Cumnock has a rich history of photographers who provided their services to a wide range of the public between 1861 and into the 1920's and beyond. We would be interested to see any examples of these photographers work that you may have in your collection.

By Bobby Grierson

Gallery of photos HERE

John Ballantine PhotographerJohn Ballantine was a well known photographer and person of renown In Old Cumnock from about 1861 until he died in 1891.

Born in 1825 in Girvan, Ayrshire to William Ballantine, Tailor and Janet McClean, he was the eldest of 3 children Agnes (1827) and Duncan (1829).

By 1841 he was working with his father as a Tailor’s Apprentice in Hamilton Street, Girvan and the 1851 Census finds him working in Main Street Ochiltree as a Tailor Journeyman for an Andrew Smith, Clothier Master working with 2 Boys, Walden Pink and Robert Green.

By 1861 at the age of 36 he had moved to Cumnock and had set himself up as a photographer. John never married.

At this time he was living with his younger brother Duncan McClean Ballantine and family who had set up a printing and stationers business at 12 Glaisnock Street, Cumnock in 1852. This was the premises that Stoddart the bakers eventually occupied.

What happened to him between 1851 and 1861 to make him change his profession so dramatically? Photography was only invented in 1830 so it was within 20-25 years of its invention that he took it up as his main profession and turned it into a successful business.

In 1869 he leased land at 23 Ayr Road, Cumnock from John Patrick Crichton Stuart, Marquess of Bute of 1 rood 18 poles 26 yards of land, on part of which his Photographic Studio was erected. He occupied this site until his death in 1891.

LogoIn the 1871 Census he is a photographer master employing 2 women. In 1878 he stood for Municipal Election along with 4 other candidates and was duly elected with 159 votes and served on the commission. The following year he ran for election onto the Cumnock School Board and won one of the 7 seats with 414 votes. He was a member of the congregation of the United Presbyterian Church. John also served on the Cumnock Parochial Board Committee in 1885, 1887, 1890 and 1891.

In the 1881 Census he is a photographer master employing 2 girls.

He appears in the Cumnock Register Directories of 1882-1891 as a photographer in Ayr Road.

In 1888 is made Trustee of the Baird Institute by the late John Baird who he was friends with.

In Slater’s Directory for Scotland 1889 he appears as a photographer in Glaisnock Street.

Some adverts
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald 26th March 1859. Advert. New waiting room and extension to premises.

Ayr Advertiser 11th April 1861. Studio will re-open 19th April 1861, and then be open every Friday and Saturday. Has stereoscope views of Drumlanrig and Lanfine, several of which are rare gems.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald 12th April 1862: establishment will re-open Friday 18th April 1862.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald 24th October 1863: is about to erect new premises in a more convenient situation.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald 27th February 1864: will open new premises in Ayr Road, near Free Church, on 17th March 1864; has new cartes de visite lens by Ross of London.

Ayr Advertiser 5th January 1871. Advert placed by John Ballantine, photographer, Cumnock. Will be closed from 21st December 1870 to 6th March 1871.

Studio Fire
The studio at 23 Ayr Road The studio at 23 Ayr Road caught fire on Saturday 1st February 1879 and was reported in the Glasgow Herald that week.
Early on Saturday morning, the premises of John Ballantine, photographer, were discovered to be in flames. The buildings are situated in Ayr Road, and it was at first reared that the whole row of cottages there would catch fire, as, although plenty of assistance was speedily on the spot, it was found that the fire-plugs were frozen and could not be used. As the buildings were principally composed of wood and glass, the fire made rapid progress, and in the course of an hour everything was burned to the ground; but fortunately there was no wind, and the fire was confined to the premises in which it originated. It is supposed that the fire was caused by some sticks left to dry on the conservatory flue having caught fire. The damage, which is only partially covered by insurance, is estimated at about £500.

Studio Claim
John had problems when he rebuilt the studio as in the Glasgow Herald 4th October 1879

Mr Pollock objected to the claim of John Ballantine, photographer, Cumnock, in respect that the subject upon which he was enrolled, viz, a studio, had been burned down in the course of the year. From the evidence it appeared that Mr Ballantine had for several years stood enrolled upon the subject in question, which was valued at £12 per annum, the feu-duty being £4 16s; that the studio was accidentally burned down on the 1st February last; and that Mr Ballantine immediately proceeded, after getting plans, to erect a new studio on the same ground, and within a few feet of the old site, and it was roofed in April; and that this new erection, with the garden, was now entered on the valuation roll at £20. The assessor had struck Mr Ballantine from the roll in consequence of the former studio having been burned. The Sheriff took the case to avixandum, and yesterday gave his decision, sustaining the claim. On the application of Mr Pollock, the Sheriff granted a special case for the decision of the Court of Session.

