The Ardross-man


September 2019

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:

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


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.

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