The Lost Villages

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

Banner Image - The Lost Villages

CCLP Open Day, 9 July 2021

The ‘Lost Villages’ project conducted under the auspices of the Scottish Oral History Centre was represented at the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership Launch ‘Open Day’ on Fri 9th July with a wee exhibition of the work of the project so far in Dalmellington Community Centre.

We were delighted to meet and greet members of the community interested in the project and say something about our work. Volunteers who had been trained up in oral history interviewing supported the event – Deborah Hannah, Declan Watson and Bob Gray, whilst Nanette McKee was involved in designing our wonderful project logo, which got its first showing at a public event. We are indebted to all our volunteers for such wonderful support! 

What was remarkable about the day was the steady flow of folk coming in to share their memories of growing up and their lives in East Ayrshire – stories that the project aims to capture and archive for posterity. The banter across from different folk telling their stories was a joy and a privilege to facilitate, listen to and engage with. And people were not only warmly willing to share their memories, they also brought in artefacts, newspaper clippings and photographs, and provided contacts and leads for our research.

The amazing Alice Wallace (who Yvonne had interviewed a couple of weeks before) kindly brought in the picture below that she painted of Benwhat (Benquhat), as well as copies of her marvellous published autobiography which tells of growing up in the village in the 1940s and 1950s until she was aged 16.

image showing a painting and two books
Alice Wallace’s painting of Benquhat (Benwhat) and her autobiography

Sam Purdie (project adviser and interviewee) travelled through to the event all the way from Perth to regale us with his brilliant insights and recollections of growing up in Glenbuck from 1936 to 1954/5. You can listen to Sam’s testimony here. Other Glenbuck and Muirkirk residents dropped by, including David Higgins and John Andrew. David Young brought in a remarkable set of photos of Lethanhill, whilst Carol Stasivk came with her aunt Ann Hunter (resident of Benwhat), who told us of her upbringing in Benwhat and shared a superb set of newspaper clippings and family photos, including one of her mother, Jane McHattie who was the postmistress at Benwhat Post Office (see below). 

Other members of the community and local councillors (including Drew Filson) popped in to offer support and express interest in our oral history project. One, John Bell, recalled his remarkable transition from being an underground coal miner in Ayrshire to working in open cast mining and quarrying for many years, travelling widely. Like many involved in such hazardous and unhealthy work this took a toll on his body. He survived a serious workplace accident which shattered his hip and broke three bones in his back. We are so grateful to all those who made the effort to attend and who have contributed to our understanding of social and community life in the ‘lost villages’ of East Ayrshire.

After such a tough period with Covid-19 it was heartening to meet people in the community as well as other colleagues involved in the wonderfully diverse range of projects that constitute the CCLP initiative – albeit behind masks and under social distancing rules.

Our oral history project aims to record and preserve this ‘intangible heritage’ of lives lived in East Ayrshire mining villages over the past century. If you have stories to tell (about your direct experience or that of your parents or other relatives) or material such as photographs, artefacts or news clippings etc. you would like to share with the project please do get in contact. 

Yvonne McFadden / Arthur McIvor (Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde)