The Ardross-man



Unexpected items that I’ve found!

Ardrossan 1934

Local historian Helen Abbott has done it again – she has unearthed a fantastic photo from around 1934 which shows the rear of the Barony St John church buildings.

You may remember in a previous post (The Mystery of the Church Hall extension) I was questioning the current layout of the church hall building as there were different types of stone and brickwork on the rear.

Initially, both the church and hall buildings were joined only by a corridor which was recessed. You can see by the brickwork where this has now been made parallel.


And you can see in the close up photos of the 1934 photo that the corridor had been made parallel by then as the brick and cement wall is clearly shown – but there is a wall or a building extending out from the hall corridor area.


If you look at the hall building, you will see that at right angles to it ending, at the rear and to the right of the lawn in the photos above, there is another construction extending down the width of the lawn garden and finishing with another house type structure.

This confirms what I suspected when looking at the current rear of the Training Room (the first modern photo above) as you can see a break in the stone work and a replacement of brick and cement again.

If the buildings and the Training Room (which was originally known as the “Small Hall”) had extended back, it would indeed be large enough to be known as a hall and it would also confirm what a previous Ardrossan resident, Mary Buswell, had said. In a previous post (Sexy Mary), Mary confirmed that although she left Ardrossan in the 1950’s she could remember the Training Room being much larger and extending back into what is now a car park area.



Angel feathers?

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

Gone but not Forgotten

Some time ago, I wrote a post From Death Springs Life about the font situated at the front of the church building and how it was dedicated by the parents of two fallen soldiers in the Great War.

Well, a local chap by the name of William Parker has been doing some digging and came up with a fascinating story.

About ten years ago, William was researching for a book he was producing about the opening of St Cuthbert’s Church in nearby Saltcoats.

One of the main benefactors for St. Cuthbert’s was apparently a Mrs McIsaac and it was her son-in-law , Mr Charles Addis, who spoke on her behalf at the Opening Ceremony as did another donor, a Mr. James Mutter (You may remember him from another post James Mutter’s windows about the person who installed the two stained glass windows either side of the alter).

Anyway, Mr Addis’s sister was married to Rev Robert Adamson, the minister of St. John’s Church in Ardrossan. This means that the font which is now in the Barony St John was, as we thought, gifted to the original St. John’s Church but what we didn’t know was that it was gifted by St. John’s own minister and his wife.

William searched online and found the following entry;

Name: ADAMSONImage result for poppy
First names: Robert Thorburn
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment: Royal Scots
Unit: 4th Bn
Age: 23
Date of Death: 23/04/1917
Additional information: Son of the Rev. Robert M. Adamson, of Saint John’s Manse, Ardrossan, Ayrshire. M.A. (Edinburgh University)
Memorial reference: Bay 1 and 2

Robert is the brother of George Addis Adamson who is also on the memorial. Both brothers are also on the Ardrossan memorial.

Name: ADAMSON, GEORGE ADDIS Image result for poppy
Initials: G A
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Second Lieutenant  Regiment/Service: King’s Own Scottish Borderers 
Unit: 6th Bn.
Age: 19
Date of Death: 12/10/1917
Additional information: Son of the Rev. Robert M. Adamson, M.A., and Robina S. T. Adamson, of St. John’s Manse, Ardrossan, Ayrshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 66 to 68. Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL

The plaque on the back of the font is photographed below.


William also obtained additional information from Edinburgh University’s Roll of Honour:

Ardrossan Academy ; Dux; First XV. and XI. Cadet Corps 1909-12.

Student of Arts, 1916-17. O.T.C. Infantry, July to Dec. 1916, Cadet; Officer Cadet Dec. 1916.

6th King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 2nd Lieut. Jan. 1917. France.

Fell in action at Passchendaele on I2th October 1917.

Here is the plaque showing their names on the Ardrossan war memorial  just across the road from the church.



Victorian Adverts 3

In previous posts (Victorian Adverts 1 and Victorian Adverts 2 – Cure Alls) I described some advertisements found in a pamphlet dated May 1893 which was rescued from some fallen masonry from the gallery area of Barony St. John’s church.

