Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

We wish all KDHG members and visitors to our talks and website a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2014 when it comes. We look forward to seeing you all soon and are grateful for your ongoing support and interest.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Tonight's talk will be given by Dane Love from Cumnock.  Dane has been long interested in Scottish history and in particular the history of Ayrshire.  He published his first book in 1989 and since then he has written many more.  To learn more of Dane and his publications, visit his own website at:

Dane will be speaking to us about the Covenanters and Ayrshire and if you want to learn more about them, you coiuld do worse than visit the following sites.

Who were the Covenanters?

 Covenanters on Wikipedia

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Important - Change of Speaker

Unfortunately, due to a bereavement, Professor Caroline Wilkinson will be unable to speak to us at our next joint meeting with KESS.  We are very grateful to Professor Danny Gorman for arranging an excellent replacement speaker at such short notice.
The speaker on Tuesday night will now be Alan Birkbeck.

On leaving school Alan went into Barr and Stroud’s and served his apprenticeship ending up in the tool room. On leaving Barr and Stroud he served for a number of years in HM armed forces before leaving and working in varied engineering fields from marine engineer on fishing boats to underground maintenance engineer. Finally, in 1976 he entered the University of Glasgow Mechanical Engineering Department and over the next fifteen years worked on materials testing at the Mechanical Engineering Research Annex and the last twenty years in the James Watt building, testing materials and high speed impact with the Ballistics and Impact Group. In 2011 upon leaving the University he started up Birkbeck Armoury, allowing him to carry on a lifetime’s interest in weapons technology and fortifications.
He will be speaking to us about a joint project with Dr Tony Pollard, Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, initiated by the discovery of some “lead spheres” found on the Culloden battlefield site.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Depicting the Dead

Our next meeting, on Tuesday 12 November, is a joint meeting with Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society so there should be a large attendance.  Get there early to be sure of a good seat.
The speaker is Caroline M Wilkinson, Professor of Craniofacial Identification at the University of Dundee

Professor Wilkinson is best known for her work in forensic facial reconstruction, and has been a contributor to numerous television programmes on the subject as well as the creator of a reconstructed head of King Richard III and more recently she brought the face of Mary, Queen of Scots, to life. Her depictions of faces from the past have featured on the BBC's History Cold Case, Show Me the Mummy and Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer.

Professor Caroline M Wilkinson

Monday, 28 October 2013

Spies of the Elizabethan Era

This week's talk is called 'Spies of the Elizabethan Era' and wil be delivered by Barbara Graham, KDHG member and highly regarded local historian.
7.30pm, Tuesday 29th at Kilmarnock College. Visitors and new members always welcome.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fenwick Weavers

It was a full house at the Burns Monument Centre on Tuesday 15 October to hear Jim O'Neill talk to us about the Fenwick Weavers, the undisputed first Co-operative in the world.
For those of you who were unable to attend, you can read more about the Weavers at the following websites:-

Parliament Wall in Fenwick Village

Thursday, 10 October 2013

15th October meeting. Change of venue

Please note that our meeting on Tuesday 15th October will take place at The Burns Monument Centre and not Kilmarnock College.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Change to programme

In a change to our forthcoming programme, we have been required to swap our speakers for 1st and 15th October. 1 October Dr June Neilson ‘Romano – Celtic Religious Deities of Northern Britain’ 15 October Jim O’ Neil ‘The Fenwick Weavers’

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Lecture Programme for 2013 - 2014

Kilmarnock & District History Group Syllabus 2013 / 14


1   October                   Dr June Neilson       Romano – Celtic Religious Deities of                      
                                                                         Northern Britain

15 October                  Jim O’ Neil                  The Fenwick Weavers

29 October                  Barbara Graham          Spies of the Elizabethan Era

12 November             Caroline Wilkinson     Depicting the Dead – Joint meeting
                                                                                    with  KESS

26 November              Dane Love                  The Covenanters and Ayrshire          

10 December               Tom Barclay                “1263 and all that” – The War with
                                                                        Norway and the Battle of Largs


