Ayrshire coal and Hay

My mother-in-law Nessie (Agnes Inglis Erskine, later Kinnis, 1929-2017) came from a small family. Her upbringing was in rural Ayrshire (west central Scotland). Nessie was an only child. Having only a handful of relatives (in Switzerland and Lincolnshire), was part of her identity, at least as expressed to me in the context of family history.

People are related through their historical social networks, just as much as through their trees of blood relatives. The most important of these relationships is, of course, marriage. But other strong connections poke through the genealogical facts below. What follows is not just four generations of Hay men; not just a line of coal miners. I’ve named many non-relatives, fellow coal miners, neighbours, and friends.

My personal example of the “small world” is that, before she was my mother-in-law, Nessie was my primary school teacher for two years in the early 1970s, 45 years ago. (This is all part of my identity, of course.) I was 10 or 11… oh jings, and she was then a decade younger than I am now! So we go back a long way, me and her. And it’s no surprise maybe that my wife was in the same primary school (and all our siblings).

I should add that Nessie always took a keen interest in the ongoing lives of the cohorts of children that she taught at Jordanhill College School in Glasgow in the early 70s: the ones that had been friends with her daughters (and which even supplied a husband for one of them). She always had many memories, stories and “where are they now” questions. If you are reading this, maybe you are one of those Jordanhill ex-pupils. Perhaps one day I’ll put together a more complete biog of “Mrs Kinnis”. Meantime, back to history!

My early research was kick-started by Nessie’s oral history, with names and relationships that took me back past the threshold of “family” into “history”. That work (around 10 years ago) went back just beyond her ken, to Woodside, but a quick look didn’t even find it on the map. However, I’d been able to extend her own knowledge horizon a little, and confirm her memories with certificates etc., but then I took a break. She’d given me positive feedback on that first phase, but wasn’t pushing me to go further back, or even to find and catalogue all her photos. Whoops! Now that I’ve gone back a bit further, I’d really like to know what she’d think of the much larger, unknown family (and community) that has emerged. I think she might be surprised just how much of a role coal mining played, and for how long.

I wish for example we could have visited this modest memorial to the disappeared “village” of Woodside (1850-1953).

Site of Woodside
Roadside information on the lost village which stood here until the 1950s. Date of memorial unknown. Woodside was a row of cottages, all of which have now been demolished. They were very small and an account reads “The people here are of a good type, and deserve better accommodation.” Photo and text © Copyright Richard Webb, posted on as https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5376488 and used here under license CC BY-SA 2.0 . See also https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5376490 and also http://www.abandonedcommunities.co.uk/ayrshire6.html

The nearby settings would have been very familiar, because these people were rooted in one place for several generations. She’d have been familiar with aspects of the location.

I’ll spend a little time on Woodside and the parish of Coylton. But first I’m starting with my wife’s maternal grandparents in Generation Zero.

Nessie’s parents: Generation Zero

I’ll introduce my mother-in-law’s parents now; it will anchor what comes later. There are several reasons: Jenny was the last to bear the Hay surname in this tree, and she was born in the parish of Coylton, the main setting for the story, and I have photographs. I’ll define “Generation Zero” as being Jenny, her husband, siblings and cousins.

  • Janet “Jenny” McMillan Hay, born 1 Sep 1904 in Bardouran, Coylton Parish, Ayrshire, died 19 April 1973 in Glasgow aged 68.
  • Henry “Harry” Erskine, born 4 Oct 1902 in Ayr (8 Victoria St), died 20 May 1977 in Glasgow aged 74. (His parents were Thomas Erskine, a machinist in a saw mill, and Mary Wilson McLaughlan, who had been married on 31 August 1894 in Ayr. The Erskines will need “a whole nother” post.)

The Hay family line is the main one of interest here, so I will focus on Jenny and her place of birth: Bardouran (or Bardoran). In the OS listings for Ayrshire in Scotland’s Places around 50 years earlier, Bardouran had been described as

“A row of cottage houses one storey thatched and only in middling repair
once a farm steading the property of John Hamilton Esqr.
Situated a little north of Bridge End.”

The image at the top of this piece melds Bardouran as it is now with an old, labelled map. I will come back to Jenny and her siblings in Bardouran (1901, 1911) at the end.

As a young woman, she worked in domestic service.

Jenny Hay married Harry Erskine (then a locomotive engineer) in Coylton parish church at New Year, specifically 2nd Jan 1929. They were aged 24 and 26 respectively.

Jenny Hay and Harry Erskine. (Her dark hat makes him appear taller in comparison to other photos of the couple, but as in the others, her nose is just below his chin, and online discussion comparing the faces was overwhelmingly in favour of a match.) They look young and it’s winter: it could be at their wedding. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA.
Jenny Hay and Harry Erskine exude remarkable charm in this old photograph. Harry doesn’t look as tall as in the previous photo, but this due to hair and hats, I think. Image from Kinnis family collection.CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Harry had been living at 44 Church Street, Wallacetown, Ayr, and Jenny had been living at 10 Wheatfield Road, St Leonard, Ayr. It is an interesting date for a wedding, and an interesting day: Wednesday. New Year celebrations were a bigger deal than Xmas back then, and very family oriented. I assume a traditional public holiday, with no work to have to go to. It is not so long since Xmas had a lower status than it does now.

Until 1996 Scotland still had two “bank” holidays at New Year: the 1st and 2nd of January (building in some recovery time). The 2nd January is still a widely-observed official local holiday, and is still a bank holiday in law (I think). Hogmanay (31st December) is a world-famous Scottish event, and it seems all the English speaking world and more sing Rabbie Burns’s Auld Lang Syne. It’s worth mentioning that Burns was also from Ayrshire: indeed, Alloway is 6 miles from Coylton. He composed the song in 1788 (adapted from traditional words and set to a traditional tune).

So, was it a normal day for a wedding in 1929, or a special one? A Scottish socio-demographic study of wedding dates would be interesting, but I can only say that being married on Xmas Day or Boxing Day was not uncommon in 19th C. England. There is a similarity perhaps: it was a two day holiday, people worked 6 days a week otherwise, and people weren’t paid if they didn’t work. Also (in London at least) it was traditional for Xmas Day weddings to be conducted free. I have no idea which factors, if any, were relevant in this particular case (or generally, in Scotland, between the wars). Can anyone clarify?

Jenny and Harry in later years: happy and relaxed. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA.

I’m going to focus at the Hay surname-line in Coylton. This opens up the Hay quarter of Nessie’s family, but it looks so big that I’ll focus on the direct ancestral line (and I will use bold for them). I’ll also be leaving out what I know about the small number of descendants from below the fold (born since 1919), for privacy reasons, but I will add information in a private printed version in an appendix, for family. GEDCOM databases etc and personal charts are also available, just contact me.

Following a surname means prioritising the male line, and this fits nicely with the other explicit focus: coal mining, an exclusively male occupation. At least, underground jobs had become a male domain since women (and children under the age of 10) were banned from such work by the Mines Act (1842), the result of a report from the Children’s Employment Commission (Mines) into the dreadful and dangerous working conditions.

These people called Hay lived in small communities, often in small isolated groups of cottages next to family or work colleagues. They comprised four generations of Hay men who worked underground, and they saw industrial death and disease as a regular occurrence. The family history spans well over 150 years.

OK, it’s time to jump back in time. First, the parish context, then the family.

Coylton parish

At the heart of Coylton nowadays is a modern village five miles east of the coastal county town of Ayr and its nearby village of Alloway, both internationally famous for their association with Rabbie Burns (1759-1796), the national bard. Just north of Ayr lie Prestwick Airport and Royal Troon golf course, and about 15 miles south is Turnberry golf course, currently one of the many business interests of the 45th USA president, Donald Trump. Not a close relative, I hasten to add, though we’re just both Jock Tamson’s bairns! (I should explain perhaps that “Jock Tamson” is an Everyman name like “John Doe” and in English would be “John Thomson”… and that a real John Thomson features in a tragic story below.)

In times past, there were a few villages, but also there were farms, which housed their workers in hamlets or small sets of cottages, scattered throughout the countryside. As the coal mines intensified, similar clusters of houses were built for the miners, often as a “miners’ row” of one-storey cottages.

The Hay family story is centred on Woodside, between Coylton and Stair. In family memory, it’s Coylton that mattered, and so I will focus on that as a location. The boundary between Coylton and Stair parishes was formed partly by a small river, the Water of Coyle, as it meandered roughly north towards Stair (lying on the westwards flowing Ayr River) before turning west. Woodside lies on the north of the Water of Coyle, in the north east corner of the parish.

Blue markers or ends of lines are locations associated with the text. Google satellite view, 2019. Straiton (see text) is about as far south of Dalrymple again. (Maybole and Kirkmichael, also relevant for the family history, are roughly en route. Another relevant location, Dalmellington is also about as far south as Straiton, and the last major settlement on the main road seen running SE of Ayr towards the Galloway hills before descending to Kirkcudbright, on the Solway Firth.)

I Wikipedia

“Coylton is one of the smallest civil parishes in Ayrshire in geographical sense, but it boasted a sizeable population during the peak of the coal mining industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The parish historically includes the original settlement or Low Coylton, Upper Coylton (or Hillhead), Joppa, Craighall, Woodside and the village of Rankinston. The areas of Low Coylton, Hillhead, Joppa, along with contemporary housing estates such as Barngore and Highpark form today’s Coylton village. The village is said to take its name from “Auld King Coil of Coilsfield” (Coel Hen) but old records have it spelt Quiltoun or Cuilton.”

Old Low Coylton (from AyrshireRoots.co.uk )

“The village at the heart of the parish is almost linear, being spread along the length of the Ayr to Cumnock A70 road – which is used by the heavy trucks sustaining the modern open-cast coal mining industry. Low Coylton is the oldest part of the village, featuring the Coylton Arms and the few remains of an older life, such as the village cemetery and old kirk, a site of possibly medieval origins which was last repaired in 1776, along with the former manse dating from 1839, itself built on the site of an earlier manse. The current parish church, built in 1832, is located in Hillhead alongside houses that were miner’s row houses in the late 19th century, more of which can be seen in Joppa. …”

Old Hillhead (also from AyrshireRoots).

“Coylton was once a rural village that was transformed by the development of mining in the area and has since changed dramatically again with the cessation of all coal mining. The local farms, such as that at Duchray, have sustained some of Ayrshire’s agricultural heritage.”

