The Ardross-man


January 2018

David & Emma

As you no doubt all know by now, the Barony St John has been a church in Ardrossan from 1844 until its closure in 2014.

During that time it has been the venue for what must have been thousands of weddings – and it will hopefully be a venue for weddings once again when it gets regenerated into an Events Centre.

In the meantime, it sits derelict – or does it?

Well, in the past year it has been used as a location for an Irvine based band’s music video – Back in February 2017, The Fall of Eve rock band spent from 6pm one evening until 7am the following day in the church filming a “night shoot” for their latest song “If Even Angels Fall”. The video was posted on my blog page (The Fall of Eve) and on You Tube and has proved a huge hit with their fans (it’s received over 11,000 views to date) due to the music, the theme and the atmospheric quality provided by the Barony St John church.

At Easter time the church was used for an Easter egg hunt by my children who were amazed at the amount of hiding places a deserted church could offer including the pews, the organ, the pulpit and even hidden in the baptismal font. 😀

But most recently, the church building was used for a pre-wedding photo shoot for local couple David McKean and Emma Fotheringham.

David and Emma got engaged at the end of 2016 last year and they will be getting married at Rowallan Castle on the 12th of May this year.

They both live at Church Place and have a view of the Barony St John from their window. David explained;

The reasons we chose the Barony was mainly because having grown up in Ardrossan I’ve always been interested in its history and architecture and the Barony has always stood out as a unique part of that.  It was fascinating to see it with all its original fixtures and fittings and capture some of the atmosphere of the place. Living practically in its shadow we always wondered what it was like inside, and being fans of old architecture it was a good aesthetic for the photo shoot as we wanted to do something a little different.

And they certainly got something different as these photos show;  



I was absolutely delighted to accommodate David and Emma and the photographers, Jarvie and Jones, did an excellent job of capturing the history and architecture of the building.

And although David and Emma couldn’t hold their wedding in the church (or would want to, given its current state), I have told them both that they would be more than welcome to come back to the Barony St John to renew their wedding vows once it is transformed into an Events Centre.

I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing David and Emma a long and happy marriage and best wishes for their future together.


Floored it

One thing that has bugged me since I bought the Barony St John is the floor as you enter the hall building. It’s a dull red colour, cracked in many places with a black border around the edge. The paint is peeling in some places and it badly needs repainting.

So, in between classes, I decided to paint it.

I opted for grey as that is the colour of the adjoining kitchen floor.

Now the entrance to the hall is the only lockable entrance and exit to the hall building so I began by painting half of it – leaving a walkway so I could come and go without walking on the fresh paint.

The paint takes 4 hours to dry.


The net day, I came in to find footprints all over my floor – someone had been in despite me warning everyone that the floor was painted.

Now you can imagine how frustrated I was – but mistakes happen so I issued another warning and painted the other half, leaving by the half that was now dry.

The next day I came in to find someone had walked on it again – I was livid. So mad in fact that I forgot to take a photo to show you the footprint (or rather the skid mark) of whoever had walked on my floor.

No-one admitted doing it (although I’ve since caught the culprit responsible for the first set of footprints.

A touch-up of the skid area, the crack and the entrance to the kitchen area was required….but this left the floor in two different shades of grey.

There was nothing else for it….I would have to repaint the entire floor again!


Hopefully you’ll agree though that the finished results were worth the effort. The entrance looks brighter and cleaner than before.

Another job done. 🙂

Not a medium Medium

This time last year, I had a visit from a medium who wanted to hire the hall out at the Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan.

Now, I know there are good mediums and bad mediums – and I suppose some are just medium mediums – but this chap was your stereotypical medium. He paid me a visit along with his elderly female friend and as soon as they stepped into the hall building there were lots of “Oooh”s and “Ahh”s.

Despite there only being myself and the two of them in the hall room, they explained that the hall was full of people (former parishioners), all saying “Hello”. These ‘ghosts’ were dressed in all different types of clothing – some from Victorian times, some from the war years and right the way up to present day attire. Happily all, I was told, were friendly.

I can sometimes be a little skeptical about these things and being told that there were Victorian ghosts waving over my shoulder kind of stretches the bounds of credibility with me. But who am I to judge?

Anyway, I felt the hall room would not be suitable for them as it is permanently matted for our self defence training and so we parted company.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I met Ann Smith.

Call her what you will – clairvoyant, medium, psychic, spiritualist – but Ann is the real deal. Not only that, Ann actively encourages people to develop their own psychic powers and experience mediumship for themselves. She also showcases other mediums which is highly unusual for someone in this line of work.

