Today we are launching the catalogue of a new collection relating to the Gemmell family, which has a strong focus on the papers of Robert Gemmell, a coal miner from Tarbolton.

Born in 1890, Robert volunteered to serve in the First World War on the 1st September 1914, serving with the Royal Field Artillery. After receiving his basic training in Athlone, Ireland, he proceeded to Southampton and then onto the Dardanelles. From mid-1915 to January 1916 Robert was based in Gallipoli before arriving in Alexandria in March 1916. He then sailed to Marseilles and fought in the Battle of the Somme from June 1916, reaching the rank of Sergeant. During 1922 Robert married Isabella (Isa) Orr Wightman in Auchinleck, and later had a daughter called Ann. Robert worked in a Staffordshire mine prior to returning to Scotland, and worked at the Tynemount Colliery in Ormiston, East Lothian.

The collection consists of records relating not just to Robert’s time working for the National Coal Board, but also from his military service during the First World War, as well as personal correspondence belonging to Isa and Ann.

Below are examples of the different records which Robert kept from his time serving in the War. These range from official documents, such as instructions for soldiers on leave and maps showing locations of both British and German trenches, to personal notebooks detailing his own experiences during his service.


AA/DC416/1/3/4/3 – Ordnance Survey trench map France sheet 57D S.E., edition 2B (dated 1916). Both British and German front lines are shown here, with the British trenches coloured in blue and the German trenches in red


AA/DC416/1/3/5/7 – Instructions for officers and men proceeding on leave


AA/DC416/1/3/6/1 – Notebook detailing Robert Gemmell’s experiences in Royal Field Artillery from volunteering on 1 September 1914 until his demobilisation on 3 January 1919

This is a new catalogue to be made available online, resulting in 178 records being made accessible for the first time. The records are available to view by appointment at Ayrshire Archives Headquarters in Auchincruive on Tuesdays.