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The Ardross-man

Soar like a Rocket

Ardrossan’s coastline view is admired all over the world and instantly recognisable – why? Because the former Barony St John church soars into the skyline like a rocket reaching for the stars. And, in a way, that is what Ardrossan needs to do – reach for the stars.

I’ve been harping on about saving the Barony St John for five years now, but for those of you who haven’t heard or don’t know my plans, here is a short explanation.

Once all the pews are taken out of the church building, it is just a large, two storey building with a fantastic organ feature.

It can become many things but the one thing YOU the community wanted, was for it to become an Events Centre.

Capable of seating over 1200 people, the Barony St John could hold live bands (let’s face it, we don’t always get the weather for seaside open-air performances), musicals, plays; even sporting events such as boxing matches, MMA, martial arts competitions; or how about art exhibitions, wedding fayres, conferences, community activities; or even weddings.

In fact, the building could host 101 events making it THE go-to venue in Ayrshire, attracting people .

During the Summer months, we could team up with local production companies like Capall Dorcha and Ardrossan Music Experience to put on a summer-time programme for children. This would encourage families to come to Ardrossan and when they can’t enjoy the beach (that pesky rain again) they can enjoy an indoor show.

But my idea wasn’t just to turn the Barony St John into an Events Centre which will bring visitors back to Ardrossan and provide much needed jobs and income to the area. Oh no – my idea was to also enclose the gravel area surrounding the front of the church and make this into a seafront café cum visitor centre with historical figure William Wallace as the focal point.

As many of you know, Wallace is connected with Ardrossan Castle as far back as 1296 and you all know how tourists love Sir William and anything connected with him. All we need is one percent of the one million tourists visiting Arran on the Ardrossan ferry each year to turn left at the lights and pop into the Visitor Centre – that’s 10,000 tourists.

Just think of the money they’ll spend in Ardrossan if they actually stopped, got a photo with the Wallace statue in the Barony St John Events and Visitor Centre and were then signposted around Ardrossan via Ardrossan Castle.

Think of how many jobs we would have to create to enable us to cater for 10,000 tourists PLUS thousands of visitors to Ardrossan. YOUR jobs.

The Barony St John Events and Visitor Centre would help develop the seafront area; provide activities and a social space for young people; provide employment opportunities; and will encourage more funding and investment into Ardrossan.

In short, this project will make a massive and lasting positive difference to YOUR neighbourhood.

To make this happen, we need the Council to back us – and not even financially – just back us in producing plans to take these ideas to The Big Lottery or Historic Environment Scotland or other funding bodies.

You see, if the Council aren’t interested in this project, neither will the funders – regardless of how many jobs this will provide or how much income it will generate in Ardrossan.

So, get a hold of your local Councillor and put our case forward. Write to the Council or better still, pop in and see them.

Have a chat with the new Ardrossan Community Development Trust and ask them to support the Barony St John Regeneration Project.

Let’s get this ball rolling.

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Our Place?

I’ve been in Ardrossan five years now and I would like to say that it has changed over the years – but I don’t think it has.

My arrival in Ardrossan, back in 2014, coincided with The Big Lottery announcing that it was launching a new funding programme called Our Place which would give money to certain towns in Scotland which it deemed to be in “an area of extreme deprivation”.

The aim of this funding was to “empower local people and organisations to bring about a massive and lasting positive difference to their neighbourhood”.

Luckily, Ardrossan was named as one of the town’s getting a minimum of £1.6 million to be spent on projects which would benefit the local community – and the good news was, the local community would get to decide what to spend the money on.

Now this really would make a “massive and lasting positive difference” to Ardrossan – but it mystifies me, that despite a £1.6million investment, I still cannot see what differences have been made. Can you?

A business called Community Renewals was given the task of distributing the Our Place Ardrossan funding and they set about surveying the local community – you – to see exactly what you wanted the money spent on.

In the Spring of 2015, following street and house surveys, Community Renewals published the local community’s “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live“;

 

  1. 15% of the Ardrossan population wanted more activities available on a regular basis for young people.
  2. 12% wanted more shops / amenities.
  3. 9% – Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street.
  4. 9% – General tidy up of environment.
  5. 9% – Develop Seafront and wasteground.
  6. 9% – Employment opportunities.
  7. 9% – More funding and investment.
  8. 8% – Sport / Leisure facilities.
  9. 8% – Better play facilities.
  10. 6% – Social space for young people.

