A few notes on old Kilwinning Town and the Biography of Robert Morrison, Crosshouse.
Author(s): Mr Robert Morrison
Copyright holder(s): Dr Beth Dickson
and the Biography of R. Morrison, Crosshouse.
Being a native of the old historick town, famed through all the World as being the birth place of Free Masonry, I am surprised that there is not more said about it by some clever writers through the press of our local papers. It cheers the heart of the old I believe, especially when they can sit on their old arm chairs and read from the pages of their weekly local paper, something that concerns the old times and the coustoms of their old native town. I notice from the pages of the Kilmarnock Standard a Mr Christie by name has been giving us a very interesting report concerning the life of his fore bears. Informing us about their habits and manners of life from now and back nearly 100 years ago. And I can tell you as one who remembers His old father well, I enjoy his remarks. Now being a native of Kilwinning, and my forebears of there as well, I just like to recall a few incidents relative to my old native town. I am now above the alloted span retired from work about 3 years ago, having completed 56 years down in the bowels of the earth in a few different pits that surround my native parish. Namely, the diamond pit near to Fergushill, and No 28 Pit belonging to the Missis Finnie, all so a short time in Mr. Kenneths wee pit for supplying coal and clay for the Brick work that was situated below the old Corse hill. I was a short time in big Red burn a pit that belonged to the Messers Baird’s There was two pits big and wee allong side each other producing much coal for the furnaces but I may say my first experience of work began before I was 12 years of age and that was on the new railway then in construction. The big steam navvy as we called it then was working near to a farm namely the Wallcot holes and the dirt it produced had to be taken away by a steam pug driven by a big course man named Bob Bonnar. So my work was to shift two points to conduct the empty waggons into the navvy and allow the full ones to be taken out. My wage was 9/ per week and I can tell you I was a proud boy when I put 18/ in my mothers hand in Lamonts Row where I was born 71 years ago. So that was my first experience as regards work before I was 12 years of age. Now as we know everything comes to an end down here. So the big steam navvy finished his job and I was knocked out of work after having wrought 12 weeks to the great Mr. Robert McAlpine railway contractor. I may say, I went away down lately and had a walk away up the old Blair Road as far as the Pear tree Bridge that spans the railway and it acted like a tonick to me to stand and view the old scene of my boyhood and manhood days. Previous to the railway being made from Barmill to Ardrossan the old pear tree grew at the top of the hill. But owing to the railway comming through below it, the old pear tree was removed. But still there will be many in my old native parish who will remember the very spot where it grew, especially them who walked hand in hand with them they loved up that old romantic road namely the old Blair Road. My Father James Morrison by name, born and bred in old Kilwinning in the year 1837 was a lime stone miner. He was born on the main street near to the old post office between that point and Oxenward. being a lime stone miner he wrought above 20 years in a lime stone pit named Clon beith, about 3 miles to the north east of the old town where he was born. The limestone was required for to keep the furnaces open, so that the burning mass would keep moving down the inside of the furnace. He left his home in the morning at five o’clock and returned home at 6 p.m. after having wrought a hard days work amongst powder smoke so dense that they could scarcely see one another from morning to night. I was an eye witness of these conditions so you can rely on what the writer records. The writer wrought in that Pit 3 or four months with my Father. I may say that there is few to the fore who wrought or remember the old Clon beith Pit and the wee raw of Houses built to acomidate a few of the workers. I know of one still to the fore in the old town Archibald McNeish by name who wrought with his Brother and his Father 57 and nearly 60 years ago. I may say the remuneration for that laborious work in the year 1887 was 4/ per day I was paid 2/ at the age of 15 years. He removed from old Clon beith and went up to work in a small coal and limestone Pit situated about 1½ miles from Dalry namely Kersland Colliery. There were about 20 miners producing coal and my Father he wrought in the limestone seam a working about 6 feet high. It was wrought in the stoop and Room principle rooms about 15 feet wide and stoops to support the roof So it was there I learned to houk and bore and blaw the limestone oot to be taen awa, to mak the furnaces burn and blaw. till iron and slag ran oot sae braw. I continued there with my Father 6 or seven years untill I was introduced by Tammy Morrison to a job in 28 Pit as an oncoct worker. I call Him Tammy we never knew him by Thomas. He was a good Hearted soul and known all round for a distance of 10 miles fond of all kind of sport so I was taken up with that work for 5 years untill I gave up and removed from No 28 to the Diamond Pit to produce Lady Ha Coal and be a help to my old