Ann popped into the Centre to see if we had a room for hire and coincidently (or perhaps not) our Training Room had just been renovated and was ready for use.

Also coincidently, I had been toying with the idea of naming the Training Room either the Marchetti Room, after local builder Paul Marchetti who has helped me extensively with the Barony St John buildings and who renovated and restored this room; or the Phoenix Room, as the room quiet literarily was reborn from the rubble and ashes. (Being as indecisive as ever, I eventually decided to call it The Marchetti Phoenix Room).

When Ann paid me a visit and asked what the room was called, I told her possibly the Phoenix Room, and she nearly fell off her seat. Her previous group meetings had been called the Phoenix group. Coincidence? An omen? A premonition? You decide.

Anyway, Ann agreed to hire the room every Tuesday from 3.30pm – 9.30pm and the events have proved hugely successful with people travelling from as far as Glasgow and East Kilbride to attend.

After a couple of weeks, I decided to attend a group meeting myself and was introduced to the three visiting mediums who were also present.

I have to admit, they were very impressive. Some members of the audience got two or three readings, all of which were pretty much bang on (telling of family members and how they passed, events that were happening such as decorating a house and relations learning to drive and even pointing out things that were due to occur in the future, like one woman who was told she would be moving to Australia and who later confided in me that her emigration forms had already been confirmed).

But what got me, was how accurate these mediums are with names. They would point to an audience member and say I’ve got a Margaret here for you or a Joe, which I know what you’re thinking, they are common names and can easily be guessed, but some of these names were more unusual. There was a Rose, Glen, Hetti and Lenny. And most of the statements were eerily accurate.

So, Ann’s sessions are on every Tuesday. From 3pm – 4.30pm, Ann will be running a group Mediumship Development class where people keen to learn about mediumship and who would like to test or hone their psychic abilities can come along and participate. These sessions cost £4 per person.

From 4.30pm – 7pm every Tuesday, Ann will hold private readings. She specialises in tarot and angel cards readings and like I said, she is very good. To book or find out more, give Ann a call on 07881 972986.

And from 7.30pm – 9.30pm Ann holds her group sessions where visiting mediums give messages to audience members. This costs £4 per session.

These group sessions are, in my opinion, what makes Ann unique. Not content on showcasing her own skills, Ann brings along well known mediums to the Barony St John on a weekly basis. Here are a few booked to come along over the next few weeks;

January 23rd – Louise Findlay and Fledglings; January 30th – Rene Donahugh and Fledglings; February 6th – Moira Merryvale and February 13th – Joan Frew followed by a Crystal Workshop.

I think we are going to have a very busy New Year at the Marchetti Phoenix Room in our  Barony St John Centre – or maybe I don’t think this, maybe after speaking to Ann, I KNOW we’ll have a busy 2018. J

If you would like to know more about what’s going on in the Barony St John buildings, what we’ve discovered and the renovation work we’re doing, please visit my blog page or if you would like to know about The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, you can visit our website on or look us up (ScotCPS) on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy New Year folks.

The Barony St John Regeneration Project

I thought I’d give you an update on my plans to save the Listed Barony St John buildings and preserve their prominence on the Ardrossan skyline. Here’s a wee potted history;

Standing on the seafront of Ardrossan is Barony St John’s church complete with its iconic spires and clock tower, and sitting next to the church is the Barony St. John hall with its huge circular window whose pattern resembles the Star of David. Both buildings are connected by an internal corridor but their future has been uncertain for a number of years now.

Back in 2010, the buildings were placed on the “Buildings at Risk” Register and then upgraded to “At Risk” in 2012 before subsequently being sold to me by the Church of Scotland in December 2014.

Since that time, the church building has remained unused and in disrepair whilst the hall building has been partially renovated and is currently being used by my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, for the provision of its Personal Safety and First Aid training courses.

For some people, the question was – why save these buildings? Well, for one reason, they are steeped in history;

The Category “B” Listed Barony St John Church building was built in 1844 to designs by Glasgow architects Black and Salmon. James Salmon remains one of Glasgow’s most accomplished architects of the 19th Century responsible for the design of a number of church buildings throughout the West of Scotland.

Of huge historical significance, the church, originally named The New Ardrossan Parish Church, converted to Scotland’s first ever “quoad sacra” (“concerning sacred matters only”) church in 1851 following the introduction of the New Parishes (Scotland) Act 1844.

