patrick, Earl of Dunbar and John Comyn, Earl of Buchan (cousin of John Comyn killed by Bruce) were among a number of Scots magnates that dined with Edward II  on 3rd and 4th August at Dumfries.  Also present was Edward’s favourite Piers Gaveston who had returned from exile after Edward I’s death. and on the 6th August he was created the 1st Earl of Cornwall. Edward and his entourage remained at Dumfries until the 12th August before marching up through Nithsdale to Dunscore (13 Aug), Tibbers (14-15 Aug) and then Sanquhar (16-18 Aug) , where Edward held a feast for the Earl of the Cornwall.


Map 3 : Nithsdale & Ayrshire

On the 19th August Edward’s army arrived at Cumnock Castle and remained there for nine days.  Edward II’s Wardrobe Account Book from his stay at the castle that overlooks the meeting place of the Afton Water and the River Nith have survived. A few extracts of interest are presented below.[C14, C15]

Of particular interest is the payment of wages to Alemeric de la Zouche for wages off 44 footmen staying in Aymer de Valence’s company from 23 July to 25 th August – they would have been with de Valence in the encounter with Bruce in Glen Afton.   There is also reference to Roger Redypintel messenger of John of Lorne which shows that Lorne is back in his home lands of Argyll by late August.  The most intriguing account is that to the ‘poor woman of Crathgork’ who kept two greyhound whelps for the king and brought them to Cumnock. Could these whelps be the basis of the sleuth-hound episode in Glen Afton? Finally the reference to Humphry de Bohun has some resonance with Bannockburn where on the first day of the battle Robert the Bruce cleaved Henry de Bohun, his young cousin, with his battle-axe.

 (a) Various payments concerning the household. Cumnock, 19-27 Aug. to Sir Henry de Appleby, for wages of himself and 2 esquires at Cumnock on 20 Aug., 60s

(b) To Almeric de la Zouche, knight , for wages off 44 footmen of Aymer de Valence, staying in Aymer’s company in Scotland, for 34 days from 23 July, when they entered the king’s wages by command of the king and council, to 25 Aug., paid to Almeric at Cumnock 25 Aug., £13 0s 8d.

(d) To Roger Redypintel, messenger of John de Lorne, coming to the king at Cumnock with his lord’s letters and returning to Argyll with the king’s letters to his lord, by the king’s gift, 21 Aug., 6s 8d.

To a poor woman of Crathgork near Stirling, keeping 2 greyhound whelps of the king for 1 year and bringing them to him at Cumnock, for the expenses of the woman and the dogs, by the king’s gifts at Cumnock, on 27 Aug;, 40s.

(e) Payments to messengers sent with letters from the king in Scotland to English sheriffs and others including 21 Aug to William and Robert Scot, sent from Cumnock to Ayr and from there to Lanark, 3s 6d.

[All C14]

Pardon at the request of Humphry de Bohun earl of Hereford and Essex, to John Scot of Great Petlyng for the murder of John Lenegle of the same place. Cumnock


On the 27th August 1307 with Robert the Bruce, King of Scots still at large Edward II, King of England headed homeward with his great army to think again, having quick stop overs on the way at Sanquhar, Tibbers, Thornhill and finally Annan on 31st August.

Sir David Dalrymple (Lord Hailes) in his ‘Annals of Scotland’ writes [C16]

‘By which inglorious retreat, after such mighty preparations for a decisive campaign, he rendered Bruce and his adherents more bold, and disheartened all in Scotland who favoured the English cause’

Proud Edward’s Army march to New Cumnock and his retreat!

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots was now free to escape from the south-west corner of Scotland and through the years swelled his support and recaptured many of the English occupied castles throughout Scotland.


Robert the Bruce, Bannockburn (Robert Guthrie)

In the summer of 1314, Edward II of England returned north with the intent to relieve Stirling Castle but his army was defeated by the Scots army under King Robert the Bruce on the 23/24 June 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Edward II escaped from the battlefield with many Scots in hot pursuit of the English king and his party, who made it safely to the refuge of Dunbar Castle. Professor G.W.S Barrow sums up the beginning of the end of ‘proud Edward’ and his army being sent home to think again .

It says much for the sorely-tried loyalty of Earl Patrick that he received Edward hospitably and saw him safely on board which took him to Bamburgh, and so tie the comparative safety of Berwick. Most of the five hundred knights reached Berwick by land. Earl Patrick must have submitted to the king of Scots immediately afterwards, for the English records show that he was forfeited as a traitor as from this date.

So seven years after the dejected Edward II ‘had gone home to think again’ from Earl Patrick’s castle of Cumnock, it was his son and successor Patrick 9th Earl of Dunbar that sent the defeated Edward II home again from his castle at Dunbar.

The Earl of Dunbar, later submitted to Bruce and his seal with that of many of other Scots nobles appears on ‘The Declaration of Arbroath’ of 1320, Scotland’s declaration of independence. Some eight years later Edward II signed the Treaty of Edinburgh – Northampton recognising Scotland as an independent country and Robert the Bruce as King of Scots.

Robert Guthrie, 24th June 2017


Calendar Docuuments of Scotland (CDS)

  • [C1] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1882,
  • [C2] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1893
  • [C3] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1896
  • [C4] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1928
  • [C5] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1931
  • [C6] CDS Vol. 4, No.1829
  • [C7] CDS Vol. 2, No 1933
  • [C8] CDS Vol. 5, No. 485
  • [C9] CDS Vol. 5, No. 503
  • [C10] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1957
  • [C11] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1958
  • [C12] CDS Vol. 2, No. 1959
  • [C13] CDS Vol. 5, Nos. 497, 521
  • [C14] CDS Vol. 5, No. 521
  • [C15] CDS Vol. 3, No. 7
  • [C16] CDS Vol. 3, Introduction xi
    • Annals of Scotland, Sir David Dalrymple

Chronicle of Lanercost

  • [L1]  Chronicle of Lanercost (1272, translated. with notes, by Sir Herbert Maxwell
    • Llanerch Press Facsimile Reprint 1913, Volume 2, p182 (2003)

Ragman Roll

  • [R1] Ragman Roll

John Barbour ‘The Bruce’ an edition with translation and notes by A.A.M. Duncan

  • Canongate Classics, 1st Edition (1997) Reprinted (1999)
  • [B1] Book 8 ‘Valence challenges the king to open battle at Loudon Hill’
  • [B2] Book 6 ‘The king is pursued by John of Lorn and his tracker-dog;’

G.W.S. Barrow Robert the Bruce & The Community of the Realm of Scotland’

  • Edinburgh University Press, 3rd Edition (1988)

New Cumnock History

  • [NC1] Origin of the place-name New Cumnock
  • [NC2] The route from New Cumnock via Glen Afton to south west Ayrshire is referred to the Carrick Pass during the Covenanting period of the late 17th century.



Posted in Wars of Independence | 1 Comment

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.


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.

EPSON scanner image

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.

EPSON scanner image

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”.


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.


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.


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.


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

EPSON scanner image

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.


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 –


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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


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


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)


See alsothe following blog posts

Posted in Coal Mining, Football, New Cumnock | 7 Comments

Glenafton Athletic: The beginning

Last week Scotland’s People published the Valuation Rolls of 1930 which lists every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier in Scotland of that year.   This was a special year in the history of New Cumnock with the founding of Glenafton Athletic Football Club. The 1930 Valuation Rolls give us a glimpse of the people that contributed and witnessed the birth of the club.

GLENESIS ‘in the beginning’

Flow gently sweet Afton among thy green braes
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise!
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream
Robt. Burns

The football void that had been left in the coal-mining community of New Cumnock following the demise of the Junior side New Cumnock United in 1928 was only occasionally filled by ‘local’ success in the senior grade of Scottish Football. Kilmarnock were enjoying their best run in the Scottish Cup since 1920 when the team, including New Cumnock miner Thomas Hamilton triumphed in the Hampden final against Albion Rovers. In the semi-final of 1929 Celtic were defeated by a solitary goal and then in April, Rangers were rumped by two goals to nil in front of a crowd of 114,708 at Hampden Park. Although there were no New Cumnock connections in this cup-winning Killie side, their goalkeeper Sam Clemie, who saved a Gers’ penalty was a blacksmith from Lugar and a former Lugar Boswell player. Up front was centre forward Harry Cunningham, Killie’s top goalscorer, who played with Cumnock Juniors in 1920 before turning senior with Ayr United. How many supporters made the trip on a football special from New Cumnock to Glasgow is not known, but hopefully in those days more were supporting their local team than the Glesca one!


The miners’rows at Connel Park and the Football Ground

In the beginning – in the summer of 1929 – a group of local elders in the parish of New Cumnock beckoned like-minded followers, eager to lead Junior football out of the wilderness, to a public meeting. They were to congregate at the football field, Connel Park, no need to bring guddled fish from the nearby Connel Burn or loaves from Murray’s Store at Connelbridge, only their good selves and their opinions. They flocked to the field in large numbers and James McQue presiding was preaching to the converted when he asked if there was anyone interested in starting up a new team –‘Aye’ said, Tam; ‘Aye,me tae’ said Dick and ‘Aye me anaw’ said Henry – the Ayes had it.

