The Ardross-man

Seventies Flashback

I was searching for old memorabilia in the Barony St John church building last week with volunteers Emma and Ami Paterson when we discovered, stuffed behind the organ, an old newspaper from the seventies.

The newspaper is, of course, The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, and the date is 5th September 1975.



The articles that caught my eye were the ones which were accompanied by a photograph;

The first photo is of Ronnie Robinson and Turner Chalmers who won the team event in the Saltcoats Boat Owners’ fishing contest. Does this contest still take place?




The next photo is of the cast of “Mixed Doubles”, a play presented by the Student Drama Group of North Ayrshire Arts Centre in West Kilbride Hall. Just look at the hairstyles and clothing  fashion of the day.




And finally, there’s a cracking photo of the Ayrshire Women’s Bowling Championships at Ardrossan green.

So does anyone recognise anyone? Are YOU in any of the photos?


The Perfect Wedding

There are weddings……and then there are Barony St John weddings.

We filmed this “wedding” for our forthcoming crowd fund video.

What do you think?



Many thanks to Iain Hamilton of Clyde Kilts for supplying the groom and bride’s father with outfits and for playing the part of the bride’s father.

And to Lorraine Rankin-Smith of So Beautiful Bridal for supplying the bridal dress, bouquet and bridesmaid Tilly Rankin-Smith.

And Brian Jay of Jay’s Wedding Car Services for supplying the wonderful 1930’s Beaufort car.

Jennifer Reeves for being the bride and hair and make-up by Therapy at the Registry.

Tyler Poole for being the groom and Michael McCulloch for being the piper.

The Three Town Growers for supplying the flowers.

And Ryan Sinclair for providing his yacht “Caledonia”.

I’m sure you will agree, this looks fabulous – and hopefully a taste of things to come at the Barony St John.


Bum Burn

You may remember, it was back in late 2016 when I wrote about our drainage problems in “Money flushed down the drain“, well we had another blockage.

It’s not really to be expected as we now have about 450 people a week using our hall and I’m guessing it wasn’t really designed for that. Admittedly, the hall was built to seat one thousand people back in 1887 but I think that many people would not have wanted to go to the toilet in a church – unless they had really been caught short. And I would bet that, sitting in for a number two would be unthinkable back then.

But we have over a hundred children using our Centre now and they are more than happy to fill our toilets with number ones, twos and lots and lots of toilet paper (there is one night of the week where we will go through two toilet rolls in a three hour period).

In other words, our toilets and drains take a pounding!

Last week, the female toilet blocked – which blocked the disabled access toilet and then the male toilets and then the kitchen sink (as they are all connected in a row).

I tried plunging it with a mop but to no avail and then I remembered a trick my mother used to do – boiling water down the drain. It softens up any blockage and hopefully allows water to flow again.

So, two full kettles of boiling water down each of the toilets and I left them to do their magic.

Unfortunately a middle-aged female went in to use the ladies toilet – and she needed a number two.

The first I knew of this was when I heard her scream.

It seems that the splash of her ablution hitting the water below caused a backsplash of boiling water which had scalded the checks of her posterior (it could have been worse, if you ask me).

She was not a happy person – especially when I told her I would have to log the incident in our Accident Book.

She refused to give her name or any of her details and she refused my kind offer of First Aid treatment deciding instead to leave the building instead of taking part in the spiritualist medium session that was about to commence.

Bet she didn’t see that coming. 🙂

Related image


The Big Lottery identified Ardrossan as “an area of extreme deprivation” back in 2014 and made it their mission to change that by injecting £1.6 million into their Our Place initiative which would fund various community projects aimed at making Ardrossan a better place to live and work.

Street surveys and door-to-door surveys were carried out in 2015 and this resulted in Our Place publishing the local community’s “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live“;

image1. Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street.