7 January                     Allan Richardson        Beith Furniture

21 January                   John Burnett               Robert Burns – John Wilson and The
                                                                        “ Kilmarnock Edition”

 4 February                  Frank Donnelly           Sir Alexander Fleming           

18 February                 Tony Mulholland       Lewis Fry Richardson – Joint meeting
                                                                                    with KESS

4 March                       Jim Boyle                    The History of The Royal College     

18 March                     Members Open            AGM  Plus
Evening                       Kilmarnock in the 1960s and ‘70s

Monday, 24 June 2013

Town Trail for Primary Schools

Kilmarnock & District History Group has been heavily involved in the production of a new resource for Primary schools.
A new education pack, prepared by local teachers working with ourselves, provides Primary pupils and teachers with the resources to investigate  sites of significant historical interest around the town of Kilmarnock.  It also highlights some fascinating information about some of the local landmarks  and about some colourful historic characters such as "Fiftywaistcoats".

The guide is packed with photos and illustrations of 12 key sites, as well as quizzes and flashcards for teachers to use. There are also follow-up activities for classroom projects.
The trail  makes good use of Robert Burns’ connections with Kilmarnock. The children are able to find out about his visits to the town and have the chance to match up some Scots words the poet would have used, with their English equivalents.

The Primary Town Trail project was initiated by Graham Boyd,our syllabus secretary.
Graham said,  “Kilmarnock has many historic buildings in a part of the town centre that has been designated an Outstanding Conservation Area. Sadly, some buildings were falling into disrepair, but the Council’s Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) has helped to fund the repair of these buildings in a sympathetic manner, acting as a catalyst for regeneration of the whole town centre”.
Shona Simpson, of Kilmarnock THI, approached Graham with the idea of developing a town trail specifically for primary pupils, with the innovative Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in mind.
Schools in and around Kilmarnock have all received the Town Trail pack and eventually other East Ayrshire schools will also get copies.

Graham Boyd believes the programme not only has educational benefits – but will also increase young people’s respect for their home town.
He said: “We asked children what their perceptions of Kilmarnock were and some were rather negative. We checked again after they’d been on the trail – and in almost every case they had a greater appreciation of the town and how it had been shaped.”
Alan Ward, East Ayrshire's  Acting Head of Schools, said: “This education pack represents the very best practice in collaboration between schools and their community partners.
Councillor Iain Linton, East Ayrshire's spokesman for Lifelong Learning, said: “This new Primary Town Trail leads you on a fascinating walk through Kilmarnock’s rich, colourful past.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Origins of Kilmarnock

We have updated our 'People, buildings, Landmarks & Events' page. Please have a look HERE
If you have any articles of local interest, please send them to us and we will consider publishing on this page for you to share with our members and visitors.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Photos of Kilmarnock -2nd June 2013

Why not click the link to our Facebook page and have a look at some photos we took last Sunday while having a trial run for your forthcoming guided walks?

Information about the walks can be found HERE

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Paisley Drain

‘Digging the Great Drain’ 

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is hosting a free public screening of a documentary about Paisley's medieval past at its Paisley Campus (P Block) on Friday 21 June 2013, 12.30pm.

The 33-minute documentary, Down the Great Drain, centres on the recent archaeological investigation of Paisley Abbey and its unique monastic drain. The drain has produced important artefacts and valuable information providing new insights into Paisley’s role as a significant religious, cultural and commercial centre in medieval times.

The documentary was produced and directed by filmmaker Tony Grace and narrated by Jane Robertson, who are both Senior Lecturers in the University’s School of Creative and Cultural Industries.

It was made by the University in conjunction with the Renfrewshire Local History Forum, with funding and support from Paisley North and Paisley South Local Area committees of Renfrewshire Council. The Renfrewshire Local History Forum has organised the recent excavations around the monastic drain with GUARD Archaeology Ltd. Historic Scotland will also be in attendance at the event.

A buffet lunch will be available after the screening and Q&A for project partners and collaborators.


Call 0141 848 3661 (between 9 – 1pm) for further information. We look forward to hearing from you.

