Castle Green

Place-name:Castle Green
Suggested Meaning:public green at the Castle village
First elementPlace-Name: Castle (village)
Second elementStandard Scottish English green ‘public green’
Blaeu Coila (1654):N/A
OS Name Books (1855-57):Castle Green
Location:Ordnance Survey (1895)
Early Forms
Castle Green , Village Green

Castle Green

Place-Name : Castle (village) + Standard Scottish English green ‘public green’
Map 1: Castle Green (1856) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Castle Green reads -.

This green is the property of the village of New Cumnock, and is used by the inhabitants for recreative purposes.

Although ‘the green is the property of the village of New Cumnock‘ it is actually named after the Castle village [1] , which was one of the five villages of New Cumnock recorded in the OS Name Book (1855-57), the other four being Mansfield, Pathhead, Afton Bridgend and Couplegate [Scotland’s Places]. In turn the Castle village took its name from Cumnock Castle the ancient seat of the barons of Cumnock, which once stood on the castlehill overlooking the confluence of the Afton Water and River Nith. It was also referred to as Black Bog Castle by some, the name shown in the map above [2].

The name Castle Green identifies the location of the green but there is little doubt that it was for the benefit of the all the people of the parish of New Cumnock, and not only those that lived at Castle. A good example, to illustrate the point, is that provided by George Sanderson in ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’, when in 1815 the people of the parish came together to celebrate the news of victory at Waterloo and ‘bonfires were lit on the Castle Green‘ [3].

Castle Green in foreground with the white painted Castle Hotel in the distance (Robert Guthrie 2013)

However, the Castle green at that time may have been nothing more than a piece of spare ground for in 1837 Charles Buchanan Esq. of Knockshinnoch and John Hair, farmer at Muirfoot put the wheels in motion to create a village common [4] –

Lease betwixt Charles Buchanan Esq. and John Hair, of a piece of ground between the feus of the Water of Afton as a common for the use of the Village for 999 years. Tack Duty 10 /- no composition due on entry of heirs – Lease dated 9th December 1837 and 25th April 1838.

Lets to the said John Hair …. for the use of the village of New Cumnock except as to the grass as aformentioned All and whole that piece of land measuring two roods and thirty two falls being part of the lands of Castlefarm adjacent to New Cumnock lying on the east side of said village of New Cumnock and bounded as follows viz On the North by a piece of ground claimed and at present possessed by George McKnight in Old Mill, on the East by the Water of Afton, on the South by a stone dyke extending from the corner of William Pagans feu to the water of Afton, the road to the farm of Castlemains passing through the same and on the West by several feus belonging to said William Pagan, Mrs Campbell the said John Hair and George McKnight carter lying within the parish of New Cumnock and shire of Ayr, …

Long Leases & Feus of Parts of the Lands of Knockshinnoch

Preparing the ground –

John Hair binds and obliges himself in name and on behalf of the Village of New Cumnock to lay down and level the said piece of ground for the use of the village as a market place and bleaching green as shall be proper, and the said John Hair binds and obliges himself – his heirs and assignees to repair the embankment on the Water of Afton alongside of the piece of ground now let to keep up the same and to repair any damage done by the River or otherwise, and the nature and extent of which reparation shall be referred to persons mutually chosen for that purpose.

Long Leases & Feus of Parts of the Lands of Knockshinnoch

Use of the grass and deadlines for completion.

…. and it is further agreed and declared that the said John Hair and his fore-saids shall have no claim against any person in the village of New Cumnock for the use of the said piece of ground in the manner aforementioned further than their pleasure, but that he and his foresaids shall have the use or disposal of the grass growing therein and to this above shall they have any legal claim or right – and it is further declared that if the said piece of ground is not prperly levelled and smoothed within the space of two years that is before Martinmas eighteen nundred and thirty nine tp the satifaction of the proprietor , then this lease shall be void and null and the ground shall revert to the proprietor to dispose of as he thinks proper …

Long Leases & Feus of Parts of the Lands of Knockshinnoch

Returning to the OS Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry and the ‘Castle Green being used by the inhabitants for recreative purposes’. So what were these purposes? Newspaper reports of the time give some idea, although it should be noted the green is named either as the Castle green or village green.