Here are some more ads which caught my eye;

The Zoka Hand Camera was introduced by Jonathan Fallowfield in 1894.  It was a very popular inexpensive camera, mainly designed for beginners and youths. This advert and its description as a “Detective Camera” was obviously aimed at the youth market.

The camera was fitted with a fixed focus achromatic lens. The plates were held in place by a spring and once exposed you would pull a knob and the plate would drop down to the lower part of the camera and at the same time a new plate was readied for exposure.

I couldn’t find anything about Hinksman’s Asthma Reliever except on a blog post My Dad’s Memoirs: Memoirs of a Fisherman’s Son.

“As soon as I felt an attack coming on or awoke during the night to find myself in the throes of an attack, I would put about a teaspoonful of the mixture in the oval depression on the lid, set a match to it and inhale the smoke which was given off. Relief came within a very short period: less than two minutes. Wherever I went as a boy I had my tin of Hinksman’s with me: this continued until I was 16 when the burden was lifted from me as mentioned later.
Other children in the village also suffered from this dreadful affliction: some like me used Hinksman’s, others a similar product called Potters’ Asthma Cure or herbal cigarettes. The latter I tried from time to time but found no help in them. However as it gave me a feeling of superiority over my fellows, I used, deliberately to smoke those cigarettes from time to time: to the great envy of my fellow pupils!”

Smoking in school allowed because the cigarettes were said to help asthma – oh how times have changed LOL 😀  

Although I couldn’t find any references to Thompson’s Corn Plasters, corn plasters are actually still sold in chemist shops. These days they contain salicylic acid which removes the build up of hard skin formed in areas of the foot which experience excessive pressure (around the big toe area of women who squeeze their feet into narrow fitting high heels, for instance).

I don’t know if it was salicylic acid that was used in the Victorian days but it must have been some kind of acid to burn the skin off. Ouch!

Godfrey’s Extract of Elder Flowers allegedly cured pimples, humours and eruptions and could “speedily remove all tan, sunburn freckles and redness”. The cream was prepared by Benjamin Godfrey Windus and later sold through Messrs. Willoughby & Co.

Benjamin Godfrey Windus, 61 Bishopsgate Street, was engraved on a Government Stamp which was pasted over the cork of every bottle, “without which none can be genuine”.

The Y & N corset was granted to Robert Alfred Young and Robert Neilson (Y&N) under British patent no.116 on 10th January 1879. It was described as a “more durable and yielding” corset but the sketch on the advertisement does not give it justice as this photo shows.

Lady Grisell Baillie

I found this Victorian advert in the church about Lady Grisell Baillie


But having never heard of her, I had to find out more;

It turns out she was a Scottish songwriter with a fascinating  history.

Born on Christmas Day 1665, she died aged 80 on 6th December 1746, just shy of her 81st birthday and was buried on Christmas Day 1746.

800px-lady_grisell_baillieGrisell was the eldest daughter of Sir Patrick Hume, a staunch Scottish patriot.

In 1677, when Grisell was just 12 years old, she carried letters from her father to Robert Baillie who was in prison for plotting to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother James.

Baillie’s idea was that the Catholic King and his brother would be killed and a Protestant heir would take their place on the throne. (Guy Fawkes had a similar idea when he tried to blow up King Charles II grandfather, James I, in the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605).

The King’s men soon became suspicious of Hume as in the same year, 1677, Grisell was asked to be one of the Maids of Honour at the wedding of Mary (the Protestant daughter of the King’s brother James) to William of Orange. And although Grisell turned down this offer, the King wanted Hume arrested for questioning.

Hume hid in the crypt of Polwarth Church in the Scottish Borders while his daughter, Grisell, smuggled food to him and when news broke of Baillie’s execution in 1684, Hume fled to the Netherlands (home of William of Orange) where his family later joined him.

Catholic King James VII of Scotland (II of England) meanwhile took the throne following the death of his brother Charles II in 1685 but Protestant nobles called for the King’s Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange, to land an invasion army from the Netherlands.

When, in 1688 William did just that, King James fled for France and was replaced by his eldest, Protestant daughter Mary and her husband and invader, William of Orange.

