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New Cumnock Swimming Pool : 1st Season


The renovated New Cumnock Town Hall

Following the recent opening of New Cumnock Town Hall renovated and refurbished  by the Great Steward of Scotland Dumfries House Trust, the Trust’s attention turns to New Cumnock Swimming Pool.  The pool has enjoyed a rejuvenated lease of life under Afton Water Leisure Limited and has ensured this ‘open-aired icon’ is held dear to the hearts of the people of New Cumnock.


Plans for the New Pool

New Cumnock Town Hall was originally built in 1888 and the New Cumnock Swimming Pool built just across the road and opened 80 years later on 1st June 1968. So what was happening in the town at that time?

Leafing through the Cumnock Chronicle of the time the following snippets help tell part of that story.

New Cumnock Swimming Pool 1967

27th January 1967

Cumnock District Council asked architects to report on the heating of the New Cumnock Pool . The lowest offer totalling £1284 17s was from the Electricity Board and under it, heating would cost approximately £750 per season. The local committee recommended the council accept this offer. But after discussion at the monthly meeting of the council the members agreed to go to the question of coal-fired heating.

24th February 1967


  • Electricity Installation £1284 17s and running costs £750 May-Sep
  • Coal fired installation £6,100 and running costs £340 May-Sep

Some of the outstanding work completed.The builders need to know if it is electric or coal. If we installed a boiler house would it interfere with the roof we are going to put over the pool. “Time is going on and the work is stopped at the moment”.

21st April 1967

After about 10 months absence workmen appeared at the swimming pool in the Castle this week. They have been tidying the surrounds of the pool which had been left untouched from last year. We understand a start has been made on the job installing the £6,600 coal-fired heating plant. { Seems there was a change of plan!}

As yet there is no date for the eventual opening of the pool which was originally scheduled for opening on 15th July 1966.

19th May 1967

No one is prepared to commit himself to a positive date for the opening of the swimming pool at the community centre . however our reporter was told there was a chance the pool might open in August for a two or three week season. Even that would be better than having to wait till next summer for the opening originally scheduled for last July.

Meanwhile workmen have been busy laying concrete slabs around the pool . A water chute and a perimeter fence have still to be erected and the water heating equipment has not yet been installed.

23rd June 1967


At their meeting on Monday nigh Cumnock District Council agreed to pay a £325 cancellation charge to South of Scotland Electricity Board. But not without an argument.The charge was levied by the board because the council changed their minds about heating New Cumnock swimming pool after placing an order for electrical heating equipment with the board. They switched to coal-fired heating.

But the Board claimed an order for the equipment had already been placed with a manufacturer. They had in fact been urged by the council to speed the delivery of the equipment to New Cumnock.  The manufacturer cancellation charge was £150 and the balance of the charge was to pay for the designing etc. services to the Board. Many meetings had been held and planning had been well advanced when the order was cancelled.

Old Rubbish! said Drongan Councillor W. Reid “that is a load of old rubbish  – the Board are not usually so quick off their mark. But chairman Hall claimed “The boiler was delivered to New Cumnock before it was cancelled’. Councillor Mrs Allan said “They seem to act more quickly when it suits them”. Chairman “We should not condemn the Board for rushing a job at our request”.

30th June 1967

The themes of the floats (lorries) at the annual New Cumnock Gala Day were renowned for reflecting world events and 1967 was no different.

  • The Town School’s lorry “Common Marketeers” was a reaction to Charles de Gaulle, President of France blunt ‘Non’ to Britain’s application to join the Common Market.
  • Burnton Place’s  lorry “The Greatest” celebrated Celtic’s famous European Cup victory that year along with winning all the domestic competitions in Scotland and claiming the only thing hadn’t won was the Heavy Weight title and the centre-piece of their display was Jock Stein squaring up to Cassius Clay.
  • Lochbrowan Crescent lorry took its name from the topical satirical TV show “The Frost Report” with reference to the outdoor swimming pool at New Cumnock having no heating

25th August 1967

The interior of the pond area of the new swimming pool has now been painted light blue. From the road it looks almost as if the pool was full of water. This has proved confusing to some people – especially the pair who dived into the “depths” only to find themselves counting blue stars!