HeadstoneJohn died in Cumnock in January 1891 aged 65 of a bowel disease and haemorrhage.

In his will he left, amongst other items, his case of boxes to the Baird Institute and £50 to his photography assistant Lizzie Drummond.

He is buried at the family plot in the old cemetery on Barrhill Road.

Cumnock Express 1891
The late Mr. John Ballantine
On the morning of Thursday last, one of our best known and highly respected townsmen was taken from us by death in the person of Mr John Ballantine, photographer, after being confined to his room, and mostly to his bed for nearly a month, although to those who knew him well and met him frequently it was but too apparent that during the whole course of the bygone summer and autumn his constitution was manifesting signs of breaking up and giving way, while he had only arrived at the comparatively early age of sixty five years.

A native of Girvan, he came to the place fully thirty years ago and some years after his brother the late Duncan Ballantine, who died here about thirteen years ago, but of whose moral wealth and intellectual attainments many pleasant memories still remain.

Of a scientific and mechanical bent of mind, and having studied the process thoroughly, Mr Ballantine erected a very pretty photographic studio in a fine open space of ground in Ayr Road and began business as a photographer, and his beautiful and faithful pictures soon became famous and business to flow upon him from all quarters. This studio being accidentally burned down a good many years after, he at once erected another in its stead of far greater extent and beauty which standing picturesquely upon a green knoll overlooking the town and surrounded with pretty grounds, greenhouses and charming parterres was one of the finest sights in the place..

Here Mr Ballantine took numerous portraits of people of every position; and besides those of large numbers still alive, the faithful likeness of the faces and the forms of many now mouldering in the tomb have been preserved by him to friends and to future times. Reserving for one long day in the week to go out into the country with his camera, he took excellent pictures of many a sunny landscape of leafy trees, bright streams of living waters, blue lakes, lofty hills, and bounding sea-billows which are a delight to look upon and a treasure to possess.

Notwithstanding the extent of his business, Mr. Ballantine found time to devote to that of the town also, and for successive periods he was both a commissioner of the burgh and a member of the School Board, devoting scrupulous attention to his duties in both these onerous offices. Being also on of the late John Baird’s trustees, and, among these, taking the most active superintendence of the erection of the large institute in connection with the trust, he retired from the Commission in November last, in order that he might be able to devote more time to the completing and furnishing of this excellent building. It is mournful to think, however that he has just been cut off when it was on the eve of being opened.

In politics Mr Ballantine was an advanced radical, and an ardent supporter of Mr Gladstone, even in the latest Home Rule move of that veteran statesman, and the ardor of his attachment to his political opinions, rather seemed at times to “narrow his mind” to such a degree that (though not in his nature) he seemed hardly able to make due allowance for a difference of opinion, and an equal degree of sincerity in his political opponents, or to do them justice in this and other respects, to which they were entitled, on more mature reflection, his kindness of heart, and his honesty of purpose would most certainly have accorded them.

An attached member of the United Presbyterian Church, he was held in the highest respect by both the minister and people of the large and intelligent congregation, and of which, we think, he was the treasurer, and he always maintained a walk worthy of his sincere but quiet and unostentatious Christian profession.

Never married, Mr Ballantine, all along resided in the amiable orphan family of his deceased brother, and to them he was not only a “guide, philosopher and friend,” but a second father, and as such they will long lament his loss, while he will also be long and sincerely mourned by a large circle of warm friends in this, and in other districts.

By Anne Geddes

Hew's cardHew/Hugh McGeachin was born on 31st August 1838 in Cumnock to William McGeachin (ironmonger) and his 1st wife Isabella Welsh. William and Isabella had married in Cumnock in April 1826 and had at least four children before Hugh’s birth in 1838. Isabella Welsh McGeachin must have died before 1840 as William married Rankin Kerr on 27th November 1840 in Cumnock. William and Rankin went on to have another 8 children.

In 1851 the family was living in The Square, Cumnock, and consisted of William (aged 44) ironmonger and Rankin (36) Mary H. (19), George W. (16), Agnes (14), Hugh (12), Isabella (9), William (7), Robert (5), James (3) and Jean (8 months). All born in Cumnock.

Advert in Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald 30 April 1864: Call at his father’s shop, William McGeachin, ironmonger, The Square.

On 1st June 1871 Hugh McGeachin married Mary McWhirter in Dalmellington. They were both living in Dalmellington at this time. Hugh was described as a 30 year old ironmonger and Mary (aged 28) was the daughter of John McWhirter (a baker) and Jean Armour.

