Gemmell Family Papers

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.


Perth and Kinross Council Archive and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society visit

Some of the staff at Ayrshire Archives recently attended a training visit to Perth and Kinross Council Archive and the Royal Scottish Georgraphical Society Public Visitor and Education Centre. Organised by the Scottish Records Association, the day began with a tour around Perth and Kinross Council Archive. This provided the opportunity to gain an insight into the layout of the repository, including the searchroom and mezzanine store used to hold the records. The archivist discussed the environmentally controlled conditions which monitor and regulate the store in addition to the range of the collections held by the local authority archive. The archivist had also arranged an exhibition which was on display allowing us to view some of the intricate maps and plans the repository holds relating to the area.

Perth archive exhibition central table

Perth and Kinross Council Archive exhibition

Perth archive exhibition central table 3

Perth and Kinross Council Archive exhibition

Perth archive exhibition central table 4

Perth and Kinross Council Archive exhibition

Perth archive exhibition left table top view

Perth and Kinross Council Archive exhibition

The latter part of the day involved a visit to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Public Visitor and Education Centre, located at Fair Maiden House. We received a tour of the centre and store by the volunteers who run the service. They informed us about the evolution and function of the society in addition to the vast collection of maps it holds. The society members and volunteers discussed how the society aims to promote awareness of the vast range of geographical sciences, research and exploration.

We would like to thank the Scottish Records Association for organising this event. We would also like to thank the staff at Perth and Kinross Council Archive and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for the highly interesting visits.


70th Anniversary of the NHS

This year marks seventy years since the National Health Service came into existence. It was launched on 5 July 1948 by Aneurin Bevan with the aim of access to free healthcare for all by nationalizing the existing healthcare system. At Ayrshire Archives we thought we would share some interesting information held in the Royal Burgh of Ayr Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health for 1948 (accession 15/426). Although county councils were already required to appoint a Medical Health Officer of Health, this role also became prominent in Scottish burghs after the introduction of the Burgh Police Scotland Act (1892). Sections of this legislation meant that it became a requirement for Scottish burghs to also appoint a Medical Officer of Health. Although their duties ranged over the years, one of their main responsibilities was to monitor the health of the burgh and direct the provision of certain health departments.

These following passages of the report discuss the circumstances of the various services provided in Ayr Burgh. Below the Medical Officer of Health indicates how major the National Health Service (Scotland) Act has been.

Medical officer report 15_426

Royal Burgh of Ayr Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health 1948 Accession 15/426

They also touch on some of the changes the act has resulted in. Here the report discusses midwifery in Ayr Burgh 1948, including the purchase of two portable sets of apparatus for gas and air analgesia.

midwifery passage

midwifery passsage 2

Royal Burgh of Ayr Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health 1948 Accession 15/426

The Medical Officer of Health also discusses other legislation relating to the time period such as the National Assistance Act, 1948. Here they explain the lack of residential establishments with medical supervision within the burgh.

welfare services

Royal Burgh of Ayr Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health 1948 Accession 15/426

The report provides an insight into some of the health issues relating to the period, how they have altered and possible explanations for these changes.


Royal Burgh of Ayr Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health 1948 Accession 15/426

This is just a small insight into the social and health information the Medical Officer of Health’s annual reports hold. They also contain a wealth of statistical information which can be compared for different years, showing the conditions of health services and the progress made within the burgh.


Ardrossan Burgh

Today we are launching our new Ardrossan Burgh catalogue, allowing researchers to browse the catalogue online for the first time. The material within the collection dates from 1845 to 1994 and contains records which cover a broad range of Ardrossan’s history, from Town Council minutes to the Ardrossan Harbour Company.

Records created by burgh officials, such as the Burgh Surveyor, offer a unique insight into the day to day running of the burgh. Below are examples of this, with site plans covering the areas of South Crescent, Glasgow Street and Parkhouse Road dating from 1940. These show where air raid shelters and baffle walls were located, as well as including markings for where proposed new shelters could be built.

Gh6_7 Ardrossan plan May 1940
Gh6/7 – Plan of air raid shelters and baffle walls (May 1940)
Gh6_7 Ardrossan plan October 1940

Gh6/7 – Plan of existing and proposed air raid shelters (October 1940)

Another item within the collection is a visitors’ book covering the period 1956 to 1974, which includes the signatures of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh from their visit to Ardrossan in 1956. During this visit they also went to Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayr and Burns Cottage in Alloway.

Gh1_10_8 visitor book

Gh1/10/8 – Burgh of Ardrossan Visitors’ Book containing the signature of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh following their visit to Ayrshire in 1956

This is our second North Ayrshire Burgh to be made available online and has resulted in an additional 226 records being made accessible for the first time. The records are available to view by appointment at Ayrshire Archives Headquarters in Auchincruive on Tuesdays.

Prestwick Burgh – anew!

Today marks the 418th anniversary Prestwick Burgh erected anew as a burgh of barony. It is believed that Prestwick had already received a Burgh of Barony status from at least 1174, but it may have been earlier. Although there is uncertainty to the exact date the town originally received it’s burgh status, we do know that these rights were finally confirmed on 19 June 1600. This was in the form of a charter of novodamus by James VI as administrator, tutor and governor of his son, Henry the Duke of Rothesay confirming all grants by his progenitors to the Burgh of Prestwick and erecting it anew into a free Burgh of Barony (BP/1/1/9). This is an official confirmation of the rights historically granted to the Burgh of Prestwick and is pictured below.



