The Lost Villages

An Oral History of Miners’ Rows & Deindustrialisation in East Ayrshire, Scotland

Did you or your family live in the mining villages of Benquhat, Burnfoothill, Lethanhill, Darnconner, Commondyke and Glenbuck?

The Lost Villages is an oral history project led by researchers Prof Arthur McIvor and Dr Yvonne McFadden at the Scottish Oral History Centre. They are looking to recover the history of six lost mining communities by collecting the stories of the families who lived in the miners’ rows in the villages.

They want to tell the story from lived experience; from the memories of those who witnessed living in the miners’ rows and working in the coal mines and what it meant when the pits closed.

If you would like record your stories or get involved as a volunteer (training provided), please contact (website coming soon)

Facebook: @LostVillagesEA

Twitter :@VillagesLost

Ploughing up the Past Photo competition update

Head Judge Ken Fletcher, Editor of the Scottish Farmer said, “I really enjoyed the pics and some were a stark reminder of how hard farming is. I just hope that for your next series you hammer home the benefit of photography in preserving family farming life … and to not just have them on a mobile phone. Too many important snapshots of family life have been lost by NOT downloading the pictures and preserving them in a format that will stand the test of time.”

Black and white photo overall winner: Barmickhill Teatime in the Field (1940s) from Jennifer Kirkland– Indicative of the typical family farm, working hard but always stopping for a bite to eat together.

Jennifer Kirkland with her prize, afternoon tea from the Bakery Box Ochiltree

Colour photo overall winner: Bales at Little Creoch, New Cumnock from Jan Davidson – Farming can be lonely these days, but this just made me smile. Nairn Sloan and granddaughter Ella (the WellChild) have obviously worked together to do this. Shows the role that farming now plays in charitable work.

Jan Davidson’s father Nairn Sloan and her daughter with afternoon tea.
Kept in line – Andy McClounie, Garclaugh – nice framing of these sheep and it’s not easy to get them all looking so ‘cocky’ and that’s probably down to the dog just creeping into the pic
Andy McClounie with his steak pie from Nisbet’s of Mauchline

The runners up photos are on the project blog page. Please do look them up:

Ploughing up the Past is an Ayrshire farming heritage project, led by Cumnock History Group researching the history of farms in Cumnock, Auchinleck, New Cumnock and Ochiltree

If you want to be involved then please contact them on

CCLP Newsletter No.2 November 2020

You will find our November newsletter in our Resources section. This issue has news on the following projects:

Coalfield Place Names

Connecting Communities

Life in the Lost Villages

Doon Valley Railway

Lugar Heritage Centre

A Musical Celebration of Coalfield s Heritage

Ploughing up our Past

Coalfields for Pollinators

Hedgerow Habitats

North Kyle Master Plan

Ploughing up the Past Photo Competition

Cumnock History Group has secured funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to research farms in Cumnock and its neighbouring parishes of Auchinleck, New Cumnock and Ochiltree with the support of the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership. Our aim is to preserve our farming heritage by collecting all the information we can about our farms. You can see our progress on the Ploughing Up Our Past blog. Join in the conversation in the Ploughing Up Our Past Facebook group too.

What we are looking for are photographs showing farms and farming life. They can be recent or old, colour or black and white. All that is required is that the farming subject must be in our study area -Auchinleck, New Cumnock, Ochiltree, and Old CumnockJust tell us· Your name and address. Who the people are in your picture (if any)· If children are in a recent photo, you must have their parents’ permission· The name of the farm and parish it is in· Approximate date of photograph· Farm implements names, models etc· Breeds of animals, their names, personalities etc

There will be PRIZES!!! Please send your farm pics to by 8th January 2021 with “competition” as the subject matter.

