PRESERVING THE PAST . . . . FOR THE FUTURE
Have not done any work on the site for a few months, but with the snowfall just before Christmas, some superb photos have been taken around Sorn, where the snow was the deepest for many years. Some spectacular postcard photos have been taken, and at the time of writing, it looks like we are in for a white Christmas.
It is with great sadness that I have to report today the passing of Willie Lyle. Willie of Auld Avenue, in Mauchline has been a great assistance and influence to ayrshirehistory.com since about 2001.
He was well known in the Mauchline area for many years for his unique "magic" lantern slide shows.
His collection is the original work of Mauchline photographer, author, minister and local historian John Taylor Gibb. JTG was also the first president of the current day Mauchline Burns Club. Many of the images were used in the 1910 book by John Taylor Gibb, "Mauchline Town & District".
Willie's father fell heir to the slides, and used to show them around Mauchline with his lantern projector. Willie started showing them along with his father, until he eventually fell heir to the collection himself. There were two separate slide shows. The popular "Auld Mauchline" show, and a "Burns Slideshow", which included shots from further afield, and views relating to Robert Burns.
Willie had one of his projectors stolen from a locked cupboard in Poosie Nansie's many years ago, but had enough spare parts to build another projector up and he was able to continue his shows from time to time. During one of the Mauchline Holy Fair's perhaps 2005 or so, Willie returned with a traditional lantern projector show in the Church Hall, like he used to do in years gone by.
The collection can now be seen here on these pages, many of them used in the "Mauchline high res slides" pages. The first archiving work was done on the lantern slides though, and these first digitised images can be seen under the "private collectors" page.
In 2002, Willie's collection of glass negatives was given the first glimpse of daylight for 40 years or so. So many unique gems of old Mauchline were found in this collection, including the only known photograph of Smith's Boxworks, where the fire station is today. These were scanned and incorporated into a modern day high res web slide show. Willie had also been back on the road every now and again with myself and the collection of digitised images. This was the modern day lantern slideshow, but played back on a multimedia projector. The results were simply awesome.
Willie had the idea at the back end of 2008 to gather together a collection of images of "Mauchline People At Work", and create a DVD. After a long time in production, this 90 minute DVD was finally completed in July 2009. The DVD is not for sale or resale, but it is available to all here on these pages in a compressed format. A link to an AVI file of the movie is listed below, or linked via the Mauchline Reference section of this web site.
The movie is dedicated to the memory of Willie Lyle, a man who took pleasure in sharing his treasures with the world. Never before have I seen a large private collection of high resolution plates. They are truly a local historical treasure.
Willie was 82.
As a footnote, Willie worked at the sawmill in the Haugh Road, as well as at Auchmillan, and is not Willie Lyall who ran the shop in Loudoun Street. This is a question I have often been asked.
(Kenny Baird - 8th Sept 2009)
DOORS OPEN DAY
The annual doors open day caught up with us again at the weekend of 6th September. This is the day when many museums and historic buildings in Ayrshire are open to the public, some of which are not normally accessible. I had grand illusions of going around the county to various sites that were open. In the end, we made it to Auchinleck Hoose, Barr Castle in Galston, and Loudounkirk. Often the doors open day is at the end of the month, but I think it was still quite a success, due to the publicity in the local press. (I for one was caught out by the date, even though I had picked up a leaflet earlier in the year) Well done to all concerned for the organisation and taking the time to open on a Sunday.
SPAM AND DUBIOUS E MAILS:
For the record, I DO NOT accept dubious e mails or dubious file attachments, and neither do I subscribe to any of the dubious log in only / members only type web sites. If anyone wishes to get in touch, send a proper and simple e mail. I do not click on dubious looking unknown links.
BIG CAT SEEN IN SORN VILLAGE:
One of the many Ayrshire sightings of the large black cat / puma type animals has taken place in Sorn Village in the last week. The animal was seen by an anon member of the community. The woman in question, who asked not to be named was adamant that the sighting in the young wooded area behind the football field, was certainly not that of a dog, or any other household creature.
"It was much too large to be a domestic cat", she said, "And being a dog owner, I certainly do know the difference. It had a long tail, and was walking in the unique way that cats do."
It disappeared into the young woods, behind the goal post in the centre of the football field.
This was quite a rare daytime sighting, and down at village level, not in the country area!!!