2. Activities for young people.

3. More shops / amenities.

4. General tidy up of environment.

5. Develop Seafront and wasteground.

6. Employment opportunities.

7. More funding and investment.

8. Sport / Leisure facilities.

9. Better play facilities.

10. Social space for young people.


This was really exciting as our plans for the Barony St. John buildings ticked almost every box;

  • The Barony St. John is on Princes Street – the very street the local community wanted to upgrade.
  • Our plans to run evening classes providing activities for young people ticked No.2 of the community’s Top 10 ideas.
  • The regeneration of the Barony St John buildings into an Events Centre with a William Wallace Visitor Centre attached to the cafe area ticked No.3 of providing more shops / amenities.
  • No.4 in the list asked for a general tidy up of the environment and the regeneration of the Barony St John buildings would certainly provide that.
  • No.5 asked for the seafront and wasteground areas to be developed – and we are right on the seafront.
  • No.6 asked for the creation of employment opportunities – our Events Centre,  a William Wallace Visitor Centre, gift shop and cafe will obviously need manned so our finished project will provide extensive employment opportunities.
  • Next the community asked for more funding and investment – as tourists come to the William Wallace Visitor Centre and visitors come to the various bands, music festivals, art exhibitions, weddings, plays, etc. that we intend to run, the reputation of Ardrossan as being a major attraction will increase and so in turn will funding and investment in the area.
  • They asked for more sport / leisure facilities and with our large hall area open to evenign classes, we cater for Muay Thai, dance classes, Tai Chi, Circuit training, fitness classes and even meditation. Another box ticked.
  • Finally, the community’s No.10 idea to improve Ardrossan was for a social space for young people. We aim to develop our Training Room into a social hub area where young people can not only enjoy leisure activities on laptops but also learn how to write a CV, update their interview skills and get advice on how to pass a job interview.

So that’s 10 out 10. Our regeneration of the Barony St John buildings looks like a no brainer for the Our Place funding.

Now obviously, there is only £1.6 million which is to spread out over 5 years – but surely we would get something towards making the church roof wind and watertight for instance. Maybe around the £200,000 mark?

But as it became apparent that so called “public meetings” on how this money should be allocated were not exactly public, I began to have some sneaking suspicions that all was not right…..and then I got my premonitions.

By December 2015, I had predicted that the £1.6 million funding would get spent on five areas – the Ardrossan Castle, local theatre group Capall Dorcha, Ardrossan Music Experience, Ayrshire Film Company and Ardrossan Youth Group / Whitlees Community Centre.(see my other posts dating back to early 2016 – “Psychic Predictions“, “More psychic predictions come true” and “Psychic predictions 4 out 5“)

And amazingly, the predictions came true –

In May 2016, The Big Lottery announced that the first grant of £53,304 from the Our Place fund would be spent on a fun half-day carnival at the Ardrossan Castle.

Later in 2016, they announced that they would fund the Ardrossan Music Experience to the tune of £98,950 for a ‘Sound on the sand’ spectacular which basically was The Skids in a marquee tent one night last summer.

In July 2017, Capall Dorcha received £149,387 from Our Place to deliver Youth Theatre classes and Easter and Summer workshops for young people and adults in Ardrossan.

And in January 2018, an amazing 25 months since I predicted it, the Whitlees Community Centre received £324,625 for a complete upgrade of their kitchen and cafe area including giving people who were volunteers for years a salary for their work.

Recently in February 2018, they once again announced that they would fund the Ardrossan Music Experience to the tune of £98,950 for a one off event. That’s nearly £200,000 to date for a music event!!

How exactly all of this alters the extreme deprivation in Ardrossan, mystifies me.

How all of this is sustainable after the 5 years of funding are over, mystifies me.

How all of this, in any way, connects to what the local community asked for in Our Place’s own “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live“, mystifies me.

But the big question everyone should be asking is how could I possibly predict in 2015 who would get funding in 2018?

I know some of you will immediately answer that there is obviously a level of corruption going on here – but the real answer is that I’m obviously psychic. I’m so psychic, it mystifies even me. 🙂

John Moffat window update

Following a request about who the “John Moffat” is mentioned in the large circular window which is currently boarded up in the church, I received this wonderful letter from George McGrattan detailing a biography of the man;

Records at Liberton Parish Church in Edinburgh show that John Moffat was born on 7th May 1818, the son of John Moffat and his wife Barbara Brown.

