History (Updated:  15/01/2020)

Group Leader David Bowman  01292 474067
Free Kirk Hall
Day & Time
Wednesday  10.00 am - 12.00 noon 
OiR Ayr History Group Programme for January to June 2020
All meetings in Ayr Free Church Hall unless advised otherwise.

8th January - Jim Irving – The Wagon Ways and Tramways of Ayr           

22nd January - John Chalmers – Glenburn Pit

5th February - Ian McAnulla - Windows into History
Political Cartoons can provide a useful insight into past events;  For example, why did a cartoon depict Donald Trump attending The Mad Hatter's Tea Party? Why did a cartoonist draw Stalin and Hitler walking arm in arm? 

19th February - Stanley Sarsfield – Keir Hardie

4th March - Bobby Grierson – Camp 22, Pennylands POW Camp at Dumfries House

18th March - Ian McAnulla - The Struggle for Equality
March 8th is International Women's Day and it celebrates the  achievements of women and their goal of gender parity.
The talk will look at the history of their struggle (with the help of some cartoons!) 

1st April - Denis Rattenbury - “Voltaire and Rousseau, main representatives of the Age of Enlightenment and fathers of the French Revolution”.
David Hume wrote: "Why is it when we have lost parliament and monarchy and independent government, speak uneasily in a foreign tongue but yet are the People most distinguished for literature in Europe?" Voltaire agreed: "It is to Scotland that we must look for all our ideas of civilisation."
In 1791, two years into the French Revolution, a church in Paris was transformed into the Pantheon, a burial place to honour great men of the new nation. The bones of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (both had died in 1778, 11 years before the Revolution began) were lifted and transferred there amidst huge admiring crowds. 

15th April - Christine Watson (Kilwinning Heritage) -KILWINNING ABBEY AND THE ABBEY TOWER
From the early Irish monks and their missions to spread Christianity in the west of Scotland to medieval times and the establishment of powerful monastic houses, Kilwinning Abbey has witnessed over 1300 years of Scotland's history. What remains and how can we interpret the past from its stones? How is the remaining tower still playing a role in 2020?

29th April - Proposed Trip – Details later

13th May - Ian McAnulla – Subject to be confirmed

27th May - Mick Roebuck – A brief history of Lewis and Harris

The talk, over 2 meetings, will focus on key events such as where the Callinish Stones came from, Viking raiders and the Lewis chessmen, Lord of the Isles, Matheson and Lews Castle, Crofting and Land Raids, the Iolaire disaster, and Lord Leverhulme.

10th June - Mick Roebuck – A brief history of Lewis and Harris (cont’d)

24th June - Proposed Trip – Details later

At the start off 2014 the History Group had an enjoyable 6 months with sessions on the Russian Revolution and the First World War.  There were guest lectures on Women and War and Glasgow Transport Museum.  In June 2014 we had two visits to Covenanters sites and to the Transport Museum.  When we returned in September 2014, after the summer break, we had a further guest lecture on Women and War and on Poor Houses in Ayrshire before finishing with the Russian Revolution, looking at the Middle East since 1916 and the Scottish Diaspora.  All OiR members are welcome.


The Pictish Stones in Angus History has few records which tell us of the Picts - the people who inhabited Scotland North and East of the Central Belt in the Dark Ages - the early centuries AD up to the 9th Century AD.  The legacy we have is of incised and carved sandstone  bearing animals, real and imaginary, winged creatures, snakes and the like, hunting scenes with spear carrying mounted warriors and, as Christianity gradually became absorbed into their way of life, many of the stones also bear an upright Christian cross.  The Pictish Stones, visited by nineteen members of OiR's History Group, are all located in the East of Scotland, mainly in Angus.  

We left Ayr early, 8am on Wednesday, 10th May, in a Bennett's coach driven, once again, by our favourite driver, Andy.  Our first stop was to a most interesting museum in Meigle which contains 27 carved Pictish stones. This Historic Scotland property is small, but well lit and with excellent information.  On afterwards to the small village of Aberlemno, a lovely name, where there are three famous stones out of doors, at the side of the road, but the road was so narrow that Andy decided it foolish to try to park a large coach in that area.  Then we did park in the hamlet of Eassie where the ruined church contains a cross-slab stone from mid 8th Century and can be viewed through a see-through enclosure.  Brechin was our next stop, to visit the tall 11th century round tower, only one of two still existing in Scotland. The tower is now part of Brechin Cathedral which we also visited. 

Then, after a very full day and a welcome meal in the Premier Inn East in Broughty Ferry, we  did not linger long, but headed to our comfortable rooms to sleep well in very comfortable Hypnos beds.  After breakfast we drove through Arbroath to a tiny village, St Vigeans  where there is another sculptured stones museum  which again contained carved stones, many with carved religious figures indicating that the mound on which a large impressive church now stands was once the site of a monastery.   St Vigeans is tiny, once a village apart, but now almost absorbed into Arbroath.  

On again, to our last stop - Forfar.  The museum there, the Meffan Museum, contains many mediaeval relics among them a large Pictish stone - the Dunnichen Stone.   

Following lunch in Forfar we hit the road again, not stopping until we arrived back in Prestwick and Ayr. A most interesting two days had gone by in a flash and we are very fortunate in OiR having such willing members as Jean Lockley and Mick Roebuck who planned and reccied this trip.  (Unfortunately Mick did not join us as he had to call off on the morning of our departure due to a stomach bug).   

Many thanks to both.  Amy Kinnaird Thanks to Amy for her report and photographs.


Mick Roebuck reports that twenty-seven members of the History Group visited Stirling Castle on 19th April.  They had a great tour guide who gave an outstanding presentation on its history.  In the King and Queens bedchamber there were also two guides dressed in traditional costume  who explained the beautiful heads in the ceiling as well as the seven tapestries. They explained that it took fourteen people to create of the Hunt of the Unicorn.  Some of the OiR Ayr History Group is shown below.  

Amy Kinnaird:  The weather for our History Group tour to Stirling Castle was dull and a bit drizzly for most of the day, although the sun did break through in short bursts in the afternoon. We had a full guided tour with an Historic Scotland guide, Stewart, who was excellent. The tour was scheduled to last one hour, but such was the interest we were with him for at least an hour and a half.  Stewart gave us lots of information relating to historical dates, and we tried to absorb every detail. This tour took in the outer areas of Stirling Castle for example, the Guardroom Square, the Outer and Inner Closes and the outer walls with the Battery cannons.  In our own time, we also toured the Great Hall, the Stirling Heads Gallery, the Chapel Royal, the Tapestry Exhibition and the Royal Palace. 

Stirling Castle is truly the jewel in Scotland's Crown;  so much of the events in our country's history is contained within its walls.  Its location, on the volcanic outcrop high above the Forth Valley, has clearly made it the Gateway to the Highlands for more than a thousand years. 

The inner man/woman was also catered for as we enjoyed a welcome coffee in the Unicorn Cafe on arrival, plus a light lunch before we boarded the coach at 3pm to return to Ayr.  As on previous occasions we had a coach from Bennett's of Kilwinning  with our excellent, very helpful driver, Andy, who has been with us on other trips.  Thanks to Mick for organising our most enjoyable outing - photos attached

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