There were very few changes in Minishant from my Father's youth until my own. Of course people came and went, either taken by death or lured away to some far country. The McCurdies were typical - Blacksmith Willie died and his family scattered to America and New Zealand. His son, another William, became a junior surveyor in the Taranaki Province of New Zealand during the Maori wars of the 1880s, where he carried the teetotalism precepts of the Minishant schoolmaster Johnnie Clark, all his life. Willie McCurdie met with as many adventures in Minishant as he did in the Antipodes. Once when he and two Douglas boys, who were his closest friends, went swimming in the river Doon, they discovered an eel in a hole in the river bank with only its head showing. They took a spade and, at a stroke, almost severed the eel's head. However, as young McCurdie caught the eel it locked its jaws on his chest and the Douglases had to rescue him. He bore the scars of the eel's teeth for the rest of his life.
If Willie McCurdie followed his old teacher's advice to spurn alcohol there were plenty who didn't in those days. His uncle John Ross from Auchendrane was devoted to a wee dram and one night he had the misfortune to bump into a tree as he walked home with his bottle. Feeling a wet-ness on his coat he said, "I hope to God it's blood". On another occasion he did have the misfortune to break the demijohn he was carrying but, never daunted, he marched all the way home with a firm grip on the broken-off handle.
John, like others in the village, was a good craftsman who made violins and the McCurdie family still have in their possession an exquisite little walnut box in which is a tiny note reading, "Made by John Ross, Auchendrane, on the banks of the Doon, for his daughter Mary Ross; given by her to her son and by him to his daughter". I too have a memento of Minishant craftsmanship - a beautiful writing desk made by John Douglas, who helped to rescue Willie McCurdie from the eel.
Blacksmith Willie McCurdie's grand-daughters are still in New Zealand and his grandson is in South Africa. His great-grand-daughter is back in England - Such is the cycle of life. One thing has remained constant through all the McCurdie generations: deep love for Minishant which has drawn them back to see the place.
Perhaps the most obvious change from my father's youth was the closing of the Wauk Mill, leaving only the more efficient steam mill. James Limond "the Drummer" who built the new mill, died about 1898 and left the business to his nephew, another James. However, young James was already settled in the family ironmongery business in Ayr, so another nephew, Andrew, then in the Civil Service in London, returned to Minishant to take over the mill. Andrew Limond ran the blanket mill until it closed in 1950, victim of a world which was changing once again.
After Sir Peter Coats died his son, James Coats, sold Auchendrane to a member of the Cayzer shipping family, and they put it up for sale during the First World War. The house was badly damaged by fire while it lay empty and James Galloway, then living in Monkwood, bought it and reroofed it at a lower level, cutting out the old attic storey. His son, Thomas L. Galloway, inherited Auchendrane and became a generous benefactor to the village.
Monkwood still belonged to the Paterson family, but they lived in the South arid never occupied it. The house was always let and the estate run by their factor, Major James Murdoch from Ayr. Although Mr. Paterson was our landlord at Monkwood Mains, I remember meeting him only once, when Major Murdoch brought him and Mrs. Paterson to see the farm. My first child was a baby in her pram and Mrs. Paterson admired her and asked me her name. I told her it was Amelia Jane. Murdoch turned and asked in his querulous way, "Is that a fancy name?"
by this sample of what Burns would have called "factor's snash", I
said, "It was my mother's name".
On the High Road Donald Cross was now in Otterden and Sauchrie belonged to T.C. (later Sir Charles) Dunlop, one of the Dunlops of Doonside. Grange was in the hands of a family called McMikin, whose daughter, Miss Nora, used to come to our School for Prize Exam Day to hand out our prizes. As a child I used to think Miss Nora was the most beautiful person and I could never understand how such tragedy as she suffered could befall anyone so pretty - one harvest day during the First World War her father suddenly went berserk and shot his wife and his young son as they were packing the boy's clothes for him to leave for school.