This was to become known as The Glorious Revolution.

The Catholic former king, James, didn’t give up so easily though and made one big attempt to recover his throne from Protestant William and Mary. He landed in Ireland in 1689 with a small army in 1690 and there followed the Battle of the Boyne where James and his “Jacobite” army were defeated by William’s “Williamite” army. James returned to France where he stayed with his Catholic cousin, King Louis XIV (he of the Palace of Versailles and French Revolution fame) until his death.

Sir Patrick Hume and his family including Grisell returned to Scotland in 1690 after James’s ultimate defeat in Ireland and in 1692, Lady Grisell aged 27, married George, the son of the executed Robert Baillie. It was said that Grisell fell in love with George when she first met him aged 12 as she smuggled letters from her father to his.

Some of Lady Grisell’s songs were printed in Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany. The most famous being “And werena my heart light I wad dee” which originally appeared in William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius (otherwise known as A Collection of the Best Scotch Songs) which was published in 1725.

Lady Grisell was also memorialised by the Scottish poet, Joanna Baillie (not a known relation but she claimed to be a distant relative) in a poem first published in 1821 in Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters.

What a colourful history lesson.

Soap by Royal Appointment

I saw this advert in the pamphlet Life & Works which I found last year –

It starts off Appointed by Special Royal Warrant – Soap Makers to Her Majesty the Queen

Obviously this is Queen Victoria as the date on the pamphlet is May 1893.


The nice thing about some of these Victorian adverts is that some were written as a short story instead of just the “buy me” type of advert we get today.

This story – “A Daughter’s Happiness” is delightful;

“There is no incident in a mother’s life more deeply moving than when she is alone for the last time with her daughter, shortly to become a wife, the training of whom for a useful happy life has been her constant care. There stands the young bride, full of hope and confidence in the future, scarcely giving a thought to the happy home she is leaving, and scarcely asking herself whether she will be equally happy in the home she is seeking for herself. In a few minutes the carriage will bear her away, and she will have passed from her mother’s care to that of the man to whom she is confiding her whole future happiness. In these few minutes of waiting the mother lives again the years that have flown past since her daughter was a wee toddling babe, and asks herself if she could possibly have done more than she has done to secure her daughter’s happiness. At such a time, the mother finds the deepest satisfaction in knowing that whilst her daughter is fully accomplished for the ballroom, and for all the social duties of life, she is equally well trained in all the details of household management. These things are not trifles, as some would suppose; the happiness of a household depends on cleanliness and comfort; with these the cottage is a HOME; without them the palace is a wilderness. HAPPY is the wife who has been taught that the easiest, surest, safest, and most economical way to ensure cleanliness and comfort in her household is by the regular use of SUNLIGHT SOAP.”

Oh my, how times have changed!

I find it frightening to think that this was a woman’s lot right up into the 1970s – you get married and then serve your husband, keep the house and be a good wife.

Aren’t you glad that we live in these modern times of equality?

A little ray of sunshine

I came into the hall building the other day and noticed something lit up on one of the toilet doors in the corridor. It was a beautiful little image of the huge circular window in the main hall.

A little ray of sunshine had obviously shone through the window, carrying the image down through the entire length of the hall, through a small crack in the door, across the corridor and onto the the lower half of the toilet door.