Although Prestwick was formally erected a burgh of barony in favour of the inhabitants,  during the 17th century it came under the influence of the Wallaces of Craigie. Prestwick Burgh had an unusual constitution based on the property rights of 36 freemen, known as barons, who held the entire lands of the burgh and re-allocated them periodically among themselves by lot. The freemen eventually gave up their rights to burgh governance with the establishment of the modern burgh in 1903 when it became a Police Burgh, although landholding had been normalised since 1850.



Our catalogue which displays the Prestwick Burgh records held by Ayrshire Archives can be accessed on our website.

Glennie celebrates International Archives Day

Hi folks, it’s Glennie here!

As it is International Archives Day, I was invited to spend some time at Ayrshire Archives HQ and find out a little more about what archivists do on a daily basis. Although we only tend to see what goes on in the searchroom, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes too. Not only do staff regularly take a range of enquiries about the records from researchers and monitor the searchroom, but they are constantly working on the collections they hold to make them more accessible to the public.

You may have noticed that some Ayrshire burgh catalogues have been making their way onto the Ayrshire Archives website. One of the archivists is in the process of re-cataloguing the Ayr Burgh records and has given me a task to help out with! I am helping to accession this volume which originally belonged to the Ayr Fire Brigade.


When items are transferred to the archives, they firstly become known as accessions and are given an accession number and description. This confirms what the items are and that they have been transferred and stored in a repository. It is a process which takes place before records can be inserted and displayed in a catalogue. Before I accession this volume, I am gently giving it a clean with a special smoke sponge. This allows for the dry cleaning of the book in order to remove any dirt or dust it has gathered over the years!


Now it is all clean, it is now time to create a description for it. I shall take a peek inside the volume to see what information it holds and when it dates from…


Having a look through, the volume appears to record fires attended by Ayr fire brigade 1935 – 1941, including information on the location, which fire fighters attended the fire and how much they were paid. I see several familiar streets and buildings mentioned, but something in particular has peaked my interest….


On 29 October 1936 the volume logs a fire at a petrol store at the agricultural college, Auchincruive – this is in the same area that Ayrshire Archives HQ sits today!


It is rather easy to get lost in history. However now I have the details I need, I can fill out an accession form with the correct information so the record can be easily identified by the archivist. This was just a glimpse of what happens in an archive on a daily basis in order to receive, maintain and preserve records. As a result people are able to access important sources of information which contribute to our history and culture.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my role at Ayrshire Archives in celebration of International Archives Day and look forward to visiting again soon!

Catch of the day at Ayrshire Archives!

Today is National Fish and Chips Day, so we thought we would look back on the work of fishermen who play an important role in order to celebrate this event! Therefore we have decided to share an interesting fishing image held at Ayrshire Archives.

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Accession 16/117

This image is from accession 16/117 and shows a fishing boat sailing from Dunure, a well-known fishing village in South Ayrshire. Taken in the spring of 1954, the fishermen pictured are Hugh McCutcheon, Mungo Munro who was the skipper and Robert McCutcheon. The boat they are aboard was fitted with seine-netting gear which allowed them to catch white fish outwith the herring season. The fishing industry in Dunure slowly declined in later years as boats became bigger and the harbour’s limitations became apparent. However this photograph is of a time when Dunure was the ‘plaice’ to be for fishing!



Online Catalogues

More catalogues have been added to our website today! These show records held by Ayrshire Archives relating to several Ayrshire societies, associations, events and charities. The catalogues included are:

AA/DC36 Eglinton Tournament

AA/DC56 Ayrshire War Relief Fund

AA/DC69 Warwickhill Colliery Friendly Society

AA/DC77 Kilmarnock & Loudoun Women’s Aid

AA/DC78 Kilmarnock & Loudoun Youth Panel

Making catalogues available online is an on-going project at Ayrshire Archives so keep an eye out for more!

Kilmarnock Air Raid

Last month saw the launch of Ayrshire Archives new Kilmarnock Burgh catalogue. For the first time researchers are able to browse the catalogue online. We thought we’d take the time to highlight some of the interesting records discovered by staff cataloguing this collection.

One interesting discovery was within the 1940 – 1941 Town Council minute book (BK1/1/2/37) which discusses the aid raid damage in Kilmarnock on 6 May 1941. According to the minutes a total of fourteen bombs were dropped by enemy aircraft, with one bomb remaining unexploded. During this incident two houses were completely destroyed and two other houses were damaged to such an extent they were unable to be repaired. Unfortunately during this event, some residents lost their lives. This document reveals the real danger that people in Scotland were living in during this time of war.

BK1_1_2_37 pg 201

This extract is only one of the many interesting pieces of history which are recorded within the Kilmarnock Burgh records. 101 additional records have been added to this catalogue and are available for the public to view at the Burns Monument Centre in Kilmarnock, through an appointment with Ayrshire Archives. Our records for Kilmarnock Burgh range from 1686-1984 and contain a wide variety of records from the Town Council minute books to the acts, bills and bye-laws of the burgh.

To discover more about the history of Kilmarnock, book your appointment now!