On the 10th December 1966 Cumnock celebrated its centenary of the granting of Police Burgh status to Cumnock in 1866. There were many events organised throughout the year in celebration of this important anniversary, some of which we highlight below.
The New History of Cumnock by Dr. John Strawhorn
The Town Council commissioned the historian Dr John Strawhorn to produce the New History of Cumnock. This 400-page illustrated hardback traces the history of Cumnock from where John Warrick’s History of Old Cumnock, published in 1899, left off.
Provost Thomas Finn writes in 1966:
“It was a happy decision by the Council when they agreed to sponsor a new History of Cumnock to mark the centenary of the town becoming a police burgh. We were fortunate in being able to engage a writer of the quality and experience of Dr John Strawhorn, author of several works on Ayrshire history and Principal Teacher of History at Cumnock Academy.
After two years’ intensive research Dr Strawhorn has produced a book that combines at once the broad sweep of our long history with the local minutiae proper to such a work. Within its pages the bare bones of historical fact are cleverly clothed with a fine web of authentic anecdotes, traditional tales and apposite quotations from local writers. To me the most absorbing part of the whole book is that dealing with the last hundred years – its triumphs and tribulations, its clashes and concords; the influence of Keir Hardie; the advent of that stormy petrel Emrys Hughes; the post-war developments, with the engaging of the eminent architect Professor Sir Robert H Matthew; industrial growth, the plans and hopes for the future.
I commend this book to all who are interested in the story of a town’s struggle for growth, for expansion, for industry, for a better way of life. It should appeal most strongly to those, both at home and abroad, whose roots are in this area. For the exile it will be like a vision of home, not only evoking nostalgic memories, but also giving an up-to-date picture of Cumnock of 1966. For us, at home, it is a timely reminder of the strenuous efforts of our forefathers. They set the course and weathered the early storms. Today the wind is fair and a bright and prosperous future is in sight.”
A Festival Committee was formed to organise and oversee the week long celebrations in Cumnock. This ran from Saturday 4th until Saturday 11th June and incorporated the Cumnock Carnival, a live BBC broadcast of the Sunday service from Cumnock Old Parish Church and a champagne buffet at Dumfries House.
The New History of Cumnock is the history of a town with a life and individuality of its own, but it is also the history of a typical modern industrial burgh. It should therefore appeal, not only to those Ayrshire folk who know Cumnock itself, but also to all who are interested in the social history of modern Scotland.
Civil and religious strife left their mark upon the character of Cumnock. Men and women sought individual liberty to act as their consciences dictated. They sought the means to raise themselves free from the restrictions of their environment and the dictates of others. They sought through the extension of education, through invention and industry and through political action, to build a better life.
Old crafts were replaced by modern industries. Changing economic fortunes form the background to social progress. Here in Cumnock, Keir Hardie worked out his political philosophy. Here other men and women of humble birth pioneered local public services, rebuilt the town and made possible a wider and fuller life for the members of the community.
Dr Strawhorn tells for the first time the real story of a small burgh – the detailed workings of its successive town councils, the everyday life of the people. He tells the story with knowledge, with insight, with appreciation and with humour. It is a story that has yet to be completed, for Cumnock is still Prompt in Progress.
Make a gift to preserve Cumnock’s history
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