The New Cumnock pool was to be constructed at the north side of the New Cumnock Community Centre while to the south the extension to Messrs C.W.Hall factory was near to completion.

8th September 1967

There is no truth in the rumour which has been circulating to the effect that the new swimming pool will be for children aged 16 and under. It will be open to the general public regardless of age. Whether you are 5 or 95 you are still welcome to take a dip – when the pool opens next year.

The main topic in the town that summer however was the proposed closure of Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery an act that Alex Timpany, local National Union of Mineworkers delegate branded as ‘This announcement is New Cumnock’s shame’ He went on to explain. ‘But it is only what we predicted when the Coal Board asked for a partial closure of the pit a few weeks ago. We are opposing this move with every resource we can draw on and this time we have the support of our union at the Scottish level.‘ Some 360 men worked at Knockshinnoch while only 196 vacancies were available in other pits  – Barony, Minnivey, Beoch, Pennyvenie, Highhouse and Cairnhill.

New Cumnock Swimming Pool 1968

Hopes of reprieve of sorts for Knockshinnoch were shattered and the pit along with Fauldhead in neighbouring Kirkconnel were closed on 3rd February with a combined loss of 900 jobs while vacancies with unemployment in New Cumnock expected to soar to 17%.

17th May 1968

On the 17th May with the summer season it was reported that the swimming pool would be open within the next 10 days.  The inside of the pool had to be repainted because of chipping and it was hoped to have that completed by the end of the following week. After that filtration experts will visit the pool and set the chlorination level and turn on the heating system.

In the meantime signposts into New Cumnock were adorned with the name ‘Afton Water’ to reinforce the parish’s connection with Robert Burns

The District Council received fourteen  applications for the position of paybox attendant and the successful applicant was Mrs Nisbet, Afton Road. There were two applications for the post of pool assistant and Richard Bain, Greenbraes Drive was offered the job.

1st June 1968

The Council also announced that there had been a further delay in opening but it is hoped that it be open to the public on Saturday 1st June with the official opening ceremony incorporated into the start of the New Cumnock Gala Week.


New Cumnock Swimming Pool and Community Centre  & Tennis Courts

New Cumnock’s new swimming pool quickly became an overnight success and tuition classes were established for the pupils of the Town Junior Secondary School and Cairnhill Primary School. The Chronicle quipping ‘ with the temperature of the water in the 70’s it must be the most popular form of instruction in the school.’ There was also a very successful Tuesday class for ladies learning to swim taken by the poolmaster and two local lads and again The Chronicle couldn’t resist ‘ and we understand that every member of the group can remain afloat’.


Town school pupils enjoying a dip

Midnight Bathing on a Saturday night also proved to be popular initially for adults only, with the exclusion of ‘intoxicated persons’. Seasons tickets were not valid and admission was two shillings (10 pence) for the 10pm – midnight session, with the added attraction of late transport being laid on to ‘the usual places’.  A late night session for children was later introduced with a one shilling admission (5p) for the 9pm -10 pm session.


Senior girls from Town School

An indication of the popularity of the swimming pool was reported by W. Hall, District Councillor in the Chronicle of the 21st June reflecting usage over the opening 2 weeks.

  • Adult Season Tickets: 81 ;  Juvenile Season Tickets: 332
  • Adult Daily Admissions: 2,050 ; Juvenile Admissions 2,859
  • Spectators 3,071
  • Cash draw to last Sunday (16th June): £649 9s 9d
  • The pool cost £18,000 of which the Government paid £10,000 by way of a grant.

A bullish Mr Hall concluded ‘ it certainly isn’t sitting there like an ornament – it is being well used‘.

Final touches were added with coloured wind-breaks erected around the edge of the pool while the front of the pool facing the road was landscaped with grass sown and trees planted. The Chronicle did receive one complaint about the pool but informed its readers that they had refused to publish it because the letter was unsigned and anonymous.