Now, five years later, and struggling to see where any of these goals have been met, I decided to email Community Renewals and ask them what the money had been spent on.

Since 7th August, I’ve emailed three members of their team (including their Chief Executive) and the general “info” address a total of 11 times but so far, I haven’t had any response.

If anyone can help answer the mystery of what projects the £1.6 million was spent on to make a “massive and lasting positive difference” to “alleviate poverty and deprivation” in Ardrossan, please get in touch with me and I will let everyone else know in a future article.

Thank you.

Good news and Bad news

A few months ago, I got some bad news. My blood pressure had shot through the roof for no apparent reason. I paid a visit to the doctor and when they realised that my readings were 200/180, they sent for an ambulance.

Now I know the NHS is stretched but I waited three hours for an ambulance during which time   my partner had left her work and drove over from Edinburgh to see me in hospital, only to find I was still waiting in the doctor’s surgery.

She drove me to the hospital herself (I wasn’t allowed to drive) and we were seen immediately.

It took over six weeks to get my blood pressure controlled to a reasonable level but then more bad news – I had a suspected stroke and was rushed back into hospital again.

Complain as much as you want about the NHS but I got every test known to man done on me – CT scans, urine test, blood tests, cardiograph, kidney x-rays, MRI brain scan – and all free of charge. You really cannot beat our NHS.

I am still awaiting test results and I am banned from driving until I get the all clear but then I got some good news –

The Personal Safety course I had developed specifically for people who are deafblind, blind, vision impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, has just been shortlisted for the Self Management Awards 2019 in the category of “Project of the Year Award”.

I’ve named the course Personal Safety for Sensory Impaired People.

The final will take place at an Awards Ceremony in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 8th October however winners will be decided by public vote – and this is where I need YOUR help.

Can you circulate this to all your contacts / family members / work colleagues / etc.?

Public voting is from now until 26th September. The link for voting is: http://bit.ly/SMProjectoftheYear

My charity is called The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.

Every vote counts so please support us on this one. It would be fantastic in October to get the good news that we have won the award with your help – so thanks in advance.

Jesus with the mutton-chop moustache’s creator

ROBERT FINLAY MILLIGAN  (1881-1963)

Ladies and gentleman, meet Robert Finlay Milligan, the creator of our famous stained glass window which is the ONLY depiction of Jesus that we know of with a mutton-chop moustache.

Robert (‘Bob’) was the eldest of the eight children of David Milligan and Mary Finlay, born on 25th August 1881 in 95 Fisher Street, Glasgow.  He attended the Glasgow School of Art while serving an apprenticeship in his Father’s glazing business.

In 1901 he was awarded a bronze medal for excellence in art in ‘Subject 23d’ by the Board of Education, Kensington, London.

He established his glazing business in Bain Street, Glasgow, around 1906 and later moved to a former auction room at 92 Gallowgate, Glasgow, near Glasgow Cross, just before the 1st World War. Two of his brothers, David and George, also established glazing businesses in Glasgow in the early 1900s.

According to his grandson, Roy Milligan who came to see the window recently, this was a good time to enter the leaded and stained-glass trade which provided much work until the 2nd World War.

Once employing 6 men and a book-keeper, that number had reduced to 2 by the 1970s.

On Bob’s  death in December 1963, the business was continued by his sons, David and Thomas (Tommy).  Tommy suffered a serious stroke in 1974 and the business was sold after David’s death in 1976.

Robert had a long association with the Church of Scotland and in March 1904 was ordained and admitted to the Eldership of Calton Parish Church, Tobago Street, Glasgow. Later moving to High Burnside, Lanarkshire, he joined a committee in 1926 to see to the erection of a Church Hall and offices, becoming a member of the Committee of Management two years later.

In 1930 was one of the 14 Elders who were admitted to form the first Kirk session of this new Church which eventually occupied the former St. Gilbert’s Church of Scotland in Pollokshields, which had been dismantled and re-built to serve Burnside Parish.