A new name was needed for the football club, for to retain the name New Cumnock United would have meant inheriting not the earth but the U’s debts. It was Alex ‘Major’ Clapperton, a well known local wit from the Boig Road, that proposed the name that carried the day – Glenafton Athletic. The inspiration behind the Major’s name has been lost. Clearly though it is a reference to the glorious Glen Afton, the most picturesque of glens in Ayrshire. To the miners that hewed coal underground and their families that lived in the tightly knit rows amid the man-made coal-bings the sights, sounds and smell of the glen must have been like heaven on earth. Of course the Afton Water had been immortalised by our national bard Robert Burns, his work in turn had inspired many a hardened coal-face poet to put into words their love, admiration and respect for Mother Nature; her that as everyone knew stayed up the Afton.

The three wise office-bearers were duly proposed and elected, namely James McQue (Chairman), Archie Park (Secretary) and Paddy Burns (Treasurer). John Grant (trainer) would tend to the needs of the players and Wull White (groundsman) had the unenviable task of looking after the ground. Glenafton Athletic Football Club, perhaps had not been created in the exact image of New Cumnock United, but they would resurrect the U’s old football jerseys from the holy hamper and play on the same hallowed slope of Connel Park.

The football field still belonged to New Cumnock Collieries and it had fallen into a state and a half of disrepair. A work-horse of a committee had taken shape no Simons or Peters but instead Jocky Walker, Straver Allan, Jim White, Hugh Brown, Pinkie Stewart, Jack Orr, Walter Rogerson, J. Kelly, and Davie Grant were among their number.

Fund raising and volunteering was critical to kick-start the new football team and it was to the Bank, the Bank School that is, to start the ball rolling. Headmaster Bert Watson organised a fancy dress parade for his pupils to take collection boxes (not plates) round the doors. Dances were held in the Town Hall where fun and funds waltzed to the same big band and Paddy Burns was soon counting his coppers as well as his blessings.

Steady progress was being made in preparation for the start of next season and no doubt there would be scouting missions to the variety of Junior and Juvenile cup competitions taking place in the district.


Connel Park

Sadly, the talk at corner of the Store Row, a favourite meeting place at Connel Park, of potential signings and progress at the football field fell deadly silent in early November as news of the first fatality in the pits for five years quickly spread about the rows. Robert Wilson a married man from Stepends Row (known also as the Washer Row) was killed instantly when a large stone fell from the roof while he was working at nearby Knockshinnoch. A month or so later, on the 16th December only a few weeks before Christmas the community was once again in mourning when 15 men were badly burned following a gas explosion at Bank No. 2 pit. Three men, Archibald Freeburn (31), John Cockburn (34) and John Breckney (24) all later died of their injuries in Kilmarnock Infirmary.

This bleak mid-winter gradually turned into the Spring of 1930 and come May the Office-bearers and Committee of Glenafton Athletic Junior Football Club were gearing up for the season ahead. Gladly, their Minute Book of that season has survived to give the generations that followed a fabulous living record of the birth of a club in an Ayrshire coal-mining community and its first steps into the unique and wondrous world of Junior football.

The Minute Book is not some grand hard-backed ledger but a simple school Exercise Book, with road safety tips on the back page and the ubiquitous array of arithmetical tables on the opposite side including those that no scholar could do without such as Apothecaries Weights, Cloth Measure, Hay and Straw Weight, Imperial Dry Measure. The ‘jotter’ is bright red in colour, a prophetic touch perhaps that would take on greater meaning in the new testament of the club to be written thirty years hence.


Glenafton Athletic Minute Book 1930

The names etched for eternity on the opening page of the Glenafton Athletic Minute Book were those of the Office-bearers J. McQue (President), J. Grant (Vice President), A. Park (Secretary), P. Burns (Treasurer) and the Committee of T. Kilday, T. Hastie, J. Allan, J. White, A. Robertson and D. Blair.

The journey begins at the Football Field, Connel Park on the Monday, 12th May, 1930.

Minute: Connel Park football ground
Monday 12th May 1930

The meeting was held in Connel Park football ground on the above date, Mr. McQue presiding. The chairman opened the meeting by asking the Secretary & Treasurer to tender their reports regarding their visit to Mr McGregor. They reported that Mr McGregor[1] agreed that the ground would be placed at their disposal, and he also gave permission to make the proposed collection through the pits. This report was accepted by the committee as being very satisfactory.

Mr. McQue & Mr. Grant then gave report of donations received from tradesman. They reported they had still a few people to interview, but up to date they had collected the sum of £3. This was handed over to the Treasurer.

Messrs Burns & Park agreed to canvas the remaining tradesman. Mr. Grant stated that Mr. Lynn[2] had offered the use of his hall for Whist Drive. It was decided to accept this offer at some future date. 1st Whist Prize also offered. It was also decided to postpone the collection in the pits until after the Castle Race.

Messrs Allan & White gave a report of their interview with Mr. McGinn regarding hamper. He claimed compensation for storage but agreed to leave the amount and date of payment to the discretion of the committee.

Some players were then considered. It was decided to approach the following – T. McDonald, Wilson, J. Ferguson, W. Telfer. W. Gray, J. Flynn, J. Campbell, M. Walker, R. Kilday, Davidson, D. Ferguson, J. Carmichael, S. Kilday, Sim, Somerville, Blair, Jackson, Torrance, two McCalls, Dick, McCaig, and J. Burgoyne.

It was decided to hold our next meeting on Sunday 18th May at 5pm at the Hatchery [3].

[1.] Duncan McGregor, joined the New Cumnock Collieries as General Manager in 1925, taking his place on the board in 1929.
[2.] John Lind the owner of the Afton Hotel.
]3]. The plan to have the next meeting at the Fish Hatchery which was at the Connel Burn up near Coalcreoch was washed out due to heavy rain, so it was back to Connel Park the following Sunday.

Minute: Football Field
Sunday 25th May 1930

Messrs Park and Burns reported that Mr McGinn intended to hold the kit hamper and claimed £1 for storage. It was moved that he receive 15/-, with 5/- to be paid on receipt of hamper. Treasurer reported 10/- donation had been received from Co-operative Society and 12/6 from other donations. It was agreed to sign players as soon as possible and with a signing on fee £1, to be paid during the season. It was also agreed to try and obtain nets from an influential club.

Minute: Football Field
Sunday 15th June 1930

J.Allan moved that no stuff should go out the hamper to the juveniles in the meantime. A. Park and McCann [1] to see Juvenile Committee regarding players. Lift in office to come of on Friday June 20th P. Burns to see books were sent in from the pits to the office on Monday. Old Pit and New mine[2] – A. Park ‘Nock’ mine[3] – J.Hastie Burnfoot. Committee to start work on Football Field on Wednesday first.

1. Charlie McCann, a recent addition to the committee
2. Old Pit & New mine. Bank Pits
2. Nock Mine is Knockshinnoch mine


Minute: Football Field
Sunday 22nd June 1930

Report given on goalkeeper White from Old Cumnock. Terms 10/- down rejected. Agreed to write letters to various clubs re. goal nets. Agreed to ask Mr McGregor for paint for the goalposts. Discussions on game with Cumnock and a barricade on football field left over to later meeting.

Report then given on the prizes donated for Whist Drive and Dance scheduled for Afton Hotel [1] on 27th June (Admission 3/- Couple, 2/- Gents, 1/- Ladies). Gents 1st prize: Smoking outfit, 2nd prize: Shaving Outfit. Ladies 1st prize: Trotter’s[2] Prize (7/6) 2nd Prize: Pair of vases. It was agreed that the donated Ox tongue would be raffled.

[1.] Afton Hotel , at the Nith bridge in the town.[ 2]. Trotters Shop

Minute: Football Field
Sunday 29th June 1930

Reported that the lifts taken in the pits had been very small and agreed to inform Mr. McGregor. Agreed to send delegate to Annbank to get nets. The takings from the Whist and Dance were reported as £2-6s-6d and it was agreed that the draw for the ox tongue[1] would take place at the Afton Hotel this coming Saturday. Secretary reported on players and stated that J. Campbell [2] wanted £1 down and it was agreed to let him go. Messrs Park and Robertson agreed to lift money from pit office on Monday 30th and to discuss letting of Football House.

1. No record of the lucky winner of the ox tongue!
2. The club complying with their policy of not paying signing-on fees up front, but rather later in the season.

Minute: Football House
Sunday 6th July 1930

The Secretary reported back on the letting of the Football House and that arrangements were to be made with Mr. Allan. Reported that amount received from lift was £4 16/-. Secy also reported that the party was working when he visited Annbank to discuss nets and that he had left his address. It was agreed to write to Catrine and Sorn [1= (who were down) regarding nets and failing that to write for catalogues.

