The Ardross-man


July 2017

What to do??

Okay, here’s the thing; when I bought the Barony St. John church and hall in December 2014, I thought the hall would be ideal for my charity as it had a massive training hall and a possible classroom off-shoot.

The church building on the other hand was a bit of a question mark. Should I / we keep it or sell it?

If it was sold, a property developer may buy it up and make it into flats but it’s a listed building so they’d be limited as far windows are concerned. And, having asked around, I found out that it would cost about £1million to convert the church into 12 luxury flats…..with no view except the side streets. 😦

Flats with views around the Ardrossan marina were selling for £75,000 and even if the developer got £80,000 per flat, he just wouldn’t make any money from this venture.

So maybe a big brewery like Witherspoons would take it over and it would become a pub / restaurant similar to a church development they have done in nearby Ayr. But would I really be happy with a pub on my doorstep? No, I don’t think so.

So, what if we kept it?,What could we do with it?

Obviously, if you took all the pews out, you’d be left with a massive big room which, in my eyes,   would be ideal for an Events Centre.

Initially, I thought of making the upstairs gallery into accommodation so we could advertise residential courses – but I was soon convinced that the hall building should cater for our charity and the church building should be completely separate.

Maybe we could floor the hall building and put bunk-style residential accommodation up there? Well, it’s worth looking into.


Maybe the two buildings could be connected via the courtyard and we could have cafe facilities and extra toilet facilities for the Events Centre built in?

Now here’s another problem; if I get the funding to complete this vision and save this iconic building, it’s still going to be an empty building – albeit ready to open as a cafe / Events Centre. I would still need to get the cafe kitted out (crockery, cutlery, cooking equipment, food, etc.), the Events Centre kitted out (banquet tables, chairs, bar stock, glasses, decor, etc.), hire staff, promote the place, etc. etc. ….. and all of this will take cash – a lot of cash.

Where will this come from? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Answers on a postcard.


Knock About Frocks

In previous posts (Life & Work, Sale of the Century) I mentioned that I had found a pamphlet dated May 1893 containing sermons and advertisements in rubble that fallen from the gallery area of Barony St. John’s church.

One of the adverts was for The John Noble Knock About Frocks


This marked an era of mass produced dresses where women could buy garments “off the peg” at affordable prices instead of being made to measure.

A trawl of the internet found some other John Noble garments and adverts like this one in an 1895 edition of The Daily News –

And this one from 1897 –


Further research into when John Noble Ltd of Brook Street Mills, Manchester was set up showed that they were established in 1893.

The garments were made of various fabrics including cheviot (a soft, luxurious but hard-wearing wool flannel weave) and a more hard wearing serge (a type of twill fabric that has diagonal lines or ridges on both sides, made with a two-up, two-down weave) which would no doubt be used for work wear / everyday dress wear rather than formal wear.

Unusually though, these affordable dresses were very fashionable incorporating all the latest styles (note the state of the art puffed ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves in the adverts above from 1895 and 1897 as opposed to the straighter sleeve in my advert from 1893) and could be purchased in a variety of colours including bronze, ruby, cinnamon and even electric blue.


But the part of the advert that really caught my eye and made me laugh is –
Observe closely the style, cut make and finish of these costumes. Of imitations there are many, but there is nothing in the world to equal The John Noble Half Guinea Costumes for stylish appearance, durability and actual money value  and intending purchasers are asked to remember that these garments are guaranteed made absolutely without any sweating of the workers
It seems sweatshops and cheap, forced labour were a worry even back then.

Michael & David

I am very proud of Michael McAllister and David Black. They are both registered blind and have successfully completed their Instructor training and exams and now run classes for other blind people – Michael at the Barony St. John Centre in Ardrossan and David at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Falkirk.

Since qualifying, they have both featured in newspaper articles, radio shows and TV programmes and helped raise the charity’s (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) profile along the way.

Perhaps it’s best that you hear what they both have to say in their own words;

Michael, registered blind

“My name is Michael and I am registered blind. I have recently passed my exam to become a qualified Personal Safety Instructor with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. In broad terms, this means I will be able to train others in how to stay safe as well as show them the skills necessary to defend themselves were they to be threatened with physical violence.

Six months ago, prior to my first meeting with Principal Trainer, Alan Bell and his staff, I was an entirely different person. Frightened to walk alone at night and jumping at any perceived threat or raised voice, I walked with a hunched posture, eyes to the ground and listening for any sign of threat.  On a social level, I felt limited and emasculated by my disability.