One of my earliest memories of the village was the terrible snowstorm, unexpected because Minishant is a remarkably sheltered place which suffers less in winter than other parts of Carrick. This storm came on November term day 1911, when all the farmers were moving the household goods of their cotmen who were changing jobs. By after-noon the road was blocked, flittings had to be abandoned and horses unyoked and stabled in the smiddy while the drivers were given shelter in houses all over the village.
Johnnie Clark retired in 1912 after 55 years as "Maister" of Minisharit School and his successor Hugh McEwan must have felt he was facing a daunting task to fill his place. Our new "Maister" belonged to Ardrishaig in Argyll where he had begun his career as a pupil teacher in 1889. He moved on to the Church of Scotland Training College in Glasgow and taught at Tarbert, Annan, Dunoon and Stornoway, until he was recommended for a post in the Transvaal in the period after the Boer War. He came to Minishant from Carrick Academy where he had been teaching for three and a half years, so he knew the district well from the start.
The new "Maister" quickly established himself and with his wife virtually ran the village for the next 27 years. He became secretary to the management committee of the Church, he superintended Sunday Schools at Knockdon for High Road children and at Minishant for those from the Low Road, and he ran the Peace Celebration and War Memorial Committees at the end of the First World War. Mrs. McEwan took up where her husband's work ended and was the driving force behind the establishment of the village hail and the local branch of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute.
Walking around the district to do all this work, Mr. McEwan soon earned his name "The Maister" as his own. He and Mrs. McEwan never asked for thanks but when their silver wedding came round in 1935 the village gave a party for them and presented "the Maister" with a gold hunter watch. Hugh McEwan probably appreciated even more the Ayrshire Post's "epitaph" on his life's work when he retired in 1939. "A popular and painstaking headmaster", the report said, "Mr. McEwan has always maintained a happy relationship between himself and his pupils".
I can vouch for that for I was taught by "the Maister" in my last year at school - and so can my children who were also taught by him. His soft Highland lilt, so gentle beside our broad Ayrshire voices, was magic when he told us strange stories of South Africa and life there - of deserts, kraals and a queer crop called mealies.
It was a long walk up the hill to the School and often we arrived so wet that we had to take off shoes and socks and pick a pair from a boxful kept beside the fire, and place our wet ones beside the fire to steam themselves dry while we wrestled with long division and adverbs. The pupils brought cans of tea which stewed on the bob till dinnertime. I have never liked stewed tea since!
Often we were tired by the time we got to school because many of us had done half a day's work feeding hens and calves before we set out, but we had to concentrate hard on our lessons, for the Maister was as diligent as Johnnie Clark had been. Nevertheless, I'm sure he turned a blind eye from time to time when a farm child dozed for he knew the child had another half day's work to do on returning home. At harvest time there were empty seats in class on a good day. "Ma faither needed me tae stook corn" was a common excuse and provided it didn't happen too often, it was accepted.
Monday was the worst night for us farm children: dozens of eggs had to be washed and packed ready for the market on Tuesday morning. Peter Geary, a boarded out patient from Glasgow who worked at Monkwood Mains for forty years, had to carry the baskets out to the door ready to be loaded on to the pony trap.
Peter had terribly misshapen feet and shambled along turning every step into a tightrope walk. One morning Peter brought out his first basket, then returned with a second placing his large awkward foot straight into the first one.
I've never seen so many broken eggs, or such a rush to fetch baking bowls, soup plates and basins. And for weeks we baked cakes and pancakes by the dozen. It was an ill wind that blew some good for all of us who saw few cakes at other times.
Charabancs now brought visitors on excursions from Ayr, and from one of those tourists I learnt a lesson in observation. A gentleman stopped me on the way home from school one day and asked the name of the road, pointing towards the school.
School Brae", I replied.
I rushed home and asked my Granny the proper name of the School Brae. "Kewnston Avenue", she replied. It was a lesson I never forgot.
