The Ardross-man


July 2016

Finished hall

The hall is finally ready for me to run classes and courses in.

Part of the problem with a Victorian aged building is that the list of repairs and renovations can become endless but I decided to bite the bullet and simply do what we can and need to do for my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, to function.

This is what it looked like before;

hall1 hall2

And this is after;

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We have 4 free standing punchbags, 3 Body Opponent Bags, a huge matted area and a large crash mat for our self defence training.

We also have 2 battle ropes, 20 jump ropes and a large selection of kettlebells for our circuit training.

Plus we have a small gym area consisting of free weights, an assisted dip and pull-up machine, a small multi-gym, a vibro-plate, a spin bike and a cable crossover machine.

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Pretty cool, eh?


Divine Service

Knocking down some old wooden lockers in the Barony St. John church hall and found this wonderful old certificate of attendance dated 1924.

It reads:

This Certificate is awarded to Thomas Milligan in Recognition of Regular Attendance at Divine Service during the year 1924.

Check out the outfits worn by children back then. I love the boy’s hat. 🙂


Boxing clever

One thing you should know about me is that I’m a huge boxing fan – and I’ve amassed a fair bit of boxing merchandise over the years and I wanted to instill this into the hall.

Now I’ve laid two thirds of the hall out with judo mats and the final third will be a gym area – and it’s around this area that I’ve put up some of my boxing posters.

imageI’ve got a few boxing gloves signed by boxing World Champions – one from middleweight champ Chris Eubank and another from his rival Nigel Benn; one from Marvelous Marvin Hagler; another signed by heavyweight champ Frank Bruno and one from Joe Frazier – and the piece dimagee resistance, The Greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali.

I’ve also got a painting of Ali v Frazier’s Rumble in the Jungle, a small collage of Ali and a bigger portrait size plaque of the great man.

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All of these are in the archway mentioned in my Locker Arch post.

Posters of famous boxing matches include Bruno v Lewis (1993), Holyfield v Bowe (1992) and my favourite (and ultra rare poster) Hagler v Leonard (1987).

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Finally I’ve put up some small signed photos from some of the boxers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

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Once the whole hall area is complete with punchbags, jump ropes, weights, etc. I think it will look the biz.

i hope you agree. 🙂


Kettle Bell’s

I ordered some kettlebells recently with the thought of offering circuit training or even kettlebell classes.

For a number of years now, I’ve used kettlebell’s personally and found them to be a really good training aid.

At my peak of fitness, I invested in some heavy kettlebells to train with. I started with a 24kg then moved up to buying a 32kg and finally a 40kg kettlebell.

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These super heavy kettlebells came in a “macho” black colour. Grrrrr.

So, here I was opening up my new set of kettlebells for our Centre – they start small in weight – the 4kg was light yellow in colour. Awww, that’s nice. My young daughter loves this colour. 🙂


Then the 5kg was light blue in colour. Aww, cool – this is my young son’s favourite colour. Now they can have a kettlebell each. 🙂


The 7.5kg was dark blue.


The 8kg was dark yellow.


But the heaviest in this delivery was the 12kg – and guess what colour it was? No, not black, not deep, deep, deep blue. Not even gold or silver.

It was pink. Well, a deep pink verging on purple colour – but to my eye, definitely pink.


Now I’m not the type of guy who insists that pink stuff is for girls and blue stuff is for guys – but I know a lot of guys who are. And when I shout “Grab a kettlebell” during circuit training I just can’t imagine a bunch of guys shouting back “The pink one’s mine”.

Call me old fashioned but the nice bright colours should be for the nice light weights and the deeper, darker colours for the heavier weights – ending in black for the really heavy stuff.

The colour spectrum should be exactly the same as the weight spectrum; As the weight goes up, the colours go up. Red should be 2kg, Orange 4kg, Yellow 6kg, Green 8kg, Blue 10kg, Indigo (dark blue) 12kg, Violet (dark purple) 14kg and then anything over 16kg can be black or bronze or silver or gold or some other colour other than the pastel shades. Brown, as its a mix of green and red should be somewhere near the middle of this range.

Now I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking “well, that is a kinda purple colour so the the colour spectrum / weight thing is right.” Wrong – it’s pink! If they wanted to make it purple it should be dark purple not this light, pinky colour. LOL.

