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Ardrossan - the Town that Earl Hugh Planned

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Hughie
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Ardrossan - the Town that Earl Hugh Planned

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Kilmarnock Herald and Ayrshire Gazette
November 23, 1951

Based on the book of Ayrshire by Dr W. Boyd and Dr J. Strawhorn


"Modern Ardrossan is very new, dating from the beginning of the nineteenth century. But ancient Ardrossan is very old, perhaps the oldest place of human habitation in Scotland."

"At the base of the 'jutting out ridge', as it was called by the Celtic immigrants of the day, there is a shell mound containing the bones of 'long-faced ox, goat, sheep, red deer, pig, rabbit, roebuck, hare, horse, beaver, seal... red grouse, herring gull, puffin, guillemot, conger eel, cod and edible crab' and shells now extinct in the Clyde area.

"These first inhabitants of Ayrshire were obviously competent hunters and fishers rang. ing over a wide district; and according to John Smith, Ayr. shire's prehistorian, they were cannibals." Such is the opening paragraph of the chapter of the Book of Ayrshire dealing with the burgh. The authors go on to tell us that the present town owes its existence to Hugh, twelfth Earl of Eglinton who, in 1805, planned to build a commodious harbour to be connected by canal with Glasgow. The harbour was completed in 1845 but the canal, made unnecessary by the advent of the railway never was.

"Earl Hugh was one of Ayrshire's first town planners, and he had the vision to appreciate the need for broad streets. In accordance with the original design the business part of the town stands at the base of the Castle Hill on ground reclaimed from the son, and the Hill crowned with the ruins of the Castle itself has been set aside as a public park for all time. The older part of the town is beginning to show the wear and tear of the years in dilapidated buildings and unsightly gaps, but even so the main roads with their good substantial undistinguished houses are for the most part quite presentable." One sentence sums up a problem which the planners of today are faced with: "The railways indeed have made rather a mess of the Eglinton plan." Despite this Ardrossan's fine sandy beaches and its outlook on the grand hills of the Firth of Clyde give it a high place among Ayrshire's seaside resorts.

Although the town has many industrial concerns (the Ardrossan Harbour Company, the Ardrossan Dockyard Ltd. and the Shell Refining and Marketing Company Ltd. are the principal ones) it is not obviously an industrial town. "Rather it is a dual town, with a north beach and a south beach of very different character... To the one belong the harbour and factories. The other makes Ardrossan a delightful holiday resort for people of all classes and especially working folks from Glasgow."

According to the account the burgh has always been well served by its council. There is a good civic spirit in the town but it is apt not to be very active except at election times. The general idea seems to be to appoint good men to the council and leave them to it. An increasing difficulty to get candidates to come forward, except for the Labour group, is noted. A reluctance to face the electors at the annual pre-election meeting is blamed for this. There are, however, plenty of public spirited people willing to serve on local committees and voluntary bodies. Roman Catholics and Protestants, Socialists and Tories get on well together.

Delinquencies? The town is given credit for having "quite a good record." "There is not much drunkenness among locals. Better housing conditions at a distance from the centre of the town and the cost of drinks have between them helped to reduce the consumption of spirits. The main trouble is with seafaring men when they come ashore in the evenings. Drinking is rather more common among women than it was. "Gambling habits have changed considerably in late years. At one time horse racing, cards and pitch and toss were favoured; now it is football pools, dog racing and horse racing (in that order). There are no gambling schools on Sundays."

Opinion, apparently, differs on the standard of honesty. "The best that some observers can say is that while theft is rather common, especially on the part of boys and adolescents, Ardrossan is no worse than other places. Some would not even say that in regard to sex misbehaviours. While there has been a good recovery from the moral deterioration of war-time, the authorities and townspeople generally are greatly perturbed by undesirable females mostly from outside the town who haunt the foreign ships in the harbour. Notwithstanding the efforts of police, town council and harbour authority, the problem remains intractable."

The greatest change in social life the authors find to have taken place among dockers, seafarers, railwaymen and other workers in the harbour area.
"At the beginning of the century dockers and seamen were heavy drinkers, and were encouraged in this by the big sums of money they got in pay off, and to the case of harbour men by the practice of subbing . .. three or more times a week. Decasualisation of dock labour and a regular week has had a good effect among the dockers while with the 'Pool' there is a more frequent change of ship and seamen get home with their baggage after a 'pay off'. The competition of the cinema with the public house (and again the higher cost of drink) has also contributed to greater sobriety. "This has had a favourable reaction on home life. Husbands and wives have found more common interests and the children are better fed and better clothed."

Increase in outside activity has tended to break up the family. Young people go out more and find friends and entertainment away from home. New forms of employment for girls has led to poorer housekeeping. In the case of children there is undoubtedly greater laxity of discipline and some of them are allowed to run wild outside the home.

But the reporting committee is inclined to think that home behaviour over all is better."
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