The War in 1914 seemed remote from Minishant when it broke out, but soon we were fully occupied knitting for those who left, and doing their work on their land. Out of the 300 or so people in this district, largely agricultural and therefore mostly exempt from military service, no fewer than 63 men served in the armed forces. Inevitably those sad telegrams began to arrive with news that someone wouldn't return - 10 out of the 63 by the end of the War.
We rushed into the Peace as wholeheartedly as we had embraced the War, forming a Peace Celebration Committee under "the Maister" to arrange our festivities, which consisted mainly of a parade to the recreation field beside the church for a great picnic and sports day.
We didn't forget those who failed to return from the War. About £3,000 was raised to erect a memorial to the War dead of Maybole parish, but Minishant wasn't satisfied with a memorial four miles away. "The Maister" put the village's feeling on the matter into words: "It wasn't that we didn't trust Maybole: it was because we didn't desire that the individuality of Minishant should be lost or merged into the larger scheme embraced by Maybole". Alexander ("Sanny") Wyllie of Laigh Midton was first to propose a War Memorial in the village and as a result a committee was formed - with "the Maister" as secretary naturally.
At a ceremony on Sunday, the 20th of June 1920, following a service for the Church which was filled to over-flowing, the War Memorial was dedicated and unveiled. Major James Murdoch, factor to Monkwood estate, unveiled the granite cross in the church grounds and in doing so he was able to speak from personal knowledge of the men of the district who had served in the War.
The names of the ten who died were carved on the base of the cross: so too were those of the 53 who had returned. Among the 63 names were those of two brothers who died and a father and son who had come back. There were three Military Medal winners and a number of Mentions in Despatches.
Auchendrane, with its small army of house staff and gardeners, contributed most to the list of dead - brothers Alexander and Allan Wilkie who lived at the Back Lodge, George Scott the chauffeur's son, and Louis Damier and S. Forbes. Three were from the village - A. Harvey, William Limond and Robert Ramsay; the last two came from the High Road - James Hilihouse from Beoch and Walter Shaw from Garryhorn.
Peace seemed to bring as many problems as war had done. First there was the great influenza epidemic in which whole families were stricken, so that we did our own milk-ing and then trudged to one of the neighbours to do theirs. When our turn came to fall victims, these same neighbours helped us. Granny Orr died in 1922, Uncle Willie died the next year, then Aunt Bella retired and we took over Monkwood Mains, just in time to face the years of General Strike, depression and poverty. Times were hard and the future far from clear. When I think of low prices and rising rents, I recall the story of James Watt of Brae of Auchendrane, who once went to his laird to ask for a reduction of his rent because times were so hard.
home, Watt", said the laird. "Brae won't beat you and me".
He got his rent reduced and what's more, the bargain was put in writing.
At Minishant we were as determined as anywhere to build a land fit for the heroes who had fought for us in the Great War.
One of the first post-War improvements was the establishment of the village's own agricultural show with the formation of the Monkwood and Minishant Foal Show Society in 1919. The society's first show took place in the kirk holm on Monkwood Mains ground on the 8th of November that year with 84 entries. Foals came from neighbouring parishes and David Douglas of Balcamie at Dailly was the principal prizewinner. Soon the Minishant Foal Show, the last agricultural show of the season, was the talk of the countryside and it was attracting the best horses from a wide area. Walter Gardner, a Maybole veterinary surgeon, became its secretary and enthusiastic supporter. By the early 1920s Minishant Show was a force in the farming world, but now the womenfolk gave it a boost which changed its character.
"Women's Lib" hadn't been thought of in those days and we certainly didn't recognise its germinating seeds when they sprouted among us. Of course we had done more work in the fields during the War but we didn't think too much about voting or becoming M.P.s. In 1923 Mrs. Sylvia Kennedy, then living at Monkwood House, suggested that the village should have a branch of the recently inaugurated Women's Rural Institute movement. A meeting was called at her house and 47 members were enrolled for what must have been the first or nearly the first "Rural" in our part of Ayrshire. With Mrs. McEwan as secretary the "Rural" flourished from the start, and has continued to do so for 60 years.