Does anyone else feel this way or am I being old fashioned about this? (And please don’t class me as some kind of gender stereo-phobe over this ‘cos I’m not – I’m just being honest to how I feel about gym equipment.)

Anyway, here’s what the kettlebell rack station looks like now. (I still love it 😀 )


Psychic Predictions

Back in 2014, The Big Lottery announced 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”. It then announced that Ardrossan in North Ayrshire would be getting £1.6 million to be spent onAchurch3 projects which would benefit the local community – and the good news was, the local community could decide what to spend the money on.

Obviously, being based in Ardrossan, this peaked my interest and my charity wondered if any of the money would find its way to helping us open a Centre in the iconic Barony St. John church and halls offering our courses and advice on how to stay safe as well as offering community access to our buildings.

Street surveys and door-to-door surveys were carried out last year which 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.

To be honest, this was like a dream come true for our charity and our plans for the Barony St. John because we ticked almost every box the local community were looking for;

  • Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street – well, the Barony St. John is on Princes Street.
  • Activities for young people – our plans to open our Centre for public exercise, dance and fitness classes as well as providing a social hub classroom where young people could log onto laptops, connect to the internet, play games and check Facebook and generally hang out together. 🙂
  • More shops / amenities – our overall plans are to open an Events Centre with a William Wallace Visitor Centre attached and a cafe. This will obviously provide more amenities to Ardrossan as well as a gift shop for tourists.
  • Develop Seafront and wasteground – we are on the seafront and the ground around the church is becoming an eyesore, so again, this was a plus point for us. 🙂
  • 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.
  • More funding and investment – As tourists and the surrounding communities come to the various bands, music festivals, musicals, wedding fayres, 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 (outwith the funding and investment for our project to come to fruition).
  • Sport / Leisure facilities – with a huge hall we plan to offer a variety of sport and leisure related classes from martial arts to meditation, dance to circuit training.
  • Social space for young people – outwith our planned classes for young people, we will have our Training Room / social hub 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.

But despite our project looking like it was exactly what the Our Place funding was for and exactly what the people of Ardrossan wanted, back in October of last year, I had my first “psychic” premonition;

Little voices in my head told me that the £1.6 million Our Place money would not get spent on the Barony St. John or indeed anything that the people of Ardrossan wanted – instead, it would get spent on the following;footer-450

  1. The restoration of Ardrossan’s Castle ruins incorporating a heritage centre.
  2. The beautification of shop fronts on Glasgow Street.
  3. The building of an extension at the rear of the Church of the Nazarene on Glasgow Street.
  4. The construction of an art trail leading from the Nazarene’s extension to…..guess where?…….the Castle, of course.

Now, it has to be said, my psychic predictions were met with some ridicule – I mean, how could the majority of the Our Place money be spent on the Castle when the Castle was not even mentioned by the public in the survey?

How could Lottery money be spent on shop fronts when the frontage of shops is the responsibility of either the shop owner or the Council?

What good would an art trail do for the local community?

It has to be said, most people felt my “premonitions” were ridiculous.

But in November of last year, I heard more “voices”;

To promote public interest in the Castle, Our Place would spend £30,000 funding a ‘fun day’ which would lead to promoting an archaeological dig at the Castle which would lead to a small find of artifacts which would lead to calls for a place to display the finds, which would lead to discussions regarding the restoration of the Castle which would lead to…….guess what?……..yep, the restoration of the Castle and the building of a heritage centre.

This premonition was obviously ridiculous because as I was told “IT’S NOT WHAT THE PUBLIC WANT!” and “THERE IS NO WAY £30,000 IS GOING TO BE SPENT ON A ONE-OFF FUN DAY.”

And they were right, the public had their Top 10 ideas of how the money should be spent and obviously the Castle wasn’t on it so there was no way the money would be spent anywhere other than the public’s Top 10 ideas.

But in December 2015, I made another prediction;

The art work on the art trail leading from the Church of the Nazarene would not be done by local artists but instimageead by a Glasgow based artist. As the mists cleared on my crystal ball, a name appeared –
Peter McCaughey – I was convinced this was the artist who would be used despite an abundance of local artists and youth art groups in Ardrossan and the Three Towns area.

“NONSENSE” people said. First of all, there have not yet been any public meetings, focus groups or working groups to discuss how the money would / could be spent – and the only surveys that had been done had never mentioned an art trail. “IT’S TOTALLY RIDICULOUS” they said and obviously, as an art trail had never been discussed, there was no way an artist could have been mentioned let alone decided yet.