There are also a huge number of historical features within the buildings which myself and the Barony St John Project Team want preserved for prosperity;

During construction of the extension to New Ardrossan Parish Church in 1889 a number of beautiful stained-glass windows were placed in the north end of the church by the late Archibald Douglas Bryce-Douglas, a Marine Engineer, shipbuilder and youngest son of the late Reverend John Bryce, first parish minister of Ardrossan Parish Church. (See my posts Bryce-Douglas windows and James Mutter windows)

Two further stained glass windows were donated by the late James Mutter of Meiklelaught and the infamous “Jesus with the Mutton Chop Moustache “ window was donated by the family of John Moffat of South Crescent, Ardrossan.

The works of 1889 also created an ornate carved pulpit and organ which, although reconfigured in 1933, remains a prominent feature within the nave of the two-storey traditional “horseshoe” configured main church building.

Externally the Barony St John clock tower spire is crowned by a massive four feet eight inches long by eight inches broad by three feet high weather vane of a sailing clipper vessel donated again by Archibald Douglas Bryce-Douglas and erected in 1885.


The spire clock itself bears the brass nameplate on the clock mechanism “Muirhead & Arthur, Glasgow. 1845”. Muirhead and Arthur were Glasgow clockmakers and retailers who had premises in Glasgow from the early 19th Century to the end of the 19th century. James Muirhead, was a guild member from 1817 to 1841 and appointed watchmaker to Queen Victoria and the Admiralty.

So the big question was; “What could be done with these historical buildings to not only preserve them for future generations but to use them in a way that would be beneficial for the local community and surrounding area?”

To answer this question, you need to look at the location and surrounding area. North Ayrshire has unfortunately suffered in recent decades from the decline of traditional industries and sources of employment, and currently has very significantly deprived communities.

Six data zones in Ardrossan, as determined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), are within the fifteen percent most deprived in Scotland – and one of these, Ardrossan Central, is the seventeenth most deprived area out of 6,976 national areas.

This profile has led to a variety of policy and development activities to regenerate the town and wider area including an Ardrossan Town Centre Regeneration Plan which contains a range of activities to realise a vision for the town as ‘…an attractive place to live, work and relax by the sea’, and of specific relevance to Barony St John notes the need to maximise the impact of regenerating the promenade, and generally accessing and connecting the town to the sea.

Regenerating Ardrossan and the wider “Three Towns” is also a key element of the North Ayrshire Council’s refreshed Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy 2016-2025, particularly its strategic objective ‘to maximise the economic potential of our islands and towns’.

In December 2017, North Ayrshire Council Tourism and Coastal Economy also launched their Tourism Action Plan 2018-2022 titled “Making Waves in North Ayrshire”. A wide-ranging and ambitious tourism blueprint the document has been drawn up to help North Ayrshire fulfil its potential as a major destination for visitors. The newly-approved tourism action plan aims to utilise the area’s coastal beauty as a key element in strategy. The four-year plan will provide a particular focus on promoting the marine and coastal tourism available along the mainland coast and islands;

“We’re developing a vision for Marine and Coastal Tourism, identifying investment needs and an action plan for implementation. Together we all want to set North Ayrshire on a new course, to create a real sea change. This will see our region deliver brilliant visitor and resident experiences and on the journey, strengthen local businesses, improve the wellbeing, life chances and employment prospects of all our communities. It will also put our places and people firmly on the national and international map.”

According to this same report, North Ayrshire and Arran tourism performance in 2016 saw over seventeen million visits with a spend of over £186m which was an increase of over six percent on 2015. Within five kilometres of North Ayrshire coastline, including Ardrossan, fifty five percent of the population of North Ayrshire are housed, eighty nine percent of North Ayrshire Towns are located (with populations of over 10,000) whilst forming the destination for eighty percent of international visitors;

“The next five years will see North Ayrshire and the islands come together to deliver unique and memorable coastal and island experiences for the community and the visitor….A priority is to attract more visitors to North Ayrshire and we will support and encourage the development of outstanding products and experiences that draws out what makes North Ayrshire different from other destinations.”

All of these plans build upon and take forward the legacy of the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company that from the early 2000s led physical project activity to support transformational change. Its activities in Ardrossan note the on-going significance of the promenade and aspirations of ‘…rejuvenating the beachfront with interesting buildings, better parking and facilities’.

North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership have also established the Three Towns Locality Partnership which recently confirmed their priority themes as Tourism, Community Regeneration, Civic Pride/Environment and Communication with a focus on the major project areas of Ardrossan Harbourside, Irvine/Ardeer Harbourside and the Clyde “Way” or Clyde “Rings”.