So, what is John Moffat’s connection with Ardrossan?

Well, he was a Civil Engineer who came to Ardrossan and helped develop Ardrossan Harbour, evenutally becoming the Harbour Manager as this obituary for his sister (Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 28th November 1902) intimates;

“In 1843, John Moffat, so long honourably connected with the Harbour, began his visits as engineer of the Wet Docks and to his untiring efforts, the present day prosperity of Ardrossan is largely due.”

Throughout his working life, John Moffat featured in several newspaper reports both locally and in the Glasgow Herald including:

  • being toasted by the Earl of Eglinton at the opening of Ardrossan Docks in 1845
  • being a founder member of Ardrossan Volunteer Corps in 1859
  • presenting the 4th Ayrshire (Ardrossan) Artillery Volunteers with brass musical instruments in 1874 (which I detailed in my last article The John Moffat Window)
  • paying for the distribution of twenty tons of coal to the poor in 1875
  • opening the bazaar on behalf of the Volunteer Band in 1875
  • being associated with the Ardrossan branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1876
  • addressing the Ardrossan Young Men’s Society For Religious Improvement in 1877

As I mentioned in my previous article, on 18th November 1874, at the age of fifty-six, John married Jessie Arthur who was only twenty five years old.

Having settled in Ardrossan as a single man, initially living in Montgomerie Street (according to the 1851 census) and latterly at 11 South Crescent (according to the 1861 census), John and Jessie moved to Glasgow where their two children were born, Edith in 1876 and John in 1879.

According to the 1881 census, the Moffats lived at 7 Woodside Terrace, Glasgow and as well as being described as a civil engineer in the census, he was also described as a Justice of the Peace.

On 23rd March 1882, just over seven years married and at the age of only sixty two, tragedy struck. John’s body was found in a reservoir near Parkhouse Farm, in what is now Parkhouse Walkway, off Parkhouse Road, Ardrossan.  His death certificate states that he committed suicide by drowning.

The Glasgow Herald published an obituary.  It read;

It is with regret that we announce the sudden death of Mr John Moffat, superintendent of the Ardrossan Harbour.  Mr Moffat came to Ardrossan forty years ago and has always been noted for his close attention to duty and great business aptitude.  He was a member of the School Board and always took a ward interest in education and indeed in most public questions.  He was a director of the Ardrossan Gas and Water Company and held a similar position in several other important companies throughout the county.  He was also noted for many deeds of un-ostentatious charity and by his death, many of the poor in the locality are deprived of a kind and liberal friend.  Mr Moffat was appointed Captain of the Ardrossan Volunteer Corps at its formation in 1860 and continued in that position for many years.  Even after retiring, he took a warm interest in the Corps.”

Why would an apparently successful and esteemed man with a wife and two young children kill himself?  A clue is given in the opening sentence of a testimonial in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald.  It states;

The late Mr John Moffat is one other victim to overwork.  More than a quarter of a century ago, he succeeded his brother James in the management of the then Ardrossan Railway, afterwards incorporated into the Glasgow and South-Western Railway System and the Ardrossan Harbour.  He had immense capacity for work and it was due to his foresight and untiring energy, while lessee of the Harbour, that some years ago, Ardrossan became one of the most flourishing and best managed ports in the West of Scotland.   With Messrs Henderson and Son, Belfast, he owned the magnificent steamers of the Ardrossan Shipping Company.  He opened up a most lucrative trade with Spain and for years has been one of a few gentlemen who were directors of more than half a dozen companies.  He could take a singularly clear and strong grasp of any matter of business brought before him and few could excel him in his exposition of details.  Only lately, after a meeting held in Saltcoats on the Water question, a gentleman present said to the writer that he could have listened to him all the evening.  His position at the Harbour naturally gave him great influence in the place but the deceased gentleman would have commanded a foremost place anywhere.  An excellent education had developed a love for the best literature and to an extensive acquaintance of the works of the best authors, there was added the culture which comes from travel in foreign countries and friendly personal intercourse with some oi the best informed and most learned gentlemen in the country.  When the occasion required he could show considerable tact in dealing with an opposition.  He had superior conversational powers, was a good speaker and a lecture which he delivered some years ago, at the request of the Library Committee – full of information relieved by happy strokes of humour – showed that even in this he would have excelled, had he given his mind to it.  He was a prosperous man but, as he strongly disliked anything like ostentatious display, only a few knew how generously he bestowed money where help was needed.  If the case was an urgent one he gave liberally and while we would have hesitated to approach him on a pure matter of business, if money was needed for a good cause, all hesitation vanished.  We knew that we could get from him all that we wished for.  For Mrs Moffat and his sisters, there is the deepest sympathy.  It is felt that their sorrow is a calamity which even sympathy – the deepest and truest – can relieve but faintly’.

