The Ardross-man



Unexpected items that I’ve found!

The Cupboard under the Stairs

Last time, I told you about the Easter Egg Hunt I organised for my kids (Easter Egg Hunt 2019), well it got really interesting for me when I was photographing my daughter finding her egg in the cupboard under the main staircase leading up to the church gallery.

I noticed some names written on the back of the cupboard door. Some appeared fairly new and were written by a black marker pen.;

John S. Hughes, J.W.G. Neil, Allana MacDougall and Joyce C. Inglis” with “Alec Bingham” printed in pencil below this and “H. McLean” printed to the left of it.

Does anyone know these people? I would love to find out when this was written (no charges of vandalism will be sought LOL).

But my attention was drawn to an inscription to the left of this list of names. It was in pencil but the handwriting is in beautiful scroll;

David & Shona, Saltcoats, 1873

It’s a long shot, but if anyone has any idea who David and Shona is, I would really appreciate hearing about it.

In the meantime, if you want to know more about my efforts to save the Barony St John buildings, check out our Facebook page The Barony St John Regeneration Project or contact my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety via or look us up (ScotCPS) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Goodbye for now.

Merry Christmas 2018

I mentioned in a previous post (Good Books) that I had found some old newspapers, a bible and a Victorian book in various parts of the Barony St John Church. Well, I also found an old Christmas card.

I’m not sure how old it is but, judging by the children’s clothing and the decorations, I would guess that it is set around the turn of the last century, maybe even Victorian.

The card itself is an octagon shape and around the central painting of the children are traditional Christmas holly leaves – but what makes the card stand out is that all over the white border are embossed holly leaves. A really beautiful card.

Now unfortunately, like many other people I find Christmas a sad time of year. I remember the wonderful Christmases I had with my children in the Highlands. The stockings hanging up around a roaring log fire, the inevitable snow, and the look on my children’s faces as they realised Santa had been and they began opening their Christmas presents around our six foot high Christmas tree adorned with wonderful white fairy lights and silver baubles. Magical.

Divorce meant I lost of all of that, and much more. I was heartbroken. Christmas has never been the same again. The magic and sparkle has gone….I guess a bit like this old Christmas card.

Although a really lovely card, the ravages of time have not been kind to the paper the card is made from and there are several stains, splashes of what looks like rust, dust and dirt covering it.

I suppose it’s like my own and maybe your own Christmas; no matter what kind of year you’ve had, you’ve weathered the good times and the bad, the occasional good days and perhaps the more frequent bad days. But Christmas is a time to forget all those worries, a time of adding light into your life by putting up the tree and fairy lights, splashing some colour to your home with tinsel decorations and giving presents – adding a little cheer … if not to your life, then to someone else’s.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The joy of giving rather than the receiving?

Maybe this old Christmas card has a lesson for us all.

Merry Christmas from everyone at the Barony St John Regeneration Project and The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety – and if you want to give a little something to help me regenerate the Barony buildings, please check out our crowd fund page at


or pop a wee donation in an envelope in our letterbox. Every penny will go towards saving and  restoring the Barony St John buildings.

I hope Santa is good to you. Best wishes – and I’ll see you in the New Year.



Good books

I previously mentioned how myself, Emma Paterson and her daughter Ami had been scouring the debris of the Barony St John church and found some old pamphlets in the rafters. Well, we also found a bible.

Now this bible was lying open and obviously had been lying up there for years. What we cannot understand is how it got there. It is too big to fallen down the gap between floorboards so we can only assume that at some point, the floor in the upper gallery was exposed and a bible has fallen down.

The page that it was open at was in the Book of Psalms and the line that caught my eye was “Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross”. Very apt for the work my charity does. 🙂

And we found another book on the same day behind the church organ.


Despite it’s age and the discoloured, dusty cover, the inside pages were immaculate.

The book was titled “Lindsay’s Letters on the Holy Land” and is the Third Edition dating from 1839.

A quick internet search revealed that Lord Alexander Lindsay was the 25th Earl of Crawford and 8th Earl of Balcarres. He was born on the 16th October 1812 at Muncaster Castle in Cumbria. He went to Eton and Trinity College before travelling around the world collecting art (how typical of a Victorian member of the aristocracy LOL).

He spent 1837/38 journeying across the Middle East and writing his “Letters on the Holy Land” which seems to have been a huge hit as it was republished at least three times.

He also published “Progression by Antagonism” in 1846 and “Sketches of the History of Christian Art” in 1847. His art collections are still on display in many galleries around the world.

Lord Alexander Lindsay died on the 13th December 1880 aged 68 in Florence, Italy. He was brought home for burial in the family crypt at Dunecht House near Aberdeen but soon after his burial, his grave was robbed by a local poacher. His body was eventually recovered from a shallow grave fourteen months later. A monument marks the shallow grave where his body was found at Dunecht but his remains were reburied in the family vault in Wigan.