Sports Day

The Castle Green hosted the annual sports day which comprised the ever popular quoiting competition followed by a programme of sporting events and races, all of which were very much men only! The following newspaper report from September 1862 provides a common template of proceedings [5] –

NEW CUMNOCK– Saturday last was quite a gala day here. It being the day set apart for our sports, great numbers of the athlete youths of this and neighbouring parishes assembled on the village green to take part in the gymnastic exercises previously advertised. The brewer’s cart from Catrine brought in a promiscuous freight of keen quoiters and ale barrels; and the Glasgow and South Western railway delivered its quota of gallant sons from Auchinleck and other villages situated along its course; while the fine weather brought out a large concourse of spectators to witness the amusements. The proceedings opened with quoiting, which game was continued throughout the entire length of the day, and only terminated with daylight. The races were keenly contested and proved a prolific source of mirth to the onlookers.

The following is a list of those who carried away prizes –

Quoiting – 1st, John Stewart and Wm. Merry, Auchinleck; 2d, James Andrew and Arthur Devlin, Auchinleck; 3d, Robt. Simpson and Robt. Thomson, Sorn.

Putting the 22lb. ball – 1st, John Gilmour, New Cumnock; 2d, John Farquhar, New Cumnock;

Running Hop, Step and Leap – 1st, John Laurie, Old Cumnock; 2d, William Baird, Dalmellington

Standing Hop, Step and Leap – 1st, George Gilmour, New Cumnock; 2d, John Laurie, Cumnock

Long Race – 1st, William Baird, Dalmellington; 2d, Gavin McKerrow, New Cumnock; 3d, John M’Mitchal

Potato Race – 1st, Matthew Paton, Mauchline; 2d, Gavin McKerrow, New Cumnock; 3d, William Walker, New Cumnock.

Bell Race – 1st, Wm. Bryden. New Cumnock; 2d, William Gibson, New Cumnock.

Sack Race – 1st, Matthew Paton, Mauchline; 2d, William Bryden, New Cumnock

The enjoyments of the day formed a pleasing relaxation from toil – indeed the whole thing proved a complete success and went off in the most happy and agreeable manner, under the patronage of Messrs Hyslop and Pagan, Esqs.

The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, September 13, 1862

Ten years later the report on New Cumnock Athletics noted that, as well as the above standard diet of competition, ‘there was also a number of other sports – one of them climbing the greasy pole – rather a relic of the past‘ [6].


The local New Cumnock and Old Cumnock derby in 1864 resulted in a convincing win for the home side of the Castle Green [7] –

NEW CUMNOCK Quoit Match – On Saturday last, six young quoiters from Old Cumnock met six of New Cumnock, and played a friendly game on the Castle green here. The contest was close and conducted in the best of harmony – victory declaring finally for New Cumnock by a majority of 19 shots. The losers feeling dissatisfied with their own display of the science, intimated at the close their wish to pitt a pair against the best pair of the New Cumnock six, for a second game. This proposition was responded to by the Messrs Park; but the Cumnock pair failed to improve their position by the double chance, they only scoring 7 to 13. They bore their defeat, however, with the best of humour, and left resolving to retrieve their position some other day.

Kilmarnock Weekly Post and County of Ayr Reporter , 20th August 1864

George Sanderson identified John Park, born at Glenlee on the Deugh, as the undisputed quoiting champion of New Cumnock for 15 years and explains that ‘throughout the second half of the 19th century there was always an annual open day of quoiting on the Castle Green and in 1894 it could still attract 30* entrants and plenty of spectators‘ [3] .

Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald , July 13,1894 (British Newspaper Archive) [8] *34 entrants
Reform Act 1884

The Castle Green also served as a meeting place to address the burning political issues of the day. Of particular note was the ‘Reform Demonstration at New Cumnock’ of 1884 in reponse to the House of Lords blocking the Third Reform Act which further extended the suffrage in the UK, such that those in the countryside had the same voting qualifications of those in the towns. There was an expectation that the Cumnock Junior Liberal Association would take the responsibility for organising the demonstration, while with other areas were also apathetic and so New Cumnock decided to host it ‘and the result thoroughly justifies their decision‘ [9].