Father who was beginning to show signs of going down the Brae, eight hutches per man was the darg and for that work you received the sum of 4/ per day that was in the year 1895 and that wage remained from 1894 untill 1898 when wages began to take a turn and since that time untill now wages never went back to a starvation point. Father left the Daimond and gave up the pits and ended his laborious life by taking an easy job down in Kilwinning Iron Works attending to the Chemists and there he ended His days in the Bridgend where he died at the age of 68. By that time I was back to 28 again working as a Colliery Firemen Married and residing in Fergushill and I remained in that job for 17 years. But my old companion through life from boyhood days being a colliery manager George Paisley by name got me advised to leave and engage as a Fireman under him in South hook Colliery. So in the year 1915 we removed away from old Fergushill up to South hook where I wrought for 25 years under the managership of George Paisley W. Bertram and John Gibson. having completed 56 years and health beginning to show signs of weakness I left Firemanship and was engaged as bottomer in one of Mr. Howies pits for a short time before retiring in the year 1940. I will now return to the scenes of my boyhood days in and arround my old native town, being born in Lamonts Row all the boys in that part of the town frequainted the lower part more so than the higher. Yet we were acquaint from one end of the town to the other The most of my boy companions were schooled in the parish school but I was educated in the ironworks school under Mr. James Brown and Mr. Wm. Blair Headmaster So I was thorough aquaint from the Byres to the Corsehill heid, and to the Barrel raw, and right on to the sanny hills not forgeting the Kennets raw the five roads the big planting the Ridy Stidy and right on past the Kennels up to good old Fergushill I may say before I get away from school days I would just like to say I started my school days in the Corse hill under an old man named John McKechnie. He had been a pit Engineman and met with an accident where by he lost his leg. So he was started in this little school under the school board. I began with him at the age of 4½ years. But poor old Jock died about 6 months after I began. The house he resided in is still to the fore so that is near to 66 years since old Jock Died. It was at Jocks school that I met with George Paisley who became my companion for 55 years. We worked together courted our girls got married shortly after one another and got gloriously saved by the Grace of God about 2½ years after one another. He became a mine manager and died following that Occupation in the year 1930 aged 59. Now I would just like to remind you as boys about the old brig end we had our sport there was cricket playing football and playing below the lamp post at the bools. Jock Conn, Darrock Service, and Jimmie Swire, experts at the bools. The cricket I think was a game we played at because there was a cricket team of young men named the Segton who played in a field belonging to the Redstone Farm There were a few good players whose names I remember well big Sanny Stirrat, Big Sanny McGowan, John Woods, Johny Reid, James Reid, and a few others who were very good players at Cricket. So as boys we tryed to do our best taking them for our example. We played out at Kennets old Brickfield and on what we called the Watering Green a little piece of ground in the centre of the Garnock comming from the Meal Mill Dam. So many a hard game was specktated from the old bridge by a few who delighted to watch the boys nearly 60 years ago. Where is now the merry party gone Then there were the old Monkcastle foot ball team My first recollection of it was when the game was played in the field round at the Butts and also out in a field at West Doura. I believe it was at the Butts where the great J. Sloan appeared first to play with Kilwinning and we used to think as boys when we knew that J. Sloan had arrived down from old Killie all would be well. After this the Claremont field came in to prominence and the great old Monkcastle played some of its hardest games in that field. The players by name were A. McIlroy A. Dods John Brown or A. Anderson H. Dunlop A. Black Wm. Morgan J. Morgan Punch Campbell D. Devlin A. Ralston H. Howie D. Service and the famous John Allan of international fame I can tell you these men were hard to beat. The old song they used to sing was search the hale of Ayrshire and Scotland through and through you would not get a team to beat Monkcastle team the noo. I have omited to mention old J. Sloan He was a good player of foot ball I think he would be a native of Kilmarnock. But before I finish with football, I must remind you of the famous John Allan. He was swift and sure and one of the finest players of football that ever played the game. He had no dirty tricks and for a good distance all arround the old town men flocked to the Claremont field when they knew Allan was going to play just to see his gentleman play and how he could handle the ball. a native of the old town And now I refer to the old sport when gentlemen from all parts of the country came together once a year to shoot with Bow and Arrow up to the heights of the old Steeple and which ever one of them shot down the wooden pigeon was made Captain for that year. So each year there were the Gentlemans