John Baird was born in 1813, at Lugar Street, Cumnock, where his father David kept the Tup Inn. When his father died, John Baird inherited a considerable amount of property in Lugar Street. When John Baird retired he disposed of his drapery business to John Goldie who continued the trade.
He died on 27th July, 1888 in his 76th year and is buried at the old cemetery. In his will, John Baird made a bequest that his estate be used to provide a public building in Cumnock which would contain a museum, recreation and reading rooms on the land owned by him in Lugar Street, known as Baird`s Place. The Baird Institute was opened on March 2nd, 1891, by Mrs. Brakenridge, wife of the Town Clerk, providing a great improvement to the cultural and recreational facilities of Cumnock. The building was designed by Mr. Ingram of Kilmarnock, the son of John Baird`s early instructor in engineering drawing. The building is in the Scottish Baronial style of architecture standing about 30 feet back from Lugar street. It is constructed from pink sandstone quarried at Auchinleck.
Originally, the building contained: a museum, reading room, billiards room; cloakroom, toilets, keeper`s house in the basement and was maintained by trustees appointed in John Baird`s will. All rooms were illuminated by gas lighting, each containing an Irish white marble fireplace with the exception of the billiards room which contained a magnificent Italian black and gold marble fireplace.
Trustees administered the Baird Institute until 1972 when it was transferred to the ownership of the local authority, Cumnock Burgh, because the Trustees felt they no longer had adequate funds to maintain and administer the building and they were of the opinion that the continued use of the building was desirable as a service to the community. After local Government reorganisation in 1975 the Baird Institute became the responsibility of Cumnock and Doon Valley District Council, and is now the responsibility of East Ayrshire Council. A major refurbishment was carried out to bring the building up to modern standards and in 1980 Cumnock and Doon Valley District Library Service undertook to lay-out and arrange the museum exhibition rooms within the Baird Institute. An annual acquisition fund was established for the museum to enable artefacts to be purchased which were of local historical significance.
In November 1993, the building re-opened as the Baird Institute, History Centre and Museum. From April 1996 the Baird Institute became the responsibility of East Ayrshire Council. The Baird Institute contains a wide range of resources which relate to the history of East Ayrshire - archives, family history material, books, maps, microfilm, museum collections, newspapers and photographs. The Keir Hardie Room and art or historical exhibitions can be viewed throughout the year at the Baird Institute.2009
the Baird Institute opened again after major refurbishment and is now an Arts and Museum venue with displays of local material and a programme of exhibitions. It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11 till 5 and can be contacted at 01290 427084 during these hours.
Sunday Post 29th May 1949
THE GOLDEN KEY COMES BACK TO CUMNCOK
Fifty eight years ago Mrs A Brakenridge, of Cumnock, Ayrshire, was asked to open the Baird Institute and reading Rooms. As a souvenir of the occasion she was presented with a gold key. The key was four inches long, 18-carat gold, and weighed four ounces. It was inscribed with her name, date and occasion.
A few weeks ago the London Police contacted the Police in Cumnock. They told them that a gold key had been found by workmen cleaning out a London sewer with a suction pump. It was inscribed with the name of a Mrs Brakenridge, Cumnock and dated 1891. Could they find her or her heirs , so that the key could be handed over?
Mrs Brakenridge had died. But Sergeant Kelman remembered that her heiress was her niece, Mrs Marcus Bain, Mauchline. Mrs Bain remembered the key. But how did it get into a London sewer? Mrs Bain can only guess at the answer. She remembers a showcase of mementos owned by her aunt and uncle. Some time ago, when the family moved to a new home in Cumnock, the mementos including a presentation gold fountain pen went missing.
If they were stolen, the thief probably took them to London to dispose of them. When he found he couldn’t sell the key, perhaps because of the inscription he tossed it down a drain. At present rate of value it’s worth about £80.
Founded in 1868 with Andrew White as its first president with a second green being laid in 1882.