Some years ago, maybe around 1999, one was seen on the road by a woman driving home from Mauchline late at night. The yellow eyes and the large black feline outline caught the car lights around closing time one night. Her drunken passenger missed out on the sighting, as he had fallen asleep between Mauchline Cross, and the crossroads at Oxenshaw/ Montgarswood, where the animal was crossing the road!! The passenger in question was Kenny, the founder of ayrshirehistory.com!!!
A sighting was made again from around the same time, at dusk on an autumn or winter's evening. A large black cat like animal was bounding along the edge of the woods to the left as you climb out of Sorn towards Muirkirk. This was seen by two people walking a dog, but viewed from from quite a distance away, there is nothing more in the way of a description to offer. The animal did have a cat like appearance in its running.
There are regular sightings of these elusive creatures, and one of these days someone with a reasonable camera will get close enough to take a reasonable photograph of our undocumented wildlife of Ayrshire.
MAUCHLINE AT WORK DVD:
A new DVD featuring Mauchline at Work over the years was completed in July 2009. The inspiration for this project came from Willie Lyle. The source material comes from the archives of ayrshirehistory.com and is from many different collections, and not exclusively from that of Willie Lyle. The DVD is only being shared amongst local people in the Mauchline area, and is not for sale or resale. However, anyone who downloads this from the web is free to buy a round the next time we meet in Poosie Nansie's!!! The AVI version does not have the DVD menu structure, but should play OK. I might have noticed an odd stutter on the avi version, maybe not. Anyone who has success in downloading this, do contact ayrshirehistory.com and let me know how you get on.
The titles still give the address of ayrshirehistory.eu, which was a temporary address while the .com domain was being reclaimed. A new and updated version will be uploaded in due course, with only the .com address. The content will however be identical.
The file is large, 650 megabytes, so a fast broadband connection will be required. During trials, a friend in the next village with a broadband speed 10 fold that of my own out here in the sticks, brought the file down in an amazing 15 minutes!!!
There are a number of players which will show an AVI file. One of the better ones that plays multiple formats is VLC player. It copes with virtually any video format, and is free!!
AUGUST 2009 - A VERY PRODUCTIVE MONTH:
August has been an exceptionally productive month for ayrshirehistory.com. The most productive in years. The inspiration for this activity stems from the eventual successful reclaim of our old domain, after the company who we were dealing with for the last couple of years, vanished overnight. This page will read like a kind of a BLOG, with the latest from ayrshirehistory.com, if there is anything worthy of reporting.
AILSA CRAIG TRIP:
A plan of myself and others for many years was to visit the Island of Ailsa Craig, home to the stone used at Mauchline for the production of curling stones. Not exactly in keeping with the theme of ayrshirehistory.com and the old photographs, yet the expedition to Ailsa Craig seemed somehow historical in nature. It has been decided to include many of the photos here, links to be found in "other" - "Site Index" within the pop up menu system. The waters around the Island look black in parts, I dare say because of the dark cliff faces. Remains of the industrial past litter the landing area around the lighthouse. This can either be classed as industrial heritage, or some may suggest, litter on a grand scale. There seems to be no mood to clear up the rusting pieces of rubbish lying around. Different perhaps from the old buildings and railway line, which stand as a monument to the past. The trip was exciting and well worth the effort to climb to the top of the great lump of rock that is seen from most of the Ayrshire coastline. A sense of adventure seemed to be there, because of the fact we were gaining access to an uninhabited island, where precious few will have ventured, compared with for example Arran.
AYRSHIRE/ KILMARNOCK DEMOLITION:
Looking around Kilmarnock and the surrounding areas in recent years, and one can hardly fail to notice the demolition work which is being carried out. In Kilmarnock, by Glencairn Square rubble lies from the old Safeway, recently demolished. The old Fine Fare has also been demolished and rubble left lying. In the middle of the rubble, a new so called "super" Tesco's has sprung up and opened it's doors. In West Langlands Street, a line of old buildings which included the Number 10 Bar have been demolished in 2009. The Dalespark Tavern has been demolished in recent times and the site cleared.
In the Irvine Valley, some questionable demolition orders have been carried out on some of the old buildings in the town centre of Darvel and Galston, including the old Barr School. The Higher Grade is still standing, but for how long.
Is it beginning to feel like the same kind of vandalism which old Kilmarnock suffered in the late 60's / early 1970's when the heart was completely ripped out of the town centre. Many of the old buildings were torn down to make way for tacky replacements.