The opening of the new swimming pool made it a very special Gala Week in the history of New Cumnock and the honour of being New Cumnock Community Gala Queen that year fell to Miss Irene Rorison, Polquheys Road. Her attendants that year were

  • Herald: Donald Nisbet
  • Crown Bearer: Robert Park
  • Ladies in Waiting : Mary Brown & Aileen Goudie
  • Train Bearers: Grace Hanlon & Margaret Burns
  • Pages: James McLintock, Alex Hamilton, James Davidson
  • Community Queen of 1967: Miss Amelia Gilmour


Mrs Douglas, the wife of Mr Douglas, Headmaster of New Cumnock Junior Secondary Junior Secondary crowns Gala Queen Irene Rorrison at Greenhead Park.


The Westland Drive lorry wins 1st prize in the most original prize for ‘Death of an Industry’ a stark reminded of the closure of Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery.


The Redree Place lorry retained their 1st place in ‘Best Dressed’ category with Cinderella – and that looks my big pal Brian Clapperton as Prince Charming.


Some of the Gala Day walkers congregate at Greenhead Park.


With the schools closing for the summer it was the chance for a Parents ‘open’ day at the Town School and here Miss Anne Boyle is showing some of the pupils of Primary 2 work.



  • The Cumnock Chronicle 1967-1968
  • The Great Steward of Scotland Dumfries House Trust

Arthur Memorial Display


There’s a (fairly modern!) hymn that says,

‘The Church is not a building, the Church is not a steeple, the Church is not a resting place, the Church is people.’

Well, Arthur Memorial Church building, steeple and all have well and truly gone, but the fantastic stories and memories (and, yes, the people!) remain, preserved in the minds and hearts of former AM members and folk in the the village of New Cumnock and in the contents of a Time Capsule dating back to 1912 and 1843. If you have any photos, stories, etc. take them to the Parish Church Hall on Thursdays from 9.45 to 11.45 or send me a message. Then please come to the Display!

Reverend Helen Cuthbert

Howatson of Craigdarroch

The headstone of Andrew Howatson of Craigdarroch and his family sits against the ruins of the Auld Kirk of New Cumnock in a place of note only a few yards from the lair of the Reverend Thomas Hunter, minister of the parish from 1705-1757 before he passed away three years later. The inscription on stone to the immediate left of the Howatson stone has been lost and this stone too may belong the same family.


Howatson headstone with the Rev. Thomas Hunter’s lair in the background

The Howatson stone is damaged and the main part of the stone covers the base now to the rear which also carries some inscription. Thankfully that was recorded by the Manpower Service Commission (MSC) team during the fantastic work they carried out in the 1970’s .


Howatson Headstone

The inscription reads (with the coloured text taken from MSC inscription)



The headstone was erected by Charles Howatson in memory of his grandfather Andrew Howatson of Craigdarroch, the eldest son of Andrew Howatson and his wife Margaret Campbell of Pencloe.

A. Andrew Howatson (I) & Margaret Campbell (Pencloe)

Pencloe Altogether four of Andrew and Margaret’s children were born at Pencloe with three daughters Margaret (1710), Jean (1712) and another Jean (1715) arriving before Andrew (1719).  Pencloe farm is situated in Glen Afton some two miles or so from the village. In the baptismal records of the children the names appears in the form Penclove.

The family moved another two miles or so up the Afton valley to live at Craigdarroch where two sets of twins Hugh & James (1723) and Helen & John (1725) were born before Ann (1729) completed the family.

B. Andrew Howatson (II) of Craigdarroch (b.1719 , d. 1796)

Craigdarroch farm lies in the shadow of the majestic Stayamera  (or Craigbraneoch hill as it is formally known)  a distinctive landmark within  the parish.  This was a prime sheep farm and the Howatson property would include the neighbouring herd’s cottage of Monthraw, further still up the Afton valley, earning it the appellation ‘The Lone Monthraw’.

Craigdarroch with Craigbraneoh Hill and Stayemera rock face to the right

Craigdarroch with Craigbraneoh Hill and Stayemera rock face to the right

Unfortunately, as yet I have been unable to identify Andrew’s spouse nor can I track the births or baptisms of his children in the Old Parish Records of New Cumnock or neighbouring parishes. However, from the headstone we know he had a son Charles.

C. Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry (b. 1757, d. 1822) & Margaret Reid (b. 1768 , d. 1837)

Charles appears to be the first born son of Andrew Howatson and succeeded his father in Craigdarroch and Monthraw.

The Lone Monthraw Where man never heard His neighbour's cock craw

Ruins of Monthraw Cottage “The Lone Monthraw Where man never heard His neighbour’s cock craw”

He married Margaret Reid the eldest daughter of John Reid of Duncanziemuir and Cronberry in the parish of Auchinleck. Together they had  daughters Mary (1791) and Jennet (1793) born at Craigdarroch. While at Auchinleck seven more children were born – Marion (1797), Andrew (1800), Jane (1804), Agnes (1806), William (1808), Ann (1810) and Charles (1813) – all born presumably in Auchinleck parish.

In 1798 Charles was a tenant in Cronberry of his father-in-law John Reid [1] and in the same year his name appears in the Horse Tax Rolls both in Cronberry (6 horses – 3 liable for tax) and Craigdarroch (all 3 horses liable for tax – a total of six shillings).

Blaeu Atlus Novus Courtesy of National Library of Scotland - Cronberry & Duncanziemuir

Blaeu Atlus Novus Courtesy of National Library of Scotland – Cronberry & Duncanziemuir

In the land tax rolls of 1803, Charles Howatson has to pay £136 13s for Craigdarroch and Monthraw, the money for the absentee proprietor paid by William McKnight in the Old Mill. Charles Howatson died in December 1822 and his wife Margaret passed away five years later and are both buried in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.

C1: Andrew Howatson MD of Cronberry (b.1800 d. 1827)

Notes from the Scottish Jurist (1830) reveal that the Howatson’s had fell on hard times. [2]

Andrew succeeded to the lands of Craigdarroch , Monthraw and Cronberry ‘burdened with heritable debts amounting to £4200 and personal debts to £2000‘ .  His brother-in-law John Murdoch (husband of Margaret Howatson), a cotton yarn merchant in Paisley, took up the management of Andrew’s affairs and determined that his succession amounted to £8108 and his debts were £8008, and advised the properties be put up for sale. Murdoch then made the offer to buy the properties for £7500 and pay the creditors of 14s in the £1 of their debts, which was accepted.

That John Murdoch was acting in the interest of Andrew Howatson was evident in a letter he had sent to a friend of his brother-in-law.

Cumnock 12th February, 1825

In consequences of some observations just now made by Mr. David McKerrow*, I think proper to intimate, that the offer I made yesterday is entirely for the behoof of our mutual friend Mr Andrew Howatson, which I wish you understand; and if I hold the lands at all, it will only be until I am refunded for the (sums) I lay out.

*McKerrow was the husband of Mary Howatson, sister of Murdoch’s wife Margaret.

Matters took a turn for the worse when Murdoch was declared bankrupt in March 1826 and Andrew Howatson M.D. died in April of the following year, aged 27 years and his name appears on the headstone in the Auld Kirk.

C2: William Howatson (1808-1882) and Jane Samson (1811-1891)

William the second son of Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry established himself as a tenant farmer at Mortommuir, Cronberry. He married Jane Samson the daughter of George Samson of  Rigg, Auchinleck at Auchinleck Mill (1831) and together had 13 children. William is buried in Auchinleck Kirkyard and the grand obelisk he had erected carries the names, among others, of his father Charles, mother Margaret and brother Alexander , all of whom are named in the stone in the Auld Kirkyard of New Cumnock and are buried there.

Covenanters Memorial Muirkirk Cemetery, erected by Charles Howatson

Covenanters Memorial Muirkirk Cemetery, erected by Charles Howatson of Glenbuck

Charles Howatson of Glenbuck

The eldest son of William Howatson worked for many years as manager of Muirkirk Ironworks . He also acquired many farms in his home parish of Auchinleck before purchasing the Glenbuck Estate in Muirkirk, where had the grand Glenbuck house built.