From mid-April to mid-September it is a popular venue for its members who enjoy the pastime of outdoor bowling. There is also a social club which operates at the weekends all year round.
Members take part in competitions locally and country wide, achieving notable successes. Four members - Alexander Hodge, George Ferguson, John Hampson and Thomas Smetherham represented Scotland in rinks at the Empire games held in Cardiff in 1958. The Scottish Singles Winner of 1980 was James Farrow. In the Glasgow V Ayrshire matches Cumnock won in 1949, 1962, 1982 and in 2004.
In 1962, a ladies` section of the Bowling Club was founded, with Mrs C Richmond as its first president. The members also enjoy competing with other groups and have achieved success in county championships. Fiona SYKES was a junior internationalist in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Cumnock Burns Club was founded in 1887 and met in the Dumfries Arms Hotel. One of the most distinguished members of the club was Adam Brown Todd (1822-1915) a newspaper editor and poet, who was Chairman at the Club in 1909 when it celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.
The Cumnock Burns Club was founded after the Winsome Willie Club - which dated from 1856. Other Clubs include Cumnock Cronies Burns Club, Tam Samson Burns Club and the Jolly Beggars Burns Club
In the records of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) it shows that a team was formed in Cumnock in 1875. This team played in New Station Field - now part of the new cemetery. Their colours were maroon jerseys and white shorts.
A new Club appeared in 1894 called Springbank - but by the end of the century Cumnock no longer played among the seniors. Teams like Cumnock Thistle and Cumnock Celtic continued and there was also Juvenile teams called Cumnock Rangers and West End . On 5th Dec. 1902 the local newspaper the Cumnock Chronicle spoke about the formation of the Glaisnock Lads .
In 1912 the Cumnock Chronicle was asking "Why is there not a good Junior team in Cumnock?" However, in that same year Cumnock Juniors was formed, principally by William McMillan, Joe Bain, and Tom Burns. The first signings for the team were Hugh Hodge, William McCall, William Phillips, and Clifford, Davidson, A. Neish, Shirkie, Shearer, Sloan, Steele, W. Neish and Thomson. They played their first game at New Station Park on 13th August 1913 - a 3-3 draw with Cronberry. The first president of the team was Bailie Miller - with George Bridges as treasurer and William McGregor as secretary.
In 1934, after moving to Townhead Park, Cumnock Juniors joined the Western League becoming Champions in seasons 1935-6, 1936-7 and also in 1952-3. In 1937, they won the first Vernon Trophy and took the League Cup for the first time. They were Ayrshire Regional League Champions in 1971-2 and 1973-4. They also won the Challenge Cup in 1915-6, 1917-8, and 1948-9. By 1978 Cumnock Juniors had won all the trophies except the Scottish Cup and the West of Scotland Cup. In that year they were managed - for a short time - by Eric Caldow, the famous Scottish internationalist who hailed from Cumnock.
In 1950 they reached the final of the Scottish Junior Cup. A crowd of over 49,000 gathered at Hampden Park in Glasgow to see them play Blantyre Victoria. Sad to say, they lost the game 3-0 - but getting to the final was, in itself, a great achievement.
In 1955, a new grandstand was erected at Townhead Park. On May 19th 1979 the team were once again at Hampden Park to meet Bo'ness United in the final of the Scottish Junior Cup. This time they won the game 1-0 - there was great jubilation in Cumnock that night.
The photograph shown workers hand digging out the pool in the 1930s
When it was first proposed in 1935 that a Swimming Pool should be built in Cumnock not everyone was in favour.
A vote was taken and those in favour came out as winners. So the work was started on digging the swimming pool. No big diggers or other machinery were used as all the digging was done by hand, the excess earth being carried away by horse and cart.
The pool was opened in June 1936 by Provost Nan Hardie Hughes amid a crowd of 2,500 spectators at a cost of £5,500. It was one of the finest open-air swimming pools in the country.
Over the years many improvements were made, one being the water heating which made it even more popular. Today a new indoor pool and sports centre is has been built and opened in 2004.