Now, six months on, I find myself standing tall as a qualified instructor, surrounded by colleagues who helped build me up to be the confident person I am today.  When I am in public spaces, I move with confidence, safe in the knowledge that were I to be confronted by an aggressor, my training would kick in and I would know when and how to defend myself.

Classes are friendly and informal with participants being taught in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.  Instructors are well versed in working with people with a visual impairment and are happy to teach at a pace that suits you, ensuring that you are confident in having learned one skill before moving on to the next.

I cannot recommend The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety highly enough.  If you think you would benefit from learning about personal safety, please get in touch with them.  They would love to hear from you.”


Michael, despite being visually impaired, went on to create this poster for me, drawing a caricature of himself and how he felt before and after our training. The wording and layout are all his own design with no input from ourselves.


Sharon, Michael’s mum

“My son, Michael, is registered blind and gets around with the aid of a symbol cane.  Throughout his life, he has had a severe anxiety of being threatened or attacked when walking outside his home.

When you or I hear shouting or sounds of unrest, we can look around to evaluate the situation.  Michael does not have this option and can only imagine the worst.

Six months ago, Michael and I attended a one-day taster course, run by The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.  The class was a preliminary part of their drive to reach out to the visually impaired community in Scotland and teach them about personal safety skills, including self defence.  The staff were great with Michael and taught him a few moves.  He left that day, brimming with confidence.

Michael has been training with the centre for six months now and has recently passed his exam to become a fully qualified personal safety instructor.  In that six months, I saw him grow more confident with every passing weekHis self esteem has never been higher and he walks with confidence now, no longer showing signs of anxiety.

This change in him was no more evident than one dark night when he and I were walking the dog and heard aggressive shouting nearby.  Explaining to him that what we were hearing was a gang of youths, I was surprised to feel Michael put his arm around mine and guide me in the opposite direction.  With a calm voice, he explained that we should choose a different route.  No more is he the scared person, asking to return home at the first sign of unrest.

As a mum, I couldn’t be more proud of Michael’s accomplishments and can’t thank The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety enough for the confidence they’ve instilled in him.


David, Registered Blind

“My name is David and I have been registered blind for nearly twenty years now. As a blind person, like many blind people, I have actually felt unsafe.

When I lost my vision, depression and other things took over and it took me a while to come to terms with it. I was scared to leave the house – all the usual stuff. Getting a job at The Forth Valley Sensory Centre helped me but getting there was a problem because I had to leave the house to get there.

You are taught safe routes and safe ways to get to places but still, unfortunately as a blind person, I have suffered verbal and physical abuse.

So instead of hiding at home and not doing anything, about nine years ago I took up Jujitsu and other martial arts to defend myself but I always had the question “Is this going to help me?” “Am I going to be able to defend myself?” “Is this actually going to hep me as a blind person?”.

Then about a year ago, I got in contact with Alan Bell through the Sensory Centre and he put me through a training course with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety – and through that course they have taught me safe and easy ways to defend myself as a blind person – as a vulnerable person. My confidence has rocketed. And now I have actually passed an Instructor training course and I am going to be running personal safety courses at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre for other sensory impaired people – both blind and deaf.

I will make something of this opportunity but if it was not for Alan and the training he has given me, I wouldn’t be standing here.”


These guys take my breath away – they truly are awesome.

Here’s some of the press cuttings they have garnered;

I know this is not about the Barony St. John buildings – but I had to tell you about these guys. 🙂

“Thank You” to Howdens Ardrossan


A huge “Thank You” to Howdens’ Ardrossan store for donating the solid wood worktop, state of the art drawer units and storage cupboard for our new Training Room.

We are extremely grateful.


As you can see, the finished look is fantastic!

Temperance Tennyson

Hidden behind an old cupboard in the Barony St. John was a pile of papers which dated back to the early 1900’s (some 1906, 1907, 1909, 1916, 1924, etc.)

In amongst this paperwork was a small card about 3″ x 2″.

It is cream in colour and on one side shows an invitation to a “Special Meeting for Women” and admits the bearer and a friend to a meeting in nearby Saltcoats on Monday January 31st.

I’ve had a look at the calendar and 31st January fell on a Monday  in 1898, 1910, 1916 and 1921 so I’m thinking it’s either 1910 or 1916 as the majority of papers were from between those dates.

img_2302 img_2301

The reverse (or front) of the card advertised a series of “thrilling lectures” from Tennyson Smith  at Saltcoats Town Hall and so I set about finding out more about this gentleman.