The coming of the "Rural" served only to show up the need for a hall for the village. Up to then meetings, Sunday School soirees and all such gatherings took place in the reading room of the Church, but this was quite inadequate, so Minishant women, being Minishant women, did something about it.
At the instigation of his wife, Colonel Kennedy of Monkwood called a meeting in the reading room on Thursday the 27th of November 1924 and put to the large crowd who turned up the idea of creating a hail for the village. The choice was to put up a new building, to erect a simple wooden hut or to convert the disused, ruined wauk mill which had been offered by Mr. Paterson, its owner, on a 21-year lease at only £12 a year.
This last plan was adopted arid there and then a Committee was set up with Finance and Building sub-committees to raise the necessary money and arrange the re-building of the old mill. That same night Colonel and Mrs. Kennedy each promised £50 and Mr. C. Thomson of Brae offered a further £50. A letter was also drafted and sent out to every person with the remotest Minishant connection - including the Coats and Cayzers formerly of Auchendrane, and blacksmith Willie McCurdie's son who had been in New Zealand for 40 years. By Christmas they had promises of £548. 7s. (including £125 from Major T.L. Galloway of Auchendrane) and had agreed to a building scheme which would cost £536. A month later the fund stood at £636 and was still rising. Work raced ahead and by March the committee was ordering chairs, two arid a half dozen card tables at 3s. lid, each, and a secondhand piano. Andrew Swan, the tenant in the house which formed part of the old mill, was offered the job of care-taker and accepted. His remuneration was the tenancy of the house free of rent and rates, light and five tons of coal a year, plus a shilling for every hour he worked after nine o'clock at night.
The new hall, with a splendid dance floor of Oregon pine, was near enough completion to be opened on the 1st of May and by that time £700 had been raised and the "Rural" had promised a further £70.
The new building was known as Minishant Public Hall and Recreation Room - there was no need to name it after any great local benefactor for, apart from Colonel Galloway's donation of £125 and three of £50 each, the money had been raised in relatively small amounts by the people themselves. Minishant folk were always good fund-raisers but in the hail scheme they excelled themselves. The "Rural", under the Maister's wife, Mrs. McEwan, triumphed. It organised whist drives and concerts and we trudged up the hill to the School night after night to practise for these concerts, often taking our children who were too young to be left at home. Mrs. McEwan was never daunted by the size of any task and when she ran out of beds to put children in to sleep while we rehearsed, she simply pulled out drawers from chests in the room and the children in them.
The new hall was opened by Lieutenant-Colonel J.A.C. Houldsworth of Kirkbride who congratulated Minishant folk on their enterprise - they had an agricultural show, a church, a war memorial of their own, a public park and now a "town hail". Next they would be having a Lord Provost, he added. We've never aspired to a Provost, at least not an official one, but in at least two generations we have had someone in the community who was given the nickname because of his ability to run things. That night as we played whist and danced in our hall we all believed our wee Minishant was worth far more than any other place and, with or without a Lord Provost, we wouldn't have swapped it for Edinburgh itself!
The decade following the opening of the hail must have been Minishant's high tide as a community. We were all desperately poor in material things but we had our reading room and library and the hall and recreation room, with summer ice, carpet bowls, whist, draughts, dominoes, badminton, concerts and dances. In January 1926, it was decided to invite John McCrindle from Dunure to lecture on "Birds of Ayrshire" but it took nearly two years for this to be arranged. Talks were not popular!
The committee was made up of canny men - and women too, for the Rural was represented on it always. Colonel Kennedy was Chairman, "the Maister" Secretary and Andrew Limond, Treasurer. In October 1927, the minutes recorded: "Agreed to purchase or otherwise obtain playing cards sufficient for use at whist drives, a charge to be made for use of same". Not a penny was wasted, and it had to be that way for there wasn't a penny to spare. Income from the opening until October 1926 was £50.12s. and expenditure ran to £39.12s.7d. That didn't leave the committee a large margin for error.