All photographs submitted may be included the final project and all will be shared online. By entering it is assumed you agree to this. Photos will be judged by an independent adjudicator after the closing date and the prizes will be delivered.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere

Congratulations to our Board member Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere on securing £1.9m from the South of Scotland Enterprise agency. The 5-year funding agreement will see the Biosphere growing its core team and activities across SW Scotland significantly. Key priorities over the next five years will focus on how they can support and integrate the sustainability agenda into all our lives, benefitting communities, businesses, landowners, land managers and individuals Congratulations to our Board member Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere on securing £1.9m from the South of Scotland Enterprise agency. The 5-year funding agreement will see the Biosphere growing its core team and activities across SW Scotland significantly. Key priorities over the next five years will focus on how they can support and integrate the sustainability agenda into all our lives, benefitting communities, businesses, landowners, land managers and individuals.

They are now recruiting for a permanent full time finance and office manager. To find out more visit:…/

Newsletter Issue No.1

We have now published our first newsletter and you can download it from our resources section on the website. Find out about some of the exciting projects that are underway and if you are interested in volunteering then please do fill in our online form and we will link you up with the relevant project.

A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields

As part of the Musical Celebration of the Coalfields project The Cumnock Tryst have arranged FREE online workshops chaired by Sir James MacMillan.

Colin Prior Wednesday 23 September 2020 at 7.30pm This tutorial will look at ideal lighting conditions, seasonal opportunities and at some examples to change perceptions of familiar landscapes forever.

Alexander McCall Smith Wednesday 7 October 2020 at 7.30pm This tutorial will look at how to describe through words, what it is that makes us human – our character traits, ambitions, and our context, and explore language to paint a picture of a local historical figure for instance, or even a family member.

Michael Symmons Roberts Wednesday 21 October 2020 at 7.30pm This session will encourage you to explore their history in relation to your present and future, and look at the influence of the coal mines.

Pete Stollery Tuesday 10 November 2020, 7.30pm This interactive workshop is designed to get you to listen to, rather than just to hear, the sounds around you and to think about what those sounds might mean in an increasingly visual world. Headphones or earbuds recommended.

Chris Packham Tuesday 1 December 2020 at 7.30pm This session to inspire you to look at their environment in new ways; talk about the sounds you might record; the animal and plant life you could photograph or film; and answer any questions you might have.  

​To sign up please visit Priority will be given to people from Cumnock and the Doon Valley.”

We are Recruiting

We are now recruiting for 2 Project Officers to help deliver the CCLP over the next 5 years.

One post is full time (35 hrs per week) and one is part time (21 hrs over 3 days). Go to to apply.

More good news for the Coalfield communities – and you could get involved

The CCLP has now secured £67,904 from the Organisational Support Fund run by Historic Environment Scotland. The funding will support 2 exciting projects which will capture and celebrate the heritage of the CCLP area: Coalfield Place Names and Life in the Lost Villages. And they will offer lots of opportunities for our communities to get involved.

Amy Eastwood, Head of Grants at HES, said: “We are delighted to support Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership as part of their projects to explore and celebrate the heritage of the local area. By engaging the local community and former residents to find out what life was like in the historic Row Villages, CCLP will be able to record and document the intangible history of these remarkable places.”

The Coalfield Place Names project will be led by Glasgow University. The names of our towns, villages and landscape features are a window through which we can better understand our past. This project will harness local interest in the subject of place names, to create a coherent volume of work that aligns with national activities in this field and acts as best practice guidance on the subject.

The Life in the Lost Village, an Oral History project, will be led by Strathclyde University. The ‘Row Villages’ in the East Ayrshire coalfields are a remarkable and distinctive man-made feature in the landscape. When they were built they played a vital role but could not survive the exhaustion of the mineral resources they were built to exploit. However, traces of these row villages remain and they are of real importance not only to the Cumnock and Doon Valley area, but to the industrial history and heritage of Scotland as a whole.

This oral history project aims to capture the history of life in the Row Villages and the impact of deindustrialisation by exploring in depth the so called lost villages of Lethanhill, Burnfoot and Benquhat in the Doon Valley and Commondyke and Darnconner in the Lugar Valley. We want to hear from any former residents of these villages or their families. Or perhaps you just have stories to tell or memories to share about what these villages were like. Former residents of Glenbuck will also be interviewed as part of the project.