I find it hard to believe though that John would commit suicide because he was overworked. He could have retired happily and not worked another day in his life. My suspicious mind does make me wonder if it was suicide, an accident or something more sinister.

John’s widow, Jessie, remarried on 13th April 1886 in Dundonald.  Her husband was Charles Edward Hay, a thirty-six year old bachelor chemical manufacturer.  Charles was the son of Sir John Hay, Seventh Baronet of Hay and Sheriff Substitute of Stirlingshire.

Jessie died on 17th November 1931.

John’s children also had notable lives;  The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reported that on 30th  July 1901, Edith “daughter of the late John Moffat, Ardrossan, and Mrs Jessie Hay of Castlehill, Ayr, was married to Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn of Wedderburn, Kirkhill, Fife.  The Reverend George Grub, rector and Reverend Alexander Copland, senior curate officiated at the ceremony.  The bride was given away by her brother John Moffat.  Mr Norman Lamont, younger of Ardlamont was best man“.

Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn was the Tenth Earl of Dundee.  His and Edith Moffat’s son, Henry James Scrymgeour-Wedderburn (1902–1983), was the eleventh Earl of Dundee.

Among several military and political posts, he was Under-Secretary of State for Scotland from 1936 to 1939 and 1941 to 1942.

Henry’s son, Alexander Henry Scrymgeour, the Twelfth Earl of Dundee has been a member of the House of Lords since 1983 and still attends.

Edith died in Edinburgh on 16th October 1967.

On 21st November 1902, the local paper stated that “Mr John Moffat, who has been unanimously adopted as Unionist candidate for Paisley, is a son of the late Mr John Moffat, Ardrossan.  He is about twenty-four years of age and was educated at Cheam, Eton and Cambridge where he is said to have made a special study of mathematics, chemistry and political economy”.  John did not win the next election. He then pursued a career as a merchant.

On 19th January 1926, John married Fern Clarisse King in Paris.  Fern was the daughter of Lloyd Stanley King, a man of independent means.  It appears that John continued to live in France where he was still resident in 1950.

Although John Moffat’s life had a sad ending, he left a distinguished family and played a prominent part in the industrial and community life of Ardrossan.  He was clearly held in high regard by his contemporaries who symbolised their affection by the installation in 1889 of a large circular window in his memory which dominates the in the Barony St John Church.  May John Moffat rest in peace.

Many thanks to George McGrattan for writing most of this article.


The John Moffat window

Way back in March 2016, I told you about the circular window in the hall building which had a Star of David inside it and I mentioned that there was a large circular window in the main church building which had been boarded since the late 1990’s / early 2000’s, and that I didn’t know what this window looked like.

What was behind the boarding has remained hidden and it is our hope that one day we can make the window safe and have it uncovered again for the public to view but in the meantime, a local resident has come to me with some photos showing the window underneath in all its glory.

The window is not plain glass like the hall window but stained glass – and the colours and intricate patterns are amazing.

In the centre of the window there is an intertwined IHS symbol which is an abbreviation of IHSOUS or “Jesus” in Latinised Greek. The symbol is used in many Christian churches and you may just be able to make it out on the red velvet drape hanging over the pulpit below the organ pipes in the above photo showing the entire church wall, alter and organ.