His background in stained glass was most useful in his position on the Property and Building Fund Committee, using his experience and skill to oversee the removal of  the windows from St. Gilbert’s and their re-installation at Burnside.  However, a trefoil window dedicated to St. Gilbert was thought to be inappropriate in its new setting, and so Robert designed a replacement window endowed by a member of the congregation and depicting Jesus blessing the children.

He represented Burnside Church at the General Assembly in 1934, and in 1954 received a presentation from the Session marking 50 years as an Elder in the Church of Scotland. He retired from the Kirk session in December 1956.

It became increasingly difficult to gain new commissions as fewer windows were dedicated in memory of family members or ministers.  Certainly, presbyterian congregations were more inclined to concentrate on ensuring that intended donations were channelled towards the fabric of the Church.  However, the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities were still keen to commission windows in new Churches or Synagogues.

From the 1960s, much of the stained glass in the West End of Glasgow was disappearing as many residents removed large leaded panels from front doors and windows for security reasons.  Leaded glass has no way of resisting a determined blow, but some of these panels were dismantled and re-leaded to suit installation in new or refurbished hotels and pubs if the architect was keen to incorporate this style into their commissions.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the business were contractors to the Ministry of Works and carried out the re-leading of windows at Cambuskenneth Priory, Stirlingshire and at the start of the restoration of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle.

Sadly, Tommy’s stroke in 1974 and his subsequent absence from the business meant that further work there did not continue for much longer.  Work was also carried at Fordell Castle near Dunfermline for Nicolas Fairbairn QC.The existence can be confirmed of the following windows to date:

  1. Our window in the former Barony St. John’s Church building in Ardrossan (window in situ).
  2. Dundurn Parish Church, St. Fillans, Perthshire (window in situ).
  3. Burnside Parish Church, Burnside, Lanarkshire (trefoil window in situ).
  4. Shettleston Parish Church, Shettleston, Glasgow.
  5. 10 panels removed from Dennistoun Baptist Church, Glasgow, before demolition (ref. Brian Hutchison)

Many thanks to Roy Milligan for supplying this narrative and revealing the history of our unique window.

 

 

 

 

The Death of the Barony?

As many of you know, I bought the Barony St John church and hall buildings back in December 2014 – almost five years ago now. Since then, I have strived to renovate the hall building as a base for my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, and looked at how the church building could be saved.

The church building closed around 2010 and with the heating switched off, the radiators burst after the first hard frost which brought down parts of the ceiling below the upper gallery.

Additional roof leaks have seen other parts of the plasterwork collapse but I was sure, that with support from North Ayrshire Council, we could get funding to repair and renovate this iconic building and perhaps even bring some jobs  to Ardrossan.

My plans have been published many times over the years – turn the church into an Events Centre which could be a venue for live bands, plays, pantomimes, wedding fayres, art exhibitions, sporting events, etc. and this would, in turn, generate jobs and signpost people to come to Ardrossan from all over Ayrshire and beyond.

The outside gravel areas of the church buildings could also be enclosed in glass and become a William Wallace Visitors Centre with a fantastic view of the seafront.

We have been provisionally donated the Wallace “Braveheart” statue which used to reside at the foot of the Wallace Monument plus a replica of his sword and other historical memorabilia to highlight Wallace’s routing of the English garrison at Ardrossan Castle in 1296.

We all know how American and other tourists love Scottish history and if only one percent of the one million tourists who head across to Arran on the Ardrossan ferry each year visited this Centre, it would equate to 10,000 visitors staying in Ardrossan instead of driving through our town.

Throughout 2017, we showed our plans to the local community including Open Days in the Barony St John hall building. Over 450 local residents took part in our surveys and in 2018 we published a Feasibility Study showing that the local community, through various public events, unanimously agreed that the buildings should be turned into an Events and Visitor Centre.

But unbeknownst to me, there would be three elements which would stand in our way – Greed, Bigotry and Corruption.

You see, instead of seeing the many benefits an Events and Visitor Centre would bring to Ardrossan (the saving of an iconic building which features on almost every photo of Ardrossan’s seafront; an influx of tourists and visitors resulting in increased spending in local shops; the creation of more local jobs; the development of the seafront; etc.), many “movers and shakers” came up with excuses of why not to support the project.