Jocelyn Turley, Administrator
Media Academy Knowledge Exchange (MAKE)
University of the West of Scotland
A211, Barbour Building
Paisley, PA1 2BE TEL: (0141) 848 3661

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bob McWilliam

It is with great sadness that we intimate the passing of Bob McWilliam at Crosshouse Hospital on 23 May 2013

 Until fairly recently, Bob led a very busy life.  He was much involved with many  organisations within Kilmarnock and beyond, including, Kilmarnock & District History Group, Opportunities in Retirement,  Probus, Kilmarnock Burn's Club and Burn's Federation and Riccarton Church.

 Bob was no mean football player in his youth and he was heavily involved in the organisation of schools football.  Last year he was honoured by the SFA  for his lifelong contribution to Scottish schools football.  

Along with Ian McVey, Bob was one of the driving forces in the production of our most recent Town Trail booklet and in the siting of plaques at sites of historical interest around Kilmarnock.

He served as a committee member of KDHG for many years and his thoughtful and fully considered opinions were always valued during discussions.

 Bob's funeral service will be held on Friday 31 May at 11.45  at  Riccarton Church and thereafter at 1.00pm at Holmsford Bridge Crematorium. The family have requested no flowers, but donations to the Beatson Institute in Bob's memory will be most welcome.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

New Memorial - Fenwick Kirkyard


On Sunday 21st April, Fenwick Parish Church and the Trustees of Lochgoin and Fenwick Covenanters Trust are holding a Conventicle in Fenwick Kirkyard to dedicate a new memorial to the “Deerness 8”.  
The Deerness 8 were Covenanters from Fenwick who perished at sea when their prison transport ship (The Crown) floundered on rocks. 
The Conventicle begins at 2:00pm with refreshments in the Church Hall afterwards.
This is an open invitation to Ayrshire Parishes who also have a link to men lost in the sinking of the Crown of London.  

There is a memorial in the graveyard at New Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock, dedicated to the memory of men from Kilmarnock parish who also perished in this disaster. 

Ayrshire Victims of the Crown Shipwreck, 1679

Auchinleck       Andrew Richmond
Barr                  Alexander Burden
Colmonell         John McClellan, Thomas McClurg, John McCornock
Dalmellington   Walter Humper senior, Hugh Simpson
Dalry                David McCubbin,  William McCulloch
Dreghorn          James Bouston
Fenwick            David Bitchet, William Bitchet, Andrew Buckle, David Currie, James Gray, Robert Tod, John White, John Wylie
Galston             George Campbell, James Young
Girvan              William Caldwell
Kilmarnock       James Anderson, Robert Anderson, William Brown, John Cuthbertson, Thomas Finlay Link
Kirkmichael      John Brice, Robert Douglas, James McConnell, John McTire, RobertRamsay
Kirkoswald       Thomas Germont, John White
Loudoun           Thomas Wylie
Mauchline        William Drips, William Reid
Maybole           Mungo Eccles, Thomas Horn, Robert McGarron, John McHarrie, John McWhirter, William Rodger
Muirkirk           John Campbell, Alexander Paterson
Ochiltree           Andrew Welch
Old Cumnock   John Gemil, James Mirrie
Stewarton         Andrew Wylie, Robert Wylie, Thomas Wylie
Straiton             George Hutcheson, Alexander Lamb, James McMurrie

Sunday, 24 March 2013

850 Years of Paisley Abbey

Celebrating 850 Years of Paisley AbbeyPaisley Abbey Conference image

Saturday 7 September 2013

In Paisley Abbey

Plans are being made for a conference to be held on Saturday, 7th of September, 2013, to celebrate the history of Paisley Abbey since its foundation in 1163.
It is expected that the morning session will concentrate on the period up to the seventeenth century and the afternoon session from the eighteenth century.
The morning session will include subjects such as the medieval cult of St Mirin, the early Abbots in Paisley, the Abbey estates and the use of their resources, and the archaeology and architecture of the Place of Paisley.
The afternoon papers will concentrate on the Abbey’s place in the wider Scottish context and on its interaction with the growing town of Paisley.