“The village of Joppa was reputedly named for an ale-house kept by a man named Hendry. Local lore has it that he fed his customers with salt herrings which became known as “Joppa hams”.

In addition, from GenUKI, is this 1837 description from Pigot’s Directory:

Joppa is a village in the parish of Coylton, five miles from Ayr. The church, which was erected in 1833, is a handsome structure, and contains sittings for seven hundred and fifty persons.

Samuel and Helen: from Ireland to Coylton

Four generations back from my wife’s maternal grandparents, a man called Samuel Hay was born around 1790 in Ireland. He died in his 50s, between 1841 and 1851 (presumably in Woodside, a location to become familiar below). More importantly for a family tree, there was a woman. She was Helen McMillan, born around 1786, also in Ireland. They were married and produced a family. Helen outlived Samuel by more than two decades. She died on the 29th March 1871 in Hillhead, (aka New Coylton), at the age of 85. Helen’s parents as named on her death certificate were Hugh McMillan, a farmer, and Agnes Halliday, and the death was registered by her son John. (I’m often going to put the names of Nessie’s direct ancestors in bold face, on first/main use and if needed later given that the same names appear over and over!)

Samuel and Helen appear in middle age in the statutory records of Scotland, specifically in the first national census in 1841, the key document which tells us the couple were both from Ireland. Why and when did they move to Ayrshire? Were they married in Ireland? Given their appearance in Church of Scotland records, and their descendants’ protestant faith, their ancestry was likely to have been among the colonising presbyterian population in Ulster who arrived largely from Scotland (beginning in the 1600s under James VI in the “Ulster Plantation”). I guess they moved (back) to Scotland for economic reasons. Their sons, grandsons and even great-grandsons (and their brothers) would become coal miners, following Samuel’s lead.

The Old Parish Records for Coylton list four children born to Samuel and Helen, baptised between 1818 and 1825. The 1841 census names another child in the household, Mary, who would have been born when Helen was aged around 42, so let’s assume she is a daughter too.

The family appears bigger yet: there are two other parents Samuel Hay and Helin McMillan in the parish of Straiton, 13 miles to the south. They had four children between 1807 and 1812. For now I will assume they are the same family: it’s possible and plausible. Some more evidence is needed to confirm this, but nothing hangs on it here, except that it means the move from Ireland to Ayrshire was early in life, and they would have married as teenagers (I can’t find a marriage).

  • Agnes b(orn or baptised) 10/05/1807 Straiton
  • Helin, b. 12/02/1802 Straiton
  • Janet b. 02/02/1810 Straiton
  • Hugh b. 30/03/1812 Straiton
  • John, b(orn or baptised) 18/12/1818 Coylton
  • Elisabeth, b. 09/03/1821 Coylton (recorded as 20 in the 1841 census)
  • James Hay, b. 16/05/1823 Coylton (recorded as 15 in the census but actually 18 on 6/6/1841, the census date)
  • Samuel, b. 25/09/1825 Coylton
  • Mary born around 1828 (13 in the 1841 census; and by the 1861 census she had married someone called Richmond and had two children.)

From the 1851 census we learn that Helen already had a grandson aged 20 called William Stewart (see below), suggesting a daughter had got married before 1831, which could be any of the three daughters born in Straiton, but not either of the Coylton daughters. This helps support the hypothesis that this is all one family.

Samuel had appeared earlier, in the Rolls of Male Heads of Families first taken by the Church of Scotland from 1834. It looks like the family were in Coylton parish in one household (Samuel was around 43) up to 1836.

  • 1834-6. Samuel was head of household in the 2nd of 5 cottages listed in Woodside, Coylton parish. There were four neighbours in 1834, with their family heads given as John Thomson, James Fergusson, James Robertson and John Guthrie. (This may be the same John Thomson who features below.)
  • 1837. Someone called Hugh Hay is newly listed as head of household in Woodside. This could be Hugh Hay, born in Straiton in 1812. By 1837 he would have been aged 25.

Unlikely ancestors

On Wikitree.com, a Helen McMillan with the same claimed date and place of birth appears as https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Mcmillan-425 with 10 siblings, no known spouse, no known children… and with parents of overlapping but different names to her death certificate. (The names online are Hugh McMillan, born Portrush 1751, died N. Carolina USA 3 Jan 1818 and Jane Harvey, born Antrim 1750 and died N. Carolina USA, married in 1775.) That page is based on evidence from Hugh’s will, which names some of his children and his wife Jane (but not a “Helen” it seems), and quotes his gravestone. There is an interesting biography. But it seems highly unlikely to me that this is Helen’s father: I think she has been incorrectly added to this family as a daughter. Perhaps they are relatives who left Ireland at the same time, heading to the USA rather than to Scotland, but I am not adding them to this tree.

1841 Census (Woodside)

Following Woodend in the census and preceding Gadgirth < + something unreadable, local options being Bridge, Castle or Holm> are five properties listed in Woodside, a row of miners’ cottages (see below). There are 1,480 entries for the census district.

  • John Thomson (49) coal miner, Jean (49), John (25) coal miner, Susan (20), Margaret (18), James (16), Mary (14), Joan (11), Peter (9), Janet (2).
  • Samuel Hay (50) coal miner, Helen (50), Elisabeth (20) and James (15) coal miner, Mary (13) and William Stewart (10).
  • Hugh Hay (25) coal miner, Susan (24), Samuel (6, so born ~1835), Helen age 2 (b. ~1839), Jean (4m, so born around Jan 1841). He was already a head of household in 1837, I am sure. So if this Hugh is a son of Samuel and Helen, born in Straiton, then it would appear that either Hugh and Susan were living under one roof with Hugh’s parents prior to this, or outwith the parish. Hugh’s family re-appear, larger, in 1851.
  • John Hay (20) coal miner, Jean (20), Samuel (1). John, I presume, is the son of Samuel and Helen who was born in December 1818, with an age error.
© National Mining Museum, Scotland – https://nationalminingmuseum.com/

1844 – a fatal accident

There was an incident at a local mine in 1844, on Monday 16 December, involving a John Thomson aged “about sixty” and a work-mate called Hay. There had also been an incident around 15 years earlier, around 1830, but I can’t find any other information about it, other than the reference in the second 1884 description. The newspaper reports were transcribed by ScottishMining.co.uk at http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/320.html which is where I have copied them from. Digitised images are available on https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ , which for me at least is accessible at the local Edinburgh library for free.

Ayr Observer [Scotsman 21 December 1844]

We regret to learn that a collier, named John Thomson, was killed on Monday in a pit on the farm of Drumdow, parish of Stair. It appears that he and another individual were employed in rebarring the pit with new wood and, in carrying this operation into effect, had constructed a fixed scaffold several fathoms from the top. Upon this they seem to have allowed a considerable quantity of earth and other rubbish to have accumulated, no doubt with the intention of completing what they were engaged upon before clearing it away; and, unfortunately, an additional quantity of gravel having fallen from the side, the scaffold was unable to resist its weight , when it gave way, precipitating Thomson to the bottom with such violence that he died instantaneously.

His companion, with great presence of mind, grasped some of the bars at the side, by which he was enabled to hold till a bucket was sent down to his rescue.

Thomson, we understand , was a man about sixty years of age. He was very much respected in the neighbourhood, and has left a wife and family to mourn the melancholy event.

[Caledonian Mercury 23 December 1844]

An accident occurred at Springs Colliery, on Monday last, which proved fatal to John Thomson, Gadgirtholm, who was advanced in years, and has left a widow and family.

He was working along with a man named Hay, barring an old shank, when Hay observing the side of the pit shot, gave the alarm, and seized on one of the new bars, by which he was supported, but the deceased failed in his attempt to save himself, and was precipitated to the bottom, a depth of 15 fathoms; and there so buried under the fallen earth, that it was an hour and a half before he could be extricated.

The deceased’s son met his death under similar circumstances in the same pit, fifteen years ago, when the same workman, Hay, had an equally narrow escape.

Was it Samuel Hay?

I think it is highly likely that this accident involved John Thomson from Woodside and my mother-in-law’s 3x Great grandfather Samuel Hay. They were next-door neighbours, both coal-miners, and both around the right age for this sad tale. John had died between 1843 and 1851 (given his youngest child was daughter Catherine aged 8 and his wife Jean being a widow in the 1851 census records presented below). Of course, it might all be a coincidence. There was one other Hay listed in the 1836 Heads of Household list in Coylton parish, (Thomas Hay from Gadgirthholm), and in the 1841 census there were 4 men called Hay in the district who were old enough to have been involved in a mining accident around 1830, including Hugh, incidentally (but he would have been only about 13 years old, which is possible but might have merited mention in the newspaper). Also in favour of the man Hay being Samuel is that in the 1841 census, Samuel (and Hugh)’s neighbour John Thomson is the only possible match. Miners lived together, worked together, and their families suffered together as a tight community.

So maybe I have found an unexpected story about Samuel Hay, my kids’ 5x Great Grandfather! (Well, of course Samuel is only one of 128 5xGr Grandparents. On the exponential growth in ancestors, see Theory of Eight Surnames.)

Danger of Death

As for the general dangers of being a miner, the sad litany of mutilations and deaths make for horrific reading (e.g. at the fantastic resource of ScottishMining.co.uk. Elsewhere in the extensive list of pre-1855 incidents, the following notice in the Glasgow Herald of 3 August 1846 puts the partial historical record into context.

31 July 1846. On Friday week a fine young man, not long married, lost his life in Mossend pit, near Kilbirnie. It would appear he had been employed in the shaft, when the ropes of the scaffold gave way, and he was precipitated to the bottom, a distance of thirty fathoms. His name was John Penman, a, native of Holytown. He has left a wife, near her confinement, to deplore his unhappy fate.- Surely it is time the authorities were looking into those accidents, now almost of daily occurrence – not one-half of which ever find their way in the public press. – Saturday Post. [Glasgow Herald 3 August 1846]

Woodside and Woodend, Coylton

1857. Woodside, then Woodend, then Springs Smithy are close together on the road from Broadwood farm and the adjacent Mossside Cottage (which still exist) to Stair (not shown, off to the top-right/NE) at the next bridge upstream over the Ayr River. Drumdow (mentioned above, and at which later grew a large mine) is SE, just beyond the map bottom-right, and Raith Hill (a local landmark) and the farm of the same name just south, and again adjacent south of it was Bardouran. They both feature below. A number of mine workings are visible, and at the end of the section is a zoom to the centre. Or dynamically manipulate the original map online at the National Library of Scotland online https://maps.nls.uk/view/74425821

In the 1861 census, the relevant cottages were all listed as having just one windowed room. Woodside and Woodend were described in more detail in volume 17 of the Ayrshire Ordnance Survey name books (1855-57).

