The Ardross-man


March 2017

What’s in a Name?

The name of the former Church of Scotland buildings on Ardrossan’s seafront has changed a number of times over the years.

DSC01712The church building was originally erected in 1844 and called Ardrossan New Parish Church. The hall building following in 1889.

Having being called the Ardrossan New Parish Church for 85 years, the name was changed in 1929 when the Church of Scotland had a “Union of the Churches” and decided to rename it Barony Church.

It remained as Barony Church for a further 58 years until 1987 when it was agreed by both churches and the Church of Scotland that the nearby St. John’s Church (pictured below), which was in desperate need of repair, would be demolished and the congregation would be united with the Barony Church. This was done and the buildings became known as Barony St. John’s Church and halls.

st-johns-2When the church closed and my charity bought the premises in December 2014, we looked at various things we could do with the church building.

One idea was to make a William Wallace Visitor Centre to highlight Wallace’s connection with Ardrossan (see my previous post The William Wallace Visitor Centre) another was to perhaps use the church building as a dormitory which could be used by people coming to our personal safety courses as well as those visiting the area for tourism, etc.

With this in mind, I spoke to the local press – Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald – who ran a feature telling locals of our plans and asking the community for ideas on what the buildings should now be called.

IMG_0455This local interaction was teamed up with a questionnaire on our charity’s Facebook page and in the streets of Ardrossan.

The most popular name by far was “The Barony” but there was already a former church called The Barony in nearby West Kilbride – and if we called our buildings this, it could be a huge problem as people could get mixed up between the two and potentially turn up in West Kilbride for a music event taking place at our Events Centre in Ardrossan. 😦

So maybe we should go with the second most popular names – Liberty Hall for the hall building (I guess highlighting a connection with William Wallace – “FREEDOM”) and Kirkhaven for the former church building (a clever mix of the Scottish word for church and the provision of a haven for the victims of violence whom we aim to cater for).

And that should have been that…………

Except that I’m a bit of traditionalist and I’m respectful of the history of these iconic buildings – and one thing that stuck with me were some comments from some of the people we interviewed who said; “You can call it what you like but it will always be The Barony.”

So this got me thinking – maybe we shouldn’t change the name?

The name before we bought the premises was Barony St. John’s Church and halls – in other words, the church and halls of Barony St. John. But the main building was no longer a church so it didn’t feel right saying that the buildings belonged to Barony St. John. :-/

And if the church building became an Events Centre, it again didn’t feel right saying that it belonged to Barony St. John i.e. Barony St. John’s Event Centre – so how about just simply “The Barony St. John“?

If people wanted to shorten the name to “The Barony” or simply continue to call it “The Barony”, ‘cos that’s what they’ve called it since 1929 then that would be okay – and it wouldn’t cause confusion, which changing the name may do.

So, that was that – Barony St. John it will be.

I put up a banner and told the whole world we were here and open for business.


Now you can imagine my surprise and consternation when I received a few complaints from some local people saying that dropping the “s” from the name was “disrespectful” and “sacrilege” – Barony St. John instead of Barony St. John’s.

This not only upset me but surprised me – the public had voted to change the name to The Liberty Hall and the whole reason for my decision of keeping a connection to the old name was out of respect. But let’s face it, it’s not the first time the buildings have had a name change over the years and this one wasn’t exactly groundbreakingly different.

So, I’m hoping that the name Barony St. John will gradually be accepted by those who objected to the change – and let’s hope that this time the name doesn’t change for at least 86 years (I would at least like to break the current record for the building’s name). 🙂


ScotCPS – look how far we’ve come

Back in early 2015, Sirens Cinematic made this video about us based on our plans at the time.

Phase 1 was completed by 2016 with most of Phase 2 now nearing completion in 2017.

Let’s see what our feasibility study says we should do now. 😀

Internal organ

As I am fascinated by the amount of history in the Barony St. John’s church, I wanted to let you know about the beautiful organ which first gave me the “Wow factor” when I entered this building for the first time.

Just to the left of the staircase to the pulpit in front of the organ is is a hidden doorway into the internal workings of this beautiful work of art which was originally installed in 1889.

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As you step through the doorway, you find a very narrow set of ladders which lead up to behind the extremely dusty organ pipes – it was a tight squeeze with barely enough room to get two feet side by side on the ladder.

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Coming back out and to the front of the alter area, you’ll find the keyboard for the organ – lift back the lid and the keyboard is revealed.