Popin jay the working mans and the boys. So if I am correct with my memory I remember the last time the boys engaged in that sport the boy who was made Captain was Robert McGowin by name. He resided in Kennets Row. I remember following the Band and Him up to his home. I might be wrong but I will take it as a compliment if I am. So the old town was famed for its Archers. But off course these stirring times of men with Bows and Arrows was before my time, But I have read and heard much about it. Now for the industry of the old town above 100 years ago was principally weaving and mining. I have heard my Father say that he remembered when there were 500 weavers in and arround the old town. So the sound of the shuttles was heard from the byres to the Corse hill head at that time. I can remember my self 2 looms in Corsehill. Old Wm. Ralston and John Conn were the weavers then there were one in the Green and one in the way going to Green from the Dovecot Lane. Old Andrew McCartney was the weaver Allso in Dalry Road Peter McGinn had a loom He was the first Irish weaver in the old town. I have heard my Father say that he remembered when there were just a few Irish families in the old town all together. I may say that the building of the furnaces brought a good many from Ireland and they remained and increased as the works advanced. Now for the old worthys that all of my age remembers well, there were old Wull Dickie a native of the old town We knew him as whistling Wull Dickie he was a strong whistler with his mouth. He put in coals to different People and received as much for that sort of work as fed him So Wull ended His days by dying in the Gas work. Mr + Mrs Craig was very kind to Wull. He had many quaint sayings and actions that we as boys were all amused by them. One of his actions were to dive in to the Mill Dam for to give him self a good wash Then there were old Jock Macartney who was a native and who was very fond of a dram. Then there were James Lynch another native a confederate of Jock Macartney. Then we had interloupers such as the Lintie billy Cook and Johnny Hawkins. The Lintie was a quary man to trade but owing to being too fond of a dram the Lintie became a nuisance. Billy Cook was a miner but owing to his mind giving way he gave up the pits and became a wanderer about the old town. Then Johny Hawkins where he sprang from I could not say. But I remember him when he first came about the town delving gardens and cutting corn for John Frain. Poor souls they all got there little time ended in the poor house with the exceptions of Wull Dickie I would like also to bring to your rememberance Wee Peter Watt a native of the Corsehill who lived and died there. Peter would be between 4 to 5 feet high and as boys we tormented Peter when he came down to the town to do messages being a little weakling we used to cry after Peter there was a sodger. So Peter being afraid of sodgers we got good fun from annoying Peter as he passed by the brigend. Three weeks ago I gaid awa doon jist to hae a bit walk roon ma auld native toon. So starting awa at the auld brig end a stood for a moment and took a look roon. But sorry to sae the auld hooses that used to be all toon has left only there mark to tell us. They all had been tain doon. There is still a wee hoose a butt and a ben where all Nanny Curdy leaved to her end. She kept a wee shop and selt black man. and when as callans we played at the auld brigend, we aye got a wee bit o’ nannys black man. O how we used to steal doon the burn or through auld Johny Wylies entry doon to the Garnock to hae oor dook. I would like to bring to your rememberance auld Willie Service with his shop of all attractions for the children. How we used to look in the window at these prizes which were to be obtained by draws ½ pennys each very often it was try again we got instead of a prize and we came away from Willies shop disheartened at receiving for our halfpenny a try again instead of a prize. Then there were Mary Sheddans Grocery where Darock Jamie Tam and Rab sprung from. They turned out Grocers Drs. and Engineers and joiners all natives of the auld Brigen. I remember on a New Year’s Night I received a severe black eye from Tam while playing at guesses and running across from his mothers window to Jenny Aulds I met Tam and owing to me being a little taller I received the blow from Tams head, and I can tell you it closed my eye for a time. Dr Milroys house is still to the fore where I got my first tooth extracted by the Dr. He was a fine man and clever in his profession He laboured in Kilwinning for nearly 40 years and then retired and Died in the town of Ayr at the age of 86 He was ably assisted by Dr. Gage a native of Montrose in the East coast. He died in Kilwinning and was buried in his native town Montrose A clever wee man and had his profession at heart. He began his career in Dr. Milroys shop and went on with his studies untill he got capped as a Dr. Then I remember old Dr. Auld a native of the old town a canny going man. I used to hear my mother speak of him when he began as a young lad learning shoe making but he got away from that and then went on to study to come out for to be a doctor. He lived and Died in Kilwinning. I allso remember two Drs. who were natives of the old town namely Dr. Craig and Dr. Andrews then there were Dr. Service and Dr. Milroy followed after. I don’t remember him he died