Why Wigan? Well, Alexander’s father, James Lindsay, was the Tory MP for Wigan from 1820 to 1825 before becoming the Baron of Wigan in 1826. After his death on 23rd December 1869, he was buried in the family vault at All Saints’ Church in Wigan – where his son would join him 11 years later.

Sweet and Sour

As I mentioned in my last couple of post (Seventies Flashback and Jobs for the Boys), I found an old Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald dated 5th September 1975 behind the Barony St John’s church organ.

But I also found some sweet bags in the rafters of the top balcony. They are from Robert Hogarth’s store which sued to be on Glasgow Street in Ardrossan.


There was also an old magazine with the insert pamphlet titled “Seeds of Love”. The attire of the figures on the cover give an idea of the era in which this was published – and I thought it may be the 1930’s but it was far earlier.

A further clue was obtained from a small article which mentions the Irish Professional Golf Championship results in which a Mr Moran was the winner and a Mr Kidd was the runner up.

A check of the internet revealed that Michael Moran was born in 1886 and was the leading Irish golfer of his generation and that he won the Irish Professional Championship five years in a row from 1909 to 1913.

A further check showed that Harry Kidd was runner up in the 1909 Irish Professional Championship so this newspaper was from 1909. Wow!

Sadly, Michael Moran died on 10th April 1918 at the young age of only 31yrs.

He was one of the many who died during the First World War.

Michael had joined the South Irish Horse in 1915 and in September 1917 his regiment had been retrained as infantry and formed the 7th (South Irish Horse) Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

The battalion was mown down in the German Spring Offensive of 1918, Michael was wounded and died in hospital a month later. The Official History records the waste of life during the battle saying “two companies of 7th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, posted in forward zones, suffered terribly; not a man succeeded in escaping.”

Since Michael died in a German hospital, his death was not confirmed until 16 December 1918 – a month after the war had finished.



Jobs for the Boys

As I mentioned in my last post (Seventies Flashback), I found an old Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald dated 5th September 1975 behind the church organ.

Some of the job adverts are similar to today’s, like The Kandy Bar in Saltcoats advertising for Shop Assistants, Students and a Van Man (not a van driver).

But in the seventies, there obviously wasn’t much call for equal opportunities so you could advertise for a particular gender if you wished, for instance, one advert describes “an excellent opportunity for a career in Sales and Administration” but it was only available to a “young man” aged 20-25yrs.

And another advert for a “Clerkess / Typist” which states “Young lady required” for the position.


What caught my attention more however is how much wages have increased in the last forty years or so.

The highly skilled job of Planning Inspector had a salary of £2,529 – £3,582 and the lesser skilled job of a Technician had a starting salary of only £1,215.

But then again, the average house in Scotland in 1975 cost under £10,000 and you could buy a brand new car for less than £2,000 with a litre of fuel only costing 16p.

Oh, how times have changed. LOL

Seventies Flashback

I was searching for old memorabilia in the Barony St John church building last week with volunteers Emma and Ami Paterson when we discovered, stuffed behind the organ, an old newspaper from the seventies.

The newspaper is, of course, The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, and the date is 5th September 1975.



The articles that caught my eye were the ones which were accompanied by a photograph;

The first photo is of Ronnie Robinson and Turner Chalmers who won the team event in the Saltcoats Boat Owners’ fishing contest. Does this contest still take place?




The next photo is of the cast of “Mixed Doubles”, a play presented by the Student Drama Group of North Ayrshire Arts Centre in West Kilbride Hall. Just look at the hairstyles and clothing  fashion of the day.




And finally, there’s a cracking photo of the Ayrshire Women’s Bowling Championships at Ardrossan green.

So does anyone recognise anyone? Are YOU in any of the photos?

John Moffat window update

Following a request about who the “John Moffat” is mentioned in the large circular window which is currently boarded up in the church, I received this wonderful letter from George McGrattan detailing a biography of the man;

Records at Liberton Parish Church in Edinburgh show that John Moffat was born on 7th May 1818, the son of John Moffat and his wife Barbara Brown.

So, what is John Moffat’s connection with Ardrossan?

Well, he was a Civil Engineer who came to Ardrossan and helped develop Ardrossan Harbour, evenutally becoming the Harbour Manager as this obituary for his sister (Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 28th November 1902) intimates;

“In 1843, John Moffat, so long honourably connected with the Harbour, began his visits as engineer of the Wet Docks and to his untiring efforts, the present day prosperity of Ardrossan is largely due.”