Mr. Tennyson Smith was an Englishman and a noted temperance and Prohibition orator who traveled around the world delivering “a series of thrilling lectures on the drink question” according to an article I found in the Granby Leader (Colorado, USA) from 1916.

img_2378And according to the South Wales Daily News of October 12th 1895, Mr. Tennyson Smith was “obliged in 1890 to leave England on account of his wife’s health, he went to Australia; and first in Adelaide, subsequently throughout the whole of the South Colony, he continued temperance work achieving marked success. His services being sought by the other colonies, , he made an extended tour of Queensland; and afterwards went to New Zealand…..Since his return to England, he has been warmly welcomed in different parts of the country, his meetings being crowded to excess.”

I found another article in the New South Wales (Australia) Riverine Herald from 1894 which read as follows:

Mr Tennyson Smith’s Crusade

“Last evening the congregation at the Tjeiri Perimee Hall on the occasion of the Presbyterian Church service, gave an indication of what was to follow, and, as soon as the service was concluded, numbers who had been waiting outside, poured in to hear Mr Tennyson Smith deliver Dr Talmage’s famous sermon.

There was scarcely standing room, and, though Mr Tennyson Smith had already introduced himself to the Echuca public at the children’s service in the afternoon, there was apparent that expectation which is always observable when something unusually good is expected.

A few introductory remarks by the Rev. R. Brown, chairman, some singing by a combined choir and the congregation, and Mr Tennyson Smith indulged in some pertinent and straight-out hitting, as a preface to the piece de resistance. He was very forcible in his denunciation of those who were in the habit of sitting in the church pews and “singing themselves to bliss.

He wanted people to show their Christian spirit by helping their follow creatures and personally exerting themselves to aid in the cause of temperance: Mr Tennyson Smith’s style of delivery bespeaks an elocutionist of ability and, though his voice is not over strong, his re petition, from memory, of Dr Talmage’s discourage was wonderfully good. The sermon, in itself, is very powerful and very striking, and it contains one of the clearest arguments against the liquor trail that could be given effect to on a public platform. The congregation listened with the greatest interest, and the three-quarters-of-an-hour of time occupied seemed to pass but too quickly.

What a thriving town Echuca must be,” he sarcastically observed, when making a passionate exhortation to those present to come forward and take the pledge;

You have 48 houses of accommodation for travellers — that must surely be a good sign.

Mr Tennyson Smith is full of energy and lore, and his appeal, “Who will be the first to come forward ?” being answered by a young man from the back, amidst great applause.

A large number signed, the ordeal being freed from monotony by the singing of well-known hymns, interspersed with stirring remarks by the lecturer.


Another article in the same newspaper reads;

“For the sake of others” is the title of Gough’s most famous oration to be delivered by Mr E. Tennyson Smith, the popular Temperance orator, in the Temperance Hall this evening, and in view of the splendid reception accorded the lecturer and the favourable impression created on the crowded audience last evening there is no doubt another full house will greet Mr Smith on his re-appearance.  This particular oration has a peculiar charm in as much as it was this very lecture delivered by the great master himself which won Mr Tennyson Smith over to the ranks of total abstainers and started him on his life’s work which has proved so successful as to earn for him the title of “The Second Gough.”

The oration includes some of those wonderfully thrilling passages such as the description of a ship on fire, the coach driver’s terrible drive down hill in California and his appalling cry “I can’t find the brake” and the wreck of the lifeboat.

These illustrations are given with all the dramatic fire and realism for which the lecturer is noted, while the oration sparkles with those inimitable humorous stories for which Gough was renowned and which must be heard to be appreciated. In this respect the lecture will form a striking contrast to the more sombre and stately style of Dr Talmage’s discourse given last night. The mission will continue each evening till Thursday, when Mr Tennyson Smith will give his popular dramatic representation, “The trial of a notorious criminal,” undoubtedly the most interactive and entertaining evening of the series. Full particulars of the various meetings will be found in another column.

