You are on page 1of 70



'So we grew together Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, But yet an union in partition, Two lovely berries moulded on one stem' A Midsummer Night's Dream

Copyright Walter Smart 1968 Original book printed in Scotland by


Campbell & Co. (Reproduction Services) Ltd., Glasgow. Inside Front Cover



WEMYSS BAY & KELLY c. 1800 Foreword Feu contracts forbid the erection of a house of a house of less than a certain value, and no more than one house can be erected on each feu. In consequence of this restriction, Skelmorlie can never become a town, or even a village of any extent, and will always be a favourite resort for those who love retirement and seclusion from the busy haunts of men. The italics are mine, and it was this statement of nearly a hundred years ago, taken with present trends, which encouraged me to explore the past. This story of the Parish has been compiled from notes made over the years from various books, maps and documents, of which the principle ones are listed. All the facts have been verified where possible, but certain statements, particularly of the very early days, may be contested by experts. Where a conflict of opinion already occurs it has been noted. Skelmorlie is part of the landward area of the Parish of Largs, in the County of Ayr and looks to such administrative centres as Ayr and Kilmarnock. A step across the Kelly burn, Wemyss Bay is in the Parish of Inverkip in the County of Renfrew, and looks to Paisley and Greenock. This causes many complications, not least for me in having had to consult the records of two Counties. So far as local amenities are concerned, the two are interdependant; the telephone exchange is ‘Wemyss Bay’ but has always been located in Skelmorlie. However, for ecclesiastical purposes, they have been fused into the Quoad Sacra Parish of Skelmorlie, within the Parish of Largs but in the Presbytery of Greenock. Truly ‘an union in partition’, but this is what is meant when I refer generally to ‘Skelmorlie’ or the ‘Parish’. I have purposely restricted myself to the development of the Parish, which has not been easy, and have resisted as far as possible any temptation to include Largs or Inverkip, both rich in history and legend but already fully recorded. Nor have I attempted to tell the vast and fascinating story of the Eglinton family, which is a task beyond my resources but an essential ingredient of the story of Skelmorlie. The only book on the subject so far has been the Guide to Wemyss Bay, Skelmorlie, Inverkip and Largs published in 1879 by Alexander Gardner of Paisley and written by the Reverend J. Boyd, then minister of the North Church. It was mainly for the benefit of visitors to the Hydro and he certainly suggests some ambitious walks. I have covered the historical background which he gives, expanding in some directions and including a later period, but he is still essential reading for anyone interested in the district. My original intention had been to tell the story of Skelmorlie and bring Boyd up to date, but so many relevant and interesting facts have been unearthed that it seemed a shame to lose them. I have tried to include only those of general interest, but even so the result is more a catalogue of events than a story. This I regret is more apparent in the early days when information is sketchy and deals with family units as opposed to an integrated community. I have avoided personalities except where they refuse to be excluded and the present century is covered in the barest outline. A wealth of detail is available in the files of the ‘Wee Paper’ for someone more energetic, and if this book provides a framework for a fuller account, or even stimulates the thought, then the very many fascinating hours will be amply rewarded. Walter Smart, Annet Lodge, 1968


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS So many have helped in the preparation of this little book that it is impossible to name them individually. Some have provided information, wittingly or unwittingly; some have lent books, maps and plans; others have typed, checked and retyped with great forbearance. I hope that they will recognise their contribution, and perhaps feel that it has not been entirely wasted. PHOTOGRAPHS I am grateful for the loan of so many photographs and I have had to select the ones included most carefully. The most interesting unfortunately are very old and in poor condition. I am also indebted to Valentine & Sons Ltd. of Dundee for permission to reprint some of their earlier series of Postcards. A complete collection of these would have made a wonderful pictorial history of the village during this century. MAPS The Sketch Maps are not very skilful but have been included because they do highlight the great changes during the 19th Century. For permission to reproduce the other maps and plans I am indebted to the Director General of Ordnance Survey and the Curator of Historical Records of Scotland. SPELLING


There is considerable variation in the spelling of proper names throughout. I have tended to follow that of the period or of the account I am quoting. Even that is not easy. In a letter of remission of their quarrels and crimes signed in March 1565 by Henry, King of Scots (Darnley), he refers to George Montgomerie, Patrick Montgomery and Hugh and William Mungumry.

Page Period 1 : to 1700 The Early Days The Estates The Montgomeries of Skelmorlie St Fillan's Chapel A Scattered Community Maps of the period Blaeu's Atlas Period 2 : 1700 - 1800 A period of transition Period 3 (1800 - 1860) 22 25 28 30 18 6 10 12 14 15 16

The Estates New Glasgow Kellybridge The New Parish Period 4 (1860 - 1900) The Golden Gates Period 5 (1900 - 1939) The Twentieth Century Period 6 (1939 - 1968) Modern Times





Resort, Suburb, New Town ? Period 7 (1969 - 2002) Towards the twenty first Century



Book List


PERIOD I : To 1700
THE EARLY DAYS In the very beginning the shore road area was under water and the cliff is referred to by geologists as the ‘raised sea beach’, bearing traces of shells and other marine objects. The district lies on the old Red Sandstone Band, and the immediate limits can be defined as just north of the Bruacre burn, Loch Thom and down the Brisbane Glen to the coast. It is surrounded by large areas of igneous rock with a mass of calciferous sandstone from Ardgowan to Loch Thom. Often the red sandstone, which is very old, cracked along fissures, sometimes many miles in length, and molten lava has walled up and solidified. Being harder, they have worn better and stand up like black walls contrasting with the red sandstone, and have earned the name of Volcanic Dykes. There are many examples, especially near Ashcraig, and also other peculiar surface features are the accumulation of stratified sand and gravel swelling into beautiful cones, called 'Kames'. They are composed of material from the marine denudation of the boulder clay. Specimens of these occur near Skelmorlie. Ayrshire is divided into Carrick, Kyle and Cuninghame, the most northerly district in which Skelmorlie lies. It stretches from ‘Irvine to the Kelly-burn which rises in the Forrest of Kyrth, latterly known as "Back o’ the World", and runs for nearly two miles to the sea at Kellybridge.’ It has been suggested that Cuninghame is derived from the Danish ‘Kuning’ or ‘King’s hame’, and that it was a former seat of royalty but more likely is the Celtic derivation of ‘Churn’ or Butterland. An ancient rhyme supports this - "Kyle for a man, Carrick for a coo, Cuninghame for butter and cheese and Galloway for ‘oo’. (wool)" North of the Kelly burn to Inverkip was originally known as Finnock, the area of the Bay being Low Finnock. ***** As a county, Ayrshire has much evidence of early settlers - Picts, Scots and Britons; Celtic Lake dwellers; English, Scandinavian and Roman invaders. This area is said to have been occupied by a Celtic tribe called Damnii, or Damnonii, appropriately the most powerful and least barbarous of any. They were Britons, Gaelic speaking and owing allegiance to the Welsh Kings; originally of the Belgii, their tentacles spread from Perthshire to the Devon-Cornwall peninsula. They worshipped Baal, the god of Fire and the Sun, and our real link with this period could be the Serpent Mount at Meigle.


Collins County Geography of Ayrshire has this to say - "In Skelmorlie is one of the most remarkable antiquities in Scotland a ‘Serpent Mound’, supposed to have been used by the ancient Britons in the worship of the Sun and the Serpent, and other religious rites". ***** The head of the Serpent lies behind Brigend House and the ridge forming the body is now severed by the road running up the hill at Meigle. In the 1870’s Dr. Phené of Chelsea made some interesting excavations, discovering a paved platform some 80 feet long, and evidence of early cremations. The details were fully reported in the Glasgow Herald and the Scotsman at the time and there are specimens in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. An alternative view is that the ground would have originally been under water, and that as the mound has a stream on either side, it may have been a perfectly natural ridge formed by the action of ice and time: certainly it receives no recognition in the official list of antiquities. I am not qualified to arbitrate but a nice compromise would be that the Ancient Britons adapted the natural feature to their use, but whatever rites may still be performed on the Mound will be in the seclusion of the caravans now occupying the site. The only major military adventure which might have involved the Damnonii would be when a strong army of South Britons assembled to see what advantage might be gained from the wars between the Picts and the Scots. Conscious of the danger, Fergus united the Picts with his Scots, and routed the Britons near the Water of Doon, slaying their King, Coyle or Cole, whose name remains as Kyle, or so it is supposed. His burial place is at Coilsfield, ‘the Castle o’ Montgomerie’ near Tarbolton. Portencross and West Kilbride are richer in traces of the tribe, and apart from two important sites several discoveries are housed in the North Ayrshire Museum at Saltcoats. However, we are assured that, "For many generations they continued to hunt their game and feed their flocks on the hills of Skelmorlie and Largs before the Roman invasion". ***** The Roman invasion of southern Scotland was never a peaceful one, and the province, named Valentia, was mainly a base for operations against the Picts in the north and a tribe called Maeatae whose capital was Camelon. Although they never settled, as in southern England, their presence was not without impact. They built roads, walls and forts, and it is Tacitus who provides the first description of the inhabitants of the country. The Britons accepted Roman rule and later even served as auxiliaries. However, in the 1st century AD there must have been some unity in southern Scotland, and it is recorded that Caratacus or Carractacus, twice defeated by the Romans, was taken to Rome before a tribunal of the Emperor Claudius. There he was pardoned because of his great courage and ‘re-established in part of his Kingdom comprising Brigantia, Kyle and Cuninghame’. The prestige attached to Roman occupation has led to many claims. The road to Galloway from Ayr by Loch Doon is held to be their work, and Troon has been suggested as their supply port in the West. Paterson states that a Roman bath was discovered in a garden in Largs, that of Mrs. Hall the Postmistress, and another source refers to the finding of red fireclay tiles 11½ inches square which many Largs residents then possessed as ornaments. The Rev. Boyd wrote of coins with Roman inscriptions dug up in Largs and presented to the Earl of Eglinton. He also mentions the obvious fortifications on Knock Hill and, in Inverkip, a causeway near the Auld Kirk and the ‘Roman Bridge’. The bridge, of course, is definitely of later period, and there is no concrete evidence about the others. The trouble is that the finding of Roman material is not in itself proof of Roman occupation. With the exception of Loudoun Hill, no remains of a Roman Camp or Villa have been found in Ayrshire although


Renfrewshire is better off, especially near Paisley which was a major fortress called Vanduara. A chain of forts, the Antonine Wall, held the land between the Clyde and the Forth, and the approach road in the West was up the Clyde valley by Crawford and Bothwell, where many traces have been found. The flank opposite Dumbarton was guarded by a small fort at Lurg Moor on the hill above Greenock, and a bigger one at Whitemoss near Erskine, from which the soldiers forded the Clyde on an expedition to the North. If they came to this part at all it would only be a patrol guarding against raids from the Scots, the Epidii from Kintyre or those on Botis, now called Bute. Ptolemy’s map of Albion illustrates the Roman knowledge of Britain in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. In the estuary of the Clota or Clyde, apart from the Mull of Kintyre and Loch Ryan, the only place which has definitely been located is Vindogara Sinus. This is the coast between Saltcoats and the Heads of Ayr, probably Irvine Bay itself. Vindogara is marked well up the estuary from the bay, but as no islands are shown it is impossible to even guess at its location. However, there is much to support the idea that Irvine was used as a supply port. Apart from genuine finds in the Irvine-Stevenston area, a section of road joining Loudoun Hill to the Clyde Valley has been discovered, and its logical continuation is down the River lrvine to the Bay. Other finds when charted form definite lines; one up the Garnock by Hill of Stake to Gourock; another up the Lugton to the plain by Paisley and Glasgow. Certainly the Romans were near but whether one actually set foot in Skelmorlie may never be known. Chalmers, however, is in no doubt that, "They had erected their villas along the fine shore of the Clyde firth, from Kellyburn to Irvine, and on this coast the remains of their baths have been discovered, where so many bathing establishments have recently been formed. ***** The Damnonii survived the Roman invasion and later repulsed another by the Scots from Kintyre. By this time, they were Christians and had joined with other Britons to form the kingdom of Strathclyde, whose capital was Alclot or Alclyd (Dumbarton). It took in the Southwest part of Scotland, but not Argyll, and included Cumbria which consisted of Cumberland and Westmorland. Galloway, inhabited by a Pictish tribe, the Gallgaidel, if not always part of this kingdom was certainly dependant on it. Later in the 6th century it was further strengthened by other Britons fleeing from the invading Angles. The little Kingdom exhausted itself preserving its British way of life against the Northumbrian Saxons, the Danes, the Picts and the Scots. In the 10th century it formed an alliance with Kenneth MacAlpine, King of the Scots of Dalriada, who now had subdued and ruled Pictland. By 1045, Scotland as such existed, but still with Cumbria, and the Welsh influence over this area finally ceased. Gaelic was still spoken in Ayrshire in 1097 (The Britons spoke a dialect which was the foundation of the modern Welsh while that of the Scots became the modern Gaelic.) but there is now greater evidence of Anglo Saxon influence. If we have not always been Scots, who came from Ireland anyway, at least we have always been Britons. Boyd refers to ‘Judge Hill’ behind Mains Farm on the road to the Fardens, where in early times local criminals were supposed to have been tried and executed. There is little concrete evidence of this apart from the fact that they are common features in the parishes of Ayrshire, but it certainly has the appearance of a meeting place. However, the proximity of Barr Farm might confirm this possible use, since ‘Bar’ has Anglo-Saxon associations with the dispensing of justice which still persist. The Battle of Largs in 1263 was undoubtedly a decisive victory by Alexander III over Haco, or Haakon, of Norway, although many believe that as a battle it has been greatly exaggerated and was nothing more than a series of skirmishes. Certainly only a small part of Haakon’s force was involved and even it, having been stormbound, could not have been on top form.


Remote acknowledgment to the district is given in the story of Sir Philip Mowbray’s escape during the wars of the Bruce with Edward I in the period 1307-12. Bruce had liberated Ayrshire and ‘reduced Carrick, Kyle and Cuninghame to obedience’. Sir Philip attempted a relief from Bothwell, but was ambushed and routed by Sir James Douglas with only forty men. Retreat was impossible, so he spurred his horse through the Scots and rode at full speed by Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, Ardrossan ‘through Largis till Ennerkip rycht to the Castel that was then stuffyt all with Englyssmen’. ***** Cuninghame itself is in two portions, the south and larger area of Cuninghame and the smaller northern area of Largs. The district gave its name to the family of Cuninghame whose head, Malcolm, son of Freskin, received the Thanedom from King Malcolm Ill on his accession in 1058. This was a reward for having aided the King when he was fleeing from Macbeth by forking him over with hay. Even to-day, the crest of all branches of the family includes a hayfork and the words ‘Over Fork Over’. The Cuninghame capital was at Kilmaurs, the main town before the growth of Kilmarnock, from which they ruled until David I came to the throne in 1124 bringing with him many Anglo-Normans and the beginnings of feudalism. The lands were then granted to Hugh de Morville, and later Malcolm IV created Sir Richard de Morville ‘Great Constable of Scotland, Lord of Cuninghame, Largs and Lauderdale, and hereditary Baillif. Cuninghame remained a ‘bailiffrie’, as opposed to a ‘Shire’ until 1747. The office returned to the Cuninghames and was transferred to the Montgomeries, but after the ‘45 rebellion all Scottish Chiefs lost their powers of jurisdiction. Those who had not been rebels received compensation, and when the Sheriff of Ayr took over the Earl of Eglinton was given £7,800. However, De Morville’s title passed in 1196 to Lord Galloway, and was inherited in 1243 by his daughter Dervogill. She married John de Baliol, the father of John, Bruce’s competitor for the Crown. In her life, she passed the lands of Cuninghame to Robert, Bishop of Glasgow, but her son John eventually inherited them. He later lost them to Robert the Bruce who gave them to his son-in-law, Walter, the sixth High Steward. By special charter in 1372 Largs and Cuninghame remained separate Baronies, one of the witnesses being Hugo de Eglynton. Richard de Boyle, Dominus de Caulburn is mentioned in the reign of Alexander III (1249-86) when the family held the feudal office of ‘Mairship of the Fee of Largs, within the bounds of the Lordship of Largs, from the Polgare in the South to Kelliburn in the North’. The Boyles became Lords of Largs and undoubtedly have the oldest connection with the district. However, another old Norman family, the Kelsos, held land in the Brisbane Glen from at least the 13th century. Their holdings were Over and Nether Kelsoland, the former being sold to the Brisbanes in the 17th century. Over the years they intermarried with the Boyles, the Frazers of Knock and the Stewarts of Ardgowan but otherwise they seem to fade out of the records. The last is of a John Kelso in St. Phillanswell in 1615. As for Skelmorlie, it was Cuninghame country from the 11th to the 15th centuries, and it was the early 17th century before they finally relinquished their superiority over the lands to the Montgomeries. However, it is after 1340 that a Cuninghame of Kilmaurs is recorded as the owner of Skelmorlie, and there is a good case for assuming that the lands were occupied if not owned by another family, the ‘ancient Foresters of Skelmorley’. The clue comes from English and not Scots records, the Ragman Rolls of 1296, ‘the largest and most authentic enumeration now extant of the nobility, barons, landowners, burgesses and clergy of Scotland prior to the 14th century’. Mainly a record of Edward 1st’s military progress throughout the country, they provide a roll of the sealed instruments of homage and fealty executed by the people of Scotland. Among the names listed as ‘del counte de Ayre’ are Murthauch de Montgomery, Hugo de Kelso, Richard and Robert de Boyuile, and


Fergus Fofterfone. This latter has been connected with the ‘Foresters of Skelmorley, of whom there are few remaining’. (Nesbit 1720). On most maps, even of small scale, between the 17th and late 18th century Fosterland is marked roughly in the area of Balvonie. It was clearly an important holding ranking with Auchendarroch and North Skelmorlie, and fitting to the status of Fergus Fostersone. In keeping with the decline or withdrawal of the family is the disappearance of Fosterland from maps after 1770, and the appearance of an obviously smaller holding on Skelmorlie Water called Fosterby. Like Fosterland, this too has left no trace but the inference is that the Fosters or Foresters are the earliest named inhabitants of the parish.