Early in 1927 the Rural decided that the hall needed a ladies' room and the indefatigable Mrs. McEwan set about raising money for it. A prize draw brought in £53, donations added a further £9 and a concert and dance cleared £19. Expenses incurred £6, leaving £76 to build the room. The Rural had triumphed again!
Lady Coats Memorial Church was opened in 1878.
Lighting almost defeated the Hail Committee for they never seemed to find satisfactory oil lamps, so in 1929 they approached Ayrshire Electricity Board about providing power to the hall. The Board offered to put in electricity to the Church, Mill, Hall and Monkwood Mains but only if each paid £15. All refused, and the Hall Committee agreed to purchase two new lamps. It wasn't a case of the committee being too poor - at the same time they had £100 to invest in 5% War Loan. They were just too canny to part with £15 at the demand of the Electricity Board!
In 1931 the south wall of the old building began to bulge so it was rebuilt with two retiring rooms added behind the stage. Two years later a water supply was brought in when a new water main was laid to the village and in 1934, when electricity was brought to the Church, the treasurer, Mr. Limond, was despatched to Kilmarnock to ask if the hall could have it too. At last, a year later, when electric power came to the village, the hail was given a supply. It had been a hard struggle to get it, but it had been obtained without paying a premium.
Alongside this development of our social life in the 1920s the Foal Show brought a new dimension to farming. Again the Rural played an important part by setting up a "home industries" section which quickly grew to 167 entries by the end of the decade - this making it a major show with 114 Clydesdales on parade plus considerable sections for dairy produce, seeds, roots, poultry and rabbits.
The kirk holm wasn't large enough to hold it so the show spilled across the main road into the holm up the burn and the hall, which was used for refreshments.
It is hard to make people realise just what the show meant to those of us who were involved in it. In those days shows weren't advertising platforms for agricultural suppliers and manufacturers - the animals were the thing. For weeks before, beasts were groomed and craft exhibits sewn and re-sewn, then a great marquee was erected a few days beforehand. Our show was in November - not the best time for weather and I remember one year the tent was blown down by a gale the night before and everybody had to set to and re-erect it. Nobody got much sleep the night before the show: the men worked by paraffin lamplight to give the beasts their final grooming, while the women were up all night baking and setting up entries in the marquee. Show day itself would have been an anti-climax but for the fact that friends came from miles around; friends we never saw from year to year except at the Foal Show.
Then in the evening there were parties at all the farms, at which the judging was done all over again. I remember Andrew Marr of Blackbyres one year teasing a farmer's wife whose sodaless scones had won first prize, then been disqualified because they had cream in them. Naturally she denied that she had added the cream which was not allowed.
mistress, I think ye had a wee bit o' cream in thae scones", he said to her
in his quiet way.
he tried again. "D'ye ken I think there must hae been cream in thae scones,
To get your name in the papers as a Minishant Show prizewinner - even a disqualified one - was something.
Entries came from far and wide, with Galloway folk particularly strong on the entry lists in the early years. All the big Clydesdale breeders were there; so were the best bakers in the county. Consequently local folk far too seldom featured on the prize list and, looking at the lists of winners, it is heartening among the Craigie Mains arid Dunure Mains horses to see, "Bantam cock or cockerel, any variety soft feathered. 1st Master T.B. Halbert". Tommy Halbert was the son of a railway signalman Matt Halbert and his bantam cock was reared in the shed at the back of their house in the village.
Monkwood and Minishant Foal Show eventually fell victim to its own success. By 1931 it had grown too big to be confined to a couple of Monkwood Mains fields - and in any case the November weather was playing havoc with it and the takings it drew in. So it was decided to move the show to the Ayr Showground at the Dam Park.
The first of the shows at Ayr was held on Wednesday, the 9th of November 1931, and was a resounding success -entries were up by 182 on the previous year, and the home industries section, now thrown open to all comers, hit the roof. Nearly 300 entries arrived from Shetland alone.