shortly after I was born. So these are men who looked after the weak to endeavour to make them strong. Now I would like to bring to our rememberance How the old town was watered before the introduction of the gravitation water which I remember was introduced when I was a boy. It was conveyed in metal pipes from the Munick reservoir near to Dalry. Before this there were a few Principal wells 2 in the Corsehill one in Wood wynd one in Kyle’s well street one in the Howgate one in the byres. Then there were a few private wells and one I will not have to forget was St. Winning’s well the oldest in the town It was cut away when the new Railway was passing on to Ardrossan and to Irvine So these were all spring wells but in process of time, some of them Had pumps erected such as the Howgate the byres and Wood wynd and Kyleswell. But the two we were most acquaint with were the two in the Corsehill. Gordy’s by name and the Dyets. Even after the introduction of the gravitation in the summer time when it was extra hot we often went up to Gordys well for a cold refreshing drink. I might say taking it as a whole the old town was well watered from Byres to Corsehillhead Another form of supplying them in the town who were thirsty were by shops who sold strong drink such as Ale Porter and Whisky From the five roads to the South West station including ironworks store there were no less than 20. But glad to say a few of these has been done away with now. However I remember the 20 when they were in full swing. One of them could say their liquor was good and injured none Refresh and pay and travell on that remained above the door for a long time. Good for some of us that we became Rechabites and afterwards became New Creatures in Christ. Now I would like to bring before you the men who supplied us with that which was beneficial for our body namely Bread. I would just like to mention a few who I reveared as descent honest men. We will start with Mr. Babinton at the head of Oxenward and Mr. Robert Crawford and wee Sany Nairn and Tam Lynch James Crawford and John all bakers in Mr. Crawford’s bake house and I can tell you it was a treat to get one of their Pies on a Saturday night, allso the Baking Society and old Baker Youngs in the centre of the town a fine energetic old man looking after the interest of the town and his own business as well and further down on the Brae was old Wattie Howie. These men were all natives of the town that is how I like to mention them. The most of their vans supplying bread went over a distance of 4 or 5 miles each day. Returning back to the industries of the town the furnaces began nearly 100 years ago, and after them Engineers shops and fundry, and in my boyhood the wool spinning mill came into prominence. I remember when the steam boiler came down through the town being conveyed to where it was going to be built in its place by an attraction engine and we thought as boys it was a great affair. I remember while it was started to be built I received my first black checked nail in between 2 bricks So that is I believe, about 65 years ago. And when building operations were completed. The machinery were installed and girls from as far away as Irvine and all round the town were engaged wages for their labour averageing from 5 shillings to 8/6 per week labouring from 6.30 a.m. untill 6 p.m. with an hour and a half deducted for meals, no wonder that Socialists and Comunists sprang up to defend their cause. I will now conclude my reminiscence of by gone days by bringing to your rememberance the dooking hole opposite the mill, further up the river the Cobblers Hole, where old cobbler Johnstone fell into the water while in the act of fishing along with Sanny Paterson of Lamont’s Row His body was carried down the river as far as the Lumford Bridge where it was found and brought back to the town for interment. I remember it well. Then there were the wee dam stones where we congregated on the long summer day and had our baths better Known by us as dooking and learning to swim and dive from the big stone in the centre of the stream. So being wearied with the days proceedence, we made our way home, climbing the jelly floor banking and todling doon the auld blair road and through the field where the hospital now stands we reached oor destination Lamonts Row and the brigen. These were the days of no thought nor care. We just lay doon at nicht efter having said oor wee prayer and slept till the morning. Comming forth to prepare to play at these games that are noo sae rare. I have given you an account of school days and the sport then engaged in, both in land and water. I have also mentioned the names of a few of the sportsmen such as footballers and cricketers and I would like to recall the names of a few swift men such as Mr W. Steel John. Allan David Service Wm. Cully Hugh Howie. All swift at 100 yds, ¼ mile and a mile race it was a treat to see them run. I have also given you an account of the medical profession as far back as 1872. Also the industries engaged in from before my time and up to the present. These took in weaving mining ironworks fundries Engineers spinning wool and local joinering and Baking. Speaking of joinering I remember as boys whose parents kept pigs we frequented the joiner shops in the morning to clean up the shavings of the floor for bedding for our pigs, so the joiners we frequented were namely James Reid better