Part of A 17th Century Map

Skelmorlie Castle c.1800 THE ESTATES


The story from the 15th to the beginning of the 18th century is really that of the great estates an_ their families. It was a turbulent period which covered Mary Queen of Scots and the Reformation and saw the Union of the crowns of England and Scotland. There is no evidence, however, of any great inconvenience to the inhabitants of these parts. They were far enough away to be unaffected by Border raids or marauding Highlanders, and such events as the Wars of the Roses or the discovery of America would be remote indeed. Certainly Cromwell was in Glasgow from where Principal Robert Baillie of Glasgow College took refuge with Lady Montgomerie in her Castle on Little Cumbrae, itself visited if not actually sacked by Cromwell's soldiers; but the supposed sinking of a Spanish Galleon off Portencross is perhaps as near as they came to the events of history. The Covenanters may have come closer as it is suggested that there was a hide-out in the hills behind, but the Reformation came very easily to the Auld Kirk at Inverkip. One Sunday a Priest held Mass and the next a Minister preached a sermon. By far the oldest of the estates is KELBURN - "a goodly building viell planted hauing verey beutiful orchards and gardens. With a spatious rome adornid with a christalin fontane, cutte all out of the lining rocke. It belongs heritably to John Boll, Laird thereof". It is the seat of the Earl of Glasgow, and is outside the scope of these notes other than the fact that the family held lands in the South Skelmorlie estate. The family name appears as de Boyvile, Boll or Boyle, and David Boyle of Kelburne was created a peer in 1699, and for acting as a Commissioner in promoting union with England was created Earl of Glasgow in 1703. In the grounds there is an old tree under which this Act of Union of 1707 reputedly was signed, or more likely some deed relating to it. Similarly the BRISBANE Estate should be mentioned as it included Knock for a period and is still the superior to the title of Ashcraig and other properties in that area. It was owned by the Brisbanes of that Ilk, originally lairds of Bishopton, and Allanus de Brysbane filius de Willielmi is recorded as acquiring land in Stirlingshire as long ago as 1334. After 1400 the family bought land on Gogoside and by 1650 had added much of Noddleside. In 1695 they bought Over Kelsoland from the Kelso family and their whole estate was erected to the Barony of Brisbane. General Sir Thomas Macdougal Brisbane died at Brisbane House in the 1860's having achieved fame as an astronomer and as Governor General of New South Wales. He was a great benefactor to Largs which still has close links with Brisbane in Australia. The family left the house which was allowed to decay. FINNOCK, the lands between Wemyss Bay and Inverkip, belonged to the Stewarts of Bute, descendants of John Stewart, son of King Robert II, (1371-90). They were later purchased by the Stewarts of ARDGOWAN, descendants of John Stewart, natural son of Robert III, who was granted Ardgowan in 1404, and the present laird is the twenty-third in direct succession from that King. Their story, together with Inverkip its witches and the Auld Kirk has been fully recorded elsewhere, and is of no immediate relevance beyond the fact that certain exchanging of lands has taken place between Ardgowan, Wemyss Bay and Kelly. Also in Renfrewshire is KELLY on the north bank of the burn which divides the Counties of Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. It Was particularly famous as a woodland area with a great variety of trees and shrubs, and inspired Robert. Burns to adapt an old satirical song which he called 'The Carle of Kellyburn Braes' - "There lived a carle in Kellyburn braes, (Hey an' the rue grows bonny wi' thyme), And he had a wife was the plague o' his days; And the thyme it was wither'd and the rue is in prime". James Bannatyne received a grant of the lands from James III (1460-88) and the family held the estate until 1792. Crawford refers to the Carta Penes Archibald Bannatine de Kelly I being still in existence when he wrote his history of Renfrewshire in 1710, but apart from this and other references in the records of the County not much is known about the family. There was a James Bannatyne in 1594, but Archibold's son, another James, died childless in 1769. His sister Christian, who was married to the Reverend James Lundie, minister of


Erskine, inherited and it was her eldest son, Archibald, who sold the estate on emigrating to America. The original James is thought to have been the third son of Ninian Bannatyne of Kames in Bute, whose name is perpetuated by the town of Port Bannatyne on the Island. The last owner of Kames was Sir William MacLeod, a distinguished lawyer, who married the heiress and assumed the title of Lord Bannatyne on becoming a judge, but sold the estate in the late 18th century. A member of another branch of the family was secretary to John Knox, while yet another, of Newtyle in Forfar produced George Bannatyne, compiler of the famous manuscripts and in whose memory Sir Walter Scott founded the 'Bannatyne Club'. Kelly Castle nestled into the cliff overlooking the burn above and just west of the now demolished 'Craigs' or 'Wishing' Bridge. It was not rebuilt after a serious fire in 1740 and the family moved to Blackhouse, which they already owned, although they retained Kelly until 1792. A harbour existed at the mouth of the burn and is marked on a map as recently as 1845 as Kellybridge Port.

Skelmorlie Castle from the North East, as it was until the fire KNOCK is described as, "A prettey dwelling seatted one the mane oceane and viell planted". In 1380 the heiress, believed to be Isobel, daughter of Sir David Weemes of Weemes in Fife, married John Frazer, the third son of Hew Frazer of Lovat, who got a grant of the lands from Robert III in 1402. The Frazers (sometimes Fraser, Frissel or Freasale) held the Estate until 1647. Their downfall came with the Covenanters, and Alexander Frazer was summoned before the Irvine Presbytery for the grave offence of 'having taken protection from the Duke of Montrose'. So far as is known the extent of his activities was merely to attend a reception in Glasgow for the Duke after his victory at Kilsyth, but whether it was the defeat at Philiphaugh in 1645 or simple economic reasons, the Frazers were forced to sell Knock. It was bought by Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie but was sold to the Boyles of Ke1burn in 1696. It was later given in exchange for other lands to the Lairds of Brisbane who held it until the 19th century. Apart from this incident, it is SKELMORLIE ESTATE which produced the headlines of the period. From about 1400 it was owned by Sir William Cuninghame of Kilmaurs, and extended south to Knock including the Barony of St. Fillans. In 1450 it was divided, the north going to the Montgomeries and known as Skelmorlie-Montgomerie, and the south retained by the Cuninghames and known as SkelmorlieCuninghame. Sometimes they are referred to as North Skelmoirluy and South Skelmoirluy.


By Charter of 25th March 1453 North Skelmoirluy was acquired by Sir Alexander de Montgomerie of Ardrossan, the first Lord Montgomerie, who already held considerable estates in Renfrew and Bute. Possibly he acquired it because his sister Anne had married Sir Robert Cuninghame of Kilmaurs, but this division of the estate is particularly interesting as the dominant feature of the period is the long and fierce vendetta between the Cuninghames and the Montgomeries. Although, surprisingly, there is no record of serious violence in the immediate neighbourhood it would be as well to sketch the background of the two families and their trouble. As already mentioned the Cuninghames received the thanedom from Malcolm III and later became vassals of de Morville. Alexander Cuninghame of Kilmaurs married the heiress of the Dennistouns of Newark and Finlayston, and thus acquired much valuable land in Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire and Dumfries. He was created Earl of Glencairn in 1488. His successors became staunch Protestants, the 5th Earl in particular, who actively supported John Knox and the Reformation. The 14th Earl was a close friend of Robert Burns, but the title became extinct on the death of his successor in 1796 although three baronetcies still survive. The Cuninghames of Corsehill are claimants to the Earldom (now MontgomerieCuninghames!) and the Fairlie-Cuninghames of Robertland are descended from the second son of the 1st Earl; a younger branch is Cunynghame of Milncraig. The Glencairn burial ground is in the aisle of the old church of Kilmacolm, although there are also memorials at Kilmaurs. The Montgomeries were Normans connected to Roger de Montgomerie, Earl of Shrewsbury, a descendant of the great grandmother of William the Conqueror (For further background see Memorials of the Montgomeries, Earls of Eglinton - Sir William Fraser, 1859). They came north from Shropshire with Walter Fitzalan who gave them a manor at Eaglesham. The first was Robert de Mundegumbri (1103-1178) who was the son of Arnulph, fourth son of the Earl. They extended their holdings and the main branch settled at Kilwinning, and it was to his castle there that Sir John returned from Otterburn in 1388 having participated in the capture of Harry Hotspur. His son Hugh was killed in the battle and his exploits are recorded in the ballad of 'Chevy Chase'. An English archer, seeing him drive his spear through Earl Percy drew 'an arrow of a cloth yard long' and - "Against Sir Hugh Montgomerie, So right the shaft he set, The grey goose wing that was there on, In his heart's blood was wet". Hugh, the 3rd Lord Montgomerie was created Earl of Eglinton in 1507 for services rendered at and after the battle of Sauchieburn, and Hugh the 3rd Earl was a staunch supporter of Mary Queen of Scots and the Roman Catholic Church, fighting for their cause at Langside. The 6th Earl of Eglinton fought at Marston Moor in 1644 on the Parliamentarian side under Fairfax, although he later supported Charles II. Opposing him, with Prince Rupert and the Royalists, was his son, who became the 7th Earl. Already there may appear to be sufficient cause for strife between the families, but the real trouble had started in 1448 when James II passed the office of Hereditary Bailif from the Cuninghames to the Master of Montgomerie. The main battleground was in the south in the valley of the Lugton water, affording easy access from Renfrewshire to Eglinton Castle and down which the Cuninghames marched, destroying everything and everyone with fire and sword, including the Castle itself. The Montgomeries, who appear to have started it by burning Kerelaw Castle, again replied, and so it went on. A typical example of the intensity of the feud occurred in April 1586 when, on the instigation of Glencairn, a party of Cuninghames led by Robertland waylaid and murdered Hugh, 4th Earl of Eglinton. The Master of Eglinton avenged the death and a party of Montgomeries killed every Cuninghame, man, woman and child they could lay hands on. Such stories became distorted on retelling, and another more common version is that the murderers were led by Glencairn's brother, Alexander of Montgreenan, who was Commendator of Kilwinning Abbey. To avenge the death, Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie


rode to Montgreenan and shot the Commendator at his own gate. There are even different opinions as to whether it was the first or second Robert, and one date mentioned, 1st August 1591, would make it the latter. Fraser, however, maintains that the first Robert shot the Commendator in March 1582, which was before the Earl was murdered. It would therefore be just another episode, no more closely related to the murder than the many other tales of treachery and violence of this period when the feud was at its height. THE MONTGOMERIES OF SKELMORLIE There were thirteen Montgomeries of Skelmorlie. George, second son of the first Lord Montgomerie founded the line in 1461, and was succeeded in 1505 by John, whose eldest son Cuthbert fell at Flodden. It is reported of his heir that in 1545 'The French King sends five thousand soldiers, under command of George Montgomery of Largges, to Scotland, which would be part at least of the French support against the 'intrusions of Henry VIII. The next in line, Thomas was incapable of managing his affairs and was ultimately succeeded by his' brother Robert Whether or not it was he who shot the Commendator, Robert was certainly very active in the feud. In January 1583 there was a fierce encounter with the Maxwells of Newark in which many on each side were slain including Patrick Maxwell of Stainlie. In revenge, in April of the same year Patrick Maxwell of Newark, whose mother was a Cuninghame, murdered Robert and his eldest son William. George Thomson, for ten years the Exhorter at the Auld Kirk at Inverkip was accused of being 'airt and pairt in the cruel murder'. In 1588 he was justly sanctioned for his lapse and reduced to the rank of Reader, but he shortly regained his old status. All the incidents of murder in the feud were brought to Court but there is no record of any trial resulting. In spite of assurances of safe conduct the offenders did not bother to turn up and nobody came to fetch them. The surviving son Robert, who may also claim to have shot a Commendator, was renowned as a 'cruel and bloodthirsty character who indulged his wrath with such eagerness as to occasion much bloodshed to his enemies'. On one occasion, it is told, he entered Newark Castle and was forced to hide in a closet in a turret where he was discovered by Patrick Maxwell himself. Instead of resenting the intrusion Patrick called out. “Robin, come down to me who has done you so good a turn as to make you young Laird and old Laird of Skelmorly in one day". The invitation was accepted and the two became reconciled although the family feud continued. On becoming patron of the Old Parish Church of Largs Sir Robert showed taste equal to his courage when he built the beautiful Skelmorlie Aisle, which still stands. It must have been at least as big as the Church itself and became the family mausoleum containing, reputedly, Hugh of Otterburn fame, although it seems unlikely that the Skelmorlie branch would have such a claim unless the body was removed to safety from the ruins of Eglinton Castle. However, the vault does contain the remains of Sir Robert and of Lady Margaret, his wife. This equally spirited lady was thrown from her horse in the public eye during the Colm Fair, and in an attempt to get even with the animal received a kick which proved fatal. The daughter of Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, she was renowned for her beauty which was the subject of several well known ballads by Alexander Montgomerie. After her death Robert became deeply religious and performed many acts of charity. He is supposed to have spent whole nights in the Aisle in prayer and meditation until his death in 1651, and even this he anticipated, according to the inscription on his coffin, by attending his own funeral service and weeping with the mourners. A contemporary describes him in his later years as 'a man mighty in prayer, and much at it, but very short at a time'. Having been knighted by James VI, he was created a Baronet in 1628 and in 1636 enlarged the Castle which was described by Pont as - "North Skelmorly a fair weill bult housse and pleafantly featted decorred with orchards and roodes, the inheritance of Robert Montgomerie Laird thereof quho holds it of ye Earls of Glencairn".


Although recent renovations suggest an earlier building on the site, Skelmorlie Castle dates from 1502 and has been classed as a simple Keep similar in size and style to Law, Fairlie and Little Cumbrae. Its kitchens, however, were held to show 'an advance in refinement of manner and domestic comfort on what is found in other small castles of the period' (Macgibbon & Ross, Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 1889). Doubtless the violent Sir Robert also enjoyed gracious living. The old Keep was the North East corner of the building, being enlarged to form the 'North Wing which has recently been rebuilt. The turret at the extreme South West corner is original, having been built into a wall surrounding the courtyard. The central portion was added after 1860 when other extensions were made. Five baronets succeeded Sir Robert whose holding now consisted of Knock, which he had bought from the Frazers in their troubles. The second Sir Robert, who died in 1684, was succeeded by another Robert and then Sir James who sold Knock in 1696 to Kelburne. He was an active politician and became deeply involved in the 1688 revolution. Although a staunch Protestant, he disliked the new regime and entered into a treaty with the exiled King for his restoration. This, however, included an article ensuring the maintenance of Presbyteries in Scotland and he got a cool reception at St. Germain. His activities appealed to neither side and he fled the country. The next was Sir Robert, Governor of the Garrison in Northern Ireland, who was succeeded by his uncle Sir Hugh, the 6th and last Baronet of Skelmorlie. He was active in the life of Glasgow being both Provost and Member of Parliament for the City, and was also a Commissioner of the Treaty of Union. Lilias, the elder daughter of his nephew Robert, succeeded and through her marriage the estate became united to the senior branch of the family, the Eglintons. South Skelmorlie was further divided into two estates, the North, consisting of Thirdpart, Barr, Moat and Auchengarth and the South of Blackhouse. The Cuninghames may have retained the North for a period, but it eventually, like the South, went to a branch of the Montgomeries. John Montgomerie of Thirdpart is mentioned in 1701, and his successor James was a Commissioner of Supply for Ayrshire in 1703, but acquired lands elsewhere. After his death in 1734, the estate finally passed to the Crawfords, who were certainly there between 1705 and 1803, after which the Earl of Glasgow had an interest in it for some years. The Scott family of Barr and Thirdpart have connections dating from this period, first in Auchengarth and later in their present holdings. John, the first of the Montgomeries of Blackhouse, a cadet branch of the Skelmorlie family, married a Frazer of Knock. He took possession in 1602, and his son Patrick acquired the land from the Cuninghames which was the end of their interests in Skelmorlie. An old Deed dated 1615 relates to the ten pund land of Skelmorlie Conynghame, parochin of Largis, baillirie of Conynghame and Schirrefdome of Air. It can be seen at Manor Park Hotel and is most unusual for the period in that it is written in Scots and not in Latin. It is a feu charter in favour of 'Patrick Montgomerie of Blackhous' from the 'Erle of Glencairn and his sone Lord Kilmairis'. Mentioned in it are Robert and William Small of Dykis; Mathow Small of Mitchelson; Robert Russell of Mylnrig; and William Holme, Thomas Brown and John Kelso all of Sanctfllianswell. Also mentioned is Janet Scott, occupier of Blackhouse which was probably on or near the site of the present building. Patrick Montgomerie of Blackhouse, with John Shaw of Greenock, who was later to be connected with the Stewarts of Ardgowan, are listed among the gentlemen accompanying Sir Hugh Montgomerie of Beith to Ireland during the Plantation Ulster. Sir Hugh had, by devious means, acquired in 1605 the lands of O'Neil whom he had also helped to escape. Patrick was succeeded by Hugh and then by John, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Covenanters who was killed fighting Cromwell at Dunbar. His heir Patrick sold the estate to the Bannatynes of Kelly in 1633 and was the last of the Montgomeries of Blackhouse. The estate remained part of Kelly until the 19th Century.


ST. FILLAN'S CHAPEL Ecclesiastical history is more often than not the history of a community, and Skelmorlie is no exception, particularly from 1850. However, the existence of St. Fillan's Chapel and St. Fillan's Well by Blackhouse (Manor Park Hotel) opens up a new and interesting source for the earlier period. The site of the Chapel appears to have been between the road and the burn just east of the entrance to the driveway; the well was situated somewhere near the walled garden behind the hotel. Chapelyard Farm and the now ruined St. Phillanswell Farm only perpetuate the name and not the position, and that is really all that is known. There were in fact two St. Fillans, and both were closely connected with Perthshire. The older was a leper who worked by Loch Earn; the other, and better known one was the son of St. Kentigern and Feredach of Munster. He became an abbot near St. Andrews, but retired and founded a Church at Glendochart. He died in 777 at Strathfillan and is the more likely of the two to have had connections with Skelmorlie. Several churches in Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Galloway were dedicated to him, notably at Kilallan or Kilillan near Houston, which claims evidence of his presence there. Whether St. Fillan was here at all, or whether a monk founded a chapel in his honour may never be known. Boyd states that like so many other Scottish Churches it was sacked during the Reformation, but in the record of Paisley Abbey's possessions at the take-over in 1561 there is no mention of St. Fillan's Chapel at Skelmorlie. Whether it was sacked, or had already fallen into disuse is mere guesswork. There is no doubt that it existed, and it may well have been of considerable importance in the district sometime between, say 750 and 1500 A.D., probably before churches were established in Largs and Inverkip. Snoddy suggests that the common local name of 'Annet' is derived from the old Celtic word for 'Mother Church', implying a connection with the chapel. If so it would put it in the earlier period and indicate a significant population in the 9th to 11th century period. The evidence seems to support the theory that it was an early Celtic Church existing before the arrival of the Cluniac Monks, and the foundation of the Roman Church. In 1910 J. M. MacKinlay produced a work entitled Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. He has much to say about St. Fillan but merely mentions a chapel dedicated to him, 'and near it a spring bearing his name' at Blackhouse. This brief statement, with the length of his bibliography, has resigned me to finding out little else about St. Fillan's Chapel. It is known, however, that St. Ninian, himself a Briton, visited the Roman provence of Valentia in 387 after studying in Rome and was in Ayrshire, certainly as near as Prestwick. He was also on Bute which he might well have reached from this area. Certainly the Britons who formed the Kingdom of Strathclyde after the Romans left were already Christians. Later, in 910, the Cluniac Monks, a branch of the Benedictines, came from Shropshire and eventually founded Paisley Abbey in 1163. The actual founder of the Abbey was Walter Fitzalan, also from Shropshire, who became the first High Steward of Scotland. His descendant and successor in office, Alexander, commanded the forces of King Alexander at the Battle of Largs, so more than likely other Renfrewshire men were fighting with him. A nearby parallel is Kilwinning. St. Winnan, a monk in the 8th century, had a cell or retreat (Kil) which flourished into a chapel. There was also St. Winnan's Well, the waters of which were supposed to be health giving. In 1140, Hugh de Morville erected Kilwinning Abbey in memory of St. Winnan, and it became an important religious centre, the monks later acquiring the church at Irvine.