Anyhow, I have been taking a number of photos of many of the buildings before they are turned to "stoor". I shall endeavour to reproduce these images on this web site in due course. The only problem with this is that I have not been quick enough in some cases with my camera. If anyone else reading these pages is like minded, and takes a lot of modern day photographs of the changes within the communities of Ayrshire, do get in touch via the contact button. (If interested in sharing your photos that is)
MAUCHLINE BURNS CLUB RECORD BREAKING HAGGIS:
At the 2009 Mauchline Holy Fair, the Burns club attempted to break the record for the biggest Haggis in the world. This has recently been found to be successful. View the certificate below. Jimmy Davidson proudly shows off the certificate, August 2009.
ANOTHER LOCAL PUB CLOSES:
In August 2009, The Royal Bar, or SMITHS as it has been known for some time, has ceased trading. A sign is now up on the door to the effect that all the beers and spirits have been removed and the alarm reset. This leaves but one public house in the village, The Brewery Bar. I would advise the Catrine residents to support the only public house left in town. From bitter experience, it is no picnic, living in a village without a village inn, as has been the case in Sorn for a number of years.
It seems that the government's stealth plan in trying to close the pubs is working. Their over priced duty, smoking bans, and even interfering with day to day running by changing the rules of license for the worse have all had a very negative impact on country inns. Around 2002, only a few short years ago, Catrine boasted four traditional public houses; The Old Mill Inn, The Honky (Volunteer Arms), The Royal, and The Brewery. The Burns was also on the scene a few years before that time. Now there is only one.
VISITORS FROM A FAR:
As happens most summers, I have had visitors from abroad, visiting Ayrshire, and Sorn in particular for various differing reasons. The guests this summer have included James and James Peden from Kentucky who wanted to see Peden the Covenanter's birthplace, as well as the cave known locally as Peden's cave. A few weeks later again covenanter enthusiasts from Holland paid a visit to Sorn. Bonnie Suchan and family from Canada also passed through, tracing the Baird family roots. And finally while the office was in a real turmoil, AJ Strathern and PJ Stewart from the States came through for a visit, and a cup of coffee.
It is always nice to see visitors who have connections with the area. Maybe I should make a page on this site with some photos and comments from visitors. Some of the these foreign visitors in the past have been extremely memorable.
MORE CONTENT, LESS TACTFUL, MORE STRAIGHT TO THE POINT:
That's the kind of entries which will no doubt appear in this blog from time to time. I formerly treated this web site as though it was going to be permanently housed on a government server, but since this seems to be something that will never happen, I shall share observations and bits and pieces here. From time to time, there may be comments which will appear to be less than tactful, if the need arises. I have a feeling this part of the web site could become more chatty. I will also include comments from readers if so desired.
plan to include more photos of up to date outings, similar to the Ailsa
Craig trip. I don't mean outings to the local pub!! I am also considering
uploading a movie recently made named "Mauchline at Work", completed
in July 2009 for Willie Lyle. The AVI file will be about 650 meg, but
I have to make sure that it plays fine as an AVI. I seem to remember the
initial AVI test was somehow ropey. Watch this space.
Finally took control of the old domain name "ayrshirehistory.com" from the wastelands of the web on 22nd July. See timeline on the contingency plans page. The temporary address of ayrshirehistory.eu will continue to be used for the time being, but I do foresee a time when it will only be links to the main .com pages. I have never found out why our old company vanished. I suppose it is just the way of the world.
NEW LOOK MENUS:
Major facelift, for the re-launch of the old domain name again after about 9 months break. Design of the site has changed, with bright blue colours toned down yet again. I am not one for silly and pointless flashing lights and 70's "acid rock" colours on web pages. I will leave this chaotic, clumsy "flashing lights" type of site to the freebies like bebo and facebook. I have opted for the most simple approach I can think of. There are new pop up menus on the main pages, which will eventually end up on most of the other pages.
NEW AREAS ADDED:
Added a few extra towns and villages, to include a lot of images I have taken myself of more recent changes in the streets and avenues we walk each week. I have a lot of material which will be added in the coming weeks, so bear with me.
Beginning to create a constitution for ayrshirehistory.com. I now require reliable, trustworthy, passionate people. Passionate about their local heritage and villages. For so long this archive has been thrown from pillar to post by the former hosts in local government. Now is the time for action. We have to ensure the continuity of these pages for the future, for no other reason than much of the material simply isn't available in the public domain anywhere else, and much has already disappeared because of the death of some contributors.