The procession began and ended at the Castle Green before Mr. John Hunter, chaired the meeting from a platform erected there, before a crowd of a thousand people.


The procession was marshalled in the public Green and made a start a few minutes past two o’clock. The numbers taking part were about 400 – the route being through the Castle to Pathhead and Burnhead (*Burnbrae), then to Bridgend, and back into the Green. Heading the procession came a contigent of 25 sturdy ploughmen and others mounted for the most part on well-groomed and well-fed horses. Following the horsemen were the New Cumnock Brass Band, and right well did their duty. Next followed two wood-cutters from Lady Monteith’s estate. Over their shoulders they carried woodmen’s axes, with the motto, addressed to the Lord’s ‘Clear the way’. As the men were dressed in their working garb they made a most effective display. Then came three brakes with the heroes of 1832 [Reform Act]. Next in order marched representatives of other associations. Then followed in their order representatives of every trade in the village. A very fine working model of a pit, showing the coal being hauled to the bottom in hutches drawn by a pony, and then being wound up the shaft, was carried by the miners. The model of the pithead was about as perfect as anything could well be. (N.B. Other trades included tailors, engineers, masons, bakers and joiners).


On returning from the parade round, the village, the demonstrators, together with a great number of others, the whole numbering fully one thousand, gathered round a platform which had been erected on the Green. Mr. John Hunter, presided and congratulated those present on the success which had attended their efforts getting up their meeting and introduced Mr. Hugh C. McKerrow, farmer to popose the first resolution.

The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday, October 10, 1884 [9]

In total, three resolutions were proposed, discussed and adopted during the meeting, briefly: – First – Approval of the Franchise Bill. Second – Protesting against the action of the House of Lords in rejecting the bill and Third (ammended) – That a Liberal Association be formed in the parish, to be composed of electors and non-electors.

The Great Miners Strike of 1894

The Scottish Mining Federation formed in March 1894 was made up of the county and district unions, including the Ayrshire Miners Federated Union, where one of their key objectives was to consider trade and wages questions. In the first week of June of that year they recommended their members to strike in resistance to the Scottish mineowners reducing wages by a shilling a day, on average a 25% reduction of the rate established in 1888 and ‘for the first time, and as a result of a ballot vote, all the Scots miners would be on strike action at once‘ [10] –

On Tuesday, June 26, 1894, the Scottish miners came out on strike. On the first day there were over 60,000 on strike and within a few days thereafter over 70,000. Of these, little more than 30,000 were members of the union. In these circumstances, it was a remarkable testimony to the solidarity of feeling amongst the Scots miners and of their new-found determination to resist the shilling reduction, that all should have come out on strike together.

A History of the Scottish Miners, R. Page Arnot (1955) [10]

Matters moved quickly in New Cumnock, as witnessed in the same newspaper report of Friday 29th June below. It began with the low key remark ‘most of the men were at their work on Tuesday 26th and it is thought that the miners here will not take much part in the strike‘. However, after a miners’ meeting early the following morning at the Castle Green there was a more defiant mood as the miners resolved ‘to keep out all this week, and, should no settlement be arrived at, to remain out until there is some settlement [11] –

The strike as yet has not taken much effect here, as on Tuesday morning most of the men were at their work as usual, despite the efforts of the agent and a few pickets. Meetings were held on Wednesday and Friday evenings of last week, when it was resolved by a majority to strike, but as the meetings were mostly composed of youths, not much faith was put in the the vote, and, as was feared, the greater number of the men turned up at their work on the day appointed for them to come out. It is thought that the miners here will not take much part in the strike.