The Abbeys acquired Churches for their wealth, and whatever other circumstances might prevail, one that did not produce revenue was unwelcome. It would be with this in mind that Walter gave the lands of Inverkip to the monks of Paisley in 1170 (G. M. Crawford in his Inverkip makes it 1164). The late Rev. Crawford of Inverkip agrees 1170, but says that the gift was made by Baldwin of Bigres, Sheriff of Lanark) and there is evidence that the church was completed eighteen years later. It stood until 1801 but regrettably its early records were destroyed by fire in 1850. Largs Church is first mentioned in 1272 when it was confirmed by Alexander III and later when it was acquired by Paisley Abbey from the 'Lordship of Largs' in 1318. It was a gift from Walter, the sixth High Steward and son-in-law of Bruce 'for the safety of his own soul and that of his deceased wife, Marjorie Bruce'. At this time Paisley would be rebuilding having been sacked by Pembroke in 1307. It was not completed until the end of the century, but a hundred and fifty years later it was again to fare badly during the Reformation, as did many others. The establishment of Presbyterianism was a rough and bloody period in our history and, as already mentioned, involved in one way or another most of the local families. John Knox, who retired to Kyle for a spell after the murder of Rizzio, later held Communion services in Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. Although the first General Assembly was held in 1560 it was a century later before the dust settled. The Abbeys themselves were prized for their wealth as much as their influence and were often run by lay noblemen. Lord Claud Hamilton found himself Abbot of Paisley at the age of 10, and it was his grandson the Earl of Abercorn, on inheriting, who restored its Churches to local lairds. In 1636 Largs went to Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, who built the famous Aisle, and Inverkip to Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackhall and Ardgowan. Until the 19th century local inhabitants would worship at Largs or Inverkip, and the only other record of a church is Sir Robert Montgomerie's private chapel in the Castle. The Bannatynes of Kelly had a loft in the Auld Kirk at Inverkip, which for a time also served Greenock. St. Lawrence's Chapel had been sacked at the Reformation and for years many undertook the long walk of a Sunday, the nearest alternative being Kilmacolm. In 1589 the fishers of Greenock, growing tired of the journey, complained that they had not enough time for rest on the Sabbath 'according to Goddis institution' , and applied for a church of their own. The West Kirk was opened two years later. However, as late as 1811 when the new Parish Church was built in Largs, it provided separate lofts for members from Skelmorlie and Fairlie. Kilwinning also suffered at the Reformation, although part of the Abbey was used as a Church until a new one was built in 1775; but the new authority was the Presbytery at Irvine. By 1699 it consisted of seventeen parishes, sixteen in Cuninghame, which included Largs, and one on Cumbrae. In the late sixteenth century it is reported that there was a serious shortage of ministers The County of Ayr had no more than sixteen ministers, and these must needs have had many a trying experience. Stipends were considerably increased, and the Reverend Alexander Callen dare, who was responsible for Largs, Kilbride and Ardrossan now received one hundred and thirty-three Scots pounds (one twelfth of money sterling) and the Kirk lands. The Kilbride and Largs parishes were vacant, and readers conducted services receiving £20 and £16 plus the Kirk lands respectively. The readers at Ardrossan received 'the whole vicarage'. Apart from having responsibilities over vast areas, ministers had other hazards to contend with. In 1647 (Rev. Boyd dates the plague at 1644, but it is unlikely that it would have lasted so long), a Plague visited Largs, killing many people and causing serious harm to the community. Although considerable relief was organised by the Irvine Presbytery, with support from the Laird of Bishopton, many families fled from the town some of whom formed a small community in huts near Outerwards Farm. The Rev. Smith, who had shown


great diligence in visiting and comforting his stricken parishioners, eventually succumbed himself, and died in September 1647 at the early age of 28. His grave is near the site of Brisbane House, and is known as the 'Prophets Grave', because of his prediction that if the Holly Trees, which he requested to be planted at either end, ever met over his grave the pestilence would return. It is hoped that the Parks Department are aware"of this. A SCATTERED COMMUNITY Having reviewed the Estates and the growth of the early church, it would be relevant to consider what sort of place this was in the 17th century, and what sort of men lived here. They would certainly be tied to the Estates as servant, retainer or tenant. Basically they were of the land, tilling or tending cattle and sheep; some would be fishermen. They would know how to use arms and would not be squeamish at the sight of blood, but unless they followed their masters abroad they probably had as peaceful an existence as any; but that is about all that can be said for it. Their scattered dwellings of dry stone or turf would be cold and damp, and probably shared with their cattle. They lived mainly on oats, with barley for scones and ale, and possibly garden produce of kale, pease and beans. They may just have tasted whisky which was already coming out of the Highlands, but that would be the only relief to their rheumatism and squalor. Remote from politics, they were deeply religious and the Kirk and its Courts provided the order in their lives. Dressed in blue bonnet, coarse grey breeks and probably barefooted, they strictly observed the Sabbath, the sermon at Largs or Inverkip providing their main recreation. Distance of that kind did not seem to worry them; they had to be fit to survive at all and few would see old age. There are several maps of the period in existence but most are sparse in detail and tend to conflict. One of the earliest and most famous of these is Blaeu's Atlas published in Amsterdam in 1654 with maps and a description by Timothy Pont. In 1601, while Minister at Dunnet, Pont conceived the idea of mapping Scotland, but after his death his surveys were revised and completed by Sir John Scott of Scotstarvit for inclusion in the Atlas. The principal places, appearing on most maps, are Lairgs or Largis, Knock, North Skelmoirluy, Fosterland and Auchendarroch; north of the Kelly burn are Kelly, Rogertoun, Dunrod, Innerkyp and Grinock. The river is variously known as the Furth of Klyd or the Dunbarton Frith, while the Cumbrae started life as the Rumbra Isles. The quantity of heath, even on the highest hills, is comparatively small; and, from indisputable marks it appears that some of them have once been cultivated. This quotation refers to a much earlier period, but it seems certain that along the hillside from Inverkip to Knock there were a large number of small holdings or shepherd's cottages, some quite far inland. The main areas were north of the Kellyburn to Inverkip, the present village area south of the burn to Annetyard and the Castle, and along the hillside from Barr to Knock. Most have disappeared over the years, merging or yielding land for building; others survive only as ruins or the barest outline of a former dwelling. Another early account describes the district as having 'few trees in the area of Skelmorlie Castle and no foliage nearer than Knock on the one side and Kelly on the other'. Possibly the best impression one can get to-day is to stand on the hill between the Golf Course and Fardens looking inland and along the strip to Knock. Pont refers to 'Achin-Darroch Over and Nether which are parts of the ten pound land of old extent of North Skelmoirluy or Skelmorlie Montgomerie in the Parish of Largs'. It was a major holding, ranking with Fosterland, and lay between Kellyburn and Skelmorlie Castle Road, including part of the Shore. At this time it was in fact the name of the present village area, while the name Skelmorlie related only to lands around the Castle. This persisted until the second half of the 19th century, although towards the end of the 18th century the shore part became known as Kellybridge.


The following sketch map and notes try to relate the inaccuracies of earlier cartographers to the ground as we know it, and is the simplest way of getting a picture of the middle 1600's. It is interesting in that it records the old names, many of which are still familiar either in their original form - such as Bridgend, Barr, Millburn, Auchengarth, Thirdpart and Fardens - or perpetuated in other ways such as Annetyard and Auchendarroch. It is also interesting that certain places of considerable importance at the time, and indeed a hundred years later, have left no trace - Rogertoun and Fosterland in particular. Judging by its position on later maps, it is just possible that Rogertoun became 'Aboon the Hill', latterly known as Binney Hill. Most of the place names are of Celtic origin and are often misspelt; for example, Annetydras should be Annat-Zairds, from the old Scots for the plant anise, and yard, a measure of land, which varied between 15 and 40 acres throughout the country (Note earlier suggestion of 'Annet' meaning 'Mother Church'). On the subject of derivations, 'Achin' is a field or fold of manured soil, and appears in several local names Achindarroch, Achindarold, Achindart - a field among oak trees. Achin Rinoch, Acharinoch - a field of bracken. Achin Gairth, Achingarth - a rough field or enclosure. Kelly and Kelburn come from 'Coil'; a wood, Knock is a hill; Largs a plain or green slope and Clyde is from 'Clutha', meaning warm and sheltered. It was 'Clotta' to the Romans and it is significant that none of their names have survived in Scotland. Later Anglo-Saxon influence is shown in names like Dykes, Mains, Barr and Thirdpart. Routenburn is said, as you might expect, to be 'Rout Dane Burn', even if they were Norwegians. Rottenburn is a common name in other places, but during the 18th century it was in fact known as Routland burn. Wemyss, Weyms or Weemes could come from 'Uamh', meaning a cave, and as the name origimilly referred only to the Point it may be so. More popular has been the suggestion that it took its name from Bob Wemyss, an old fisherman who lived there when it first started to attract attention. Watt's survey marks Weems Point in 1734 and a 'Fishers House' is shown near it on a plan of 1740, but it was at least fifty years later that the inner part of the Bay was first called 'Weyms'. Nothing so clear cut is offered for Skelmorlie, for which no one seems to have suggested a derivation. 'Skel' is a more common prefix in the northern counties of England, such as Skelmersdale in Lancashire, but could be from the same root as the gaelic 'Skeir' a common name for rocky inlets e.g. Skerries. 'Mor' is the gaelic for 'great' while the suffix could mean a 'meadow' or more likely 'lee' or 'in the shade of. 'Sceiligmor' is used in Gaelic and Irish for 'a great rock', and there is a 15th century reference to 'Morley' meaning 'Shelter' or 'the lee side of the great rock'. This would seem to be the likely meaning, and having regard to the position of the original Skelmorlie, the 'great rock' is probably Knock. BLAEU'S ATLAS The maps of Renfrew and Cuninghame is by Timothy Pont, later published in Blaeu's Atlas in 1654. They lose much of their charm without the colours, but they are the oldest detailed maps of the district, and were accompanied by a description of the places mentioned. The map of Cuninghame gives most detail of local interest, and the reproduction is considerably enlarged to make it clearer. The two rivers immediately south of Kelly burn I assume to be Ravens Burn and Halket Burn. The others are easily definable with the possible exception of Meigle Burn which now enters the sea in common with Skelmorlie Water, "Skelmorly Burney, a litell rill. It rises in a loch in Skelmorly Moor, murmurs through the grounds of Skelmorly and falls into the sea immediately south of the Castle". As local names presented difficulties to the Dutch compositors there are some discrepancies. Honing should be Haining, Bax Barr, Milendar Millrig and Mole Moat. Otherwise most places are easily identified. Over Achindarroch is divided into Achntdart and Acharinoch, while Martinglen and Michaelston survive only as the names of glens; Beydies would appear to be Mains Farm.


The Early 17th Century

PERIOD II : 1700 - 1800
A PERIOD OF TRANSITION The 18th century saw the growth of industry and the end of feudal society. The gradual change in the way of life reduced the influence of the Estates and prepared the way for the holiday resort, the escape from the towns and the cities. Communications were improving, and by the end of the period this district had definitely been discovered. Many small crofts were swallowed up in larger units, and there was a drift from the land to the growing towns.


Small communities were emerging at Finnock, Kellybridge and Skelmorlie (Meigle), but the population figures were falling generally, although the town of Largs was increasing at the expense of the landward areas Parish of Inverkip Parish of Largs 1755 1590 1164 1790-5 1280 1025

The figures of 1025 for Largs can be broken down to 502 in the town, 132 in Fairly and 391 in the country parts. There were 77 more females than males. These figures relate to 'Examinables' (over 8 years old) and not to 'Souls', who were presumably Church members. Their figures were 830 in 1755 and 805 in 1790. For these figures we are indebted to what was in effect the first Statistical Account of Scotland. 'The late ingenious and learned' Dr. Webster had established connections with the clergy and laity for this purpose in 1743, and had compiled a report by 1755 which was never published. His work was carried on by Sir John Sinclair, Bart., who published the first of several volumes in 1791. A Report of the Parish of Largs by the Reverend Gilbert Lang appears in Volume II, published in 1791, and a further report appears in Volume XVII of 1796 because The Statistical Account of Largs, printed in Vol. II, being rather short and defective, the valuable addition to it, herewith printed, was sent by an intelligent and respectable friend to this great undertaking. A little unfair to the Reverend Lang perhaps, but between the two an interesting picture of life in the Parish of Largs can be composed. Their reports are really complimentary. The Parish is described as, "A stripe of land between the mountains and the sea, and in ancient times, it is probable that the sea covered the lower parts. North of the Parish is a place called Kellybridge. To the East rises mountains separating it from neighbouring Parishes and giving rise to the common proverbial saying 'Out of Scotland, into Largs', another prefers 'Out of the World, into Largs'. The air is pure; the water is clear and bright; snows generally melt as they fall, seldom lying near the Shore. There are here scarce any fogs, while the rest of the country, forty miles around, is often buried in them; so that this Parish has been, by some, called the Montpelier of Scotland. The inhabitants in general are a quiet, sober, decent people. Living chiefly among themselves, they are strangers to the 'more free and licentious manners of the world around them. (And so they still are - in general). The main industry was weaving, particularly silk for the mills of and fishing had been 'much less attended to than it ought to be', although the salmon fishing was excellent. Manufactures were restricted, not so much by position as by the lack of coal and the 'absurd and oppressive tax on it'. Agriculture was still the chief means of livelihood and the farms, especially Kelburne, supplied Greenock and neighbouring towns with fatted cattle, milk, butter and cheese. However, 'the great obstacle to considerable improvements in agriculture is a species of traffic in horses peculiar to this Parish. Farmers, mechanics and even servants, who can afford to buy a horse are engaged in it'. Another deterrent was the import of cheap oats from Ireland which sustained the inhabitants, the balance feeding the horses, much as suggested in Dr. Johnson's dictionary.


The horse 'traffickers' owned up to a dozen each which they let out to farmers from February to April. In summer they were privately hired or set loose on the hills. In 1721 a Minister was deposed for 'worldly mindedness and for selling a horse on the Sabbath Day'. Apart from a greater than average number of horses, black cattle and sheep, mainly Galloway breed whose wool was sold in Kilmarnock, were the chief livestock. The principle event, apart from Market Days, was the special annual fair on St. Columba's Day, 'vulgarly called Comb's Day', and held on the second Tuesday in June. In fact it lasted from Monday to Thursday and was famous over the West of Scotland. People attended from miles around for business and pleasure and upwards of a hundred boats have been seen riding in the Bay. Originally it was a meeting place for Highlanders and Lowlanders to exchange surplus possessions. However, since pedlars travelled around and then shops opened, it steadily declined in importance, but only in the last year or so has it ceased to be a public holiday in Largs. The Highlanders found that the lack of beds in the town was unimportant. They spent their time in 'rustic sports, carousing and dancing on the green to the sound of the bagpipes'. Anyone could join the dance and applicants were so numerous that it kept going night and day throughout the fair. Whether or not local folk participated in this frolicking the pattern of the place was beginning to form, and by 1790 'a small school existed in Skelmorly', which was on the hill at Meigle. Also at this time, "The great road from Glasgow to Port Patrick runs through the whole extent of the parish. Formerly it went over some high roads towards the north end of it, but some five years ago, a new road was made from Skelmorly to Largs along the shore. The expense of this is defrayed by a toll at Kellybridge rented at £721. 15s. The road is kept in good repair there are bridges upon it, three of which are lately built. The original Largs road went up Station Hill, along Skelmorlie Castle Road and down past the Castle itself, and it was on this high ground that all the habitation existed. It probably went close to Millburn and Brigend and thence up the hill at Meigle and on behind Blackhouse and Knock. The new road followed the coast to Meigle and then, until about 1820, continued on the line of the existing road over the hill to the bridge by Netherhall which was first built in 1824. This part was known as 'The Red Road' because of the red soil on which it was built, and some of the original milestones are still in evidence. One example, almost built into the dyke, is at Meigle just south of the road to Barr Farm, but you have to look for it. Maps and plans illustrate the change since Pont's day and give a good idea of what the place looked like. A plan of Ardgowan of 1740 shows that there was no habitation in Low Finnock which was grass land abounding in springs, referred to as 'spouty ground'. It rose 'by grassy braes to Moor and Craig', but astride the road, then a track, three areas are designated Northtoune, Nethertoune and Southtoune. These may well have been farm land with buildings, and Finnock could' have arisen on the latter site. Rogertoun and Kelliback existed, and there was a 'Fisher's House' near the shore at North Bay, later one or two small dwellings appear near the line of the road. South of Kellyburn, two houses appear on Station Hill called the Braes, with another, Kathill, at the top. Bigby, possibly the former Beydies, Auchendarroch, Mains and the Castle cover the village area with Congy and North and South Fardens further inland. Although Captain Armstrong does not mark Annetyard on his beautiful and detailed map of 1775 it would certainly be there as would neighbouring Paddockdyke. On Skelmorlie Water south east of the Castle and behind Millburn is Haining (later to become Lawhill), and further up the glen Fosterby possibly the last home of the remaining Foresters of Fosterland, which now gets no mention. To the south remain Barr, Millrig, Thirdpart, Moat, Dykes, Michaelston and Knock. Even in those days the area was becoming a place for 'health and amusement'. Crawfurd wrote, in his history of the Shire of Renfrew, "A number of people from many places come to


Innerkip, Gourock and along the shore betwixt the two places, in summer seasons, to drink and bathe in the salt water for different diseases". Tradition has it that Robert Burns escorted 'Highland Mary', Mary Campbell a servant to the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, on her way to Argyll, as far as Meigle Bridge, Haining Bridge End, in 1786. She was on her way home to Dunoon to prepare for their wedding and proposed emigration to Jamaica. Reputedly they held hands across an Ayrshire brook near the Castle of Montgomerie, and exchanging bibles pledged their troth (But alas it is only tradition. It was another 'Castle o' Montgomerie', and the brook was the Fail). Their Bibles somehow reached Montreal, where they were reclaimed and arrived in Greenock in December 1840 aboard the sailing ship Mohawk. One at least is now at Alloway. When Kelly Castle was burnt in 1740 the Bannatynes moved into Blackhouse, which they had owned for close on a hundred years. In 1780 they sold to a family King from Drums, but a William Bannatyne bought it back in 1795 by which time Kelly had been sold.