It was also reported that Cumnock Juniors had offered to play opening game and this was accepted. It was agreed to sell tickets for the opening game and to interview Mr McGregor regarding barricade for football field.

[1]. Catrine Rangers and Skares Juniors

Minute: Football House
Sunday 13th July 1930

It was decided that if we failed to get nets from Auchinleck we accept from catalogues at £3. Secy then gave the fees for the various Cups, this was considered by the Committee and agreed to enter all Cups. C. McCann to interview Secy of Cumnock & Mauchline Assoc regarding entry fees. J. McQue report on player Davidson agreed to try and get him re-instated [1], agreed to try and get player Hodge and that J. Grant interview player White. Agreed that Committee Meetings be held on Sundays throughout the season. A. Robertson and T. Kilday to get donations from various pits. J. Grant moves that no stuff go out of hamper unless to a player connected with the club.

[1.] John Davidson had played with senior side Stenhousemuir

With their first season only a few weeks away the Club Officials and Committee of Glenafton Athletic had been active on a number of fronts. On the playing side several players had been approached but those that wanted their £1 signing on fee up front were turned away. Mr McGregor, manager of their landlords New Cumnock Collieries, had been approached for paint for the goalposts and discussions held regarding erecting a barricade around pitch, but despite approaching Annbank, Auchinleck, Catrine and Sorn, chasing down a set of nets was still proving to be elusive and it looked like they would need to spend £3 for a new set from the catalogue. Thank goodness for the local donations and the fund-raising activities – but who did win the ox tongue at the raffle in the Afton Hotel in July 1930?

The Cumnock Chronicle of Friday July 18, 1930 contained two small snippets that linked the past, present and future of Junior football in the parish of New Cumnock.

A brief report appeared on the Glasgow House Trophy tie (Glasgow House was a shop in Old Cumnock) between New Cumnock United and Townhead Thistle (of Cumnock) played at Auchinleck. The United side of Wilson: Kilday & Park; J. Carmichael, R.Kilday & W. McMann; Whiteford, Robson, McCaig, A. Carmichael and Orr triumphed by three goals to nil over their Old Cumnock neighbours thanks to a double from Andrew Carmichael and a single from McCaig. But of course this was no Junior tie, the ‘U’s’ were now one of a healthy host of Juvenile clubs in the district.

The Junior season had yet to start but preparations were well under way and the Chronicle heralded that there was a new name for followers of this code to become acquainted with as well as an old one to reacquaint themselves with.

New Cumnock’s new club Glenafton Athletic and the revived Glenbuck Cherrypickers are forward with the entries for the Cumnock and Mauchline Cups, which association hold its AGM tomorrow’.

Representing Glenafton Athletic at the Cumnock and Mauchline Football Association AGM, held at Cumnock Town Hall on the Saturday afternoon was John Allan meeting up for the first time with the representatives of the other clubs – Messrs. Pringle and McCartney (Cronberry), Messrs. Davidson and McLean (Lugar Boswell); Messrs. J & D. Steele (Auchinleck Talbot); Messrs Stitt and Kyle (Kello Rovers); Messrs. McGregor and McCall (Cumnock Juniors) and J. Brown (Glenbuck).

The annual report made favourable reading with the income of £72 8s 5d outstripping the expenditure of £72 17s 1d, leaving cash-in-hand of just over 30 shillings. Some rule change proposals were also considered. Cumnock’s request that none of the semi-final or final ties were to be played outwith the county was rejected, while their proposal that each team contesting a final should get £3 instead of 15 railway fares, which appear to have been a common currency, was accepted. Kello Rovers were successful in having a rule implemented that ensured cups would not be handed over to the ‘winning side’ until the protest period had elapsed. Protests were a common feature of cup games, which if upheld would result in a game being replayed. Other matters that gained agreement included increasing the entry fee for each competition to 10 shillings and that the engraving of past winners names on the cups be updated.

Minute: Football House,
Sunday 27th July 1930

J. Grant gave report of the Ayrshire League Meeting. Agreed to leave team till Weds first to play Kello Rovers. Robertson and Park to see McGregor about barricade [1]. C.McCann to see price of tickets, bills, team sheets and draw tickets. J. Allan moves that Mrs

Robertson get the washing. Agreed that A. Robertson be hamperman Gateman elected Burns, McCann, Allan, Robertson, Kilday and White. Trainers McQue and Grant

1. A winding rope was supplied by the NC Collieries

John Grant’s report would have included intimation of the league fixtures for the first two weeks of the South Ayrshire League as follows –

Saturday 2nd August
Auchinleck Talbot v Cumnock Juniors
Glenafton Athletic v Kello Rovers
Glenbuck v Cronberry Eglinton

Saturday 9th August
Cronberry Eglinton v Glenbuck
Cumnock Juniors v Auchinleck Talbot
Dalmellington United v Benquhat Heatherbell
Kello Rovers v Glenafton Athletic

Local derbies were the order of the day and were to be played over back-to-back week-ends, only Lugar Boswell of the nine-team League was yet to have a fixture fixed.

Coal Mines Act (1930)

New Cumnock Collieries as landlords of the Connel Park ground and the employer of many of the committee members and players alike of Glenafton Athletic had played their part in facilitating the return of Junior football to the parish. The Board of Directors unlike the aforementioned committee and players and of course the throng of tenants in the company-owned miners rows could be forgiven for not being completely consumed by the fast approaching opening game for the new club, for on the eve of that match, Friday 1st August, the Coal Mine Act (1930) came into being. Some four years had passed since the Mining Industry Act had given colliery owners statutory rights for seeking out and implementing amalgamations. This new act put in place a quota scheme of market shares in order to combat competition within the industry, strengthen prices and hopefully limit increasing unemployment.


Connel Park to day with the Rows and Football Pitch Overlay

In age-old fashion Saturday followed Friday and Glenafton Athletic played host to Kello Rovers from Upper Nithsdale in neighbouring Dumfriesshire, who were no strangers to Connel Park, having competed there against New Cumnock United on many occasions. The ‘changing room’ known locally as the Clachan was situated on the main thoroughfare through Connel Park on the New Cumnock to Dalmellington Road. From there the two teams had to run along the two hundred yard tunnel-like Football Row, their studs clattering off the pathway on the way to the playing field of Connel Park, sandwiched between South Boig farm (the Boo’ in) and the railway branch line to Knockshinnoch mine.

Many of the residents of the Football Row that day, along with hundreds more, would have already paid their entrance fee and taken their place behind the newly erected rope barricade at Connel Park to cheer the two teams into the ground and on to the field of play.


Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to Victorie!
Robt. Burns

New Cumnock United were no more, it was now Glenafton Athletic’s responsibility to fly New Cumock’s standard on the playing fields of Junior Football. It wasn’t Rab Bruce wham led the ‘aften’ that day but probably centre-half Rab Kilday. It wasn’t Bannockburn field, but the glaury bed (for the rains came that afternoon) of Connel Park, that the first victorie was claimed.

South Ayrshire League
Connel Park, New Cumnock
Saturday 2nd August, 1930


Many New Cumnock folk braved the rain of last Saturday to see how their new club, Glenafton Athletic, would perform in the opening League fixture with Kello Rovers at Connel Park.

Playing against the storm, the Athletic did well to hold out their opponents. They have got a strong half-back in Torrance and the forwards did their share manfully. Half-time – No scoring. The second half was started in a thunderstorm, and seven minutes had gone when the winning goal came the way of the home team. From a raid by the whole attack Flynn slipped the ball to Sim who sent in a ball that gave the goalie no chance. A lot of mid-field play followed with no more scoring, and the Athletic deservedly win the points by 1-0.

Glenafton: Wilson; Park and Davidson; Fletcher, R.Kilday, and Torrance (Lugar); Ferguson, Campbell, Sim, Flynn and Dick Keggans

Kello: McDonald; Livingstone and Kerr; McLeod, Rorrison and Eadie; Whiteford, Hendron, Keggans, McLeod and Stevenson

Referee: W. Conn

Source: Cumnock Chronicle, 8th August 1930

Mrs Mag Allan of 17 Football Row made the tea for both teams at full-time, a gesture that was particularly appreciated by the visiting Rovers. The honour of scoring the first competitive goal for Glenafton Athletic fell to local lad 18 years old John Sim, like his father John, he was a plumber journeyman and lived at the Bank Glen.


The Ayrshire League Flag and 3 cups

Glenafton Athletic went on to win the Ayrshire South League, losing only 1 game in the seasom.

The New Cumnock side also won three cups -the Coylton Cup (beating Glenbuck Cherrypicker 5-1 in the final), the Mauchline Cup (beating Cumnock Juniors 2-1 in the final) and the Irvine District Cup (beating Cumnock Juniors 2-1 in the final).


An historic year for the parish of New Cumnock and for Glenafton Athletic.

In 1960 the club relocated to Loch Park in the heart of the town. The miners rows are all but gone and nothing survives of the Connel Park pitch other than the


Site of the Connel Park pitch today with South Boig farm in the background

The Valuation Rolls

The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs . The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value. Occupations of occupiers are frequently but not always included. Valuation rolls rarely list any other residents in a property.