In 1932 the Show brought 1,348 entries, again with over 350 from Shetland. And for the first time Scottish Country Dancing competitions were included in the programme. The show was a great success but was barely breaking even financially. Worse, economic depression was deepening and at the Annual General Meeting in 1933 a motion was put "to discontinue the annual show ... owing to the present trade depression and lack of funds", but this was defeated, patrons were found and the 1933 show went ahead in November.
By 1934 the total number of entries had fallen to just 607, a shadow of the early shows at Ayr, but the society lost only £8. The following year saw another drop in exhibitors but 1936 brought an increase. Nevertheless the Ayrshire Post reported that some of the classes had only one entry. Worse still, bad weather spoiled attendance for several years.
That was the last Monkwood and Minishant Show and, although the press of the day suggests that it was a victim of the hard times the country was going through, we in Minishant felt (and still feel) it was the move to Ayr that killed it.
I sometimes wonder how we managed to do all that we did on the farms and still have time for the Rural, the Show and all the hail activities in Winter. Summer was a "dead" season for entertainment because we were too busy in the fields at that time to bother about recreation. Football had always been a popular recreation but in 1936 it was organised into Minishant Amateur Football Club, which has flourished ever since.
On the farms we were up at five in the morning and worked till six at night - longer in the summer - and we had no motor cars to take us around. We walked everywhere: even the mile and a half to the railway station whenever we wanted to go to Ayr. The postman, with his heavy bag of letters, walked all the way from Maybole every day, calling at each farm to Monkwood Mains and Blackbyres before crossing the fields to the High Road to deliver to farms there. He trudged round the countryside, Winter and Summer, without a day off even at New Year. Ne'erday must have been a nightmare for Postie with the bottle appearing at every point of call. I remember one snowy, bitterly-cold Ne'erday when my husband got a phone call from the Postmaster in Maybole to ask if the Postie had been. He had called hours before, but had failed to return to Maybole. A group of men set out in falling darkness along the route Postie should have taken and they found him fast asleep behind a hedge close to the High Road. The Postie suffered nothing more serious than a terrible hang-over but he would have been disciplined and perhaps even sacked if the powers in Edinburgh got to know about it. We all held our tongues and Postie continued to serve us till he retired.
The motor car revolutionised our lives although of course there were few car owners in the village in the 1930s. William Steel, from Ayr, opened a garage in a corrugated iron shed built beside the burn at this time, and slowly his business increased as farming became mechanised and farmers became motorised. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Willie Steel's business was a small one, largely of selling petrol to passing motorists and for much of the time I don't believe even he was motorised, cycling daily from Ayr to unlock his hand-cranked pump and light the stove in his wee office. It was a pleasant way of life and Willie enjoyed it. I believe the only people with cars in Minishant up to 1939, apart from one or two farmers, were Andrew Limond and Jimmy Aird, the joiner. Andrew Limond drove round the district in the same little Baby Austin for a quarter of a century and as many tales are told about them as about Don Quixote and Rosinante. The one I like best concerns the Wee Miller from Grange Mill and Hunter Cowan, son of the farmer at Kewnston. The Wee Miller was learning to drive and in those days a learner didn't need a qualified driver with him, so the Miller was on his own. He drove down the School Road to the Low Road at Kewnston, a notorious blind T-junction, and there stopped his car, got out, ran into the road to check that nothing was coming, and went back to his car, started it up and drove out - straight into Andrew Limond's Baby Austin which was by then approaching from Maybole. The Baby Austin was knocked on to its side and Hunter, alarmed by the crash, rushed out. He found the Wee Miller peering down into the depths of the Baby Austin, repeating over and over again, "I'm very sorry, Mr. Limond ... very sorry, Mr. Limond ... very sorry ..."
who was the mildest of men, lay inside the car, sprawled over his daughter Effie
who was a passenger, and looked up saying again and again, "You're a very
silly, stupid man .. a very silly, stupid man .. a very silly ..."
The Baby Austin was righted and it continued to serve Andrew Limond well for many more years.
