Lost Villages Book Launch

Memory, Mining and Heritage – Voices From Ayrshire Communities

On Friday 19th April we held our final event for the CCLP project ‘Life In The Lost Villages’ at the Boswell Centre in Auchinleck. The book launch for ‘Memory, Mining and Heritage – Voices From Ayrshire Communities’ was an evening that celebrated the social and cultural heritage of coal mining in Ayrshire. We were joined by ex-residents and their family members who had lived and worked in these communities as well as the elected members who had supported the project. Guests were treated to a live performance from traditional folk musician, Seán Gray and Scots language poet, Rab Wilson.

Attendees ready to celebrate the book launch of ‘Memory, Mining and Heritage – Voices From Ayrshire Communities’.
Depute Provost Claire Leitch (middle) joined book authors Dr Yvonne McFadden (left) and Professor Arthur McIvor (right)

The book was published by Carn Publishing and is available to purchase by clicking this link: Memory Mining and Heritage (carnpublishing.com)

Dane Love from Carn Publishing

We would like to give a big thank you to the team from the Auchinleck Community Development Initiative for hosting the event at the Boswell Centre and for providing the delicious catering. The Art Detox Group created these fantastic, book themed centrepieces for each table which made the evening feel extra special, thank you very much!

Easter Fun with Muirkirk Creatives

A fun series of Easter Activities were due to be held at Tower Street Pocket Park throughout April. However, the typical spring time weather meant that gusty conditions plus crafting, do not mix well! Undeterred, the group decamped to Cumnock Trinity Church round the corner and went ahead as planned. Well done everyone! The families who attended decorated egg cups, made lanterns, scarecrows and tealight holders.

Busy Biosphere and Future Activities

Through the summer of 2023 staff from the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere hosted and facilitated a range of family activities in the CCLP area. Particularly popular were the bug hunts (fun for all ages) and arts and crafts at events including the Woodroad Park Family Day, Pocket Park in Cumnock, and Netherthird Community Garden.

Many local people have taken part in the Biosphere’s Sense of Place workshops, including the Nest Wellbeing group in Cumnock and the Youth Group which meets at the Boswell Centre. Learning Journeys were undertaken by the ChaTea group from Auchinleck, who visited Dumfries House in June. They met with Billy Cooper at Ochiltree Hub to talk about the history of the area and enjoyed a special tour of Auchinleck House, followed by tea and cake at Boswell’s Coach House.

Image Below: The ChaTea Group at Auchinleck House

Ochiltree, which is a designated Biosphere Community, celebrated the launch of their new Heritage Trail and Lugar Water walk leaflets. Over 80 people attended a special event in August and walked together along the river to the Barony A-frame, before returning to the Hub for refreshments and musical entertainment from the Cumnock Tryst.

Image Below: Walking along the Lugar Path as part of the leaflet launch event

The Dalmellington Scout Group were the first to earn the new Biosphere badge for Scouts and Guides. Biosphere officers took a group of 30 children on a trip to Culzean Castle in September to complete badge activities in the castle grounds, in the woods and on the beach.

Images Below: Left: Dalmellington Scout Group at Culzean Castle. Right: The new Biosphere badge

Hannahston Nature Day took place on 1st October, with over 50 attendees exploring the community woodlands, meeting real owls, taking part in bug-hunting, pond-dipping, tree-planting, having their faces painted, and enjoying warming drinks from Drift Coffee. The fantastic outdoor activities were provided by Scottish Wildlife Trust, Eadha Enterprises, Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Coalfield Environment Initiative, SWSEIC, Architecture & Design Scotland and CVO. The event was such a success that a spring Nature Day at Hannahston is in the calendar for 4th May 2024.

Images Below: Left: Exploring Hannahston Woods. Middle: Nature Day Poster 2024. Right: Pond Dipping at Hannahston Ponds

The Capturing Climate Project involved P6/7 classes in four primary schools. Pupils were taught about Climate Change, using RoundView and Ketso, tools developed by the University of Manchester to help children and adults understand the world’s complex environmental problems. Children were encouraged to share how they felt about environmental issues, writing their worries, hopes and ideas on lollipop sticks before gluing them to a piece of recycled furniture. Muirkirk Primary School and New Cumnock Primary School decorated a chest of drawers, donated by the Re-Use Hub in New Cumnock, which was displayed at the Cumnock Tryst Concert on 7th October, where people were able to read and think about what the children had said. In November and December, Netherthird Primary School and Littlemill Primary School in Rankinston took part in the project and decorated a small table with lollipop sticks. These art pieces will be displayed in the schools and at events over the coming year.