Woodside was “A row of Cottage houses on the road side to Stair one Storey high thatched and in good repair the property of John Hamilton Esqr.”

Woodend was “A row of Cottage houses one storey thatched and only in middling repair adjacent to Woodside the property of John Joseph Burnett Esqr.”

Woodside looking north towards Woodend. This was when the village was large, but the date is unknown. Photo posted by Tony Duffy on facebook, origin unknown, but it also appears at AbandonedCommunitied.Co.Uk. Latitude/Longitude: 55° 28′ 10″ N 4° 29′ 58″ W.

Samuel and Helen were living in Woodside in 1834, but had been somewhere in Coylton parish since at least 1818 when John was born. In 1834, Woodside was just a single row of five or so cottages. Later (around 1850?) it expanded greatly to around fifty homes. By 1875 there were around 35. Their children and grandchildren lived around them (see below). Modern views show the empty road following the demolition of the village in 1953: whether in Geograph, OS geolocation or Google Streetview (with a mournful donkey). Nothing to indicate its once busy community.

Woodside village around its largest (1895) was nearly ten times bigger than when Samuel and Helen first lived there in 1834, and by 1953 had become a ghost (2019 satellite image). Woodend, a row of 3 cottages, was just off the top of this image, and is now also gone. NLS georeferenced maps.
The pre-expansion Woodside and Woodend as James and Susan and family knew them in 1857. This is zoomed from the first map in this section, above.
Woodside, just before demolition, from http://www.abandonedcommunities.co.uk/ayrshire8.html

James and Susan: born in Scotland

Generation Three. James Hay was born on the 16th May 1823 in Coylton, and died 11 December 1886 aged 63, in Woodend, Coylton parish. On 23rd February 1844 aged about 21 he was married to Susan(na) McChesney (aka Chesney and some other variants). She was aged about 22, and had been born on 29 November 1821 (according to an unknown genealogist citing IGI, see below). Her place of birth was in Dailly parish, Ayrshire, slightly to the south, and the marriage in the OPR and census information agree on that location. She died on 12 April 1885 aged 63 in Woodend. The couple had (at least) 11 children. Susan’s surname suggests an Ulster connection (see below). Her parents were James McChesny general labourer and Elizabeth MacTaggart.

An aside: Disease and death

Both James and Susan died in their 60s. James died of miner’s asthma (of 5 years duration), and Susan of (5 days) pyaemia, a type of blood poisoning (aka septicaemia). It seems that pus-forming (“pyogenic”) bacteria (e.g. staphylococcus) in her blood led to widespread abscesses. It was almost universally fatal before the introduction of antibiotics. Susan may have had recurring chills and fever due to the systemic inflamation of her body, before abscesses developed in various parts internally, such as the lungs and kidneys.

It’s impossible for me to ignore a trivia/factoid on Susan’s disease from Wikipedia so here is a serious aside.

The Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) is well-known in the history of medicine as a champion of hand-washing in medical practice. He was not only widely scorned for his belief, he may have suffered a breakdown, but in any case “was committed to an insane asylum [by a colleague] where he died at age 47 of pyaemia, after being beaten by the guards, only 14 days after he was committed.” In his hospital in Vienna, infant mortality was three times higher in medical wards than in wards staffed by midwives. He had observed how washing the hands before attending a childbirth cut the rates of infection, and in 1847 proposed his solution. “Despite various publications of results where hand washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings, and some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and mocked him for it.” (from Wikipedia.)

Later, his French contemporary Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) explained the mechanism for infection, and in Glasgow, Joseph Lister (1827-1912) demonstrated the effectiveness or carbolic acid as a medical antiseptic for wounds and instruments. Lister knew it could be spread “to ease the stench from fields irrigated with sewage waste” with no ill-effects on grazing animals. So science progresses: an international collaboration that forms hypotheses from commonplace observations, applies the scientific method to gather evidence that supports or disproves theories, and always has to fight against entrenched opinion and established powerful interests. Yes: I am referring to contemporary (late 20th & early 21st century) issues like vaccination, antibiotic wastage and the human contribution to climate change. Ok, back to the family tree.

1851 Census (Woodside)

From the 1841 census we saw that James, aged 18 (recorded as “15”), was also a coal miner, and living with his parents. By 1851, James and Susan had their own family of five. In Woodside, neighbours Jane (aka Jean) Thomson and Helen Hay were widows. John Thomson must have died sometime in the previous 8 years (1843-1851), going by the age of their daughter Catherine (8). This fits with the mining fatality mentioned above.

Here are some of the Woodside households. There are 1,542 entries for the census district.

  • Jane Thomson (58, widow) small grocery, children Peter (18) apprentice gardener, Janet (11), Catherine (8).
  • Helen Hay (65, widow) coal miner’s widow, daughter Mary (23) <xx?> sewer & seamstress, grandson William Stewart (20) coal miner.
  • James Hay (27) coal miner, Susan (29, wife) housekeeper, and 4 children: William (7), Janet (5), Samuel (3), Helen (1).
  • John Hay (32) coal miner, Jean (33, wife) housekeeper, and 5 children: Samuel (11), Mary (9), William (5), Helen (3), Jean (11m).

1861 Census (Woodside)

In James and Susan’s household, James and two of his sons are coal miners. There are 1,603 entries for the census district.

  • Jane Thomson (68, widow) grocer, daughter Catherine (18) muslin sewer.
  • Helen Hay (75, widow) coal miner’s widow, married daughter Mary Richmond (33) muslin sewer, grandsons Samuel Richmond (4) and Thomas Richmond (2).
  • James Hay (37) coal miner, Susan (39, wife), eight children: William (17) coal miner, Janet (15) muslin sewer, Samuel (13) coal miner, Helen (11), James (8), John (6), Margaret (4), Hugh (1).
  • John Hay (42) coal miner, Jean (42, wife), five children: Helen (13) muslin sewer, Jean (11) muslin sewer, James (8), Agnes (5), John (2).

1871 Census (Woodend)

It is not really clear if the family had moved to Woodend (a few dozen metres from Woodside up the road) from the digital census image, but it appears so. The houses still only have one room with a window. In James and Susan’s household, three sons are coal miners. James’s mother Helen had died on 29th March, just before the census (7 & 8 April). There are 1,440 entries for the census district.

  • James Hay (47) coal miner, Susan (49, wife), eight children: Samuel (23) coal miner, James (18) coal miner, John (16) coal miner, Margaret (14), Hugh (11), Elisabeth (9), Andrew (7), Susan (4). Woodend?
  • Peter McGregor (26, from Dunkeld, Perthshire) stone-mason, Helen McGregor (21, wife from Coylton). Ditto (i.e. Woodend).
  • William Hay (27 from Dailly (sic), Ayrshire) coal miner, Mary A (29 from Ballantrae, Ayrshire), daughters Elisabeth S (6) Margaret H (sic) C (4) both born in Coylton. William and Mary are the same couple as the couple married 7 October 1864 at 83 Dale St. Tradeston, Glasgow. William Hay (20) of Woodend and Mary Anne McClure (22) of Springs Smithy Coylton. Their daughters are Elizabeth Stewart Hay (b 1864) and Margaret McClure Hay (b 1866). William was James and Susan’s eldest son, and Mary was the blacksmith (journeyman)’s daughter. (Her parents were John McClure and Elizabeth Stewart a few dozen metres along the road). House identified as Woodside, as having 2 windowed rooms.
  • Agnes Rooney (43, widow, from Ireland) lodging house keeper, daughter Jane (16, from Ireland), with five lodgers: James Harper (33, single, Ireland), John Phillips (50, married, Stewarton Ayrshire), Robert Scott (33, married, Ireland), Matthew Bell (37, married, England), Robert Gorman (43, single, Ireland) – all employed as sinkers of coal pit shaft. This “lodging house” had only one windowed room.

1881 Census (Woodend, Coylton)

Other members of the family are nearby, including their son Samuel, but there is too much and too little Hay information at present to synthesise it all. The LDS free 1881 census data in some way makes it easy to be overwhelmed by quantity. So here, I’m being very selective for 1881. Also, I’m postponing details about James and Susan’s son Samuel, our direct ancestor, because he appears as head of his own family, and they will appear in their own section below. I include William Hay here (Samuel’s brother), however, so he is close to his listing in the 1871 census list above. James and Susan died before the 1891 census, so this is their last family listing. There are 3,097 entries for the census district.

  • James (57) coal miner, Susan (58, wife), four children: Hugh (21) coal miner, Eliza (19) domestic servant, Andrew (17) pupil teacher, Susan (14) domestic servant, and also nephew James Hay (28) labourer. All born in Coylton apart from Susan (in Dailly). (LDS: dwelling #1 Woodend.)
  • William (37) coal miner from Coylton, Mary Ann (sic) (39, wife), from Ballantrae, with seven children: Elizabeth (16) dressmaker, Maggie (14) pupil teacher, William (9), Jessie (7), Mary Ann (4), John (2), James (1m). Recall that William is James and Susan’s eldest son. (Census schedule #21 Woodside.)

All the children (Gen Two)

Coming soon I’ll present Samuel from the next generation, but it would be useful here to present him in a list of all his siblings, collated from the various census returns above and the Scotland’s People index of births (1855 onwards) and their OPR list of births in Coylton with parents James Hay and Susan McChesney (aka McChesnie, Chesnie and Chesney) between 1844 and 1854. The first-born, William, was born within 3 months of the marriage. These siblings had pretty common names, so I don’t know about marriages, deaths, children etc. without eyeballing a lot of false hits on site at Scotland’s People (because it’s not cost-effective to do it on the internet, and not a priority for me to pay for non-ancestor details on a digital certificate).