Everything from a rivalry between Ardrossan and other towns – “Why can’t we build an Events Centre in Saltcoats instead of Ardrossan?” and “Why should Ardrossan get all the tourists?” to people wanting their share of what they saw as a potentially lucrative pie –  “Why should your charity get all the profits from an Events Centre, we want our own Events Centre for our club / society / group?” and incredibly “We don’t want anything to do with William Wallace because he represents SNP and Independence”.

It seems that despite the local community wanting to save the Barony St John buildings and turn them into an Events and Visitor Centre, the “movers and shakers” can influence North Ayrshire Council, and without their backing (not necessarily financial) this project will not be funded by the likes of the Big Lottery.

So as the church building continues to decline and the likelihood that it will be put up for sale again looms, I have one question for the “movers and shakers” – if the Barony St John will not be used as an Events and Visitor Centre, what will it be used for? Or will this iconic building soon be no more?

Take a look at the photo of our coastline with and without the Barony and tell me what you think – or better still, tell North Ayrshire Council.

The Scottish Diversity Awards 2019

My charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety has had the work we do with many diverse groups recognised at this year’s Scottish Diversity Awards where we won the “Empowering Champions” award.

The Charity Awards 2019

I had the honour of representing my charity at The Charity awards 2019 in the Pavilion at The Tower of London last week.

We won the Disability Award for our Personal Safety classes for people who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

Well chuffed to have my charity considered to be one of the best in the UK.

Psychic & Holistic Fayre 5

We are lucky enough to have Ann Smith’s Phoenix Spiritualist Church use our Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan for their weekly meetings, tarot readings and demonstrations of clairvoyance and mediumship.

Every couple of months or so, Ann also holds a Psychic & Holistic Fayre in our main hall room with various stalls selling everything from Jem’s gems and crystals; craftwork such as handmade cards, candles, toys and jewelry; oriental and world-wide ornaments from the Cove such as Buddhas, meditation bowls and African woodwork; and much more.

There are also stalls offering tarot and angel card readings as well as others specialising in runes, aromatherapy, reflexology, aura photography, Reiki, Quigong medicine, spiritual healing, Mindfulness and Indian head massage.

On top of all this, there are demonstrations throughout the day from some of Scotland’s top mediums – and not forgetting the home-baking and refreshments.

Now, the main hall in our Centre is usually two thirds matted and the final third is a gym with spin bikes and free weights, so clearing all of this kit requires a lot of effort from our volunteers. But it is worth it because Ann, herself a celebrated medium, does not simply hire our hall for the day – she donates half of the day’s takings to us for the ongoing upkeep and renovation of the Centre.

So far, there has been a Fayre to mark Remembrance Sunday last November, one at Christmas, one at Valentine’s Day, one at Easter and a Summer one today. Now if we had rented the hall to the Phoenix Spiritualist Church we would have received £600 for our troubles – but astonishingly, they have donated a total of £2,414 to us for these five Fayres.

So, if you are looking for something a bit different, fancy treating yourself to a holistic treatment or even a tarot card reading, why not come along to the next Psychic & Holistic Fayre at our Barony St John Centre and indulge yourself? It’s scheduled for Sunday 1st September so you’ve plenty of time to put it in your diary….you know what they say – what’s good for the heart is good for the soul. 🙂

Window pains

Back in April 2017, I published a post titled Pane-less which told you all about my endeavours to replace the windows in the Training Room section of the Barony St John hall building.

Two years on, and I trying to do the same with the rest of the hall building – but it’s proving to be a bit of a nightmare.

The windows in the main hall are very large. Ten of them are arched..

And one is a very large circular window with the Star of David in it mentioned in a previous post…

ALL of them are needing repaired with rotten frames, cracked glass and in some cases letting in water.

It would cost a small fortune to replace them but to help reduce our heating bills, I have an idea;

We could replace the five external facing windows, repair the others and put in a suspended ceiling to reduce the space we need to heat.

You can see the transformation that took place in 2017 when we replaced the windows in the Training Room area – the left window is the old one with the right window a new replica.

They look fantastic.

Fingers crossed the hall windows will look just as good.

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