It made my day 😀

Mutter window update

In a previous post (James Mutter’s windows) I told you all about the history behind two of the stained glass windows in the Barony St. John church building and how they were commissioned by James Mutter to remember his father, William Mutter and mother Jane Rankine upon their deaths in 1885 and 1884 respectively.
I have now received an email from a Sheena Harling (nee Parker) from the Midlands who said;
“A friend in Stevenston sent me your recent article on the Mutters. I was interested as my father was born at Meikle Laught  in 1913 and the farm had been rented from the Mutters from 1908 by my grandfather, William Parker.
My cousin of the same name sold it in 2006. His father, another William Parker, had bought it, I think from Mutter descendants or Trustees about 1948. The farm was unusual in that it did not belong to the Earl of Eglinton like so many other farms in Ardrossan Parish.  I have also researched the history of the farm.  I grew up near Dalry  but now live in the Midlands not far from Lincoln.
William Mutter senior came from Dalkeith and was born there in 1805. You maybe knew this. His wife, Jane Rankin, came from Maybole. They married in 1837. His parents were James Mutter and Ann Mitchell.
He died in 1886 at his house in Crescent Park, Ardrossan which he named Meikle Laught.
According to the 1881 Census, James, the son, was Portuguese and Ottoman Consul. It seems a large area to cover but I have not seen the original Census entry – only a transcript, so that may not be quite accurate.
I have researched the Parker family extensively over the last 20 years as family history research is my hobby.  My Granny Parker’s maiden name was Robertson and her father was the original John Robertson who set up the ham-curing business which is just round the corner from the Church. Our “family” Church was St Cuthbert’s in Saltcoats.
I also have a connection to the Barony Church as my aunt (my mother’s sister) and family lived for about 50 years at 4 Arran Place and my cousin sang in the Church choir in the 1950s. I did not know the Church had closed but I am pleased that you have found a good use for it. Your charity sounds very worthwhile. I wish you well with it and your renovations.”
What a lovely email!
But then I got another email from Sheena;
“I have done a bit more digging on James Mutter, b 1841. He was baptised on 15 June, in Gorbals, Lanarkshire. (From Scottish Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950). I have not found his exact birth date. The address in the 1841 Census was Abbotsford Place.
By 1851 the family have moved to  Grove Park, Maryhill, Glasgow, and father, William, is a distiller. His brother, William was born in 1851 and James is a scholar aged 10.
In 1861 James is a Commercial Clerk (Calico Printer) – his employer? and lodging with a family in St George’s Road, Glasgow.
By 1871 he has become Ottoman Consul and is living with parents in Crescent Park, Ardrossan. How he got from being a clerk to a Consul, I cannot imagine.
(Ardross-man: I was intrigued by this and found out that the Ottoman Empire in 1871 was a huge area as you can see by the map below. It covers Bosnia  and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Turkey and parts of Greece. It was sometimes known as Turkish Ottoman as its capital was Constantinople (Istanbul). Turkey itself did not become an independent country until 1923.)

In 1881 he was Ottoman and Portuguese Consul and living in Ardrossan.
I looked in the “London Gazette” where such appointments are made but the only announcements I could find were in 1893 and 1894 when, on the orders of the Queen (Victoria), he was made Turkish Consul at Glasgow on February 24 1893, reported in the London Gazette.
(Ardrossman: Again, I’m a bit confused here as he was already the Ottoman Consul in 1881 and this includes Turkey so why would he then be made Consul of Turkey in 1893??)
And in the “Edinburgh Gazette” in 1894 he had been made Portuguese Consul at Glasgow.
In the 1891 Census he seemed to combine the job of Consul for Ottoman (Turkey), Portugal and Brazil. He was aged 50 and unmarried but had his own home in North Crescent, Ardrossan, with a cook and housemaid.
In June 1895 he married Alice Mary Graham of Lambhill, Glasgow and they had a son, William Graham, in September 1896. His wife died the same month aged 35, presumably in childbirth or soon after. As James died in 1911 in Glasgow, I wonder who looked after Graham, the son?
I decided to see what happened to his brother, William Arthur, b.1850 in Maryhill, Glasgow. By 1881 he is a Wine Broker. Then he appears to have emigrated to Australia where he married Frances Annie Shiel in 1886 in Victoria. Nine years later he died in Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne, on 6th Dec,1895. I found his Obituary, attached, in a local newspaper. So he had a son also. In Memorium notices appeared in the next couple of years.  
From the Obituary he seems to have been a respected man. His death was also announced in the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald in January 1896.
This is probably more than you want or need to know but feel free to use the information. I enjoy the research.”
I hope you agree, this is extremely interesting research. Many thanks Sheena. It beggars belief that any one person would be Consul to the Ottoman Empire, Portugal and Brazil at the same time, never mind that he came from Ardrossan. 😮
But just as I began to write this update, I got another email – this time from Sheena’s cousin, William Parker who commented;
“I always enjoy reading your column in the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald and found this week’s information of particular interest. Meikle Laught, which is referred to in this week’s column, is the name of a farm on the road between Dalry and Saltcoats. My grandfather, William Parker, became a tenant of Meikle Laught Farm in November 1905.
On his death in 1944, my father, also William Parker, took on the tenancy.
In 1948, my parents purchased the farm and the family continued the business there until I, William Parker No 3 and my wife sold the farm in 2006 after 101 years with the family farming there.
In documents that I hold it appears that William Mutter took ownership of the farm in 1853. I recall my parents referring to William Graham Mutter (his grandson) – as being their laird prior to them purchasing the farm. It would appear that ownership of the farm was passed down the generations to the grandson perhaps through inheritance. Whether or not any of them actually did any farming of the lands I don’t know but there was a tenant whose name was Speirs prior to my grandfather.
My documents refer to William Mutter as a merchant and ship owner so it may be that he purchased the farm in 1853 as an investment, rented the farm and named his house in Crescent Park, Ardrossan – Meikle Laught. My information suggests that James Mutter (his son) was living in Crescent Park in 1904-05.I have a photograph (shown) signed W Graham Mutter and dated 4/9/1916. He is in a service uniform and would be about 20. By 1930 he has ownership of the farm and is living in Glasgow. By 1942 he had moved to Brockenhurst in Hampshire.
In Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald’s database of intimations a death is recorded of Ronald Graham Mutter (19) in Germany in May 1945 son of Graham and Enid Mutter.
I thought you might be interested in a little more information about the family who gifted the windows.”

