Carrick History Society

Revealing Carrick’s Corners

Nigel Ward

An unassuming navy-blue ledger bore signs of age, but its cover carried no title. Yet, when Simon Glendenning turned the page, it revealed a fascinating picture of Maybole’s history. Among others, a slaughterman and a factory proprietor spanned the social divide to demonstrate a town pulling together in a time of need.

Simon and I had met to talk about the Carrick History Society. However, as like-minded enthusiasts for stories revealed through old documents, we were soon side-tracked by a volume that had spent years stored in a local garage.

We were poring over the original Muster Roll for the Maybole Company of the 1st Ayrshire Volunteer Battalion. This ageing and increasingly fragile volume lists those joining the First World War’s equivalent of the Home Guard. Names, ages and occupations present a picture of social history. By itemising bayonets, puttees and cap badges, the equipment register illustrates the extent of military preparedness. The section on conduct shows that not everyone toed the line, some were dismissed, others merely admonished.

Journals and correspondence, documents and diaries, all open intriguing windows to help us understand our past. From archives, libraries and websites, they reveal a wealth of knowledge. However, making such resources available to the widest possible audience can be a challenge.

Fortunately, for those living in the Carrick communities of Ayrshire, and smitten with a similar curiosity, a helping hand extends its reach. Tackety boots and the muster roll were evidence of that when we met in Maybole.

Yet, this might not have been the case.

In 2021 the remaining members of one local history society took the unenviable decision that their group was no longer sustainable. Sadly, they followed the earlier demise of a similar group elsewhere in the county.

However, for Simon Glendenning, necessity was the mother of invention. This life-long resident of Maybole, studying history through the Open University, saw an opportunity in the gap left behind. Within weeks, Facebook connected him with others who shared his passion for the rich local history with which the Carrick area is imbued.

While local history groups in Maybole and Girvan are long-gone, interest remains. Small groups focus on Kirkmichael and Ballantrae, and interested villagers in Dailly are eager to capture stories from older generations. Local history books in a village library, or a ‘history corner’ in a community hall provide the focus for more than passing curiosity. Expert local historians are keen to share their knowledge about particular people or locations.

From this picture of scattered interest, the Carrick History Society was born, and Simon is now proud to be its Chairperson.

“The beauty of being the Carrick History Society,” said Simon, “is that we can move about, we’re not limited to a single location.”

Together, they recognised that it might be better looking at the whole Carrick area rather than focusing on single locations. A network could be greater than the sum of its individual parts, building relationships, initiating projects and helping groups support one another.

As expected from someone brimming with enthusiasm, Simon talked fervently about current projects and ideas for the future.

Already, they’ve negotiated how the royal signature in a town hall visitor book can be exhibited. Local oral history projects can use their IT and audio-visual equipment, and pop-up exhibitions around the area are possible. Simon has explored how problems associated with the display of fragile fossils can be overcome, and he’s full of ideas about augmented reality. Users of a VR headset, or an app on a phone, might see ruined abbeys and castles recreated. There is no shortage of inspiration or ideas to exploit a wealth of resources.

With material from local libraries, the Ayrshire Archives, and the South Ayrshire Council’s Museum and Galleries Service, Simon’s conclusion was clear. “It’s about knowing what’s there,” he declared, thrusting copies of their newly printed resource guide toward me.

We chatted about shared experiences, elsewhere in the country, of arcane procedures and over-protective custodians. As a result, we agreed the importance of demystifying arrangements for access. Assisting potential users to understand, navigate and negotiate such access is a key role.

Consequently, that valuable ledger can hopefully find its way to the controlled environment of an archive store. Preserved for the future, its intriguing contents can be made available to a wider audience.

I first met Simon over Zoom and, predictably, scanned the books on shelves behind him. Titles about Robert the Bruce stood out, leading into another part of our conversation, and a surprising declaration. Shock and amusement competed when he said something others may consider heresy in this part of Scotland.

“Burns is my nemesis,” he proclaimed, clearly favouring the older of the two famous Roberts.

Reputedly born at Turnberry Castle, Bruce’s name also echoes round the county, from a 13th century well in Prestwick, to a plethora of streets, crescents and avenues bearing his name. Yet Simon fears his champion being swamped by the Bard.

However, last year, Robert the Bruce strode The Glebe in Maybole, the talisman of Scottish independence, resplendent in his golden tabard displaying the nation’s scarlet lion rampant. On 13th July this year, marking the 750th anniversary of his birth, he’s scheduled to make another appearance.

“This year we want it to be bigger and better.”

Simon is also historian on the Bruce 750 project. With financial support from the North Carrick Community Benefit Company, he hopes visitors to Maybole, from Carrick and beyond, will enjoy the excitement of jousting and experience medieval crafts and guilds as part of the celebrations. Plans are also in hand for re-enactments to take place the weekend before at Crossraguel Abbey.

“We want to put living historians in the abbey,” said Simon. “Bring it to life, appreciate what the building was used for, and discover interesting architectural features that people just don’t know about.” As papers and screens were shuffled, I glimpsed charts showing solstice sunset alignments focusing the sun’s rays on the abbey’s altar. Be there to find out more.

As we finished our conversation, Simon shared his determination. “When the year turns into 2025, the Bruce stuff is not going to stop.” We’ve been forewarned.

Now, back to browse through that Muster Roll to see who was issued with a rifle and what misdemeanours the butcher and the baker got up to.

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