Principal Places in the period 1750 - 1800


Mr. John Wallace of Neilston and Cessnock, a descendant of Sir William Wallace, acquired Kelly in 1792 and in the following year built an impressive white mansion house on the high ground overlooking the road to the south of the present railway bridge. He was a West Indian merchant of considerable ability, and is reputed to have foiled a fraudulent employee by disguising himself and obtaining a job on one of his own plantations. George Saintsbury in his famous Notes on a Cellar Book refers to the most remarkable rum he ever possessed as having previously belonged to Wallace of Kelly, a somewhat 'legended laird of the early 19th Century'. Meanwhile North Skelmorlie had passed to Sir Hugh Montgomerie whose grand neice, Lilias, succeeded in 1735 and married her kinsman Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield. Their eldest son Hugh became the 12th Earl of Eglinton in 1796 thus connecting the estates of Eglinton, Annick, Coilsfield and Skelmorlie. He was a soldier, seeing service in America and the Seven Years War, and was Member of Parliament for Ayr before succeeding to the title. He built Ardrossan harbour with the intention of making it the main port on the Clyde connected to Glasgow by a canal. He was succeeded by his grandson, Archibald William, who was to become famous as the 'Tournament Earl'. Just over a hundred years after the murder of the 4th Earl a tragedy befell the 10th Earl. In October 1769 he encountered Mungo Campbell, an exciseman from Saltcoats, poaching on his lands near Ardrossan. Campbell, having already been admonished on a previous occasion, stood his ground and refused to hand over his gun. The ensuing confrontation, in which both displayed considerable nerve, resulted in the Earl being shot and he died shortly afterwards. Mungo Campbell was tried, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged in the Grass Market of Edinburgh, but saved the Public Executioner the trouble by taking his own life. Knock had been allowed to decline and the old red castle was virtually a ruin, and indeed is marked as such on both Armstrong's and Aitken's maps. The main proprietors in the 1780's were the Earl of Glasgow, Thomas Brisbane of Brisbane, Colonel Hugh Montgomerie of Skelmorly, William Blair of Blair, Thomas King of Blackhouse, William Wilson of Hailley, Daniel Fraser of Halgenheugh, and Bannatyne Of Kelly 'who had recently sold his holding' i.e. Blackhouse. Throughout the period Edinburgh was definitely the capital and all communications emanated from there. Mail from the south reached Glasgow from Edinburgh on horseback and it was 1749 before there was a regular coach service between the cities which took all of nine hours. Until the Turnpike Road was built there were no coach services in the west, with the exception of one from Glasgow to Greenock opened in 1763 and also taking nine hours. Apart from foot or horseback, the main communications were by small boats and ferries using quays such as the one at Kelly Port, but this was soon to change. The most significant event of the 18th century was the increase in trade and the rise in importance of the Clyde. As early as 1611 the Burgh Council of Glasgow is recorded as. showing concern for the river, and preparing plans for widening and dredging the ford at Dumbuck, but the real impetus came after Union with England. This opened up new avenues of trade, notably The West Indies and shifted the whole emphasis from the East Coast ports to those on the West. There was considerable rivalry between those on the Clyde and many schemes to serve Glasgow were put forward including Lord Eglinton's plan for Ardrossan. The Council established Port Glasgow but its main efforts were directed to improving the channel up river to the City itself. However, on 17th February 1743, they received a petition from the Masters of Ships using the Clyde, who had become highly sensible of the dangers at night this side of the Ilza Rock of entering into the narrow passage 'betwixt the little Island of Cumray and the Garrioch Head'. A Committee was formed and in 1755 resolved to ask Parliament for help in erecting a lighthouse on Little Cumbrae, siting beacons and other improvements to make navigation of the Firth 'more


safe and commodious'. In December 1757 a coal-fire lighthouse, which still stands, was in operation as was the first official body wholly concerned with navigation on the Clyde. But it did not prevent mishaps to ships and about the turn of the century there were two in this area. The first involved the sloop Star which was taking the Argyll Volunteers from Campbeltown to jGlasgow when she ran aground off the 'Cock of Arran'. Refloating at high tide she made for Skelmorlie to inspect the damage and there the Regiment was put ashore in a severe snow storm. It eventually reached Greenock exhausted through lack of food and sleep, having marched through knee-deep snowdrifts. On Christmas Day 1806 there was a fierce gale which caused havoc among shipping with many blown ashore, including the Elizabeth at Knock. The grain ship Juno met it off Arran, where a brig accompanying her sank and she herself was eventually blown into Wemyss Bay. Seeing her plight, Wallace of Kelly organised as many of his staff and villagers as he could find, and managed to pull her ashore with ropes. All the crew were rescued and spent a comfortable night at Kelly, but the Glasgow Herald records only briefly Juno, Agnew, from Stranraer with 340 quarters oats ashore at Weems Bay and unloading there. As might be expected, the increased traffic had other effects. With the threat of invasion by Napoleon every effort was being made to keep the Navy up to strength. Press Gangs were at work in all main ports, and there are records of men being impressed for service at both Greenock and Inverkip. Later there was trouble from another type of body snatcher at the time of Burke and Hare, and in 1828 a Burial Ground Watch had to be organised in Inverkip. However, at this time the local inhabitants were pre-occupied with other pursuits as the following account discloses, "The inhabitants along the shore at Gourock, Inverkip and down to Largs were notoriously addicted to smuggling. Whiskey from Arran, the Cowal shore and Bute was taken across the Firth, and carried into the interior, but a still larger and more profitable contraband traffic was carried on with outward bound ships, from which large quantities of rum, brandy, tobacco and other excise able goods were landed and carried on horse back to places of concealment. "There was a strong party of Revenue Officers stationed at Inverkip, and fights between them and the smugglers were frequent, and on some occasions the officers were severely handled, and on one at least, an officer was murdered". A small clachan existed north-west of Forbes Place called Finnock. In reply to the question of how many houses there were, the common saying was 'as many as would fill ten boats for the smuggling'. A report exists from one whose family rented apartments from a shoemaker living near the shore in Wemyss Bay about 1810. On one occasion he remembers being taken by the shoemaker to Roseneath in a small boat, ostensibly for fishing or amusement. After landing in the late afternoon, "I was left in charge of the boat until the shoemaker brought to the shore, and placed in the boat, a small cask of whiskey, which was taken to his house, having eluded Custom House Officers stationed at Gourock. It is needless to say that the whiskey was smuggled, or that this was neither the first nor the last venture of our landlord in the contraband traffic".


Valuation Roll as it was from 1700 – 1800 - Signed by John Boswell

PERIOD III : 1800 - 1860
THE ESTATES This section deals with the fundamental changes which took place between 1800 and 1860. They started in Wemyss Bay, were taken up in Skelmorlie toward the end of the period and were reflected on the old Estates themselves. Of these Kelly was the first to be affected, and in fact it could be said to have led the way. When John Wallace died in 1803 he was succeeded by his son Robert who enlarged both the house and the estate, and gave the real impetus to the development of the Bay. In 1814 he exchanged with Ardgowan the lands of Finnock for those of Wemyss Bay; and purchased Bridgend House from the Earl of Glasgow which he gave to the Earl of Eglinton in exchange for Auchendarroch. This area, which he renamed Oakfield, lay between the Kelly burn and the north boundary walls of the present houses on Skelmorlie Castle road, which accounts for their unusual shape in certain cases. It continued to Shore road, including the area of Beach House, but the Earl retained the main road to Kelly Quay and the path to it along the beach. Wallace then turned his energy to improving the game, plantations and agricultural parts of the estate. After the Reform Bill, he became the first MP for Greenock and was instrumental in achieving the Penny Postage. He had an ambitious scheme to develop Wemyss Bay as a


watering place and holiday resort and his first ideas were published in the Scots Times in May, 1834. Plans are in existence dated 1835 and 1845, showing the area laid out as a 'Marine Village', the later one being of much greater density. Nearly two hundred houses are marked, mainly self-contained villas in their own grounds, but with two rows of terraced houses and a hotel on the sea front, and cottages and shops along the main road. There would be an Academy, three churches, and a Post Office at the Lodge gates, opposite which the private hotel was being enlarged. The whole estate was to be laid out with ornamental gardens and terraced walks, with a fountain and grass promenade by Middle Lodge. On the front were a harbour, steamboat quay and secluded bathing places for both sexes. Other amenities were a bowling green, curling pond and quoiting ground, with hot baths, reading and billiard rooms for the less energetic. Certain features were actually started and are still discernible. Access to Wemyss Bay was by road or sea, and the plan claimed it to be only two hours from Glasgow, four from Edinburgh, and twenty four from London. It was anticipated that the railways, then building, would reduce the time from London to fifteen hours and from Liverpool and Manchester to seven or eight hours. The proposed Greenock to Largs railway, 'which would pass near to Wemyss Bay’, is mentioned. At that time London was reached from Glasgow on horse back, by post-chaise or stage coach, and the mail normally took forty-four hours with as many changes of horses. The Glasgow to Greenock stage coach had reduced the time to three and a half hours for a charge of 5/- inside and 3/- outside, and by 1836 the Greenock Carriers were operating-a coach service to Inverkip and Largs, but its chief cargo was mail. The Glasgow to London railway was not opened until 1848 taking nine and a half hours, and although the Greenock to Glasgow line opened in 1841 most of the transport, especially of heavy goods, was by sea. Piers or jetties, both private and communal were an essential, and the one by the Episcopal Church at Whiting Bay was built as part of the plan, but also to bring in materials for the development. It was advertised as connecting with the local steamboat services. There was another pier in Skelmorlie at Meadow Place but references to Kelly Port are not as a pier but rather a quay for fishing boats and other small craft. The stone formation still indicates its site although it was further disturbed recently to facilitate the landing of hovercraft. Not content with Wemyss Bay, Wallace appears to have had an interest in the proposed 'New Town of Brisbane'. A plan dated 1845 is among his papers and anticipated the development in Largs north of Barrfields to the Noddle burn. However, it was not until 1884 that it was revived, by which time he would not be interested. His plan to create the 'Cheltenham of the Clyde', perhaps better than 'New Glasgow', became too much for Mr. Wallace and he was obliged to sell Kelly. He had already built a property to move into at Forbes Place named after his father-in-law, Sir William Forbes, Bart., of Craigievar. However, he finally sold the whole estate leaving only Wallace Street and Kelly Street in Greenock to perpetuate his memory with, of course, Wallace Road in the Bay itself. The new owner, Mr. Alexander, an Australian, only lasted a few years, and his creditors divided the estate and sold Kelly to Mr. James Scott, and Wemyss Bay to Mr. Charles Wilsone Brown, who becomes an important figure in carrying on the development. Mr. Wilsone Brown, believed to have been pronounced 'Wilsone Broon', inherited Wallace's plans but departed from them by merely selling off ground for feuing. His name appears in the Title Deeds of most of the older houses, and he may justly be recorded as the real developer of the Bay, having also built Castle Wemyss for his own use. As with his predecessors, financial troubles forced him to sell, and the names of two builders are recorded before the Burns family acquired it.


An artist's impression of the proposed Marine Village

A later plan of 1845 While the new estate of Wemyss Bay was being created, the old estates were not inactive. The red Castle of Knock, a near ruin, was bought and renovated by John Wilson about 1840, when he is also commended for his work in improving the lands, doubling the value of the Estate. He sold in 1850 to Mr. Robert Steele, a Greenock Ship builder, who built the present castle. The old red building still stands to the north, and is visible from the shore road. Macdonald is sceptical about the 'bran' new castle' of Knock Why should our contemporaries not erect castles as well as our forefathers? We have quite as good taste in such matters as they had, and, thanks to greater industry, we have more means. Yet it does seem somewhat ridiculous to erect our edifices in our quiet times with all the pomp and circumstances of glorious War. What mean these battlements and turrets and embrassures? Those loopholes, and winding stairs, and narrow windows? All show and mockery. Let one Russian frigate come up the firth. . . and this castle of cards would very soon be numbered among the castles that were. In South Skelmorlie, Archibald Campbell, a descendant of the Bannatynes, was the owner in 1820 by which time it had been divided into three possessions; Dykes, Millrig and St. Phillans, which included Blackhouse. Christopher Scott of Greenock bought Blackhouse in 1827, selling in 1835 to William Stewart who built the present house and acquired some lands from Knock. Access to the house was from the road connecting the shore road to the old high road similar to the present entrance to Manor Park Hotel. Desiring a private avenue he built the present wad to replace the old one which he acquired for his exclusive use.


Only the lodge and gates now remain and form a private holding, thus depriving the hotel of the benefits of this expensive enterprise. At the beginning of the century North Skelmorlie was the home of James Montgomerie of Wrighthill, the Member of Parliament for Ayrshire and a direct descendant of George, the first laird of Skelmorlie. The owner was the 13th Earl of Eglinton, the 'Tournament Earl'. This famous tournament lasted over three days in August, 1839. The Glasgow-Ayr railway had been completed as far as Irvine and everyone thronged to Eglinton, the roads for 20 miles being packed with coaches and carriages. The brilliant spectacle was marred by rain, clearing only on the last day; it has been described as extravagant but romantic, and displaying immense organising skill. Prince Louis Napoleon took part and to commemorate the occasion the Earl was presented with a magnificent silver ornament some five feet in height which can be seen in the County Buildings at Ayr. Apart from more recent accounts, the Tournament is described by Disraeli in Endymion. He won the St. Leger in 1842 and in 1849 he won both The Derby and the St. Leger with 'Flying Dutchman'. He must have been quite a character, and this is confirmed by a report in the Glasgow Herald in August 1836, when the tenants hearing of his Lordship's intention to reside a few days in Skelmorlie Castle resolved to show their respect. They met him on the confines of the estate and, led by family banners and music, 'headed him to the Court of the Castle'. It was all followed by an enormous party. In 1859 Queen Victoria recognised his services as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by creating him Earl of Winton. Reputedly he hoped for higher rank, but selected this title which had lapsed on the death of the previous Earl, King George IV. The main proprietors of the period are recorded as: The Earl of Glasgow, Kelburn; The Earl of Eglinton and Winton, Skelmorlie; Charles C. Scott, Hawkhill; Sir Thomas Brisbane of Brisbane; John Wilson, Haylie; William Stewart, Blackhouse; John Lang, Routinburn; John Lane, Noddale; and Robert Wallace, MP, Auchendarroch. (Wallace of Kelly, by virtue of his lands in Ayrshire). The total value was £3,802, Kelburne and then Brisbane being by far the greatest. NEW GLASGOW Even before Wallace the main change in the first half of the 19th century took place in Wemyss Bay where the first steps in development were taken. It was still a heathery tract overgrown with trees and shrubs down to the waters edge, and famous for its salmon fishing which was let by Ardgowan to Mr. Main of Edinburgh. Apart from Kelly the only habitation was the fisherman's cottage near the point, Weyms Cottage at Middle Lodge, the hotel and opposite it two small buildings astride the entrance at South Lodge, one of which may well have belonged to the shoemaker in the smuggling story. There was also a small house or cottage on the cliff. Salmon nets protruded at North Bay, Whiting Bay and Weyms Bay, as the inner part was now called. It had a fine gravel beach which swept round to the mouth of the Fingal burn by the present railway bridge. The coast south to Kelly quay is now mostly a sea wall supporting the railway, but would then be one of the most attractive parts containing The Bathing Bay, approached from the road by a wooded path. In 1818 Robertson wrote, "Near Kelly House, in Weemes Bay, there are three commodious and elegant mansions let out from season to season for sea bathing, for which the situation is admirably adapted". These houses are marked on Thomson's map of 1824, and on Johnston's map of 1845 are designated 'New Glasgow', being let to wealthy Glasgow merchants. This was more than a nickname, and was used on Admiralty charts later in the century.


There were in fact four houses which had been built about the turn of the century for summer letting by Mr. Orkney whose descendant became Provost of Rothesay. Mansfield is the only one to survive with its original exterior; the others, which were of similar design with a central bow window, were on the site of Dunloe and two at Redholm, part of which retains the feature. They were approached from the shore by a single drive which branched out to each house, but this was later replaced by a long narrow strip of garden as still retained at Mansfield. Writing about 1820, John Galt described a trip from Largs up the coast past 'the ancient castle of Skelmorlie where the Montgomeries of other days held their gorgeous banquets'. He continues, "When we crossed the stream which divides the Counties of Ayr and Renfrew we beheld in all the apart and consequentiality of pride the house of Kelly overlooking the social villas of Wemyss Bay. My brother compared it to a sugar hogshead, and then to cotton bags; for the lofty thane of Kelly is but a West India planter and the inhabitants of the villas on the shore are Glasgow Manufacturers. So much for 'New Glasgow', but by the first Valuation Roll of 1855 it held some thirty-six dwellings of which over twenty were owned by Charles Wilsone Brown, James Scott of Kelly, James Harvey, a distiller, and James Wallace who mayor may not have been connected to Wallace of Kelly. A number of other names appear as owning three cottages probably those at the Parsonage and the houses at Forbes Place, including Thos. H. Slater who was to own Burlington Villa some twenty years later. David Cook, the Innkeeper rented a small house opposite the Inn, another being let to the widow McGlashan, Postmistress. The 'new castellated building' was being built by Mr. Brown who appeared meantime to be living in a house owned by Mr. Wallace. This was one of seven, which would include the four original houses. The three cottages at the Parsonage appear on an Admiralty Chart of 1846, but then so does Ivybank which was definitely much later. However they would be the next houses to be built and may well date from Wallace's time. Boyd wrote in 1875 that all the original 'New Glasgow' houses had, in spite of an initial agreement, been altered out of recognition, except that belonging to Mr. McKinnon. This was Mansfield, Dunloe having been rebuilt in 1855 and the other two fused into the present Redholm somewhat later. About this time two workmen's cottages appear between Mansfield and the south east house at Redholm but they could only have lasted a few years. The original Ardvar was built in 1853 and Wellesly House, later Wemyss House, would be about 1858. The Lodge, then Shaftesbury Lodge obtained its feu contract in 1850, but no building took place until it was purchased in January 1856 by Mr. Bruce Richardson. He also built, presumably about the same time, Ivybank, later Woodburn now Woodbourne, in which he lived. The charter gives authority to place a bathing machine on the beach for the exclusive use of the tenants, who can also provide the means of landing coal and manure for their own use, and anchor pleasure boats in the bay, which may also be drawn-up on the beach. There is no restriction on the use of the ground for the pleasure of the tenants, but there can be no interference with Mr. Wilsone Brown's rights to the Salmon Fishing. Although not perhaps as Wallace envisaged, the Bay was certainly growing, and this was to be accelerated greatly in the next few years.


The New Glasgow Houses as shown on a plan of proposed building in 1840


1812 Plan of Wemyss Bay's 'New Glasgow' and Kelly Estate KELLYBRIDGE


Development in Skelmorlie started much later than in Wemyss Bay. George Robertson's Cuninghame written in 1820 gives detailed statistics of population, tradesmen, land values and agriculture for every parish, but makes no mention of Skelmorlie, Auchindarroch or Kellybridge. He describes Kelly as the best example of natural woodlands in the area. Similarly in spite of the growth, it is categorically stated in the Second Statistical Account of 1845, that Fairlie is the only village in the Parish of Largs. Weaving was still an important industry and there were 246 weavers in Largs and Fairlie in 1841. The Reverend John Dow wrote the report and commented "From the keenness of the easterly winds in winter and spring, it may be doubted whether the climate of Largs is well adapted for Patients liable to spitting blood, or inflammatory infections of the lungs. In such cases, Rothesay is better". To-day, to say that Rothesay, or even the Costa Brava, is better than Largs would certainly get many people spitting blood. In 1895, the Reverend John Lamond of the South Church published a book on the growth of The Parish Church. In it he gives an interesting description of Skelmorlie in the 1830's obtained from-older members of his congregation, "The history of Skelmorlie Parish Church, like the history of Skelmorlie itself is modern. Several of our members can still recollect when the houses in the district were very few. Skelmorlie Castle is of ancient date. The farm houses belong to the past. There was the old Kelly mansion which has disappeared, and one or two villas that had been built in Wemyss Bay but the difference between the Skelmorlie of sixty years ago and the Skelmorlie of today may be judged from the fact that the only houses along the public road were a few thatched cottages used by the Kelly workmen, and the old Toll-bar that was built on the site where the present Post Office now stands". This confirms earlier statements; the old associations of the Castle and the major farms; the white house of Kelly; and the 'New Glasgow' development in Wemyss Bay. The Toll on the Turnpike road was originally by the bridge at Kelly Quay Cottage on the site of Beach House Cottage, but was later moved to that of the present Colinslea, which was both Post Office and the shop of Mr. Raphael the Grocer until the 1930's. The original smaller building also housed the Shoemaker's shop, and the next Toll was at Netherhall in Largs. Apart from Kelly Quay Cottage, Kellybridge Cottage was where the North Church now stands, and Ravensburn, Craigmore and Holm Cottages were on the sites of the present Inchgowar, Craigmore and Holmcraig respectively. There was another, probably at Craigdhu or Craigendarroch. Maps of the period omit many old names, but add new ones - Beithglass, Ashcraig, and Yardyead in Ayrshire; Bruacre and Bogston in Renfrewshire. Ashcraig would be a direct result of the Turnpike road, and about this time the shore road between Meigle and Largs would have been completed. A plan of Knock in 1829 marks it and refers to the high road as the 'old road'. Nevertheless, the main population was still on the hill and the only access was by the Short Hill from Kellybridge, which has altered little in shape. Possibly because this ground was being acquired by Kelly there was a plan in 1812 to build another road from about the South Church running southwards up the cliff diagonally across the line of the present Long Hill to about Old Manse, and thence due East to Skelmorlie Castle Road roughly on the line of Sandybrae Road. The Admiralty Chart of 1846 shows two cottages on the shore road south of Halket burn, which it calls Auchel burn. It confuses things a little by marking the Toll on the west of the road and the four cottages east of the road, but maybe it just looked like that from the sea. Certainly the first villa as such in Skelmorlie, Beach House, was built in 1844 by Mr. George C. Arbuthnot, father-in-law of John Burns, who later bought Castle Wemyss. He was the third son of Lord Provost William Arbuthnot of Edinburgh who was created a Baronet at a public banquet in the City by King George IV. The family held lands in Kincardineshire from 1160,


and his ancestor Thomas, deserting from the Navy to join Prince Charles, fought at Culloden in 1745. Quarrying was becoming an important industry and two in Kelly were already marked as 'old quarries' in 1860. The main one was at Beithglass, with two on the Shore Road near Heywood, one south of the burn in Kelly and two in the village area somewhere near the Cross and the Police Station. Others were in Wemyss Bay near Wellesly House and in Kelly on the railway cutting. The School was still on the hill at Meigle and the Schoolmaster at this time would be Quintin Wilson. Of good family, he ran away from home to join the Army in which he served for twenty years, and fought at Waterloo. His pupils got a holiday every three months while he journeyed to Greenock to collect his pension. Smuggling was still thriving and in the 1850's John McConnachie of Carradale used to sail over at night with supplies of whisky from a 'Sma' Still' in Arran. He supplied many in the district from a store at Skelmorlie Castle bothy where he was eventually caught by the exciseman. Harry Watson, one of three brothers who were local worthies in the 1920's told of staying at Halketburn with his grandfather, Henry Watson. He remembered Mr. McConnachie, who always came at night, and overhearing his grandfather bargaining with him for supplies. Henry Watson was a landscape gardener who came to Skelmorlie in 1820 to layout the grounds of Ashcraig for Mr. A. D. Campbell, a West Indian Sugar Planter. He remained at Ashcraig as gardener for forty years and built Halketburn. One of his sons, Richard, opened the Wine Merchants shop at Eglinton Place, while the other, William, was something of an adventurer. Although Mr. Campbell is shown at Ashcraig in the Electoral Register of 1864, he appears to have died some ten years earlier at which time his heirs owned Skelmorlie Bank. Ashcraig was occupied by Miss Isabella Stewart from 1855 until the eighties at least. William Watson was an engineer who had travelled widely and finally settled in Louisiana. After a few years there the Civil War broke out and he volunteered for the Confederate Army. Later he joined the schooner 'Rob Roy' and engaged in running the blockade, first in the smaller sailing craft and then on steamers. On returning home he started a business in Greenock and built three houses in Skelmorlie which he named after his battles, Oakhill, Pea Ridge and Beechgrove, the last two being now Craigallion and Beechwood. In Pea Ridge he wrote two books recording his adventures and giving his impressions of life in the southern states which are still sought by American historians. Life in The Confederate Army was published in 1887 and The Adventures of a Blockade Runner in 1892. The great change by 1860 was the shift of the population from the hill to the shore road. The Ordnance Survey shows only Beithglass and Annetyard in the upper village area, and even Auchendarroch has disappeared. Actually at this time such lands as did not go to Kelly but had been taken over by Annetyard Farm and possibly the buildings had been razed; certainly the villa bearing its name was built within the next ten years. Annetyard had become an important holding and owned much of the shore road, including the strip between the Ravens burn and Beach House which was originally Nether Auchendarroch. In 1865 David Dunn, Merchant of Glasgow, acquired land known as Annetyard Park on which he built Annet House, on which site Shuma Court now stands. Most of the ground on the hill was wood or scrub with some rough pasture, much of it rocky. 'Issues' or springs abounded, and the Ravens burn rose from a well east of the present South Manse and ran down the cliff behind and thence between two cottages at Inchgower. Until comparatively recently its course provided a rough footpath from the shore road to the Long Hill. The reservoir, which later became the Curling Pond, was by the road junction at the south east end of Annetyard Drive. To the south were Mains Farm and the Castle which was still composed of two separate buildings representing the north wing and the stable buildings. Although the main access remained up Station Hill a sort of middle road existed over a ford near the Castle entrance running between 'Stalker's' and Eglinton Terrace and coming out close to


Annetyard Farm. A small stretch of the south end of Eglinton Terrace seemed to have been started, and Strathclyde (originally Seabank, later Skelmorlie Bank and then Ballenoch) with its cottages existed before 1855, but apart from the quarries there would be nothing between it and Halketburn Cottage.

Colinslea - The Toll House The Toll House at Colinslea also housed the shop of Daniel Campbell, the Shoemaker, and opposite was Springbank where Alexander Bowers and James McKirdy were bakers. This was one of the first shops recorded and remained until Eglinton Place and then Meadow Place were built. The cottages at Craigendarroch, Craigmore, Craigdhu and Holmcraig remained with two astride the burn, Ravensburn Cottage and Rock Cottage. In one in 1855 was Mrs. Millar and in the other Mr. Andrew Bowman of Glasgow, who built Annet Lodge on the adjoining site three years later. He acquired and probably enlarged two of the others which he let during the season and his descendant, Miss Bowman, an artist, is still remembered in Craigendarroch. The decade to 1860, which saw the beginning and end of the Crimean War, also saw the Parish established. THE NEW PARISH By 1850 the development of the district had created the need for a chapel to ease the parishes of Largs and Inverkip, and a bitter struggle ensued. The Reverend Brown of Inverkip thought that the new chapel should be sited at Meigle, while the Reverend Kinross of Largs thought that it should be more convenient 'to the residenters of Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie'. In support, Mr. Brown gave the population as 304 souls, of whom 40 were summer visitors. Mr. Kinross made it 350, but Mr. Brown contended that he had included the crew of a yacht lying off Skelmorlie and some transient drainers and road builders. Mr. Brown swayed the Presbytery with a fine speech in 1853 and it was decided that a 'Chapel of Ease' at or near Skelmorlie would better suit the exigencies of the parish'. This, of course, meant at Meigle as the present village area was still known as Auchendarroch or Kellybridge. By 1855, however, the facts became too strong and a chapel was started on the site of the present South Church. In 1856 the Kellybridge Chapel of Ease was opened, and was basically the existing church hall. The first minister was the Reverend Walter L. G. Boyd who was elected on Thursday, August 21, 1856 and inducted on Thursday, September 25th of that year. In the interval, the pulpit was occupied by a Mr. Patullo 'but his efforts were necessarily tentative'. By 1858 it had been enlarged by two transepts to seat four hundred.


The 'Chapel of Ease' after the first 1858 enlargement Endowment of the Parish Church took place in 1860 and the "Quoad Sacra" Parish was established from Blackhouse Burn northwards to Millrig Bridge, thence by the boundaries of Barr and Thirdpart to include the estates of Kelly and Castle Wemyss.


The Disjunction and Erection of the Church and proposed New Parish quoad sacra of SKELMORLIE in the Parishes of LARGS, &C AND PRESBYTERY OF GREENOCK under the Act 7th and 8th Victoria, chap 44 JOHN MARSHALL, S.S.C., Agent. Teind-Clerk.

The Trustees who petitioned the Tiend Court in June 1860 were Rear Admiral Alexander Montgomerie R.N., Brigend; George Clerk Arbuthnot, Beach House; James Scott of Kelly; Charles Wilsone Brown, Wemyss Bay; William Stewart of St. Fillans; and John Graham residing at Skelmorlie Castle.
UNTO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORDS OF COUNCIL AND SESSION COMMISSIONERS FOR PLANTATION OF KIRKS AND VALUATION OF TEINDS THE PETITION OF Alexander Montgomerie, Rear-Admiral, Royal Navy, residing at Brigend, near Largs; George Clerk Arbuthnot Esquire, Beach House, in the Parish of Largs; James Scott Esquire of Kelly; Charles Wilsone Brown Esquire, residing at Wemyss Bay; William Stewart Esquire, residing at St. Fillans, near Largs; John Graham Esquire, residing at Skelmorlie Castle, near Largs; Trustees, along with Robert Bell and Alexander Shank Cook.

Copy of Title Page of Petition seeking Parish Status The Stipend of the Parish was guaranteed at 'one hundred pounds or seven chalendars of oatmeal, to be calculated at the highest friars' prices of the country, exclusive of the sum necessary for communion elements, with a suitable dwelling house or manse'. In addition to seat rents which amounted to £156 between 1856-60, this was provided for by ground annuals in the Hillhead and Bridgeton districts of Glasgow. Mr. Boyd installed an organ in the church which was authorised by the Presbytery on Wednesday, June 21, 1865. It is held that it was in use for some time before its official


authorisation which could make it the first used in public worship in Scotland, hitherto credited to Greyfriars in Edinburgh, where one was used on Saturday, April 22, 1865. The innovation was not received without resistance and the church was sometimes referred to as 'Boyd's Theatre'.

After Church The existence of several metal Communion Tokens inscribed 'SKELMORLIE PARISH CHURCH - 1854' have cast doubts on the date of the South Church, but this is indisputably confirmed as 1856. These tokens may possibly have been issued to residents using the Skelmorlie Loft at Largs, but no real explanation has been offered. In 1874 the United Presbyterian (North) Church was built, and there are ideas that a tin U.P. Church previously existed in the area of Pearson's Garage. The North Church was closed for extensive alterations and the installation of an organ, re-opening in June 1878. In the same year George Burns of Wemyss House, built the Episcopal Church in the Bay in memory of his wife who died the previous year. Although the son of a famous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Burns joined the Church of England, and the church which he built was distinctive in that it was an Episcopal Church of England, not of Scotland. It is described as having an attractive chime of eight bells in the key of 'G', one of the very few peels in the West of Scotland, and was open for public worship in the summer until 1956. To-day it survives as the burial ground of the Inverclyde family.


The Misses Stewart of Ashcraig built a chapel of concrete at Meigle in 1876, which is marked on a map of 1912 as the Mission Hall. It was known as the 'Concrete Chapel' because a visitor on asking a local what denomination it was received the reply 'Oh Sir, it is the concrete kirk'. The building exists to-day as a dwelling house, but close observation reveals traces of its intended use. By 1890 the need to enlarge the South Parish Church was pressing, and in the following year the plans of John Honeyman & Keppie of Glasgow were accepted for an estimated cost of £5,000. Great praise was given to the design, which was an advance in ecclesiastical architecture. The central tower united the old and the new, while the chancel arch and the arches of the side aisle were commended. The Reverend Lamond was instrumental in raising funds for this extension and wrote a book to publicise a bazaar. He believed that there must be a new ideal of giving set up throughout the whole Church of Scotland - 'It is in our judgment almost lamentable that for such objects we should have recourse to bazaars'. I wonder what he would think to-day - the age of Deeds of Covenant and Free Will Offering envelopes - and dependance on the Woman's Guild and the Sale of Work is greater than ever. The Roman Catholic Chapel of St. Joseph and St. Patrick was opened for Worship in 1901. There was, however, an earlier building, probably of wood and on the same site, which is recorded as seating one hundred and thirty people in 1887. However, other things were happening apart from the building of Churches. Footnote : It is worth recording that the new Parish was to provide the names of two Hymn tunes composed by the Rev. D. Bruce Nicol, minister of the South Church from 1911 - 20. These were Skelmorlie and Kelly composed for Hymns 19'and 285, respectively, of The Church of Scotland's first, 1902, Church Hymnary.

Wemyss Bay and Kelly - 1800


Skelmorlie - Principal Places - 1800 - 1830

Skelmorlie - Principal Places - 1860


Castle Wemyss

PERIOD IV : 1860 – 1900
THE GOLDEN GATES The period of intense development ran from 1860 to 1900 by which time the pattern as we know it was established. The transformation from a rural area to a holiday resort was complete and no existing part, estate or farm, escaped. Knock, Skelmorlie and Wemyss were partially rebuilt and enlarged. Kelly House was also enlarged and then finally tarn dawn to be replaced by a mare palatial establishment. But the real change came with the increase in building, first along the shore, then on the edge of the cliff and higher still. The new separate estate of Wemyss Bay was sold in 1860 to Mr. John Burns, who enlarged the Castle to the design of Billings, and laid out the grounds. There was also a considerable increase in the number of villas round the Bay. One of these, Cardell, also designed by Billings, was built in 1860 and in 1864 became the seat of Sir William Pearce Bart., of Cardell, who became M.P. for Govan in 1885. The house, together with Castle Wemyss, Wemyss House and Kelly, is illustrated in A. H. Miller's book Castles and Mansions of Renfrewshire, published in 1889. In the Ayrshire edition, Beach House, Skelmorlie Castle and Knock Castle are featured. Wemyss House already existed and had been built by George Burns, the father of John of Castle Wemyss. Now demolished to build flats, it had attractive terraced gardens cut out of the cliff. The Burns family held property in Stirlingshire as far back as 1538, but John sold up in 1767 and moved to Glasgow where he made his name writing educational works Born in 1795, George was the third son of the Reverend Dr. John Burns of The Barony Church, Glasgow. Robert Napier, the Govan Shipbuilder, brought him together with Samuel Cunard from Nova Scotia and they, joined later by Mr. McIver, founded the Cunard Steamship Line in 1839. Its first ship Britannia, crossed from the Mersey to Boston in the following year. George Burns was created a Baronet in 1889 in his 94th year, but he only survived a few more months. About 1860 the new castle at Knock was sold to Mr. George Elder, and in 1897 it became the home of Mr. F. G. MacAndrew, whose son, now Lord MacAndrew, represented this constituency in Parliament far over twenty years. From 1852 to 1890 Skelmorlie Castle was let to Mr. John Graham .of Glasgow, a great patron of the Arts. He rebuilt the castle in 1856 at his .own expense, adding the mansion house which joined the two old buildings, and made it famous for its fine collection .of paintings by Gainsborough, Turner and Landseer, and many others. This private collection was open to


view, and became as famous as many public collections. The next tenant was Mr. W. A. Coats of J. P. Coats of Paisley; but it was his butler, Mr. Stalker, whose name is remembered. He lived in a cottage near the present 'White Sails' and the track beside it joining Eglinton Terrace to Skelmorlie Castle road is still known as "Stalker's". In 1867 Mr. Scott sold the Kelly Estate to Dr. James Young, the Glasgow Scientist who discovered Paraffin. He was a lifelong friend and admirer of Dr. Livingston, and after his death in Africa his two servants, Susi and Chuma, spent some time at Kelly in 1875, building a replica of the hut they had made for their master. This was partially standing in the 1930s but is now lost in the undergrowth, as are many of the attractive gardens.

Livingston's Hut in Kelly Estate In the Gardeners' Chronicle of 1880, John Downie describes the Kelly gardens in detail, and is also impressed by those of the Misses Stewart of Ashcraig. Dr. Young had recently enlarged the White house of Kelly by adding a picture gallery, and had a large conservatory with hanging plants, miniature waterfalls and a fountain surrounded by mirrors reflecting the greater part of the house. The grounds of nearly 10 acres were 'tastefully laid out and remarkably well kept.' The walks through the Glen, open to Hydro visitors by card except on Sundays, were a mass of spring flowering bulbs. At the head of the Glen was a neat Summerhouse covered with moss, 'having shells wrought in, forming the rose and shamrock pattern.' Dr. Young died in 1883 and the estate was sold in 1889 to Alexander Stephen of linthouse who pulled down the house. The new house on a higher and better site was designed by William Leiper, and built in red sandstone to be more 'in keeping with the style of the district'. Skelmorlie has always been famed for its characteristic of red sandstone buildings which were particularly distinctive when seen against the green trees from the water. However, a century of service has shown the weakness of this local stone, 'and those who live with it cannot feel too badly about more recent developers preferring other materials, but from this time on it was used as quickly as it could be quarried. Nevertheless, possibly as late as 1900, the original houses in Wemyss Bay were painted white, whether for effect or for protection. Also, in a coloured postcard of the Hydro at this time, Halketburn is shown to be white. By 1865 there were a few more houses in Wemyss Bay as already mentioned, and in Skelmorlie five houses were built along the shore from Halketburn to Skelmorlie Bank and Annet House, one of which was the manse of the Rev. W.L.G. Boyd, Minister of the new Parish Church. The pier at Meadow Place would be in existence, and the buildings there, certainly at Eglinton Place, would at least have been started. The lane between them was known until recently as Quay Lane. Springbank still provided ten houses and shops including those of Alexander Towers, joiner, and Daniel Campbell, merchant, who occupied the Bake House. This eventually moved to Meadow Place and the present Post Office was a baker's shop until the 1930s. One of its early proprietors was a Mr. Peacock whose family went on to found the famous Glasgow firm which still bears the name. Whether Daniel Campbell was the same or a descendant of the shoemaker in the Toll House of ten years ago, he would be one of the family who were so closely connected with Meadow Place. One was piermaster and another became famous as captain of the Wemyss


Bay steamers. He lived in the flat above the Bank which remained in the family until the death of his daughter, Miss Mary Campbell, in 1936. Against the wall of Skelmorlie Aisle is a tombstone erected in 1860 by Daniel Campbell of Skelmorlie over the grave of four of his children who died in infancy. Whether or not it is the same man, it is worth recalling that these early residents knew nothing of a National Health Service. It was not much more than ten years earlier that anaesthetics were first used at the operating table, and it was seven years later that Professor Lister published his work on antiseptic surgery. The early 1860s also show the first signs of new building along the high or Skelmorlie Castle Road. James Hunter, joiner, owned two houses and a shop near the present library, the houses being Silverwood and Woodside. Their names tend to confirm that the south side of the road was a wooded area much as the strip still remaining at the top of Station Hill. James Storrie would be moving from one of the original cottages on the Shore Road to the new Auchendarroch House and Professor Thomson was in Muirsland House, now Moreland, which he built in 1862. If, as seems likely, Professor Thomson was the one who opened the new school in the following year he would be the famous Philosopher of Glasgow University who is better known as Lord Kelvin. Although he eventually made his home at Netherhall in Largs, it seems surprising that his stay in the village has not been more widely acclaimed. The major event of this period was the building of the railway, and although the GlasgowGreenock railway had been open since 1841 the main means of communication was still by the slow steamboat services operating from Meadow Place and Whiting Bay. The journey from Largs to Glasgow, via Wemyss Bay, and calling at Greenock, Dumbarton, Erskine Ferry, Cartsmouth and Renfrew took five hours with a cabin fare of 7s. 6d. The Wemyss Bay railway reduced the time to a little over an hour and a half for an all-in fare of 2s. 7d. and a third of the time was spent between Largs and Wemyss Bay. The Greenock and Wemyss Bay Railway Company built the ten mile stretch of line from Port Glasgow but from the beginning the service was operated by the Caledonian Railway Company, who finally took it over in 1893. The original plan had been to connect with the steamer services from Whiting Bay and approval was given for a station on the property of Captain T. O. Swinburne, R.N., which was the Villa Clutha. No doubt due to objections from within the 'Golden Gates' the plan was abandoned, and a station and pier were built on the present site. On 15th May 1865 the railway was opened thus making Wemyss Bay 'within and hour of Glasgow and seventeen minutes of Greenock'.