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As you can see, there is a small plaque which reads J.J. Binns, Fitton & Haley Ltd. Bramley, Leeds. I have tried to track this company down but it appears that they went bust back in the 1950’s.

A notice in the London Gazette states that there was “a Meeting of the Creditors on 11th August 1953 at 3pm in accordance to The Companies Act 1948 regarding the winding up of the company“.

But inside a little cupboard to the side of the organ I found the organ tuning log books which date back to 1963.

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And a lovely hymn sheet copyrighted to former church organist Stuart McMahon dated 1993.  img_2376



Saltcoats (salt cots) and Betsy Miller

I’ve often been asked where our neighbouring town of Saltcoats got its name from –

Well, back in thsaltcotse 1500s, King James V paid for a salt panning industry to be established here. The “salt cots” were on the seashore and gathered the sea water, which was then boiled dry to leave behind sea salt, which was then used to cure fish – a godsend for a small fishing village as this was.

As we Scots speak with quite a broad accent, the “salt cots” name used to identify the village that sprung up around them was pronounced “salt coats” and so when it came to writing the name down, the English wrote it as it was pronounced and the anglicised name stuck – Saltcoats.

Today, Saltcoats is part of the”Three Towns” alongside Ardrossan and Stevenston (see my post Omen 5 – The SAS Omen).

betsy_miller_largeAnd it was in Saltcoats in 1792 that Betsy Miller, the first woman ever to become a registered ship’s captain, was born.

The daughter of a ship’s captain, Betsy became a proficient sailor and, at the age of 46, took command of her father’s ship, the Clytus, when he died. She was then listed in the British Register of Tonnage as a Sea Captain.

She spent the next 22 years shipping coal and limestone between Scotland and Ireland (50 years in total if you count her time working with her father).

The ‘Clytus’ was a coaling brig made from the wreck of a French man-o’-war, bearing the same name and differed from other vessels in the coal trade by having a poop deck with a cabin on it which was used by Betsy as her Captain’s Quarters.

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The only other person allowed into Betsy’s quarters was, according to, “her first mate who was single, handsome and came from the same seafaring background. Captain and mate slept there together, which didn’t raise an eyebrow either at sea or on land, because Betsy’s mate (and chaperone) was her sister Hannah.” 😀

Betsy, known for sailing in the most atrocious of weathers and for dressing as a lady at all times, retired in 1861 aged 69 as one of the wealthiest women in Ayrshire. She died three years later in 1864.

The plaque shown above is situated in Saltcoats harbour and honours this extraordinary lady of the seas.



The Fall of Eve

I was recently lucky enough to see an article in The Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald about an Irvine-based band called The Fall of Eve.

Apparently, they love filming their music videos in old buildings and so I took this opportunity to contact them directly and offer the iconic Barony St. John as a possible venue for a future video.

Lucky for me, they came around to view the church building and immediately accepted my offer. 😀

The band were formed in 2011 and describe themselves as a “Symphonic rock band”. They consist of founder Evangeline on vocals, co-founder Michael Moffat on guitar, Harry Butler on bass, Panos Rodopoulos on drums and Philip Morrison on orchestration.

Their fan base has continued to soar since 2011 and prompted a crowd funding campaign which enabled them to release their first album, Calls from the Horizon, in 2013 and their second album, Eternal Embrace, in 2015.

calls  eternal

Most recently, they received funding from Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund towards a promotional music video for their new EP, If Even Angels Fall – and that’s where I came in.


It seems an abandoned church was exactly what they were looking for this video to accompany their new EP’s title track “If Even Angels Fall“.

And they also wanted a night shoot. Whoohoo 😀

Here are some photos taken on the night;

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I’m sure you’ll agree, the photos alone look fab – but I can assure you the single sounds brilliant too and so I can’t wait to see the finished video. 😀

They’ve definitely got the “Wow factor”!

Even more good news from the point of view of promoting the Barony St. John is that The Fall of Eve’s last video for the song “Destiny” (which was shot in the Trinity Church in Irvine) has so far had over 113,000 views – so lets hope this new video gets even more (and not only rockets The Fall of Eve to stardom but also helps puts the Barony St. John on the public’s radar once again).

The video can be viewed at on the band’s YouTube channel

And their new EP If Even Angels Fall  is available as a CD from and as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and other online retailers.


Enjoy. 😀

All in a Lather

This is my 150th post since starting writing last November (2015) about my discoveries and escapades as I try to save two old church buildings in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Thank you for reading them and I hope you continue to enjoy my posts.