But just when it looked like all my premonitions were ridiculous, strange things began to occur –

At the beginning of December 2015, the first public focus groups were set up by Our Place and it was decided that the £1.6 million would be split into different projects under four different categories –

  1. Art, Music and History
  2. Young People
  3. Opportunities for All
  4. The Environment

Now, I know what you are thinking – “WHERE DID THE ART, MUSIC AND HISTORY CATEGORY COME FROM?” Obviously this was never mentioned by the public in the initial (and only) public survey, so you’d be right to question why this category had suddenly appeared.

Or maybe you were thinking “WHAT FOCUS GROUP MEETINGS?” because even more mysterious was that these “public” meetings were never advertised and were actually invite only – so the majority of youth groups didn’t know about the Young People’s group meetings (luckily Ardrossan Youth Group were invited);

The majority of people interested in protecting the environment didn’t know there were Environment group meetings being held;

The majority of groups catering for the disabled, the elderly, the disadvantaged, etc. didn’t know there was an Opportunities for All group;

And the majority of artists, dance instructors and musicians (except Ardrossan Music Experience, Capall Dorcha Theatre Company and Ayrshire Film Company) didn’t know about the Art, Music and History group – it’s just as well the Castle Heritage group, Ardrossan Music Experience, Capall Dorcha Theatre Company and Ayrshire Film Company were all personally invited to attend or they wouldn’t have known either.

It’s all very strange.

Maybe there would be a future event to promote the Castle with Capall Dorcha putting on a medieval play and Ardrossan Music Experience providing the music and Ayrshire Film Company videoing it????

But no, of course not, that would stink of pre-planning and foul play.

Maybe only the groups invited would get funding – but no, of course not, as that would mean the whole funding pot had been pre-designated and the whole “public meetings” would be a sham.

Anyway, I was delighted to see that the first of my “psychic predictions” came true in May 2016 when The Big Lottery announced that the first grant of money from the Our Place fund would be spent on……do you want to guess?…….yep, a fun carnival day at …….. the Castle.

So 7 months after “hearing voices” of how the money was going to be spent – and before ANY formal discussions – I had successfully predicted EXACTLY how the Our Place money was going to be spent.

But getting this psychic prediction right was tinged with sadness because my premonition was not “exactly” right. I predicted a fun day at the Castle and the event would actually only be a half day (12 – 4.30pm) …….. and I had said they would get £30,000 for the open day whereas they actually got more than that. The official announcement from The Big Lottery read;

“The £53,304 Big Lottery Fund grant will enable Ardrossan Castle to come alive on Saturday June 18 with the sights and sounds of medieval Scotland in a special celebration reconnecting people with their local heritage.”

Spookily, just after this announcement, I had another psychic vision –

Money under the Young People’s category which has been set aside for “youth projects” would be spent on a climbing wall at……..guess where?……yep, the Castle. In my vision, the climbing wall was very similar to that near Culzean Castle (see photos below).

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Regardless of people’s ridicule, I’ll still stand by my psychic predictions.

It’s true that the public have made it clear how they want the £1.6 million Our Place funding spent and their aims are very much different to my predictions.

Nothing else has been discussed yet, let alone decided, and yet I have “heard” how the Our Place money would be spent, months before anything has been formally discussed, agreed or announced!

So surely if my predictions come true, I must truly be psychic? How else could I possibly know????

Dead weights

Over the years, I have accumulated a small collection of free weights and when  I lived in Ardross in the Scottish Highlands they resided in my garage which I had converted, in part, into a small gym area where I could train.

Being cold and damp, the weight discs gradually rusted which wasn’t a problem for me as it didn’t impede on their performance – but now, I had an idea of incorporating them into the hall area in my new Centre in Ardrossan and their condition just wouldn’t do.


So, I set about restoring them.

First of all, I scrubbed all the discs down with a wire brush to remove the rust and old paint. then I cleaned them all and began to apply some black metal covering paint.


It took two coats each side to restore them but they are looking good now.

I even repainted my old squat rack stands too.


Things are beginning to come together. 🙂

The Ardrossan Sarcophagus

We have had North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats in touch with us suggesting that The William Wallace Visitor Centre house the “Ardrossan Sarcophagus”.