Sadly the outdoor pool which brought a lot of pleasure and happy days to past generations is now closed - the buildings are demolished and the pool area filled in.
The end of an era!
A mini gallery!
Cumnock Picture House was opened in 1913 when 1800 people could be accommodated at a film show. The first film shown was Monte Christo. There were two shows per night and a children`s matinee on Saturday morning; and the occasional vaudeville show. The building served as a cinema until the advent of television when people could see films in their own homes. It became a Bingo hall and continues as such today.
Cumnock Picture House By John MILLIN
Cumnock Picture House was one of two owed privately by Mrs Ward – passed down from her father. The other cinema being in Auchinleck. Cumnock Picture House had 400 seats on a single level and was originally opened c1910 and was the oldest in the area. It finally closed as a cinema around 1980 (see note at end of article) after a trial period of different days for bingo and cinema. By 1974, Bingo accounted for 5 days a week – the other two (Tues & Thurs) were cinema.
I was projectionist in Cumnock for more than 16 years before moving south. Cumnock’s projection room started life as a separate add-on room on the roof of the original entrance frontage. A neat three sided shaped sandstone façade with two circular windows one either side and a large curved top window at the front. Access to the projection booth was up a ladder through a hatch in the ceiling of the foyer.
In 1920 the Picture House was updated with two all-electric projectors, and the Spider (a series of strings that opened and closed the picture gates at changeover to allow continuous projection). The Picture House had their own electricity generator situated at the back of the building. During the 1930’s the mains electricity supply was installed and its arrival led to the final demise of the generator at the back of the cinema.
It was around the 1930s that the building underwent a major overhaul and, at the same time, sound pictures or the “Talkies” were becoming available so were the new true-colour films so the Picture House closed for a short time for a refit and rebuild. The frontage was raised to cover the barn shape of the auditorium and extended outwards towards the road enclosing toilets and introducing more space in front of the foyer. This “buried” the original projection box inside and gave the place a completely new look. The large window with the circular top was removed and a new door put in for access to the projection room, the hatch from the foyer was sealed up.
The old projectors were replaced with new ones which could handle sound, at first using disc sound projectors. It is more than likely these were Kalee 11 type projectors. They were able to show all the latest films newsreels and gazettes as well as the old silent films.
In 1949 as things improved after WWII when cinemas hit their highest takings, the projectors and sound system were re-equipped this time with the Kalee KT21 the fully enclosed projector with total fire fighting ability. In 1956 the projectors were modified to handle Cinemascope, but the building was not suitable for stereophonic sound. The Kalee Projectors lasted till the end of the cinema shows in 1980.
In the early 1960’s, when the façade started showing its age and with audiences still good enough, a complete new three coloured vertical stripe asbestos type cladding was put on the upper half of the façade the lower half being painted horizontal stripes. The 1975 Fire Act that stated all cinemas were to be cleared of old nitrate film, projection booths to be cleaned out etc. saw the old generator room emptied of equipment that had been stored there. The oil fired heating was replaced with gas boiler and oil tanks were removed as well as other updates and minor changes to the building.
The interior changed little over the years and was all on one level. What was called the balcony was the top 12 rows of seats above the cross aisle and separator towards projection room. Access was from two side door entrances whilst the two hallways continued into the stalls. The stalls were two blocks of seats with central aisle and separated from balcony by wooden separator and row of seats. The front stalls were 6 rows of seats with wooden backed separator. By the late 1960’s, a modification was made to the seating to try to keep income up. The balcony separator was opened up and another 6 rows were called Front Balcony. At the same time the front stalls were abolished. In 1973 more seats were removed as bingo equipment was installed at front of the house, the Front Balcony unit was opened up to give access to all seats from the bingo caller. The interior had fluorescent lights hung from the ceiling for bingo but all other original décor still exists
The programme was varied from one film for a whole week or it changed Monday and Thursday. Many shows were twice nightly or one “B” film, ads and newsreel and then the main Picture. The last film to be shown twice was Batman the movie around 1969. The Saturday kids matinee at 10am ran until 1972. Then came the beginning of the end – in 1973 all this changed, as it became half bingo and half cinema. Ending up as cinema only on Tues and Thurs with bingo at all other times. Bingo took over completely in 1980.