Connel Park. New Cumnock

Below I have transcribed the ‘head of the household’ and their occupation for three of the rows – The Football Row, the Long Row and the Store Row. Some of the names appear in the text above and I hope some of them mean something to you.


The Football Row

MinersRow_FootballRowThe Long Row


  • My late father was brought up as Bobby Neil with the family of David Neil and Mary McLatchie at 10 Store Row.




Valuation Rolls

Cumnock Chronicle

Posted in Football, New Cumnock | 4 Comments

The Tragedy of the SS Hilda



On 17th November 1905 the steamship SS Hilda set sail from Southampton at 22:00 on her regular service to Saint-Malo in Brittany, France by way of the Channel Islands. However, thick fog delayed the voyage forcing the Hilda to anchor off the Isle of Wight until early next morning. After passing Jersey the weather deteriorated and on the approach to St. Malo snow squalls reduced visibility and attempts to enter the harbour were abandoned time and again. At 23:00 on the 18th November and now with improved visibility another attempt was made to enter the harbour at St Malo but tragedy struck and the SS Hilda crashed on the Pierre de Porte rocks and broke up soon after.



Attempts to launch the lifeboats were in vain and when the SS Ada , outbound from St Malo to Southampton, encountered the wreck at 9:00 in the morning of 19th November only six survivors were found with one member of the crew in their number. A total of 126 souls lost their lives including 70 Breton ‘Onion Johnnies’ returning from selling their local produce across the Channel.

Also perishing in the sea that day was Jessie Elisa Bryan Vass, daughter of Andrew Vass from New Cumnock.



Courtesy of Yves Duffel

The story of the SS Hilda was kindly brought to my attention by Michèle Segura-Coz, President of ‘Association Le Hilda’ with the wish of sharing Jessie Vass’s story and finding out more about her family in New Cumnock.

The Association has also established a fantastic web-site managed by Yves Dufeil which gives a detailed account to the SS Hilda tragedy and includes a Memorial page intent of paying tribute to those that lost their lives.

  • Please visit the SS Hilda web-site here


My research of the Vass family in the parish of new Cumnock begins with Jessie Vass’s great grandfather Andrew Vass and his wife Grizel Stodhart.

  A. Andrew Vass (1754-1838) & Grizel Stodhart (1764-1848)

Children: Jennet (b.1788), David (b.1790), Jean (b.1792), WILLIAM (b.1794), Andrew (b.1797), Agnes (b.1801), Flora (b.1803), Andrew (b.1805), Margaret (b.1808)

Andrew Vass worked as an agricultural labourer for the Steele family on the farm of Merkland, New Cumnock overlooking the River Nith. Together, he and his wife Grizel had 9 children including son William and daughter Flora, who would later marry Robert Steele, son of the farmer at Merkland.


Merkland Farm by the River Nith, New Cumnock

Andrew passed away in 1838 and Grizel some ten years later. They rest together in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock close to Auld Kirk ruin. On the headstone  Grizel’s name is given as Grace Struthers.

B. William Vass (1794-1863) & Margaret Park (1813-1883)

Children: Jennet (b.1834), Jane (b.1836), ANDREW (b.1838), William (b.1840), Margaret (b.1843), George (b.1845), John (b.1847), David (b.1849), Robert (b.1853), James (b.1856)

Like his father William Vass worked as an agricultural labour. He married Margaret Park, daughter of George Park (New Cumnock) and Jean Templeton (Old Cumnock). Together they had 10 children including daughter Jennet and son Andrew.


Pathhead, New Cumnock

The family lived at Pathhead, New Cumnock one of the many small communities throughout the parish. William passed away in 1863 and his wife Margaret some 20 years later. They also lie together in the family plot at the Auld Kirkyard along with four of their children – Jean, James, David, Margaret and Jannet.


Auld Kirk, New Cumnock with Corsencon hill in the background

C. Andrew Vass (1838-1881) & Maggie Morrison (1841-1881)

Children: JESSIE (b.1870), William (b.1871), Andrew (b.1872), ROBERT (b.1875)

Andrew lived with his family at Pathhead and after his school years started working as a draper, dealing with cloth and sewing materials. His work took him to Liverpool, England where in the 1861 census we find him with William Pagan, a fellow Scot and draper living as a boarder in the Mount Pleasant district of the city.  By 1865 he is living at 9 Seymour Street, Liverpool and has also purchased a house in Pathbrae, New Cumnock to rent out. Although the tenant is not named in the Valuation Roll of that year, it may well be his recently widowed mother.


Pathhead, New Cumnock to the north of the railway station and River Nith

On the 8th April 1869, Andrew returned to Scotland to marry Maggie Morrison, at her home of 9 Beresford Terrace, Ayr. The couple was married by Reverend Robert MacInnes after Banns according to the United Presbyterian Church. This branch of the church  was formed in Scotland in 1847 following the union of the United Secession Church and Relief Church.

Andrew and Maggie set up home at Seymour Street, Liverpool and in November 1869, his name was in the local paper. Elizabeth McNeil, his domestic servant for some years was charged with stealing ‘a quantity of holland flannel and other items‘and she was committed to prison for a month with hard labour.

On the 7th January 1870 their first child Jessie Elisa Bryan Vass was born. She was baptised at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church which began life as Mount Pleasant Chapel in 1827 as a Scots Secession Church for Scots immigrants that had previously met at the chapel on the site of Lime Street station. (Sadly the church was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 during World War II.)

Andrew’s brother George Vass also set up home in Liverpool, working as draper too, having given up his job as a ploughman at Laglaff farm, New Cumnock. It is interesting to note that the name of  George Vass appears regularly in the sports pages of Liverpool newspaper as the skip of a curling team, competing no doubt against other fellow Scots settled in Merseyside.

In 1871 (Census) Andrew’s mother Margaret Park Vass is living with him and his  family at Liverpool. It is unclear how long she remained there and by 1875 her name appears on the Valuation Roll in New Cumnock as a tenant in a house at Pathhead, owned by Andrew.

Meanwhile back at Liverpool, the Vass family expanded with the arrival of three sons William, Andrew George and Robert James Templeton . However, tragedy struck the family twice in 1878 with the deaths of the young brothers William and Andrew who were buried at Toxteth cemetery [Ancestry Family Tree].

By 1881 Andrew, Maggie and their surviving children Jessie and Robert are living at 4 Elizabeth Street in Liverpool, a few doors from his old friend William Pagan and his family. Dramatically, tragedy struck again that year with the death of Maggie (2nd June) and then widower Andrew two months later (12th August). They were buried in the family lair at Toxteth Cemetery, Liverpool leaving Jessie (11) and Robert (5) as orphans.

Two years later grandmother Margaret Park Vass died and was laid to rest in the family lair at the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. By 1895 the Pathhead property was under the ownership of the “Trustees of the late Andrew Vass” and there were now four tenants including coal miner John Vass, (Andrew’s brother) and Janet Vass (Andrew’s eldest sibling).

D1. Jessie Elisa Bryan Vass (1870-1905)

Jessie and her young brother Robert were probably taken into the care within the extended Vass family, perhaps by their uncle George Vass and his wife Maria Jones, who by this time had 5 children of their own. Intriguingly though, searches of UK Census records for 1891 (including Liverpool orphanages and ragged schools) have thus far failed to return the names of Jessie and Robert Vass. The names do appear in the records of 1901 with Robert at 29 Gordon Road, Liverpool and ‘living under private means’, while Jessie, is in Scotland living and working as governess to the children of Sir John McAusland Denny and his wife Janet Tulloch, at Garmoyle House, Kirktonhill, Dumbarton.


Garmoyle House, Dumbarton

Sir John was the Conservative Member of Parliament for the Kilmarnock Burghs which included the major settlements of Kilmarnock (Ayrshire), Dumbarton (Dunbartonshire), Rutherglen (Lanarkshire) and Port Glasgow and Renfrew (both in Renfrewshire). He was the third generation of the great Denny dynasty of shipbuilders based at Dumbarton on the River Leven,  near to where it joined the River Clyde. The company built a variety of ships including in 1901, when Jenny was at Garmoyle, the excursion steamer TS King Edward, named in honour of the new king and the first commercial vessel to be driven by steam turbines. The Denny yard also gained a reputation for their fine cross-channel steamships and ferries.


D=Dumbarton, G=Glasgow , W=Whiteinch (where St. Hilda was built)

As a 30 year old spinster and having access to ‘private means’ Jessie Vass met some of the typical characteristics of a Victorian / Edwardian governess. The role of governess was primarily to support the lady of the house in caring for her children for which they would be paid a small salary and provided with board and lodging. Indeed when the census of Garmoyle House was recorded in 1901, neither of the Denny parents were present. Jessie was the stand in ‘head of the house’ with the other household staff present being a nurse, domestic cook, house maid, table maid, kitchen maid and laundry maid. The three Denny daughters were aged between 7 and 11 years and Jenny would be responsible for teaching them the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. It is also easy to imagine that with Denny-built ships being sold across the world that geography may also have been on the curriculum with the use of globes common-place.

dumbarton rock

Dumbarton Rock (‘Fort of the Britons’) on the River Clyde

Meanwhile, by 1905, the ownership of the Vass properties at Pathhead in New Cumnock had been transferred from the “Trustees of the late Andrew Vass” to Jessie Vass with her aunt Janet Vass and uncle John Vass still two of the four tenants.