AN UNEXPECTED RESULT. A most interesting incident occurred during Mr Tennyson Smith’s mission to Shepparton one which promises to be of considerable importance. On the night of the “Trial of Alcohol,” in which Mr Tennyson Smith appears as “Council for the Prosecution,” the question was asked as usual, “Is anyone prepared to say anything in defence of the prisoner, alcohol ?” In response Mr Carpenter (a moderate drinker) held that the crimes committed by alcohol were largely the fault of the Temperance party. He said that; they did not provide places which would prove a counter-attraction to the hotel and asked, where are the young men of Shepparton to go to discuss football, etc., and urged that the prisoner, alcohol, might be acquitted, as the blame lay rather with the Temperance party. Although the argument for the acquittal of the prisoner was rather weak, it was received with much applause by the moderate drinking section of the audience, and it was evidently considered that a considerable blow had been struck at the lecturer. A great surprise was, however, in store for them, and a considerable disappointment for the supporters of the Liquor sale, when Mr Tennyson Smith used his opponents argument as a weapon to strike a blow at the trade. The lecturer on rising to reply said that with sadness he pleaded guilty on behalf of the Temperance party, to the charge made by Mr Carpenter, he confessed that it was a difficulty here, as in other places, as to where young men could congregate for social intercourse, but he said why should we not solve the problem so far as Shepparton is concerned. Why not start a Temperance Club, he then gave a few particulars of the first Temperance Club started in New Zealand, which was largely due to his efforts, and as the outcome of a mission and which, he said, was today a financial success. Said the lecturer – “Now, I will give a guinea to start a subscription list for such a club in Shepparton, who will give another?

I will,” “I will“, “and I will,” were the exclamations in several parts of the hall, followed by rounds of applause. Tho following day Mr Tennyson Smith conferred with Mr Carpenter, as representing the moderate drinkers, and Mr .J. H. Smith (chemist), and other temperance friends as representing the temperance party and suggested a “social” should be arranged (as was done in New Zealand) on the following Wednesday, and that he would return to Shepparton to be present, when the matter could be discussed and a committee formed to carry out the project. This was decided upon. Meanwhile information was collected as to ways and means, and a preliminary meeting held at the house of Mr J. H. Smith (chemist), when resolutions were formulated. The “social” took place on Wednesday, July 25th, and was a great success, the special feature being that fully as many moderate drinkers as teetotalers were present.

Mr Gregson (banker), was voted to the chair. Resolutions were passed that a club should be formed, two separate committees of ladies and gentlemen being elected to carry out the project. Another was made by the committee of the Mechanics’ Institute to hand over the building, etc., to the committee on the most advantageous terms, and it appeared advisable to the club to he connected with it. Over £12 has already been subscribed and about, fifty persons gave in their names to join. The subscription being fixed at 2 shillings per quarter. We shall watch with considerable interest the development of this scheme and trust our Shepparton friends will know it a great success, be that other towns may be induced to follow suit in this”forward” movement.”

What a wonderful insight into a time gone-by.

More psychic predictions come true

psychicBack in October & December 2015 and again in July 2016, I made some psychic predictions on how The Big Lottery’s Our Place allocation of £1.6million to Ardrossan would be spent.

You see, 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 on projects which “would benefit the local community“.

Street surveys and door-to-door surveys were carried out 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 waste ground.

6. Employment opportunities.

7. More funding and investment.

8. Sport / Leisure facilities.

9. Better play facilities.

10. Social space for young people.

But in October of 2015, I predicted that the £1.6 million Our Place money would not get spent on what the local community listed in its “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live” but instead get spent on other things to “benefit the local community” like promoting Ardrossan’s ruined castle and constructing an art tfooter-450rail. 😀

By December 2015, I had predicted that to “promote public interest in the Castle”, Our Place would spend £30,000 funding a ‘fun day’.

I even speculated that this event would include local theatre group Capall Dorcha putting on a medieval play, Ardrossan Music Experience providing the music and Ayrshire Film Company videoing the entire event.

Amazingly, 6 months later my predictions came true – at least in part;

In May 2016, The Big Lottery announced that the first grant of money from the Our Place fund would be spent on a fun half-day carnival at the Castle. But I was wrong with my £30,000 prediction – it was £53,304. 😮

As I predicted, Ayrshire Film Company videoed the event but there was no sign of Capall Dorcha or Ardrossan Music  Experience……that is, until this year.

In February 2017, amazingly 15 months since I predicted it, The Big Lottery’s Our Place were funding Ardrossan Music Experience to the tune of £98,950 for a free “four-day ‘Sound on the sand’ spectacular which will see Ardrossan’s promenade come alive with musical entertainment”. (Well, actually only the Wednesday and Thursday events would be free – the Friday and Saturday events will cost you £15 per day or £25 for the two days to watch which makes me wonder exactly what this funding paid for??)  :-/

I can still see Ardrossan Music Experience performing on the evening of the Castle carnival event but this has not been confirmed yet – although perhaps their new logo might be giving away their allegiances?…..


…….yes, you guessed it, it now incorporates the Castle ruins in the logo. 😀

And 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.

Now if only the Ardrossan Youth Group and the Ayrshire Film Company got funding grants, it would make it 5 out of 5 for my predictions!

So how could I possibly predict in 2015 who would get funding in 2017?

I’m obviously psychic. Enough said.



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