In 1881, Hugh and Mary were living in Colquhoun Square, Helensburgh. Hugh was aged 42 and employing 1 boy in his ironmongery business, Mary was aged 38.

Hugh died on 8th June 1907 at Glennan Gardens, Helensburgh. He was aged 68. His death was registered by his brother-in-law William McWhirter.

By Anne Geddes

Hess printWilliam Hess was born c1856 as Hans Freidrick Wilhelm Hess to Heinrich Rudolph Hess (photographer) and Amalie Hardenberg. He was presumably born in Prussia as his brother Emil Johann married in Siegburg, Rheinland, Prussia in 1873.

William Hess married Eliza Duncan Smith Paterson (a shop assistant) on 29th September 1887 at Harbour Street, Ayr. He was aged 32 and Eliza – the daughter of Thomas Lyon Paterson, a manufacturer, and Jane Smith – was aged 30. The witnesses to the wedding were Carl H .F. Hess and Mary Smith.
In 1901 William and Eliza were living in Ayr with children Jessie (13) and Carl (11).

He had a studio at Miller Drive in Ayr and took over John Ballantine's studio at Ayr Road after John death in 1891. Operated until at least 1905 from there.

Also listed at Ayr Road, Cumnock in 1892 Register. Not there in 1891. Advert in Cumnock Express 1893 gives address as Miller Road, with branch in Ayr Road, Cumnock.

William died on 26th March 1933 at Beresford Terrace, Ayr aged 77 having been a photographer for 46 years in the same premises. He was described as a master photographer. His death was registered by his daughter Janie Hess.

By Anne Geddes

Campbell printColin Campbell was born on 11th June 1859 in Lanark to William Campbell (a shoemaker) and Margaret McAllister. He was one of at least 13 children. In 1881 his father and mother were living at 20 Wellgate, Lanark with 4 of their children, at this time Colin was lodging at Nicolson Street, Edinburgh – he was described as a 21 year old artist, born Lanark.

On 20th January 1882 at West Port, Lanark, Colin married Helen Robertson, a 24 year old assistant shopkeeper. Colin was a master painter and both he and Helen lived in Lanark at this time. Helen was the daughter of James Robertson (a railway platelayer) and Agnes Young.

In 1891 Colin (occupation – photographer) was living in Cumnock with Helen and two children – William (8) born Blantyre and Agnes (3) born Lanark.

He operated a studio in Barrhill Road within walking distance of the train station. From at least 1891.

Advert in Cumnock Express 1893 gives address as Barrhill Road. Advert in Cumnock Chronicle 1902 gives addresses at Barrhill Road, Cumnock, and 133 High Street, Kirkcaldy.

1895 Valuation Roll entry for him as a photographer living in the Barrhill, Cumnock. He rented his accommodation from Matthew Steel McKerrow, farmer of Boreland, Southwick, Dumfries for £7 per annum with a £2 1s Feu duty.

1905 Valuation Roll has him as a photographer at & Whytehouse Mansions In Kirkaldy. Tenant to Whytehouse Estate Ltd at an annual rent of £20. He also owned a Studio at Whytehouse, Whytecauseway Kirkaldy.

1911 census finds him with his wife and 2 daughters living at 7 Whytehouse Mansions. His youngest daughter Margaret (born Cumnock Barrhill 1892) being Photographers Assistant.

1915 Valuation Roll finds him at 7 Whytehouse Mansions but also owns a house at 39 Milton Road in Kirkaldy.
That is the last record we have.

By Anne Geddes

Miller printAndrew Miller was born on 3rd January 1869 in Ayr to William Bruce Miller (a master plasterer) and Elizabeth McClelland. Another Andrew had been born in 1857 to William and Elizabeth – but presumably had died before 1869. Other children born to William and Elizabeth were Adam (1853) Elizabeth Bruce (1859) Jessie (1862) William (1864) Robert (1867) and John (1872) – all born in Ayr.

In 1881, the family were living at 21 Mill Street in Ayr. William was aged 49 born Ayr, Elizabeth (48) born in Coylton, daughter Elizabeth was aged 21 and described as a leather machinist, son William (16) was a plasterer’s apprentice, sons Andrew (12) and John (8) were both still at school.

Andrew married Janet Alexander Paterson in 1896 in Cathcart, Lanarkshire.

He served as Provost of Cumnock from1919-1922 and as a Councillor from 1907-1922.

He died on 27th June 1945 at St. Phillans Avenue in Ayr aged 76.