Jessie was no longer in the employ of the Denny’s of Dumbarton when she boarded the SS Hilda at Southampton in mid-November 1905 on that fateful trip across the channel to St. Malo. Although not Denny-built this cross-channel ferry was built only a few miles upstream from Dumbarton on the Clyde at Whiteinch, Glasgow.

A new chapter of her life was about to begin as she sailed to France to take up a position in the household of Captain Rodolphe Koechlin at Vannes on the Brittany coast. He was a member of the Koechlin family that several generations before had established a cloth printing firm at Mulhouse, Alsace in a first step to become leading industrialist in the textile industry. What would her draper father Andrew Vass have thought?

Rodolphe had been a captain in the French Army and became a Knight in the Legion of Honour. He retired to Brittany where he became known for his great known generosity. Sadly, Jessie’s new adventure ended on that fateful night on the SS Hilda.

The sombre task of returning the British bodies to Southampton fell to the light cargo ship SS Ada, built on the Tay at Dundee.

Edinburgh Evening News , 27th Nov 1905

The South Western Company’s Ada arrived at Southampton from St. Malo at 8:15 this morning after a very rough passage conveying the bodies of Major Bryce, Miss Denham, Miss Jessie Vass and Mr Sykes, solicitor of London, together with Captain Gregory and 20 members of the crew. A large crowd was present to witness the arrival of the steamer, and all the vessels in the docks had their flags at half-mast. The coffins, which were in the front hold, were of plain oak with lead fittings, and each had two or three wreaths upon it. The bodies were placed in a shed on the quay which was draped with Union Jacks and Tricolours entwined.”


Jessie’s Death Certificate (Courtesy of Michele)

As part of the inquiry that followed the bodies were formally identified including that of Jessie Eliza Bryan Vass, thirty-five, Stoneleigh, Ayr, Scotland.

The Templeton Family

Stoneleigh was home of the Templeton family at 11 Miller Road, Ayr the county town of Ayrshire, on the coast of the Firth of Clyde, some 21 miles to the north-west of New Cumnock.


Ayr and New Cumnock

Born in 1813 at Dalrymple, Ayrshire James Templeton followed in his father’s footsteps to work in the wool trade and progressed to carpet manufacturing at his factory and mill at the corner of Charlotte Street and Fort Street, Ayr. He married Elizabeth Dickie and together they had six children and lived at 13 Fort Street.  In 1861, by now a widower, James married   Jane McKissock, the widow of clothier David Bryan. Jane was the daughter of Hugh McKissock and Margaret Renwick, the widow of James Morrison and mother of Maggie Morrison. The couple was married in Jane’s home at 9 Beresford Place, Ayr by the Reverend Robert McInness with Jane’s half-sister Maggie Morrison a witness. Some 8 years later Maggie would be married to Andrew Vass in the same house by the same minister.


Templeton Carpet Factory at Charlotte Street & Fort Street

Together James Templeton and Jane McKissock had four children – David, Jessie, Margaret and Wilhelmina and lived round the corner from Fort Street on Charlotte Street.


Great Fire at Ayr

Tragedy struck in June 1867 when a great fire ripped through Templeton’s carpet factory resulting in a devastating loss of life with 28 girls, aged between 13 and 21, and their foreman perishing in the fire. Some 160 carpet weavers and 230 women and children were thrown idle and two years would be pass before Templeton built a new factory at Mill Street, near to the railway station in the town.

The Templeton family to moved to their house ‘Stoneleigh’ in Miller Road and it was here  that James Templeton passed away in 1884 and his wife Jane some nine years later. In the 1901 census the three spinster Templeton sisters Jessie (36) , Margaret (34) , Wilhelmina (31) are all recorded as ‘living on own means’ at Stoneleigh family home with a housekeeper, housemaid and cook.



Stoneleigh – now the Kylestrom Hotel

Stoneleigh was also the home address of Jessie Eliza Bryan Vass, cousin of the Templeton sisters (they shared the  same maternal grandmother Margaret Renwick) , when in 1905 she lost her life on the SS Hilda as it foundered on the rocks of Pierre des Portes of the port of St. Malo. Jessie was clearly very close to her cousins as witnessed by her will, in which she left a piece of jewellery to each cousin.

“My plain gold bracelet I wish to be sent to Jessie Templeton, Stoneleigh, Ayr, a large curb bracelet to Margaret Tempelton, Stoneleigh, Ayr and a small curb bracelet to Wilhelmina Templeton, Stoneleigh, Ayr.”

She also left a pearl gold brooch to Christine Moodie the daughter of Alexander Moodie, Inspector of the Poor, who lived at Arthur’s Seat, Pathhead. Her brother James followed in his father’s footsteps and was a Deacon in the United Free Church. Christine was a few months younger than Jessie and presumably a close friend of Jessie and her Vass family at Pathhead.

Jessie also left other jewellery to her Aunt Janet Vass, Pathhead including a gold watch which was to pass to her brother Robert on her aunt’s death. Perhaps this was a family heirloom and had once belonged to her father Andrew Vass. The Vass property at Pathhead was left to Aunt Janet and her money was equally shared between Janet and Robert, he too residing at Pathhead.

Finally Jessie declared ‘that after my death I wish my remains to be cremated‘.

There was only one crematorium in Scotland at the time, situated in Maryhill, Glasgow within the grounds of the Western Necropolis. I wonder if her ashes were scattered on the Vass family lair at the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock?

D2. Robert James Templeton Vass (1875-1930) & Ada B Cook (1893-1956)

Children: George (b.1917), Margaret (b.1919), Jessie Ada (b.1922), Elsie (1923), Robert (1925)

Robert was 30 years old when his sister Jessie died in 1905, single and living at Pathhead in the Vass property with his spinster Aunt Janet and Uncle John and his family as neighbours.

Ten years later, in the 1915 Valuation Rolls of New Cumnock, Robert is still identified as Owner/Tenant in the Pathhead house, however his profession and address is given, Insurance Manager, 36 Baldwin Street, Bristol, England.

In 1917 his Uncle John, now widowed and living with his daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Andrew Mitchell, farmer at High Auchingibbert Farm, Cumnock passed away. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock adjacent to his father William Vass.

That same year Robert Vass married Ada Beatrice Cook in Bristol and together they had five children including a daughter Jessie Ada, poignantly bringing together the name of Robert’s sister and the ship that brought her body back to Southampton.

In 1921, Robert’s Aunt Janet died at Pathhead and she was the last to be buried in the family lair at New Cumnock with the inscription ‘Janet Vass beloved Aunt of R.J.T. Vass who died 25th April 1921 aged 87 years‘.


Vass family lair, Auld Kirkyard , New Cumn0ck

The Pathhead property was still under the ownership of Robert in the 1925 Valuation Rolls and presumably still some five years later when, now an Inspector of Insurance, he died at Uddingston, Lanarkshire, aged 55 years. His widow Ada died at their home in Bristol in 1956, aged 63 years.

This draws the incredible and story of Jessie Elisa Bryan Vass to a close. Born in Liverpool in 1870 the first-born of Andrew Vass from Pathhead, New Cumnock. I hope this story goes some way to preserving the memory of Jessie.

Appendix: Vass Genealogy

The relationship between the Vass family and Templeton family is shown below with Margaret Renwick the pivotal link through her daughters Maggie Morrison (who married Andrew Vass) and Jane McKissock (who married James Templeton).

However, it is also worth noting the James Templeton’s father was William Struthers Templeton where the name Struthers was the alternative surname of Andrew Vass’s (b.1754) wife Grizel Stodhart that appears on her headstone. It should also be noted that Margaret Park the wife of William Vass (b.1794) was the daughter of George Park and Jane Templeton.


‘Association Le Hilda’

  • A huge thank you to Michèle Segura-Coz & Yves Dufeil


Census Records, Births, Marriages & Deaths, Valuation Rolls



Vass family plot – John Vass & Margaret Kerr (left) and Andrew Vass & Grace Struthers


Posted in New Cumnock | Leave a comment

Burns Night Connections


Robert Burns on the New Cumnock Mural

On this day the 25th January 1759 Robert Burns, the son of William Burn and Agnes Brown, was born at Alloway. The following day he was baptised at Alloway Kirk by the Reverend William Dalrymple. In later years Dalrymple would be one of a band of ministers that would face the wrath of the ploughman poet in his notorious attack on Scotland’s church ‘The Kirk’s Alarm”.