This stone coffin measuring 223cm x 88cm x 68cm was discovered in 1911 by Council workers who were landscaping the remains of old Ardrossan Church, on Castle Hill.

It is one of the finest known examples of lowland Scottish medieval sculpture.

Ard sar2    Ard sar1

There has been much speculation as to who was buried in the coffin. The ornate floriate cross, sheathed sword and fleur-de-lys and trefoil ornamentation carved on the lid suggest that it contained one of the Barons or Lords of Ardrossan from the 13th or 14th centuries (around the same time as William Wallace). The lower section of the sarcophagus is hollowed out in the shape of a man with a raised ‘pillow” for the head.

Apparently, it has been a bone of contention that The Ardrossan Sarcophagus is now sited in Saltcoats and there is much local support to have it returned to Ardrossan.

It also seems fitting that the sarcophagus is re-sited in the former Barony St. John Church as it was originally put on display here from 9th October 1950 until some point in 1958 when it was moved to the newly opened North Ayrshire Heritage Centre.

Now, add this to the other items we hope to display in The William Wallace Visitor Centre – the magnificent Spirit of Wallace statue, a replica of his sword and the two letters of provenance taken from him when he was captured – and you begin to realise what a wonderful visitor centre this make for enthusiasts of Wallace, the 13th Century and tourists alike. 🙂

Bob’s Balls

As I may have mentioned previously, my charity is The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (check out my website and we teach personal safety, conflict resolution and self defence skills to a variety of businesses, groups, individuals and particularly victims of violence.

To help us we have BOB.


BOB is an acronym which stands for Body Opponent Bag. He has the upper torso of a male and is designed so that you can practice a variety of strikes, kicks and holds on him without having to pair up and possibly injure a partner doing so.

Bob has stood us in good service for almost twenty years now – but with our new hall about to open, we went out and bought a new BOB – not as a replacement, but as an addition.

This chap, we are going to name BILL.


BILL isn’t an acronym, it’s just a nickname to differentiate him from Bob.

Bill has a spring base which allows him to bend to and fro as he gets hit. Bendy Bill kinda suits him (and it reminds me of a TV programme from my childhood – Bill & Ben).

One of the reasons why we like Bob so much though is that he doesn’t bend. His base is quite rigid – and we utilise this for our classes for women by strategically placing two tennis balls just below his torso so participants can practice their knees to the groin.


If you get one ball to fall off, I’ll give you 5 points but if you get both balls to fall off after a knee to Bob’s groin, I’ll award you 10 points – and a round of rapturous applause.

It’s a great ice breaker, as you can no doubt imagine. 😀

Locker Arch

Back in Victorian times, wealthy men wore top hats to church and so they needed somewhere to put them upon their arrival. These little lockable cupboards were just such a place.

Situated in the hall building, the wealthy men could store their hats safely before going along the corridor and into  the main church building.

As the years have went by, the top hat cupboards got used for storing different things including accounts, hymnal books, church attendance records, etc. but the keys gradually got lost until they no longer locked.


The problem now was getting into the cupboards. Once closed you needed a knife to prise them open – so I decided to take them out.

imageOnce removed, I found an abundance of Church of Scotland related items which had fallen down through the gaps in the cupboards over the decades including church accounts from 1906 and 1909, an attendance certificate from 1924 and various hymnal books and church magazines from the turn of the 20th century (more about this in a later post).



As the wood on the back wall was all irregular and at different angles, this too had to beimage removed revealing the original brickwork last seen when the hall was built in 1887.

And so builder extraordinaire, Paul Marchetti, was once again called upon to plaster over the brickwork and I set about transforming this area into a white archway seating bench for our weights area.

First of all, undercoating the woodwork and positioning a mirror (well, you can’t have a weights area without a mirror to pose into can you?) 🙂

Then came the painting of the arch in white to help brighten up the hall and painting the wooden seat area purple to provide a link with the colour scheme in the corridor, kitchen and toilets.

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Then I cut a training mat up so that it would provide a bit of comfort for those sitting on my new bench – and this would tie in with our matted area.

And finally, I put up some signed boxing gloves that I have (Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Frank Bruno, Marvin Hagler, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn) along with some framed photos of Muhammad Ali to commemorate “The Greatest” and the significance of the year of his death with the year we finally opened our Scottish Centre for Personal Safety in Ardrossan.

imageI hope you like it.

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