Pier House at Whiting Bay


The old Skelmorlie Pier at Meadow Place with top of new 'Measured Mile' Post new Hydro Hotel The Wemyss Bay Steamboat Company was formed to operate the services from the new pier, but it had a short life and they were offered in 1869 to private Captains. They proved uncooperative and the service erratic, but eventually Captain A. Campbell, who had still been operating from Meadow Place in the interval, joined with his father-in-law Captain J. Gillies of the Largs fleet and took over. The firm of Gillies and Campbell operated a fleet of paddle steamers from the pier until May 1890 when the Caledonian Steam Packet Company took over, and some can still remember the day the white funnels of the Wemyss Bay flee were replaced by the 'Caley' yellow funnels. The Marchioness of Breadalbane was on the Wemyss Bay-Largs-Millport run from that day until 1933.

Wemyss Bay's Original Station


Wemyss Bay Pier circa. 1875

Wemyss Bay from the new railway bridge While the pier was being rebuilt in 1890 it was extensively damaged by fire and some of the charred beams can still be seen. The pier at Whiting Bay was destroyed in a gale in the autumn of 1865 while the one at Meadow Place was dismantled in the 1870s. As it appears to have had a supply of water from the old reservoir at Annetyard, it has been suggested that for a period, after the steamers left, it supplied private yachts with fresh water.

View northwards from old Skelmorlie Pier The expression 'slow steamboats' is relative, because they were in fact very fast and manoeuverable. This with their shallow draught made them ideal for running the blockade during the American Civil War of 1861-3, and possibly were used by William Watson. Many were sold for the purpose at great profit; the faster the boat the better the price, and the Captains were more concerned with racing than with carrying passengers.


In the early sixties the paddle steamers, Ruby, Rothesay Castle and Neptune used to race each other flat out from the Broomielaw to Gourock and onwards. The race was the thing, and when Captain Price, feeling that he was losing ground', left Dunoon with passengers actually suspended on the gangway he excused his recklessness by saying 'What are 10/worth of passengers compared to spoiling a good race?' The increase in speed is illustrated by the journey from Rothesay to Glasgow. In June 1817, Captain Johnson on the Rothesay Castle created a record for the journey of four hours, which was a speed of eleven miles per hour. Captain Simon, on a later Rothesay Castle, reduced it in 1861 to two hours twenty-eight minutes. As ships were sold for American service they were not replaced and gradually a pattern evolved which considered the convenience of the public. But it was not the end of racing, if for a different motive. Passengers leaving Glasgow on the 4.50 p.m. from St. Enoch station boarded Captain Williamson's steamer the Sultana at Princes Pier Greenock, and were in Rothesay as soon as those who left Bridge Street Station at 4.10 using the shorter sail from Wemyss Bay. The Wemyss Bay Company replied by building the Sheila in 1877, and putting on a fast train at 4.35 p.m. It carried no baggage and stopped only at Port Glasgow to collect the tickets. If not actually running, there was certainly no loitering between train and steamer at Wemyss Bay. The two paddlers at full speed converged on Craigmore Pier, and the stern of the winner was barely clear before the other's bow was nosing alongside. Even at this stage a minute's delay in berthing at Rothesay could have the rival landing her passengers ahead, and always both vessels were ready to leave simultaneously on the return journey. In the two years 1877-8 the competition flourished, ending in the newer and larger Sheila losing sufficient speed to capitulate to her older and smaller rival; but it was still not the end of competition, and as recently as the 1930s the L.M.S. steamers could be seen racing those of MacBrayne, Williamson and Buchanan, and L.N.E.R. for Craigmore Pier. The Wemyss Bay Steamboat Co. was advertising in 1879 excursions from Largs and Millport at the following fares, which must be less than a tenth of today’s; To Arrochar or round Arran Through the Kyles and Round Bute The Holy Loch 2/- and 1/6 1/1/6 and 1/-

The steamers were the Lancelot and Sheila, and Macdonald refers to sailing in the Lady Kelburne to the "neat little warf of Wemyss Bay". In October of that year there was such a heavy fog on the river that steamers had to be guided to the pier by ringing the Church bells. In 1880 friction between the Wemyss Bay Railway Co. and Messrs. Gillies and Campbell led to the former allowing other steamers to use the pier. This caused a great public outcry from Largs, Millport and the island resorts. The present service was a great improvement over the earlier haphazard sailings bearing no relation to train times, and it was feared that this would mean a reversion to these bad old days. However the service was maintained during the next ten years, and the latest and last ship of the Wemyss Bay fleet came into service before the take-over. She was named Victoria and the Queen presented her with a flag. The 1864 Electoral Register for Ayrshire lists no more than 190 voters in the Parish of Largs, which included the Town, Fairlie, Skelmorlie and the landward areas, and of these only about twenty can be definitely identified with the area of immediate interest. They were mainly farmers and 'residenters', the qualifications being much stricter then, and of course there were no ladies. Of the electors in Largs itself, fifteen were Master Weavers which was still a principal industry in the town.


ELECTORAL REGISTER OF AYRSHIRE 1864 - (amended to 1867) The following list of names are those on the Register who are clearly indentifiable as belonging to the Skelmorlie area. George G. Arbuthnott Andrew Bowman Andrew D. Campbell (1864, deceased David Dunn (1867) George Elder (1867) Robert Steele (1864) William Stewart William Smith (1867) James Armour James Crawford Daniel Crawford Hugh Crawford James Crawford John Kerr (1867) David Kerr Wm. Kirk wood John Paton (Flesher of Largs) Wm. Kirk (1867, gamekeeper) James Nicol Robert Robertson George Scott James Storrie (grocer) Henry Watson (gardener) Beach House Annet Lodge 1867) Ashcraig Annet House Knock Castle Knock Castle Blackhouse Seabank Millrig Thirdpart Beithglass South Fardens North Fardens Haining Haining Skelmorlie Mains Skelmorlie Mains Skelmorlie Castle Annetyard and Auchendarroch Dykes Barr Auchendarroch House Ashcraig

In 1868 the Hydropathic Establishment was erected, and in 1875 Turkish and Salt Water Baths were added; the pumping of salt water at that time was an innovation. Dr. Ronald Currie, who was responsible for building the Hydro, was a member of the great Professor Joseph Lister's first surgical class in Glasgow in 1860-1. He lived in Skelmorlie until his death in 1923 and, being originally an Arran man, wrote a book on the derivation of the island place names.

Skelmorlie's then seemingly unfenced Shore Road The advent of the railway stimulated feuing, already well under way. The first feus, around £8 per acre, rose to £35 per acre, (£15 for Upper Skelmorlie), and a house bought in 1857 for £280 fetched £1,400 in 1877. The increase in houses in this short period, particularly in Skelmorlie, is clearly shown in the map of 1879. Dobie wrote in 1874 that, "Skelmorlie Bay has recently become the site of a fashionable watering place. In 1850 the feuing for this purpose was commenced and has gone on rapidly increasing".


He also mentioned an excellent school and schoolmaster's residence recently erected in the village, and that in winter the population of the Quoad Sacra Parish was about 500. In fact, the present school, to seat two hundred and forty five pupils, was opened on 25 September 1866 by Professor Thomson, who was later to become Lord Kelvin: and the Census of 1871 gave the following figures, the later sources showing the remarkable increase in twenty years in Skelmorlie village. Area Population Skelmorlie - upper and lower village only 757 951 *Ayrshire part of the Parish 1079 Renfrewshire part of the Parish 301 Total of Parish (i.e. 2+3) 1380 Inhabited Houses 1871 65 85 60 145 1871 1881 1891 404 546 340 886 ------1264

*This area includes Meigle and the farms and the figures are inclusive of 1 and not in addition. In the third quarter of the century, apart from the Rev. Boyd's 'Guide', two other publications appeared which are valuable sources of information. In 1878 The Largs and Millport Weekly News, the 'Wee Paper', was first published, and about the same time a local newspaper, The Skelmorlie Observer, was printed by Charles Hunter of Upper Skelmorlie. The only known copy is of the third edition dated (Monday) September 1, 1879, which cost ½d. Apart from tradesmen's advertisements, it contained an article on the Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey, a list of summer visitors in various houses, and an article on local affairs, which is reproduced as an Appendix. The main grievances expressed are the price of gas, unemployment in the quarrying industry and the miserably wet summer weather. Mr. Hunter might well have kept his type standing. In 1883 there was also a Largs and Millport Herald, but it appeared to have a short life.


VILLAGE TALK - (From The Skelmorlie Observer, Monday, September 1, 1879) "In strolling through the village, the other day, I could see there was a decided improvement being made in the building line. Of course everybody who intends to build will certainly lose no time in going on with anything connected with the building trade. Although Skelmorlie is not very lively as yet, still there are some prospects of a few jobs being started before the winter sets in. The properties which have changed hands of late will undoubtedly require some necessary alterations, and anybody that intends to make improvements will surely lose no time in doing so. "I note that the roads, which after the saturating that they have got through the summer, stand greatly in need of a staff of labourers for a few weeks. When will they begin to improve ? - that's the rub. I am not a little astonished to see this beautiful village marred all for want of keeping the roads in proper order. "The shopkeepers and others have had their annual holiday. The trip was to one of the old favourite places - Inveraray - where almost everyone has been but, notwithstanding, the sail was rather enjoyable. "The school has got a whitewashing, of which it stood greatly in need, and the ground around the outside has been carefully gravelled, therefore, affording capital sport to the dissipated school boys wlio delight in "papping" stones at all and sundry. Sport is a grand


thing, but as is too often the case at our local school - "anything but knowledge". How true are the words, "man know thyself". "The majority of summer visitors is still at the coast. In the course of another month the great army of coasting people will be back to town again. "There is no word of a reduction in the price of gas ! "The weather ! the weather ! such weather ? The crops are in a very critical condition, and the harvest, if there be any, will be very late. No summer weather yet ! and farmers and others, who have to pursue outdoor work, are sure to feel quite discouraged. The Wemyss Bay quarry has been closed tliese last two months owing to the want of orders. At the Skelmorlie quarry, I am glad to see, matters are in a much more satisfactory condition. Not only have extra hands been engaged, but the men have to work late to overtake tlie orders. At the new castle at Skipness, which is being built for Mr. Robert Graham, only Skelmorlie stone is being used, and this castle alone will keep the quarry busy for some time. "Casual" In 1875 the Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay Gas Company was formed and three years later the Lodge, Montgomerie-Kilwinning-Skelmorlie No. 624 received its charter from the Grand Lodge on Monday, August 23, the R W.M. being Brother A. Dickson. Sometime later Robert Napier of Govan established the measured mile off Skelmorlie. It was extensively used, and indeed was responsible for a number of accidents, but now the bigger ships use one off Arran. Its first major mishap was in January 1897 when the destroyer Electra was on trial. Meg Merrilies was on her normal mid-day fun to Largs when the warship 'dashed up her wake and struck her on the stern.' Luckily, in spite of the violent impact, no one was seriously injured. The Glasgow and South West Railway Company completed the line from West Kilbride to Fairlie on 1st June 1880 and two years later extended it to the pier, which was a real boon to Fairlie. Previously visitors had to take a train from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay and be ferried ashore from the Millport steamer. Fairlie remained the nearest station to Largs for five years until the line was opened to Largs Bridge in June 1885. Thereafter there were various proposals to link it with Wemyss Bay, first along the coast which was successfully resisted by the property owners, and then from Kilmacolm to Upper Skelmorlie and down the Brisbane Glen, which presented formidable constructional difficulties. This latter scheme was finally abandoned in 1899 but not before many conflicting opinions were strongly expressed. The objectors, who did not fancy a railway along the front at Largs were led by the Scotts of Hawkhill and had the support of Lord Kelvin and Mr. F.G. MacAndrew of Knock. The estates of Blackhouse, Routenburn and Brisbane were all in favour of the scheme, as was Mr. John Hughes, restaurant keeper, Upper Skelmorlie. There is a tradition that Anthony Trollope visited Castle Wemyss and wrote part of Barchester Towers while under its roof. He was a close friend of John Burns and visited the Castle more than once, but this particular book was published in 1857, at which time Mr. Wilsone Brown was still in residence. Certainly Mr. Burns was renowned for his hospitality and many famous people were entertained at the Castle or on board the Mastiff and the Capercailzie, including General Sherman, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army. Another was the explorer H.M. Stanley, possibly while Dr. Livingston, a frequent guest at Kelly, was in residence. Perhaps they even met. It would be nice to think that during their six months together in Ujiji in 1871-2 they discussed Wemyss Bay and its lavish hospitality. Who knows, it could have been the first puff of the 'Wind of Change'. The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, the great Parliamentarian and social reformer spent five or six weeks in the Bay every summer for fourteen years. It was his favourite resort and he is


reported as saying 'Nature is rarely so beautiful as there, and society rarely so kind', which is still a fitting description. 'The Lodge', then 'Shaftesbury Lodge' was named after him and a window to his memory still exists in the Episcopal Church. Known as 'J.B.' to his intimates, John Burns was created Baron Inverclyde in 1897. He claimed the first private telephone line from the Castle to his office in Glasgow, and was founder and president of the 'Gaiter Club'. Composed of those interested in walking tours in Scotland, the club numbered many celebrities including Trollope, Lord Kelvin and Dr. Norman Macleod. David Livingston was too occupied in other places to accept membership, but Lord Palmerston did so in an honorary capacity. The Club's memorial to its founder is the stone cross at the road junction by Clutha. In the main, up until the Second World War the houses were only occupied during the summer months and the families would all have a town house, probably in the Park district of Glasgow. The Stewarts in fact had five; Ardvar and Dunloe, Ascog in Bute, one in Argyll and one in Glasgow. Life centred mainly round the yacht, with house parties and plenty of good food and wine. Bathing, tennis in summer, and for those who returned for Christmas, curling and skating. Gracious living in an age of Queen and Empire, prosperity and security, for some at least. But there was pleasure in even watching or serving; to live in one of the most beautiful parishes in Scotland, as the Rev. John Lamond described it. He went on to say , "There were days in Skelmorlie when the glory of heaven was well nigh outrivaled so marvellous were the sunsets. These days were called by local people 'pet days'. The estuary was never empty. Day and night some Steamer or sailing ship was on the waters: and in the summer season the yachts with fairy-looking wings went gliding to and fro, giving life and animation to the scene. To live on the Clyde is to be drenched with Beauty".

The Workman's Rest In 1889 Mrs. Hoyes of Craignahuille gave the Workman's Rest, a tin building on the site of the present Library. Opened on the 9th of February it housed a reading-room and a gamesroom with billiards and table tennis. The Golf Club started in 1891 and four years later the Bowling Club, whose flagstaff is the main mast of the America Cup yacht, Valkyrie. More significant perhaps, is the event of Saturday, September 18, 1886 when the 'gentlemen's servants belonging to Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay held their annual Conversatione and Ball in the Schoolroom on Friday last when thirty six couples attended.' So much for Bingo! If Wallace and Brown failed to make Wemyss Bay the 'Cheltenham of the Clyde', it certainly had become one of the most exclusive sites for a summer residence. An account of 1888 refers to Mr. Burns's yacht Capercailzie as being a land mark in the Bay. In fact, there were many other equally big yachts at the time belonging to such well-known families as Pearce, Clark, Bryce Allan, Stewart and Stephen of Kelly. So much wealth was accumulated there that the entrance gates became known as the 'Golden Gates', and it was worth the while of the Clydesdale Bank to open a branch in the lodge to provide the wages for the domestic


staffs and yacht hands. This remained until the First World War, after which, until comparatively recently, it reverted to its intended use as a Post Office. The turn of the century saw the parish at its peak as a resort - a peak of affluence and splendour, of coach and yacht, of domestic staff and leisure. It was too exclusive for day trippers who, 'looking for bands and nigger minstrels', merely passed through en route for Rothesay.


A plan of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay from the 1879 Hydro Hotel Guide0 MURRAY'S DIARY


Murray's Diary - May 1885 - Pages 54 - 55 Murray's Diary until a year or so ago, when it was driven out by rising costs, was an essential part of Glasgow and the Clyde coast. Within the familiar pale magenta cover were details of all train services from Glasgow and all steamer services on the Clyde. In addition, there was provision for notes, a cash memo and a wealth of local information. In May 1885 it showed that the Wemyss Bay line had not reached its peak and was similar in pace and regularity to the period immediately prior to the Electric Trains. The journey was just over an hour for fares of 3/6 return First Class and 2/- Third Class to Bridge Street Station, although Central Station was then open. Among the advertisements in this issue, Reid & Todd would re-cover an umbrella in an hour, a very special Tobacco was 5d an ounce and Penman's were offering their 'Gordon' pattern dinner service of 61 pieces for 21/-. A primitive but doubtless efficient typewriter at £5.5/bore as much resemblance to the modern version as does Mr. Rudge's bicycle illustrated below.