“I look forward as a CCLP partner to working on this exciting academic/community alliance and to delivering a major community oral history programme providing capacity-building training, recording, researching and preserving the memories of those in the East Ayrshire ‘lost villages’” said Professor Arthur McIvor, Director of the Scottish Oral History Project at Strathclyde University.

Councillor Roberts, Cabinet member of Economy and Infrastructure said ‘The confirmation of grant funding from Historic Environment Scotland is another really exciting announcement for the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership. The coalfields have a rich and fascinating heritage; it is so important that we record and retain this heritage so it is not lost for future generations. These two projects will help to make sure that this does not happen and I would encourage all residents and communities who are interested in the projects to get in touch with the CCLP team.’

If you are interested in taking part in these projects then please visit our website and use the volunteer form to sign up. We want to capture the memories and stories from local people and also want to hear from anyone who would be interested in learning about and gaining new skills in researching and recording local history.

CCLP Awarded £2,220,500 by National Lottery Heritage Fund

The Coalfield communities of East Ayrshire are set to benefit from a multi-million pound landscape and heritage regeneration project, following the exciting announcement that the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership has been successful in its application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery players the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP) has secured £2,220,500 for a 5 year delivery phase. When added to other funding that partners have secured and will continue to secure, the total project budget will be in the region of £6million.

The partnership will be delivering 22 exciting community led projects over the project area that aim to significantly improve the cultural, natural and industrial heritage of the area.  The wide range of projects include peatland restoration, new footpaths, an oral history project to capture memories of the lost mining villages, the reinstatement of hedgerow habitats, a musical celebration of life in the coalfields and much, much more.  The funding provides an opportunity to re-vitalise life in and reconnect local communities with their  own distinctive landscape by tapping into its history, improving knowledge of the present and helping inspire aspirations for the future.,

Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage, said:

“The industrial history of East Ayrshire means that people often don’t recognise that the area is rich in both built and natural heritage. With the help of National Lottery funding, the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership will help communities across a wide area reconnect with the heritage on their doorstep, strengthening their sense of pride and inspiring stewardship of the land around them.”

The impetus for the CCLP came from East Ayrshire Council’s Minerals Local Development Plan which focusses on regeneration and restoration, rather than just mineral extraction.  Adopted in January of this year, the CCLP is fully embedded within the Minerals Local Development Plan (MLDP) and will work with other initiatives to improve the coalfields area over the lifetime of the Plan.

Cllr Roberts, Cabinet member with responsibility for Economy and Infrastructure said

‘I am absolutely delighted that the application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund has been successful.  This is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work over the last 2 year from the CCLP team and of course our passionate and committed community partners, without whom the Partnership just would not work.  I am excited to see the marvellous mix of projects as they come to fruition over the next five years and I’m sure all our communities will benefit greatly from them.’

East Ayrshire Council is the lead Partner of the CCLP, the other Board members being East Ayrshire Leisure, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, Scottish National Heritage, Forest and Land Scotland, Central Scotland Green Network Trust and East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

Ed Forrest from the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere said “I’m thrilled to hear the great news that funding has been confirmed and really looking forward to our UNESCO Biosphere working with local communities and partners in delivering what will be a truly transformational project for the Coalfields area.”

Our community partners are also pleased to receive the support which will help deliver projects that they have been working on. The Rev John Patterson, Lugar Parish Church said “For five years the Kirk Session and congregation of Lugar Parish Church have been planning the development of the Church building, first donated to Lugar by Baird & son in 1867, so that it might be more relevant as a building and a resource today. Without ceasing to be a worship centre, phase two was proposed to be the internal development of the building to include a cafe, disabled toilets, disabled access and a heritage information centre concentrating on the immediate local area and such people as William Murdoch.  We in Lugar Church are most grateful to all partners inside and beyond the church for their encouragement and support. The bid to HLF through CCLP and East Ayrshire Council has been successful and the development of the church will commence soon, ensuring the building will be a continuing gift to Lugar that keeps giving as an asset to the whole community.”