Paisley Abbey 850 Conference 2013 Leaflet & Application Form

(Right Click to Download or just left click to open)


Gilbert Márkus
Paisley, the Stewarts, and the Use of Saints
Professor Richard Oram
The Abbey, its Estate and the Changing Face of the Land
Alan Steel
Patrons, Troublemakers and Angry Abbots
Tom Addyman
The Archaeology of the Cloister and Place of Paisley –
a new investigation and analysis
Professor Charles McKean
The Modernising of Paisley 1750 – 1820 – the use of the Abbey lands and the formation of the new town
David Roberts
Fighting the Good Fight: The Life and Times of the Reverend Patrick Brewster”- charismatic People’s Champion or bigoted self-important windbag?
Rev Tom Davidson Kelly
An Edwardian Scots Medieval Architect – Macgregor Chalmers and the 20h Century Choir Restoration

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

David Livingstone

Celebrating the bicentenary
of the birth of Dr David Livingstone

19 March 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone. This explorer, writer, missionary, medic and anti-slavery campaigner rose from humble beginnings in a Lanarkshire tenement to become celebrated as “Africa’s first freedom fighter.”


There are "David Livingstone 200" bicentenary events happening around the world.  Details can be found at
 David Livingstone 200 Events 


Ayrshire and The Red Cross - 1918

Ayrshire and the Red Cross, 1918
This latest item in the digitised collections at the Burns Monument Centre is a very special book, edited by J. Arthur Findlay, and printed in Glasgow by F. F. & Arthur Wilson in 1918.
Ayrshire and the Red Cross: a record of a great work done by the people of Ayrshire for a noble cause,  lists the numerous Red Cross Divisions of Ayrshire, providing lots of detail and statistics of the work done by the various work parties in the towns and villages of the county. The book is highly illustrated, with photographs of every Division and their various work parties – made up almost entirely of women. The photographs also show the temporary hospitals and depots, for example the Dick Institute Hospital, Montgreenan Hospital, and Troon Hospital.
The book has been digitised and reproduced with the kind permission of the British Red Cross Museum and Archives.

Ayrshire and The Red Cross - 1918

Monday, 11 March 2013

Frank Beattie & AGM

Our last meeting of this session will be held on Tuesday 19 March in Kilmarnock College.  There will be a very brief AGM at 7.30pm, followed by what should be a very interesting talk by Frank Beattie, erstwhile writer and sub-editor of the Kilmarnock Standard.  Now retired from his day job, Frank holds on his files masses of useful information about all aspects of Kilmarnock's rich history.  Come along and listen to him.  He might even plug his new book, "The Kilmarnock Fact Book".

Thursday, 28 February 2013

James Clerk Maxwell

On Tuesday 5 March we are holding a joint meeting with KESS (Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society).
Professor Jim Penman from the University of Strathclyde will be speaking to us about " The Genius of James Clerk Maxwell".

Born in Edinburgh and buried at Parton Kirk near Castle Douglas, James Clerk Maxwell is one of the most influential scientists of all time. Albert Einstein acknowledged that the origins of the special theory of relativity lay in Clerk Maxwell's theories, saying “The work of James Clerk Maxwell changed the world forever”.

Clerk Maxwell's research into electromagnetic radiation led to the development of television, mobile phones, radio and infra-red telescopes. The largest astronomical telescope in the world, at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, is named in his honour.

It should be a most informative and enjoyable evening.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Search For el Dorado

Two weeks ago, our speaker,Alistair Glen, mentioned the Spanish canon raised from the seabed off Portencross Castle.  We continue this Spanish theme in our next talk which will be given by Dr. Ian Matheson.  The title of his lecture on Tuesday 5 February is 

 ‘In Search of El Dorado – The Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th Century' 


Come along and join us in Kilmarnock College at 7.30pm.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Portencross Castle

Our talk on Tuesday 22 January is on the topic of Portencross Castle and it will be given by Alistair Glen, Chairman of  "Friends of Portencross Castle".
Friends of Portencross Castle (FOPC) is a charitable company formed with the Small FOPC logogoal of protecting the future of Portencross Castle in the best interests of the public. The local residents who founded the company set out to give the castle new life by repairing it so as to protect it from the elements. Having done so, their hope is that future generations can continue to enjoy both the castle and its beautiful and serene surroundings.

