Ayrshire’s Lost Villages – Dane Love – 6 November 2018

Ayrshire’s rural landscapes contain the remnants of numerous, old, abandoned communities—places where people once lived, worked hard, and brought up families, but which are now scattered heaps of stone, lines of trees, or hidden from view altogether. Local author and historian, Dane Love, came along to the club to throw some light on these largely forgotten communities.

Dane, who was brought up in Cumnock and now lives in a former village himself, took us on a visual journey through these lost villages with names that are in many cases no longer recognised at all. These settlements were frequently near to where work was to be found: for example, in coalmining, iron and steel working, textile manufacturing and farming. As a result, they could lie in some of the most remote and inaccessible places. Many were established for occupation by estate workers, but others, such as railway workers’ cottages or rows, were built on land leased to the particular company for that purpose. When the work ran out these small villages effectively died.

Well known lost communities include Glenbuck and Lethanhill, but there are almost fifty others, including Darnconner, Loudounkirk, Lethanhill, Gaswater (where Danes’s grandmother was born), Burnbrae, Commondyke, Craigbank, Alton and Benquat.

Life in the villages, which varied from single rows of thatched cottages to larger communities such as Darnconner which had a population of 1,200 at one time, was often hard. Mineworkers could only buy their provisions from the company store, and wives often waited there each day to make sure their husbands returned home from their day’s work underground. Amenities were basic or non-existent and in some cases even running water was unreliable.

Dane has written a successful book entitled Ayrshire’s Lost Villages which helps to ensure that the story of these lost communities is not forgotten. Details of the communities are described, as well as tales from the rows, accounts of struggles endured, and references to some famous sons.

Dr Jimmy Begg, himself a son of New Cumnock and respected author, acknowledged Dane’s vital work in keeping alive these places and people in our memories.