These priority themes, set out at the meeting in Ardrossan Civic Centre on the 19th December 2017 links with the strategies set out in the North Ayrshire Council “Making Waves” tourism strategy document and the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

To support these aspirations for the area, a number of recent developments have sought to engage and involve local people in identifying ideas and priorities to support the regeneration of the town.

One of these engagements was The Three Town Charrette whose goal was to record proposals and organise them into themes and/or locations so that the Council and community organisations could develop the best approach towards successful implementation.

Willie Miller of Urban Design who released The Three Town Charrette Report at the beginning of this month commented; “Barony St John and its potential for a music venue is mentioned in the table on page 40 of Town Specific projects which could have a beneficial impact on Quality of Life helping to create a Vibrant Economy, an important component of an Attractive Town helping Culture and Community.

The Irvine Bay Regeneration Company also undertook community and stakeholder consultation in preparing their Ardrossan Town Regeneration Plan. This document noted three key development areas and featured Barony St John prominently in articulating these aspirations.

The three key development areas which were identified as particular aspects of the town where attention should be focussed to maximise the impact of the regeneration process were;

  1. Heart of the Town
  2. Sense of Arrival
  3. The Promenade.

I believe the Barony St John Regeneration Project compliments these three strategic aspects through its key nodal location within Ardrossan, its architectural prominence and scale which creates a sense of “arrival” within the town and the iconic visual association with the promenade, beach and shorefront.

Additionally, since 2014 the Big Lottery supported ‘Our Place’ initiative has led a comprehensive community involvement approach in Ardrossan Central and North East. This was fronted by an extensive community consultation and audit process commencing in 2014 which culminated in a ‘Vision for Ardrossan’ (December 2015) where community members identified areas for improvement, local assets and people who had a shared passion for making their Town a better place to live.

The “Vision for Ardrossan” listed five main aims and aspirations for the regeneration of the town:

  1. Our physical environment is one that compliments the natural beauty of our location
  2. More quality employment opportunities in the area
  3. Better social facilities and activities for young people
  4. Ardrossan is a town where tourists visit for Arts, Culture, History and Music
  5. Our older generation have opportunities to participate within our community

With support funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and The Big Lottery Fund through “Our Place”, The Barony St John Regeneration Project undertook a more focused community consultation exercise on the potential future development options for the buildings.

Through a variety of activities, this generated over three hundred returns to a questionnaire that sought to capture: views on the priority future uses of the building; likely usage rates by local people; the importance of this to the wider Ardrossan regeneration context; and future interest levels in supporting a community led transformation of Barony St John.

  • 91% of people surveyed thought the “B” listed Building should be redeveloped.
  • 80% of people thought it important Barony St John stays in use for local people.
  • 96% of people thought this type of development important in the regeneration of Ardrossan.
  • 65% of people surveyed thought an Events Venue centred on arts, music and culture important.
  • 60% of people surveyed said they were likely to use an Events Venue centred on arts, music & culture.

Comments taken during this consultation process included the following statements from residents of Ardrossan and the wider Three Towns community;

“I hope this wonderful building gets saved”.

“It would be great to see it a vial part of the community again.”

“We need a good local venue for young people to experience arts & culture“

“An Events Venue would be ideal to draw local people & from surrounding areas to Ardrossan.”

“I think it is a very important landmark which should be preserved & restored.”

“It’s important to keep this iconic building maintained and used by the community as it is Ardrossan’s heritage”

“The building is iconic and should be put back into a use that benefits the community”


Following twelve months of survey, structural assessment, analysis and development of outline proposals, the future vision of The Barony St John Project has evolved into the newly published Regeneration Feasibility Report as:

“To provide a high quality, flexible, sustainable and community managed venue to promote and support music, arts, and culture in Ardrossan and the wider area, and a space to hold a wide range of community events and functions”.

But the Barony St John Church is not alone as a historical asset in Ardrossan. There are nearly fifty Category B and C Listed Buildings within three hundred metres of Barony St John, clearly demonstrating the Townscape Heritage Significance of the area. These Listed Buildings include;

  • The Bath Villa at 90 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland building at 93 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Clyde Estuary Hotel at 78 Princes Street. Category B Listing
  • The Obelisk on Castle Hill. Category B Listing

The Barony St John Regeneration Project Team also believes the completed facility can form an integral part of a wider tourist and community strategy to promote the history and historic assets of Ardrossan in their local and national setting.

