Friday, 22 May 2009

Hunting Ancestors - Part II

Continuing on from my story yesterday about our weekend at Dalry, in Scotland, this is the burn in which we cousins imagine our ancestors cooling off on a Sunday afternoon.

Bill thought it possible that this wall

just in front of that burn might be a remnant of the miners' cottages, as the ground level behind is much lower than in front. The area looks lovely and green now,

but back then there will have been an abundance of smoke and fumes from the coal burned to run industries and heat houses, from iron smelting and the mills, and later the brick works, which used refuse from the coal and ironstone mining as material along with local clay. I always find it uplifting to see windfarms,

particularly when you think of it as an advance on coal. There are strict air quality controls in most urban areas of Britain now, but in the wilds of Northumberland there are villages without mains gas and many of those houses still heat with coal or wood. I like the smell of wood smoke, but coal smoke stinks.

I was pleased to see that the site of the former ironstone pit at the north end of Pitcon Mains Farm is now planted and will be Pitcon Woodlands one day.

Bill pointed out the 'bings', marked on the historical map as 'refuse heaps'. That brown area on the 'hill' behind the wooded area is mining refuse, a major contribution to the landscape of Britain, though probably few today realise what they are seeing. Had Bill not been along with me to point these things out, I'm sure I would never have guessed either.

In town, about a mile south of Burnside/Borestone/Pitcon, we also found the town hall,

the library

and the Catholic church,

which all would have been there in the 1880s.

We found our way to Glasgow Vennel (a street name -- "vennel" apparently being a fancy French word for the less elegant 'alley').

It has been returned to how it would have looked when Robert Burns lodged in one of the houses there, 1781-2.

All of Ayrshire makes a very big deal of it's favourite son and main claim to fame. Having read about how he treated his wife and died in poverty after having achieved so much, I'm afraid I think he was a bit of a waster, though he did do good poetry.

Cottages in Glasgow Vennel are weavers' cottages, very like in size to miners' cottages.

My main -- truth be known, my only -- interest in Glasgow Vennel was the North Ayrshire Family History Library, which was totally wonderful except for the frustrating fact that I didn't have weeks and weeks to spend there. It is the least expensive and most useful family history library I've seen yet here in Britain and I must go back there some time.

I've put all the photos - good and bad -- onto Photobucket. If you're interested in seeing them, send me an email and I'll give you the link.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Robert Burns is among any number of individuals who achieved greatness and ended up with nothing. So sad.