— A large contingent of men came to New Cumnock, on Wednesday morning, from Cumnock, Auchinleck, and district, to picket the miners here, and were succesful in keeping the men from going to their work. With a few flutes, and three or four drums, they kept the place lively in the early hours of the morning. A large party of police were present – in fact, at 3 a.m., a special train with police came in to the station, and they, along with some who came in machines, paraded up and down all morning, but their services were not required, as everything was conducted in an orderly manner. At a meeting of the miners held on the Castle Green at 11 a.m., it was resolved to keep out all this week, and, should no settlement be arrived at, to remain out until there is some settlement. It was also agreed to picket the oncost* men, and not allow them to work – the pickets to be early on the road on Thursday morning.

The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 29 June, 1894 [11]

*oncost men – all workmen other than miners paid by days’ wages.

Into July and ‘the men were as firm as they day that came out‘ and it was apparent that they were preparing for a long struggle as all the ponies in one of the Bank Pits had been drawn. A large company pf pickets went from New Cumnock to Sanquhar to try and bring out the few men who were still working. They were met with an extra large force of police on the streets of the ancient burgh – ‘on the look out for the least disturbance‘ [12]. The first Union levy of 3s 6d. to both Union and Non-Union men was paid out, which ‘was something like a gift to men here as only a few are connected with the Union‘. Meanwhile the mineowners had wagons of coal and dross, which had been lying on the bings for years, transported from the Bank Junction [13].

By the beginning of August the membership of the Union was 700 and upward ‘far more successful than the most sanguine expected‘ [13]. The community got behind the miners and their families too, with one baker giving 10 dozen loaves per week and another 5 dozen. Most of the tradesmen lent their support too, ‘for these were the people who when the miners were earning good money, got the lion’s share‘. The struggle continued through September, however by early October breaking point had been reached and the strike was over.

R. Page Arnot in ‘A History of the Scottish Miners’ quoted from an article by James Keir Hardie in the ‘Labour Leader’, October 20, 1894, headed ‘A Friendly chat with the Scotch Miners [10] -.

Why have fifty mineowners power to starve 70,000 miners into submission?

..your gross earnings averaged from 21s. (£1 5p) to 24s. (£1 20p) per week, from which deductions for pick sharping, oil, powder etc. fell to be made. About midsummer, the masters took a shilling (5 pence) per day off your wages, which brought the down to 17s (85p) to 20s. (£1) per week and you came on strike to have the shilling (5p) restored and also have a Conciliation board formed to settle disputes. Both these demands were resisted by the employers, whereupon you, unwisely as I think, agreed to modify your wages and accept 6d. (2 1/2p) and a Conciliation Board. But your employers refused this also, and in the end you were defeated.

To sum up: – on one side were the miners their wives and children; on the other fighting against you, were hunger, the masters, the law, backed by policemen and soldiers, the Government, the press and the pulpit all arrayed against you. There is but one answer.

All these are rich and you are poor

Keir Hardie, Labour Leader’, October 20, 1894, in ‘A History of the Scottish Miners’, R. Page Arnot (1955)
Mineworkers Memorial with Castle Green in background and tree-lined bank of Afton Water (Roert Guthrie 2011)
The Changing Face of the Castle Green

Although the extent of the Castle Green shown in the OS Map 1895 (Map 2) was the same as that shown in the OS Map 1856 (Map 1) there were many more buildings between it and the the buildings that lined the east side of the road through Castle, including the Gas Works.

Map 2: Castle Green (1895) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

In that same year the newly elected New Cumnock Parish Council came into being in accordance with the Parish Councils Act 1894. George Sanderson in ‘New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway’ noted the council’s concern about the Castle Green [15] –

After the bustle of ‘the toon’ the Castle green should have been an oasis, a pleasant green place with paths down by the riverside. It never was. The first Parish council complained that the Castle Green was infested by tinkers, gangrels, horse copers and people dumping rubbish. Over the years they tried to keep out fairs and circuses only for pitch and toss and gambling schools to take over.