Many thanks to both William and Sheena for this wonderful update on my Mutter’s window post.

Dr. Richardson’s Magneto Galvanic Battery

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 the floorboards of the Barony St. John Church since 1893. ( The church was known as Ardrossan New Parish Church until 1929 when it became Barony Church then when the local St. John’s Church got demolished, it took their parishioners and in 1987 changed its name again to Barony St.John.)

This advertisement taken from the pamphlet is so good (in a weird and wonderful kinda way) that it deserved its own post; Dr. Richardson’s Magneto Galvanic Battery

DSC01720     DSC01724

It was advertising an electro-therapeutic medical medallion, based on the 1880 patented design of Edward P. Caldwell.

It came in two designs, a heart shaped centre and a cross shaped centre, and was sold by A.M. Richardson & Co. through local agents in 1883. According to the advertising leaflet, which was published in 1893, they had sold over 3 million battery medallions over the previous 10 years. 

The blurb claims that the battery was “scientifically tested and guaranteed genuine” and gave “renewed life and energy” by “purifying the blood and improving the circulation striking at once at weak and nervous debility”.

The centre pages of the advert has the headline “The blood is the life, but electricity is the life of the blood” and it appears the amount of medical conditions it cured were almost endless;

Brings happiness and freedom after nauseas medicines fail. Relieves Neuralgia, Rheumatism, Pain in the Back, Nervousness, Chest Colds, Indigestion. Gives strength and vitality to the Nerve forces, uniform and healthy circulation to the blood.

“.…develop agreeable, curative currents throughout the body, the intensity of the currents being demonstrable by galvanometer. The Batteries are excited through mere contact with the body by the moisture of the skin, aided by the natural body heat.

DSC01721 DSC01722Richardson's_Magneto-Galvanic_Battery

Immediate relief is afforded in all cases of impaired or impeded Nerve action, as in Bronchitis, Rheumatism and Neuralgia, and in all cases of sluggish and dormant Organic action, as in general Debility, Biliousness and Constipation.

It also had many testimonials claiming that it also helped Loss of Appetite, Kidney Complaints, Liver Complaints, Lumbago, A Weak Chest, Quinsy and Dizziness, Depression and Nervousness”.

Basically, this magneto-galvanic battery pendant claimed to cure almost everything.

I’ve searched the internet and cannot find any information as to when these products went out of production or if any cases of false claims made against Dr. Richardson or his company. If any readers know anything more, please let me know.

Watch out for more eccentric items advertised for sale in the Victorian era including Y&N corsets, knock-about frocks and a post about Pears Soap that you’ll be shocked to read.

Bye for now.

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