Reverend William Dalrymple headstone – Ayr Churchyard

Also numbered in the brusied band was the Reverend James Young of New Cumnock mocked by Burns as ‘Jamie Goose’. The bard receiving some local knowledge on the minister from his friend and acquaintance (and no friend of the minister) John Logan of Laight or ‘Afton’s Laird’ as he is called in a the presentation stanza of the poem.


Reverend James Young headstone in New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard

A search through the Old Parish Records reveals that Reverend Young, like his Ayr counterpart, also baptised a baby boy born on the 25th January 1759, George Rankin the only son of James Ranken of Whitehill and Jean Hutchison.


Lane Burn heading past Whitehill

Born on the same day of Burns, George Ranken of Whitehill married Janet Logan, the sister of Burns friend John Logan of Laight, the aforementioned Afton’s Laird. Together they had 14 children including son Thomas Ranken who would later marry his cousin Janet Campbell Logan, the daughter of Afton’s Laird.

Another son,  James Ranken served in the Medical Service of the Honorable East India Company on their Bengal Establishment and was Postmaster General at Agra. He died in 1848, umarried at Afton Lodge, near Tarbolton. The lodge was orignailly built as a home for Mrs Catherine Gordon Stewart of Afton & Stair , the great patroness of Robert Burns. It was for her titles the Stair Manucript and Afton Manuscript (including “Sweet Afton”) were named and for whom the Bard wrote –

‘To Mrs. General Stewart of Afton. The first person of her sex and rank that patronised his humble lays, this manuscript collection of Poems is presented, with the sincerest emotions of grateful respect, by the Author’


Afton Lodge near Tarbolton

When the new parish church of New Cumnock was openend, in 1833, both George Ranken of Whitehill and the Misses Stewart (daughters of Mrs Catherine Gordon Stewart) appeared in the list of heritors allocated by the Sheriff of Ayr. Almost forty years later William Allason Cunninghame, Esquire of Afton & Logan (grandson of Mrs Catherine Gordon Stewart) presented the clock to the parish church.


Today the minister of the New Cumnock Parish Church is the Reverend Helen Cuthbert from ‘Auld Killie’. It would be interesting to learn what Rabbie would make of today’s church and how a modern day “Kirk’s Alarm” would read. One thing’s for sure when Helen gets the muse, she would certainly hold her own against the Bard! But where does she, in Burns’s words, ‘catch this poetic skill’?


Reverend Helen Cuthbert and her mother

Helen’s mother, Helen is also known to catch the poetic muse and surely it is no coincidence that she too was born on the 25th January.

Happy 92nd birthday Mrs. Cuthbert!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Knockshinnoch – The Rescued Men

The Knockshinnoch Disaster of Thursday 7th September 1950 is remembered for the tragic loss of 13 men (more here) and the subsequent heroic rescue of 116 men trapped brought to the surface over two days later (more here).


Overman Andrew Houston, drew up a rota regulating the order in which the imprisoned men were to be taken out . He decided that the older men should go first, but as the strain of waiting began to tell on some of the younger members, many of them were allowed to go before all the older men had gone. All the resuced men were medically examined at the undergound fresh-air base before they were allowed to proceed outbye to the surface.

Third to arrive at the surface was 63 year-old Spanish born Juan Carracedo who remarked ‘I did not worry. What could be done was being done. It’s nice to have friends.‘ “The older men set a great example to the younger men and hearing that Juan had reached the base in 13 minutes, Andrew Houston said to the men-‘Well boys, old Wang has made it out in 13 minutes , there’s no reason why any man shouldn’t get out in 14 minutes’. It was some time before the men realised Houston was pulling their leg”. [Coal. NCB Magazine, October 1950]. Juan, not only survived the disaster but went onto live to the grand old age of 94 years old.

Alex Harrison, Gibb McAughtrie and Robert Daubney (Cumnock Chronicle)

Alex Harrison, Gibb McAughtrie and Robert Daubney

Matters hadn’t been as smooth with the rescue of 19 year old Gibb McCaughtrie the first man brought to the surface. With the news that the percentage of gas was in the increase it was considered that others would soon collapse and a plan was put in place to get the young man to the surface. “Gibb was borne out all the way on a stretcher a distance of two miles – part of the wy by menw wearing heavy breathing apparatus. His rescue involved the use of 27 team members and at once it became obvious that even with men able to walk some other system of rescue would have to be evolved. His arrival was greeted with joy not only by the waiting crowd but also by the trapped men who were told of his arrival by phone’ [Coal. NCB Magazine, October 1950] . Once out of Ballochmyle Hospital, Gibb of Ashnock. Leggare returned to the scene of the crater with workmates Alex Harrison of Hamilton Drive (90th man to the surface) and Robert Daubney of Polquheys Road – the 100th man brought the surface.

James Haddow

James Haddow (COAL , October 1950)

The oldest of the trapped was 68 year-old James Haddow, who is pictured here recovering and enjoying a cup of tea at Ballochmyle Hospital.

Ballochmyle Hospital

Ballochmyle Hospital

A familiar face in this group of miners recuperating miners at Ballochmyle Hospital is Glenafton Athletic legendary defender Bill Gray in the great side of the 1930’s(back row, 1st left). He was no stranger to pit tragedies and survived the Bank Pit Explosion of December 1929, where 15 men were badly burned and three men later died of their injuries (Archibald Freeburn, John Cockburn and John Breckney).

William McKnight, Andrew Houston and James Walker

William McKnight, Andrew Houston and James Walker

Sir Andrew Bryan’s report of the formal investigation into the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster contains this sentence, “It must be acknowledged that the leadership and example set by Andrew Houston was of a very high order.” Andrew, the son of a miner was born at Pathhead and started work at the nearby Pathhead Colliery as a 14 year old before moving across the parish to the Bank No.1 pit to work as a pony driver at later at the coal side beside his father.  In 1930  he befriended David Park, oversman at Afton 1 Colliery and on his advice worked to get his fireman’s certificate which he did in due course and through time was oversman at Afton No.1 , Bank No.1, Bank No.6 and eventually by 1994 at Knockshinnoch Colliery .[Scottish Mining Web-site ]. Andrew’s younger brother James was one of the 13 men lost in the Knockshinnoch Disaster. Pictured here with Andrew are two of the rescued men Andrew McKnight and James Walker both of Burnside.

James Serrie and Sammy Hill

James Serrie and Sammy Hill

At the time of the inrush of the moss into the Heading No. 5 some eight men escaped by way of the main pit shaft. Among those that escaped were James Serrie (26), locomotive driver of 96 Lanemark Row and Sammy Hill of Connel Park. ” After hearing the rushing noise of mud flowing into their workings – they were chased by a solid wall of moss to the pit bottom. They later returned to aid rescuers” [Cumnock Chronicle]

Knockshinnoch Memorial at Martyrs Kirk

Knockshinnoch Memorial at Martyrs Kirk (Cumnock Chronicle)

On Sunday 17th September a ‘Service of Divine Worship’ was held at the Martyrs’ Church ‘with thanksgiving for the rescue of 116 men and with remembrance before God of those who lost their lives .’ The officiating ministers were The Right Revered Hugh Watt (Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland), Rev. G.M. Hardie (Secretary of the Scottish Baptist Union) and the Rev. A.G. Stewart (Moderator of the Presbytery of Ayr). The local ministers were the Rev. A. R. Lowrie (Arthur Memorial Church), Rev. G. Morgan (Baptist Church), Rev J. Buchanan (Bank Church) and Rev. J. Waugh (Martyrs’ Church). The service included the reading of the names of the 13 men followed by two minutes silence.

‘Prominent in the photo above are the Rev. G. A. Stewart, Lieutenant Nellie Cox (Salvation Army), George McLatchie, George Walls, James Riddall, Tom Mackie, Robert Daubney, Sam McFarlane, Archie Crate, Mr. & Mrs. William Clark, Mr. & Mrs. James White, Mr John Hunter, Mr & Mrs Edward Smith’. [Cumnock Chronicle]

Trip to Butlins (Cumnock Chronicle)

Trip to Butlins (Cumnock Chronicle)

The rescued men and their families enjoyed a two day holiday at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr. This photo includes Alex and Sam McCracken, James Melvin, Andrew McDickens, David McColgan, Robert Clapperton, Alex Harrison, John Miller, Alex McNeish, Robert Cockburn, Sam Kilday, William Hunter, John Fulton, Pat Loy, Joe Ferrans, Alex and Craig Clapperton, Matt Sanderson, Santa Barrera, Tom Goudie, Robert Daubney, Robert Houston , Charles Houston, George Milligan, Ian Stevenson, William McAughtrie, Andrew McKnight, Ronald McDonald and Alex McCracken.

  • Click on the photo to enlarge it

Lists of Rescued Men

A list of the rescued men in the order they were brought to the surface were given in the Cumnock Chronicle of the time and are reproduced.

I have ordered the lists in alphapetical order of the surname and the the number on the left hand column represents the order in which the selected man was brought to the surface.