In 1953 television sets were in the Picture House to show the Queens Coronation. In 1968/9 a film crew used the building for a film. After they left there were burn marks on the doors and walls from their floodlights. During the 1973 miners’ strike and electricity rationing some films were shown late in evening, sometimes starting at 10pm or later. In an effort to try and bring in more custom late night adult only matinees were run but patrons got up and walked out disgusted(well it was a small town of only 5000 people).
In 1975 the No 1 projector changeover mechanism failed and it was replaced by one of Auchinleck’s GK19 mechanisms. The arc lamp started to fail by 1978. It continued to deteriorate to the end by which time was literally falling apart. The No 2 projector was still in peak condition giving flawless projection and in immaculate condition. She got a new motor in 1971 after blowing a fuse, nothing wrong with original motor, just an old fuse.
Kris Cochrane remembers going to the Picture House to see ET which came out in 1982 - so he feels that the closure must have been after that date.
Murray Park was opened on 21st September 1929 by Mrs Hyslop of Bank House, New Cumnock. In 1917, the funds for the park were left to Cumnock inhabitants by Misses Annie and Agnes Murray who had owned Dumfries House.
The proposal to build a Town Hall in Cumnock was first put forward in 1880. The Marquess of Bute offered the Glaisnock Street site free of charge and a contribution of £500. A subscription list was opened in 1883 which soon reached £2000. The building was declared open on the 7th June 1885 – the architect was R S Ingram.
The building contained two halls. Public generosity helped to equip the Hall: which included a special contribution from a local firm which paid for the ceiling ornament (cost £5), and a piano which cost £35 from another donor.
A Hall Committee was set up and arrangements were made for a Hall-keeper. Eventually a gentleman was appointed and was to be paid £30 a year plus free house, coal and electricity. A grand bazaar was held ten years later to clear the outstanding deficit (a sum of £70).
The Hall and its lesser rooms have been used for all kinds of events & occasions. In the early 1900’s touring companies came to offer drama, music and grand opera. Cumnock’s first wrestling competition was presented in 1905. Emeline Panhurst came to the Town Hall in 1907 to address a Votes for Women rally.
In the 1920’s and 30’s it was a favourite venue for ballroom dancing with music by local bands. The building has housed schoolrooms, billeted soldiers, met accommodation demands, been a cinema and bingo hall and provided a meeting place for every club, society & association in the locality.
The original front garden has been converted into a carpark and is now graced by an impressive bust of James Keir Hardie by Benno Schotz, unveiled in 1939.
There are still a large number of people in Cumnock who remember The Flush, and its location between the foot of Drumbrochan Road, and the timber houses in Coila Place. Not so many citizens remember the days when The Flush contained a large volume of water.
Originally, this was a shallow pond where Cumnock Curling Club played the “Roaring Game” in the cold winters of the 19th century. However, their pond was to develop into a facility which could be used in the hot summer days.
The background to this development was the need to send a volume of water down the River Glaisnock through the town to flush away the rubbish and sewage which accumulated during hot, dry weather, when the bed of the burn held little of its own water. Up until the latter part of the 1800s there was no sewage disposal system in our town, and people used cesspools to get rid of their waste. The Council arranged for some sewage pipes to carry the effluent into the Glaisnock where, hopefully, the current would carry it away. However, during droughts in the summer, the effluent lay in pools in the bed of the river, and some system had to be devised to get rid of this serious health risk.
The Cumnock Curling Club offered their curling pond as a possible water storage area, and the Council undertook to deepen, and repair the pond, and to install a sluice. This work was completed in 1887, and the Flush was used to flood out the bed of the river and rid it of its noxious burden, when required.