Throughout his working life, John Moffat featured in several newspaper reports both locally and in the Glasgow Herald including:

  • being toasted by the Earl of Eglinton at the opening of Ardrossan Docks in 1845
  • being a founder member of Ardrossan Volunteer Corps in 1859
  • presenting the 4th Ayrshire (Ardrossan) Artillery Volunteers with brass musical instruments in 1874 (which I detailed in my last article The John Moffat Window)
  • paying for the distribution of twenty tons of coal to the poor in 1875
  • opening the bazaar on behalf of the Volunteer Band in 1875
  • being associated with the Ardrossan branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1876
  • addressing the Ardrossan Young Men’s Society For Religious Improvement in 1877

As I mentioned in my previous article, on 18th November 1874, at the age of fifty-six, John married Jessie Arthur who was only twenty five years old.

Having settled in Ardrossan as a single man, initially living in Montgomerie Street (according to the 1851 census) and latterly at 11 South Crescent (according to the 1861 census), John and Jessie moved to Glasgow where their two children were born, Edith in 1876 and John in 1879.

According to the 1881 census, the Moffats lived at 7 Woodside Terrace, Glasgow and as well as being described as a civil engineer in the census, he was also described as a Justice of the Peace.

On 23rd March 1882, just over seven years married and at the age of only sixty two, tragedy struck. John’s body was found in a reservoir near Parkhouse Farm, in what is now Parkhouse Walkway, off Parkhouse Road, Ardrossan.  His death certificate states that he committed suicide by drowning.

The Glasgow Herald published an obituary.  It read;

It is with regret that we announce the sudden death of Mr John Moffat, superintendent of the Ardrossan Harbour.  Mr Moffat came to Ardrossan forty years ago and has always been noted for his close attention to duty and great business aptitude.  He was a member of the School Board and always took a ward interest in education and indeed in most public questions.  He was a director of the Ardrossan Gas and Water Company and held a similar position in several other important companies throughout the county.  He was also noted for many deeds of un-ostentatious charity and by his death, many of the poor in the locality are deprived of a kind and liberal friend.  Mr Moffat was appointed Captain of the Ardrossan Volunteer Corps at its formation in 1860 and continued in that position for many years.  Even after retiring, he took a warm interest in the Corps.”

Why would an apparently successful and esteemed man with a wife and two young children kill himself?  A clue is given in the opening sentence of a testimonial in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald.  It states;

The late Mr John Moffat is one other victim to overwork.  More than a quarter of a century ago, he succeeded his brother James in the management of the then Ardrossan Railway, afterwards incorporated into the Glasgow and South-Western Railway System and the Ardrossan Harbour.  He had immense capacity for work and it was due to his foresight and untiring energy, while lessee of the Harbour, that some years ago, Ardrossan became one of the most flourishing and best managed ports in the West of Scotland.   With Messrs Henderson and Son, Belfast, he owned the magnificent steamers of the Ardrossan Shipping Company.  He opened up a most lucrative trade with Spain and for years has been one of a few gentlemen who were directors of more than half a dozen companies.  He could take a singularly clear and strong grasp of any matter of business brought before him and few could excel him in his exposition of details.  Only lately, after a meeting held in Saltcoats on the Water question, a gentleman present said to the writer that he could have listened to him all the evening.  His position at the Harbour naturally gave him great influence in the place but the deceased gentleman would have commanded a foremost place anywhere.  An excellent education had developed a love for the best literature and to an extensive acquaintance of the works of the best authors, there was added the culture which comes from travel in foreign countries and friendly personal intercourse with some oi the best informed and most learned gentlemen in the country.  When the occasion required he could show considerable tact in dealing with an opposition.  He had superior conversational powers, was a good speaker and a lecture which he delivered some years ago, at the request of the Library Committee – full of information relieved by happy strokes of humour – showed that even in this he would have excelled, had he given his mind to it.  He was a prosperous man but, as he strongly disliked anything like ostentatious display, only a few knew how generously he bestowed money where help was needed.  If the case was an urgent one he gave liberally and while we would have hesitated to approach him on a pure matter of business, if money was needed for a good cause, all hesitation vanished.  We knew that we could get from him all that we wished for.  For Mrs Moffat and his sisters, there is the deepest sympathy.  It is felt that their sorrow is a calamity which even sympathy – the deepest and truest – can relieve but faintly’.

I find it hard to believe though that John would commit suicide because he was overworked. He could have retired happily and not worked another day in his life. My suspicious mind does make me wonder if it was suicide, an accident or something more sinister.

John’s widow, Jessie, remarried on 13th April 1886 in Dundonald.  Her husband was Charles Edward Hay, a thirty-six year old bachelor chemical manufacturer.  Charles was the son of Sir John Hay, Seventh Baronet of Hay and Sheriff Substitute of Stirlingshire.

Jessie died on 17th November 1931.