He raised the Glenbuck flock of blackface sheep to a national reputation and won a record twelve blue ribbons in succession at the Highland and Agricultural Society.

His interest in the Covenanters is shown in the magnificent memorial had erected to their memory at Muirkirk Cemetery.

Charles Howatson of Glenbuck is buried in Auchinleck Kirkyard.

C3. Charles Howatson (b.1814, d. 1856) & Margaret Currie (b.1806,  d. 1894)

Charles, was the third son of Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry. He married Margaret Currie the daughter of William Currie, farmer at Crofthead in the parish of Ochiltree and his wife Ann Train. Together they had six children, Charles (1838), William (1840), Andrew (1843), John (1845) , Margaret (1846) and James (1848).

Eldest son Charles was born at Ochiltree, presumably at Crofthead farm, and baptized at Stair Church.  Father Charles was working as clerk at Old Cumnock at that time and by the time the second son William was born the Howatson’s had moved to Glaisnock Cottage in  Cumnock, where the rest of the family was born.  Also living at the cottage was Charles’s sister, Craigdarroch born Janet.

Glaisnock Cottage, Old Cumnock

Glaisnock Cottage, Old Cumnock ‘Courtesy of Cumnock History Club’

Charles had progressed from clerk to accountant working with branch of the Ayrshire Bank on the west side of Cumnock Square. His name appears as one of the Commissioners (along with that of Matthew McKerrow, bank agent in the branch of the Bank of Scotland on the south side of the Square) in the sequestration of the estates of local businessmen, including Robert Wylie, gunmaker & innkeeper in Auchinleck (Edinburgh Gazette, 10th Sept 1843).

In 1845 the Ayrshire Bank was taken over by the Western Bank of Scotland and the premises rebuilt which in 1857, after the bank failed, were acquired by the Clydesdale Bank. [3]

However, these were desperate times for the Howatson family, sons 12 year old John and 19 year old Charles, a banker’s clerk, both died of consumption that year; their father Charles having died the previous year, aged 43 years. All three lie together in the family lair at the kirkyard in New Cumnock.

The three other sons died in the Americas – Andrew in Kingston, Jamaica; James in Berbice, British Guiana and the Honorable William Howatson in Trinidad – where he served in the Chamber of Commerce.

Margaret , the only daughter, married William McGeachin who worked as an ironmoner in his father’s business in the Square. They lived at East Elm Cottage and then later in Tower Street. Their only son, William followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and worked as a bank clerk in the Lanark branch of the Clydesdale Bank. While serving as a captain in the Highland Light Infantry he fought in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I.  [Cumnock History Group,WWI Soldiers].

Mother, Margaret Howatson continued to live at Glaisnock Cottage, before passing away in 1894 at the grand age of 88 years before being laid to rest with her husband and sons along side the wall of the Auld Kirk of New Cumnock.

Auld Kirk and Corsencon hill


[1] The Correspondence of James Boswell with James Bruce and Andrew Gibb overseers of the Auchinleck Estate (Edit by Nellie Pottle Hankins and John Strawhorn)

[2] The Scottish Jurist, Containing Reports of Cases Decided in the House of Lords, Courts of Session, Teinds, and Exchequer, and the Jury and Justiciary Courts (1830)

[3] A New History of Cumnock (1966)  , John Strawhorn



Howatson Plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard


Howatson Family plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard

Howatson Family plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard


William Howatson MD of Craigdarroch

Andrew Howatson MD of Craigdarroch

John Paterson – Banker

Sharing information

School Children recording details from William Hunter’s headstone

One of the headstones that we have selected for the School Discovery trail is that of William Hunter. In 1860, the City of Glasgow Bank opened a branch at Pathhead with William as its agent – the first banker in New Cumnock. But we will save William Hunter’s story for our School interactive application.