A proper system of drains and sewers, discharging into the Cumnock Sewage Disposal Works did not come into use until 1929. The site of that sewage works was immediately behind the present Cumnock Academy in Ayr Road, and an old discharge pipe from this facility is still to be seen close to the River Lugar, below the bridge which connects the Academy with Broomfield Playing Field.
There is now no visible evidence of the Flush. The pond was filled in many years ago, and the entire area is now covered by many trees.
Ayr Observer and Galloway Chronicle, 1st June 1888
CUMNOCK - FLUSHING THE GLAISNOCK
The recently enlarged Townhead Dam standing brimful, and the bed of the Glaisnock – where it passes through the town – beginning to get foul and ill-flavoured, it was resolved to flush the water course on the early morning of Monday last, which was done accordingly; and although the hour was only half-past six, still a good many of by no means early risers, prompted by curiosity to see how the plan would operate, turned out to witness the sluice drawn and the waters gush away with thundering foaming force to do the work of Dauvit, and his whalebone brush, who wisely kept well away from the rushing spate which not only made short work with the slimy saurian reptiles , and other frightful looking creatures of the genus lacerta, which, as formerly, were beginning to be spawned only amid the nameless filth of the Glaisnock, but it scoured the viscous, gluttonous matter clean off and away from every stone in the channel of the stream; and had the one or two quarrelous croakers who still keep on decrying the scheme (saying that it will only make matters worse by washing the mud from one pool and leaving it in another) been there, and taken their stand in the bottom of the brook when the water was let in, they would have found themselves borne down by the strength of the current along with the bloated lizards and the heavy stones which the strength of the stream sent hurling down its course. These croakers are now however but few, for nearly every one sees and admits that we have got a cheap and efficacious means of cleansing a place for which the best drainage scheme would only have been a very partial remedy, while its cost would have been at least, twenty times greater. A much needed – though by no means expensive – alteration requires to be made on the course where the water leaves the dam, and at its junction with the Glaisnock; but this, we have no doubt, will be properly planed, and as properly executed, ere long.
Curling or The Roaring Game was for centuries a favourite game in Scotland. In fact, during the first two thirds of the nineteenth century it can be said emphatically that it was the Scottish game.
By 1915, in Cumnock, the game had "suffered with the changed conditions of modern life". A rink at Townhead had been used for many years - but had proved to be unsatisfactory. A better rink was established at Woodhead on the Dumfries Estate - but this proved to be too distant from Cumnock itself. In 1905, Lord Bute had granted the Cumnock curlers a field off the Ayr Road and a large pond was dug but it proved to have difficulty holding water. Indoor ice rinks eventually killed off the outdoor sport.
Cumnock has along had an association with the bicycle. John Murdoch, the father of the inventor of gas lighting, made a type of wooden horse which he used to travel from Bello Mill at Lugar into Cumnock. Kirkpatrick MacMillan gave the first public demonstration of his bicycle in Cumnock on 6th June 1842.
Cumnock Cycling Club existed at an early date and was followed by the Cumnock Ramblers Cycling Club in the 1920s. The Ramblers Cycling Club organised the Cumnock Rally which was attended by cyclists from all over Scotland.
Download the 17th Cumnock Cycling Rally 1954 booklet HERE
Golf In Cumnock by George Scott
Some Scottish golf clubs can claim to have been functioning for well over 250 years. Cumnock Golf Club did not have such an ancient pedigree - nor did it survive to a ripe old age!
Rev John Warrick, in his The History of Cumnock, published in 1899, remarks that “most recently a golf club has been formed with a short course over parks quite close to the town”. Dr John Strawhorn in his The New History of Cumnock (1966), reports that golf was played in various fields - first to the north of the town, and then successively near Ayr Road, Cairn Road, and the Coachworks. Research of newspaper files, however, has revealed that the Club opened their “new” course in June 1896, confirming that the game was played for some years prior to 1896.
