The Lost Villages

An Oral History of Miners' Rows and Deindustrialisation in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

Banner Image - The Lost Villages

Background

Our project will initially focus on the villages of Benquhat, Lethanhill and Burnfoothill in the Doon Valley and Commondyke and Darnconner in the Lugar Valley. We are also looking at the village of Glenbuck, where footballer and Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was born.

As the Scottish Coalfields began to increase production due to new methods of processing coal which made Scottish coal more efficient, companies began to establish mining communities near the pits for their workers from the 1840s. The miners’ rows were a distinct feature of these villages. Houses were built in long runs usually with one or two rooms and a scullery out that back. While the miners’ families were never short on coal, due to generous coal allowance, they had no running internal water and water closets when they were supplied were often shared by tens of people. The companies did not not maintained the housing and by 1913 most were about 50-60 years old and showing their age. Limited improvements were made, usually by the miner’s themselves, but life in the remote mining villages was hard work. People remember the sense of community but tend not to romanticise the reality of life with no amenities cut off from world in the dead of winter.

Row of single storey stone build housing that stretches off into the distance from right to left.

Ponessan Row, Burnfoothill from East Ayrshire Council Archives

Between the wars, central government began a series of social housing reforms and the villagers were decanted to new housing estates near the main towns of the areas. Also, during this time, the pits in the Ayrshire coalfields began and many were leaving to look elsewhere for work. The villages were cleared and while there are some remains, some have been blasted off the landscape from opencast mining activities in the late twentieth century, such as Burnfoothill.

We aim to reconstruct everyday life and community in the miners’ rows but also to tell the story of deindustrialisation in East Ayrshire. Have a look at our villages pages and if you have a story to tell us either yourself or a family story from the villages then please get in touch.