PERIOD V : 1900 – 1939
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY The twentieth century, dominated by two world wars, brought far reaching changes affecting every aspect of the community. Curiously, the pattern is similar to the previous century with moderate development in the first half, greatly increasing in the second half. More farms have disappeared, such as Annetyard and Beithglass, and the Estates have not escaped. Wemyss and Kelly are no more, Blackhouse an hotel and Skelmorlie was for a period the headquarters of an industrial firm. Brisbane House, unoccupied for many years, was finally blown up as training for Commandos in the Second War. Ardgowan, Kelburne and Knock have remained private residences, but only the first two are still the homes of the original families. The period has seen the rise and fall of the local Electric Power Station and the Gas Works; and the necessity to name the streets and number the houses. The tremendous increase in weekend traffic on the shore road, especially during the 1950s, is perhaps the most significant change of all. Horse troughs have given way to petrol stations, and while in tlie 1930's the main hazard on the roads was the large packs of cyclists three and four abreast, to-day it is an endless stream of cars travelling no faster.


If the Firth itself has not changed, beyond being colder and dirtier, its traffic certainly has. Far fewer big liners are seen having been replaced by larger but less elegant tankers. The big battleship has come and gone together with the private steam yacht. The steamers have changed from the dignified paddlcrs, through the miniature liners of the 1930s to the utility 'Maids' and ferries of to-day. The many coloured funnels have blended into the yellow and black of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Private yachts may be more plentiful, but are smaller, and the Clyde Fortnight, once a major event for spectators, is now only for the competitors. The number of private yachts moored in the Bay and along tlie coast has dwindled, and are now the exception rather than the rule. To-day they have been replaced by tlie sailing dinghy, the outboard motor, and even water skis. It must be at least 40 years since one could hire a rowing boat by the hour in Skelmorlie. However, certain more specific incidents are worth recording.

Wemyss Bay Station - 1910 In the early days of the century, transport was the main development. The railway to Port Glasgow was reconstructed and in 1903 the present station replaced the original one and became one of the most beautiful and best-kept in the country, the floral decorations receiving praise from King Edward VII himself. The trains too were more frequent and faster than at any other line, and the return fares to Glasgow were 3s. 0d. 1st Class and 2s. 2d. 3rd Class. Sixty years later, the long-awaited electric trains are for the first time equalling the service of this pciiod. but even then it is doubtful if Glasgow to Rothesay in an hour will ever be achieved.

Wemyss Bay Pier and Kelly House - 1910 A plan of 1908 shows that consideration was being given to the supply of electricity in the area and a generating station was proposed near the old Gas Works, but it was eventually


built beside the Hydro. Electricity, however, produced various schemes of linking Wemyss Bay to Largs and Gourock to Inverkip by tramcars, but they came to nothing, the petrol engine had arrived, and in addition to motor cars, a fleet of charabancs operated between tlie Station Square and Largs. In 1914 it increased its service to five runs per day at a fare of 6d. each way. The first two merchants to acquire motor delivery vans in 1916 were Paton the butcher and Ure Young the baker. The horse, however, continued to be used for cabs and lorries for a considerable number of years. A pointer to the mood of the period is that it was strongly felt that the discontinuance of the afternoon milk round would drive visitors to other resorts. Over the years, ships on The Measured Mile have had various mishaps, mainly due to faulty steering-gear. One actually took the end off Wemyss Bay Pier, and earlier a destroyer, H.M.S. Laverock, ran aground in Blackhouse Burn. Seeing its arrival the lodgekeeper, with great presence of mind. closed the avenue gates against it. The most serious, liowever, involved the steamer Kintyre on the beautiful clear calm morning of Wednesday, September 18, 1907. The Kintyre was owned by the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company, and although used mainly for their heavy cargo on the run she had graceful lines, with a bowsprit, which earned her the name of 'The Campbeltown Yacht'. She was similar to the Davaar which, with the Kinloch and later the Dalriada, operated the service until the start of World War II. On this day she was fortunately without passengers or cargo, and was proceeding to Campbeltown, close to the Renfrewshire coast, for a special sailing to Tarbert in connection with the ram sales. The Maori belonging to the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand was on the 'Mile' completing the northward run and swinging in to Wemyss Bay to prepare for another run south. In this case it was an error of judgment and not a fault that at 11.45 a.m. took the Maori at some speed into the starboard quarter of the Kintyre, only a hundred yards offshore. There is no doubt that they saw each other, both sounding sirens, and being so close into the bay indicates that the Kintyre was taking avoiding action. She sank within five minutes, hut during this period the vessels were locked together providing an easy escape route for the crew. Captain John McKeclinie with his Chief Engineer, William Lennox, gallantly stayed on the bridge declining all efforts to induce them to escape. The Captain was ultimately rescued from the water when the ship went down. but the Engineer was never seen again. Two pleasure steamers and a yacht were in the vicinity and helped with rescue operations. The late Mr. Ninian Stewart of Dunloe. then a schoolboy, launched a dinghy with his sister to render assistance. They only managed to recover the ship's log which they proudly handed over to Captain McKechnic in the Wemyss Bay Hotel, where Dr. Currie was in attendance. Building continued in Upper Skelmorlie and more houses on The Crescent appeared, Croftmor being completed in 1908. Dr. Philps had taken over from Dr. Currie and was extensively advertising his 'Wemyss Bay Hydropathic' at Skelmorlie, N.B.', while a new industry arose in the making of ships lifeboats. It appears that after the Titanic disaster all ships were ordered to increase tlieir lifeboat capacity. The demand was so great that local joiners became involved in producing the requirements, and in 1912 Mr. James Hunter (no relation to his successor Mr. Robert Hunter) was sending boats by rail to John Brown, G. & J. Burns, Cunard and Harland & Wolff. A humorous account of a Council election in 1911 or 1912 appeared in the 'Wee Paper' in which tlie author was trying to find his candidate. His search took him by the 'Big Slap', the 'Wee Slap', 'Grant's Gardens', 'McCaskie's Mansions' and 'Pawton's Coarner'. The 'Big and Wee Slap' could have been the short cuts to Innes Park Buildings, known later as the 'Big


Pen' and the 'Wee Pen'. 'Pawton's Coarner' would be by Paton the Butclier (later Menzies) in Stanlane, but the other two have not been identified. However, McCaskie and Grant were well known local names. Bob McCaskic, a 'cabbie', was an infallible weather prophet, mainly because his predictions took account of every eventuality; Peter Grant, whom some suspect was the author, was a great humorist, often in verse.

The old reservoir at Annetyard is marked as a Curling Pond in 1912 and this with skating were popular winter activities surviving into the 1930s. 1914 saw the 25th Anniversary of tlie Workman's Rest, and Colonel Matliieson gave it electric light. The local working men subscribed to a plaque to commemorate Mrs. Hoys' gift and it can still be seen in the Library. The Rest had been enlarged in 1911 at a cost of £72 to house te old Library, which was maintained by local subscriptions until 1948 when they proved inadequate, and the County Council took over.

Kelly House - before the fire Kelly House had been let to Mr. Clark Neil, who left to live at Curling Hall. Largs, in May 1913. It was left empty for some months, and was eventually destroyed by fire the following December. One Friday evening, December 4th, a railway worker noticed an unusual glare on his windows and saw tongues of flame shooting from the roof of Kelly. He gave the alarm, but in the hour it took the Fire Brigade to arrive from Johnstone the roof had fallen in and the whole building was ablaze. As on later occasions, the brigade's work was hampered by poor water pressure, and although the fire was extinguished only the shell of the building remained. Whoever started the fire made a good job of it and left no trace of the means used. All the evidence pointed to militant suffragettes who were particularly active over this week-end


during wliich Mrs. Pankhurst was released from Exeter jail. Newspaper cuttings with such headings as 'Votes for Women' were found near Kelly. and while rushing to the fire Mr. Prentice, the stationmaster, found a sheet of white paper with blue letters reading "Retaliation a reply to the 'Cat and Mouse Act.' The estate had been advertised for sale at £70,000 but just before the fire the price had been reduced to £27,000. The gables of the ruin stood as a landmark until 1940 when they were pulled down and Home Guard defences were constructed on the site. That was the end of Kelly, although in 1947 it nearly became the County T. B. Hospital.

The Hydropathic Hotel and Boating Station Naturally, at a seaside resort, life, in summer at least, was centred on the sea. Rowing boats could be hired from Alexander Currie on the beach just south of Eglinton Place and from Alexander and William Towers at Springbank. Although the Towers lasted longer, Mr. Currie's beach was a favourite gathering place for the village 'worthies' on a summer evening in the early twenties. On a grander scale, almost every family from the ShawStewarts of Ardgowan along the coast to the MacAndrews of Knock had a sizeable yacht. Lord Inverclyde's steam yacht Beryl (450 tons) receives much prominence in accounts of the period, but there were at least half a dozen bigger ones in the bay ranging from 550 to 800 tons. Two well-known local yachtsmen became Baronets and took their titles from their houses in the bay, Sir William Pearce, of Cardell and later Sir Thomas Dunlop, of Woodbourne. The 1914-18 war left its toll, as the Roll of Honour testifies, and Skelmorlie set about the post-war years little knowing how short or unsettled they were to be.

Croquet at Castle Wemyss In 1921 the population was over 1,500 but only 900 of these were Skelmorlie born. It was still a holiday resort and most of the houses were only occupied during tlie summer months, but there was considerable village activity. Whist Drives and dances; curling, gulf and bowling; billiards, table tennis, badminton and carpet bowls. Apart from the Hydro, the three centres for these pursuits were the indoor Tennis Courts at Castle Wemyss, the Workman's Rest and the newly formed Athletic Association's hall at Annetyard. This latter was largely a 'do-it-yourself' affair and work on extending it


was going on in April 1924. It remained as a centre until the Second War when it became a NAAFI Store and was inevitably burnt to the ground. The insurance money was held in trust for a possible replacement, but in 1963 the Association disbanded, distributing its funds to local organisations possessing the essential ingredients of sport and healthy recreation. Many applications were received, facetious and otherwise, and there still may be some disillusioned sportsmen in our midst!

In the early 'twenties the shops in Station Square were built, and the part which is now the showroom for Pearson's Garage housed a rival establishment variously owned by Messrs. Robertson, Anderson and Connor before the Pearsons took over. The Tennis Courts by the Bowling Green were opened in June 1928 and the Bryce Allans presented a handsome silver cup for the champion. The club was formed by private subscription with help from the Athletic Association, but its future was in doubt when one generous donation was withheld because of a clause in the Constitution forbidding Sunday play for all time. The Golf Club had a very strong team of which several members were to reach fame in the highest amateur field, while the other 'Amateurs' were fruitfully active on the football field.

The old Post Office at Seaview in Upper Skelmorlie

Upper Skelmorlie and two-horse cart


At all social functions the piano accompaniment was provided by the ubiquitous Mrs. McGeehan and there were at least four amateur dance bands. In addition, tliere was an agreeable trend among the young gentlemen of Wemyss Bay in marrying actresses. On Sunday, April 28, 1929 Mr. J. Bryce Allan of the Cliff married in Paris the Comtesse Marguerite Coppico, formerly Miss Rita Jolivet, the film star and, a year or so later, Lord Inverclyde married Miss June Tripp, 'June' of the musical comedy stage. From then on she rather dominates the Skelmorlie news, providing also the best-known means of filling a hall at local meetings. She also took part in the second of two ambitious cruises Lord Inverclyde arranged aboard his steam yachts, first Sapphire and then Beryl. The record is in his book Porpoises and People, published in 1930, which deals racily with people, mainly from the stage, but never mentions porpoises. Two items are reported in 1929 which are worth recording in that they show the esteem in which the qualities of character and service were then held. Engine-driver William Cunninghame and guard James Halliday retired from the railway after 50 years service. A committee of travellers was set up which raised the handsome sum of £275, the equivalent of almost £1,500 to-day. In May this was handed over to the two worthy gentlemen in the office of Mr. Toward, the station-master. Later, in September, police-constable Thomas Thomson was killed in a tragic motor cycle accident at the corner on Long Hill. He was a fine and popular man, and among the many tributes to him was a wreath from the 'Friends of Innes Park Buildings'.

Dr Mearns Taylor and 'patient' It must be said that much of the impetus for the social and sporting life of the village came from the Doctor, Mearns Taylor of Craigmore. An internationa1 footballer of distinction, he was the driving force behind the Atliletic Association's projects, a tower of strength to the Golf Club and the instigator of the Tennis Club. Skelmorlie owes much to Mearns Taylor, more just than the plaque to his memory in the North Church. His successor. Dr. Ralph Southward, had a short stay moving on to Harley Street where he has had many distinguished patients, he was recently appointed Apothecary to Her Majesty The Queen. Sampling from the files of the 'Wee Paper' of the period reveals that the much argued merging of the Parish and United Presbyterian Churches into The Church of Scotland took place in 1929, and both local churches celebrated the union with services on Sunday October 13th. Their Kirk Sessions had previously agreed to rename them Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay South and North Churches respectively, but some deviation now seems to have taken place. The L.M.S. Company opened a service of chocolate and cream buses from Greenock to Largs in competition with Dunlop's red buses, and there was a general falling off in summer letting. A fast 12-seater ferry was proposed to link Rothesay and Wernyss Bay in 10 minutes but, like the later Hovercraft, it did not seem to come to anything. The Central Electricity Board was trying to help the Skelmorlie Electrical Supply Co., in its sales drive and to bring about the development of power supplies to Wcrnyss Bay and Inverkip. The idea was to feed the Power Station at the Hydro by cable from Greenock but this fell through until a much later date.


The breach in the reservoir However, the major historical event occurred on a Saturday afternoon in April 1925 when the lower reservoir burst its banks, causing extensive damage and the loss of five lives as the mass of water swept down Halket burn to the sea. The reservoir which had a storage capacity of 3,500,000 gallons belonged to the Eglinton Estate. Doubts had been expressed about the strength of its banks, and negotiations were currently in hand to have it taken over by the County Council.

The remains of Mr Dallas' house There had been exceptionally heavy rain throughout the previous night, and at 2 p.m. the bank gave way releasing a tremendous roaring wall of water. Glengyron withstood the impact apart from some out-houses, but Invereoch was damaged as thee Halket burn, a reservoir overflow, carried the main stream. On the site of the coal yard below Invereoch was Birchburn Cottage belonging to Mr. Dallas, a coal merchant who also stabled the station cab horses. It was demolished killing his two sons of 7½ and 5 years together with Mrs. Dallas's 8-year old niece from Edinburgh. Mrs. Dallas herself escaped, being outside the cottage on her way to telephone a report of water escaping. Taymouth (Burncroft) withheld although water was pouring in the back door and out of the front, but Mrs. P.H.B. Adam and her 14-year old niece Ursula Scott were both drowned. Croftmore Cottage was saved by a mound behind it which divided the water and on to which the Leitch family climbed to safety. The Hydro was extensively damaged, as the water rushed to the Shore Road and into the sea, mainly down the burn


and the Hydro steps. Halketburn house escaped but became an island between two torrents. A motor charabanc on the shore road escaped by seconds, while Mr. James Murray, returning from work in Strathclyde garden, met it by the Hydro steps and only escaped by climbing a tree.

Debris on Shore Road It was all over quickly as the reservoir emptied but a scene of devastation remained. The road above Stroove was cut 12 feet wide and 40 feet deep and the shore road, even then one of the busiest weekend motor roads, was blocked by rubble and debris. The real trouble was that the water gathered behind buildings and walls until they collapsed, then swept on to the next and so on down the hill. This had the effect of conserving its destructive force which might have been dissipated more quickly had it a clear run to the sea. Mr. Dallas, Mr. John Paton, a farmer, and Captain Scott of Stroove are recorded as taking 'dangerous risks to locate the missing", some of whom were found days later in unlikely places. Fishing boats were sent from Largs to drag the sea with their nets but failed to find the bodies. Captain Scott actually found Mrs. Dallas's niece and managed to drag her from the water, but she was already dead with a broken neck. Over the weekend the village was packed with sightseers, many of whom were stranded as there were no Sunday trains. The funerals of the victims, conducted in both churches, were simple but impressive, and very well attended. A relief fund was opened for Mr. and Mrs. Dallas, who had lost two sons, a niece, their home and all their belongings. In June there was a public enquiry at Kilmarnock, and the jury returned a unanimous verdict that the accident was materially contributed to by the absence of any skilled supervision and inspection of the reservoir. In late July the Rev. Campbell Stephen, MP for Camlachie asked The Lord Advocate in the House of Commons if he would initiate prosecution against Lord Eglinton. The Minister felt that he had insufficient grounds which drew a typical response from Jimmy Maxton, the famous 'Red Clydesider', 'Was it because he was a noble Lord, and of similar political principles?' (Loud cries of 'Order'). After the disaster the County Council took over the Waterworks and a new one, consisting of the present two reservoirs, was opened with great ceremony in October 1928. It cost £11,000 and although a recurrence of the disaster had been rendered impossible, there


were complaints about the colour of the water. Mr. T. A. Dykes representative of the Northern District Council, and Mr. Robert Lorimer, County Councillor, were present at the ceremony. By 1930 seven houses had been built on Station Hill. which in spite of protests from the owners was closed to vehicle traffic. By 1939, the three rows of bungalows adjoining had been completed and a start had been made at Innes Park Road which had forty new houses in December of that year. This latter was the first to be increased after the war, when twenty more were built, and the process has continued in sections, each clearly definable by style, until it now weaves and inter-weaves all round itself. Innes Park Road, so named in 1941, was the first road in Skelmorlie to have an official name, which in this respect makes it a hundred years behind Wemyss Bay. There were, of course, local designations which were later adopted, such as 'The Long Hill' and the 'Sandy Brae'. About this time the Hydro acquired a car park on the shore and installed a lift up the cliff face. This was modelled on the more spectacular one at Burgenstock on Lake Lucerne, but is now no longer in use. Knock had been bought in 1915 by Mr. John Dunn, a Glasgow Tobacco Merchant, both of whose sons were lost at sea in tragic circumstances. The younger, Guthrie, who had inherited the estate, set off on a trip round the world on the ketch Southern Cross. Having almost completed the voyage he was lost overboard on the homeward stretch off St. Helena. The estate was sold in 1934 to Mr. David Sloail, of the Glasgow furnishing store of Alexander Sloan & Co., who held it until April 1965 when it was acquired by the present owner, Mr. William Napier of Largs.