Anyway, as mentioned in a previous post, I found a wonderful pamphlet titled “Life & Work with the sub-heading Ardrossan New Parish Church” which had been hidden beneath floorboard of the Barony St. John Church since 1893.

Inside the pamphlet were some fantastic advertisements including the following for Pears Soap;


Initially, I was excited to see the drawings – the front cover featured a tin bath of a shape I hadn’t seen before (I always thought tin baths were oval shaped but this one is like a keyhole – a bigger end for sitting in and a longer end for your legs) and two ladies dressed in beautiful Victorian dresses of the day. 🙂

The inside of the advert declared that the soap was by special appointment to Her Majesty the Queen (who would have been Queen Victoria) and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

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But as I thought about writing this post and telling you all about my find, I thought I’d like to know more about Pears Soap – and my investigations revealed a darker side to what was the nation’s favourite soap;

Pears transparent soap was first produced and sold in 1807 by Andrew Pears at a London based factory. It was the world’s first mass-market transparent soap and Pears’ clientele included many wealthy socialites who took pride in their appearance.

In a change from current trends, the fashion among the wealthy of the period was for pristine white complexions (tanned faces were associated with the lower classes who laboured outdoors).

Andrew Pears found that his powders and creams were frequently being used to cover up damage caused by soaps and other beauty products, many of which contained arsenic or lead, so he began to experiment with soap purification and eventually managed to produce a gentle soap based on glycerine and other natural products.

The clarity of his soap gave it a novel transparent appearance and its floral scent, which reminded people of their gardens, gave Andrew Pears a huge marketing advantage especially overseas in America (not yet united as the Civil War was fought from 1861 – 1865).

Thomas J. Barratt, sometimes referred to as the father of modern advertising, married Mary Pears (Andrew’s granddaughter) in 1864 and he began a worldwide sales campaign for Pears Soaps – part of which were these removable advertisements (not just printed in newspaper and pamphlets but adverts which could be removed and taken to your shopkeeper or chemist where orders could be placed).

The first Pears soap advert (below) would be deemed racist nowadays and would never be allowed to be printed but back in Christmas 1884 it was seen in publications throughout the British Empire.


It would seem a lot of their advertising centred around turning black skinned people white or at the very least trying to improve their hygiene as on the reverse of the advert I found was this rather racist advert;


It may be difficult to make out as it is water damaged but it features a black native complete with feather headband staring at an apparently naked white woman who is coming out of a giant clam shell on the beach. The heading reads;

Good Morning! Have you used Pears Soap?

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the black native asking if the white woman had used Pears Soap perhaps trying to explain how she had turned white (as in the previous advert) – or is it the white woman asking the black native if he had used Pears Soap as a nod towards his lack of hygiene? What do YOU think?

Meanwhile, if you would like to know more about my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, search for us on Facebook or peruse our website at

Goodbye for now – and here’s to the 150 posts. 😀



The Bell’ters – 20th Anniversary

I find it hard to believe, but I’ve been teaching personal safety and self defence for 20 years now.

Back in 1997, myself and my brother, David Bell, went on a course in London and qualified as instructors with The National Federation for Personal Safety. David brought his experience of bar stewarding (bouncing) and I brought my military and Close Protection (bodyguarding) experience.

We soon developed our own style of self defence training based on hard hitting techniques, realistic scenarios and absolutely no flowery moves.

We provided personal safety courses and workshops as a not-for-profit social enterprise called “Security And Safety” with our main client base being Women’s Aid groups and Domestic Violence forums throughout the United Kingdom as well as Rape Crisis Scotland and Victim Support Scotland.

To enhance the not-for-profit nature of our business, we set about becoming a charity and achieved this in 2013. Under our new name, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, we moved to our new premises in the former Barony St. John church hall building on Princes Street in Ardrossan and last year saw the official opening of the Centre by Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. (See my Official Opening – the return of William Wallace post.)

So, to mark 20 years in the personal safety business, we held a small photo ceremony during one of our bi-annual Instructor Training Days in the Barony St. John Centre.

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A tally of the number of people we have trained over the years comes to nearly 4,300 people, many of whom have been victims of violence.

We’ve trained all over the UK from Wick to London and we’ve also ran specific courses for children in various schools and nurseries throughout Scotland. But I have to say, my proudest achievement is developing a personal safety course specifically for the blind and visually impaired, which we have just completed.

And although we are clear that we provide personal safety and self defence training, what we actually provide is self confidence and self esteem.

Here’s to the next 20 years. 😀

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