In the close-up photo below, you may also be able to make out that there is an inscription around the circumference of the window. The upper line reads;

In loving memory of John Moffat, died March 23rd 1882.

But the lower line is harder to read as some of the words are obscured so I can only read;

He rest from his ………. works do allow him.


If anyone has any more information on this window, what the full inscription says or who John Moffat was, please do get in touch.

The only two pieces of information I can find, which may or may not be the same Mr Moffat, were obtained from the Glasgow Herald.

The first dated 17th March 1874 in an article titled “Ardrossan – Volunteer Ball”.

It mentions the annual ball of the 4th Ayrshire (Ardrossan) Artillery Volunteers which took place in the Good Templars’ Hall. It discusses the event and then says;

Mr Moffat then presented to the corps a beautiful set of brass musical instruments subscribed for by several gentlemen in the town.

Is this the same Mr Moffat?

He must have been well known as other people are mentioned by name and then have their job detailed (Mr Barrs the music instructor, Mr Cowan the treasurer to the corps and Mr Phillips of the coastguard) but there is no mention of who Mr Moffat is or what he does.

Presumably, he was so well known that readers, even in Glasgow, would have known him by name only.

The second article was published on 19th NOVEMBER 1874 and identifies the person as JOHN Moffat so it maybe our man;

The article is titled “Ardrossan Rejoicing” reports;

Yesterday in recognition of the marriage of Mr. JOHN MOFFAT with Miss ARTHUR of Barshaw, all the vessels in the harbour (of which Mr. Moffat is superintendent) were gaily decorated with bunting, and several of the public buildings also displayed flags.

The volunteer fired 13 rounds from the big guns at the battery, and met again in the evening, when they fired a feu de joie.

The harbour employees were suitably entertained in the evening.

If this is the same John Moffat whose death in 1882 is recorded, he married in 1874 and was died only eight years later.

Hopefully you can help me solve this puzzle and reveal who John Moffat was and why he was so well known.

Oh, and one last thing, I have completely mislaid the name of the person who gave me the photos of the church window – if it was YOU, can you get in touch so I can publicly thank you? Cheers.

Goodbye for now.

Matchstick Man update

Once again I feel I must begin with a huge “Thank you” to members of the local community who have read my articles and then taken the time to contact me, giving me more information on the history of the Barony St John and its contents.

Over the past few blog posts, I’ve shown how present and former Ardrossan / Three Town residents have revealed the background of the marble baptismal font at the entrance of Barony St. John’s church; shown that the hall building was much larger in times gone by; uncovered a hidden history of the James Mutter stained glass windows; unveiled the beautiful, large, circular stained glass window in the Barony St. John building and now this week I will give you another update;

I was contacted again by Jim Miller whom you may remember featured in a post, The Matchstick Man, last year.

Jim is better known as the “Matchstick Man” as he builds matchstick models of churches in Ayrshire and beyond.

In my original article, I was trying to locate the model of the Barony St John which Jim had gifted to the church around 1998/99. It turned out that when the Barony St. John’s congregation moved to Kirkgate Parish Church in Saltcoats after their church closed, they took their matchstick model with them and it is on display with the Kirkgate model.

Jim told me the Barony St John model took four months to complete and was made from between 15-20,000 matches and it is truly a work of art.

But recently Jim got in touch with an update – he has made another two church models, one of  which is Tarbolton Parish Church which he presented to its congregation in January 2018;


And another is of Fenwick Parish Church which he plans to present later on in the year to celebrate its 375th anniversary.

I’m sure you’ll agree that they are absolutely stunning and the attention to detail is outstanding.

Many thanks once again for your support and please do keep contacting me with updates and information.  It really is heartwarming to know that the local community treasures the Barony St John buildings as much as, if not more than I do and are keen to have its historical value preserved for future generations.

If you would like to know more about my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, please visit our website or look us up (ScotCPS) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Goodbye for now.

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