The Lost Villages

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

Banner Image - The Lost Villages



Image: OS Map 1:25,000 1945-1964 Permission of the NLS.

The village of Commondyke is about a mile and half outside of Auchinleck. We can see from the 1857 map, the five miner’s rows, built by the William Baird Company, were all in place. The population of the village peaked in 1891 at 1,048 and then steadily fell as the mining in the area declined. A 1914 Housing Committee report has evidence of improvements to the miner’s living conditions. In addition to updating the wall linings, windows, floors and doors, the company were also installing new toilets, ashpits, coal-pits and wash houses, though there was still no piped water.[1]

Commondyke from the station hill. Courtesy of Rab McMurdo Rab McMurdo

This photograph was taken by Robert McMurdo from the bing behind the station. Robert worked in the station ticket office for a time before moving to London to join the Met police.

Under the 1930 Slum Clearance Act, the villagers were rehoused in social housing in Auchinleck. We know that during the Second World War people still lived in the villages. We were given this photograph of Chrissy McMurdo and her two colleagues who worked with her at the Bowhouse munitions factory, near Kilmarnock.

Image: Chrissy McMurdo and colleagues, Commondyke c. 1940s. Courtesy of Rab McMurdo

On the Muirkirk branch line, the village was divided by the railway line which opened in 1848 and closed in 1951.

Commondyke Railway. Courtesy of Rab McMurdo

Image: Commondyke Railway Station building. Courtesy of Rab McMurdo

The date of the station building is less certain, estimated to have been installed in the 1890s. For footage of the railway and station, check out this video.  You can see where the station building would have stood.

Next to the miner’s rows was the Roman Catholic religious community of Birnieknowe, with villagers often referring to themselves as coming from ‘Birnie’. A new chapel was built in 1867 with a convent established next to it later in 1885. In 1878, St Patrick’s school as built and this remained the main Catholic school for the area until it was closed in 1964, when a new school was built in Auchinleck.[2]

In the 1945, the Commondyke Brick Works was built after 1945 and closed in 1977. Common building bricks were made there from waste of mining materials.

farmland with a building in the distance with a chimney stack

Image copyright: John Hume

Here is a view looking east from the site of Darnconner village in 1966 toward Commondyke. The chimney in the distance is from the brickworks.

All the building are gone now. You can still see the foundations of the rows and the railway line and tracks.

Our project is gathering the stories of the village, to find out about the children who played there, the women who kept the family fed and the men who laboured in the pits. If you or your family came from Commondyke, please get in touch.

Further Reading

  • Dane Love, Ayrshire’s Lost Villages (Carn: Auchinleck, 2017)


  1. Dane Love, Ayrshire’s Lost Villages, pp. 84-85
  2. Dane Love, Ayrshire’s Lost Villages, pp. 81-82