George Sanderson, New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway

Sanderson provides a few other glimpses of activities on the Castle Green. It was here that the aforementioned New Cumnock Brass Band, formed in 1855, would regularly practice and provide open air concerts. At the beginning of the century ‘Swallow’s fair’ would visit at the time of the Ayr races and ‘set up tents and booths on the Castle Green‘. By 1909 it was ‘Cadona’s fair’ that came to town, setting up initially at the Castle Green before later transferring to the adjoining and more spacious Glebe Playing Field, establishing a long and happy love affair between and the people of New Cumnock and ‘the Shows’. In 1913 the young folk of the town flocked to see ‘Wilson’s cinema’ at the Castle Green, although not much of an advance on magic lanterns shows‘. Although quoiting greens had been established in the mining communities of Craigbank and Connel Park, the Castle Green still hosted some high profile games including in 1928 when John Frew beat Robert Kilday in the final for the prize of £40; ‘however illegal gambling on the sidelines forced the games away from the greens‘ [3,15].

A new community space, south of the Castle Green, was developed across from the Parish Church and Town Hall on the fringe of the Glebe Playing Field. Here the Community Centre and Library were built alongside a tennis court and a small swing park, while later an outdoor swimming pool would open there on 1st June 1968. The Glebe Playing Field hosted the annual Gala Day and the Community or Gala Queen was crowned on a dais erected against the wall of Tweedie’s Garage.

Gala Day on the Glebe Playing Field with the houses of Glebe Street on the either side of the Afton Water (Cumnock Chronicle 2 Jul 1956)

Castle Green Car Park

In 1956 actions were put in motion to convert the southern part of the Castle Green to a car park in order to relieve some of the traffic congestion at the Castle [16].


In a letter from the County Surveyor to Cumnock District Council on Monday, the official stated that a suggestion had been made to him by the police authorities that a parking place in the vicinity of the Castle was desirable. Such a measure would relieve congestion caused by stationary vehicles. The only suitable place for such a parking area was the Castle Green and the surveyor wondered if the District Council would have any objections to its use for this purpose. It was agreed that the matter be referred to the local sub-committee.

The Cumnock Chronicle , October 5, 1956


Castle Green Car Park from Glebe (Robert Guthrie 2017)
Map 3: Castle Green (1961) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

In later years many of the older shops and buildings, including the Gas Works, at the Castle were demolished making way for new housing and shops. Land to the east of the Castle Green was set aside as additional public space where a Miners Memorial Lamp was erected, in memory of those mineworkers that lost their lives.

Mineworkers Memorial Lamp with Castle Green to the right (Robert Guthrie 2013)

Castle Green – The Future

Flood prevention work is on-going on the banks of Afton Water that will impact on the Castle Green. A new car park between the Castle Green and the Mineworkers Memorial is close to completion. Hopefully the name Castle Green (and its history) will be preserved.

[1] New Cumnock Place-Names | Castle village (in progress)
[2] New Cumnock Place-Names | Black Bog Castle and Moat
[3] George Sanderson, ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’
[4] Long Leases & Feus of Parts of the Lands of Knockshinnoch belonging to Niel Griffiths Buchanan Esq. lying in The Parish of New Cumnock & Shire of Ayr ‘Lease betwixt Charles Buchanan Esq. and John Hair, of a piece of ground between the feus of the Water of Afton as a common for the use of the Village for 999 years. Lease dated 9th Decemeber 1837 and 25th April 1838.. [Personal property of Robert Guthrie gifted by Bobby Grierson, Old Cumnock.
[5] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, September 13, 1862
[6] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, July 13, 1872
[7] British Newspaper Archive |Kilmarnock Weekly Post and County of Ayr Reporter , 20th August 1864
[8] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, July 13, 1894
[9] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday, October 10, 1884
[10] R. Page Arnot, A History of Scottish Miners (1955), Chapter IV, The Great Strike of 1894
[11] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 29 June, 1894
[12] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 13 July, 1894
[13] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 20 July, 1894
[14] British Newspaper Archive |The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Friday 3 August, 1894
[15] George Sanderson, New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway
[16] The Cumnock Chronicle October 5, 1956
Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1855-1882| Castle Green
Map 2: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1949| Castle Green
Map 3: Ordnance Survey National Grid maps, 1944-1971 (1961) |Castle Green
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Castle Green