  • William, b(orn or baptised) 04/04/1844
  • Janet, b. 29/12/1845
  • Samuel Hay, b. 08/05/1847 d. 18/11/1928
  • Helen, b. 31/10/1849
  • James, b. 22/06/1852
  • John, b. 13.08/1854
  • Margaret (born) 1857
  • Hugh b. 1859
  • Elisabeth b. 1861
  • Andrew b. 1863 (see the “to do” list)
  • Susan b. 1866

OK, I will come back to Samuel (1847-1928) below, but first a couple of short asides, most importantly on the housing conditions of miners, and with descriptions of conditions in Woodside and Woodend. But first:

McChesney relatives

On MyHeritage.com, there is a page for James Hay (1823-1886) https://www.myheritage.com/names/james_hay set up by descendants or relatives. I can’t see it (I don’t subscribe), but there are several copies of his details into people’s trees. It names his parents correctly. However, it says they were both born in 1791 in Ayrshire. His wife Susan is correct and the interface tells me 11 children are listed, with, it appears, useful marriage information. It also adds Susan’s birth date in Dailly, which I did not have (I only knew it was around 1822, from the census and death certificate.) I’ve incorporated this date, above, but haven’t inspected it. I might be wrong to use it.

Also, Tony Duffy (the source of the Woodside photo) is, it appears, a distant relative. He wrote on facebook: “Your wife’s 3 x great grandmother Susanna and my 3 x grandmother Margaret were sisters.” He’s done a bit of work on McChesney and this is something I need to return to later.

McChesney is a great name, and it turns out, a fairly rare one, in all its varieties. The good news is that Niall McChesney has registered a One Name Study for the name at https://one-name.org/name_profile/mcchesney, and has therefore collected information about its distribution. He writes “The number of McChesneys listed in the Censuses in Scotland increased from around 50 in the mid-nineteenth century to 150 in 1901 and 177 in 1911. These were concentrated in Ayrshire (Dailly and Girvan) and in Lanarkshire (Barony, Govan and Glasgow). … The birthplaces of household heads was equally divided between Ireland and Scotland throughout the period. In the middle part of the nineteenth century, the most-mentioned occupation was weaving.” About its origins, he states that it is generally Irish, but ultimately perhaps of a Norman (i.e. Norse-Franck-Gallo-Roman) origin rather than an Irish Celtic one.

Miners’ Houses in 1875

Having presented the two more distant generations of Hays, and before moving on to the more recent two, I will paste in some extracts from one in a series of investigative reports, from 1875, published in The Scotsman, called Notes on Miners’ Houses. The headings are mine.

Ayrshire in general

Whatever may have been the condition of miners’ houses in Ayrshire a few years ago, they are now, on the whole, well-constructed, commodious, and cheap.

From the large number of new rows to be found in all directions near pits which have long been in operation, it may be supposed that the past condition of things was not satisfactory, and this is borne out by the statements of the miners themselves. Nor can it be said that sanitary requirements are even now properly attended to, for I found populous villages with houses only two or three years old which yet lacked altogether the outhouses necessary to decency and convenience.

We have in Ayrshire, in short neither the very best nor the worst class of miners’ dwellings, but a higher general average than I have found to exist elsewhere.

Young mothers, big families

So far as I could ascertain, there are not many Irish people amongst the miners of Ayrshire. There is a considerable infusion of Englishmen and their wives, who sigh for the “up-stairs and down-stairs” of home.

Another circumstance which strikes one is the extreme youth of many of the Scotch wives, as well as their fruitfulness. I had addressed a young, girlish creature several times as “Miss,” until she began to speak of her husband, and I discovered that a frightful error had been unwittingly committed.

With ladies of uncertain age it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are still in the spring-time of life, but a young wife, barely out of her teens, is jealous exceedingly of her dignity, and resents the imputation of being still a school-girl.

In another case, a woman of two or three and twenty, deploring the want of bleaching-ground, asked me how I thought she could get along at all on washing-days, with only a single apartment, and “wi five wee weans, and no a place to pit a steek o’ claes on!”


A pleasant drive of half an hour brings us to Woodside, and a row of miners’ houses also belonging to the Annbank Company. They are of brick, 31 in number, and were almost all erected only a short time since. Of these, 18 or 20 are single apartments, and the others rooms and kitchens.

The few older houses have brick floors, but in those of recent construction wood has been put down. The rent here is the same as at Annbank – 1s a-week for single houses, and 2s for double ends. They are warm, comfortable houses, the only fault I have to find with them being that the back windows are extremely small, so that they are dark.

There are no wash-houses, no coal-cellars for the single apartments, and only one ash-pit, the refuse being laid down at the back of a detached series of double closets. It is creditable to the miners’ wives at Woodside that they really make the best of the situation and do not throw ashes under the windows, but proper ash-pits should be provided at once, if the character of the place is to be maintained.

The water at Woodside is drained from a neighbouring field. It is apparently free from organic impurity in ordinary weather, but I was told that during heavy rains it is discoloured and therefore unwholesome.

Here also is a school-house erected by the company, a reading-room, and a library which was opened a few weeks ago.

Samuel and Janet

Now I will return to the Hay family, Generation Two. The names of the two main male protagonists start to repeat, since each was named after their paternal grandfather. The women’s names also repeat, given the limited choices people made.

Recap and overview

Samuel Hay was born on the 8th May 1847 in Coylton parish. See the historical map, earlier. In 1851 he was living in Woodside, and in 1861 aged 13 he was already a coalminer. In 1871 the family had moved a few metres to Woodend. Samuel died on the 18th November 1928 in Springs, near Woodside, aged 81.

Samuel was married on 15th March 1872 aged 24 at Raithhill (a farmhouse just south of Woodside at Raith Hill) to Janet McMillan aged 22, dairymaid. She had been born in Kirkmichael, Ayrshire on the 26th November 1850. Agnes died in Coylton on the 2nd April 1929, aged 78.

These were two long lives, incorporating a marriage lasting 56 years.

Janet McMillan (1850-1929)

As for Janet herself, OPR say she was the 2nd daughter to John McMillan, farm servant Blairbowie, and Agnes Murdoch, both of Kirkmichael parish at that time, who married 5th November 1847. Janet’s own marriage certificate (1872) says her father was an agricultural labourer, and confirms that both her parents were still alive, and the witnessses were James Hay and Jane Speir (aged only around 15… see below). The McMillan family appear in the 1851 census in Kirkmichael, so I can add that her elder sister was called Margaret (3), born around 1847-8 in Kirkmichael, and that her parents were in 1851 aged 26 & 20, so were born around 1825 and 1831, in Straiton and Coylton parishes respectively.

Like his elder brother William, Samuel married “the girl next door” (Janet). Also, like his grand-father and name-sake, Samuel had married a woman called McMillan. Of course, originally I thought this was just a repeated name coincidence, but now of course, as I write this, the fact that Janet’s parents were from Straiton and Coylton prompts the question: were James and Janet McMillan cousins?

This is always the way things are: people fall in love with neighbours, work-mates, friends from church, school or the community… and distant relations. Moreover, the connection with the Speir family needs to be researched (see the To Do list).

An aside, from a Canadian cousin

In the comments, Mary Lynn Hay Humphrey in Canada (related as a descendant of James and Susanna) says “no”, but now I am confused about who I was even talking about, and whether we are talking about the same people. Maybe, problem solved: in showing how she is related to my wife, she says her ancestor James Hay (brother to my wife’s ancestor Samuel) “married Janet Easdale born 30 Sep 1847, in Coylton. They had a few children born to them one was my great great grandad John Hay. Who went by the name Jock. He was born Coylton, May 15 1880. He married Agnes Geates.” The brothers were sons of James and Susan Hay, as described above in the 1871 census: James Hay (47) and Susan (49), with eight children including Samuel (23) and James (18). So James & Susan are 4xGr grand-parents to Mary, and they are also 3xGr grand-parents to my wife, making ourkids 5th cousins to Mary, I think.

1871 Census (Raithhill and Bardouran)

It was worth a look to see if the 1871 census reveals anything, especially because it looks like Janet McMillan was on the same page as a Coylton McMillan family. Sadly, while it adds information, she was not living with these other McMillans, so no family relationship is evidenced.

But this census page is interesting: there is the Speir household at Raithhill, and the other McMillans were in Bardouran, a location that arises in the next sections as a home of our Hay ancestors.

  • Jane Wallace (48, head) seamstress, unmarried, from Kirkoswald, Ayrshire. Mossside Cottage (2 windowed rooms). (The cottage still exists.)
  • Mary Speir (13, head) unmarried, from Coylton, farm of 150 acres (under Trustees) employing 3 men and 3 women, Jane Speir (13, sister) from Coylton Margaret Speir (24, cousin), housekeeper, from Ireland, Janet McMillan (20), from Kirkmichael, dairymaid, Christina Shirka (24) married, from Kilwinning Ayrshire, domestic servant, John Dickson (50) unmarried, farm servant, from Kirkmichael. Raithhill had 5 windowed rooms, and the farm still exists.
  • Ann Hughes (40) widow, pauper, from Ireland, and five children aged from 3 to 16, the oldest being worker in coal mine, born in Coylton (or Stair). Bardouran (#19 in schedule).
  • Robert White (32), agricultural labourer, from Maybole, Mary (29), wife, from Ireland. Bardouran (#20).
  • Charles Halbert (25), agricultural labourer from Dailly, Mary (27, wife), from Kirkoswald, three children aged1 to 4, born in Kirkoswald, Monkton and Maybole. Bardouran (#21).
  • James McMillan (59), gardener, from Inch in Wigtonshire, Jessie (55, wife), children Jane (17), Alexander (13), all from Coylton. Sundrum Lodge, 3 windowed rooms (entry #22).

Looking back 20 years, James Speir and Alexander Speir, farmers, were listed (p132) in the 1851 Ayrshire Directory, at Raithhill, in the Coylton section.

Thirty years later, Mossside Cottage was the home of a William Hay, a Coylton parish councillor – I don’t know if he was a relative. “Shirka” is an interesting name: there are a few BMD entries with this surname spelling, one indicating a continental immigrant name connection (first name Petras).