John’s children also had notable lives;  The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reported that on 30th  July 1901, Edith “daughter of the late John Moffat, Ardrossan, and Mrs Jessie Hay of Castlehill, Ayr, was married to Captain Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn of Wedderburn, Kirkhill, Fife.  The Reverend George Grub, rector and Reverend Alexander Copland, senior curate officiated at the ceremony.  The bride was given away by her brother John Moffat.  Mr Norman Lamont, younger of Ardlamont was best man“.

Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn was the Tenth Earl of Dundee.  His and Edith Moffat’s son, Henry James Scrymgeour-Wedderburn (1902–1983), was the eleventh Earl of Dundee.

Among several military and political posts, he was Under-Secretary of State for Scotland from 1936 to 1939 and 1941 to 1942.

Henry’s son, Alexander Henry Scrymgeour, the Twelfth Earl of Dundee has been a member of the House of Lords since 1983 and still attends.

Edith died in Edinburgh on 16th October 1967.

On 21st November 1902, the local paper stated that “Mr John Moffat, who has been unanimously adopted as Unionist candidate for Paisley, is a son of the late Mr John Moffat, Ardrossan.  He is about twenty-four years of age and was educated at Cheam, Eton and Cambridge where he is said to have made a special study of mathematics, chemistry and political economy”.  John did not win the next election. He then pursued a career as a merchant.

On 19th January 1926, John married Fern Clarisse King in Paris.  Fern was the daughter of Lloyd Stanley King, a man of independent means.  It appears that John continued to live in France where he was still resident in 1950.

Although John Moffat’s life had a sad ending, he left a distinguished family and played a prominent part in the industrial and community life of Ardrossan.  He was clearly held in high regard by his contemporaries who symbolised their affection by the installation in 1889 of a large circular window in his memory which dominates the in the Barony St John Church.  May John Moffat rest in peace.

Many thanks to George McGrattan for writing most of this article.


The John Moffat window

Way back in March 2016, I told you about the circular window in the hall building which had a Star of David inside it and I mentioned that there was a large circular window in the main church building which had been boarded since the late 1990’s / early 2000’s, and that I didn’t know what this window looked like.

What was behind the boarding has remained hidden and it is our hope that one day we can make the window safe and have it uncovered again for the public to view but in the meantime, a local resident has come to me with some photos showing the window underneath in all its glory.

The window is not plain glass like the hall window but stained glass – and the colours and intricate patterns are amazing.

In the centre of the window there is an intertwined IHS symbol which is an abbreviation of IHSOUS or “Jesus” in Latinised Greek. The symbol is used in many Christian churches and you may just be able to make it out on the red velvet drape hanging over the pulpit below the organ pipes in the above photo showing the entire church wall, alter and organ.

In the close-up photo below, you may also be able to make out that there is an inscription around the circumference of the window. The upper line reads;

In loving memory of John Moffat, died March 23rd 1882.

But the lower line is harder to read as some of the words are obscured so I can only read;

He rest from his ………. works do allow him.


If anyone has any more information on this window, what the full inscription says or who John Moffat was, please do get in touch.

The only two pieces of information I can find, which may or may not be the same Mr Moffat, were obtained from the Glasgow Herald.

The first dated 17th March 1874 in an article titled “Ardrossan – Volunteer Ball”.

It mentions the annual ball of the 4th Ayrshire (Ardrossan) Artillery Volunteers which took place in the Good Templars’ Hall. It discusses the event and then says;

Mr Moffat then presented to the corps a beautiful set of brass musical instruments subscribed for by several gentlemen in the town.

Is this the same Mr Moffat?

He must have been well known as other people are mentioned by name and then have their job detailed (Mr Barrs the music instructor, Mr Cowan the treasurer to the corps and Mr Phillips of the coastguard) but there is no mention of who Mr Moffat is or what he does.

Presumably, he was so well known that readers, even in Glasgow, would have known him by name only.

The second article was published on 19th NOVEMBER 1874 and identifies the person as JOHN Moffat so it maybe our man;

The article is titled “Ardrossan Rejoicing” reports;

Yesterday in recognition of the marriage of Mr. JOHN MOFFAT with Miss ARTHUR of Barshaw, all the vessels in the harbour (of which Mr. Moffat is superintendent) were gaily decorated with bunting, and several of the public buildings also displayed flags.

The volunteer fired 13 rounds from the big guns at the battery, and met again in the evening, when they fired a feu de joie.

The harbour employees were suitably entertained in the evening.

If this is the same John Moffat whose death in 1882 is recorded, he married in 1874 and was died only eight years later.

Hopefully you can help me solve this puzzle and reveal who John Moffat was and why he was so well known.

Oh, and one last thing, I have completely mislaid the name of the person who gave me the photos of the church window – if it was YOU, can you get in touch so I can publicly thank you? Cheers.

Goodbye for now.

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.


Blog at

Up ↑