******* Warning *******

Please understand with such a long list (116 names and addresses) that some errors in spelling , transcription may have occured. If you know of any corrections then please let me know. Apologies in advance for any errors

  • Surnames A-E


  • Surnames F-K


  • Surnames L-P


  • Surnames Q-Z





  • Scottish Mining Website
  • Cumnock Chronicle
  • COAL – National Coal Board Magazine, October 1950
  • Black Avalanche by Arthur & Mary Selwood


Posted in Coal Mining, New Cumnock | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The Knockshinnoch Rescue

Knockshinnoch Memorial

Knockshinnoch Memorial

The Knockshinnoch Disaster

“The accident occurred about 7.30 p.m., whilst the afternoon shift was at work, on Thursday, 7th September, 1950, when a large volume of liquid peat or moss suddenly broke through from the surface into the No. 5 Heading Section of the Main Coal Seam. The inrush started at the point where the No. 5 Heading which, was rising at a gradient of 1 in 2, had effected a holing at the outcrop of the seam beneath superficial deposits and had made contact with the base of a relatively large natural basin containing glacial materialand peat. The liquid matter, rushing down the steeply inclined the heading, continued to flow for some time and soon filled up a large number of existing and abandoned roadways as well as several working places, until it eventually cut off the two means of egress to the surface from the underground workings of the colliery.

  • See 65th Anniversary of Knockshinnoch Disaster here

The Knockshinnoch Rescue

The following account of the Knockshinnoch Disaster is taken from the informal investigation ‘Accident at Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery Ayrshire’ by Sir Andrew Bryan, H.M Chief Inspector of Mines. The report was submitted to Parliament in March, 1951 by The Right Honourable Philip Noel Baker M.P., Minister of Fuel and Power.

Thursday 7th September 1950

  • Some time after 7:30pm

Andrew Houston, overman, had collected 115 men in the neighbourhood of the inbye end of the West mine. It was apparent that the greater part of the roadways between the shafts and this point were blocked with enormous quantities of sludge and that a very long period of time, probably running into months, would be required in order to reach the mean by clearing a passage along these roads.

About 1944, in the neighbouring Bank No. 6 Mine, a district known as the Waterhead Section had been worked. Subsequently, the Main Coal in Knockshinnoch Castle had also been worked in the Waterhead Area towards Bank No. 6 leaving a barrier of coal, 200 feet between the two collieries. In order to facilitate drainage from the Knockshinnoch side, a roadway had been driven into the barrier up to a point about 24 feet from the Bank No. 6 workings. A borehole had then been put through the remaining part of the barrier to convey the water.

News of the disaster was conveyed at once to the higher officials of the Ayr and Dumfries Area of the National Coal Board, representatives of the mineworkers and the Mines Inspectorate and many were on the scene within a very short time. The position was discussed and it soon became obvious that the only hope of rescuing the imprisoned men was to make a connection through the narrow barrier between Knockshinnoch Castle and Bank No. 6. Andrew Houston, was informed of the position by telephone and he was instructed to explore the Waterhead Dook from his side. This was done and it was found that the roadways and the place containing the borehole was accessible.

Courtesy of 'Black Avalance' by A&M Selwood

Courtesy of ‘Black Avalance’ by A&M Selwood

The following arrangements were then made on the surface

  •  A Headquarters Base was established at Knockshinnoch Castle, with telephone contact between the trapped men, the Bank No. 6 office and the surface crater
  • An operational base was established at Bank No. 6 which maintained contact between the underground base and the Knockshinnoch Castle HQ.
  • High officials of the National Coal Board were detailed to take all practical measures to minimize inflow from the crater.

In the meantime, rescue apparatus had been made available at Knockshinnoch Castle from Kilmarnock and Auchinleck Rescue Stations and calls were sent out for all the local rescue brigade men. The Central Rescue Station at Coatbridge had also been warned to stand-by in readiness. The rescue apparatus was despatched to Bank No. 6 Mine. Volunteers were asked to stand-by to act as carriers to the rescue teams, i.e. one volunteer to carry the apparatus inbye and wait until the rescue man did his turn of duty, and then carry the apparatus to the surface again.

  • 11:30 p.m.

Mr. G. Rowland, H.M. Inspector of Mines, accompanied with Mr. McParland, Manager of the Bank No. 6 Mine, the Superintendent and his assistant from Kilmarnock Rescue Station, together with two local brigades equipped with Proto apparatus and Novox Revivers, descended Bank No. 6 Mine with the instruction to make a preliminary inspection of the abandoned Main Coal workings.

Mr. A. Macdonald, Area Production Manager, had staffed the operational base at the Bank No. 6 office. The Coatbridge Rescue Station Superintendent, who had arrived with equipment and teams, was detailed to take over the responsibility of making and maintaining a rescue team rota as the men became available.

Friday 8th September 2015

  • 02.30 a.m.

Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Richford, the District Inspector of Mines, descended the mine, and met Mr. Rowland and his party who were returning to report their findings. The teams had been able to travel along the old road inbye the point where the connection to Knockshinnoch Castle would have to be made. The roads were full of firedamp and the inspection had been made with the use of apparatus, a fresh-air base being established in cross-cut . As electricians, engineers and voluntary workers were now available, detailed arrangements were made on the spot for the installation of auxiliary fans in an attempt to clear the accumulation of gas.

  • 04:00 a.m.

In the meantime the subsidence on the surface had increased until the area involved was approximately 2 acres in extent, and 40 to 45 feet in depth. In an attempt to prevent the moss or peat running into the pit, bales of straw and hay, trees, pit timber and hutches were thrown into the crater – to no avail. The assistance of several Fire Brigades was obtained, portable pumps were installed at strategic points around the subsidence and fresh ditches dug in order to prevent or reduce the amount of surface water flowing into the crater. Several surface drains and a burn were dammed and the water pumped to the river Afton. Messrs. Wimpey, Public Work Contractors, were called to secure the sides of the hole and take such steps to make it safe for an exploring party to enter the exposed roadway at a later time.

Knockshinnoch crater

Knockshinnoch crater

  • Midday

By midday the gas had been cleared about 300 feet up the right-hand roadway, and hope of clearing the remaining firedamp appeared good. Rescue men were used to extend the canvas tubing from the auxiliary fan as the gas cleared, but the position fluctuated considerably and very soon it became common procedure to have to send them forward to shorten the fan tubing in order to consolidate progress.

A sound microphone obtained from the Coatbridge Rescue Station enabled telephonic communication to be maintained from the underground operational base through a normal pit phone, to the surface at Bank No. 6.

  • 4.00 p.m.

The telephone to the imprisoned men began to show signs of weakening, the trapped men on the Knockshinnoch Castle side were instructed to start making a passage through the barrier which separated the two workings. They were told to halt just short of the old road lest the firedamp from Bank No. 6 should foul their atmosphere which was then reported to be free of firedamp.

  • 4.00 p.m. – 9.00 p.m.

It became obvious that more urgent measures would have to be adopted if the gas from Bank No. 6 side was to be cleared in time and Fan No. 1 was replaced with one of greater capacity and Fan No. 2 was duplicated by Fan No. 3, the two to run in series. All the air available from the Bank Mine surface fan would be directed into the operational area by erection of stoppings placed at suitable points.

Stupendous efforts saw these changes in ventilation arrangements made in the course of four or five hours, but still no real progress was made. Throughout the whole period, rescue teams had been passing to and fro along the gassed-out roadway. effecting repairs, erecting a stopping , and erecting a temporary stopping inbye the point of contact with the Knockshinnoch Castle workings.

When the trapped men had received instructions to commence making a passage through the barrier, they were warned to keep a small hole in advance and to watch the direction of air. If the air came from tank into Knockshinnoch it was to be immediately plugged. Fortunately, when the hole was made the air travelled from Knockshinnoch to Bank, and so instructions were given for the hole to be enlarged to enable rescue brigade men to pass through and take food and drink to trapped men. The flow of air through the hole from Knockshinnoch to Bank did not persist, and as a precautionary measure, the hole was screened to isolate the two ventilating systems as far as practicable.

Andrew Houston, went to the holing to greet the first rescue team and conduct them to the trapped men, with food and drink. Up to this time messages from Houston to the surface had indicated that the atmosphere was free of gas in the Knockshinnoch workings. But when Houston was on his way back with the rescue team , he found men erecting a brattice at the top of the Waterhead Dook, and was informed that gas was collecting there. The trapped men had previously been told of the presence of a large body of gas in the roadway on the Bank side and of the efforts that were being made to clear it so that they could walk out, but this was the first indication of gas on the Knockshinnoch side. This news was kept back from the main body of the trapped men lest it should adversely affect their morale. Houston had to explain to them that the gas on the Bank No. 6 side had not been cleared and that it might be a considerable time yet before they could be rescued. The food and drink and the visit of the rescue team had cheered them greatly, but the news that they must still wait was a bitter disappointment.

Anxious times

Anxious times

It was now apparent to those in charge of the rescue operations that the clearing of the gas from Bank No. 6 workings presented a major problem and consideration was now given to the possibility of the trapped men having to be brought through the irrespirable zone by the means of self-contained breathing apparatus. With this possibility in view, instructions had previously been given to collect as many sets of Salvus apparatus as possible from all readily available sources. As it is intended only to be used for half an hour , it is both simpler and lighter than the Proto, which is designed for two hours use, and when fully charged it weighs only 18 lb.