Raithhill Farm had recently been described (in 1855) was “A neat well laid out farm house one Storey Slated and in good Repair the outhouses are on the Same Style partly one and partly two storeys high all Slated the property of John Hamilton Esqr. Sundrum.” Sundrum is just to the south west of this image:

2019 Satellite image showing location of the demolished rows of Woodside in relation to Raithhill and Drumdow, both mentioned in the text. The Coylton-Stair parish boundary curves along the burn just east of Raith Hill, skirting the wood of Laigh Drumdow (top centre) which can been seen, along with Woodside and Broadwood, on the 1857 map above from 150 years previously. Image from NLS’s 1908-map/satellite dynamic overlay. The map is invisible here, but when brought up, it provides the names of farms, houses and features not available on Google maps. Invaluable.

Re-recap: Samuel Hay (1847-1928)

Samuel had been a coal miner at least since the age of 13, and he lived in Woodside with his parents and some siblings (1861, 1871). Things changed in 1872 when he and Janet got married and started a family. But the location and way of life remained the same. 1881, Samuel and Janet were in Woodside, a couple of doors down from his elder brother William.

1881 Census (Woodside)

  • William Hay, Samuel’s eldest brother and family were at what the census return labels as #21 – see a full listing above.
  • Samuel (33) coal miner, Janet (30, wife) born in Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, and 3 sons: John K (6), James (3), Thomas McM (9m). (Census return #23 Woodside.) (#23 on schedule)
  • Hugh White, blacksmith born in Kilmarnock and family (#24)
  • John Clark, coal miner born in Stewarton, Ayrshire and family (#25)
  • John Maitland, colliery joiner #15

1891 Census (Woodside)

I’ve not paid to look at Samuel yet, because he’s on a page by himself, so I’ll leave the reference number for now instead of confirming his occupation. More interestingly, there’s an adopted son living with them. Four John Hay births in Ayrshire look like contenders – one in Maybole (1875). Such leads are needing checked onsite where a large set of certificates can be scanned. There are 2,657 entries for the census district.

  • Samuel (43), 583/ 9/ 7, Janet (40, wife) Kirkmichael, John Hay (15), coal miner, adopted son, and their six biological children James (13), farm servant, Thomas (10), William (8), Samuel (5), Hugh (3) and Andrew (10m). All in Woodside, Coylton.
  • Hugh Shimmons (35) pitheadman, Jane (32, wife), and eight children including the eldest Hugh (14) coal miner. 6th Block 4th house.
  • William Bennie (52) coal miner, Mary Service Bennie (52) and five children, including a coal miner, an general labourer, and a domestic scholar. Most born in Kilwinning, but one born in Ilinois, USA around 1867 (the family could have been in USA between 1866 to 1875). Also, the eldest son (3) is an “imbecile”.

1901 Census

Samuel and Janet were in Woodside. Their son James Hay was no longer in this household – see the next section for his whereabouts. These houses had two rooms with windows. There are 1,876 entries in the census district, and here are the ones on pages 583/1 8/ 6 and 583/1 8/ 7 showing the Hays and some of their neighbours.

  • John Kirkland (54) from Dalmellington, coalminer – hewer, Margaret (53, wife) from Irvine, with three children in the house. The eldest (Thomas, aged 20) was a coalminer – drawer, and he had been born in Tarbolton. There was also a grandson aged 7 called James H Kirkland born in Coylton. They were in “5th house, 5th block” (#24 on the schedule).
  • Thomas Wyper (70) from the parish of Barony in Lanarkshire worked as a guardman at pit, Isabella (67, wife) also Barony. 6th house, 5th block. (#25)
  • Quintin Young (59), coalminer – hewer, from Dailly, Margaret (56, wife) from Kirkmichael, unmarried sons William (22) coalminer – drawer and Thomas (17) coalminer – hewer, grandson John Wilson (19) pithead labourer, grand-daughter Margaret Young (15). 1st house, 6th block. (#26)
  • William McIntyre (60) retired coalminer now shoe repairer, self-employed at home, from Stonykirk Wigtonshire, Janet (55, wife) from Coylton, three sons born in Coylton,William (27), Peter (21), Hugh (16), each a coalminer – hewer, daughter Jane (15). 2nd house, 6th block. (#27)
  • Samuel (53) fireman (i.e. firedamp inspector), Janet (50, wife) from Kirkmichael, sons born in Coylton Thomas (20) and up to 5 children: Thomas (20), pithead labourer, William (18), grocer – assistant, Samuel (15), pithead labourer, and, on the index for the next page (not downloaded) there are Hugh (13), Andrew (10). Presumably 3rd house, 6th block. (#28)

1911 Census (Springs Dwellinghouse)

At the time of this census, Samuel and Janet had moved to Springs Dwellinghouse, with 2 windowed rooms, which was followed on the census enumeration by Woodend Cottage with two windowed rooms (#23) then four Wm Sundrum Dwelling Houses (#24-#27), then Woodside Dwelling House No. 1 (#28) and No.2 (#29), all these being cottages with one windowed room. They must have been very close together. There are 2,110 entries in the census district, and some of the surnames of their neighbours repeat those above.

In 1911 Samuel and Janet had been married 39 years, with 6 of 7 children still living. Census data from 1911 about James is listed in more detail in his Generation One section below. With his wife and children, he was living in Bardouran, nearby. First, Samuel, Janet, and all their neighbours on the census page: fact-crumbs for descendants of those neighbours to find, perhaps. I think iti s interesting how the jobs are more varied.

  • Samuel Hay (63) coal mine roadman below, Janet (61, wife) from Kirkmichael, son William (28) shop assistant. Also in household were four “visitors”. These were (presumably their son) Samuel Hay (25) coal mine bottomer, Georgina Hay, (24), 2 years married with one child, Samuel Hay (1), born in Stair. Also a “visitor” was Maggie Merry (18) general domestic servant, single, born in Maryhill (Glasgow). Springs Dwellinghouse. (#22 on the schedule)
  • James Wilcox (56, widower) winding engineman colliery, from Whitburn, Linlithgowshire, and his children Margaret (21) housekeeper, at home, Ellen (19), dressmaker, David (17), grocer, all born in Coylton. Woodend Cottage. (#23)
  • David Wyper (49) coalminer – hewer, from Shettleston Lanarkshire, Ann Strachan Wyper (50, wife of 22 years), from Dreghorn, three of their six children Margaret (26), Hone Mill Hand, born in Ayr, Thomas (21) colliery labourer above ground, born in Coylton, David Anderson Wyper (12), born in Coylton. (#24)
  • John Wilson (31) brickworker brickseller, from Glasgow, sister Mary Ivyson Wilson (30), housekeeper, from Glasgow, brother James (21), pithead labourer, from Glasgow, half-sister Jane Nimmo (11), born in Coylton. (#25)
  • Charles Wilson (30), colliery engine helper, from Coylton, Mary Jane (30, wife of 9 years), from Kirkcudbright, all four of their children: Mary Ann (9), John (7), Davina (4), James (10m), the eldest born in Kirkcudbright, the others in Coylton. (#26)
  • Euphemia Withers (71), widow, from Ayr, a lodger Hendry Wilson Gibson (28) coalminer – hewer, from Tarbolton. (#27)
  • John McEwan (28) chauffeur, from Maybole, Janet (28, wife of 1 year), son John (1m), both Coylton. Woodside Dwelling House No.1. (#28 on schedule).
  • Peter McGregor (65) stone mason, from Dunkeld, Perthshire, Helen (60, wife of 40 years), three of their ten children, William (27) coalminer – hewer, Helen (19) dressmaker, Sam (16) brickworker. All from Coylton. Woodside Dwelling House No. 2. (#29)

All the children (Gen One)

  • John Hay (adopted) born around 1876
  • Thomas McMillan Hay (1880-1902), who died aged 22.
  • William Hay b. 1882
  • Samuel Hay b. 1885. He seems to have married Georgina Watt Burnie in Coylton in 1908. She had been born in Coylton in 1886. She died in Ayr in 1974, aged 87. Someone working on Burnie genealogy uploaded their marriage certificate to ancestry.co.uk in 2016. See comments below the article from Steven Willcox (2020), grandson of Georgina’s sister Marion Watt Burnie: “The 1901 census shows Georgina Burnie (14) and Marion Burnie (8) living with 6 other siblings and their parents John and Jane, in a house with 2 rooms with windows at Bridgend Row, Coylton.”
  • Hugh Hay b. 1886 or 1888
  • Andrew Hay b. 1890. “Andie was a peripatetic tailor and lived in Ayr.”
  • James Hay (09/12/1897-25/05/1965) see below.

James and Agnes

Finally, my mother-in-law’s maternal grandparents, the final generation described here: Generation One. James Hay was born on the 9th December 1877 in Woodside, and died on the 25th April 1965 (Coylton). On 15th September 1899 aged 21 he married Agnes Inglis, aged 22, in Woodside. She was a dairymaid, living in Joppa, just west of Hillhead (and Joppa is now the larger part of Coylton village). She had been born on 1st July 1877 at 65 Truff Hill Row, Waterside (just west of Dalmellington Iron Works, halfway between Patna and the old village of Dalmellington), and died in Provan, Lanarkshire on the 28th January 1946. At the wedding, their witnesses were John Hay and Sarah Inglis.

Agnes Inglis (1877-1946)

Her parents were William Inglis, labourer, born in Ireland around 1850 and Sarah Milligan, also born around 1850. They’d been married on 5th March 1871 in Catrine (eastwards towards the hills). Both of them had pre-deceased their daughter’s wedding. More on that tree another time.

Agnes Inglis 1877-1946. There is a family resemblance of Agnes in an indefinable way to her daughter Jenny and grand-daughter (Nessie), who appears pictured below. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

The railway had reached Waterside in 1858 for the high quality coal being extracted from deep mines. Perhaps this gave Agnes scope to travel further afield to work and marry. I’ve not yet found other details of the family, but there is another photo below which I think is Agnes (aged around 60) with her grand-daughter, Agnes Inglis Erskine, my mother-in-law.


In 1891 aged 13 James Hay (1877-1965) was a farm servant, living in Woodside (6th block, 3rd house) with his parents and some of his siblings. In September 1899 when he got married aged 21 to Agnes Inglis (1877-1946) he was a pitheadman.

1901 & 1904 (Bardouran)

The location where James and Agnes were living at the 1901 census is spelled Bardouran, and I presume it was one of a row of farmworker cottages near Raithhill Farm (each with one windowed-room), a structure which is visible and labelled on the map below.