I believe this could be achieved as part of an integrated strategy forming a “Heritage Trail” approach by which the building, as an iconic structure fronting onto the main thoroughfare through the town and a strong visual beacon for users of the shorefront, is integrated into a tourist and visitor loop circuit through the town.

This would create a structure where visitors could follow the “Heritage Trail” from the shorefront to visit The Barony St John, Ardrossan Castle Heritage Site and the numerous Listed Properties which activate the main “high street” frontages of Glasgow Street and Princes Street thereby forming the “Ardrossan Loop” as outlined in the diagram below.

My hope is that each location will have a plaque with a QR Code which when accessed will show the history of the building / landmark with “past” and “present” photos. Kids (and adults) would live this interactive trail and if you answer all the questions on the Heritage Trail Question Sheet, the kids win a prize.

Turning the Barony St John buildings into an Events Centre would provide the opportunity to retain the characteristics of the original building whilst reinterpreting these for a more commercially viable and sustainable development model which will provide new and improved facilities for the local and wider area.

The new facility will provide flexible and traditional “hall” facilities through the smaller hall whilst the new “main venue” will create a facility which can be used for music festivals such as The Ardrossan Music Festival, live bands, art, comedy, theatre, weddings, cinema screenings, corporate events, training, education and community events.

The new facility will also feature a café area attached and linking the existing Barony St John buildings and this will support services for the public using the shorefront beach area.

Options are also being considered to introduce an additional floored area to the smaller hall building providing dormitory-style accommodation for residential courses, groups participating in watersports, youth groups and visitors to the area.

With the potential “William Wallace Visitor Centre” in the café area to highlight Wallace’s connection with Ardrossan and the Castle and you can see how this development will benefit visitors and tourists alike and a fully redeveloped Barony St John Centre would sit centrally at the heart of the planned urban regeneration simultaneously being a symbol for its continued re-birth and providing numerous jobs to the town.

My team have recently completed a Regeneration Feasibility Study and an outline business case has been submitted to the Architectural Heritage Fund and The Big Lottery for consideration.

The next stage in developing these proposals is to engage with potential funders to allow the current proposals to be developed. The Barony St John Regeneration Project will now undertake this engagement with The Big Lottery, The Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and of course potentially the most important funder of all, North Ayrshire Council’s Economic Growth Services.

One challenge which does lay ahead relates to the future ownership and governance of the proposed Barony St John Regeneration Project. Consultations held throughout the Feasibility Study and Outline Business Case process have identified a number of community based ownership models which were discussed with representatives of potential project funders.

But, as I have always maintained, my objective is to save the Barony St John buildings and to have a base for my charity. If I need to give up ownership of the buildings to accomplish this  then that is what I will do.

I hope you agree with me that this is a really exciting project not just for the people of Ardrossan but for The Three Towns, North Ayrshire and beyond.


Despite efforts to get the two pigeons out, one has died. The other is nowhere to be seen. 😦

Pigeon problems

Oh dear, we have a couple of pigeons in visiting the church – no idea how they got in. :-/


I have a feeling those feathers were not from angels!

Angel feathers?

Are these angel feathers in the Barony St John church building?

Psychic predictions 4 out 5

As far back as October & December 2015, I predicted how The Big Lottery’s Our Place money would be spent in Ardrossan.

You may remember

I predicted the £1.6 million funding would get spent on five areas – the Castle, local theatre group Capall Dorcha, Ardrossan Music Experience, Ayrshire Film Company and Ardrossan Youth


Group based at Whitlees Community Centre.

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


Prediction One comes true – 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.

Prediction Two – The Big Lottery’s Our Place announced that they would fund the Ardrossan Music Experience to the tune of £98,950 for a “free four-day ‘Sound on the sand’ spectacular”. The full free four day event didn’t actually come to fruition but they kept the money all the same.

Prediction Three – 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.

Prediction Four – This week, 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. Yes, I know what you are thinking, over a quarter of a million for a new kitchen??? But who are we to argue.

Now, I have to admit, it was the Whitlees Community Centre that got the grant and not  the Ardrossan Youth Group based in the Centre so I was a bit off with this prediction. But who knows, maybe the youth group will get funding too. :-/

Now all that remains is for my last prediction to come true of the Ayrshire Film Company getting funding and I will have scored five out of five. 🙂

So how could I possibly predict in 2015 who would get funding in 2018?

I’m obviously psychic. Enough said.

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