The opening ceremony was performed by Dr J G Kerr of Stepends House, Auchinleck Road, and as President of the Club, he presented two beautiful silver trophies for annual competition, - one for the ladies and the other for the gentlemen. This “new” course was situated on Blackstone Farm ground between Stepends Pit and the Glasgow & South Western Railway. This area now lies under part of the Holmhead housing estate. Dr. Kerr ceremoniously drove the first ball, after which the monthly medal competition took place. Additional prizes were donated by Captain Wardrop of Bankend House.
It is known that around 1900 a nine hole course was opened at Netherthird. The “Illustrated Guide to Cumnock”, published c. 1904, describes that course as “requiring careful play”. Hazards mentioned involve playing over a burn on to a high green on the top of a scaur.
In 1922 the club moved to Drumbrochan. The Cumnock Chronicle reported on 19th May 1922 that the course comprised the grounds of Drumbrochan Farm, and a small strip of Barshare Farm. Mr David B Weir performed the opening ceremony, following a short account by Councillor John Carruthers of the short history of the club at previous sites. A Pitch & Putt Competition followed. The partners for this competition were selected by use of “Affinity Flowers”. Unfortunately, the Minute Book of the Club, from inception to 1928, have not been traced. However, the succeeding Minute Book is still extant and, some years ago was transcribed, and also transferred to computer disc. These Minutes are a valuable source of information on many aspects of the game, its officials and players.
For instance, it is recorded that in 1929, the Greenkeeper, Findlay was to be paid 1/- (one shilling) per hour for the 44 hours he was employed scattering 30 tons of sand on the greens. In the same year the grazing on the course was let to Mr. Scott, Butcher, for the year for the sum of £43. Among subsequent grazing tenants were Alex. White, Draper, and Mr Gibson of Thomarston Farm. Lockers fitted in the clubhouse were to cost no more than 10/- (50p). The names of Committees reveal that they were drawn mainly from the middle-classes, - solicitors, teachers, bankers, shop-keepers. One solicitor who served for a short time as Secretary, referred, in his written Minutes, to the long grass at each side of the fairways as “ruff”!
The golf course was forced to close around 1958 due to encroachment of council housing. The Club officially disbanded on 31 January, 1959. However, a group of die-hard members formed the Glaisnock Golf Club, and played their golf as visitors to other courses. Eventually, most of these players joined Ballochmyle Golf Club, Mauchline (est. 1937).
The Dr. Kerr Cups, referred to earlier, were donated by the Cumnock club to Ballochmyle, and are competed for annually. Referred to at Ballochmyle Golf Club as the “Cumnock Cups”, they are outstanding examples of the silver-smith’s art. They bear the names of the winners from 1897. No names are inscribed at the time of the Boer War and the Great War. Moreover, no names are inscribed on the “gents” cup after 1935. The reason for this is unclear but it is suspected that from 1936 names were inscribed on a plate on a wooden base, and that the base was later lost, - either by a winner, or by the jeweller concerned!
Quoiting was very popular in the mining communities at one time. The game used circular rings of iron, fairly heavy in weight, which were thrown at a peg with the object of landing round or near the peg. Like bowling or curling, the nearest quoit to the peg won the game. The first park in Cumnock for playing quoits was located at Townhead and eventually several inns had their own pitches.
Cumnock Rugby Football Club was established in 1961 and provides excellent opportunities for local people of all ages and skill levels to participate in Rugby Union. At senior level the Club is currently in the BT National League Division 4 competing with clubs as far afield as Caithness and Orkney. The mini/midi section is a very important part of the club with over 100 youngsters attending training every week
The Club House is situated at Broomfield, Auchinleck Road, Cumnock. The Club House has been recently refurbished and extended to provide first class facilities for players and members - because of generous funding from Sportscotland Lottery Fund, Cumnock & Doon Valley Minerals Trust, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and East Ayrshire Council.
Membership of the Club is open to all and new players and social members are always welcome.