Come along and join us in Kilmarnock College at 7.30pm on the 22nd.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Alexander Templeton - RAFVR

We received this e-mail from Belgium, seeking help in contacting any surviving relatives of a young Kilmarnock airman shot down and killed over Belgium in 1943, while serving with No.77 Squadron RAF.  Any help would be appreciated.

"My name is Christophe Mathy, I live in Belgium and I am part of a group that aims to honor the memory of airmen of the Halifax JD371 O KN-77 Squadron RAF.

We are looking for the families of these men died for our freedom or escaped on 28/08/1943 in Modave (Belgium).
We seek these families in order to invite them to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the crash that will take place this year.
We are already in contact with the families of A. Brannigan, Arthur Beard, William Catley, Peter Humphries, we expect news of the family of James Silver in Canada.
Unfortunately, we do not find the last 3 families. Namely, Ronald Rodgers Hanging Heaton, Batley, Yorkshire, Alexander Templeton from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire,Son of Gilbert C. and Ann Woodburn Templeton and
William (Bill) Palmer of The Yews, Berkswell, Coventry, Warwickshire, England.
That's all we know.
Maybe you can help us to find his family ?
Maybe you know this man or do you know a family member or the family of Alexander Templeton? We would like to make contact with them.
If you do not know, I apologize for the inconvenience.

Thanks in advance, Sincerely,

Christophe Mathy "

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Burns Night Celebration - Burns Monument Centre

Burns Night Celebration
Friday 25th January, 7.30pm, Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock
Join us for a Burns Night celebration in an evening of Scottish songs with Mezzo-soprano Anne Lewis and musician Bill Taylor.
The performance will include a programme of traditional Scots songs and airs, many of which are taken from the Scots Musical Museum, by James Johnson and Robert Burns, published between 1787 and 1803.  Other pieces in the recital will come from a variety of historical sources and include different melodies, lyrics and settings from 17th-18th century collections for lute, mandore, fiddle and keyboard.
There will be plenty of familiar Burns favourites and also some less well-known, along with some beautiful Scots airs played on the Highland wire-strung clarsach and a copy of an early 18th-century gut-strung hook harp.    
Tickets priced £10/£8 concession are available from the Dick Institute on 01563 554300 or the Burns Monument Centre on 01563 576695.
Ross McGregor
Heritage Services Officer
Library, Registration and Information Services
Burns Monument Centre
Kay Park, Kilmarnock
East Ayrshire
01563 553655

Make It Kilmarnock

An excellent attendance last night to hear Lawrence Wyper talk about the "Make It Kilmarnock" project.  He supplied loads of info about future plans for the town, including a revision of our one-way street system.  But will it all come to pass?  Only time will tell.

You can get a copy of the Integrated Urban Development  Plan, which he mentioned at

Just copy and paste the URL.

The Sandbed - Thomas Smellie.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Happy New Year

A very happy and successful 2013 to all our members and all our on-line friends.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday 8 January) is our first meeting of 2013. The talk, by Lawrence Wyper, is entitled "Make it Kilmarnock". Lawrence is the Project Coordinator for this initiative.  Come along and learn more about it.

Make it Kilmarnock is a community-based initiative to stimulate the economy of Kilmarnock.

 Its aims are to facilitate:

the development of Kilmarnock as a dynamic business community  where people want to live, work and visit.
wide career opportunities for everyone, built on attitudes of success and achievement, especially among young people.

The initiative is focused on four inter-connecting themes for economic transformation

  • Kilmarnock’s vibrant heart

    creating a town centre that is lively, attractive and safe for residents and visitors
  • business nurture

    Business nurture

    developing a business community that is engaged, encouraged, accommodated and respected
  • education innovation

    Education innovation

    creating a lifelong learning community with unique opportunities and first class facilities for study
  • visitor attractions

    Visitor attraction

    developing a high quality visitor experience based on heritage, culture, shopping and hospitality