New catalogues are being added to the website!  These catalogues are being made available online for the first time and relate to Ayrshire associations, businesses and individuals.  They provide an insight into the cultural and economic heritage of the area. Making catalogues available online is an on-going project so keep an eye out for more of them over the new few months.


Graduate Trainee trip to The Mitchell Library, Glasgow


Mitchell 4For my last trip to a repository as graduate trainee we visited the Glasgow City Archives. The archives are housed in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, where they have been since the 1980s.  This is an extremely worthwhile visit to make as Glasgow City Archives is one of the largest city archives in Scotland. They contain the official records of Glasgow City Council and its predecessors as well as the records of the Burghs that are now part of the city.  They also hold multiple records from private companies such as the shipbuilders and the records of churches of all denominations.

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The archivist provided us with a tour of the searchroom and discussed with us on how they directed customers to the information that they needed as the archives are accessed mainly through drop-ins rather than by appointment basis. This varied on what I had seen on previous visits to repositories as well as how we allow access to the archives at Ayrshire Archives. I was also able to experience how the Family History Centre was arranged at the Mitchell Library. The Family History Centre provides access to Scotland’s People online and works closely with the archives to provide a starting point for family research. The archivist had also set up a small exhibition to provide us with examples of the records they held. This included the poor relief records, Kirk Session records and private records. The exhibition included the original diaries of Thomas Cairns Livingstone, which were published in 2009 as ‘Tommy’s War.” This set of diaries highlighted the extremely personal nature of some of the archives. We are grateful for Glasgow City Archives for hosting this tour and it was an extremely worthwhile visit.

Graduate Trainee visit to PRONI

PRONI 2Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Public Records Office Northern Ireland in Belfast. As I am from Northern Ireland this was to enable me to visit the repository that holds archives for my local area. PRONI provided me with an excellent tour that covered the wide of variety of work that they carry out as the official repository in Northern Ireland for official and private records.


Over 3 million records are currently held at PRONI, ranging from the archives of government departments, court records, church records, and those of businesses, such as Harland and Wolff, and estates, such as the Londonderry Papers. I was able to view the stores, search room and reading room as well as discuss topics such as cataloguing, preservation and digitising archives. This provided me with an insight into how a large national archive is run and how they deal with issues that are specific to their organisation.


Snapshot of the Archives: There’s been a murder!


‘The Trial of James Stuart, Esq. Younger of Durnern’ 1822 AA/DC/44/2/3/12

Our snapshot today is a legal trial that gripped the nation in 1822.  James Stuart, Younger of Dunearn, was accused of the murder of Sir Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck. Stuart, a keen supporter of the Whig movement and a member of the Society of Writers to the Signet, fatally wounded Boswell (a Baronet, ex-MP and poet) in a duel. The challenge of a duel was laid down by Stuart as the result of finding out that Boswell was the author of slanderous articles, including the ‘Whig Song’ (see images below,) that were published by Glasgow Sentinel.


Lyrics of the ‘Whig Song’, written by Alexander Boswell and published in the Glasgow Sentinel. AA/DC/44/2/3/12

The Glasgow Sentinel had a history of insulting Stuart who was a supporter of the Whig movement. This led to Stuart taking a libel case against both the Glasgow Sentinel and the Beacon, which was based in Edinburgh. When this song, however, was published Stuart was keen to find out who was responsible for this and managed to get manuscripts of the articles which showed that Boswell was the author. Stuart demanded that Boswell either  apologise for or deny writing this defamatory song. Boswell refused and so to protect his honour Stuart challenged Boswell to a duel.


Lyrics of the Whig Song published in the Glasgow Sentinel, written by Alexander Boswell. This was the cause of the duel. AA/DC/44/2/3/12 

Neither party was planning for this duel to be deadly. Sir Boswell, who aimed the pistol in the air, fired to miss. Stuart, however, was not trained to use a pistol and so did not aim, thus hitting Boswell through the neck and shattering his collar bone. (See image below) The injury was fatal and Stuart fled the scene to Paris where he handed himself in.


Charge against James Stuart, includes description of the injuries sustained by Sir Alexander Boswell. AA/DC/44/2/3/12

James Stuart was found not guilty for the murder of Sir Alexander Boswell as the jury ignored the illegality of duels. This volume is able to provide insight into the political climate of the time as well as the processes of the law that allowed Stuart to go free.

Prestwick Burgh Online Catalogue

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Extract of Matriculation of the Arms of the Burgh of Prestwick to add the motto ‘Loyalty, Vigilance, Foresight’ 1955 (BP/1/5/1)

The catalogue for the Burgh of Prestwick is now available online. This is the first Burgh catalogue to be made available online by Ayrshire Archives and has been extensively restructured and extended by the Archives team.   This has enabled us to provide access to 1832 items that were previously unavailable to the general public. Prestwick is one of the earliest Burghs of Barony dating from at least 1174 but potentially as early as 983. The oldest document we have in this collection dates from 1446 (BP1/1/1) which is a notarial instrument regarding royal letters to Sir John Walas of Cragyne discussing the wrongful occupation of the Burgh’s common and property. The collection covers 1446 to 1975 when the Police Burgh was abolished under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and became part of Kyle and Carrick District and Ayr Sub-region of Strathclyde.

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Prestwick Town Council Minute Books (BP/1/3/1-73)

This collection contains a range of document types including official minutes of the Town Council, legal documents, accounts and correspondence. These give an overview of how Prestwick Burgh operated and what problems were faced. BP/4, Town Council Correspondence, is full of interesting cases that show the range of people’s experiences. The theft of vegetables is a recurring theme! BP/4/13/142 details the case of Agnes Lymbarer and Mr and Mrs Mathieson who were accused of stealing cabbages and green kale plants from John Smith and selling them in Ayr. Disputes could escalate into violence and intimidation, with many depositions and witness statements recorded in BP/4. BP/4/5/58 contains a deposition of two weavers who challenged each other to a ‘duell’ on the shore after the manhood of one was questioned by the other. BP4/5/181 documents the complaint by George Miller that he had been threatened by James Nesbit, after Miller refused to play his fyfe. This led to an effigy of Miller being made and burnt. The accounts and receipts give insight into the everyday life of those in Prestwick, including multiple receipts for food and drink consumed by the Freemen and regular accounts from John Dodd and his son, Adam, for catching moles.

Mole catcher BP4_6_239

Receipt for payment to John Dodd for catching moles in Prestwick (BP/4/6/239)