John Paterson Headstone

John Paterson’s Headstone

A walk around the kirkyard will reveal not one but two headstones to another banker, John Paterson and his family. The first is found against the kirkyard wall, close to the entrance. Named on the stone are –

  • John Paterson, latterly banker in Maryhill (d. 1915, aged 80)
  • widow Mary Howatson McKerrow (d. 1916, aged 81)
  • daughter Maggie Dickie (d. 1866, aged 13 1/2 months)
  • son John (d. 1871, aged 4 years and 3 months)
  • a son and daughter who died in infancy
  • son James (d. 1884, aged 22 years)
  • son David McKerrow (d. Brisbane, Queensland 1915, aged 52 years)
Two Paterson Headstones

Two Paterson Headstones

Further along the kirkyard a second headstone is found which names all of the above  family members and the following children who died in later years –

  • son Peter (d.1929, aged 63 years)
  • son John (d.1947, aged 73 years)
  • son Frank William (d. 1948, aged 77 years)
  • daughter Margaret Dickie (d. 1956, aged 87 years)

 From Draper to Bank Agent

John Paterson was born in 1835, the son of James Paterson, draper in Cumnock. In 1860, now also a draper based at Holmhead, Cumnock he married Mary Howatson McKerrow of Roadinghead Farm, Auchinleck. Together they had a large family as witnessed from the names above. Their son Peter appears to be the first born in New Cumnock, in 1866 at the Post Office which sat adjacent to the Crown Inn and its coach house – a staging post for the mail coaches.

Left: OS 1843-1882  Right: OS 1892_1905

Left: OS 1843-1882   – Post Office                                            Right: OS 1892_1905, St, Blanes (red circle)

The following year the Royal Bank of Scotland opened a branch at nearby St. Blanes  [1]  and in the 1871 Census, John and Mary Paterson are resident in the ‘Bank Office and House’,with John’s profession now that of general merchant. Ten years later they are still in residence there with John’s profession now recorded as ‘Royal Bank Agent and draper’. Ten more years and in the 1891 census,  John is recorded as a ‘Royal Bank Agent and Justice of the Peace’, although the branch closed two years earlier [1].

St. Blanes, 1 Castle, New Cumnock

St. Blanes, 1 Castle, New Cumnock (on front left)

From New Cumnock to Maryhill

After 25 years based in New Cumnock (where children Peter, Maggie, Frank and John all were born), John and Mary Paterson moved to Maryhill in Glasgow , where John continued to work as an agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The family appear in the 1901 Census records for Maryhill , including a grand-daughter Cessie born in Queensland, Australia – presumably the daughter of David McKerrow Paterson, named in the headstone in the Auld Kirkyard. Ten years later, John (now a retired bank agent) and Mary are both in the mid 70’s and son John has progressed from bank clerk to bank agent,while sons Peter and Frank are both solicitors.

John Paterson, passed away in 1915, aged 80 years at Gartnavel Hospital and his widow Mary passed away the following year.


[1] George Sanderson ‘New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway’

Thanks to Hamish Paterson, Australia , descendant


New Cumnock Community Action Plan 2014-2019

Had a fantastic time at the New Cumnock Community Action Plan event in the Community Centre. What a tremendous turnout and great to see so many people taking an active interest and having their say in shaping our future.  Add to that the superb entertainment provided by our young folk and those younger at heart….. New Cumnock’s got talent indeed. Of course the tea, coffee and home-baking went down a treat too!

To the business of the day ……


We asked you what you wished for your community by the year 2020.

Here is a summary of the collective vision for the future of New Cumnock taken from the household survey and stakeholder interviews.

  • We will have a healthy local economy creating jobs, and provide quality amenities, goods and services for locals and visitors.
  • We will be known as an attractive place to live and visit.
  • We will have made the most of our local heritage and environment.
  • We will have good community and recreational facilities for locals and visitors …… and good community organisations, activities and events.


I was delighted to host a stall on behalf of the New Cumnock Liaison Group and share the progress and plans for our Auld Kirk and Village Heritage Trail.New Cumnock Community Action Plan 02

Thank you to everyone who visited the ‘Auld Kirk and Village Heritage trail’ stall and sharing their memories of the kirkyard. It was great to hear how some people had only noticed the Auld Kirk ruins, now that ivy had been removed, while out on their walks to the lagoons.