Along with the Maister and Thomas Limond the tailor, "Tommy the Tyler" to all, Andrew Limond (a distant relative of the tailor) ran the village's social life - organising the Church, teaching the Sunday School, master-minding hail activities. Consequently his nickname "the Provost" was very appropriate for he carried out a Provost's duties and more. Andrew Limond was a dapper man with an elegant waxed, pointed military moustache. He had lived in the South and his wife came from Yorkshire, so both were well spoken alongside the locals, whose Doric was pretty rough. That always marked them out as different. Andrew's conversation was peppered with the phrases "like you see" and "as it were", often run together to the great amusement of his listeners. He did a lot for the village and I don't think I ever heard him say a critical or un-fair word about anyone. Every generation seemed to bring forward someone with the organising urge to play the Provost role: before Andrew Limond the mantle fell on David Ramsay, who was given the nickname too. I don't think Minishant has a "Provost" now though.
The Post Office continued in the hands of the other Limond family after old Mrs. Limond, the original post-mistress, died. Her son John, usually known as Postie, took it over and ran it until his death in 1922. Mrs. Willie Ramsay succeeded as postmistress and moved the post office to a room in her house, Rowantree Cottage, and she in turn was succeeded by her daughter, Mrs. Sarah Hearton.
The shop, too, continued to be a family business. Mrs. Harrison handed on to her daughter Mrs. Margaret Hunter, who ran the shop right up to 1940, when Mrs. Hearton took it over and combined it with the post office. Mrs. Hunter owned the largest black cat you ever saw, kept on a collar and lead outside the shop and taken for walks by her. The black cat became Mrs. Hunter's trade mark along-side a large advertisement for Black Cat cigarettes at the shop door.
We were lucky to be on the main road south from Ayr because it meant that an excellent bus service grew up in the 1930s, taking us to Ayr in a quarter of an hour. More people began to find jobs in the town and Ayr folks took rooms in the village for the summer, so that menfolk could travel to work in the town while their families enjoyed the country. It was an excellent source of extra income for many a village family.
Grown-ups as well as children looked forward to the Sunday School trip every Summer when three busloads of people went off to Girvan - always Girvan, although that too was a source of annoyance to the more adventurous.
The pattern of the trip was always the same: to Girvan in buses with streamers flying from the windows, a bag of buns and tea at the Cooperative Hall, an hour at the beach or in shops, then sports at Victory Park. With pennies for the winners and a great variety of races, all the children went home with glowing faces and few with empty pockets. What a day that was!
Twice during the 1930s there were special celebrations, the first for King George V's Silver Jubilee when a great picnic with sports was held in a field at Grange, and the second to celebrate the Coronation of King George Vi in 1937 when a similar outing took place at Auchendrane.
By the mid-1930s many of the old cottages of the village were becoming dilapidated. They were small and cramped and had neither inside toilets nor piped water. For more than a century water had come from a hand-pump on the opposite side of the Stank to the village, reached by crossing a fearsome piece of slatted ironwork like a cattle grid below which the Stank could be seen: then a new pump was erected on the same side of the road as the houses. There was a fair chance that, whatever time of the day you passed through Minishant, somebody could be seen trudging to the pump for water. The lack of indoor sanitation was worse. Although there were "privies" up the garden, most houses had an over-night bucket which was emptied into the Stank in the morning. That may have been all right for the Victorian village, but not for the hygiene conscious '30s.
So in 1938 sixteen new houses were planned, eight blocks of semi-detached Canadian timber cottages, to re-house families from the worst of the old houses. These were simply built as a continuation of the straggling vil-lage in one of Bob McKie's Grange Mains fields. They called them Mure Place, but everybody knew them as the "New Houses". They were, and are, lovely cottages with a friendly look, nicely proportioned and comfortable to live in, but they raised a problem - what was to become of the old village?