Saturday 9th September 1950

  • Early Morning

A scheme was formulated to use rescue teams consisting of six members, each team to escort three of the trapped men wearing Salvus apparatus, through the irrespirable zone. It was estimated that it would take forty hours to evacuate all the trapped men. It was fully realized that this was a risky venture, since the trapped men were wholly unaccustomed to wearing rescue apparatus, and the hope was that the gas filled roadways could be cleared and the men would be able to walk out in fresh air.

03:40 am

Soon after the holing was made between Knockshinnoch and Bank, disquieting rumours began to circulate about the state of mind of the trapped men and rumours prevailed that some were talking about a suicidal dash for safety through the gas-filled roadways.

Mr David Park, Deputy Labour Director of the Scottish Division of the National Coal Board who had arrived late on the night of Friday 8th September volunteered to join the trapped men in order to explain the position fully to them, tell them about the difficulties being encountered and all that was being done to effect their release. As a boy David Park had worked in the pits in New Cumnock and at one time had been captain of the local rescue brigade. He knew many of the imprisoned men personally, including Andrew Houston, whom he felt he could help in his efforts to control the men. He also had experience in the use of the Salvus apparatus. At 3:40 a.m. wearing the Proto apparatus he joined a rescue brigade team and entered the Knockshinnoch workings.

David Park told the men all that was being done to rescue them, calmed their fears and generally restored their morale, and thus assisted Andrew Houston to restore discipline.

After addressing the men, he had a look around and found that the atmospheric conditions were far from satisfactory. The percentage of firedamp was steadily increasing, and he instructed the captain of the rescue team to inform those in charge of the rescue operations that the condition of ventilation was quickly deteriorating and was much worse than he could intimate over the telephone in the presence of the trapped men.

It was now realized that drastic measures would have to be taken and a new scheme was drawn up forthwith. This was to form a ‘chain’ of rescue brigade men along the whole length of the gas filled roadway on the Bank side who could pass sets of Salvus apparatus through to the trapped men. A rescue team would enter the Knockshinnoch workings and instruct the men in the use of the apparatus, fit it on them, and pass them out along the ‘chain’. A general call was made for additional trained rescue brigade men from Lanarkshire to enable the scheme to be put into operation with the least possible delay. Although the proposals were not in accordance with Rescue Regulations, the principal officials on the surface agree, but with grave misgivings put the scheme into operation about midday on Saturday 9th.

12:30 p.m.

Five rescue teams were present at the main fresh-air base. Ample reviving apparatus, stretchers, blankets and first-aid men were available as well as two doctors with medical supplies. One of the imprisoned men was in a very weak state and a team was sent in with a stretcher, two sets of Salvus apparatus and blankets at 12:30 p.m.

2:45 p.m.

The sick man was brought to the fresh-air base. By this time, owing to various delays and incidents, all five teams had been used and there was a further two hours’ delay before sufficient teams could be assembled at the base to enable the main ‘chain’ operation to be attempted.


Courtesy of Black Avalanche by A&M Selwood

  • 5:00 p.m.

The position was as follows :-

  • 87 sets of Salvus apparatus, mainly from Fire Stations had been deposited at the advanced fresh-air base (with more on the way) together with 100 spare cap lamps.
  • A ‘chain’ of men at intervals of a few yards extended from the advanced fresh-air base to the main base where the Doctors , with their equipment were stationed, together with 30 volunteer stretcher bearers.
  • Food, water and hot tea were available at both bases.
  • One rescue team was held for emergencies at the main fresh-air base. This team was not to go to the advanced fresh-air base until a fresh team from the surface arrived at the main base.
  • One team was kept at the advanced fresh air base, being finally briefed on their duties so that they thoroughly understood the operation being attempted. As a fresh team arrived from the main base, the earlier team was sent in to the operational zone.

A team of permanent rescue men from Coatbridge Station was instructed to proceed direct to the Knockshinnoch Castle side, disconnect their apparatus, do all they could to build up the morale of the trapped men, and explain both the general plan of action and the use of the Salvus apparatus before fitting it to each man and sending him out. They were to remain on this job without relief if possible. The members of the team took in Salvus apparatus and spare electric cap lamps to be used in the event of the lamps of the trapped men being exhausted. This team was informed that further supplies of Salvus apparatus would be passed to them by the other resuce brigade men who would be forming the ‘chain’ through the irrespirable zone.

Immediately afterwards four other teams were sent off, also carrying Salvus apparatus and spare lamps, with instructions to pass them forward to the Coatbridge Brigade on the Knockshinnoch Castle side. They were then to establish the ‘chain’ whereby the remainder of the Salvus apparatus and spare lamps could be passed from the advanced fresh-air base through to the trapped men.

List of trpped men 'Courtesy Black Avalanche by A & M Selwood'

List of trpped men ‘Courtesy Black Avalanche by A & M Selwood’

Andrew Houston, drew up a rota regulating the order in which the imprisoned men were to be taken out . He decided that the older men should go first, but as the strain of waiting began to tell on some of the younger members, many of them were allowed to go before all the older men had gone. All the resuced men were medically examined at the undergound fresh-air base before they were allowed to proceed outbye to the surface.

  • 8:15 p.m.

Andrew Houston was instructed to come out, leaving David Park in charge of the remaining men. His presence was required in order to ascertain , as far as might be possible , the last known positions of the missing men.

 Sunday 10th September 1950

12:05 a.m.

The last of the trapped men reached the advanced fresh-air bas at 12.5 a.m. on Sunday 10th September, the complete operation having taken approximately eight hours. Twenty brigades had been used in the evacuation . Excluding the Coatbridge Brigade which remained inbye through the whole operation, six brigades were constantly maintained within the danger zone which extended over 880 yards, the rescue men being spaced at intervals of twenty yards or so. This arrangement gave great enouragement to the men wearing the Salvus, an apparatus to which they were unaccustomed, as they made their
way outbye to the advanced fresh-air base.


When the last of the men had been rescued, David Park organized a search with a rescue brigade to make sure that no one had been left behind. He was the last man to leave. (‘The last man walked through the gas to safety on Sunday at 1:30 a.m.’ – Bill Aitken in ‘Among the Green Braes’)

When the overman, Andrew Houston reached the surface he was able to indicate to those directing operations the places where the missing men had been working, or were last seen, prior to the inrush. It was felt, that had any of the missing men escaped the inrush and taken refuge in the workings on the rise side of the No. 5 Heading, they would have been found by the exploring parties from the trapped men and would have been rescued along with them.

From a consideration of all this information, those responsible for directing the rescue operations, in consultation with representatives of all parties, came with regret, to the inescapable conclusion that if, by chance, any of the missing men had not been overwhelmed by the inrush they were bound to have reached a part of the mine which was not only too remote for rescue brigades to reach from the fresh-air base in Bank No. 6 workings, but was in any case inaccessible. In consequence, after the 116 men from the inbye end of the West Mine had been brought out safely to the fresh-air base in Bank No. 6, the decision was taken, that no more rescue brigades should be sent in through the ‘escape road’ and that efforts should now be concentrated on an attempt at further exploration by way of the ‘crater’, since the exposed end of No. 5 Heading was seen to be open. It was thought that it might just be possible to get far enough down the No. 5 Heading and find an open road to the rise off the heading which would give access to the inbye workings in which a further search could be made for the missing men.

  • Evening

By the night of Sunday the 10th, two exploring parties had entered the workings and reached a point 800 feet down the No. 5 Heading. Unfortunately, heavy rain persisted and
made still worse the already precarious state of the sides of the crater: masses of moss were slowly but continually closing in on the opening into the No. 5 Heading. This state of affairs, especially when one bears in mind the fact that the heading lay on a gradient of 1 in 2, that all roof supports had probably been swept out and that with the subsequent falls it was now probably 13 to 14 feet high, rendered exploration in the heading a most dangerous and difficult affair. In the meantime, exploration from the upcast shaft had shown that all roads leading inbye from it were blocked to the roof with peat, and that little or nothing could be done from this side.

Monday 11th September 1950

By Monday, 11th September, the position at the crater was such that a meeting was held of the representatives of all the parties at which the decision was made that no further work should be carried out underground from the crater until its sides and the entrance to the No. 5 Heading were properly secured.


By this time it was felt that there could be no hope of reaching or rescuing any of the 13 missing men and that there was no justification for risking loss of life among the rescuers.


  • Accident at Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery Ayrshire’ by Sir Andrew Bryan, H.M Chief Inspector of Mines. The report was submitted to Parliament in March, 1951 by The Right Honourable Philip Noel Baker M.P., Minister of Fuel and Power.
  • Black Avalanche’ by Arthur and Mary Selwood
  •   ‘Among the Green Braes’ by Bill Aitken

The Rescued Men … to follow

Posted in Coal Mining, New Cumnock | 3 Comments