known as the Colonel, I knew him well and his eldest son especially, James by name. His joiners shop was in the old tan yard. Then there were Tom Browns and Mr. Arnots, and old James Robertsons of Winning Square All these shops were called on for shavings. I would like to bring to your rememberance the old coal carters I will begin with old Hughie Boyd a native of the town he resided in the Green Dovecot Lane. Then there was old John Baird who resided in the Loch. and old John Lynch who resided in the Green. and old Neil Horney whose stable was in the Lane James Mackie of Kennets Row with his cuddy and John Bakies and Willie Rolley who resided in the port and stabled his wee hairy ponny in the back of his house. One of sayings to it when it inclined to go to much to the left side were ‘Come out of the shuch on to the hard road’. These men supplyed the old town with coals carting them from fergushill Pits and Kennets wee pit out Irvine Road. Now that puts me in mind of one whom I would not like to forget namely John Con better known by Jockey Con. He was a carter and waggoner to R. Kennet a civil wee man and a good Horse man. We all respected him and the reason for that was that he loved boys and delighted to give them a hurl in his cart many a time when he came with coals to Mr. Smith or Mr. Hunter up Fergushill road we all got in to his cart and was hurled out as far as the Brickwork. But Poor Jockey Good Horseman though he was one day he received a kick from the big horse he was driving and so that ended Jockeys carrear as a carter. He was a native of the old town and resided in Lamonts Row where I was born and brought up a few doors from his. I have mentioned about the joiners now I would like to say a word about the Blacksmiths. When we were boys Johnny Wilsons of Wood wynd were our favourite for geting our girrs walded together and boggys sorted when they gave way. He was a nice quite, civil man and had a place in his heart for the boys who frequented his shop. Then the strongest man and the heavyest man in the town wrought with him a mighty man was he. His name was James Muir better known by big Jamie Muir. Also Johny bain a grand Horse shoer. These were natives of the old town. Then there was old Sanny Langs smithy in Oxenward a fine quite old man. He excelled in sharping tools such as masons irons. When my Father and I and old Tam McGowan wrought in dalry at the lime stone we brought some of our tools to old Sanny to sharp them and to repair the face of our limestone mells. He was good at them. Then there was a shop belonging to Mr. Nairn the wire fencer at the beginning of the White hurst Road, where big Jamie Muirs Father and His Brother Tom wrought. They were mainly taken up with fencing and iron Gates and Railings. Which are in many places owing to the war now removed to help to supply iron to make bullets to kill the Germans. So that concludes my remarks concerning the village smiths who had arms as strong as iron bands. I may say though I am a native and all belonging to me of the old town I have only been once up on the top of the steeple and that was the night of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The steeple is 100 feet high to where people can stand and look over. It gives one a grand view for miles around. I may say the old grave yard is spread out in front of it where lies the dust of the natives of the old town and surrounding parish. I attended 3 interments one was my old Uncle John Calderwood and the others were a brother and sister who was entitled to be buried there. I have still a cousin who claims to be intered there if she desires. In the centre of the old Grave yard stands the church where as boys and girls we attended the Sabath School and from its precincts we made our first exit towards Eglinton Policies on a Saturday. We marched along Irvine Road with our wee tinies hanging in front of us from a ribbon round our neck. and when we arrived at the field in front of the stables the days sport began. So when the days sport came to an end we were marched through the Gardens to view the fine flowers and fruit that was growing in abundance there. I remember another trip we got up to Blair going with the train to Dalry and when we arrived we were marched up to the Policies where we enjoyed our selves to the full. I remember we were presented to the Old Captain before the day finished. My teacher in the Sunday School was George Jack a mason to trade. He resided in the Byres near to the Railway Bridge and him and old Robert Baillie wrought together as masons and Builders but not in a large scale. The Minister at that time and up to 1902 was Mr. Lee Kerr a very fine man.
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A few notes on old Kilwinning Town and the Biography of Robert Morrison, Crosshouse. 2023. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved June 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1017.
"A few notes on old Kilwinning Town and the Biography of Robert Morrison, Crosshouse." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. June 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1017.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "A few notes on old Kilwinning Town and the Biography of Robert Morrison, Crosshouse," accessed June 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1017.
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