“Bardoran” (centre) in 1908. The woods of Bardoran Bank are slightly further south, along the Water of Coyle, just at the Old Bridge of Coyle: but no housing seems to be marked. Raith Hill and Dumdrow at the top of the map appear on other images elsewhere.
  • John Kiltie (25) ploughman, from Stoneykirk, Wigtonshire, Grace Smith (27, wife), from Ayr, two sons: John (4) born in Dailly, Martin (2) born in Coylton, and Grace Richmond (57, mother-in-law), from St. Quivox. Incidentally, “Richmond” is the married name of Mary Hay (b.1828). Were they related? (#4 in census list)
  • James (23), fireman at coal pit, Agnes (23), and their eldest son Samuel (1), born in Coylton. (#5)
  • Quintin Shaw (55), coalminer, from Dailly, Marion (60, wife) from St. Quivox and sons James (22), coalminer, Quintin (17), coalminer, both born in Dalmellington. (#6)
  • Alexander Stewart (39), coalminer, from Caputh, Perthshire, Marion (32, wife), from Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, and seven daughters aged 12 and under, born in Coylton and Stair parishes. (#7)

By 1904, James’s occupation at age 26 was given as a pit labourer on the birth certificate of their third child, daughter Janet, “Jenny“.

1911 (Bardowran)

The spelling in the last census currently available is “Bardowran Cottage”. It follows Bridgend Farm in the listing (which had 6 windowed rooms) and precedes Wraithhill Farm (with 8). Only two of the cottages seem to be occupied.

Bardouran/Bardorn cottages have now disappeared. Here is the overlap of the four cottage row and kitchen garden (~1900) on the NLS satellite image. Nowadays, there is just a kink in the field boundary.
Location: 55°27’38.8″N 4°29’34.0″W 55.460764, -4.492780

Well, some day soon we will visit and see what we can find on the ground. Here is the same location, with a newer map (1958) when the cottages had already been demolished: this is a link to the geo-referenced map online.

  • Samuel Young (55), farmer, employer, from Coylton, Agnes (48, wife of 14 years), their only two children Ann Thom. (11), Mary Marson (8), Agnes Fulton (20), servant, from Monkton, Alexander Bell McIntyre (19), servant, from Kilmarnock.
  • James (33), pit bottomer, Agnes (33, wife of 11 years) from Waterside, their only four children: Samuel (11), Sarah (9), Janet (6), Mary (3), all born in Coylton. I have been told of one more, younger sister: see below.
  • Peter Irvine (47), miner hewer, from Whithorn, Wigtonshire, Margaret Winters (42, wife of 20 years), and six children (aged from 4 to 20), two employed as hewers, one as a coal picker above ground (aged 14).

By 1932, James’s occupation at the age of 55 was recorded as road labourer, and as labourer in 1936.

James the Quoiter

James was remembered in the family as a quoits champion, but the only evidence I have of this so far is that he appeared in a photograph. Quoits is a toss-target game, with similarities to French boule and horse-shoe tossing. Wikipedia describes variants, but I expect the Ayrshire version was “Northern” and involved a target (a heavy pin set into the ground) about 10 metres (11 yards) away from the standing player. Only about 10cm (four inches) would stick up, as the target which a tossed quoit could wrap around. The quoits themselves were about 15cm (5½ inches) in diameter and were very heavy to be thrown with accuracy that far: over 2kg (5½lbs). The closest quoits to the pin would score, in the manner of curling or bowls.

<there will be a photo of James here, when I find it>

Ayrshirehistory.org.uk has an intriguing note on miners’ social activity: “At one typical miners village, Skares, the Cumnock Chronicle tells us there were three friendly societies (Gardeners, Rechabites, Good Templars), a quoiting club, an ambulance corps, a juvenile football club, a brass band, a dramatic society, and a phonetics class.

Hmm… I’m a phonetician and my colleagues and I teach phonetics skills to students in Speech and Language Therapy courses at Queen Margaret University. I suspect what was meant back in the day was something like elocution, public speaking, recitation and standard English: I’d love to know more, especially since it was listed separately from the dramatic society. I do know that upwardly mobile or douce and perjink Scots used to (and may still) view the Scots language as slang, a local dialect, degenerate English and old-fashioned. In a mining village, a “phonetics class” may have been a positive celebration, involving singing, traditional oral culture and the recitation of Burns, rather than attempting to eradicate “Scotticisms” as a type of self-betterment, but I don’t know.

Wikimedia commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quoits

All the children (Gen Zero)

  • Samuel “Sam” Hay (1900-1979). He married “Ellen”, Helen Hutchinson Boyd (1908-1988) and they had two daughters (who I will not name, for privacy reasons), one of whom married. They lived in Paisley, southwest of Glasgow. Details not certain. (We suspect they had a butcher’s in Paisley up to the 1970s, from which my wife’s family got their Xmas turkey, from Ayrshire, every year. She remembers being driven through the Clyde Tunnel to meet them and collect the bird as part of the seasonal excitement.)
  • Sarah “Sadie” Milligan Hay (1901?/1907?-1984?). Married Robert McCroskie (1913?-1990?) in 1923(?). They lived in Ayrshire, and there are living descendants, details known.
  • Janet McMillan Hay (01/09/1904 – 19/04/1973), “Jenny”. She married Henry Erskine (04/10/1902-20/05/1977), “Harry”, on 02/01/1929. They had one daughter, Agnes Inglis Erskine, “Nessie”, and lived in Glasgow. There are living descendants, including my wife and our children.
  • Mary Inglis Hay (1908-1948). She married John Cunningham (~1909-1943?) on 24/04/1936 in Coylton. She was 28, working as a shop assistant and living at 30 Carbieston, Low Coylton. He was 27, working as a motor driver and living in Hillhead, Coylton. They only had a short marriage because both died young. They left no children. His parents were Thomas Cunningham, a colliery underground ?fireman, and Sarah Calder Hodgeson (~1887-1940), who had married in 1908 in Dalmellington.
  • Agnes Inglis Hay (1912-1932). “Young Nan” died aged 19, in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow (death registered in Hillhead, though her usual residence was given as Coylton) due to post-operative cardiac failure, following an operation for exophthalmic goitre:

“Young Nan”

Agnes presumably had undergone an operation because her goitre was dangerous. A goitre is a bulge in the front of her neck around the larynx. In her case, the goitre was probably caused by an overactive and swollen thyroid, given the mention of her bulging (exophthalmic) eyes. She probably had Graves’ Disease and it was severe enough to merit the operation. Thyroid over-activity (hyperthyroidism) can cause an increase in the volume of tissue behind both eyes, making the eyes bulge forward (exophthalmos). Her eyesight would have been affected, and without treatment, her sight could have been permanently damaged or lost. If Graves’ disease had been the cause, the bulging and risk of damage to various parts of the eye could probably have been expected to subside after removal or part of the overactive thyroid. Any problems with breathing or swallowing would also have motivated a thyroidectomy to remove the thyroid gland. Tragically, though aged only 19, she died due to heart failure after the operation. Her father signed the register.

James Hay’s signature on his teenage daughter’s register of death

Jenny Hay (1904-1973) family photos

Janet McMillan Hay, born in a small one-story cottage (a butt-n-ben might be a reasonable description) in a row of four Bardouran in 1904, was known as Jenny in the family. Her home has vanished, and she herself died in 1973, nearly 50 years ago. To add to the three photos above that show Jenny with her husband Harry, here is at least one more that shows the couple, in a field, in the early 1930s.

Jenny and Harry with, I presume, their only child, daughter Agnes Inglis Erskine, “Nessie”, born 1929. Note the rug and car. The man in the background is probably James Erskine. Note the hat next to him in the background, half-hidden? Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Who is that man in the background, immediately above? Is it James Hay, Jenny’s father? Who took the photo?

In the next picture, the location is the same, the car and its relationship to the gate are the same, and there is a blanket in both (and a hat). The photos are physically similar in size, aspect ratio and appearance, suggesting the same camera was used (perhaps unsurprisingly). Altogether, I think these photos were taken on the same day, on a day out, rather than on two separate occasions.

Jenny and Harry? Or her sister Mary with someone (else?), maybe John Cunningham? Note the hat, rug and car, and compare to the image above: surely they were taken on the same day, but the women, although very similar in appearance, have different clothes. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

I am uncertain about who is in the photo immediately above, and opinions vary. Is it Harry and Jenny again? Not so likely if the two photos were taken on the same day. The adult women’s shoes look identical (but similar shoes appear in other photos). I’m sure both photos above were taken on the same day along with the others below, and that it was a three generation family outing. But the only way Harry and Jenny feature in both of the pictures above if Jenny changed (perhaps removing a long pale over-dress/cardigan). Alternatively, it could be Jenny’s sister Mary (1908-1948). If the man crouching behind her, obscured, was not Harry, it could have been John Cunningham (1909-1943). But Mary and John did not marry until 1936. (Another possibility is that Harry and Jenny revisited the exact same spot and had their photo re-taken, with one key change: daughter Nessie.)

Is the car window slightly less open and the hairstyles slightly different, or is that impression just due to the exposure and focus of the photo? The latter, I think. Two more photos fit with this idea of a single event. If that’s little Nessie above, then this is her again here. The older woman, is, I think, Agnes Hay (1877-1948), Jenny’s mother and Nessie’s grandmother, married to James in the other photo, who was lounging near a hat.

Whether the wee lassie is Nessie or no, surely the woman is Agnes Hay nee Inglis (1877-1946) in her mid 50s. Recall, she was pictured above as a young woman. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA
Nessie and Jennie – two grand relatives spanning 140 years, from the 18th to 21st centuries. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA
Our left-to-right: Andie Hay (younger brother of James) b.1890, Jenny Erskine b.1904, James Hay b.1877, “Kitty”. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Two more Hay descendants

Some more photographs, linking these Hay ancestors to our present lives, even though the photos were taken half a century ago.

Nessie and her mother Jenny, and Nessie’s two daughters, around 1965. This style of swingpark horse could be found all over Scotland: with effort and coordination it rocked forward and back, up and down. In the background are swings and a roundabout. All the play equipment tended to be surrounded by concrete: cleaner than grass but the source of many cuts and bruises. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA
Jenny Erskine (Janet McMillan Hay): a proud grandmother, late 1960s. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Finally, though slightly earlier, here are both Jenny and Harry Erskine in colour (if fuzzy) with their two grandchildren: the younger is my wife and the older her sister. Their grand-daughters called them gaga and papa.