Image Below: Logan Primary School pupils taking part in the Capturing Climate Project

Two primary schools have recently been taking part in a Swedish Learning Exchange. The GSA Biosphere has links with other UNESCO Biospheres around the world, and has developed a programme to partner with schools in different countries for projects that develop understanding of nature, sustainability, and global citizenship. At the beginning of this year the GSA Biosphere team led workshops at Logan Primary School and St Patrick’s Primary School, Auchinleck, to introduce children to the wildlife, habitats and special places of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire. Pupils produced postcards and maps which were sent to schools in Gotene, Sweden, and their partner schools in Sweden are currently completing the same activities. The hope is that the schools will keep in touch and share local stories to develop their connection.

Image Below: Logan Primary School Pupil proudly displaying the Red Fox postcard he made

The newest project from the GSA Biosphere is ‘Sense of Place in Film’. Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant from CT Productions are currently delivering sessions with the Recovery group from the Boswell Centre, Auchinleck, and Cumnock Junior Enterprise. Participants are developing skills in film production: learning to use cameras and equipment, storyboarding, shooting in the field, editing and post-production. We look forward to seeing their films in the near future.

Community History Triumphs Again

In summer 2023 Cumnock History Group produced ancestral tourism packs in response to the number of enquiries received from visitors to Cumnock. Digital copies were sent to local hotels and individuals making them accessible to everyone and reducing their impact on climate change.  The information includes how to find your ancestor’s grave, local museums and opening times, accommodation and transport information and maps. The group also updated the 2013 Cumnock Heritage Trail leaflet and printed 600 copies to give away in tourist attractions.

In August the group did a reprint of another 200 ‘Ploughing Up Our Past’ books of the CCLP project taking the total printed to 500 copies which is incredible! They are now working on a new self-funded project called ‘Many A Lang Scots Mile’ investigating migration to and from the Cumnock area. A team of 8 volunteers are researching and publishing stories on a blog. Click here to read all about it Many a Lang Scots Mile – our ancestors on the move (langscotsmilecumnock.blogspot.com)

To support the groups income, they have a new fundraising product, ‘Scots Words Heart’. Its aim is to preserve the language learnt as children and is available to purchase on the online shop. Click here for lots of goodies to buy Shop Products – Cumnock History Group

Images Above: Left to Right: Ploughing Up Our Past book cover; 2013 Cumnock Heritage Trail Leaflet; Scots Words Heart.

Cumnock History Group Chair Kay McMeekin gave a talk on ‘Ploughing Up Our Past’ project to East Ayrshire Family History Society on 8 Feb 2024. The group have also spoken to the Blind Club and the Breathe Easy Group about their projects and are keen to encourage all members of the community to get involved in local history projects.

Image Above: Cumnock History Group Chair Kay McMeekin

On 19th February this year, they celebrated 10 years of Cumnock History Group with a dinner in the Dumfries Arms Hotel. The evening was was a great success with 46 members attending, 4 members coming from England and another from Fife. The Provost of East Ayrshire and 3 councillors also attended.

Images Above: Members of Cumnock History Group with Provost Jim Todd in the centre of the image. Photo Credit : Isobel Shaw

We are currently working with Rab Wilson and Seán Gray on the People’s Parish Project -Old Cumnock. If you are interested in becoming a member of Cumnock History Group then please follow this link Become a Member – Cumnock History Group

Community Archaeology Dig at Ochiltree

As part of the Attainment Through Archaeology project, a community dig was hosted in Ochiltree from the 20th to 28th March. The dig consisted of 3 pits being excavated by volunteers under the watchful eye of staff from Archaeology Scotland. With support from local historians and volunteers, the site was chosen due to the close proximity of a circular structure in the adjacent field, barely visible but detected using LiDAR mapping techniques.

School children from Ochiltree Primary School, local families and volunteers took the chance to get involved. They found artefacts such as Victorian coins, an old brick plus some mysterious sandstone slabs which are believed to be part of a ditch or channel that would have surrounded the previously mentioned circular structure.

Well done to everyone who took part and worked hard in some very testing weather conditions.

Exhibition Special Viewing Hosted By East Ayrshire Leisure Trust

The Baird Institute in Cumnock, East Ayrshire is currently showcasing The Lost Villages Exhibition until the 3rd May. However, on Friday 15th March, esteemed guests, project volunteers and participants were invited along to a special viewing of the exhibition hosted by East Ayrshire Leisure Trust. Attendees were also treated to a sneak peek of the book ‘Memory, Mining and Heritage – Voices From Ayrshire Communities’. Thank you to everyone that came along and shared memories of their mining heritage.

Image Above: Left to Right – Professor Arthur McIvor, Dr Yvonne McFadden, Councillor William Lennox, Councillor Drew Filson, Lyndsay Jess (EALT) , Councillor June Kyle, Councillor Douglas Reid, Councillor Jim McMahon and Allan Dorans MP.

Image Below: Left to Right – Dr Yvonne McFadden and Professor Arthur McIvor from Strathclyde University and the Scottish Oral History Centre, alongside Lyndsay Jess, Museums Development Officer for East Ayrshire Leisure Trust.