Beithglass Farm, overlooking the golf course In the summer of 1936, Theodore Moone wrote an article on the Skelmorlie Golf Course as part of a series in Hie Glasgow Evening News. Not having 18 holes he could not give it an official rating, but was extremely complimentary, particularly about the late Mrs. Middleton's home-baked scones. Referring to the formidable quarry at the 12th and 13th holes he says ' you may argue with a sand bunker but not a sandstone quarry '. He was intrigued with the huge 'triple' green of the 5th, l0th and l8th holes and while putting surfaces were well kept in spite of the slieep and rabbits 'there is a tendency to flatness, a thing to be regretted on a course of this length'. He also recalls a lighter side of the reservoir disaster. The top reservoir was drained revealing 10.000 golf balls, half of which quickly disappeared. Obviously they stored well in the mud as a well known local amateur used a Dunlop 31 taken from it in his round of 65. Just prior to this in May 1935, James Maxton MP and his wife, who were frequent visitors, were observed playing golf at Skelmorlie, at which time Sir Charles MacAndrew was being adopted as Unionist Candidate in succession to Sir Ayliner Hunter-Weston. Later, Sir Charles himself played over Skelmorlie within days of playing in as Captain of the Royal and Ancient Club at St. Andrews. However, he was duly elected in the November election of 1935 and held the seat until 1959 when he retired as Deputy Speaker and became Lord MacAndrew, of The Firth of Clyde. A sign of the times was that re-armament was the main election issue, with defence spending increasing to £120,000,000! War clouds were gathering and the dictators were on the move. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, and the


country began to get an idea of what it was all about; the tanks and guns which they paraded were not really made of plywood. In June 1936 Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, The Lion of Judah, visited Lord Inverclyde at Castle Wemyss, together with his sons The Crown Prince and The Duke of Harar. He made quite a figure dressed in a lawn cloak, grey trouscrs, brown suede shoes and wearing a bowlei hat. He planted a maple tree at the castle to commemorate his visit, but returned about a year later to remain throughout the war until his country had been liberated from tlie Italians. On his return to Addis Ababa, The Negus invited Lord Invcrclyde to visit him presenting him with, among other things, a fabulously ornate gold cigarette case. In 1943 Lord Inverclydc was also host to the exiled King Peter of Yugoslavia. But life went on. Largs cinemas were showing Grace Moore in 'One Niglit of Love', and a new horse was purchased for £70 for Skelmorlie Cleansing. Miss Kate Wylie of Holmcraig was exhibiting flower paintings in The Royal Academy and The Royal Scottish Academy, while Robert Sinclair Scott was the first out of fifteen chosen from more than a hundred thousand, to fill roles in a new Hollywood production. Sunday trains had started, the Dr. Mearns Taylor Memorial Fund was inaugurated, and bonfires and sports marked the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Seventeen new seats were also placed at suitable points throughout the village to augment fourteen already existing to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. All costs were met by private subscription. A shilling could buy 20 cigarettes or a pair of cashmere socks; whisky was 12s. 6d. a bottle wliile £100 would give a clioicc of new cars. It was a good life, but it did not last for long.

PERIOD VI : 1939 – 1968
MODERN TIMES During the war Skelmorlie became the headquarters of the 1st Army which landed in Tunisia, and the beach in Wemyss Bay was concreted to facilitate the loading and unloading of Tank Landing Craft. There were units of The Home Guard and The Observer Corps, canteens for the troops and few houses were without evacuees from the cities. By 1942 the community had subscribed £40,000 to the war effort through the various appeals such as 'War Weapons Week'. Many young men served in tlie Armed Forces, and some returned with cruel injuries; too many did not return at all. Over £1,300 was raised for the Welcome Home Fund, which was handed over in the form of Savings Certificates. However, in May 1941 an event was to take place which had lire most far-reaching effects, not only during the remaining years of war, but on those that followed. The German Air Force carried out a series of devasting air raids on Grecnock. Families fled over the hills to Skelmorlie, while others were officially evacuated to the district. The Press reported that the population has trebled in Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay since the raid 'on a Clydeside town'. The billeting autliority acted quickly and courageously. It requisitioned the Recreation Hall and the two church halls in addition to the Public School and the Mission Hall which had already been scheduled as rest centres. Many householders offered accommodation, some taking four or five people. At one point the official figures of evacuees were 288 adults and 384 children. This was in addition to 50 private adult evacuees with 90 children, and there were also a considerable number of whom there was no record. Many decided to stay in the village and the resulting increase in population, which had reached 1540 in 1946, produced a major housing problem in the immediate post-war years.


The new council houses could not cope, and were filled with sub-tenants. Every empty or condemed building, notably the infamous Innes Park Buildings ('The Diggings') had 'squatters', many living in primitive conditions. A published comment at the time said 'The Local Authority seems to have lost control of the situation. Unless something is done soon, the amenity of Skelmorlie, one of the most lovely villages in the country, is doomed'. The Ratepayers' Association became the Citizens' Association to accommodate the subtenants, and many noisy meetings were held on the subject of houses and their allocation. To-day the problem is virtually non-existent, as is interest in the activities of the Citizens' Association. Now the new Residents' Association is trying all over again. But no record of the war years would be complete without mention of 'Jacky' the jackdaw. Rescued from a nest in the Bishopton tunnel he came to Skelmorlie under the care of Mr. Walter Halliday and adopted a perch on a tree in Moreland overlooking Station Hill. Those rushing for the early train were invariably greeted with 'Hullo! Come on, come on', which was more disturbing than encouraging until they discovered the source. A great favourite with the children, Jacky, alas, met his fate at the hands of small boys, or rather the stones which they threw. Mr. Noon and Mr. Knight had for many years a place in the community, but about this time, possibly earlier, it could boast of a Morning, Noon and Knight, Summer and Winter. To-day we have no Morning or Summer, which was actually Summers, who was equally efficient as Butler to Lord Inverclyde and as a repairer of clocks. In 1947 a great naval review was held on the Clyde, which must have been the largest as well as the last collection of British warships in the river at any one time. The evening they left, the procession of big ships stretched in line as far as the eye could see in both directions, from Arran to The Tail of The Bank. The fleet was reviewed by their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who were celebrating their Silver Wedding. History was made one lovely summer evening when they landed, at Wemyss Bay pier from Brodick, aboard the cruiser Superb. With them were Princess Margaret, the present Queen - then Princess Elizabeth - and Prince Philip, to whom she had just become engaged. They were met by Lord Inverclyde and escorted to the station ehere the Royal Train awaited. The King and Queen had previously stayed overnight in Wemyss Bay in 1940; which was recorded as 'historical in our annals as it is only the second visit of royalty to this part of the world'. The previous one was Edward VII passing through Wemyss Bay Station, but later, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove along the shore road, well-lined with spectators, to open the Inverclyde Centre in Largs. At the beginning of the war Chaseley House, previously a hotel, had been bought by the Lanarkshire Coalmasters' Association as a convalescent home for women of mining families. It remains so to-day, having been taken over by the National Coal Board after nationalisation of the mines by the post-war Labour Government. Further nationalisation saw the end of the local Electricity and Gas Companies, and their installations became redundant when supplies were eventually piped from Grcenock. As late as the 1950s one or two villas remained faithful and were lit by gas.


Annet House, renamed Shuma A main feature of this post-war period has been the conversion of many other larger houses into hotels, homes and institutions. Others have been flatted or otherwise divided. Currently, all available ground is either feued or about to be, and the future of Wemyss Bay is anxiously awaited. The developments at Annetyard must be nearing saturation and an incredible number of flats are huddled into the area once proudly occupied by Annet House, latterly Shuma. It was so renamed in the 1930s by a lady believed to possess spiritualistic gifts for healing. Meigle has not been neglected and many bungalows and hutted camps have appeared by Barr Farm and along the high road to Millrig. A crop of caravan sites throughout the district, with the enormous one in Kelly have the effect of doubling the population for half the year without regard to the amenities and services. On two occasions The Prime Minister, the late Earl Attlee, spent a night in Skelmorlie Hydro during the election campaigns of 1950 and 1951. During one visit he was walking in Kelly with Mr. Hector McNeil, MP for Greenock and Secretary of State for Scotland, enjoying the peace and quiet, and a respite from electioneering. Unfortunately, Mr. Ernest Harrison of Beach House was exercising his Bull-terrier named after the leader of the Opposition; it ran off to investigate the two strangers; Mr. Harrison pursued shouting 'Winston, Winston' at the top of his voice. Mr. Attlee enjoyed the joke commenting to the effect that even in a peaceful wood in Skelmorlie he could not escape Winston Churchill. After war service, Archibald William became The 17th Earl of Eglinton in 1945, and returned to Skelmorlie to live in the Castle for some years. He served as District Councillor as well as being active in many other local activities, and his death at the early age of 51 in 1966 must be regretted by all who knew him. He courageously bore much suffering, yet still found strength to serve the community. Ursula, his Countess and a descendant of the Bannatynes of Kelly, was also active in local affairs, while their son, the 18th Earl spent his early life at Skelmorlie Castle. The Montgomerie family is now scattered, many branches having settled in New Zealand. When they left Skelmorlie, the castle became the Headquarters of Robert Wilson Food Industries Limited of Barrhead, who rebuilt the north wing after a serious fire in 1959 restoring many original features. To-day it is the home of the Chairman, Mr. R. Clement Wilson who has devoted himself to improving the castle and gardens. While enjoying a life-rent his sincerest wish is that the ancient family of Montgomerie will again occupy it and enjoy the improved amenities of their inheritance, or at least that it will be preserved for future generations. The untimely death in 1957 of Alan, 4th Baron Invcrclyde, has seen the end of Castle Wemyss. There was no direct heir and as none of the family wished to take it over, it was sold to a builder for development. Some flats have recently been completed and the future may yet see Wallace of Kelly's dream come true. On a Sunday afternoon in November 1951 I observed a ball of fire crossing low over the water between Arran and Cumbrae. It was an isolated incident which got no more thought until I discovered three vacant seats in my usual compartment on the 8.25 a.m. train on Monday morning. Its destination had been the fifth tee on West Kilbride Golf Course, and the story of its arrival was on the front page of all the newspapers. Mr. lan Kemp, Mr. J. B. MacGeorge and Sir Jolin Denholm escaped with relatively minor injuries, but the local doctor. Dr. Colin Gourlay received the full impact down his umbrella, over his waterproof trousers and through his foot. He was critically ill for a considerable time, but mercifully survived to play again. Also in 1951 Dr. John Strawhorn and Dr. William Boyd published the Third Statistical Account of Scotland. As the earlier ones were in 1791 and 1834, (Ayrshire 1845), this was the first to


take note of Skelmorlie as a village, and quite a job they made of it too. The published extracts at the time caused a considerable stir. There were three local collaborators who painted the picture, and are often quoted verbatim in the text. Their account of the social life, although essentially true, is more of a satirical account and constitutes a courageous piece of reporting. Many, I hope, will have happier recollections of life in tlie post-war period. The 'unsatisfactory community life' is put down to there being no industry, with villagers being engaged in maintenance or seasonal work, or finding jobs further afield. 'There are three social classes' it is reported, 'the very-rich, the not-so-rich, and the others, and the relations among them are not easy.' The suggestion that the 'very-rich', including some of the 'not-so-rich', incline to hold aloof from their poorer neighbours may have been so. However the reporters must now know that the barriers were not so rigid. The wealthy support the Churches and the School, but take little part in the life of the community. 'Their civic interests are patchy.' The poorer folk 'lacking the sense of worth that comes with craftsmanship, suffer from a colossal inferiority complex, and are rather ineffective in their social activities.' The Community Centre is rightly described as a meeting place for various associations, of which there are many, rather than a village meeting place. This is attributed to 'the Village cliques' which are apt to be reproduced in its organisation. The County Library is 'but moderately patronised'. Whist Drives are very popular, while dances take second place; women predominate in most of the local organisations; and there is the golf course 'which the possession of a licence has made popular both with the villagers and outside members.' The Village School is stated to have 150 primary scholars, while older children have to go to Largs and Grecnock. The Youth Club had 60 members, and the Scout Company, then ten years old, 'continues active', enabling qualified members to visit other countries. 'The Wemyss Bay - Skelmorlie North Church' had some 280 members while the 'Skelmorlie South Church' had about 350 members. Both of them held morning and evening services 'none of them too well attended.' Members of other Communions are assessed at 50 Roman Catholics (A flourishing Roman Catholic Chapel has existed near Forbes Place since 1901), 20 Episcopalians and 20 Plymouth Brethren, but 'none of these has a meeting place'. The report concludes, "The ministers take an active share in communal activities, and form a binding link among the various social groups. The Churches indeed come nearest to providing a central interest in the community. Was it really like that in the post-war years'? Of course the faults did exist, and for the reasons suggested, but I am sure that the average member of the community was not so anxiously aware of them as the local reporters appear to have been at the time. Certain statements betray their interests, and many are open in challenge, but doubtless their survivors will not be employed by any of the current developers in their 'Come to Skclmorlie' campaign. No record of Skelmorlie in the post-war years would be complete without mention of the great generosity to the village of Mr. and Mrs. J. Hally Brown, of Craignahullie. After the war, as a memorial to their two sons, they purchased Stroove with the intention of making it a Cottage Hospital. The introduction of the National Health Service put paid to these plans, and it was given, as already mentioned, as a community centre, with a generous endowment towards its upkeep. Mrs. Brown, a good Scot from America, was the daughter of the


inventor of the escalator, Mr. Charles Seeberger, building.

who is also commemorated in the

l.ater, in 1958, they also gave the present library building, with changing rooms at the back by the playing fields which is on the site of the Wolkman's Rest given by Mrs. Hoyes, also of Craignahuille, almost 70 years before. In 1957, their house Dunholm, which adjoined Craignaliuille, and which was let, was totally destroyed by fire. This fire demonstrated the inadequacy of the local fire-fighting arrangements especially, of all things, the water supply to a farcical extent, and was instrumental in bringing about their complete overhaul. While the ruin was still smouldering, Mrs. Brown was working on the design of her 'phoenix' house, the Dunholm of to-day . Mr. and Mrs. Brown celebrated their Golden Wedding on Sunday, March 31, 1957, which gave the village an opportunity of showing, in a small way, its appreciation of their generosity. Mr. Brown died in February 1967, just short of his ninetieth birthday, and Mrs. Brown died the following December. Within a year Skelmorlie lost two friends of a kind never to be replaced.

The Hally Browns and Councillor J. Crookall after a Golden Wedding presentation from the community The last twenty years have seen their share of change in the pattern of social life. There is no carpet bowling, and curling takes place on the rinks of Cilasgow, Paisley and Ayr. The short-lived cricket club is extinct and only now is there is a revival of interest in the tennis club. In 1952 the 'Coast Club' was formed 'to afford its members suitable recreation by dances and entertainments, whist drives, film shows, swimming etc.'. It was an attempt by the Hydro management to popularise its swimming pool and other amenities but since it now closes for the winter there are few dances and television has killed the once popular whist drive. Even Largs can only boast one cinema instead of three, and so far as I am aware, no one is likely to call on you and leave cards.

The "Duchess of Fife" and "Duchess of Argyll" RESORT, SUBURB OR NEW TOWN ?


That is the story of the Parish so far as I can unravel it. Of course, some incident or other will have been missed, while certain statements have been accepted and possibly a conclusion drawn from flimsy evidence. However, we have come a long way since the Fosters, far less the Damnomi, and we are not finished yet. The planning authorities already refer to the 'Town Map'. Few, astonishingly few, houses are in the same hands as they were even after the War, and names with old associations are fast disappearing. New houses are springing up in the most unlikely places, and there can be little spare ground that is not scheduled for building. It would be interesting to have the reactions of the Mr. Stephen who pulled down one Kelly mansion and built another to be 'more in keeping with the style of the district'. Of those on The Electoral Register of 1864, the Scotts of Barr Farm alone remain in their original holding, and their connections go back some hundred years before that at Auchengarth. Henry Watson is survived by his great-grandson, Mr. H. R. McGeehan, J.P., who until he recently retired to Largs was Registrar and Librarian in Skelmorlie. The descendants of David Dunn have maintained a continuous connection, first in Annet House and latterly in Ferniecraig, the home of Mr. J. W. Dunn. In Wemyss Bay, Mr. Ninian Bannatyne Stewart, a descendant of the Bannatynes of Bute, would but for his recent death have alone held a similar record. Before acquiring Dunloe in 1880 the family lived in the original Ardvar which they retained until it was dismantled in the nineteen fifties. The oldest connection now is that of the Misses Thomson of Wemyss Farm whose father took it in 1887. When I first started, we were still a 'Favourite Resort', with a high proportion of retired people. Projects at Spango Valley, Ardeer and Hunterston have increased the commuter traffic, while the 'Blue Trains' and proposed new building liave looked like making us a residential suburb. Now we have rumours of industrial development at Inverkip and Fairlie which could have a profound effect. There seems no doubt that the next hundred years will see even gicater changes than those from 1850. The Rev. Dr. Lamond wrote often of the beauty of the Firth. Once visiting his successors at South Manse, he said 'My children, make the most of your time together here, because you will never be nearer Heaven this side of the grave than you are in Skelmorlie'. It would be nice if we could keep it that way.
RELEVANT BOOKS Apart from various County Geographies, Gazeteers, Guide Books and general works on Scottish History, I have got some useful information from the following books. Caledonia, Vol. Ill Chalinors History of the Shire of Renfrew George Crawfurd 1710 &. 1782 History of the Shire of Renfrew Metcalf 1905 History of the Shire of Renfrew - Continuation of Crawfurd's History George Robertson Cuninghame George Robertson History of the Counties of Ayr & Wigton; Vol. Ill Paterson History of the County of Air Paterson Ayrshire (Completion of Patcrson's History) History of Ayrshire Cunningharne Topographised by Timothy Font J.E. Shaw Cunninghame Dobie 1824

1818 1820 1847 & 1866 1953 1825 &



Principle Families of Ayrshire George Robertson 1824 Tales and Legends of Ayrshire W. Robertson The Lords of Cuninghame W. Robertson Memorials of the Montgomeries - Earls of Eglinton Sir Wm. Eraser 1859 The Scottish Nation William Anderson



Guide to Wemyss Bay, Skelmorlie, Inverkip and Largs Rev. J. Boyd 1879 Book of the Parish Church of Skelmorlie Rev. John Lamond One Hundred Years (South Church Centenary) W. Newton Macartney 1956 Inverkip 1798-1858 G. Macdonald Crawford The Auld Kirk and Its Witches Rev. Wm. Crawford Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire A.H. Millar Castles and Mansions of Renfrewshire & Bute A.H. Millar 1889 Views in Renfrewshire Philip A. Ramsay 1839 Dictionary of the Clyde Pollock Days at the Coast Hugh Macdonald 1878 Round about Greenock T.G. Snoddy First Statistical Account of Scotland, Vols. II & XVII Second Statistical Account of Scotland Third Statistical Account of Scotland 1951 The Knight and the Umbrella (Eglinton Tournament) I. Anstruther 1963 David Bruce Nirol, A Memoir Helen S. Nicol 1930 Porpoises and People Alan, Lord Inverclyde 1930 Memories of a Scots Woman (Burns family) Mary Corfield RELEVANT MAPS

1895 1946 1949 1889

1888 1950 1791 1845


The following maps cover the area with varying degrees of detail during the period before the Ordnance Survey of 1857. They are pretty consistent and the main difficulties arise not from what they put in but from what they leave out. Albion A.D. Scotland 1638 Blaeu's Atlas - Renfrew - Cuninghame West of Scotland Coast of R. Clyd Survey of the Clyde Renfrewshire Ayrshire 1775 Air shire 1777 Renfrewshire Ayrshire Renfrewshire Renfrewshire Ayrshire Ayrshire Ayrshire 1845 Basin of the Clyde Plans of Turnpike Roads Ptolemy Mercator T. Pont T. Pont John Adair H. Moll Capt. Armstrong Kitchen Ainslie Thos. Brown W. & D. Lizars Thomson Thomson Aitken Johnston Knox 1798 1818 1826 1807 1828 1829 1836 1852 1654 1654 1686 1725 2nd century

Watt Ross

1734 1754

Much valuable information has come from the plans and records at Register House, and for the later period from the files of the "Glasgow Herald" and "The Largs and Millport Weekly News".

Inside Back Cover



Related Interests