Janet (Jenny) and Henry (Harry) Erskine with their two grand-daughters, around 1965. Image from Kinnis family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Memories involve visiting the grandparents in Garrowhill. It was a residential area built in the 1930s in the east of the Glasgow metropolitan area, whereas the grand-daughters lived in the west of Glasgow. Fish suppers, card games, and other indoor entertainments come to mind.

Reflecting on Hay and Scobbie

Ayrshire’s Miners’ Rows (1913) incorporated evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by Thomas McKerrell and James Brown on behalf of the Ayrshire Miners’ Union. Strawson’s edited transcription (1979) contains some salutary notes. In the early 20th C., Ayrshire had 14,000 coal miners (producing 4 million tons of coal annually). In the 1901 Census, more than half Ayrshire’s people (in 9,936 families) lived in homes of only one or two rooms. Recall the size of the Hay families above, or their neighbours, and how they had to be squashed into a single room. One such dwelling was even a “lodging house” with five adult men resident.

To combat the coalmasters who controlled the pits, houses, and often the only shops serving the rows, the Ayrshire Miners Union had been formed in 1886 with James Keir Hardie as organising secretary. Turning to political action, Hardie helped form the Independent Labour Party in 1893, and was elected M.P. for West Ham (1892-1895) and Merthyr (1900-1915). A parliamentary Labour Party emerged with 29 members (1906 Election) and 40 (1910) – though only three of this latter number came from Scottish seats. Nevertheless the Liberal Government was committed to a policy of social reform, involving among other things the appointment of a Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland.” This Royal Commission was the source of the report referred to above.

Keir Hardie (1856-1915), the first parliamentary leader of the UK’s Labour Party, was born in Legbranock in Lanarkshire (I think in the miners’ rows of three dozen homes on contemporary maps midway between Holytown and Hewhouse on the main east-west road, now the A775 Edinburgh Road). The miners’ rows are demolished, but from Johnstonhall, adjacent, the little “Parish Road” still leads 1 mile south to the nearest village, Newarthill. The road is now called Legbranock Road furth of Newarthill, and Church Street within Newarthill after it crosses the Legbranock Burn that marks the village limit.

At the same time as Hardie’s childhood, my great-grandparents were children in that very village. Indeed, my great grandmother Mina Laughland (1852-1945) was brought up in the manse on Church St., because her father was the minister in the U.P. church in question. My great grandfather James Scobbie (1853-1943) was born in the adjacent miners’ square, Watson’s Square. (How they “met” and their 60 years of marriage is a topic in another story.)

1859: Straddling the colliery railway, two sets of miners’ cottages. The back-to-back formation was in part opposite the school, while Watson’s Square was on the other side of the tracks. The manse with its orchard garden is bottom right. Part of the Legbranock Burn is visible top of the image, as Church Road turns into the parish road/Legbranock Road as it crosses the burn. NLS/ordnance survey maps.

However, though my great grandfather was living in a mining community, his father was not a coal miner. Rather, George Hill Scobbie was a clerk (1841, 1851), a coal merchant (1861), and a grain dealer (1871). When George died (aged only 56), his death certificate (1875) specified his career to be “coal master and coal mine owner“.

James was in the right place to profit from coal mining — and profit he did. He was to become one of those wealthy coalmasters and businessmen that Hardie and other contemporaries were set against. His family lived in the biggest house in the village of Newarthill. (I’ve got a lot of work to do, to evaluate the Scobbie mining businesses.)

The Scobbie family home 1877-1940s, “Beechworth”, at Pickerston Hill in Newarthill. Photo taken around 1913. That’s my great-grandmother Williamina in the doorway. This house has also now been demolished. Image from Scobbie family collection. CC license 4.0 BY-NC-SA

Keir Hardie was a world-famous figure, and he would have been known to Hay and Scobbie families alike. We can guess what their views might have been, in broad terms, if not in detail. We can be sure however, that though they were linked by the coal industry of the time (and now by their common descendants), these 19th century ancestors (Hay and Scobbie) led entirely distinct lives.

To do

  • Check death certs for Janet McMillan Hay, 623/ 338 on site, and Henry 611/ 376. Also some others – e.g. Sam Hay’s wife.
  • Check various Coylton McMillans in case there is a connection. There was also a Murdoch family in Coylton at 583/ 7/ 1. The Hays in Woodside were at 583/ 7/ 3.
  • Check 1901 census 583/1 8/ 7 for Hugh, Andrew and neighbours for completeness. Check 1891 census 583/ 9/ 7 for Samuel for completeness to see his job and neighbours.
  • What happens to the older Andrew Hay, (born around 1863, aged 17 in 1881)? “Andrew” is an unusual forename for Hay. He also stands out because he was a pupil teacher aged 17. There are 4 possible hits for him in 1891 in Scotland (age ~27) but none in Coylton. Not many deaths after 1881 are indexed either, of which 4 are more likely. Worth pursing.
  • The Speir connection. Mary Speir was born around 1857, and Jane(t) around 1859. There are a few likely candidates. What about the rest of their family? Why was Mary “head” of household and “under trustees”. Did their parents die? Or were these the farming family, some kind of “cousins”, that moved to Lincolnshire? Jane aged 16 is a witness to Janet’s 1872 wedding, even though Janet was the dairymaid. Were they related?
    By 1881 (LDS transcription of census just below), a different branch of the Speir family had moved in. They had previously lived in Ochiltree (cf. birthplaces and 1851, 1861, 1871 census indexes).
SPEIR James 64 Craigie, AyrHead Farmer of 175 acres
SPEIR Ellen 56 Symington, AyrWife  
SPEIR James 32 Ochiltree, Ayrson  
SPEIR Ellen 24 Ochiltreedau  
SPEIR Alexander 22 Ochiltree son Farmer son
SPEIR Jean 20 Ochiltreedau  
SPEIR Annie 17 Ochiltree dau  
SPEIR Mary 13 Ochiltree dau Scholar
Thomson Thomas 41 Maybole, Ayrservant Ploughman
  • Longer term… the Scobbie mining businesses.

Notes and Sources

Wikipedia is absolutely amazing. It’s free. Contrast its ethos to Amazon, Facebook, Twitter or even the now-corrupted Google (a once-neutral site which now specialises in monetising and targeted content). Why not donate to and read about Wikipedia here: https://wikimediafoundation.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coylton has a short section on the Trysting Thorn of Coylton Parish which appears in Burns’s A Soldier’s Song.

Geograph is pretty amazing too, but often does not have the exact thing I want! Moral: I need to add my own. Here for example are the photographs from Raithhill and Bardouran area (https://www.geograph.org.uk/gridref/NS4221). But oh what a success: the super picture Site of Woodside ©2017 Richard Webb, from the Woodside area adjacent (https://www.geograph.org.uk/gridref/NS4222).

Ordnance Survey maps accessible via National Library of Scotland online have been indispensable, as I have gradually learned about the locations here. I’ve barely scratched the surface with the images I’ve posted. you simply HAVE TO try the dynamic interface, to move, resize, overlap and so on. For a dynamic overlapping view of an old map and the beautiful green fields, mine workings and dried kettle lakes in the satellite image, check out a view like this, and adjust the relative visibility of the two images using “change transparency of overlay”. Or select a “side-by-side” or “spy” view. Fabulous.

Information dated “1841” and at later 10 year intervals can be assumed to come from a census, unless it’s from a birth, marriage or death certificate in that year. The 1881 census information is from the free LDS transcription. The 1891 and 1901 information is currently just from the free indexes.

Old Scottish https://www.oldscottish.com/coylton.html for the 1834 (etc) indexes of heads of household.

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/sct/AYR/Coylton notes that the Troon and District Family History Society has published a book of Monumental Inscriptions for Coylton. Also GenUKI provides the 1837 description of Joppa from Pigot’s Directory for Ayrshire (transcript by Keith Muirhead).

OPR records at Scotland’s People.

OS Name Books (1855-1857)



https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/working-lives-in-the-mining-industry is something I found out about after finishing this… I might re-edit after doing the course!

Likewise, I need to visit https://nationalminingmuseum.com/

Mining occupations like “hewer” and “bottomer” are defined here: http://dmm.org.uk/educate/mineocc.htm


The finest place for a lasting colliery: Coal mining enterprise in Ayrshire c. 1600-1840” by Christopher A Whatley (1983, Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society) is available pdf online. It charts the rise of the coal industry, mainly in the 18th C. The local need for coal increased demand. “Whilst the output from the inland collieries was growing, it was not until around 1840 that parishes outwith the reach of Ayrshire’s ports began to experience the effects of expansion. The twin thrusts of the railway and the iron industry ‘revolutionised’ the distribution of the county’s collieries. Muirkirk, the sole remaining representative of the 18th century iron industry, was joined by other works. These were Cessnock at Galston (1838), Blair at Dairy (1839), Glengarnock by Kilbirnie (1840), Kilwinning (1844), Lugar by Auchinleck (1844), Nithsdale at New Cumnock (1845), Dalmellington (1846), Hurlford by Kilmarnock (1846), and Ardeer at Stevenston (1852). By 1854, their combined furnaces were consuming around 747,000 tons of Ayrshire’s coal.” (pages 98-99).

Ayrshire’s Miners’ Rows (1913). (Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by THOMAS McKERRELL and JAMES BROWN for the Ayrshire Miners’ Union) is available online in a 2004 digitisation of a 1979 annotated transcription (by John Strawhorn), published by the AYRSHIRE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY.

The River of Ayr Way walking route wanders nearby. For example, see – https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/glasgow/stair-ayr.shtml

Roy Forrester’s extensive A Forrester Family History overlaps with my interests in Chapter 6 on couple George Hill Scobbie (1819-1875) and Elizabeth Forrester (1828-1890), and Roy’s transcriptions of original documents have been very helpful. (As is the Elizabeth’s Forrester ancestry: it’s a model piece of work.)

Post Office annual directories. They list the Coylton Parish Council — Robert M’Cosh, Hillhead, chairaman ; William Hay, Mosside Cottage; James Paterson, Ramsayston ; Samuel Young, Bridgend; David Downie, Hillhead; Gilbert Blair, Milncraig ; Miss A. M. Dickson, Duchray ; Robert Bowman, clerk.
Which William is this? I need to check the 1901 and 1909 census returns for Mossside cottage, which is at the road junction at Broadwood Farm, to find his age. The cottage still exists, here it is on google street view.