One house on either side of Peru Cottage and the pair on the Knowe were knocked down and I suppose the others would have gone the same way had outside events not overtaken us. War was again casting its shadow and one of the empty houses in the Barracks was taken over for storage and issue of gas masks. We all trooped there in the Autumn of 1938 to try on those ghastly rubber and metal gas mask contraptions, then when one had been found to fit, we took it away in a little square cardboard box which we were warned to carry everywhere if war broke out.
Change was clearly in the air, for by 1938, old Mr. Paterson who owned Monkwood was dead and the estate passed to his daughter, a Mrs. Gardner who also lived out-side Scotland and had no real interest in keeping it. Monk-wood House had continued to be let, first to a family called Lascelles and then to the Rosses (later of Mount Charles at Doonfoot). In 1938 the original entail on Monk-wood Estate was broken and the house was sold to an Ayr businessman, Mr. J. Douglas Latta. The six farms on the estate were also sold - Monkwood Mill and Crorieshill to William Smillie, who tenanted Monkwood Mill, Laigh Smithston to the tenant, James McConnell, Kewnston to the tenant, James Cowan, and Monkwood Mains and Laigh Midton to Colonel Galloway, although the Douglases and Wyllies continued to farm them. About the same time Colonel Galloway took over the chairmanship of the Hall Committee from Colonel Kennedy who had been chairman since it was formed.
In June, 1939, less than three months before the War started, "the Maister" retired: in 82 years Minishant had had only two "Maisters", but things were to be different from now on. It's hard to tell whether it was the departure of Mr. McEwan to well deserved retirement in Ayr or the War that caused so much change in the village - both, I suppose, but certainly we would have coped better with the change War brought if "the Maister" had still been there. Miss Annie Gallagher who succeeded Mr. McEwan only stayed a few years and since then there have been many changes. Mr. McEwan died in Ayr in 1950 at the age of 75.
When War came, no deadly gas bombs were dropped on us as we had been warned to expect when we collected our gas masks. In fact the nearest we came to meeting Hitler was listening to the throb of engines all night as his planes followed the line of the Firth of Clyde to seek out and bomb Clydebank on the nights on March 13th and 14th, 1941. Those were eerie nights as the strange aircraft throbbed over us for hour after hour. A glow in the sky to the north told us somewhere in the direction of Glasgow was receiving the worst Hitler could throw at it.
On the night after the bombings of Clydebank we were awakened in the middle of the night by a hammering at our door. It was a family we knew from Glasgow desperately trying to get away from the devastation, and if that is what refugees look like I hope I shall never see any more. They looked weary and frightened and we took them in and they stayed with us for some weeks until they could tidy up one of the empty cottages in the village and move into it. Other families from the city followed until all the empty houses were filled.
Whilst some of these incomers became (and remain) friends, there were others who were never accepted. The pinched white city faces looked as out of place in the country as ours would no doubt have done in Glasgow, and one or two of them tried to bring smart city ways with them. I remember one woman who was appalled by what seemed to her our lax attitude to the grimness of the war. She constantly criticised and told us what we could or could not do until she earned the nickname "Lady Woolton" - Lord Woolton was Minister of Food, and he would have been equally appalled that we had eggs, butter and even a bit of home-killed meat from time to time. It gave the young people pleasure to see a chink of light at her windows and shout "Put out that light"! I suppose the woman was right, but her self-righteousness wasn't.
Nonetheless, the coming of these people was the best thing that could have happened to the village. Because of them the old houses were saved to be modernised after the War when housing was short - Old Minishant was given a new lease of life.
Naturally social life was affected. Few functions could be held and so the hall returned its first annual deficit since it opened - £6.Gs.5d. in 1941. Worse news followed: in November a letter arrived from Monkwood Estate to say that the last parts of the estate were to be sold and offering them the chance to purchase the hall. Of course the committtee couldn't afford to buy the building and the hall might have been lost to the village had Colonel Galloway not stepped in and bought it and given it to the New Faces, New Houses community in return for "an annual feu duty of one penny if asked for".
That was a real example of Minishant spirit!