There is a nice 1851 Directory also.

Tarbolton – thanks to Steven Willcox (cf comments), I see a connection between a Sam Hay and Tarbolton and the Robert Burns Bachelor Club, restored and run by the National Trust for Scotland. See the comments for a photo from Steven of this Sam Hay (also inserted here).

Sam Hay, the tall man wielding a sword on 21st September 1973 at the “Bachelors’ Club”, a Burns;s restored club, run by the National Trust for Scotland. A post in 2019 said this was “almost 200 years since it was previously in the building. The tall chap in the photo with the bunnet is Sam Hay. Sam was custodian of the property from 1973 to 1987, and a local historian and correspondent. We still have his diaries with his daily observations recorded in very dry humour in the building. He notes for the above date that on this day he received from a descendant of John Richard (the owner of the house in the 18th century) the sword of the Lodge St. David of the Freemasons.” – photo copied from https://www.facebook.com/BachelorsClubNTS/posts/2446302698986424 without permission, please see their site.

In Nov 2020 I also found Sam Hay referred to here in a site on abandoned communities throughout the UK, which includes Woodside in a trip to Ayrshire! The site was created by Stephen Fisk who has a serious interest in some of the peripheral points raised here. There is a mention of Tarbolton on p8, Tarholm, Springs, and even Woodside. The Woodside page (p6), looks familiar… I think I saw it in my searches, then lost it again, and am delighted to find it and put a link in here. His site points me elsewhere, e.g. to a reunion of Woodside residents: “A full account of the reunion appeared in The Ayrshire Post, 24 February 1950.” and Stephen quotes some highlights on the http://www.abandonedcommunities.co.uk/ayrshire7.html page.

John Aitken handing some bananas to Mrs Maggie Hay” – from Stephen Fisk, who writes: “John Aitken, who lives in Springs, just up the road from Woodside. John Aitken, known as Jock when he played professional football that included one appearance for Scotland, … and his friend David Auld … shared their memories [and photographs] of Woodside…” John was born in the early 20th century. As a child he used to stay there in the summer with his grandmother, Mrs Isabella Aitken. Later he established a nursery in Springs, together with a fruit and vegetables delivery business. This photo was taken just after WW2, so this may be the Margaret Hay who died in Coylton in 1947, aged 83.

Stephen Fisk also says “For more information on the villages including the abandoned ones “read Dane Love’s excellent book Ayrshire’s Lost Villages, published by Carn Publishing in 2016.

My final remarks echo a very long piece on “Inheriting Privilege” in family tree work. I also found this interesting – https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/enclosure-acts-industrial-revolution/ on poverty, industialisation, and land ownership. Scotland continues to have astonishingly 18th C. statistics on land ownership given the existence of vast highland estates and weird tenancy situations.

25 thoughts on “Ayrshire coal and Hay

Add yours

    1. Thanks – I was particularly keen to imagine my way into all those decades and generations in pretty much one spot – that middle generation that was born into a tradition of coal mining, and seeing their children and grand-children following on in the same path… in a whole community who were experiencing the same.
      There were hundreds of thousands of coal miners in the UK – and yet I’ve never met ANYONE who has told me their ancestor was a coal miner. Online, before I started this, I’d seen ten times as many people say that King Robert the Bruce was an ancestor, compared to saying they came in part from a line of coal miners – which I think is a shame.
      I’m glad the article resonates with you.


    1. Thanks – now Wisconsin… I’m off to look up that familiar name on Wikipedia, because I know absolutely nothing about the State at all, except *roughly* where it is.


      1. Hi, this has been an absolutely fascinating read especially as I can relate to quite a few of the area’s you have mentioned. My Great, great grandparents lived in the same vicinity around the same period and my GG Grandfather originated from Ireland but also preached in his cottage to the local community after breaking away from Church of Scotland at Stair due to a disagreement. He was a miner and they had a family of girls. My brother holds all my research at the moment so I can’t remember whether it was Woodend or Woodside they lived. I will need to get it back to reprise it all. Just curious do you live in Scotland? Love the way that you find out interesting aspects and diverge, that’s the kind of thing I do. So haven’t read any of the offshoots (as yet). But thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi there! sorry for the slow reply – I didn’t spot your comment before. Yes, I do live in Scotland – in Edinburgh. All the ancestors (apart from those few Irish ones) are Scottish, so I am getting my pleasure in variation where I can… from the social, regional, occupational and other variations!
        Did you find out if it was Woodend/Woodside?


  1. Very interesting read, my grandfather as well as many more ancestors on my mother’s side where coal minors in Scotland. My grandfather lived in uddingston

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Jim

        My ancestors were as well Hay from the same lines from James and Susanna

        Samuel Hay had a brother, James Hay

        James Hay (47) coal miner, Susan (49, wife), eight children: Samuel (23) coal miner, James (18) coal miner, John (16) coal miner, Margaret (14), Hugh (11), Elisabeth (9), Andrew (7), Susan (4). Woodend?

        You wondered later on If James had married his cousin Janet? Well the case is no, he married Janet Easdale born 30 Sep 1847 – coylton, Ayrshire.

        They had a few children born to them one was my great great grandad John Hay. Who went by the name Jock. He was born coylton, Ayrshire, May 15 1880.
        He married Agnes Geates.

        They had 7 children
        James, John, Robert, William,Helen(Nelly),
        Jane (Jean), Jessie.

        James their first born, was my Grandad, he married Mary Colquhoun from Maybol, Scotland. They had 2 children my mother Margaret Steele Hay, and Iain Easdale Hay.

        After WW11 they moved to Canada. I was glad I found your writings about the first Hay family to settle back in Scotland, from living in Ireland! Im just not sure why the Hay clan would of moved to Ireland to begin with?

        Our Hay family are still scattered around the Edinburgh and Preswick and Glasgow ares. I think my great grandfather’s brother Hugh stayed around the coylton, Ayrshire, area until he died.

        Thanks, Mary Lynn Hay Humphrey in Canada

        Liked by 2 people

      2. This is great! So pleased you found this and got in touch. As for Ireland, if the family were Protestant religion and originally from Scotland, then probably it was the plantations. I don’t suppose there is evidence that they were returning to Scotland though rather than having deep Irish roots. I don’t know!


  2. Fascinating read and wonderful photos not only as a record of your family but also the change in fashions over the years. Very good looking folks. I am on an Ayr site and if you would like me to I could put up a post to see if anyone has a memory of your relatives and a sweet shop. You can let me know any information and approx dates if it is something you would like me to do!
    Still trying to get a hold of the other information I had on Ayrshire mining near Ayr.
    Regards Caroline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Caroline! I am very happy for sharing near and far, and have had a couple of “hits” with overlapping trees and ancestors – which is all part of the fun.

      Sadly I lost connection to a Dick relative who wrote to me once, about 15 years ago, in reply to one of mine, asking for some help identifying photos, and I lost the letter (which I recently re-found) but it was too late – phone number no longer functioning. Oops! Well, I’ll leave the link where I mention that on here, in case someone reads our comments and is intrigued by this or the other Uddingston comment and might benefit from a quick link. I forgot I’d written about it.


      1. I’ve put up a post asking if anyone has a memory of David and Marion Scobie having a Sweet shop somewhere in Ayr. Just need to see if there is any response. I was trying to work it out do you reckon it was the 1950s?


      2. That’s kind, thanks.
        I reckon this would be the late 40s and maybe later as they were in their mid 60s already by 1950. Just possibly it was in the late 30s after the toffee factory business had ended, up to WW2, because I can’t imagine they would have been able to operate during WW2.


  3. Very interesting . My grandparents James Alexander and his wife Mary lived at Woodside they had four children Kate Jessie May and my father Hugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad to have found this, as my family have strong connections to Woodside as well. You mentioned James Wilcox living in Woodside with his family, but his brothers John and Alexander also lived there with their families. Their father, also James had moved there from Whitburn sometime in the 1870s, although he was originally from Lanark.
    My grandfather, William Wilcox, was one of John Wilcox’s sons, and he married Marion Watt Burnie who I believe to have been a sister of the Georgina Watt Burnie that you mentioned. My father spent his summers as a child in Woodside and for many years I believe he was still in touch with his Hay cousins, who were, if my memory is correct, were Samuel and Jeannie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fantastic, so glad this trail of crumbs led somewhere. It’s good to hear that connection.

      Samuel and Jeannie ring a bell with my wife in relation to the Hay cousins, but lots of people had those names! Do you mean “Jeannie” short for Georgina maybe rather than an informal version of Jean or Janet?

      So.. it was my mother-in-law’s great uncle and aunt who were Samuel Hay b1885 and Georgina Watt Burnie 1886-1908, the latter being your grand-mother’s sister, is that right?

      There were also relatives in living memory in Paisley: Sam and Ellen Hay both died in Paisley (1979 & 1988). There were also cousins in Paisley who were butchers, and I presume they’re the ones.


      1. Hi Jim, I’m afraid that I don’t know much about Samuel and Jeanie other than that I believe they lived in Tarbolton, and that Samuel had been a Mine Deputy (a rather senior position) and heavily involved in the Burns Bachelor Club in Tarbolton. Unfortunately, my father died in 1993, so I have little information now. He is buried in Coylton cemetery close to my Grandfather and Grandmother (Marion Burnie), as was his wish.

        Yes, I do believe that Georgina Watt Burnie was my Grandmother’s sister. The 1901 census shows Georgina Burnie (14) and Marion Burnie (8) living with 6 other siblings and their parents John and Jane, in a house with 2 rooms with windows at Bridgend Row, Coylton.

        I didn’t know about Hays in Paisley, which is unfortunate, as that is where I was born and brought up. I will ask my mother about the butchers as she is “old Paisley” and may know of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing about Coylton and the Hay families. My cousin descends from Andrew Hay and his wife Elizabeth Page Adams. He moved and lived in Dumbarton. Their daughter Georgina Maude Adams Hay died giving birth to my cousin’s mother. All your wonderful information will be devoured by him as there is no connection now. Elinor

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, that’s lovely to know, and sad always to think of the traumas of working life and bearing and caring for unstoppable numbers of children.


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